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Authentic Indian Homecooking

I grew up in Fiji where there is a large Indian community. I have fond memories of eating wonderful curries and ke-babs. I have searched out and tried numerous recipes but they all seem to fall short of what I remember. I go so far as to grind my own spice blends and make my own ghee. To all you Indian cooks, I would love to try your mother's best recipes. Thanks to all in advance.

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  1. I cook Indian/Pakistani food, but my mom is Latvian!

    I've had much success with Duguid/Alford's Mangoes & Curry Leaves cookbook. My husband, who grew up in Pakistan, finds the recipes to be pretty authentic.

    2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        All of their books are wonderful. I am anxiously awaiting their new book, I think it is titled "Across the Great Wall" it is food of very northern China. I come home each day hoping UPS has dropped it off. It should be out very soon.

    1. From where in India are the majority of Fijian Indians originally from? Also, how has being in Fiji influenced the ingredients typically used? Knowing that would help direct you towards recipes that would be similar to what you ate as a kid in Fiji.

      6 Replies
      1. re: luckyfatima

        I agree with lucky Fatima. if you knew where most Fijian Indians come from, that would be a big help.

        For instance, i have rarely seen recipes for the indian food I grew up eating in any cookbook. My dad's family are maharastrian pure veg folk. the food is not complicated, but it is delicious. it involves a lot of fresh coconut and cilantro and, surprisingly, sugar in the veggies along with the spices, but the spice lists are not that long or complicated.
        Many regional cooking styles have a main masala or spice mix that is used in many dishes (like godhah masala for maharastrian food) if you could figure out what the masala was was used a lot in Fiji, that would help too.

        1. re: missmasala

          I asked my Dad yesterday what regions of India the community in Fiji originated. He said that they were pulled by the British during the colonial era to work the sugar cane plantations and came from all over India, usually dissenters to English rule. Having said that, he said most of his personal acquaintances and friends were in fact from Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, so any help would be wonderful. Thank you for your input.

          1. re: Lenox637

            Lenox637: I was curious, too and I googled it. According to what I read they are mainly Gujaratis and Punjabis, plus a smaller community of Tamilians. All of those three Indian cuisines are very distinct from each other, but since below you mention that you recall eating a lot of meats, I am going to guess you knew some Punjabis. The other question is how being in Fiji has influenced the cuisine. For example, the Indian communities in East Africa as well as the West Indies are heavily Gujarati and Punjabi, but the Indian cuisine of East Africa has been heavily influenced by the available ingredients and you get a lot of coconut curries (not common in Indian Gujarat or in Punjab) and also many East African foods eaten in those communities. You could try googling Fijian Indian cooking for recipes and websites. Good luck with your quest!

            If you wanna try some down home Punjabi cooking, there are Punjabi cookbooks, I also recommend the below mentioned Cooking Like Mummyji although that is British-Indian, not Fijian :-)

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Thanks luckyfatima, I was 6 months old when we moved to Fiji and about 9 when we came back stateside, so distinct memory is difficult sometimes. We left Fiji in 1974, and alot of friends left over the next ten years or so. I am very familiar with East African cuisine and do see the similarities. I will check out some of your recommendations.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                funny, i've never heard the term "tamilians" -- just tamils.

                makes me think of "reptilian...." ;-)

                1. re: alkapal

                  luckyfatima, NOW i have seen the term "tamilian". e.g., http://saffrontrail.blogspot.com/2006...

                  mr. alka is a tamil. now i can call him "tamilian". he's worth tamilian to me! ;-)

        2. I've enjoyed cooking from a book called "Cooking like Mummyji" by Vicky Bhogal, which is all about homestyle Anglo-Indian Food.

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wine/main....

          7 Replies
          1. re: greedygirl

            That book features Punjabi-Indian food. If you like that style of food (which I do, and is also the style I cook a lot at home), you will like that book.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Thanks for the input, I remember Punjabi style as predominant, I'm not sure where Vindaloo is from but I remember that as well.

