Monday, November 24, 2014

Garam Masala

Homemade Garam masala


Garam: Garam literally means "hot," but refers more to the strength of the spices rather than a spicy capsicum component. While many store-bought garam masala powders are indeed quite spicy the recipe I use is actually not spicy at all.

Masala: Masala literally means "mixture," but it usually is used referring to a mixture of spices which is the base of a curry dish.

This is a simple recipe which uses whole spices which we quickly toast in the pan to maximize their flavors. Many store-bought Garam Masala powders are not toasted to save the manufacturer time and to make the spice blends last longer. Unfortunately, this severely limits its flavor profile.
I would suggest getting a small coffee grinder and reserving it for grinding spices. Fresh ground spices are much more pungent and powerful then pre-ground. Whole spices will keep for a lot longer than ground spices. I grind one recipe of this every 2 months or so.

1 stick cinnamon
10 green cardamom pods
5 bay leaves
1 T black peppercorn
1 t whole cloves
2 T cumin seeds
1 T coriander seeds
1 teas fennel seeds

Bring a small pan to medium heat. I like to add the spices in order from largest to smallest since the largest will need the most time to heat through properly. They are done when they are all pungent and giving off a strong spice smell. Toss them frequently to keep them from burning. After they are done, set them aside to cool or when you blend them they will create a lot of steam and loose some of their flavor (I know from experience).

Grind them into a fine powder and store in a spice jar for 1-2 months for optimal flavor.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mint cilantro chutney

Jessie makes this fairly regularly. I always have a few bites and give the rest to her, it's delicious but she likes it more then she likes me ;) which is saying something. This makes a good accompaniment to samosas as well as just eating it plain with Naan. Actually my very favorite application is to make a bagel with a little cream cheese and just put a very thin layer of the chutney on top of the cream cheese. The blend of the fresh herbs and the creamy cheese makes for a flavor explosion. I very briefly thought about going into the flavored cream cheese business based on this combination of flavors.

Another variation of this would be to use about a 1/4 a cup of yogurt to get some of that creaminess.

2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 small yellow onion
1 garlic clove
1/2 teas. cumin
2 green chilies, seeded and minced
1/2 teas. sugar
1 teas. salt
2 Tb.lemon juice

In a blender or cuisinart blend the cilantro, mint, onion, garlic, cumin, chili, sugar, salt, lemon juice until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. The chutney keeps for up to 2-3 days refrigerated in an air tight container.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lamb Curry

Lamb Curry

When I made this for the first time I hardly ate any of it. I know this may be hard to believe, but I took two bites, put the spoon down and sighed.

"It's almost too much, Like a rich dessert," I said to myself in a stupor.

I just stared at the bowl, moaned with pleasure and made plans to make it last for a few days. It was just too much, and too good, to be finished in just a single meal.

I LOVE LAMB. OK I've said it before and I will say it again. It's one of the cutest of meats, baby lambs are just so soft and fuzzy... and friendly... they will just nuzzle up in your arms and go to sleep... So... Are you going to eat that? 'cause I'll take it if you're not.

Don't be afraid of over-marinating. Marinate for 24 hours, or 48 hours, it'll be worth it I swear. I always hate it when a cookbook says you can marinate things for 4 hours. Sure you can, but there is hardly any point, especially if you are going to marinate in the refrigerator.

For the Marinade
3 medium red onions rough chopped
1 Tb cayenne pepper
1 Tb ground cumin
1/2 Tb tumeric
1/2 cup yogurt
1 Tb garam masala
3 teas salt

2 lbs leg of lamb cut into bite sized pieces

For the Gravy
3 Tb Oil
5 green cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teas cumin seeds
1 Tb ground coriander
4 green chilies
1 medium tomato chopped
2 cups water
1 cup yogurt
4 Tb chopped cilantro to garnish

Combine all the non-meat ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor and blend until it's a homogenous paste. Toss the meat in the marinade and mix well. cover and marinate in the refrigerator at least overnight and as much as 2-3 nights. If you only have 4-6 hours, massage the marinade into the meat every 30 minutes and keep it turning.

