Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach)

February 11, 2018

Another recipe from my Rasika cookbook, it’s been on my list for a couple of weeks. I had just a little of the chicken curry left and this was nice to have alongside.  It’s nothing like the creamed spinach you may be used to, served with steak and filled with cheese and cream and butter.  I’m not knocking that, but this is definitely not that.  No cheese and with much less cream.  It turned out slightly more like spinach sauce or soup than I expected.  It tastes good and the onions give it some texture, but it still might be nice for it to be a little bit toothier.

I did make a couple of substitutions.  I used part of a jalapeno instead of a Thai green chili, less heat and a pepper slightly easier to come by.  I looked for fenugreek leaves and fenugreek leaf powder, but no luck.  Of course I combed the interwebs looking for a suitable substitute.  Here’s what’s weird. Some sites listed maple syrup and some sites listed fennel and others celery leaves.  Odd.  Maple syrup seemed kind of out there.  You have to buy a whole fennel bulb or a jar of fennel seeds.  I’m not a huge fan of fennel so I wouldn’t have a lot of use for the leftovers.  That left me with celery leaves.

For the spinach:

  • 1 large clamshell of spinach (10oz)
  • handful celery leaves
  • 3/4 C water

Blanche the spinach in boiling water and transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water.  That’s how you keep the bright green color.  Drain.  Add spinach, celery leaves, and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.


Here’s the spice/aromatic part of the ingredients list: (my photo disappeared!)

  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C cream
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minnutes
  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach.
  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Be careful of the splatter.
  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil  Cook another 5 minutes.

Here’s how it went:

Other than the fenugreek, this recipe is pretty easy and pretty good.  It’s beautifully bright green.  It has a toasty flavor with just a little heat.  I did end up with a green polka dotted kitchen.  There’s a LOT of splatter when you add the spinach.  It’s a great side dish.  I imagine it will be good served over rice.  The cookbook offers adding cubed paneer  or potatoes as good variations.  Palak paneer makes a good entree and adding some potatoes would give some weight to the spinach as a side.  All in all, two thumbs up!  My array of Indian food at home is increasing!


UPDATE:  This is absolutely a multi-use vegetable side.  It makes a fantastic topping for scrambled eggs and an amazing sauce for pasta!


Tariwala Murgh (Chicken Curry)

February 5, 2018

I think I’ve mentioned how much I love Indian food. Love it.  But I rarely make it at home.  It’s often full of ingredients that aren’t familiar to me and that I don’t usually have in the house.  This year I bought a beautiful cookbook from Rasika, my favorite Indian restaurant in DC.  I decided I would be brave.  I would collect some of the ingredients I didn’t know and I would jump in and make some of this wonderful food.

This cookbook does a wonderful job of explaining all of the spices you’ll encounter.  Even better, it tells you in how many recipes you’ll encounter those spices.  This was a big help to me in deciding which ones I should buy to get the most bang for my buck.  For this one, I ordered deggi murch.  It’s a special chili powder.  While I don’t have everything I need to cook my way through this book, I do have an extensive spice cabinet.  I do keep turmeric, cardamon, cumin seed and garam masala in the pantry, so that made this that much easier.

I’ll admit this is not an easy recipe.  It has a lot of ingredients and it takes a long time.  The recipe commentary recommends that you make this a day or two ahead of serving it, so I haven’t even eaten any yet to know if it’s worth it!  That comes tomorrow.

I feel confident that you could use this masala on vegetables just as well, but I used chicken because that’s what the recipe says.  It also says you could make it with lamb. So, very versatile.  And it freezes well.  If it’s good enough to make it again I’ll probably make double.  It won’t be much more trouble to double the amounts and having some in the freezer would be worth it.

This is “Home-style Chicken Curry” so everyone does it a little differently.  I followed the recipe as closely as possible.  I did use home canned tomatoes instead of fresh.  They just taste better than Winter tomatoes in Virginia which taste like nothing.  And I used some bottled ginger to make the paste because that seemed like exactly the right use for ginger that was already kind of paste-like.  Oh, and I substituted ground cumin for ground coriander.  It seemed closer that substituting fresh cilantro, which is the plan that produces coriander seeds.

