Mixed Veg Torkari


One of my favourite quick weeknight dishes is zeera-alu—potatoes stir-fried simply with cumin, dried red chillies and turmeric. That’s the base recipe (not a million miles from the version posted here). After the initial frying step it literally cooks itself and so it’s a well I go to often. The last time I set out to make it, however, I couldn’t resist adding more and more things and ended up with a mixed-veg torkari (to use the West Bengali term for a slightly moist stir-fry of vegetables). And in true Bengali manner I also couldn’t resist when a packet of shrimp came to hand when I was looking for peas in the freezer. The resulting dish was really rather good and I offer you an approximation of it here. An approximation because—as the shoddy Instagram reel I made of the process shows—it was all done by the seat of my pants. Well, that’s home cooking—a little bit of plus/minus here and there is not going to hurt anything and I would hardly expect slavish fidelity to any recipe I post anyway. Give it a go. And you can just as easily leave out the shrimp and make it vegan. Continue reading

Roast Chicken with Indian Spices


My go-to roast chicken preparation is Judy Rodgers’ blast furnace method from the almighty Zuni Cafe Cookbook [affiliate link]. There are other roast chickens I like very much—Marcella Hazan’s still-life with two lemons, Samin Nosrat’s buttermilk-brined chicken—but the Zuni Cafe roast chicken reigns supreme in our house: my family would not complain if that was the only one I made for the rest of our days together. But I am an asshole and forever given to tinkering and experimentation and so I cannot resist sneaking in the occasional departure from our family favourite. This is one such recent departure—though the fingerprints of the Zuni Cafe method will be visible to anyone who knows it. I don’t turn the oven up as high as I don’t want the spices to burn—both for the sake of the chicken and for the sake of not filling the kitchen with smoke. I start out at 400º and raise the temperature 425º halfway in. It works very well with the Costco chickens we’ve been cooking of late, yielding a very juicy bird with crisp, spicy skin at just about the 55 minute mark. Your actual oven time will obviously vary depending on your oven and the size of your bird. Continue reading

Smoky White Bean Stew


We split a pig from a local farm with friends a couple of times a year. While the meat is processed into cuts we specify there always seems to be one big package of smoked ham hock that makes it into our order from the processor (the excellent Dennison Meat Locker in, well, Dennison). These tend to hang out in our massive chest freezer for a while till I remember that I can use them when cooking dried beans. And I remembered I had a pack just last month while looking at my last packet of Large White Lima beans from Rancho Gordo. Their Royal Corona beans get all the love, but I quite like the Large White Limas too. I improvized a simple stew in an Indian style. By which I mean not that this is a traditional Indian dish per se but that I approached it the way I would if making a more traditional Indian bean curry: I cooked the beans till almost done, made a rich masala base while the beans were cooking, mixed the two and simmered it all till they were done. The few spices I used were Indian as well—zeera/cumin, methi/fenugeek, tez patta/dried cassia leaves, Byadgi chillies [affiliate link] and haldi/turmeric powder. There’s no reason really that you couldn’t call the finished dish a curry but as I mostly ate it out of bowls by itself I’m calling it a stew. Continue reading

May’s Recipes: A Poll


Yes, it’s time to help me select recipes to post next month (on Thursdays, as always). I have eight candidates this month and I’m afraid that as written none of them are vegetarian. Two, however, can be made vegetarian—one by omitting the small shrimp I threw in on a whim, the other by replacing smoked ham hock with smoked tofu or tempeh or similar. And I know it’s a long shot but I hope a bunch of you will vote for the gurda-kapoora masala even though it features goat testicles. The recipe will work even if you leave out the testicles (assuming you can find some to buy) and use only kidneys or a mix or kidneys and liver or kidneys and liver and keema. The rest I think should not be such hard sells. But who knows, maybe you’ll surprise me and the goat balls will be the runaway winner of the poll. Continue reading