              1. re: Lenox637

                Vindaloo is a Goan dish I believe (it is of heavy Portugese extraction).

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Thanks for the clarification, do you have any recipes?

            2. re: greedygirl

              Sorry to cut in on this thread, but I am intrigued by the "Cooking like Mummyji" book. I love Indian cuisine and have a nice collection of Madhur Jaffrey books and others, but I find quite a number of the recipes are just too involved to be much more than "once in a while" dishes. (some are not so bad) Since I cook for just myself, I have no desire to assemble the daunting lists of spices and ingredients that some of them require (granted I have most of the key Indian spices already). Do you think the Bhogal book would suit someone like me looking for delicious yet somewhat simpler everyday Indian home cooking? It seems a bit hard to find in the US, and I don't want to spend the money on another Indian cookbook if it will spend more time on the shelf than being used.
              Thanks! (I don't eat a lot of meat for economic reasons, so a healthy dose of interesting vegetable recipes is also a plus)

              1. re: klieglight2

                Madhur Jaffrey has some great recipes but I also think many of them are more complicated than they should be.

                However, her book Eastern Vegetarian Cookery (or whatever it's called) does have some great recipes.

                Another one that gets used in my house is Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian recipes. It's great for the whole panoply (almost) of the subcontinent.

                1. re: klieglight2

                  The recipes I've made so far from "Cooking Like Mummyji" have been pretty straightforward. I'd suggest having a look online for some of her recipes, which have been published in the British press.

                  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wine/main....

                  http://uktv.co.uk/food/item/aid/530769

                  http://shopping.guardian.co.uk/food/s...

              2. Well, I am 100% Indian and grew up eating my mom's delicious Hyderabadi cooking so I think I can help you out a little bit. We are Hyderabadi Muslims, so that means our strength is meats/chicken, dals, and "khatta" (sour dishes - a staple in Hyderabadi households). Hindus are the experts when it comes to vegetarian dishes though Muslims do make many of them, some quite well. Here is a VERY simple dal recipe - "Khadi Dal" (literally, "standing" dal as it is not ground or mashed up once cooked). It's one of my favourites and cooks in about 15 minutes. I'll be back to share a couple more recipes but this one should start you off.

                ¾ cup red lentils (masoor dal)
                1 large or 2 small onions
                ¾ tsp ginger-garlic paste (use fresh garlic you don’t have the paste)
                about 6 sticks cilantro, washed & chopped
                1 green chili pepper, sliced
                salt, cayenne pepper, turmeric
                oil
                ghee or butter

                Wash the lentils in a bowl and set aside. Slice large onion in half. Dice one half and thinly slice the other. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot and add the diced onion. Add ginger-garlic, cayenne to taste, and ½ tsp turmeric. Brown the onions, then add the daal. Add about 2 cups of water, the cilantro and chili pepper. Stir it all together. The water should come about ¾ inch above the lentils, so add more if you need it. Turn this to medium-low and allow to cook. Check periodically to see if you need more water (mixture should not get too thick).

                Meanwhile, heat about 1 tsp of ghee/butter with 1 tbsp of oil in a pan. Fry the onions in this until almost crisp (add more oil if necessary). Remove from heat.

                Check the daal between your fingers. If it’s soft and the water is mostly absorbed, it’s done. Add some salt to taste, stir well, remove from heat. Pour the onions and oil/ghee over top. Done! Enjoy!

                3 Replies
                1. re: zainab13

                  Thank you very much zainab13, I absolutely love Khadi Dal, Iam interested in any of your meat based dishes as well.

                  1. re: Lenox637

                    Hi Lenox, sorry I dropped off this thread for awhile! Are you interested in Indian comfort food or the stuff you'd eat in a restaurant or a dinner party? Because there is a big difference between what Indians will serve at a dinner party and what they'll eat on a daily basis. You would NEVER see khadi dal on the table at my mother's dinner parties, but it was a staple of our regular evening meals. This applies to meat dishes too -- stuff like kabab, tandoori chicken, biryani etc is what ppl are usually exposed to in restaurants but is not usually made on a daily basis at home. I could give you those recipes, or I could give you more "everyday" stuff like kheema, dopyaza, shaami, etc. Or I guess I could give you both :) Let me know what you're leaning more towards - thanks!

