Nik Sharma's Ground Beef Pulao

Beef Pulao with Raita

As any close observer of my daily meals or longtime reader of this blog can attest, we don't eat a lot of meat. My husband was traumatized by gristle as a child, and by parents who made him clean his plate, no matter how long it took. In my family, where some form of Italian cooking mostly reigned supreme, vegetables and vegetarian meals were always the stars of the show. Roast chicken was the special occasion dish at my mother's house; brisket was the counterpart at my American grandmother's house. These days, there's the environmental factor to consider, which is huge, and also the cost: good-quality meat in Germany is expensive. We simply can't afford to cook meat that frequently if we insist on buying organic meat or even just sustainably raised local meat. It's just as well that my family would almost always prefer a meatless meal.

These days, the meat that ends up on our table most often is (organic) ground beef. Max will never understand the appeal of a rare steak, but give the man a hamburger or a meatball and he's in seventh heaven. The children love the meat ragù that I make on a weekly basis, but they're hot and cold on burgers and meatballs, which is insane, but these are the same children WHO DON'T LIKE PIZZA I AM SERIOUS SEND HELP. Since I am the only cook in the house and I will die of boredom (or become extremely resentful and grumpy) if I can't try new recipes, I'm always thrilled to have a new way to try and get ground beef into their bellies.

(A brief interjection here to rail against the fact that it is still nearly impossible to find ground poultry in Germany. Butchers consider it a hazardous substance and almost all of them refuse to prepare it—only one that I know in western Berlin will grind it for you on the condition that you buy no less than 5 kilos of it. Recently, the grocery store on the corner has started occasionally selling packages of ground (conventional, not organic) turkey, but it's seasoned and...I....just refuse to buy it. For a while, I thought I'd just be resourceful and make my own. I bought a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer years ago only to have it languish in my cupboards until...I resold it a few months ago. Sigh. So beef, pork and lamb are our only options.)

Beef Pulao

One way, of course, is Fuchsia Dunlop's celestial spicy celery with ground beef, but it is too spicy for the boys at their ages now. (I shake my fist at their northern European taste buds!) Another way is in this one-pot meal that has you cook ground meat with spices and aromatics, then mix that with turmeric-colored rice that you cook in the same pot (don't bother washing it out). Fresh mint and scallions folded in at the end give the dish a little lift, though it's the cool bowl of cucumber raita alongside that really makes this a pleasingly complete meal.

The recipe as written was originally meant for lamb, which is far fattier than ground beef, so Nik Sharma has you cook the lamb first to get the excess fat out before you continue with the spices. I made it as he wrote, but since the ground beef had less fat to give off, I actually think you could move steps around a little to get a more aromatic result. In other words, cook the ginger and garlic first, then add the spices and salt and cook until fragrant, then add the beef and cook until slightly browned. Lime juice on top, scrape out of the pan, proceed with the rice. If you do it this way, then I think you should also add a chopped onion together with the garlic and ginger. My adjustments to the recipe are below.

Either way, when the pulao's finished, be sure to make raita to dollop on top. The one in the photo I made by pouring plain whole-milk yogurt into a smallish bowl and seasoning it with salt and ground cumin to taste, then grating in a small Persian cucumber. I love the cooling feel the raita gives against the piping hot rice and meat, plus, if you've actually made the pulao with red chile powder, you'll be happy for the respite from the heat. (I left out the chile powder because I wanted the children to eat the pulao for lunch. And Bruno obliged happily, a minor miracle. Hugo, on the other hand, was unimpressed and left half behind. As I scraped his portion into the trash at the end of lunch, I thought to myself hey, at least our parenting has progressed so far that we don't make our kids clean their plates anymore, right?)

Serenity now.

Ground Beef Pulao
Serves 4

2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground beef
4
garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon red chile powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bunch scallions (about 6), trimmed and thinly sliced
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

1. Check the rice and discard any debris. Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Place the rice in a bowl, cover with water by 1 inch, and soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 250°F/120°C.

2. As the rice soaks, cook the beef: Place a medium saucepan with a heavy lid or a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the saucepan is hot, add the olive oil, garlic, ginger, and onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, chile powder, black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté until the spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and slightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice and stir well. Scrape the mixture into an oven-safe bowl or pan and keep warm in the oven.

