Fabulously-fragrant Indian cooking with Ann!

How lucky am I?  Very, very lucky.  This Sunday I visited with my colleague Ann Kailath to learn more about Indian cooking and share a meal together. Yup, I am very lucky!

Ann was born here in the USA. In fact, her parents were working as resident advisors at Stanford University when she was born. Her family originated from the southern part of India in the state of Kerala.  She describes the food from this area as very different from the cuisine found at most Indian restaurants here in America.  Black mustard seeds, banana, curry leaves and coconut milk are often used in Southern Indian cuisine.

Indian cooking involves many different spices and today, Ann has them ready to go. I want a spice container like this!

Sometimes, Ann grinds the spices by hand with a mortar and pestle. These cardamom pods are easily ground to release the black seeds inside. The seeds and pods infuse the basmati rice along with whole cumin seeds, clove and a small piece of a cinnamon stick.  She soaks the rice for about 20 minutes and rinses before cooking.  Ann says rinsing the rice helps keep the grains separate rather than clump together.  Per 2 cups rinsed rice, she adds about 3 1/2 cups of water. Here’s the cardamon pods gently crushed ready to cook up and flavor the basmati rice.

When the rice is simmering, Ann adds some saffron threads. And when it’s all cooked up, it looks quite amazing and very inviting, right?

To make the Chicken Curry, she starts with her special spice container and selects star anise, pepper,cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon and grinds them in her small (coffee) grinder.  And, let me tell you this combination of spices smells so outrageously fragrant.

Ann cooks up some onion with the spices and oil and adds some curry leaves. {Available at Indian specialty markets}  For those of you in Massachusetts, Ann often shops at Patel Brothers on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts for many of her spices and Indian specialties.  I can’t wait to visit this market soon!

Next step for the curry–> add tomatoes until they are fully cooked and incorporated into the dish.

Ann adds chicken, then adds water and simmers the dish.  She  finishes the dish with coconut milk.  The curry tastes amazing.

I really like the ease of Ann’s  Roasted Cumin Cauliflower dish. And I can’t wait to try this out on my family. First, Ann added canola oil to large skillet over medium heat. She added cumin seeds, ginger, chili powder and turmeric. Then she tossed in the bite-size cauliflower florets.  

Ann’s adds some dried mango powder (amchoor) which adds a bit of tang to the recipe–but lemon juice works for this purpose too.

As if the the rice, chicken curry and cauliflower dish weren’t enough.  Ann prepares an amazing potato dish too!!

Because Indian food can be hot and spicy, a side dish of yogurt and cucumber (raitha) is a usual accompaniment.  The yogurt and cucumber will cool the palate. Here the shredded cucumber is added to plain low fat yogurt, stirred and then topped with roasted cumin seeds that have been ground to a fine powder.  May I tell you, this roasted cumin smells ridiculously amazing. I will definitely try to roast my cumin seeds and grind them at home.

The feast looked like this on my plate!

Ann offered up some of her pickled mango and this was… oooohhhhh so good. Salty and tangy and a nice addition to the meal.

You have got to try these recipes!  I can’t wait to try my hand at Indian cooking! YUM!  Thanks Ann for a wonderful {and educational} lunch date!

Recipes from my great cook, friend, and colleague, Ann!

 Chicken Coconut Curry

This is my basic chicken curry recipe, with the addition of curry leaves and coconut milk, which makes it distinctively South Indian.  Instead of coconut, I will add sour cream or greek yogurt, for a different flavor.

3 lbs chicken (cut into small pieces).

2 Tbs canola oil

1 stick (2″) cinnamon

6 cloves

6 green cardamom (crack shells open with mortar and pestle to let black seeds out)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

2 onions, finely chopped

1 heaping Tbs ginger paste or minced ginger 1″ piece

2 heaping Tbs garlic paste or minced garlic

1 serrano green chili, chopped

10-15 curry leaves (available at indian stores) -optional

1 tomato, chopped or 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chili powder (more or less)

1 tsp cumin powder

2 Tbs coriander powder

1 tsp black pepper

2-3 tsp salt

1 cup water

1 cup coconut milk

Heat oil in pot on medium heat for 30 secs.  Add whole spices (or you can grind these together in a coffee grinder), and fry for 20 secs. Add onions, and stir occasionally for approximately 5-10 mins till nicely browned. Add garlic/ginger. Stir for couple minutes, then add tomato. Cook till tomatoes break down, and oil seeps out (mixture will start sticking together and appear glossy). Turn heat to low medium, and add powdered spices and fry for couple of minutes.

Turn heat up to medium-high, and add chicken pieces and 1 cup water. Bring to boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (every 5-10 mins). Uncover, and continue to cook another 10mins till oil starts to come on top. Turn heat low, and add coconut milk. Simmer(bring back to boil) for 5 mins till gravy thickens.

You can garnish with fresh ground pepper or garam masala, and cilantro.

(Instead of coconut milk, you can add 1/2 cup of whisked sour cream or Greek yogurt)

Roasted Cumin Cauliflower

I made this dish today for my friend and colleague Kate Scarlata, who is a nutritionist. She wanted to learn some Indian dishes and feature them on her blog. I served this with basmati rice, coconut chicken curry and cucumber raitha.

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets

1-2 Tbs oil

1 tsp cumin seeds (or cumin powder)

1/2″ ginger, minced (optional)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

squeeze of lemon juice

1-2 Tbs chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Fry cumin seeds till sizzles for 20 secs or so. Add turmeric and chili powder, and fry for another 20 secs. Add cauliflower florets and salt. Stir till cooked but still slightly crunchy, for approx 10 minutes. Add lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro.

 Cucumber Yogurt (Raitha)

This yogurt dish accompanied every Indian meal in my parent’s home. It is the one thing my mom always had me make, because it was that easy!

1 large tub plain low fat yogurt

1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely grated

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1 Tbs chopped cilantro

Whisk yogurt in bowl till smooth. Add grated cucumber and salt and mix in.

Garnish with cumin powder and cilantro (optional) –Ann used a roasted cumin seeds which she grinded into a powder.  WOW! This has such a wonderful aroma, I would recommend trying to roast and grind your cumin seeds too!

Basmati Rice

2 cups basmati rice soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained.

1 TB canola oil

1, 2″ cinnamon stick

3 cardamon pods, crushed

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

4-5 whole cloves

pinch saffron

  • In medium stock pot over medium heat, add oil and spices and stir.  Cook for about 30 seconds.  Add rice to mixture and cook until rice turns fully opaque white about 2-3 minutes, be sure to stir frequently to so the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Add 3 1/2 cups of water and bring mixture to boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer and add pinch of saffron.
  • Cook until water is absorbed about 20 minutes.
  • Toss to serve.

I hope you try these fabulous Indian dishes.