Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cool days and hot saucy curry

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.

Salmon Curry

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
100ml water
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


Kak Teh said...

Argus, I am amazed that you make curry from scratch, adding all those powders. I wouldnt know how to, because I use adabi or alagapa or mama's curry powder.
Yes I have tried salmon curry - u must try the head - we did it when we were in Geneva. My sisters are wizards in the kitchen. Am not so much a fan of fish but will try a little.
aaaah, looks like today is that kind of day for hot curry or perhaps chicken rice. It is so dull and gloomy outside. Will let you know what I cook today.
OOh last night had dinner at Holiday Villa London - they have buffets on Friday and saturday, the nasi lemak and curry noodle, simply delicious. also pandan chicken.

Argus Lou said...

Kak Teh, I was appalled by the curries served in restaurants here - overly smooth pasty generic sauce! - so I make sure to do my own from scratch, learnt from Rohani Jelani and my Malay friend, Ana, who runs a nice cooking class (sidebar at right) called Lazat in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.

I'm not very good eating fish head, trying to poke around the eyeballs. Heh!

Wow, your Holiday Villa in London serves well-cooked Malaysian yummies? How lucky you are!

Life for Beginners said...

I'm with Kak Teh. Colour me impressed too. But then, it's only one is able to create something from scratch, to know each of the ingredients intimately, that one is able to add a certain new magic to it --- salmon, in this case.

Of course, as the days grow colder, cooking becomes a meditative exercise, no? :)

Life for Beginners said...

P.S. You learnt from Rohani Jelani? Wow. Student certainly resembles her master in creativity. :)

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Kenny. I enjoyed a couple of cooking lessons in Rohani Jelani's beautiful near-KL kampung setup. She's a lovely lady and very well spoken.

Cooking is almost always a meditative exercise. Talking about knowing ingredients intimately, I sometimes steal a sniff of the little jar of powdered cumin because it smells so sweaty-sexy. *LOL*

Kak Teh said...

argus - dont getr me wrong - mine is not the ready to make sauce - i dont like those. I just use the curry powder.
anyway , after shopping and cleaning out the freezer, I decided to make grilled chicken with buttersquash - this is my new love - buttersquash grilled with a sprinkle of brown sugar - eat with roast lamb or chicken! and asparagus blanched with garlic butter.

Argus Lou said...

Oh, I didn't think that at all, Kak Teh. Curry powders are great - that's how my mum and aunties cooked curry too and I do use them to add extra zing. I was merely expressing how I felt about the curries sold in restaurants here in Switzerland - it's like the cooks all went to the same Swiss curry school. ;-)

Have you ever tried a curry wurst?

Your dinner sounds wonderful and healthy, too. ^_^ I'm trying to persuade my other half to make seafood spaghetti tonight if he's not lighting the fireplace.

Queen Of The House said...

That first picture of the fog is really something!

Just wondering -- what's your curry heat tolerance level? Very hot should go well with a cold, gloomy day :D

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Queen. I like that fog picture too - foggy yet a bit of blue and green still seen.

My spicy-hot tolerance level is not very high. My nose would run; I might pant and need some yoghurt or milk. My other half doesn't show signs of 'distress' but he'd just say it's too chilli-spicy and it overwhelms the other flavours.

jesse said...

Yum, I've never had salmon curry before, but this looks so delicious I'm going to have to try it soon!

Life for Beginners said...

Sweaty-sexy eh? I gotta get myself a bottle of top-grade cumin right now! LOL

And as for curry wurst, I don't fancy it at all but I made sure I tried some at the recent Oktoberfest@KL for that trip down memory lane. :)

fatboybakes said...

i am amazed u can get all that stuff there...lemongrass even? i must enrol for one of rohani jelani's legendary classes.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Jesse. Salmon curry is a must-try if you like fish and curries. ^_^ The just-cooked salmon is wonderful in texture and flavour.

Kenny, you know, I've yet to make myself try one of those curry wurst 'horrors'.

Yes, FBB, but it's CHF2 (RM6) for a pack of 4 or 5 lemongrass stalks or 6-8 kaffirlime leaves.
Rohani Jelani teaches cakes and western dishes as well as kampung Malay cuisine.

Kak Teh said...

Argus, I was in Nyon and found a Thai grocery shop - all sorts of stuff there. The girl behind the counter is half malaysian.
I think nowadays, you can find all sorts of ingredients if we look for it. When I came to london yonks ago, i could only get serai powder from harrods. Now we can get them everywhere. even durians.

Argus Lou said...

Yes, Kak Teh. They're air-flown fresh from wherever, except that pandan leaves lose their fragrance pretty much. And, naturally, they're rather expensive - a once in a while indulgence. (I'm glad I don't like raw durian, only the durian kuih my sister makes.)