On the day of cooking, heat the oil in a large pan, add the whole spices (cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cumin seed) allow them to heat and crackle in the oil for a minute. Immediately add the ground coriander and the lamb with marinade and stir-fry on high heat for 5 minutes.

At this point you want to cook all of the juices out of the lamb and the marinade, this should take 20 minutes or so. Do this on medium-low heat. Only simmer, if the pan heats up to a full boil the proteins in the meat will clench up and become rubbery.

Once the meat is mostly dry increase the heat and caramelize the meat. When you see oil separating from the rest of the marinade it's done. this is called Bhunao and it essential to properly flavored Indian food.

Once the meat is browned and the sauce is done bhunao(ing), then you add the tomato, green chili and 1 cup of yogurt and 1 cup of water. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lamb is tender.

Put half of the lamb curry into a airtight container and send it to me. Enjoy the rest hot.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Butter Chicken

I think of butter chicken as the General Tso's chicken of Indian food. Sweet, rich, a little spicy, and nothing too far from the norm of the western palette. Of course, this dish originated in Britain. I still love it. Just because it didn't come from India originally doesn't mean it's not authentic... OK maybe it does. But it's delicious, thats all that should matter. Good day sir.

For marinade
1 lbs cubed Boneless chicken
1 T Lemon juice
1 T Cayenne
1/3 c Greek yogurt
2 T Ginger garlic paste
1/2 t Cayenne
1 t Garam masala
2 t Ghee

For gravy
2 T Butter
2 Green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
3 Black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon
2 T Ginger garlic paste
1/2 cup Tomato puree
1/2 t Cayenne
2 T Sugar
Large pinch methi leaves
3 T Half and Half

First sprinkle the lemon juice and cayenne over the chicken breasts and let sit for 30 minutes. While it's resting, mix the the ginger and garlic pastes, red chill and garam masala powders, salt and ghee. Apply all of the above to the chicken and let it marinate overnight. Skewer the marinaded chicken and put into a 400 F oven for 10 minutes or grill. Remove the chicken and set aside

To make the gravy, heat the butter in pan. Add the green cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon. Sauté to let the spices toast, add the ginger and garlic pastes and sauté for two minutes. Add the tomato puree, red chili powder, salt. Bhunao the mixture at this point removing all of the water and allowing it to stick lightly to the bottom of the pan but not to burn. This will bring the aromatic oils out of the spices. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and methi leaves. Add the cooked chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. finish at the last moment with Half and Half. Put half into a freezer bag, freeze and ship to me. Enjoy the other half with Naan or Rice.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Mulligatawny Soup

I used a famous chef who shall remain unnamed for the initial recipe for this soup. Lets leave it at he likes to kick things up notches and shouts Batman expletives at every turn.

His recipe is pretty tasty, and there are just a few points that I would change. I have made those adjustments below

This is another British addition to the Indian cuisine. It does have an indian version actually a Tamil version which translates to "pepper water", though I belive what we think of as mulligatawny has very little to do with that soup. Either way, gimme some more of that Pepper water!

4 Tb Ghee
2 lbs bone in skinned chicken thighs salted well
2 Tb Garam Masala
1.5 teas salt
3 small onions
1 carrot diced
1 celery rib diced
4 Tb ginger garlic paste
2 granny smith apples peeled and diced
1 medium yukon gold or other white potato
1 small sweet potato
1 cup dried red lentils
6 cups chicken stock
1 teas black pepper
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 can Coconut milk
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 Tb apple cider vinegar
3 cup steamed white rice
1/2 cup ground cashews
Cilantro to garnish.

Heat the ghee and add the garam masala to the oil and allow to cook for 30 seconds. Add the salted chicken and allow it to brown properly on all sides. Remove the chicken from the oil and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the ghee and sauté lightly. Add the ginger garlic paste and bhunao the mixture lightly. Add the diced apples and allow them to sweat and caramelize. after about 10 minutes you can add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and lentils to the pot, toss briefly to coat everything and add 6 cups of chicken stock. Bring this to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Add back the chicken, the rest of the salt and the pepper, zucchini, squash, coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken and squash is tender. Remove from heat and stir in cider vinegar. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with cilantro.

