Tandoori-style Chicken

Chicken tandoori is always a favorite — the velvety texture of piquant and lemony chicken is hard to pass up.

But... in fact we have skipped ordering chicken tandoori the last few times we visited Indian restaurants — opting instead to explore new dishes. Always good to try new things, but this has left an itch that hasn’t been scratched in well over a year. Solution? Pull out the recipe file, fire up the oven!

The ingredients for this iconic South Asian dish are not as exotic as you might think — you probably have most of them in your pantry and fridge: lemon, ginger, cumin, coriander seed, turmeric and green chilies in a plain yogurt base. With the popularity of South Asian flavors these days, most people will also have garam masala on a pantry shelf as well. If not, you might find garam masala and the optional ingredient, chaat masala, available in bulk in your local natural foods or health food store — here in Maryland, the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, and on Oahu, Down To Earth, have bulk spices you can buy by the spoonful so you can try new spices without getting stuck with shelves full of ones you don’t use often or decide you don’t like.

Two keys to achieving the right balance of flavor and moist texture under the high heat which is the hallmark of tandoori cooking are skinless chicken and at least 24 hours in the yogurt marinade. The yogurt both tenderizes the meat and helps it retain moisture; while removing the skin allows the marinade to thoroughly work its magic. This recipe is an amalgam of different recipes we’ve made at home or school over the last 12 years and is still evolving...

Since we’re not fans of artificial food coloring and red dye contributes nothing to the flavor, we omit the red dye paste that is included in many recipes and let the food speak for itself. (“Eat me, eat me!”) Our research has turned up some natural coloring sources that have been used in tandoori pastes, including cayenne pepper, Kashimiri chilies, and annatto (aka achiote). We’ve tried both the cayenne and the Kashimiri chile, and would use Kashimiri chilies if they are available — it adds both heat and flavor as well as color — but it just isn’t something that is a pantry staple yet. We just learned about achiote as an alternative, so a further evolution of this recipe may include that, too — we’ll have to see how it affects the flavor.

Serves 4 persons

3 to 3 1/2 lbs. (1.3 - 1.5kg) chicken, whole legs
1 whole lemon, juiced and rind cut into 6 pieces
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 cup (180g) plain yogurt (full fat is best, low fat is OK; can’t recommend non-fat)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 TBL)
1 1/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 - 4 serrano chilies, seeded and diced (we usually use 2)
(keep the seeds and up the heat factor exponentially if that floats your boat)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (optional - more for color than flavor, not used here)
ghee or unsalted butter, melted (for basting)
1 lemon, quartered (for serving)
Chaat masala (optional, for serving)

Remove skin from chicken legs: With kitchen shears or sharp knife, score skin all the way around the tip of the drumstick, then pull skin from thigh over the tip of drumstick and off. Cut flesh on both sides in several places.

Sprinkle lemon juice, then salt over chicken and massage into meat.

Combine yogurt, lemon rinds, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, serrano chilies, and paprika, if using. Place in glass or other non-metallic container, or zippered plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, and completely cover with marinade. Refrigerate at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 500F. Set oven rack to upper third of oven.

Melt ghee or butter in oven as it pre-heats, carefully remove ghee once warm through.

Remove chicken from marinade, and gently pat dry but do not rub off all the marinade.

Place smaller rack on a cookie sheet, and set chicken over rack. Baste with ghee, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over, baste again and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through. If chicken starts to burn, cover affected area with a foil tent.

While hot, squeeze lemon juice over chicken and sprinkle with chaat masala if using. Chaat masala is a fine powdered mix of spices that adds an extra tang and punch to the finished dish — similar to sprinkling sumac on Persian and other Middle Eastern style grilled meats.

Serve with basmati rice and your favorite side dishes.

Vegetable side dishes you might like with this: Tarka Dal, Brussels Sprouts or Cabbage with Coconut, Chaat Potatoes, and Aloo Gobi.

