Sunday, May 11, 2014

Automatic Green Chickpea Curry

These 'automatic' recipes are becoming facile & predictable: soak the peas overnight, then bung 'em in a pressure cooker with green curry paste & coconut milk. Cook!

Going vegan for Lent, I totally got into using coconut oil instead of butter. Actually, it has been a revelation & I don't know why I didn't get it before: saturated coconut fat is better than butter! I love the unctuous flavour that cooking with ghee imparts, but coconut oil is just as satisfying, plus it doesn't come from animals. Doh!

Pertinently, for me, cooking with coconut oil also does not promote hypertension, nor lead to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, forty days of abstinence from dairy products has brought down my blood pressure. I did miss cheese, but won't go back to gorging on cheddar and Parmesan. I didn't miss butter, except for a few days during a fortnight when I was away on retreat with no coconut oil to gargle with in the mornings!

I experimented with oil pulling for the benefit of Fareshares' newsletter and have stuck with it, somewhat. Any oil will do, but coconut tastes best. One swooshes it around for 20 mins before expectorating into a bin (not the plumbing, esp. not my overloaded Victorian pipes!). I don't have to defend my rituals, but I am convinced the swooshing does, you know, promote oral hygiene and that.

Any road, I now have a pot of Biona Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil on the kitchen counter where my old mum - who became diabetic - would have kept her dripping jar. All my automatic pressure cooker recipes now begin with a dollop of coconut oil, not butter, in the bottom of the cooking pan.

This is a fast version of the green chix curry I frequently do. If you want to serve short grain brown rice with it, as I am wont to do, you'd better get that going first because it will probably take 45 minutes if you let the cooked rice  steam and become properly plump. If you're using quicker rice then follow the destructions innit.

Start by frying finely diced red onion in the coconut oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker before adding the soaked chix, green curry paste and coconut milk, either from a tin, or you might use creamed coconut, re-constitued with boiling water. I prefer the latter because you can mix it up as thick as you like and stir the green curry paste into the hot milk, gauging the end taste, Or you can just pour in a tin of milk and add a dessert spoon of greenn curry paste.

Living at London's cosmopolitan Elephant & Castle, with its dynamic Sino-Viet comminity, I can score green curry paste from a variety of ethnic outlets that also deal in bean sprouts, coriander and limes, but actually I went to Morrisons for those items, where I purchased a coriander plant for 99p. I figured it would do me for a few meals, at least, and I might be able to keep it growing. But I left the plant out over night on a window sill in my dank back yard and a snail ate most of it! Seriously.

I garnished my curry with cubes of fried tofu: those very same fried cubes that are pictured to the left. Frankly, they are superfluous to the recipe and I've only included the photo because its a better shot than the plate at the top of the page. Still. I have become partial to fried tofu cubes. There are those who will tell you that tofu has no flavour, but Sriracha, aka 'cock sauce' has heaps of chilli 'n' garlic flavour and firm fried cubes of tofu are an excellent vehicle for it, I find. Pan fry the tofu in toasted sesame oil, diluted with reg. veg. oil, plus minced ginger and/or garlic, as you like it.

Cook the curry in the pressure cooker until it steams, turn down the gas and cook on for 15 mins more, then turn the heat off and leave the cooker to cool & its pressure to dissipate. Turn out the cooked chickpeas in their creamy 'n' spicy green coconut sauce into a saucepan with a lid, chuck in a handful of bean sprouts and return to the heat with the lid on. We want those sprouts to wilt somewhat and lose the edge off their crunch.

Chop the coriander and cut the lime unto wedges.
Then put  it all on a plate and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cauli_Cheese: Slight Reprise

Heston's cheese sauce was the culinary revelation of 2012. The gastronomic Dangermouse made béchamel obsolete by mixing cornflour with finely grated cheese, rather than add it into the liquid to thicken the sauce. Oh, and the liquid isn't milk, which compromises the sauce's cheesiness, but bouillon, which perks it up! 

