Thursday, July 21, 2011

Died-and-Gone-to-Heaven Curry

The sweet, rich, rising aroma and complex weave of warmth and depth, like a smell-taste tapestry, could lead a person to part ways with the world happy.   

You might be wondering about the connection between the Texas Hill Country and curry.  You're thinking curry originated on the other side of the world.  You're right.  

But in the way of human migration, food traditions travel and adapt.  And since Texas is as much a state of mind as a place of being, any version of spice is eligible to be Texan.  And I'm claiming this curry spice mix, even though the point of origin for the blend was Jamaica. 

I started on this curry trail the first time a local goat farmer brought his free-range meat to the Farmer's Market. I love the Farmer's Market and the people who put their hearts and souls into raising food on this hard-scrabble land. 

So then and there I bought a package of goat stew-meat and put it in the freezer. Freezer instead of  stove because I hadn't a clue about cooking goat.

For the next three months, every time I opened the freezer door I saw goat.  Along the way I learned that the meat was probably tough and would need long, slow, moist cooking.  Preferably with spices to scent the house and whet the appetite.  Voila, Jamaican Curried Goat.  Except that I didn't have any Jamaican Curry Powder, which every recipe assured me was essential to the dish.

Eventually I found a recipe for Jamaican Curry Powder and the surprise was that it had NO heat.  Monty, who posted it, says that hot pepper should be added separately to any dish.  So this mix can be used by folks who have to avoid a burn.

I made the goat curry, it was spectacular, and yes it bubbled for 5 hours before those free-range sinews were tender, but the wait was worth it.  

A couple of weeks later I used leftover curry powder in  a chicken curry.  Half an hour cooking time, but thank-you-lord good on the tongue.

So if you want a Caribbean Texas gone-to-heaven experience in your kitchen, here's the curry powder to carry you.

The recipe title is a link to the original recipe, which yields 3/4 cup.  I cut it in half (the proportions listed here), which made enough for 3 dishes feeding 4-6 people each.  Ground spices don't improve with age and the powder is easy to make so maybe less is more.

Prep Time 10 Min, Cook Time 10 Min, Ready In 20 Min
Yield 3/8 cup
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole anise seeds (I used fennel seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons whole fenugreek seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric


**Combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, anise (or fennel) seeds, fenugreek seeds, and allspice berries in a skillet. Toast over medium heat until the color of the spices slightly darkens, and the spices are very fragrant, about 10 minutes. 
**Remove the spices from the skillet, and allow to cool to room temperature. 
**Grind the spices with the turmeric in a spice grinder. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

Here's the goat curry, from a recipe at Jamaica Travel &, including step by step pictures and a video.  I added a cut-up cauliflower late in the cooking but did NOT use TWO scotch bonnet peppers, which would have been a searing experience.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Small Town Fourth of July

I bribed Denny to go to the New Braunfels Fourth of July parade with me.  He feels (and rightfully so) that four years of parading at West Point exempt him from parades for the rest of eternity. 

But I love parades.  So I held out the Red Rooster carrot with a subsequent coffee-shop option and Elvis here we come.

Elvis guarding the plates at Red Rooster's breakfast buffet.--->

The parade was perfect Hill Country, except for the missing horses  and fire trucks, it was true to the quirky nature of the place.
I stood behind the cutest citizen. I'm pretty sure that's why Uncle Sam threw extra beads.  Yes, beads and candy. I don't know when this became a Declaration signing tradition, but I like it.  No one threw panties like the ones I caught at a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade decorated with an oyster and the words 'Eat It Raw', but that was a different kind of celebration...

This seemed to be a year for decoration. Check this out--eagles, flags, soldiers and weapons plus slogans.  I wondered if the owner designed it at happy hour.  Maybe it's just his kinda bumper sticker.

Another enthusiastic patriot, with a sense of porpoise.

Rat Resurrection, "Saving One Rat At A Time"; note the giant stuffed rat in the passenger seat.  Which political party do you think he belongs to? 

The county Democrats had plenty of pep in their step but not many marchers.  

The Republican Woman were led by men in a pickup truck.  

The Tea Party turned out the most marchers, including babies and grandmas, proselytizing all the way. 
<--Note brochures in hand.  The sweet little old lady next to me was too polite to refuse and ended up with five, bless her heart. 

Families and dogs were crowd favorites.

And tractors, of course.

Wherever you are, whatever you did to celebrate our individual freedoms, I hope your day was good.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Unexpected Neighbors

Female gray fox, evening rock-cleaner of left-over birdseed (and on this day, when she was hungry enough to stay while I came out with it, dogfood), photo taken 6-30-11.  
Five years ago, Denny and I bought a Hill Country house a ways from town, where the ambient noise is the call of birds, and the night sky is so dark the Milky Way glows a path.  

A nice family lives next-door and a number of other neighbors have introduced, raccoon, skunk and deer among them.

Then late last year as we were driving a lane to the farm-to-market road to town, I noticed a sign on a fence.  Cryptic, the letters TXI and a phone number.  

We were surprised to learn that TXI is a cement producer and owns the property behind that sign and eastward for a number of miles.  Property used not just for making cement but quarrying the rock that goes into it.

I knew that quarries mine rock by blasting.  Boom, clouds of dust, falls of rock, sound and rebound and dirt.  
Picture courtesy of TXI Industries.

Not the kind of neighbor I expected when we moved to the quiet of the Hill Country. We'd never heard TXI's blasting from our place but I was worried.

The plant manager came out to talk to our community.  The first thing he said was that they wanted to be a good neighbor.  I'm betting everyone in the room took that with a grain of salt.  But over the next 40 minutes he laid out the schematic of their property, talked about their business and plans, answered our questions and said over and over that being a good neighbor is good business.

Then a few months later he invited us out to the plant to watch a blast.  Thirty six of us took him up on it.  

An engineer talked about safety precautions, the computer modeling that preceeds the blast, the parameters and calculations.  

Each blast takes place in stages with multiple charges at delayed 1,000th of a second intervals, reducing vibration by creating canceling wave forms. Elegant idea.  I wonder if political ideologues who shout at each other realize they're canceling each other out.

TXI takes some other practical measures--like not blasting on cloudy days, analogous to why a cough sounds loud in an auditorium.  And they quarry on two levels to help direct noise and dust into the bowl.

They blast once a week, using the least amount necessary to do the job, creating vibrations they say are well below federal standards for structural damage to homes.  Turns out they can break the rock with less force--costs less and there is less risk of damage.

We wore white hard hats and stood back from the edge of the crater.  When the blast came, I was a little disappointed.  A modest boom, less than some 4th of July fireworks or the jet afterburn from the fighter jets my father flew when I was growing up.  A brief billow of orange dust hiding a fall of shattered rock next to the newly-exposed cliff face.

They have a plan for restoring the land after quarrying, by putting in topsoil and native plants.  I don't know how well they'll do it or how long before it will look like land again.  I hope in time it becomes habitat.

After the blast we all went back to the plant and ate enchiladas, like neighbors. The manager gave us all his e-mail address with an invitation to let him know if we have any questions or problems.  TXI won't quarry near our community border for another 20 years, but it's good to know that this corporate neighbor believes good relationships are good business.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.