09 February 2009

stocking up on spices

Since tuesday last week, our pantry is now a veritable larder.

See, we have this charming lady coming over every few weeks or so to cut our hair. And as she has a large garden, a large family and is friends with my mum-in-law and generally plain sweet, she usually brings some surplus seasonal vegetable with her for us to eat.

Only this time, she and her husband had recently started home smoking their own meat. And probably just to show off, she brought us a sizeable slab of glistening, home-smoked fat bacon. So gorgeous.

It is now hanging in the larder, making the room deserve its name properly for the first time. The whole basement is flooded with the scent of wood smoke and it makes me smile each time I pass the door.

Having a decently stocked larder is such a good feeling.

And with 'decently stocked larder' I do not only mean 'having all you need', but rather 'having a comfortable cushion if things go wrong'. Of course, I do not honestly consider a famine a serious possibility where I live, and there will always be a supermarket around the corner. But even though, there is a deep, gut-level satisfaction in having stored at least a little more than what we will need in the immediate future.

It felt good already when we moved into our current home and suddenly had a room in the basement that would be dedicated to nothing but the storage of food. But the real jolt came when my mum-in-law order a hundredweight(!) sack of wheat and rye each(!) for making her own bread. Seriously, there was more than my own weight in grains standing in the corner.

But after my initial shock subsided (How long exactly did you think we will be living on these?), I felt happy. Positively glowingly happy.

It took me a while to figure out why having this (apparently) unreasonable amount of cereals in my basement made me anything other than worried. It is hard to put in words, but it was something along the line of 'let the winter come'. It felt secure, on a very instinctive level. As if somewhere, in the deep back of my mind, evolution had managed to genetically engrain the fact that a stock of food large enough to see me through a hard winter will significantly ease my mind. Actually, that makes some kind of sense.

Maybe, as I come to think of it, humans didn't descend from apes after all, but from squirrels. At least, that would explain a lot about myself.

Anyway, I ususally strife only to stock up on things I can reasonably expect to use up before they expire (unlike my mom-in-law). So, that means dry goods and spices, which work just fine with me.

One of my special darlings is my jar of pre-mixed curry powder. Just a few spoons of this mixture will turn an otherwise rather bland dish into something extraordinarily complex, spicy, fragrant. And as it wouldn't make sense to mix microscopic portions of the various ingredients each time, I mix it in bulk and keep until I need it.

Which is more and more often, especially after I found out how the curry mix improves something lovely but a little bland like spinach and eggs. I like spinach and eggs, but the 'indian' version we are currently making is in a completely different league.

Try it and see for yourself - it'll just give you the reason you were looking for to go stocking up on spices.

Curry Type I

1 tablespoon each of
curcuma (tumeric)
coriander seeds
sweet paprika

1/4 tablespoon chilies (or more to taste)
1/4 tablespoon cinnamon

If necessary, grind the spices. Mix them and store in an airtight container in a dark place (ie a screw-lid jar, see above).

Curried Eggs
serves two

400g spinach, frozen
200ml coconut cream, unsweetened
2 tablespoons curry type I

4 eggs
2 teaspoons tumeric (curcuma)
1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)

roasted onions to taste

In a medium casserole, thaw the spinach and gently heat with the coconut cream and the spices.

Meanwhile, boil the eggs.
I prefer them at 8 minutes, when the yolk is firm but still glossy.

When the eggs are ready, cool them a little under running cold water, then peel.

In the same pot the eggs were cooked in, melt the butter at medium temperature. Add the curcuma and the peeled eggs. Fry gently until coppery all around.
The eggs should sizzle gently in the spiced butter, but not hiss or spit.

Salt the spinach to taste, it should have a consistency somewhere between gravy and ordinary spinach.

Serve immediately with the eggs (and roasted onions if you like), and maybe some bread as a side.

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