Or if you have more time, this tasty pickle: Indian Spiced Cauliflower, Daikon & Carrot Pickle

Another yogurt-based marinade: Persian-style Grilled Chicken

With Basmati Rice with Peas and Cucumber Yogurt Salad


Learning from Our Friends: Going Meatless with Kitchiri

Finally, we’re back in real time on this site...It’s been a long haul and we’re still not 100% settled. This is by far the most difficult move we’ve had to make, and glad it’s almost over. One of the things that starts to signal a return to normalcy is when familiar things show up in the pantry again — old friends like these preserved lemons! This is a jar I just started 5 days ago and topped up with olive oil this morning. As we know by now, it’ll be 4+ weeks before this batch is ready to use. That’s okay, it’s worth the wait.

Preparing these lemons was bittersweet, too. It was a reminder of the preserved lemon torta we prepared last summer and sent as part of the appeal to raise money for our fellow blogger, Briana Brownlow at Figs with Bri. The appeal was to help Bri pay for the costs of her treatments in her second battle with breast cancer. During our hiatus, we learned from the fundraiser’s organizers at Jugalbandi that Bri died on October 26, 2008, at the too young age of 32. I will always think of the sunny optimism Bri’s site and her personality inspired, and associate that with the bright yellow and sunny flavor of lemons. Our deepest condolences and prayers go to Marc and all Bri’s family and friends. Thank you for allowing us to share in her warmth and optimism.

One of the things that Bri, as well as Bee and Jai, Shilpa and Dhivya, and other vegetarian bloggers continue to teach us is that modern vegetarian cooking is incredibly diverse and imaginative. It’s not all tofu and brown rice! And while we haven’t made the leap to vegetarianism ourselves, we continue to strive for 2-3 meatless meals each week. Kitchiri or Khichdi, the basis for the British dish called Kedgeree, is one of our favorites: usually a mix of lentils or split peas with rice in a spice-laden porridge, this is one of the most versatile and tasty dishes around (Shilpa even has a version with tapioca and potatoes that is on our to-try list).

After sampling many different versions from the Web and from cookbooks since April, we’ve evolved a version of our own that can be thrown together without reference to a recipe (aahhh, The Way of Cooking continues): using 3 parts pulses (dried split peas or lentils) to 2 parts rice cooked with turmeric and ground cumin, a seasoned oil topping (the tadka or tarka), and usually grated coconut (it’s not only yummy, it’s supposed to be helpful with T’s thyroid condition) and a mix of other vegetables (squash, hard or summer; corn; greens; even breadfruit). Although the basics are the same from week to week, changing the type of pea or lentil used, and the availability of seasonal vegetables keeps us from getting bored with this wonderful dish. Choose a split pea or lentil for faster cooking and Even in Hawaii’s hot summer months, kitchiri was a warm and welcome meal at the end of the day, but it’s especially beloved now as the days get shorter and the evenings colder here in metro DC. It also makes a hearty and filling alternative to oatmeal or other hot cereal in the morning — we often have the previous night’s leftovers for breakfast. Add a little broth or water when you re-heat the kitchiri, as it will thicken as it sits.

Serves 4-6 persons

1-1/2 cups split lentils or peas
1 cup rice, medium or long grain
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt

Wash well and check for small pebbles in lentils or peas. Separately wash and rinse rice. Combine pulses, rice and water in large dutch oven. Bring to boil over high heat, removing foam as it rises to surface. When water reaches a boil, turn heat down to medium, add turmeric, cumin, and salt, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, or until pulses just begin to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the tarka.

The tarka, or seasoned oil, is another area where you can be creative about what combination of spices you use. But if you’ve never tried popped brown or black mustard seeds, I urge you to search them out at an Indian or Asian grocer — I’ve even found them in Chinese markets. The aroma and flavor of popped mustard seeds does not really have an equal in the culinary world, and adds a wonderful dimension to this and many other dishes (see also Chaat Potatoes for another great use of this ingredient). Whatever combination of spices you choose, cooking them in oil with the onions and garlic will add another depth to the flavors you are creating. As for the asafoetida, it also has a flavor that can’t be substituted, and it has the added benefit of reducing the “gassy” effects of the pulses — Leave it out at your own peril!

