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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 12

Daal is the Hindi word for lentils, used to make the thick, soupy lentil dish that is also called daal. Daal can be made with most of the lentil varieties available at the supermarket. It makes a great side dish because it is a breeze to prepare and is packed with protein and fibre. In this recipe, tiny red lentils (masoor daal) are simmered until they thicken and fall apart, creating a stew with plenty of body and texture.  A tadka (infused oil) of onion seeds and onion is then used to garnish the daal and punch up its flavour.

You will need:

1 c masoor daal (tiny red lentils)
3 tbsp canola oil
1½ large onions
1 tsp garlic paste (or 1 large clove garlic)
1 tsp ginger paste (or minced fresh ginger)
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2½ – 3 c water
1 tsp onion seeds (aka black caraway or nigella)

Over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a medium-sized pot. Dice one onion and sauté it in the oil until the onion softens. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric and chilli flakes to the oil, stirring to infuse the oil with the spices.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, followed by the water, salt and pepper.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring periodically, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils have absorbed the water and appear to have dissolved somewhat. Be careful not to let the daal burn at the bottom of the pot!

Meanwhile, prepare the tadka by slicing the remaining onion and browning it in a frying pan with the remaining oil. When the onions are a deep golden colour, add the onion seeds and allow them to release their flavour into the oil.

When the daal is ready, pour it into a serving dish and garnish the surface with a generous heap of the hot, savoury tadka. Serve daal over basmati rice, or use torn-off pieces of warm chapatti to scoop daal into hungry mouths.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

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Feb 2010 05

This bright yellow pilaf, embellished with a constellation of crunchy mustard seeds and toasted cashews, is a staple dish in many Indian households. Adding the lemon juice at the end gives the rice a fresh, sharp flavour. It also gives you the option of turning any plain leftover rice you have on hand into a colourful, festive side dish in minutes. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may substitute lime juice and zest for the lemon – lime rice is equally authentic in the realm of Indian nosh.

You will need:

2 c. basmati rice
2 3/4 c. water
½  tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
pinch turmeric
¼ c. unsalted cashews
¼ c. lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water and salt to boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well in cold water, until the water no longer appears cloudy. Add the rice to the boiling water, cover, then turn the heat down to low. When the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes), turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork.

In a larger pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the cashews and mustard seeds, stirring continuously – they should shimmer enthusiastically in the oil. When the seeds begin to crackle, whisk in the turmeric, then remove the pot from the heat so as not to burn the nuts. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest, then add the cooked rice and toss to coat. If you’d like, stir the chopped cilantro into the rice just before serving.

Serves 4

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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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.

~~~

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

Pakoras are those tasty little spiced fritters consisting of vegetables dipped in batter and deep-fried –sort of the Indian answer to tempura. They can be made with individual whole chunks of veggies (cauliflower, onions, eggplant) or you can concoct a “mixed” pakora by combining several different shredded vegetables.  The flour used in the batter is actually not flour at all, but dried chickpeas ground into a powder. It is called besan, and is used quite frequently in Indian cuisine.

You will need:

½  c. besan (chickpea flour)
½ tsp salt plus extra to taste
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
½  c. plus 1 tbsp water
1 Yukon gold (a.k.a. yellow-flesh) potato
1 large onion
vegetable oil for deep-frying

In a large bowl, whisk together the besan, ½ tsp salt, cayenne pepper, baking powder, and cumin. Whisk in the water, beating well to form a smooth batter – it should be roughly the consistency of pancake batter, and should coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the cilantro, and set aside.
Grate the potato (medium or large-sized grate).  Finely chop the onion, so that the pieces are roughly the same size as the bits of potato. Toss the potato and onion together, then add them to the batter.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large heavy-bottom skillet – you want it to be about 1 cm deep. To test the oil temperature, drop in a small cube of bread – if it shimmers in the oil and browns in roughly 30 seconds, the oil is hot enough. Scoop little tablespoonfuls of the veggie mixture from the batter (if you’re using larger chunks of vegetables, simply pull out individual pieces), and carefully slip them into the oil. Fry them in small batches of about 3 or 4 at once, turning, until the pakoras are a healthy golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the pakoras onto a plate lined with paper towels, allowing them to drain. Immediately sprinkle the hot pakoras with a bit of salt, and serve at once.

Serves 4 as an hors d’oeuvre

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Nov 2009 10

Fall is pumpkin season, but don’t let some false sense of recipe purism prevent you from making this curry with butternut squash, sweet potato, or even organic carrots. The point is to choose a vegetable that you love, dice it up, and stew it in a broth of spiced coconut milk until tender. Creamy coconut-based curries are aromatic and decadently rich (and thus, high in calories). The amount of coconut milk you add depends on how strong a flavour you want. So, while this recipe may seem to call for a lot of spice, bear in mind that the coconut milk will soften & dilute these spices significantly. At any rate, feel free to experiment and find the spice-to-coconut milk ratio that you like best.

You will need:

1 small pumpkin, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, diced
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp (or to taste) salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp chili flakes
1 c coconut milk
1.5 c water
1 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Begin by heating the oil and softening the onions in a saucepan over medium heat. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic, ginger, salt, and all of the spices, stirring. Dice the pumpkin and add it to the pan, stirring to coat the pumpkin with the spice. Add the coconut milk and water to the pumpkin, along with the shredded coconut. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

Garnish the curry with fresh cilantro and serve at once with basmati rice.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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