Mulligatawny Soup at the Palace

 Author, Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness Mystery series, is unfailingly engaging, and this latest, Malice at the Palace is no exception.  I so look forward to each new book.  Set in 1930's England, they feature a young woman, 35th in line to the throne, with unfortunately, no money to go along with her title, who manages to survive, one way or another, often helping out the Queen with a problem.

In the course of her newest adventure, Lady Georgiana finds herself having supper with the aunts, which the Prince of Wales calls "the Aunt Heap", at Kensington Palace.  And, sure as shootin', the mere mention of their supper, consisting of Mulligatawny Soup, roast pheasant and apple dumplings, was all I needed.  I'm not a masochist though; and not having a sous chef, a normal supper, around here doesn't usually include pheasants, or fancy dessert either.  That soup was in however.  It sounded simply spiffing, as Georgie would say.

As per Wikipedia, Mulligatawny Soup "is an English soup after an Indian recipe. The name originates from the Tamil words mullaga/milagu and thanni and can be translated as "pepper-water".
The original version of this soup consisted of a broth from lentils, fried onions and curry powder. Today it normally designates a thickened soup that is strongly spiced with curry powder and nutmeg. Often, strips of vegetables, nuts and rice are added."  Anglo-Indian food then, and appropriate for English royalty.

A biggish discovery was then made.  There are one hundred million versions/recipes extant for that concoction.  So, as a reasonable sort of solution, I went to a favorite source of mine, Charmaine Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook.  Her recipe didn't look too complicated, and best of all, I had all the ingredients.  Well, sort of.  Hers called for "gravy beef and soup bones", and since I had read that lamb or mutton was often used, that is what we went for, having on hand 6 nice thick, loin chops with bone in.  Turned out to be an excellent choice.

I will give the full recipe here, though I cut mine in half for the two of us.

   Adapted from Charmaine Solomon's recipe

Serves 8-10 (doubtful as half served only 2)

1 kg (2 lb) gravy beef (or lamb loin chops)
1 kg soup bones (unless your meat has the bones in)
6 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon curry leaves
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic
12 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 onion
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons curry powder (my addition)

For finishing:
1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
2 onions, finely sliced (I added a small orange sweet pepper, sliced into thin strips)
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
8 curry leaves
3 cups coconut milk
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish and taste (if desired)

Put the meat and bones in a large saucepan with sufficient water to cover.  Add remaining ingredients up to the finishing items. The onion first studded with cloves.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until meat is tender and stock is reduced.

Cool slightly.  Remove meat from stock, discard bones.  Cut beef or lamb into small dice and reserve.  Pour stock through a fine strainer; there should be approximately 6 cups of stock.

To finish:  Heat ghee or oil and fry onion until dark brown.  Add mustard seed and curry leaves and stir a minute or two.  Pour hot stock into pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Just before serving, add coconut milk.  Season to taste with salt.  If tamarind pulp is not used, add lemon juice.  Return diced meat to pan.  Heat but do not boil.  Serve hot with rice and condiments if desired.  I had cilantro and preserved lemon on the side.

Simply delectable, and not really difficult.  Well worth it.  Don't you just love the sound of it, Mulligatawny, Mulligatawny, tra la la la, sing along with me.  And the taste more than lives up to expectations.  Will be sharing this with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays (Soup, Salad and Sammies) blog event, as well as with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking.


Saffron Tagliatelle with Ratatouille Reprise

I'm the sort of weird individual who has fun making something like noodles.  Truthfully, I found myself humming a tune and saying under my breath, this is FUN!  Really.  And it was. Especially hanging them up on coat-hangers from a cupboard hinge.

Again with a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, from Plenty.  My choice for this week's potluck chef theme at IHCC, but of course.  Have I mentioned already how absolutely inspiring that man is? He served it up (in the book) with spiced butter, however having stated earlier that Ratatouille is lovely the next day, I thought, how perfect to toss with the tagliatelle.  I was going to call this post "Pricey Pasta" as the recipe calls for an entire  2 teaspoons of saffron, though I did cut the whole thing in half for the two of us.  Less to roll out, even more enjoyable.  You can find the recipe here also.


Fresh Corn Polenta Rocks with Ratatouille

 Yikes! This polenta is so darn yummy.  A very comforting, smooth, slightly sweet and savory porridge.

Occasionally I will make polenta as a backdrop for my Ratatouille, which in itself is pretty fabulous, but when I came across Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta in Plenty, I knew we were going there.  And, no sooner was that thought in mind, than there was fresh corn in the market begging me not to pass on by.

I should have totally dished up for both of us, but just scooped Bob's polenta into his bowl and left it for him to add on the Ratatouille.  So, of course he just tucked into that corn porridge like there was no end in sight,  saying it was too good and wanted it all by itself.  Only with seconds did he condescend to top with the "main dish".

What can you do?  At least I had my bowl for a photo. This fresh corn polenta will be a regular item on our menus in future, especially as it turned out to be very easy and much quicker to make than the usual sort, something else in its favor.

