Archive for the 'Indian' Category


I make Indian food probably once a week, and I’ll usually whip up a batch of these chapatis to go along with it.  Another recipe from the brilliant Neela Paniz, they are easy to make and work really well for scooping up dal and other Indian dishes.  You’ll need to find atta flour (also marked Chapati Flour)… which may require either a search online or a trip to your nearest Indian grocery store. I always choose the latter, and when we are in the Bay Area, I cannot leave without stopping by an Indian grocery store to pick up dal or flour or whole spices like fenugreek seeds or cardamom pods.

But about the chapati… it’s excellent!
(from Bombay Cafe)
2 cups atta flour
3/4 to 1 cup warm water
ghee (optional)
Mix the atta flour and 3/4 cups warm water until you have a uniform dough that is not sticky.
Knead for about 15 minutes, adding water as necessary, until the dough is soft and elastic.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
To shape the breads, sprinkle your work surface with flour.
Break off a one inch chunk of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand.  
On the floured surface, roll the dough out to a flat circle about 5-6″ in diameter.
Heat a skillet over medium.
Place the chapati in the pan and turn it when you see small bubbles on the surface, about 1 minute.
Cook the other side for about 30 seconds.
With tongs, remove the chapati from the pan and place over an open gas flame for about 15 seconds, or until it puffs up.  Then do the same on the other side.
Remove from the flame, brush with some ghee if you like, and set aside while you repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Potatoes

I bought some mustard oil a few months ago when I started doing lots of Indian cooking, but somehow I never got around to using it.  My husband found this recipe and we both LOVED it.

This is a great side dish to serve with Indian food, when you want a change from rice.  I made them really spicy with lots of cayenne but you could definitely leave it out entirely if you wish.

(adapted from Vegetarian Resource Center)

1 lb small red potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoons ground asafoetida
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons amchur (ground dried mango)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Lime wedges and fresh mint to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F
Heat mustard oil in a skillet over high heat then add cumin seeds and ground asafoetida (there will be splatters!)
Add potatoes and cook stirring for about 2 minutes, or until they change color and begin to look opaque but not translucent.
Lower heat and add the rest of the spices stirring well until blended together.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are brown and tender.
Great served with cucumber-mint raita!

You too can cook Indian Food!

I fell in love with Indian food a long time ago, but it took a few years for me to actually attempt to make it myself. I was intimidated by recipes, with all the ingredients in another language, and I didn’t even know how to get my hands on most of the ingredients.

Browsing through my aunt’s fantastic cook book collection, I came across Bombay Cafe, which had simple recipes that were accessible and sounded great. Although it is now out of print, my sister found a copy and gave it to me for my birthday. I scanned through the recipes I wanted to make (virtually all of them, it turned out), and made a list of ingredients that I would need. If you are lucky enough to be in a major metropolitan area, you probably are not too far from an Indian grocery store, to which I highly suggest a visit!

I have now built a decent pantry of Indian staples, and I’m happy to say that I already had everything I needed to make this recipe…except sambar powder.  In fact, I didn’t even know what that was.  Thanks to google, I found about 15 different variations and came up with the one I made for this recipe.  Since I’ve never had it before, I have no idea how it compares to authentic sambar powder.  All I can say is that these are some pretty tasty lentils!
(Any ingredients you are not familiar with are easy to find in an Indian grocery store, or online!)
South Indian Toor Dal
(adapted from Bombay Cafe by Neela Paniz)
1 1/2 cups dry toor dal
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
8 to 10 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 to 4 chiles de arbol, stems and seeds removed and broken in half
3 tbsp sambar powder (below)
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp lemon juice
chopped cilantro for garnish
Soak lentils in warm water to cover for 20 to 30 minutes.  
Drain and place in a saucepan with 5 cups of water.
Bring to a full boil and skim off any foam that rises.
Reduce heat to medium.
Add onions and cook for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are completely disintigrated
Skim off foam, being careful to avoid onions or remove too much liquid.
Add salt and reduce heat to low.
Heat 3 tbsp oil over medium heat in a small skillet with a lid.
Add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, covering immediately to avoid splatters.
After about 30 seconds, add the cumin seeds and chiles.
30 seconds later, add the sambar powder, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned.
Add the tomatoes and cook for about a minute.
Stir this mixture into the lentils.
Wipe out the small skillet and heat the remaining oil.
Stir fry the coconut for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.
Stir the coconut into the lentils.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice.
Garnish with the cilantro.
Great served over basmati rice or scooped up with chapati or naan.

Sambar Powder 

makes about 2/3 cup
2 tbsp red lentils
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 chiles de arbol, torn into pieces and stems and seeds removed
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp dried unsweetened coconut
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asoefetida powder
6 dry curry leaves
In a dry skillet over medium, toast the lentils until they are fragrant and just browning, and set aside.
Repeat with cumin seeds, chiles, and mustard seeds.  If the pan gets smoky or the seeds turn black, discard and start again because they will throw off the flavor.
Combine the toasted lentils, chiles and seeds with the rest of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, and process to a fine powder.

