Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Low country shrimp and black-eyed peas

As long as we're already obsessing about low country recipes and shrimp, let's take a look at this recipe too. This stuff is amazing...just bursting with great flavor. Mike doesn't normally care for black-eyed peas all that much, but when they've got flavor like this, he's willing to overlook it!

Low Country Shrimp and Black-Eyed Peas

4 slices of bacon
4 scallions, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t cayenne pepper flakes
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c chicken stock

Olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, pre-cooked
Salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c dry white wine

Cook bacon in a large heavy skillet. Cut into pieces and set aside. Saute the scallions through the cayenne pepper for about 10 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and broth and simmer 5 minutes. Place in a serving bowl.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet and cook the garlic, adding the shrimp with salt and pepper when garlic is tender. Add wine and bring to a boil, simmering for about 2 minutes. Add bacon and black-eyed-pea mixture and simmer until just heated through (the mixture will be very juicy). Discard bay leaves.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Low country shrimp and sausage with grits

We watched the Ultimate Recipe Showdown on the FoodNetwork, and this dish had us drooling. The original recipe was created by Jason Hernandez and had the judges oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing. I've modified the recipe to suit us. Jason's is probably better, but here's my version:

Low Country Shrimp and Sausage with Grits

4 c milk
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T butter
1 c grits
1 t red pepper flakes
2 t Tabasco sauce
2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

Boil milk through butter. Add grits, pepper flakes, and hot sauce, and stir over low heat. Stir in cheese just before serving.

Shrimp and Sausage:
1 lb shrimp, peeled
2 T Cajun seasoning
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 c butter
2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 c dry white wine
1/4 c fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, thyme, and basil)
Fresh ground black pepper
Scallions, sliced for garnish

Sprinkle the shrimp with Cajun seasoning in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and cook the sausage. Add the garlic and peppers and cook until soft. Add the butter to melt, and add the shrimp, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper through the black pepper and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the grits in shallow bowls with shrimp mixture over the top. Garnish with scallions.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Foodie blogging round-up!

Add Variety to Your Pie Crusts

Tired of the same old pie crusts? Mary Emma at Country Kitchen has some ideas for adding variety.

Cooking Gadgets
If price is no object, and you *really* love your coffee...

Crawdads – ewww!
Jean has a funny story which is very illustrative of the point of the ABCNews nutritionist survey she reported on last week. We may miss out on many super-healthful foods because we are unfamiliar with them and reluctant to give them a try.

Wiggly Worms and Caterpillar Treats
A cute idea for kids summer parties.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Korma sauce

Korma sauce is a lovely Indian curry, but very very mild. If your family likes the idea of curry, but some recipes are just too strongly flavored, try this one! I like to use the sauce to smother vegetables and rice, but you can use it on mild-flavored fish or chicken as well. Usually when I make korma sauce, it’s a vegetarian night for us :-) The recipe below makes enough to thoroughly smother rice and veggies for four.

Korma Sauce

3 T ghee or canola oil
1-1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t fennel seeds
1/2 t cardamom seeds
Cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t fresh ginger, minced
Onion, chopped
1/4 c water

3/4 c cream (or evaporated milk, or a combination)
1/2 c coconut milk

1 - 2 t garam masalah (prepared, or my favorite mix)

Optional garnishes:
Toasted almonds

Stir fry the seeds and spices until fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger, and onion and stir fry for until soft but not brown. Add the water and heat to boiling. Lower the heat and add the cream and coconut milk. Heat thoroughly. Just before serving, stir in the garam masalah and the salt. Serve over rice with cooked vegetables, garnishing with almonds and cilantro if desired.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet potato soup…lightly curried

Ok, it’s a stretch to claim that this is Indian food, because I made it up as a way to use up some leftover sweet potatoes. But I used my own spice mix instead of “curry powder,” so I feel somewhat justified in claiming Indian inspiration :-)

Replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth if you’d like, and you’ve got a great vegetarian meal! Serve with some good crusty bread, and it’s a filling meal too. This is easily a thirty minute meal as long as you are using pre-cooked sweet potatoes. Whenever I make them, I throw in some extras to make soup.

