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Jul 2010 28

Curry puffs are a popular snack food in Malaysia, Thailand and India. Their bland name does not quite describe their wide appeal. Think: hot, dry ground meat or potato, so spicy it could pickle your tongue, hidden within a pocket of flaky, light, and ever-so-slightly chewy puff pastry. This version uses crumbled beef, and is baked to produce a light crust.

If you’ve ever had a Jamaican beef patty (and, having grown up secular in Toronto, I have had many), this is similar, but dare I say better – the pastry is flakier, more tender than its tough yellow Jamaican counterpart. These puffs are great at room temperature, which is why I often make them as a side for Shabbos lunch. You can also do mini versions for festive hors d’oeuvres.

I prefer to use the folded-up frozen puff pastry you have to thaw and roll out, as the pre-cut squares tend to stick together and get misshapen. But this is your call.

You will need:

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin
up to 2 tbsp cayenne pepper or schug (chili compote)
1 tsp salt

1 pkg frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
1/4 c all-purpose flour (for dusting)
1 egg, beaten with a little water

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they become glassy.

Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and cumin. Lightly stir-fry them for a second, then add the beef. Brown the beef, stirring constantly, and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated. Add the cayenne pepper or schug slowly, tasting as you go, until you’ve achieved your desired heat level (it should be as hot as you can stand)! Season with the salt and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Dust your work surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the puff pastry dough (try to keep its square shape intact) until it is about as thin as a graham cracker. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 9 squares.

Place about 1 tbsp of the curried beef into the center of each pastry square. Dip your finger or a pastry brush into water, and use it to moisten the edges of a square. Fold the square in half (rectangle, triangle, whichever you prefer) and use your fingers to firmly seal and crimp the edges. Repeat with the remaining squares until you have 9 beautiful little curry babies.

Use a pastry brush to give the puffs a nice egg wash (top side only), then make a small slit in the top of each with a knife, to let the steam escape.

Arrange the curry puffs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are puffy and golden. Meanwhile, you can scoop up any leftover beef with a handful of tortilla chips and wash it down with something ice-cold and alcoholic.

Serves 6.

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Jun 2010 17

Lime rice, fraternal twin sister to lemon rice, is a staple side dish in many south Indian households. Tangy, yellow-tinged basmati rice is dotted with crunchy mustard seeds, gently roasted almonds and cilantro like fresh, colourful confetti. For a variation, try roasted, unsalted peanuts in place of the almonds. Lime rice pairs refreshingly with spiced ground lamb, either formed into kabobs and grilled, or stir-fried loose, and piled high into lettuce cups.

You will need:

2 c. basmati rice
2 ¾ c. water
½ tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds (any type; black are stronger-flavoured, yellow more mild)
½ tsp turmeric
¼ c. whole unsalted almonds
¼ c. lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water, ½ tsp vegetable oil and salt to boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well in cold water, until the water no longer appears cloudy. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water, cover, then turn the heat down to low. When the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes), turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork.

In a larger non-stick pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and the mustard seeds – they should shimmer in the oil. Keep stirring to roast the almonds evenly. Just when the mustard seeds begin to snap, crackle and pop, whisk in the turmeric, remove the pot from the heat, and whisk in the lime juice and zest.
Add the cooked rice and toss to coat. Stir the chopped cilantro into the rice just before serving.

If you are making this ahead of time (e.g., for Shabbos), then stir in an extra squirt or two of lime juice immediately before serving, along with the cilantro. (Often, when the rice is reheated, the lime flavour dissipates. Adding more lime juice just before serving will revive it, and adding the cilantro at the last second will keep it from wilting.)

Serves 4-6

© Shaby Heltay, 2010

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May 2010 04

Ok, baalat tshuva true confessions time: I sometimes miss those days when I would run out to the nearest takeout joint for a veggie pad-thai or a steaming bowl of pho. Growing up traditional/Sefardi, I was always eating ”kosher-style”, so nothing crazy… there was never any lobster or bacon or grenouille on my plate. But my tastebuds have stored away in their memory all of the exotic flavours, colours, textures and smells that I had experienced at those non-kosher (!) restaurants in my previous life.

