It’s funny how you get stuck in a funk with certain recipes in your weekly (monthly, yearly) routine.
There are a few things I make regularly that I’ve made the same way for so long, I don’t even think about them when I make them. And in making them without thinking, I often forget that everything can be made better with a little extra love and a little more effort.
Curry is one of those things. Onions, garlic, store-bought curry powder, cinnamon, coconut milk, whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand, and some cilantro and lime to brighten things up. Delicious, but far from inspired. And even further from how great a homemade curry can be. You probably already know this, since you’re always up to date on only the most awesome of things, but homemade curry paste is second to none. NONE. You hear me? If you could have seen my face when I tasted not one, but all of the raw ingredients used in making a curry paste, you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that each and every ingredient packs so much flavour, it would blow your shoes square off your feet. Not always in a good way, either. There’s a lot of extremely prominent, almost medicinal flavours that, for those of us not used to authentic Thai ingredients, would probably cause your face to contort into shapes you never thought possible. But when combined with everything else, it just works.
After doing a little research, I was slightly more intimidated than I was initially to try making curry paste at home. I read a few food blogs that focus solely on Thai cuisine that stated “If you don’t have all the authentic ingredients, and they must be fresh, don’t even bother making at home”. Lucky for me, I was able to find everything I needed.
I started asking around about ingredients and, as usual, Don, one half of the ever-wonderful local foodblog, foodiePrints, came to my rescue offering a suggestion of Manphong Supermarket for Thai/Vietnamese ingredients. And again, as usual, he was perfectly on point. A market that carried ingredients I’d never heard of, never seen before, and certainly never tasted (to the best of my knowledge, anyhow) took me completely out of my comfort zone and into a world that was exciting and new. I walked up and down every aisle, touching and smelling everything I could and grabbing up everything I needed. By the time I left, I had my arms filled with so many new and inciting ingredients, I could hardly fit them all into my basket to bike home with.
I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I am that I ventured slightly out of my realm of comfort in order to try something completely new to my kitchen. Twenty extra minutes of chopping and blending made for the best curry I’ve ever made at home. And I have made my fair share of curry, believe you me. The depth of flavours a homemade curry paste unleashes will shock you. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a thrilling surprise. I promise you it’s worth it. Take the extra time, even if it’s just this once, to source out some not-as-easy-to-find ingredients and give it a shot. You’ll be shouting from the rooftops about how much you love it. I know you will!
Coconut Red Curry Pork with Thai Eggplant, Snap Peas & Enoki Mushrooms
adapted from 101cookbooks
If you’re unable to find specific ingredients, there is no shame in buying a high quality pre-made curry paste. In fact, it’s better than making one with inferior ingredients.
Red Curry Paste
makes about 1/2 cup
2 red Thai chilies
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 large shallot (2 small)
1 tsp galangal, rough chopped
1/2 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tbsp lemongrass stalk, sliced thin
1 tbsp krachai, rough chopped
1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1/4 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
1 shallot, diced
1 pork tenderloin, silver-skin removed and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
5-6 Thai eggplants, cut into quarters
two handfuls sugar snap peas
a few small bunches of enoki mushrooms
Thai basil for garnish (optional)
Lime for garnish (optional)
extra Thai peppers, sliced thin for garnish (optional)
In a wok or heavy dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sweat until translucent. Add the pork and brown on all sides.
Add the curry paste, stir and let it cook for 1 min. Pour in the coconut milk and the eggplant and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until reduce by 1/3, about 10 minutes. Add the snap peas and cook for another minute.
Spoon into bowls and serve with a little bundle of mushrooms, a squeeze of lime, some basil and a sprinkle of peppers.
I bet you thought I would be all up in here with the “It’s cooooold. I don’t like it. I have to wear socks. It’s rainy. wahwahwahhhhhh and such…”. And honestly, given the state of my last 10 or so posts, I’d say you have every right to think that. I complained a lot this summer. About the weather. About being busy. About the weather… but you mark my words, I will never ever EVER complain about fall. It is the most welcomed thing in my life (not counting a cold beer and a back massage…but, come on) and I greet it every year with a smile, a warm embrace and a new outlook on dinner.
Braised everything. Roasted everything. Stewed everything. Slow-cooked everything.
You can imagine with this new outlook, that keeping the spare tire off my mid section can sometimes be a challenge. All I want is rich, hearty, brown flavours (brown is a flavour. Just ask Anne Burrell). This can quickly become a problem.
This year I’ve decided I need some new recipes in my repertoire that are rich, flavourful and satisfying… but also keep the butter and carbs to a minimum. Mostly. On weekends. Post 5pm. When I’m not out for dinner.
This recipe came from Gourmet magazine. It’s brilliant. The ragu is really delicious. Honest. But it pales in comparison to the quinoa cakes. The concept is so brilliant. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it myself (answer: I was busy eating mashed potatoes) sooner. They are flavourful but still neutral enough to go with whatever you want to serve them with. You can add whatever spices/flavours you want to make them your own.
I did them with the ragu but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to pair them with black beans or under a salad to make it more filling and add some protein.
