The Marriage of Curry and Irish

Gluten Free Curried Irish Beef Pot Pie with a Tallow Crust made with gluten free flour blend

Gluten Free Curried Irish Beef Pot Pie with a Tallow Crust made with gluten free flour blend

Hello there! That was surely the last blog headline you expected to pop into your feed on St. Patrick's day. Spice and Irish are the two words least expected to be juxtaposed. But, yet they make a rather curiously amiable couple.

Now, I am going to tell you a winding story.... So bear with me.

We all know that Indian cuisine is fairly ubiquitous around the world. There is always a small restaurant somewhere that proffers up piping hot, spicy creations whether from the stove or the brick oven. Yet, not all curries are equal, nor Indian. The first time I realized this was in Japan. Japanese cuisine is inherently not consumed by spices. And, unlike our British and Irish neighbors their cuisine has not been tormented with being boring or bland. Somehow, they make up for the spice with freshness and awesome precision. Sorry, I digress. I was talking about curry. So, the Japanese cuisine has a curry which simply goes by the name 'curry'.

A scene from Prospect Park last week as the snow finally starts to thaw out from the grounds.

A scene from Prospect Park last week as the snow finally starts to thaw out from the grounds.

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For the newly initiated, who doesn't know a lot about Japanese food, the automatic linkage of any curry is to the Indian kind, so popularized by the British in the forms of tikka masalas and vindaloos. But, no. This curry is something else entirely. They use curry powder but I have no idea what goes into that spice mix. Curiously, this curry is stickier in both taste and aroma than any Indian curry I know. When you order it for a meal, the taste sticks to your palate and the smell to your clothes for the rest of the day! It is very distinctive and decidedly, not Indian in flavor.

Where does all this tie in with Irish? It's this way. The first time I was in Ireland, someone claimed that they were multicultural in their approach to food since they ate Indian food. In a land that probably has a really low density of Indians despite being so close to UK and a near absence of spice in their cuisine, I was really curious about the success of this curry. More importantly, I had felt like a fool that first time in Japan and I was hoping to find that I wasn't alone in my mistaken assumptions. I was definitely gratified in that!

When the snow melts, it gushes down like a torrent. It is fascinating! The urban park becomes an untamed forest floor for a few short days. 

When the snow melts, it gushes down like a torrent. It is fascinating! The urban park becomes an untamed forest floor for a few short days. 

So I was taken to the place where they ate their curries - a chip store where you could order curry fries. That's cool. It is like Poutine in Montreal. Sauce on fries. Except this was not the Indian curry but rather then Japanese one {not surprising as there are more Asians than Indians in the country}. The satisfying irony was that they did not know the difference! 

Thing is, I actually don't like Japanese curry. At all. It is way too strong for me and it clashes so much with the ideology of the rest of Japanese cuisine that I simply refuse to accept it. Although, I am very curious of its origins. Does anyone know? 

Egg white are the glue for any gluten free crust. Lightly frothed whites help smooth over torn bits of dough into place and lend a beautiful golden brown hue to the crust when baked.

Egg white are the glue for any gluten free crust. Lightly frothed whites help smooth over torn bits of dough into place and lend a beautiful golden brown hue to the crust when baked.

So, that said, today's recipe is very much Indian influenced. As generic as the usage of the term "curried" has become to represent anything that has spice, or a certain pungency above the kind that pepper or paprika can deliver. I suspect in everyday usage it has come to represent the qualities of curry powder rather than the mix itself - sticky flavor, spicy notes, aromatic, heavy odors and a more-ish after note. 

Even though I object to the generalization, I can buy into the concept of curry more than the curry itself. So, today I offer your the concept of curry in a traditionally Irish dish that has been entirely bastardized with a gluten free crust. It couldn't much further away from a country Irish meal and yet is just as close to it in the warmth and comfort it bestows on the eater. 