3. Drain the soaked rice. Add to the same pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice, the turmeric and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover, and reduce heat to simmer until the rice absorbs all the water, about 10 minutes. (Do not stir the rice as it cooks, or the grains might break.) Remove the saucepan from heat, and let sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

4. Fluff the rice and combine with the cooked meat, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice. Fold the scallions and mint into the rice, and serve immediately.
Print this recipe!


Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Thank you all very much for the commiseration on the loss of my digital photos and manuscript. I have spent a week licking my wounds and I am starting to feel better. The truth is, I already feel deeply oppressed by the masses of photos that clog every device I own. The sudden loss of thousands when I have so many more to deal with might be kind of a blessing? That's how I've decided I'm going to look at it. As for the manuscript, I had a big realization this fall that I wasn't happy with the existing structure of the book. I decided to change it substantially, but the only way to do that was to start over. So the fact that I lost those few weeks of summer work is annoying (and stupid), but I probably was going to trash those pages anyway. (The fact that I still don't have the kind of childcare that allows me to get started on draft three IS kind of the end of the world, but let's not dwell on that or I'll pull my hair out.)

After two months of lockdown, Hugo returned to in-person instruction this week. It's a very limited kind of school, just 2 1/2 hours daily, fully masked with only half his class. But it is school and it is not in my house and I am exceedingly grateful even just for this. Bruno, however, isn't allowed to return to Kita yet, so I actually have less time than I did before, because as everyone with multiple children knows, the child who only knows life with a sibling, when suddenly left alone without the sibling, is a lot more work. I am doing my best to keep my exasperation at the entire situation at bay, but sometimes, yes, I want to scream into a pillow. Or from the balcony, like a diva being murdered at La Scala.

Lunchtime still rolls around every day like an unwelcome flea-bitten guest. Except now the lunch hour is interrupted by me having to get in the car and drive an hour round-trip to pick Hugo up from school. He doesn't get a school lunch, so he's grumpy as hell at pickup. At home, he either eats leftovers from our lunch or I scramble him some eggs and butter some toast. As much as the daily meal prep drives me up the wall, I feel lucky that the act of cooking still brings me satisfaction. And Bruno is very understanding about lunchtime. While I cook, he comes and keeps me company in the kitchen, drawing pictures or staring into my pots, and it is a fleeting moment of the kind of quiet beauty you used to believe motherhood was full of until you actually became a mother and realized it was mostly a whole lot of everything else.

Anyway.

My kingdom for comforting one-pot meals, like this absolutely delicious khichdi from Tejal Rao. It is a doddle to make—just bang rice and split yellow moong beans and spices into a pot together, then let time and steam do their work—but produces the most fragrant, wonderful and spicy one-pot meal. You complete it with some hot Indian pickle (we're obsessed with my friend Kavita's homemade garlic achar, but any Indian pickle will do) and an extremely necessary pool of cool yogurt. Sometimes, if I'm feeling fancy, I doctor that pool of yogurt with salt and ground cumin and a grated Persian cucumber. Sometimes, I just dollop a spoonful on each plate. Khichdi is the kind of food that bolsters you, makes you feel just a bit more settled than you were before you ate it. Just the thing for these unsettling days.

Tejal Rao's Khichdi
Serves 3 to 4
Note: If you are cooking for small children, leave the chile powder out of the khichdi and just add it to your plate, but be careful, it's easy to overdo.
Print this recipe!

cup long-grain white rice, such as jasmine
cup yellow split moong beans
2 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon red chile powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1.
Combine the rice and beans and rinse several times. Drain and place in a heavy-bottomed pot with 1 3/4 cups water, and set over medium-high heat.

2. In another small saucepan, heat the ghee and mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients, swirling them in the pan. Let the spices sizzle for under a minute, then carefully pour into the rice pot, along with the ghee. (Careful: The fat may splatter).

3. When the water comes up to a rolling boil, give it a good stir, scraping at the bottom of the pot, then cover tightly and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes before opening the lid. Fluff gently with a spatula. Taste, season with salt to taste and serve.