Lightly Curried Sweet Potato Soup

2 T canola oil
2 t curry powder or spice mix
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 - 4 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and mashed
4 - 5 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and milk, in whatever proportion you want
1 T lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Cook oil and curry powder in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add celery and onion; toss to coat in oil and spices. Stirring frequently, cook for about 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk (if using), lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pineapple chutney

We served this at Thanksgiving this past year, and it went great with the turkey and fixings! I think it’s getting added to our permanent list of holiday magic recipes. It’s also tasty served with any other poultry dish. We do a lot of crock pot chickens in the cold months, right into the early spring, and this chutney dresses the plain dish up beautifully!

Pineapple Chutney

1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped fine

2 t canola oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1/2 t cloves
1 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c dried cranberries
Cornstarch (optional, may not be needed)
1/3 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
Chop the fresh pineapple, and collect 2 to 3 cups of fruit. Save the rest for another use. Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion until very brown. Stir in the spices and heat through. Add the cranberries and pineapple, and cook until fruit is softened. Add a bit of cornstarch if needed. Remove from heat and stir in mint.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vegetable vindaloo

Delicious delicious vindaloo sauce! The spicy tomato sauce described below can be used with chicken, pork, and lamb as well as with vegetables. We particularly love it with just vegetables, though, and as one of our vegetarian meals for the week, we don’t even miss the meat!If you do decide to add meat to the dish, you can add a cinnamon stick :-)

If you’ve done once a week food preparation, this meal will go together really quickly, but it needs to simmer for a long time in a crock pot to be its best. It’s a great make-ahead meal. Put everything together in the morning, and walk into a house filled to the brim with good smells in the evening!
Raw veggies mixed with sauce

Vegetable Vindaloo

2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 T fresh ginger, chopped fine
1 t brown sugar
1 t coriander
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t dry mustard
1/2 t tumeric
1/2 t cayenne
1 T white vinegar
6 oz can tomato paste
1-1/2 c water

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Head of cauliflower, any variety, chopped
15 oz can of kidney beans, drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 c fresh or frozen peas, thawed

Place the garlic through the water into a bowl and beat together to make the sauce. Place the onion through the kidney beans into the crock pot, pour the sauce over, and stir to coat. Simmer on low for at least 4 hours (more is fine). Add salt and pepper if desired, and stir peas into the mixture just before serving. Serve over basmati rice.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Basic Techniques

Super-fast stir fries for busy nights

Indian spices

How to make a pie crust

Making a white sauce (aka Bechamel sauce)

Pasta cooking techniques

Making basic risotto

Making polenta

Basic basil pesto

Creating creamy emulsified salad dressings

Tips for the best pasta salads

Grilling chicken fast

Grilling flank steak

Grilling tough brisket or shoulder cuts

Making gelato

Pizza dough basics

To blanch or not to blanch?

Spicy chickpeas

Spicy chickpeas, also known as Kabuli Chole in Indian cuisine, are a wonderful side dish for a meal that needs some spice, or can be mixed into a green salad, or even pureed to make Indian “hummus.” We love these things!

You can start with dried chickpeas, soak and boil them up if you’d like, but I usually use the canned ones.

Spicy Chickpeas
(Kabuli Chole)

2 19 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 t cumin seeds
1 large red pepper, chopped

Vegetable oil
1 T fresh ginger, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 - 4 jalapenos, chopped

1 t garam masalah
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges

Mix the chickpeas, cumin seeds, and red peppers together in a bowl. Saute the ginger, onions, and hot peppers until they are soft. Add them to the chickpeas, along with the garam masalah, salt, and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Curried carrot soup

We had this Curried Carrot Soup recently, and if you’re a fan of Indian food, you’re going to flip over it. I used my own spice mix instead of prepared "curry powder." Replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth if you’d like, and you’ve got a great vegetarian treat!

