Writing-related recipes: Annapurna Khanum’s Emu Curry

And now, another in our series of writing-related recipes …

In chapter eight of Torrie and the Firebird, Kokako has an interesting meal in the desert heart of the Great Southern Continent. Below is Annapurna Khanum’s Emu Curry Recipe. Of course, it may or may not have actually been emu. It almost certainly wasn’t any emu Kokako knew.

Annapurna Khanum’s Emu Curry, as explained to Torrie

This is Annpurna Khanum’s recipe for emu curry. Of course, you know how absent-minded she is. It’s entirely possible that she just made up this recipe when I asked for it, and this won’t turn out at all like the dish she fed Kokako. Anyway, if Kokako had thought for a minute there in the Dandarigan Desert, he’d have realized that of course the meat wasn’t emu at all. Annapurna Khanum was travelling all by herself. Even though she always carried a bow and hunted as she travelled on her explorations in the wilderness, she wouldn’t have shot an emu, because one person could not possibly eat a whole emu before the meat goes bad in the heat, and she wasn’t one of those irresponsible kinds of people (or animals or Things) who kills more than she needs to survive. And emus don’t go out into the deep desert where she was then. Whatever meat was in the curry, it was probably something quite small.
Still, here’s the recipe as Annapurna tried to remember it for me later. There aren’t any measurements to tell you how much of this or that. People didn’t worry about recipes being precise, in those days. Annapurna Khanum certainly didn’t!

First take your bow and go hunting in the grassy highlands, until you get an emu. Pluck it, clean it, and cut it up. But you know all that, and anyway, as I said, it probably wasn’t emu after all. Let’s start later on.
Cut your meat up into bite-size pieces.
(You can probably use chicken for this, but be sure to pluck it and clean it first. That’s very important, unless you’re a wolf. If you’re a wolf, you can probably leave out all the vegetables and spices and the whole cooking bit, although I did once meet a coyote who fancied curry.)
Heat a little fat or oil in a frying pan. Butter is best if you have any left. Cook the meat, along with any chopped-up soft old onions you might have discovered at the bottom of your pack, and your spices.
“What kind of spices?” I asked at this point.
“Oh, just spices,” Annapurna said.
You can use curry powder. Annapurna usually cooked meat with cumin, coriander, tumeric, paprika, pepper, and cinnamon.) Once the meat is cooked through, pour on a little water. Not too much! It’s important to be careful with your water in the desert. Add any other wobbly old vegetables you might have found in your pack, chopped up: a carrot, a potato, a handful of raisins (you don’t have to chop these), or a sweet potato or squash.
“Were you really carrying a squash around the Dandarigan Desert?” I asked.
“Probably not,” Annapurna Khanum said. “Probably I mostly had raisins and dates, and an onion or carrot or two. But squash would go well in emu curry. A nice dark orange dry squash, not one of the sloppy yellow kind. Chickpeas would be good too. Or lentils. I think I might have had lentils. The little red ones, because they don’t need to soak first.”
“Where do the lentils go in?” I asked.
“Oh, if they’re the red ones, just throw in a handful after the vegetables are mostly cooked,” she said. “And add enough water for them to cook up nice and thick.”
“How much is enough?”
“Just enough.”
Simmer this until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is quite thick and not runny at all, adding more water if you absolutely have to, but remembering that you want it to be a fairly dry curry, not even as thin as a stew. The vegetables will cook faster if you use your tin plate for a lid. That’s why it’s important that your tin plate be about the same size around as your frying pan. You can also add your greens at this point.
“What greens?” I asked.
“Any greens you’ve found,” Annapurna explained. “Things like spinach, kale, lambsquarters, beet greens, tatsoi … that sort of stuff. Did you know lambsquarters are called ‘fat hen’ in some places?”
“Yes,” I said. “I did.”
“Anyway, throw those in now.”
“What kind of greens did you find in the desert on the Great Southern Continent?”
“I don’t think I had any when I made that curry. But they would have been good if I had.”
Cook just until the greens are wilting and soft. Add a bit of salt and taste it. Add more spices and salt if you need to.
Spread it on some unleavened bread that you’ve been baking on a stone beside the fire, roll it up, and eat it.
(Unleavened means it wasn’t raised with anything like yeast or baking soda and sour milk: it’s flat.)
Something like naan or a tortilla would work well, or a pancake if it wasn’t a sweet one.
“And that’s how you make emu curry in the desert?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Annapurna Khanum. “But I didn’t have most of those things, just an old onion and an older carrot. And some raisins. Maybe lentils. Flour for making bread. Lots of spices, of course.”
“Of course,” I said. She was originally from Callipepla, after all. The sultanate is famous for its spices.
“Emu curry,” she said. “Except … I’m pretty sure it was a lizard.”
“I won’t tell Kokako,” I said. But actually, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have minded.
Many humans find that lizard, depending on what kind it is, can be quite tasty.

© 2006 K.V. Johansen

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About K.V. Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, and Gods of Nabban, epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at thewildforest.wordpress.com
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