Amandeep's Butter Chicken

NYTimes' Butter Chicken

I may have been at this blogging thing for almost eleven (gulp gasp whuut) years, but I have still not figured out how to make gravy look good. In my defense, I swear I wouldn't inflict these photos on you if it wasn't for a good cause, namely your dinner. Maybe even your dinner tonight!

The recipe comes from a "young kitchen hand" at a restaurant in Melbourne called Attica. Amandeep - we are not told his last name, hrmm - made (makes?) it for staff meal. Well, if this is the restaurant's staff meal, I can only imagine the restaurant's actual offerings. It's totally luxurious - chicken bathed in a thick and creamy yogurt marinade, cooked in copious amounts of butter, then finished with heavy cream. Ground almonds thicken the creamy, nicely spiced sauce, which is almost better than the chicken itself. You will want to eat every last drop of it. Luckily, the recipe makes a lot of sauce. (I left out the chiles in the vain hopes that my child would join us in eating this delectable dish, but he was not having it, no sirree, though I will hardly complain about that, because it just meant more butter chicken for me and his father. Next time, ooh, next time, I cannot wait to use the chiles and really let this baby rip.)

The only (other) change I made to the recipe, which really is absolutely perfect as is, was to add frozen peas at the end so that I wouldn't have to also make a vegetable for dinner. Yes, I am lazy! I am also a broken record. Forgive me. (Eleven years, people.)

Butter Chicken

And with that I leave you to your shopping lists and Memorial Day cookouts. But tomorrow, the official cover of Classic German Baking awaits you! See you then.

Amandeep's Butter Chicken
Adapted from the NY Times from a recipe in Eating with the Chefs
Serves 4

1 ½ cups full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 pounds chicken thighs, on the bone
¼ pound unsalted butter
4 teaspoons neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
2 red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste
cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
1 ½ cups cream
1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds
½ bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed

1. Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).

2. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.

3. Add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

5. Stir in the cream and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Add the almonds, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.

 


Julie Sahni's Saag

Sauteeing fresh spinach

Last week something terribly exciting happened: I found fresh spinach at my local green market. That never happens. Yep, Berlin may have many wonderful things now, but fresh spinach at the market still counts as a rarity. (You can sometimes find it at Turkish grocery stores.)

(Proof? My mother-in-law, a fabulous cook and curious human being - curious as in interested in other things, not curious weird! - has literally (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) never bought fresh spinach before in her life. She stared at my enormous bag of it in something akin to wonder.)

(Further proof? Just a week later, that same farmer had nothing even resembling fresh spinach at his stand. Curses!)

I bought a whole kilo (over two pounds) of the spinach and lugged it home where my very obliging mother washed it for me. (She also ironed my stack of linens and shirts the other night while babysitting my child so I could go out and drink wine and have a fancy dinner, so I'm thinking I was probably a lowly insect in a previous life and am now being compensated for it, or something.)

Then I stared at the very large pile(s) of washed fresh spinach and wondered how on earth I was going to cook it all.

Fresh spinach and potatoes

Several years ago, my father resurrected his Very Serious Indian Cooking Phase (VSICP - originating in the early 1980's in Brookline, Massachusetts). He made multi-weekly visits to Moody Street for ingredients, found obscure cookbooks online and subjected his patient, loving wife to cumin and coriander in everything from potatoes to pasta. (Practically.) He planted the bug in me, too. My freezer now is a veritable smorgasbord of Indian spices and thanks to him, I know the difference between ajowan and amchoor.

So! After a few more minutes of staring at the spinach, I headed to the bookshelf and pulled down Julie Sahni. If anyone was going to get over two pounds of spinach under control, it was going to be an Indian.

If there's something that continues to surprise me about Indian cooking, it's how easy it is. You know, you look at the ingredient lists of Indian recipes, ten spices you've barely heard of, and get intimidated, or you think back to your last meal in an Indian restaurant and wonder how a home cook could ever get that complex, multi-layered flavor going in the kitchen. But if you just try, it's so easy. All you really need is a well-stocked spice pantry and these days, with mail-order spice companies and sophisticated grocery stores the world over, there's no excuse for not having one.