2 TBL. olive oil, or other light-tasting oil
1 TBL. brown mustard seed
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. amchur, ground green mango powder
1/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
2” stick cinnamon
1-3 serrano peppers, seeded and sliced (optional, we have to leave this out on the advice of our acupuncturist)

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add brown mustard seeds to oil, and as soon as they start popping and releasing their popcorn-like aroma (which is usually immediately), add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium, cover, and cook until onions are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.

Add curry leaves, coriander powder, amchur, asafoetida, garam masala, and cinnamon stick. Stir together and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add tarka to simmering pulses and rice. Check water level, you may need to add 1/2 cup to 1 cup more water (will depend on type of lentil/peas used). Stir spices through, cover and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes.

To Finish:
Sea salt, to taste
4 oz. frozen or fresh grated coconut
8 oz. roasted or cooked kabocha, butternut, acorn, or other hard squash
or any combination of summer squashes (zucchini, yellow), corn, upo or other gourd, fresh green beans or peas, or raw or flash-cooked greens (see Flash-cooked Chinese mustard greens or Watercress). We’ve also used roasted breadfruit, edamame, frozen spinach, and lima beans — let your imagination and seasonal vegetables be your guide! This may also be a way to sneak in vegetables people THINK they don’t like... sneaky, yes, but sometimes necessary. (Note to my MIL and FIL: I would NEVER do this to you guys! Everyone else takes their chances in my kitchen...)

Taste mixture, and season with salt as necessary.
Add a mix of vegetables from the list above to the pot, and continue cooking until pulses are cooked soft, about another 20-30 minutes, check water level after 15 minutes, and add more as needed.

Garnish with minced cilantro or green onion, and serve with naan, roti or other flatbread, and maybe a yogurt raita.

Kitchiri with yellow split peas, brown rice, coconut and roasted acorn squash

See also Preserving the Perfume of Lemons for a step-by-step guide to making preserved lemons at home, and the Lemon Vigil for a weekly view of lemons during their 5-week journey from fresh to preserved. A new recipe using preserved lemons coming next.


Indian Spiced Cauliflower, Daikon & Carrot Pickle

While we're waiting on the Preserved Lemons to finish curing, here's a pickle that is addictive to eat as it is easy to make. This carrot, radish and cauliflower pickle is tangy sweet with a mild bite of mustard from the mustard oil and brown mustard seeds in the brine. Similar to a chow-chow or mustard piccallili, or even an Italian giardinera, this flavorful veggie combo can serve as a side dish accent to a main meal or as a condiment or ingredient in other dishes. We crave it with almost every Indian meal, but also serve with grilled or roasted meats, and chop it up and stir into tuna, pasta and grain salads. For pasta, rice or grain salads, I've also used the unctuous spicy brine as a shortcut to making a dressing for the salad. In the photo below, chopped vegetable pickles and the brine were added to sweet potatoes, peas, pineapple and couscous to make a filling for stuffed artichokes. This is a pantry staple for us now, too — it's versatility seems to know no bounds!

Flavors of India by Madhur Jaffrey)
1 cup (240ml) mustard oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small coin of ginger, peeled and julienned
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium cauliflower, washed and divided into florets
1 small daikon (1 lb/450g), peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5cm cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5cm cubes
2 tsp. garam masala
1-2 TBL cayenne pepper powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 TBL. brown mustard seeds, gently crushed
1 TBL. kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup (130g) raw sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) white vinegar

Heat mustard oil in wok or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook until onions lightly brown. Add ginger and garlic, and stir fry 1 minute.
Add cauliflower, daikon and carrots and fry together 1 minute. Add garam masala, pepper, cumin, mustard seeds and salt, and stir through. Mix sugar into vinegar, then add to pan. Stir through and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Sterilize a large quart jar, and transfer pickle to jar. Cover with cheesecloth or paper towel secured with a rubber band to allow excess moisture to evaporate.. Keep jar in a dry, sunny spot for 2 days. Occasionally shake the jars to distribute spices. On the third day, remove the cheesecloth and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Leave on countertop in a warm, sunny spot for another 4-7 days. Once pickle has soured a little, it is ready and can be kept in the refrigerator after use.

