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

Golden Beet Pickle


I usually post only one recipe a week but my backlog of recipes is getting a bit long and so I’ll be putting up the occasional bonus recipe post on the weekends for the next couple of months—not every weekend, mind, but 1-2 weekends a month. First up is this recipe for a simple achaar made with golden beets, the milder, sweeter cousin of the more familiar red, the one that is less likely to make you panic the morning after. It has its origins in a carrot-garlic pickle I posted the recipe for back in August. That recipe eventually morphed into one for a combination carrot-red beet achaar that I never got around to posting a recipe for. This is a simpler prep than both of those and may be even tastier. It comes together very quickly and goes well with almost anything. In addition to eating it with dal and rice since making it earlier in the week I’ve been drizzling the “syrup” over pan-seared fish as well. No matter how you eat it I think you’ll enjoy it. And, oh, this is not tested for ph etc. and I wouldn’t suggest that you keep it around forever. This recipe makes one jar that you should store in the fridge and finish within a month. Continue reading

Braised Lamb Belly, Curry Reduction


Back in December I started purchasing lamb and beef from a small farm in southern Minnesota. I’ve previously posted recipes for an oxtail curry made with one of the tails we got from them and also for two curries with lamb shanks (here and here). At my most recent pick-up from them—in a gas station parking lot off Highway 35—I also got a 2 lb pack of lamb bellies. I had not previously known that lamb bellies were a thing. Well, I knew lambs have bellies but I had not encountered this cut before. Still I couldn’t resist it when I knew they carried it. Looking it up when I finally got around to defrosting it to cook I learned that this is probably not a belly cut at all. What part of the lamb it is actually from I’m not sure. What I can tell you though is that it is very good in a braise, which is to say, it is very good given the curry treatment. The broad contours of the recipe are inspired by this one; the flavours etc. here are, of course, squarely North Indian in nature. It makes for a dramatic presentation—the kind of dish you might trot out for a dinner party—but we also enjoyed it for lunch on a weekday. It might seem like a complicated preparation but it actually comes together very easily (you can see most of the steps in the thread I posted on Twitter when I made it). Continue reading

Pork and Squash with Roasted Cumin


Many years ago the top Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles—which is to say in the San Gabriel Valley, which is to say in the US—was Chung King in Monterey Park. In the early 2000s we ate there almost as often as we now do at Grand Szechuan here in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, when we left Los Angeles for Boulder in 2003 there was a period when if one of us had to go back to L.A for a few days they were tasked with picking up an order of our favourite dishes the evening before their return, freezing it and bringing it back in their suitcase. We’re not as insane anymore—and, of course, Chung King’s heyday faded long ago, as they moved, lost their chef and closed; and as newer and, let’s face it, even better Sichuan restaurants opened in the SGV (your Chengdu Tastes and your Szechuan Impressions). Why am I going on about Chung King? Well, because on one occasion we saw a special come out of the kitchen and head to another table: it looked like a kabocha squash stuffed with meat. We managed to order one too and it did indeed turn out to be kabocha stuffed with highly spiced ground pork and cooked together. The only other thing I remember clearly is that it was dynamite and that we never had any luck finding it again. Continue reading

Sour Fish Curry with Coconut Milk and Kokum


I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that pompano is one of our very favourite fish in the US. Perhaps because it’s not a fish that lends itself to being sold in fillet form, it’s not available in mainstream grocery stores—not that I’ve seen anyway. But if you have Vietnamese or other stores catering to Southeast Asian customers in your area chances are good that you will find frozen or thawed pompano there. Frozen is, of course, better as that way you won’t need to cook it up right away—unless you live right by where pompano is brought to shore it’s coming to your store frozen so if you buy it thawed and bung it in your freezer when you get home you’ll be freezing and then thawing it a second time. So if it’s not frozen when you buy it I recommend cooking it up the same day or the next. And I highly recommend this recipe when you do. Don’t have pompano? Fillets of a mild white fish such as mahi mahi or even orange roughy will do. In a pinch, so will salmon. If you have access to pomfret that would work just as well in place of the pompano. Continue reading

Dum Alu with Sesame and Peanut


Is there a term in India now for home cooking that wanders over the map and isn’t strictly regional? Whatever that term might be, it would describe this recipe (and also most of my cooking these days). I’m calling this dum alu but it looks and tastes nothing like the Bengali alur dom or broadly North Indian dum alu I am most familiar with. It looks like it could be Kashmiri dum alu but really the flavours are borrowed from a range of South Indian preparations. Its most immediate relative or inspiration is probably the Hyderabadi baghare baingan. That’s where the sesame seeds and peanuts probably come from, but there’s no coconut here and also no onions or garlic. If there is indeed a regional version of dum alu or some other potato curry that is made like this, please let me know. It is almost impossible to come up with anything new in the Indian context, given the vastness of the country’s foodways. What I can tell you for sure is that this is a very tasty dish, one that works very well as a side or a main. Give it a go. Continue reading

Spice-Crusted Pork Roast


Here is a recipe for a spiced pork roast which raises the question of what exactly the difference—if any—is between Indian cooking and cooking with Indian ingredients. I mean to say that this is not any sort of traditional Indian pork roast recipe. (Though, for all I know, it ends up approximating one made by a pork eating community somewhere in the country.) The ingredients aren’t all Indian either: there’s Sichuan peppercorn in the masala and the vinegars I recommend for making the paste that’s rubbed on the roast are either balsamic of Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link). Nonetheless, this falls squarely within an Indian flavour profile for me and we eat it happily alongside dal and other Indian vegetable sides—and also pulled apart and placed atop chapatis a la tacos. I’m not sure what to call it generically but it’s good. I make it in the slow cooker which adds the extra virtue of making it even easier. Continue reading

Lamb Curry with Tomato


Two weeks ago I posted the recipe for the first of two lamb curries made at the same time with 4 lbs of lamb shanks. That first one used tamarind as the souring agent; this one uses tomatoes. Those are not the only differences, of course. The blend of spices is different and, on the whole, while the first is in a generic “South Indian” style this one is in a more North Indian style. These are, of course, generalities but the truth is neither is from a specific South Indian or North Indian regional tradition. Rather, the first is made using ingredients/flavours more common in various South Indian preps and the second using ingredients/flavours more common in various North Indian preps—both broadly speaking. Like a good Bengali I add potatoes to this one and I have to say that if you have good potatoes and time their cooking just right, they will be the star of the dish every time. Continue reading

Lamb Curry with Tamarind


Back in December I purchased a large number of lamb shanks from a small farm in southern Minnesota—the same place from which I’d got the excellent oxtail that went into this New Year’s Day curry. A few weeks ago I finally got around to cooking some of them. Not paying close attention, I thawed almost exactly 4 lbs worth of shanks. I then decided to divide them into two lots and make two different preparations of them—this so that we wouldn’t be eating one curry forever. Of course, what I hadn’t thought through is that because so much of the weight is in the bones, 4 lbs of lamb shanks is pretty close to 2 lbs of meat from the point of view of portions. Still, I’m glad I made the two curries as both came out rather well and it was nice to alternate them till both were gone. You could make either recipe just as easily with beer or with mutton/goat. Indeed, if you look closely you’ll see that this recipe is a close relative of an earlier one I’d posted for mutton curry with star anise and vinegar—there are some differences in spices and ratios but those differences do make, well, a real difference, as does the fact that the souring agent here is tamarind. If you do make it with lamb shanks I’d advise not bothering with hacking the shanks up yourself inexpertly with a cleaver as I did. You can always just pull the meat off the bones before serving if the shanks are too large. Continue reading