Saag

In this luscious, lovely recipe, you cook spinach (the original has you combine spinach with stronger-flavored greens, but I just used spinach) and potatoes with a simple blend of spices that will probably be familiar to everyone: cumin, ginger and hot red pepper, plus a little hit of garam masala at the end (if you leave this off, it will be no less delicious, by the way). The key to dish is the long cooking time; the spinach is almost melting at the end and the potatoes have gone all fudgy and sweet. There's a nice heat to the dish, but nothing that will blow your head off and even though the recipe says that it serves 6 to 8 people, I am here to bear witness to the fact that we, um, polished it off with a smaller crowd. (With Classic Indian Cooking open on the kitchen counter, I couldn't stop myself from rounding out the menu with tomato raita and a rice pilaf stuffed with goodies. And in case you're worried about the aforementioned exploitation of my mother, this is the meal I fed her in gratitude.)

Dinner tasted like the best kind of restaurant food, the kind of meal where you sort of can't believe that you were the one who put it on the table. It's like magic.

Bungee jumping, sky diving, that's for other folks; exotic home cooking is my kind of thrill. Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Julie Sahni's Saag
Adapted from Classic Indian Cooking
Serves 6 to 8 people

2 pounds fresh spinach
1 pound waxy potatoes
5 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 green chiles, seeded and minced, or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon garam masala

1. Pick over and discard all the rotting and yellowed spinach leaves. Wash the spinach thoroughly, then drain and pat dry. Chop coarsely.

2. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1.5-inch chunks.

3. Heat the ghee over medium-high heat in a large frying pan, preferably non-stick. When it is very hot, add cumin seeds. When the cumin turns dark (about 10 seconds), add garlic and chili. Stir rapidly for a moment or two, and add potatoes, turning and tossing them until they are lightly browned (about 5-8 minutes). Add about 1 cup of the chopped greens and stir it in. When the greens get limp, add another cup of greens. Continue until all greens are incorporated. Sprinkle with ginger powder and salt. Stir well to mix. Add 1 1/4 cups boiling water, reduce heat and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender (about 20-25 minutes). Uncover and continue cooking until the excess moisture evaporates (15-30 minutes). The vegetables must be stirred very carefully at this stage, as the potatoes break easily. 

4. Increase heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring the vegetables gently until the potatoes and greens look almost dry and the butter begins to coat and glaze the vegetables. Stir in garam masala, and turn off heat. Check for salt, and serve. This dish may be prepared several hours before you are ready to serve. It also keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Rajat Parr's Black Lentil Soup

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One thing you should know about living in Berlin is that there is no good Indian food here. None. There are plenty of Indian restaurants, but for some reason they all serve a variation on the same strangely insipid, gloppy mixtures that hold barely any resemblance to the Indian food I ate in Boston and New York over the years. The menus present no hint that India is a huge country, with myriad regions and cuisines (wherefore art thou, masala dosas of my heart?). And forget about anything spicy. Just forget it right now.

Oh, it's sad, alright. Whenever I go to London to visit my friend Betsy, we order takeaway from the Indian joint down the street from her and it is so good, so hot and complex and delicious, that I very willingly forgo all other meals in the city just to have that Indian food again and again. And then I return to Berlin and I hear about some new Indian place that has opened up and I get my hopes up, against my better judgment, and I go and once again am presented with mango chicken or some such train wreck and I feel deeply dejected all over again.

DSC_5843

Luckily, a lot of Indian food isn't so hard to make at home. (Though I leave dosas and iddlies to the experts in New York.) Thanks to my father's obsession with Indian cooking, I even have a nice little collection of Indian cookbooks, full of wonderful things to eat. And anyway, it's not like I'm getting out of the house much these days. Hugo's nap schedule takes precedence over all.

