jamaican curry lamb

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Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own version of curry goat—for that’s what you get when you go to the island. But goat isn’t readily available elsewhere so here we use lamb when we can get it. My dad makes his version of Jamaican curry lamb—rich with curry powder and Scotch Bonnet pepper. My tolerance for pepper is so low that I don’t taste anything but I feel the burn. As a result, I have never been able to taste and appreciate curry lamb. So when I came across Melissa Clark’s recipe (attributed to Martin Maginley of Round Hill Resort), I decided it had possibilities. I reviewed the ingredients and accepted the challenge.

It took me two days to gather all the ingredients. Lamb is not a common commodity and neither are Scotch Bonnet peppers. Andy did some networking. His friend Robert recommended we try Villa Supermarket at Paradise Park for the lamb. He was right. I bought a 3 pound boneless lamb shoulder there.  Bangkok Foodies ‪#‎BangkokFoodies recommended to Andy that we try the other Villa on Sukhumvit for the peppers.  On Friday, I went to the Villa on Sukhumvit and bought their last pack of Habañero peppers. Habañeros are a good substitute for Scotch Bonnet peppers. That afternoon I seasoned the lamb and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight. Today, the curry lamb is center stage.

Jamaican Curry Lamb (adapted from NY Times)

Prep time: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 2 to 12 hours
Cooking time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours

3 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, 2” chunks (I used boneless lamb shoulder)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
2 scallions coarsely chopped or 1/ 2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 whole allspice berries (pimento) or 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
1 1/2 cups diced potato
1 cup diced carrots
1-2 whole Scotch Bonnet peppers, seeded and chopped (leave in the seeds if more heat is desired)

Cooked white rice or coconut rice

Lime wedges for serving
Mango chutney or mango pickle, for serving
Fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped for serving

Pat lamb dry with paper towels and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon curry powder, salt, ground ginger, and black pepper. Add spice mix to large bowl and toss with lamb.

Cook’s Note: After patting the lamb shoulder dry, I trimmed as much excess fat and skin off the shoulder as I could. Lamb is very oily when it stews. Then I chopped up the meat into 2 inch chunks.

Combine onion, scallion, garlic, fresh ginger, allspice, thyme, and 2 tablespoons oil in a blender; purée until smooth. Scrape mixture over lamb and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in 2 teaspoons curry powder and heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, brown the meat on all sides. Drizzle in additional oil, if needed, to prevent meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Transfer browned meat to a plate.

Once all the meat is browned, return it to the pot along with any juices on the plate. Add enough water to cover the meat, just. Bring liquid to a simmer, covered, then uncover the pot and cook gently 45 minutes.

Stir potato, carrots, and Scotch Bonnets into the pot. Simmer until the vegetables are fork tender and meat is cooked through, about 30-45 minutes longer.

Cook’s Note: Jamaican cooks use Scotch Bonnet peppers for their flavor as much as for their heat. I slit the peppers before adding them whole to the pot. One is spicy, two may be extremely spicy.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat and vegetables to a bowl. Simmer cooking liquid until it has reduced and thickened to a saucy consistency (to taste), about 15-20 minutes. Remove the peppers from the pot. To make the pot spicier, chop up the peppers then add them back to the pot. Or you could skip this step altogether. Don’t throw out the pepper but offer it as a side for those who like more heat on their plate. Taste sauce and add more salt if needed. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

Cook’s Note: To make a simple coconut rice, substitute unsweetened coconut milk for half the water. Add a pinch of salt. I recommend  using basmati rice.

Serving Suggestion:  coconut rice with curry lamb and gravy topped with a squeeze of lime, a dollop of mango chutney or mango pickle, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. And the pepper from the pot.

This curry is full of flavor, everything melded together in the meat and in the sauce, and not spicy-hot at all. The mango chutney adds a sweet-tartness to balance the spiciness, and the coconut rice is the stalwart in the background, a perfectly al dente accompaniment for the sauce.

my obsession: fruit jams

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I have become obsessed with jam.

Now I am spooning strawberry jam on top of a stack of pancakes and eating it with yogurt. Technically, I called this a strawberry jam after the recipe, but it lacked the consistency of commercial jams. So is it a jam or a preserve?

Whatever! It was fun and easy to make, so when Andy bought some red seedless grapes instead of eating it all, I made grape jam. I know red grapes aren’t the type of grape used to make jam, but I wanted to try it anyway. I used the same recipe for the strawberry jam from The Kitchn.

