Saturday, 3 November 2012

Cutlet Masala! aka Tempeh Masala

Cutlet Masala! aka Tempeh Masala

There are those who wince and whine at the mere mention of tofu, considering the very word synonymous with torture—culinary torture that is.  So when poor husband person asked me what I was preparing for dinner, I paused and shouted ‘Cutlets!’
Tempeh is not just tofu, but a fermented tofu, which forms a thin patty.  I’d tasted a fabulous tempeh dish at Mizuna’s restaurant in Spokane, Washington, and was mightily impressed.  As usual, I thought the only improvement would be to make it with Indian spices. 

After coming back home I researched it a little, and discovered tempeh is available in health food groceries, both in the refrigerated and frozen sections.  I’d read that it’s better to buy the plain tempeh from the frozen section than the flavoured tempeh in the refrigerated section. 

I understood why when I shopped, and gasped in horror at the “curried” tempeh in their refrigerator.  I immediately remembered an inlaw’s famous “curried creamcheese dip”, something that all the family assumed I would adore.  Oh, it was so scary.  Creamcheese and commercial curry powder, all mashed up to put on a bit of cracker.  I’m still traumatised, and that must have been thirty years ago. 
So shunning the curried tempeh, I did pick up a garlic and sesame seed tempeh in the refrigerated section, but also continued to the frozen section where I bought the plain variety.  This is what I used for tonight’s successful experiment.

1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon black cumin
1 teaspoon fennel
3 cloves
1 black cardamom, husked and bashed
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 Thai chillies, slivered
1 tablespoon mustard oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Roast the whole spices in a dry pan, on medium high heat.  When they are starting to become just a little smoky and fragrant, add the powdered spices as well, and watch carefully.  Shake or stir the pan, let smoke for a few moments, and brush into a spice grinder.  Set aside.
The cutting board is even older!
Some people own a garlic press, but I have an odd machine I picked up years ago.  On one side it finely slices garlic, but on the other it pastes it.  I used the paste setting, and I grated the ginger on an ancient grater I bought second hand from an elderly lady back in the early 70’s.  I wonder how old my grater might be…
After grinding the spices to a fine powder, I put them into a marinating dish along with the garlic, ginger, sliced chilli, oil and lemon juice.  I stirred this into a paste and dropped in the cutlet, which got coated with this paste on both sides.  After covering the dish I set it aside for almost two hours. 

When the side dishes were nearly ready, I sliced the tempeh into wedges and put a non-stick frying pan on medium heat.  Although the paste already had some oil, I added a bit more oil and slipped the tempeh wedges into the pan.  After about five minutes, I flipped the wedges, and let them brown and heat through on the other side. 
These wedges are slightly on the dry side, so I served them with a gorgeous masoor dal and sag paneer.  The tempeh itself is a completely vegan dish, but I confess to allowing some ghee and cream to land in the masoor dal.  I should probably rename this whole debacle “The Reluctant Vegan”. 

Anyway, husband person was pleasantly surprised, and I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers.  Who says tofu has to be torture?

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