Friday, December 18, 2009

A Universal Truth

Over at the temple of Isis, she used her experience shopping for empanada supplies to fuel a discussion of white privilege. Now, calling out asshats who do bad things to people of color, women, or other challenged groups is a good thing. That part did not catch my attention. Since reading the post, I have been thinking about tiny meat pies.

As the discussion proceeded, we acknowledged that evmeat-pie-4ozery culture has its own version of the empanada. The British have pasties. We eat wontons and potstickers. And what is a taco or burrito but seasoned meat in a crust? Online you can order cajun meat pies filled with beef (shown), crawfish, or a breakfast mixture of andouille sausage and eggs. Mix the meat into the batter and you have a dumpling.

Tiny meat pies are a universal truth, a common component of the human experience.

A few years back my daughter composed a report on Malaysia. She wanted to bring in food to go with her presentation. I scoured my Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks and found this recipe. You can make the pastry from scratch, but refrigerated pie crusts do just fine.

The cookbooks were originally published in 1970 and revised in 1979, but are out of print at this time. Each country or region in the set included a wire-bound kitchen book with just recipes and a larger coffee-table style book with text about the culture and origins of the foods. Some photos are dated, but the set still provides a good culinary overview of the world. Used sets and books can be found  on Amazon.

I will share this recipe with you:

Malaysian Curry Puffs (~3 dozen puffs)

  • 6 fresh hot chilies, stemmed and seeded (don’t forget protective gear)
  • ~1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, scaped and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves gralic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons strained fresh lime juice
  • Enough pie crust for 2-10-inch shells

Preheat oven to 375. Finely chop together the chilies, ginger, and garlic with a large knife or food processor.

In an 8- to 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Saute the onions until soft and transparent, but not brown, ~3 minutes. Stir in the chilies, ginger, and garlic, and simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes. Then add the ground beef, breaking up any lumps. When no traces of pink remain in the meat, stir in the spices. Remove the pan from the heat.

On a lightly floured surface cut the crust into ~2.5-inch rounds. Put a scant teaspoon of the beef mixture in the center of a dough round. Moisten the edges with a finger dipped in water. Fold the round in half over the filling, then turn the ends toward each other into a crescent shape. Press the edges together with your finger or a fork.

Arrange the puffs on large ungreased baking sheets and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. May be served hot or at room temperature.

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