Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Exploring Indian Cooking

Since meeting many fine people from India during my gig at Fidelity I have grown to love the many flavors of Indian food. I have eaten Indian dishes from different regions in restaurants and have had recipes from several regions of India shared with me. The amazing adventure this has sent us on is really getting good.

Much like how we decide which wines to make, we have reproduced restaurant dishes several times. Different dishes require different ingredients, but sometimes technique makes the difference. The Malai Kofta I made early on was only alright, but not restaurant quality. More recently I have had a success with Tarka Dals (cooked lentils or beans with onions, spices and butter), Palak Paneer and an assortment of pre-made appetizers and breads purchased at the Indian market.

Looking to branch out I paid attention from the first episode I saw of Indian Food Made Easy on Cooking Channel. The practical applications of the dishes gets high marks. Much more like what you and I do.

This past week I cooked Besan Pudas for a second time. These are an Indian crepe style bread that are often season with spices and vegetables. The first time they contained zucchini and cumin seeds. They were good, but not that good. This time I used cracked cumin seeds and caramelized onions. Much better. I didn’t end up getting any good pictures of the finished dish, but the bubbling butter has to count for something.

Caramelized Onion Besan Pudas

1 cup gram flour
¼ rice flour (I made my own)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp coarsely cracked cumin seeds
1 cup water
1 medium onion, sliced and caramelized

Mix all but the onions until smooth. Let sit 10 minutes.
Heat a griddle or fry pan over medium heat.
Use vegetable oil to grease pan.
Fold in the caramelized onions to the batter.
Spoon about ¼ cup of the batter per Puda on to the pan and spread thin using a circular motion.
Grill until golden on both sides.

One other repeat adventure was making the fresh cheese paneer. I used a recipe and neatly documented process from Show Me The Curry. What a rewarding experience. The taste is clean and the texture is firm when cold and nice and soft when warm.

I took the wrapped curd and hung it over the cut open milk jug. DIY paneer!

This process is very easy but takes time and must be watched closely during the early steps. We have eaten the finished cheese a couple different ways. On skewers with vegetables and a spicy yogurt sauce, in Palak Paneeer, and fried up with some butter. Any way you cook it this cheese is a nice way to eat fresh.

One of the things I needed to get a better feel for early on was spices. I still have a nice long list of Indian spices I have yet to try, mainly because the ones I am trying are so much fun.

Below is a tray of spices I laid out to use in an Indian meal I made for some new friends.

From left to right, top to bottom: Corriander (fresh gound), Cumin (fresh ground), black pepper, Garam Masala, Chili Paste, Salt, Black Cardomom pods and a western-style Curry Powder. One item that I realized should have replaced the salt was Turmeric. I use it all the time.

This past week my menu consisted of

Tarka Dal
Potato Lentil Samosa
Spinach and Onion Pakora
Besan Puda
Cucumber Tomato Raita (made at home)
Tamarind Chutney
Mango Lassi

I wrote about one version of Tarka Dal in May. The spin this week was to use a small red chili (whole), lots of cumin and sliced onions for the tarka.

The Raita was made in a simple fashion after looking at a whole bunch of recipes. I have had this a few times and I was hopeful that the cooling properties of the dish might be a nice contrast for guests.

Cucumber Tomato Raita

4 oz Greek yogurt
1 large tomato
½ large cucumber
½ tsp Lemon juice
Coarse ground coriander
Black pepper

Chop the tomato and cucumber into bit size pieces. Combine the yogurt and lemon juice. Chop 4-6 mint leaves and incorporate. Add the coriander, salt, pepper to taste. Chill before serving. This made a wonderful garnish for the breads and after I got a bite of the hot peppers used in the Dal.

This week’s meal was paired with the Ancient Fire Gewurztraminer/Riesling blend from 2008. The dishes had a little heat and the wine has a little sweet, with nice fruit flavors. The wine didn't overwhelm the food and was flavorful enough to have a nice finish. We also enjoyed one of the last bottles of the 2008 Ancient Fire Plum Dessert wine with Kheer brought by our guests. That wine is one of my absolute best!




kathy gori said...

So glad you are enjoying the world of Indian food. It looks like you're having fun!

Will Stewart said...

That was one delicious meal, and one I would put up against any Indian restaurant meal I've ever had (and I've had many).

Can't thank you guys enough for inviting us over to partake!

Mother Rimmy said...

I love that you are trying new cuisines. I need to stretch my cooking wings a bit more and try new things too.

A Little Yumminess said...

I am always happy when someone tries a new cuisine. I need to try others besides Indian!

Magic of Spice said...

Everything sounds so go...I enjoy exploring new dishes:)

The Manly Housewife said...

Brave and Bold My Friend...Well Done!

Spice Sherpa said...

Great post. Indian food is delicious I always seem to discover some new combination of flavors (i.e. ginger and chick peas).

Love your spice photo. Very lovely against the white back drop. Have you cooked much with asafoetida a.k.a. hing? It's popular Indian spice and in the Middle East.