For those of you who know me, some joke that I’m an “Indian wanna be”, should have been born an Indian, etc, etc. Yes, I truly love India – her foods, culture, land and her people (which ofcourse includes the wonderful world of Bollywood!) I do pride myself in having most of all major Indian spices in my pantry (all labeled and transferred from the original package to canning jars where it’ll keep the spices air-tight), if time allows, I love cooking Indian foods, esp. when you heat those wonderful spices in the oil! That’s why when I saw these “Indian-ish” recipes in the Moosewood cookbook I kinda sorta hesitated. I felt like I was about to be unfaithful to the “real” Indian cuisine. However, promise is a promise; going back to a promise I made myself to go through most of the recipes from this cookbook prevailed and I started to cook. Okay, they pretty much used the same spices so it can’t be that bad, so I made the two curries in the morning so that they can sit in their respective pots and soak and absorb all the flavours.
I played around with the presentation and made it look like “thali” (typical thali will have assortments of food in different small bowls on a one tray). From top left (going clockwise) is plain yoghurt with diced mangoes, store bought nan, Spicy Potatoes & Spinach, Coconut Rice and Curried Tofu with Tomatoes.
Curried Tofu with Tomatoes: serves 4
2 cups chopped onions
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1-1/2 Tablespoons grated peeled ginger root
2 Tablespoons Curry Powder (recipe below), or commercial curry powder or garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cake firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 28ounce can of diced tomatoes
black pepper or hot sauce
In a large saucepan with a lid, cook the onions, peppers, and salt in the oil on medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, Curry Powder, cinnamon and tofu. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Occasionally stir gently. Add black pepper or hot sauce to taste.
My opinion: Initially I wasn’t too thrilled when I tasted this curry. I wondered how tofu would be in an Indian dish. I also thought I bought red bell pepper, but I didn’t so I substituted it with 2 small eggplants. As the curry sat in the pot until dinner time it made all the difference. We loved the taste and how tofu absorbed all those wonderful flavours of curry spice. If you have time, please, please make your own Curry Powder! It doesn’t take long and it’s well worth your time!!
Curry Powder: yields 1/2 cup
4 Tablespoons cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Toast the cumin seeds until aromatic, a couple of minutes, in a hot, dry skillet while stirring or shaking continuously or in a toaster oven. Allow to cool before grinding. In a spice grinder, whirl all of the spices until finely ground. Allow the spice grinder to sit for a minute before removing the cover to avoid the discomfort of cayenne dust in your eyes and nose. Store the curry powder in a tightly covered jar in the cupboard.
Spicy Potatoes & Spinach: serves 4
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 minced fresh chile or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups sliced onions
2 pounds potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
Heat the oil in a pot on medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the cumin and fennel seeds. Stir for a few seconds and add the chile or red pepper flakes and the onions. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, scrub or peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges (about 6 cups). Add the potato wedges, salt and 1 cup of water to the onions, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender. Stir in the tomatoes and lemon juice and cook, covered, until the potatoes are done, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer until the leaves are wilted.
My opinion: I wasn’t thrilled with this either initially. Once again, I thought I bought plenty of tomatoes but none were left, so I had to improvise by using canned crushed tomatoes. I liked this dish until the part where the potatoes were cooking with onions and spices. I thought adding crushed tomatoes made it too soupy, but I didn’t give up!! I cooked for a while longer to reduce the liquid. Letting this sit in the pot also added to the intense flavour! No one complained about this dish and kids eagerly ate this with the rice and nan!
Coconut Rice: serves 4-6
1-1/2 cups white rice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup coconut milk
Rinse and drain the rice. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, saute the rice, turmeric, and salt in the oil for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add the water and coconut milk, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed, 15-20 minutes.
My opinion: How I love thee, oh, coconut rice!! Does this sum up my thoughts?! What a wonderful “buttery” rice for the curries!!! I used basmati and loved loved it!!
Place the tapioca, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan, stir in 1/2 cup of cool water, and set aside for 5 minutes. Then stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer on high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until thick and creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon peel. Pour into dessert dishes and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
My opinion: I reduced the coconut milk to half and added water to supplement the measurement. The result came out still rich, creamy and very very refreshing (thanks to the lemon peel!). You can be creative and do all sorts of things (putting different fruits, etc). I wanted to be a bit unique so I put the pudding in nice teacups, chilled in the frig, added whipped cream, strawberry and mango. This is a great Summer time dessert and when you have Summer BBQ or any other parties, you can make this pretty fast and I’m sure everyone will enjoy this dessert!