: Chicken & Corn Curry.

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Recently, we visited Dempsey’s Corner Orchard,  just 5 minutes from our house.

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For just $2 per person, we could spend the day and “eat of any tree” we wanted. You might say we had more freedom than Adam and Eve did.

Sorry, that was corny.

Speaking of corn, have you ever eaten a cob fresh from the stalk? One that you picked yourself? If not, you really should try it! As if all the beautiful fruit wasn’t enough, Dempsey’s also had a corn field for the customers to pick all that they wanted. It was fantastic! So juicy and so much sweeter when it is fresh! After eating a couple of these, we decided to purchase some for our supper.

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There is nothing wrong with plain boiled corn on the cob but this time I wanted to do something different. This fresh and tasty corn was worthy of something else. After thinking about it, I decided to use it in Opor Ayam, which is an Indonesian style chicken curry. Opor is enveloped in this rich, spicy, coconutty sauce.

I could write poetry about this sauce.

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This Opor Ayam recipe is not authentic. Instead, it suits our preferences. Normally, a whole chicken is cut up to make this. Also, one traditional recipe calls for 15 dried chilies….nope, not a typo.  Fifteen!!

I’ve only made this a couple times before, and only in one pot. It is terrific and easy just like that. But this time I did it a bit different.I finished it off in my cast iron casserole, adding the corn from Dempsey’s.

The corn, after cooking in the sauce and soaking up the spices, tastes spectacular!

Using breasts make this healthier. Boneless also make it kid friendly.  Because I have omitted the bone and darker meat, I have sacrificed some of the flavour. I’m ok with that. Feel free to use bone-in chicken, and thighs also, if you want. Just add a few minutes to the initial cooking time.

Not authentic, but very delicious anyway. This would appeal to someone who can’t handle too much chili. This is spicy but not very hot. You can make this using 1 chili if you prefer, without losing much flavour. The chili does balance out the sweetness and richness of the dish.

Ingredients:

2 ½   lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts  (aprox 5 breasts)

2 shallots

1 tbsp diced ginger

3 garlic cloves

1 bulb lemon grass, sliced

2 dried chilies

2 tbsp coriander

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp dried onion flakes

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup chicken stock

1 can coconut milk

3 or 4 Dried kaffir lime leaves (optional)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

4 large corn cobs, parboiled for 5 minutes and sliced (or 2 cups of vegetables of your choice)

Method:

Grind shallots, ginger, garlic, chili, and lemon grass into a paste. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks (cut each breast in 3 or 4 pieces).

Over medium heat, heat oil in a large pot and fry spice paste until fragrant. Add the coriander,cinnamon stick, curry, turmeric, and onion flakes. Stir. Add tomato paste and salt with a little water (just enough to keep spice paste from burning).

Add chicken to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Frequently scrape spices from bottom of pot, and toss chicken pieces around to brown them. Add a bit more water if things start to stick.

Pour in coconut milk, chicken stock, and add lime leaf to the pot.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes. * preheat oven to 370 degrees at this point * Uncover pot and reduce heat to medium-low setting.

Cook a further 15 minutes. The sauce should appear thicker by then and some of the red coloured oils will start to separate at the top. If this hasn’t happened, continue cooking until it does.

Now transfer this to a deep, 3 ½ to 4 quart casserole dish and add in vegetables.  Don’t waste 1 drop of the precious sauce, scrape it all into the casserole! Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

I used 4 cobs of sweet corn that I previously parboiled and cut into slices. Sliced carrots would also work, or cubed sweet potato, or any sweet ‘ish’ vegetable.

Cover the casserole and cook in 370 oven for a half hour. Remove and give a gentle stir before serving.

Serve with rice or potatoes.  I recommend bread for sopping up the sauce!

Serves 6-8.

This is delicious just as it is, but if you wait one more day, it’s infinitely more yummy!

Just keep it sealed in the fridge (if you can delay digging in!)

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: Curried Beef & Sweet Potato Stew

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This is one of my personal favorites.

It’s a comfort dish when you come in from a cold and blustery day. It’s also great for when you have a cold brewing. Especially if you pair it with a thick quilt and a good book.

I promise, if you are feeling miserable, this will help.

If you can’t find kaffir lime leaf (I got mine at Pete’s Fruitique), just use a couple strips of lime zest.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp oil

1 1/2 lbs eye of round steak, cut into chunks

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (roughly 1″)

5 large shallots, cut into large pieces

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 red chili pepper, seeds removed, and minced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tbsp Thai red curry paste

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

4  dried kaffir lime leaves

1 cup coconut milk

2 cups vegetable broth

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Method:

In a large pot, heat oil on high heat. Brown and seer beef in the hot oil, for about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Stir well and then add shallots, ginger, and chili, and thai curry paste. Fry until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

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Add sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and sweet potatoes. Stir and then follow with the vegetable broth, coconut milk, and drop in the dried lime leaves.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Remove lid, immediately reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. It will thicken significantly into a nice gravy. Occasionally give the pot a gentle stir, taking care not to break up the sweet potatoes.

