Trying to explain Indian cuisine is like describing quantum physics. I love both, but they are best left to an expert. India’s cuisine is anything but uniform for many reasons: its 5000-year-old history, numerous settlers with diverse belief systems and distinct geography differences. But… there is a common thread.
The French have their sauces, the Mexicans have their chilies, the Italians have their pastas, and the Indians have their spices.
India produces 70% of global spice market. They grow about 50 of the 80 varieties of spices harvested worldwide.
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, or bark primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are considered aphrodisiacs by many cultures across the globe. It is believed their intense flavor heightens your emotions.
Spices are generally acquired in their dry form, however they can also be purchased fresh. A whole dried spice has a longer shelf life than its ground form. Spices are rarely sold fresh, for example turmeric, and therefore must be purchased in their ground form.
Chef Carol Cotner Thompson laid out spices for us to experience and commit to memory for future use. She said these spices are the building blocks for cooking Indian food.
Must have spices: White Pepper, Black Pepper, Coriander, Panch Phoron, Green & Black Cardamon, Cinnamon, Cassia, Fennel, Ajwain, Cloves, Asafoctroa, Nigella , Cumin, Ground Ginger, Saffron, Turmeric, Garam Masala, Fenugreek Leaves.
On a side note: Curry is not a spice, but a generic term for sauce-based dishes.
I had the opportunity to visit and buy spices at the Sahakari Spice Farm in India’s smallest state of Goa.
Of all the spices I saw, it was the beauty of the vanilla bean flower that impressed me. I could go on and on about how beautiful India is, but I’ll save that for another blog.
Back in the classroom, my group assignment is to make Potato Samosas with Yogurt Mint Chutney.
Start with fresh ingredients and spices, and then cook them together.
Roll out the dough, add the filling, and fold into a triangle.
Deep fry until they are golden brown and puffy.
The chutney was made with blending fresh ingredients in a food processor.
So fresh and simple!
Chef Carol shows Rona how to stretch Naan bread. Rona claims she isn’t a baker, but after eating her Challah, and now her Naan, she will just have to deal with the fact she can bake.
Click here to get the recipe from Rona.
Other class projects were making paneer (fresh cheese).
It only has two ingredients: milk and yogurt.
Here are a few other cooked dishes.
Kalhapuri Lamb with Cucumber-Coconut Chutney / Spicy Green Beans
Tandoori Chicken with Sizzling Onion / Ginger & Shrimp Cooked in Coconut Milk
Hare Masale Wali Murghi – Lemony Chicken with Fresh Coriander / Gobi Sabzi – Cauliflower with Ginger, Green Chilies and Spices
Spices for Masala Chai Tea / Rice Pudding with Dessert Spice Mixture
Samosas are a great appetizer. This recipe looks intense and is time consuming, but well worth the effort.
- 1½ cups self-rising flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground ajwain seeds
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- About ¾ cup water
- 5 medium-size potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1 to 2 fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers, minced with seeds
- 1½ tablespoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ cup thawed frozen peas
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, with stems
- ½ teaspoon mango powder
- 1 cup flour in a flat bowl for dusting
- ½ cup water
- 1 rolling pin
- 1½ to 2 cups peanut oil for deep-frying
- 3 to 5 serrano peppers, stemmed
- 6 scallions each cut into 3 to 4 pieces
- 3 quarter-size slices of peeled fresh ginger
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
- 2 cups firmly packed cilantro, soft stems included
- ¼ cup fresh lime or lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
- 2 teaspoons chaat masala, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- Place the flour, oil, and ajwain seeds in a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade and process to mix. With the motor running, pour the water in a slow stream and process until it gathers into a semi-firm ball that does not stick to the sides of the work bowl. Remove to a bowl, cover, and set aside at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
- Boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender, then peel and cut finely into small cubes.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick wok or saucepan over moderately high heat and add the cumin seeds, they should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly, add first the ginger and serrano peppers, and then add the coriander, cumin, and salt and stir a few seconds.
- Add the potatoes and peas, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Mix in the cilantro and mango powder and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool before using.
- Lightly oil your hands (to prevent the dough from sticking to them) and then divide the dough into twelve 1½ inch balls. Cover and set aside.
- Working with each ball separately, flatten it into a disc with your fingertips, coat well with dry flour, and roll into a thin, 6- to 7-inch circle of uniform thickness. If the dough sticks to the rolling surface, dust once again with flour. Rolling can also be done on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut the circle into half and baste about ½ inch along the straight edge with water. Pick up the two pointed ends and place them one on top of the other along the straight edge and press along the straight edge to seal, thus making a cone. Alternately, simply fold in half to make a triangle.
- Hold the cone with the pointed side down, between your thumb and fore finger, and fill with one tablespoon or more of the filling. Baste the open edges with water and press them together to seal. Cover and set aside until ready to fry. Repeat with all the other balls.
- Heat the oil in a wok or skillet until it reaches 325 to 350°F. (Drop a piece of the dough into the hot oil and if it bubbles and rises to the top immediately, then the oil is hot enough to be used.) Fry the samosas, as many as the wok can hold at one time without crowding, turning them a few times, until crisp and golden on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes.
- (If the samosas brown too quickly, the pastry will not become crisp.)
- Remove to paper towels to drain. Then transfer to a serving platter and serve with the Yogurt Mint Chutney.
- In a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade, process together the serrano peppers, scallions, and ginger until minced. Then add the mint and cilantro and process, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times, until pureed. As you process, dribble the lime juice through the feed tube into the work bowl and process to make a smooth puree. Add the salt and chaat masala and process once again to mix.
- Place the yogurt in a serving bowl and mix in the pureed greens. Then add the paprika and swirl lightly to mix, with parts of it visible as a garnish.
Picture of the Week
I wanted to leave you with a beautiful sunset in Goa, India.
It is said that Southern Indian food is one of the hottest cuisines. People who love fiery food have been dubbed pyro-gourmaniacs.
Not me, I accept being labeled a thermophobia-gourmaniac. Sigh.
…and then she paused for thought.