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Indian Food - Recipes 

Panch Phoron
Panch Phoron

Spice mixtures in Indian dishes are so tantalizingly exotic!  Calling for myriad spices I had never heard of, each time I encountered a new spice in a recipe, I rushed to find a supplier and try out these flavors!  Luckily I did not have to catch a flight to India to find these spices. Business class flights can make your flight more enjoyable and relaxed.

Masalas, or spice mixtures, vary from region to region and household to household.  A "Masala" is a spice mixture.  The word "Garam" that often precedes this refers to the pungency of the spices used.  A Garam Masala is rarely mixed with chiles, and so is not "hot/spicy", but only pungently spicy.  It is absolutely best to use only fresh, whole spices if at all possible. The flavors of fresh whole spices are far superior to anything pre-ground.


Lamb Chops with Bengali Spices 

I suddenly thought about the Panch Phoron ("Indian 5-Spice") mixture I had made up not so long ago. I wondered if this spice mix, along with a few other spices and flavors would be more pertinent to a particular area in India, and it seemed that what I had on hand would be most at home in Bengal. Tamarind paste can be found at international markets or Asian markets.

Serves 4

8 lamb chops
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 - 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
¼ cup fresh mint, finely minced
3 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons Panch Phoron
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (pure ground chili, not the one used in Chile con Carne)
1 teaspoon salt


Lamb Chops with Bengali SPices
Lamb Chops with Bengali Spices
Trim the chops of excessive fat; not all of it, fat gives flavor. Place them into a container that will hold them with the marinade, or in a zip-top bag. Combine all the marinade ingredients and pour over the chops. Make sure the marinade has coated all of the lamb chops. Turn often to marinate evenly. Let the lamb marinate for at least 2 hours, or more if possible.

Heat a grill to high heat and grill the chops for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until desired doneness. The thickness of the lamb chops will determine how long to cook them until medium.

NOTES: These lamb chops were well paired with grilled asparagus and little potatoes, boiled until tender, then smashed flat and fried. Once fried to a crispy exterior, sprinkle them with more of the toasted Panch Phoron.

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Grilled Pork with Indian Spices 

Finding pork and vinegar in the marinade would likely place this recipe in Goa. I love the flavors of this blend of marinade ingredients. It smells heavenly as a marinade and even better when grilling and eating. I have made this many times over many years but always on the grill. I have not tried it in the oven, though either broiling or setting on a rack to roast quickly at high temperatures would likely work just fine.

Serves 6

2 pork tenderloins, about 2½ pounds
½ cup cooking oil (I use olive oil)
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or through a garlic press


Grilled Pork with Indian SPices
Grilled Pork with Indian Spices
Trim any fat or silver skin from the tenderloins, then cut each into 3 sections on the bias, against the grain. Set aside. In a gallon sized zip top bag, pour int he oil and vinegar. In a spice grinder, place the coriander, cumin, peppercorns and mustard seeds and grind to a powder and add to the bag. Add in the salt, turmeric, fresh grated ginger and the garlic. Seal the bag and shake to combine the ingredients. Add in the pork sections and seal the bag, turning and moving the meat around so all the pieces are completely coated.

This can be done earlier in the day if needed and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 hours, but if time permits, the marinade flavors the meat just fine after about an hour, setting out on the counter.

Heat a grill to fairly hot and sear the meat quickly, then either turn down the heat or move the meat to a cooler side of the grill to finish cooking to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.


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Goan Style Chicken 

Goa, in the west of India, was populated by the Portuguese who brought their cuisine to blend with the Indian cuisine of the region. Occasionally pork is found in this area, as well as the use of vinegar in marinades. This recipe is an interpretation of a Goan recipe, using vinegar to moisten a marinade using Indian spices. The chicken may be boneless skinless breasts or thighs, and it may be grilled or baked, as desired.

Serves 4

1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 large chunk fresh ginger, peeled, loosely chopped
½ large onion, or 1 small onion, in chunks
2 teaspoons curry powder of choice
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom seed
2 inches true cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 - 4 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons oil or melted coconut oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)


Prepare the chicken breasts by butterflying to make them of even thickness. Alternately, pound the breasts or thighs to an even thinness. Make shallow slashes in the meat on both sides, not cutting all the way through. Set aside.

