Month: January 2007

How to cook with Indian spices

Buy whole spices, not ground.  Get:

Cinnamon stick (not the Mexican kind)
Cardamom, preferably both green and black
Black peppercorns

Red chilis, or red chili powder
Wet ginger paste (go to an Indian grocer’s), or fresh ginger, never ever ever powdered ginger
Garam masala, here a good powder from an Indian mart is OK though better to make it fresh
Turmeric, powder will do

For bases, draw upon:

1. Sauteed and pureed yellow onions
2. Plain yogurt, some will wish to add heavy cream as a thickener
3. Coconut milk

Now start your dish.  Create the chosen base.  Ghee (clarified butter) can be added to #1 or #2 for yummy richness but I usually don’t for health reasons.  Don’t mix #2 and #3.

Then take your preferred mix of spices.  Fry the hard ones for two to three minutes over medium heat (3.5 on an electric stove) and puree them.  Cinnamon stick should be left whole in the sauce to leach out its flavor.  Never are more than three cloves needed and they can be left whole too.  Cardamoms can be inserted whole and then removed, especially if large ones are smashed open a bit with a blunt edge.  Otherwise experiment with preferred combinations.

In a separate pan, quickly cook your preferred meat over high heat, just enough to make it a bit translucent or pink.  Insert the partially cooked stuff into the liquid base and turn to low heat until the dish is ready.

Vegetables can be substituted for meat.

You can introduce mace and mustard seeds, or tomato can be a base in sauces.

You now have a combinatorial knowledge of many many Indian recipes and you need not memorize anything.

By the way, if you must buy powdered curry, Golden Bell is by far the best.  It is packed with bay leaves and stays potent for months.  You can sautee some chopped yellow onions, toss in ground lamb, douse it in Golden Bell, cook over low heat until dry, and when on the plate, over rice, coat it in plain yogurt.

Uncertainty is the Friend of Delay

Regarding global warming and what to do about it, Brad DeLong approvingly paraphrases Tyler, "uncertainty is not the friend of doing nothing."  Bearing in mind the obvious dangers of contradicting both Brad and Tyler let me counter with "uncertainty is the friend of delay."

If you are faced with two environments one of which has outcomes somewhere between -10 to 10 and the other somewhere between -100 to 100 then I agree that the greater uncertainty of the latter provides no necessary reason for doing less relative to the former. 

Suppose, however, that we are uncertain about which environment we are in but the uncertainty will resolve over time.  In this case, there is a strong argument for delay.  The argument comes from option pricing theory applied to real options.  A potential decision is like an option, making the decision is like exercising the option.  Uncertainty raises the value of any option which means that the more uncertainty the more we should hold on to the option, i.e. not exercise or delay our decision.

Imagine, for example, that there are 100 doors before us.  We can enter any door but once we enter it will be costly to exit.  If we don’t decide then over time we learn a little bit about what is behind each door.  If our uncertainty to begin with is small, we know that behind each door is more or less the same thing, then learning has little value and we should decide now (assuming some modest cost to waiting).  But if our uncertainty is large then learning has a lot of value and we should delay our decision until some of our uncertainty has been resolved.

Applying the theory to global warming isn’t easy because our decisions involve many options and exit costs but if we think that our knowledge of the extent, cost, cause and solutions to global warming are increasing at a faster rate than the danger of global warming then delay of any major decision is a rational policy at the present time.