Mooli Parathas


As I said a couple of weeks ago, I spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen on my trip to Delhi in March. I learned some new things and also improved my skills with some others. These masoor dal pakodas fall in the former category and mooli parathas fall in the latter. I will be the first to admit that I am not the most adept maker of chapatis and parathas in the world. I don’t have the best skills with a rolling pin. But what I lack in natural ability I almost make up for in perseverance and so at this point I turn out pretty good chapatis and parathas—plain ones as well as anda/egg parathas and alu/potato parathas. I’ve always been wary of mooli/radish parathas though, even though they are a close second to alu parathas in my personal stuffed paratha rankings. (It’s hip to say that alu parathas are boring compared to mooli or gobi/cauliflower parathas but I didn’t get where I am today—nowhere—by being hip.) This because mooli parathas are a lot more fiddly. For one thing, unlike potatoes, the mooli/radish is shredded not mashed which makes for a more uneven filling. For another, the shredded mooli gives off a lot of water and moist paratha stuffing is not easy to deal with. This can make rolling the stuffed dough a challenge for those of us who are not naturals with a rolling pin. I did get some hands-on lessons from my parents’ cook on this trip though and I am glad to report that the results have been very good. Being a generous guy I will share my success with you. Continue reading

Keema Curry with Broccoli


Growing up, keema was always minced mutton or goat meat. It was cooked in our house both as loose keema and as kofta (meatball) curry and it’s hard to say which I preferred. When I first came to the US goat keema was not easy to find. Indeed, it’s not easy even now without going to the few desi stores that sell meat or to stores catering to other goat eating cultures. But beef keema/ground beef is pretty good too in these preps. If you can find grass-fed beef keema then all the better—that gamy tang takes it pretty close to goat/mutton. And while I don’t have much use for turkey meat in Indian preps, I find ground turkey works well for keema—as long as it isn’t all white meat. And it works particularly well In a robustly spiced dish like this one where broccoli additionally adds an earthy quality. Still, in the absence of goat/mutton keema, beef would be my top choice. The point is that you can use whatever you have at hand. What you will end up with will be comfort food of the highest order and the broccoli will help you feel virtuous. Continue reading

Masoor Dal Pakodas


Perhaps because I was visiting sans the family, I spent far more time in the kitchen on my recent trip to Delhi than I usually do. My mother doesn’t cook so very much anymore but her cook is an ace—and I spent quite a lot of time watching and bugging him in the kitchen. I refined some techniques; I finally jotted down rough estimates of ingredients and steps of some family favourites (for example, this lau); I learned some new variations on dishes I already make; and I also learned to make some new dishes. Today’s recipe is in that last class and it is for pakodas made not in the way most familiar to non-Indians—i.e sliced vegetables coated in a besan/chickpea flour batter and fried—but with masoor dal or red lentils. The recipe is simplicity itself. You soak the dal (with some rice if you’re so inclined), drain and grind it to a thick batter, mix a few spices in and then drop spoonfuls of the spiced batter into hot oil for a few minutes till crisped to a golden brown. (You can see my teacher making it here.) It comes together very easily for an evening’s snack with tea and also makes a good passed snack for gatherings. For your first try you might want to start out small as with the proportions of the recipe below. Once you get the technique down (and if you like the results) you can easily scale the recipe up. Continue reading

Tongue, Two Ways


Keep calm: all I’m offering you is two ways of preparing beef or ox tongue, one as a lightly-dressed warm salad and the other masala-coated and crisply fried. The second is an extension of the first and given the size of the average ox tongue you’d be a fool to not make both. Now, you might say to yourself, “tongue—how Indian is that?” Well, tongue is indeed eaten in many parts of India; indeed, one of our kids’ absolute favourite dishes on our trip to India in 2020 was fried tongue, which we ate at a couple of restaurants in Goa. And the fried version I present here is my attempt to recreate those preps from taste memory. The first preparation—as a dressed warm salad—may not strike you as obviously Indian; and it is true, I’m not aware of any traditional preparation in this general vein (which is not to say that one might not exist). But as far as I’m concerned it’s an Indian dish through and through. The tongue is prepared by simmering it with whole garam masala and then sliced thinly and dressed with a vinaigrette in which roasted cumin has been steeped. Both versions go very well with dal and rice. Continue reading

April’s Recipes: A Poll


The recipes poll is back, baby! I didn’t post one for March, largely because I wanted to clear some of my backlog and partly because, headed to Delhi, I knew there’d be at least one recipe I’d post from the trip (that turned out to be this one). I now enter April with no backlog at all, no recipes already jotted down. Which is not to say that the recipes in the poll are things I’ve never cooked before. Well, one was learned in Delhi just over a week ago and my approach to another was overhauled then as well. The other four are things that I have made before but have not written down ingredients or steps for. I won’t be recreating them in April so much as riffing in the spirit/taste memory of the originals. Most of the pictures in the slideshow below are therefore indications rather than promises of what the new versions of these dishes will look and be like. Continue reading