                    1. re: zainab13

                      I'm sorry I didn't get back to you directly but a little of both would be great.

                2. Saw this in today's Berkshire Eagle, you may have too. Made me want to attend these classes:
                  http://www.berkshireeagle.com/food/ci...
                  ttp://www.berkshireeagle.com/food/ci_8779163

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mjoyous

                    Yes I did catch the article, wish I knew it was happening, I would like to have gone as well.

                  2. I'm first-generation Bengali-American – both parents are from Bangladesh – but ethnically, half Bengali and half Arab (phew – there's a mouthful, right?). Quick background for non-Desis: Bangladesh is a small, developing country surrounded by India with a foot bordering Myanmar, but a part of the larger state of Bengal in the South Asian (Indo) subcontinent. Bengalis are known for their love of fish and sweets (and I’d argue mutton biryani – there’s a pretty funny light bulb joke about this which I can’t quite remember but I digress…); however, as everywhere else, there are lots of regional variations within as well. Mum's full Bengali originally from Khulna which is in the south and they tend to cook with a lot of coconut products, is that common in Fijian cooking? I haven’t quite mastered the art of recipe translation yet as I know the basic formulas (e.g. onions, garlic/ginger paste, one part cumin to two parts coriander, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, whole garam masala -- cinnamon/green cardamom/cloves) but then tend to taste from there, but I might be able to swing it with the help of Mum if you’ve got any specific requests. The main differences that I've noted for our every day meat curries from other major regions areas are the addition of yogurt, just a bit of sugar for balance, and tomatoes.

                    In the mean time, here’s an every day sabji that I make and had a food writer friend translate so he could publish. When I first wrote this out for him, my spice measurements were higher as my spices were from the bulk bins at my local Indian market (have since learned to go for the sealed bags – I’m a poor grad student and refuse to pay supermarket prices), but he used fresh spices from Penzey’s to come up with these amounts. In any case, these are rounded teaspoons and if somewhere down the line you need more spice, just fry some up in a separate pan with a bit of oil and add it.

                    3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
                    3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
                    ½ onion, thinly sliced
                    1 teaspoon ground turmeric
                    ½ tablespoon cumin seeds
                    4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
                    1-2 serrano chilies, halved
                    ½ large cabbage, halved again & then sliced thinly
                    salt, to taste
                    1 cup frozen peas

                    1. Cut the potatoes into thick matchsticks, about ⅜ inch square and 1 ½ inches long. Set aside.
                    2. Heat the oil. Add onions and cook until they become translucent.
                    3. Add cumin seeds and turmeric, stir for about a minute and then add garlic, chilies, and the potatoes. Fry potatoes just over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
                    4. Add the cabbage in two batches stirring together in between and add the salt. After the cabbage has cooked about 10 minutes, cover and let steam.
                    5. Steam about 5-7 minutes, until it is al dente.
                    6. Then raise the temperature slightly to medium-high to finish the cooking and caramelize the cabbage and potatoes (the crispy bits are the best part!).
                    7. Add the peas, mixing in 5 before it is done.

                    Note: Adding the chilies at the beginning of the cooking infuses the oil and elevates the heat of the entire dish. If you only want that fresh "green" flavor from the chilies with less of the heat, add them after steaming.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: adrienne156

                      Wow. This comes together really nicely.

                      Your ingredient list is about 3/4 of what I planned to make tonight except in an utterly different way. So I tried it your way. With a couple of minor modifications: olive oil (the italian part of me doesn't believe something can be called "food" until it contains some olive oil ...) and okra instead of peas (I had 3/4 lb ready to go).

                      I'm glad I resisted the urge to chop the chilies -- there's enough heat as is. It's nice how after the onion is sliced, each ingredient can be prepped while the previous one is cooking. So total fridge to plate time is about 25 minutes.

                      Thanks!