...half way there...

…half way there…

Serve alone or with rice or bread. Serves 6.

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If you want to learn how to make these dandy chili flowers, here is a video. Thai peppers seem to work better than the peppers I used. It will take about 30 minutes to ‘curl the petals’, so you can do these as your stew is simmering…

: Chicken Curry

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Curry is one of those recipes which is hard to get wrong. And it’s one of those dishes that is 100 times tastier the next day, if you can manage to save some. It was one of the first ‘ethnic’ dishes I could make by memory, as the ingredients are few and simple to prepare.

Sometimes I add a sliced carrot to mine. Peas also work. I like to add  whole spices, like cardamom and star anise, to make the curry even more fragrant. The cinnamon stick lends a bit of sweetness.

Before I married my husband I thought all curry mixes were the same. And the only curry I had been exposed to was that generic bland curry powder found in grocery stores. Back then, I didn’t know curry mixes vary by region, and that it is not solely an Indian dish.

My husband’s Malay and Javanese roots have their own versions of curry. These tend to be richer than the Indian versions. Sometimes they are ‘pedas’, or made sour by adding lime or tamarind.

To make good curry it’s crucial that you have a good curry mix. When we last visited Singapore we took home a small suitcase full of spices. Let me search for that photo and add it another time….that was crazy!!

You may use any Indian or Thai curry mix or paste that you find suitable. Indian “Madras curry” is a good one to try if you can’t find a South East Asian blend. The other basic ingredients are potato, onion, and coconut milk. Pretty simple really. It’s a great starting recipe if you want to try Asian cooking.

1 large potato and 1 pound of chicken may seem too scant for feeding 4 people, but for our family it’s all about the sauce and dipping into it with the naan. If you want something more substantial, by all means add another potato or a half pound more of the chicken.

Ingredients:

1 large onion, sliced thin

1 large potato, peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks (about 1”)

1 tsp salt

2 ½  tbsp curry powder mix or 2 tbsp paste

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast and thighs, chopped into small pieces

1 can coconut milk

water (enough to just cover potatoes)

2 tbsp oil

*If you have – 1 whole star anise, 4 crushed cardamom pods, 3 cloves, 1 small cinnamon stick (tied in cheesecloth)

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Method:

Heat oil in a pot or deep wok. Fry onions until soft, add curry paste. If you are working with a powdered curry mix, add enough water to form a paste.

Once fragrant, add chicken. Stir and cook over medium heat until no longer pink (about 3-4 minutes).

Add water, bundled spices, and potatoes. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium-low. Pour in coconut milk, and cover, cooking until potatoes are softened, about 15 minutes.

Uncover and cook on low until curry liquid becomes silky looking and has thickened a bit, approximately another 15-20 minutes. Add salt at the end, to taste. Curry is done when you see some oil and spices coming to the top (oil will have turned a deeper colour of red or orange).

Serve with rice and/or warmed dipping breads, like naan. Serves 4.

*You may want to bundle these loose spices, but I throw them in loose. Later I pick out the cloves and anise, but my favorite part is scooping the curry with a cardamom pod up with my naan. I love biting down on the perfumy cardamom!

This is one of my favorite comfort dishes.

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: Arabian-Asian Fusion Breakfast (Kacang Phool)

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Well that’s a mouthful of a title…now, how to explain this dish?

First of all, it’s Malaysian. Sort of. It’s origins are actually Arab. In the Middle East, it’s called ‘Ful Medames’, which is actually Egypt’s national dish. It is a take on a popular breakfast dish that Muslims brought back to Malaysia from their pilgrimage.

The Malay’s have long since made this their own, by adding a distinctly Asian flavour to it. Like extra spices and calamansi limes. Since I can’t get those cute little limes here, I had to substitute regular limes.

I first had this in Singapore. My sister-in-law, Salmah, presented it one morning for breakfast. I recall looking down at this little bowl with a whole lot going on in it…pulverised beans with bits of meat, a fried egg, and loads of extras:  teeny weeny (what the heck are those? Limes?), sliced green chilies, diced red onion, and hot buttered toast.

Before I was about to dig in, my brother- in- law said…”first, you must squirt the calamansi juice all over it”. So glad he told me this because WOW, what an awesome flavour combination! I love lots of lime juice on mine.