Curried Carrot Soup

3 T canola oil
2 t spice mix
1 clove of garlic
1/2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

8 carrots, sliced thinly
4 stalks of celery, sliced thinly
1 onion, chopped
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c coconut milk
1 T lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Heat the spices, garlic, and ginger in oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Stir in the carrots, celery, and onions, and toss to coat with seasoned oil. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring. Add broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and puree the soup with an immersion blender until it is as smooth as you'd like. Reheat if necessary but do not boil, and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Punjabi masalah lamb

A spicy lamb dish that tastes great with other Indian dishes, or with some milder sides if you’re afraid it will be overload for your family. You can vary the amount of spices used to suit your own tastes, and you can also serve it with additional plain yogurt to cool it down if desired. Basmati rice or naan flatbread makes a great accompaniment, and we also had stir-fried mixed peppers (mild orange and yellow, and a few hot).

I simplified the traditional cooking methods somewhat and used my crock pot. By the end of the day, the lamb was amazingly tender…just what we wanted.

Punjabi Masalah Lamb

1 - 2 lbs lamb meat (I used two leg cuts)
2 - 3 T fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 c tomato, grated or finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 t cayenne (or to taste)
1-1/2 c plain yogurt
1 t salt
1 t cumin seeds
1 - 2 t garam masalah (or mix of spices, shown below)
2 T lemon juice
2 T fresh coriander

Mix the ginger through the salt, and place the mixture with the meat into a crock pot. Heat to high, and then turn it down and cook on low for 4 hours or more. Ten to fifteen minutes before serving, add the cumin seeds, garam masalah, and lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle the coriander over the meat to serve.

Garam Masalah, Punjabi style
4 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
2 T black peppercorns
2 t cardamom seeds
1 t whole cloves
1 long cinnamon stick
Grind to a fine powder.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Making a white sauce (aka Bechamel sauce)

In approximately 15 minutes, you can have a smooth creamy white sauce prepared which will make your soups and souffles a thing of beauty! And it’s so easy to do. The directions are the same for any of the variations: you will simple add more or less butter and flour according to how thick you want your white sauce to be.

White Sauce basic directions:
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
Blend the flour into the butter and add a pinch of salt if you wish.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes to lessen the floury taste.
Slowly add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until thickened and smooth.

The variations:
Medium (or regular) white sauce - 2 T butter, 2 T flour, 1 c milk
Thin white sauce (best for delicate cream soups) - 1 T butter, 1 T flour, 1 c milk
Thick or heavy sauce (great for souffles) - 3-4 T butter, 3-4 T flour, 1 c milk

I like to start the process with a wooden spoon and end with a whisk. You’ll need to develop your favorite technique. It’s worth learning to do, because it makes a much nicer soup than simply throwing in cornstarch to thicken it.

Once you’ve mastered this, you can eliminate all the canned cream soups from your pantry, with their excessive sodium and unpronounceable ingredients! That’s right…every recipe you have that calls for canned soup can remain in your repertoire and get healthy by making a thick white sauce instead. There will be occasions when you just don’t have the time, but once your family learns how good those meals can taste, they’ll be helping you to find the time by setting the table making the salad so you’ll have those few extra minutes!

Image: istockphoto

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Blow Your Socks Off Sour Cream Apple Pie

I adore Pi Day...it's one of the best excuses there is to eat something I love anyway. And here's one of the pie recipes I love the most:

Blow Your Socks Off Sour Cream Apple Pie

Make a single batch of regular pie crust

3 T butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
2 T flour

Combine in a small bowl and blend with a fork until the mixture is grainy. Cover and chill.

4 c tart apples (I like Macouns), peeled, cored, and sliced thinly

1-1/3 c sour cream
2/3 c sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t vanilla
2 large eggs
3 T flour

Line the pie pan with the crust and add the apples. Mix the sour cream through the flour in a bowl, beating well. Pour over top of apples. Crumble the topping over the mixture. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Cover with foil if the crust starts to brown too much. Let it cool completely before serving. Swoon.

Pi Day - How to make a pie crust

March 14, Pi Day! It's also my brother's birthday, but that's a different story. I love celebrating 3.14 with my Physicist darling...it just makes it extra special. So today, I'm going to share one of our very best pie recipes with you. But first, how to make that perfect pie crust.

Pie Crust (double)

2-1/2 c flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar
1/2 c shortening, very cold
12 T butter, very cold
8 T water, very cold

Notice the emphasis on very cold?  Chill all of your ingredients, and keep them in the freezer between steps if you get interrupted in making the filling. Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until mixture is coarse and mealy. Chop up the butter and cut it in until it is approximately pea sized.  Add the water slowly and mix together by hand, handling as little as possible.