Place the first 12 ingredients into a blender container and blend to break up large pieces. Add in the oil or coconut oil, then the vinegar to allow the mixture to become a thick paste. Scrape out the marinade onto the prepared chicken and rub the marinade into the chicken, including into the shallow cuts  on both sides. Set aside to marinate for at least ½ hour, or longer if you have the time.

Goan Style Chicken
Above: Goan Style Chicken, baked
Below: Goan Style Chicken, grilled

Goan Style Chicken Grilled

Preheat oven to 425. If baking the chicken, place onto a greased baking sheet with sides. This will be best on a rack, though not necessary. Drizzle oil or melted coconut oil over the chicken. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Alternatively, grill the chicken until done.

This is great served with saffron rice and a chutney of choice. I served it with Apple Onion Chutney with Sultanas.

NOTE: Hot chiles may be added to the marinade as desired. Two to 6 jalapenos or serranos will impart a nice heat.


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Kashmiri Chicken 

A northern Indian / Pakistani style dish with a great combination of flavors. Set all the spices and mixtures out together ahead of time and this dish is a snap to prepare.

Serves 4

WHOLE SPICES
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon black "onion" or nigella seed (Kalonji/Calonji)
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 inches true cinnamon

1 tablespoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ - 1 teaspoon hot chili powder (not the mixture used in Chili con Carne)

1 bay leaf

Kashmiri Chicken
Kashmiri Chicken



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1 onion, thinly sliced, lightly chopped
1 walnut sized piece fresh ginger, minced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ghee or oil

½ cup coconut milk powder, plus:
1 cup water (or just use 1 can coconut milk)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 - 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
In a dry skillet over high heat, toss the whole spices for 2 to 4 minutes, or until very fragrant. Turn out onto a plate to cool, then grind in a spice grinder. Add the next 3 pre-ground spices to this mixture and set aside.

Heat ghee in a large skillet and saute the onions, ginger and garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add all the spices, including bay leaf and saute for 2 - 3 minutes more. Add the coconut milk powder, water and lemon juice and allow the mixture to cook fro 15 to 20 minutes.

Add in the chicken, tomatoes and salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.


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Matar Pulao 

Rice with Indian curries is just so delicious. "Matar" means peas and "pulao" is a pilaf, or rice mixture. This pulao, or pilaf, is simple to make but is just the right combination. Simple, yet flavorful.


Serves 6 - 8

1 cup basmati rice
2 teaspoons ghee or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 good pinch saffron
1 (1-inch) piece true cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
2 cups water
1 cup frozen peas

Matar Pulao
Matar Pulao
In a medium sauce pan combine the rice, ghee, salt, saffron (rubbed between fingers to make tiny fragments), cinnamon, cardamom and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to very low, cover with a lid and time for 15 minutes. Rice should be completely cooked. Turn off heat but leave pot on the hot burner. Add in the frozen peas and allow to rest for another 10 minutes until warmed through. With a fork, fluff the rice to combine the peas.


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Naan 

In India, breads are the utensils for eating a savory curry dish, kebab, or other. Bits of the bread are used as a scoop for the food, without the use of a fork. However these breads are eaten, it is no wonder they have become so popular. Give them a try and find out for yourself.

Makes 6 naan breads

1 packet instant rise yeast
1 pound all purpose flour (about 3½ - 4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lukewarm milk
½ cup yogurt
2 tablespoons ghee
Naan
Naan Breads
Combine the first three ingredients and set aside. Mix together the wet ingredients and pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Once mixture comes together, knead for 10 minutes, and then set aside to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough and divide into 6 portions. Roll or pat out thinly into a large circle, then pull on one end to stretch to the traditional teardrop shape. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes on a pizza stone in a 475 degree oven, or on baking sheets. If making over a grill, set over high heat, close lid and check after 1 minute. If well browned, flip for 1 minute or more until done on both sides.

Coarsely ground coriander seed can also be sprinkled over. Once naan are baked, they can be brushed with melted ghee and left as is, or sprinkled with nigella seeds or poppy seeds. The ghee can be melted with smashed garlic to infuse the flavor and then  brushed over the baked breads.