I’ve seen some recipes call for fava beans and some for broad beans. Don’t let that confuse you. They are one in the same.

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The garnishes are crucial to this dish. They add texture and very interesting contrasts in taste.

Also, don’t forget the hot buttered toast. The thicker, the better! The Phool is quite nice sopped up or scooped with the toast.

Just to note: meat is not typically found in the Arab cousin of this dish. It’s one of those fusion liberties. If you don’t want to add meat, this dish would still be great. Since the meat is there for taste only, I chop it up very fine while it’s cooking, as I don’t want any meaty lumps. I rather it blends in.

The chick peas also are not normally found in phool.  I think I recall Salmah added them because she was short another type of bean. I am glad she did because I love them!

*If you are wondering what I mean by Malaysian type curry powder, it is quite different from the Indian varieties. I would never say which is better – because I do love Indian food- but I am partial to Malay style curry. It’s just personal preference. A Malay curry mix, which I have, has chili as the main ingredient, followed by coriander, turmeric, cumin, anise, pepper, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom.

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Salmah’s Kacang Phool was “Shiok!!” as they say in Singapore (the utmost praise for yumminess).

I have tried to get mine to taste as good as hers, but she is an exceptional cook. Still, this isn’t bad if I do say so myself!

The following is not Salmah’s exact recipe, but is inspired by my memory of the meal she served to us.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 19 oz can of broad beans, drained and pureed

1 14 oz can white beans, drained and mashed

½ can chick peas (aprox. 8 oz), drained and slightly mashed

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 slices of fresh ginger (roughly the size of a quarter)

1 tsp fennel seed

2 tbsp curry powder (Malaysian type)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp  tomato sauce

½ lb of lean minced beef

Water (see amounts below and add extra if needed)

Garnishes:

6 wedges of limes, or 3 calamasi’s halved.

1 green chili pepper, thinly sliced

½  small red onion, diced

1 fried egg, sunny-side up (for each serving)

1 slice thick buttered toast (for each serving)

blend the broad beans until smooth

blend the broad beans until smooth

the spices are ready for the beef once it resembles a paste

the spices are ready for the beef once it resembles a paste

Method:

Before beginning to cook, have all ingredients ready and close to stove.

Puree broad beans with a little water and set aside. Mash the other beans and set aside. Grind the onion, garlic, and ginger in a small food processor or with a pestle. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add in the dry spices (except curry powder) and cook until fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Add in the ground ingredients, followed by the curry powder. Stir in 1/4 cup of water, and then add in meat and cook until done.

Add the tomato sauce, and pureed broad beans. Pour in 1 cup of water. Stir well, scraping up the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low.

Let that cook for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, fry the eggs and set aside.

Lastly, add in the regular beans and chick peas. Start the toast. Cook  the phool, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. If it gets too thick (like paste), add a bit of water.

Butter and stack the toast. Spoon phool into a bowl, and serve with fried egg on top. Sprinkle diced onions and sliced chili on top, and serve with a wedge of lime.

Serves 6.

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: Curried Apple & Squash Potage

a bowl of autumn goodness

a bowl of autumnal goodness!

This is such a lovely comfort dish. Squash is my favorite fall vegetable. It’s rich, nutty, and pairs awesomely with tangy accompaniments, like yogurt, feta, or sour cream. It also is great with some sweet added, like maple, or brown sugar…or apples. I’ve made squash soups before but never with apple. It gives it a slightly sweet and tangy addition. If you chose to make this, don’t tell them about the apple. Just watch their pleasant surprise when they take their first taste.

Ingredients:

1 butternut or acorn squash, split,(seeds & guts discarded), and roasted

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 small apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

2 tbsp butter

1 liter chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup half-n-half cream (or whole milk)

1 large shallot, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp brown sugar

1/8 tsp powdered ginger

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground curry powder

1 tsp salt

In a cheese cloth tied with string (bouquet garni): 1 whole star anise, 3 crushed cardamom pods, pinch of fenugreek seeds)

for garnish: fresh cilantro, greek yogurt, pepper

Method:

Scoop the roasted squash out of the skin and set aside in a bowl. In a medium pot, over low heat, melt butter and add shallots, celery, and garlic. Sautee until soft and translucent. Add the loose spices (not the bouquet garni) and continue sauteing until fragrant. Add the apples and carrots, stir until apples begin to soften. Add the wine and bouquet garni. Turn up heat to medium while pouring in the stock. Cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes until carrots are soft.

Add the squash, brown sugar, and cream, turning the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, turn off the heat, remove the bouquet garni, and let soup cool until just warm. Blend with an immersion blender (the easiest way) or regular blender until smooth. Reheat and serve with optional garnishes above.

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