Monday, February 21, 2011

Sri Lankan Curry and Dal

Sri Lankan style Beef Curry and Dal
I got lost in the cookbook section of the library the other day.  There were so many books calling out to me, wanting to be read.  Books with brilliant colors of exotic lands, beautiful people, and their edible works of art.  I wished I could bring them all home, but I thought I better leave some books on the shelf for the next wandering soul.
Mangoes and Curry Leaves, Culinary Travels Through the Great Sub-Continent by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, jumped out at me.  A couple of years ago my husband and I traveled in India and ever since, I have been fascinated with the region.  The book took me back to the gates of the Taj Mahal and I could hardly wait to start cooking.  For our 51st Foreign Food Fest, we chose to travel south from Agra to experience the rich coco-nutty flavors of  Sri Lankan Beef Curry and Dal.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves

11/2 pounds beef stew meat sliced across grain into bite size chunks
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 onion chopped
1 green chile
3 cloves garlic chopped
3 cups water
4 chopped prunes--here the original recipe calls for Tamarind pulp
11/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp Demerra sugar
1 T coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick-about 1/2 inch
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods
Cilantro chopped

Brown beef in olive oil.  Add onions, salt, and chile.  Cook until onions begin to soften about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add water to cover meat and add chopped prunes.  (I didn't have any tamarind pulp, I chose prunes as a substitute for their sweetness and fibrous texture.  I'm sure it didn't give quite the same flavor but for us it had to do.)  Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down.  Simmer for 1-2 hours or until beef is tender.  While beef is simmering, mix coriander, cumin, and cardamom seeds with cinnamon stick and gently heat in a dry frying pan.  Heat until seeds release their fragrance, only a minute or  two.  At this point I was supposed to grind the seeds into a powder, but the mortar and pestle grinder that I had ordered 2 months ago still had not arrived so I tried smashing them with the back of a spoon.  (That did not work too well, mostly the seeds jumped out of the bowl I had them in.  I just put them into the curry mostly whole).  Add the coconut milk and spices to the beef.  Let simmer uncovered for about another 30 minutes or until the liquid thickens slightly.  Stir in sugar and add more salt if needed.  Add chopped cilantro and serve over hot basmati rice.

Sri Lankan Dal adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves

1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
2 red chiles
11/2 cups coconut milk
red pepper flakes- optional
2 tsp salt
cilantro for garnish

Rinse and drain lentils.  Put in pot with water and 1 tsp of salt.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer about 20 minutes.  Add more water if necessary.  In a separate frying pan, saute shallots in a little olive oil.  Add  garlic, curry powder, coriander, and chiles. I only added 2 chiles here because my son has a low tolerance for spicy foods, but next time I would add 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper to give it a little kick.  Cook only for a minute or two until fragrant.  Pour in coconut milk. I love the flavor of coconut milk, so I pour it with a heavy hand.  Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add the coconut milk mixture to the lentils and continue to cook on low until the lentils have lost their shape and have the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Add up to 1 tsp of salt if needed.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.  Serve with rice or naan. *Ryan was rather skeptical of the Dal, but once he could eat it on naan he was ok with it. (He loves bread from any culture!)

Check out Naomi Duguid's website at and her blog  at


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hometown Russian Adventure

My friend Lily inspired a dinner from Russia this week.  I decided to make Borscht.  She told me I had to go to a nearby Russian grocery store for a special dark bread that is a delicious accompaniment to the hearty soup.  I took the kids with me.  At first they didn't want to come in.  "Can't we stay in the car?" They asked.  I told them they might find some interesting items in there.  Alyssa decided it might be fun and eagerly headed for the door.  Jessica and Ryan dragged their feet, but they came in.  Once inside they perked right up.  I heard, "ooh look at this.  Can we try this mom?"  I told them they could each pick out 1 item to try.  I found the dark bread called Borodynsky and put it in our basket.  The kids immediately found the freezer section displaying different types of filled dumplings.  We picked a package of chicken filled perogies.  We looked through every aisle examining different packages to see the beautiful Russian script and guessing at the contents inside.  We ended our Russian grocery trip in the chocolate area where we grabbed a big bar of dark chocolate for our dessert.

Jessica learning how to chop Borscht veggies 


1 celery stick diced
1 carrot diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 large head green cabbage shredded
2 medium sized beets diced
64 oz beef or vegetable broth
About 4 cups water
1/4 red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
olive oil
Parsley chopped
plain yogurt or sour cream

Finished Borscht with dollop of yogurt
Heat olive oil in a pot.  Add celery and carrots and cook for a couple minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Pour in beef broth, cabbage, beets, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer until cabbage is very tender 1-2 hours.  Add water as necessary to keep cabbage fully covered.  Add chopped parsley.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top and a piece of toasted Borodynsky bread (if you are lucky enough to have a Russian grocery store nearby).

Mushroom, Wheat Berry, and Brussel Sprout Salad

1 cup wheat berries
Brussel Sprouts, Wheat Berries and Mushrooms

2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
10 Brussel sprouts halved
4 oz wild mushrooms chopped
1 tsp sherry
1/4 cup water
 salt and pepper

Prepare wheat berries in salted water according to package directions.  If water is evaporated and they are still tough add more water and continue cooking until they begin to be tender.  Saute shallots in olive oil add wild mushrooms.  Saute mushrooms and Brussel sprouts until they start to brown.  If needed add a little more olive oil.  Add sherry to the 1/4 cup of water and pour into mushroom mixture.  Add cooked wheat berries, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed and serve.

Borodynsky bread, Chicken Perogies, Wheat Berry Salad and Borscht-- a Russian delight! 


