Un-Makhni Dal

The poll to select recipes for July closed on Tuesday. Here are the four recipes that will be posted on Thursdays this month, in descending order of votes received: Un-Makhni Dal; Baingan Masala; Lamb and Bean Stew; and Lamb Shank Curry with Peanuts and Potatoes. I’m particularly happy to see the two lamb dishes make the cut as they’ve been on the poll for a while. But I’m going to start the month with the top vote-getter: Un-Makhni Dal.

The first thing I will note is that this recipe is very similar indeed to a recipe for kali dal that I posted more than seven years ago. There is only one major ingredient that is added here; the rest differ only in proportions. That major ingredient is smoked ham and it keeps this from being a vegetarian or even a vegan recipe. But, as with my earlier recipe for Smoky White Bean Stew, you can fix that by substituting a smoked vegetarian/vegan ingredient of your choice: tempeh or tofu, most probably. I use whole, unpeeled kali urad dal but you could certainly make this quite successfully with Rancho Gordo’s Black Caviar Lentils, if you have any lying around. Those cook much faster and would obviate the need for a pressure cooker. Of course, if you have time and patience you could also slow cook the kali urad dal—which is something I did during the first year and a half of the pandemic, when time was not in short supply. No matter what route you take, you’re likely to end up somewhere tasty. 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

Hot and Sour Fish Curry

Here is a variation on a dish I make on the regular but which I have not gotten around to posting a recipe of yet. Why do I say “a variation on a dish I make on the regular”? Well, because that’s what home cooking is, or at least what it is to me. I rarely measure ingredients, add more or less (or none) of some things on different occasions, and generally improvize each dish each time I make it. In that sense the recipes I post on the blog are lies or at least not accurate representations of how I actually cook. Recipes suggest exactness but I’m not a very exact person. A recipe I think should be treated as a general roadmap: you don’t want to deviate so far from it that you end up somewhere completely different but you don’t need to have it dictate every stop along the way either.  At least you don’t want it to dictate one fixed route for every destination. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Peanut Butter

I made a somewhat involved chicken curry for a dinner party last week. Made in a Hyderabadi style it involved roasting and then making a paste of sesame and peanuts and various spices. It turned out very well and as we were eating I began to think of a simpler version I could make for more everyday cooking and which might be a little more kid-friendly. This recipe was the result of that thinking. It sits somewhere between that more complex Hyderabadi prep and a “white” chicken prep that one of my aunts is famous for (and which I’ve hybridized before). It involves very few ingredients and only whole spices. And if you have a good not-too chunky peanut butter at hand you’re well past the starting line. Give it a go. It’s very tasty and goes well with rice or parathas—or for that matter you could sop it up with dinner rolls.  Continue reading

Spicy Chicken Fry

South Indian food continues to be identified in the US—and to be fair, in North India as well—with vegetarian food of the idli-dosa-sambhar variety. The notion that South India is largely vegetarian is a hard one to shake—it showed up last year in a New York Times feature on Kerala as well (it’s hard to understand how anyone could spend a lot of time in Kerala and believe that it is a “a land where vegetarianism is the predominant eating style”). In fact, the southern states are far more non-vegetarian than most of the rest of India—if you want to meet a lot of vegetarians, it’s actually to the north that you have to go. Whether it’s in Kerala or Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, fish and meat are everywhere. And these dishes are often pretty spicy indeed. In fact, the cuisine of Andhra Pradesh is up there with some of the hottest cuisines in the world. One of the Andhra dishes that I particularly like to seek out when I am in India is the chicken fry or kodi vepudu. In its flavours and textures it is very unlike most North Indian chicken dishes. The recipe I have today is an attempt to approximate the flavours of some of the versions I’ve eaten, in restaurants and friends’ homes in India. It is not canonical, but the results are quite tasty. Give it a go.  Continue reading