                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                        You're very welcome. :o) At home, we often sub olive oil for health reasons and although it does impart a slight flavor, I don’t think it’s a huge deal. The canola/veggie oil is really for the purists. ..However, I’m curious to know how the okra turned out because it changes the cooking time and texture of the end product. We usually do okra as above but without the cumin seeds and potatoes. Different, but very good. If you try this recipe again, do try it with the peas – the sweetness from the peas, plus the heat from the serranos, and the carmelized “crispy bits” really makes the dish.

                        A lot of [Indian] cooking is about formula – you take the same basic prep and just change the main ingredient – so you could take the recipe above and change the cabbage to cauliflower and get a version of aloo gobi. Or, you can use completely different veggies altogether, you’ll just end up with a different texture. Likewise, with standard meat curries you would use the formula I noted in my first post with the various spices and just tweak them slightly depending on the meat. For example, if I were making beef or lamb, I’d add more ginger-garlic paste and slightly more cumin and coriander than if I were making chicken and probably nix the yogurt. Fish is slightly more complicated but not all that different – less spices and garlic in general, very little cumin and ginger, leave out the garam masala, and add cilantro at the end depending on the fish. People get really intimidated by the long list of ingredients that usually goes into [Indian] cooking, but as you noted above – everything has an order and a lot of the prep happens as you cook.

                        By the way -- this goes REALLY well with steak.

                        1. re: adrienne156

                          I tossed the okra in towards the end of the potato phase a minute or two before adding the cabbage. They were slightly underdone (meaning they
                          hadn't reached the state of total glop) when the cabbage seemed ready.

                          Since I don't have a good idea of what I was aiming for, I don't know if I came close to what it should have been like. Like, how crunchy, on a scale of cole slaw to new england boiled dinner, was the cabbage expected to be?

                          >>this goes REALLY well with steak.

                          Grilled burger with blue cheese in my case. I thought about putting some
                          on the burger, but didn't.

                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                            Hmm... Turmeric, garlic, and blue cheese - don't think I'd have done it. :o)

                            So, I like my okra soft but not gloppy so I would have put it in halfway through the potato phase. As far as texture, the dish itself is the [Indian] equivalent of bubble and squeak so that's what you're aiming for.

                            1. re: adrienne156

                              Bubble and Squeak? I haven't had that since I was 5.

                              1. re: Lenox637

                                Okay, maybe not THAT mushy, but the veggies cook down to a creamy-type texture.

                      2. re: adrienne156

                        Thank you so much, everybody's input is great and has sparked alot of memories. I remember alot of mutton and goat meat but also quite a bit of veggie fare as well. Sweets were predominant also and coconut was used more often than yogurt but I think that came about because of availability. Thanks for the recipe.

                        1. re: Lenox637

                          You are definitely right about yogurt not being used back there due to availability, but I think my family uses it in place of coconut milk here because a.) Dad's side uses it and b.) yogurt imparts creaminess without all the fat of coconut milk.

                          I learned to make sweets before I learned to actually cook, so if there's anything in particular that you remember, I'd be happy to help...

                          1. re: adrienne156

                            I remember a wonderful treat, it seemed that it was kind of like a doughnut hole that was saturated with honey and rose water. There was a man down on the sea wall in Suva that would sell Indian sweets from a cart. My Dad actually remembered his name, Jagdat Singh, going down to the sea wall on weekends for treats is a fond memory from childhood.

                            1. re: Lenox637

                              Gulab jamun! They are fried milk balls that are soaked in cardamom/rose syrup. I'll get you the recipe.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                Thank you!!!! That IS what I remember. Oh so yummy!!

                                1. re: Lenox637

                                  I am SO sorry!! Completely forgot about this... Here ya go:

                                  Gulab Jamun

                                  Syrup:
                                  5 c. water
                                  3 c. sugar
                                  5 green cardamom pods, crushed
                                  1-2 drops rose water (optional and be careful not to add too much, it'll taste like soap)

                                  Combine everything in a pot and stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer until thickened – about an hour – over low heat. Cool to room temp.