Cauli w/Red Liecester cheese & Serrano purée sauce.
This revelation occurred on TV in the depths of winter as I was rapidly losing my eyesight. Several times over the ensuing months, as the darkness encroached, I asked my carer, or anyone willing, to make the comforting cheesey sauce for me. Vision restored by surgical intervention, I did not wait for my second cataract operation to essay it here and Easy Macaroni Cheese with Peas was the first proper post on my renamed 'n' reloaded food blog, More Gravy.

Since then, I must have made my crude version of this sauce a million times. Well, a couple of dozen, anyway. Not bragging but FYI, late last year, I cooked a cauliflower cheese for thirty-plus hungry people. For the sauce, I used 3L of Marigold to 800g grated Cheddar, plus two heaped tablespoonfuls of cornflour. It took a minute to thicken, but I am gratified to report that the sauce came together beautifully in the finish & right on time.

At home, I have been known to use my handicap as an excuse to  purchase ready-trimmed florets of cauli 'n' broccoli from the diabolical, rob-yourself so-called 'convenience' store on Walworth Road. I'd much rather use an organic cauli from FareShares, obvs. but they usually sell out pretty swiftly on Thursdays. I'll quickly knock up a cheese sauce while the florets steam, using whatever medium hard cheese is to hand: red Leicester; double Gloucester and, of course, Cheddar, Cheddar, Cheddar.

If I have cheese rinds collected in a little tupperware in the 'fridge, I simmer them in the bouillon to infuse it with cheesiness for twenty minutes or more before making the sauce. Sooner than over-cook the florets, I crisp 'em in the oven. I'm not so fond of cream cheese that I regularly have the stuff hanging around, but if so, I'll finish the sauce by beating a good dollop in, off the heat. More often, liking chilli, I'll mix hot sauce in to finish as with the Cajohns serrano purée in the red Leicester sauce.

The Last Cauli_Cheese supper
But all that cheesiness is behind me, now, for I have given up cheese - and eggs & butter, too - for Lent, to see what it's like being vegan for forty days. If pushed to explain, I refer to this satirical song about spiritual one-upmanship, Dude by I-Fly: 'I've said no to eggs and cheese, but you're just eating what you please.' I know they're joking and I am not particularly respectful of religious rituals, but I suppose I was looking for an opportunity to abstain from consuming all animal products, at least for a while.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Regal Borscht

I have at last joined FareShares, which is going through a transitional phase, you might say. In order to facilitate more relaxed and happy communications at its meetings on the 15th of each month, I suggested that we hold these meetings up the street, at 184 Crampton Street, aka the Pullens Centre and serve food. Specifucally, borscht.


Bootiful borscht with perfect purple ladle
This, then, was the venue of Pullens Soup Kitchen, some seven years ago, a radical experiment in community cohesion that involved making soup in the centre every working day and giving it away at lunchtime, by donation. Some Pullens TAR committee members responded to this subversive initiative with a virulent hate campaign that eventually led to my illegal exclusion from their community association.

Back then, some seven years ago, Prince was in London, playing his legendary 21 nights at the O2. Tickets for those shows were notionally priced at a very reasonable £31.21 - '3121' was the name of the album Prince was promoting and a copy of it, as I recall, came free with each ticket. However, all 21 nights sold out before I got my act together and so I was obliged to work the secondary market, via eBay, or go the traditional route, bunging a wad of cash to a tout outside the venue. Either way, it was loads of hassle and would've cost the best past of an 'undred quid to go on my own to see the little man in a big arena and so, one way or another over three weeks of 02 nights, I passed up the opportunity to experience Prince in the living moment and, boy, do I regret it. It's never the Prince shows one catches that are regrettable.

posh bowl by Daniel Reynolds, Reynoldsware
Back then, Borscht, as recoded on the blog became one of the emblematic soups that our fragile community kitchen did well. After they shut me out, Pullens TRA committee paid one of its members to rip out the old kitchen and bar counter, throwing away the old furniture. They sanitized the building, installing central heating and the ugliest laminate flooring known to man. It is really sad how they have ruined the character of a building that was originally & ingeniously converted for community use by ex-squatters. Still, life goes on and however soulless the remodelled Pullens Centre may be, with its frightful flooring, it remains a perfectly good venue for meetings and there is an oven & hob to reheat food.