Red Grape Refrigerator/Freezer Jam
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Fills 2 Weck Tulip (7.4 oz) jars

3 cups red seedless grapes, quartered
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar, plus more to sweeten to taste
pinch of salt
Lemon

Boil a kettle of water. Wash and dry two Weck tulip jars (each 7.4 oz). Fill with boiling water and set aside. Fill a small bowl with hot water and soak the lid and rubber sealing rings. Set aside.

Taste the grapes to see how sweet it is and adjust the sugar accordingly. In a medium size pot add the grapes, salt, and sugar. Cut a 2 inch piece of lemon from the end. Squeeze the juice into the pot and drop in the rind. Mash grapes, being careful not to mash the lemon piece. Put 3 metal tablespoons in the freezer.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. When it bubbles, cook for another 8 minutes, stirring frequently. It should start to deepen in color to an eggplant purple and begin to thicken.

Take a spoon out of the freezer and dribble a few drops of jam on the spoon. Make a track in the jam—if it doesn’t run back together it is set. If it does, cook a bit longer and test again.

Taste the jam on the spoon. If it isn’t sweet enough, add more sugar to taste. Cook for a few minutes more, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.

When the jam is set, remove the lemon rind and discard. Pour the jam into a clean 2-cup measure. Drain the jars and carefully pour the jam in each jar, evenly dividing the jam between each. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Cover. Refrigerate to eat now or freeze to eat later.

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low sugar no pectin strawberry refrigerator/freezer jam

DSC05140I made French toast today and put a spoonful of the strawberry jam on top and between the slices. I added a dollop of crème fraîche. Delicious. I reserve “decadent” for chocolate but this jam was pretty close.

**

Strawberries were on sale at Tops Supermarket for Baht 139 per pint. I bought 2 pints. I knew I didn’t want to make another strawberry pie again,  so I thought, what about strawberry jam? The berries in the pints were either just ripe or somewhat under-ripe. Perfect for jam. Something tart-yet-sweet to spread on toast or eat with bread and peanut butter. The Kitchn had this recipe called Basic Fruit Jam that seemed quite simple and made just one batch. It was also low in sugar, up to 1/2 cup went into the jam;   and, this clinched it,  the recipe did not call for pectin. Instead it uses lemon to set the jam. I got 12 ounces of jam from the 2 pints. So here it is:

Low Sugar No Pectin Strawberry Refrigerator/Freezer Jam

2 pints strawberries, about 3 cups diced
1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup more
pinch of salt

Put 3 tablespoons in the freezer (tell you why later!) but do it. It’s really cool.

Boil some water and pour it into two clean jars, one 8 ounces the other 4 ounces. Put the lids in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

Prep the strawberries and cut a one inch piece of lemon from the end of the lemon.

Combine the fruit and sugar in a 2-3 quart pot. Add a pinch of salt. Squeeze in the lemon juice and drop the rind in the pot. Over medium heat, mash the fruit with a potato masher, avoiding mashing the lemon. Mash the berries until you get a chunky texture.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. When it boils, watch it carefully, stirring frequently, until the bubbles get smaller. Continue boiling 5-8 minutes. The mixture will start to thicken and as the strawberries cook, their color deepens to a warm ruby red.

Check to see if the jam has set. Remove a spoon from the freezer and dribble a few drops of jam on it. Run your finger through the jam. If it leaves a track without filling in, the jam is set. If not, continue cooking the jam and testing it until it is set. Isn’t that easy?!

As you test, taste the jam on the spoon, of course, don’t let it go to waste!  If it isn’t sweet enough add another 2-3 tablespoons or up to 1/4 cup more sugar–in other words, sweeten to taste. Stir sugar into the jam and cook until sugar dissolves. If more acidity is desired, add a bit of lemon juice, stirring to combine. I added an extra quarter cup of sugar and the jam came out tart-yet-sweet. When the jam is set, remove the lemon rind and discard.

Spoon the jam into a measuring cup with a spout. Drain off the water in the jars and pour the jam into the clean jars. The jars will be very hot so use caution and wear silicone gloves or use silicone pot holders to do this. I left 1/2 inch at the top of the 8 oz jar to allow for expansion.  I had four ounces left over; this went into the smaller jar. Fish out the lids with a pair of tongs and screw them on the jars. Because I knew we wouldn’t get to eat it right away, I  put the 8-ounce jar in the freezer. The 4-ounce jar of jam went into the refrigerator to enjoy later when it cooled and set some more.

