Archive for May, 2015

Rendang Chicken Curry – Indonesian Dry Curry

Rendang Chicken Curry – (Indonesian Dry Curry)

For those who don’t know, a dry curry is simmered down until the sauce is very thick and coats the meat. Intense flavors of a bevy of spices, fish sauce and coconut milk give this recipe great depth and complexity. You’ll see by the list of ingredients what I mean. The big plump black raisins swell when cooking. I like to sprinkle fresh toasted coconut on just before serving. As my friend Suzanne would say, a real tongue erection!
While the curry can be made with beef or whole chicken cut into pieces, for ease of serving large groups, I prefer chunks of chicken thighs -or if serving a pot luck – drumettes. Serves 24 for potluck with approximately 1 drumette each.

Tools:
Heavy Le Creuset-type (dutch oven etc) pot
Optional oven-proof flat dish
Optional Aluminum foil
Optional Food processor, either large or mini

Meat:
Chicken parts equivalent to a whole chicken.
My preference: boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks OR
best for pot luck: wing drumettes (approx 24)

Sauce Ingredients:
1 can coconut milk
1 large onion
4 gloves garlic
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3-4 tsp powdered ginger – or thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
¾ tsp dry chili flakes or 1-3 deseeded red chilies (depends on how “hot” you like it)
1 tsp turmeric
1 heaping Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp powdered star anise
4 tsp dark soy sauce (you can add more later to adjust taste)
4 Tbsp fish sauce – or equivalent fish base from jar
1 tsp shrimp paste – or 1 Tbsp seafood base – or 1 Tbsp additional fish sauce

Optional
Handful of big seedless raisins (Autumn Royal or Flame Seedless)
¾ Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp finely chopped lemongrass

Garnish ingredients:
Dry, shredded coconut (packaged, sweetened coconut from grocery store is fine)

Savory, spicy, rich Rendang Dry Curry Chicken drumettes waiting to be sprinkled with toasted coconut. A real tongue erection!

Savory, spicy, rich Rendang Dry Curry Chicken drumettes waiting to be sprinkled with toasted coconut. A real tongue erection!

Preparation:
Note: For making the sauce, a food processor is best. I use a mini-one for the onions and garlic. If you have a big processor, you can put all the SAUCE ingredients EXCEPT raisins in that. If you don’t have a processor, dice the onions, garlic, fresh ginger and optional lemongrass as small as possible. Would recommend powdered ginger.

Use a sturdy pot on top of stove.
Put coconut milk in pan.
Peel onions and cut into chunks.
Peel garlic.
IF using fresh ginger, peel and cut into pieces.
Put onion, garlic, ginger and optional lemongrass in mini-processor and mush.
Stir sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. EXCEPT raisins.
Add mixture to coconut milk.
Taste test and adjust. If need more salt, add more fish sauce or seafood base. If not spicy enough, add more chili.
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the chicken, stirring well.
When curry comes to boil again, reduce to simmer for approximately one hour, stirring frequently so not to burn or stick. (see 2 techniques below)
If it seems to go “dry” (thicken) too fast, add more coconut milk or a little water.

Note: Best made as many hours before serving as possible. This allows the spices to meld.

If using chicken chunks, simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently.
You will want the sauce to reduce.
Add the raisins after 45 minutes.
Continue cooking until sauce is consistency of ketchup.
Turn onto serving dish and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Serve bowl of remaining coconut on the side.

If using drumettes, cover the first 45 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the raisins.
Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Remove drumettes to an oven-proof dish large enough to spread them out.
Cover with foil and put in 300 degree oven while reducing the sauce. (Further tenderizes the drumettes without drying them out.)
Boil the sauce hard, uncovered until consistency of ketchup.
Remove chicken from oven and spoon sauce over.
Serve in the oven proof dish.
Sprinkle toasted coconut on top.
Serve bowl of remaining coconut on the side.

Toasted Coconut

Toasted coconut cooling after being turned out of the skillet.

Toasted coconut cooling after being turned out of the skillet.

This is so easy, it’s embarrassing to accept the praise it always elicits.
Best made close to serving.

½ – 1  package shredded coconut
1 heavy skillet or hand wok

Heat pan on high fire.
Put coconut in hot pan.
Stir constantly, turning and turning.
Remove or lift from fire occasionally so doesn’t get too hot.
Coconut will gradually begin to brown.
Keep turning!
When it’s all over golden, remove from heat and dump immediately onto a plate or flat pan to cool.
DO NOT leave in hot skillet as cooking continues.

Sandra adds “Although this reads like a complicated recipe, it really isn’t when you get down to it. Once you line up all ingredients, everything goes into a pot and cooks. I take the extra oven step with the drumettes, as I want them to be tender but not falling off the bone. You can easily skip the oven part.

The Secret:  It’s all in the spices. I use Penzey’s for freshness and punch. It’s also very important to let the spices “cure,” which means giving them plenty of time to meld together. Make in the morning for an evening party. Can easily be prepared the day before.

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May 30, 2015 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

Red Sun Halo in Ivory Coast Africa

I took this photo many many years ago when living in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), West Africa. We were upcountry in the “bush” when a halo formed around the sun. Such a mystical experience. I’ve only seen it once in my life.

From under one of those giant, tropical Africa trees that reach for the sky, I captured the shot using a red filter on my Nikon and Kodak slide film. Much later, I took a photography course in New Jersey to learn to print paper positives from color slides. This photo is the result. I love it still.

solar ring in the Côte d'Ivoire taken through a red filter

Solar ring (halo) in the Côte d’Ivoire Africa taken through a red filter.

May 26, 2015 at 1:59 am 1 comment

Our stay at Mena House, the Giza Plateau and the Great Pyramid

Here you have two photos from an adventure I treasure. The first time I went to Egypt, my husband and I stayed at the historic Mena House, a converted Pasha’s hunting lodge at the feet of the Pyramids. Can you imagine the thrill when we arrived late at night and were ushered into our room? The bell boy threw open the shuttered doors to this heart-stopping vista of the lighted Great Pyramid. I don’t ever remember a thrill greater than that moment. Better than anything I’d ever dreamed.

The Great Pyramid at night from our room at the Mena House, Giza, Egypt.

The Great Pyramid at night from our room at the Mena House, Giza, Egypt.

The following dawn, the growls of camels and shouts of their drivers awoke us. “Yellah! Yellah!” the turbaned men urged with sharp cries.

With no strength or will to tear myself away from the terrace, we ordered a room service feast with hot crusty rolls, thick apricot jam, plump fresh figs, and syrupy black coffee. While Jesper gazes in wonder, the early morning mists melt in the warming sun. Magic. Just plain magic.

My husband Jesper enjoying breakfast on the terrace of our room at the Mena House.

My husband Jesper enjoying breakfast on the terrace of our room at the Mena House.

I hadn’t started my trilogy yet. The Red Mirror was still years in the future, waiting for me to stumble over it in a Las Vegas antique mall. Isis hadn’t spoken to me; she hadn’t shared her story. But the seed was most certainly planted that dawn, on that very terrace, at the old Mena House in the shadow of the eternal Pyramids.

May 10, 2015 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment


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