In FareShares, I've joined a volunteer organisation that's demoralised by a long-running battle between an increasingly isolated individual and the collective, which seems to be leading inexorably to that individual being excluded. With my own history of exclusion, I would hate to see that happen. We should all be able to get around a table and talk reasonably about our differences. I found through the Soup Kitchen that soup has highly conciliatory properties. Perhaps it has to do with water being such a resonant vehicle for intentionality, so that one can literally taste the love in food that is deliberately made as an act of devotion. I talk of borscht.

standing in your purple moccs
Borscht is Princely, souperficially (sic.) because it is purple. Deeply purple. I too am pretty purple, having recently scored a pair of purple suede moccasins - by Dunlop! - and a purple silicon ladle, from the kitchenshop on Walworth Road formerly known as Paul's (which has actually improved since Paul retired). My old mate, Michael, RIP, he used to love that shop. He used to buy objects from there for their beauty that he would never actually use. But my Mick memorial purple silicon ladle is better than beautiful, it is a perfect tool to perform the jobs I bought it for: forcing puréed borscht through a sieve with the back of it; using its plasticity to scoop thickened soup from the corners of the borscht pot. Worth every penny of the six quid it cost me. My purple ladle is fit for purpose & does not disappoint.

What's further enhanced the quality of my life over recent months is tapes of Prince's gigs with his latest group, 3rdEyeGirl. It's a female power trio, like a funky Band of Gypsys, with Prince wailing on guitar. If you are unaware of Prince's status as a guitar slinger, watch this take over of a supergroup salute to George Harrison. Observe the expression on Dhani Harrison's face at 4:46!

With 3rdEyeGirl, Prince has got his full range of Hendrix tricks & Santana licks out of the box and is playing crunchy, grungy 'reloaded 'versions of old hits from his purple pomp - Let's Go Crazy, She's Always In My Hair - plus his classic guitar solo tunes, such as Bambi and, obviously, Guitar, as well as new group songs with titles in BLOCKCAPSNOGAPS: FIXURLIFEUP & PRETZELBODYLOGIC.

Now Prince is in London, playing shows around town while I am making a fresh vat o' borscht with Lincolnshire-grown beets, plus one Bramley apple per kilo to add a certain jaunty juiciness. Last Sunday, Prince played the Shepherds Bush Empire, but I did not stir my stumps. This Sunday, Prince played Koko in Mornington Crescent and I did make it up there, but baulked when I saw the length of the queue. Someone tweeted that four hours queuing + £70 cash on the door was generously repaid by a stunning, intimate three hour show, but I no longer have the stamina, sadly, to hack that. I have a gammy left foot that can't take too much standing around, even for His Badness. So I may have to reconcile myself to missing his purple nourishment this time around, too.

The previous day I had concocted a hearty purple borscht for the sake of FareShares. The trick to emulating beefiness in a vegan borscht is to mince field mushrooms and sweat them in the base so that they disappear into the soup, leaving their boskiness behind. That and a dessert spoon of yeast extract per litre of bouillon. We shared it, along with other offerings that made up a really good meal, actually, before conducting our monthly FareShares business meeting.

We agreed that next month, March 15th, the evening shall be open to everyone. Past, present and future volunteers are welcome to share food with us. At the February meeting, we were only seven and the conundrum faced by FareShares cannot be resolved in a single sitting, but as Prince famously declared, "All seven and we'll watch them fall. They stand in the way of love & we will smoke them all. With an intellect and a savoir-faire, no one in the whole universe will ever compare to the healing power of vegan borscht."

Not being maudlin about it, but this picfure of my beetrooty left hand is poignant, since it was cut off on 13.04.11. Truly, you do not miss something till it's gone. On the other hand (sic) there's loads of borscht left & I froze some! Prince promises to stay in town for as long as people want to hear him play, so that's not over yet, either. Maybe 3trdEyeGirl will pop up at the Pullens Centre next Friday night?