I found this recipe for black lentil soup the other day when I staring at a jar of beluga lentils in my pantry and wondering how I'd use them up without a nice piece of salmon lying around to pair them with. Here you parboil the lentils with ginger and cardamom. Then you make a soup base with onions, garlic, butter and a quartet of spices, plus some canned tomatoes and stock, before adding the lentils back to the pot to simmer into a soup. It's very easy and was easily left halfway through when Hugo starting melting down, before being picked up later after he'd gone to bed. (This is often how I cook these days, in fits and starts. Just today I started a fruitcake recipe and literally abandoned it with one bowl already full of ingredients like chopped apples and puréed figs to go outside and run errands with the cranky child. Now that he's asleep, I was able to finish the job and the fruitcake's perfuming the house from the oven. It sounds irritating, but has its own satisfactions, this stop-and-go cooking.)

I added more lentils than the original recipe called for and used less butter and next time I make it, I'd probably purée half the soup, because it looks a little messy otherwise, but these are very faint criticisms. The soup is wonderfully fragrant and spicy and tastes just the way it's "supposed" to, at least to my Indian-starved palate. When you stir in the final bit of butter at the end to melt, it separates and pools at the edges of the soup. It's very nice indeed.

Rajat Parr's Black Lentil Soup
Makes 6 servings

1.5 cups black (Beluga) lentils
3 cardamom pods
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, plus 2 tablespoons minced ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 quarts vegetable stock
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Salt to taste

1. In a pot, cover the lentils, cardamom and sliced ginger with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the lentils start to soften, about 10 minutes. Drain the lentils and transfer to a bowl; discard the cardamom and ginger.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pot. Add the onion, garlic and minced ginger and and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the spices and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.

3. Add the stock, tomatoes and lentils to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer over moderate heat until the lentils are softened and the soup has thickened, about 1 hour. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and season with salt. Ladle into bowls and serve.


Nigel Slater's Chicken Curry

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My sweets, I have a confession to make. My name is Luisa and last weekend, I used commercial curry powder.

Yes. I know. I know that that stuff is to be shunned, that really we should all be making our own masala spice mixtures, that the whole concept of chicken curry is colonialistic and ignorant of a huge country's varied cuisines. I know. But.

Have you ever made Nigel Slater's "Chicken with Spices and Cream" from Real Fast Food? (Sneaky guy, see how he evades the whole concept of "chicken curry" entirely with that recipe title?)

Because I sort of semi-guarantee that if you do make it, you will find yourself looking at your abominable jar of curry powder with entirely different eyes. One of my dinner guests, a lady who is newly pregnant with twins and also an expert on Things That Taste Good, threatened to return to my house the next day to eat the remaining sauce (the recipe makes a lot of sauce, for which you will be very grateful).

(I didn't tell her that I would barricade the doors if she dared to do so, because I had a hot date with the leftover sauce myself that would and could not be missed.)

(I blame my greed entirely on the baby. Entirely.)

Perhaps you see where this is going: Authenticity be damned. (The horror!)

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Now that we've gotten beyond the whole curry powder thing, let me tell you about this recipe. It's brilliant. First of all, it takes no time to make. And second of all, it is so good. (Are these two sentences the two most over-used sentences on this entire blog-thingy? My apologies. But at least my priorities are clear, yes?) Third of all, or second-of-all's addendum: Despite the curry powder and the recipe's simplicity, this chicken with spices and cream really does taste like Indian food which, for those of us stranded in this wonderful city that has so much to offer but is entirely bereft of good Indian food (ENTIRELY BEREFT AND I AM NOT EXAGGERATING, BEHOLD THE ALL CAPS), is a bleeding godsend.

I love making this recipe on weeknights, but also for dinner parties, because you can make it an hour or two in advance and then simply reheat the pan when your guests arrive, and also because it's the kind of thing that you can make almost with your eyes closed, which is my Dinner Party Modus Operandi.

You can tailor the recipe to your taste by adding a good shake or two of cayenne, for example, if you like things spicier (though the curry powder will probably have a bit of heat, too), dumping a few cupfuls of frozen peas into the mix shortly before the end of the cooking time or sprinkling chopped cilantro on top for a bit more authenticity.

As I said earlier, the recipe makes an enormous amount of sauce, but it is mind-bendingly delicious, all flecked with shreds of tomato and meltingly soft onions and it's silky with cream, but not heavy, if that's what you're wondering. Pregnant or not, it makes a rather wonderful lunch heated up and poured over leftover rice the next day.

