Blog - Curry Twist

Coconut Curry Vegetables In Hamilton, Bermuda

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Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, has the appearance of a small town, and you can stroll across it in half-an-hour. However, its size belies its charm and sophistication, for Hamilton is a major commercial hub, home to a large number of international banks and insurance companies. The downtown consists mostly of office buildings, none of which are allowed to rise so high as to obstruct the view of the cathedral that dominates the skyline. In the commercial district it is quite usual to see a banker, dressed in business attire consisting of Bermuda shorts, knee-high stockings and a tie, stepping out for lunch.

Hamilton also has a vibrant night-life, making it a fun place to visit after a day spent lazing on the beach. Getting to Hamilton from anywhere on the island is easy. You can take a cab or a scenic ferry ride or hop on a rented scooter. Zipping up and down those curvy, mountain roads on a little red scooter is an experience you won't soon forget!

Front Street, running along the length of the harbour is where most of the action is. Lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes, it is a great place to explore, people watch and buy that souvenir.

Since the main downtown area of Hamilton is quite small, it is easy to walk around and see the lovely pastel coloured, colonial style buildings, straight out of a picture postcard!

A short stroll from Front Street, up a gently sloping, meandering path lies Fort Hamilton. Built in the 1870s as a possible defense against American attacks, it is a lovely green, serene place with wonderful views of the city and harbour below.

Dotted about all over the island you see these unusual arches built into boundary walls . Known as Moon Gates, they were first brought to Bermuda from China in the 19th century. Locals believe that newly weds will be blessed with good luck when they walk through them. I just love the way they frame the scene around them, and I never missed a chance to walk through them!

I have long been a fan of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's food. When we discovered that he recently opened a new restaurant in Hamilton called Marcus', we had to eat there. His creative spin on Bermuda's classic favourites is like none other and the restaurant's beautiful location in the Hamilton Princess Hotel doesn't hurt either!

Sitting out in the shady veranda of the restaurant, gazing at the impossibly blue waters, with boats bobbing around in the harbour, sampling dishes like Fish Chowder Bites, Grilled Fish Tacos and Bermuda Vegetable Curry was a fantastic experience. This is my version of that delicious curry and every bite takes me back to sunny Bermuda!

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Roasting the vegetables adds a smoky dimension to this curry, which lifts it out of the ordinary. It is a fairly thick curry; if you'd like a thinner sauce, add some water. Pair it with Coconut Rice for a delicious meal.

Coconut Curry Vegetables

1 cup each, 1/2 inch size diced vegetables: carrots, sweet potato or pumpkin, sweet red and green peppers, zucchini, cauliflower and onions

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped

8 large canned whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano variety preferably), pureed

1 cup canned tomato puree or juices from above can of tomatoes

400 ml can of coconut milk

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp each: ground black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cayenne pepper, turmeric

2 tbsp each: chopped fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves, lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment.

Combine diced vegetables with 2 tbsp oil and salt to taste. Spread evenly on tray. Bake for 20 - 25 min until lightly browned and roasted. Reserve for later use in the recipe.

Warm remaining oil in deep heavy skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger. Saute for about 30 sec until lightly browned.

Add pureed tomatoes, saute 5 min, until slightly thickened.

Add tomato puree or juices, coconut milk, salt to taste and all the spices. Cook 5-7 min until thickened slightly.

Add roasted vegetables. Stir gently to mix, bring to a gentle boil, cover skillet and cook on low heat 20 min, stirring occasionally.

Fold in the chopped coriander, mint and lemon juice.

Serves four - six

Spicy Fish In Cozumel, Mexico

When I stepped onto the shores of Cozumel I was probably as far from India as you can possibly get. But geographical distance does not necessarily imply the absence of any connections, as I discovered when I heard the fascinating legend of "La China Poblana". 

The story told across Mexico today is of a young woman in seventeenth century India named Meera who was kidnapped by Portuguese pirates near Cochin in Kerala. She was carried to the Philippines in 1619 where she was bought by a Spanish ship's captain and taken to his house in Puebla, Mexico. There Meera became a Catholic and took the name of  Catarina de San Juan. After the death of the captain, Meera supported herself as a seamstress, making colourful blouses and skirts inspired by designs from her native India. She began to see holy visions and was reputed to be able do miracles, becoming famous as La China (which, at that time in Mexico, meant any person from Asia), of Puebla. When she died at the age of 82, she was venerated as a saint and her grave in Puebla became a pilgrimage site. Meera's colourful dresses are now considered Mexico's national dress and still referred to as China Poblana. 

 

 

Mexico took Meera's sense of style to heart and in return it transformed the food of India by introducing chillies to the cuisine. Puebla is also famous as the place where mole poblano was created, a dish that combines two of Mexico's greatest gifts to the cuisines of the world: chillies and chocolate.

Spices form another great link between East and West. When Columbus set sail he had no idea that he was going to discover a new continent, for he was in search of a route to Asia where he could buy spices, especially the famous pepper of Kerala. Instead he landed in the Caribbean where he discovered a new plant - chilli peppers that were as yet unknown outside the American continent, but which in subsequent years, Spanish and Portuguese traders carried around the world. 

Chilli plants arrived in India only a few decades before Meera made her voyage and Indians took to them with gusto. Indian food was never the same once cooks discovered that a pinch of cayenne gave it an unforgettable bite! India gave Mexico La China Poblana and got back a whole new world of flavour in return. I would call it a fair exchange!

Many years of my childhood were spent in Cochin where I grew to love Kerala cuisine, imbued with the flavours of red chilies, black pepper, curry leaves and coconut. Kerala cuisine has many common elements with that of Mexican food such as the use of chillies, ground cumin, fresh coriander and coconut.

I like to think that this typical Kerala fish curry, rich with tomatoes and spices, especially chilies, is something Meera would have enjoyed in Cochin and perhaps created variations of in her new home in Mexico.  

Fish curries are generally made in a traditional earthenware pot also known as a Chatti, for the aroma and flavour it imparts to the dish. The fish is never stirred with a spoon. Instead, the chatti is gently shaken from side to side to ensure even cooking and to avoid breaking up the fish as it cooks.
The first marination of the fish in lemon juice helps get rid of some of its strong aroma while the second marination adds to its flavour. Adding coconut milk right in the end helps mellow the heat, while adding creaminess to the sauce. Serve it with Coconut rice for a nice balance of flavours.

Kerala Fish Curry

1 1/4 lb skinless Halibut fillet, cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp each: salt, turmeric

A small piece of tamarind, about the size of a large marble

1/2 cup hot water

1 tsp each, divided:  ground coriander, ground cumin, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)

1/2 tsp each, divided: cayenne pepper, mustard powder, ground ginger, garam masala

2 tbsp oil

6 cloves garlic, smashed

20 fresh curry leaves

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

1 cup (about 6) canned whole plum tomatoes, pureed

1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp each: chopped fresh coriander, chopped fresh curry leaves

Place fish in large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, salt and turmeric. Marinate at room temperature for 15 min.

Meanwhile, soak tamarind in hot water for 15 min. Mash it occasionally to soften.

Drain fish, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to clean bowl. Add 1/2 tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin, dried fenugreek leaves and 1/4 tsp each of cayenne pepper, mustard powder, ground ginger and garam masala. Toss well to coat fish with spices and marinate at room temperature for 15 min.

Strain tamarind through a fine sieve and reserve extract, discarding the fibrous residue left in the sieve.

Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Saute for 1 min until seeds begin to pop and garlic turns lightly golden. Add pureed tomatoes, tamarind extract and remainder of the spices. Stir to mix, cover skillet and cook on low heat for 5-7 min.

Add marinated fish and coat gently with the sauce. Cover skillet again and cook for about 10 min on low heat until fish is cooked through, shaking skillet occasionally for even cooking. Fold in coconut milk and cook uncovered for another 4-5 min until mixture starts bubbling, shaking skillet occasionally. Fold in chopped fresh coriander and curry leaves.

Serves four