Foggy afternoon on Mount Zug makes a mysterious picture.
Going for walks between meadows and by the lake is a balm for the soul. As the seasons change, you note the greening or yellowing of leaves. Now, between autumn and winter, the trees are like bears - they're tired and want to go to sleep for a few months. The flowering plants have packed up their petals, seeds and buds like they've brought in their dried laundry and folded them away. At the lake, different birds come and go, and you watch the cheeping cygnets getting as big as their mute elders but they're still innocent enough to let you gently touch their downy heads as you feed them morsels of bread.
When the days are turning chilly, one thinks of something warm and spicy to tuck into in the evenings. I've recently experimented with salmon in a curry. The smooth, oily texture of salmon and its rich flavour are tastily balanced by the pungency of onions, chilli and ginger and the aromas of turmeric and cumin.
80g shallots or purple onion, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped roughly
2 dried chillis, presoaked for 10 minutes in freshly boiled hot water and deseeded (sub with another fresh red chilli)
1.5cm ginger root, skinned and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced cross-section
300g fresh salmon
2 tbs sunflower seed cooking oil (or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp powdered cumin
1/2 tsp powdered coriander (sub cumin and coriander with 2 tsp seafood curry powder, or add it if you like it very spicy)
3 star anise
4 cloves, or 1/4 tsp powdered clove
10 slices vegetable of your choice (fennel, okra or brinjal)
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
2 slices dried tamarind or sour fruit, soaked in hot water (sub with lime juice)
100ml coconut milk
Sea salt to taste
Pulse the shallots/onion, chillies, ginger and lemongrass in a blender or with a Stabmixer, adding a bit of the coconut milk to help the blades to move.
Panfry the fish in 1 tbs of the oil on a frying pan on medium-high heat for two minutes each side. Set aside.
In a medium pot, heat 1 tbs of oil and cook the spices on medium heat for a minute, taking care not to burn them.
Add the shallot mixture and stir for 6 minutes on medium-low heat.
Add tamarind and vegetables of your choice. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato, water and cook till hardest vegetable is almost tender.
Taste to see if tangy note is to your liking. Add some of the tamarind soaking water if necessary.
Add fish, rest of coconut milk and half teaspoon salt. Cook for five minutes.
Adjust taste with salt and thickness of sauce with water if necessary.
Serve hot with rice, roti canai or roti jala. Add a squeeze of lime at the table if you like it tangier. ;-P