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Indian Cuisine Recipes
These recipes are from Lachu Moorjani whose restaurant, Ajanta, was named the best Indian restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area by the 1997 Zagat Guide. If you happen to be passing through, look it up at 1888 Solano Avenue, Berkeley. Lachu deliberately provides a pan-Indian menu and rotates dishes every month. Drop in at lunchtime, but for dinners it's best to make a reservation.
Serve the lamb, chicken, shrimp and dal dishes with saffron rice.
As you can see from the rich array of ingredients in this dish -- yogurt, cream and slivered almonds -- this is a Mughlai dish,
truly fit for a king.
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1 1/2 pounds boneless cubed lamb, excess fat removed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons of a mix of cayenne and paprika -- determine according to your taste for heat
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup plain yogurt
3 ounces heavy cream
1 teaspoon garam masala (see below)
Heat oil in a 6-quart pot. When hot, add cumin seeds. When seeds pop, add ginger. Fry for about 15 seconds. Add onions and saute at medium high heat, stirring frequently, until they become dark golden brown.
Raise heat to high. When pot is very hot, add lamb and saute until nicely browned. Add coriander, paprika/cayenne, turmeric, black pepper and salt. Stir fry two or three minutes. Turn heat off, add and mix yogurt, turn heat back on (this prevents curdling).
Bring mixture to a boil (add one quarter to one-half cup water if there is not enough liquid), reduce heat, cover partially and simmer at low heat for about 45 minutes, or until lamb becomes tender. At this time, you will notice a thin film of oil on the surface. Add garam masala and cream, mix, cover, turn off heat and leave on the stove for about five minutes. Sprinkle with slivered almonds before serving.
Lachu insists you make your own garam masala.
Equal quantities of whole cloves, hulled cardamom and broken cinnamon stick
Toast whole spices for about 10 seconds per teaspoon in the microwave. Grind in a coffee grinder and mix.
The technique of frying spices together and pureeing them into a paste is classic South Indian. Of course, the coconut milk is a further hint as to this recipe's origins.
1/4 cup canola oil
3 dried red chilies, broken into pieces
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
9 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 medium onions, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thinly
2 1/4 pounds deboned, skinned chicken, preferably dark meat, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 1/4 teaspoons cayenne mixed with paprika, proportion to suit your taste for heat
Salt to taste (approximately 1 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 to 2/3 can coconut milk
3 medium potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
A few curry leaves
Ball of tamarind pulp the size of a large lemon, dissolved in warm water and strained
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. When hot, add chilies, coriander and cumin seeds. Fry for 10 to 15 seconds. Add ginger and garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree to a thick paste, adding water if necessary.
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil. When hot, add onions and Saute at medium to high heat until slightly brown, about eight to ten minutes. Raise heat to high, wait for 1 to 2 minutes until pot is very hot, add chicken and stir-fry until chicken is browned.
Reduce heat to medium, add all spices and salt. Stir for three to four minutes and add coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil (add up to 1/3 cup water if there is not enough liquid). Reduce heat, add potatoes, cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is tender. Add curry leaves and tamarind during last five minutes.
Raj Jhinga (Prawns Cooked in a Mustard-Flavored Sauce)
Mustard seed is the classic spice of Bengali food. This recipe uses it in two different forms and at different stages in the cooking. This one of many ways Indians coax multiple flavors from a single spice by varying the way it is processed.
5 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
8 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons turmeric
3 teaspoons cayenne mixed with paprika, proportion to suit your taste for heat
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cracked mustard seeds (use blender or coffee grinder to crack them)
2 teaspoons salt
5 ounces ground almonds
2 pounds prawns, peeled and deveined
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 6 to 8 quart saucepan. When hot, add mustard and nigella seeds. When mustard seeds pop, add garlic and Saute for about 30 seconds. Add onions. Saute at high heat until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir fry for 6 to 8 minutes at medium high heat.
Add turmeric, paprika, cumin, cracked mustard seeds and salt. Saute at high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add ground almonds, reduce heat and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until oil separates from mixture.
In a separate saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. When hot to the point of smoking, add prawns and Saute, stirring constantly until pink, one to two minutes. Add to sauce and cook for another one to two minutes.
Urid Ki Dal
Serves 4 to 6
Dals are small legumes which have been peeled and split and thus cook much more quickly than larger beans. Dals differ from one another in color, flavor and texture with urid the creamiest among them. This dish is typical of North Indian vegetarian cooking. Eat it with the green bean recipe that follows and saffron rice.
1 cup urid dal, picked over and rinsed 2 or 3 times
5 to 6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large tomato, chopped
1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind concentrate dissolved in water and strained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
In a large 6- to 8-quart pot, heat water and dal together. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, removing scum. Add salt and turmeric. Cook covered for about 45 minutes checking to make sure that dal is cooked and adding more water if needed. If there is too much water, uncover and boil down. The final product should be thick, almost like a paste.
In a small pot, heat oil. When very hot, add cumin seeds. Fry all seeds until they pop, about 20 seconds. Add to dal. Add remaining ingredients to dal. Mix and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Green Beans with Potatoes
While you may use this hearty vegetable dish with any of the above recipes, it is particularly appropriate with the dal.
4 tablespoons canola oil
9 to 12 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds green beans cut into 2-inch lengths
2 medium potatoes, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne mixed with paprika, proportion to suit your taste for heat
1 1/2 teaspoons mango powder (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Heat oil. Saute chopped garlic for about 30 seconds. Add beans and potatoes. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients. Mix and cook at medium high heat for 12 to 15 minutes until done. Stir frequently (once every 2 to 3 minutes) and do not cover pot.
Zaffrani Chaval (Saffron Rice)
This is the standard rice Lachu serves at Ajanta. It would serve nicely as a side dish to non-Indian dishes as well.
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons black cumin seeds
2 1/4 cups Basmati rice
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
Heat oil and fry black cumin seeds for 10 seconds.
Add rice and Saute for a few minutes until rice starts to change color and become opaque. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and cover. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed (15 to 20 minutes) and rice is cooked.
Pour saffron water into middle 2-inch circle of rice. Leave covered for a few minutes for water to be absorbed. Fluff up rice with a fork and mix. Rice should be a marbled mix of white and yellow grains.