Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Friday, January 23, 2015

Boukje's Curry

My friend, Boukje (BOW-key-ya) makes the best curry.  Well the truth is, I think it’s the only curry I’ve ever had.  But it’s seriously the best.  During our transition from Maseru to Mokhotlong, we stayed with these dear friends for nearly a month while trying to settle our furniture shipments.  When I asked if we could stay short term in their guest flat, I wasn’t expecting it to last four weeks.  And at that point, we barely knew each other!  You know those people who just feel like family from day one?  They are that kind.  The best kind, really.  Great friends and great curry-- it doesn’t get much better than that.

A lot of times I make concoctions up for dinner straight out of my head.  A little of this, a little of that-- I’m always tweaking something.  My Aunt is famous for doing this and we’ve actually turned her name into a verb.  So, just about every recipe in my book gets Lynned one way or the other.  Sometimes I follow the recipe 100%, especially if it’s something I am trying for the first time. But often I make changes out of necessity.

I seriously shake my head at comments on recipes I read online.  Some people review recipes that are completely different from the one listed. “I substituted apples for the peaches, zucchini for the carrots, I didn’t have any cream cheese so I just omitted that and I added 3 extra teaspoons of cinnamon.”  Before you know it, they’ve change apple-carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to peach zucchini casserole with a side of cinnamon.  It’s ridiculous.  However, other recipe comments make me shake my head for a different reason.  Yesterday I was reading the recipe for a pie.  The recipe listed the ingredients and steps to make your own pie shell.  A commenter asked, “Can I use a store bought pie shell instead?”  Seriously?  Do you even need to ask that question?  How would a home-made or store-made pie crust make any difference at all in the big scheme of making a pie?  Certainly the homemade would probably taste better and is better for you, but they are both pie shells.  C’mon people, get with the program!  You can make a few cooking decisions on your own. 

Sorry. I digress.

When Boukje first tried to show me how to make the curry it was literally just a handful of this and that and the other thing and put the lid on.  I was totally intimidated.  She kept telling me it was easy, but I kept telling her I didn’t even know what went in it!  So, she showed me all the spices and the steps and I eventually got her to write down loose measurements. Well, what do you know?  It IS easy!  Of course I didn’t have all the exotic spices that she used, so I promptly went out and bought them.  It’s that good and I wanted mine to be just exactly the same.

Here you have it, Boukje’s Curry:

Start by frying a chopped onion in a large (preferably cast iron or very sturdy) pot in olive oil over medium heat.  Then add 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic and about a half inch of grated fresh ginger and stir for a minute. Then add meat.  I used about a pound of stewing lamb w/ bones.  I don’t really like to cook with bone-in meat as a general rule but Boukje convinced me it is better in this instance to have meat with some fat and bone for flavor.  You could also use stewing beef or even some bone-in skinless chicken thighs.  Stir the meat a little and add curry powder.  I used about 2 tsp of a medium curry powder and another tsp of this Masala stuff someone gave me.  Frankly I have no idea if there is any difference at all.  I suppose any curry powder will do.  Stir that around a bit.  Turn your heat down to low.  Now, from this point on, absolutely no stirring.  Got it?  Don’t stir.  Don’t even think about it.  This is why you need a sturdy pot. 

Now you add 4 peeled and chopped potatoes.  Then throw in  3 or 4 (depending on size) roughly chopped tomatoes.  Then sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Then, are you ready for this?  Give a good shake of fennel seeds.  Another good shake of coriander seeds.  Put in a cinnamon stick.  Add two of the stars.  And add maybe 5-8 cardamom pods.  Put the cinnamon, stars and cardamom all in the same spot so you can fish them out easier later on.  Put the lid on.  Walk away and come back in two hours.

Now that you are drooling from the wonderful aroma in your house, you can come back and open the lid.  Take out the cinnamon, stars and cardamom.  Now give it all a good whirl and have a taste.  I wanted mine a bit spicier so I added some red pepper flakes and it needed some more salt so I added that.  I let it simmer with the lid off while I cooked my rice and then we devoured it.  Best served with a side of Greek yogurt with diced cucumbers and fresh cilantro. 

1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh grated ginger
1 lb stewing meat
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 tomatoes, chopped
3+/- tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp cardamom pods
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, if desired
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Fry onion in oil until soft.  Add garlic and ginger, fry 1 minute.  Add meat and curry powder and stir.  Add potatoes, tomatoes and spices DO NOT stir and cook on low heat for 2 or more hours.  When ready, pull out the cinnamon, star anise and cardamom.  Also remove any bones from the meat.  Adjust spices to taste.  Serve with rice and cucumber salad.


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