Monday, December 30, 2013

What the Devil

Ellice Handy's Curry Devil
Devil Curry (also called Curry Debal, Curry Devil, etc) is one of those classic Eurasian dishes, for which every household has their own special recipe and their own traditions surrounding when they cook/prepare it.  But, one key characteristic of this dish is that it is cooked with leftover meats.  So, most households will make it after Christmas Day - a good way to use up all that leftover turkey!  I must admit that in my household, we don't cook this particular dish.  We normally don't have turkey on Christmas Day in the first place.  It's roast lamb and cold ham for us.  That's why I often end making gammon curry instead.  And for some reason, we just don't make it other times of the year.  

This year, however, my uncle turned up on Christmas Day with a lovely roast turkey, complete with all the accompaniments of stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and even a lovely little cranberry and apple relish.  Of course, we could not finish the turkey.  I turned to my recipe books for a good Curry Devil. I read through the lengthy lists of ingredients (including roast pork, potatoes, cucumber and even cabbage).  But my mother had only one recipe in mind - Ellice Handy's recipe out of her 'My Favourite Recipes" cookbook.  That was the version her mother used and if was good enough for her mother, it was good enough for us.  No potatoes, no cucumber, no cabbage.  No roast pork even (my mother wouldn't have minded, but we didn't have any in the house).  It was just the leftover roast turkey meat and some sausages.  

This is a nice, simple recipe to cook.  And since the meat is all cooked up, it's pretty fast too.  I doubled the quantities in Ellice Handy's recipe since I was using far more than 1/2 pound of meat.  Also some slight variations here and there. It's one wicked dish!

Here we go:


4 slices of ginger, cut into short strips
2 large onions, sliced
Leftover meats (I used about a quarter of a turkey, plus 3 sausages, sliced)
(1 tablespoon of brown mustard seeds, optional)
3 tablespoons of tomato paste (or use 2 large tomatoes, sliced)
2 teaspoons of mustard (Coleman's)
4 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Spice paste
12 shallots, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
10 dried chillis, soaked in warm water till soft and cut up (add more chillis for extra wickedness!)
4 fresh chillis 
1 teaspoon of tumeric powder
1 teaspoon of belacan, toasted
3-4 buah keras (candlenuts)

1.  Prepare the spice paste, pounding ingredients together (or use a food processor like me). 
2. Fry the ginger and large onions in a large pan till soft.  Add in the mustard seeds (cover the pan until they have popped).
3.  Add the spice paste, fry till fragrant.  Add the leftover meat and sausages.
4.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Continue to cook, adding a little water (keep it a dry curry though) for some gravy.  Ready when the gravy thickens a little.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Short stories from long ago

Since the last post was about a bookshop, it's time to follow up with a book review.  "Kebaya Tales", by Lee Su Kim, is a book of short stories - tales which you can just hear being told by old bibiks to their friends or their children, which have made the rounds of their family circles.  

The short story is very different from a novel.  It is meant to be easily digested and enjoyed - you jump right into the story, it builds up quickly, and ends with the climax or the twist in the tale.  This little book is full of such little gems.  Stories of matriarchs, matchmakers and unexpected brides and grooms.  Some tales touch on the supernatural, playing to the superstitious nature of the baba community in the past.  Some deal with the wartime years, under the Japanese.  

But the ones I like best are the ones which deal with family relationships.  The story of the old bibik who managed to figure out how to ensure that her caring daughter-in-law got a fair share of her inheritance.  Or the story of the no-good husband who managed to hide the existence of his mistress from his wife... until the day of his funeral.  

What I also like about the book is that the stories are interspersed with family photos, and photos of the beautiful kebaya, shoes and jewellery belonging to the author and members of her family.  I drool over the intricate lace and embroidery work on the kebaya and the bright patterns on the shoes.  (BTW, in case anyone is interested, the pink of the book cover is close to the pink of the beads of my kasuk manek project.)

Reading through this little book of short stories indeed brings back a flavour of years gone by.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Little Bookshop at the Corner

 BooksActually is a small independent bookshop on Yong Siak Street in Tiong Bahru.  A  little way from my usual haunts here in the east coast, you might have noticed.  It is a niche bookshop selling both new and second hand books - I once saw a nice collection of those old Nancy Drew hardbacks - copies of which once stood on my own bookshelves, many many years ago.  Aside from selling books, there's a selection of vintage bric brac - old crockery, glasses, bottles, etc.  Last but not least, the bookshop is presided over by a friendly pair of cats.

So back to the books. This little bookshop sells a variety of books about Singapore - about the different areas of Singapore, Singapore history etc.  My copy of the 4th Edition of Ellice Handy's "My Favourite Recipes" was bought here.  But it also has its own printing press and as such its real niche is in commissioning and printing the works of Singapore writers and poets.  I was especially taken by a series, Balik Kampung, which is a collection of short stories by different authors, each writing a story about a part of Singapore which they had stayed in for a number of years.  "Balik Kampung" is a Malay phrase, which means to go back to the home village.  [Note: It is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, to get rid of someone incompetent. It is particularly used in football matches, and applied to the referee after a particularly disappointing decision.]   The book was so popular that it inspired two more books, Balik Kampung 2A and Balik Kampung 2B.  There's another charming book, From the Belly of the Cat.  Same concept, except of course this time the short stories are about cats.  Particularly apt in a shop featuring these handsome animals.

It's a pleasant place to spend a rainy afternoon :-)


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