Saturday, August 2, 2008

Indian food

I used to be really intimidated by recipes for Indian food. They always had a mile long list of ingredients. Last year I took an Indian cooking class through the local university. Everyone in the class was intimidated by the instructor. "You didn't practice making all the recipes this week!" she would bark at people. "What could be more important than that?" The teacher didn't intimidate me though, and by the time the classes were over, Indian recipes didn't either. If you prep all your ingredients ahead of time and measure out your spices, all that's left is combining everything in the right order.

Going clockwise from the left, that's raita, pulau, rajma, tandoori tofu, and saag. And in English, that's spiced yogurt; rice with vegetables, fruit, and nuts; red beans; tofu baked with a spicy rub; and spinach.

Pulau, sometimes called pilaf, is really flexible. You have to have rice, but you can vary the vegetables, nuts, and dried fruit you use. Here's how I made it.

4 cups cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, sliced
a cinnamon stick
a cardamom pod
2 cloves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
bay leaf
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, lima beans, corn, green beans)
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
garam masala (optional)

Combine all the spices and set aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the spices, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook for another three minutes or until the onion begins to look translucent. Add the vegetables and cook until warmed through. Add the raisins and sunflower seeds and cook another minute. Salt to taste. (You may want to remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and bay leaf now.)

Combine the vegetable mixture with the cooked rice. You can sprinkle everything with garam masala if you want.