Cut the mustard

Sometimes, I want to return to the familiar flavours I grew up with. I’m talking about staples like HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Sauce and Colman’s Mustard Powder.

Viva nostalgia! These condiments give an old school flavour to sturdy favourites like shepherd’s pie, pork chops, and curry debal or devil’s curry – dishes that hark back to our days as a British colony. Back then, knowing how to use such imported delicacies meant one was either sophisticated or a Hainanese cook in a club or expat household.

Top image: http://www.holidaycottages.co.uk/things-to-do-norfolk-broads

Now that we can get gourmet sauces from all corners of the globe, and those olde brands are available in neighbourhood supermarts, we don’t think of them as anything special. Yet, the fact that they are still in production means they’re as essential as soy sauce.

I just bought a large tin (454g) of Colman’s Mustard Powder in Mustafa Centre. Of late I haven’t seen Colman’s at my neighbourhood FairPrice. There’s no way I would miss the jolly yellow packaging. Also, what’s available elsewhere is only the small tin (probably 57g). Hence, at $13.80 for 454g, it’s a good buy.

Colman's mustard

As a flour miller, it wasn’t surprising that Jeremiah Colman came up with mustard in powder form in 1814. His factory in the vicinity of Norwich is still there today. So, if you’re ever in Norwich, check out the museum and bring home some Colman’s souvenirs.

Colman's mustard 1905

Cooks who prize Colman’s suggest combining equal parts of the dry mustard and a liquid – water, wine, vinegar, beer, milk, cream – and leaving it to stand for 10 minutes for the flavour to develop before using it. Stir a tablespoonful into stews, sauces, relishes, dips, marinades or dressings. Add zing to burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches.

(As an aside, if you have an ant problem, sprinkle some mustard powder on the ant trail. Wonder if it will work on roaches, but then, those hardy pests seem to be able to survive anything.)

For convenience, I’ve been using French mustard in my devil curry, but English mustard is sharper than Dijon. Now that I have my large tin of Colman’s, I’m going for the bigger kick. Here’s a recipe from my former colleague, Angela Fernandez. Every Eurasian family seems to have their own version, so vary the amount of onions and chillies to get a hotter or thicker gravy.

I forgot to take a photo last week when we made Devil’s Curry, so I had to borrow a visual: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znk2uC0U40k

devil curry

ANGELA’S DEVIL’S CURRY

30 dried chillies

2 fresh chillies (optional)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

4 big onions

2 thumb-sized knobs of ginger

10 cloves garlic, sliced

2 carrots, cut into large chunks

2 potatoes, quartered

¼ cabbage, cut into large pieces

Chicken thighs and drumsticks or ½ a chicken, chopped

350g bacon bones

300g sausages, sliced into thumb lengths*

1 tablespoon vinegar

1½ tablespoons English mustard

Method

  1. Blend chillies , ginger and onions into a paste.
  2. Saute garlic in oil. Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add blended ingredients and fry till fragrant.
  3. Add bacon bones and top up with water. Slow cook for 4 hours or pressure cook for 10 minutes. Now add chicken and potatoes. When chicken is half cooked, add carrots. When chicken is almost done, add cabbage, vinegar and mustard.

*Substitute sausages with roast pork or char siew. This is an any-meat goes dish.

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