Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pot of Patchree

I have had a busy few months, going on my year-end holiday, then preparing first for Christmas followed by Chinese New Year.  Then the start of the work year meant less time for my various pastimes, including updating this blog.  Well, time to make up for the quiet few months!

I decided this year to make Patchree for our extended family Christmas meal and followed that up with the traditional curry devil on New Year's Day.

Brinjal Patchree
Patchree (also spelt patchri), it seems, is not a well known dish.  In fact I could not find many references to it online.  Fascinatingly, however, I found one, of all unlikely sources, in the archives of the Washington Post, embedded in a 1984 article about the chef from the Singapore Embassy in Washington DC!  So I am truly adding something new to the universe of information found online by adding this simple recipe here!

Anyway, patchree is a Eurasian vegetable dish, probably Portuguese in origin given its hot and sour curry base, and the complex mixture of spices which go into the dish.  It's traditionally made with pineapple or brinjals, but I suspect the pineapple one is more popular, albeit called by the more common name of "pineapple curry".  Variations on how to prepare the dish exist - one recipe from "Robin's Eurasian Recipes" fries the brinjals, and then ladles the sauce on top.   Others cook the brinjals in the gravy.  This year, since I love lots of gravy, especially with loads of chili, I decided to go with Mrs Handy's recipe, which cookes the brinjal in a tamarind-based gravy.  I was glad I did - my Grandmother used to refer to Mrs Handy quite a bit and so the flavours of this dish brought back memories of her cooking.  And I think my family members felt the same way, for the dish was mostly finished with only three small pieces left at the end of the meal.

Devil Curry
One of my aunts brought a pot of devil curry for dinner, which sort of whet my appetite for more.  So, I whipped up another pot for our New Year's Day meal.  I basically used the same devil curry recipe which I have already included in this blog, but added potatoes and tomatoes into the mix.  And since we had some rather nice expensive bratwurst (or whatever "wurst") I put that in too, rather than the tiny little cocktail sausages.

Just the memory of the dish makes my mouth water.  Which is why I've added in the photo into this post as well.

Anyway, here's the brinjal patchree recipe from Mrs Ellie Handy's "My Favourite Recipes" (I added in the English names of the spices, and quantities of the spices in powdered form):


4 tablespooons oil
10 shallots, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cm fresh ginger, chopped

Curry Paste
1 dessertspoon Ketumbar (2 teaspoons coriander powder)
1 dessertspoon jintan puteh (2 teaspoons cumin powder)
1/2 dessertspoon jintan manis (1 teaspoon fennel powder)
Piece of turmeric, size of two peas (1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder)
8 dried chilies, soaked

2 cups thick tamarind juice from 1.5 dessertspoon tamarind
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste (I used 4!)
Salt to taste
4 brinjals
3 green and 3 red chillies, split halfway up
2 sprigs curry leaves, optional (for garnish).


1. Cut the brinjals lengthwise into half, and then cut each piece into two.  Make two diagonal slits in the flesh of each piece and soak in water for about half an hour.

2. Make the curry paste, by blending the spices and chillies together (of course you can pound it all together if you wish).  May need to add a little oil to the mixture if you are using all powders. 

3.  Fry the onions, garlic and ginger in the oil till soft.  Add the curry paste and fry till fragrant.  Then add the tamarind juice, salt and sugar to taste.  Then add the brinjals and chillies.  Cover the wok (I always use a wok) and leave to cook.  Garnish with the curry leaves.

That's it!  Simple but yummy.  If you're interested, more recipes by Mrs Handy here

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