As I mentioned in my last post, we were just out of town and are about to go out of town again. These can be very frustrating days, cooking-wise, because I am not home long enough to want to go to the grocery store, and because we eat leftovers I am frequently off a day. For example, I needed dinner for 3 nights this time around, but most of our meals last 2 nights. My solution, especially given that I was trying to make this meal almost completely out of the pantry, was to do another multi-dish Indian meal and make huge quantities, hoping it would last 3 nights (the recipes I have provided are scaled down from what I made). I think Indian food is very pantry-friendly, although the truth is I did have to run out for a few items.
I have to pause here and give credit to my favorite food blog, Tigers and Strawberries. 2 of the following recipes were adapted from Barbara’s site; if you like Asian food there is simply no better site on the web for not just recipes but more importantly learning about Asian cuisine—possibly because she approaches it as an outsider who learned to make it like an insider. Especially Chinese and Indian. I have to especially give her thanks for introducing me to panch phoron*, one of my current favorite spice blends. It is used in Bengal, in India, and it elevates potatoes to new heights.
One note on the picture and the potato recipe: the recipe I am sharing with you is my absolute favorite way to use phanch poron. In the picture you will see blue potatoes and cauliflower—a change I made for health reasons, but honestly I like it better without the cauliflower. Feel free to also use cauliflower though if you want.
*Panch phoron is a Bengali spice mixture comprised of equal amounts of whole fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek (methi) seeds and nigella seeds (kalonji). The mixture is not ground before using in this recipe, although it is in others. I always keep my panch phoron whole so it stays fresher and grind it right before using it if need be.
Carrot Raisin Chutney
I got the idea for this chutney from several different Indian rice and carrot pilaf dishes I have seen. I originally thought to make it a chutney because that way if the kids did not care for it, they could eat plain basmati rice instead. However, the chutney actually turned out to be the favorite dish in the meal. The sweetness of the carrots and raisins really gave pizzazz to the whole meal.
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
½ cup raisins
½ t cumin seeds
¼ t turmeric
¼ t garam masala
6-8 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 T brown sugar
salt to taste
1 T vegetable oil
1 T ghee
1 T fresh lemon juice
Heat the ghee and oil on medium high heat in a medium large skillet. Add the cumin seeds and toast briefly in the oil, maybe 1 minute. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric, ginger and garlic and further caramelize the onions, basically as long as you are willing to sit and stir. The more color in the onions, the more flavor. Add the shredded carrots, raisins and brown sugar and sauté together for at least 5 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into the dish and salt to taste and serve with rice dishes.
Baby potatoes with Panch Phoron
Adapted from Tigers and Strawberries
2 pounds baby potatoes (any color—fingerlings work well also), scrubbed well
4 tablespoons ghee (you could split this into half oil for health reasons if you want)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
¼ t salt
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 T minced fresh garlic
2 T panch phoron
salt to taste
Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer until fork-tender. Drain, and allow to cool until you can easily handle them. Then, cut them into ½ inch crosswise slices.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the ghee up in a heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan on medium high heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are a deep reddish brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and panch phoron, and lower the heat slightly. Keep cooking for another couple of minutes–just until the garlic and ginger take on color and the spices are quite hot.
Add the potatoes to the pan, and cook, stirring, for about four or five minutes, until they are well coated with the aromatics and spices, and are just beginning to brown in spots.
Add salt to taste and serve.
Baked Curried Chicken
Adapted from Tigers and Strawberries
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into halves
3 T canola oil
1 ½ t cumin seeds
1 ½ t coriander seeds
¾ t fenugreek seeds
¾ t black peppercorns
1 ½ inch stick cinnamon
9 green cardamom pods
9 whole cloves
1 dried small red chile pepper, optional (I did not use)
3 T unsweetened flaked coconut (dried is fine)
2 thinly sliced medium onions
2 inch piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
8 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes or two cups canned tomatoes, juice drained
5 heaping tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt
salt to taste
Make deep cuts in the top surface of the chicken breast halves, without cutting all the way through. Set the chicken breasts in a heavy-bottomed casserole with a tight-fitting lid.
Put all of the whole spices into a spice grinder and grind them (including the dried chile pepper if using).
Heat oil in heavy bottomed frying pan on medium heat. Add onions, stirring constantly until they turn golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the onions are a deep reddish brown, the garlic is golden and everything is quite fragrant. Add the ground spices and the coconut and toast, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes—be sure to not let the spices burn; turn the heat down if need be. If your spices stick to the pan, pour 1-3 tablespoons of water into the pan. This will help deglaze the pan (and the water will quickly cook off). Remove the onion mixture from the pan and place in a blender. Add the tomatoes to the blender and puree. Puree in the yogurt as well. Salt to taste.
Pour the onion/tomato mixture over the chicken pieces, and put a piece of foil over the top of the casserole before fitting the lid tightly over it. Marinate the chicken for one hour.
While chicken is marinating, preheat the oven at 350 F. After an hour, put the tightly covered casserole into the oven, and bake for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours (check to see if chicken is done at the 1 ¼ hours mark). Serve with basmati rice and carrot and raisin chutney.