A few months ago, Betty handed me a cookbook she'd bought to give as a gift to someone, but before giving it, she thought I needed to be 'made aware' of it. "I think this would be a good one to have around" she said. I agreed and so proceeded to get myself a copy.
The book in question is "More with Less". She had gotten it at the 10,000 Villages store on the downtown mall. Both the cookbook and the international fair trade organization come from the Mennonite community with a focus on sustainability, using what you have and consuming less.
But I'm not talking about that here today. You all know how I feel about talking about sustainability - I just prefer to do it and not talk about it. If you want to learn more about 10,000 Villages, click on some of the above links or go check out the store downtown. And full disclosure, I first learned about their sustainable practice because a dear high school friend is their marketing director. It was her Facebook posts from her Vietnam trip last year in which she met artisans that taught me about the organization's mission. (I also wrote about them previously in The Hook's last Green Homes issue.)
No, what I want to talk about here today is this recipe I stumbled upon in "More with Less" that is quickly becoming a favorite. I first found it when I was looking for something easy and different to do with lamb for Pat's birthday dinner. He & Edie are fans of lamb, me, not so much, so I only cook it upon request. I found a recipe for "Basic Meat Curry" that truly was basic where lamb was an option. Also listed as options were chicken, beef, mutton, fish, any leftover cooked meat or meatballs. I made it with lamb for Pat's birthday and then again recently with tofu.
I love a good basic recipe that can be varied endlessly. Not every recipe in this cookbook is so pliable, but it is a very good basic how-to cookbook that you can use for spin-offs. I have what I call a "Rule of Three" - I use it in buying magazines as well as culling my cookbook collection - where a cookbook must have a minimum of 3 recipes in order to keep it's spot on my shelf. This cookbook definitely meets that self imposed standard. Betty was right when she said we needed this around.
Tofu was on sale at the grocery store last week. Normally I prefer Twin Oaks Tofu, that locally made goodness, but at 99 cents a block, I thought I'd try the grocery store stuff. No, it does not touch Twin Oaks, but not everyone has access to Twin Oaks and when friends in other areas ask me about cooking with tofu, I want to be able to tell them how to make it and make it well. Cooking with tofu is challenging. I've been attempting to cook with it for 20 years and feel like I have just gotten the hang of it. Most of that I attribute to good tofu, but there has been quite a bit of trial and error I assure you. Boiling tofu for 10 minutes before you do anything else with it is a good place to start in getting it to stay firm and absorb flavors more readily.
I thought I'd try some of this tofu in the basic curry that was so good with lamb. As it simmers for several hours, I suspected that would be enough time for the tofu to absorb some of the curry flavor and it did. I also threw some vegetables in there so it would be a well rounded mostly one pot meal served over rice. I do love a one pot meal, probably more than my dishwasher does, for it means I don't have to bother with the synchronization of things coming off the stove at the same time. I am a lazy cook.
Basic Fill-in-the-Blank Curry
Heat in skillet:2 T fat or oil
Saute in oil:
Blend in small bowl:
2 T. lemon juice or vinegar
2-4 T curry powder
Stir curry mixture into onions and fry lightly for 2 minutes. You can add additional spices (suggested are cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cumin, cayenne).
Add your meat or tofu. Suggested are:
chicken, cut into small pieces
beef or mutton, cut into 1" chunks
fish, cut into chunks
Any leftover cooked diced meat
cubed tofu (try boiling it for 10 minutes before hand)
Stir-fry briefly to coat meat with spices. Add:
1 cup tomato juice OR 1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 t. salt
1-2 cups broth or water
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours for beef & mutton, 1 1/2 hours for chicken, 20 minutes for fish and cooked meats. Add more liquid as needed for cooking to thin stew consistency. (I cooked the tofu for 2 hours, but you could simmer it for just a short while and still have a tasty dish.) Serve with rice.
Suggested vegetable additions include cubed potatoes (give them at least 20 minutes to cook), cabbage, green beans, peppers, carrots, spinach and peas.