Sunday, March 28, 2010

Amazing Race - Seychelles

The opening scene of this week's Amazing Race episode pretty much summed up how I felt about cooking a meal inspired by this week's location. All of the teams were totally confused about where Seychelles is located. One after another as they departed for this leg of the race, the teams ripped open their yellow and black envelope and proceeded to butcher the name, ponder the location, and display a complete lack of knowledge about the place. (The entire premise of the show, by the way, is somewhat ironic for one of the teams - Miss Teen North Carolina or whatever she was, the one who infamously answered her pageant question by saying that American children don't have access to maps ... "and the Iraq and such as" ...)

Seychelles. Hmmm ... googling failed me when it came to providing recipes. I had at least heard of it (or the shoe company). I found out that it is a country of about 500 islands north of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. It is remote, tropical, and very beautiful. This former French colony is a tourist destination, presumably catering to Europeans. But I couldn't find much about their cuisine. It makes sense that there is a significant amount of seafood featured, and they have their own version of Creole. The food is inspired by French, English, African, Indian, and Chinese traditions. There are tropical fruits like coconut, banana, and papaya, as well as vegetables like yams, potatoes, pumpkin, and tomato. I found many references to fish curry and coconut curry, including a fish curry recipe published by the BBC, so I decided to prepare a curry dish with veggies. I chose a South Indian curry dish from Epicurious, with a flavor profile (cumin, garam masala, garlic, plus lime, tomato, and coconut) that seemed to match the exotic array allegedly found in the Seychelles (thanks, Internet).

I did make some changes to the Epicurious recipe, but I thought I would link to it in its entirety so that you can make it as it was intended. The base of the recipe is an aromatics-and-spices paste, a technique that was unfamiliar to me. You whiz an onion, some garlic, a few tablespoons of oil, and the base spices in a food processor to form a paste. This paste is cooked over medium heat for ten minutes, then tomato paste is added and the mixture cooks for five more minutes. After that, veggie broth, lime juice, and cardamom are added, and this liquid base simmers for a bit for the flavors to develop, after which the veggies (sweet potato, potato, carrot) are added. I'm curious to know if this is a traditional South Indian technique because I thought it worked beautifully. I did skip the coconut chunks and instead used unsweetened shredded coconut to save time and prevent loss of critical digits. The end result was served with fragrant, buttery basmati rice (another Seychellois staple!). It was absolutely delicious!!!

I will definitely be eating the leftovers tomorrow! Sweet, tart, spicy, and salty - this dish had it all.

P.S. Seychelles looked incredibly beautiful. Turquoise water and lush landscapes. It looked like heaven.

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