The best Indian Recipes!
I have never done any Indian cooking, but a bunch of friends and I are about to change this. Can you recommend your favorite tried and true Indian cookbooks, or online recipe resources?
p.s. One recipe I am specifically looking for is saag chicken (not sure of exact Indian name). Chicken with creamy spinach sauce, like saag paneer, but chicken instead of cheese.
I LOVE Indian food. Years ago I worked for an Indian doctor and the office was in his home. They were a very traditional Indian family and I was in HEAVEN when I would be invited to stay for lunch or dinner. Their request of me? That I cook them a meatloaf, and they loved it! Anyway, my favorite cookbook is Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking. Since there can be many different spices used in one recipe I get the spices ready before I start cooking. I measure them out and put each one in it's own small dish. I think it makes the recipe so much easier to follow when you don't have to stop and measure each time. I often feel like somewhat of a "mad scientist" grinding and roasting and adding the spices. You and your friends are in for a treat!
I am no expert on Indian cooking, but I love to eat it. I took a class at Copia several years ago by Raghavan Iyer, and bought his book The Turmeric Trail. I have had made many of his recipes with great success and pleasure, his instructions are really easy to follow (I am an experienced cook, but knew nothing about this style of cooking). He is a lacto-vegetarian with roots in the south, so I have had best success with the meatless recipes in his book. He has a pulao with garbanzo beans that has become a go to after work recipe for me. He calls it Indian comfort food. Once I had purchased all the legumes and spices necessary, the cooking itself is straightforward. And I love to read his stories about growing up in Mumbai.
Ill suggest http://www.bawarchi.com which is actually frequented by Indian housewives. Not sure if they have any saag chicken or palak chicken type recipes but Id imagine you could just combine recipes for the usual saag paneer or palak paneer with one for some type of dry-cooked masala chicken.
paulj - you seem to be expert on Indian cooking as well as other topics.
Today, I went one of my favorite Indian restaurants (that I hadn't been to in awhile) and noticed significant residue of oil on the sides and what looked like within a sauce of one of the dishes (bhindi masala) and to some degree the cauliflower and pea dish. I thought that the chana masala, although I couldn't see it, may have also contained some unnecessary oil. Is this a sign of improper use of oil in cooking such dishes?
As I ate the bhindi masala, I just felt like it could have been made with a "lighter" touch. I didn't know if that amount of oil needed to be used to make that dish. (It also contained what looked like strands of onion that had been fried in the okra mixture also.) I have eaten at various restaurants and it seems like the less oil used, the less flavor, but the healthier the dish seems, in that I feel better during the eating of it as well as afterwards.
Some Indian cooking is generous with the oil or ghee. Restaurants may be heavier in this use than home cooking. Still, a number of items that our south Indian vegetarian neighbors have shared have been oily, fried breads and fritters of various sorts.
Just glancing at the recipes in the Hawkins pressure cooker book, I see that several have instructions like:
'Heat oil (2/3c) in ap an and brown onions. Add ginger, garlic and tomato and fry till oil separates. Add spinach paste and fry till oil separates.' (for palak panir)
The channa masala recipe is finished with 'heat oil (2/3c) till it smokes and pour evenly over the gram. Simmer for 5 minutes.'
I've also seen recipes that call for frying or simmering until all moisture evaporates except for the butter or fat. This may be repeated several times.
Onions that have been fried will 'crisp golden brown' is a common garnish.
I wonder if this separated oil is viewed a luxurious touch. I'd have to double check, but I don't think M Jaffrey's recipes are as heavy in oil or ghee.
First I would buy a cheap coffee grinder and use it only for Indian spices. To clean it after you've made your curry powder or garam masala, put pieces of soft bread into it, turn it on and then discard the pieces of bread. They will have cleaned your grinder to perfection.
Here is a beginning curry powder by Julie Sahni. It's 100 times better than that stuff you get in the supermarket called "curry powder."
JULIE SAHNI’S CURRY POWDER
4 teasp cumin seeds
4 teasp coriander seeds
4 teasp mustard seeds
2 teasp fennel seeds
2 teasp whole cloves
1 teasp dill seeds
1 stick cinnamon, crushed to bits
2 teasp black peppercorns
1 teasp level, cayenne (this is exactly right for a curry that’s just hot enough.)
4 teasp turmeric
Pulverize in a grinder to a powder. Then toast on the stove till you smell the spices.
PS Always buy your spices in an Indian or Pakistani grocery store. They are MUCH cheaper than the ones in the supermarket and they'll stock exactly what you need.
Years ago I bought a botle of curry powder made by "Spice Garden" (labeled as "Spike Brand"). I don't think this brand is sold at any stores anymore.
I really liked the flavor of this blend more than other brands I've bought and/or gotten out of a bulk bin at my local vegetarian store.
I tried to figure out what it was about the flavor that made it more appealing to me, and I noticed that among the ingredients was celery seed. I think it, more than the fenugreek and the cloves, gave it a different taste, that appeals to me. The other curry powder I've bought tastes a bit more bitter, like too much turmeric to my liking was used.
The ingredients you listed included fennel seeds. I'd like that! I'd probably have to adjust to the dill seeds flavor. What I do now, is grind some celery seeds and add it to my curry powder mixture to get a slight taste I enjoy from that powder to get closer to the Spice Garden flavor.
Lots of good suggestions on this thread, so far!
I'd ask, how you learn best, such as, by reading a recipe, are you able to visualize the process and results?
If you need visuals for the step by step process, and for some of these Indian dishes, I find it is very helpful to have a picture to show you the scene, I'd recommend books that show the step by step process in pictures.
I have noticed books of this kind in the big box bookstores, like Barnes and Noble and Borders in their "discounted" section. A great time to find the largest variety of such books is around Christmas time. They have a more limited variety of these books during the remainder of the year. Look for books published by Hermes House, a distributor that is licensed to capture cookbook recipe pictures from other books and repackage them. Sort of like a cooking 101 for beginner's book for complicated dishes. Books authored by Shehzad Husain, published by Smithmark are helpful also. I picked up a small book of hers which includes about 1/10 the recipes from her larger book; this one is called "Low-Fat Indian Cookbook.
There's many Indian cookbooks out now, of varying complexity and styles. You can always learn from reading each, but for starting out, I'd recommend the simplest first, which in my way of learning consists of books which include pictures for each step, and explain the nature and purpose of spices and at which steps to add ingredients.
You may also want to consider videos/DVDs for such cooking. The series called "Cooking with Kurma" may be helpful. It's a combination of Indian and vegetarian cuisine, from the Hare Krishna perspective.
Also, check the web for clips authored by people just contributing their knowledge of cooking to others.
When you say, "the best", think of what kind of style of Indian cooking you are seeking. There's a large variety of Indian cooking styles and approaches, and what's best for someone else may not satisfy your taste and preference.
Madhur Jaffrey is wonderful. She has loads of good cookbooks. I'd recommend the quick and easy ones for a new cook, or the original Introduction (Invitation?) to Indian Cooking. The latter doesn't have pictures, but the recipes are really good.
Also, Julie Sahni's books are really good, but I'm not sure they're the easiest for a beginner. If you're already an accomplished cook, though, they should be no trouble.
One thing, though: I'd only caution that home-cooked Indian food is almost nothing like restaurant Indian food. I just mention it because I've seen lots of people become disenchanted with Indian cooking because it's not like the food in their local curry house!
Some online resources for the cusines of Indian. I have no knowledge of cooking. Please follow the links
from each blog for additional resources.
Hope these are of help to you.
Ingredient reference sites