Madras curry paste and Madras shorts share a place of origin, but otherwise don't seem to have much in common. Along with Thai red and green curry pastes, Madras curry paste, also called madrasi masala, makes frequent guest appearances in my kitchen, which Madras shorts do not. A specialty of the South Indian region around Madras (renamed Chennai in 1996), this yellow paste is a blend of coriander, cumin, brown mustard seed, black pepper, cayenne, turmeric, garlic, ginger and vinegar; sometimes it will have cinnamon and paprika, as the blend varies from cook to cook. The amount of cayenne determines the heat level of the final product, but as a rule, Madras curry is considered medium hot. Stirred into coconut milk, it makes the base of a quick weeknight curry, and pairs well with almost any vegetables, tofu or fish. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to one year.
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Potato and broccoli samosas
You can use this filling with store-bought or homemade pie dough, or discos, or wonton or eggroll skins, to make samosas in any size or shape. Traditionally they are triangles, but don't let that limit you. Makes enough filling for 10-12 large samosas, which can be frozen and reheated in a 350°F oven.
1/2 lb potatoes, any type, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp Madras curry paste, or more to taste
1/4 lb broccoli florets or peeled stems, diced
1 Tbsp agave nectar (or sugar)
1/2 cup frozen peas
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted cashew nuts, chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro (optional)
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
Remove puff pastry from packaging and set out on the countertop to thaw while you make the filling.
In a small saucepan, bring one quart of water to boil. Add potatoes, and cook 5 minutes; remove from heat, drain, and set aside. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté onions and curry paste for 3-4 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the onion golden. Add potatoes, broccoli and agave nectar. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the peas, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. (If the mixture is sticking, add 1-2 Tbsp water). Cool to room temperature. When the mixture is cool, season with salt and pepper. Stir in cashews and cilantro.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
When the dough has thawed but is still cold, roll out slightly and trim off the edges. Cut each sheet into 6 large squares, or cut with a 3-inch or larger round cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece of pastry. Paint the edges of the pastry with water, and fold in half. Seal with the tines of a fork. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If using discos, brush with egg wash (one egg beaten with one Tbsp water). Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
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