Chicken Curry with Tomato


This is not a finesse recipe. But the results are very tasty indeed. A variation on my usual “red curry” chicken that is a favourite of my children, this came about last month as part of a desperate attempt to use up the endless flood of tomatoes from my garden. It uses two pounds of tomatoes for one chicken. And the chicken cooks only in its own juices and the tomatoes as they cook down. That’s a lot of tomato flavour and so it is necessary to deploy a lot of masala to counter and balance it. I start by browning the onions to an almost dark brown, adding a healthy dose of fresh ginger-garlic paste and then a lightly toasted and powdered masala featuring cumin, coriander and pepper. A bit of jaggery and a few slit green chillies and the result is happiness, especially when eaten with rice. As you’ll see, the recipe also calls for a large chicken. We get our birds from a local small farm and the smallest from the last batch was the 6 lb’er I used to make this iteration of this curry. If the chickens you get are smaller you could either double ’em up or supplement one with a few drumsticks and thighs. I leave this decision to you. Continue reading

Stir-Fried Gobi with Ajwain


There is no dearth of gobi recipes on this blog. I’ve posted a recipe for shrimp curry with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for rajma with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for cauliflower-corn soup. I’ve posted four separate takes on alu-gobi (here, here, here and here). I’ve even posted a recipe for oven-roasted spicy cauliflower. But variety, as they say, is the masala of life and so here is yet another gobi recipe. I swear it’s not my “Alu-Gobi with Ajwain” with just the potatoes left out.

This is a very simple stir-fry on the face of it: it features very few ingredients and other than breaking/cutting the cauliflower into very small florets there’s nothing to the prep work. But looks can be deceiving. You have to handle the heat carefully at the outset because if you burn the spices or chillies there’s nothing else coming later to hide the evidence. The primary flavour here is that of ajwain (you might have to go to a desi store for this) but you only need a pinch. A little bit of ajwain goes a long way so resist the temptation to add more. Continue reading

Lobia Masala


You may have seen—or missed—my post last week about the booklet of bean recipes I recently wrote for Rancho Gordo.  This recipe is not in the booklet—which you can download directly here if you’re so interested (don’t worry, it’s free). It features Rancho Gordo’s black-eyed peas or as they’re known in North India, lobia. Lobia is eaten elsewhere in India as well—in Maharashtra, for example, where it is known as chawli—but growing up I only knew it as a Punjabi ingredient/dish. Unlike rajma it wasn’t made in our house but I always looked forward to eating it in the homes of Punjabi friends. This recipe is not a traditional Punjabi recipe per se, though it does broadly resemble Punjabi preparations. I tend to cook lobia in much the same way in which I prepare rajma, with a robust blend of spices that complements its more vegetal character. Which is to say if you don’t have black-eyed peas handy this recipe, which is how I most recently cooked it, will work well with many other beans as well. Give it a go. Continue reading

Podi Potta Kathirikai


I said while setting up the poll to select this month’s recipes that this was currently my favourite way of cooking and eating eggplant. This is still true. It hurt me to say it then and hurts me more to repeat it now. This because the recipe comes to me from a Tamil nationalist who persecutes me on a near-daily basis: Aparna Balachandran (who you may remember from this piece last year on reading Agatha Christie during lockdown in Delhi). In August I had a brief flood of long green eggplant from my garden (I really recommend planting the Thai Long Green varietal if you can find it) and she suggested I make some of it this way. Normally, I would have discounted this as “make it in a Tamil style” is her answer to everything (her other favourite occupation is claiming that anything that is good about other South Indian cuisines is basically due to Tamil derivation); but I had a lot of eggplant and I needed new ways to cook it. And wouldn’t you know it, this is in fact a great recipe. Continue reading

Baingan Bharta


God, I hated the sight of baingan bharta as a kid! I had, as I’ve said before, a huge aversion to eggplant that continued into adulthood and indeed only ended a few years ago. And no preparation of the vegetable was more repulsive to me than this dish: the mashed baingan, replete with seeds, looking like the insides of some disgusting squashed creature.