Keema Chops

Chops mean something very different in India than they do in the West (and when I say India I mostly mean Bengal). They do not refer to a particular cut of meat; in fact, they don’t refer to any cut of meat at all. Chops can have meat in them, they can have fish in in them, and they often have vegetables in them. By “chop” you see we mean what people elsewhere refer to as croquettes. How it is that we came to call them chops I don’t know, and I have no idea why other people didn’t start calling them chops either. Indian English is generally better when it comes to food names: brinjal is a much better word than eggplant or aubergine; and you would have to be mad to think that okra is a better name for that vegetable than lady’s finger (oh the confusion when Indians first see ladyfinger on menus in the West). Anyway, just so you know, a chop is made by taking mashed potato, stuffing it with a savoury filling, breading it and deep-frying it. You can eat them as snacks or as accompaniments with dal and rice. Continue reading

Pork Pickle

Pork Pickle
I’d said that I wasn’t sure if I’d have any recipes this month either (I last posted one in mid-August) on account of the backlog of restaurant write-ups I need to put up. But then earlier this week I improvised this pork pickle and it came out so well that I couldn’t resist throwing a quick recipe up. It is extremely easy (though not extremely healthy) and if the notion of pork pickle seems odd—we’re not talking Western-style pickled meats here, but an Indian-style pickle/achaar with pork in place of a vegetable—just think of it as confit of pork shoulder with Indian spices. It’s very rich and a little goes a long way. But you can eat it with rice and dal, with chapatis or parathas, and you can even make sandwiches with it. It’s delicious and versatile and, as I already said, it’s very easy to make. The toughest part is to resist eating it on the first or second day as it “matures”.  Continue reading

Pork Stew with Tomatoes and Tomatillos

Braised Pork with Tomato and Tomatillo
Well, there’s hot peppers in there too but it’s a long enough name for the dish as it is. I grow a lot of tomatoes and peppers every year and at the end of the growing season they take over the kitchen as I try to process them all. I make and freeze tomato sauces for pasta, oven-roasted tomatoes, cubes of charred and pureed hot peppers to drop into stews and soup and I also make a few trays worth of catch-all purees from the leftovers: I take a lot of tomatillos, tomatoes and hot peppers, char them quickly under the broiler, scrape off overly charred bits and then, once cool, puree them in the blender. I freeze each batch of puree and at some point later in the winter or early spring I braise chicken or pork in the puree. Each batch is different as I don’t really weigh or keep track of how many tomatoes or tomatillos I’m cramming onto each tray or how many habaneros are in each batch. Use the picture below as a guide. Also, you obviously don’t need to freeze this. You can make the puree and use it right away. Continue reading

Redder Pork

Redder Pork
The name of this dish refers to one of my earlier recipes: Red Pork. That one is very good too, but this, which is far simpler, may be even better. The end result is very close to a classic Goan vindaloo—hot yes, but also tangy/sour and sweet. There’s not a whole lot to it: very few ingredients (none esoteric), very little prep and it all but cooks itself. And as a bonus, on account of the large amount of vinegar in it, it will get better each day it sits in your fridge. Is there a reason you should not make this? No, there is not.

Don’t complicate matters by using shoulder: it will be a pain to cube. Do what I do: use so-called country-style ribs and cut cubes from the strips. Look for packages with strips with good veins of fat. You want the fat as this verges on confit, cooking in its own juices and fat.   Continue reading

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash
I’m a little fuzzy on where the line between soup and stew is or on what basis it is drawn. I do know that it’s hard to go wrong cooking pork and beans together. Here they are joined by sweet cubes of butternut squash and only a few other ingredients to create a hearty and heartwarming bowl that’s perfect for cold Minnesota winters or pretty much any other day of the year, anywhere. In terms of flavours I would say that it’s Mexican-inspired and I’d hazard that if you were served this in a contemporary Mexican restaurant you wouldn’t think it was out of place.

