5 June 2011

From the Gurkha section of the British Army Cookbook : Fried Pork Curry with sauce

There now, that's an intriguing title for a blog post!

The lovely Willie turned up at my work the other day, clutching a brown envelope in which was a copy of the Gurkha section of the British Army Cookbook for me.  Now this on it's own would have been interesting enough, but of course, I had to try at least one recipe from it - and if that recipe went off well, maybe more.

I have huge respect for the Gurkhas, having spent time in their vicinity when Dad (who was a Royal Engineer, Warrant Officer Class 1)  - and the whole family - was stationed at the same place as them in the past.  I can always remember feeling very safe when there were Gurkhas around.  My impression of them was that they were incredibly cheerful little chaps who had a fearsome reputation as a Soldier, and an unshakeable moral code.

So that lent a little connection to the recipes I had before me.

The booklet is fascinating and leads me to believe that there is little a Gurkha won't eat, just so long as it is combined with a curry in some form or another.  For example, Liver Curry, Curried tinned vegetables, Omelette with curry and Scrambled Eggs Gurkha style which involves eggs, onions, tomatoes, chillies, mustard leaves, ginger and Garam Masala.
Having eaten the Pork curry we had last night, I can tell you that the Gurkha digestion has to be one of the most impressive out there.

One thing that you quickly come to realise, when reading through the booklet, is that "a curry" is not one thing.  There are as many curries out there as the imagination can rustle up.  It seems to me as though the definition of "a curry" is "a substance that has been cooked in hot (as in chilli-hot) and fragrant spices" and that's about where you have to leave it.

With some of the curries I have cooked in the past, (not all), Hubby's complaint has sometimes been that "it doesn't taste of curry".  With this Gurkha cookbook, this is something that Hubby had to throw over his shoulder and forget about.  Not all curries taste of curry.  Whilst undoubtedly being "a curry", the meal we had last night could in no way be described as "tasting of curry".   In fact, it tasted as though lemon was involved quite heavily - yet there wasn't a lemon in sight.  An education for the tastebuds!

The first challenge I had was to scale down the recipe quantity-wise, as it was in two grades - the first for 10 people, the second for 50.  Well, they ARE feeding an army, when all is said and done.  I mean, how do you scale down a pinch of nutmeg?  So it took some intuitive knowledge of how each ingredient tasted and the effect it was likely to have on the whole.  One big change from the original recipe is that I increased the amount of Garam Masala from 1 tsp (approx) to 3 tsps.  We particularly enjoy the flavour of Garam Masala and I couldn't imagine that the 1 tsp sprinkled over the top (which was what was recommended) was going to do it for us.

Once I'd got into the cooking of it, I can remember thinking to myself how much I enjoy cooking curries.  I think it's the randomness of the result, dependent upon just how much of each spice you use and how you deal with them.  After all, curry spices put "raw" into a stew-like substance will taste totally different to those that have been fried before the wet ingredients are added.  Same ingredients, just a different way of dealing with them that ends in a completely different flavour.  Fascinating stuff.

Oh yes - and I have to make mention of the beautiful pork that I got from Spring Fields butchers.  I asked for their six pork steaks for £2.99 and came away with so much pork that I put two of the steaks in the freezer for another time.  Cut from the loin, they had that stripe of fat along their back, but otherwise were completely lean.  I trimmed the fat off and roasted it, saving the rendered fat for the roast potatoes again and gave the crispy pieces to the dogs, who couldn't stop licking their lips.  Amazing value for an amazing product.


Ingredients :

500g of lean pork, sliced into strips
half a tsp of cayenne pepper
half a tsp of sea salt
4-5 tbsp low fat plain yoghurt

a large thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
large knob of butter
5-6 black peppercorns, crushed in a pestle & mortar, or freshly ground
half a tsp of turmeric
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3 tsp Garam Masala
pinch of ground nutmeg
Water as necessary.

Method :

1.  Place the pork into a large bowl and sprinkle with the cayenne pepper and salt.  Mix to combine.

2.  Add the yoghurt and ginger and mix well to ensure everything is well coated.  Cover and leave to marinade for as long as you've got - to a maximum of 2 hrs.

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 200deg C.  

4.  Melt the knob of butter in a deep frying pan and once it's sizzling, add the pork with all the marinade.  Add the turmeric and black pepper and keep on stirring until it has reached a boil.

5.  Decant into a warmed casserole dish, cover and cook for an hour.

6.  Remove from the oven and add the coriander, then drizzle some 2-300ml of water down the sides of the casserole dish.  Add the Garam Masala and give everything a jolly good stir (and don't panic at the fact that it looks remarkably like pond water).  Replace, uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes.

7.  You can take two routes with this curry from hereon in.  Either leave it in the oven to reduce, or take it from the oven and pour back into the deep frying pan and boil to reduce, which is what I did.  I think this is the preferred method, as it puts you much more in control of what the sauce looks like, as with judicious stirring, it does improve in texture.  Once the sauce has stopped resembling pond water and started to look like a sauce, you're done.  Add the pinch of nutmeg, give a last stir - taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

8.  Serve with mushroom rice.


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