“Let me show you my pot. I fill this one. Magnetic Ear will play every Sunday in January at the Allways Lounge, and the main selling point is free food at 8 and then we play at 8:30. When we did Live at the Saturn Bar, I wanted to make a live record, and to sweeten the pot for everybody, I cooked. That’s the idea; make the band happy and the audience, and see how much of a draw can you get. Not charging anything—not at the door, not for the food—just make them tip. Sometimes, that way you get more money than if you ask for five bucks at the door, they feel like, ‘I already paid.’ But if they come and everything’s for free and they really dig it, they go like, ‘Let’s put down ten bucks. This is awesome.’ We’re all in a low yield…something.
I started cooking Indian when I was living in Cologne, Germany, in 1992. There was an Indian restaurant that had dal and it was so good that I got totally addicted to it, but it was also so expensive that I needed to learn how to cook it myself.
I make a curry paste as my base, and then you can go any direction from there. If I have three different dishes—chicken curry, maybe Massaman with the peanut sauce, vegetable curry and dal—they all come from the same curry paste that I made, but I give every one of those dishes a slightly different flavor. For example, in dal I put extra cumin and cardamom. Once you have your curry paste, the rest is just like regular cooking. You can play with all of this.
The onion, garlic and ginger is very finely minced. Throw that in super hot oil, and be careful not to burn it—you’ve got to be totally on top of it—and then pile the curry powder on. That’s how you get your curry paste. But I also use this for Italian bolognese sauce. I throw ginger in everything because I’m a ginger freak. For the bolognese sauce, you don’t have to super-fine mince the onion, garlic and ginger, you just chop them roughly—and carrots! I use carrots too. Again, hot oil in the pan and throw all this in, and you start cooking it on the outside, but don’t totally cook it. Now, throw it in the blender and the fresh and uncooked mixes with the cooked and slightly oily outside and you have a second flavor explosion. You dig? Now you have this orange sauce and the meat that you already fried on the side and mix that together and let that simmer for as long as you can stand it. All the carrots bring a lot of sugar and it’s so good. I don’t care if it’s original Italian.
When I take the stuff into the blender it goes together with the whole tomatoes from the can, with the juice, all of it. Tomatoes in the can often are better than fresh tomatoes from the store because they take the ripe ones where they don’t have to worry about the transportation and sometimes you get really good tomatoes in the can. I used to bother with fresh tomatoes, scalding them in boiling water, and it’s not worth the work.
These are my water bottles. I buy the gallon jugs and I fill them right away into glass bottles so they don’t take on any more plastic taste. I’m shopping for the most recently filled Kentwood. It’s all about the dates.
I do my vegetable shopping at Bubba’s Produce Co. I go once a week and spend about $20. You get a pound of garlic for $1.20 while you pay $6 in the supermarket. And it’s huge! I always get zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, snap beans, onions, garlic, ginger, all this stuff. Plenty, always. They have crazy early hours, like five in the morning and you can walk in there until 12. Walk into the office and give them your order, and they get it together for you. You get so much produce for your money, you can’t beat it.
The wok is hip because the oil gathers at the bottom where you need it. Plus it helps to cook vegetables and not overcook them. It’s all about heat. As long as the vegetable retains color, the vitamins are unharmed.”
Martin’s Vegetable Curry
(Serves at least 8)
1 root fresh ginger, cut into chunks
2 medium onions, roughly diced
6 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup Indian curry powder
4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch strips
1 pound green beans, in 1-inch pieces
2 yellow bell peppers, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
4 zucchinis, cut into 1-inch logs
3 small beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in a little hot water
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/4 cup peanut oil
Finely mince ginger, onion and garlic in a food processor. Fry in hot oil to make a paste. Season with curry powder. Set aside. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and cook/steam carrots and green beans until slightly softened. Drain and set aside. Fry bell peppers for a couple of minutes, add carrots and green beans, then zucchini. Add curry paste. Season with bouillon cubes, sugar, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. Add yoghurt, sour cream and peanut butter. Salt to taste. Fry tofu separately in oil, then add to curry. Stir carefully. Serve with basmati rice.