Lest any of you get the wrong idea, let me just say that I own several Indian cookbooks, have a freezer stocked with curry leaves and ground cumin, that my father regularly offers to bring over dried mango powder and asafoetida when he comes to visit and that I normally would be the last person to recommend a recipe that to me, at least, seems like the Indian equivalent of using jarred tomato sauce in an Italian lasagne.

But this just tastes so good. Okay? It's my only defense.

Nigel Slater's Chicken Curry
Serves 4

4 chicken pieces, breast halves or thighs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder, from a recently opened jar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used canned tomatoes, seeds and all)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rub salt and pepper into chicken. Heat butter and oil in a shallow pan, add the chicken and cook until the skin is golden. Turn and add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir every once in a while.

2. Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon. Cook for 4 minutes, until the spices are cooked. Add tomatoes and stock, then simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked right through, about 15 minutes.

3. Stir in the cream and taste the sauce, adjusting salt and pepper, if needed. Add the lemon juice. Simmer for 1 minute, then serve hot with basmati rice.


Niloufer Ichaporia King's Parsi Tomato Chutney

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So, er, this is awkward, since I already told you about a tomato jam in August. And, er, yes, you're right, tomato season is all but over. (Not entirely, but almost.) But I kind of need you to forget all about that other tomato jam and the fact that the tomatoes at the market are dwindling fast. Forget about all that right away. Today. Now.

Because a few weeks ago I made a tomato chutney from this book by way of The Traveler's Lunchbox and, it's the most curious thing, I haven't been able to stop spooning it out of the jar since. It is quite something. I mean, who eats chutney from a spoon? This is not the kind of thing I am usually in the habit of doing. Just so we're clear. But this is no ordinary chutney, no.

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This tomato chutney makes my mouth glow on the inside, which is a most wondrous feeling. And it tastes incredible, like a tomato come to life in the middle of an Indian jungle, though I am biased, it's true: you could coat a tomato in tar and I'd probably still want to eat it.

Let me try to describe it at least. Imagine a tomato, all fresh and succulent, cooked down into jamminess with fiery bits of ginger and garlic and rust-colored cayenne. There are raisins, for a little extra sweetness, and cloves and cinnamon, too. But then there's a big glug of vinegar that straightens everyone's collars out and makes your mouth pucker with pleasure. Between the vinegar and the cayenne and all that fresh ginger and garlic, the chutney is incendiary, in the best possible way. 

I could almost guarantee that you will find yourself hoarding it, instead of giving it away as you might think you would after lining up all your neatly-filled crimson jars just after filling them. It's the one thing in my pantry that I can't part with. Not yet.

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I like putting it on a cold chicken sandwich, for example. Or dolloping it next to a piece of plain, sautéed fish to goose it up a little. I've eaten it with sharp cheddar on nice bread for a lunch that lingered in my mouth long after I finished. And it's brilliant with eggs, scrambled or fried. Best of all is chopped into homemade egg salad. Good night!

But like I said, I've also eaten it straight from the jar, which I'm a little embarrassed to admit, but you know, sometimes it's just best to be honest about this kind of thing.

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Whatever you decide to do with it, the point is: make it. Today. Now. Before the very last plum tomatoes have gone.

And if they already are gone, forgive me, kind reader, for winding you up. It was cruel of me, I know. To make it up to you, maybe I could even send you one of my jars? Maybe. Let me think about it. I'll get back to you.

Niloufer Ichaporia King's Parsi Tomato Chutney
Source: The Traveler's Lunchbox
Makes about four 8- to 10-ounce jars; recipe can easily be doubled

3 pounds (1.5 kilos) ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely-julienned peeled ginger (about one 2.5-inch/6-cm-long piece)
1/2 cup thinly-sliced garlic (about one large head)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup (75 to 150 grams) raisins (optional)
2 cups (400 grams) turbinado sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 small cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

1. Open a window or two in your kitchen. Place all the ingredients in a heavy nonreactive pot and, over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring well. Continue to cook, stirring every five to seven minutes (more frequently towards the end of the cooking time), until the chutney has the consistency of a soft jam, about an hour. Be careful not to scorch the chutney.

