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Jan 2011 17

Don’t be undone by the fancy title – a bisque is really just a pureed vegetable soup. Perfect for this time of year, which, to me, is all about comfort food. It’s when I reach for recipes that are homey and familiar. I don’t want to fiddle with complicated or fancy recipes, I simply want to take solace in the kitchen, lingering over a bubbling pot and mindlessly stirring away at something that will fill my belly with warmth. Sweet roasted garlic, butternut squash with edges tinged caramel, and the earthy fragrance of cinnamon, cumin and coriander – this soup fits the bill perfectly for winter. Serve it with crusty bread and you have a light but sustaining dinner. You can make it dairy by substituting whole milk for the soy milk and vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

You will need:

1 butternut squash (weighing about 2lbs)
1 small head garlic
vegetable oil spray

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1½ c chicken stock
3/4 c plain soy milk (I like PC Organics and So Good original)
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro or chives (to garnish)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

If your squash is really tough, puncture the skin with a knife and microwave it on high for 4-8 minutes to soften.

Allow the squash to cool, then cut it in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Spray or brush the cut sides with oil and place, cut side down, on a sturdy baking sheet. Peel the papery outer skin from the garlic bulb (but don’t separate the cloves), slice just the root end off, and wrap the bulb in aluminum foil. Place it on the baking sheet with the squash and bake till both are soft, about 40-50 minutes. Allow the squash and the garlic to cool.

Sqeeze the garlic pulp out of the skins and into a blender. Add the squash pulp (scoop it out with a large spoon) and the spices. Puree, drizzling in the chicken stock and soy milk until you’ve reached a consistency you like.

Transfer the soup to a pot and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over low heat and serve hot, with a sprinkling of choppped cilantro or chives to garnish.

Serves 4, generously.

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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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Feb 2010 05

In thumbing through cookbooks — or searching online — for exotic Indian food, you will no doubt come across many curry recipes that would make the hair of any Indian, myself included, stand on end. So I felt it necessary to warn you all about the vast array of impostor curry recipes out there: the mere act of adding curry powder to something does not transform it into a curry!

Here’s the thing. You can’t make an authentic, true curry without your base aromatics: onion, garlic and ginger. Without those, your curry will be bland and will taste 1-dimensional. It’s like making an Italian tomato sauce without shallots, garlic and olive oil – no self-respecting Italian would do it! Cumin is also vital to a good curry – cumin is to curry what basil is to marinara sauce. Got it?

So with those 4 things – onion, garlic, ginger and cumin – you can punch up any old curry recipe and turn it into something that would impress even your Indian friends!  What follows is a recipe for a tomato-based vegetable curry.

~~~

Chickpea Curry

You will need:

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 cups water
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp garam masala (also available at Indian groceries)
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds (or ½ tsp mustard, in a pinch)
1 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
1-3 green chilies, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, until the onions are soft and golden. Add all of the spices, ginger, garlic and salt. Stir-fry the mixture for a minute.

Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water, and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice, and green chilies, and allow them to cook together for about a minute. Add another cup of water and simmer the mixture until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Serve over basmati rice and with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, if you like.

Serves 6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Nov 2009 10

Fall is pumpkin season, but don’t let some false sense of recipe purism prevent you from making this curry with butternut squash, sweet potato, or even organic carrots. The point is to choose a vegetable that you love, dice it up, and stew it in a broth of spiced coconut milk until tender. Creamy coconut-based curries are aromatic and decadently rich (and thus, high in calories). The amount of coconut milk you add depends on how strong a flavour you want. So, while this recipe may seem to call for a lot of spice, bear in mind that the coconut milk will soften & dilute these spices significantly. At any rate, feel free to experiment and find the spice-to-coconut milk ratio that you like best.

You will need:

1 small pumpkin, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, diced
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp (or to taste) salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp chili flakes
1 c coconut milk
1.5 c water
1 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Begin by heating the oil and softening the onions in a saucepan over medium heat. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic, ginger, salt, and all of the spices, stirring. Dice the pumpkin and add it to the pan, stirring to coat the pumpkin with the spice. Add the coconut milk and water to the pumpkin, along with the shredded coconut. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

Garnish the curry with fresh cilantro and serve at once with basmati rice.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

© Shaby Heltay, 2009