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Mar 2010 04

Tandoori chicken is a classic Indian dish, and the perfect introduction for those new to Indian cuisine. The tandoor, for which the dish is named, is the traditional clay oven in which this crimson-coloured chicken is roasted – at home, a barbecue is the closest you can get to replicating the effects of the tandoor. In India, tandoori marinade is typically prepared with yogurt, which helps to tenderize the meat. My father’s kosher version uses pureed onion instead, creating a tremendously flavourful and pungent sauce. Don’t worry if you can’t handle “spicy” foods – the heat level can be adjusted to your taste, simply by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper, as the tandoori spice itself, though fiery red, is not spicy.

You will need:

3 to 4 lbs skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ -1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp tandoori spice*
4 tbsp lemon juice
½ c. vegetable oil (not olive)
lemon wedges, to garnish

Throw everything except for the chicken and the lemon wedges into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Taste the marinade – you may want to adjust the seasonings, adding a little more of this or of that, according to your taste. Marinate the chicken in this mixture at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in your refrigerator. (If you’re trying this with salmon, don’t let the fish sit longer than 4-5 hours in the marinade, as the acid in the lemon juice will “cook” the fish for you.)

Heat your grill, and oil it lightly. Shake the excess sauce off the chicken and grill on medium-high heat, about 10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Alternately, if you’d like to bake it, do so in a 400°F oven, sauce and all, for about 20 minutes, turning once. The sauce you’ll have left in the baking pan is insanely delicious over plain basmati rice. Either way, serve the chicken with basmati rice and, if you’d like to get fancy, with a wedge of lemon.

Serves 4

*The best Kosher Tandoori masala in the GTA can be obtained in Thornhill, at Bulk World. 1470 Centre Street Thornhill, Ontario 905-886-1300

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Feb 2010 05

In thumbing through cookbooks — or searching online — for exotic Indian food, you will no doubt come across many curry recipes that would make the hair of any Indian, myself included, stand on end. So I felt it necessary to warn you all about the vast array of impostor curry recipes out there: the mere act of adding curry powder to something does not transform it into a curry!

Here’s the thing. You can’t make an authentic, true curry without your base aromatics: onion, garlic and ginger. Without those, your curry will be bland and will taste 1-dimensional. It’s like making an Italian tomato sauce without shallots, garlic and olive oil – no self-respecting Italian would do it! Cumin is also vital to a good curry – cumin is to curry what basil is to marinara sauce. Got it?

So with those 4 things – onion, garlic, ginger and cumin – you can punch up any old curry recipe and turn it into something that would impress even your Indian friends!  What follows is a recipe for a tomato-based vegetable curry.

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Chickpea Curry

You will need:

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 cups water
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp garam masala (also available at Indian groceries)
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds (or ½ tsp mustard, in a pinch)
1 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
1-3 green chilies, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, until the onions are soft and golden. Add all of the spices, ginger, garlic and salt. Stir-fry the mixture for a minute.

Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water, and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice, and green chilies, and allow them to cook together for about a minute. Add another cup of water and simmer the mixture until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Serve over basmati rice and with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, if you like.

Serves 6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Nov 2009 10

I’ll let this dish speak for itself, save to mention that it has become an exceptionally popular add-on to my Shabbos meals, and is an easy, tasty option for Passover. In greater quantities it can stand alone as a main dish, when served alongside a mound of plain basmati rice – though I much prefer the cutesy presentation of the little lettuce boats, which give a crisp, refreshing contrast to the richness and sharp heat of the lamb.

You will need:

1 lb (450 g) ground lamb
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red chillies, chopped (or 1 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. peas
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 head iceberg lettuce, or romaine heart

To prepare the lettuce, simply tear off the leaves, selecting the most boat-shaped leaves as your receptacles for the lamb. To further perk them up, after washing, submerge the leaves for several minutes in a sink full of very cold water, then drain well. They should be curved, crisp, and cold. Set aside (preferably in the refrigerator).
In a wok or a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are soft and golden. Add the chillies, salt, ginger, and garlic, and stir well.
Increase the heat to high. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated. Add the peas and tomatoes, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mixture cook another 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in most of the cilantro.
To serve, simply scoop the hot lamb into the lettuce cups, arrange them on a platter, and sprinkle over the remaining cilantro.

Serves 4-6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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