In the Kitchen: Explore Indian cuisine

by admin

I love to explore foods and culinary specialties from other counties. The unexpected flavor combinations and taste variations are welcome at our table, and thank goodness my family is supportive and encouraging in my regional food adventures. In the metro, we have many ethnic grocery stores and several large supermarkets that carry a lot of the spices needed for recipes from around the world. 

My daughter is a big fan of Indian cuisine and the vast options for curries. She brought home several of her favorite recipes and a few cookbooks on curry from college. We have enjoyed trying to make many of the dishes from that part of the world. In doing a little research, most of our favorite Indian favorites are more “British influenced” or Indo-British, but I still love the spice combinations and hope to continue to explore and expand my Indian recipes and knowledge with even more authentic dishes from this amazing diverse place. 

Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

This is a super easy and scrumptious recipe. If you have never cooked an Indian recipe, this may be an easy recipe to consider. You can adjust the heat level. 

For the chicken marinade:

1 cup plain yogurt 

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

3/4 teaspoon black pepper 

1 teaspoon ground ginger 

1 teaspoon salt 

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 6 boneless chicken thighs

Mix all ingredients for the marinade and add chicken to a Ziploc bag or large plastic container. Turn chicken several times to make sure it is all incorporated. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to prepare the Butter Chicken, spray a Crockpot or slow cooker with nonstick spray and remove chicken from the refrigerator. Drain chicken but do not rinse. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add the chicken along with all the ingredients for the sauce to a slow cooker.

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon butter 

1 clove garlic, minced 

1-2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (or other spicy pepper to your liking, you can also use 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes) 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

2 teaspoons paprika 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 – 8 ounce can tomato sauce 

1 cup heavy cream

Cook on low in the crockpot for four to five hours. Once chicken is completely done, stir in a slurry mixture of 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1 tablespoon water to thicken the sauce. You may also add a can of drained fire roasted tomatoes for an extra tomato flavor. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 20 additional minutes. Top with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro before service.

Chicken Tikka Masala

I am still trying to properly understand the difference between this dish and another poplar dish we often eat, Butter Chicken. It appears that the main difference is that the chicken is not cooked in the sauce for Tikka Masala. Basically, you make chicken tikka and then add the chicken to the masala sauce after it has cooked. Our family has enjoyed this recipe and I hope you will do the same. 

To make the Masala sauce:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 medium onion, diced fine 

2 medium cloves of garlic, minced 

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger 

1 Serrano chili, ribs and seeds removed finely chopped (You can use any other spicy pepper to your liking)

1 tablespoon tomato paste 

1 tablespoon garham masala 

1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons sugar 

1/2 teaspoon table salt 

2/3 cup heavy cream 

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves

To make the sauce, combine all in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and cook stirring frequently until it’s light golden, about eight minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chili, tomato paste in the garham masala. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant or about three minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to a simmer. Remove the pan from heat in allow to cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve or keep warm while you prepare of the chicken.

You can make the sauce ahead of time and simply reheat it and place chicken in it when ready to serve. 

To make the Chicken Tikka combine:

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1 teaspoon regular table salt 

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast 

1 cup plain yogurt 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

2 medium garlic cloves, minced 

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

To prepare the chicken, combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with a spice mixture pressing gently to make sure it adheres. Place the chicken on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. 

In a separate bowl mix together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger. 

After the chicken has marinated, brush it with the yogurt mixture and broil chicken until the thickest part registers 160° on an instant read thermometer and the exterior is slightly charred in several spots. Cook chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet with a rack for easier cleanup. The chicken will cook between 10 to 20 minutes flipping chicken halfway through cooking. Remove chicken from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes. Cut into one-inch chunks and set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.

When ready to serve the Tikka Masala: Cook the chicken and be sure that the sauce is heated through. Place chunks of chicken into the sauce but do not simmer the chicken in the sauce. Top with fresh chopped cilantro and service basmati rice.

Indian Ratika

This cool and refreshing yogurt sauce is the perfect accompaniment to any Indian dish. Most Indian dishes would be considered spicy and this will cut the heat and cool your palette. 

1/2 cup plain yogurt 

1/2 cup chopped seeded and peeled cucumber 

2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro 

2 teaspoons chopped green onions or 2 teaspoons red onion, chopped 

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander 

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Goli Manchuri

I am not sure exactly what this is or even how to pronounce the name, but I know it is absolutely delicious. We saw someone make this on TV and had to try it. While a simple internet search said that Goli Manchuri is considered “Indo-Chinese” cuisine, and it is not known all over India but mainly in the northern region of the India. 

The sauce is what we call “Indian ketchup” at our house, and it is delicious on everything. The original recipe called for serving the sauce with fried cauliflower flowerets. I would definitely suggest trying the fried recipe, but I have also served it with cauliflower flowerets that have been broiled or oven roasted for a few minutes. 

