with Dried Fruit
you need to know about Indian food can be found in a single
phrase in a cookbook by the otherwise reasonable Anupy
book "Indian for Everyone" contains a recipe for
Chana Aloo, a meal of curried chickpeas and potatoes.
Calling the dish comforting and wholesome, she adds that it
is — and this is the important phrase — "an easy
recipe for Chana Aloo contains 19 ingredients, and two of
these are complicated spice mixes that she suggests you make
yourself. One of the spice mixes is created from six
ingredients, the other from 17 ingredients.
to an Indian cook, is an easy dinner option.
other hand, and this cannot be stressed enough, it is this
multiplicity of ingredients and the painstaking process of
putting them together that makes Indian food so sublime. The
dishes are built from layers upon layers of flavors,
combining in an unworldly melange of complex tastes.
other words, Indian food is worth the effort. Oh, how it is
a vast and multifaceted nation with 22 official languages
and nine recognized religions, is home to more than 17
percent of the world’s total population. What that means
in culinary terms is that the country is not defined by one
single style of cooking.
residents of Hyderabad, in the south, are known for their
biryani — rice dishes topped with shredded meats. Punjab,
in the north, is where tandoori cooking comes from, with the
food cooked in hot clay ovens. Goa, on the west coast,
specializes in fish and is influenced by the cuisine of
Portugal, which once colonized it. Food in Bengal, in the
east, is often cooked in mustard oil and is noted for the
subtlety of its flavors.
one thing that remains constant across the entire country is
spice. Sometimes the food is hot, sometimes it is hotter and
sometimes it is not hot at all, but it is always cooked with
plenty of spices. The country is awash in spice, from the
pungent, bright yellow turmeric to the bitter licorice taste
of fennel seed, from the heady and aromatic nutmeg to the
sharp warmth of ginger.
the way these spices are chosen and blended together that
gives Indian food its highly developed, refined sensibility.
could spend a lifetime studying Indian food and still not
learn half of what there is to know about the subject. I
decided to make four dishes and call it a day.
began with Lamb in an Almond Sauce, a dish that encapsulates
everything I love about Indian food. It’s a stew, so it
takes some time to cook — and that gives the flavors a
chance to blend and mingle until they form a new, nuanced
taste of their own.
in an Almond Sauce is a perfect example of the layered
flavors found in Indian cooking. You begin by toasting the
spices, which intensifies their piquancy while imparting to
them a faint nuttiness. Then you make a paste of aromatics
— garlic, ginger and turmeric, blended with water.
searing cubes of meat, you caramelize onions in the same
pan. Then you add the blended aromatics and the toasted
spices, followed by a bit of yogurt to tone down the flavor’s
flamboyance. Tomato sauce is next, adding yet another type
as impressive as anything you’d find at an Indian
next dish was similar in tone, but utterly different —
which is the joy of Indian cooking. As with the lamb dish,
Chicken with Dried Fruit is a stew (technically, it’s a
braise) cooked with an abundance of spice. Actually, many of
the spices are even the same.
the amounts that are used, and the way they are prepared,
results in a manifestly different experience. This dish
takes its cues from its use of yogurt and cilantro, which
form the structure on which the other ingredients are hung.
The other spices, though notable, take a culinary back seat.
there is a problem with Chicken with Dried Fruit, it is that
it is ridiculously oily. I skimmed off nearly all of the
oil, even though it was highly flavored, just for the sake
of health. It didn’t seem to detract from the dish at all.
Indian foods use a lot of oil, but the next one I made,
Shrimp Curry, is made with no oil at all. This is a simple
dish, and the quickest of all the ones I made, but its
flavor is no less robust.
secret is a selection of spices that are simmered together
with water until they are a bit concentrated, and then they
are cooled down with coconut milk (I said it is made without
oil; I did not say it is made without fat). A bit of
tamarind paste would give it a sweet and tangy bite, but I
didn’t use tamarind paste because I wanted to make dishes
using nothing but ingredients you can find at a reasonably
well-stocked grocery store.
place of the tamarind paste, I added honey and lemon. It’s
not as good or as fruity as the tamarind would be, but once
the shrimp start simmering in the curry you just know that
it is going to be spectacular.
I made a side dish that is an excellent way to recuperate
while eating a spicy entrée.
is a dish of yogurt that has been mixed with tomatoes,
cucumbers, lemon juice and the like. In the variation I
made, Roasted Eggplant Raita, the most notable flavor comes
from roasted eggplant.
there is more to it than that, of course. The raita is
boosted with cumin, scallions, ginger, ground coriander,
cilantro and even, if you want it, a jalapeño.
with all Indian food, it is a perfect mixture of spices. One
taste, and you’re going to want to finish the entire bowl.
IN AN ALMOND SAUCE
4 to 6 servings
1 to 2
dried hot red chilies
teaspoon black peppercorns
teaspoons cumin seeds
tablespoon unsweetened, dried, shredded coconut
tablespoons coarsely chopped blanched almonds
tablespoons coriander seeds (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon
nutmeg (scant 1 teaspoon ground)
(1/2-inch) piece of mace (1/2 teaspoon ground)
garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
(1-inch) cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
teaspoon ground turmeric
tablespoons vegetable oil
pounds boneless meat from shoulder of lamb, cut into 1-inch
cubes, see note
medium onions, peeled and finely minced
tablespoons plain yogurt
cup canned tomato sauce
If you can’t find meat from the shoulder of a lamb or lamb
stew meat, use beef stew meat. The taste will be different,
but it will still be excellent. Don’t worry about
authenticity — beef is eaten in some regions of India.
