Spice things up tonight with some Indian food

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

We went to New Orleans to visit our sons and daughter-in-law this past weekend, but I decided instead of eating out (which was a hard decision for me being in New Orleans) I would prepare some Indian food. My children have always enjoyed my Indian food, and it was a treat to try some new Indian dishes and see what they thought. I prepared most of it ahead, but the salad ingredients I took in a cooler to prepare the day of, since they taste fresher that way.

I just don’t understand why Americans really do not try to cook Indian. It is really simple when you get the spices down. It is healthy for you since so many dishes are just vegetables with wonderful (also healthy) spices.

We had a wonderful time eating. The planned courtyard meal had to be moved inside because of a long heavy rain – just like the monsoons of Bombay with the rain falling on the banana leaves in the courtyard. All enjoyed. My meatballs, potatoes with peanuts and mushrooms were voted best. These recipes are simple so you can do it!

This recipe is taken from 50 Great Curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi.

Potatoes with Peanuts

(Especially liked by my husband who is a fan of all savory peanut dishes.)

1 lb. potatoes

a pinch or turmeric powder


2 oz. peanuts (I used dry roasted)

4 tablespoons ghee or oil (I used canola oil)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon asafoetida (optional) can be found at Indian groceries. (Asafoetida is a dried resinous gum, a powerful seasoning that imparts a truffle like essence. It dissipates gas and is especially good in potato or lentil dishes.)

1-2 green chilies, finely chopped

A few curry leaves (hard to find but my husband has a plant for me to use that he imported from Kerala when we went a couple years ago.)

Boil the potatoes in their skins with turmeric powder and salt to taste. When done, drain, plunge into cold water, and peel off the skins. (I did not peel skins.)

Pound the peanuts or grind coarsely. Heat the ghee or oil in a cooking pot. When really hot, add the cumin seeds and, when they pop, sprinkle the asafoetida (if used) and the chilies and curry leaves. Add the potatoes and peanuts and a pinch of salt, and stir gently so that the potatoes are properly seasoned and thoroughly hot.

Cook for 2 minutes and allow to heat through, then remove and serve.

The next two recipes are takes from Ismail Merchant’s book, Passionate Meals. I like Merchant’s recipes for they are a bit of fusion and are easy for Americans to use. Unfortunately this half of the duo, Merchant and Ivory, is no longer with us to give us recipes or films.

Rai-walli Kumbhi

(Mushrooms Sautéed in Mustard Oil)

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Serves 3-4

3 tablespoons mustard oil (if not available use light vegetable oil)

¼ cup lemon juice

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon ground red pepper

12 medium mushrooms, sliced

Heat the oil in a saucepan, over low heat. Add the lemon juice, bay leaves, and red pepper, and cook for one minute.

Stir in the mushrooms and cook for three to four minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Remove bay leaves before serving.

I have done these meatballs so many times, and the ingredients look a little difficult to find, but not really. They are tasty, and have just the right amount of heat. I always serve them with rice, and they are good for several meals. The cook time is 1½ hours, so the prep is not that much.

Shahi Kofta

(Royal Meatballs)

Preparation time: 2 ½ hours

Serves 8

2 pounds ground lean beef (I bought grass-fed at the farmer’s market)

1 ¼ cups plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt since it is thicker)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces

5 fresh hot green chilies, seeded if desired (I like to use jalapeños.)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

¼ cup lemon juice

1½ teaspoons ground red pepper

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

½ to 1 cup vegetable oil

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 bay leaves, crumbled

12 whole cloves

A large pinch of saffron (I left it out – it is expensive)

Mix the beef with ¼ cup of the yogurt, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the parsley. Set aside.

Combine the ginger, three of the chilies, the garlic cloves and half the lemon juice in a food processor to make a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and add the red pepper, turmeric, and coriander.

Place the meat mixture in the food processor and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and two remaining chilies. Process until fairly fine.

With wet hands, form the mixture into 1 ½-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan. Brown the onions over medium heat, stirring and, then add the bay leaves and cloves.

Add the reserved paste to the hot browned onions, together with 1¼ cups hot water and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes over low heat. Add the remaining 1 cup of yogurt and cook for five more minutes.

Carefully add the meatballs to the sauce. They should be fairly submerged. Add the saffron if using.

Cover and cook slowly for 1 ½ hours. The meatballs should not break, but if some of them do, they will taste just fine. If you want to turn them, use a wooded spoon and do so gently.

I had some other Indian dishes but these were voted the best. Indian dishes are usually served with a cucumber raita and a cachumber (basically a ginger and onion salad sometimes with tomatoes). I didn’t make bread this time, just too complicated in my children’s kitchens. Next time!