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Posts Tagged ‘spice blending’

Ah, I am back for a short post on my second Mother Sauce base, Tomato Sauce or Sauce Tomat.  The French actually developed this sauce (based upon teachings from the Italians) which uses tomatoes as a base.  Needless to say Tomato Sauce is so versatile that its variations are endless!

Make a Tomato Sauce base is quite simple.  I was taught to use fresh tomatoes, but I now often use canned whole and pureed tomatoes.  Honestly, it will be hard for most of your diners to ever know the difference.  This recipe will make around a quart and a half to two quarts.  Hold on to your hats, folks, this will be fast and furious.

Mother Sauce Number Two:  Tomato Sauce

2  oz  Salt Pork

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

2  1/2 oz carrots, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

2  oz  real butter   

5 pounds raw tomatoes, quartered (for this recipe I use any large, ripe, red tomato)

1  qt. light chicken broth (or for more of a classic taste 1 qt. of veal broth)

2 small cloves freshly crushed garlic

2-3  oz all purpose flour

Something to remember before you begin is to choose your pot carefully.  You will need a pot that easily holds 2 quarts of hot liquid.  I’d suggest a glass pot or one that has an internal non stick surface.  I suggest this for a simple reason.  Tomatoes are extremely acidic and can readily pull the flavor and particles of aluminum and other metals (like iron) into your sauce.  Believe me, the taste will be affected by the wrong pot!

Alright then, let’s get started.  Begin by placing the salt pork into the pot and rending the fat out of the salt pork (a heavy bottomed pan works best and helps avoid burning).   Add about a tablespoon of water and cover with a lid.  Place heat on medium and check after 5 minutes.  The steam will help the fat render from the salt pork and help prevent burning of the pork fat. 

Once the salt pork is rendered, add in butter, carrots, onions and sweat them over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.  The vegetables should become tender and begin to release their aromas.  As this happens you can sprinkle the flour over the carrots and onions and continue to cook them for a few more minutes.  The flour will work with the pork fat to make a roux.  See my previous postings to learn about a roux.

Add in the tomatoes and cook them with the other ingredients until they begin to soften and release their fluids.  Immediately add in your chicken or veal stock and crushed garlic.  Cover the pot and reduce heat the simmer for about 2 hours.

Finally, cool your broth a bit and put it all through a blender until smooth.  If you want a very smooth sauce, take the blended mixture and filter it through a chinois, finish it with sale, pepper and the sugar. 

Many of you are asking, why the sugar?  Well, sugar will help balance the acidity of the tomatoes.  Try it.  A little sugar on everything is fantastic. 

Once you have you base you can add whatever spices you want to create your dream pasta sauce, soup, or meat sauce.  I highly recommend you take a joy ride into the variations of Sauce Tomat.  Recipes are available in just about every cookbook and across the net.  Enjoy.

Photo Courtesy of:  videoactive.blogspot.com/2008_08_17_archive.html

 

 Photo Courtesy of:   kitchenography.typepad.com

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I know.  I know.  I know.  It has been a long time since my last post.  I am trying to juggle way too many things right now, but at least I’m back for now.  The long promised Khmer Curry Paste recipe is soon to follow.  Unlike other curry mixes this one won’t be a throat burner.  Oh no, this is a subtle, delicious, can’t stay away from it curry paste.    Frankly, as you who follow know, I am addicted to everything flavorful, especially Dougray Scott.  If you don’t know who Dougray Scott is take a look on Google and be prepared to have your heart stop at the site of those luscious lips and intelligent brow.  Sigh.  Dougray Scott, Khmer Curry Paste, a private hotel room with a sauna, Lisa Gerrard on the surround sound……..  Sorry, got carried away there for a moment.  Get out your mortar and pedestal and let’s get started.  Just remember that this recipe will make around a cup of paste or about enough for one large recipe using the blend or two smaller recipes.  I always say it is easier to use less spices than to have to figure out how to blunt the flavor from overuse.  Take this for what it is…a word from the spice wise.

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.cambodia-cooking-class.com/images/top-mortar-2.jpg

Khmer Curry Paste

Remember, if you don’t know what ingredients I am mentioning, look back at my previous posts on Cambodian spices and herbs.  Also you can get all of these ingredients in large cities or if you live in a rural area, the internet offers you many sites from which to purchase these items.

Ingredients

1/4 cup peanut oil (for those worried about fat in their diet, canola oil or extra virgin olive oil can be used)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/4 cup sliced turmeric

8 medium cloves skinless garlic sliced

6 fresh or dried Tai chilies

1 fresh or dried Spur Chile (I have read recipes calling for New Mexico Chili pods, but I have never tried them in this recipe) 

1/4 cup sliced and trimmed galangal root (relative of ginger–see previous post)

2-3 tsp mushroom powder

1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 lemongrass stalk, cleaned and finely sliced

1/4 cup peeled and sliced shallots

10 kaffir lime leaves (note:  these must be finely shredded)

If you are using dried Chili pods remember to soak them in warm water for one half hour and then drain before using.  Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend for at least 15 minutes or until you notice the ingredients are forming a smooth paste.  Keep the edges pulled in with a spatula so all ingredients are well incorporated.  Use fresh with your recipe or store in refrigerator for no more than one week. 

