Thursday, September 17, 2020

Goat Curry in the Punjabi Style

Its name in Sanskrit is Panchanada, the "Land of Five Rivers." After a wave of Muslim conquests, the conquerors used the Persian name, Panjab.  That land has a long history, one that dates all the way back to 2600 BCE, with the emergence of the Indus Valley Civilization.  That civilization was known for its urban planning, baked brick houses, drainage systems, water supply systems and more. They even had a writing system that has still not been deciphered as of this date. 

Over time, the area that would become known as the Punjab was a crossroads of various conquering empires.  Alexander the Great led the Greeks through the region, ultimately being turned back. Then there was a series of empires.  Then more foreign conquerers, including Arabs, Mughals, Sikhs, and, eventually, the British. 

While I could go into much more detail about the history of the Punjab region (which really does fascinate me), the most important part of this history is simple. Each invading army or culture brought something to the Punjab region.  Influences that worked their way into the culture of the people, as well as their cuisine. Indeed, the cuisine of the Punjab region can be best described as a mixture of Indian, Persian, Mughal and Afghan influences.

This mixture of influences naturally draws my attention to Punjabi cuisine.  The one thing that keeps my attention is the liberal use of spices in the dishes. Spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamoon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, red chile powder and turmuric. The more spices used in a dish correlates to a greater likelihood that I will prepare that dish.  This leaves me wondering why I have not cooked more Punjabi dishes.

However, it is not just the spices.  The Indus River, along with the other rivers (remember - Punjab means the land of five rivers), makes this region the breadbasket, especially for Pakistan, where most of the rivers are located. The principal crops are rice and wheat, but farmers also cultivate maize and lentils, along with garlic, ginger and onions (after all, one needs a base for the masalas).  There is also quite the dairy industry in the Punjab region, which serves as the foundation for the extensive use of ghee, clarified butter and cheese (paneer) in Punjabi dishes.  

But, for me at least, it almost always returns to the spices.  I had a lot of goat in the freeze and I needed a recipe.  I searched the Internet for a recipe, looking at recipes from South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.  Yet, it was a Punjabi goat curry recipe that won out over all others.  The reason is simple: the recipe called for bay leaves, cinnamon, chiles, cloves, coriander, cumin, garam masala, garlic, ginger, green cardamom and paprika.  

Yet, there was one problem with the recipe.  It was for a pressure cooker.  My beautiful Angel bought a pressure cooker; and, yes, I could have used it to make this dish.  However, I wanted to do it "old-school."  Just me, the goat, some spices, and a few pots and pans. That required some "translation" between pressure cooker instructions and traditional instructions. (I also tried to simplify the instructions in the process.) It also required a little flexibility in making the dish. Nevertheless, I think it worked out well.  I got the masala base right, and then built the curry so that the gravy was probably one of the best that I have ever made. 

For those who have followed my blog, you may remember the many goat dishes that I have made.  (Some of those dishes made their way onto my Around the World in 80 Dishes culinary challenges, as I made goat curries from both Guyana and Ghana.)  Yet, it is this dish that is probably my best work with this protein.  The success lies entirely with the masala and the gravy. I only wish that I had not used up the last of my goat with this dish. 

Recipe adapted from Marigold Maison
Serves several

5 pounds of goat pieces
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 green cardamom seeds, crushed
4-5 cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 pound of yellow onions, minced finely
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons of fresh indian chiles
2 cups canned tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala powder
2 teaspoons paprika powder
8-10 cups water

1. Prepare the goat.  Clean and wash the goat. Cut the the goat into bite sized pieces if it has not already been processed.  Sometimes, I use some lemon juice or lime juice to "rinse" the goat, as the juice is supposed to help with the smell and taste of the goat. 

2.  Brown the goat.  Heat oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Add the cumin seeds, cardamom and bay leaves.  Saute for 1 minute, stirring to prevent the spices from burning.  Add the finely minced onion.  Saute until the onion turns it begins to light brown. Add the ginger, garlic and chiles. Continue to cook this mixture, stirring to prevent burning, for about two to three minutes.  Add the goat meat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  The goal is to brown the goat meat on all sides, as best as possible. 

3.  Prepare the curry.  Add the salt, paprika, turmeric, red chile powder and coriander powder. Stir well and then add the tomato sauce.  Stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.   Add 8 cups of water and, once again, stir well to ensure that all of the ingredients have been mixed together.  Increase the heat to high and bring the curry to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, reduce the hear to medium-low and continue to simmer for as long as it takes to get the goat tender and to reduce the liquid.  

4. Finish the dish.  Once the goat is tender and the liquid has been reduced enough, add some garam masala.  Stir the curry.  Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and serve immediately. 


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

It has quite a while since I have posted anything on my Chef Bolek blog. I have to admit that I have been cooking less, even though I have been home more due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shopping habits have changed, eating habits have changed. Posting habits have changed. Yet, the chances that I have had to cook have presented me with some opportunities to explore new recipes, culinary influences and the history of food. This post offers yet another glimpse into those opportunities. 

I have explored many different barbecue styles, from Eastern Carolina to Kansas City to Western Texas. Now I reach the other side of the country, with my introduction to Santa Maria style barbecue.

This style takes its name from where it first emerged, namely, the Santa Maria Valley. The valley is located in Santa Barbara County, in central California.  It also dates back to the mid-19th century, when local ranchers would hold feasts for their vaqueros (Mexican cowboys).  The style emerged with cooks stringing cuts of meat -- marinated with a rub of salt, pepper and garlic salt -- on skewers and cooking them over the coals of a red oak fire

Over time, the style evolved. The focus turned to one particular cut of meat: the tri-tip. The credit goes to a manager who worked at the Santa Maria Market.  Back in the 1950s, that manager had the idea of taking a little-used triangular cut of meat butcher, seasoning it (with salt, pepper and garlic salt), and roasting it on a rotisserie. That led to the Santa Maria style of barbecue that exists today. 

Where as most barbecue is low and slow, the Santa Maria style goes hot and fast. The true Santa Maria style requires the heart to come from red oak coals. The trees grow from the Mendocino County all the way down to the Mexican border and beyond. If you don't happen to have any red oak handy, regular oak wood will do. And, if you don't have any wood or charcoal, a gas grill will do. (It just won't be true Santa Maria barbecue.)

The rub is still the classic salt, black pepper and garlic salt; however, there are many "Santa Maria" style rubs that add other ingredients, such as ground ancho chile pepper (which adds some smokiness to the rub, a benefit if you are using a gas grill with no charcoal). Cayenne pepper, onion powder, oregano and other ingredients have also found their way into rubs.  Even a little sugar can be added.  I found a good recipe with all of these ingredients.  

Finally, the side dishes. If you want some ideas for sides to serve with the trip tip, the traditional side dish is pinquito beans, which are grown in the Santa Maria Valley. Other sides include salads, salsa fresca and garlic bread. 


Rub recipe from Alison Ashton 

Serves 4


  • Tri-tip, about 2 pounds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oriegano
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1. Marinate the meat. Combine the salt, black pepper, ancho chile pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, dried oregano and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.  Apply a thin layer of olive oil on all sides of the tri-tip. Apply the marinade to all sides of the tri-tip, making sure that it adheres to the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the meat to marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. 

2.  Grill the meat.  Heat a gas grill on high heat. After oiling the grates, place the tri-tip on the grill.  Allow the meat to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes per side, until the tri-tip reaches an internal temperature of about 135 degrees (between rare and medium rare). Remove from the grill, wrap in aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve immediately.