So settle in.  Here we go.  Just kidding. The description will be a LOT shorter than the actual process!

Here’s what you need, with my adjustments:

  • 1 pint canned tomatoes
  • 2 C water
  • 6T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamon pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion sliced thinly
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2 T Ginger-Garlic paste (process 1 part ginger, 3 parts garlic and some water into a paste)
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 t deggi mirch
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 C hot water
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 t garam masala

Whew!  That’s the list.  But there are fewer steps than ingredients!

Here;s what you do:

  • Set out the chicken to come to room temperature and salt it.
  • Puree the tomatoes and water in a blender
  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot until the oil shimmers.  Cast iron or enameled cast iron are your best bets.  Add the cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves.  When the cumin starts to crackle, add the onion.


  • Cook 7-10 minutes, until the onion is brown.  Add the garlic.  Cook another 3-5 minutes.  The garlic should be brown.  Watch it carefully or it will burn.
  • Add the Ginger-Garlic Paste.  Have the lid nearby!  This stuff cracks and pops in that hot oil.  Cook it 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato puree.  Bring to a boil.  And the turmeric, deggi mirch, and cumin.  Cook 15 minutes.  You’ll end up with a loose paste.


  •  Add the salted chicken and ginger.  Cover the pot.  Cook 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and garam masala.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cover the pot, cook 10 minutes.  It will be soupy when you’re done.


Serve with rice and naan.  That comes tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that this was all worth it!


Red Lentil Dal

January 14, 2018

Vegetarian dinner, day 2!  And another day to use the new bowl cozies I made.  These are a genius invention for those of us who mostly eat while sitting on the couch.  Equally useful for carrying hot bowls back and forth to the table.

So cute!  But I digress.


I love Indian food.  Love it.  And frequent trips to London have helped me love it all the more.  I didn’t eat dal for a long time.  Let’s be real, they mostly look pretty gross.  And I have some texture issues with food anyway.  But I’ve come around.  There are all kinds of lentils, the base of dal.  Some of them hold their shape and some don’t.  The red ones don’t, but this tastes so good it doesn’t matter.  Keeping your rice a little firm helps balance the texture as well.

One of the wonderful things about Indian food is the layers of spices.  And these are all spices you can find in any grocery store, but some of them you may not keep on hand.  We’ll talk substitutions as we go.  I found the recipe on a site called “The Wanderlust Kitchen” that seems to have a lot of good stuff, so check that out when you have a minute.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced (serrano for spicy, jalapeno for more mild)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Chopped cilantro leaves and plain yogurt for garnish


I think you could substitute ground cinnamon and ground cumin for the stick and the see forms, respectively.  I’d advise against using ginger powder instead of fresh, but if you have bottled, that’s probably ok.  Cardamom is a unique flavor so worth buying a small jar.

Here’s what you do (annotated):

Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of room temperature water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

I brought mine to a simmer and cooked them with the lid mostly on, but tilted to vent.  Start the rice at the same time as the lentils.  Add some salt to the water for both the lentils and the rice.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick; cook for 60 to 90 seconds, until fragrant.

I broke my cinnamon stick in half to release more flavor.

Add the onion, green chili pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are turning translucent.


Add the turmeric, cardamom, paprika, salt, and tomato to the pan. Cook until the tomato begins to fall apart, about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.


Stir the spiced onion mixture into the pot of lentils. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Taste and add salt as needed.

Garnish with cilantro; serve with basmati rice and naan.

I left off the naan and added a dollop of yogurt.  I also added more lemon juice and some salt.  


Here’s what I thought:

It comes together easily enough to make for a week night meal or as a side.  It took me longer than the 20 minutes quoted in the original, but that could be me.  My technical knife skills aren’t bad, but I’m not fast.  Takes me a few minutes to get all the chopping and measuring done.  I’ve become increasingly appreciative of mis en place – getting all the prep work done before the cooking begins.  It’ll save you time in the end.