As I’m sure you all know, quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa" for those who are like me and embarassingly called it ‘quin-oah’) is very good for you. It’s not only a protein but a whole protein, which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Last health note: Quinoa is a good source of magnesium which helps relax blood vessels and can be beneficial for those who suffer from migraines! Okok, back to delicious food! Make just the cakes with whatever you’d like, or try both! It’s healthy and packed with good stuff but filling and indulgent enough that you won’t miss your buttery potatoes or your creamy pasta. This makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, too!
Quinoa Cakes w. Tomato-Eggplant Ragu
adapted from Gourmet magazine
-The quinoa can be shaped and chilled one day in advance.
- Feel free to remove onion powder/oregano and add your own favourite spices/flavours to the quinoa to make it your own
For quinoa cakes:
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2tsp dried oregano (optional)
1/2tsp onion powder (optional)
4 to 5 tablespoons veg/canola oil, divided
Make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.
Stir quinoa, oregano and onion powder into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.
Fill 1/3C (that has been lightly oiled) with quinoa/egg mixture and pack in with your hands. Empty onto a foil-line baking sheet and pat into patties. Try to make them about the size of your spatula as if they are any bigger they will be hard to flip without falling apart. Make patties until all quinoa is gone. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes in the freezer.
While cakes are cooling…
1 1/2 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 anchovies (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4C black olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
few pinches red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
shaved parmesan/smoked mozzarella/goat cheese (optional)
Put cubed eggplant in a colander and toss with 1tsp salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess moisture out of eggplant with hands. Pat dry with paper towel.
Add 1tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan (with a lid) and let heat until shiny. Add onions and let saute until lightly browned. Add eggplant and let brown gently over medium heat.
Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. If using, add anchovies and let them melt into the eggplant/onions. Add chopped garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, oregano, olives, red pepper flakes, and water or broth. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. When finished, add the chopped fresh parsley.
While the sauce is cooking, add 2 tbsp veg/canola oil to a non-stick skillet. Heat until shiny. Take the quinoa cakes out of the freezer. Add cakes, 2 at a time, and fry 5 minutes on each side until well browned. Be careful/delicate when lifting the patties. They will be hard to flip the first few times.
Top the cakes with ragu and cheese of your choice if using. I used a goat’s milk mozzarella but any of the options would be delicious. Esp the Gourmet suggested smoked mozzarella!
Today entry comes to your courtesy of my lovely friend Julia! Julia is from Ottawa originally but now lives in New Zealand with her beautiful son and husband (their story is just so romantic, but I’ll save that for me to know and you to likely not find out).
Julia is a full-time devoted Mummy and wife and somehow still finds the time to make delicious little morsels like the one she’ll be sharing with us today.
SPICY MARINATED EGGPLANT! Have you tried it? Have you been privy to it’s magical powers? If not - I suggest you make it immediately. Don’t hmmm-n-haaa over it. Just make it. Today. Right now.
(Julia and her little man in New Zealand - does it get any prettier than this?)
I first got the idea to make this when I moved to the UK. Spicy marinated eggplant doesn’t seem to exist anywhere but Ottawa, ON.
After moving to New Zealand I was disappointed to find they didn’t have anything like this there, either! Every time I’ve gone into a deli or Mediterranean shop and
ask about it, I get a lot of “This girl is crazy…” looks. Making it was the obvious answer since I’m not willing to live with out it and no one is willing to send over a glass jar of it!
After some trial and error (which is still on going!) I came up with this successful recipe. It’s the best attempt I made and it’s delicious. It’s a bit of a long process
but the end result is totally worth it.
Pile this chunky condiment into sandwiches, on top of crackers or just stuff your face with it.
Spicy Marinated Eggplant
3 Large eggplants
1/2 Cup salt
1/2 Cup water
1 1/2 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 Teaspoons fresh parsley
Hot chili flakes/fresh to taste
6 cloves garlic
Peel and cut the eggplants into thick long fry shapes.
Place the eggplant into a colander and mix in the salt, you want a good covering of salt so that it draws the moisture and bitterness out.
Place the colander in a big bowl so that the juice won’t run every where.
Now you want to put some pressure on the eggplant to get as much
moisture as possible out, I put a plate on top and then several heavy cookbooks on that. If you have a cast iron pan, that would work quite well.
Let the weighted eggplant sit for at least 2 hours, longer doesn’t hurt though. Squeeze the eggplant as much as you can, I ring it out over the sink
In a pot over high heat, boil the 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Place the eggplant in the boiling water/vinegar mixture for about 1 minute. You can leave it longer if you like it mushy but you should be aiming for a firm texture.
Again, squeeze out moisture from the eggplant.
In a bowl, place squeeze out eggplant in remaining vinegar for about 20 minutes.
Again, squeeze out excess moisture.
After the last squeezing, it is ready to be marinated.
Coarsely chop up garlic, parsley and hot chili’s.
Add that to olive oil in a jar/container and add eggplant.
shake up really well so that oil covers everything.
Place in fridge for at least 12 hours, the longer the better though so I would
recommend 24 if you can.