3 Essentials in the Kitchen, by Eyal Streett
So… the holidays are over more or less and we’ve had a great time, stress included. But what’s one of the most important lessons we’ve learned if not that cooking is extremely gratifying in addition to being lots of fun BUT it takes a long time?
Here I am to suggest a few more ways for you to consume your time in the kitchen. Well, actually, the idea of these 3 essentials is that once you’ve got them prepared and ready inside your refrigerator you’ll be able to make many delicious meals without working hard at all. But to get there you’ll have a bit of work to do first and most of you will probably need to pass at your local spice shop before preparing these recipes. So, what I’m proposing is 3 essentials with their recipes and then I’ll add a few examples of great recipes using these essentials.
Ghee, samna or clarified butter is very easy to make, so even if you live in Austria and can get it in your local supermarket why not make it at home? Keeps you in control of what you’re actually eating.
Lately I’ve been using ghee for many recipes (see HCH #1). Apparently it’s a very healthy way to cook, even though it isn’t suitable for vegans -sorry.
A short internet search will show you all of those great benefits ghee has, but you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the net…
Unsalted butter (250 grams or more)
6-8 seeds fenugreek (per 250 grams of butter)
- Set fire to low.
- Use a saucepan to heat butter and fenugreek.
- After a few minutes foam will start forming. Gently get rid of this foam using a spoon. Wait a bit and you’ll notice more foam, we don’t want any of that foam, we only want the clear liquid.
- Keep it on the fire for at least 20 minutes, get rid of all of the foam (thicker and thinner). Gently pour the liquid into a glass jar, but don’t let any non-clear elements enter in the jar (that includes the fenugreek and other heavier parts of the butter that will be on the bottom. We don’t want any of that).
- Let it cool down and harden; it will turn from clear to white (after about 2 hours). Keep it in your refrigerator and as long as it isn’t exposed to sunlight it will keep good for a very long time.
Very useful in many Indian recipes, but it could also help us add intense curry-like flavors to our dishes without having to actually make those curries.
Note: Some recipes add chili powder or dried chili peppers to their curry paste. I don’t because I prefer to add those while cooking.
2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
4 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. fenugreek seeds
1 Tbsp. dry curry leaves
3 tsp. turmeric powder
5 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. water
8 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (for adding later)
- Grind the cumin, coriander, fennel, fenugreek and curry leaves using a spice grinder or a mortar. Go on until you get a nice blend (the coriander shells don’t grind as well with the mortar, but that’s just fine).
- Move the spice blend to a bowl and add the turmeric, vinegar and water. Mix well.
- Heat the oil (8 Tbsp.) in a heavy bottom pan on a medium-low fire. Add the mixture and stir often. Do this for 12-15 minutes until the water evaporates and you get a paste.
- Let it cool down and store in a glass jar.
- Heat the remaining oil and when it’s hot pour it on top of the curry paste, sealing the paste.
- Once it all cooled down keep it in the refrigerator. Won’t spoil easily.
Before and after grinding (smashing) the spices. Photos by Eyal Streett.
The curry paste on the fire. Photo by Eyal Streett.
Skhug or schug is a great spicy sauce. It comes in different forms but my favorite is the green one. By the way, I’ve had as much difficulty in deciding how to spell it as you will in deciding how to pronounce it.
Note: this is a full-on garlic recipe, BUT if you prefer you could put less or no garlic. The result, of course, isn’t the same since garlic in big quantities is actually quite spicy, but some of us simply can’t handle garlic.
Then there’s the coriander. If you really can’t do that you could substitute it with parsley. It ain’t the same but it also kind of works.
Anyway, if you’re into spicy stuff, this is for you – you’ll love it on anything (but it might grow some hair on your chest).
1 garlic head, peeled (told you…)
1/2 – 1 cup red chili peppers
2 handfuls of coriander (leaves and stems)
1 Tbsp. fine salt
10 green cardamom pods (note: we only want the seeds. Open the pods and keep the seeds)
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- Grind the cardamom seeds, cloves, cumin, cloves and black pepper using a spice grinder or a mortar.
- Process the garlic, chili peppers and coriander in a food processor or using a hand blender. Start with some garlic, then add some more, once you’re done with the garlic add chili peppers and coriander to the blend (not all) and continue gradually until you added all coriander and chili peppers.
- Add the spices and salt to the mix and blend in well. Isn’t that a great smell?
- Add juice from half a lemon and mix it in by hand.
- Put the skhug in 2 or 3 small jars. Add some lemon on top to seal the jar (use the other half of the lemon). Good news: this freezes without any problem so you could freeze at least half of it!
