Saturday, October 15, 2011

Home-made Indian Food

Earlier this week I was at the grocery store and they had mangoes for less than 30 cents each - they were just so cheap that I had to buy them. Only then I had to figure out what to do with them. Somehow I landed on the idea of a mango curry, because I remember having something like that in my undergrad years at the food court in Dunedin's approximation of a shopping mall. It wasn't overly good Indian food and actually always left me feeling sort of sick, but I still loved that curry; it was sort of sweet and really creamy. So today I created my own version and then decided to have a go at making naan bread as well. I must say that the curry was much more successful than the bread, but it still wasn't a total failure. I'm not sure how healthy this meal is, coconut cream is high in saturated fat after all, but it definately can count as one or two of your 5+ a day.

This evening the plan had been to cook and eat with friends while watching X-factor, I show I had never bothered with before but my mate has no television so I figured it couldn't hurt. I had been looking forward more to the cooking because it was actually my first chance to cook all week, after being in hospital having my gall-bladder removed. So now, one internal organ lighter, I am once again able to eat foods that I have had to avoid for so long and decided to take a risk and have a curry. Not an overly spicy one but still, a lot of spice, onion and fat that not so long ago would have left me feeling terrible.

Now, when I first began cooking as a teenager Indian food generally came out of a packet, to which you added cream and poured over meat and vegetables. However, it turns out that it's not so hard to do it yourself. I don't quite go to the trouble of grinding my own spices with a mortar and pestle but I don't really think that makes so much of a difference. I'm happy to settle for store brought, ground spices and keep my cupboard stocked with the basics (actually, not a cupboard nor even a shelf, just the corner of my kitchen bench). The one thing I really miss is curry powder from home, which I may be remembering wrongly but I am sure tastes differently to any of the varieties that I can get here. I should probably just make my own mixture at some point but have not yet got around to it.

Mango Curry

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
3 orange peppers, diced
4 mangoes, peeled and diced (about 600 grams)
2 cans coconut milk (not the light variety, the proper creamy thick stuff)

To begin, heat the oil in a large pan and then add the spices to it, letting them cook until they smell good. The above mixture can of course be changed and if you don't have so many spices to had, any curry powder that you like should do. I used one from an asian grocery store and then added more of my favourite spices as I liked but that's not neccessary, as all curry powders are mixtures of spices anyway. You could stick to whatever curry powder or garam masala you have and just use a bit more of it.

The way that I did this curry was really quite slow because I was chopping the vegetables as I went along and then throwing them on, so the onion and garlic got very cooked before the peppers were added and then everything was really soft and fragrant before the mangoes were added. However, if you are very prepared and organised there would be no harm in throwing all the vegetables in together.

Actually, just to add a bit of a side note, you could of course have this with meat, you would just need to dice up some chicken or lamb or whatever (something light would be best with mango) and add this after the onion but before the pepper and mango. Alternatively, if you want to keep it vegetarian but feel that it needs a protein boost why not go ahead and add a handful of lentils, or some chickpeas. I would choose lentils for this one myself, the red ones, and I would include them in the next step, with the coconut milk.

Whether your vegetables have just been added or have already been cooking sometime as you have fussed around do other things, just pour in the coconut milk as soon as you are ready. I actually didn't use quite so much as it says above because before adding I removed a half cup of the thick cream from the top of the cans and set it aside for something yummy that I will be baking tomorrow. However, two cans will not be too much so just add it all. Give it a good stir and bring it to the boil, then turn it down and simmer it till it's thick. Which should take about as long as it takes the rice to cook (which means that this is your cue to put some rice and water in a pot and get it cooking).

Now you are finished! It is ready to eat and the mango should be really soft, the sauce thick and the whole thing really sweet and creamy! I had been hoping to serve this with cucumber and yoghurt but had no yoghurt so we had to go without. However the sauce itself turned out so mild and creamy that yoghurt was not at all necessary. Naan bread seemed like a good idea though, so below is my first attempt (ever!) at this flatbread. It did not turn out like the stuff you get from an Indian restaurant, or even from the supermarket. It was nice though so I am going to put the recipe down. It was just very flat. The recipe that I used came from a cookbook that is full of great bread recipes, only this one uses baking powder and not yeast. When I checked it out on the internet I found a lot of naan recipes with yeast and a lot without. I reckon I will definitely try this again though and next time I will leaven with yeast so hopefully will get soft, chewy naan bread. Until then, the recipe below will have to do. It did still get a fair few good comments so it's not bad or anything. Just not completely right.

Naan bread

450 grams strong white flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 millilitres warm water
1 beaten egg
30 grams butter (melted) or olive oil

The first thing that I found odd about this recipe is that it calls for the bread to be left to rise even though it uses baking powder and not yeast. I was not aware that baking powder could work like that, and don't think that it did actually rise at all. Nevertheless, it's always good to follow the instructions fully the first time you make something.

So to begin with you mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and you beat together the egg and water in another bowl. Except that the recipe calls for the water to be quite hot, about 50 degrees celsius, and I was worried that the egg would begin to cool. So instead I kept the two ingredients separated and first stirred the beaten egg into the flour and then the water. I mixed it up into a stiff dough but found that it wasn't smooth like bread normally is. Then the recipe called for the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

After a half hour you can turn the dough out onto the bench and begin to knead it, while slowly adding the butter or oil. The recipe called for ghee but I don't have that sort of thing on hand so went for olive oil. It ended up being a bit too much oil but then I kneaded in another handful of flour and that seemed to work really nicely, the dough became much more smooth. At this point you divide the dough into about 6 balls and place them (covered) somewhere warm for an hour or so to rise. The recipe wanted me to cover them with a damp, warm cloth, which I did, but I don't think it made a difference and clingfilm would be easier because you wouldn't be left with a soggy cloth to wash.

Finally (that's an exaggeration, it was all actually very simple and quick) the bread is mostly ready to be cooked. It can be done in a very hot oven or in a hot frying pan and I tried both. I can't say which is better though because the bread didn't turn out the way I wanted it to anyway. For the oven method, it needs to be heated to about 250 degrees celsius first. Have the oven trays sitting in there getting hot too, so that the bread cooks better. While the oven is heating you can roll out the dough, until you have rough ovals that are about 3 mm thick (or thereabouts). Then you quickly grease a hot oven tray and place your round of dough in the oven for about 5 minutes. The bread should puff up and brown slightly. Which mine did, yet at the same time stayed flat and was not thick and chewy. It was still pretty good, and really highly edible.


  1. Great that you linked in, thanks. have a good one

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