Fresh Corn Polenta
       Adapted from the recipe in Plenty by Ottolenghi
6 ears of corn, shucked
2 1/4 cups water, approximately
3 tablespoons butter
7 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled, or Parmesan and Monterey Jack, Farmer's, or Cheddar, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off each ear of corn.  Easiest to do this with the ear standing up inside of a short wide bowl, which will catch any stray flying kernels. 
  2. Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and pour in water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Now pour into a glass measuring bowl through a large enough strainer, then transfer the corn into a food processor; reserving the cooking liquid.
  3. Process the corn kernels in the food process until smooth with some of the reserved liquid. It will take a few minutes as you are trying to break up the kernel cases as much as possible. Add more of the cooking liquid as needed to process.
  4. Scoop the corn paste from the food processor into the saucepan and cook, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring in the cooking liquid in small increments until it reaches your desired consistency (many like it the consistency of thick mashed potatoes).  Begin with just a little liquid and gradually add in more, as with regular polenta.
  5. Fold in the butter, cheese, salt and some pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
My only change to the Plenty recipe was to substitute a mix of Jack and Parmesan for the feta, which I was out of, and to cut the recipe by half for the two of us, so 3 ears of corn.

It truly rocks.  A revelation, to me anyway.  Who would have thought something that simple could be so fantastic??  And if you want a great Ratatouille, here it is:


1 medium eggplant
2 baby zucchini
2 medium tomatoes, sliced (I used halved cherry ones this time but the skins seemed more evident so wouldn't again)
1 green bell pepper (despite photo evidence contrary) sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
black olives, if desired
Parmesan, grated (optional)
Parsley, chopped for garnish

Slice eggplant and zucchini in 3/4" slices, sprinkle with salt and let stand 1/2 to 1 hour.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Heat half the oil in a medium sized heavy saucepan.  Arrange in separate layers, with salt, pepper and garlic in between, the eggplant, zucchini, and etc., ending with the tomato slices.  Pour the remaining oil over the vegetables, cover and simmer slowly for 40 minutes or bake at 350F.

If you like, top with some grated Parmesan, and garnish with  parsley.  This dish is equally delicious served at room temperature next day.  Will be sharing with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking group.


Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Eggplant

 This is not only my first time with I Heart Cooking Clubs, (IHCC) but a first with this week's featured chef, Madhur Jaffrey.   I don't have any of her cookbooks as yet, though Indian cooking is a longtime favorite of mine, so this Chicken Thai Red Curry was sourced from the BBC Recipes pages.  Not strictly Indian, but a Thai version of curry.  Just as a side note: do you think it at all apropos that my current read happens to be The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall??  Well, I thought it was funny.

I substituted eggplant for the canned bamboo shoots (sorry just hate those), and took the easy course, by not making my own red curry paste, as we have a very good brand available here, and using my left-over teriyaki chicken.


Crabby Patties or Don't Look Gift Crabs in the Mouth

It all started with a gift from Alaska, air-shipped frozen, crab.  A lot of it.  Bob is not too happy with shellfish, or any fish really, unless it's ahi tuna, small amounts of mahimahi or ono.  But he is a Sponge Bob fan, so I said we were going to have Crabby Patties!

Coincidentally, I was at the hairdresser's that day,  flipping through magazines, waiting for my turn, and spotted a recipe for "crab cakes".  Yes and almost copied it out by hand.  But, having joined the techno age, realized in time that my iphone would do it for me. Perfect timing for our crab.

I emailed my friend, Linda, to see if she would like to help with all that prying out of meat from shells, for a good share of it. Thus a crabby party was hatched.  Good kitchen shears were useful, ice pick, pliers and nutcracker.  We set to work, ending up with 3 pounds of shelled crab meat.  And relaxed after with glasses of lemon mead and chips.

Sorry Bob for a very crabby week-end, ha ha.  We had not only the Crabby Patties, but crab with melted butter, lemon and new potatoes, Crab Quesadillas and Crab Salad Niçoise.   I hear Linda enjoyed her share as well.


Barbacoa Tacos Chipotles Style

Tess Monaghan is In Big Trouble, actually investigating it in Laura Lippman's  book by that name.  Her search for missing boyfriend, Crow, takes her to Texas and a love/hate relationship with that state.  Loves, loves, loves the food, and hates the actual place; though she does come in the end to more of a liking, at least for San Antonio.

 Pretty funny the way she wolfs down the local specialties at every opportunity, in between tripping over dead bodies and solving some mysteries.  At one point Tess wanted to stand up in a restaurant and shout "Where has this stuff been all my life?"

If you can get through the book without getting down and cooking Mexican, or at least going out for it, you have more self-control than I do.   Actually I didn't get past page 2, where a character is having breakfast at the Alamo; coffee, barbacoa tacos and an elephant ear pastry.  Well, okaaaaay, so we had to check out those mystery (to me anyway) tacos. 

