East Indian Cuisine – It’s easier than I ever thought possible!

tandoori1

I will never pay for East Indian food in a restaurant again! Okay, I probably will, but I’ll definitely make it at home more than eating it out. This was a complete experiment. I’ve never attempted any East Indian cuisine in my own kitchen, and this was a 100% score! Hubby kept nodding while he ate. He’s usually is pretty passive and I have to see if he goes back for seconds to see how well he liked whatever I cook.

My biggest issue, other than cost with eating Indian food out, is that restaurant butter chicken is made with heavy cream and butter. Yes, this makes it taste really good, but it is soooo not healthy. By doing a little research and stealing ideas from here and there, I came up with…we cannot call it healthy butter chicken, but it’s not going to clog all your arteries with one meal. The original recipe can be found under Easy Indian Butter Chicken on allrecipes.com.

The tandoori chicken was a recipe I also found on allrecipes.com. I made it as it told me to with cooking instructions from Food.com, because I didn’t want to unwrap the BBQ grill that’s been resting since it got wet and cold this winter. I will put down exactly how I made everything.

I really love Aloo Gobhi also, but I shoulnd’t be eating a lot of potatoes, so Kate Austin talked to a friend of hers who cooks Indian, and she then found me a recipe for Gobi Ki Sabzi (Dry Cauliflower Curry) that is similar to Aloo Ghobi in flavor, but leaving out the potatoes. It’s also not as stew-like. I used the recipe from Food.com, with a few modifications, because I didn’t have all the ingredients in my pantry.

For the longest time I thought I hated Indian food. I equated Indian with curry – the strong scented, strong tasting yellow powder that overwhelms the flavor of anything it touches. I do not like that kind of curry, therefore I assumed I didn’t like Indian food because when I was young, the only experience I had with Indian food was made with the typical, pre-made curry powder you can pick up in any supermarket. One day, when my daughter had the day off school, we decided to venture into an all you can eat East Indian buffet near our home, and we actually found things we liked. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, vegetable pakoras, naan bread (especially the garlic variety), and aloo gobhi. There were things we didn’t like – such as the desserts – and a couple items that did have the typical curry flavor I knew and I didn’t like.

What I came to learn was that “curry” is a mixture of seasonings that make a curry. I happen to not like the seasonings that are mixed together in the typical yellow curry powder found in every store. I looked a the spices in that kind of curry powder, and I’m really not sure what the particular seasoning is that I don’t care for. Or perhaps it’s that it’s used too heavyhandedly, so that the flavors are too overwhelming to the food. I find the other flavors I’ve been mixing are light and fragrant, enhancing rather than hiding the essence of the meat or veggies I put it on. What I’ve learned as different spices make different curry flavors, and I’m enjoying most of them immensely. I’m starting to wonder if I sound completely uneducated at this point, but I’m mostly self-taught,  and I am still very much learning!

I have to tell you about Garam Masala. I bought it, along with Tandoori Masala, to make butter chicken and tandoori chicken, because the recipes called for them. I had no idea what they were, other than a “mixture of spices” needed to make Indian food properly. Well, I have to say, I’m in love, love, love with garam masala. When I open the bottle and take a sniff… It’s like love and happiness and warmth wrapped up in one scent. The spices included are: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, and coriander. I’ve used all of those spices here and there individually of course, but when put together it’s like magic to my senses, and like I drug, I can’t get enough of the scent. When I made the butter chicken and tandoori chicken, and they were both cooking at the same time, my house was filled with the scent of those wonderful, mouth-watering spices, and I think for a little while I was in heaven. I will be using it to season baked chicken, even without doing all the prep for the marinades for real Indian food.

Our first day of Indian, I made Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken and some Basmati rice with garlic and green onions. The second day (3 days later) I made Tandoori pork, Gobi Ki Sabzi, and garlic Basmati rice with the leftover butter chicken. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we have.

 Butter Chicken:

Butter Chicken

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 onion minced (I used two small, very strong cooking onions)
  • 1 heaping Tblsp minced garlic
  • 1-15 oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 can fat free evaporated milk
  • 1 cup light (6%) cream
  • 1 tsp garam masala (this makes that beautifully fragrant flavor)
  • 1.5 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 Tblsp grape seed oil (can use olive or veggie oil)
  • 2 Tblsp tandoori masala
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the onion and garlic. Stir frequently, cooking on low, until the onion caramelizes to a dark brown. Takes about 15 minutes.
  3. In a larger saucepan that will hold everything (I used a 3 qt pot) slowly warm the milk, cream, tomato sauce and garam masala. Do not use high heat or it will burn. Simmer for about 30 min on low then add the caramelized onions.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, toss the cubed chicken with the oil and the tandoori marsala. Lay out on a baking sheet (I always use parchment paper for non-stick and quick cleanup) so that the chicken is spaced and not much touching. Bake for about 12 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Add to the sauce and simmer another 5 min.
  6. Serve over rice. Garnish with a couple of sprigs of cilantro (I don’t like it) or parsley.

 Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

This takes 24 hours to marinade, so you have to think ahead. Not always easy for me, since I usually decide what’s for dinner just a couple of hours before we eat.

