Burnt Flour Soup

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While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup, made by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.


In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).


Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.


Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.


Add the cream and mix well.


Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”


The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.

 

 

Curry Ketchup

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I’ve mentioned a few times that my eating life practically revolves around condiments. I love them all. Mustards, ketchups, chutneys, chimichurris, mayos, butters, you name it, I love them. I look at a condiment, and immediately know what food I’m pairing it with.

I’m so excited to have discovered a new condiment for my repertoire – curry ketchup. I was “shopping” on Amazon and somehow this popped up. I had to have it. German curry ketchup!

Shortly afterwards, I was on the blog called the Daring Gourmet, and there was Kimberly’s recipe for home-made curry ketchup, of German origin.

You can imagine how excited I was. Everything home-made is so much better than what you can buy.

Best German Curry Ketchup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 small clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons high-quality curry powder*
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup natural ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions just until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder, paprika, cloves and allspice and cook for 30 seconds.


Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and purée until smooth.


Let the mixture cool completely and then refrigerate for a day before using to allow time for the flavors to meld.

To use, Kimberly recommends serving the curry ketchup with prepared bratwurst (currywurst) and fries. She recommends sprinkling the brats with curry powder, just like in her photo, below, which I forgot to do.

I’m not a big French fry person, so I roasted some red potatoes instead.

This ketchup is magnificent. It’s multi-faceted, and not strong in any one way. And it’s nice and thick. I have no idea why mine isn’t as red in color as hers.

And, the ketchup is really good with the potatoes also.

I tried a bratwurst with the purchased curry ketchup, left, and my home-made version, on the right. There was truly no comparison. The purchased ketchup tasted anemic compared to home-made!

I can’t wait to make more curry ketchup, and next time I’m making a quadruple batch. Thanks for the recipe, Kimberly!

*When I want a prepared curry powder, I reach for Penzey’s sweet curry powder. To me, it’s a perfect blend when not using individual spices.

Chicken with Samfaina

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Many years ago my husband and I flew to Madrid, Spain, rented a car, and made our way around the northeastern regions of Spain. We then drove over the Pyrenees into France, visited my sister and husband in the town where they live part-time, and then made our way back to Madrid.

During the first leg of our adventure, we stayed at a hotel in Catalonia, called the Parador de Cardona. If you’re not familiar with paradors, they are government-run hotels that were once castles, monasteries or fortresses. They get revamped with modern conveniences, but the structure is the same.

Here are a few photos this particular parador.

We drove up to the hotel, which was harrowing enough because we had to maneuver the car on the steepest driveway in the world, barely wide enough for the little rental car, but we finally made it. This photo from the website shows how high up the parador actually is from the village of Cardona.

When we asked to check in, the pretty young woman said something to us. No comprehension. My husband and I just stared at each other. We had a split-second conversation that went like this:

“Hey, you know Spanish.”
“Well you know French.”

Well let me tell you, neither of us recognized one damn word she said, or anyone else said during our stay. So do not believe anyone that the Catalon language is a mixture of French and Spanish. It is not.

But our stay was spectacular, and you really felt like you were living in a different century. We discovered Arbequin olives at this hotel, which mostly grow in Catalonia, and were generously served with cocktails and wine.

Back home, I decided to buy a Catalonian cookbook and the one I chose was Catalon Cuisine, by Colman Andrews, published in 1988.

The recipe I chose to make first from the cookbook is Roast Chicken in Samfaina. Samfaina is, according to the author, “a kind of baroque sofregit.” Okay. But then he writes that it’s virtually identical to the ratatouille of the Cote d’Azur, but also that samfaina is “the most important, unique and incorruptible dish which Catalan cuisine has brought to gastronomy.” I’m confused.

Wherever its origin, the samfaina must be prepared first.

Samfaina
Makes 6-8 cups

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds onions, halved, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pound Japanese eggplant, skin on, cut into 1” cubes
1 pound zucchini, skin on, cut into 1/2 – 1” cubes
8 medium tomatoes, seeded and grated
1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cut into strips
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a cassola or Dutch oven and add the garlic, onions, eggplant, and zucchini. Stir well so that all vegetables are coated with oil.


Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Uncover and turn heat up slightly, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and peppers, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the liquid has again evaporated and the vegetables are very soft.


Season to taste.

Roast Chicken with Samfaina
Pollastre Rostit amb Samfaina

1 – 4-5 pound roasting chicken
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 cups samfaina

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 6 or 8 serving pieces, rub all surfaces well with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then roast skin side up for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the skin is golden-brown, and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan, and set aside, keeping it warm. Pour off any excess fat, then deglaze the roasting pan with a few tablespoons of water. (I used some white wine.)

Add the samfaina to the pan, and stir well; then add chicken, and simmer briefly until heated through.

I’m not going to tell my mother this, but I’ve had ratatouille, and samfaina is better. Why? I have no idea. My tomatoes were really ripe perhaps.

