Category Archives: Indian Food

bangladesh by way of hamtramck: aromatic fish curry

This summer, in between trips to the florist and the seamstress and the hairdresser, I was working on a feature article accompanied by some listings of  Hamtramck’s many ethnic grocery stores and markets. For readers who are unfamiliar with the Detroit area, Hamtramck (and no, I’m not missing a vowel, that is the correct spelling!) is a roughly 2-square-mile city, surrounded on all sides by Detroit and situated pretty much right in the middle of it. Originally settled by Polish immigrants, it is now home to a whole host of ethnic communities, Albanians, Bosnians, Yemenis and Bengalis being the most prevalent these days. Here’s a slideshow of images taken by Marvin on our excursions there:

Coincidentally, I also recently purchased the cookbook At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  Excited that I had finally obtained some ingredients I hadn’t previously been able to locate (amchoor, asafoetida, curry leaves and more), and in honor of the many Bengali stores I visited, I decided to make not just “Indian food” but a specifically Bengali/ Bangladeshi meal.*

*NB: Bengali is an ethnic designation and Bangladeshi is a regional designation. Some of the recipes were labeled “Bengali” in origin and some were labeled “Bangladeshi”. Bangladesh is made up of 98% Bengalis (so it’s fairly safe to assume a Bangladeshi is Bengali), but Bengalis are found in other regions besides Bangladesh. Got it?

According to Jaffrey, fish is the main animal protein consumed in Bangladesh, whose occupants are fond of eating the many freshwater river fish in the region. I figured this was as good a place as any to start, so I selected a fish curry recipe, and then a dal recipe since they’re so easy and I never feel an Indian meal is complete without one. I wanted one more vegetable dish, and would have chosen something green or crunchy or salad-y for more contrast, but I already had a butternut squash in the house and lo and behold there was a recipe for Bengali squash with mustard oil (another Hamtown purchase). The dal recipe did call for a handful of greens though, so I managed to use up some chard that was threatening to get wilty, and get a little more color in the meal.

I would make all three recipes again, especially in light of how easy they were, but the fish was far and away my favorite. The main flavoring came from curry leaves, which have a wonderful nutty, toasty aroma that you just have to taste or smell to understand how good it is. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a dish in a restaurant which used curry leaves, so it was exciting to be exposed to a totally new flavor. If you ever come across curry leaves, buy some and put them in the freezer in a zip-top bag with the air squeezed out like you would kaffir lime leaves. I lucked out and bought a bag at the Eastern Market this summer for a dollar. The flavor may have been diminished slightly from their time in the freezer (not sure since I’ve never used them fresh), but they were still plenty aromatic.

Can’t wait to delve a little deeper into Bengali cuisine- I still have a few more ingredients I have yet to try out, such as the amchoor (a sour powder made from dried green mangoes) and screw pine (pandan) essence. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried or used either!

Bangladeshi Fish Curry (adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey)
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According to Jaffrey, in Bangladesh this would be made with a freshwater river fish; she calls for flounder. Any mild-flavored fish will work. Jaffrey also calls for kaffir lime leaves as the “first choice” and curry leaves as a substitute, but the curry leaves are definitely worth trying if you can get your hands on some. As a last resort, use basil.

1-1¼ lbs fillets of mild fish such as flounder
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1½ teaspoons crushed or very finely minced garlic
1½ teaspoons micro-planed ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons mustard oil (substitute 3 Tbs vegetable oil + ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder)
⅓ cup thinly sliced shallots
10 kaffir lime leaves or curry leaves, lightly crushed

Sprinkle the fish on both sides with the salt. Cut into 3-inch pieces and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, and mustard powder (if using) with 3 tablespoons water; stir to form a paste.

Heat the oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and fry until lightly browned and softened. Add the spice paste and fry for 1 minute. Add 1 cup water and lime or curry leaves; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. If other dishes are not yet ready, remove from heat.

When ready to serve, bring the sauce to a simmer over low heat. Place the fish pieces in the sauce. Cook 1 minute; turn the fish pieces over gently and cook an additional 2-3 minutes depending on thickness, spooning the sauce over the fish as it cooks. Serve immediately.

GUDetroit really gets my goat… (kebabs, that is)

June 11 (only 10 days ago… it seems like months already!) was the second Gourmet Underground Detroit potluck picnic on Belle Isle. I won’t call it the second annual picnic, because I’m secretly hoping we’ll have another one before the year is out. Nomenclature aside, it was a grand old time- you can read my post about it and see some of Marvin’s photos on the GUDetroit website. Some of the highlights were: tree climbing, willow swinging, mint spanking, cornholing (ahem), hula hooping, river gazing, and getting to finally meet Warda (who I wrote about here) and her beautiful family.

