Oh, so many places to go…

•October 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Where I’m going…

Places I want to go while I’m there…

Cape Town

Cape Town

Table Mountain

Stellenbosch, Western Cape Winelands

Wild Coast

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

Drakensburg Mountains

Kruger National Park

All in one of these (hey, I can dream)…

So, who wants to come visit??


Sunday Soup

•October 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today is definitely a soup kind of day. Apparently a lot of other people thought so, too, because Trader Joe’s was completely out of chicken AND vegetable broth. Boo for having to make two stops instead of one but YAY for delicious soup simmering on my stove.

This is my first time cooking with lentils, and I’ve had a package of masoor matki (whole baby red lentils) for a while now from a trip to Grand Asia Market. I’ve liked the idea of cooking with dried lentils for a long time – the fact that they don’t require presoaking, unlike dried beans – but haven’t ever found a recipe calling for them that I was excited to make. That changed when I saw Orangette’s recent blog post on red lentil soup with lemon.

Fragrant Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark via Orangette

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
A few grinds of black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups masoor matki (baby or regular red lentils), picked through for stones/debris
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
Juice of one lemon, or to taste
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Couple dashes Frank’s original hot sauce (not in original recipe)

In a large pot (dutch oven if you have one), heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Using an immersion (I use one of these and highly recommend it) or regular blender, puree about half of the soup. It should still be somewhat chunky, not completely smooth. Reheat if necessary, then stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. (Original recipe suggests serving the soup drizzled with olive oil and dusted lightly with cayenne, if desired). Yields 6-8 servings.

The results: divine! This soup was hearty, simple, and delicious. Boyfriend gave it “two thumbs up” and we both agreed we wouldn’t change a thing about it (aside from adding Frank’s). The flavors were very clean – I love that the author of this recipe didn’t get carried away with adding different spices and/or vegetables. The lemon juice really added something extra here. I will definitely be making this again – it’s a perfect chilly day soup (and very filling)!

Wouldn’t this soup look pretty in one of these beautiful soup mugs from Karin Lorenc? Love these.


Happy Friday!

•October 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Now THIS is a kind of yoga I can go for!

Found via A Cup of Jo

Skinny Girl Curry, Part I

•October 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

The weather is FINALLY getting cold around here, and nothing makes me feel like cooking a good curry than a chill in the air. The catch: I’m trying to be healthier, so anything with heavy creams, full fat yogurt, or lots of ghee/butter is going to be out of my repertoire for a while. But, I’ve been experimenting with some of Robin Miller’s recipes from her Quick Fix Meals book lately (so far I really like her Oven Fried Chicken and Balsamic-Glazed Pork Tenderloin) – I like the fact that most of her dishes are fast, healthy, AND good. Flipping through the book I saw that she had a curry recipe that looked interesting. So, around 7pm tonight… I decided to try it.

The verdict: not bad, not bad at all. Good, even. Different – tangy from the addition of vinegar, and I loved the golden raisins in this. The sauce was a bit thin, but would have been great over basmati or with some fluffy naan. I improvised a bit and ate it with a whole wheat tortilla (my attempt at eating it roti style) but something that could soak up the sauce definitely would have been better. I’ll be making this again, but next time with naan, basmati or maybe even couscous. The best part: it took approx. 15 minutes to make.

Chicken Curry with Shallots and Raisins
From Robin Miller, Quick Fix Meals

1 tbs. peanut oil
1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp. each of curry powder, ground cumin, and garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup reduced-sodium non-fat chicken broth
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tbs. apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, or Dutch oven if you have one, over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until golden brown (about 2 minutes). Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the broth, raisins, and vinegar, bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve. Makes 4 servings.

I’m going to be experimenting with other healthier curry recipes to compare, check back for more posts!

The Big Decision

•October 13, 2010 • 4 Comments

As some of you know, I applied for a foreign clerkship on the South African Constitutional Court more than a year ago. Fortuitously, then-Justice Albie Sachs selected me to serve as a clerk for his successor on the Court, Justice van der Westhuizen. It was a huge honor to be selected as a foreign clerk, as only five are selected each year from around the globe, with one spot reserved for a clerk from elsewhere in Africa. The clerkship runs from January – June 2011.

Since I found out I was selected, I have been struggling with whether or not to “take the plunge” and go. One of my main hesitations was safety, as Johannesburg (the location of the Court and where I would be living) is a city known for its violent crime. I warmed up to the idea of living in Joburg after visiting¬† last December with my family and being pleasantly surprised by our comfort level in the city. Safety is still a major concern, though, and I will definitely be playing it extremely safe. Clerking on the Con Court will (I hope) be worth it.

