Monday, April 30, 2012

Cultural Hybridity

I'm feeling guilty again, dear readers. Sometimes I tell myself, really, life is too short to let yourself be plagued by guilt every so often, but then that is like fighting the tide of life for me. I'm a Pakistani-Middle Eastern-Canadian-American mutt, who has made many a decision in life based on guilt! It comes with the heritage I think. There are times when I feel guilty for not feeling enough guilt for certain situations. Now I sound like a Woody Allen movie. Gotta focus!

See, I'm not Hyderabadi enough for my mother's liking. Or even my liking at times. Oh yeah, didn't I tell you, that's part of my heritage too. A big part of it. From both my maternal and paternal sides of the family. Ah yes, the princely state of Hyderabad, India, where perfect etiquette, royal manners, and exquisite hospitality are the foundations of every household. And the food. As rich and divine as they come with biryanis and paaye, but also humble, with daal n rice. The more khatta (sour) the better!

I can make a decent biryani sure, and a few things patently Hyderabadi here n there, but when it comes to the famous staples like mirchon ka saalan (green chillies in gravy) or baghare baingan (spicy eggplant), I might as well be from the North Pole. They just don't get my mojo going, and hence, I can never get myself to make them. Disappointing really - these are heirloom recipes that I should know. *sigh* Mid-year resolution then, must learn to cook more of my mom's Hyderabadi recipes.

Till then, I will drown my guilt by whipping up another batch of this classic from the Dominican Republic - Chivo Guisado. Or as I call it, Another Type Of Goat Korma! Just goes to show, I can run from my heritage all I want, but it always manages to creep back in.
Chivo Guisado or Dominican Goat Curry (adapted from Manu's Menu)
Serves 4-6

Click here for printable recipe

Ingredients for marinade:
2 lbs goat meat with bones
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp garlic paste
1 large white onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tbsp dried oregano

Ingredients for the braise:
4 tbsp oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp tomato paste

1. Chop the onions and cilantro, then mix with all other marinade ingredients and the goat meat. Marinate overnight.

2. Next day, heat up the oil and brown the sugar slightly. Add in the chilli powder, then the meat along with all the marinade.

3. Mix together, then add in the tomato paste. Stir again. Add just enough water to cover the meat, and bring to a boil. Then cover the pan, lower the heat, and let it simmer away for about an hour and a half, till the meat is falling off the bone and the sauce has thickened. (You can further thicken the sauce by removing the lid and turning up the heat till it reduces to your liking. Check for seasoning - it may need a half tsp or so of more salt.)

Zoom in on that, fellow lovers of all things goat-y!

Verdict: What emerges from the pot is this unctuous, fragrant concoction of tender meat and a complex gravy, ready to be sopped up with bread (my definite preference) or rice. The meat is pillowy soft, and that gravy - OH that gravy! - is sweet and spicy and tart and sticky. My Baby B recently learned how to say "awesome" and "amazing". I think I could get him to say those words for this dish. 

What I cook and how I cook teaches me a lot about myself. I guess I'm learning that I'm not one to adhere to rigid boundaries in my cooking, and maybe that stems from the traveling I've done as a kid and young adult, and the beautiful, multi-cultural friends I've made along the way. It's hard to label me or my cooking!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Day Tony & Eric Came For Tea

If Anthony "Tony" Bourdain and Eric "The Ripper" Ripert came to tea at my house, I would serve them this sweet, homey little treat.
Isn't she a dear? Just the thing you'd expect our gentle friend Tony would savor over some proper English tea. And pray tell, what is this delicate, pretty concoction called?

Kumquat Flaugnarde.

Why of course.

A dessert that sounds like something I'd call my snotty little brother when we were kids. Or possibly the name of a famous European porn star. You decide.

And that's precisely the reason - plus it's actually French in origin, and simply heavenly - why I'd serve this to my boys, Tony and Eric. Those two spend way too much time eating divine 5-star cuisine and uber-yummy regional foods from all over the globe, that I'm pretty sure they've never had a kumquat flaugnarde before.
I'm right, aren't I, Tony? Now now, mind your language young man ...

... You're making Eric blush!

See, that's my living room, and the three of us were sitting around having this intense, food-gasmic conversation, filled with laughs and giggles, as only old friends are able to do.
What? You don't believe me?! Dammit. It was worth a shot I suppose. So it's not my living room. It's the stage at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids where these two gentlemen appeared recently to chat about their lives, loves, and food with me and a few hundred other manic fans. I'm not ashamed to say - they rock my world.

Why do I think kumquats are the perfect fruit to describe the dynamic duo of Tony and Eric?

Because they are sweet and sour at the same time, but totally surprising (the rind is sweet and the flesh is sour)!

Cardamom-Kumquat Flaugnarde (adapted from Daydreamer Desserts, whose images are so much more mouthwatering!)
Serves 6

2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
Approx 1/4 cup sugar for dusting ramekins
1 1/2 cups kumquats, deseeded and sliced
2 eggs
1/2 cup AP flour
3 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cardamom

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease your ramekins with the softened butter and dust with sugar.

2. Sprinkle the sliced kumquats evenly in all ramekins and place on a baking sheet.

3. Whisk eggs lightly. Sift flour into eggs and whisk again. Stir in cooled, melted butter and milk. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup sugar. Add vanilla extract and the cardamom, then whisk till everything is incorporated.

4. Pour batter equally over kumquats and bake for 10 mins. Decrease temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 20 mins, till puffed and golden.

5. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Verdict: I didn't know that oranges and cardamom were an eHarmony match! Now I do, and I'll always try to keep them together. The smell alone of these baking is enough to transport you to some exotic French-Arab-Mediterranean shore, and dream of being an exotic princess. Preferably one who didn't have to worry about watching her expanding hips and waist, and could order her hot personal chef to whip this up for her at a moment's whim!
Look, Tony's smacking his lips after having a bite of my flaugnarde! (having naughty thoughts)

While Eric is gushing, simply gushing, in that adorable French accent about how much he loved it!