My contribution to the gluttony was a platter of kebabs and kefta, with some raita and a sort of tomato-cucumber-herb relish/chutney on the side. I’ve been eating a fair amount of goat meat lately, for a few reasons: first, I just wanted something other than the “big three” of chicken, beef and pork (we’ve run out of venison); second, because goats aren’t a large scale factory farmed animal; and third, because they have a flavor similar to lamb (which I love) but are milder and less fatty (not to mention cheaper). I will say that goat leg meat is a huge pain in the ass to cut up, unless you’re ok with a lot of sinew; I tend to get obsessive and remove as much of it as I possibly can, which explains why my prep time was three times as long as it should have been. But while goat can sometimes be a little tough, mine was pretty tender as a result of the extra trimming. If you’re using it in a long-cooked dish, you wouldn’t need to go to that trouble.

I also made kebabs from ground lamb with a little beef mixed in, and tons of spices and vegetables blended in for flavor. I’m used to anything with ground meat being called kefta rather than kebab, but the name of the recipe was “chapli kebab” or “slipper kebab”, because the patties are in the shape of a chappal, or sandal. The recipe originates from Peshawar in India, not the Middle East or North Africa, but you’d never know it from eating it- the flavors are quite similar to kefta I’ve had in Middle Eastern restaurants but with a little less onion/garlic flavor and more herbs and spices.

Recipes are below for both items, but first, here are some photos from the picnic. Although I’m not the photographer of the family, I think these capture the spirit of the day.

Tikka Kebabs (adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid)
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This kebab can be made either with lamb or goat. The yogurt marinade adds moisture and its acidity tenderizes the meat, giving even a lean meat like goat a succulent texture. The original recipe did not call for any herbs or chilies, but I had them on hand and I love the way the little green flecks look in the marinade as well as the fresh taste they impart.

2 lbs boneless goat or lamb
½ cup plain yogurt
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 serrano chilies or one jalapeño, de-seeded and roughly chopped
large handful fresh cilantro leaves
optional: 6-8 mint leaves
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
a few turns of black pepper

Cut the meat- if using goat, I’d aim for about ¾-inch pieces; if using lamb, you could go a little larger so the insides will stay pink.

Combine all other ingredients in a blender and pulse until the solids are blended. Combine the meat and marinade in a bowl, stirring to coat all of the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Skewer the meat about 4 or 5 pieces to a skewer. It’s OK if it touches, but you don’t want it squeezed one piece against another.  Grill over moderate heat until the outside is nicely browned and the meat is cooked through but still tender (if using lamb, cook to your preferred doneness; we cooked the goat to medium well).

This is traditionally served with flatbread such as naan, but you could serve it over rice as well. I made a cucumber raita (yogurt, shredded cucumber, salt, mint) and a finely chopped salad of tomato, chilies, scallion, cucumber, cilantro and mint to accompany the kebabs.

Peshawari Slipper Kebabs (adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid)
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Because ground lamb can be very fatty and therefore cook down quite a bit, I like to mix ½ lb lean ground beef in with my lamb to stretch out the recipe a bit. If you choose this option, just adjust the other ingredients upward slightly.

1 lb ground lamb (+ ½ lb ground beef, if desired)
1 medium yellow onion, grated
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons grated or minced ginger
2 green cayenne chilies, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar or cider vinegar
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chickpea flour (besan)
lemon or lime wedges

Place all of the dry ingredients (salt, spices, flour) in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Put the tomatoes and onions in a bowl and remove any excess liquid by pressing them with a spoon or spatula and pouring off the watery  juices.

Place the meat in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Knead or mix in the vinegar, tomato, onion, peppers, ginger and cilantro; then add the dry ingredients. Mix for a couple minutes or until the meat becomes smooth and almost paste-like. Fry up a tablespoon or so in a skillet to check for salt and seasonings, adjusting as needed.