Well, now that I’ve got your appetite stimulated, here’s the general way in which I’ve been making the dish since I suddenly started eating eggplant. You have to understand, as I always say about dishes from the vast Indian home cooking repertoire, that baingan bharta is a genre more than a specific dish. It involves mashed eggplant, ideally first charred, and then cooked with onions and spices. In its simplest form it can be nothing more than roasted eggplant mashed with chopped onion and chillies and salt. More involved iterations bring in different combinations of spices. It’s very common to add tomatoes as well. But in most versions the goal is to let the smoky flavour of the charred and peeled eggplant remain the star of the show. This is the case in this recipe as well. I use a mix of black peppercorn and fresh green chillies for heat and balsamic vinegar rather than tomatoes as the souring agent. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Lamb Shanks Curry with Eggplant


All the recipes this month will feature eggplant. This is because this summer I have had a LOT of eggplant to cook up. I grew eggplant seriously for the first time this year—last year I planted a few seedlings a friend gave me more than a month after the season had started—and was surprised and then overwhelmed by how early and prolific most of the plants were. I planted eight different varietals and 15 plants total. The first to come in were a long black Japanese variety, the Pot Black (a small varietal perfect for stuffing) and a lot of lovely little Fairy Tales. In August the larger varietals (Galine and Nadia) began to go off. I started giving a lot of it away to friends but could still barely keep up. The solution? Figure out new things to put eggplant into. One of them was this curry made with lamb shanks from a small farm in southern Minnesota from which I get lamb shanks, oxtails and other things every few months (in fact, there’s a big delivery today). I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but the results were really very good indeed. The lamb shanks are cooked long and low and the eggplant just melts into the gravy giving it depth of both texture and flavour. I recommend it highly, even if you’re not struggling to keep up with your garden bounty. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Pepper, Star Anise and Vinegar


Here at the My Annoying Opinions haveli we eat a lot of chicken curry. To broaden the kids’ horizons past their favourite “red curry chicken“, and to keep things interesting for the missus and myself as well, I am constantly tinkering with spice blends and souring agents. I improvised this version in early July and as the missus deemed it worthy of addition to the rotation, I wrote down what I did. Accordingly, I am able to present it to you as well to try.

I use Kashmiri chillies here for colour, black peppercorns for the heat and Sichuan peppercorn to accentuate the black peppercorn’s bite. Star anise adds a nice brightness as well around the edges. In place of tomatoes or tamarind I use Chinkiang black vinegar as the souring agent (if you don’t have any you can use balsamic or sherry vinegar). Give it a go: you might like it a lot as well. Continue reading

Bharli Vangi a la Pradnya


About two and a half months ago I posted a recipe for the classic Marathi dish, bharli vangi. That recipe came to me from my good friend Anjali, who in turn had got it from a neighbour many years prior. As I noted in that post, bharli vangi—like so many dishes in the vast regional repertoires of India—is not a dish so much as a genre, changing subtly from region to region, from community to community and from home to home. Anjali’s version departs from some more familiar versions—depending on your point of view—in that it does not feature coconut at all; instead deploying a mix of roasted sesame seeds and peanuts. The recipe I have for you today comes to me from another Maharashtrian friend, Pradnya (who comments on the blog from time to time and who sent me the goda masala I used to make the other version). This one does include coconut—and there are some other differences too. Pradnya originally posted it many years ago on the food forum of Another Subcontinent, a long dormant website whose food forum was once one of the important nodes on the early Indian foodie web. With her permission, I am posting it again on my blog. The formatting and language are mostly mine and some of the ingredients and steps are lightly adapted as well from her original instructions. My version ends up more sour than hers (she says her mother would approve). Continue reading

Braised Pork with Coconut Milk


We split a whole pig or two with friends every year. This is one of the perks of living in the semi-rural midwest. There are a large number of small farms all over Minnesota, many/most of which raise animals in a “humane” manner without the use of hormones and antibiotics and so on. You make contact with a farmer—or you can approach a meat locker/butcher that processes animals for small farmers and see if they know of any coming in—and when the time comes you get to specify your own cuts and sizes. It works out well for everyone involved. You get to support small farmers who raise their animals well and respect the land; and you get a lot of good meat at very good prices for the quality. This, at least, has been our experience. Of course it helps that we have a very massive freezer in the basement. Our cuts from the last pig we split included a couple of fresh ham roasts (basically hams that have not been cured or smoked). These can be cooked up just as you would a loin or shoulder roast and that is what I did here in an improvized recipe that is very loosely inspired by some combinations in Malayali cooking. It makes for an elegant dish with complex flavour that can be enjoyed equally with steamed rice or mopped up with some nice bread. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Ground Peanuts


