Sunday, August 3, 2008

Indian food could be the best thing ever.

Making a full on Indian meal as my first attempt after about a 2-month cooking break was a gutsy move on my part. There isn't really a super fast way to make really great homemade Indian food, especially when you're a novice in the cuisine. I went to a local Indian grocery store this past week to get a couple things to help me through including some aged basmati rice and these two lovely products:
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One of my favorite parts of eating out at an Indian restaurant is the gigantic spiced lentil cracker with chutney condiments they bring to the table when you arrive. I was on a mission to make these at home to enjoy. I found these lentil crackers at the store but wasn't 100% how I was going to handle and cook the large discs so I opted for the mini versions called Papad Jeera, which are the size of a small tortilla chip. These little babies are amazing to watch cook. As suggested from the various online sites I came across, these papads should be VERY slightly dampened with a touch of water and then let ALMOST completely dry again before cooking. I put a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and gently threw in the papads and watched in a matter of 5 seconds on one side and 5 seconds on the other side as they turned into the miniaturized versions of the one I always devour at restaurants. Besides purchasing tamarind-date sauce to dip these papads in, I also made another one of my favorite toppers at Indian restaurants: onion chutney. All I did was cook ground paprika, cumin and salt in a little oil for a few seconds, added a finely chopped Vidalia onion, tomato paste, sugar and a touch of tamarind date sauce. The onion in the chutney shouldn't really be too cooked but only heated to take the edge off and marry the flavors together . . . maybe 5 minutes? This chutney was pretty right on after being chilled for a few hours in the fridge.
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So, just making these papads and the onion chutney took a while to make but I pushed through to make some of the best curry I have ever made at home. The main dish contained potatoes that I boiled whole before hand, cauliflower, peas, coconut milk, salt, and various spices such as coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, bay, black pepper and mustard (there were a few more I can't recall now) as well as a half a can of coconut milk. Boy or boy was this tasty. It didn't have a spice/heat that hit you right away but rather came up from the back after a bite was swallowed. It wasn't a lingering spicy heat, which was pleasant.
Of course I made rice that complimented the curry perfectly. I prepped my aged basmati rice pilaf style in a bit of Earth Balance and these 5 lovely additives:
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1 cinnamon stick, 5 whole cloves, 5 whole cardamom pods (green), 1 bay leaf and a pinch of saffron threads. I added a combo of water and coconut milk to the oil "cooked" rice and let it cook for about 20 minutes and fluffed it with a fork. Typically, I remove the spices so that people do not chomp down on one of those spicy bad boys accidentally.
I think the key to good Indian rice is to rinse the rice in a colander several times to get the excess white starchiness off. Just run it under water (or soak several times) until the water runs almost clear. Then let the rice totally dry out once again (you'll be surprised how fast this happens, actually) before adding to the oil. I swear this ensures that you won't get sticky, gummy rice but rather fluffy separated grains. I usually use a liquid to rice ratio of 2:1 (actually slightly less than 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup rice).
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All and all, I was very happy with my first meal back, especially since it was so time consuming and labor intensive. And even after 2 days passing since this awesome meal, our house still has a lovely perfume of cooked Indian spices lingering.

23 comments:

Paulina said...

Looks pretty good, especially since I love Indian food!

VeggieGirl said...

Mmm, Indian cuisine is DEFINITELY delectable and satisfying.

So glad to see you posting again!! I know how busy you've been, so it's a treat to see you back :0)

Animal-Friendly said...

I'm glad that your first cooking adventure in 2 months turned out really well! It certainly looks delicious.

Hannah said...

Yum, that looks seriously delicious! I love Indian food but rarely cook it because it can be a bit complicated... Plus, it's still rather hot out to chow down on curries and such!

Courtney said...

Wow--that sounds fantastic! It must have felt good to get back into the kitchen again--especially since you were so successful!

Courtney

Jess - The Domestic Vegan said...

Yes, please! That all looks incredible. I just had a Pad Thai/Curry hybrid stiryfry thing (very technical name) for dinner, and was seriously sweating throughout the whole meal... So worth it, though.

VeganCowGirl said...

It all looks amazing Lori. Bravo. AND...the photo of the herbs is fantastic.

Congrats on having some time to get back in the kitchen. (Aren't summer holidays great? When does school term start back for you? Hope you get some down time before the next group of classes)

Maxcactus said...

This was your best blog post ever!

pavotrouge said...

this looks great, yum for date chutney and how cute are those mini poppadums!

aTxVegn said...

I'm pretty sure Indian food is the best - I always love it and could eat it anytime. I cooked only Indian for quite a while, so I quit. Now I miss it! You did an awesome job. I haven't tried baking my own naan bread. If you ever try it, I hope you'll tell us about it.

Vivacious Vegan said...

I've tried making Indian dishes before but I can never seem to get it quite right. Luckily, we have a vegetarian Indian restaurant here to satisfy those cravings. It's always my first pick whenever Marty asks me where I want to eat. You have me inspired to try again!

Jes said...

Great looking curry!

jessy said...

what a lovely dish! and your indian spices are so pretty! thanks for the tip on the basmati rice, too! i hate when it sticks together! makes me all sadfaced!

sounds like taking some extra time to make this dish paid off! what a tasty success!

Calimaryn said...

That looks and sounds so delish. Indian food is my current favorite cuisine even if I dont get it very often. Beautiful feast!

Mihl said...

That looks so yummy! And I think papadams are the best crackers ever!

Liz² said...

awesome post! I love love indian food, you really outdid yourself with all of this! I'll have to remember how you did the chutney, too. :o

Rural Vegan said...

Wow, you went all out for your kitchen reunion! Everything looks fabulous!

Latayy said...

I am into indian food right now too. I am dedicating my next few post to this cuisine.Your rice is cooked very good

Latayy said...

Hello there.
I loved your tribute to indian cusine and the tips on the rice was good. I just made a similar post because many people have problems cooking rice from scratch!
Do you know roti? It is Indian as well.
You can make your own roti and put this same curry inside and it is very nice and you can add chickpeas to it for a protein boost.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Ooh, I love Indian food! Everything looks SO good.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Oh yes, I will agree with you-- Indian food rocks!

Darlene said...

Good for people to know.

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