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Indian Spiced Lentil Stew 

While this is made using the most common brown lentils found in every grocery here in the US, the flavors are authentically Indian. You could make this usng the little "red" lentils also.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings

½ pound brown lentils, washed well
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 - 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, minced
5 to 6 cups water
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
½ pound sweet potato, peeled and cut in ½-inch cubes
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
3-inches true cinnamon stick, crumbled
2 black cardamom pods, crushed, seeds removed, pod discarded
¼ teaspoon green cardamom seeds (about 2 - 3 pods)
1½ - 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Indian Spiced Lentil Stew
Indian Spiced Lentil Stew

If making in a soup pot, heat the pot and add the ghee or oil. Add in the onions and sauté until a deep golden color. Add in the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, if using. Toss until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils to the pot, with the water, then add in the carrots, celery, sweet potato , turmeric and fenugreek leaves. In a small spice grinder, grind together the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, black and green cardamom seeds, and grind to a powder. Add to the pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover. Simmer for half hour or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.

If using a crock pot, place lentils in the pot, along with the carrots, celery and sweet potato and turn to high. In a skillet, sauté the onions, and add the ginger, garlic and jalapeno as above. Add this to the crock pot. Add in the spices, cover and allow to simmer for about 4 or 5 hours, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked through.



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Keema Matar 

(Indian Spiced Ground Meat with Peas)

This delightfully spiced ground meat dish can be made with beef or lamb. The flavors are quintessentially Indian, with only the black cardamom as a spice not found on just any shelf. Black Cardamom imparts a smokiness to the flavors, due to the why the spice is processed. If you cannot find it, just eliminate. Green cardamom has a sweeter tone and is not a suitable replacement for the black. "Full Masala" usually means leaving the spices in their whole form, though I prefer to grind them together before adding.


Serves 4

1 pound ground beef or lamb
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 onions, chopped fine
2 fresh green chiles, such as Serrano, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece fresh ginger about the size of a walnut, chopped finely

FULL MASALA:
1 (3-inch) piece of true cinnamon
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
2 green cardamom pods, crushed
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
2 dried chile pods, crushed, optional

1 - 1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1½ cup frozen peas
chopped cilantro, for garnish


Keema Matar
Keema Matar, served with Saffron Basmati Rice
Spices for Full Masala, below

Spices for Full Masala
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil or ghee and saute the onions over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until they begin to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. The onions should be a deep golden brown. Add the green chiles, garlic and ginger and cook for two more minutes, until aromatic. Add in the ground meat, mixing well until it completely loses its pink color. Sprinkle on the Full Masala (left whole and just crushed, to be authentic, or grind all the spices together) and cook for about 3 minutes more.

Sprinkle on the salt and turmeric and add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add in the peas, cover and continue to simmer just until peas are tender and heated through. The dish should be moist, but not soupy. To serve, sprinkle with the cilantro.

NOTES: I like to grind the Full Masala Spices, except for the bay leaf. Bay leaves are so sturdy, they tend not to grind fully. It is easier to remove the whole leaf at the end before serving.



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Dhania Poodina  - Green Chutney 

This is  very Indian chutney, as opposed to the sweet British style chutneys. It is relatively runny, and being fresh, will net keep. Make the day it will be used. The flavors are exceptional.

Makes 1 cup


1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 - 2 fresh serrano chiles, seeds removed, chopped
½ small onion, or 1 large shallot
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

Place all ingredients and half the lime juice in a blender and process until smooth. If it is too stiff to blend properly, add the rest of the lime juice.


Dhania Poodina | Green Chutney
Dhania Poodina - Green Chutney

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Cauliflower with Indian Spices 

I had some cauliflower and decided to try my hand with Indian spices. Another recipe I have made many times called for grating the cauliflower, and then sauteeing until it starts to turn brown. I really like the rice-like texture, so i decided to apply this to a dish with Indian flavors. I love how it turned out. Chaat masala has salt included in the mixture, so if you do not have chaat masala, or the ingredients to make it, use the alternate, below.

