Tag Archives: Indian

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo

20 Aug

In the spirit of my propensity to toss bits and pieces of leftover vegetables into a tart or a quiche and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of my frugality, a little while ago I decided that my bits and pieces of this and that were ready to branch out a bit. I love a good tart and quiche, but I also love a good challenge. Also, I love Indian food.

I know that I went super heavy on Indian food posts a few weeks ago, but can you blame me for wanting to add on to my arsenal of Indian food recipes? And it’s not just because I am Indian. I mean, technically I am half Scottish as well as half Indian, but you won’t see me whipping up a batch of haggis any time soon. Though I have been know to make shortbread, but, you know, I put ginger and lime in it, because that’s what happens when India creeps into Scotland.

This new riff on samosas is also a new riff on the traditional Indian dish of aloo gobi, a dry sauté of spiced potatoes and cauliflower Literally, in Hindi, “aloo” means potato and “gobi” means cauliflower. Now you know roughly 50% of the Hindi that I know. (If I ever have to negotiate a taxi fare in India, I am going to be in so much trouble.) With a sad little bag of leftover sweet potatoes sitting in the pantry and a fast-wilting head of cauliflower in the refrigerator, I knew I wanted to whip up a decidedly different version of aloo gobi. Since I also had a package of phyllo dough that was quickly turning dry, it soon became clear to me that the universe wanted me to make samosas. And who am I to throw a cold shoulder to the universe?

I am a big fan of my initial recipe for samosas in phyllo, and I cart that sucker out quite a bit when tasked to bring a dish to a potluck or picnic, but these sweet potato and cauliflower samosas are fast overtaking the originals on my list of favorites. The sweet potatoes add a nice change in flavor from ordinary potatoes, and the cauliflower, once sautéed, wrapped up, and baked, practically melts into the creamy and delicious mixture. The spices in this version of samosas are different from the original, I have streamlined the filling and folding process, and, believe it or not, I just might prefer this version overall. For now, at least. Until I find a couple of sprouting potatoes and sagging chiles lying around and decide to make a batch of samosa recipe #1, and then predictably pronounce them to be my reigning favorite.

Last Year: How to Cook Pizza on the Grill

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo Recipe

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into very small ¼-inch cubes

½ head fresh cauliflower, cored and cut into ½-inch chunks

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 small green chile, seeds and ribs removed, then very finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 package phyllo dough, about 35 to 40 sheets

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted then cooled a bit

In a large pan set over high heat, heat vegetable oil or ghee until it is very hot. Add cumin seeds, and cook them just until they begin to sizzle and pop (this will take just a few seconds). Carefully add in sweet potatoes, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes from pan and set aside. In the still-hot pan, add the cauliflower and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes back to the pan with the cauliflower, then add in the spices, ginger, and chopped chile. Reduce heat to low, stir to combine, cover, then let cook for 5 minutes. Remove cauliflower mixture from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the mixture has cooled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cover phyllo stack with a dampened kitchen towel (this will keep the phyllo from drying out as you work).  Take one phyllo sheet from stack and lay it down on your work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered as you work) and brush lightly with butter. Fold the dough towards you in three folds, like a tri fold business letter. You will now have a long, three-layer strip of phyllo dough.

Place a tablespoon of filling near one corner of a strip, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding the strip (as one would fold a flag), maintaining a triangle shape. Put fully wrapped samosa triangle, seam side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. Repeat process, making more triangles in the same manner, until you’ve used all the phyllo and all the filling, whichever comes first. Very, very lightly brush the tops of the formed samosas with any remaining melted butter.

The samosas can be baked in a 375 degree oven, one sheet at a time, for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Cool them slightly on a wire rack before serving.

If you plan to freeze the samosas instead of bake them straightaway, place the wrapped samosas in the freezer on their parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for one hour.  Remove the samosas from the freezer, and stack them in an airtight container, separating each stack with a layer of parchment or wax paper.  The samosas will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.  When you are ready to bake the frozen samosas, follow the baking directions for fresh samosas.  There is no need to adjust the baking time.