This recipe is basically the byproduct of having made my friends Anjali and Pradnya’s recipes for bharli vangi a number of times this summer. It also owes something to the baghare baingan recipe from the The Essential Andhra Cookbook that I’d posted late last year. I really enjoy the mix of sweet, sour and spicy in all those dishes and the richness that comes from the use of peanuts and/or sesame seeds. In this recipe I use both peanuts and sesame seeds (though no coconut) and instead of tamarind I use sweet black vinegar. The heat comes mostly from black pepper—the byadgi chilies are used mostly for colour and for a light smoky flavour. If you don’t have byadgi chillies you could substitute Kashmiri or even ancho chiles. If the latter strikes you as too fusiony a choice keep in mind that this recipe—in addition to Chinkiang vinegar—also uses Sichuan peppercorn. I never have its southwestern Indian cousin tirphal on hand and it’s a more than plausible substitute. But it’s best not to think too much about these things and just roll with it. The results, I can promise you, are delicious. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi with Ajwain


This is my fourth recipe for alu-gobi. As I’ve said before, alu-gobi is a category rather than a specific dish. My previous versions have included recipes for a rich version with a lot of gravy, a dry version with a lot of spices, and a lightly-spiced version with no tomatoes. In this version there is some tomato and a light hand with spices. The crucial variation here is the presence of ajwain among the spices. (You can find ajwain easily at your nearest South Asian store or your online retailer of choice.) More commonly used in dough—for samosas, pooris, parathas etc.—ajwain can also be used to flavour vegetable dishes. A little goes a long way as it is rather assertive, its herbal aroma and flavour a bit like a lovechild of cumin and aniseed. Here a couple of pinches are deployed early in the process and its flavour and aroma build and suffuse the dish as it cooks without completely dominating it. The dish comes together very easily and served with rice or chapatis/parathas/pooris with dal and a pickle is the very epitome of comfort food. Continue reading

Peach Panna


I was at the municipal pool with the boys last afternoon armed with a novel (my friend Ben Percy’s The Ninth Metalavailable from Content Books and everywhere else) and a large container of aam panna. As anyone who has had it knows, aam panna is one of the best things about life and especially about life in the summer. If you haven’t had it and don’t know what it is, aam panna is a tart-sweet drink made with boiled unripe mangos whose flesh is pulped and mixed with sugar, rock salt and a few ground spices to form a thick concentrate. A few tablespoons of this concentrate per 8 oz glass of water + ice = refreshing bliss. Between sips of my supersized serving of refreshing bliss, sprawled very elegantly on an unclean and uncomfortable plastic deckchair, I wondered idly on Twitter if some Indian-American food influencer or the other had yet presented a recipe for an “elevated” aam panna or made it with peaches in place of the mangos  (re elevated aam panna see Commandment 2). Naturally, this led in less than 24 hours to my making peach panna. And it was good. Here now before I forget what I did is the recipe. You are welcome. Continue reading

Brown Rice Khichdi with Three Dals


Khichdi has become such an emblematic dish in Indian food discourse in the US that  I feel a little embarrassed to say that I never liked it as a kid or for that matter in my twenties. My mother made it with moong dal and I didn’t like moong dal as a kid. She invariably put cauliflower in it and even though I could and did eat around it, I did not care for the aroma or flavour of cauliflower. But in my late-middle age I have overcome many of my early life food aversions—see, for example, my sudden and sustained love affair with bainga/brinjal/eggplant—and these days I make and enjoy khichdi as well. And of late I’ve been making it mostly with brown rice, which I am also these days eating more often than I am eating white rice. And I’ve been making it with all kinds of dal variations. The very rough recipe I have for you today uses a combination of three dals and is probably my current favourite. If you don’t have all three dals feel free to just use one; and if you’re using just one the adult me would repudiate young me and tell you to make that moong dal. Continue reading

Mutton Curry with Yogurt


Here is yet another entry from the Indian home cooking repertoire that is really an approach and not a set recipe. This is one of my favourite ways of making mutton (which for Indians refers to goat). It is on the surface a not particularly sophisticated recipe—you marinade the meat in yogurt with a bunch of spices and cook it all up together with sauteed onions, ginger and garlic—but the result is invariably excellent. You can vary the ratio of spices as you like and it will probably turn out well. Despite the red in the photo there is no tomato in this. The red comes entirely from the mild Byadgi or even milder Kashmiri chilli {affiliate links] and yogurt is the souring agent. I make it in my stone-age whistling Indian pressure cooker. And I make sure there are a lot of marrow bones/shanks in my mutton—the easiest way to ensure this is to buy a leg of kid ad have it cut up such that the shanks are at least three inches long. In an old-school pressure cooker all the flavour will be extracted from the bones. Or you can just cook it slow on the stove-top. My assumption is that most of my readers don’t have old-school pressure cookers and so the recipe that follows is adapted for the stove-top; but be warned that this is an estimation—I only ever make it in the pressure cooker (see the notes for old-school pressure cooker instructions). No matter how you make it, it will be good. Continue reading

