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Curry, Cheesecake, Coffee Liqueur

TIMES STAFF WRITER

DEAR SOS: The Regent of Fiji in Nadi, Fiji, serves an excellent vegetable curry I’d love to make at home. Can you get a recipe?

--LAURA

DEAR LAURA: This recipe makes a good dish for the holidays and works at either a buffet or sit-down dinner party. If you want to simplify the recipe, you can omit the puff pastry crust.

REGENT OF FIJI CHICKEN CURRY

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2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 or 2 cloves garlic

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1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

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3 to 4 tablespoons meat masala (Indian spice base for meat)

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt, pepper

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts, sliced

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1/2 napa or regular cabbage, sliced

2 large poblano chiles, seeded and sliced

1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced

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1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Coconut shells, optional, or oven-proof bowls

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1 (17 1/4-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, optional

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, optional

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion, ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and mustard seeds until onion is tender. Blend in tomato paste, turmeric, meat masala and chili powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute 1 minute. Add chicken and saute until golden brown.

Add cabbage, chiles, green beans, carrots and chicken broth. Bring to boil. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until green beans tender-crisp. Blend water into cornstarch and stir into curry mixture. Cook and stir until shiny and slightly thick. Spoon curry mixture into coconut shells or ramekins.

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If desired, roll out pastry sheets and cut into 6 circles or squares large enough to fit over curry container. Trim and seal around edges. Brush with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Meat masala is available at most Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores, but it is not essential to the recipe.

Each serving contains about:

143 calories; 98 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 1.64 grams fiber; 39% calories from fat.

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DEAR SOS: Last year I tasted a wonderful pumpkin cheesecake from your column. I’ve lost the recipe; can you help?

--VIRGINIA

DEAR VIRGINIA: Sure. Happy holidays.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

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3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 (1-pound) can pumpkin with no spices added

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2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

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1/3 cup brandy

Graham Cracker Crust

Cream together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at time, beating well after each addition until smooth and creamy. Add pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and brandy and mix until well blended. Turn cheese mixture into Graham Cracker Crust. Bake at 325 degrees 50 to 60 minutes, or until well puffed. Turn off heat and let cheesecake cool in oven.

Graham Cracker Crust

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1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Combine crumbs, sugar and butter in bowl and mix until crumbs are moistened. Place crumb mixture into 10-inch springform pan and press 2 inches up sides of pan and on bottom. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes.

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Each serving contains about:

329 calories; 254 mg sodium; 115 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.57 grams fiber; 62% calories from fat.

DEAR SOS: I’ve lost my recipe for homemade coffee-flavored liqueur. All I remember is that it contained instant coffee.

--JANET

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DEAR JANET: You remember correctly. The liqueur takes about a month to blend. If you hurry, you can make some in time for New Year’s.

COFFEE LIQUEUR

1 pint distilled water

1 (2-ounce) jar instant coffee

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4 cups sugar

1 quart vodka

1 vanilla bean

Bring water to boil in saucepan. Add coffee powder and sugar. Stir until coffee and sugar dissolve. Cool.

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Add vodka and pour into 2 (1-liter) bottles. Cut vanilla bean in half and split each half lengthwise before adding to bottles. Cap and let blend 1 month before serving.


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