Lau with Milk


My last recipe post for the month comes to you from my mother’s kitchen in Delhi (well, Gurgaon technically). I am writing this up 12 hours before my scheduled departure. By the time it posts my plane will be approaching North America and I will be approaching an altogether healthier diet for the next few months. As I noted in my post on the Chittaranjan Park fish market, I have been eating a lot of my meals in Delhi at home but that’s not to say these have all been light meals. In the sea of richness, however, there has been one dish that I’ve asked to be made a number of times and it’s for a very simple preparation of lau (in Bengali) or lauki, doodhi, ghia etc. depending on where you are. In English it’s bottle gourd and in most East Asian markets you’ll see it called opo. I like it by any name and I particularly like this minimalist preparation with just a bit of kalonji and a couple of green chillies to accent the subtle flavour of the lau, and a bit of milk and sugar to enhance the texture and natural sweetness. The directions below may seem a bit imprecise—a hallmark of all my recipes, I suppose—but that’s home cooking. If you want to see an edited, abbreviated video of this being made, check out this reel on my Instagram (where I’ve also posted other cooking videos from this trip). Continue reading

Beef Curry


Another week, another beef curry. I made this slow-cooked curry the week before I left for Delhi (where I will be for another week) and the family instructed me in no uncertain terms to immediately write down exactly how I made it so that I can make it again. I think I may have mentioned before that when not cooking expressly for the blog I rarely make the same thing twice in the same way—mostly because, like most home cooks, I eyeball ingredients and don’t really care very much if one time there’s less cumin or more coriander seed in the masala than on another occasion. In fact, this kind of improvization has led to some of the dishes we like the most, as is the case with this curry. I made it with short ribs from the excellent Goette Farms in southern Minnesota. It was a large pack of ribs—4 lbs total—and I expected that we’d eat half of the curry and freeze the rest for later. But the boys loved it so much that it was all gone within 48 hours. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it as much as they did but I’d be shocked if you didn’t like it at all. Give it a go. Continue reading

Beef Curry with Red Wine


I improvised this beef curry back in December. I’d thawed a pack of what had been labeled soup bones by the meat locker through which we’d bought a quarter of a cow a while ago. The plan had been to make pho. But when I opened the packet they turned out instead to be highly meaty shanks. I pivoted to making a slow-cooked curry and decided to take this opportunity to also finally use up an open bottle of red wine that had been sitting in the fridge for god knows how long. Meat, spices, a long braise on low heat: what could go wrong. Absolutely nothing, you’re thinking, and you’re absolutely right. Nothing did go wrong. In fact, things went very, very right. And here is the recipe to prove it. Please keep in mind that even though the recipe makes it look like a fixed thing this was—as with almost all my cooking—made on the fly. Feel free to play with the proportions of spice and ratios of tomato, red wine and water. There happened to be roughly two cups of wine left in the bottle but I would have added whatever had been in there. Who’s to say it wouldn’t have been ever better if braised entirely in wine? If you do tinker let me know how it goes. Continue reading

Braised Pork with White Wine, Apples and Spices


Thanks to our habit of purchasing pork a half-pig at a time from local small farms, we usually have several pork roasts in our chest freezer at any time. I sometimes cube these up and use them to make pork curries of one kind or the other (for example); sometimes I marinate them with spices and stick ’em in the slow cooker (for example). And sometimes I experiment with hybrid preparations of one kind or the other (for example). Today’s recipe falls in the last category. It involves the use of Indian spices but also apples and white wine—which to my mind seems like something I would associate with cooking from somewhere between France and Germany. And there’s also fish sauce and Sichuan peppercorn in there. All of this may make it seem like a fusion dish—and, depending on how you define fusion cooking, it may well be one—but to me the end result seems very much like a curry variant anyway. Indeed, when I improvised this in January we enjoyed it alongside dal and Indian veg dishes with rice/quinoa; but it was also very good just mopped up with bread. No matter how you locate it on a map, however, it is very tasty. Continue reading

