Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tasty Tourism Series-The Indian Subcontinent

Technically, India is a subcontinent, not a continent. However, its 'one-million-plus' square mile area and 'one-billion-plus' population make it a very rich and culturally-diverse part of the world. If you've ever been to an Indian restaurant, you probably have a pretty good idea about what kinds of (spicy!) flavors this region is home to. However, there's no need to go out when you can make some of the more popular dishes at home. This way, some of your 'less-adventurous' friends can try new things without having to spend a lot of money.

To start you off, here is a recipe for naan (pronounced 'nahn'), a popular Indian bread. It's traditionally prepared in a large clay oven called a tandoor or tandoori, but it can work in your oven as well.

Naan-makes 6 big pieces
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup warm water
¼ cup ghee (an oil-like butter)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons kalonji (onion seed)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Someone to picture in your head while kneading and pounding the dough

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F. Add the sugar and dry yeast to the warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Cover and put aside until the mixture starts to froth, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Now, mix the flour and salt and sift through a finely-woven sieve. Then, put it into a large bowl and add the yogurt, half of the ghee and the yeast mixture. Mix everything into a soft dough with your hands, lay on a flat, floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Then, grease a separate large bowl with a bit of cooking oil. Place the dough into the bowl and cover it for about 90 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Punch the dough down and knead again for 10 minutes. This is where that last item on the 'ingredients' list comes into play. Now, divide the dough and roll between your hands to make 8 balls. Using the same surface you used to knead the dough, roll each ball out until you have a circle that is about 7”-8” of diameter and 1/2” thick. You can also pat it into a circle with your hands if you don't want to use a rolling pin. Tug gently on one side of the circle to form the usual 'teardrop' shape.

Now, take an oven tray and line it with some aluminum foil greased lightly with oil. With the leftover ghee, brush each naan lightly and sprinkle a pinch of onion seeds over it. Without letting them touch each other, put as many as you can on the tray. Place the tray into the oven and cook until the naans turn light brown and start to puff out. Then, flip them over and repeat. When you take them from the oven, place them on a foil-lined plate or server and serve hot.

Naan goes excellently with, well, pretty much everything! I'm told the recipe for finadene found in this post adds a nice touch, particularly with chicken.

India is also home to some really great condiments. Here is a recipe for green chutney that will add a kick of color and flavor to your meal.

Green Chutney
1 clove garlic
1 hot green chile pepper, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
1 tablespoon peanuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

Basically, blend everything together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Some people also add a bit of water or mint.

If you look at any Indian restaurant's menu, you're going to find a lot of chicken recipes. There are a few seafood and vegetarian recipes too, along with some lamb. Sorry, you won't find any beef recipes-cows are considered sacred. There are, however, some custom-made recipes that allow you to substitute beef for lamb or chicken.

Here is a great one of said 'chicken recipes':

Bombay Chicken and Rice
6 ounces dried mixed fruit, diced
1 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups water
1 3-lb chicken, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon paprika
4 teaspoons curry powder

Preheat oven to 375 F. Then, take a 9”x13” baking pan and mix the rice, fruit, onion, salt and sugar. Pour in the water and arrange the chicken parts over the mixture. In a small bowl, mix paprika, butter and curry powder. Brush this mixture over the chicken pieces and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour, until rice is tender and chicken juices run clear.

For dessert:

Mixed Fruit Kebabs
2 apples cut into 1” cubes
3 large bananas, diced
2 cups pineapple, chunked
2 cups green grapes, seedless
1 cup fresh coconut, grated
1 cup sweetened condensed milk

Pour the milk onto a plate and chill for an hour in the refrigerator. On a separate plate, lay out the grated coconut. Then, skewer various pieces of the fruit onto wooden or bamboo skewers. Roll the finished kebab in the milk until coated, then roll in the coconut. Chill before serving.

And to cool things off-

Mango Lassi-serves 2
2 cups plain yogurt
2 mangoes-peeled, seeded, diced
½ cup white sugar
1 cup ice

Just put it all in a blender and mix until it's smooth. Some people substitute a bit of honey for the sugar.

As you can see, you don't have to go halfway around the world to get great Indian food! A lot of these things can be found in any grocery store, although some spices might take a bit of searching. However long it takes you to find and/or make these recipes is well worth it! Enjoy yourself!

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