The samfaina was actually sweet, in a good way.

This is a spectacular dish. Not terribly pretty, but comforting, hearty, and flavorful. I will be making this again!

Summer Corn Dip

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I’m not a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse. It’s not that I don’t respect his accomplishments, which are vast. In fact, he’s one of the longest lasting tv chefs in the U.S. We just never clicked. I didn’t get the “night show” element of live music on his cooking show, and the “BAM” was way overdone. Just my opinion.

So I wasn’t completely thrilled when I received an Emeril cookbook as a gift. But when I opened the book, Prime Time Emeril, to a random page, it was to the recipe for Hot Corn Dip.

Not being from the Midwest, I haven’t always been a huge corn fan like some people. I mean, it’s really good with butter and salt – on the cob, of course. But corn dip???

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Well I made it, and it’s now one of my few repeat recipes I make in the summer. For this one recipe alone, I will always keep Prime Time Emeril, published in 2001.

So here is my version of Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for corn dip, from his cookbook. It’s especially fun to make when corn on the cob is 10 for $1.00! However keep in mind that to make it simpler, canned corn can also be used.

Hot and Cheesy Corn Dip

4 corn on the cobs
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces grated white cheddar or Monterey jack
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Remove the corn from the corn cobs using a knife, slicing vertically on four “sides” of the cob. Then break up the pieces of corn into individual kernels.

Cook the corn in boiling water for about 10 minutes; test it to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Drain the corn in a colander, and set aside to cool.

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat. Chop the onion, red bell pepper and green onions. Add the vegetables and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.

Then add the corn, the cream cheese and cubed or grated cheese, and allow the cheeses to completely melt into the vegetables.

Add the salt and cayenne, or sprinkle the cayenne on top of the dip when serving.

Serve the dip warm with good corn chips. I like the “scoopable” variety!

I’ve also used mayonnaise in this dip along with cream cheese. It just adds a depth of flavor.

Now to change things up. You can make a Southwestern version of this corn dip by adding chopped green chile peppers and cilantro, plus a little ground cumin.


I’ve included made this dip with crumbled chorizo. Yum. Italian sausage also works.

For a pescatarian option, add crab, some Old Bay, and top with chopped avocado!

Escabeche

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My thoughtful daughters gifted me a do-it-yourself fermentation kit for Christmas, 2017. Escabeche immediately came to mind.

I’ve only made escabeche one time, many years ago. The reason I only made these crunchy, zesty vegetables once is that the vinegar smelled up the house for days, which was very upsetting to my husband. I thought perhaps using the fermentation crock will “stink” up the house less.

The recipe I used was from Diana Kennedy’s ground-breaking book on Mexican cuisine, the bible, in a way – The Art of Mexican Cooking, published in 1989.

Escabeche is the Spanish word for “pickle”. Legumbres en escabeche describes a combination of pickled vegetables. It originates from Veracruz, and is a favorite for serving with Mexican dishes.

Chiles Jalapeños en Escabeche
Pickled Jalapeños
Makes about 8 cups

1 pound jalapeños, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed and scraped
3 tablespoons sea salt
1/3 cup water
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
10 peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 whole cloves
16 California bay leaves
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 pound white bulbous onions, boiling onions, or regular white onions
3 cups mild vinegar
1 cup strong vinegar
10 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Remove the stems from the fresh chiles and cut each into 4 lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and put into a large bowl. I don’t have to scrape out seeds because I cut around the seeds.

Slice the carrots diagonally about 1/8” thick and add to the chiles. I used a mandoline for even slices. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Set aside to macerate for about 1 hour.

Put the water into a blender jar and add the chopped garlic, peppercorns, cumin seed, cloves, 10 of the bay leaves, the thyme leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano. Blend as thoroughly as possible.

Heat the oil in a large, fairly deep pan. Add the blended spices and onions and fry until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are translucent, not brown – about 10 minutes.

Strain the chiles and carrots, reserving the juice, and add to the pan. Fry over fairly high heat, stirring and turning the vegetables over for 10 minutes.


Add the chile and carrot juice, vinegars, whole garlic cloves, 6 thyme sprigs, remaining 6 bay leaves and remaining teaspoon oregano, and the sugar.

I wish you could smell this! The depth of odor is remarkable.

Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl and set aside to cool before storing in the refrigerator.

But instead, just to take these pickled vegetables a step further, I used the fermentation crock for 24 hours, after the vegetables cooled down. I could have chosen 3 days, but I didn’t want the vegetables to lose crunchiness, which is very important.

The weight, placed over the vegetables and shown in the above right photo, is used to hold down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the pickling liquid.

The first time I used these aromatic pickled vegetables was with chicken and corn enchiladas made with an ancho white sauce.

Note: To better understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

And if you’re interested in this kit, it was purchased at Uncommon Goods. The packaging is very sweet, and there are directions and recipes.

