Ghee and Gratitude – 660 Curries – Gateway to Indian Food
If you are fortunate enough to attend a demo by Chef Raghavan Iyer, you will instantly understand the IACP award for Teacher of the Year. The International Association of Culinary Professionals is a well-respected authority on such matters. Listening to Chef Iyer’s charming stories one is entertained but also aware that much more is being conveyed by the telling of the story.
“Saucy, Spicy, Simple, Sensational” Indeed
Indian cooks are taught to use their hands. To cook with utensils, says Iyer, is akin to making love through an interpreter. “It might be done, but would be far less satisfying.” Saucy and spicy!
One recent evening’s dinner consisted of a dish called “Restaurant Style Cauliflower” to which a handful of frozen peas were added. Served over delicious brown rice from Koda Farms (to be covered in more depth soon.) Many home cooks are intimidated by Indian cuisine. Accustomed to Indian takeout food, or Indian restaurant food, we may be familiar with “aloo gobhi” as a dish. But, make it at home? No way!
Aloo Gobhi – Exemplary Cauliflower
This cauliflower and potato curry dish has a tomato scented sauce that is rich without being heavy. Spicy without being overwhelming. It’s one of the best examples of the challenge and reward of Indian cooking. Of course, only a few weeks into the exploration, one is hardly an expert. But here goes an attempt.
From the recipe intro we learn that Aloo Gobhi is “reminiscent of the royal Moghal-style cuisine” and is from the north and pre-dates British rule. This dish is rich in history. From the recipe itself we learn there are four ingredients which must be prepared ahead of time.
Herein lies the beauty and the challenge: once these four ingredients are done:
- ginger paste,
- garlic paste, (Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
- fried onion paste, and (Here are some great onion choppers for you!)
- Punjabi garam masala
…the next several recipes calling for them are a breeze. The Aloo Gobhi is a breeze. The inclusion of these pastes add depth and complexity which would be impossible to achieve with simpler ingredients.
Like anything one must work a bit for, the result seems richer for that little extra effort. And they actually are in this case. There’s also a tremendous sense of accomplishment when one has toasted and ground their own garam masala!
Fried onion paste is nothing more than caramelized red onions buzzed up with some water. (They added beautiful depth and sweetness to delicious meatballs, in another meal.) Ginger and garlic pastes are also pureed in a best countertop blender with water. Nothing too elaborate. Once done, they can be used for other recipes outside the Indian repertoire, too. The ginger paste and garlic paste came in handy when fried rice was on the menu on a subsequent day.
Ghee (clarified butter) took longer to make than indicated but once made, has been invaluable for other uses. Sourdough pancakes brown beautifully without burning when cooked in a pan coated with ghee. Try that with butter and you’ll be sorry!
The Indian Potluck Dinner – A South Asian Huck Finn?
In order to try more of the 660 Curries in less time, your clever author invited friends and neighbors to join in the making of an Indian potluck dinner. The cookbook and website were shared and the date set.
What a feast it was – fit for Kings!
The menu included:
- Fennel and Cardamom-rubbed Salmon with Coconut Milk Sauce – with a generous portion of Copper River Salmon (see Teach a Man to Fish) left in the freezer there was no doubt that the Fennel and Cardamom-rubbed Salmon with Coconut Milk Sauce would be one contribution.
- Koda Farms’ Indian Rice blend was also (eventually) brought over to the party.
- Saag paneer and smoky eggplant from the 660 Curries website.
- Lamb curry, raita, mango lassi were additions from a Polish cookbook on Indian cooking.
Newer friends brought:
- Homemade naan (still warm from the oven!),
- Mango chutney based on the 660 Curries’ Pineapple chutney and
- Spicy Eggplant served on toast.
The author’s prior background as chemist is apparent here and there, isn’t it? It’s fun. Tips, resources for mail ordering amazing spices, a wonderful glossary of ingredients, are included in the book. More photos of the dishes would be wonderful.
Did you know?
- The word “curry” is unknown in any of the 23 official languages or 1,600 dialects in India.
- In addition to bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami, Asians add pungent and astringent as flavor components to be considered in cooking and eating.
- Eight techniques can pull eight characteristics from one spice: whole coriander seed has one flavor. Another when dry toasted; another when toasted then ground; or, oil toasted; or, oil toasted then ground; ground untoasted; soaked in liquid; ground after soaking.
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