Divide dough into two and form disks.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

Roll out from the middle of the disk (I like to use waxed or parchment paper), giving the dough a quarter turn after each roll.  Transfer to pie pan, and decorate edge if desired.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vegetables and rice with Ceylonese sauce

Vegetables and rice can get boring pretty quickly. Add a new sauce and liven things up. If you chop the lime up finely, everyone will have a good time trying to guess the “secret ingredient” …always a favorite game at our table!

Boil up some basmati rice, and start your sauce. A few minutes before the rice is ready, bring the sauce back up to simmer and add your veggies. We used broccoli, and it was delicious.

Ceylonese Sauce

2 T vegetable oil
Medium onion, chopped
Large clove of garlic, chopped
1 t mustard seeds
2 t curry paste or favorite curry spice mix
15 oz can of coconut milk
1/2 lime, chopped fine
Chili powder for those who like it hot

Saute the onions and garlic in oil in a large skillet. Crush the mustard seeds with mortar and pestle, and add with the curry paste to the pan. Heat well. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the lime. Reduce to simmer and allow to thicken. Add vegetables to soften shortly before serving over rice. Add chili powder if desired.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Diwali rice pudding

Ok, the first time I made this dish, I scorched the milk in the bottom of the pan! I forgot what a mess milk can make in a very short time. A little baking soda paste and heating later…I was ready to try it again.

I would recommend that if you’ve got a double-boiler you use it. I also experimented with using my crock pot for times when I wasn’t in a hurry. I’ve included both instructions below. But even if you have to suffer through scraping the pot, this Indian dessert is worth it! Traditional Diwali rice pudding is considerably sweeter than I’ve reported below…double the sugar if you want it authentic!

Diwali Rice Pudding

4 c milk
1/2 c long-grain rice
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c almonds, chopped
1 t cardamom

Bring the milk to a boil and add the rice. Lower the heat and cook it very slowly until the rice is creamy. This will take at least an hour. Stir frequently. When the rice is done, stir in the sugar through cardamom. Serve warm or cold.

Crock pot directions: Put warmed milk and the rice into the crock. Cook on low, covered, for about 4 hours. No stirring necessary. Follow the rest of the directions above.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lamb and lentil stew

This is a really tasty stew that you can spice up or down to suit your family. With a little bit of prep during your once a week food preparation, you can have the meat pre-cooked so that the stew itself will take under thirty minutes to put together at meal time. Another way to prepare the meat is to put it in a crock pot early in the morning and cook it on low all day. When you get home and are ready to put the stew together, the meat will be tender and falling apart. Good for this particular stew!

We like curries and spicy food a lot, so I’ve included the spices that we add, but with the optional designation. You could add rosemary or bay leaf if you prefer milder tastes.

Lamb and Lentil Stew

1 lb lamb
1 qt water

Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
2 T fresh ginger, grated
1-2 T curry paste, or your favorite mix of Indian spices (optional, my mixture is below)
2 c lentils, pre-soaked if possible
10 oz frozen spinach
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 lb carrots, sliced

Pre-cook the lamb in a crock pot with a quart of water. When it’s time to make the stew, add enough water to bring the liquid back up to one quart. Pre-soak the lentils too, 2 c lentils in 4 c water. Drain before using.

In a heavy stockpot, saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil. Add the curry paste or spice mixture of choice and heat through. Add the stock water from the lamb and the lentils and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. [Note - some varieties of lentils cook faster than others.] Add the spinach, tomatoes, carrots and lamb, and cook until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

Suggested Spice Mixture (optional)
2 t cumin powder
1/2 t tumeric
1/2 t coriander
Cayenne pepper to taste
Dash of cinnamon

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mint chutney

Mint Chutney mixed in with Yogurt,
along with Dahl and Basmati Rice

This delicious sauce can be served with just about any Indian meals. When mixed with yogurt, it makes a cooling sauce that helps fiery dishes go down smoothly. I like to make about a cup of it at a time, and then mix it up with yogurt right before serving, but you can also use it as is to spice up your meal. Try it with Chicken Tikka or Rogan Josh. It can also be served with crackers as a snack or appetizer!

