Posts Tagged ‘coconut milk’

Golden Fish Curry

September 11, 2016
Golden Fish Curry

Golden Fish Curry

New York Herald Tribune journalist Henry Morton Stanley finally found his rock star explorer in the village market of Ujiji on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. It would have been the onset of a hot, humid summer in the southern hemisphere, and after his gentlemanly “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” the two men surely didn’t sit down for glasses of iced lemonade. Most likely a porter boiled a kettle over a small charcoal brazier, and the strangers acquainted themselves in tropical fashion over cups of hot tea. In our current Western world of ice cubes and air conditioning, we have missed the knowledge gained from hot climates where warm beverages and spicy foods cool the body. Whether Mexico, India or Africa, people living in the hottest places eat the spiciest food. Why? When you ingest warming spices or beverages, the body is cooled by perspiration, the natural way to chill. Chiles and spices cool in summer and warm in winter.

Beautifully composed Indian curries often begin with the hallowed trinity of mashed garlic, ginger and green chili. The fragrance of these seasonings gently sautéing in coconut oil or ghee will transport you straight to the Taj. These are called the “green” or fresh spices, and the dry spices of turmeric, cumin and coriander follow. Once you add a few tomatoes, a pour of luxurious coconut milk and simmer away, you have flavor from the Malabar Coast. Add some boneless, skinless white fish, a handful of cilantro and a few minutes later sip a magically spiced stew. Add a squeeze of lime juice, a side of fluffy Basmati rice and sample a sublimely exotic tradition. This perfect combination takes only minutes to prepare, once you give onions time to soften, sauté and simmer. It’s pure, unadulterated, inexpensive and a million times better and healthier than something out of a box or a frozen packet.

Coconut oil, coconut milk and turmeric are current wellness darlings, while garlic, ginger and chilies have long been known to have antibacterial properties and digestive benefits. Chili peppers contain more active Vitamin C than almost any other fruit. Every time I serve one of these curries, I feel the need to spread the word. So here’s a recipe to begin:

ingredients for fish curry

ingredients for fish curry

Golden Fish Curry

1 large onion (10 oz., two cups sliced)

2 generous tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil

4-5 cloves garlic

½ -1 green Serrano chili (remove seeds for less heat)

1 ¼ inches fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon garam masala

1/8 teaspoon Indian chili powder or hot paprika (optional)

1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

2 large tomatoes (2 cups peeled, seeded and diced) or 14 oz. can tomatoes

2/3 cup coconut milk (5.6 oz.) (Chaokoh brand recommended)

12-14 oz. skinless white fish such as cod

Salt, cilantro, lime

Peel and quarter the onion; slice thinly. Gently sweat the onion in coconut oil, covering with waxed butter wrappers or parchment until tender. Remove paper and continue to sauté until onion is golden (8-10 minutes). Meanwhile bash peeled, sliced garlic, ginger and chili with a generous pinch of coarse salt in a mortar until reduced to a paste (about 3 tablespoons). In lieu of a stone mortar, grate the ginger on a microplane and finely chop garlic and chili. Combine turmeric, garam masala, optional chili powder and curry powder in a small cup.

Once the onion is golden and sizzling, add the ginger paste and sauté a few minutes until it smells “cooked”. Tip in the turmeric mixture and sauté stirring until the dry spices release fragrance. Add the tomatoes plus a little water and simmer until the tomatoes have pulped. Add the coconut milk and continue to simmer 5 minutes. Taste for seasonings; add salt if needed and a pinch of sugar if the mixture is too spicy. Add the chunked fish and cook 5 minutes or until the fish flakes. Stir in a generous handful of chopped cilantro just before serving. Add lime juice to taste.

Serves 3-4

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Cake

May 11, 2016
Wedding Cake 1940

Wedding Cake 1940

In a ragged string-bound photo album, there’s a small picture of my Mom and Dad’s wedding cake. It was only two nine-inch layers robed in a marshmallow cloud of icing and veiled with freshly grated coconut. In the center of my grandmother’s lace tablecloth, this special little cake marked the family celebration in January 1940.

