Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pandora's Box - Mango and Tomato Curry

There may be hope for me yet. I thought, perhaps, I would have to enter a 12-step program. But now that I see my addiction laid out before me, all the jars, bottles, vials, packets and envelopes, at least I know I am not in denial: I own too many spices and herbs. Granted, I am probably not unlike many other well-seasoned cooks, with a larder of flavors at the ready and a savage culinary curiosity. But I am too fond of my stockpile; as Gollum might put it, they are all “my precious.”

A few of my favorite things
(from back to front): cumin, turmeric and cayenne

And how, exactly, do I know this? Well, there are some containers holding barely a heel of powder or crumb of dried leaf, yet I cannot part with them. There are also the duplicates and triplicates, purchased when I could not find a particular ingredient somewhere in the abyss of my cabinets. This is a confession that leaves me as red as a chile pepper (cayenne, if you must know), and more than a little troubled by the chaotic greed of it all. I have been collecting nonstop for the last two years, and doubt that this would ever have given me pause except that a food blogging event is snooping around, wanting to have a look. I have to clean for company now, put the racks, carousels, baskets and canisters into a semblance of organization that will not deepen my shame. I purchased a beautifully beaten-up apothecary piece, just for the occasion.

It is not a task for the timid. There are literally dozens and dozens of denizens, the aromatics and hush-hued flakes like rosemary and chervil; the ground powders of sage and clove; the delirious floral elixirs; and the war-headed peppers. There are representatives from India, Australia, Thailand and Morocco; Mexico, Spain, Italy and Jamaica. It is a roller coaster, a shrieking mess that begs some calm and order.

There is calm and order…for a time. I am happy with my accomplishment. It is practical, it is neat, and it was very hard won. But I am feeling a little angst, too. There may be no hope for me, after all. Now that the photos have been taken, I notice there is actually some empty space left in a cubby hole or two. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something must be done. Perhaps I’ll fill in with some grains of paradise. I’ve never had them before. Precious.

Green mango and fresh green curry leaves

Green Mango and Tomato Curry - Adapted from the Vij's recipe/Vij's Indian Cuisine Cookbook, brought to my attention by Suganya


1 green, unripe mango, peeled and cubed (or a ripe fruit if you prefer a sweeter flavor rather than sour)
2 large tomatoes, cored, then blanched to remove the skins before chopping
20 curry leaves
3 tablespoons ghee or other clarified butter
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup chopped green onion
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt


In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, liquify the ghee then add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. Continue to heat until you hear the seeds popping. (Avert your face to prevent being spattered with projectile seeds.) Quickly add the curry leaves, stirring briefly until wilted. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cayenne and turmeric. Stir, then cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in mango, cover skillet, and cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt and green onion, cooking uncovered for about 3 minutes. Serves 2. --

This post is being submitted to Gabi of The Feast Within, hosting Show Us Your Spice Collection, the latest volume in the Show Us, created by Ilva of Lucullian Delights.

Been There, Done That ~

Panch Phoron
Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies

Other People's Eats ~

Ezhukari Kuzhambu
Ethiopian Fish


noobcook said...

hahaha ... Your post is so funny and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!! :D

Your pantry is so well stocked and well organised that I am green (like an unripe chilli?) with envy. Great photography!! *_*

Ricki said...

What a gorgeous, lush post (reflective of all those spices and herbs!). Love the cabinet!

glamah16 said...

You are not alone in your addiction My Precious!

Johanna said...

I am now coveting your gorgeous spice cabinet (and somewhere to put it), not to mention those empty spaces where you might squeeze another spice or two - there is always another one to try isn't there?

Kalyn said...

Love the cabinet. I can relate to this, my own collection of "essentials" is very much out of control.

Swati: Sugarcraft India said...

Hi Susan, your posts always bring a smile :))
The cabinet looks lovely and I adore the cat sitting cool and calm!!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

A featured called Other People's Pantries has been running on my blog since February. Want to join in? We're peeking into a lot of spice cabinets!

Gabi said...

What a great post my precious!
I love it and thanks for showing us your spice collection!
The curry is to die for as well...mmmm...
See you at the roundup on Saturday!