Mint Chutney

1 c fresh mint leaves
2 green onions
1 - 2 green chilis
1 t fresh ginger
1 t fresh garlic
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
3 T lemon juice
Water to reach desired consistency

Plain yogurt (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes paste-like. Mix with yogurt if desired.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I love these cookies! They don't take a long time to make or to bake, and they're not nearly as fiddly as many cookies are...but they do take time. They're cookies, after all. I've figured out a few time-saving tips, but really...THEY'RE COOKIES!! Take your time. Have your kids help. Have fun telling the Purim story, even if you're not Jewish! Purim starts tonight, so make some today if you've got the time :-)

Now don't scream when you see my recipe! I've developed this one over many years, but it all started with my girlfriend Monica, who introduced me to cream cheese dough in college! Most traditional hamantaschen recipes use a modified pie dough, but this is just a whole lot better.


1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1/2 c cream cheese (4 oz)
1/2 c sugar
1 t baking powder
2 c flour
Preserves (I used lemon curd this year!)

Place the sour cream, butter, and cream cheese in a large bowl. They should all be at room temperature, or slightly warmer. Mix them thoroughly and whip in the sugar. Stir in the baking powder and the flour. Refrigerate the dough until firm. Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out with circle cutter or with drinking glass. Place the circles on parchment paper on baking sheets. Spoon a small amount of preserves in the center of each. Pinch the dough to make three corners, leaving the center unsealed. Bake approximately 18 minutes at 350. Makes about 24 cookies.

Another great filling is a combination of ginger preserves and peach preserves mixed together! You can experiment with jam fillings to your heart's content. Let each kid choose their own...it's so much fun to make these!

If you really need to do these in a hurry, make the dough ahead of time and wrap it in plastic wrap in the fridge. Using the waxed paper and the parchment paper already cuts the clean-up time. You can have the kids help you do them assembly-line style. They won't know that they're not having fun :-)

Chicken tikka

Chicken tikka is a super-easy grilled or baked dish that’s a natural for introducing your family to Indian food. You can control how spicy it is by limiting the cayenne, chili powder, and tumeric. The recipe below makes a fairly mild sauce, in my opinion, but I do like things pretty hot, so you should ease into it if you’ve got little people.

Not counting the marinating time for the chicken (which I like to do first thing in the morning), it usually takes less than thirty minutes to skewer and cook the chicken. I recommend serving it with flatbread like naan, or over rice, along with grilled seasonal vegetables and mint chutney.

Chicken Tikka

3 - 4 chicken breasts, cut into cubes for skewers

1/2 c yogurt
3 T lemon juice
1 t ground cayenne pepper
1 t fresh ginger, grated
1 t chili powder
1 t tumeric
2 T canned crushed tomatoes
1 t salt

Mix the sauce ingredients well in a zip-loc bag. Add the chicken cubes and squish to coat them. Let them sit and soak in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably all day. Heat either the grill or the oven to around 375. Skewer the cubes and cook over aluminum foil for about 20 minutes.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rogan josh

Rogan Josh on Basmati Rice, with Roasted Carrots

Rogan josh is an amazing taste sensation from beginning to end. Lamb cubes, browned and simmered in a heavenly mash-up of spices. Do not DARE to simply throw “curry powder” into the pot for this one! If you’ve done once a week food preparation, there’s an outside chance that you could make this dish into a thirty minute meal. But I have to be honest with you and say that it would be better to prepare this some night when you’re not in such a hurry: this is a dish that keeps getting better and better, the longer it simmers.

Rogan josh may not appeal to those in your family who don’t like spicy food. I’d have to say that if you make it according to the recipe below, it’s about the level of “medium” salsa. A bit of a bite, but not mouth-numbing. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit yourself. The first time I made it, I added the called for one teaspoon of each of the major spices. Since that time, I’ve ramped up a few of them, but haven’t eliminated any.

To serve the rogan josh, mix in some more yogurt or dollop it on top if you want to. It will moisten it up even more (there should be a good gravy left in the pan, but I didn’t scoop up too much for the picture because it just doesn’t photograph really well sometimes!), and the extra yogurt will also cool down the spiciness.