Makes 35 to 40 samosas, depending on how generous your 1 tablespoon scoops are.

Chicken Tikka with Tomato

16 Aug

This recipe is straight-up not mine, but it has, over time, morphed into something that comes as close to anything as being my signature dish. I bring this dish to potlucks and birthday dinners, I make it for family events like last fall’s cider pressing, and once, at the request of the betrothed, I even brought it to a wedding. It has become a dish for which I am known, and there is a tiny little part of me that feels sort of bad about it. After all, I didn’t put in any work when it came to developing the recipe or testing it out to make sure that it was perfectly delicious. To make it I just crack open a book, gather things together, and use someone else’s wisdom to guide me. Other than a tiny little tweak concerning the switching of cardamom pods with ground cardamom, and the exclusion of clove that I insist on in every recipe that happens to call for clove (because if there is one spice by which I cannot abide, it is clove), this recipe is 100% Madhur Jaffrey’s.

With the simplest of preparations involving nothing more than whirling up a marinade, pouring it over some chicken, then waiting a few hours before grilling the chicken to a perfect finish, there is no simpler way to become acquainted with making Indian food. Make it enough, and people may even begin to request it from you. I take no credit for the recipe itself, but I may have to claim ownership of warning you of its charms.

There is something about the warmth of the spices—a bit of cinnamon, a hit of cumin, a good dose of cardamom—combined with the perfect bit of brightness, garlic, and onion, that makes this chicken really stand out. I know that might sound a little phony and desperate (really? Can someone feel that strongly about chicken?), but I swear it is true. If you’ve always wanted to take a stab at Indian cooking, but are at a loss over where to start, I suggest you make this dish (along with these super simple accompaniments) your inaugural entrance to the world in Indian cooking.

Last Year: Quick All Parmesan Crackers–gluten free!

Chicken Tikka with Tomato Recipe

From Foolproof Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

For the marinade:

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

20 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon tomato puree

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips

Put all of the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor or blender and process to a smooth paste.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, add the marinade, and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours. (I have been known to marinate this chicken for fewer than 4 hours and it turns out just fine—I have also left it to marinate overnight, for up to 12 hours, and it also turned out just fine.)

When the chicken is done marinating, preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan over high heat. Grill the chicken pieces in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the grill surface. Discard any marinade that is left behind in the bowl. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes total, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through, but still tender.

Serve immediately.

Vegetable Biryani, or What to Make When Your Kid Decides to Become a Vegetarian

4 Jun

Remember when I said that I was done with my frenzy of Indian food posts?  That Indian Food Week-Plus had drawn to a close?  Well, it turns out that I wasn’t being entirely truthful.  My duplicitousness was not purposeful, I promise.  I was all set to close the door on this cooking run of mine until my friend Mike, one of the most dedicated dads I know, who also happens to be one of the most dedicated carnivores I know, happened to mention that his daughter had decided to become a vegetarian.

Upon hearing that this young lady was weighing a switch to vegetarianism, the vegetarian-centric cooking node in my mind went into overdrive.  I was a vegetarian for most of my life, and many of those years were spent in the company of people who weren’t familiar with, and didn’t care to be familiar with, a balanced vegetarian diet.  As a result, I became what one might call a little bit slack in my own eating habits, and spent the better part of five or six years constructing my meals around a basic principle of cheese + carbs = not hungry anymore.  Obviously, it was not the healthiest thing I could have done, but since I never became lethargic from hunger or developed scurvy, I assumed, at the time, that whatever I was doing was fine.