Serve as part of an Indian meal, or with roasted or grilled chicken. Add to couscous, rice or other grains, along with vegetables of your choice to make a quick salad or stuffing for cooked and de-choked artichokes.


Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spiced Cabbage Salad

This entire meal came together in under an hour, including the time to defrost and marinate the fish. The ingredients for the warm salad may seem exotic, but dals and brown mustard seeds can often be found in the bulk section of well-stocked health food stores so you may not have to look too far afield to find what you need for this salad. It may seem an unusual way to use lentils and beans — to dry fry them instead of boiling them — but once you get a taste for the nutty crunch and spice they lend to foods you, too, will find reasons to serve them again! The combination of cabbage and coconut is one we fell in love with when we first tried Brussels Sprouts with Coconut last fall, so this was an easy sell even if it weren't so quick to assemble and cook.

3 TBL. mustard oil, or olive oil (not EVOO)
2 tsp. channa dal
2 tsp. urad dal
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
20 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1-4 serrano chiles, seeded and sliced
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 carrot, julienned or grated
sea salt
1/2 cup grated coconut

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add dals and mustard seeds, and fry until mustard seeds start to pop (about 10 seconds). Add curry leaves, if using, and stir through. Add chiles
and stir through, then cabbage, carrots and sea salt. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until cabbage just wilts, about 8-10 minutes. Add coconut, and stir to heat through. Turn off heat and leave covered until ready to serve.

Crimson red snapper, known locally as opakapaka, is found in Hawaiian waters but is one of several species that are still under a fishing ban in the main Islands. The local fisheries council instituted the ban in 2006 to allow the opakapaka population to recover from over-fishing. The only opakapaka available here now arrives flash-frozen from Asia and the northern Hawaiian Islands. Of course, most "fresh" fish in supermarkets and fishmongers arrives frozen, and what we are buying is actually thawed fish. As long as frozen fish is protected from freezer burn, as with these shrink-wrapped individual fillets, you can always have "fresh" fish in your freezer and available at a moment's notice. In these photos, the frozen fillets were thawed in 15 minutes in a cool salt bath, towel-dried and produced the fillets on the right. I use about 1/3 cup coarse sea salt to 1.5 qt/L. of cold water, stirred vigorously to dissolve the salt. Frozen fillets are added to the water and left for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The trick is not to leave the fillets in longer than this or they can become water-logged. Pat dry the fish, and use immediately.

2 fillets opakapaka, or other snapper, fillets (with skin on)
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground yellow mustard powder (e.g., Coleman's)
4 tsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
fine sea salt
oil for cooking

Combine coriander and mustard powders. Sprinkle spices onto skinless side of fish, and gently massage. Drizzle 2 tsp. of lemon juice on each fillet. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat skillet large enough to hold both fillets over medium-high heat. Add oil to skillet. Season fillets with sea salt, and place skinless side down on skillet. Cook for 1 minute and turn heat down to medium. Cook another 2-3 minutes, or until browned crust forms and releases from pan. Turn fish over and cook another 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. It will flake easily when cooked.

To assemble, mound cabbage onto plate and place fish on top. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.


Fingerling Potatoes with Fenugreek

I came across this intriguing recipe while browsing through Dhivya's massive Potato Fe(a)st Event at DK's Culinary Bazaar earlier this month. It came from Eskay at A Bon Vivant's Chow Chronicle and she called it Fenugreek'ed Potatoes, named after the defining herb in the recipe. Fenugreek is used as both a spice and an herb. As a spice, it's available as triangular, amber-colored seeds prized for its distinct bitterness. Along with turmeric, it adds most of the defining color and flavor to commercial "curry powders."

As an herb, it can be found in both fresh and dried forms at specialty Indian markets. I've seen fenugreek seeds both bottled and sold by the ounce at health food stores here and on the Mainland, but not the leaves. Even at specialty stores, the fresh leaves can be hard to come by unless the shop caters to a sizable Indian population. However the dried form, called Kasoori Methi, is usually on the shelves. Dried methi leaves have a pleasing clean, minty, and almost astringent aroma. When fried lightly in hot oil, as in this recipe, it becomes nutty and smoky. The amazing change in character is reminiscent of the transformation of a fresh green jalapeno pepper to a smoky chipotle.

