Baby Steps into Indian Cooking

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Let me be the first to admit:  I know nothing about Indian cooking.  Not one damn thing.  And the term “Indian food” is pretty meaningless if you consider, according to Wikipedia, there are over 30 regional styles of cuisine in India.  What someone cooks in Northern India is going to be completely different from what someone cooks in Southern India.  So, as I peruse recipes, I feel completely lost–geographically and gastronomically. For your information, here is a list of the regional cuisines.

 

 

  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Arunachal Pradesh
  • Assam
  • Bihar
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Daman and Diu
  • Goa
  • Gujarat
  • Haryana
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Jammu & Kashmir
  • Jharkhand
  • Karnataka
  • Kerala
  • Lakshadweep
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Maharashtra
  • Manipur
  • Meghalaya
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland
  • Orissa
  • Puducherry
  • Punjab
  • Rajasthan
  • Sikkim
  • Sindh
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Tibetan
  • Tripura
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Uttarakhand
  • West Bengal

(Daunting, yes?)

According to Wikipedia:

“India is a diverse country with many regional cultures, each region has its own food specialties, primarily at regional level, but also at provincial level. The differences can come from a local culture and geographical location whether a region is close to the sea, desert or the mountains, and economics. Indian cuisine is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce.”

The first and only time I ate real Indian food was at a friend’s wedding.  Since then, I have timidly tried my hand at a couple recipes.  Most have been disastrous.  I made a recipe a few months ago, with garam masala, and even though I thought it was terrible, Jeff said he liked it and ate every last bite.  I think my mistakes so far have been not really knowing what I’m aiming for, or what a dish is supposed to taste like before I make it.

Knowing my shortcomings and being completely intimidated by the scope of Indian cuisine, I went ahead last night and made some Indian food.  I got the recipes from Smitten Kitchen.  I made a yellow dal, a shredded cabbage salad, and black-eyed peas in a spicy goan curry.  The recipes were a little involved–but once I got the process down of cooking the pulses separately from the spices and vegetables, which need to be caramelized in their own pan, it got easier.  So, the worst part is that these recipes were a several pot and pan operation. That being said, it was worth the mess and dishes to clean afterwards.  Well worth it.

Cabbage salad

With last nights’ successes under my belt, I plan to make a couple more dishes today.  These Indian spiced potatoes look amazing.  And I will also make a red lentil recipe from Madhur Jaffrey.  The recipe is below.

Red Split Lentils With Cabbage (Masoor dal aur band gobi)

Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking

From Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

200 grams (1 1/4 cups) red split lentils (masoor dal), picked over, washed and drained
1.2 liters (5 cups) water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
225 grams (1/2 pound) cored and finely shredded cabbage
1 to 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 medium tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger

Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times during the last 30 minutes.

When the lentils cook, heat the oil in a 20 to 23 centimeter (8 to 9 inch) frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, cabbage and green chilies. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to brown and turn slightly crisp. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.

When the lentils have cooked for 1 1/4 hours, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.

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5 responses »

  1. It’s funny that you are blogging about cooking Indian food today because I am planning on cooking a saag paneer curry of some sort for dinner.

    It takes time to get the flavors right. I’m still trying to get my curry to taste right.

  2. I just watched a great videa today on chicken tikka masala. I love daal and I have never made it. Sounds yummy.
    I have made paneer and its REALLY easy. You should try it, its vegetarian. I would like to try using a Tandoori oven.

  3. Brita–all of these recipes I’ve posted over the last two posts from Smitten Kitchen are delicious. I couldn’t recommend them more highly. I made the masoor dal aur band gobi tonight for dinner. Yum!
    I’ve never had paneer or chicken tikka masala. I’m thinking I just need to go to a few Indian restaurants and eat as much as I can afford and fill into my stomach…

  4. For an introduction to Indian cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking can’t be beat. The recipes are all easy to follow and to prepare, with ingredients, in both American and metric measurement system, listed in a column next to the recipes. Jaffrey does not concentrate on Indian vegetarian dishes, although many of the recipes ARE vegetarian. There are even a few beef recipes reflecting the non-Hindu population. (The beef baked in yogurt and black pepper is delicious!)Jaffrey includes a descriptive guide to Indian spices and ingredients as well as a chapter on cooking techniques. The section on breads is fantastic. I never thought I could make poori at home, and yet they turned out perfectly. I make naan fairly frequently, using a breadmaker to knead the dough, because it’s my family’s favorite. Other excellent dishes include Dry Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic, Gujerati-style Green Beans, and Spicy Baked Chicken. (The recipes are titled in English, with the Indian names in parentheses underneath.)Anyone with a basic know-how of cooking should be able to succeed with these recipes.

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