Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian feast

Our potluck had an Indian theme this week. This may have been my favorite theme yet, and not just because I chose it. Not only do I find Indian food delicious in general, but I was so impressed by how everyone went for it and tried making new and exciting things. On the plate above there is dhal, basmati rice, naan, saag paneer, cauliflower and pea curry, and a chickpea patty with raita. For dessert (not pictured), there was gulab jamun. All so good!

Hubby and I have had the fortunate experience of visiting India a few more than 10 years ago with our dear friend Jim. In addition to encouraging us to try all sorts of new foods while in India, Jim has also cooked us (and allowed us to help with) many an Indian meal at his home. So we're comfortable with this food. Not that we've ever been able to do justice to the dhal recipe he once gave us... But I have learned from him not to worry too much about making Indian food. Recipes are merely guidelines and it all turns out all right in the end.

One of the keys to Indian food, in my mind, are condiments. There should always be chutney, pickle, and yogurt around to complement the dishes on your plate. Yesterday, we put out some store-bought mango-peach chutney, some homemade pear chutney, and some mild mango pickle hubby got at the store. I'm not personally a fan of Indian pickle, but it's a nice condiment none the less. I'd say our crowd yesterday was split 50/50 in liking it.

I decided to make a vegetable curry for the potluck, and modified a recipe in the book "Curries without Worries" by Sudha Koul that a friend gave me many years ago and in which I've found many good recipes.

The basic setup for most Indian curries is the same: Add oil or ghee to big pot, fry a bunch of spices, garlic, onions and ginger, add veggies, cook till done. Here, I've prepped everything in advance (which I find to be the most efficient way of cooking just about everything) - including the cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

The recipe calls for:
- 3/4 cup oil and/or ghee (clarified butter - which you can make yourself or buy)
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds (I also added some whole mustard seeds)
- 1 or 2 onions, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tblspns chopped fresh ginger
- 3 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used several small canned, including some of the juice)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cayenne
- salt to taste
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into 3-inch florets, dry
- 2 1/2 cups frozen peas (I used fresh whole snow peas with delicious results!)
- (I also added 3 or 4 small potatoes, chopped)
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil/ghee. Add the cumin and stir while it sizzles for a minute. Add onions, ginger, and garlic and fry until golden. Add tomatoes and fry until you have a nice pasty consistency. Add the rest of the spices until they are blended in. Add the potatoes (if using) as they take the longest. Fry for a few minutes. Add cauliflower and do the same. Stir to prevent sticking. Add the peas after 5 or 10 minutes. Turn the heat down a bit and cover. Stir occasionally until everything is done to where you want it. Before serving, stir in the cilantro.

The finished product was delicious with rice and chutney. The best thing about a recipe like this is that you can pretty much substitute any other veggies you like and it'll be just as good!

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