Thursday, February 12. Thus far this winter we have been spared the snow and cold normally endured by this time of the season. According to our local meteorologist that’s all about to come an end. We are in for a few days of relentless pummeling by high winds accompanied by an unceremonious burial in the white stuff.
Rather than simply watch my outside surroundings get obliterated during this blizzard, I decided to do something I have longed to do since last hunting season and make a moose curry dish. A friend gave me a quarter of his moose after a short and successful trip to the west coast of the island. He downed the animal in the first half hour of the hunt and in the next hour we were all back at the cabin hanging the quarters and ready to celebrate for the next 3 days.
This particular animal, a young bull, was the finest tasting moose I can recall. Growing up in Newfoundland, we ate a lot moose. Most of it was dry, mealy and in my view, not properly cooked. However from this moose we have already made batches of excellent homemade sausage with fennel, caraway, coriander and added pork fat, ground meat mixed with creamy beef fat for mind blowing burgers and raviolis from slowly braised moose ribs. Moose is a truly organic, flavorful meat.
Today’s wicked weather inspired me to live vicariously through this dish and transport myself to India, a country of unique and fantastic foods. While planning this dish I could almost visualize Mumbai, Delhi, a deserted beach in Goa, that’s the power of food and cooking. The smell and tastes of toasted spices are extremely powerful agents in the war against winter.
With a grin and general feeling of happiness undoubtedly rare on such a day, I carted my box of whole spices to the kitchen. Based on a Madras style curry I measured out small handfuls of cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds, fenugreek, cardamom pods, turmeric and a cinnamon stick.Toasting the spices in a dry pan is essential for awakening their flavors. Buying bags of whole spices is not only vastly cheaper but also best for long term storage.
Moose is extremely lean meat. Fat is almost non-existent. As such it’s best processed using charcuterie methods, canned or slow cooked with liquid. If high temperature quick cooking, be mindful of the temperature as anything over medium rare will be develop the texture and moisture of shoe leather. There is a fair amount of sinew around the muscles so you will need to trim this out.
The smell of coconut oil melting in the dutch oven, although not traditional in an Indian curry, kick started the transformation from snow to sand. A patient and thorough browning of the meat adds depth of flavor to stewed and braised dishes.
This paste is fried with the cardamom pods, cinnamon and an onion until tender. A curry gravy base is made by blitzing canned tomatoes, beef broth and an onion in a food processor. The meat is added back to the pan along with the gravy base. Season well with salt and fresh pepper, cover and simmer for an hour.
Vegetables can be added to round out the dish if you are just serving this with rice. I added sweet potato and red pepper and cooked until tender.
I made raita which is a condiment served with many Indian curries. It provides a cooling effect against the savory bite of those spices. It is quick to make using plain thick yogurt, grated cucumber and mint.
Outside the dining room window the wind is screaming and heavy snow is being blown around like a dancing devil. My house smells like a Delhi curry house and I am thousands of miles away about to enjoy a long awaited meal, a combination of local Newfoundland moose and exotic Indian spices.