Where the work barbecue comes from apparently.  A quick search led right up to making them, with the yummy slow-cooked and pulled BBQ beef; locating an avocado, and some crema. With of course, a good recipe to start it all off.   I wanted to use my pressure cooker, not having a slow-cooker, and to cut down down on total cooking time.  In the course of said research, I discovered that Hawaii is a Chipotles deprived state.  In fact I'd never heard of the restaurant chain prior to this.  Apparently they are famous for their Barbacoa Tacos, and there are Chipotles copy cat recipes out in cyber land.  But, perhaps I should first apologize for having two beef recipes in a row on this blog.  This one is terrific though, and puts the pressure cooker to good use.  That said, here it is:


Home-Cured Corned Beef for Cook the Books Club

It was that time again - to break out the green, the shillelagh and of course, your own fabulous home-cured corned beef.  However, I decided to head this up with a picture of me in Ireland (a number of years ago), a tad prettier view than pics of a slab of beef brisket in brine. This recipe fits in well with our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The Unprejudiced Palate, or as Alice Waters dubbed it, the Prejudiced Palate, by Angelo Pellegrini. 

 Pellegrini was certainly sure of what he believed, though he crossed over the line a number of times, and especially in his encounter with M.F.K. Fisher in a final addendum.  Yes, there is a tremendous amount of waste in this country; yes, many people are dependent upon fast foods, more so now than when this book was written, and yes there is too much reliance on prepared foods, canned, frozen or boxed. 

 Also, he mentions parts of meat usually neglected by home cooks, though I have to say, that may now be for good reason - you cannot find those parts in most grocery stores any more.  Until recently a whole chicken came with the giblets and neck enclosed, which practice seems to have stopped. Unless you butcher the animal yourself, it is not likely you will be able to cook kidneys, heart, tongue, brains etc.  In fact, I was going to make his veal suggestion from page 203-4, but was unable to find even veal in the market here.  Despite the fact that Hawaii Island has one of the biggest cattle ranches in the U.S.

The memoir sections, from his young life in Italy and early years in America were very moving, especially the evocative cultural and economic contrasts.  I had no idea of the extreme poverty in rural Italy at that time.   He was so overwhelmed by the contrast in America, that I think it just broke his heart to see waste and carelessness with the precious gifts of abundance here.

As a winemaker myself, though not grape, unfortunately, I enjoyed his thoughts on that subject also.  Much of the remainder seemed a bit obvious, perhaps due to when it was written, or preaching to the saved, in the case of our group of bloggers anyway, and I found myself skipping sections.  Always addressing or referring to "housewives" in the book was annoying, though another sign of that era, I'm sure.

Corning your beef brisket from scratch would be right up his frugal little alley.  Using an inexpensive (supposedly) cut of meat, slow cooking after a long soak in spiced brine, is not at all difficult, just requires a bit of planning ahead.  5 days to be exact.  You throw all the spices and salt together with water and add your meat, easy.  Leave it to cure and then cook.


Monchong in Banana Leaves

I am really enjoying this series, set in India, by Tarquin Hall.  His very original private investigator, Vish Puri is reminiscent of no one else.  Perhaps just a bit of Hercule Poirot with his mustache, Sandown caps and trademark safari suit.  This latest, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, concerns a duplicitous guru, cheerfully bilking his believers, when Vish Puri is called in to investigate a mysterious, seemingly supernatural death.  Great fun!  Also love the nicknames he's given his assistants, driver, etc. i.e.: Handbrake (doesn't use it enough), Facecream, (lovely female operative),"Tubelight (because he was usually slow to 'flicker on' in the morning."

In the course of his adventures, the chubby fellow is continually downing all sorts of delicious, mostly fried little spicy Delhi snacks; chuski, aloo tikki masala, dhokla, paapris, pakorhas, and etc., trying meanwhile to keep from leaving any residue on his clothing, which would betray him to his wife.  She prepares him healthy food, such as a "veg cutlet" for lunch, always reminding him of his doctor's warning.

 I was not led to fry anything, though those snacks do sound like something tasty to buy prepared, in Delhi say, but rather to do a spicy  fish dish, inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in Nopi, Gurnard, Baked in Banana Leaf.  We don't have that fish here in Hawaii, however he mentioned another firm, white-fleshed fish could be substituted for it.


Kohlrabi, Couscous and Mahimahi, Ottolenghi Inspired

 We've all been hearing lots of good things about Yotam Ottolenghi over the past several years (at least some of us have) and seen various recipes, book reviews, interviews, etc. popping up on the internet; well if you had any doubts, I am here to tell you the hype is totally deserved.  After checking out two of his cookbooks from the library, Ottolenghi, the Cookbook, and Nopi, just to give the dude a try, they are now on my to buy list, very definitely.  Absolutely inspiring, from his creative, exciting use of new and old ingredients, to beautiful photography and good directions.  I am impressed!

Just for example, tonight's dinner, nothing fancy - a salad of julienned kohlrabi, with radishes, simply seared mahimahi, dusted with a bit of za'atar, accompanied by a couscous which included golden, caramelized onions.  None of which recipes were followed to the letter; it was his original ideas that got me going.  I threw toasted peanuts into the salad, and added dried chanterelle mushrooms, resuscitated in a saffron broth,  to the couscous, replacing what my pantry was lacking with what was available - to good effect, if I do say so.