I had only used kasuri methi in a handful of recipes, and they were usually part of a large mix of other spices and herbs, so I really could not have told you what fenugreek leaves on their own tasted like. Eskay's recipe really stood out because it highlighted the flavor of fenugreek. I had some dried methi leaves (or so I thought), and we had just scored a bag of fingerling potatoes, so it seemed like a perfect time to try this! I first attempted to make this last week as a side for some ribs, but found that my poorly-secured bag of methi leaves had become infested with bugs. Ick! Luckily we had a chance to drive through the university district and stop by the India Market to stock up on some staples. I passed it at least five times on the shelf because the new box was spelled differently ("Qasuri Methi" it might also be spelled "Kasuri"), but finally realized what I was seeing.

This was part of our Easter Sunday meal with
Lamb Rib Chops & Lentils Catalane, steamed asparagus, and a cucumber and radish raita (yogurt salad). The earthy, smoked flavors worked surprisingly well with the sunny flavors of the lamb and lentils. In fact, the lentils and potatoes complemented each other so well I couldn't resist making a grilled sandwich with them: whole wheat bread, garlic mayo on the potato side, Kasoori Methi Potatoes, and Lentils Catalane, grilled with olive oil = Heaven!

One note: I cut larger potatoes down to the size of the smallest ones for even cooking, and found the cut ones had the added bonus of absorbing more of the spice flavors (no surprise). If you prefer skin-on whole potatoes, you may want to cut or at least score the potatoes after steaming, but before frying, to allow the spices to reach the buttery potato interior.

We've grown to really love tangy, sour flavors
whether it's tamarind in curries; powdered sumac on grilled meats; wild lime leaves in Laotian stews; or dried whole limes in Persian stews. If you enjoy any of these flavors, don't skip the sprinkling of amchoor powder in the first step.

(adapted from Eskay's
Fenugreek'ed Potatoes)

2 lb. fingerling potatoes
1/2-1 tsp. amchoor, aka dried green mango powder (optional)
tsp. sea salt

Scrub well, and cut larger potatoes in halves or thirds. Steam or boil potatoes until just cooked. Peel potatoes, if desired (we prefer the skins on). Combine amchoor and salt, then liberally season potatoes while still warm. (If not using amchoor, season to taste with sea salt.) Keep aside.

2 tsp. coriander seed
tsp. cumin seed

In a mortar, grind together coriander and cumin seeds to make a fine powder.

TBL. olive oil
5 TBL. kasoori methi
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or Aleppo)
sea salt

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add spices, cayenne, and methi leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add potatoes and stir through to coat with leaves and spices. Cover, reduce heat and cook together for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until serving.

For a vegetarian meal, Eskay recommends rice or rotis, and a dal (see earlier posts:
Tarka Dal or Mung Bean & Gourd Stew). We found it a perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb, as well as a hearty sandwich filling with lentils.

UPDATE: I was delighted to see lavaterra in Germany try this recipe as part of a vegetarian meal, along with a spring salad. You can see her version, and get the recipe auf Deutsch, "Kartoffeln mit Kasoori Methi"


A Sponge for Flavor: The Bottlegourd or Upo

Mung Beans and Bottlegourd

This spicy, easy recipe with new flavors came to us last week on a visit to Sagari's Indian Cooking website. She combines quick-cooking mung beans (no soaking needed) and a ridge gourd with spices to produce a memorable one-dish meal. Served with rotis or other flatbread (we had whole wheat tortillas), this simple dal is great cool weather comfort food and a nice change of pace from soup. I usually use mung beans to make a Filipino soup with pork, greens and fish sauce, so this was a nice alternative to our old stand-by.