2. While the chutney is cooking, sterilize four or five glass jars and lids in boiling water or a hot oven. When the chutney has finished cooking, ladle it carefully into the clean jars and quickly screw on the lids. Turn the jars upside-down to cool. If you plan to eat the chutney within a few weeks of making it, there's no need to can it; simply keep it in the fridge.


Julie Sahni's Bihari Green Beans Masala

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Things improbably gone missing in the move:

1. One tiny All-Clad skillet bought in a super-deal at Broadway Panhandler when it was still over in Soho and that was my trusty seed-toasting, meal-for-one-making, butter-melting companion for many years. This feels only barely replaceable. I'm pretty bereft. How on earth did my little soufflé dishes, my tea cups and espresso spoons, my ceramic trivets and my antique canisters all make it over, but this little darling didn't?

2. An entire set of ivory-handled flatware. Well, forks and knives. To be fair, not as essential as it sounds since I'd had the good fortune of being given my grandmother's silver a few years ago. But still, where could it be? An entire set? When I can't sleep at night, I think about it. Is it still in some old apartment that I didn't comb over obsessively enough? Is it in a shipping container on the high seas? Is it off living the life of Riley in grass skirts on a tropical island with an endless supply of fresh coconuts?

3. A jar of ground coriander. Huh? A half-roll of Saran-Wrap made it over (don't ask). A nearly empty jar of dried summer savory from Penzey's made it over, too. (Seriously, don't ask). But this, a brand-new jar, fragrant and much, much needed, didn't?

A skillet, flatware, ground coriander. Is this some kind of message from the other side? Am I supposed to be understanding something about what's gone missing? 

I know. That's a lot of questions for a Wednesday morning.

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I discovered the loss of the ground coriander and the baby skillet in the midst of making dinner the other night, which, as you probably know, is not the best time to realize you don't have something that you were pretty darn sure you had. So sure you didn't even check. Still, Julie Sahni's recipe for green beans in a simply spiced coconut sauce had needled its way into my head and was sitting there, setting off fireworks, until I got to cooking and it didn't really matter, until dinner was done - whole coriander subbed in for ground, a little pot used for toasting almonds instead of my skillet - and gone.

Yes, done and gone. That's about how fast it was to both cook the meal and eat it. For those of you still afraid to cook Indian food because of the time you think it takes, and the complicated list of ingredients, I've found your recipe. This dish took less than 15 minutes to cook, and only a few minutes more to prep. And the ingredients are all easy to source, especially if you live in a country that sells more than just basil in the herb section of the grocery store (ahem, Germany).

We gobbled up the whole dish in an unseemly amount of time, white rice soaking up the delicious sauce. "Delicious!" was exclaimed. "So good!" was declared. Plates, dear readers, might even have been licked. The only Indian food I've had since coming to Berlin in December were takeout meals in London and New York, go figure. So I suppose eating politely and demurely was going to be off the table anyhow.

And even better than the speed and ease with which this was cooked, was the fact that the green beans can be replaced with cauliflower or eggplant, among other vegetables, and the idea of soft, yielding eggplant stewed away in this creamy, velvety sauce is enough to make me forget about any skillet, ground spice or flatware I ever possessed and dream only about the future.

Bihari Green Beans Masala
Serves 2 as a main course with rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until light golden. Remove from heat and transfer almonds to a plate or bowl; set aside for garnish.

2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt to the unwashed sauté pan, and return to medium heat. Sauté until the onion is tender and begins to fry, about 4 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and green beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 6 minutes.

4. Sprinkle beans with lime juice, and toss lightly. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with plain cooked rice or roti flatbread.


Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez's Chana Punjabi

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I have been rendered mute by a chickpea. (Can you say mute when you mean your ability to type?) To be more specific, a jumbo can of chickpeas simmered for close to an hour in a thick, spicy tomato sauce spiked with jalapeño and lemon juice and finished with fresh cilantro (two nights in a row, people - can you believe it?). Mute, I tell you. All I can think to tell you is that I loved this dish, I loved it, and I will make it again and again until the end of time. Who cares that the only Indian take-out place near us stinks? I will never need them again. Who cares that times are tough and money is short? This recipe costs barely anything to make. Who cares that the world has too many people that eat too much meat? I would gladly never eat meat again.