How was that for simple!  And, soon to come will be an incredible recipe for you to use your spice mix with.  I can’t wait to hear about your smiles as you use your new spice blend paste!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://images.travelpod.com/users/timrie/4.1262609656.making-curry-paste.jpg

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Photo courtesy of:  http://www.paradiseinfiji.com/blogimages/Activities/Culture_Warrior005.jpg

 

Everyone was so pleased with my posts of Fiji, that I thought I would post another Fijian recipe that is as easy as they come and as delicious as can be.  If you like ceviche you will love this slightly spicy white fish dish.  Let’s hit it, folks!

Kokoda

Ingredients:

4 White Fish fillets (I use Halibut, but for more authenticity use Mahi-Mahi)

Juice of 3 large limes or 4 small limes

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced in small cubes

1 very small green chili (Serrano works fine) minced very, very fine.  Remember, always remove seeds, stems and veins  (use less for less heat)

1 medium onion, minced

1 orange bell pepper, seeds, veins and stems removed and minced

1 cup coconut cream  (NOT coconut milk, but coconut CREAM)

Preparation:

Cut the fish fillets into bite size pieces and put them in a GLASS bowl with the lime juice and salt.  Do NOT put the lime juice in a metal bowl or it WILL react with the metal and ruin the flavor of your dish.  Mix the fish, lime and salt well and then cover and refrigerate overnight for no less than 12 hours. 

Remove from fridge and add coconut cream and minced onion. Stir well.  Serve immediately and sprinkle tomato and diced orange bell pepper over top.  I love serving this dish on a fresh bed of huge lettuce leaves.  I have even had folks roll the Kokoda in a lettuce leaf and eat it like a taco.  If you are really adventuresome, invite some dancers over to give a show to your family and guests.  Or, better yet, have a beach party where less clothing is more fun!  Yum is all I can say. 

 

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Ah, yes.  This is a quote from The Truman Show (1998).  No doubt you are wondering what the heck this has to do with my blog.  Well, not much–or a lot–depending on how your brain works.  Mine works on a wide plain of abstractions and strange zig zags of connections, so it makes perfect sense to use this quote as a segway into my new post on Fijian Cuisine.  Yes, we’re still near the ocean for this post.  Not the roiling, surging, dark and frightening ocean some of us live near, but the soft, blue-green, warm, foaming, see till the end of the earth Ocean of the Fijian Islands. 

 

If this picture from the Fijian Tourist Bureau doesn’t grab you, then nothing will.  Ah, Fiji.  Just a grouping of about 300 islands laying in a beautiful nest of liquid pleasure.  Do we ever hear of Fiji.  Not really.  But it has had two military coups, believe it or not.  And, there are some relatively famous folks from Fiji.  Who you ask, your head turning sideways as you look at your computer screen in doubt.    Vija Singh for one.  Who?  Vija Singh, the world-class golfer.  Any other guesses?  No, well there is Jimmy Snuka a.k.a. “Superfly” the former WWF wrestler.  And, lest you think there are only two famous folks from Fiji, what about Anand Satyanand?  Umm humm.  The Governor General of New Zealand is from Fiji.  Sigh.  Just think of the minutia you have learned from reading this simple spice and herb blog!

The cuisine and spices of Fiji, which is really our topic today, is a melting pot of various cultures that have infiltrated the Islands.  Fijian cooking has been influenced by Polynesians, Indians, Chinese, Dutch and other Europeans, Africans, and even Melanesians.  Fijian cuisine is a lovely mixture of many different cultures all adapted to fit local tastes and Island living.  As such, it takes a deft hand to create the subtle tastes  of modern Fijian cuisine. 

The Fijian Islands provide ample perfect weather and growing conditions for many spices and herbs.  Some are indigenous to Fiji and others were brought to Fiji and cultivated.  But, the list is so varied and beautiful that what else but subtle perfection can be expected of Fijian dishes.  So, let’s begin by listing the most common spices used in Fijian cooking.

1.  Vanilla

2.  Pepper

3.  Nutmeg

4.  Cinnamon

5.  Tumeric

6.  Ginger

7.  Cardamom

8.  Coriander

9.  Cumin

10.  Chilies

11.  Fenugreek

12.  Sea Salt

From this list, it is easy to see the outside influences on Fijian cuisine.  Imagine the magical dance of these spices combined with seafood, pork, chicken, goat (yes, they eat goat in Fiji), breadfruit, yam, cassava, taro root, limes, lemons, guava, mango, bananas, pineapple and the ever present and abundantly used coconut milk and flakes.  Can’t you just feel the burst of flavor on your tongue?  Feel the salivation start?   Hang onto your hats kids, and with the next post we will explore some common Fijian dishes that will leave you and your guests yearning for sun, waves, color and relaxation. 