Lisa said...

Your post reminds me that I must tidy up my cupboards. I do have once spice rack, but that's not nearly big enough to hold of my herbs and spices. I can relate.

I'm loving the sounds (and look) of this curry. You know how much I enjoy Indian creations.

Simona said...

This is really a fun post to read, Susan. If it can be of any consolation, my spice cabinet is a complete disaster. You have an amazing collection, while I have only a fraction of your holdings, and therefore no excuse for emptying the shelf every time I am looking for something. Love the apothecary piece and the recipe too.

Lucy said...

Never was a piece of furniture more welcome, or appropriate, in a kitchen.

Apothecary. A word to fall in love with over and over again. Just as the potions and remedies that lie within the apothcaries chest astound, the mixtures and tinctures hidden (neatly!) within these drawers are an infinite combination of flavour and possiblity.

And what a curry!

sra said...

YOu bought a piece just for this occasion - that sounds like something I'd be tempted to do.

Thanks for introducing us to grains of paradise - they look a bit like the black cardamom seeds we get here. Just a bit.

Asha said...

HeHe! Welcome to the club sistah!! I have 2 shelves full of spices too, not mention the papad collection! ;D

Sometimes I cringe looking at so many, but makes me happy when I can get it when I want it. Spices looks great there, I use Annatto pd too for color. Mango and Tomato dish looks fab!
Have a wonderful weekend, happy Mother's day to you. Enjoy!:)

Roopa said...

thats a very cute colectiong of spices on the shelf:) reminded me of my home in India :)

Ann said...

What a beautiful spice cabinet! It seems to be very well-organized to me... much more so than my two messy racks (though I have more trouble with all of the various bottles and jars of vinegars, oils, condiments and oddities than I do with spices).

Love your curry recipe!

Cynthia said...

I am seriously jealous of your apothecary piece! And look at that magnificent picture of the mango and tomato curry! I am seriously drooling here.

diva@theSugarBar said...

oh that looks amazing. mango curry! also, i love to cook with spices so this is great.

Laurie Constantino said...

i have the same problem and don't know what to do about it - and i'm so far in denial i'd run away from any 12-step program to cure it - although i love your apothecary solution. thanks for the peek!

RecipeGirl said...

Wow, so beautiful! I think I'd have a spice problem if I could actually access a real-live Penzeys. I haven't ordered from them yet. I suppose that when I begin, a problem will ensue!

Susan said...

Thank you, everyone, for your generous and kind comments. I'll be back in the swing tomorrow, answering each one of you individually as well as visiting your sites.

Thanks again!

Nanditha Prabhu said...

I am drooling over your curry...I can imagine the taste....

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Not only fabulously colourful, but wonderfully healthy, too!

bee said...

wow. that has to be the more orange turmeric i've seen.

Kelly-Jane said...

You are so not alone! Nigella calls it bunkering ingredients, and I think that is about right!

Lovely cabinet too.

Susan said...

