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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Salud! at Whole Foods: India - A Cook's Tour

I enjoy watching the Food Network channel and one program I keep up with is “The Next Food Network Star”. I was interested when one of the contestants added an ethnic flair to her dishes. In my opinion, that is a niche that Food Network needs to address… the lack of ethnic cooking shows.

Any of you who watch the Food Network know I’m talking about Aarti Sequeira and that she is now “The Next Food Network Star”. BTW, her blog site is:  

India: A Cook's Tour

Explore the mysterious tastes, textures, and aromas of Indian cooking as you take a hands-on cooking tour. In addition to cooking fabulously flavorful Indian fare, you’ll learn about the exotic and aromatic spices employed in Indian cuisine and discover some of the interesting ingredients that are unfamiliar to Western palates. Indian beer will be served. MENU: Kofta Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce; Vegetable Samosas with Coriander Chutney; Chicken Tikka Masala with Sautéed Onions; Naan; and Pistachio & Cardamom Ice Cream.

I found that VERY interesting! I've never worked with Indian flavors, and to be truthful, have limited experience eating Indian. But I have liked what I've had.

As is the norm, in class we were broken into teams with each doing a different recipe; wandering around the kitchen in our down time to see what the other teams were doing. 

Our instructor Liz was all over helping with this or that as we prepared this meal for about 15 people (we had to double our recipes!).

Cumin, coriander, cardamom pods, ground cardamom... these are the spices we used.

Plus garam masala (Masala means a spice blend, the equivalent of "Italian seasoning" for India). It has: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, black cumin seeds, dry ginger, black cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, crushed bay leaves, saffron, mace, star anise. It's known as "Mom's Secret Ingredient" and apparently every Indian mother has a slightly different blend/mix using some or all of the above ingredients. Once I get used to the flavors of each different spice I think I will come up with my own blend. In class we had a store brand bottle.

Kofta Meatballs - kofta is Indian for "meatball" so the name means Meatball Meatball.  They were made with lamb, so they had one plus point going for them before we even started. 

They were cooked in the spiced tomato sauce. Very tasty.

I will do a couple things different when I make them. First I will try browning the meatballs before putting them in the tomato blend. And I'll have to drop the heat down a notch or two for my family. I like spicy but my brother-in-law about the only one in the family who does... and I want little Hanna to be able to eat it too.

Chicken Tikka masala was very nice. It's a spiced up version of what our local Indian restaurant calls "butter chicken". It has its own masala blend and 'tikka' means "bits, pieces" to refer to the cut up chicken pieces. From what I understand the chicken is traditionally grilled on skewers, which I will do when I fix it.

Now here is the funny irony of this recipe. Chicken Tikka Masala is NOT Indian!! It's British! It uses Indian spices and that is as close as it gets to being an Indian dish. But because it is so popular and tastes Indian, it is now a mainstay of many Indian restaurants.

Liz prepared a side dish of basmati rice with seasonings to go with the chicken.  I was so busy I forgot to ask what she put in it. 

The vegetable samosas with coriander chutney were very good.  I could make a meal off these all by themselves! 

They were filled with a sautéed mix of potato, onion, and green peas.

For the class the pastry was freshly made but someone said they had a friend from Indian who used won ton wrappers.  Personally, I was thinking phyllo dough would be nice.

I learned something about chutney.  I always thought it was a chunky mix made with different fruits.  Wrong!  There are chutneys like that but there are also very smooth chutneys that are like pestos or dips. 

Also found out that Indian recipes that call for fresh coriander are using what we in the West call "cilantro".

The Naan bread was very good.  A basic yeast bread recipe that is cooked on a grill or stone after the first rising.  A bit of sea salt was added at the end which made it so good. 

Dessert was Malai Kulfi, which is a traditional Indian ice cream.  Ours was flavored with pistachio and cardamom.  Pretty good... for pistachio.  Other flavors that are traditional could be mango, rose, saffron or raspberry.

The class was a great first step into experimenting with the flavors of India.  Doesn’t it look delicious? 

Kofta Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce 

For meatballs:

1 pound ground lamb

½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp gr. Cumin

1 tsp gr. Coriander

½ tsp garam masala

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 Tbs finely chopped cilantro

3 Tbs whole milk yogurt (Greek yogurt)

For sauce:

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled & chopped

1 ¼ cups water

1 tsp gr. Cumin

1 tsp gr. Coriander

1 tsp sweet paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ cup canola oil

1 stick cinnamon

6 cardamom pods

6 whole cloves

½ cup finely chopped sweet onion

½ can crushed tomatoes

4 Tbs whole milk yogurt (Greek yogurt)

½ tsp sea salt

Meatballs: In bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Shape into 1 inch meatballs. Dip hands in cool water occasionally to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Sauce: In blender, puree garlic, ginger and 4 Tbs water until it forms a smooth paste. Add cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne; blend to combine. Set aside.

In a medium frying pan, add canola oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and stir for 5 seconds.

(Note: the recipe seems to call for leaving the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in to cook with the sauce. Personally I would not want to have to worry about hitting one of these hard things when I was eating OR having to dig them out while eating.   So in the class, we put them in a piece of cheesecloth so we could remove them when the sauce was finished. It seemed to work well.)

Add onions and sauté them until they are lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium and add the paste from the blender and the crushed tomatoes. Stir and cook until mixture begins to thicken, then add 1 Tbs of the yogurt. Stir until the yogurt is incorporated into the sauce, repeating until all yogurt has been added. Add remaining water and the salt; stir and bring to a simmer.

Add all the meatballs to the pan in a single layer. Cover with a lid set slightly ajar; reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Stir gently every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to break up the meatballs. Add water if needed.

After 25 minutes, check meatballs for doneness. Sauce should be thick enough to cling to the meatballs.

(Notes: I will probably brown my meatballs before adding to the sauce. Also our sauce was not thick enough when the meatballs were done. So we removed the meatballs to their serving bowl and reduced the sauce further. This kept the meatballs from becoming overcooked. Once the sauce was reduced we poured it over the meatballs.)

1 comment:

  1. My roommate before I was married worked in an Indian restaurant where she learned how to cook. We ate there alot back them! Yum! ~Lili


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