I was a big fan of this soup but for some reason Jessie didn't like it much, I guess to each their own! More mulligatawny for me! No soup for you!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Whole green lentil stew

It is nice to know that there are as many healthy Indian choices as there are those
with coconut milk or a half cup of oil. The whole green lentil stew is one such dish. The best thing about this dish is that it has a good amount of kick to it, and I love a good kick. It's also simple. You can almost say "set it and forget it."

A note about this recipe: when cooked with the listed ingredients, it lived up to the name of "stew." It also wasn't much of a yield. I would suggest either doubling the recipe, or doubling the lentils and adding 6 cups of water instead of 7 (if doubled) to make it thicker.

1/2 C whole green lentils
3.5 C of water
1 small tomato
3 garlic cloves with slits cut into them to release the flavor
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t Ground red pepper (cayenne)
3/4 t salt
2 T of vegetable oil
1/4 t Cumin seeds
1/2 small onion, diced
1 t peeled and finely diced fresh ginger

Rinse the lentils 3 times, making sure there are no rocks or other debris. Combine the lentils, water, tomato, 1 garlic clove, turmeric, cayenne, and salt into a pan and bring to a roiling boil on low heat. Once it comes up to a boil, stir, and reduce to medium-low and cover. Stir occasionally and simmer for about 40 minutes.

In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and brown for about 10 seconds. Immediately add the onion, ginger and 2 garlic cloves and sauté for about 5-6 minutes until the onion is browned,

Add the spices to the lentils and stir to combine.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Notes on Ingredients

Methi leaves
These are some stinky stinky leaves. they are related to fenugreek seeds in that they are the leaves of the plant that produces the seeds. Methi leaves have a very similar flavor to fenugreek seeds a deeply herbal umami flavor. However, they are an order of magnitude stronger.

When we bought these they came sealed in a very flimsy plastic bag which tore easily, so we transferred the leaves to a couple of layers of ziplock bags and tossed the now empty plastic bag into the trash. The next morning the scent of methi filled the house to the brim and I could quite literately follow my nose straight to the garbage can. Step by step it get noticeably stronger and more pungent. Not that it needs to be said, but we took out the trash immediately that morning.

These can only be found in a well stocked Indian store. It only takes a small pinch to finish a large curry and it imparts a very well rounded flavor that acts to bring together a lot of the disparate elements of spice in a good curry. It does seem to cook out if you simmer too long with it though, so I usually just toss in a pinch when the dish is done.
Two weeks later we were looking through the recipe books and when we opened up to the page which held the recipe we used the methi leaves on we got a heavy whiff of methi leaf smell! It had permanently sunk into the page!!!

Asefoetada powder
This is a very powerful souring flavored ingredient.  When bought in powdered form it’s usually mixed with rice flower or some sort of fluffy starch to aid in the measuring and dispersal of the flavor. However, I think the amount of asefetoada to power ratio could be quite different from brand to brand because some recipes call for an overpowering amount of asefoetada if you use the stuff we have, and more than a tiny little pinch can completely overwhelm a dish and make it unpalatable but just a hint does wonders to good Indian foods.
Again this can only be found in a well stocked Indian grocery store.

This is basically thickened evaporated milk, you can reduce milk down in the pan until it becomes a thick paste, then mix in dry powdered milk until it's a thick paste. We found our Mawa in the frozen section with the paneer a lot easier. It looked like a very hard cheese but melted fairly well into the navratan Korma. It added a lot of creaminess.

Green Chilies
These are a special chili which are long skinny and green. We buy them at the Indian grocery and I haven't seen them at a non-ethnic market. They are fairly equivalent to a serrano for spiciness and the flavor isn't super unique. In India these are sometimes served raw as an accompaniment to meal. To remove some of the heat, remove the seeds or chop more coarsely.

Curry leaves
This is Jessie's favorite ingredient. They offer up an amazingly unique flavor. Some recipes say you can substitute dried curry leaves for fresh ones, but to use fresh changes the entire flavor of the dish. Good reason to make the trek to the Indian grocery store!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chicken Biryani Disaster

Chicken Biryani haste makes waste!

