We had the great and glorious Indian cooking party on February 11th. Why Indian food? Popular request. Why…include baklava? Jackie asked for it. I pointed out that I had asked for requests for Indian food or from places close to India. I was thinking, oh, Pakistan. Sri Lanka. That kind of thing. On the same continent. But no. I sent her my recipe for baklava and told her to make it herself, but then other people started mentioning how much they liked baklava. Fine. Baklava it was.

Attending:

  • De, Ray (kid) (Lee skedaddled; he doesn’t like Indian food)
  • Margie, Dave, Katherine (kid)
  • Jackie and Kaylee (kid)
  • Steph
  • Bruce
  • Ann (and, later, Larry, who we let “swoop in right at dinner time, help with nothing and gorge myself and fantastic fruits of your labors!”)
  • Kate, Doyce, and the Sean-meister (kid)
  • Bob, Charlotte, and Jordyn (kid)

It sounded like everyone had a fair to great time, except for Sean, who was just getting over a nasty cough and ran out of go-juice early, which meant that Kate and Doyce left before the food was done. AHHHHH! Tragedy. But the bebe comes first, I know :)

We had the following pickles:

  • Spicy mango pickle
  • Kerda berry pickle

And we had candy-covered fennel seeds.
All three of these items elicited grimaces from various people, and I had the pleasure of making everyone taste the fennel seeds and caught all the faces :)

This time, I emailed out an order of battle for the recipes:
2 p.m.

  • Naan (needs to rise for 2h)
  • Chicken Tikki Masala up to marinade (needs to marinate for at least 1 hour)
  • Ghee and Paneer for Saag Paneer
  • Mint-cilantro dip
  • (Note – we were missing the mint on this, but it turned out wonderfully.)

  • Kashmiri noon chai
  • Any other snacks

4 p.m.

  • Kheer
  • Basmati Rice
  • Lamb Korma
  • Chicken Tikki Masala post-marinade
  • Chicken Vindaloo
  • As the meat dishes get done, put in crock pots and heat as necessary.

6 p.m.

  • Saag Paneer
  • Amba Maluwa
  • Baingan Barta
  • Baklava

And this seemed to help things move more smoothly: I knew when I had to kick someone off the burners. Bob mentioned bringing his camp stove next time so we could expand a little, and I’m definitely thinking about it. We ended up starting the baingan barta early, as either the masala or vindaloo had to push back a little later. Rice cooker = goodness.

Naan (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 16
8 cups all purpose flour or wheat flour
2 cup of warm milk
2 cup of yogurt
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together and make a well of flour. Mix the milk and yogurt together and pour half of it into the well and slowly combine it together, slowly pouring in the rest of the liquid mixture.
The dough should be soft enough for you to be able to dig your finger into it without applying any pressure. If dough sticks to hand too much then use little bit of oil on hand and then punch into the dough.
Cover with damp cloth and let it sit in a warm place for at least 2 hours. After a few hours, dust your working board, take out the dough and knead it for about 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into smaller balls. Dust the board again and flatten the balls to make bread which is a little thick and elongated.

Brush one side with water. Heat a thick bottom skillet or a wok or any heavy bottom pan with a lid. Once its nicely hot place the naan wet side down and cover it with a lid.
Let it cook for about 30 secs or until you see bubbles on it. Now cook the other side of the naan over direct flame of the burner with the help of tongs. When you see some charred brown spots then you know that the naan is done.

–The naans ended up thicker than restaurant naans, but utterly and completely delicious. I am now pro-thicker naan.

Chicken tikka masala (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 12.
Chicken marinade
4 lb chicken breast, boneless and skinless
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 lemon, juice of
3/4 tsp ground coriander
2 1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 tbsps plain yogurt

Dice the chicken breast. Combine all the above sauce ingredients (except for olive oil) in a bowl and mix well. Toss the chicken and coat well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to a day. Skewer the chicken with pre-soaked bamboo skewers. If baking, set the skewers on the baking sheet and bake 8 minutes, turn and bake another 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle at 450F. Remove from skewers and set aside.

Masala sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large white onion, diced
12 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp ginger
3 28-ounce can of tomato puree
pinch of ground turmeric
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
6 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
6 tbsp butter
9 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cinnamon stick
3 cup yogurt

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until the onions become golden brown, stirring frequently for about six minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomato puree. Cover and simmer for a few minutes until the tomato softens, stirring occasionally. Mash it with the onions until it becomes a sort of mushy paste. Stir in the cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, red pepper, salt, black pepper and sugar. Let the masala simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the sauce into a blender and purée until smooth.
Return the masala to the saucepan and stir in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, butter and yogurt. Set on high heat. Let it come to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add the chicken and let simmer 5 minutes. Stir it every minute or so.