                                  2 c. powdered milk (I use Carnation)
                                  2/3 c. all-purpose flour
                                  1 tsp. baking soda
                                  1 ½ c. heavy whipping cream

                                  Combine all ingredients in bowl until you form a medium-soft dough. Some people have said to knead thoroughly so that you get a smooth dough, but I’ve always just mixed to combine as I figured an overworked dough would have a hard time puffing during frying – I could be totally wrong. In any case, the dough should be sticky, but you should be able to form small balls (a little over an inch in diameter) without too much difficulty. If it is too sticky, add more powdered milk.

                                  At this stage, you can simply fry them, let them cool, and then add them to the cooled syrup, but I usually stuff them with a mixture of ground sultanas and ground pistachios. To do this, throw the nuts in a food processor, pulse 10 times, add raisins and a bit of water and then process until you get a rough paste. To stuff, make a well in the middle of a ball using our thumbs and forefingers being careful not to poke through the bottom, add a small amount of raisin/nut mixture, pinch the top closed, and re-roll. Sounds easy enough, but it takes a bit of practice. Cover with damp cloth so they don’t dry out as you work.

                                  Heat about 4-5 inches of oil in a pot over medium to medium high and lower the balls into the heated oil gently (dropping them will cause them to lose their shape and then fry unevenly). They will sink to the bottom so roll them around gently with your spoon and they will rise to the top after about 10-15 seconds. Fry until dark reddish brown (5-7 minutes), flipping them to make sure they brown evenly, and adjust the heat if they are browning too quickly. I’ll usually have 5 going at a time in an 8 inch saucepan. Drain on paper towel, add to cooled syrup in a pot that will allow them enough space to expand (they’ll double in size), and allow them to soak for at least 5 hours, overnight for best results.

                      3. Try reading Madhur Jaffrey's book called Indian Cooking. It offers and excellent traditional variety if North & South Indian cooking.

                        1. Hi Lenox637, I checked out your posts to see where our palates were similar, and came upon this fascinating Indian thread you began. We had (many years ago) a friend from Kerala who cooked for us full scale once, and I've never had such good Indian food, not even in some really good NYC places (let alone here). Japanese/Chinese/Indian/Mexican ---- those all light my (cooking) fire. We were away in March, so I missed the Berkshire Eagle article about the young Indian woman's cooking. I too would have been there had I known! Do you always cook your own, or do you like any of the local Indian restaurants?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                            You know, since Paradise of India in Lee closed I really haven't checked out the local fare. Though I must admit my culinary interest waned during those years. Now that I stay home and take care of my little girls, I do all the cooking and I have been exploring all the tastes I grew up with. Indian, Chinese and "island fusion". Anything ethnic is for me. Although I tend to shy away from Nordic cooking. I am huge on the "Mediterranean Rim" from Spanish style paella to lamb gyros and tzatziki sauce. True Persian pilaf to French provincial cooking. Basically I love food, especially if there is some good wine next to it.

                          2. this site explains regional differences in indian cuisine, and has plenty of recipes:
                            http://newkerala.com/recipes/

                            another i just found: http://foodindian.com/

                            2 Replies
                              1. Hi Lenox

                                I know what you mean!!.....i grew up in Fiji.....have now been in New Zealand for
                                the last 8 years for school, and my brother and i really really miss all the curries
                                from Fiji!!.......there are many Indian restaurants here, but the food tends to be
                                ' europeanized'..dnt think thats a work, but oh well lol......when my brother, who is
                                16, and looks like a typical snowboarding brat walks into the Indian restaurants here and asks for dahl soup and " the real hot curry, not the bullsht kind " lol....he gets very weird looks lol........the recipes that have been submitted on this, look great, so im going to try one tomorrow night..thanks guys!

                                1. Any other homecooking Indian recipes?
                                  I'm particularly looking for some lamb or chicken recipes.
                                  But lentils, chickpeas, spinach, eggplant & okra recipes are welcome as well as anything else! Oh, kheer . . . did your mama make kheer?