It was my son’s birthday this month and since he loves curries, the hotter the better, we decided to celebrate with an Indian feast – beef curry with pappadums and a variety of vegetable sambals. These recipes have been long-time favourites with my family. In fact, they are inherited from my childhood, when Mum used to make it using an early Indian cookbook called ‘Curries from the Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Doris M. Ady (Reed, 1968). As kids, we used to love mixing up all the fragrant and colourful spices. It was so much more exotic than the ubiquitous curry powder of the times! All of the recipes serve 4-6 people and we often had delicious leftovers for the next day. Even though we have such a wealth of multicultural dishes these days compared to my childhood, the combination of all the different colours, textures, scents and flavours still makes these recipes a wonderful birthday treat and is indeed a feast for all the senses!
Indian Beef Curry
Mince 6 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 chillies and dice 1 onion. Dice 750g chuck steak. Measure out 60g ghee.*
Fry garlic, onion, ginger and chillies in some of the ghee.
Mix spices in a separate bowl : 1 tbsp coriander; 2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Reduce heat and add spices, cooking slightly. Remove from pan to a bowl.Using the rest of the ghee, fry the meat.Add spice/ onion mix and 1 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5-2 hours.Serve with rice, chapatis or pappadums; sambals and small bowls of sultanas; dessicated coconut; sliced banana; mango pieces; mango chutney and plain yoghurt.* Note : Ghee is basically clarified butter. It comes in a green tin, but if you cannot source any ghee, you can make it yourself: Simmer 500g melted butter for 1.5 hours; Strain through a fine muslin into a metal container. Luckily, it is readily available from most supermarkets these days.
Green Apple SambalPeel, core and dice 2 Granny Smith apples and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon.
Add 1 sliced red or green capsicum, 1 finely sliced onion and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut, soaked in a little hot milk, sugar and salt.
Sprinkle 1 sliced cucumber with salt, rest for half an hour, then rinse in a colander in cold water. These days, we always use Lebanese cucumbers, which don’t need peeling or salting.
Grate 2 heaped tbsp frozen coconut cream and add to cucumber.
Flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper. OR
Cucumber and Yoghurt SambalCut 1 Lebanese cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice finely. Remove seeds.
Add one quarter of red capsicum, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1 inch lengths.
Add 3-4 tbsp yoghurt, chopped chives, salt and pepper.
Tomato SambalChop 3-4 tomatoes roughly.
Add 2 sliced shallots, half a sliced capsicum, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.
Green Mango Sambal
Peel and grate 1-2 green mangoes.
Mince a half inch piece of ginger, 1 fresh red chilli or a quarter red capsicum, diced finely.
Add 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tsp sugar and salt to taste.All these recipes can be made beforehand, so all you need to do on the night is steam the rice, heat up the curry and fry the pappadums. As kids, we used to love watching the latter bubble and swell as they quickly cooked! Just be careful of the hot oil, which tends to spit!
For dessert, we would often have a can of lychees with icecream, but since it was his birthday, I made him a Cardamom Cream Cake instead. I found the recipe on : http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017901-cardamom-cream-cake
The recipe looked complicated, but the accompanying video made it look a lot easier!
Cardamom Cream CakeDrain 680 g fresh, whole-milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick (unless it already is very thick, in which case, eliminate this step!)
Make the milk syrup: It can be made 3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.In a small saucepan, combine 475 ml whole milk and 4 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half (30 -45 mins).
Stir in 75g sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer.Let the mixture cool.
Strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in 1.5 tsp rose water.
Make the cake:
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two 9-inch cake pans with Gladbake. My tins were actually only 7-inches wide, but it doesn’t matter-it just means each cake is a little thicker, making it easier to slice in half!
Lightly whisk together 4 large egg whites, 240 ml whole milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp rose water.Using an electric mixer, beat 170 g softened unsalted butter.
Sift 330g flour, 300g sugar, 20g baking powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and add to butter with a third of the milk-egg white mixture.Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.Make the ricotta filling:Using an electric mixer, whisk drained ricotta, 120 ml heavy cream and 95g icing sugar until quite smooth (30 seconds).
Beat in 1 tsp rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.
Make the mascarpone frosting:Using an electric mixer, beat 170g unsalted butter, 125g icing sugar, 1 tsp rose water and 1/2 tsp cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
On low speed, beat in 240 ml cold mascarpone and 60 ml cold Greek yogurt, until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle. I was so careful to use the marscapone and yoghurt straight out of the fridge and underbeat, to the extent that it probably wasn’t quite as smooth as it should have been, but I was paranoid about botching the recipe and losing all the ingredients!
An easier frosting is to add the rosewater and cardamom to a standard cream cheese butter cream :
Beat 250g unsalted butter and 250g cream cheese till light and fluffy.
Beat in 2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp vanilla. OR
Ice the cake with whipped cream flavored with a little icing sugar, rose water and cardamom.
When the cakes have cooled:
Use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake.Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Use strips of Gladbake under the cake so you don’t get icing all over the plate. Top with 50g chopped and toasted pistachios and candied rose petals for garnish; chill until ready to serve.This cake was delicious! Very rich and very good for osteoporosis, though not so good for the waistline!!! I loved the rosewater and cardamom flavour, set off well by the pistachio topping! A great success and my son loved it!There are a number of different methods for making candied rose petals. I consulted a lovely little book in our home library called ‘Edible Flowers‘ by Claire Clifton. A variety of flowers can be used : tiny rose buds or rose petals; violets; mimosa; lilacs; cowslips; fruit or herb flowers and mint leaves. Pick them on a very dry day, remove all the stems and green, trim the white heels from the rose petals and wash and dry thoroughly. I discovered the reason for the latter advice when I picked a lovely LD Braithwaite rose, only to find 3 tiny snails also enjoying the petals. Be assured that I did not use the petals they were on and I did wash the rest of the rose very well! I also used our first violets for the season.
I chose the first method in the book, which was to cover all petal surfaces with beaten egg white, then dip each petal into caster sugar using tweezers and place on a baking tray in a warm oven with the door open to dry. Unfortunately, I mistook salt for caster sugar, so I had to start all over again! The egg white bubbled up in a messy glob, but I took most of it off and given the crystallized rose petals are sprinkled in little broken bits over the top of the cake, it didn’t really matter, but I might try a different method next time!!!