–Margie said that she wishes she’d poured off the cooking liquid from the chicken. Also, that we only used about half the tomato puree called for, and it was still almost too much.

Mint-Coriander Chutney (Based on this recipe.)

1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh coriander
5 cloves garlic
1″ piece of ginger
2 green chillies
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps lime juice
Cut off any thick stalks from the mint and discard. Peel garlic and ginger and remove stalks from green chillies. Wash all these ingredients thoroughly.
Grind all the ingredients (including the salt which you can add more of later to suit your taste) into a smooth paste in a food processor.

–Yum.

Kashmiri noon chai (Based on this recipe.)

9 cups of water
2 tablespoons semi-fermented tea leaves
15-20 seeds of green cardamom
1\2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1\2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1’’ or ½ ‘’ of cinnamon bark
¼ teaspoon of crushed peppercorns
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 pint whole milk
1 tablespoons fresh cream (malai)
3 teaspoons ground pistachio
3 teaspoons of powdered almonds
Few strands of saffron (optional)

Pour water in a large pan and add tea leaves, salt, seeds of green cardamom and bicarbonate of soda to it. Bring to boil and then simmer quickly for 20-45 minutes or until it reduces 3/4th its original quantity. A burgundy/dark pinkish film will appear on the surface which indicates that it is boiled to the desired level.

While it is still boiling, add the cinnamon bark, poppy seeds, crushed peppercorns and about 2-3 cups of cold water. Bring to boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, take the boiled tea in the ladle and raise the level of the ladle about 8-10 inches and pour the tea back to the pan. Repeat it for at least ten to twenty times. This will bring a change in the colour of tea. Stop the process when you find the colour becomes peachy/ burgundy with a prominent pink tinge and let it sit for a while. Strain the tea and keep it aside.

Boil the milk with ground cardamom over low heat and add the prepared tea blend to it. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and pour into the cups which are already filled with crushed almonds and pistachios. Spoon the thick cream or malai and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of pistachio over it to garnish. You can also add few strands of saffron on the top.

P.S: Adding excess amount of baking soda will sweeten the tea even if sugar is not used to prepare it. Also be careful to use the correct proportion of tea leaves because the desired pinkish colour will not be obtained if more than the required amount of tea leaves are used.

–Delicious. Not very sweet; I wish we’d tried increasing the baking soda, now that I think of it. This took longer than the stated times, but that may have been due to the high altitude here.

Kheer/Indian Rice Pudding (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 16
4 cup cooked long grain or basmati rice
4 cup whole milk
2 cup heavy cream
3 cup coconut milk
8 ounces sugar, approximately 1 cup
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 ounces golden raisins, approximately 1 1/3 cup
6 ounces chopped unsalted pistachios, approximately 1 1/3 cup
In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, combine the cooked rice and milk. Heat until the mixture begins to boil. Decrease the heat to low and cook at a simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently, approximately 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium, add the heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, and cardamom and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to thicken again, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Use a whisk to help prevent the cardamom from clumping. Once the mixture just begins to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the raisins and pistachios. Transfer the mixture to individual serving dishes or a glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

–Daaaaamn, this was good. Again, it took longer than stated, but I think it was due to the altitude again.

Basmati Rice (This recipe comes from here; we just made the plain rice in a rice cooker and called it good.)

Rinse the rise in water before cooking until the water runs clear. Cook it in salted water with a good chunk of ghee/butter, and toss a dozen or so whole peppercorns and four to six green cardamom pods. Let it sit off the heat for five minutes or so after cooking with the lid off to let the last of the water evaporate. Then toss in a few saffron threads and toss with the rice, adding more ghee/butter if necessary. You can get some of the red effect from the saffron’s contact with the rice, but the flavor of restaurant rice is mostly rice, butter, salt and cardamom. Saffron in any quantity can be pretty strong.

LAMB KORMA (Based on this recipe.)

Serves 6
2 lb boneless lamb, cubed
4 oz cashew nuts
1.5 tbsp peanut oil
3 white onions
6 garlic cloves
1.5 inch piece of root ginger
1.5 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 tsp tomato puree
3 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1.5 tsp ground coriander
.75 tsp turmeric
.75 tsp chilli powder
A small bunch of coriander

Peel the garlic and ginger and then crush the garlic and finely grate ginger, mix together and set aside.  Peel and finely chop the onions.  Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan (I like to use a Le Creuset pan for this, or any other heavy based, stove top casserole pan with a lid), add the onion, cinnamon stick, cardamom and bay leaves and gently sauté until the onion is soft – around 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli and tomato puree.  Mix well and then continue to sauté over a low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lamb, season well and mix together so that all of the lamb is coated in the spices.  Pour over ¼ pint (150 ml) of water, cover and simmer gently over a low heat for 30 minutes or until the lamb is tender.

Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, grind the cashew nuts with a little water, until you have a smooth, creamy paste.  Once the lamb is cooked, scoop out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and add the cashew paste, mix through and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Roughly chop the coriander, stalks and all, and sprinkle over the korma ready to serve.

–I was frustrated by how not-smooth the paste turned out, but otherwise this was wonderful. I wish we’d had the time to leave it in a crock pot all day, to make the lamb even more tender.

Chicken Vindaloo (Based on this recipe.)

Serves 8
3 lb chicken thighs (cut into cubes)
2 cup diced onions
8-10 whole red chilies
12-14 cloves of garlic
2 inch ginger
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (add more if you like)
For dry spice mix:
2 teaspoon cloves
6-8 whole cardamoms
2 teaspoon cinammon powder
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 cups diced potatoes (optional)
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt

1) Soak whole chilies, garlic cloves and ginger in the white wine vinegar for about half an hour. Grind and make a paste of it.
2) Marinate chicken in the chili paste and let it sit in a refrigerator for at least an hour.
3) For the dry spice: mix cloves, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and peppercorn. Grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside.
4) Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, add mustard seeds.
5) Once they start to pop, add onions and fry them in oil until they turn light golden brown.
6) Add marinated chicken with all the juices and stir fry for a few minutes.
7) Add dry spices along with salt, mix it all together and cover the pan with a lid.
8) Let it simmer and cook until the chicken is done and curry is thick (stirring in between from time to time).
9) Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with rice or your choice of bread.

–This was the most spicy dish (other than the mango pickles), and some thought it too hot. However, I thought it tasted like a good sinus clearer :) We used dried chilis, soaking them in the vinegar, and they turned out just fine. I haven’t eaten Indian-buffet vindaloo that was this good, although is suspect doing wings in this would be better than chunks.

Saag Paneer (Based on this recipe; which was not the recipe in the original packet.)

SERVES 4
FOR THE CHEESE:
8 cups milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
6 tbsp. ghee or vegetable oil

Ghee:
1 pound unsalted butter
Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirl the pot around to ensure that it melts slowly and does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly.

FOR THE SPINACH:
1″ piece ginger, peeled and chopped
3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped
4 bunches spinach, washed, trimmed,
and finely chopped (about 6 cups)
Salt
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1-2 pinches cayenne
6 tbsp. heavy cream

1. For the cheese: Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, draping it over sides, and set colander aside in sink. Put milk into a large saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent it from scorching, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add lemon juice, and very slowly and gently stir until large curds form, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour milk mixture into colander and gently rinse off under cold running water any foam and residual lemon juice from curds. Gather corners of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out liquid. Tie opposite corners of cheesecloth together to make a sack, and hang it from a large kitchen spoon suspended over a deep bowl. Set aside at room temperature until excess liquid has thoroughly drained from cheese, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer sack to a large plate, untie cheesecloth, and loosely drape corners over cheese. Place a large heavy pot on top of cheese, then set aside for 30 minutes to compress cheese. Remove pot and unwrap cheese.

2. Cut cheese into1/2″ x 1″ pieces. Heat ghee in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4–6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

3. For the spinach: Put ginger, garlic, chiles, and 1/4 cup water into a blender and purée to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger–garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add spinach, season to taste with salt, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinich is very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

4. Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is silky soft, about 15 minutes more. Serve with warm Italian flatbread, if you like.

–This was the best saag paneer I’ve tasted (granted, I don’t eat a lot of it). The cheese was a bit loose, and I suppose you might argue for firmer, more fryable cheese. But no complaints from me.

Amba Maluwa (Based on this recipe.)

SRI LANKAN CURRY POWDER

6 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 x 5cm cinnamon stick (crumbled)
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
5 dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat the pan and first put coriander seeds and fry it till it starts
to get golden brown. Then add rest of the ingredients and fly all in
medium heat, till it is nice golden brown. (Do not burn it.)
Place in a grinder and grind to a fine powder.
You can store it for months in an airtight container.

–Makes more than needed for the curry.

Curry:

1 medium ripened mango
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 onion (sliced)
salt – to taste
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
6 curry leaves
1 x 2.5cm cinnamon stick
2 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sugar

Wash the mango & cut it into pieces with the seed. Now in a large bowl mix all the spices & sugar with mango pieces (mango, salt, Sri Lankan curry powder, chilli powder, turmeric & sugar) and keep it in aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add ginger & garlic and fry it for 1 minute, then add curry leaves, cinnamon stick & onions and cook it for nearly 5 minutes. When onions are cooked, add the mango pieces into the onion mixer and mix it well & keep it for nearly 10 minutes in medium heat. Final step is adding the coconut milk, and stir the curry. Keep it on heat till the mango pieces are getting soft, but do not try to break the pieces. (Try to stir the curry without a spoon, shake the saucepan.) Taste for salt.
NOTE:
If you do not peel the mango before cutting, it will give you a good taste. (When I´m making mango curry, I do not peel it. :-)

–We peeled the mangoes and tripled the recipe and it was MY FAVORITE.