Nic (KHKL) said...

now that's an interesting combination. salmon and curry, i mean. makes me wonder if it's possible to create a curry katsu don by deep-frying breaded salmon. i think it'll be great for a winter's day.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Nic. Yes, and the centre of the salmon needs to be a little pink still to retain its creamy texture. Watched a Japanese friend make pork katsu don and it looked like how wiener schnitzel is made.

Olga said...

ooh, that looks really good!
thanks for answering my question about cravings...but you made me even hungrier :)

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Olga. You're most welcome. And thanks to you, too. You're at the right place - you've reached Hungry City. ^_^

Life for Beginners said...

Hungry City, eh? Oh you and LL and FBB and Nic(KHKL) and all the other foodies would make for a great local city government. Thing is, who'd be the Mayor of Hungry City? Who's the HUNGRIEST? :P

Argus Lou said...

Oh, FBB, Hairy Berry or Lemonygrasskirt can be mayor. I'll be the Secretary of Ate - no one will go to bed hungry in this city, y'hear! And everyone will have a bed that has a non-leaky roof over it. ^_^ Kenny, do you want to be the Minister of Mini-paus (since your behind is compact)?

Life for Beginners said...

The Minister of Mini-paus? Try the Financier of Flabby Flatcakes... You obviously have not had a peek at my rear recently. :P

Argus Lou said...

You Adjunct of Imagined Fat, we obsequiously bow before your obese hi-ness.

Life for Beginners said...

One day I will be the Commander-in-Chief of A Cute 30-inch Waist. Till then, I shall munch on my Mars bar in sorrow. :p

Kok said...

Wow! The curry looks so delicious! Any serve for me? :P

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Kok. Thanks for dropping by. You're in Australia, the opposite end of the world from Switzerland. You're enjoying warm, sunny days and today we have sunshine on the freshly fallen snow. ^_^

Just me...Naz said...

Hi Argus!
Been snooping around your blog today....again!...Really love your pictures :)
It's true....when it is cold and gloomy (today) outside, the mind starts churning and yearning for a warm, spicy treat.
Hmmm...what to cook today aaa?

Argus Lou said...

Dear Naz, thanks for coming by. Your visit is much appreciated. Glad you like my pictures.

It is sunny but cold today. Am thinking of making fried noodles with prawns, mung beansprouts and egg today. What about you?

Cynthia said...

Absolutely perfect. I always feel that on cold days, a hot fish curry will set the world right :)

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Cynthia. You're lucky where you are you don't have many cold days. Or at least they're not very cold. ^_^

Just me...Naz said...

Argus dear,
You inspire me with your cooking. Jangan tak tau, i snoop here for two reasons: your pics and the fact that you make everything sounds easy.
Today it will be chicken gratin with macaroni here in norway. Kids, you know...they sort of ordered on the way out the door this morning :)

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Naz, for your kind comments.
Mmm, chicken and macaroni sound perfect. I've been meaning to make macaroni and cheese but never got around to it. ^_^

I just got a call from a lady whose 14-year-old son and his buddy want to learn from me how to bake. They're so enthusiastic and I'm very happy to teach them.

White on Rice Couple said...

What a beautiful opening picture and you captured the essence of this season so well.
I have yet to try salmon in a curry. I look forward to one day!

Argus Lou said...

Hello, WoRC! It's been a while. Must pop over to see what you're up to.
Thanks for your kind words. And, yes, salmon curry is something you'll want to try soon - it's that tasty. ^_^

Life for Beginners said...

Snow all around? For some reason I just wish I was in Switzerland again. It's pouring and raining here, alternating with blistering sun, and I miss the days when I was hiking solo around your part of the world...

* muka nostalgia habis *

Tunku Halim said...

Argus - That first photo (Mount Zug?) is absolutely fantastic. It's the sort of photo I'd buy to put on my wall. It's also the sort of photo you can guess I'd like. :)

Kak Teh said...

Argus, I have found and tested the most awesome prawn noodle mix! It was a cold, very cold day yesterday and nothing but prawn noodles, the likes of which can only be found in Penang, could pacify me.
If you want two or three packets - just send me an email.

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, most of the snow has melted here in the lowlands. Yes, it's nice to walk around mountain paths in the coolness of snowy banks and meadows, isn't it?

TH, glad you like the picture. My other half was taking dozens of lovely pictures on that walk while I took only two and that was one of them.

Kak Teh, you're very kind and generous - thanks! I won't make you spend money on the postage but will one day visit you in London and hope you'll then make the prawn noodle for me. ^_^

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)