Friday, February 11, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Tagine --Country #49

Lamb Tagine with Sauteed Spinach and Beans.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of slow roasted lamb and dried fruits.  I could hardly wait to have a taste, but I first had to make our side dish of sauteed spinach and white beans and Basbousa cake.  Tonight was all about the rich sun baked flavors of Morocco.  (We would have to ignore the 4 feet of snow outside our door.)

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

2 1/2 lbs lamb cut into chunks
Lamb in olive oil and spices.
1/2 onion chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
10 saffron threads crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
15 prunes
15 apricots
1 1/2 T butter
5 cloves garlic chopped
1 c chicken broth
4 c water
11/2 cinnamon sticks
Cilantro chopped

Put lamb chunks in medium bowl. Mix ginger, turmeric, paprika, saffron, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour spice mix over lamb and mix well. Add olive oil to coat lamb.  Cover and let sit for about an hour in the fridge.  Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium high heat.   Brown lamb in pan.  Add onions and cook until they start to soften.  Add water, chicken broth, garlic, and cinnamon stick. (Next time I think I would put in the cinnamon stick half way through the cooking.) Bring to boil.  At this point, I poured it into a crock pot and let it cook on high until I got home from work which was about 7 hours.  Instead of using a crock pot you could simmer for 2 hours.  Add cinnamon stick, and simmer 1 or 2 more hours or until lamb is melt in your mouth tender.
While lamb is cooking, put prunes and apricots in a saucepan.  Pour hot water over them until they are just covered, add 1/2 a cinnamon stick.  Simmer over low heat until fruits have absorbed most of the water.  Remove cinnamon stick.  When lamb is finished, pour fruits into stew and stir gently. Add butter and cook for about 10 more minutes.  Add chopped cilantro and serve over couscous.

Sauteed Spinach with White Beans

2-3 cups baby spinach washed and chopped into ribbons
3 cloves garlic
1 can white beans drained (Cannelini or Great Northern)
1/2 lemon juiced
1/4 cup kalamata olives sliced
1/4 cup red onion sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup  fresh parsley chopped
2 T chicken broth
olive oil
salt and pepper

Over medium heat, saute onion in pan until it starts to soften.  Add cumin and chicken broth.  Turn down heat to medium low and toss in spinach.  When spinach begins to wilt, add garlic, lemon juice, and beans.  When most of the broth is evaporated add olives and parsley.  Stir until olives are warm and parsley has wilted.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.  Don't overcook spinach or it will lose it's vibrant color.  (I turned away to help the kids with something and returned to find it a little darker than I would have liked--still was yummy though.)


1 cup semolina
Basbousa before cooking
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup demerara cane sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 1/2 T melted butter
1/2 cup French vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk


1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tsp orange zest
thinly sliced oranges and yogurt (optional)
* I recommend doubling these amounts.  I ended up making a second batch of this syrup because the cake was not moist enough with just one batch.  I might also add 1/4 cup white sugar as I felt the cake needed just a tiny bit more sweetness.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 9X9 pan and set aside.  Mix semolina, flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add egg and incorporate.  Stir in yogurt and buttermilk.  Pour batter into pan.  Cook for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Prepare syrup.  Put honey and water into small sauce pan and bring to boil.  Simmer a few minutes.  When cake is finished, poke holes all over with a toothpick and pour warm syrup over the top.  Let syrup soak in for about 15 minutes, top with orange slices and yogurt if using and serve.

Basbousa with yogurt and oranges.
We served ours with orange zest and mint tea.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thai Chicken Wings

Thai Chicken Wings, 3 Pepper Stir Fry, and Herb salad
Today my daughter had to do a science project dissecting a chicken wing.  Of course I couldn't find just one wing for her so I bought a whole package.  The trouble was that I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of them.(I had only made wings one other time and they didn't really turn out well... though they had been frozen for a while.)  I was watching her cut off the skin and inspect the tendons and joints when I got an idea.  I had a lot of Thai ingredients left over from an Asian soup I had made so why not use them for Thai Chicken Wings.  Here's what I came up with.
Thai Chicken Wings      
About 15 chicken chicken wings (if whole wing, seperate at joints and save tips for other use)
Juice of 2 limes
2 T soy sauce
3 T honey
1" piece galangal root coarsely chopped
1/2" piece ginger root chopped
3 1" pieces of lemongrass
1 T olive oil

 Teriyaki Sauce:
4 T mirin
4 T soy sauce
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp grated ginger
3 T sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Teriyaki sauce
Preheat oven to 425.
Mix all ingredients except chicken into a flat bottom baking dish until honey is well incorporated.  Add chicken wings and turn to coat.  Marinate 6 hours.  Take chicken out of fridge and bring to room temperature.  Make sauce.  Put all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to slow boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Wings just before sauce is poured on

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil in a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.  Arrange chicken wings in single layer in pan.  Cook for about 25 minutes or until well browned.  Remove from oven and lower heat to 350. Place chicken in a baking dish and pour 1/2 the sauce over wings.  Return to oven and bake about another 10-15 minutes.

3 Pepper Stir Fry
3 Pepper Stir Fry

1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T sesame seeds
1 tsp teriyaki sauce from above      
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
Saute peppers in olive oil until they begin to soften.  Add onion, salt, and pepper.  Add sesame seeds, sesame oil, and teriyaki sauce.  Simmer until peppers are tender but not mushy.

Serve the wings and peppers with a fresh herb salad and enjoy.  Even my son liked them except when I dipped his morsel in more teriyaki sauce.  He grimaced and asked, "Uhhhh is there some sauce on this?"