Chana punjabi, I think I love you.

This recipe comes from Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, who runs darling little Lassi in the West Village and has a way with Indian food that makes me weak in the knees. It is simple: you make a quick tomato sauce, with ginger and garlic and jalapeño and warm spices (garam masala, you make my heart sing), then puree it into a creamy mass. Into that go the drained, rinsed chickpeas (canned! hurrah!) which stew and stew in their sticky, gorgeous sauce while you do other things, like daydream about moving to India. In the last 20 minutes of cooking, bang a pot of rice on the stove and you're pretty much set for the best dinner you'll have all week. (Aren't I presumptuous? What do I know about what you've been eating?)

Apparently, this is meant to serve four people. I answer that by dissolving into bright peals of laughter. Four? Are you serious? Barely even two. We had to settle for a salad after we scraped the pot clean like a pair of Dickensian orphans, and let me tell you that never has a salad been so resented. Next time I'm doubling this recipe. In fact, you should go ahead right now and double the ingredients you'll need to buy to make this yourself - don't even bother making just one batch.

Chana Punjabi
Serves 2

1 tablespoon canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small Thai bird chili, chopped or 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Cooked rice for serving (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil and add onion. Sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and chili, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until tomatoes are very soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

2. Purée mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan and place over medium heat. Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, coriander, the garam masala, turmeric and lemon juice. Add chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

3. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick and chickpeas are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir pan about every 10 minutes, adding water as needed (up to 1 1/2 cups) to prevent burning. When ready to serve, sauce should be thick. If necessary, uncover pan and allow sauce to reduce for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until desired consistency. Stir in cilantro, adjust salt as needed and serve with cooked rice, if desired.


Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's Two Lentil Stew

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I have three minutes to write this post before I fall asleep on the couch and I don't want to break NaBloPoMo right in the very first week, for Pete's sake. Give me seven days at least. The emotion and the nerves from the past few weeks, wait, months, wait, oh hell, years seem to have finally caught up with me and I am staggeringly tired. Plus, do you know what I discovered today? My Very First Gray Hair, growing impudently out of my right temple. Didn't it know I had an agenda of reaching my 31st birthday proudly sporting the same hair color I had on my 30th birthday?

It's all a little much.

So before I nod off with my laptop humming away on the tops of my thighs, let me tell you quickly about the first thing I cooked with the sack of chana dal that my dad brought when he came to visit a few weeks ago. I found a recipe in this brilliant cookbook that has you combine a whole rainbow of Indian dals into a spicy stew.

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I didn't have all those dals in my pantry, so I made do with some red lentils and the aforementioned chana dal (the recipe is originally called five-lentil stew) and it was simply lovely. I simmered the lentils until tender in spiced water, dyed yellow from turmeric, then cooked tomatoes and onions with garam masala and cumin until thick and sticky.

The tender legumes are folded into the spiced tomatoes and what results is comforting and homey and spicy without being painful and nutritious and wonderful. The kind of thing that becomes a meal staple also because the sum total of all the ingredients in this stew probably equaled $0.78. We ate the stew in wide bowls for lunch along with - wait for it - homemade chapatti. Homemade by me! A high point of the weekend, for sure, because I am a dork and the dough arts fascinate me.

Oh, you want to see one of those chapattis? But then I'm going to have to tell you all about how to make them and how cool they are and how easy, too, and like I said, I'm falling asleep, but okay, here you go:

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Two Lentil Stew
Serves 4

Dal:
3/4 cup chana dal
1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Spice blend:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped (about 2 large cloves)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 3/4 can diced tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1. Rinse the dal.

2. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the dal and lentils, stir, and bring back to a boil. Then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 2 hours.

3. Add the turmeric and cayenne to the legumes and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until tender, approximately 35 minutes.

4. 15 minutes before the dal is ready, begin cooking the spice mixture: heat the oil in a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and garlic and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cumin and garam masala and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and salt, and cook until the tomatoes have been reduced, approximately 10 minutes.

5. Add the tomato mixture to the dal, stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more to blend the flavors. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve hot in one large bowl or in individual-sized bowls with chapatti.