Ginger Curry Venison Meatballs

When you think of hunting and the great outdoors, do you think of ginger curry with venison meatballs? How do these things spring from my brain?

I have had the benefit of living in Houston, Texas the last 10 years and Houston is home to a lot of Asian cuisine as well as hunters. I’ve always liked Thai curry and the sort of Indian-inspired curry you might find served with chips in an Irish pub.

curry meatballs
Curry meatballs served with cilantro

I never really went out of my way to get curry until I had the privilege of spending a month in Singapore. I quickly became obsessed with all the different Indian and Thai curries I could get my hands on. Some nights I would decide to eat light at dinner time, head to the hotel with a yogurt, sit quietly in the room and hear the voice of a green curry down the street calling out my name.

The curry was in a food stall stacked along an alley with a nice smattering of cuisines. The worst was the time I opted to order a Tiger beer from the bar a step from the curry stall only to remember that alcohol is almost prohibitively expensive in Singapore. Once the curry addiction was set, I found myself ordering it all the time at lunch back in Houston.

Then, a British expat friend came to visit and she made an Indian curry. Next, my boyfriend’s father remarked that eating a curry once a week is healthy. I started experimenting. The beauty is you can make it up as you go along and not go wrong. Still, I was truly inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe I bookmarked. The picture is mesmerizing due to the rich, deep orange color of the curry.

curry sauce
Using the immersion blender on the curry sauce

Now, here is the key distinction: I used ground venison to make my meatballs. Venison from deer I harvested last January. I have come to love venison because it tastes good, is satisfying without being filling, Because it is lean, you need to add more egg to bind the meat into balls.

The second departure from the recipe I recommend is using a food processor and most definitely not a blender to puree some of the initial ingredients, such as the scallions. (UPDATE: I just made this a second time and used an immersion blender in the cooking pot. See elaboration below.*) First thing first, review the ingredients and decide what you will use and need. The magazine recipe called for 2 pounds of ground beef. I wasn’t about to commit 2 lbs. of venison to an untested recipe and opted to try it with 1 lb. Thus, I needed to cut this recipe in half.

Meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled (I used the full amount)
  • 1 tablespoon (just used juice of 1 lemon)
  • ½ tablespoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. of ground venison
  • 2 eggs (I always use 2 eggs per pound of ground venison)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Curry sauce:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions (I used one red, one sweet)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • another 1 inch chunk of peeled ginger
  • 3 dried chiles de arbol (oops, I used 3 instead of 1 ½)
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tablespoon Kosher salt
Adding curry spices to onion and garlic
Adding curry spices to onion and garlic

Recognize that if you halve the recipe, that always throws off things. In other words, when you adapt a recipe, you make it your own. I used the full amount of tomatoes instead of half because what am I going to do with half a small can of tomatoes. Also, I had to add water to the first step because the ingredients did not blend. Then, I had to strain that mixture to get out the extra liquid. Toward the end, after I used the outboard motor to blend the sauce (an immersion blender), I found the taste too spicy hot and added a can of lite coconut milk. The result was an outstanding tasting curry with more volume than needed for the meatballs. The excess sauce was stored separately and eaten with toasted French bread for lunch.

*UPDATE: I just made this again, this time the full recipe with 2 lbs. of ground venison and a 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes. To better bind the meat, I used half a sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers. I also swapped out scallions for sweet onion and skipped the dried peppers. I also used Meyer lemon juice (we have a tree).

Try it!

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

Springtime renewal, inside & out

Spring is the time to celebrate the return of things we love, such as bluebonnets in Texas, as well as a good time to try something new.

Leaves emerging for the first time on a young tulip magnolia
Leaves emerging for the first time on a young tulip magnolia

This weekend we enjoyed two new things: leaves on the tulip magnolia we planted last fall, and homemade red lentil curry dahl. We also enjoyed the return of bluebonnets and citrus blossoms in our garden.

The bluebonnet is the Texas state flower and makes its return each spring
The bluebonnet is the Texas state flower and makes its return each spring

Some things renew on their own. Here come the elephant ears, without prompting. A friend was once so overwhelmed by her elephant ears that she yanked a bunch out by the roots and put them in a huge bucket, which she left on our front porch. We were out of town and did not immediately attend to the bucket when we got back. Eventually, we planted them. They not only made it after the transplanting, they thrived. Then, they took over some beds. I yanked a bunch, and yet, a couple of years later, here they come again.

There are other things that need help. The caterpillars that will become Monach butterflies showed up and ate just about all the milkweed that had started to grow back. We rushed out to a nursery that fortunately was carrying milkweed and bought several little plants. As soon as they were in the ground, the caterpillars converged. We counted several.

Tomatoes are not something we lucked out on last year, our first attempt with tomatoes. For Valentine’s Day, we placed two tomato plants in the vegetable bed, fertilized them and crossed our fingers. Each one now has a tiny tomato growing, which bodes well.

The veggie bed is in the side yard with citrus trees. It all started with a mystery shrub, or so it appeared. Eventually, the plant emerged as an impressive Meyer lemon tree.

Meyer lemons can be consumed when green or yellow
Meyer lemons can be consumed when green or yellow

It became so prolific over recent years that we took to freezing the juice. Not too long ago a heavy rain came while it was overloaded with lemons and tree was uprooted, undermined by floodwater and its own weight. We had only been picking a few lemons at a time to have fresh ones in the kitchen. Live and learn. My boyfriend cut off several broken limbs and righted the tree’s trunk with a pitchfork as a temporary brace. I’m happy to report the tree survived and is growing again. Looking back, the amount of lemons I harvested from the broken limbs was comical. The neighbors all got some and there still is some of that juice in the freezer.

Meyer lemon harvest
Meyer lemon harvest
IMG_6907
Grapefruit blossom

We liked the lemon tree so much that we added a Satsuma, a grapefruit and a lime tree. The grapefruit tree was a slow grower, but amazingly started reaching skyward once we planted a more robust companion grapefruit tree a couple of yards away. Both are blossoming, literally.

To wrap up the weekend, we ate a traditional Sunday dinner with pasta and meatballs cooked in tomato sauce. Some people call this Sunday sauce. My grandmother called it tomato gravy.

Meatballs cooking through in tomato sauce after browning
Meatballs cooking through in tomato sauce after browning

She would serve the meat separate from the pasta, with the meat accompanied by Boston lettuce salad. The pasta was served in bowls, the lettuce on salad plates and the meat on the entree plate. Not sure what she would make of us eating the meatballs in the pasta bowls while sitting on the couch watching TV. This dish is a family tradition and brings much comfort. The other night I tried something completely new to us, at least at home: dalh. I had bought a lot of bags of dried legumes, including green and red lentils. An internet search led me to a recipe for red lentil curry dahl. I’ve made many curries before and ad libbed some as well, so I wasn’t intimidated.

Red lentil dahl with red curry
Red lentil dahl with red curry

The ginger and red curry combine so well it’s no wonder how popular the combination is. We liked it so much, I have a feeling that this dish may become as much as a staple around here as the meatballs.

The Sage Leopard