Weird Food Week

Hello again everyone, I’m bringing my recipe forward a couple weeks this time to celebrate national curry week. Or is it national chocolate week?

God knows why we’re having both at once this year but I’ve had vague plans for chocolate curry for a long while so it’s about time that they saw metaphorical print.

It’s time I made a chocolate madras.

Now, you could make this dish with beef or chicken but I’m not going to be using actual meat for the meat of my dish. I’m using fennel. The plant, not the seeds.

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And I’ll be bulking it out with a couple of other vegetables but this one was the reason I chose to make this month’s dish vegetarian. I wanted those subtle aniseed-like notes throughout.

Aside from this, I’ll be using:

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For the substance of the dish, that’s:

400g tinned tomatoes

400g potatoes

300g carrots

1 onion (or, in my case, two tiny ones)

2 garlic cloves

1 fennel heart

and the juice of half a large orange.

While my spice mix consists of:

2 teaspoons cayenne powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cumin

4 cloves

and the seeds of 4 cardamom pods.

But, of course, there’s one more ingredient that fits into neither category:

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20g the darkest chocolate you can find

In my case, that’s Montezuma’s 100% Absolute Black. Completely unsweetened and nothing but cocoa, making it awful to eat but utterly perfect for cooking with.

It’s going to be a little while before that goes in, though.

First, it’s time to chop the vegetables, getting rid of any too leafy fennel stems. Not that I think it’s mandatory to do so but the foliage generally isn’t eaten and I can imagine it wouldn’t be the nicest texture cooked into curry. Too fuzzy.

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Bear in mind that I’m counting garlic as a vegetable here. I don’t know what it’s officially classified as but that’s what it seems most like to me.

Then, once those are nice and diced, get a pan of water up to boil and part cook your potatoes. Just until they start to show signs of softening. About ten minutes, by my estimation.

Which should be just long enough to get all the spices ground and mixed.

There are a few things I want to mention there: The choice of chilli, the lack of fresh ginger and my special ceylon cinnamon. These were all active decisions I made to fit the dish.

Ceylon cinnamon, talked about a bit in my past crumble recipe, is a little brighter flavoured and less woody than the common chinese strain. Not to mention better for you. It’s here for a little contrast against the dish’s dark flavours but, while I personally prefer the ceylon stuff, the difference is not so large that standard cinnamon won’t work. Just use what you can.

The ginger, on the other hand, isn’t anything special. In fact, it’s less special than what I normally use.

Unlike fresh ginger, though, its powdered form has had time to oxidise. This stops it tasting so sharp and raw and makes its heat a little drier. The earthier tones it brings out are perfect for this meal, when the fresh root probably wouldn’t be.

And, as for the chilli, it’s pretty common to use powder as the main heat source in indian restaurants. A bog standard sort at that.

This is not that chilli but it’s also not bird’s eye, kashmiri or any of the other more specific types that fit the nationality of a madras.

No, I’ve picked cayenne as a sort of middle ground between that and the kinds that aztecs would have used in their spiced chocolate drinks – The other influence for this recipe. It doesn’t quite fit either culture but it compliments the flavours of both and, when we get right down to it, isn’t that what’s important?

Anyway, when you’re done with those spices, drain your potatoes and set them aside. It’s time to fry the onions and garlic.

Warm up some oil in a pan and get them sizzling away at a high medium heat for a few minutes. Or until the onions start to soften up in both texture and colour:

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Add the spice mix you prepared and carry on frying for a minute or two, stirring constantly to ensure an even coating and lack of burnt patches.

Next, pop in the remaining veg, potatoes included, and mix them with the rest of the pan’s contents, before quickly tossing in our liquid. That is, the tin of tomatoes, the juice of your half orange and 300ml of water.

In a normal madras, we’d be using lime or lemon but this is a chocolate version so I opted for a more complimentary fruit.

Bring the result to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the veg is suitably soft.

Finally, melt in your twenty grams of dark chocolate and make sure it’s thoroughly mixed in before serving.

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It adds a nice level of richness without turning the dish sweet or detracting from the spice mix at all, giving us a quite unique curry. Albeit one that’s definitely still a madras.

And, with all that ginger and cinnamon supporting its chilli, it’s a hotter madras than I had initially expected. It’s not the high medium many are but full blown hot, reaching the very top of my scale’s

3/10

Heat

It’s no vindaloo but it’s potent all the same, with a very dry, inner cheek burn that lingers for quite a while.

For me, that’s great but I understand that won’t be for everyone so do feel free to drop the chilli down to a single spoonful in this dish should you want milder. It has plenty of other flavour to support it anyway.

Personally, though, I think the only change I’d make would be to use some sweet potato next time I make this. It’d fit perfectly with all these warming flavours.

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