Wiffy – Thank you! It’s was fun to write, too. Don’t be envious, though. My pantry ain’t that ordered. Really. I always have to hunt for stuff. ; )
Thanks, Ricki. The cabinet was a great find in a local antique shop. Very reasonably priced – cheap!
Glamah -- : D
Oh, yes, Johanna, there’s always some space for a squeeze. : )
Hi, Kalyn. I am not alone – good to know. I sometimes think I am the only one afflicted.
Swati – So glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write. I love that cat, too. He reminds me of all the black cats I’ve had in the past and the one I have now.
Lydia – I do plan on joining when I get a moment. Thanks for letting me know.
Gabi – Happy to join in. Thanks! It was a lot of fun and pulled me out of writer’s block.
Lisa – If it wasn’t for this event, my cabinets would continue to be a scourge on the kitchen landscape. Curry was bloody fabulous; I think you would like it.
Thanks, Simona – My spice collection was exactly that, “a complete disaster.” Thank goodness for Gabi’s event; who knows when or if I would have tidied my act up.
Lucy – Thanks. It stands right now at the threshold of the kitchen into the dining area. I really have no damned space left. Ah. Sometimes I think I may need something stronger in that apothecary. ; )
Sra – It was due. I’ll be getting grains of paradise very soon. Of course, I will blog about it someday.
Hey, Asha! Thanks. You are right; annatto lends great golden-red color.
Hi, Roopa! I’m glad it brings you good memories. Good to see you!
Ann – Thank you! It is organized (for now), but you have no idea the train wreck I dealt with to get it into this serviceable condition. My cabinets were an extreme embarrassment.
Cynthia – Thanks. That new piece was a steal. Really.
Diva – Welcome! I have to say, I adored this curry. Hope you do, too, if you make it. I will never, ever give up spices.
Laurie – I probably wouldn’t have let anyone see the former mess. This photo very much shows the new and temporarily improved spice collection.
Hi, Recipe Girl! Welcome! I’ve collected most of my Penzeys spices in person, at a kiosk in NYC. Hard to stay away, but they do have reasonable enough prices. Nice to see you. Thanks for coming by!
Nanditha – Thanks. Never worry about being late. Let’s keep our watches off! : )
Hi, Helen! Thank you. Good to see you.
Hey, Bee. I’m looking at the jar right now. Yep, it’s pretty orange, but it did stain my fingers bright yellow. ; )
Hi, Kelly-Jane! Bunker! LOL! Thanks. You made me chuckle!

Shari said...

Love your post! You write so fondly of your spices...your "savage culinary curiosity" is apparent. I'm sure your new shelves won't have gaps for long!

Suganya said...

Thank goodness. I didn't show my spice rack. There isn't one :D. I envy you for your spice collection. Neatly ordered and ready to use.

The curry looks ravishing, Susan. Where do you get curry leaves. Its been months since I had one.

Finally, the polka dots backdrops are too pretty. I am so glad you like the book :)

Susan said...

Thank you, Shari! Welcome! It's pretty obvious what a weakness I have for spices. ; ) Good to see you!
Suganya -- I didn't have a spice rack before this event. It was only good luck that lead me to an antique shop in town, where I bargained with the owner for a good deal.

Thanks for the kind words. I get my curry leaves from an Indian grocer not far from me. Asha got a curry leaf plant from Seeds of India. They are out of stock until July, but perhaps you could grow it in a sunny window.

I love the polka dots, too. : D

librariane said...

Part of the problem is Penzeys, too, actually--walking through the store makes you want to grab everything and try it!

Our spice drawer has everything lined up (but not in order, and this librarian hates that!), as hubby made a nifty wooden holder, but our spice cupboard is a disaster! I completely understand doubles...

vegeyum said...

My richness is listed in my spice cupboard too. Repeat after me. "we are not wierd. we are not wierd. we are not ..."

Lisa said...

My heavens -- another winner! How interesting. I know where I can get green mangoes and curry leaves, as it happens...adore your photos!

Susan said...

Hi, Ruhama! With me, Penzeys is only part of the problem. I go to many ethnic grocers that have specialty spices at deep discounts; they are irresistible. Good to see you!
Vegeyum - "We are not weird..." : D
Thanks, Lisa. Green mangoes are fantastic. Hope you enjoy experimenting.

manju said...

Lovely curry, we're going to try this soon. And wonderful post -- I laugh only b/c I see my guilty reflection in the mirror you hold up. I tried creating an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what I had so to slow the abominable duplication of spices no avail. And the ever-growing obsession with new spices...have you heard of kokum, Precious? We wants it, we do...

Susan said...

Welcome, Manju! And thank you. An Excel spreadsheet? Now you have me LOL! Boy, do I understand! I've often thought of some way to index what I have (applies to all pantry items), but it is too much work. ; )

Yes, I have heard of kokum, have seen it, even, in an Indian grocer. I "wants it", too. The recipe to use it in comes second.

Arundathi said...

that was such a funny post! :-) i'm just the opposite - lol!

sometimes i love the spice and use it in every recipe possible until its all gone.

And when I don't use a spice, it lies in my cupboard for a bit, and if its been there longer than 3 months, I give it away or throw it out!