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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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May 2010 26

This aromatic brisket may be the most tender you will ever have. Forget about leathery, tough slivers of beef – this is so soft you may not even be able to slice it properly, but at any rate, it will fall apart in your mouth, guaranteed.

It is known also as the Wednesday Brisket because, if you’re making this for Shabbos, you start it on Wednesday night. But don’t let that put you off – it is so simple to prepare that it doesn’t feel like cooking at all. And really, it’s not! You just throw everything into your chollent pot (slow-cooker) before bed and let it simmer through the night.

When you wake up the next morning, with the most mouth-watering smell permeating your home, you simply plop the brisket into a baking dish, sauce and all, and leave it in the fridge for the rest of the day. That rest time gives the meat a chance to really soak up the flavours and become even more tender.

Then, on Friday morning, it’s just a matter of slicing the brisket and simmering the sauce a little bit on the stovetop. And that’s really it!

Tender, flavourful, spicy brisket… you’re welcome. 🙂

You will need:

1 large double brisket (about 4-6 lbs)
2 small onions, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 c water or chicken stock

1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch saffron threads, crushed
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

Wednesday night:

Place the brisket in a chollent pot and cover it with all of the other ingredients (except for the parsley). Put the lid on and set it to low heat (it should cook for about 8 hours). Then go to sleep and dream about beef!

Thursday morning:

Transfer the brisket to a baking dish. If there are large deposits of fat on the meat, trim them off now while the brisket is hot. Pour all of the juices into the baking dish too, then cover with plastic wrap and put the brisket in the fridge. Then get on with your day and daydream about beef!

Thursday night:

Do nothing. Ha!

Friday, any time before Shabbos:

Use a spoon to remove the solidified fat from the surface of the sauce.

Transfer the brisket carefully onto a cutting board and slice against the grain. It may fall apart a little bit, because, like I said, it is seriously tender. (Trust me, nobody will complain.)

Transfer the juices to a saucepan or a pot, and simmer, about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened a little.

Carefully transfer the brisket slices back into the baking dish, then pour the sauce back over the meat. Cover and warm through in the oven just before serving. Garnish the brisket with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings.

© Shaby Heltay, 2010

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Apr 2010 13

Many Indian recipes call for a highly flavourful spice mixture (masala) known as garam masala. Garam masalas vary from region to region and from chef to chef. There is no single standard formula, but the general idea is that all of the spices blend together evenly and harmoniously – no single spice stands out as a prominent flavour.

The following is my father’s garam masala recipe, and can be used in any dish calling for garam masala. Ideally, you would use whole spices and grind them up together in a small coffee grinder. But, since we don’t live in an ideal world, it’s fine to use pre-ground spices and just mix them together. (Let’s not be too hard on ourselves.) And, of course, I’ll show you how you can use your masala (after the recipe).

You will need:

2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp anise seed (if available)

Mix and/or grind spices together and store in an airtight container or a ziplock bag.

Makes about 8 tbsp of masala

Now, what to do with your freshly prepared garam masala, you ask? Why, make a curry, of course! I suggest you try a cauliflower curry using the method and recipe in a brief introduction to curries. Just use fresh, cut-up cauliflower florets in place of the chickpeas, and cover the pot to steam the cauliflower when you add it to the spices. I like to tear up pieces of whole wheat tortillas (a fab stand-in for chapati) and use it to scoop up the curry. (In this case, I will gleefully eat with my hands.)

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Mar 2010 04

This is the chicken version of lamb tagine, a decadently rich Moroccan stew that is traditionally served on a bed of fresh couscous. I will always prefer lamb, but substituting chicken helps lighten the dish (in both calories and cost), while still retaining the slightly spicy, honeyed sweetness of the original. Don’t be put off by the idea of prunes – when simmered long enough, they practically melt in your mouth, and give the sauce body and richness. Try to use prunes with pits, if you can find them, as the pits keep the prunes moist and tender. The honey in this dish also makes it perfect for Rosh Hashana.

You will need:

2 lbs. chicken thighs (bone-in, with skin)
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp ground (powdered) ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c chicken or vegetable stock (or, in a pinch, water)
large pinch saffron
3/4 c unsweetened prunes
1/4 c whole unsalted almonds
1/4 c sultana or golden raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp chopped chives or cilantro (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a wok or heavy pot. (I often use a wok to prepare this dish, because it allows me to brown more meat at once. A regular heavy pot will do just fine, you just might have to brown the meat in batches.) On medium-high heat, sautee the onions until they are soft, then add the chicken. Sautee them together, sprinkling with the turmeric and ginger, until the meat is browned.

Add the broth, almonds, and prunes to the chicken. Rub the saffron strands between your fingertips to crush them, and add this to the chicken. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes. (In the meantime, you can throw together a basic couscous.)

Stir the chicken around a bit, then add the raisins and simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes – the chicken should end up very tender. Transfer the meat to a casserole or serving dish and cover to keep warm. You should be left with a pool of sauce studded with fruit and nuts. To this, stir in the cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.

Spoon this sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish with an additional sprinkling of finely chopped chives (not green onion) or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

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Mar 2010 04

Tandoori chicken is a classic Indian dish, and the perfect introduction for those new to Indian cuisine. The tandoor, for which the dish is named, is the traditional clay oven in which this crimson-coloured chicken is roasted – at home, a barbecue is the closest you can get to replicating the effects of the tandoor. In India, tandoori marinade is typically prepared with yogurt, which helps to tenderize the meat. My father’s kosher version uses pureed onion instead, creating a tremendously flavourful and pungent sauce. Don’t worry if you can’t handle “spicy” foods – the heat level can be adjusted to your taste, simply by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper, as the tandoori spice itself, though fiery red, is not spicy.

You will need:

3 to 4 lbs skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ -1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp tandoori spice*
4 tbsp lemon juice
½ c. vegetable oil (not olive)
lemon wedges, to garnish

Throw everything except for the chicken and the lemon wedges into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Taste the marinade – you may want to adjust the seasonings, adding a little more of this or of that, according to your taste. Marinate the chicken in this mixture at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in your refrigerator. (If you’re trying this with salmon, don’t let the fish sit longer than 4-5 hours in the marinade, as the acid in the lemon juice will “cook” the fish for you.)

Heat your grill, and oil it lightly. Shake the excess sauce off the chicken and grill on medium-high heat, about 10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Alternately, if you’d like to bake it, do so in a 400°F oven, sauce and all, for about 20 minutes, turning once. The sauce you’ll have left in the baking pan is insanely delicious over plain basmati rice. Either way, serve the chicken with basmati rice and, if you’d like to get fancy, with a wedge of lemon.

Serves 4

*The best Kosher Tandoori masala in the GTA can be obtained in Thornhill, at Bulk World. 1470 Centre Street Thornhill, Ontario 905-886-1300

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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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