Strawberry Onion Chutney

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Rarely do I come out of “retirement” to cater. If I do it’s only for good friends, but still these gigs are few and far between. I’m just not in the catering groove any longer.

A few years ago, however, I said yes to a friend who needed help with her staff party. I don’t remember the menu in its entirety, except that I made a sous vide pork loin.

Because it was springtime, I created a chutney using fresh strawberries to go with the pork.

Following is the sweet-spicy-tart condiment recipe that I’m so happy I wrote down. I must say it was superb and loved by all!

Strawberry Onion Chutney
printable recipe below

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup ruby port
1/4 cup olive oil
4 white onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 1″ piece ginger, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound hulled strawberries, chopped into small pieces
Allspice, to taste

In a small bowl, soak raisins in the port. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and begin the sautéing process. It will take at least 30 minutes. A little browning is fine, but mostly I just wanted them nice and soft and cooked through.

Add the raisins and the port, along with the garlic and ginger, and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Then stir in the strawberries and continue cooking the chutney, stirring occasionally, until the strawberry pieces have cooked, but still hold their shapes.


If I might say so, this chutney is spectacular. When I made it the second time, I used dark raisins, and served it with roasted chicken, which was equally delicious as previously with the pork loin.

And with cheese? It’s fabulous!!!

 

 

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

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I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.


When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.


Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.


Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.


Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!


One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.

 

 

 

The Briner

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My sister-in-law and I share a serious love of cooking, so her gifts are always spot on. For my birthday she sent me something really unique, called “The Briner.” It’s a large, plastic container designed for brining meat.

As you can see in the below right photo, there is an inside “lid” that holds meat down inside the container and keeps it submerged in the brine. It’s ingenious!

To quote from The Briner website, this patented product “resolves the #1 challenge to successful brining – floating food! Simple design, easy to use, easy to clean, works great.”

Previously, I’d used my largest, deepest pot for brining, and had to stack heavy plates on top of the meat in order to keep it from floating, especially the few times I brined a whole turkey or chicken.

Not being an expert briner, I looked to Paul from That Other Cooking Blog, who is obviously a proponent of brining. I’ve followed Paul for years now; his blog is also a great resource for sous vide cooking. Plus, his professional photography is featured in a cookbook entitled, “The Essential Sous Vide,” published in 2016.

Isn’t that one gorgeous photo on the cover??!!

So I asked Paul some basic brining questions. In a nutshell, here’s what he said.

“Everything is brinable.”

Paul said a lot more than that – he’s quite generous with his knowledge, but that’s the gist of what he said. And I guess, why not?!!

He also brines and then uses his sous vide. That almost hurt my brain to think of how exceptional protein could turn out with everything going for it!

And again, why not?!! So I decided to brine with The Briner, and sous vide a pork loin chunk.

Those of you who don’t own a sous vide machine, I highly recommend you look into one.

This is the model I own. (above) It’s half the size as the commercial sous vide, less expensive, and perfect for a small family.

To me, it’s an essential appliance, especially for tough cuts – brisket, flank and hanger steaks – and easy-to-overcook cuts, like pork and chicken.

Here’s what I did for the brine.

1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 pound pork loin
2 oranges, quartered
1 onion, quartered
A few smashed garlic cloves
Rosemary
Thyme
Sage
Bay leaves
Star Anise
Cloves
Some crushed juniper berries

Using a large pot, combine the salt and sugar with the water and heat until dissolved. Set aside the pot to let the mixture cool.

Place the pork loin in The Briner, or a large pot. Pour cooled brine over the top.

Add the remaining ingredients, squeezing the orange pieces a bit into the brine.

If the meat is not covered by the brine, add some more cold water.

Then add the lids to The Briner, place in a cool place like a cold garage or refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours.

After brining, rinse the pork, and dry off well.

Vacuum seal the loin and keep chilled until the sous vide is ready. You can season the pork, add more herbs, and even add butter to the pork before sealing, but I did not.


Preheat the sous vide to 135 degrees. The pork will be done after 12 hours. Plan according to whether you will be removing the pork and immediately browning it and serving it, or if you plan to refrigerate it overnight first.

Here’s what it looks like after the sous vide process.

Brown the pork in a little oil, seasoned with a good garlic pepper or seasoning of your choice. You can brown the whole chunk of loin, but I decided to slice it into serving pieces first.

Honesly, the pork is ready to eat after the sous vide’ing, but most people are put off by pink pork!

I served the pork with a creamed spinach.


Then I tasted the pork. Oh my.

I tasted the brine ingredients!

I could taste the onion and orange, specifically. The depth of flavor was tremendous.

And, of course, the pork was super tender from the sous vide process.

So young Paul was right. Why not take advantage of all the tools and tricks we have to create the best food possible!

Tomato Beef Curry

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It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!