Serves 3 - 4 as a side dish

1 pound cauliflower, grated / shredded on a larger holed grater
2 tablespoons ghee
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
½ teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
2 teaspoons chaat masala + ¼ teaspoon salt, OR
    1 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon garam masala

Heat the ghee in a large nonstick skillet. Add in the mustard seeds and stir until they begin to pop and sputter. Add in the cauliflower and toss occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes on medium high.  Add in the ginger and garlic, coriander and cumin and toss for another 2 minutes. The cauliflower should have started to brown in spots. Add in the chaat masala and salt (or the garam masala and salt) and toss to combine.

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Cauliflower with Indian Spices
Cauliflower with Indian Spices

Ghee 
Indian Clarified Butter

Ghee is an Indian version of clarified butter, allowed to cook for far longer, thus developing a lovely nutty flavor. Use it for anything you'd like.  It has a very high smoke point and is great for frying. Make scrambled eggs with ghee or use if melted over pasta.

Makes about 1½ cups

1 pound unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. As the butter melts and begins to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and begin skimming off foam. At first the foam will be thick and white (fig, 1), later becoming just bubbly foam. Continue simmering and removing foam (fig. 2, 3). After about 15 minutes the bubble pattern will change (fig. 4), the bubbles becoming noticeably tinier and finer (fig. 5). After about 5 more minutes of removing foam, there will be far less, or none, and the ghee is ready (fig. 6). If the bottom browned bits are loose, strain the ghee through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to remove them, leaving a clear yellow ghee. Pour into a clean glass jar. If pouring the ghee while hot off the stove, place a metal spoon in the jar while pouring to avoid shattering the glass. Store tightly covered in a cool, dark place. This keeps a long time without going rancid, as the milk solids are all gone.

Ghee melted
Ghee: melted above; solid below
Ghee solid
Making Ghee
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Paneer 

Paneer is a fresh "cheese" made by souring milk and pressing out moisture. It is simple to make, and there are differing methods. Some use vinegar to sour the milk, and this is a quicker procedure. Others use yogurt to sour the milk and this takes a few minutes longer. I find the second version milder (no vinegar taste left over), and more pleasant. Either is good. I have been using only the yogurt method lately, so here is that recipe.

2 quarts milk
2 cups plain yogurt

In a saucepan, bring milk just to boiling point over high heat. Add the yogurt and stir constantly until it curdles completely, leaving a greenish clear whey.  If the liquids are still “milk” colored, it is not done! Strain this through heavy cheesecloth (or a straining bag), then tie the ends of the cheesecloth up to form a bag. Flatten under a heavy weight. It should still be able to drain while being weighted, so it is good to use some sort of strainer. Set in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours (or make this up to 3 days ahead), until "cheese" is firm. It should form a mass about 1-inch thick. Unwrap cloth and cut into squares. Fry until golden (optional).

NOTES: I have found that this method seems to fry, and more particularly brown, more nicely than the paneer made with vinegar - has anyone else noticed this, I wonder?


Paneer
Paneer, cut in small cubes and fried

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Palak Paneer 

Arguably my most favorite dish. I like spinach, but this takes spinach to a level near nirvana in my humble estimation. Palak is spinach, and paneer is a milk cheese recipe (see above). This recipe is a creamed spinach with the paneer cheese cubes, found on most buffets I have attended. 

Serves 4 - 6

2 pounds fresh spinach
3 tablespoons oil
3 medium onions, chopped fine
2  Roma tomatoes, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 piece fresh ginger, size of a walnut, minced or grated
½ - 1 teaspoon of salt, to taste

DRY MASALA
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
½ teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon fenugreek leaves, crushed
¼ teaspon red chile powder

½ cup plain yogurt
1 cup heavy cream (or as needed)
Paneer cubes



Palak Paneer
Palak Paneer, with fried onion garnish


Leave the spinach wet from washing. Put it into a large skillet (can be done in two or more batches) and toss with tongs until it is completely wilted, but still bright green. Drain thoroughly in a colander, pressing out any excess liquid, leaving a dry bundle. Chop this fairly finely and set aside.

(This whole previous step can be sped up by using two [10-ounce] packages of frozen chopped spinach. Allow it to thaw and drain thoroughly first,  then squeeze out any excess moisture before proceeding.)

In a wok or heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and saute the onions until they turn golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and the dry Masala mixture. Stir and fry quickly until it forms a thick paste. Add the spinach and stir-fry until blended.  Add the yogurt and salt and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the paneer squares and the heavy cream and stir till sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. 

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