Masala-Fried Spare Ribs


I first improvised this dish of pork spare ribs with an Indian masala late last summer. I’ve been trying to post it on the blog ever since but you bastards kept shooting it down in the recipe selection poll. Finally, its time has come. I have to admit that a benefit of the delay is that I’ve made it a number of times since and have got the recipe tweaked now to a point that we all really like. Until I started making this I’d always assumed frying spare ribs was difficult. But it’s not and they cook up very quickly. The toughest thing may be finding spare ribs. Are they sold by themselves in the meat sections of grocery stores? I don’t remember  seeing them at our local Cub Foods, not that I’ve looked for some years. We buy our pork in bulk from small farms in the area and there’s always a pack or two of spare ribs in there. Anyway, if you can find spare ribs, give this a go. Continue reading

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Bhaja Moshla


We are of late trying both to reduce the amount of meat we eat during the week and to cut down dramatically on our intake of triglyceride-heavy carbs. Yes, growing old really is a lot of fun. As a result our meals both involve a lot of vegetables and require us to make things that don’t call for rice or chapatis/parathas/tortillas to eat them with. I’ve been making a lot of stews with beans (with and without small amounts of meat) and I’ve also been searing fish and serving it alongside Indian veg dishes in a non-Indian manner (think a piece of fish on a plate with some vegetables alongside). And I’ve been making this cauliflower soup. It uses many of the same spices I’d deploy in a traditional sabzi with gobi. It makes for a very nice meal by itself or with a slice of whole wheat toast. As with my recipe for khatta alu, I garnish it with a pinch of home-made bhaja moshla. If you don’t have any you can sub your favourite garam masala instead. Or you could leave the last bit of masala out completely and just call it roasted cauliflower soup. The main thing is that it is easy and tasty (and perfect in the Minnesota winter). Continue reading

Rajma, Take 4


Yes, it’s true that all my rajma recipes are basically variations on each other. You’re welcome.

This is my fourth recipe for rajma, the Punjabi kidney bean dish that has become increasingly iconic in recent years in American foodie circles interested in Indian food (you can find the others here, here and here). This is a good thing. Rajma is a force for good, especially in cold climates. And it is a rather versatile dish, being very compatible with rice, with chapatis, with parathas etc. and also very amenable to being eaten by itself out of a bowl. I make it all the time here in Minnesota, varying—as is my annoying wont—the ratios of spices and other ingredients each time. And whenever I hit upon a version that I particularly like I share it with you. But do you thank me? No. Well, maybe you thank me, but do you send me money? No, you don’t, you shameless, ungrateful swine. Continue reading

Khatta Alu


Tok is Bengali for sour and also the name of a broad genre of dishes that feature sourness, often imparted via the use of tamarind. Alur tok, or “sour potatoes”, is one such dish in the genre. I am, however, calling this dish khatta alu, which is Hindi for “sour potatoes” because the ingredients owe more to the North Indian spice box—broadly speaking—than the Bengali one. There’s no panch phoron here, for example, only zeera or cumin seeds, and the other major spice is coriander seed. There is, however, a Bengali touch at the end: the sprinkling of bhaja moshla over the finished dish. Bhaja moshla is the name of a family of masalas made by dry roasting and then powdering a mix of spices (the word “bhaja” means fried but no oil is used in the roasting). There’s a fair bit of variation in the recipe from home to home but they all provide a burst of flavour to whatever dish they’re sprinkled over. I use my mother’s recipe but as it is proprietary I am not going to share it with you—some secrets even idiot food bloggers must keep. You can google recipes for yourself or you can just use whatever garam masala you have at hand. Continue reading

February’s Recipes: A Poll


Here is the poll to select the recipes for the coming month, to be posted, as always, on Thursdays. January’s poll saw the recipe for baingan masala with keema finally making the cut. Will this finally be the month of the recipe for masala-fried spare ribs which has been getting rejected for even longer? Let’s see. After a nearly all-vegetarian run in November and December, January saw only one vegetarian recipe make the cut. This month’s poll features three vegetarian recipes and three non-vegetarian recipes. It also features two recipes that may not seem particularly Indian and one that centrally involves a non-Indian ingredient. As always, you can vote for up to four candidates and the top four vote-getters will be posted (though not necessarily in order of rank). Continue reading