We didn't have ridge gourd, but had picked up a nice young bottle gourd, or
upo, over the weekend. When choosing a gourd, I look for something heavy for its size as older gourds begin to lose water and become fibrous. So fibrous, in fact, that when fully dried they become a bath sponge, the loofah (derived from its Latin genus Luffa). My mom used to supply me with bath loofahs from her backyard garden on Guam when the occasional one escaped her notice until past its edible prime. Upo and other gourds of its ilk are mildly sweet on their own, but readily absorb flavors from their cooking medium. Usually I use upo in soups like Chicken Tinola or even a regular chicken soup, in place of zucchini or other squash. With the mung beans in this dish, it added a nice textural element to the soupy dal.
Upo, or bottlegourdLoofah bath sponge

Sagari's recipe is made using a pressure cooker, so I've adapted it here to cook in a regular saucepan.

(adapted from
Indian Cooking)
4 tbs oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. musturd seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 cup tomato ( chopped)
2 TBL. cilantro
2 dry red chilies
3/4 cup dried mung beans, rinsed well
1 medium upo (about 1.5 lb total weight), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (peeling is optional for smaller gourds)
1.5 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Preheat 3-quart or larger saucepan over medium high heat, then add oil, cumin and mustard seeds and chilies. When seeds begin to pop, immediately add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato and cilantro leaves, and whole chilies and cook until tomatoes soften.

Add mung beans, upo, salt and water, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until beans are soft and thicken broth.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbreads. This will thicken as it sits and cools, and was equally delicious the next day cold, topping thick sliced toast. Thanks to Sagari for a new way to look at mung beans and gourds!

Mung dal with upo


Spice up your Valentine's: Vindaloo Curry Sauce

Vindaloo with lamb

I grew up eating curry on a regular basis. In truth, it was “Curry Rice” a Japanese adaptation of a Western (I’m guessing British) version of Indian-style curries. I don’t think you could get more attenuated from the original source than this. If you’ve never had Japanese curry rice, it’s kind of hard to describe because it bears little resemblance to the august culinary heritage from which it was adopted. There is something distinctly Japanese about it, which I can’t quite put my finger on. You make curry rice by cooking together meat (if using) and vegetables in a broth or water, then adding this block of pre-mixed paste to season and create a thick gravy. But for the first 20-some odd years of my life, when I heard the word “curry,” this is what I saw in my head:
Japanese Curry RiceJapanese curry seasoning paste
It never occurred to me that curry rice was something one could make from scratch because the secret blend of spices in the commercial mix seemed too perfect and too obtuse to mess with. I’ve looked at websites with Japanese-style curry rice recipes, but none have quite fit the bill. I’m still looking.

On a trip back from college one year, the Guam Hilton sponsored a curry festival in one of their restaurants and brought in an Indian chef from Singapore to create a dozen different types of curries. The most revelatory aspect of this event was that each curry (lamb, fish, chicken, duck, vegetable) had a different sauce! I know that sounds absurd now, but at the time the only difference in curries I had known was mild, medium or hot spiciness in curry rice (you could add different ingredients, but the sauce itself was the same)! I can’t stress how much this first visit (we went back 3-4 more times while the event was going on) opened my eyes to the vast and varied world of Indian cuisine and started a continuing love-affair with all its many forms.

So I could not pass up the chance to share in zorra’s enthusiasm for spice and curries in her
Curry Event at 1x umrühren bitte (click here or in the banner), by bringing one of our favorite curries, Vindaloo, out from the recipe pages into a post.

Vindaloo is itself a blend of cultures, the influence of Portuguese settlers on India’s west coast region of Goa. Vindaloo’s Portuguese heritage is betrayed in its inclusion of vinegar and its copious use of garlic in the sauce. This sauce is best with red meats and fowl (such as duck); we make it most often with lamb.

If 1lb. of meat seems like a small amount, that’s because a meat curry is usually only one of several dishes in a typical Indian dinner (the others are usually legume stews (dals), vegetables, pickles and salads). A very healthy way to dine!

