16 June 2008

Milk Calendar Mondays: Super-Fast Chicken and Vegetable Curry

Okay...so I'm a little early with this month's Milk Calendar Monday adventure. I suppose I could have waited until next week, or the week after. But while sometimes these recipes are the gustatory equivalent of forcing yourself to clean out a meat-filled freezer that's been accidentally unplugged during the hottest weekend of the year, the subsequent post can be like cup of sweet, steaming hot mint tea that not only masks the taste of the sorry excuse for "adventurous" but it makes your tummy feel good.

And this blog is pretty much about feel-good tummies.

Elizabeth noted during May's post, June's offering is the Super-fast chicken and vegetable curry. She wasn't the only one afraid to look at the recipe.

I really tried to go into this month's recipe with an open mind and receptive tastebuds. But the truth is My Dear Little Mummy is the best-ever South Indian cook. Period. She makes the very yummiest curries--hot, mild, swathed in gravy, thickened juiced clinging to each and every piece of meat--she has never, ever, ever made a bad curry (spaghetti, muffins, and the occasional soup can be different stories). Yes, I do make my own curries--while not quite as good a Mummy's, my offerings do have their fans.

As expected, the dairy people provided a very, very, simple "curry." You aren't making your own masala, nor are you really layering any flavours. Such exercises take time, and I suppose if one of your objectives is to quickly pull together a meal (and when I say quickly, I do mean a combined prep and cooking time of less than 30 minutes), such tasty things are sacrificed. Also, Indian food carries the unfortunate stigma of being complicated with long ingredients lists. For the novice, uncertain, or lazy amongst us, spying half a dozen spices could be off-putting.

For me, the off-putting parts were *surprise* the half-litre of milk and the cornstarch. I know why the milk is there (the half-cup of yoghurt probably wouldn't be enough to warrant its calendar placement), but, again, I think it's a waste of good milk. I know the cornstarch is there to mimic the effects of long-cooking--to produce a clingy gravy--but the starch combined with the milk made is seem rather nursery-food like to me.

And yes, I went the "adventurous" route (sans coriander leaf--totally forgot to pick some up, and as it wasn't in the main recipe, I didn't feel like nipping out to the shop) and used fresh ginger and chillies. The other changes I made were using hot curry powder, instead of mild (I don't have any mild right now and didn't feel like making some) and toasted almonds instead of peanuts..and I used more nuts than called for.
I served it to a friend (one who is not Indian). He thought it acceptable in a non-curry-like way. To him it was perhaps a soup; it could be a stew. He admitted that if he went to a restaurant and ordered a curry and received what this recipe produced, he'd probably feel misled.

Me...I thought it had as much bearing to curry as Chef Alphadoodlio's canned kiddie-friendly pasgetti does to anything Mama Cream Puff makes for our favourite
Cream Puff.

And again, I have no idea what I did wrong, but this recipe made so much I could have easily filled my sink basin with the "curry." In fact, I swear it kept reproducing in my wok...regardless of how much of the stuff I dished out, the quantity never seemed to change. I even checked underneath the wok to see if there was some sort of tube system hooked up to it to automatically refill my vessel with the stuff. Nope...no tube system...just a lot of "curry."

We both agreed that something was missing--it was definitely lacking in something. I began listing the ways I would fix this recipe, and try and keep it within the easy, commonly pantrifed and thoroughly dairied mandate the recipes seem to follow. Get rid of the half-litre of milk and the corn starch (but keep the yoghurt). Tweak the spicing with some black mustard and fenugreek...maybe some others. Add fried onions along with an acid--lemon or lime juice.

But then I realised my version might actually take some effort...which would make it palatable...and perhaps people would like it...which doesn't seem in keeping with several of the recipes I've tried thus far...



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Anonymous said...

Although I have never made anything from the milk calendar (my mom used to send them to me every year and I hung them in the kitchen out of nostalgia) I enjoy reading your posts about it. The comment your friend made about it *being okay if you call it something else* reminds me of my Italian husband's attitude to Canadian coffee - it's good if you don't call it coffee. Anyway, thanks for going to all this trouble and just so you know that it isn't wasted, I have tried some of *your* versions after you posted!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Sometimes it's good to make a bad version of a dish in order to be reminded of how worthwhile it is to make the dish the right way. Sounds like this is one of those times -- making your own masala and making a proper curry might seem like a lot of steps, but worth it!