Smoked Eggplant (Baingan Bartha)

This dish is great comfort food, and is pretty simple to make.  I first tried it at an Indian restaurant and fell in love with the smoky flavor and creamy texture.  I serve it over basmati rice, but it would be great with naan too.  If you are new to cooking Indian food, this is a great place to start!  The quantities here make enough for 2 hungry people, but it would be easy to make more. Normally, this would include some chopped tomatoes added after the ginger, but I didn’t have any tomatoes on hand.

1 eggplant
vegetable oil
2 tbsp ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
pinch cayenne pepper (or more, if you like spicy food!)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Grill your eggplant.  Rub all over with a little vegetable oil, then either place over a foil-lined gas burner or on a grill.  Rotate every few minutes, until all the skin is black and charred and the eggplant is soft (10-15 minutes).
Remove the eggplant from the burner or grill and cool.
Scrape off all the skin, then mash the pulp (seeds included) in a bowl using a potato masher or wooden spoon.
Heat the ghee in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  
Add the onions and saute until golden brown, 7 or 8 minutes.
Add the ginger and cayenne and cook for about a minute, then add the eggplant puree and salt.
Cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
Remove from heat, spoon over rice, and garnish with cilantro

Curry Couscous with Garbanzo Beans

I have been a huge fan of one-pot meals lately.  Not only do they minimize time spent in the kitchen, they also create fewer dishes which is a great because I do not have a dishwasher.

My cupboards are currently overflowing with leftover odds and ends of beans and grains, so I decided that before I buy anything new to cook with, I need to use those up.  I was rummaging around and came across some couscous and a can of garbanzo beans, so I decided to cook them with some vegetables I bought at the farmers market last night. I’ve been using a lot of turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, and coriander lately in the Indian cooking I’ve been doing, so I decided to put those together in this dish, along with some fresh garlic and ginger. 
I wanted to practice my knife skills, so I made pretty small pieces, but it is definitely not essential.
Spice mix:
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cayenne (or more, if you prefer your food spicier)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Mix together in a small bowl and set aside
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of green beans, thinly sliced (you should have about 1/2 cup of the little slices)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow summer squash, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 tsp salt
1 cup couscous
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook, stirring until translucent and slightly browned.
Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for one minute.
Stir in the green beans, zucchini, squash, and carrots, salt, and spice mix, and cook for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in the garbanzo beans.
Add the couscous and mix until evenly distributed.  
Stir in the broth gradually.  
Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and wait 10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork, sprinkle cilantro over the top, and serve.

Cucumber-Peanut Salad

I have a glaring shortcoming as a home cook, and that is that I am salad-challenged.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good salad.  I LOVE them.  The problem is, they never turn out quite how I want them to.  My dressings end up too oily or too acidic, the proprotions of leaves to other vegetables are all wrong, or the whole salad is just downright boring.

The other day my neighbor made a fantastic salad that I loved so much I decided to make it my mission to improve my salad-making skills.  I turned to my cookbooks for a recipe and some inspiration, and I found this gem in an Indian cookbook.
Cucumber is always refreshing, and with peanuts and coconut added into the mix, the result is a crunchy and satisfying salad.  The dressing is outrageously simple and marries two of my favorite flavors, lemon and cumin.
(adapted from Bombay Cafe by Neela Paniz)
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted shredded coconut (or fresh grated coconut if you have it)
1 serrano chile, seeds and stem removed, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
about 6 leaves romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, cumin, sugar, and salt.
In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, serrano, cilantro, and coconut.
Pour in the lemon juice mixture and toss well.  Set aside 15 minutes at room temperature.
Add the peanuts and lettuce and toss until the dressing is evenly distributed.

The Perfect Lentil Soup

In the not so distant past, I would have told you there is no such thing as perfect lentil soup.  Lentils were something I forced myself to eat because they seem so healthy.  Fortunately, I discovered I was just using the wrong kind of lentils!

This soup doesn’t look like much, and there’s no picture because I left my camera at my in-laws house on father’s day…BUT it is delicious.
The key is the lentils.  I used red ones, which I buy from the bulk bins at my local natural foods store.  I was disappointed to find that they don’t stay red after you cook them, but no matter.
Clarified butter is another recent discovery that I adore.  I guess you could use vegetable oil instead, but clarified butter gives a great flavor.
This recipe is adapted from “The Bombay Cafe” by Neela Paniz
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
6 cups water
1-2 tsp salt
1 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
1.5 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
Put the lentils and water in a large saucepan over high heat.  Partially cover, and boil for about 40 minutes, or until the lentils have completely disintigrated.  Skim off the foam and then add about a teaspoon of salt, or maybe 2 (depending on your taste preferences).  Turn the heat down to low and cover.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the ghee.  Toss in the cumin, ginger, serrano chile, and mustard seeds and cover for 30 seconds, shaking the pan.  Then pour this into the lentils and stir.  Stir in the lemon juice and serve.


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