Let the meat rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour to blend the flavors. When ready to cook, form into either small patties and pan-fry or broil, as in the photo at the beginning of the recipe, or form onto skewers in short cigar shapes (2 per skewer) for the grill. The mixture could also be formed into smaller meatball shapes and served as a cocktail appetizer. Whatever your method of cooking, use moderate heat and cook until the surface is well browned and a little crunchy. Serve with lemon or lime wedges.

stovetop travel: a visit to india via madhur jaffrey’s aloo gosht

We’ve all heard the term “armchair travel” to refer to reading books that take place in far-flung locales.  Back in my 20s I did much more actual traveling- all over Europe and in Japan- but now, saddled with a mortgage and a 9-to-5, most of my travel is of the virtual variety.  Some of that takes place between the covers of a book,  but when I can, I try to take it a step further by “stovetop traveling”; cooking things with new and exotic flavors that make me feel a little less wistful about not getting to go places firsthand.

Clockwise from top left: dal, aloo gosht, cucumber raita, mango pickle, naan, tahiri, saag

A couple of books I’ve read recently have made me want to delve deeper into the flavors of India- first there was Modern Spice by Monica Bhide, and more recently, Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey.  After finishing Jaffrey’s book, I could practically taste and smell the pungent spices of her homeland, and I immediately began plotting an Indian feast.

The dish Jaffrey describes as conjuring the most homey memories for her is Aloo Gosht (literally “Potatoes and Meat”), a popular dish in Northern India & Pakistan.  This dish is not for the faint of palate- it’s a rich, savory riot of warm flavors- but the meat and potatoes place it firmly in the realm of “comfort food”.  The meat in question when prepared in the U.S. is typically lamb; however, Jaffrey says that in India/Pakistan it would almost always be prepared with goat.  In the spirit of authenticity, I tracked down some goat in a trip to Eastern Market.  If you’ve never had goat meat before, I urge you to try it, especially if you like lamb.  It’s less gamy, leaner, and a lot less expensive (try finding boneless lamb shoulder for $2.99 a pound!).

There are many recipes out there for Aloo Gosht, but most of them that I found seemed “dumbed down” compared to Jaffrey’s.  Unlike some recipes (whose authors might be under the assumption that many ingredients are unavailable here?), she doesn’t skimp on the aromatics and spices.  One thing I used in this recipe that was new to me was black cardamom.  It is very different from green cardamom, the spice used in baking.  It comes in a large black pod and has a smoky, earthy aroma.  It wasn’t at all difficult to find; I picked it up at Penzey’s.  Although I couldn’t distinctly pick it out in the finished curry, its flavor was definitely noticeable in the rice I made (a dish called Tahiri, an aromatic rice with peas- if you’d like to try it, Jaffrey’s recipe is reprinted word for word from her book here).

I followed the recipe to the letter as far as ingredients and quantities, but then parted ways with Jaffrey’s cooking method, which I didn’t really understand.  She called for aggressively cooking the meat, whereas I opted for a longer, slower braise- I wanted the goat to be very tender, and I was afraid that cooking it over high heat would toughen the meat.  She also would have had me add an additional three cups water towards the end, which made no sense to me at all since the consistency of the sauce seemed just right.  Not to question the great Madhur Jaffrey, but who knows, different heat, cooking vessels, and a number of other variables can produce a different result- sometimes it’s best to just trust your instincts on these things because I don’t think my Aloo Gosht could have turned out more perfectly.  I can see why this is a favorite over there; it’s definitely a dish that will reappear on my dinner table.

Aloo Gosht (Potato & Meat Curry) adapted from the book From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey
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2 lbs lamb or goat meat in 1 1/2-in. cubes, with or without bones
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 to 3 fresh hot green chilies, roughly chopped
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper (use more or less to taste)
2 medium tomatoes (about 10 oz), chopped (if tomato quality is less than stellar, add a tsp or so of tomato paste)
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 whole black cardamom pods
1 medium cinnamon stick
1 lb small red waxy potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (leave whole if small)
1/2 tsp garam masala
4 Tbs chopped cilantro

This is really a pretty straightforward and easy recipe, don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list.  Most items should be readily available; if you can’t find black cardamom just leave it out.  In her cookbook Jaffrey suggests asking an Indian grocer for “meat for curry” and you’ll get a mixture of boneless and bone-in already-cubed pieces. The butcher I went to only had boneless ready, but obliged me by taking a goat that was hanging up and cutting up some bone-in leg pieces for me.

Place the ginger, garlic and green chilies in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, stopping before you reach a paste.  Put the coriander seeds in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind to a coarse powder.

Pour the oil into a large heavy lidded pot such as a Dutch oven and set over medium high heat.  When hot, add the shallots and fry for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Stir in the ginger mixture and fry another 2 minutes.  Add the meat and stir for a minute or so.  Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne.  Add 1 cup water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste (if using), salt, and another 2 cups water.  Stir and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.  Add the cinnamon, black cardamom and potatoes.  Replace the cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.   Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is very tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Taste the sauce and correct for salt or spiciness if needed.  If the sauce seems at all thin, you can cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or so to reduce it (I didn’t need to).  It should be neither thick nor watery.  Sprinkle with the garam masala and cilantro before serving.  This curry is best served with rice and something cooling on the side such as cucumber raita (shredded cucumbers mixed with yogurt and a little salt) to balance the warm and savory flavors.  Serves 6-8 as part of an Indian meal.

book review: “climbing the mango trees” by madhur jaffrey

Although signs of spring are finally here, it was somewhat cold and gloomy the past couple weeks.  Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India was just the book to transport me to balmier climes as I read about Madhur Jaffrey‘s rather idyllic childhood in Delhi in the 1940s.  I bought this book a while ago when it first came out in paperback, but with my backlog of must-read books, it took me a while to get to it.  However, I’ve been on somewhat of an Indian food kick lately, so, to the top of the pile it rose.

The book was a wonderful example of the memoir-with-emphasis-on-food genre.  The stories flowed naturally, and the mentions of food were neither stilted nor overly sentimental.  The daily routine in her household compound included meals with 50+ people at a time- parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and the patriarchal paternal grandfather (Babaji) at the helm of it all.  In the Indian tradition, adult children (i.e. the male sons and their families) were practically required to live under the same roof as the grandfather, so Jaffrey grew up with dozens of cousins to run around with.  Even still, she describes feeling lonely at the center of all that familial chaos.  Jaffrey was a bit of a tomboy, but also portrays herself as a “sensitive soul”, which would probably explain her getting into acting in her teens (Jaffrey had a career in film and television before becoming a world-renowned cookbook author).

The family must have been wealthy by Indian standards, as the daily meals described sound like nothing short of a feast. Prepared by servants, with the women of the house contributing some dishes, the meals typically contained several courses, accompanied by an array of chutneys and freshly prepared flatbreads such as parathas and pooris.  Dinners were preceded by what the French call l’apéro: drinks and light snacks such as nuts.  Eventually, upon Babaji’s cue, the clan would proceed to the dining table, which was so long that you could barely see who was at the other end.  The gatherings would continue on into the evening, sometimes with a musical performance or poetry reading, ending only when Babaji was sated.

Jaffrey grew up during a fascinating time in Indian history.  The book is set against the backdrop of British colonial rule, the rise of Gandhi and the strife of Independence and Partition.  Jaffrey’s family was fortunate to survive that tumultuous period relatively unscathed, but she wistfully describes how the changes affected her young life, such as the fact that most of her Muslim school friends were forced to leave Delhi.  In spite of the many unsettling and disruptive aspects of Partition, Jaffrey strikes a positive chord describing all the new foods that that were introduced to Delhi as a result of the migrations of groups from other parts of India.  Jaffrey describes the “exotic” foods shared with her by classmates of different religious and ethnic backgrounds- Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, etc.  Of course, their food always seemed more appealing than what she had brought in her own lunch box!  The popular Delhi restaurant Moti Mahal opened during this time period as well, introducing many of the foods that would become Indian restaurant staples in the U.S.

At the end of the book is a section of family recipes.  I made Tahiri (rice & peas) from this book, as well as Aloo Gosht (Meat & Potato Curry) and Kale in Mustard Oil from two of Jaffrey’s other cookbooks.  All were absolutely delicious- follow the link above for my post on the Aloo Gosht.

acorn squash with paanch phoron, and reflections on modern spice

Even though I have a ridiculous amount of cookbooks, I never tire of exploring new ones.  In pursuit of some new flavors to perk up my repertoire,  I recently picked up Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen by Monica Bhide, a wonderful book in which Monica’s Indian heritage merges with her creative, contemporary approach to cooking and entertaining.  I’ve been following Monica on Twitter for a while, but hadn’t used any of her cookbooks until now (I’ve been missing out!).  The book has recipes for Indian food in the sense that Monica is Indian and she came up with the recipes, but instead of Indian restaurant staples such as Lamb Korma or Chicken Vindaloo, you’ll find recipes like Saffron Mussel Stew and Curried Egg Salad with Caramelized Onion.

In the introduction to Modern Spice, Monica discusses the question of “what is ‘authentic’ Indian food?”.  This really hit home with me because I know I do sometimes get hung up on what the “correct” or “truly” authentic version of something may be, instead of just being concerned with whether it tastes good!  I think it’s mostly because, especially when trying a new ethnic or regional dish,  I want some sort of baseline from which I can measure whether or not variations are preferable to the “original”.  But as Monica astutely points out, her mother’s version of “authentic lentils” is quite different from the “authentic lentils” of her mother-in-law!  With that in mind,  I am going to try to have a more open mind about recipe sources and culinary traditions.  Monica’s approach to Indian food reminds me of Clotilde Dusoulier‘s approach to French food- taking a culinary foundation and riffing on it in new and exciting ways.

Thus newly inspired, last weekend I made an Indian feast: three recipes from Modern Spice, as well as two from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.  I mainly chose the recipes based on what I had in the pantry and fridge (dried yellow split peas, a frozen bag of okra, a bunch of cilantro, a few beets, some yogurt) and then added a couple items (acorn squash, some trout) to round out the menu.  From Modern Spice I made Beet Salad with Yogurt Dressing, Acorn Squash with 5 Spices, and Pan-Fried Trout with Mint-Cilantro Chutney.   I added Madhur Jaffrey’s Sweet & Sour Okra and Masoor Daal for variety and to ensure I had plenty of leftovers to take in my lunch all week.

Of all the dishes, the acorn squash was my favorite, so that’s the recipe I’ll share.  The trout was delicious too, but you probably don’t need a recipe- all it entails is pan-frying the trout and drizzling the chutney on top.  The chutney recipe Monica gives (mint, cilantro, green chile, red onion, lemon juice) is a little astringent for my taste, probably because I’m used to a similar restaurant chutney that has coconut milk in it.  However, in keeping with her liberal philosophy on following “rules”, she does say in the instructions that this chutney can be varied however you like, with the addition of yogurt or other ingredients.

In addition to some great recipes (any book with a cocktail chapter is copacetic as far as I’m concerned), Monica is a talented writer. Regardless of how many recipes you try, the interludes between chapters, where she shares personal stories and experiences, make the book worth reading cover-to-cover.  If you’re seeking uncomplicated ways to jazz up your cooking and a good read to boot, look no further than Modern Spice for inspiration.

Acorn Squash with 5 Spices (from Modern Spice by Monica Bhide, with my cooking notes)
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3 ½ cups acorn squash, peeled and diced in ¼-inch dice (see notes)
¼ cup neutral vegetable oil or ghee (see notes)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp paanch phoron
pinch of asafetida (see notes)
2 large or 4-6 small shallots, diced
1 green serrano chile, minced
1 dried whole red bird’s eye chile
¼ tsp salt to start
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup water
warm honey (optional)

Notes: Monica indicates that a “medium” squash will give the necessary 3 ½ cups.  Looks are deceiving- I used a squash that looked small to me and it yielded 4 ½ cups! Try to select a squash whose grooves are not too deep for easier peeling.  For the spices, I found paanch phoron at World Market; I’m not sure where else you could find it unless you have access to Indian markets (except, of course, online).  I have not yet been able to locate any asafetida.  It is described as having an oniony/ garlicky aroma, so perhaps a clove of garlic smashed, fried in the oil and then removed could be substituted.  Last but not least, Monica calls for vegetable oil, but I chose to substitute ghee for a slightly richer flavor- I don’t think she would mind.

Directions: Peel and dice your squash, discarding the “guts”.  The skin of an acorn squash is not thick and can be removed with a vegetable peeler.

Warm the oil or ghee in a large lidded skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the cumin seeds, paanch phoron, asafetida, and shallots.  Cook for about 2 minutes, until the shallots begin to  color.

Add the green chile, red chile (I crumbled mine for extra heat), and squash, mixing well.  Add the salt and turmeric and stir.  Raise the heat to medium high and cook for about 5 minutes, until the squash begins to brown.  (My squash never did brown- maybe I needed more heat?)

Add water and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook over low heat until the squash is totally soft and the water has almost dried up, about 20 minutes (mine was soft in less time; you may want to check it after 10-15 min so as not to overcook).

Serve hot, drizzled with warm honey if desired.  I kind of forgot about the honey, but I want to try it next time, as I love sweet and spicy flavors together.  Monica recommends about 2 teaspoons for the entire dish, so if you’re adding the honey per portion, do it sparingly.

dosas with curried chickpeas & coconut sauce (daring cooks)

dosa plated 3I’m sure most of you have heard of the Daring Bakers, the group of bloggers who bake a selected recipe each month and post about it on a specified day.  The group recently expanded to a new branch, the Daring Cooks.  I think this is the third month of the Daring Cooks and I decided to jump on board.  I don’t know how regular I’ll be able to be, but this recipe appealed to me so I thought I’d give it a go.

dosas & fillingsThe challenge (hosted by Debyi at Healthy Vegan Kitchen) was for dosas, a type of Indian pancake which was unfamiliar to me.  (You can check out my annotated version of the recipe here.)  It’s always interesting to prepare a recipe for which you have no point of reference…  The perfectionist in me has a little bit of a hard time not knowing how something is “supposed to” turn out.

dosa plated side view 1

The recipe for the dosas was fairly similar to that of French crêpes, without the egg.  However, some of the South Asians posting in the forums said dosa batter is typically made of soaked, fermented lentils and rice, which sounded great- similar to the bread in Ethiopian restaurants.  Unfortunately I didn’t plan ahead enough to accommodate the 12-hour fermentation period, so I had to make the flour-based recipe.  I chose a combination of whole wheat and buckwheat flours, and added a touch of cider vinegar to try to emulate the sourness of the fermented version.  I have lots of leftover filling and sauce though, so I’m hoping to get a chance to try the more traditional recipe for the dosa pancakes later this week.

curried chickpeasMarvin was off eating curry of a different sort (curried goat!) in Jamaica last weekend, so I invited a girlfriend over Sunday night to partake in the dosas with me.  I did have a couple small issues with the recipe instructions, but the overall outcome was good (my guest had a second helping- never a bad sign!).  I was happy to break bread with a friend, try something new, and especially to have leftovers for the week.  Cheers to Debyi for hosting an interesting and delicious challenge!dosa plated

veggie masala patties with indian goddess dressing


Sometimes I have this conversation with myself while pushing my cart down the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe’s that goes something like this: “I should grab just a couple things for the nights I have rehearsal, or to take in my lunch…”  “But if I buy this stuff, I’ll be less motivated to make food from scratch…”  “But then I might just get lazy anyway and get carry-out, which is worse and more expensive…” I usually end up compromising and buying a couple items but promising myself I’ll only use them for “emergencies”.  As much as I would love to be virtuous and cook fresh food every day, with a full time job as well as band practice and other obligations, it just ain’t gonna happen. However, when I do have to rely on shortcuts such as frozen food, I try to incorporate some other element to snazz it up a bit and make it my own.


Case in point: I recently discovered these really yummy vegetable patties from Trader Joe’s called Veggie Masala Burgers. The flavor of the patties is somewhat like vegetable samosa filling. They’re not really quite “veggie burgers” in my book; they don’t have the same texture (potatoes being the main ingredient, they’re too soft and mushy for my taste to eat between a bun). However, I do love to fry them up and then either eat them as an open-faced sandwich on well-toasted wheat bread, or cut them into small pieces and put them in a salad. My favorite veggies to go with this would be shredded carrot, cucumber, and cherry or grape tomatoes.

To drizzle over it all, I make a homemade salad dressing out of yogurt, olive oil, lemon, herbs and spices. This dressing is delicious AND has the added benefit of being healthier than most. I’m calling it Indian Goddess Dressing because the color reminds me of Green Goddess but the flavors are straight from India. I realize I may be leaving some people out in the cold here who don’t have a Trader Joe’s near them (or who aren’t into buying frozen prepared food), but the dressing alone is worth trying, especially to go on a green salad if you’re having other Indian food for supper.

Indian Goddess Dressing

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This dressing takes its inspiration from the wonderful green cilantro chutney served at many Indian restaurants.


1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (tender stems are ok too if you’re using the food processor)
optional if you have any: 5-10 mint leaves
optional: 1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp curry powder
generous pinch of coarse salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tbs lemon juice
a pinch of sugar

If you are using the garlic, smash it with the flat part of a knife and put it in the olive oil for 5-10 minutes to infuse its flavor while you’re getting the cilantro ready. Remove the garlic and discard before proceeding. (I do enjoy garlic, but I feel that leaving it in would overpower the more delicate flavor of the herbs here.)

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the herbs are reduced to flecks. Alternately, if you don’t have a processor, whisk together everything but the herbs in a bowl. Mince the herbs as finely as possible and stir them into the dressing. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary by adding more salt, sugar or lemon. Makes enough for two large dinner salads.

Simple Indian Dressing (for when you don’t have any fresh herbs in the house): Whisk together yogurt, oil, lemon juice and seasonings. You may want to slightly reduce the quantity of curry powder in this version.