Saturday, February 6, 2010

Indian food

As I've already noted, Raj Mahal is one of our favorite places to eat. They have a fabulous lunch buffet, which is great for those of us who don't know what the dishes are and want to try new things without committing too much. Last weekend we had a great chopped cabbage and pea dish, pretty straight forward and heavy with turmeric.

Speaking of turmeric, have you ever seen it fresh? It's a root, much like ginger, although smaller and with the color bursting through the thin skin. The little sections look like fingers or creepy worms. I bought some at the Erie County Farms today and plan to freeze them, in order to microplane them as needed into dishes. I do this with ginger, too, and find it keeps really well and incorporates easier into my food than if I used it fresh.

This weekend, we decided to make our own fantastic Indian food. (But not with the turmeric. I'd already started dinner when I found it. Next time!) I found a recipe for tandoori rub, which we made and shared with my Fabulous Sister. Paprika, cumin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, saffron, coriander, ginger, black pepper, cayenne... we ground them all ourselves with a coffee grinder we've designated for spices. It's amazingly fragrant. (I think it would taste great on roasted potato wedges, too, but that's another day). Instead of being a slave to a traditional "tandoori," we decided to make a dish that made sense to us, but kept the spirit in tact. To that end, we marinated large hunks of chicken breast with plain yogurt which was liberally seasoned with our spice mixture until it formed a paste.

I seared the chicken hunks, then removed them and sauteed veggies to pick up the fond. For vegetables, we combined onion, red bell peppers and zucchini, all in a small dice. Then we added the chicken back in, poured some milk and water into the ziplock bag which had been used to marinate the chicken (in order to get every last molecule of the marinade out) and added it to the pan for a simmering liquid. We also put in another container of plain yogurt. After simmering until the chicken was done, we allowed the liquid to reduce. You should smell my kitchen. It is to die for.

Of course, we served rice. But the more interesting thing was the homemade naan. This was a recipe from the February issue of Food Network Magazine (thanks, Mom! I'm enjoying my subscription) and I followed it exactly. Well, I lie. I followed it almost exactly. I used unbleached flower for the whole of it, instead of whole wheat. It doesn't have any leavening agent (if it did, I wouldn't have tried it, as I'm yeast-challenged when it comes to cooking) but it does need time to rest. I'm including the recipe here:

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 c. water
pinch of salt

Combine the flours and the salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the wet ingredients. Mix together until a sticky mess [note: I'm taking a few liberties with the wording here, but it's more true my way. Actually, we used more water than this to get it to come together correctly]. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until pliable, about 5 minutes. Put dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and let sit 30 minutes to rest.

Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll or manually stretch each piece out, then fry in a pan with the barest hint of oil 2-3 minutes on one side and 1-2 minutes on the other, until lightly charred and bubbly.
I think I could eat this every single day. It would make a rockin' pizza, with some sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and torn leaves of basil. I could happily just layer on some lunch meat and call it a sandwich. A flavorful salad could be wrapped up with craisins, canned tuna, avocado and some queso fresco. I could go on and on. I loved this bread.

The whole meal was wonderful. The veggies were wonderfully soft but full of color and flavor, a nice counterpoint to the solidness of the chicken. Our rice drank up the sauce, which was a robust color and had quite a bit of heat (Darling Husband admitted he doubled the amount of cayenne called for. That would do it.). I would happily order it in a restaurant, but I'm doubly glad to be able to call it home made.

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