Bharli Vangi (a la Anjali)


About six months ago I posted a recipe for the iconic Hyderabadi dish, baghare baingan. That dish features small baingans/brinjals/eggplants that are slit cross-wise and “stuffed” with a thick paste and then braised. The Hyderabadi classic is in fact part of a larger family of similar stuffed bainan dishes that can be found all over the south and southwest of India. The recipe I have for you today for bharli vangi—or filled/stuffed baingan—is Marathi in origin and bears a number of similarities to its Hyderabadi cousin, though there are some key differences. One of these key differences is the use of the classic Marathi spice mix, goda masala. If you live in an area with a well-stocked Indian store you should be able to find it there; otherwise, look to Amazon [affiliate link]. I should also note that while this is a Marathi recipe there is by no means only one way of making bharli vangi in Maharashtra and its border zones. Ingredients and steps can vary in important ways between communities and,) of course, from home to home. Continue reading

Chicken Curry Noodle


One of the missus and my absolute favourite dishes is the Malay/Singaporean classic, Nyonya laksa. Truth be told, we love the entire genre of curry noodle soups that arc up from southeast Asia through Hong Kong and China to Japan; but it’s Nyonya/curry laksa, with the richness of coconut milk that is our favourite. This recipe here is my homage to curry laksa, which is not to say that it seeks to replicate it or in any way improve upon it. It merely adapts the form to use a vaguely Kerala-style chicken curry as the base for a bowl of nourishing noodle soup. That is to say, at one (not insignificant) level this is merely a rich chicken curry served as a soup with noodles rather than over rice or with appams. Okay, that’s really the only level but it really comes out very well. I first made it for a dinner party in the Before Times—it was improvised then but was so popular among the guests that I kept tinkering with it till I had a version I didn’t feel like tinkering with any more. I do encourage you, however, to tinker with it further. You can change the spices, add less tomato if you like etc. etc. But maybe try it this way first to set a baseline to iterate on. If you enjoy noodle soups I can all but guarantee you will like it. Continue reading

Alu Sabzi


This is the kind of dish you will never find served at a fancy Indian restaurant or for that matter at a dinner party in an Indian home. It also gives the lie to the kind of overheated food writing you sometimes see in the US in which an Indian/Indian-origin chef or writer tells you that every single component of every Indian dish, every spice is intentionally selected to create a very particular set of layered flavours. That kind of thing has its time and place but this here is a recipe whose most crucial component may be a blender. It is quick and easy and it is very tasty. I’m sorry if that disappoints but this is—more often than not—the kind of quick and easy cooking that happens in a lot of Indian homes on a daily basis. It comes together in a hurry and all but cooks itself. Which is not to say that it’s not tasty because it is. And you can adapt it in all kinds of ways to make it your own. Think of it as an approach not a strict recipe. Who knows, you might even like it enough to serve it at a dinner party. Continue reading

Green Masala Fish


The story of this dish is as good an allegory as any of how recipes travel and mutate over time and space. It was one of my sister and my absolute favourite dishes made by our mother when we were children. It was not made very often but was always looked forward to as a treat. This was only partly because she made it with white pomfret which we loved—both for its sweet taste and for the fact that it wasn’t as fiddly as the usual riverine Bengali fish. I think we knew it was not a Bengali dish—our mother was the only one in the extended family who made it—but we weren’t really very interested in food provenance in those days. Many years later when I was in grad school in Los Angeles and finally a confident cook I asked my mother to send me the recipe. I too began to make it on special occasions. By now I had learned of the Parsi dish patra ni machhi and assumed this was basically the same dish except instead of steamed in banana leaves it was braised on the stove-top. But a few months ago I randomly described the dish to the Parsi food writer Meher Mirza and she—after consultation with her mother—declared it too different from the iconic patra ni macchi for her to use the same name for it. And so finally after more than 50 years on this planet—more than 40 of those eating this dish—I got around to asking my mother what was up with it. Continue reading