Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Brigadeiros (Brazilian Truffles)

Today I’m featuring my first dish from Brazil, in honor of that nation’s Independence Day. One hundred and eighty-nine years Pedro, the eldest son of then Portuguese King João VI, declared freedom from Portugal. This happened on September 7, 1822 after 322 years of Portuguese rule. Pedro went on to declare himself Emperor of Brazil and was later briefly King of Portugal before abdicating in favor of his seven year old daughter.

Interestingly, these chocolate truffles also have a link to politics. They are named after Eduardo Gomes, a brigadier in the Brazilian air force who twice ran unsuccessful for the presidency of Brazil. Despite his political failure, Gomes was popular enough that this truffle was named after him.

Brigadeiros are popular at children’s birthday parties and other celebratory events.

Makes 18 truffles

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons cocoa, sifted or powdered hot chocolate
finely shredded coconut, finely chopped slivered almonds, colored sanding sugar, sprinkles or other garnish (optional)

1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the first three ingredients over medium heat. Using a heat proof spatula, stir the mixture continuously to prevent it from burning at the bottom of the pan. Some burning may still occur; if it does, do not scrape the burned layer into your mixture.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to low. Add cocoa and continue mixing well. Sifted cocoa is more likely to blend in without creating lumps. If you’re feeling unmotivated to sift, un-sifted cocoa or powdered hot chocolate mixture may be used.
3. Stir the mixture for 8-10 minutes until it thickens and pulls away from pan. It should be a dense fudgy batter.
4. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Then place in the fridge for 4-12 hours.
5. Grease your hands with butter or cooking spray and roll the batter into truffles.
6. If the batter is soft, place these in the fridge to harden.
7. If desired, roll the truffles in a coating of your choice.  This will help to keep softer pieces in better shape.
8. Depending on consistency, place in the fridge or freezer to harden before serving.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Malaysian Fish Curry

My friend Preeta was recently in town and, as we had done many times in many cities, we cooked a meal together. She rarely uses a recipe and all her food comes out tasting wonderful. This fish curry was no exception. I decided to attempt to re-create that delicious meal. Even though this version tasted different, it was flavorsome.

I’ve used the term ‘curry’ to describe several dishes on this site. The word is an Anglicization of the Tamil word kari which means ‘sauce’. In old Tamil, kari meant chewing, eating or biting. Some suggest that the modern spelling was influenced by the Middle English word cury which came from the French word cuire, which meant to cook. An early surviving document from this time is the 14th century cookbook titled Forme of Cury.

The term kari was meant to describe vegetables in a sauce served with rice, but was applied by Europeans to describe a large number of such dishes throughout Asia. Variations of this term (such as kori and kerrie) are now used in French, Swedish, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Finnish and German.

In Britain, curry is the generic term used to describe South Asian entrees which are widely consumed throughout the country. One of the earliest British curry recipes appeared in the Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1747). Curries became popular during British colonialism and the subsequent migration from South Asia to Britain. Today curry is widely considered an integral part of British cuisine and experimentations with curry have resulted in chicken tikka masala and Coronation chicken.

Serves 4 people

3 tablespoons olive oil
5 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 lb green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 to 1 tablespoon brown sugar
7 ounces coconut milk
1 1/2 lb mild white fish filets (such as tilapia)

1. In a saucepan, sauté shallots and ginger in olive oil for 4 minutes.
2. Add garlic, tomatoes and green beans. Continue sautéing for 3 minutes.
3. Add curry paste and continue sautéing for 3 minutes.
4. Add fish sauce, brown sugar and coconut milk. Stir well and immediately add fish.
5. Sauté fish for 5-7 minutes until cooked.
6. Serve with rice.