Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Week 25 - Caribbean

For the Caribbean challenge, I wanted to try something new. The Caribbean has so many different countries with diverse cuisines, and I decided to focus on Trinidad. It didn't take me long to find a recipe that inspired me - this recipe for curried meatballs - so it was pretty easy to figure out what to do for this challenge.

I adapted the ingredient list a little bit for what we had/could find, and also for what Google told me were the things in the recipe I wasn't that familiar with. For example, I had heard of chadon beni before, but didn't know it was what I'd seen in the store as culantro. Hopefully I actually used what was intended, but even if I didn't, it turned out fine. The ingredients I used were:

for the meatballs:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- about 2 tbsp culantro, minced
- 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 1/2 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- about 2 tsp dried chives
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
- a few sprinkles of salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the spice paste:
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp amchar masala
- 1/4 cup coconut milk

for the curry sauce:
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tbsp culantro, minced
- 2 cans of coconut milk (whatever is left after the 1/4 cup for the spice paste was taken out)
- salt and pepper

(I'm not sure what the grand total was for this cooking project. I intended to figure it out, but originally wrote this post weeks ago and never got around to looking up the prices. It was the only thing that was really holding up posting this. But now, at this point, I don't even remember when I bought everything, so no pricing on this one. Sorry. )

Making dinner took me way longer than it should have, a little over 2 hours. I don't think it was because we were watching Amazing Race or because I was tired after going to the gym. For some reason, I think I was just prepping very slowly (even though I thought I was going faster) and working with ground meat has just been taking me a long time (just like another challenge meal that I'll be posting about soon). It didn't help that I got a late start because I forgot to stick the turkey in the sink to defrost when we went to the gym and had to do it afterwards. Anyway, the steps for making the Trinidad-style curried meatballs were:

1. Prep vegetables - chop onion, mince garlic, chop bell peppers, mince culantro. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine all meatball ingredients together into a large bowl and mix by hand.

3. Make meatballs and place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. (I tried making smaller meatballs, but I found it hard to make round meatballs at all. The meat mixture was just very wet and sticky, probably because there weren't any bread crumbs in it or anything like that. I ended up making very large meatballs, and even after 5 rows of those on the baking sheet, there was still more turkey left over so I formed it into a turkey burger and we each ate half of that as an appetizer since it was so late.)

[At this point, I also started some brown rice in our rice cooker, but timing on that would depend on what grain was being used.]

4. Bake meatballs in oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. (I probably left them in there a few minutes more than that because I was doing other things, and that was fine.)

5. While meatballs are baking, combine spice paste ingredients in a small bowl (dry ingredients first, then add coconut milk).

6. While meatballs are baking, also begin the sauce. Heat oil in a pot, and then add onions and cook until softer.

7. Add garlic and cook for a minute, and then the bell pepper and culantro, and cook for a few minutes.

8. Add spice paste to the vegetables, and stir until the vegetables are all well-coated in the spice mixture.

9. Add the remaining coconut milk to the pot, and stir well. Bring to boil.

10. Once boiling, add meatballs into the sauce, and make sure all meatballs are covered. Season with salt and pepper. Cook meatballs in sauce for about 10 minutes.

11. Spoon out meatballs and curry over rice.

The flavors here were so good. I loved how our entire apartment smelled like curry powder, how all the spices came through in the meatballs, that the coconut milk didn't dull or mute the spices at all, how the creamy sauce soaked into the rice, how well the curry sauce went with the meatballs. Overall, it was just a really flavorful, delicious dish. What I didn't love was how long it took me to make it. In a way, it was like making 2 separate meals by making meatballs and then making curry. I think in the future, besides starting earlier, maybe I'll try out making this curry with other proteins, maybe some that aren't as labor intensive as meatballs. Or maybe I'll make it on the weekend when I have more time since I'm so slow. But the recipe itself was really good. Very happy with the results.

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