For now, goodnight fine friends and I leave you with this…………………………………

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.paulsmedia.co.nz/images/gallery/fiji_sunset_02.jpg

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Good evening everyone.  Imagine my delight late last night when I was just about ready to enter this post and BAM!  Yes, BAM!  I found out that an old episode of Desperate Housewives was on featuring guess who?   Who?  Say it!  Yes.  BAM!  Dougray Scott.  Needless to say all thoughts of my favorite Indian spices went out of my head and I became glued to the television.  Dear God, how could she choose a plumber over Dougray Scott.  Sigh.  Now that I have those feelings out the way, its down to business!

Indian cooking is one of my favorites.  The flavors are so varied by region and even by cooks within regions that I believe Indian cooking is some of the most interesting in the world and the spices used, some of the most complex.  Here’s a list of the most common Indian spices.  Most of these can be found in grocery stores in larger cities.  If you, like me, are unlucky enough to live away from such an urban area, there are plenty of Indian groceries on the net to satisfy your spice searching.

1.  Green Hot Chillies.  Don’t touch your fingers to your eyes when handling green hot chillies.  Indian green chillies are about 2-4 inches long and filled with white seeds.  It is the white seeds that cause all that burn.  So, if you don’t want the burn, use latex gloves and remove as many seeds as you can. Indians call these chillies Hari Mirch.

2.  Red Hot Chillies.  Again, a warning about the heat.  These are really  interesting chillies.  When you place them in boiling oil they will puff up and the skin will darken.  It is believed that even the darkened skin lends a special flavor to Indian cooking.  The Indian name for these red chillies is Sabut lal mirch.

3.  Fresh grated Coconut and Coconut Milk.  Coconut milk is made by grating coconut, placing it in water and then squeezing out the juice.  Ummmmm.  Fresh grated coconut meat freezes and unfreezes easily so it is an easy item to keep for future use.  Fresh grated coconut is referred to in India as Nariyal.

4.  Coriander Seeds.  Coriander seeds are used often in Indian cooking.  They are usually freshly ground before used in any recipe.  The Coriander plant itself is also used in Indian cooking as a herb as opposed to a spice.  Coriander leaf is used much like we use parsley in Italy.  In order to flavor wet dishes the leaves are often tossed in and cooked for the addition of their aroma.  Indians call Coriander greens Kothmir.  Coriander seeds are often called Dhania or Sabut.

5.  Cinnamon.  Cinnamon sticks are most often used in rice and meat dishes.  The Cinnamon sticks are used for flavor and are not eaten. Their Indian name is Dar Cheeni.

6.  Whole Cloves.  Again, whole cloves are often used in meat and rice dishes for its aroma.  Indians refer to cloves as Long (as opposed to short–just kidding).

7.  Cayenne Pepper.  Hey this is one we all know about, huh!  It’s Indian name is Pisi hui lal mirch.

8.  Cardamom.  Cardamon seeds come from the Cardamom pod and are black and highly aromatic.  If you are using the pod with seeds included you should not eat it only use it for its aroma.  The seeds can be eaten and ground.  Cardamom seeds are referred to as Elaichi.

9.  Green Mango Powder.  Green Mango Powder is just as it says–a green mango that has not ripened.  The unripened mango is sliced and dried in the sun.  Both whole slices and powdered slices are sold in Indian groceries. I’ve only used the powder and can not speak to the use of the sliced Amchoor.  Amchoor is extremely sour and tastes somewhat like lime.  It is referred to as Amchoor Powder.

10.  Asafetida.  This is a resin with a strong odor that is usually found in Kashmir.  Someone in a cooking class once told me it smelled like truffles.  Ummmmm.  I’d say earthy is right, but to me it smelled closer to really old manure that no longer smelled like excrement but was once excrement.  Again, my palate can’t be trusted.  Since that class I have never used it even when a recipe has called for it. 

11.  Fennel Seeds.  Ah, another one I use often.  Fennel seeds have a liquorice-like flavor–not as heavy as anise but the taste is definitely there.  Fennel seeds are often roasted and placed on the last course in a meal as a breath freshener.  At an Indian grocery ask for Sonf.

12.  Fenugreek Seeds.  Many of you have used Fenugreek seeds in Mediterranean cooking.  They are a squarish, brownish-yellow seed that have a definitely mushroomy or earthy flavor (without the excrement included ; ) ).  Indians refer to these seeds as Methi.

13.  Cumin Seeds.  Indians usually roast their seeds in a pan and use them whole or grind them. 

There we have it.  These are the very basic spices used in Indian cooking.  Tomorrow we will look at another basic spice mixture used as a “base” (or a beginning) in Indian cooking–Gram Masala.  It is easy to make at home and is delicious by itself or after more spices/herbs are added to further enhance the flavor of a recipe. 

Alas, I must leave you for this evening.  Like Dougray Scott I am here, but not really here–I’m in the ether.  Goodnight and good eating!

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