This dish could have been good. Good biryani is a thing to behold, a dish worthy of long cooking or long traveling. But it has to be respected, there aren't any cheats. no shortcuts can be taken. This is the story of one such short cut. What I'm trying to say is that Biryani has approximately the same gestational period as an baby so it's more of a date night thing.

It started out well, we went to the Indian store and bought nice saffron, we marinated the chicken for 24 hours, assuring that it would be tasty and full of flavor. We even soaked our basmati rice for the full hour suggested before cooking. Our biggest mistake was to try to cook Biryani on a weekday. a good biryani takes 3-4 hours to be made right, of course our cookbook said it would take an hour and 45 minutes. but we've since discovered that this author is amazingly bad at math.

Here is the recipe as we should have done it

For the Marinade 
3Tb chopped garlic
3 inches of Ginger sliced thin against the grain
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup packed cilantro
2 fresh green peppers
2 Tb fresh squeezed lime juice
2 cup yogurt
1 Tb Homestyle Garam Masala
Salt (1-0.5 T estimated)
1 whole skinned chicken cut into pieces (3-4 lbs)

For the Rice
1.5 cup Basmati Rice
5 cups water
7 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
4 whole mace blades
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 C water

For the garnish

2 Tb chopped mint
4 Tb chopped cilantro
1 teas Saffron Threads soaked in 1.4 C milk
2 Tb almonds (toasted)
Crispy fried onion (I would highly suggest buying these at a Indian grocery store or replacing with French's fried onions like for green bean casserole it's pretty much the only short cut possible in this recipe)
         3 Tb ghee
         2 Onions thinly sliced
         Makes about 1/2 cup fried onions

First the marinade: combine all of the ingredients for the marinade except for the chicken in a blender or food processor. If it doesn't all fit, you don't have to add all of the yogurt it can be stirred in later. After everything is well blended into a paste pour it over the chicken and mix it well. Put it into the refrigerator overnight or up to a few days.

On the day of cooking (this shouldn't be a weeknight unless you have 3-4 hours to devote to making this dish. Wash the basmati rice several times then soak it in cold tap water. This should soak for 30-60 minutes. After it is done soaking let it sit and drain for 15 minutes.

For the initial cooking of the rice we cook it like pasta in an excess of water. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the 2 Cardamom pods, 1 stick cinnamon,  2 bay leaves, 2 cloves, a generous pinch of salt, and the drained rice. We're going to parboil the rice for 5 minutes until it is approximately half cooked. Drain the rice and discard the spices.

If you are going to make your own fried onions, add 3 Tb ghee to an oven safe large pot such as a dutch oven and fry your sliced onions for 8-10 minutes until they are crispy and golden brown. Add to this oil the rest of the whole spices (5 cardamom, 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves) and the mace and cumin. Stir until the spices are fragrant and start to change colors.

Add the marinated chicken to the spices and cook until all of the marinade is dried up and you can start coloring the chicken. (this is a very important step called Bhunao). If you don't do this most of the spices will die ignominiously and be completely flavorless until you bite into a rogue cardamom pod, plus there is a huge amount of liquid in the marinade which will turn your flavorless biryani into flavorless rice soup. This we learned from experience. It will take 30-40 minutes to reduce out all the water in the marinade. Take your time and do it right, unless you like flavorless rice soup.

When your chicken is browned and fully bhunao'ed add the last cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chopped mint and cilantro on top of the chicken, then layer the parboiled rice on top of it. Finally drizzle the saffron.milk mixture on top of the rice. Seal the pot with tinfoil and put on a heavy lid. Traditionally this is sealed with a flour and water dough to be totally air tight. Bake it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

After it is done fluff the rice with a fork and serve with fried onions and chopped almonds. If you happen to get this one right, please do feel very proud of yourselves. This is not an easy meal to make.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Navratan Korma

Korma - Thick saucy dish which is finished with yogurt or heavy cream
Paneer - Indian Cheese in this preparation it is lightly fried before it is added to the mix. somehow it stayed solid through the frying and the stewing
Mawa or milk solids - I don't know what this is, we found it frozen with the paneer in an Indian grocery store the recipe didn't contain and directions how to prepare it so I just chopped it roughly, it sort of melts into the sauce
Navratan - Nine Gems this is a lucky number featured in lots of jewelry like:

Image borrowed from 

We're going to try to make my sister's favorite Indian dish. I secretly figured this out by asking her what her favorite Indian dish is... no suspicions aroused.

