Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Palida Daal

Palida is a Gujarati toor (arhar in Bengali) daal recipe that I had for the first time at my brother’s home last time I was in Cal. It had the characteristically nutty flavour of arhar daal, balanced brilliantly by a pronounced briny-sour fruit note that I didn’t recognise. After numerous attempts at prying the recipe from him, the cook finally relented and disclosed the secret ingredient—kokum.

Kokum is the semi-dried, sour and astringent skin of a mangosteen-like fruit that is native to the Western Ghats in India. It makes frequent appearances in the cuisines of western Indian states like Gujarat and Maharashtra and is used, like tamarind, to add a sour and salty note to recipes.

1½ cups Toor daal (Arhar)
2 quarts (8 cups) Water
1 tsp Turmeric
Salt (to taste)
1 tbsp Ghee
1 small Onion (finely chopped)
2 tsp whole Fenugreek
2 tsp whole Cumin
2 small Tomatoes (chopped)
2 tsp ground Coriander
½ tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp Chilli powder
1 tbsp Garlic (ground to a paste)
4 tsp Besan (Gram flour)
8 pieces Kokum
  1. Wash daal thoroughly and let soak, covered in water, in a bowl, for 30 mins. Drain water and set daal aside. 
  2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot. Add daal, turmeric and salt, and cook, covered, over medium-high heat, occasionally skimming the foam and scum that gathers on the top. When the daal is soft and cooked through, about 40-45 mins, drain the water into a large bowl. Set aside both the drained water and cooked daal, as the finishing spices are prepared. 
  3. In a pot (large enough to subsequently accommodate the daal), heat ghee over medium-high heat, add whole fenugreek and cumin and let them sputter for about a minute. Add onions and fry for 3–4 mins, until lightly golden. Add tomatoes, coriander, cumin, chilli powder and garlic, and continue frying for 4-5 mins, until the oil separates. Then add the besan and fry for 2 mins. 
  4. Slowly add the drained water, and stir briskly to make sure there are no lumps. Add cooked daal and kokum, lower heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, allowing the daal to thicken. Serve hot with rice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lamb Rogan Josh (otherwise known as "Tastey Boy's Easter Lamb")

When the British colonised India in the 18th century, they developed a penchant for spicy food that changed their own cuisine and palates forever. That is what Indian food does—once you’re exposed to it, you’re spoiled forever and there’s no turning back. Which is precisely what has happened to Tastey Boy! When I started planning for Easter lunch, he adamantly refused any sort of traditional western lamb roast and insisted that I make his all-time favourite lamb dish—Rogan Josh. Eating lamb on Easter Sunday was upholding tradition enough; he just got it prepared his preferred way!

Rogan Josh hails from Kashmir in north India and reflects all the culinary influences brought on by successive Islamic invasions of the region. Rogan means “oil” in Persian and josh means “hot/boiling/passionate/red.” The dish gets its characteristic red colour from Kashmiri Mirch—a fairly mild and aromatic, but intensely red chilli powder from Kashmir that is similar to hot paprika. And not to forget the liberal use of ghee that imparts the dish with its distinct fragrance.

I’ve messed around with various classic Rogan Josh recipes over the years and culled all those techniques into something that is uniquely mine. You can prepare this dish on the stovetop from beginning to end. But I find that enveloping it in the dry heat of an oven intensifies the flavours and yields a rich, unctuous curry that is unmatched.

6 lbs [2½ kgs] bone-in Lamb, cut into roughly 2-inch, stew-sized pieces (I prefer a combination of lamb loin, shank and rib cuts)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp Ghee
2 tbsp whole Black Peppercorns
4 whole Cloves
2 whole Cardamom pods
4 sticks Cinnamon
4 Bay leaves
2 whole Black Cardamom pods
¼ tsp blades of Mace
2 large Onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely crushed Garlic
1 tbsp finely crushed Ginger
2 tsp ground Cumin
2 tsp ground Coriander
5 tbsp Kashmiri Mirch (Kashmiri Chilli Powder)
Salt (to taste)
½ cup plain Yogurt (whisked with 2½ cups water)
  1. Wash and thoroughly pat dry lamb pieces.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, over high heat. Add lamb pieces in batches and brown well on both sides. Remove lamb from pot and set aside in a large bowl.
  3. Add 2 tbsp ghee to the pot. When the ghee is smoking, add black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, black cardamom and mace, stir for about 1 min and allow the spices to swell. Add onions and fry for 5–7 mins, until golden brown and well caramelised. Add garlic and ginger and continue frying for 2 mins.
  4. Mix cumin, coriander and Kashmiri chilli powder in a little water to make into a paste and add to the pot. Stir briskly for about 5–7 mins, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the oil starts to separate from the spice mixture. 
  5. Add lamb and accumulated meat juices to the pot and stir well to coat the lamb pieces thoroughly in the spices. Add salt and continue stirring the lamb for 5 mins. Add yogurt, stir and bring to a brisk boil. Turn off heat.
  6. Add remaining 2 tbsp of ghee, cover the pot tightly and place in the bottom rack of a 350ºF [175ºC]] pre-heated oven. Cook for about 1½ hrs, or until the lamb feels very tender when prodded with a fork, and a dense, creamy gravy has formed. Stir and baste the lamb every ½ hour while it is cooking. If the liquid in the pot becomes insufficient, add 2-3 tbsps of water at a time, as needed. (Alternately, you can skip the step in the oven and continue simmering the lamb on the stovetop over low heat for 1½ hrs.)
  7. Remove lamb from oven and transfer to a warm serving bowl. Serve hot.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rajma Daal

