Archive for the 'Indian' Category


Butter Chicken

It takes a lot of will power to resist butter chicken. Far more will power than I have. In a nutshell, I made this on Sunday for the second time in a week, and I very rarely do that. We had it for dinner last night, I had a bit after work for a snack. Gabi took her little spoon and ate a plateful for dinner this evening. Her face smeared orange with sauce, she tapped her little fingers together demanding “Mo?”

Twenty-four hours later, this double batch of butter chicken is about gone. Good homemade Indian food is one of life’s best pleasures. The smells of the spices, the complexities of sweet, sour, spicy. If you’ve never had butter chicken, it’s very much like chicken tikka malsala, one of the most common dishes Americans order at Indian restaurants. The chicken is marinated for a few hours in spiced yogurt, then roasted.

The sauce is velvety and rich, a creamy tomato gravy that  involves heating butter and sauteing garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cumin, mace, cardamom pods, chili powder. You strain the mixture into a bowl, puree the solids, then strain it again. The first time, I added about 1/4 cup of the solids to the strained sauce and preferred the flavor intensity to what I made Sunday, which was just the strained sauce. You put the sauce back on the heat, then stir in dried fenugreek leaves, cream and honey. Mmmmmmm mmmm!

A word about ingredients: this recipe and others you’ll see on this site from time to time call for ginger and garlic paste. It’s available at most international markets and will keep in your refrigerator forever. If you can’t find it, you could substitute by finely chopping 10 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons minced ginger and a teaspoon of water in a mini-food processor. Whir until a paste-like consistency forms. It’s not a perfect substitute, but in this case the paste is only needed for the marinade. This substitute should work.

For the roasting, I used metal skewers. Wooden ones require soaking, and why do the extra work if you don’t need to?

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Gingered Red Lentils with Garlic

I’ve told myself that I will be a good fantasy baseball wife this year. I won’t complain when Jeff disappears to check stats online, or when he needs flip channels to check scores. He knows full well that I’m not that into baseball, or sports in general. And in the past, I haven’t been as supportive as I could when it comes to his favorite hobby.

But this year is different, I’ve told myself. The other day we drove six hours to Little Rock so he could draft his team for a league he’s been part of for 10 years. We saw old friends and visited favorite haunts (we met while working at the newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). The next morning, Jeff took his laptop to the breakfast room of the hotel and spent another couple of hours drafting yet another team for a different league. No eye rolls or complaints from me.

When we returned, I decided to give in to my craving for something warm, spicy and hearty.  I love Indian food like Jeff loves baseball. I’m pretty sure it’s the cumin. Whatever it is, I can’t get enough. So, on Monday, I spent about an hour making these lentils.

Of the dozens of dals I’ve tried over the years, only a few have made it to GarlicShoots. This one is most definitely blog worthy. In a few days you’ll see butter chicken, which accompanied these lentils and rivals my friend Aisha’s. Gabi was gobbling it up. We all loved it. I will make it again this weekend.

Gingered Red Lentils with Garlic
barely adapted from 660 Curries

1 cup red lentils (mansoor dal), picked over for stones
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick) coarsely chopped
2 fresh green chiles, such as serrano, Thai or cayenne, stems removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 medium-sized tomato (fresh or canned) finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Rinse the lentils by placing them in a medium saucepan and covering with water. Rub them between your fingertips. Drain the water and repeat a few times until the water remains somewhat clear. Drain. Add 3 1/4 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer, stirring every now and then, until the lentils are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, combine the onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chiles in a food processor. Pulse, mincing the ingredients. Do not let blades run constantly or the mixture will become watery.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the cumin seeds, dried chiles for 5 to 10 seconds, until the chiles blacken and the seeds turn reddish brown and smell nutty. Immediately add the onion blend, reduce heat to medium, and fry until the mix is light brown around the edges, stirring constantly, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato, salt and tumeric. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato softens, 3 to 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.

Stir the sauce into the cooked lentils. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-heat, stirring a few times, until the flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.


Paneer (Indian Cheese)

You might think making your own cheese is over the top. Trust me, it’s not. If you’re a curry addict like me, there comes a time every couple of weeks when you’re fixin’ for some paneer-based Indian food. Last Sunday was one of those days. I wanted saag paneer. Instead of driving 10 miles to the closest international market for paneer, I made my own.

Paneer is a mild-tasting cheese from southern Asia. It’s made from cow’s milk and a bit of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. One of the things that makes it so distinctive is its ability to hold its own under high heat. It can be cut into cubes, then fried or sauteed to a golden brown using a little oil and a skillet.

Making this is costs half the price of buying it. And it’s incredibly simple. You bring a gallon of milk to a boil, remove it from heat, add vinegar. Immediately, the curds begin to form. Line a colander with a tea towel. Pour the curdled milk into the towel to drain out the liquid.

Wait. Once the paneer is cool enough to touch, fold the towel over the cheese. Press down to push out more liquid. Put cans or a bowl filled with water on top of it and continue to drain. Presto. You’ve got paneer.

Homemade paneer is better. Seriously better. The texture and flavor are superior to anything that would have come boxed and wrapped in plastic. What to do with it? Paneer is absolutely delicious with curries made with peas, spinach or tomatoes. I’m serious when I say it’s good stuff. I’m still trying to find the perfect saag paneer (the one I posted last spring is very good, but still slightly lacking). Dinner Sunday night came close. But it was not quite there.


1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

In a large sauce pan, heat milk over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When it comes to a boil, add vinegar and immediately remove from heat. The milk will begin to curdle. Wait about 30 seconds or however long it takes to separate. Line a colander with a tea towel (not a terry cloth towel) and allow edges of the towel to hang over the colander. Pour milk through the towel and allow to drain into the sink. Once it’s cool enough to touch, fold towel over the cheese and press down to remove more liquid. Put the colander into a bowl, and place canned vegetables or a bowl full of water on top to add more weight. Continue to drain for 2-3 more hours. Once most of the liquid is out, wrap the paneer in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Paneer will keep cold for about a week, or frozen for 3 months.

Makes about 1 pound.



Chicken Korma

My friend Elie is moving to Peru. How cool is that? She was determined to do it months ago, even before she fell in love with a Peruvian photographer. And now she leaves in two weeks. Her house is rented, she’s sold most of her furniture and her ex-boyfriend has assumed custody of her dog.

I had Elie over for dinner last week. She came over on a Tuesday, which presented a small problem. Since she was coming over right after work, I needed to have my cooking done the night before. Fortunately, I have an amazing slow cooker — a friend gave it to me a couple of years ago. I love it so much I pet it sometimes.

Chicken korma is a mild north Indian dish that doesn’t require much prep work. After you chop the onion, mince the garlic and grate the ginger, you simply measure the spices and start sauteing everything. Korma is creamy and tangy. Cashews really draw out the flavor, which is dominated by a mix of ground coriander, cumin, tumeric, cayenne and a cinnamon stick. Some kormas call for yogurt. This one uses buttermilk. It’s as good (if not better) than any chicken curry you’ve had in any Indian restaurant.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can make this in a large pot on the stove, with the flame on low. But do consider getting a slow cooker. It’s a wonderful piece of equipment. It took less than 30 minutes for me to prep the ingredients, saute, and then hit the slow cook button on my machine. It cooked overnight, then waited in the fridge to be heated up for dinner.

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Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard

Summer took its final breath last week. The nights are cool enough to sleep with the windows open. Yesterday, I wore a sweater to work. And the farmers’ markets are filled with winter squash, apples, pears,  potatoes and Swiss chard.

I go a little nuts when fall sets in. I can’t wait to dive into the range of fall flavors and the heavier comfort foods. It makes me want to curl up with a blanket and book, although there isn’t much time to do that these days.

I ran across this recipe back in May while mining SmittenKitchen for Indian recipes. It originally appeared in The New York Times. It intrigued me. This week, Jeff returned from the Fair Shares pickup site with two pounds of sweet potatoes. I looked up this recipe again,  picked up the rest of the ingredients and decided it was time to give this a try.

The result is comfort food at its best. Warm, sweet and spicy, and filled with superfoods. I fed Gabi some at dinner tonight, trying to coax her little palate into liking the foods her Mommy and Daddy love. So far so good. The three of us loved this one.

Curried Lentils With Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard
The New York Times, Nov. 14, 2007 via

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded if desired, then minced
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth as needed
2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into
1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 pound Swiss chard, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper|
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup finely chopped tamari almonds, for garnish (optional), available in health food stores
1/4 cup chopped scallions, for garnish.

1. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, curry powder and jalapeño. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Stir in 4 cups broth, sweet potatoes, lentils and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. (If lentils seem dry, add up to 1 cup stock, as needed.) Stir in chard and salt and pepper, and continue cooking until lentils are tender and chard is cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes total.

3. Just before serving, stir in cilantro, lime zest and juice. Spoon into a large, shallow serving dish. Garnish with almonds if desired and scallions.

Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish; 6 as a main course


Indian Spiced Cauliflower (Bhunni Gobhi)

Of all the vegetables out there, cauliflower has to be one of the least exciting. It’s bland. It’s always left behind when there’s a broccoli-carrot-cauliflower veggie tray.

The dish you see pictured above turned me into a cauliflower lover. Sometime in my 20s, I began liking just about every vegetable I tried, but not cauliflower. I pushed it to the side of the plate when it appeared. It looked gross. The crunch was irritating. I didn’t care for the flavor. But like broccoli, it’s incredibly good for you. I wanted to like it. So, a couple of years ago, I told a few of my sources that I’d start eating cauliflower, as well as run a marathon, if Missouri and Illinois officials agreed on how to pay for a new Mississippi River bridge (Long story. I covered this for the paper. Officials bickered about it for years.). Anyway, the bridge is now under construction. I’ve run the marathon. And last summer, guess what I started eating?

I bought a snowy white head of it for the first time last June, from one of the Mennonite stands at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. I tried this recipe on a whim. I can’t remember what led me to it, but it blew me away. The following week I bought more and made it again. And tonight, we had a repeat performance.

Continue reading ‘Indian Spiced Cauliflower (Bhunni Gobhi)’


Coriander Calling

Everyone has a favorite food, don’t they? Or a favorite kind of food, flavor combination, or texture?

If I had to choose a country and spend the rest of my life eating nothing but food from there, it would be a toss up between Italy and India. The flavors, the textures, the aromas can be transcendental. In Indian food, the spices take center stage. Grind coriander with yellow lentils, toasted chiles, ginger and coconut milk and you’ve got the start of a delicious curry. This is what Jeff and I were hungry for yesterday. But first, I needed a couple more ingredients from the international market.

Continue reading ‘Coriander Calling’


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