|Better my photo of the Manvar blacksmith than my photo of the meatball curry.|
Last night we jumped in. Why not? It's been a while since I tackled an out-there ethnic cookbook and I'm pretty excited by the prospect of steamed riceball cakes and ripe mango curry. My excitement was somewhat checked by glitches in the first recipes I tried, and I just now read one that says to braise short ribs for 20 minutes. If you've ever braised a short rib, you know this is a mistake. But if The Suriani Kitchen doesn't pan out over the next few meals, I'll just move on to Sri Lankan cuisine.
-Syrian Christians are called "Suriani" in Kerala.
-Suriani have lived in Kerala, a state in southwest India, since approximately AD 52 when Saint Thomas the Apostle arrived.
-Unlike their Hindu brethren, Syrian Christians eat beef. Unlike their Muslim brethren, they eat pork. But mostly they eat fish.
-In northern India, wheat is the staple which is why Owen and I ate so much naan when we were there. In Kerala, the staple is rice and they make bread, fritters, porridges, cookies, and cakes from rice flour.
-The author of The Suriani Kitchen, Lathika George, is a professional landscape designer, but even she has struggled to grow a curry tree outside of Kerala. I feel better about my failures on that front. Should I try again?
-Writes George: "My mother, Thangamma, like most mothers around the world, believed that the strongest bonds between children and their culture are forged through food and the preparation of meals."
We are in deep trouble in my household if Thangamma is correct.
The meal I prepared last night, unobserved by either of my children:
string bean saute
problems and thoughts:
-Mixed as directed, the meat mixture (I used lamb) was too slimy and wet to form into balls. I fixed that by adding 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs.
-George is omits important details, like whether to seed the chilies or not. I took them out. If I was cooking only for myself, I would leave them in.
-She calls for ginger paste and garlic paste, but doesn't explain what these are or how to make them, so I just put ginger and garlic up in the spice grinder and what I scooped out a minute later sure looked like paste.
-She calls for 6 cups of water in the gravy. I knew that was too much but added it anyway and then had to cook the bejesus out of the sauce to give it a little body.
-She calls for too little salt.
After I solved these small but annoying technical problems, the meatball curry (kofta karri) was outstanding. Tender meatballs in a rich curry that had a lovely sourness to it from yogurt and lime juice. I set a high bar for posting meatball recipes. A meatball has to be better than Nancy Silverton's Mozza meatballs to warrant the effort of typing the instructions. These weren't better than the Mozza meatballs, but they were excellent and so completely different I'm going to type out the instructions anyway.
string bean saute
George calls for cooking the fresh beans in water until the water evaporates. Problem: they were getting soggy long before the water evaporated. I drained them and proceeded to stir fry. Everyone liked them, but they weren't special and I was bothered by the sogginess. Do Indians ever cook vegetables al dente? Maybe the recipe is correct. I just really don't like soggy green beans.
As you perhaps guessed, this recipe didn't come from The Suriani Kitchen. It came from Ken Haedrich's Pie. I was really plagued with recipe glitches last night, because he calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder when I knew in my bones he meant 1 1/2 teaspoons. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons and the crustless pie worked beautifully. It's very similar to this amazing Huguenot torte, but not quite as amazing. Make the Huguenot torte.
You can see the pie on the right side of the butcher block table.
|That is some awesome food styling.|
Meatball Curry adapted from The Suriani Kitchen:
1 pound ground lamb
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons minced green chili (I used serrano, removed the seeds)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
3 green chilies (serrano, seeds removed)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped (she calls for quartering them, but: too bulky)
1 tablespoon ginger paste (put ginger in spice grinder or mash in mortar)
2 tablespoons garlic paste (put garlic in spice grinder or mash in mortar)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 cups water (she says 6, but I would go with half that)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice (don't skip this)
1. In a bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients and shape into 1-inch balls. Set aside for 1 hour.
2. In a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients for the cashew paste into cashew paste.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the meatballs for a few minutes until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate.
4. Fry the onion in the same oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, ginger paste, and garlic paste and fry for 2 more minutes. Add the yogurt and cashew paste and stir-fry "until the oil rises to the top." (Ok, this was mysterious to me and I never saw the oil rise to the top. I just let it cook until it looked thick and well amalgamated.)
5. Add the spices and continue frying for 1 minute. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil.
6. Put the meatballs in the curry sauce and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Add the lime juice. Serves 4 generously.