Sunday, 16 March 2008

Curried Greek pancetta (Μπατζέτα με κάρυ)

It's BBQ day today - porkchops, sausages, chicken and pancetta pork cuts, which are not strictly pancetta, but the cuts of meat resemble strips of this Italian cured meat, and have adopted their name. We cook them as any Greek would do: marinated in a lemon, salt, pepper and oregano mixture, BBQed till well done (no pink meat for the Greek, thank you), all on a charcoal grill. It's good value meat, but it can get a little boring (unless you're a Greek, and you'll never get bored of eating the same food over and over).

I thought I'd try something different with a few of the pancetta cuts. I love working with different spices, but I hate the word 'curry'. It reminds me of mass-produced packaged ground spice mixtures. When using foreign spices, there is always the problem of combining the wrong spices, something that wouldn't be compatible in the cuisine of the culture that uses them regularly. For example, in a Greek kitchen, it is rare to use turmeric and ginger. To understand what they go well with, I decided to try something that sounded genuine to a particular region. I have come across an Indian recipe from Kerala which marinates lamb chops in a mixture of spices common to curries before cooking. This is not much different to what we do, except that the spices are Mediterranean (as stated above). The recipe is repeated below for convenience (with the slight changes that I made to adapt it to my kitchen):

To marinate the meat of your choice, you need
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

Mix the dry spices and salt together. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Turn off the heat. Add the garlic followed by the powdered ingredients. When it cools, add lemon juice. Marinate the meat in this mixture for at least an hour. Grill the meat till it is done to your liking.

It made a nice change to the regular Sunday BBQ. We had it with a tomato salad, some fried potatoes, and a few lovely cold beers. If I were making this again, I would definitely combine some fresh minced ginger into the spice mixture to give it a more genuine 'curry' flavour. This meal would have been digested even better if our son hadn't hit his head on a bathroom tile and split it open, just as soon as we had finished licking the last bone, washed down with a few beers. With alcohol on our breath and our clothes smelling of charcoal meat, we rushed him to hospital. Thankfully, he only needed two stitches. All is well.

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