Tag Archives: Thai chili

Cooking Without Fat: Indian Curry

diet, cooking, Indian curry, low-fat cooking, eggplant, yams, food, healthy eating

The great veggie goodness, before the chicken and mushrooms were added.

I’ve been doing a diet to kickstart my body into losing weight. This means eating low sugar vegetables (no beets, corn, carrots), low sugar, whole wheat grains (no potatoes, bread or white rice), low sugar fruits (no tropical fruits) such as berries or apples, white meat only (skinless chicken breasts, fish) and no fat at all. That means no olive oils, no nuts or seeds and no fatty meats. The warning with this type of diet is you have to do it under a doctor’s supervision because we need fat to function, both for nerves and our brains. By day four you can start to feel shaky or nauseous because the body is missing the fat and going into ketosis. You have to take potassium tablets while on it (available with a prescription) and it is only short term, two weeks at most.  Anorexics, if you normally feel shaky, nauseous, tired or foggy, it means you are starving yourself to death. Stop, before you die and damage your body permanently.

In some ways this diet hasn’t been a big challenge. I normally do a no fat, no grain lunch. This usually consists of a piece of meat, such as a skinless chicken breast, in seasoning, cooked in the microwave with a bit of water, plus some form of vegetable. Either a salad with lemon squeezed on or something like broccoli or bok choi. Sometimes I’ll add some avocado, which is a fat but a good one.

The challenge has been cooking, where I’m not using a microwave. I have a cast iron frying pan and find that if I put it on a low to medium heat I can start with cooking my vegetables a bit. Of course you don’t really “stir-fry” and have to watch for sticking, but I found it works okay for doing eggplant that takes a bit of time. Last night I decided to make a curry. Normally I would have used a pre-bought curry sauce but I realized that these have a lot of oil in them. No curries with coconut milk, which I love because it is high fat, though also a good fat.

The curry needed to simmer with the spices I was adding so I decided to use a pot on low heat. I chopped up yams (my carb for the day) and put the chunks into the pot with chopped onion, garlic, chive tops and Thai chili. The onion has enough water in it that this prevented burning. The key to cooking without fat is to never put the heat too high.

Indian curry, cooking, no fat diet, vegan, vegetarian, diets

The finished result. Worth using a spoon to get every drop.

I wasn’t sure how the baby eggplants would do if I just tossed them in to the pot, so I cut them in chunks, put on a grill, sprinkled with salt and stuck them into the toaster oven on broil to get them going. In the meantime, I added green beans, the last of peas in the pod that were too old and starchy, and celery.  I added curry powder, basil, cayenne, rosemary, dried chilies,  salt and pepper. I meant to add a touch of lemongrass powder but slipped; it turned out okay though. Because the curry powder can be a bit bitter I put in one sugar cube.

Once this was all mixed, I added half of a large can of tomatoes. That was my base sauce. By then the eggplant was browned and softened and I added that in. I let everything simmer for about twenty minutes until the yams were softened. Then I added sliced mushrooms and chunks of chicken breast. The eggplants break down to give a thicker base and adding the chicken at the end kept it tender.

There are probably gourmands out there shuddering at my culinary abuses but it worked. I had a tasty curry with enough for four servings. Without the chicken this would work for a vegan or vegetarian meal, and adding in some healthy oil isn’t a problem. I like my foods spicy so you can see I used three different types of hot in this.  I’m a concocter more than a cook and it’s why I could make my apocalypse diet work, because I could adapt. The recipe, as it is, follows.

LOW TO NO-FAT INDIAN CURRY

Garlic
Chive tops
Thai chili
White onion 2-3 slices, chopped
2 medium size yams
4-5 baby eggplants, chopped into chunks (any variety will do)
1 stalk celery
Green peas (optional)
2 cups green (string) beans, chopped to one inch size
6-8 mushrooms (chopped or sliced)
Skinless chicken breast cubed
2 cups canned, peeled tomatoes
½ tsp rosemary
1 ½ tsp basil
3 pequeno chilies
1 tsp lemon grass powder
½ tsp cayenne powder
1 ½ tbsp curry powder
1 sugar cube
salt & pepper to taste

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The Spice of Life

I grew up in a pretty whitebread Canadian family, where roast beef was served on Sundays with baked potato and frozen (but of course cooked) vegetables, which I always thought were gakky. Liver was also dished up once every couple of weeks, along with the ubiquitous brussels sprouts (which I do like). I figure this must have been one of the rare fresh vegetables of my youth.