To make the sauce:

1/4 cup ketchup 

3 tablespoons water 

2 tablespoon soy sauce 

1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce 

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice 

3/4 teaspoon black pepper 

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl. 

In a small sauce pan, combine 3 green onions, chopped, 3 tablespoons garlic, minced and 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced. Sauté in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil for about 90 seconds. 

Add the ketchup mixture and whisk well. Adjust seasoning and serve warm. 

To make the fried cauliflower, prepare the batter: 

2/3 cup flour 

2/3 cup cornstarch 

1 cup water 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt

Whisk batter ingredients together and toss bite-size cauliflower flowerets to coat. Deep fry in a deep fryer or in a heavy pot with oil heated to 350°. Fry for about five minutes and then drain on paper towels or slotted baking rack.

Naan or Indian flatbread

While this bread is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, most households in the U.S. do not have access to one. I have seen naan cooked on a grill, in a frying pan, on a cooktop, or even on a pizza stone. Any way you choose should work, but just watch your heat to make sure that the bread is not browning too quickly. Occasionally, it will smoke so have your oven fan ready to turn on.

1 cup warm water

1 envelope or 2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast 

2 tablespoons sugar 

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting 

2 teaspoons salt 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

3 tablespoons milk 

2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream 

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

3 tablespoons ghee or melted butter

Fresh chopped garlic or other optional toppings.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 cup warm water. Allow to stand until foamy for about five to 10 minutes. In the bowl of a food processor, place the 4 1/2 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a few times to mix and blend. Add yeast mixture, milk, yogurt, egg, and 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Process until it is smooth and elastic, pulsing about 15 times. The dough should be soft but not too sticky. Add more flour if necessary. 

Add oil to a bowl and add dough, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour to hour and a half until the dough has doubled. Punch down and divide in to 10 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and covered with a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise again for about one additional hour. 

When ready to cook, heat pizza stone in the oven to 450°. If using a grill, set it up for direct grilling and heat to medium high. If cooking in a pan, turn on medium high heat and allow pan to get very hot. 

Roll out a dough balls on a lightly floured surface to about six inches in diameter. Stretch one end into a teardrop shape. Brush off any excess flour and repeat with remaining dough balls. 

Carefully place the dough on the hot surfaces and allow to cook until top is puffed and blistered and browned on the bottom. This will be one to two minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip the dough and cook on the same on the other side. 

Once naan is fully cooked, brush tops with melted butter and chopped garlic, if desired. Place in a warm oven until remaining naan is cooked. Repeat the process for the remaining doughballs. Served warm.

Indian Dal Tadka 

This is a recipe that my daughter brought home from college. The combination of spices is a flavor explosion. Feel free to adjust the heat level to your tolerance. Most of the population in India is vegetarian so this recipe is a more authentic representation of Indian cooking. 

To cook lentils:

1 cup red lentil 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder 

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

4 1/2 cups water 

Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for an hour until lentils are tender. 

For the curry mixture: 

1 onion, chopped 

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped 

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root peeled and chopped 

1 – 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes, undrained 

2 teaspoons curry powder 

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper, more or less to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon ground coriander 

2 to 3 tablespoons oil 

salt and pepper to taste

Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the spices and sauté for about three minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for about three to five minutes. Add curry mixture to the lentils and cook for about an additional 20 minutes. 

Serve with rice, Naan, or pita bread and a fresh cucumber salad. 

This can be as simple as freshly sliced cucumbers marinated briefly in rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar or you can make an Indian yogurt dressing. The fresh “cool” vegetable is a great compliment to this spicy and hearty vegetable dish.

*All of the above dishes can be served with Basmati rice. Please try to find this type of rice for your Indian recipes. It is a little different than regular long grained rice and adds a special flavor to the dishes. It is delicious. 

Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)

My father loves tapioca pudding and my mother will occasionally make it for him. I consider this to be a similar dessert.

1/3 cup basmati rice

1 teaspoon ghee or clarified butter

4 cups whole milk

4-5 tablespoons sugar

3-4 whole green cardamon pods, slightly crushed or 1 teaspoon ground cardamon

Optional but good: 

1/4 cup toasted nuts: cashews or almonds are best

1 1/2 teaspoon rose water

Rince the rice under warm water until it is clear and then soak rice for about 30 minutes. Drain.

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan and add drained rice. Add cardamon pods and toss until aromatic. Add milk and stir well. Allow milk to come to a simmer and stir frequently. Allow milk and rice mixture to simmer on low for 20-30 minutes until it has reduced and the mixture is very thick and rice is completely cooked. Stir in sugar and nuts and cook for five additional minutes. The kheer will thicken as it cools. 

Remove from heat and stir in rose water if using and allow to cool. Kheer can be served warm or cooled. If serving cold, allow to sit in the refrigerator for four to five hours. Top with additional toasted nuts, if desired.

Lisa can be contacted at [email protected].

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