As with all my bean cooking, this employs my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I made this with Alubia Blanca, a small white bean from his Xoxoc Project, a very worthy endeavour. I think the white beans give the dish a nice range of colours but you can make it with any other bean with similar texture: for example, Yellow Indian WomanContinue reading

Death by Pork (Thanksgiving 2015)

Braised Pork Belly
I am cooking for 21 for our Thanksgiving gathering on Thursday. Our friends are all bringing appetizers, side dishes and desserts but the main meal is on me. You’d think making six dishes for that many people would be enough hassle but when I found myself in the meat section at Costco staring at a 6 lb pack of sliced pork bellies, I couldn’t help myself. I had this vision of a vast amount of diced pork belly in a spicy-sweet-tangy sauce under a liter or so of rendered pork fat; and the responsible thing to do was to eat it along with 20 other people so none of us would die. That’s the kind of person I am: responsible.

I am, as I’ve said before, doing an Indianized Thanksgiving this year and so this will fit fine with the rest of the meal. Now pork may or may not be traditional at Thanksgiving but, believe me, no one is going to complain about having a more interesting meat than turkey on the table (even though I am giving the turkey a Kerala-style treatment, turkey is still turkey).  Continue reading

Mutton Korma

Mutton Korma
I often rail about the nut paste-laden, heavy dishes that have come to define Indian food for those who know it largely/only from Indian restaurants in the West; and so I am happy to present a recipe of my own that relies heavily on nut paste. Well, it’s not my recipe, really; it’s another recipe from the aunt I keep talking about, she who is one of the great cooks of the extended family (though perhaps in second place overall in my unofficial rankings). This is a recipe for mutton korma (mutton=goat for Indians) but there’s no reason you can’t make it with lamb or beef if that’s easier for you; or any reason why you couldn’t try to adapt it for chicken as well.

Before I get to the recipe (which, as you will see, is a bit of a cheat), a quick, unreliable note about “korma”. Continue reading

Mutton Curry

Mutton Curry
In English English mutton is sheep meat (i.e. grown up lamb). In Indian English, however, mutton is goat (ideally kid). How this linguistic divergence came to be, I have no idea, but I am going to speculate that it may have something to do with the kitchens and tables of benighted English colonial types in India during the Raj. If you can either confirm or deny with confidence, please write in below. Anyway, mutton is one of the staple meats of India, though not eaten quite as widely as chicken, which is cheaper (if you’re interested in how meat eating in India is distributed by region and type, see here). And across the country there are many iconic preparations of it—and not just in biryani form (mutton is the meat par excellence for biryani, though you wouldn’t know this from Indian restaurants abroad).

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Red Pork

Red Pork
I made this recently for a dinner party. I’m tempted to call it a vindaloo but then my Parsi and Goan friends might get angry. It’s generally in the vindaloo family in that it involves pork, vinegar and garlic but it is not a vindaloo: this is me messing around with a pork shoulder with general taste memories of proper vindaloo in mind. Proper vindaloo, in case you’re wondering, is made with pork. It is not made with lamb or beef or chicken as Indian restaurants in the US, afflicted by the curse of complete substitutability, may have led you to believe. Sweet, fatty pork is the meat for vindaloo—the only acceptable subsitute is duck. And the other necessary ingredients of a proper vindaloo, as indicated by the name, and as many North Indians also do not know, are vinegar and garlic. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that a vindaloo is made with vinegar and potato (alu/aloo in most North Indian languages) I’d be able to buy some Yamazaki 18 at the current price.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m going on about vindaloo as this is not one—I believe I may have already noted this. What it is though is tangy, sweet and just a bit spicy and if your tastebuds and soul are not dead you will like it. It’s best made a day ahead.