I’ll admit, Spicykosher.com is partly (mostly?) an exercise in rabbinically-approved gastronomic nostalgia – an excuse to try to recreate all of those delicious dishes in my own kitchen (converting them into kosher recipes, of course) so that I can experience all of that goyish culinary genius once again, from the safety of my segregated pots and pans.

So, about the peppers. Back when my husband and I would eat out at vegetarian restaurants, we came across a little hole-in-the-wall joint in Banff Springs called Nourish. There I had a stuffed pepper that was unlike anything I’d known stuffed peppers to be – a seemingly unlikely combination of vegetables, fruits and nuts that made for a moist, spicy, savoury, sweet and tangy experience. It was very “busy”, yet the flavours were still light, bright and fresh. It completely blew the lid off my expectations, and I have since vowed to recreate that dish at home.

The ingredients sound a little strange in combination, but it is something you must try, especially if you’re into sweet & sour flavours. Shavuos is around the corner, and come to think of it, this would make a hearty side dish in a dairy meal – filling enough, especially alongside fish, to carry the Shavuos seuda. And the brown rice: slow-burning complex carbs to keep you energized for a long night of learning! How perfect!

You will need:

4 medium red bell peppers
1 onion, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c brown short-grain rice
1 c water

1 egg
1 rib of celery, finely diced
3-4 sundried tomatoes, finely diced
3 pieces of dried mango (this brand is OUTSTANDING), diced
2-3 strawberries, diced
3 walnut halves, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp dried currants (you can substitute raisins), plumped in simmering water for 5 mins
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch salt

Slice the tops off the peppers (about a 1/2 inch from the top) and scoop the seeds and ribs out with a spoon, so that you have a clean cavity. Cut the stems out from the pepper tops and dice up the leftover scraps of pepper.

Heat the oil over meduim in a nonstick pot, and saute the onions until they are golden, then add the diced peppers, season with salt and pepper, and saute until the peppers are soft. Stir in the rice and the water, and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is more or less cooked (about 40 minutes – during which time you can get busy dicing all of the other ingredients).

Preheat the oven to 350F, then get on with the stuffing. In a large bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the celery, tomatoes, mango, strawberries, walnuts, 2 tbsp tomato paste, and currants. Mix in the cooked rice and season the whole mess with salt and pepper, and if you like a little extra kick, cayenne pepper.

Stuff the peppers with the stuffing, piling it as high as you can. You may have some stuffing left over, which you can just bake in a seperate little dish (believe me, you won’t want to waste it). In a little bowl, mix the 2 tbsp of tomato paste with the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of salt, adding a little water as needed to get a nice saucy consistency.

Arrange the peppers in a greased baking dish and pour the tomato sauce generously over the tops of the peppers. Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown.

You can serve this as a side dish, but all you needs is a big green salad or a bowl of soup to make it a light, satisfying lunch or dinner.

Makes 4.

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Mar 2010 09

I have to be honest about the provenance of this salad, as I cannot claim it to be authentically Tunisian; rather, it is a modified, modernized variation on a simple Tunisian salad comprising thinly sliced fennel marinated in lemon juice. If you’ve never tried fennel, the flavour is somewhat surprising: it looks like celery but tastes like anise (liquorice), and is crisp and refreshing. You can make this salad as is, or you can toss it with a mixture of salad greens (frisee, mache and arugula, for instance) if you’re into “leafy” salads – just add a little more dressing. It is important that the apple you use here is tart – so don’t settle for anything less than the green (granny smith) variety. This salad is also perfect for Rosh Hashana – pomegranate adds colour and crunch, its plentiful seeds reminding us to increase our mitzvot for the coming year.