The Con Court is a truly inspirational place, and I was extremely humbled when I visited it with my family last December. The Court is described as:

“. . . the highest in South Africa on constitutional matters, was born of the country’s first democratic Constitution in 1994. In an acclaimed new building at Constitution Hill, the 11 judges stand guard over the Constitution and protect everyone’s human rights.”

Inside the Court

The building itself sits on the former site of the notorious Old Fort Prison that dates back to 1892 and held many high-profile anti-Apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. The architecture of the new Court building symbolically incorporates parts of the old prison, and the “Great African Steps” connect the new Court building with the old stone wall of the Number Four Prison (the name given to the “frightening” part of the Old Fort Prison where black men were jailed). The courtyard faces the old Awaiting Trial Block.

The Great African Steps

(Photo credit: Emiliano Homrich via Google Earth)

Former Awaiting Trial Block in the new Constitution Square

Awaiting Trial Block

You can read more about the building here. As you can tell, I’m a little obsessed.

So, there it is. I’m nervous/excited/flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but it’s sure to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Looking forward to seeing more of the country where I was born, seeing family, and learning more about the social and legal history of such a dynamic country.

More to come.


•September 13, 2010 • 2 Comments

No, your blog newsfeed is not malfunctioning – I actually wrote a new post! Welcome back, self.

This time I’m here to offer a public service announcement. If you plan on keeping super-hot spices in your cooking artillery (which is likely, if you’re a fan of Indian-inspired cooking), don’t leave them within reach of the dog (or other unsuspecting and curious loved ones)!

Take it from me: I made the mistake of leaving my adobo paste I purchased on a recent trip to Belize at the bottom of a bag in the bedroom the other night. I left the dog unattended in the same room, and I guess the adobo smelled so enticing she had to check it out. I think it’s safe to say she immediately regretted that decision…

Here is a picture of my lovable lab mutt Fetzer before the adobo incident:

And the sad, sad, pup post-adobo:

Does it go without saying? She was not a happy camper.

Lesson learned. Keep hot spices away from animals. One thing is for sure: I’ll be a lot more cognizant of where I place my spices in the future (The More You Know)!

Note: Per the vet’s advice I gave Fetzer a doggie-dose of Benadryl and Prednisone, and Fetz’s face finally went back to normal after about 12 hours of swelling and 5 hours of vomiting. Thank goodness!

Durban Red Curry (or, Mother-in-law’s tongue)

•February 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Before I knew I would be going to South Africa in December, one of my requests for my mom (who was there in August) was to bring back some Durban red curry powder. Now, I realize using curry powder is frowned upon by “authentic” curry enthusiasts, but I was curious to compare the Durban-style curry blend with what is typically used in the U.S.

Durban is known for its distinctive take on “curry.” Take it from Diana Armstrong:

The curry of Durban is derived from the hot peasant curries that were brought by the Indian immigrants from the provinces of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Their curry is a very spicy red curry, its dominant color coming from the fiery dried chillies used as the major ingredient in the curry powder. In the U.S.A., the best equivalent to Durban Masala curry powder would be a “red curry powder” rather than the normal typical curry powder found on our supermarket shelves which tends to be yellow in color from the turmeric in it. In addition, a good dose of cayenne pepper fires things up. This dish was adopted by the British settlers and also the Zulu inhabitants, simplified and streamlined to become a staple enjoyed by all. It is the one dish that everyone regardless of skin color is passionate about.

And let me tell you, it is HOT! So far I have mostly been using the Durban red curry in soups, but a little certainly goes a long way, even for a spicy food masochist like me.

If you want to try your hand at making your own close approximation to Durban red curry powder, try the following recipe:

Durban Masala
From Fiery Foods and Barbecue SuperSite

3 tbs. curry powder
3 tbs. hot chili powder
1 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger powder

Combine and store in refrigerator or freezer. Yields 2/3 cup.

While I was in South Africa, I did get a chance to visit the city of Durban. My cousin Philippa’s boyfriend, Deryl, is a jockey and invited us to one of his night races in Durban (that’s him in the lead in the photo below). At the races we had a lovely sit-down dinner and of course, curry was served. A big difference I noticed between the curry in the U.S. and the curry in South Africa was the pure heat factor – curries here at home are typically wimped-down and not hot enough (even if you ask!) while the curries I had in South Africa were legitimately HOT (eater beware). I heard the general comment that in Durban, “everything is hot!” Right they were.

Recipe incorporating this fiery madness to come!