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Dry-Fried Smoked Pork with Asparagus

Dry Fried Pork with Asparagus
We could say this is to mark the end of asparagus season. Or we could say that I noticed that there was some asparagus in the fridge that was nearing the end of its life and could still be salvaged by snapping the top halves off. As there wasn’t enough of it for a dish in its own right, I decided to add the asparagus to the pork stir-fry I’d been planning for lunch. And I roughly adapted the recipe for dry-fried chicken in Fuchsia Dunlop’s excellent Sichuan cookbook, Land of Plenty. I’ve made this before with strips of pork and a range of vegetables—her recipe calls for chicken and celery but she notes that it can be made with all kinds of vegetables. The pork I was using was something called “smoked ham steak”—one of the cuts we got when we purchased a whole pig from a local butcher in February. I wasn’t really sure what this was going to be but it turned out to be smoked ham on the bone cut into two thick slices. As it was already ready to eat this made the dish an even quicker prep and the smoke added a nice touch.

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Meen Mapas (Kerala-style Fish Curry)

Meen Mapas
Malayali food is one of my very favourite cuisines and is one of the things I miss most about living in India. I don’t mean to suggest that I grew up eating Malayali food (Kerala is the state, the people, culture and food are Malayali; the language is Malayalam). Indeed, given how intensely regional Indian cultural identity is, and also how relatively recently it is that restaurants specializing in something other than the local cuisine, “Mughlai” cuisine and Indian-Chinese cuisine have begun to pop up in the major Indian metros, I didn’t really have too much of an opportunity to eat it. In fact, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I was really introduced to Malayali food. This happened at Malabar, a restaurant in Hauz Khas in Delhi that I would eat at often with friends from work. I left for the US shortly thereafter and on visits home seeking out Malayali food was a major highlight (though then it was to the Coconut Grove in the Ashok Yatri Niwas hotel that we’d go—see here for a brief account of a scandalous crime that resulted in the shutting down of the Ashok Yatri Niwas). These days there are lots of places to eat Malayali and other non-idli-dosa-sambhar South Indian foods in Delhi, but in the early ’90s there really weren’t and so there’s doubtless some element of exoticism in my attachment to Malayali food.

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Spiced Meat Tart

Spiced Meat Tart
I’m not much of a baker and I’m also usually not much for things like celebrating “Pi Day” with pie. However, when we were invited to a “Pi/Pie Day” potluck this weekend there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to eat some of the pies and tarts from a bunch of complete ringers among the other guests, a couple of them professionals in all but name. Of course, this meant I had to bake a pie too.

Despite my new-found proficiency with rolling chapatis and parathas, pie dough freaks me out completely and so this led to much paralysis as I canvassed everyone I could think of for ideas for idiot-proof dough (the filling I was not worried about). Finally, I settled on using the galette dough from the excellent Baking with Julia book (the recipe is by Flo Braker and is available here). I’ve made galettes using that dough (galettes don’t require precision rolling) and so figured I would be able to handle it. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly as I”d hoped on the dough/crust front (for details on which see the captions in the slideshow below). However, the filling came together very nicely: I improvised a spiced meat filling using ground beef from the portion of the cow we bought last month, Indian spices, raisins and dried cherries. Continue reading

Pork and Beans, Indian Style

Pork and Beans
Here’s a bonus recipe that is probably also the easiest recipe I will ever post. This is because it assumes that you have already made this pork. All you then have to do is cook some beans and at the very end add 3-4 ladles of the pork to the bean pot and simmer it all together till the beans are done. What you are basically doing here is adding the spiced pork as a “tadka” to the almost-cooked beans. As always, I use heirloom beans from my friend Steve’s company, Rancho Gordo but, obviously, any good beans will do—and you want to be cooking good beans because you want good pot liquor to add the dry pork to. And frankly there are no beans in the US better than Rancho Gordo beans.

In this recipe I used Rancho Gordo’s monstrously large Royal Corona beans—when fully cooked each bean is almost as large as a tablespoon—but this will work just as well with any beans that are good for pork and beans (such as Rancho Gordo’s Red Nightfall or Sangre de Toro). That said, I prefer a milder bean like the Royal Corona because its pot liquor/broth allows the flavour of the spiced pork to come through clearly (their Cassoulet or Alubia Criollos would be great too). But see what works for you. Continue reading