Bollywood on Ice
Indian has long been one of my favorite cuisines, ever since my days as a waiter at the Electric Lotus in Los Feliz, where I learned the ins and outs of the northern Indian menu (at least, well enough for tableside menu-advising), waited on celebrities, and spent six months trying (in vain) to wash the smell of curry from my hair.
As an eater, I love it–it’s spicy and boldly flavored, vegetable-centric, and when you smoosh it all together, it tastes even better (I am the opposite of the food-on-plate segregators; the more you can mix things up on mine, the better). But it has always intimidated me terribly as a cook. A few months ago, Rachel gave me a cookbook called Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India. I can follow directions well enough, so I figured this was my chance to attempt to master the elusive object of my culinary desire. What better way to warm up an icy cold Chicago night than with some spicy fare and a few friends in a small apartment? So, I stocked up on supplies at Devon St., and invited a few friends over this weekend for an impromptu feast.
The results were quite tasty, though a few lessons were learned: 1. Asofoetida powder is the stinkiest concoction on the planet. It should be stored in multiple layers of tupperware in the upper reaches of your cabinets. 2. You should figure out what all the directions mean before you begin. (I sort of ended up skipping the ones I didn’t understand–tempering?–and adding a few extra steps of my own.)
Johanna was my partner in crime, and made lovely yellow dal and saag aloo—recipes from her to come. Rachel made raita and cilantro chutney. Likewise, I will post those when I have them. For now, I am posting the recipes to the dishes I made, which will get you started on this Bollywood feast.
Revisionist Plantain and Chickpea Poriyal
Adapted from Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India
3 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 ripe plantain
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
salt to taste
2 tsp. oil
2 green chili peppers, slit sideways
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. flaked coconut
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 red chili, halved
1 red bell pepper
1 banana pepper
1/4 tsp. asafoetida powder
a few curry leaves
Place plantains, chickpeas, tamarind, turmeric, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a heavy sauce pan. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chili, asafoetida powder, a few curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start do sputter, add all the peppers and chilis and saute until tender.
Add the chickpeas and plantains. Add curry powder and coconut, then coconut milk and buttermilk. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
1 1/2 c. basmati rice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 hot green chili, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 c. green peas (I used frozen)
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. water
Wash the rice in several changes of water, then drain. Put it in a bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain again.
Add the olive oil to a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid, and set it over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop (a matter of seconds), put in the chili, carrots, turmeric, garam masala, and ginger. Saute for one minute.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the drained rice, salt, and peas. Cook the rice gently for 2 minutes.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan with the tightly fitting lid and turn the heat to very low. Cook for 25 minutes.
Adapted from Aphrodite by Isabel Allende
1 c. basmati rice
4 c. warm water
10 c. milk
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/3 c. sugar
1 lemon zest
cinnamon and shredded coconut to garnish
Soak the rice in the warm water for 30 minutes. Drain. Cook the rice with the milk and cinnamon sticks until the rice begins to soften, about 30 minutes. Add the sugar and lemon zest, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Cool in the refrigerator before serving. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon and shredded coconut.