This rich and dense rajma (red kidney bean) daal is unbelievably meaty and has enough body and complexity to be the main course in any meal. It is not an everyday daal and it has to simmer long and slow, so I always end up making a large amount to justify the cooking time. But other than an occasional stir after all the ingredients are gathered in a pot, the daal pretty much comes together by itself—all of which adds to its allure. It’s perfect accompanied by steaming rice on a cool spring night as you bid adieu to the frigid temps of winter.

7½ lbs [3½ kgs] canned Red Kidney Beans
2 small Onions (chopped)
2 Tomatoes (chopped)
6 bay leaves
2 whole Cloves
2 whole Cardamom pods
2 sticks Cinnamon
1 tbsp Garlic (finely minced)
1 tsp Ginger (finely minced)
4 tbsp plus 1 tsp Ghee
Salt (to taste)
1 quart [1 litre] Water
2 tbsp whole Cumin
  1. Drain and wash beans thoroughly. Set aside 1½ lbs of beans and transfer the remaining 6 lbs of beans to a large stockpot. 
  2. Add onions, tomatoes, 4 bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, 4 tbsp ghee, salt and water to the pot, and bring to a brisk boil over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for 3½–4 hrs, occasionally stirring the pot to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. About 2 hrs into the cooking process, add the remaining 1½ lbs of beans. This ensures that some of the beans remain whole at the end, adding to the texture of the finished daal. Turn off heat as the finishing spices are prepared. 
  3. In a small skillet heat 1 tsp ghee over medium-high heat, add remaining 2 bay leaves and cumin and let them sputter for about a minute. Lower heat, add 2-3 ladles of cooked daal to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes. Then pour the spiced daal mixture into the large stockpot with the rest of the daal and stir well to incorporate. Allow the flavours to steep for 30 mins. Serve hot with rice.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cheatin’ Chicken

Why Cheatin’ Chicken? Because it’s a decidedly simple curry recipe which yields surprisingly complex flavours. I remember the first time I made it seven years ago—Tastey Boy and I had just moved in together and we were still surrounded with packing boxes. Sick of ordering pizza for the umpteenth time, I fished out the one pot I had unpacked so far and came up with this curry with whatever meager ingredients I had on hand. I was certain it was going to be bland and blah, but the minute we mixed the light, broth-ey curry (jhol in Bengali) with rice, I knew I had a winner and an instant favourite. Hubby dubbed it Cheatin’ Chicken saying it could fool anybody, and it even passed muster with discerning chicken curry-obsessed gourmands like my sister!

6 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 large Onions, chopped
3-4 Bay Leaves
3 tbsp whole Cumin
2 Tomatoes, chopped
6-8 tsp Chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
2 tbsp crushed Garlic
4lbs [2 kgs] bone-in Chicken pieces with skin removed (combination of thigh, leg, and breast)
Salt (to taste)
½ cup plain Yogurt (whisked with 3½ cups water)
  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until smoking. Add onions, bay leaves and cumin, and fry until the onions are golden brown and well caramelized, about 8–10 mins.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes and stir well for 5 mins until they disintegrate into the onions. 
  3. Mix chilli powder in a little water to make into a paste and add to the pot. Stir briskly for about 5 mins and add garlic. Continue stirring, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the oil starts to separate from the spice mixture, about 5–7 mins. 
  4. Add chicken and stir well to coat the chicken pieces thoroughly in the spices. Continue stirring the chicken until it loses its raw, pink colour. Add salt and yogurt, stir and bring to a boil. Then lower heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 40–45 mins. Check the pot occasionally and stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. You know it is ready when all of the onions and tomato have amalgamated into the curry, and the oil separates into a glossy topcoat. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 mins before serving.

© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar