Homemade Naan

 Homemade NaanSecond to Naan
The other night we ordered Indian food from our favorite takeout spot. We order the same things every time because we’re boring. And, we eat there often enough to know what our favorites are. Tikka masala, lamb biryani, tandoori, multiple orders of samosas (I like them for breakfast.), and absolutely without fail, way too much naan to go with it all.

Just like the basket of bread on the table at your favorite restaurant, it is impossible to just eat a little bit of naan. When it’s still piping hot I’ll eat it plain by the handful. When it cools off a bit, there is no better way to soak up every last drop of saucy goodness than by swiping your plate with the naan.

I had never made my own naan—mainly because I never thought I would be able to get it right without using a tandoor. And, frankly, it was just easier to order it. However, on those nights when I throw together a quick chicken curry at home, it would be nice to have some fresh naan that didn’t come from a package at the store.

So it will come as no surprise that I was very happy to find this recipe for making naan in a cast-iron skillet. It’s simple and the bulk of my everyday pans are cast iron. Yay me. The good news? Naan can also make a great flatbread sandwich which is good because I plan to make these again this weekend…curry or no curry.

Homemade Naan Recipe
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia
Yields 8 pieces

This recipe for homemade naan turns out delicious, soft, puffy, airy, bread with beautiful golden brown spots on the surface. They taste just like the best Indian buffet restaurants! Read more…

Duck Vindaloo

Duck VindalooGOA-an Somewhere?
In December of 1999, when my husband and I were just engaged, we were invited by a dear friend to stay with him and his family in Mumbai, India. The plan was to be in Mumbai to soak in all that the city has to offer before heading down to Goa to ring in the new century at a resort on the beach. This would be my first time traveling outside of the United States. And, if the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland comes to mind, you wouldn’t be wrong.

My husband has traveled all over the world. The only continent he has yet to explore is Australia. He’s lived in Mexico and Canada, gone on safari in Tanzania, explored much of Europe, and traveled through South America and parts of the Middle East—to name just a few destinations.

Back then he was only a few years removed from a stint in the Peace Corps. I was definitely a fish out of water. But, I was curious and fascinated by India, the food, the people, and the customs. (Don’t get me wrong it was a shock to the system. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer number of people, among other things.)

The markets were an explosion of color. I went with our friend’s mother and grandmother one day to pick out a sari and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Getting it to fit correctly was a challenge. At 5”10”, I couldn’t buy off the rack. Alas, after 3 kids, it no longer fits…) We ate spicy curry every morning for breakfast and drank the best chai you ever tasted. (It was rough on my Western stomach, but it was sooo good.) But the tandoori crab we ate one night…OMG. We still talk about it in hushed and reverent tones…

Goa was a totally different experience. It has a much more Mediterranean feel, and, because of Goa’s Portuguese history, you see things there that you would not see anywhere else in the country. The architecture is different. The lifestyle is different. It is a much slower pace. Most people live in villages versus the city. Goa is a haven for the Bohemian and creative-minded and artists from all over come here to live.

Lastly, Goan food is different. As you would expect of an area on the coast, the diet of Goa relies heavily on fish and seafood. But, it is not uncommon to find pork and beef on the menu thanks to its Portuguese Catholic roots. And you will always find something spicy. The Portuguese are responsible for bringing chilis over from Brazil and introducing them to the rest of India. So, it should come as no surprise that Vindaloo, or Vindahlo, the spicy curry found on the menu of numerous Indian restaurants, comes from Goa. Shrimp is everywhere in Goa, and I am always down for a spicy shrimp vindaloo. Paired with steamed Jasmin rice it’s a great way to warm yourself up on a cold winter day.

I was intrigued, however, when I saw this recipe for Duck Vindaloo. I can count on one hand the number of duck recipes I have come across while looking for Indian food. I see it more with Thai or Indonesian food. This dish can be served with rice in true Indian fashion. And, for a more Portuguese/Goan feel, serve it with some boiled potatoes and your favorite sautéed winter greens.

Duck Vindaloo Recipe
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible
Yields 6 servings Read more…

South Indian Mixed Vegetable Curry

South Indian Mixed Vegetable CurrySpice it Up
There is always a bit of a letdown after the holidays. After weeks of planning and food and get-togethers, all the excitement and frenetic energy are just gone. It’s sitting out beside your driveway with the Christmas tree. (Wow, aren’t I a ray of sunshine?) I have mentioned in the past that in January my food choices tend to skew towards the super spicy. And, I think this post-holiday void is at least part of the reason.

Curries have been on my mind—if only because they are a great way to combine the healthy eating we all seem to take a stab at in the beginning of the new year with the much-needed oompf of aromatics and heat. While the aspirations of leading a vegetable-forward, healthy clean life may fade as we head into February, exploring the world of curry can take you into next month and beyond because there are so many possibilities.

When most people think of curry they immediately think of India, but curries are found in a wide range of countries and cultures thanks to centuries of commerce practiced along trade routes like the Silk Road and the Curry Trail. Today you will find delicious curries not only in India but in Africa and South America as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, and so many more countries.

Our recipe for South Indian Mixed Vegetable Curry is a simple one. Some of the ingredients can be hard to find (especially in the current trade climate). So, I have listed their substitutes as well…

South Indian Mixed Vegetable Curry Recipe
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Lentils Three Ways

Lentils Three WaysIf you’ve recently grabbed some beans for your pantry, chances are you probably reached for lentils. I know I did. But, I will admit I don’t make lentils very often. If I do it’s usually the little green French ones that I serve with salmon. I’m not a habitual lentil consumer. But, now I have these lentils and I have been looking for new ways to use them.

Thoughts of lentils make me turn to Indian cuisine for advice—which makes sense. The pervasive use of lentils in Indian cooking makes them the experts. So, I turned to my library of Indian cookbooks and naturally found some answers.

If you have even a small affinity for Indian food I would recommend obtaining a Madhur Jaffrey Indian cuisine cookbook. She has many. She is also widely considered an expert on all things in the Indian culinary world. I found the following recipes in her World Vegetarian cookbook. The first is a basic recipe for lentils that can be eaten as is or used as a base for other recipes. So if you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your stash of lentils give these options a try.

Lentils with Onion and Garlic
Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
Yields 4 servings

The addition of a dollop of dairy (either butter in the first recipe or yogurt in the second two) adds a smoothness to the normally slightly dry texture of lentils.  Read more…