Rogan Josh

1-1/2 to 2 lbs lamb, cut into cubes
Vegetable oil

1 t cardamom
1 whole bay leaves
6 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 stick cinnamon

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 t coriander
1 t cumin seeds
1 t red paprika
1 t cayenne pepper, gound
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 c plain yogurt
1-1/4 c water

Garam masalah (my favorite mix)
Additional yogurt

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet or a wide bottomed pot. Brown the lamb cubes over medium heat and set them aside. You don’t have to cook them through. Put the cardamom through the cinnamon stick into the hot oil. Cook for about a minute, stirring the spices around. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir and saute for about five minutes. Add the coriander through salt and stir well into the mix.

Add the lamb cubes and stir to coat with all the spices. Mix in the yogurt, stirring well, a bit at a time. Let each portion heat thoroughly before adding more. Add the water and bring the pot to a boil, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to mix in all the browned spices. Cover and turn heat to low; simmer until the meat is tender, at least 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and raise the heat to medium high, letting some of the liquid boil off, until the sauce is thickened.

Serve on top of basimati rice, along with garam masalah, pepper, and additional yogurt. Mint chutney with yogurt makes a nice accompaniment too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


One of my favorite Indian flatbreads is called Naan; I love it as an accompaniment for stews or saucy dinners. It’s got the perfect shape and texture to sop up the good stuff!

Recently, I started making the dough in my bread machine. When you take the dough out, it’s been through it’s first rising and is ready to form. My first attempt resulted in laves that were way too fat and puffy. I learned from that first experiment to flatten and stretch the loaves much more in future batches! If you don’t have a machine, I’m pretty sure this recipe would be easily adaptable to regular mixing and hand kneading.

Naan Dough for the Bread Machine

1 T peanut oil
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/2 c milk
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
2-1/2 t yeast

1/4 whole wheat flour for forming
Olive oil or melted butter

Run the basic dough cycle. Remove from the machine and divide in half. Divide each half into thirds. Dust the surface with whole wheat flour and roll each piece into a large flat oval. Brush oil or butter on both sides and place them on parchment paper.

Bake the naan at 450 for 6 to 8 minutes, preferably on the parchment on a pizza stone. Serve piping hot or cooled. Makes 6 naan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tandoori chicken without the tandoor

Rather than cooking the chicken at the extremely high temperatures of a traditional tandoor, I've found a couple methods that seem to work very well at capturing the juicy quality of real tandoori chicken.

It's hard to fit most Indian cooking into the thirty minute meal time slot, but this one can be done in under sixty minutes!

Tandoori Chicken

Vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T fresh ginger, grated
1 T garam masalah (my favorite mix)
2 t cumin
2 t chili powder
1 c yogurt
1/4 c lime juice

2 - 3 lbs bone-in skinless chicken parts

In a small skillet, cook the garlic and ginger in oil for a minute or two. Add the garam masalah, cumin, and chili powder and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat.

Put half the spice mixture into a bowl along with the yogurt and half the lime juice. Set aside.

Add the rest of the lime juice and salt to the spice mix in the skillet. Slash shallow cuts into the chicken pieces and massage the spice mix into each piece.

Preheat the oven to 325. Coat the chicken with the yogurt mixture and arrange the pieces on a sprayed wire rack set over foil-lined baking sheets. Cook for about 25 minutes. Move the rack to the top shelf and turn on the broiler. Broil and lightly char both sides of the pieces.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Red lentil curry

Although red lentil curry, a form of dahl, makes a super side dish, we prefer it as a hearty main dish along with basmati rice. It's quite tasty, and also very pretty! Even though the ingredient list is long, it goes together very quickly, easily under thirty minutes, and if you've pre-cooked the rice during your once a week food prep time, you're all set!