It definitely needed more lemon juice and salt.  Lentils are pretty earthy on their own and they take spice very nicely.  This is a rich and wonderful dish.  I chose the jalapeno over the Serrano chili so it wasn’t overly heat spicy.  Just enough to liven up all of the other spices.  An excellent dish for a cold January night. This is one to add to your list of comfort foods.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth

February 25, 2013

Well folks, it’s been a while!  I’ve been traveling for work for most of the last two weeks and trying to empty the fridge in the days leading up to the travel-thon.  I’ve eaten some very nice meals in the last couple of weeks, but you know how it is when you travel – too much food and too much booze.  I’m awfully glad to be home and in control of my meals again.  I’m trying to shock my system back into healthy eating so I’ve been on a vegetarian kick.  Two days of lentil soup and now this chickpea dish.


I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of the chickpea in its non-hummus form.  I picked this dish from a list of Cooking Light slow cooker recipes because it fit the easy and cheap criteria and because I love pretty much anything with coconut milk in it.  It far exceeded my expectations.  You have to love crockpot recipes.  Dump everything in and walk away.  This recipe suggests that you saute the onions and garlic first, but I bet it would be really fine to dump them in raw.  The recipe also calls for chopped fresh cilantro.  I’m sure that would be great, but I was too tired and too lazy to chop it.  I did manage a dollop of plain Greek yogurt though.  Yum.

Not much to add in terms of cooking tips.  I used one of my last remaining jars of home canned tomatoes.  With so few ingredients I believe they make a difference here.  I also used homemade curry powder.  I’d give you the recipe, but I have no idea what it is or where I got it.  Curry powder is just a combination of spices so making your own is easy and absolutely worth it if you use it a lot.  If you don’t make curries often just buy a good quality commercial curry powder.  Otherwise you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of money on the individual spices and not get a lot of use out of them.

I always think that things made with coconut milk will be a little bit sweet.  Not so.  This is tomato-ey and a touch briny with a little heat.  The chickpeas provide a nice neutral balance and the yogurt adds a little creamy and a little tangy.  Yum.  Remember that this is a broth and not a sauce or a stew.  It’s thin, but not weak.  The rice soaks up a lot of the extra and stretches the chickpeas even further.  You could serve it like soup and serve it with naan I suppose, but I recommend the rice.

I’m guessing this will be one of those dishes that’s even better leftover.  Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy so this will make a perfect lunch!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Crockpots make everything easy.
Good for company? Eh. Better for a weeknight dinner after a busy day.
Special shopping? Nope. Curry powder is everywhere and you can find pickled jalapenos in the pickle section of any decent sized grocery store.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart whole peeled tomatoes (or 1 28oz can, undrained)
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon salt
hot cooked basmati rice
plain Greek yogurt for garnish


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Place onion mixture, chickpeas, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a 3 1/2-quart electric slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over rice. Top with yogurt.

Butter Chicken (Indian Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce)

April 11, 2012

Tonight I’ve decided to forego an evening of trim painting for two of my other favorite -ings:  cooking and eating.  Tonight’s dinner is not quite as decadent as it sounds, but it’s that good.  Lots of pluses for this dish.  It’s Indian and I love Indian food.  It’s hot and spicy – perfect for a cold evening like this one.  It comes together in less than 30 minutes and requires a minimum of chopping.  And if you serve it with naan instead of rice it’s a one pot meal.  All good.  Very good.

I actually followed the recipe here nearly exactly.  I had to substitute fresh ginger for ground because it’s what I had in the house.  And I left out the peas because I don’t like peas.  Other than that I read and measured carefully.  I used my home canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, which I like to think makes a difference.  As recommended I used a rotisserie chicken.  I bought and picked the chicken last night which saved me a bunch of time tonight.  A couple of tips about working with a rotisserie chicken.  Skin it and pick it while it’s still warm.  It’s SO much easier that way.  But, if you’re planning to use the chicken the next day leave it in large pieces where you can (breast and thighs).  It’ll help keep the moisture in.  Refrigerate it overnight and the chop or dice it while it’s cold.  It will hold it’s shape much better and be easier to chop.