(But I still love curry rice! And it's a favored stand-by and comfort food in our home, gracing our table at least once a month. With the block-o-paste seasoning it’s a great weekday shortcut to a delicious hot meal in 30 minutes or less.)
Vindaloo with Lamb

(serving for 4 persons as part of a full Indian dinner)

1 lb. of boneless meat (pork, lamb, beef duck, or chicken) cut into large cubes
1 piece of tamarind pulp, about the size of a walnut soaked in 2 cups (500ml) warm water for 30 minutes
ghee or unsalted butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 knob of ginger, peeled and julienned
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
4-10 dried red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp black peppercorns 1½ tsp whole cloves 1 cinnamon stick 1 TBL. brown sugar ¼ cup (175ml) apple cider vinegar

Gently fry onions in a medium saute pan about 5 minutes over low heat. Turn heat up to medium, and add ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and peppers and continue cooking until onions are translucent, about another 5 minutes. Add cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, brown sugar and cinnamon stick. Cook another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, press tamarind mixture through sieve and extract as much liquid as possible. Add tamarind juice to sauce, and cook another 10 minutes. Taste — it should be tart and lightly sweet and hot (peppery). Can be cooled and stored in fridge until needed.

When ready to add meat, remove cinnamon stick and puree sauce in blender or with hand/stick blender.

Season meat with salt and pepper, and brown well in separate pan. Add ½ cup (125 ml) water to deglaze pan used to brown meat. Return meat and curry to pan, and cook 20-35 minutes uncovered, or until meat is tender.
Serve with basmati rice, dal and Indian vegetables. (See recipes for
Tarka Dal, Brussels Sprouts or Cabbage with Coconut, Chaat Potatoes, Aloo Gobi)


At the movies: Aloo Gobi

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

When I think about my favorite food-related movies, one of the first to mind is "Bend It Like Beckham." What? What does a movie about girls playing football/soccer have to do with food? Well, there's an iconic line in the movie when the protagonist, Jesminder, says, "Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?" Jesminder is a bit of a soccer fiend, but in order to play she has to overcome stereotypes about women's roles in her culture say, as makers of aloo gobi (a spicy potato and cauliflower).

As the oldest and only girl in my family, I sympathized with Jesminder's plight, to be sure (I heard "Young ladies don't scuba dive"), but the aloo gobi reference really hit home when I found Director Gurinder Chadha's "how-to-cook aloo gobi" featurette at the end of the DVD. She provides a wonderful peek into her family and her kitchen technique when she makes aloo gobi with her mother and aunt "supervising" in the background. I laughed so hard I cried the first time I saw this because it reminded me so much of cooking with my own mother — me trying to take shortcuts and improvise, mom insisting it had to be "done the right. way." Aloo gobi has been one of my favorite dishes for over 15 years, and the dish on the screen looked so good that I wanted to try Director Chadha's recipe. I took notes on the recipe and technique directly from the DVD, pausing and writing, rewinding often to capture it just so.

This is the recipe I use every time now, and it's what we had for T's b-day dinner last night. It's a nice balance of heat (we only use 2 serrano chilies) and spice, and definitely my favorite use of cauliflower! If Indian cooking is new to you, this is a good introduction because it doesn't require some of the more exotic spices (like fenugreek, kalonji, or brown mustard seeds) in other traditional recipes. If you're leery of peppers and heat in your food, try using hot paprika instead of sweet paprika and leave out the serranos altogether, but some small measure of heat is necessary to balance out the dish. Enjoy!

Aloo Gobi

(as prepared by Gurinder Chadha)

Ghee or unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Medium cauliflower, quartered, then sliced
2 large potatoes, quartered then sliced
1 TBL cumin seeds
1-3 green (serrano) chilies, sliced
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
3-6 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp sweet (regular) paprika
3 canned tomatoes, and juice
handful cilantro, chop stems and pick off leaves for garnish
1 1/2 tsp garam masala

Heat ghee, add cumin seeds, then onion and cilantro stems. Cook until translucent ("creamy golden").
Add chilies, turmeric, salt. Add paprika, then tomatoes. Stir in.
Add ginger, garlic cook about 1 min.
Add potatoes, cook 5 minutes
Add cauliflower and 2 TBL water, cover and cook 10 minutes.
Add garam masala cook 10 more minutes until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy.
Add cilantro leaves. Cover, turn off heat and leave 10 minutes.