I knew from the start that making Navratan Korma is going to be a hard sell... it's not exactly the most healthy Indian dish. The recipe I found is purported to be of the Royal Court of the Mughals. The variety of textures, flavors and the luscious gravy of this dish make it a real joy to eat and look at. I made a few small changes to the original increasing the amount of vegetables and omitting the almonds. Half-and-Half was substituted for cream as well.

1 T ground spice mix: 1 T (2 bay leaves, 3 green cardamom pods, 1/2 cinnamon stick, pinch mace, pinch cloves and pinch nutmeg, Toast them in a dry pan then grind them to a fine spice mix)

2 cups total of potatoes, carrots, cauliflower florets and green peas all cut into small cubes. (Well, except for the peas, of course.) Almost any vegetable can be substitutes or added to this list.

1/2 cup cubed paneer
1 Tb ghee
1 Tb Ginger paste
1 Tb Tomato paste with water added to become liquid
1 teas cumin
1 teas cayenne
1/2 cup cubed Pineapple
1/2 cup cubed Dry "fruits" A mix of raisins, almonds and walnuts
2 Tb Cashew nut paste (made by blending cashews with water)
1 Tb Pomegranates seeds
1/2 cup Mawa or milk solids : 1/2 cup (75g)
1 cup Milk
1 Tb Half and half
1/2 teas salt (or to taste)

Warm the Ghee in the pan and add the ground spices. When they are sizzling, add the paneer to lightly color, this will make them hold their shape in the final product. When the paneer is lightly browned, remove them from the oil and add in your 2 cups of vegetables. Cook on high until they get a little browned.

Next add the ginger paste and allow it to become fragrant and add the tomato paste, mix so that it coats all of the vegetables and allow it to brown lightly.

Add the cumin and cayenne to the mostly dry mixture, this should make it fairly spicy, more cayenne can be added if you want more heat.

Add the cashew nut paste and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes. taste and salt well.

Roughly chop the Mawa and add it with the pineapple chunks sauté for several minutes until the mawa is blended in.

Add the milk and simmer on low covered until the vegetables are soft.

Add the paneer, allow them to heat through and finish with half and half, if the dish is too dry add a little more milk or water.

Serve over a bed of hot rice and garnish with the cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Those cool bursts are a real gem!  Yuk Yuk Yuk.


(I forgot to add the ground spice mix at the beginning and I didn't want to add it into the simmering broth so I took advantage of another Indian technique called baghar which involves heating a little bit of oil in a pan and simmering the spices, to a extract all of their flavors, then this oil with all it's spices is added to finish a dish. It worked out very well in this dish, though I can't help thinking it might have been even better if I had done it correctly!)

"If I could never eat meat again, but I could eat this dish every single day, I would be happy" - Max

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Curried Cauliflower

This is a good recipe for curried cauliflower. But it's not Murali's (my Indian-Singapore ex-roomate) mom's curried cauliflower. Which in addition to removing the lining of your mouth it was delightfully flavorful each bite a little balance of pleasure versus pain. I like this version, until I can beg the recipe off Murali it'll have to be good enough.

This is a fairly common dish in India. Sometimes Potato is mixed in during the cooking.

5 T oil
3 t cumin seed
2 t fennel seed
1 large onion
3 T ginger garlic paste
1 t turmeric
2 t Cayenne
2 t ground coriander
1 C water
1 small tomato
1 t salt
2 lb cauliflower
3 t Garam Masala
2 in ginger fine julienned
Cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a pan, add cumin and fennel seed, brown lightly. Add the onion, ginger garlic paste, turmeric, cayenne, coriander and tomato. Bhunao this mixture until the water is gone and the oil starts to leach from the food. Add a little bit of the water if it starts to burn.

Add the cauliflower and cook stirring until it starts to brown. and the rest of the water and cover, cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.