This is yummy stuff.  Rich enough to be smooth and silky, but not so rich that you feel like you can only eat one bite.  Trust me, you should eat lots of bites of this.  The flavors are really complex in a wonderful way.  The garam masala makes it wonderfully aromatic.  The cayenne gives it a nice heat.  The tomatoes give it a little acidity.  The cream gives it a welcome softness.  It’s a truly lovely combination.  I served mine with whole grain naan which added just enough earthiness to round it out completely.  The biggest plus it that this makes a big pot of chicken and I’m thinking that the leftovers will be even better.  I’m looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Yes. Terrifically easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Garam masala spice blend is available in most big groceries, but try a spice store like Penzey’s to get a high quality one.

Butter Chicken (Indian Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce)


Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon garam masala seasoning
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 skinless rotisserie chicken, boned out and pulled into 1 1/2 by 1/2-inch chunks
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Naan, warmed according to package directions, for serving


To make the spice blend: Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the pieces just begin to turn gold, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and spice blend, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. The spices will be fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and stir will. Add the chicken pieces, spoon the sauce over the top and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce is flavorful, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.

Serve with rice and/or naan.

Lamb Vindaloo – Crock Pot Style

March 6, 2012

Crazy days at work and crazy days of weather have made this a good week to pull out the slow cooker.  I’m in week two of the Pantry Challenge and having to get a little creative to create something that looks like a complete meal.  My Make It Fast, Cook It Slow cookbook is really coming in handy.  10-15 minutes of prep time and then the food cooks while I work.  Dinner is ready whenever I am.  Perfect.

Let me start by admitting that I know nothing about vindaloos.  A tiny bit of reading reveals that these meat stews sometimes have potatoes in them and are served with naan and sometimes have no potatoes and are served over rice.  Since I had some potatoes left from last week I went in that direction.  So, basically I can only tell you that I enjoyed this dish.  I think it’s good food.  I cannot tell you whether or not it’s good vindaloo.  No idea.  But it made a good dinner.  And lunch.  And dinner.

Part of the point of the pantry challenge is to help me clear some stuff out of the freezer.  There’s a lot of lamb down there so that seemed like a good centerpiece for a meal.  I love Indian food so when I found a recipe that incorporated both I grabbed the chance.  I didn’t have any lamb stew meat so I used shanks instead.  I ended up with less meat, but I don’t think the dish suffered at all.  Having the lamb on the bone adds a lot of flavor.  And since shanks have to cook a long time to be tender they’re perfect for a crock pot recipe.  I had about two cups of baby potatoes (red, yellow and purple) left from last week’s chowder so I used those up.  My last substitution is in the tomatoes. The recipe calls for a can of stewed tomatoes.  You may remember from a New Year’s post that I hate stewed tomatoes.  Hate them.  Clearly I’d never have a can in my pantry. I substituted a pint jar of my home canned tomatoes along with about 1 tablespoon of sugar and a chopped red bell pepper.

Not much to say about the cooking.  Dump everything in the crock pot and let it cook  8 hours or more.  The flavor is dark and rich and spicy.  The potatoes help balance the cayenne, as would the rice if you go that way.  If you think you’ll need a little something extra to balance the heat serve some cucumber raita or a cucumber salad on the side.  I invited a friend to join me for dinner and she was kind enough to bring some naan to go with the vindaloo.  Yum!

Good? Yes, definitely.
Easy? You bet. Gotta love the crock pot.
Good for company? My company seemed to enjoy it.
Special shopping? Nope.

Lamb Vindaloo


4 small to medium lamb shanks
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t ground cloves
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 t cayenne
1 T ground coriander
1 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 C chopped baby potatoes
1 pint whole peeled or diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 T sugar


Put onion, garlic and spices in a large ziplock bag and mix thoroughly. Add the lamb shanks. Coat the lamb shanks with the spices. Put in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.
Dump the contents of the ziplock bag in the crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low 8-10 hours.
Serve with naan.

Sweet Potato and Cashew Korma over Coconut Rice

November 14, 2011

Well folks, I had a cholesterol screening last week and I have my results.  It’s not a surprise, but let’s just say that it’s a number that would be more welcome in a bowling alley than on a cholesterol test.  So, those of you who are vegatarian and/or watching your cholesterol pay attention this week.  You’re about to see a first in One Woman’s Kitchen – it’s tofu week!

Let me be perfectly honest.  I’ve never been much of a tofu fan.  I don’t know that this recipe will change that completely, but it’s a good start.  So let’s talk about the tofu first.  I got it as part of my Relay Foods order.  Now that I think about nearly everything in tonight’s meal is here courtesy of Relay Foods.  But I digress.  The tofu is of the extra firm variety.  The recipe called for cubed tofu so extra firm seemed like the way to go.  It’s produced at Twin Oaks, a nearby intential community.  Twin Oaks is better known for their fantastic hammocks, but the tofu is worth checking out.  They have a number of other soy products as well.  I don’t know how to tell if tofu is good except to report that I didn’t find it objectionable at all in this dish.  That’s a tofu success in my book.

Now for the marquee ingredients.  (You’ll notice that the tofu didn’t make the recipe title).  My sweet potato wasn’t extremely sweet which works out well in this recipe. I used a sweet onion; minced ginger from a jar; minced garlic from a jar; and some halved grape tomatoes.  When I tasted the dish it was a little lacking in the tomato arena so I added a little tomato paste.  Just a little.  I made the coconut rice with lite coconut milk because it’s what I had and I think it was fine.  You wouldn’t want the rice to overshadow the rest of the dish, which is surprisingly subtle.  I don’t think of coriander and garam masala, and certainly not chile garlic paste, as subtle flavors, but the way they come together here they’re very smooth.  Maybe the sweet potato mellows them out.

This dish is really good.  Like make again good.  Next time I might add a few more tomatoes and a touch more chile garlic paste, but very few changes are in order.  The dish is warm and earthy and the yogurt garnish adds a great bright and creamy flavor. The cashews and cilantro make for a salty, buttery and green finish.  My guess is that the leftovers tomorrow will be fantastic.  And it’s healthy too.  Score!

Good? Indeed.
Easy? Yep. Some chopping, some sauteeing, some steaming. That’s it really.
Good for company? It’s not fancy, but good for friends.
Special shopping? Nope.

Sweet Potato and Cashew Korma over Coconut Rice


2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice

2 t olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chopped peeled sweet potato
1 cup water
2/3 cup chopped plum tomato
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat water-packed firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
3 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped dry-roasted cashews


To prepare rice, bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
To prepare korma, while rice cooks, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add the onion; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add ginger, coriander, garam masala, and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sweet potato, 1 cup water, tomato, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potato is tender. Stir in cilantro, chile paste, and tofu. Serve korma over rice, and top with yogurt and cashews.

Vegetable Korma

April 1, 2011

I’ve been craving Indian food for a couple of days so I opted to make Vegetable Korma instead of the Vegetable Lo Mein on the original plan.  I should have stuck with the plan.  This was a decidedly mediocre dinner.  Not even mediocre really.  Just this side of  order-a-pizza-instead.  And pretty boring too.  The good news is that I think I’ve figured out how to fix it.  It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll bother.

There are two big problems with this dish.  First, the recipe calls for no salt at all.  And it needs some.  Badly.  That’s an easy fix.  Second, the cauliflower sucks out what little life there is in this dish.  My recommendation?  Double the potato and edamame, add some diced tomatoes, add some salt and ditch the cauliflower.  I think that has possibilities.  In the interest of full disclosure I feel like I need to tell you that I changed up the spices a little.  I had about 2 tablespoons of homemade curry powder so I used that instead of the mix listed in the original recipe.  It didn’t change the overall character of the recipe and it made life a little easier for me.

So, in the final analysis this is not bad if you don’t eat the cauliflower.  I can’t say it’s good either, but I did eat it.  If I end up picking out the cauliflower and adding tomatoes  I’ll report back.  In all honesty it’s more likely that this will end up in the trash never to be seen again.

Good? Not really.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Definitely not.
Special shopping? I keep coconut milk in the pantry, but you may not. Most grocery stores carry it.

Vegetable Korma


1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 (12-ounce) baking potato, peeled and diced
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice


1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon ginger and garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon); sauté for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in edamame and potato. Combine chicken broth, flour, and milk, stirring until smooth. Add broth mixture to pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3 cups cauliflower, and simmer for 9 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve over white rice.

Taj Maholla! Chicken

February 28, 2011

It’s been a tough afternoon in the vicinity of this woman’s kitchen.  The never ending to-do list in a three way collision with technology gone awry and the clock.  I needed a break and some dinner.  No time for an elaborate cooking experience and no time for a trip to the store.  And a serious craving for something with an Indian flair.  Who woulda figured that Guy Fieri would be the answer to this problem?

As my regular readers know I’m not usually much on short cuts, but I used two tonight that are favorites of mine.  I love brown rice, but it’s not unusual that I don’t remember to start it until I’m halfway through the rest of my prep.  Enter whole grain brown rice of the boil-in-bag variety.  Boil some water.  Drop in the bag.  Brown rice in 10 minutes.  The other short cut is as much about taste as time.  This recipe calls for Roma tomatoes.  Well, it’s February in Virginia, and while it’s been kind of warm lately the tomatoes still suck.  No taste at all.  And since these tomatoes were headed for a puree anyway, I used tomato paste with a little water.  Two good things about this:  it’s faster than chopping tomatoes and there won’t be any seeds in the final sauce.  One more quick tip about the tomato paste.  How many times have you opened one of those little cans of tomato paste, used 1-2 tablespoons and put the can in the fridge only to throw it out a week or two later?  I’ve started using tomato paste in a tube.  I get the double concentrated kind so I only use half of what’s called for.  Just put the cap back on and throw in the fridge.  It keeps great.  Look for it in the Italian section of the International foods aisle.

So, this is a two step dish.  First you make the rub for the chicken.  I made two substitutions here.  I didn’t have chicken thighs so I used boneless, skinless breast instead.  I had no pomegranate juice so I substituted cranberry juice.  I also changed the proportions a little.  All good.  The spices and juice cook down into a paste that’s rubbed on both sides of the chicken.  While the chicken cooks you make the sauce and the rice.  Use the same pan to make the sauce that you used to cook down the spice paste.  No need to dirty additional dishes, particularly since the spices are the same.  The sauce base of onions and spices doesn’t make a ton, which is fine since the flavors are pretty concentrated.  What that means, though, is that putting that small amount into a blender seems like overkill.  You could always skip that step, but I do like that this is a smooth creamy sauce.  The other option is to get a stick blender, also called an immersion blender.  They generally come with a tall container for mixing small amounts like this without flinging sauce all over the kitchen.  If the sauce base is too thick to puree easily add a little of the cream to the blender.

Because both the paste rub for the chicken and the sauce base are browned for several minutes, the flavors in this dish are very deep.  It makes a nice heat in the back of the throat.  Be careful about the salt.  I only used 1 teaspoon and that was plenty.  I did use salted butter also, so maybe that’s why.  Just go easy on the salt.  Don’t be too concerned if the sauce is a little salty when you taste it.  Remember that there’s no salt on the chicken so that will even things out in the sauce.

The verdict?  This is really, really good.  Warm and earthy and comfort-foody in a slightly exotic way.  A major improvement to my less than fun afternoon.  The taste is much richer than you’d expect from this amount of effort.  Gotta love that!

Good? Yes, yes, yes. One of my favs.
Easy? Relatively so, but we’ll call it intermediate because there are multiple things going on at once.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Pomegranate juice if you choose to use it.

Taj Maholla! Chicken


For the Chicken:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/8 cup minced ginger
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Garam Masala, recipe follows
4 tablespoons cranberry juice
2 pounds skinless, bone-in chicken thighs

For the Butter Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala, recipe follows
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large saute pan, over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger and slowly cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add chili powder, turmeric, Garam Masala and cranberry juice. Let cool slightly. Rub chicken well with mixture and bake in a shallow baking pan for 25 minutes. Chicken will be three-quarters of the way cooked. When chicken is cool to the touch, remove bones and shred meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile to make Butter Sauce: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onions, ginger and garlic until light brown, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue sauteing until tomatoes begin to fall apart, about 5 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return puree back to pan and add cream and butter. Bring to a simmer and reduce for 5 minutes. Add shredded chicken and saute for 6 minutes more until chicken is cooked through. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with basmati rice, if desired.

Chicken Biryani

November 6, 2010

Today has been a day of learning lessons.  Lesson 1:  If you wonder out loud near a PetsMart employee why your dog eats the only type of Blue dog food not currently on sale he will a) explain that this is because your dog is a diva – and she wasn’t even with me and b) print off a $5 coupon for you.  Nice.  Lesson 2:  my local bookstores are shamefully remiss in stocking Indian cookbooks of any real use.  I just don’t think I should be learning to cook Indian from Betty Crocker.  (I am not making that up.  The most prevalent Indian cookbook in that store is a Betty Crocker).  Lesson 3:  Cooking with local, pasture fed meats takes extra planning.  Lesson 4:  There is a very good reason that Indian restaurants offer take out service.

As my regular readers know, I make a concerted effort to buy what I can from local farmers and limit what I get at big chain grocery stores.  I’m not a zealot and I do have some budgetary limitations, but I try to do my part.  Now, when you buy meat at the farmers’ market it comes frozen solid.  This makes it difficult to use the day you buy it.  I am not a fan of defrosting meat in the microwave.  That almost never goes exactly like you want it to.  And I’m not a fan of thawing meat in a hot water bath, though I’ll do that in a pinch.  This brings us up to my confession that for tonight’s dinner the chicken came from Kroger.  It is organic.  And it is free range.  But it is from Kroger.  Okay, I feel better now that that’s out there.

So, no decent cookbook to be had, and limited knowledge of how one makes a relatively authentic biryani.  I cobbled together pieces of a couple of recipes I found on the web.  (BTW – if you have a site that you like for Indian recipes please share)!  The thing that the best recipes seemed to share is that making biryani is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a long time; includes some ingredients that your average U.S. household pantry doesn’t have; involves many steps.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.  There are a number of shortcut recipes out there so feel free to give some a those a shot if it fits better with your life.

Today was a good day to try this because it’s Saturday and I’m supposed to be spending the day cleaning the house.  Also I have a friend coming over later so I know I don’t have to get myself together to go out.  And so the process begins with de-boning the chicken and making the yogurt marinade.  The most cost effective way for me to buy organic chicken at Kroger is to get the “Griller Packs.”  The package includes 2 breasts and 4 legs.  It’s about 3 pounds.  It’s wicked easy to cut the breast off of a chicken bone.  Remove the skin first.  Make sure you use a very sharp knife and that you’re always aware of where the tip of the knife is in relation to your finger.  Cut along the side of the bone first to free the tenderloin (this may be easiest if you turn the breast upside down) and then cut along the wide, flat part of the bone, lifting the breast as you go so you can see, until the bone separates from the breast completely.   Cutting the meat from the legs is a little harder.  There are a lot of tendons in the legs.  Just do the best you can and then throw all the bones in a pot with some water and the ends of onions, carrots, celery, parsley, whatever you have, and make stock.  It doesn’t have to be perfect for this because you’re going to dice the chicken anyway.

