Monday, February 16, 2009

Kitchen mishap

Sometimes I could just cry. Instead of a relaxing Sunday lunch I had to deal with a messy kitchen trauma yesterday.

For lunch on Sunday I cooked a duck breast in red wine and plum sauce. At the end of the meal I had half a duck breast and some sauce left over. I put the duck on a plate and poured the sauce from the pan into a glass bowl and set both duck and sauce on the counter to cool before putting them in the refrigerator.

Then I needed something from the cupboard directly above where I had put the bowl of sauce and the meat. I opened the cupboard door and BAM! a jar jumped out and landed right on top of the sauce bowl. The jar remained whole, but the bowl exploded. For a moment I just stood there, staring in shock at a pool of sauce with evil-looking pieces of broken glass in it and splats of crimson sauce everywhere. Strangely enough, none of it got on me, but there were few other places in the kitchen that escaped (except I didn’t find anything on the ceiling). Luckily, my kitchen is nearly stain proof, so the sauce wasn’t the worst part. The glass was. Heat-resistant glass doesn't break like regular glass. Besides the expected pieces of all sizes and shapes it also breaks into tiny fragments, almost like sand, and these were in all the places the sauce was, plus a few more, making it very difficult to mop up the sauce without risking some cuts. And of course I was standing right in the middle of the area with the most glass – and my feet were bare.

My first act was to take a standing jump away from the glass, to go and get myself some shoes. After I had finished wiping, mopping and vacuuming up the sauce and glass and the adrenaline started to wear off, my big toe started to throb. I hobbled into the bathroom and took off my sandal and found I was bleeding. A pressure test indicated that a shard of glass was lodged in my toe, but no amount of probing with the tweezers could dislodge it, so I ended up by bandaging the toe and hoping the damn thing will work itself out soon. Meanwhile, I have to be careful not to wear shoes that put pressure on the wound.

The worst casualty, however, was the duck breast. It had been sitting right next to the bowl when the accident happened, and was decorated with tiny glittering pieces of glass. I am not a risk taker, so instead of trying to wash off the glass, I threw it in the trash. Bye, bye dinner!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thai chicken in massaman curry

I learned to cook this dish and several others during a short Thai cooking course I took recently. This is the only dish I learned about there that I have cooked at home so far. This curry is richly flavoured but not hot. The sauce is not very thick - in fact if you take the chicken pieces and cut the meat off the bones and add it to the sauce you could serve it as a soup.

500 g chicken pieces on the bone (about 1/2 chicken). Skinless and boneless chicken may be used but the sauce will not be as richly flavoured
1 tbs massaman curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce – the Thai chef recommended the Squid brand
1/2 cup palm sugar
1 1/2 cup peanuts, whole (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup peanuts, finely chopped or ground (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup tamarind juice*
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium yellow onions)
12 small potatoes, cooked, cooled and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 bay leaves

*To make tamarind juice, pour 1/2 cup boiling water over 25 g of tamarind paste and steep for 5-10 minutes, break up with a spoon, take the tamarind pulp and squeeze the juice from it. Discard the pulp and strain the juice before using. According to the Thai chef, the bottled stuff does not give the right flavour to this dish.

Cook 1 1/2 cup coconut milk over medium heat in a deep pan or wide-bottomed pot until it separates and the oil floats on top. Add the curry paste, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining 4 cups of coconut milk and the water and mix well. Allow to boil, then add the peanuts, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice and bay leaves and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Then add the potatoes and onions and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes (the onion pieces should still have a little crunch in them when the curry is served). 2 tbs of palm sugar may be added near the end of cooking if the curry isn‘t sweet enough.
Serve with jasmine rice and a fresh salad.

By the way, „massaman“ curry is sometimes spelled „matsaman“ – for example on the jar of curry paste I bought before cooking this dish. Apparently "massaman" means "Muslim" in Thai.