  • 2 lb chicken, cut into pieces. (I just used chicken thighs that I removed the skin from)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tblsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger root (I use the kind you get in a tube in the produce section)
  • 2 tsp garam marsala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp yellow food coloring
  • 1 tsp red food coloring

I did use the food coloring, and the marinade came out a strange pink color that was slightly disturbing to me to have in my kitchen. It looked like a 10 year old girl’s birthday cake frosting. *grin But despite that, it made very beautiful chicken and I will do it exactly the same way next time. And there will so be a next time, and probably soon!

  1. Remove skin from chicken pieces and cut slits into them lengthwise. I did this, just slice, slice, slicing so there were 4 or 5 slices on the meaty side of the thigh. Place the pieces in a shallow dish, sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and lemon juice.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, onion, garlic, garam masala and cayenne pepper. Mix until smooth. Stir in food coloring.
  3. Spread mixture over the chicken and cover. I used a rectangular Tupperware and once I put the lid on, I tapped it on the counter a few times so the mixture soaked down between the pieces so there was good coverage. Refrigerate for 6-24 hours (the longer the better)
  4. The original cooking instructions was for a bbq grill, basically said to cook it until chicken is cooked through.
  5. What I did was follow the instructions from another recipe.
  6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  7. I lined a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper and then laid 2 cookie cooling racks in it then sprayed them with Pam.
  8. Place the chicken pieces on the rack so they’re not touching. I filled in a few bare spots on the meat with the marinade, but the wettest stuff I removed from each piece as I put it on the rack. Then turn the pieces over so the wrong side is up and do the same for filling in the bare spots with the chunky, oniony part of the marinade.
  9. Now, the instructions on this are very clear and precise so I followed them to the letter.
  10. Cook the chicken for 30 minutes (do not open the oven to peek) then turn them over. Cook for another 10 min under the broiler until it’s slightly charred. This is for Thighs/legs. If using breasts, before you flip them, make sure they are fully cooked.
  11. Turn off the oven and let the chicken rest in the closed oven for 20-30 minutes without peeking.
  12. Remove from oven and serve with a few slices of lemon as garnish.

Tandoori marinade

Since my hubby saw the leftover plain yogurt in the fridge, he asked me, purdy please, to make some more. I was in the process of thawing out some pork butt steaks, so I decided to see how the recipe would work on these. First of all, I found it was easier to do the marinade in a big freezer Ziploc. This is how I usually do marinades, but the instructions from the original recipe were specific about a shallow bowl. Anyway, this is what that pink marinade looks like in the bag with the meat. This is the pork. I trimmed the fat and took out the bones (saving them for soup). I cut them into about 1/4 lb pieces (I started with 2 lbs of bone-in pork butt steaks), and salted them and put the lemon on them, mixing them around in the bag. Then I made the marinade while it sat for the 20 minutes. See what I mean about girly pink frosty color? I will be leaving these to marinade for 48 hours. The other 2 lbs of meat from the pack are marinating 24 hours for Caribbean jerk, which was posted already.

The pork chops were less than 1/2″ in thickness, and they only took 10 minutes on the first side, 10 minutes under the broiler, and 15 minutes in the shut off oven. They were moist and juicy and very, very yummy!

Gobi Ki Sabzi 

This recipe I really did mess with. Kate found it for me on Food.com. Because I was serving it with the spicy tandoori pork, I left out the chili powder it called for. The recipe also called for cumin seeds. I do not have them, I only have ground cumin, so I used that instead. I really, really liked it, and so did the family, so I guess it turned out just fine. Also, and I am probably not allowed to say this, but because I hate coriander leaves (cilantro) I used parsley instead.

Just as an aside, here’s a good article all about cilantro (coriander) if you don’t understand that some people think it tastes like dishpan soap (like I do). About the Cilantro Gene
I use parsley, flat leaf Italian style, in place of cilantro everywhere, even in my homemade salsa. I will post that recipe eventually, but probably not till summer, because it’s definitely a summer, fresh veggie food.

On to the recipe: Gobi Ki Sabzi

Gobi Ki Sabzi (Dry Cauliflower Curry)

  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used grape seed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed (I used ground)
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 Tblsp  minced garlic
  • 1 -2 teaspoon chili powder (I left this out)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 1/2 lemon
  1. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
  2. Heat oil on medium high heat in deep fry pan or wok. Add the cumin.
  3. If you use the cumin seeds, wait till the seeds start to make a noise (I don’t know what this noise is since I didn’t use seeds) then add the chopped onions and saute until they turn clear. Using the powder, I just made sure the oil was hot before adding the onions.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and fry till lightly golden.
  5. Add the chili, turmeric, and garam masala and fry for a minute.
  6. Add teh cauliflower, salt and tomatoes and mix very well.
  7. Cover and let steam until cauliflower is cooked. I added about 1/4 cup water even though the recipe said it wasn’t needed…I thought it was, my tomatoes were burning on the bottom.
  8. Add the chopped coriander (or parsley if you’re like me) and mix well.
  9. Squeeze a 1/2 lemon over it right before serving.
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