Combine the cloves, chilies, peppercorns, cardamom pods,
cumin seeds, coconut, almonds, coriander seeds, nutmeg and
mace in a heavy skillet over medium heat (if using ground
coriander, nutmeg or mace, leave those spices out). Stir
until all the spices are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes
(at this point, add the ground coriander, nutmeg or mace and
stir for a few more seconds). Let spices cool a bit in a
separate bowl, then grind finely in a spice grinder, blender
or with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
the garlic, ginger, turmeric and 1/2 cup water into a
blender and blend until smooth.
Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over fairly high heat.
When hot, put in 7 or 8 pieces of meat at a time to brown.
When each batch is brown on all sides, remove with a slotted
spoon and place in a bowl. Continue to brown all the meat
this way and set aside.
the onions into the same pot and cook over high heat,
stirring and scraping up the juices for about 5 minutes, or
until they turn dark in spots. Then lower the heat to medium
and add the paste from the blender as well as the ground
spices. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, gradually adding the yogurt
as you do so, 1 tablespoon at a time.
the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover,
lower heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
the meat and all accumulated juices to the sauce. Add the
salt and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer
gently for 1 hour. Stir a few times as it cooks.
serving (based on 4): 625 calories; 47 g fat; 13 g saturated
fat; 119 mg cholesterol; 36 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate; 7
g sugar; 4 g fiber; 1,100 mg sodium; 100 mg calcium
adapted from "Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen,"
by Madhur Jaffrey
WITH DRIED FRUIT
teaspoon salt, divided
teaspoon ground cumin
teaspoon ground coriander
teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
tablespoons minced cilantro
pounds chicken pieces (preferably thighs, but all parts will
tablespoons vegetable oil
In The Garden
(2-inch) cinnamon stick
tablespoons blanched slivered almonds
tablespoons golden raisins
the yogurt in a bowl and beat it lightly until smooth and
creamy. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, some black pepper, the
cumin, coriander, cayenne and cilantro. Mix and set aside.
Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and
pepper, using the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Heat the oil in a wide, preferably nonstick pan over
medium-high heat. When hot, add the cardamom, cloves,
cinnamon and bay leaves. Stir once and add as many chicken
pieces as the pan will hold easily in a single layer. Brown
the chicken on both sides and set aside in a large bowl.
Brown all the chicken this way and remove to the bowl.
Into the same hot oil, add the almonds and raisins. Stir
quickly. The almonds should turn golden, and the raisins
should plump up — this should happen very fast. Put the
chicken and its accumulated juices back into the pan. Add
the seasoned yogurt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.
Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes
(longer if the pieces of chicken are large), stirring once
or twice. Remove cover, turn the heat up a bit, and reduce
the sauce until it is thick and just clings to the chicken
pieces, turning the chicken pieces over gently as you do so.
Remove large whole spices before serving with rice.
serving: 682 calories; 49 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 286 mg
cholesterol; 50 g protein; 10 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 789 mg sodium; 133 mg calcium
from "Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen," by Madhur
teaspoon cayenne pepper
teaspoon ground turmeric
garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a pulp
piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated to a pulp
tablespoons coriander seeds (or 11/2 tablespoons ground)
teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
(14-ounce) can coconut milk, well stirred
teaspoon salt, or to taste
tablespoon tamarind paste (or 2 tablespoons honey plus 2
tablespoons lemon juice)
pound peeled and deveined, medium-sized uncooked shrimp
a bowl, combine 11/4 cups water with the cayenne pepper,
paprika, turmeric, garlic and ginger. Mix well. Grind the
coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and add
to mixture, or add ground coriander and cumin.
Place the spice mixture into a pan and bring to a simmer.
Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add
the coconut milk, salt, tamarind paste (or honey and lemon
juice) and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and simmer,
stirring occasionally, until they turn opaque and are just
serving: 139 calories; 4 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 141 mg
cholesterol; 16 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 1,095 mg sodium; 296 mg calcium
from "Flavors of India," by Madhur Jaffrey
large (1-pound) eggplant, skin on
teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
cups plain yogurt (not nonfat or low-fat)
cup finely chopped green onions, white and tender green
teaspoon finely chopped ginger
teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper, optional
cup chopped cilantro or 1 teaspoon dried mint
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with
aluminum foil. Pierce eggplant all over with a knife or
fork. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and bake 45
minutes or until eggplant is shriveled and appears to be
very mushy. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.
Peel eggplant with your fingers and discard peel and stem.
Place eggplant in a large bowl and mash flesh with a large
fork or potato masher, or finely chop with a knife.
Place cumin seeds, if using, in a small frying pan on high
heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir cumin for 1 to 2 minutes,
or until dark brown. Immediately add seeds to eggplant. If
using ground cumin, add to eggplant without toasting first.
yogurt, green onions, ginger, coriander, salt, jalapeño, if
using, and cilantro or mint. Stir with a spoon, cover with
plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2
to 3 days (in an airtight container) before serving.
serving: 113 calories; 4 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 12 mg
cholesterol; 6 g protein; 17 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 7g
fiber; 631 mg sodium; 144 mg calcium
from "Vij’s at Home," by Meeru Dhalwala and