Basic Jam for Beginners, All Natural, Low Sugar, No Pectin Added

The High Heel Gourmet

Basic Jam Making for Beginner - NO Pectin by The High Heel Gourmet

Well, in case you ever wondered (just for the few that do wonder…I hope there is at least one, please!) why I’m not blogging as often in summer months, it’s because I’m busy doing preserves (jams), conserves, syrups or coulis from several fruits at the peak of the season, and some sauces, especially tomato sauce; these are taking time away from blogging and responding to comments.

Since I’ve been busy with preserving fruit, there are a lot of requests about my jam–either wanting to learn how to make them, or  how to BUY them. I’m NOT going to sell my jams, sorry. I don’t make jam to sell. I only make enough for myself and to give to my close friends. With the price I’m paying for fruit and sugar, if I sold them they would be too expensive.

Why? Because I don’t buy cheap fruit! I’m going to be…

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ban(ana + t)offee pie

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I think what the English call “toffee” is what Americans call butterscotch or caramel sauce. This toffee recipe didn’t work; it was too watery. Since I only have one oven rack, I emptied both cans of condensed milk into one pie plate. Although the milk browned, it might not have been thick enough. How thick should toffee become? I wish the recipe had given a temperature or described the consistency. It still tasted pretty good though;  not too sweet with the interesting texture of the crunchy biscuit base, the sticky sweet toffee, and the smooth lightly sweet bananas with the crème fraîche. I also used a 9-inch springform pan instead of a pie plate. If you want a less thick biscuit crust use the pie plate.

Banoffee Pie (adapted from Nigella Lawson, Epicurious, Carnation)

400 grams digestive biscuits, processed in a food processor to a fine crumb
200 grams unsalted butter
2 tins (14 oz each) condensed milk
2 large ripe bananas or 4 medium
1 chocolate (for grating and decoration) or cocoa powder (for sprinkling), optional

Crème Fraîche
1 1/2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
1/2 cup or one carton sour cream or plain Greek-style yogurt, optional
2 tablespoons sugar

Melt butter and add crushed biscuits, spread crumbs on the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate then chill for 1 hour. It will make a 1/4 inch deep crust all around.

Prepare to make the toffee. This can be made one day ahead.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Pour each can condensed milk into 9-inch pie plates. Cover tightly with aluminum foil; place in shallow pans (pan should be larger than pie plate). Fill pans with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Do not let water touch the foil cover. Bake in 25 minute increments checking to be sure the water doesn’t boil out. Altogether it should take about 2 hours, or until thick and light caramel-colored. It took me 1 hour and 40 minutes. Pour toffee into small mixer bowl; beat until smooth.

Put the toffee in the refrigerator to thicken and cool. When thoroughly cooled, spread the toffee over the biscuit base, smoothing it as close to the edge as possible.

Slice up ripe bananas and arrange them on top of the toffee.

Whip up the crème fraîche and spread on top of the banana slices. Alternatively, serve the whipped crème fraîche on the side.

To make crème fraîche, put all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form. Because crème fraîche is tangy, leave out the sour cream/yogurt if you want sweetened whipped cream.

If desired, grate some chocolate or make some chocolate curls, or drizzle melted chocolate over the whipped crème fraîche. I sprinkled unsweetened cocoa on top. Chill at least 2 hours, then serve.

toffee

DSC05100I’m planning a birthday pie.

Specifically, Andy wants a banoffee pie. A portmanteau of banana and toffee, this is a British dessert that consists of a crushed cookie crust, a layer of toffee, a layer of banana, and a topping of whipped cream.

To make the toffee, I opened two cans of condensed milk and poured them out into a 9-inch pie plate. I covered the top tightly with foil and then I put the pie plate in a baking tray. I poured hot water in the tray so that it came halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Then I baked it at 425˚F/225˚C . I checked the toffee at 25 minute intervals to make sure the water did not boil out, and to add more hot water as needed. There was no need to open the foil cover because I could see the milk through the glass sides. As soon as it turned light golden brown, I took it out of the oven. It took 1 hour and 40 minutes to make this toffee.

white pizza with avocado, arugula, and mozzarella

DSC05116I did it! I made pizza from scratch. Pizza on the griddle.

I used two dough balls of pizza dough  to make two “small” pizzas, each about  6-8 inches in diameter. I used arugula (also called rocket salad) instead of spinach. That’s about the only substitution for this White Pizza recipe from The Kitchn. Once I got past making that quirky recipe for pizza dough, making the pizza was quite easy. Each one took just 6 minutes to make in a griddle pan on the stove top. As you can see, the crust puffed up quite nicely. It just goes to show that you do not need a grill nor an oven to make a delicious pizza.

