Massaman Curry (แกงมัสมั่น)

Ever since January marked the unravelling of a dissertation-FMP-degreeshow-graduation-Pentagram-LIFE spool, I’ve been mashing together a panoply of announcements and happenings into one post per month, which creates this sort of illusory quality>quantity justification to ease my mind.

But even as I turn my attention to the next thing—whether it’s as immediate as laundry or longterm as job applications—Wandercrush hasn’t become an obsolete obligation because it’s morphed into much more than what it began as. Well, it’s become much less if measuring by post frequency, useful cooking science tips, and etymological digressions…but I’ve also become much less occupied with SEO-stalking, feverish commenting, and other functions of the blogosphere that seemed to define my experience two years ago.

Navigating the precarious, post-graduation line between creative free-for-all and corporate tedium, Wandercrush has become some sort of amorphous tool to keep me both grounded and in the clouds; if my lifestyle leaves a vanishingly narrow window of time for the personal and joyful pursuit of cooking, photography, writing, and gathering around food, then I’d like to re-evaluate my priorities, not this blog.

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

In the next segment of life spoolage, there is major uncertainty about how to treat the expiration of my student visa in October. There is so much I want to do, so many scattered friends to visit around the world. There’s the option to start over again in a new city, but there’re also things here that I’ve never before considered particularly desirable—stability and community. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart” (Proverbs 19:21), but it’s paradoxically empowering to know full well that I have no ultimate control. So while I can’t guarantee to post x amount of times per month, I’ll be here in this little corner of the internet/Peckham, standing shakily but determinedly between chapters.

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

And while I can’t say where I’ll be in a few months, there’s always a portal via food—just last month I was dreaming of Thailand, and one of the best curries I’d ever put in my mouth. After having a peek at flight prices and doing some mental math, I settled on borrowing a hefty mortar and pestle (my friends are evidently more settled and stable!) to try my hand/biceps at Massaman Curry.

Though there is dispute about the exact origins of this dish, it’s definitively less ‘Thai-style’ and more reminiscent of Persian and Indian curries—if you browse the spice list, many were likely introduced through Muslim (perhaps an etymological hint) traders. In my decision not to vegify it, I acquired some late-summer lamb neck fillet from my local butcher who, in his excited explanation of which cut would be best, disappeared into the back of the shop and emerged bearing half the carcass to demonstrate.

We took the meal outdoors, descending into our embarrassingly overgrown garden and joined swiftly by some surprise guests. All in all, it wasn’t too far off from the jungles of Thailand. It just about brought me back to Ayutthaya.

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry Paste (พริกแกงมัสมั่น)
(yields enough for one recipe, but very double-able!)

  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 3 shallots, unpeeled
  • 7 small dried red chilis
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1-inch galangal or ginger
  • 2-inch cinnamon bark
  • 1 t peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1 T salt
  • ½ t grated nutmeg

Roast garlic and shallots with skin on, until skin is charred and flesh is soft—about 5-10 minutes. When cooled, discard skins and set aside.
For the remaining whole spices (cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cumin), roast separately in the dry pan until each is fragrant—this takes some extra time, but ensures that nothing is under/over-roasted. When cooled, remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, discarding the casing.
Start by pounding the dry spices until pulverised, then add in the lemongrass, chilis, galangal, nutmeg, and salt to continue pounding—this could take up to half an hour of steady bicep action. Finally, add in the garlic and shallots to pound until everything is well-incorporated into a smooth paste. This will keep in the refrigerator for about a week or the freezer for a month.

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Lamb Massaman Curry (แกงมัสมั่น)

  • 3 T curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk, cream and milk separated
  • 750g lamb, neck fillet
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots, chopped roughly
  • 500g waxy new potatoes, halved
  • 5 shallots, peeled and whole
  • handful peanuts, shelled and roasted
  • 1 T palm sugar (sub unrefined sugar, adjust to taste)
  • 2 T fish sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 2 T tamarind paste (adjust to taste)
  • handful fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
  • roasted peanuts, crushed
  • cooked brown rice
  • runner beans, raw

Start with the fresh curry paste in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly for a minute until very fragrant. Add the pieces of meat and brown on all sides. Stream in the thick coconut cream from the top of the can, simmering for a few minutes until separated and oily. Top up with the rest of the coconut milk and additional water to cover the meat. After it comes to a boil, lower the heat and add in a bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Allow to simmer for 1–2 hours, until the lamb is meltingly tender.
Add in the potatoes, carrots, peanuts, and shallots. Top up with more water if necessary and simmer uncovered for about 30-45 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not overcooked, stirring occasionally until thick and reduced.
Mix in fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind juice towards the end of cooking, adjusting sweet/salty/sour flavour balance to taste. Sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves and crushed, roasted peanuts. Serve over brown rice and with raw crunchy green beans.

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

Wandercrush Massaman Curry

*Wandercrush photographs will be compatible with retina displays from this post onwards!