Update: Ann says she put in one can of coconut milk on a triple recipe, so adjust the single batch to 1/2 cup coconut milk.

Baingan Barta (Based on this recipe.)
Serves 4 -6
Italian eggplant ………………………… 1 large
Potatoes ………………………………… 2 medium boiled and mashed
Tomatoes ………………………………. 2 large chopped
Mushroom ………………………………. 1/2 cup sliced (optional)
Anaheim or green bell pepper ………….. 1 medium chopped fine
Onion …………………………………… 1 medium chopped
Garlic …………………………………… 5 fat cloves minced
Green chilli …………………………….. 2 chopped fine
Red chilli powder ………………………. 1/2 tsp or to taste
Coriander powder ………………………. 2 tsp
Turmeric powder ……………………….. 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida ………………………………. one large pinch
Amchur powder …………………………. 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds …………………………… 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds …………………………….. 1/2 tsp
Salt ……………………………………… to taste
Oil ………………………………………. 2 tbsp
Cilantro leaves ………………………….. chopped for garnishig

Wash the eggplant and pat dry.Take a kitchen knife and poke 3-4 holes on the eggplant and microwave it on high for 5-6 minutes till it gets a little tender to touch. Take it out and place it in a 1″ deep baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Spray some oil spray all over the eggplant. Set the oven on high broil mode and place the eggplant on the middle rack . Broil it for 15 minutes on one side, flip and broil again for 10 -12 minutes on the other side till it gets nicely charred and skin starts to peel off. Take it out and let it cool till it is easy to handle.Peel the skin off the eggplant and take out the flesh and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan on medium heat and add the asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds and stir for a minute till the seeds crackle. Add in the garlic and green chillies and saute till they get light golden brown. Add the onions and salt, saute for 2-3 minutes, add bell pepper and saute while stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Now add the mushrooms and mix.
Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for 2 minutes and add in the tomatoes and turmeric powder and cook for 5 -7 minutes while stirring frequently (it tends to burn fast so be careful) till the mixture starts leaving oil. Next add the potatoes and eggplant with the juice, coriander powder and mix. Lower the heat to medium. Keep mashing it with with a wooden spatula till it mixes into a nice even pulp for about 4-5 minutes. Add the red chilli powder and amchur. Keep cooking till it starts to caramelize at the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Turn off the flame and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Notes:
1. Traditionally the eggplant is roasted on an open flame till it gets charred. Broiling them in the oven also has the same effect and they get the distinct roasted flavor. But if you don’t have access to an oven just roast them on a stove top.
2. I like the bite and meatiness of the mushrooms in this. It is entirely optional but give it a try if you are a mushroom lover.

–I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. Unfortunately, I was soooo full that I didn’t get to eat as much of it as I liked. I think we ended up increasing the salt on this one.

Baklava (My personal recipe.)

Thaw 1/2 package of phyllo dough (that is, there are usually two envelopes of phyllo dough per box, just do one if that’s an option). Leave on counter for a while; do not thaw in microwave (follow directions on box–note, cover with wet paper towels or as directed, because this stuff dries out almost immediately). Heat oven to 350F.

Run about 2C walnuts through a food processor until chunky but not yet pasty. In a small saucepan, warm 1C of honey until it’s just barely warm (warm enough to pour). Stir in pinch salt and a shot or two of decent brandy. Add the nuts, stir, and remove from heat. In another saucepan, warm 1/2 C butter until just melted.

Brush a 9×13 pan with melted butter. Lay down 2-3 sheets of phyllo dough and brush with melted butter. (Remember to put down slightly damp paper towels on the unused phyllo while you’re working.) You want to put about half of the thawed half of the package down, then use a spatula to spread out the walnut filling. (You might want to use less than half, but that’s up to you.)

Meanwhile, warm another 1/2 to 1 C honey, adding another pinch salt and shot or two of brandy.

Lay down the rest of the phyllo in layers 2-3 sheets thick, brush with butter, next layer, etc., until you use up the other half of the thawed half of the dough. Brush the last layer of butter on.

With a sharp knife, lightly cut your baklava in the shapes you want it. Make sure you’re gently cutting all the way through to the bottom. Pour the rest of the honey over top the baklava.

Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes–if it’s bubbly all the way through, you’re done, otherwise let it cook a bit longer. The tricky part is getting it out of the pan. If it’s too hot, it’ll slide apart. If it’s too cool, it’ll stick to the bottom. You want to try to get it out ideally when it’s about lukewarm: cool enough to eat without blowing on it, but not cold.

–A big hit; people were fighting over the pieces…

I had a great time :)