Serve with naan or basmati rice. We had this with
vindaloo (meat curry) and tarka dal (spiced lentils). Also excellent cold the next day as a sandwich or tortilla wrap.

Go, Broncos! (SCU)


What Brussels sprouts inspired

We found some incredibly fresh brussels sprouts at a market recently. They aren't local, but it's been so long since we've seen such fresh brussels sprouts that we had to buy them. I've always liked the German name for them, Rosenkohl, which means "rose cabbage." They do look like little green roses, don't they?

When they're so fresh, I like to cook sprouts in minimal amount of time so they retain their bright green color, crunch and sweet fresh flavor. So many people wrinkle their noses when they hear "brussels sprouts" — I know how they feel because I used to be one of them! If the only sprouts you've tried were boiled to death and a smelly flaccid green, then I hope one day you'll give them a second chance. They can and should be crunchy, sweet and full of healthful, cancer-busting goodness that their cruciferous cousins broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower also have.

So what to do with these little beauties? We felt overdue for a non-meat meal, so I began to think South Asian. We had made a dish once with cabbage and coconut so it seemed a natural to substitute the sprouts. The pantry turned up split yellow mung beans and potatoes so we settled on the following menu: a dry curry with brussels sprouts and coconut, tarka dal, and chaat potatoes. And store-bought naan (was in the freezer). The sprouts were wonderful prepared this way. I just wish I had had fresh coconut on hand (living on a tropical island, you'd think coconuts would be falling out of trees, wouldn't you? ... well, actually they do, but I didn't do the husking, cracking, grating thing for this ... sorry)

The best thing about having left over tarka dal is making a tortilla wrap with it the next day. It is so-o-o good. I actually put all these bits in a spinach tortilla and it was delicious. Cold, no need to heat anything up. Even better is if you make an aloo gobi and tarka dal wrap the next day. (Mmmm, guess what will appearing soon?)
Brussel sprouts with coconut and mustard seed

Brussels sprouts with coconut
1.25 lbs. (1/2 kilo) brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
2 TBL unsalted butter (or ghee if you have it)
1 TBL black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
3-5 TBL dried unsweetened coconut, or 1/2 cup fresh grated
3 TBL coconut milk (optional) - this is not in the cabbage recipe, I added it for liquid to help cook the sprouts

Boil water and briefly blanch sprouts (no more than a couple of minutes). Drain (keep some of the water) and cool. (I skipped this step)

Heat butter in pan and add mustard seeds. When seeds begin to pop (I love the smell of popping mustard seeds! It's like spicy popcorn), add ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and coconut. Warm spices.

If using coconut milk, add now. Add sprouts and coat with spices. Cover and lower heat.

If not using coconut milk, add sprouts and coat with spice mixture. Keep mixture moving in pan so spices don't burn. You may want to add some water from the blanching if the pan is too dry.

Cook until sprouts are just tender and still bright green. Remove from heat immediately.

Tarka dal

Tarka Dal
2/3 cup (160g) lentils, split peas or mung beans
2 cups (500ml) water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

For the Tarka
3-4 TBL unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
1-3 dried red chilies (had to leave these out this time)

Boil together the pulses, water, spices and salt. When the water reaches a boil, lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until the pulse reaches a soft consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the tarka. Saute onions and garlic in butter until onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add crushed chilies and warm through. Remove from heat.

Add half of tarka to cooked dal and stir well. Remove dal to serving bowl and garnish top with remaining tarka.

Chaat Potatoes
2 large baking potatoes (about 1lb/.5kg)
3 TBL unsalted butter

2 TBL Bhel chutney, or date chutney
1 tsp honey
2 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp cayenne powder

Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch dice. Melt butter in pan and fry potatoes on all sides.

Mix together chutney and honey in large bowl.
Combine chaat masala and cayenne powder.

Remove cooked potato cubes into bowl with chutney/honey mix, and coat well. Immediately sprinkle masala/chili mix and mix to coat well. Let cool a bit so flavors will blend.

These make a great drinks appetizer, too. Just serve with toothpicks.
Spicy chaat potatoes