Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Inspired By My Dad

Both of my parents are wonderful cooks, but all will agree that my father probably could have been a chef at some point if he had wanted to.  As it turns out, preparing and sharing wonderful food is something he enjoys doing -- his "art" so to speak, and he has said he doesn't think he would enjoy it as much if he had to do it.  So our family and friends have been the happy beneficiaries of Daddy's hobby.

One of our Dad's favorite dishes is his "Ten Boy Curry".  The number in the title of this dish has changed periodically as he has included different numbers of ingredients.  This is an Indian dish and, in the British Colonial tradition, young boy servants would present each ingredient as an option to add according to the diner's pleasure.  The best way to enjoy this is by including everything offered, as each adds a crucial element, and all together the result is sublime.  My father usually prepared rice for the base of the meal, and the optional toppings included chopped raw celery, chopped raw scallions, chopped tomato, toasted coconut, crumbled bacon, chopped boiled egg, peanuts, raisins and Major Grey's Mango Chutney.  Normally we would create a pile of the cold ingredients over the warm rice, and top it all off with chicken in a curry-cream gravy and, finally, a dollop of the chutney.  The result is very surprising.  It is a melange of flavors, spicy, warm, sweet and savory.  It induces cravings for more about an hour after consumption.  It's that good.

Last night I decided to attempt re-creation of this masterpiece in a vegan context.  There was a lot of guesswork, and I was pleased with the results.  As well as I can remember, here's how I created the curry "chicken" sauce:

1/2 a block of firm tofu, squeezed
1/2 c. organic vegetable broth
3/4 c. unsweetened soy milk
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 teasp. turmeric powder
salt and pepper
4 "gardein" fillets, rinsed and sliced in strips
6 large button mushrooms, sliced

I blended all ingredients except the gardein and the mushrooms, and then warmed the sauce slowly in a saucepan over low heat, along with the gardein and the mushrooms, which cooked ever so slightly in the sauce.

While this was cooking I prepared the bowls of other ingredients:  Organic diced tomato  chopped celery, chopped scallions, peanuts, raisins, chick peas, smart bacon, crumbled and cooked in a dry pan, and the chutney.  I had organic coconut somewhere, but, doggone it, couldn't find it, so had to go without that one.  Nevertheless, the result, served over wild rice and alongside sauteed swiss chard, was incredible and really did remind me of my Dad's wonderful creation.

I thought twice about serving this to my husband, but remembered that he had half a filet mignon left over from the other night that could fill in if he didn't approve of my vegan experiment, so serve it I did.  He looked at my beautiful plate and, raising an eyebrow, said, "What's that?"

"Chicken curry," I answered.

"But what is it?" he persisted.

"This chicken is made out of vegetables," I answered, simply and honestly.

He sighed, loaded up a small portion of everything, tried it and said, "I wish you hadn't told me what it was," --(I can't win here, I guess).

He said it tasted alright but he didn't care for the texture (I thought the texture was exactly like chicken, but it has been a while for me so maybe I am remembering it differently).  He flipped the remaining gardein pieces onto my plate, plopped his steak in the middle of all the other ingredients and pronounced it fabulous!  He then loaded up on another helping.

I kept my lips zipped about the bacon having been made of vegetables too!

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