Red Lentil Curry

Canola oil
Onion, chopped
Garlic, chopped
2 cherry peppers, chopped

1 c red lentils, well rinsed

8 oz diced tomatoes or tomato puree
1 T garam masalah (my favorite mix)
1 t tumeric
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t ginger

In a large saucepan, fry the onion, garlic, and peppers in oil until soft. Add the lentils and enough water to cover them and simmer, adding more water as needed until lentils are softened, about 10 - 15 minutes. Don't add too much water. Meanwhile, mix the tomato puree with the seasonings. When the lentils are softened, add the tomato mix and reduce the heat, simmering for a few minutes. Serve over basmati rice.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 2, 2009


There are as many ways to make dahl as there are Indian cooks! Some methods are quite elaborate, while others are simplified a bit. I’ve combined a few recipes and methods to come up with one that can be made quickly and easily.

Serve it with Basmati rice, seasoned with peppercorns, allspice, and whole cloves. Also, serve some Mint Chutney on the side! Even though each of these elements is easy to make, you could find yourself using a lot of pans and having to tend to many dishes at the same time. It might be easier to serve this for the first time if you prepared some of the dishes, like the rice and chutney, ahead of time.

To speed up the cooking of the lentils, it’s helpful to boil the water, pour it over them in a bowl, and let them soak all day or overnight. Ghee is clarified butter, and it’s the fat of choice for Indian cooking, but you can substitute vegetable oil if you don’t have time to make the real thing. This spicy dish will taste just fine either way!


1 T ghee or vegetable oil
1/2 t cayenne pepper
Onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c yellow lentils
2 c water
1/2 t salt
1/2 t tumeric

Pre-soak the lentils in a bowl if you can. Discard that water, rinse, and add 2 fresh cups to the bowl. In a large sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic with the cayenne until the vegetables are softened, but not brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the lentils and water with the salt and turmeric to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently. When the lentils begin to soften, you can mash them with a wooden spoon or even run them through a food processor if desired. Stir the onion and garlic mixture into the lentils and heat through before serving. Serve with basmati rice and mint chutney.

Other combinations to try for Dahl:
Pink or red lentils with cumin, pepper, and chili powder
Yellow split peas with garlic, ginger, and cinnamon
Red lentil curry

Image of lentils: Wikimedia Commons

Indian spices

There's some confusion that surrounds several terms used in Indian cooking. Since I am by no means an expert on Indian cuisine, I had to go to some expert sources to find the answers! A few links to some really good recipes and information can be found at the bottom of this post...I hope you'll be able to take some time and try some of them, supplementing the few things that I can share here!

One term that confused me is "curry". Once upon a time, I thought it was a spice, then I thought it was a mixture of spices, but now I learn that a curry is any dish cooked in a spicy sauce! There is no one recipe for the spice mixture that goes into a curry, and despite the fact that you can buy curry powders and curry pastes, there are really as many possible ingredients in a curry dish - both in the spice mix and in the dish itself - as there are cooks. In the mid-1800s, the British coined the term "curry" from the name of a spicy Indian herb, "kari". [Note - there are many other spellings of this word that you may see...it's a transliterated word, from a different alphabet.]

According to Wikipedia, the following spices are commonly found in curry dishes:

Most recipes and producers of curry powder usually include coriander, turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek in their blends. Depending on the recipe, additional ingredients such as ginger, garlic, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, mace, nutmeg, red pepper, long pepper, and black pepper may also be added.

The Indian sensibility when it comes to spices is that no single flavor should predominate a mixture or a dish, but rather, that is should be a delicious and flavorful meld. Consequently, meats and/or vegetables are often soaked in spice mixtures for hours before cooking and eating. For western-style cooks, this means having to plan ahead!

You will also see the term "masalah" used a lot in Indian cooking. Masalah is a general term to refer to a mixture of powdered spices. At first, I didn't understand the difference between masalah and curry, but that was because I was confusing the spice mixture with the dish. Remember, a curry is any dish cooked in a spicy sauce, so perhaps you'll use a masalah to make a curry!

Garam masalah is one of the most common mixtures that you'll see listed. But there is no one single recipe for this mixture either! It is a blend of up to fifteen or so spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cloves, and more. You can buy a bottled garam masalah spice mix in most large grocery stores, or you can blend your own:

Garam Masalah, Punjabi style
4 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
2 T black peppercorns
2 t cardamom seeds
1 t whole cloves
1 long cinnamonstick
Grind to a fine powder.

Here are some links to trustworthy information about Indian spices and cuisine:
Indian Food Forever
Ruchi's Kitchen