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Posted in Blog News, Curry, Fish & Game, India, Iranian/Persian, Levant, Main, Sauce, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Analogue Madrid & Baked Sea Bream (Besugo a la Madrileña)

June has come and gone along with the first half of 2015, it seems. The degree show has been curated, painstakingly built up (and all-t00-easily taken back down), my wonderful Mother came to visit, and tomorrow I start at my first full-time job in London. I wonder what to do with Wandercrush, which was started and maintained over two years of relatively stable and predictable circumstances. For now, it makes sense to tie each whirlwind month together with food, because that’s what food does best.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Last month, I had a premature taste of summer when I hopped briefly across the Channel to visit my childhood friend, a Floridian neighbour for years and currently teaching English in Madrid. Their cuisine is crammed with potatoes and seafood—how perfect to adapt their baked sea bream dish to local Jersey Royals (also great in salads) and summery Isle of Wight tomatoes, now that the UK has finally caught up in temperature. I made this for my mum and a handful of good friends on the last evening of her trip. This little bream didn’t last long, but the conversation drifted well into the 9pm sunset.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Madrid-Style Baked Sea Bream (Besugo a la Madrileña)

  • 1 whole sea bream, scaled and gutted
  • ½ unwaxed lemon, sliced into rounds
  • kosher salt / freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced into rounds
  • 300g Jersey Royal new potatoes, sliced into discs
  • 200g Isle of Wight cherry tomatoes
  • kosher salt / freshly ground pepper
  • 3 dried chilli peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF / 175ºC.

Toss the sliced potatoes and onions with the olive oil and more salt/pepper. Line the bottom of a wide oven-proof dish with these and pop into the oven first for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make three deep slashes on one side of the fish, inserting a slice of lemon into each. Rub the whole fish in salt and pepper and place atop the semi-roasted veg. Scatter the cherry tomatoes around and drizzle everything with olive oil before returning the dish to the oven for another 25-30 minutes until completely cooked.

Just before the fish comes out of the oven, gently fry the garlic and chilli in a few tablespoons of oil. Right after removing everything from the oven, pour the hot oil over the fish. Finish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Even in the heat of FMP deadlines and Spanish climate, I went through 3 rolls of film on Dad’s old Nikon film camera when I was in Madrid for a few days. Although I was eyeballs-deep into Adobe Suite even as barhopping backpackers stumbled back into the 10-bunk hostel room at 4am, it was easy to see how beautiful the city was.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea BreamWandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

In other other news (a packed post, though all surprisingly relevant to sea bream!), my friend Alex Whiting came over to shoot me shooting food. She’s also my coursemate, and her Final Major Project exists online as a beautiful website called This Place; my interview is just one of the many she conducted with creators in their creative environments. Below are a few screenshots and her film photography, but visit the site—best viewed on Chrome—to learn many embarrassing things, including how I eat my Weetabix and why I hated brushing my teeth as a kid.

Wandercrush This Place Alex Whiting Irina Wang

 

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush This Place Alex Whiting Irina Wang

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

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Posted in Art/Design, Baked Goods, Collaboration, Fish & Game, Main, Personal, Spain, Travel, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Almond-Encrusted Cauliflower & Creamed Spinach

HELLO ALL. The past two months have been absolutely consumed by my Final Major Project on endangered language education in Bangladesh (more to come in a future post). Particularly in the two weeks leading up to hand-in, my entire lifestyle changed to accommodate the workload and constant fluctuation between a state of panic and of exhaustion. I must admit I’ve consumed more coffee than vegetables, but in this window of faux-freedom before we start building our degree show exhibition, I am so excited to eat dinner before 10pm.

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I’ve had this recipe ready for posting since April, but just haven’t had the time to click all the buttons. It’s suitably packed with all the vegetables I’ve been neglecting recently—classic example of ‘eat as I say but not as I eat’!

A famous case of the veggies-hidden-in-fatty-goodness-until-all-the-health-benefits-are-outweighted phenomenon: creamed spinach. It’s a classic side to order at the steakhouse, just to make sure you make that 16oz ribeye a balanced meal. My whole family loves it, but it can get a bit heavy after a spoonful or so. This version with almond milk is just as silky with enough green-kissed creaminess to transform a heap of mashed potatoes.

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Instead of destroying cauliflower’s form to play with its versatility (guilty, guilty, & guilty), it’s just sliced into hefty slabs, breaded, and baked. No need to pretend it replaces a cut of filet mignon, but it is wonderful in its own right. If you’re still unconvinced, check out this wonderfully exhaustive list of cauliflower’s health benefits.

Wandercrush Almond Baked Cauliflower Creamed Spinach

I’d be the last one to decry the miracle that is yeast-risen bread, but an almond does pack more nutrients and healthy fats than a kernel of wheat—wholemeal or not. Wheat flour is often used by default in recipes that require its texture more than specifically harnessing the elasticity of its gluten or its bready taste. Crunchy batters, crumbled toppings, thickening roux, for example, take well to substitutes. This thick cross-section of cauliflower is encrusted with spices in a base of course-ground almonds, baked until crisp and golden. The creamed spinach is made dairy free with almond milk, thickened with arrowroot powder, and crowned with a sprinkle of crunchy almond flakes. It browns beautifully, tastes bangin’, and doesn’t trigger widespread cultural outrage the way gluten seems to.

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Creamed Spinach & Almond-Encrusted Cauliflower Steaks

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t granulated onion
  • 1 t granulated garlic
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1 t dried rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • 500g fresh spinach
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T arrowroot powder (or other thickener)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cup course almond flour
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425ºF / 220ºC.
Fill a saucepan with a few centimetres of boiling water, adding spinach a bit at a time until all of it is wilted. Drain and press out as much water as possible.
Add oil and onions to the dried saucepan, cooking until soft and fragrant. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the arrowroot powder with a splash of almond milk until there are no clumps. Stream into the pan slowly. Add the rest of the almond milk, stirring and simmering for a few minutes until thick.
Stir in the nutmeg, grated cheese, and spinach. Give it a final stir with salt and pepper before spooning into a baking dish.
Toss the almond flour in some coconut oil before sprinkling over the spinach. Bake for about 25 minutes, carefully watching so that the layer of almond flour becomes golden but not burnt.

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Posted in America, Art/Design, Baked Goods, Collaboration, Lebanon, Main, Personal, Russia/Ukraine, Side, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments