Indian food, how does it work?

I recently purchased At Home With Madhur Jaffrey and have been trying to work my way through the recipes. Jaffrey’s book is a collection of recipes from “India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” all of which are easy to recreate. I thought I would share some of my favourite recipes from the book, in hopes that more people will try their hand at preparing Indian cuisine.

Bhuni Bhindi (my favourite recipe so far)

12 oz fresh okra
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
3/4 cup (2 oz) shallots or onions that have been peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into fine rings
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red chilies
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

-Cut off the top stem ends and the very tips of the okra pods. Cut each pod diagonally into 3-4 slices, depending upon size.
-Pour the oil into a medium frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds and then (a few seconds later) add all the sliced okra. Fry for 5 minutes, stir frequently.
-When the okra begins to brown, add the shallots and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes.
-When the shallots start to brown, reduce the heat to low and add the coriander, red chilies, and salt. Continue cooking for another 7-9 minutes.
-After the okra begins to crisp, add the lemon juice and mix together well.
-Serve with chapatis and raita.

Simple and delicious! Indian food isn’t as hard as everyone seems to think it is. I use to shy away from preparing Indian dishes because I thought it would be difficult, but if you learn a few basic recipes you will be able to apply the same techniques to more complex dishes!

Another recipe I really enjoyed (because I’m a bad Jew) was “Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce.” The recipe is a little more time intensive, but definitely worth it.

Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce

2 lbs medium-sized mussels
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp whole, brown mustard seeds
1 onion (about 6 oz), finely chopped
1 tsp fresh, peeled and finely grated ginger
1 tsp crush garlic
1 3/4 cups coconut milk (make sure to shake well)
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
15 fresh curry leaves or 10 fresh basil leaves, crushed in the palm of your hand
4 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 fresh green chilies, partially slit
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup water

-Start by scrubbing the mussels well with a brush, discarding those that remain open even after they are tapped. Remove any stringy beards.
-Put the oil in a large pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop (this only takes a few seconds) add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.
-When the onions begin to soften, add the ginger and garlic. Stir for another minute and then pour in the coconut milk + 1 cup water.
-Stir the ingredients together and then add the cumin, cayenne, salt, curry/basil leaves, cilantro, green chilies and lemon juice. Let the mixture come to a simmer.
-As the dish begins to simmer, leave uncovered and stir frequently for 5 minutes.
-After 5 minutes, add all the mussels, bring to medium-high heat and cover. Let the mussels boil in the broth for 5 minutes and check to see that they have all opened.
-Discard any mussels that have not opened after boiling.
-You can eat this by itself, serve with rice or serve with a salad.

The last recipe that I will share with you is Jaffrey’s “Karhai Broccoli.” I made this for my cousin and she asked me for the recipe. It was delicious and went really well with the fish I served.

Karhai Broccoli

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp ground asafetida*
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole mustard seeds
6 cups trimmed and cut broccoli (cut broccoli no loner than 1 1/2 inches)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water

-Pour the oil into a wok and set over medium-high heat. When the oil has heated, put in the asafetida, cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the broccoli florets.
-Stir the broccoli for 1-2 minutes, adding the salt and cayenne as you stir.
-Pour in 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. When the water begins to simmer, cover and turn the heat to low. Cook the broccoli for 7-8 minutes or under it is just beginning to get tender. Make sure to stir the dish regularly.
-Serve with main dish (meat or tofu) and rice

*When I saw that the recipe called for asafetida, I thought “Where in the world am I going to find that?” Turns out that most Indian stores have this on hand, but that you can also substitute equal parts garlic and onion powder if you can not find asafetida.

Try your hand at preparing Indian food. I promise you that it is not as challenging as it seems! You can also buy Madhur Jaffrey’s great book and learn more delicious recipes. Good luck.

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6 responses to “Indian food, how does it work?

  1. Those recipes sound really good. I have a few of Madhur Jaffrey’s books and have found them to be really good. I think I might cook something from them this week. You have inspired me!

    • I was trying to pull a “Julie and Julia” by cooking my way through the entire cookbook. I was able to make the majority of the dishes, with just a few requiring substitutions.

      I look forward to what you are inspired to make!

  2. I love Indian food! Even more when its hot and spicy. 🙂 Indian food is not that hard to make, you just need to find the right ingredients.

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