Skhug before and after. Before photo by Yael Streett Tejeda, after photo by Itay Streett Tejeda.
Great! So there we are, we’ve got our 3 essentials. Here are a few examples of what we actually could do with them.
Chicken, Curry Paste and Rice Noodles
Here’s an example for a main course gone much quicker thanks to our curry paste.
4 thin chicken fillets cut into strips
1.5 Tbsp. ghee
1 Tbsp. curry paste
1 large red onion
1 handful green beans
1 red chili pepper cut in thin slices
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lemon (juice)
200 grams thin rice noodles
A bit of parsley leaves, chopped
- Put the chicken strips in a large bowl. Add the salt and curry paste. Mix well until the curry paste is all over the strips. Add a bit more curry paste if you haven’t managed to spread it all over the chicken.
- Boil water in a large pot. Meanwhile, cut the onion into 12 and the green beans in units 3 cm long.
- Warm the ghee in a pan (high flame) and once it’s hot add the onion. 2 minutes later add the chicken strips.
- Sauté for a couple of minutes.
- By now your water has boiled or is at least hot enough. Turn off the flame (for the water) and add the noodles. Let them soak for 3 minutes.
- While the noodles are soaking add the green beans to the chicken. 2 minutes later add the lemon juice. Move everything around.
- Drain the noodles and add them to the pan. Mix together and keep on fire for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Serve to plates. Add parsley and chili.
- Enjoy your meal!
The marinated chicken and the final result. Photos by Eyal Streett.
Fried Aubergines in a Sweet Tahini Sauce
This is a great starter or a nice accompaniment to have on the table.
1 large aubergine cut into thin slices (thickness: 1 cm.)
4 tsp. curry paste
For sweet tahini sauce:
2 Tbsp. tahini
1/3 tsp. fine salt
1 tangerine (juice)
1 or 2 squeezes of lemon juice
A bit of water
- Spread coarse salt on a large plate or tray. Place aubergine slices on salt. Add more coarse salt on top of slices. Let aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare the tahini sauce: Put tahini in a bowl. Add a bit of the tangerine juice. Mix well with a fork. Add some more juice and mix. Continue gradually. The tahini will slowly transform and become grainy. At this point add a bit more liquid (if the juice is finished add water). Keep on mixing with the fork. The tahini will now transform into a creamy substance. For this sauce we’re looking for quite a liquid texture so you’ll probably need to add a bit more water (slowly). Once you’ve got the right texture add 2 squeezes of lemon juice and the salt.
- After at least 30 minutes have passed clean and dry the aubergine slices with paper towels. The coarse salt releases liquids from the aubergine. This makes the frying easier and the result tastier. Be sure to wipe off the slices well, you want to avoid them being too salty.
- Heat oil in a pan (medium-high). You want to have a 1 cm. layer of oil in the pan.
- Spread the curry paste on one side of all of the aubergine slices.
- Place aubergines in the hot oil with the curry paste face up. Put as many slices as fit in your pan. Fry for 2 minutes on one side, then turn over for another one and a half minutes on the other side. Then back to the first side for 30 seconds and the other side for another 30 seconds. The curry paste will fall off the slices into the oil, but that’s not a problem.
- Take slices out of oil and place on paper towels.
- Repeat phases 6 & 7 until you fried all slices.
- Once your slices are dry from oil place them on a plate or tray and add some of the tahini sauce on top.
- Serve with the rest of the tahini sauce on the side.
The aubergines with the tahini sauce. Photo by Eyal Streett
Tuna / Smoked Salmon Sandwich With a Bite
No time to cook lunch? Why not try this?
1 slice good bread
Some tuna or smoked salmon
1 hard-boiled egg
Lettuce or some other leaf
Spread a thin layer of Skhug on your bread. Add all other ingredients to make your sandwich. It’s just the same as you always make it, only it has this wonderful bite to it.
Note: after eating, don’t forget to brush your teeth for at least 4 minutes and pop a few mints in your mouth.
Easy Hors d’ouevre
Serve these with good friends who don’t feel uncomfortable around you.
Kind of obvious, isn’t it?
In this order: cracker, skhug, anchovy, leaf of parsley, olive.
Important: know your skhug and now yourself. In other words, you got to know how spicy your sauce is and how much of it you can tolerate while still enjoying your food.
That’s all for this number. Please let me know what you thought about these recipes.
Until next time, keep on cooking!
TO READ IN PDF (pp. 107–114): HCH-2-REVISTA-ENERO-2015