Maybe it was, for a time, but, in the long term, that’s just no way to live.  Food, no matter if it contains meat or not, should be an experience that provides you with something more than just nourishment.  Food can be an adventure, a chance to learn, an opportunity for discovery, and when you’ve decided to make a huge change in the structure of your diet, there is no better time to start seeking out new frontiers in food and cooking.  And when you’re going vegetarian, there is no better place to focus than India.  I’ve written about this before, but one of the most notable things about Indian vegetarian cuisine is the fact that when food is made to focus on things other than meat, there is never a sense of something being missing.  There is no effort to make up for a lack of meat, and thus your experience eating a truly fine vegetarian meal is one of satisfaction and comfort rather than of substitution.

Thus, it is rather ironic that when I wanted to develop a great Indian dish for Mike’s daughter to try out, it ended up being based on a favorite chicken dish.  However, personal contradictions aside, this really is a phenomenal meal for anyone looking to develop a nice repertoire of vegetarian meals.  The perfect blend of spices adapts well to any vegetables you choose to include, and if you throw in a cup of cooked chickpeas to accompany the toasted cashews, you’ve got a one pot rice dish that also happens to be a source of complete protein.  Not that you have to utilize the old battering ram of healthfulness in order to get people to eat this.  I made this biryani last night, and, at the evening’s end, three people (two adults, one kindergartener) had eaten nearly every last grain.  With its mix of savory Indian flavors and perfectly roasted vegetables, I think your greatest challenge with this dish is making sure there is enough to go around.

Last Year: Six Threes Ice Cream

Dozens more vegetarian recipes can be found right here in the archives.

Vegetable Biryani Recipe

Heavily adapted from a non-vegetarian recipe in Mangoes and Curry Leaves

3 large cloves of garlic, grated finely (you want to end up with about 2 teaspoons total)

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 large Yukon gold potato, or 1 medium russet potato, diced into ¼-inch cubes

about 12 fresh green beans, chopped into 1-inch pieces (you should end up with ½ cup pieces)

½ cup frozen peas

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon garam masala

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups basmati rice

3 medium-large onions (about 1 pound)

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup lightly toasted, unsalted cashews

1 large tomato, diced into ½-inch pieces

1 cup minced cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons of water

About 1 hour before you want to serve the dish, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the grated garlic and ginger, then mash together using the back of a spoon.  Add the diced potatoes, sliced green beans, and peas to the bowl with the garlic and ginger.  Add the coriander, cayenne, turmeric, garam masala, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Stir to mix until everything is combined, then cover with plastic wrap and allow vegetables to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

While the vegetables are marinating, rinse the rice in several changes of cold water.  Place in a bowl, cover with water, and allow to soak for about half an hour.

Slice the onions as fine as possible.  You will want about 3 cups of sliced onions.  Place a large heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and, when it is hot, add the onions.  Lower the heat to medium.  Cook until the onions are very soft, wilted, and just touched with golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Lift the onions out of the hot oil and set aside.  There should be a little over ¼ cup of oil left in the pot.  Remove 2 tablespoons of oil from the pot and set aside for later.

When the onions are cooking, precook the soaked rice.  Place about 8 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and allow the water to come back up to a boil.  Sprinkle in the rice.  Allow rice to boil for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the rice is no longer brittle but still firm to the bite.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

Place the heavy pot containing the oil over medium-high heat.  Distribute half of the marinated vegetables over the bottom of the pot, then sprinkle on half the precooked rice.  Scatter half the cooked onions over the top, then sprinkle on half of the diced tomato, half of the cashews, and half of the cilantro leaves.  Repeat with the remaining marinated vegetables, rice, onion, tomato, cashews, and cilantro.  Sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons of water, and drizzle on the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil.  Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pot to cover it completely, then top with the lid.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Carefully remove the lid and the aluminum foil (the pot will emit a great deal of steam, so stand back and be careful to steer clear of the hot cloud).  Remove the biryani to a platter.  Scrape out the crusty layer of vegetables and rice from the bottom of the pot, and lay it on top of the biryani.  Serve hot or warm.

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