The first part of this is pretty easy.  Mix some yogurt and spices and marinate the chicken all day or overnight.  Then you deep fry some thinly sliced onions.  Also pretty easy, though honestly next time, were there to be one, I might just buy a can of Durkees.  It might be nice to have a use for those other than that green bean casserole everyone used to make for church suppers.  Anyway, the marinating and the onions get done ahead and then you go on about your day.  When you come back to this though it will need your full attention for a while.  A piece of advice that I did not follow:  get everything together and measured before you start the next part of this.

So, in one pot you have to parboil the rice with some whole spices.  Parboiling is just cooking the rice part of the way.  In another pot you heat oil and ground spices and then add the chicken and the marinade.  The recipe suggests that it won’t take long to cook the chicken down to where the sauce isn’t watery.   That took me about 20 minutes.  While you’re doing that you drain the rice and spread it out to cool.  I removed the whole spices then.  And while all that is going on you need to heat some milk with saffron in it.  You’ve likely figured out by now that my kitchen is a complete disaster and this thing isn’t even done yet.

You’re in the home stretch at this point, and yet still shockingly far from eating.  Layer the rice, chicken mixture, fried onions and cilantro – in that order.  Two full layers and then top with the rice.  Pour the saffron milk over the whole thing, cover and cook.  One recipe called for cooking on low on the stove top.  Another called for baking in the oven.  You may recall that my stove doesn’t adjust as low as I would like so I chose baking.

At this point in the process my kitchen looks like a cyclone hit it; I’m exhausted and starved; and still an hour from eating dinner.  Yikes.  All I can think is that even if this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten next time I’ll order take out.  Turns out this is really, really, really good.  I put a little plain Greek yogurt mixed with garlic, coriander, cardamom and salt on the side of the bowl.  Extra yum!

Good? Oh my, yes!
Easy? Far, far from it.
Good for company? Definitely a meal to impress. And it makes a bunch.
Special shopping? You’ll need to hit a Penzey’s or other spice shop. My local grocery doesn’t carry cardamom pods.

So, here the best approximation I can give you of what I actually did, presented in stages.

Here are the recipes that I drew from:
Secrets of Making a Perfect Biryani
Chicken Biryani Recipe from Food & Wine

Chicken Biryani

Preheat the oven to 350.

Marinating the chicken

3 lbs Chicken on the bone
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Tablespoon of ginger garlic paste
1 Teaspoon of coriander powder
a little salt

Mix all of the above ingredients and let the chicken marinate for 6-12 hours, more the better.

Frying the onions

1 C vegetable oil
3-4 onions thinly sliced

Heat oil to medium and add sliced onions. Stir the onions continuously for uniform browning. When they become light brown, drain them on kitchen paper. Keep them aside. They will get nice crispy as they cool down.

Parboil the rice

2 C basmati or jasmine rice
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Add rice and spices to a large pot. Cover with 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil 5-6 minutes. Drain the rice. Spread the rice on a tray to cool. Remove whole spices and discard. The rice will be only partially cooked at this point.

The saffron milk

1/4 C heavy cream
1/4 C low fat milk
a few threads of saffron

Heat milk in a small saucepan. Steep saffron in warm milk while the chicken cooks. Keep the milk warm.

Cooking the chicken

2T vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste
2 tablespoons Ginger Paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 C diced tomato (fresh or canned)
chicken and marinade

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large, heavy skillet. Add spices and cook 2-3 minutes until you can smell them. Add the tomatoes, chicken and marinade. Cook uncovered at a high simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sauce isn’t watery any more. 10-20 minutes.

Putting it together

1C chopped fresh cliantro
1C chopped toasted cashews (optional)

In a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid melt 2T of butter. Layer 1/3 of the rice; 1/2 the chicken and sauce mixture; 1/2 the fried onions; 1/2 the cilantro; 1/2 the cashews if using. Repeat all the layers. Top with remaining rice. Pour saffron milk over the top. Put on the lid and place the lidded pot in the oven. Bake 1 hour.

For Serving

1 C plain greek yogurt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp salt

Mix well and chill. Serve aside the biryani.