Other delicacies included tongue, which indeed looked like a monster tongue, “beans I like,” which was an insipid concoction of watered down tomato soup, lima beans and wieners, and meatloaf with bacon laid across it. All of these things were liberally salted, beyond liberal really as my mother was a huge salt abuser, along with using some oregano, seasoning salt and other suspect spice blends. They made things salty but nothing was spicy.

Every set contains a salt and a pepper shaker and ours sat on the table like some iconic god, visible but unknowable. I’m sure the same shaker of pepper lasted ten years. Of course, the prepackaged pepper of yesteryear was mostly flavorless, like those little packets of pepper you get in fast food restaurants: mostly color and no taste.

So I knew nothing of spice. The closest my family ever moved towards spicy was chili powder in the chili. And lots of salt. Salty badness. My mother still puts salt on pizza, one of the saltiest foods out there. She’ll assault with salt before tasting.

When I was in art college, my boyfriend invited me for dinner to his place one night. It was student fare but tacos with a bottle of hot sauce. He didn’t warn me that it was “hot” hot sauce so I was a little overwhelmed with that first taste. But then…my tastebuds awoke and I began to experiment more with this. I also started drinking Caesars (for you Americans, it’s similar to a Bloody Mary but instead of tomato juice with the vodka you use clamato [tomato and clam juice and sugar–not as gross as it sounds] with Worcestershire and tabasco).

Then another of my friends talked about some manly man test they did which involved either drinking tabasco or putting a lot in the drinks. I think I particpated in the second part (I was never stupid enough to drink it straight) and my penchant for spice continued.

I then moved to Vancouver, where I met my friend Hanocia, from a tribal state in India. She carried a bag of chili or serrano peppers in her purse to eat with her food. We would go out and drink Caesars where we usually just asked for the bottle of tabasco. We returned an empty bottle to the bartender one night with at least two inches gone from it. His jaw dropped as he stuttered, “I’ve never seen anyone use so much.” And we weren’t even sweating the spice.

Then I moved in as a roommate with Hanocia and her boyfriend, where we would all sit eating the normally spiced food but with a bowl of chili peppers on the table. It wasn’t hot unless you were sweating and your nose dripping. By this time I had achieved the cast iron stomach needed for the truly ferocious peppers. I even had a poster of all the peppers on my kitchen ceiling (the only space for it) and it became my goal to try them all. When I went to India, Hanocia’s people, the Khasis, tend to eat their food plain but with a bowl of peppers. At the end of the evening I had more stems along the side of my plate than anyone else. Beau goggled and said, “Wait till I tell the girls at work, and you’re a white person too.” (A note: all peppers come from central America and did not originate in Asia.)

Over the years, I did sample as many peppers as I could find, right up to the scotch bonnets or habaneros, that rate 10 for hot on a scale of 10. They are so hot that few people can eat a whole one and they can blister you. Many people can’t eat these because the heat burns away any flavor, but I like habaneros because they have a fruity flavor under that atomic heat. (I”ve since found there are hotter peppers but I haven’t tasted them.)

I’ve made five pepper chili, which has included serranos, jalapenos, Thai chili, pequenos and habaneros. I don’t count or use bell peppers (I react to them) because though supposedly all peppers are of the nightshade family these are considered different. Maybe they’re nightshades but the others aren’t, but all are peppers.

My love affair with hot peppers has developed over the years and friends have gone to other countries and brought me back another bottle of hot sauce. I have about 15 in my fridge at any one time. It just goes to show that a white kid from the bland food sticks can attain heights of chili pepper hotness. But alas, my champion pepper chomping may have hit an end as rosacea is exacerbated by spicy foods. I’m still hoping though because I do love the taste way more than black pepper, though that will do in a pinch.

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