Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Recipe #171: Jason's Indignation

I just love the pasta genre of cooking. Of course when North Americans hear the word "pasta", we usually envision meat balls or salads. A long time ago I realized that it was an injustice to limit staple foods to only a few areas. My continuing pasta fetish happens to be in the curry-ish realm. Since I prefer savoury to sweet, they usually carry a decent bite. Now, a word of caution.

There are two primary types of cooking. The most common one is mass production, and I'm not just referring to restaurants and processed quasi-food. I'm not dissing it -- except for the quasi-food -- because it is necessary, but it's not my favourite. The less utilised type centres on the artistry of food. That's where I live. So, since I cook by feel, well mostly by smell, it's difficult for me to precisely pin down quantities. Of course this results in three types of meals.

1. Hot Damn! J, you are a food god.
2. This is okay.
3. What is this crap?

I'm most often in the range of number 2. But there are those moments...mmmm, I love fresh, spicy food.

Jason's Indignation is such a moment. The best part about this is the distinct flavours. Please don't feel that you need to exactly follow this. That's not how I cook, and good luck following me anyway. Adjust spices as you feel necessary. I seldom measure, so my listed amounts are very approximate. Give more attention to the idea than the number.

Fresh ingredients:
Lamb *
Red Bell Pepper
Green Bell Pepper
Ginger Root

Stored Ingredients:
Brown Rice Pasta (spaghetti in my case)
Apple Juice
Canned Crushed Tomatoes

Chili Powder
Garam Masala **
Dried Mustard
Black Pepper (preferably ground)

I recommend preparing all the fresh ingredients before beginning to cook, but that depends on your speed and ability. All that I use in the preparation of these fresh ingredients is a sharp chef's knife (8") and a cutting board. Anything else is a marketing ploy designed to steal money that should be spent purchasing gorgeous spices. Technique is important, and a dull knife is your enemy. My favourite cookbook gives basic instructions: "Bake It Like a Man" (ISBN - 10: 0688155804)

The person who came up with the concept of sautéing food probably had an angelic visitation. Just saying the word makes me hungry. I prefer using olive oil. Use whatever your little health conscious heart desires, but olive oil is a decent option, and using anything else does impact the flavour. That's right. My palate is that keen.

I would guess that I use a 6 oz. piece of lamb. Slice it into small chunks or strips so that you can sauté fairly quickly without overcooking. I use a bit of olive oil because I'm a huge believer in cast iron pans and its flavour, but you don't have too. Unless you've purchased a hyper fat-pared meat, it won't stick to the pan for long. Before sautéing I add salt, pepper, and rosemary. Don't go overkill on the rosemary: perhaps just over 1/4 teaspoon. Once the meat is very nearly done, I toss in about three cloves worth of finely diced garlic. Make sure it mingles well. You want the garlic to slightly brown, as it does wonders for the flavour. Keep all this separate for later.

For a single serving I use an average sized whole carrot sliced into 1/8" thick (3mm) "coins". Toss these into a hot pan with a bit of oil. Throw down salt and pepper, and watch those babies sizzle. I don't actually cook them 'till they go brown. It's a fine line. I don't want them burnt, but I do want them fairly soft and nearly browned. Keep the carrots separate. This is full-on flavour apartheid.

Slice and dice however much bell pepper tickles your fancy. Fresh garlic is my friend, so I finely dice another two cloves, and they're not tiny. Ginger is very provocative. I dice a chunk roughly 1" by 1/2". Tomato will brighten your day, so I slice a whole one into strips. A good tomato isn't bashful, after all. You want to bite down on a reasonable piece, since we are adding some crushed tomatoes anyway. Whatever you do, try to use a properly ripe one.

For myself, one serving of spaghetti almost fits between my thumb and index finger. A circle roughly 1 1/4" in diameter. I cook my rice pasta at a strong boil for 5 - 6 minutes, then off it goes. Strain and briefly rinse in cold water and return to a decent sized pot. Now we get exciting. Throw the entire last paragraph into the pot with the pasta. Dole out a few tablespoon's worth of the crushed tomatoes, but contrary to typical pasta wisdom, we are not looking for a tomato dictatorship. Too much, and you'll lose the effect of the spices. Now the apple juice. Don't go crazy, but remember that we will be boiling this mixture at about medium for five minutes. If I haven't added enough initially, I add more, ending up with something rather in the stew range of sloppiness. I would guess that I use roughly 3/4 - 1 cup of AJ.

While this is boiling, throw in chili powder, mace, and dried mustard. I love the CP, so I probably put in 3/8 of a teaspoon. Mace requires care, just like you didn't mess with a guy carrying one in the Middle Ages. At most I use 1/8 of a teaspoon. Add the dried mustard, probably just over a 1/8 tsp. Perhaps a minute before this last boil is done, throw in almost 1/2 a teaspoon garam masala and mix well.

Just before you serve this breathtaking mixture, we end apartheid. I'm so progressive. Join all the brethren together in a well stirred mix. Although now all in one mass, each separate element will maintain a distinct flavour adding that extra punch to Jason's Indignation.

* I purchase inexpensive cuts of shoulder arm chops at A & P, of all places. They aren't the most tender choice, but they are nonetheless flavourful and don't break the bank. The price falls between chicken and lean beef, surprisingly enough. In North America most Caucasians grossly underestimate or misunderstand lamb. For one thing, it should never be cooked more than medium, or it becomes dry. It happens to be my favourite red meat, but not everyone appreciates the strong smell as it cooks.

** Garam Masala is a somewhat complex blend.

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