You will need:

2 bulbs fennel
1 pomegranate
2 granny smith apples
1 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by trimming and discarding the tough green stalks, as well as the root ends, of the fennel. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and wash the sections, then slice the fennel as thinly as you possibly can. Core the apples and cut them in half, leaving the bright green skins intact. Slice the apples thinly and add them to a bowl with the fennel.

Cut open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the membranes. You can use whatever method you like, but I find the easiest (and most fun) way is to first cut the pomegranate in half crosswise (i.e., so that you end up with the stem end on one half and the flower end on the other). Then, holding one half cut-side down over a large bowl, whack the top of the fruit repeatedly with something heavy – a soup ladle or a rolling pin should do the trick. Be patient, and you’ll find that eventually, the seeds will rain down into the bowl while the membranes will miraculously remain in the shell.

Add the pomegranate seeds to the fennel and the apple. Add the juice of a lemon, then add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad to coat, then allow it to marinate in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

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Feb 2010 12

Daal is the Hindi word for lentils, used to make the thick, soupy lentil dish that is also called daal. Daal can be made with most of the lentil varieties available at the supermarket. It makes a great side dish because it is a breeze to prepare and is packed with protein and fibre. In this recipe, tiny red lentils (masoor daal) are simmered until they thicken and fall apart, creating a stew with plenty of body and texture.  A tadka (infused oil) of onion seeds and onion is then used to garnish the daal and punch up its flavour.

You will need:

1 c masoor daal (tiny red lentils)
3 tbsp canola oil
1½ large onions
1 tsp garlic paste (or 1 large clove garlic)
1 tsp ginger paste (or minced fresh ginger)
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2½ – 3 c water
1 tsp onion seeds (aka black caraway or nigella)

Over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a medium-sized pot. Dice one onion and sauté it in the oil until the onion softens. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric and chilli flakes to the oil, stirring to infuse the oil with the spices.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, followed by the water, salt and pepper.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring periodically, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils have absorbed the water and appear to have dissolved somewhat. Be careful not to let the daal burn at the bottom of the pot!

Meanwhile, prepare the tadka by slicing the remaining onion and browning it in a frying pan with the remaining oil. When the onions are a deep golden colour, add the onion seeds and allow them to release their flavour into the oil.

When the daal is ready, pour it into a serving dish and garnish the surface with a generous heap of the hot, savoury tadka. Serve daal over basmati rice, or use torn-off pieces of warm chapatti to scoop daal into hungry mouths.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

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Feb 2010 05

What I love about this salad is that it’s potato, yes, but so light and refreshing and good for you that the potatoes themselves completely lose their bad-carb stigma. Chickpeas are full of protein and fibre, and their starchy plainness so well-matched to the potatoes as a blank canvas for the dressing, but don’t let that stop you from omitting them altogether on days when all you want is a potato salad – the lack of mayonnaise alone makes this “health food” in my book, chickpeas or not. If you’re not so into cilantro, feel free to substitute any combination of herbs you fancy. I’ve enjoyed this salad tremendously with tarragon, parsley, and basil, respectively. The only absolutes here are that you use Yukon Gold potatoes, and that the lemon juice you use is freshly squeezed: the bottled version from concentrate defies the whole point of this salad, which is the bright, sour flavour of the dressing and the grassy freshness of the herbs.

You will need:
3 large Yukon Gold (yellow-fleshed) potatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
¼ c. chopped chives
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ c. rice vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, roughly (you don’t have to be perfect).  Drop them into the boiling water and cook between 5-8 minutes, or just until done. Be careful not to overcook these, or they will end up mushy! Drain the potatoes in a colander and set them aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toss the chickpeas into a large bowl with the cilantro and chives. Only when the potatoes are cool may you add them to the chickpeas (otherwise their heat will effectively “cook” the herbs), then dress the whole thing with the lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, and taste it before adding salt and pepper, as the potatoes will likely already be somewhat salty from the cooking water. Add salt and pepper accordingly, and give it another toss. This tastes great the next day, as the flavours really marinate well together in the fridge.
Serves 6 as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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