Anyone who’s been fortunate to have traveled through India or has eaten at some of the finer Indian restaurants in the UK and New York will know that Indian cuisine is remarkable for its vibrant color and wonderfully aromatic spices. A common misconception is that all Indian food is fierily hot; this couldn’t be further from the truth and you’ll find supermarket ‘curry powder’ is never used.
I’ve been cooking authentic Indian food for decades and because many dishes take considerable preparation, I usually start the process a week ahead. Most dishes (with the exception of rice and the fresh relishes) are enhanced by spending 2-3 days in the fridge to allow the flavors to develop – and even more so after a stint in the freezer, as that really intensifies the spices and aromatics.
However, there are some very easy dishes that are totally delicious and authentically Indian, so for starters here’s one of my favorite Indian soup recipes; I like to serve it to large groups as an appetizer in small coffee cups; it also happens to be wonderful by the bowlful. *Vegetarians can replace the chicken broth with a good quality vegetable variety.
Just remember that if you make it two or three days ahead it will taste even better and it freezes well, before the addition of half and half or thin cream.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting several easy-to-prepare, authentic dishes that will create a complete Indian feast when combined; each dish can either be eaten alone or will go very well with western foods.
I was incentivized after a recent visit to our one and only local Indian restaurant.
Sadly, and despite their fine tandoor oven that produces excellent naan bread, everything else arrived at the table resembling various shades of cow-pat. To make matters worse, we were subjected to a ‘live’ musician whose performance was so egregious, so execrable and so utterly intrusive that we wanted to shoot him and put him out of our misery; we settled for moving into the next room to finish our cowpats.
For the real deal, I promise everything will be easy to prepare and you’ll have a small but authentic repertoire of Indian food to impress your friends with.
Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will be happy – you’ll need a food processor.
Finally, many people are confused by what to drink with Indian food so here is a list of suggestions and they should all be served well-chilled:
Champagne (sparkling wines pair really well); German Riesling; Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region of France; Lager beer; bottled India pale ale; Kingfisher ale (Indian) – and probably most surprisingly, Mateus Rose; a Portuguese slightly sparkling rose wine that’s generally looked down on in the UK and isn’t too easy to come by over here. It really does pair brilliantly with Indian food.
INDIAN SPICED GREEN PEA SOUP
4 oz (110g) of potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 oz (75g) of onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 pints (1.25ltr) of chicken or vegetable broth
1 inch (22.5cm) cube of peeled fresh ginger
½ teaspoon of ground coriander seed
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
5 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
½ green chili (Serrano – hot, or jalapeno – not quite as hot; adjust to taste)
10 oz (275g) of frozen peas, thawed
½ teaspoon of sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon of *dry roasted cumin seeds
¼ pt (150ml) of thin cream or half and half
In a heavy saucepan, combine the chicken stock, chopped onion, potato, ginger, ground coriander and cumin. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for approx 20 mins or until the potatoes are tender.
Discard the piece of ginger. Add everything else except the cream/half and half. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 3 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. You can freeze it at this point, otherwise transfer to another saucepan and add the cream/half and half and bring slowly to a simmer.
To serve, add a teaspoon of cream or perhaps some plain yoghurt and a sprinkle of roasted cumin seeds.
*To dry roast cumin seeds; heat a heavy skillet until hot; add the cumin seeds and toss around for a few minutes until fragrant and they’ve turned a darker brown; dry roasting cumin seeds really intensifies their flavor.
(A Madhur Jaffrey recipe)