After a long and trying week, I had a huge helping of this on Friday night and, honestly, it made up for the injustices, trials and slights of the days past. In one clean swipe, it transported into the present, with nary a care for what was before or what may be next. That is just enough spice and a huge dollop of Irish charm. What else, then, do you need?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Curried Beef Pot Pie + Gluten Free Tallow Crust

This is whole dish is very much a celebration of the animal we are eating. The meat and pie filling is cooked in a mixture of olive oil and beef tallow. The crust is made with 100% tallow. Tallow is to beef as lard is to pork. Tallow is very nutritious and very tasty (albeit a touch strong in flavor) but it is important that if you are using tallow, then you know the source of it.

I recommend only buying tallow of animals that were not exposed to industrialized farming. If you have any doubts about the source, simply use butter instead. But, if you have access to a butcher who sources from small and well-run farms, I encourage to give it a try. It's flavor is nothing like butter can achieve and is a true salute to the animal that has labored so much to bring us good food.

I make the roux using rice flour here to keep the pie entirely gluten free. Rice is starchier than wheat and hence you need less flour to oil for the same liquid ratio. So, instead of the typical 1:1 flour:oil mix, I use a 3:4 flour:oil mix. Still it will absorb a lot of liquid while cooking. So, keep an eye on it.

he crust benefits from the addition of psyllium husk, which, gives it a modicum of hold and prevent the dough from totally crumbling apart when rolled out. Still it will not resemble the elasticity of a regular wheat crust and you shouldn't expect it to. One thing to remember when using psyllium is that it absorbs fluids to create that gelatinous bond. So err on the side of stick when making the dough. You can always roll it out on a generously floured surface.

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For the marinade:

4 T cream of yogurt or yogurt

1 tsp turmeric powder

tsp ground chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin powder

1/2 tsp all spice blend

salt and pepper as needed

 

For the pie filling:

 

2 T  beef tallow

1-1/2 T rice flour

1/2 lb stew beef

1-1/2 cup fine diced onions

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup parsnips, cubed

3/4 cup button  mushrooms,  quartered

1 russt potato, cubed

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

3 cups of chicken stock

 

For the gluten free tallow crust:

scant 1 cup gluten free flour blend (I use Dove Farms)

2 tsp psyllium husk

5 T beef tallow

3/4 tsp baking soda

~4 T buttermilk

1 tsp salt

lots of fresh ground pepper

1 egg white, for brushing (necessary!)

Mix all the marinade ingredients and let the beef rest in it overnight. You can make this up to 48 hours ahead.

Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan and sear the meat pieces. When browned on all sides, remove and reserve.

Lower the heat to low and sauté the onions and garlic until caramelized.

Melt the tallow in the same pan and add the rice flour. Cook for a few minutes.

dd the mushrooms and parsnips and sauté for a few minutes. Add the seared meat and juices back.

Add the stock, a cup at a time and cook on low for 1 hour until the beef is tender.

Meanwhile, steam the potato and set aside. When the meat is cooked, add the potato and peas to the mix and any remaining stock. 

ring to a quick boil and let it rest for atleast an hour to soak in the flavors. Transfer to pie pan.

Meanwhile prepare the pie crust. Mix together the salt, baking soda, flour and psyllium.

Crumble in the tallow into the flour until you get a mealy texture.

Drizzle in the buttermilk until you are able to bring everything together into a dough ball. It will be sticky. It needs to be as the psyllium will absorb the liquid and tighten the bonds.

Sprinkle a bit of flour on top to lightly coat the dough disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you leave it for longer, let it thaw on the counter for a few minutes before rolling it out.

On a very well floured surface, place the disk of dough. Flour the top and the rolling pin and roll our dough with quick strokes to fit the pie pan.

Gently transfer the rolled dough on top of the filling. It will inevitably tear and break. Don't worry. Just do the best you can and patch up the broken pieces by gently pressing on the dough.

When you have it arranged to satisfaction, whip an egg white lightly until frothy and give the top of the crust a nice coating of it to seal the cracks and smooth it out.

Bake at 400 F for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling from beneath.