For as long as I can remember, a coconut cake was our family favorite. For birthdays, anniversaries or even Christmas, coconut cake was a star. Then it seemed to fade away. Everyone started using cake mixes and faking the cake with tinned icing and packaged coconut. It just wasn’t the same. I even recently bought a slice of a coconut cake elegantly displayed in a prestige bakery, and after a bite dumped it in the garbage.

Coconut Cake 2016

Coconut Cake 2016

As the keeper of the few old family recipes I’ve been able to save, I still have the coconut cake written out on a small file card in my grandmother’s hand. Occasionally I take it out, and think about making it for the now. Instead of white shortening, I use butter and in place of juice from a coconut, I use canned coconut milk. Sometimes I substitute whole eggs for the egg whites and I leave the grated coconut out of the batter for easier slicing after it’s baked.

The perfect frosting for this cake is a  swirled cloak of boiled or seven minute icing. If that icing seems too sweet, and the cake can be held in the fridge, it may be frosted with lightly sugared whipped cream and coated with sweetened dry coconut. If the cake needs to stand at room temperature, then go for the traditional boiled icing and if at all possible, use grated fresh unsweetened coconut. Made into tiny cupcakes, this cake makes sweet, light bites and a small slice of a layered cake will take you back in time.

Coconut Cake Slice

Coconut Cake Slicewill take you back in time.

My parent’s marriage lasted for over sixty years. It was a rough road most of the way, but their cake remains the very best.

Coconut Cake

5 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons)

9 oz. granulated sugar (1 ¼ cups)

4 egg whites (graded large eggs) almost 4 fl. oz. (scant ½ cup)

8 oz. cake flour (2 sifted, scooped and leveled cups)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 fl. oz. full fat canned unsweetened coconut milk* (3/4 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

* There are many excellent brands of coconut milk from Thailand; I use Chaokoh. Freeze excess for later use.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two 8 or 9-inch layer cake pans with parchment circles; butter and dust with flour. Tap out any excess. Or line 48 mini cupcake molds.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (use a stand mixer and beat at least 5-6 minutes!) Meanwhile measure flour, baking powder, salt and sift together twice. Once the butter and sugar are softly fluffy, add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce mixer speed and add flour mixture alternately with coconut milk. Scrape down bowl and beat at moderate speed 5-10 seconds. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes (15-20 min for minis). The cake will test done when it is lightly golden and pulling away from the sides of the pans. Allow cake to rest in the pans for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire cooling rack. Make sure the layers cool parchment side down.

Boiled Icing

2 fl. oz. egg whites (¼ cup)

7 oz. sugar (1 cup)

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place egg whites in spotlessly clean bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment.

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, salt and water in small saucepan. Swirl over moderate heat to dissolve sugar. Cover until syrup comes to a boil and steam down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan. If sugar crystals persist, dip a pastry brush in water and wash down the sides of the pan until clear. Bring the syrup to a strong boil and cook to the firm ball stage or 240°. You can easily test the thickening syrup by putting a few drops on an ice cube; as it cools roll it into a firmish soft ball. As the sugar approaches readiness, turn on the mixer. Whip the egg whites to a soft foam.

When the sugar syrup is ready, hold the saucepan high above the mixer and pour the hot syrup in a thin stream gradually into the egg white foam. Take care to pour the syrup from a height so it hits the egg whites between the whisk and the bowl and doesn’t spin around the beater. This boiling hot syrup will cook the egg whites into a stiff Italian Meringue.

Continue to beat at high speed for a few minutes until the meringue is very stiff and slightly cooled. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

This makes enough icing to fill and frost generously 2 eight or nine-inch layers (or all the minis). Sprinkle generously with freshly grated or packaged sweetened coconut. Serves 12

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon