I got the bloke home from Chicago yesterday, and we ate out - a post airport breakfast at Satis, dinner at the Old Canberra Inn. The OCI is another favourite place. It's one of Canberra's very few actual pubs, and it's quite close to us, on Mouat Street, Lyneham. It's based on an old slab hut that predates Canberra, and it has a main bar with wooden beams, fireplaces, and old maps on the wall. There's often functions out the back, in the old stables, and a room with a couple of pool tables. It's got totally ordinary beer and standard pub grub - no boutique microbrews, no cocktails, not much top shelf spirits. The food ranges over nachos, burgers, steaks and chicken schnitzels. The burgers and steaks are usually pretty good, reliable tucker, and for $10-15 a meal, I'm not going to quibble!
The OCI also has regular blues nights, which is the big lure for us. Last night local boy Jonno Zilber and Kyla Brox, from the UK, were on the bill. No cover charge, just great music. Jonno is a young lad, and he keeps on getting better and better. He did an acoustic guitar set, with his own material and a spot of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. Kyla Brox had a band with her; and she had a mix of classic blues and her own more funky R&B. She has a huge deep bluesy voice, amazingly powerful; I wish she had done a few more of the classic blues, as I liked that better. We only stayed for her first set, as the jetlag was setting in.
So onto the food. I bought yet another cookbook during the week, at a Co-Op Bookshop sale. Regional Indian Cooking is the one - I got it for $11. Resistance is futile. As the bloke was due home yesterday, I just had to make a curry dinner. His usual response to the question "what would you like to eat this week?" is "curry". With the occasional variant into "chilli", and once, shockingly, even "vegetables". But relying on the popularity of curry, I made a South Indian lamb meatball curry from my new book. On the side I've got some chopped tomato & cucumber, mango chutney, pappadams, a carrot and peanut raita (sort of from the book but adjusted to ingredients I had on hand), and I've whipped up one of my favourite cheat foods - fake dhal makhani. This is nothing but a mix of tins, but it's great.
Lamb meatball curry
Part 1: Meatballs
500 g lamb
1/4 cup fine semolina
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
Spices: 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves.
Part 2: Sauce
2 tsp oil
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup veggie stock (from a cube is fine)
40g dessicated coconut
blender spices: 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp chilli powder, 2 tsp coriander
whole spices to fry: 10 curry leaves, 2 whole cloves, 5cm cinnamon stick, 3 cardamom pods
Meatballs are easy: just mix up the lamb, egg, semolina and spices. Roll into meatballs of your preferred size. I made 20.
Toss tomatoes, coconut and blender spices into a blender. Blend.
Slowly fry onion in oil until golden. Add whole spices to fry, and cook another 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Add contents of blender to pan, then add stock to blender and whizz to get the rest of the tomato. Toss that in the pan, too. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, add salt to taste, then add meatballs. Cover and cook over low heat for at least 20 minutes. (Longer will not hurt.)
When ready to serve, stir in lime juice and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
Notes: You'll want to wash your hands well after you roll the meatballs or they'll go all turmeric yellow. Also, feel free to use whole spices and grind them up. I had a mix of whole and pre-ground that was different from my recipe book. As with all curries, a mellowing overnight improves it.
Cheat's Dhal Makhani
1 tin dark red kidney beans
1 tin brown lentils
1 tin chopped tomatoes with Indian spices
2 tablespoons yoghurt or sour cream or cream
Drain and rinse the lentils and beans. Toss into a saucepan with the tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken up. Add the dairy. Simmer more until well amalgamated. Add extra chilli and salt to taste.
Notes: This will surprise you by being actually really nice, despite the tinned assembly job nature of it. Ardmona brand tomatoes are the ones I found with the curry spice mixed in already. It seems quite strong on turmeric and very mild on chilli. You could use a dessertspoon of your favourite curry paste or powder, and a normal tin of tomatoes instead. I've used non-fat yoghurt, full-fat sour cream, and "lite" sour cream at various times. You may need to be careful not to boil it too vigorously once yoghurt is added, as yoghurt can separate. Or stabilise it with a little cornflour. I guess that a bit of coconut cream could also do, if you don't want any dairy. Or butter or ghee if you want to get closer to the original idea.