|Really? This much spice for one little stew?|
Sometimes a thing is so blindingly obvious that I just don't see it, sometimes blind prejudice gets in my way, and sometimes I feel really stupid about it. Leicester is arguably the best place in the country to find and eat an authentic, excellent, curry (people certainly argue about it and I'm prepared to back my city to win on this). The thing is that I really can't handle hot food, anything but the very mildest of heat floors me and because there's no shortage of good (if beyond my pain threshold) curry to be had in the city I'd never thought about cooking it.
|spices being heated prior to grinding - very satisfying process|
When I was in Shetland earlier in the summer my step mother (who's a chef) was trying recipes for a wedding she was catering, one of them was a bhuna from Jaffey's book and long story short it was delicious - and here's the bit that makes me feel stupid - she'd gone easy on the chilies. Obvious isn't it, catering for a 150 people with wildly different tastes made a very mild heat more desirable and so all you need to do is dial it back a bit. Inspired I tried the same recipe when I came home (happily I had the same book courtesy of a Christmas present a few years ago) and it was pretty good. Since then I've been experimenting with a few other things in there and again they've been great which is all quiet exciting.
I'm sticking with dishes which are on the milder side anyway - if something is genuinely meant to be hot it would probably lose something fundamental by the time I'd scaled it back to my palate but cooking in a different tradition with a whole new set of spices is something I love doing, and in this case I couldn't be in a better place to do it, there is no ingredient no matter how obscure which I shouldn't be able to get hold of within a 15 minute walk from my flat (or at a push a 5 minute bus journey away). I also understand for the first time why the basic spices for this kind of cooking are so often sold in such epic quantities. I've never cooked anything that demanded so much seasoning or so many different seasonings before so learning my way around these flavours is going to be interesting.
Given your work, you've presumably got the sort of trained palate that will make this project tremendously interesting. I have a great book called 'Spice Notes' by Ian Hemphill: one of those educational-but-pleasure-to-learn-from books; but I'm also a lazy cook, so don't make as much from scratch as I ought to.ReplyDelete
My palate needs a bit more exercise but I think a love of wine and food go together for just that reason, the more I learn about wine the more I'm interested in the way flavours work together and build up. I'm generally lazy but love cooking and never more so than when starting things from scratch so sometimes manage to exert myself...Delete
I've just inherited a copy of this from my ex who bought it last year but never used it, I love making spice blends and playing with my pestle and mortar so I'm looking forward to settling down with a cup of green tea and picking the first recipe to try. Leeds is good for spices and a variety of great ethnic shops but I envy you having them on your doorstep - I have to cross the city to buy mine in bulk! :)ReplyDelete
Leeds, or at least Bradford must be almost as good as Leicester. I'm lucky to live between the city centre and a really mixed part of the city which means I can find most things very close to hand. All our supermarkets have a good 'ethnic' section too that deals mostly with Indian type spices, I'm also really close to a decent Chinese supermarket, and if it all goes really badly wrong the hospital is only a 5 minute stagger as well (I live on the A&E side - not needed it yet...)Delete
I'd love to hear specifics as to how you get along with this project. I do suppose that I should invest in a book on the subject. Instead, I end up with muddled flavour every time I try to make curry. :-(ReplyDelete
Debbie, I've posted a recipe that I really liked just for you!Delete
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery is probably the most used cookbook in our kitchen. The instructions are so clear, that it was the first cookbook my husband ever used. But we have been cooking for years either omitting the chilli or cayenne entirely or including it only in homeopathic quantities. We started doing this when we first had children, but have continued as the youngest child experiences chilli as pain rather than a flavour. Luckily he can cope with ginger. And because with Madhur's recipes you are creating your own spice mixes rather than using a generic curry powder, it is possible to do this and still get a great range of flavour. The other thing I have done is reduce the amount of oil used - well this book was written in 1982 - and the salt - you can always add more salt later.ReplyDelete
We are also lucky enough to live in the end of town next to all the international shops, so can buy the spices and herbs cheaply - if you were stocking your spice cupboard at supermarket prices, you might balk at the quantities, especially for cumin and coriander.
You'll know you're taking it seriously when you have 2 coffee grinders, one for coffee and one for spices. Enjoy cooking.
That is serious, and if I carry on down this route possibly something I'll do to, I love my coffee grinder and would happily have another one. The good thing about Leicester is that getting spices will be easy, even the supermarkets do fairly cheap bulk packets, although for now I'm happy with the smaller jars (I cleared out a lot of Japanese inspired condiments a couple of weeks ago that had been neglected since some time in 2009 and I hate wasting). I think I too register chilli as pain, and agree about cutting down on the oil and salt.Delete
Thank you for this -- the first book purchased from the new house, and looking forward to winter with it.ReplyDelete
Exciting stuff Sarah, hope you#re all sorted post move now :)Delete