Mama Squirrel said...

Yeah--meh. And I'm not even much of a curry eater.

But I did have the privilege last week of being invited over to witness and participate in a Big Curry-making Event, hosted by a very dear couple who combine their Guyanese and Kenyan roots along with Indian food instincts. I think there were fifteen of us--and about eight different curries plus raitu and all the rest. It Was Amazing (and no cornstarch necessary). I'll probably blog about it and link to your post too.

Elizabeth said...

Excuse me for not being able to stop... but I just looked at the introduction to the June entry:

"This mild-flavoured, colourful dish is a super introduction to curry. For those who are already fans, increase the amount of curry for a more robust flavour."

Well, this is just disgraceful. "A super introduction to curry"?? Are they crazy? Are there zero Indians and/or people who have been to India or even an Indian restaurant working on this calendar?

Too bad it made so much, Jasmine. At least it was edible, though.

Are you sending the results of your tests to the milk calendar offices?

-Elizabeth, who grew up as white-bread as they come

P.S. Next month's entry looks at least vaguely palatable, although I prefer my smoothies to be made with yoghurt only.

Deborah said...

We don't have curries here very often (my husband is not a fan) so I wouldn't even know where to start to make a good one. But I did find your post very entertaining - I was laughing w hen you were talking about it reproducing!! Better luck with the next one!

Elizabeth said...

In re: taking some effort

I thought I had commented twice (I guess I didn't notice that the word verification didn't go through on the first comment, which was actually more of a rant) I hope you'll forgive me for attempting to reproduce my rant anyway.

Why on earth would they choose curry? There are lots and lots of dishes that call for milk; any recipe that calls for cream could probably be made with milk and butter.

But really, do the milk calendar people live in a vacuum? Have they really had nothing but frozen vegetables and bottled dried spices?

I do understand that they are trying to appeal to those who want to make something in 30 minutes.

So why not feature bechamel one month? An infused bechamel (like the infusions that Laura Calder has demonstrated on her food TV show) is so ridiculously simple to make and produces the most wonderful results. The infusion could be with onion (the adventurous could use bay leaf, garlic, fresh thyme, oregano....) and then because they want to feature a complete dish, after describing how to make a simple bechamel sauce, they could suggest adding diced ham (the adventurous could use leftover roast chicken), frozen carrots and peas (the adventurous could add sauteed red peppers and mushrooms), salt and pepper (the adventurous could add nutmeg or paprika) and then serving it on toasted English muffins (the adventurous could use store-bought puff pastries) and garnishing with fresh parsley.

If they want to feature various kinds of cuisine, why not find recipes that actually call for milk? Spaghetti bolognese (not very hard to make); pancakes; dumplings; quiche; kulfi (okay, so it might take a little longer than 30 minutes to prepare); many fish dishes (Mom always soaked fish in milk before cooking it); several dessert dishes from several different parts of the world; etc. etc.

-Elizabeth, the verbose

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Fantastic post. The thing with curries is there is no rule to making them. One adds what one likes. Soup, stew or curry the title does sound great.

creampuff said...

Well thank heavens we have your mum to show us all how curry is really made! Cardamom Mummy 1 - Milk Calendar 0.

glamah16 said...

Well , It wasn't yourworst milk calendar recipe. I mean this calnder is not for purists recipes and you know this.But thats the fun part of it.

Anonymous said...

LOL! I like CreamPuffs quote: "Cardamom Mummy 1, Milk Calendar 0. ;-) I like that you tweaked and stuff. Yum!


Anonymous said...

p.s. what's your chicken rub recipe?


jasmine said...

Hello all

I actually think this is the worst of the lot so far, if not then it's tied with the jambalaya.

I don't think it's an issue about authenticity--everyone has different versions of these dishes, so that's not my issue. My point is sometimes the only place milk has at a meal is in a glass, and not in the dish itself.

Meeta:Yes, I agree, there aren't set rules to curry making, but at some point someone needs to sit down and look at what they are doing and ask themselves "Does this make sense or is it just more precarious marketing?"

Elizabeth: Funny you should make your recommendation...the friend who tried the "curry" said much the same thing.