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Feb 2010 05

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve got no idea about Polynesian cuisine, but these little tropical kebabs make me feel like I’m basking in the sun on a paradisiacal island far, far away from slushy Toronto. I make these when I’m tired of gefilte fish and I want to serve something festive and a little spicy as the first course for Shabbos dinner or lunch. Besides being aesthetically attractive, they are easy to make – and that, to me, is the biggest draw. You can use any type of fish you like, provided it won’t fall apart when cooked; my favourite is Chilean sea bass for its rich, buttery texture. And you can cook the fish any way you like – blitz it on the barbecue, under the broiler, or just bake in a really hot oven – it doesn’t matter. The point is that, once cooked, it’s only a matter of brushing the fish once more with the stickily sweet, sour and spicy marinade, then rolling them in a pretty combination of coconut and black sesame seeds. Sometimes I switch things up by encrusting the fish with chopped cashews instead – I’ve found that either option yields delicious results.

You will need:

8 small bamboo skewers
12 oz (340g) skinless boneless fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ½ tbsp honey
1-2 tbsp lime juice
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
¼ c. water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt to taste
½ c. unsweetened flaked coconut
¼ c. black sesame seeds.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, whisk together the honey, lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, chilli and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about half. Set it aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the bamboo skewers in a dish of water to soak for at least 5 minutes – this will prevent them from burning in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thread the fish onto the skewers – you’ll want 3 or 4 pieces for each. Using a pastry brush, brush the fish on all sides with the cooled marinade, and line them up on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes per side, or just until cooked through.
Tear off a large square of wax paper and combine the coconut and sesame seeds in a pile at the centre. Alternatively, you could do this in a large rectangular container. When the fish has cooled, brush it again on all sides with the remaining marinade, then roll the skewers in the coconut/seed mixture so that the fish is encrusted evenly. I like to serve these, 2 skewers for each guest, on a bed of basmati rice.
Serves 4 as a first course
© 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

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Nov 2009 10

I’ll let this dish speak for itself, save to mention that it has become an exceptionally popular add-on to my Shabbos meals, and is an easy, tasty option for Passover. In greater quantities it can stand alone as a main dish, when served alongside a mound of plain basmati rice – though I much prefer the cutesy presentation of the little lettuce boats, which give a crisp, refreshing contrast to the richness and sharp heat of the lamb.

You will need:

1 lb (450 g) ground lamb
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red chillies, chopped (or 1 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. peas
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 head iceberg lettuce, or romaine heart

To prepare the lettuce, simply tear off the leaves, selecting the most boat-shaped leaves as your receptacles for the lamb. To further perk them up, after washing, submerge the leaves for several minutes in a sink full of very cold water, then drain well. They should be curved, crisp, and cold. Set aside (preferably in the refrigerator).
In a wok or a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are soft and golden. Add the chillies, salt, ginger, and garlic, and stir well.
Increase the heat to high. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated. Add the peas and tomatoes, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mixture cook another 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in most of the cilantro.
To serve, simply scoop the hot lamb into the lettuce cups, arrange them on a platter, and sprinkle over the remaining cilantro.

Serves 4-6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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