Monday, September 28, 2009

Cookbook commitment

I have a problem.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, I understand? I have an addiction to cookbooks. I covet them, obsessively. Then I buy them, flip through them, and shelve them for weeks without using them again. Bought, pored over, and forgotten. It’s neglectful, really. And it doesn’t help that I work weekends in a cookbook store. It’s akin to hiring a recovering pill-popper to work in a pharmacy. Behind the counter. With the good stuff.

Before I tell you more about my addiction, I really need to sneak this in: I found a really great pumpkin curry recipe, and I’m awfully smitten with it. We had it last night, and we’ll have it again. Next Friday, Andrew and I are planning to take the ingredients over to his parents’ to make it.

Now back to my addiction. You’ll see that the cure lies in the curry, incidently. Here’s why: I’ve promised not to buy another cookbook until I’ve given the ones I own the attention they deserve. I will take them off the shelf, one at a time, perhaps for an entire week at a time, and lovingly turn their pages and discover new treasures within them. No new cook books for me, not until I’ve mended my broken relationships of the past. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing to you with specifics books in mind.

This pumpkin curry was born out of such a commitment. I spent an entire week with Jody Vassallo’s Cooking from above Asian. It’s a mish-mash of Asian cuisine (Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Thai), but beautifully illustrated, as the title suggests, from above. That way, the ingredients and tools are lined up for every recipe, so no one could possibly screw it up. It’s especially useful when it comes to unfamiliar ingredients.

I made a few good dinners from this book, but the winner is the Satay Pumpkin Curry. It’s rich, creamy, and satisfying. Cherry tomatoes burst in your mouth, and the pumpkin melts into the coconut cream. I added a few squirts of hot sauce (Sriracha) to satisfy my need for spice. If that’s what you like, try it. Or use a fresh hot pepper. It cuts into the creaminess very nicely, as does the cilantro.

Whatever you do, please try the curry. I know you have pumpkins.

Satay Pumpkin Curry
from Cooking from above Asian, by Jody Vassallo

1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp satay paste
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1 lb pumkin, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks (I used a pie-sized pumpkin. It was perfect)
½ lb firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
½ lb cherry tomatoes
2 cups coconut cream
1/4 lb spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 or 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a heavy bottomed pot or wok, heat the oil and add the satay paste and the ginger (and the chili peppers if you chose to add them). Cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin and cook until it’s coated and beginning to soften. Add the tofu, tomatoes and coconut cream. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the pumpkin is very soft and the tofu has absorbed the flavours. If you’re adding Sriracha sauce, add it now, to taste. Serve piping hot, over rice.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A quick note on méchouis

I need to tell you about our visit home to the farm in Manitoba last week. Well, I shouldn’t speak for the both of us; it’s home for me, but a totally new place for Andrew. He got to shoot a .22 and drive the tractor... I think he had fun.

My parents run a sheep farm, and I grew up eating lamb. If you are what you eat, well, BAAA. So there: if I know anything, I know lamb, in all its variations. But my very favorite way to prepare lamb is this:

The méchoui. It would be a traditional Moroccan dish if it weren’t for the entire bottle of Canadian whisky it’s basted with. The lamb is cooked over hot coals, for about three hours, its belly filled with rice, dates, cashews and lemons. The whole yard smells of coriander and paprika. While the lamb cooks, you drink beer, shuck corn. It’s party food really. It fed nearly twenty people. It was so good to be home.