Every once in a while I like to have a White Pizza. Tomato sauces can be heavy! This white sauce is creamy and garlicky. The avocado is best if it is a little on the just ripe side; then it’s firm and won’t get mushy when it is heated. Besides swapping arugula for spinach, I’d like to add some chopped ripe olives to this pizza. How was the crust? Well, it was chewy but not doughy. It’s what I would call a substantial crust, thin but satisfying. To make the crust crispy and light like a cracker–that’s another challenge.

White Pizza with Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella

White Sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used home-made ricotta that I’d frozen)
1/8 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup whole milk (the milk and cream combined make half-and-half)
2 large cloves garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pizza for Two (6-8 inches each)
2 balls of pizza dough
Couple handfuls of arugula (preferably organic)
1 small round of mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

If the dough was in the refrigerator, let it rest about one-half to one hour. It depends on how hot it is in your kitchen!

Prep the white sauce. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

I oiled my granite pastry board and put a dough round on it. Using my fingertips (also oiled) I stretched and pulled the dough into a rough circle. If the dough springs back, let it rest a few minutes.

Meanwhile spray a griddle pan with olive oil or brush it with olive oil. Heat it on high then put the dough circle in the middle of the pan. Let it cook on one side 1-3 minutes or until the underside begins to get brown marks from the griddle. Flip it over and turn the heat down to low.

Working quickly, spread about 2-3 tablespoons of white sauce on the browned top. Sprinkle on a few red onion slices and cover with shredded arugula. Put about 3 slices of avocado on top and 3 slices of mozzarella on top of the avocado. I covered pizza in the griddle with a pot cover, the inside of which I sprayed with oil to prevent the cheese sticking to the cover. It took 3 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the bottom of the pizza. Repeat.

To serve, grind some sea salt or Himalayan pink salt and a few turns of cracked pepper. Enjoy!

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the best pizza dough for grilling

Whenever a cooking blog makes a claim like that, I think it’s a challenge.  So I think, I’m gonna try this puppy…

Earlier this week, I had read the (April 28, 2015) Kitchn blog by Anjali Prasertong for tips on how to tell whether a recipe from the internet is reliable or not. Besides the no-brainer, “read the comments” and making sure the ingredients match the instructions, Prasertong advises looking for specifics in the ingredients and instructions. I think of my mother-in-law’s quirky butter cake recipe to use “6 eggs.” Well, it made sense. In her day eggs only came in one size, small.  But today, we have four choices as to size: small, medium, large, and jumbo.

Prasertong also recommends looking for descriptions of what you will get at certain stages. America’s Test Kitchen’s marinara sauce recipe includes the reason why deglazing the pan is essential for full-bodied flavor. The last Kitchn recommendation was intuitive; read the whole recipe to get a sense of the recipe-writer’s experience with the recipe. I’ve read many recipes where I was sure the writer never tried the recipe  (or was holding something back) because the result couldn’t be replicated. Many cheesecake recipes on the internet are maddeningly like that. In my experience, another tip-off that the recipe isn’t reliable is the lack of pictures, either of the process and/or the product.

Yesterday, 5 p.m. I applied The Kitchn’s own advice to their recipe for pizza dough.  There were no pictures. The lack of specificity to  “mix the water and yeast together” was a tip-off that all was not well. I could not get the yeast to “bloom” using their instructions to “let stand a few minutes.” After 20 minutes nothing happened but a few feeble bubbles. So I started over, adding a teaspoon of sugar to the water and warmed it. Success. However, the dough kneading was also problematic. The dough wouldn’t form a ball and it was still sticking to the sides of the bowl after 7 minutes on low speed (according to the recipe instructions). Tyler Florence to the rescue. The dough was too wet! Now I don’t know if the dough is over mixed as a result, and as it was too late to make pizza for dinner, I put the dough rounds in the fridge to rest overnight.

The next day, 9 a.m. I removed the pan of dough from the refrigerator. The dough had doubled in bulk quite nicely in the fridge. I separated the balls and put them on a baking tray 2 inches apart on top of a sheet of waxed paper. You can use parchment. I covered the balls with the plastic and put the whole thing in the freezer. But I saved 2 to try for supper. I’m planning to make The Kitchn’s White Pizza with Avocado, Spinach, and Mozzarella.

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