Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Indian From Scratch

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but one of my favorite types of ethnic food is Indian. Nate and I go out for Indian once in a while and also make it, usually with jars from the Indian grocery store or Trader Joe's. But this weekend, I finally dipped into an Indian cookbook I bought a few years ago, called India's 500 Best Recipes.

I made two dishes--one was a chicken and cashew dish, the other had mushrooms, peas and paneer--to take over to my parents' house, where we ate with my grandma, uncle and uncle's partner, who made two dishes as well. He made this vegetarian stuffed cabbage dish.

And a lamb and potato dish (front, left burner).

We also had basmati rice, flavored with spices and herbs, garlic naan from Trader Joe's (so I cheated a bit!), pappadam with tamarind sauce and mint chutney, and mini baked lamb samosas my parents made. And beer, of course! We had Maharaja and Kingfisher beer.
For dessert, we had mango ice cream with some vanilla wafer cookies I got at the Indian grocery store.
Everything was delicious, and the food was a lot of fun to make. It wasn't nearly as time consuming or difficult as I thought it would be. A lot of elements and ingredients go into the dishes, but really, they're pretty simple.
Below are the recipes for the two dishes I made.

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce
2 medium onions (after I cooked everything, I realized I only used one onion, and it seemed to be fine)
2 tbs. tomato paste
1/2 cup cashews
1.5 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 teas. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. plain, low-fat yogurt (I used Greek-style)
2 tbs. oil
2 tbs. chopped, fresh cilantro
1 tbs. golden raisins
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2.5 cups button mushrooms (I couldn't find button, so I just used the sliced mushrooms I found in the grocery store, and cut them up a bit)
1.25 cups water
1. Cut onions into quarters and place in food processor or blender and process for about a minute. Add the tomato paste, cashews, garam masla, garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt and yogurt. Process mixture in food processor for another 1 to 1/2 minutes.
2. In a heavy pan, heat the oil, lower the heat to medium and pour in spice mixture from the processor. Fry mixture for 2 minutes, lower heat a little more if necessary.
3. When the spice mixture is slightly cooked, add half the chopped fresh cilantro, raisins and chicken cubes and continue to stir-fry for another minute.
4. Add mushrooms, pour in water and simmer. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
5. Check that chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick. Cook for a little longer if necessary. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve with rice.

Mushrooms, Peas and Paneer
6 tbs. vegetable/canola oil or ghee (I used 3 tbs. canola oil)
8 oz. paneer, cubed (paneer is cheese made from a rice milk)
1 onion, finely chopped
a few fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
3 fresh green chilies (more or less to taste)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-in. piece ginger root, sliced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garam masala
3 cups tiny button mushrooms (I used the same mushrooms as above, cut up)
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted and drained
3/4 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1 tsp. cornstarch
1. Heat the ghee/oil in a frying pan and fry paneer until golden brown on all sides. Remove and drain on paper towel.
2. Grind the onion, mint, cilantro, chilies, garlic and ginger in a food processor to a fairly smooth paste. Remove and mix in the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala and salt.
3. Remove the excess ghee/oil from pan, leaving about 1 tbs. Heat and fry the paste until the raw onion smell disappears and oil separates.
4. Add mushrooms, peas and paneer. Mix together well. Cool the mixture and gradually fold in yogurt. Simmer about 10 minutes. Can also serve with basmati rice.

I can't wait to try more out of this cookbook. There are 488 more recipes, after all ...

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