Posts Tagged 'India'

Madrasi Shrimp Curry in Black Pepper Sauce

My “alternate daughter” came over to help me with an upholstery project. Actually, she mostly did the project while I refinished window sills. She loves curry, so I made this fairly quick shrimp curry from Cooking Light in between coats of stain and finish.  The curry is not too spicy, just pleasantly warm.  Since Madras is in South India where food can sometimes be rather incendiary, I was pleasantly surprised.

Madrasi Shrimp Curry in Black Pepper Sauce

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cup finely chopped onion
1½ Tablespoons  ground coriander seeds
1½ Tablespoons  grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (or more if you want more heat)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 garlic cloves, minced
½  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds; cover pan, and cook 2 minutes or until seeds stop popping. Uncover pan. Stir in the onion and the next 5 ingredients (onion through garlic), and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is golden, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat, and stir in broth, tomato paste, juice, and salt. Cook until thick (about 1 minute), stirring constantly. This is important.  It can burn easily. Add shrimp; cook 4 minutes stirring occasionally or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with cilantro. Makes 4 servings at 5.4 grams of fat/serving.


Gauranga Potatoes

This recipe came from the co-worker of a good friend of mine.  The best way I can describe it is Bengali Scalloped Potatoes.  They are delicious and absolutely addictive.  The original recipe called for ghee, which is clarified butter.  Ghee is used widely in India because it keeps well without refrigeration.  It also has religious uses.  In Mumbai, the area of India where I lived, both  butter and ghee were made from soured milk, although some places make it from sweet milk. Prepared ghee can be purchased at Asian groceries.  I didn’t have ghee, so I used unsalted butter and it worked.  If you want to make ghee at home, it isn’t too difficult. Simmer unsalted butter in a large pot on very low heat until all the water has boiled off and the protein has settled to the bottom. Gently spoon off the cooked and clarified butter that is on the top, avoiding disturbing the milk solids on the bottom of the pan.

The recipe also uses asofoetida, a spice that is less familiar in western kitchens. Asofoetida, which was called hing by my Mumbai neighbors, is a staple in much Indian cooking, especially vegetarian cooking.  Asofoetida is made from a resin-like gum which comes from the dried sap extracted from the stem and roots of the perennial Ferula Assafoetida.  It has a strong, and some would say unpleasant odor, which when heated in oil or ghee becomes milder and more pleasant, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic. Asofoetida’s odor is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby. It can be purchased in Asian markets, but those who are allergic to gluten should be aware that some companies blend pulverized asafoetida with wheat flour, so check the label.

Gauranga Potatoes

8 medium potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, but red potatoes will work
1 Tablespoon butter or ghee
1 teaspoon ground asofoetida
¾ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
¾ teaspoon turmeric
3 cups non-fat sour cream
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Salt to taste
½ cup water
1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel the potatoes and slice into ¼ inch pieces. Boil them in a large pan until they’re cooked but still firm. Drain off the water and set the potatoes aside. In the same pan, over medium low heat, heat the first tablespoon of butter (or ghee if you have it),with the asofoetida, rosemary and turmeric. Lightly brown, remove from heat, and add the sour cream, melted butter, salt, black pepper, and ½ cup water. Gently fold in the potato slices. Place in a 9 x 13 baking pan and sprinkle with the paprika. Bake for 30 or 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, until top is golden brown. Makes 8 servings at 3 grams of fat/serving.


NOTE: You can also make this in a Dutch oven or other stove-top and oven-proof dish, eliminating the need to spoon it into a baking pan.  This reheated very well, and I took it for lunch for several days after I had it for dinner. On the last day, I added a couple of handfuls of frozen green beans to the leftovers, and the combination was great.


Gadjar Kari (Carrot Curry)

Carrots are a sweet vegetable that can be used in many ways – think carrot cake.  In India, they make a candy called gadjar halwah, which is soft and sweet, and often studded with pistachios, topped with edible silver foil, and served for special occasions. Because of their sweetness, carrots combine well with other sweet ingredients, even if the end result is not a dessert.  This curry is a little unusual because one of the sweet ingredients is a banana.

For potlucks I often like to bring a vegetarian dish, since everyone can usually eat it.  This curry, adapted from The World of Jewish Cooking, came out unexpectedly spicier than I thought it would, but the people at the potluck thought it was just right.  In the picture below, I tempered it by serving it with yogurt – a fairly common accompaniment for my Mumbai neighbors.  Milk products cut the heat of overly spicy foods – I can’t remember the chemistry of this, but a glass of milk works better than a glass of water to wash down a fiery dish.  You certainly can reduce the amount of cayenne pepper if you’d like.

Carrot Curry

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons yellow mustard seed
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardomom
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pound carrots, sliced, or 1 pound baby carrots
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
¼ cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the spices (cumin seed through   cayenne) and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. I mixed the spices in a little bowl beforehand so that I could add them all at once, and they wouldn’t burn while I measured out the other spices. Add the carrots and sauté until lightly colored, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the banana and raisins.  Add the water, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender, not mushy, about 20 minutes, Uncover, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently  until most of the liquid is evaporated and the carrots and raisins are glazed, about 5-10 minutes.  Serve with rice.  Makes 4 servings at about 4 grams of fat/serving.


Mumbai Green Sauce

I lived in Mumbai for a year, back when we Westerners called it Bombay. I recently acquired My Bombay Kitchen, which describes itself as Parsi home cooking. (Parsis are the descendants of Zoroastrians who fled Persia in about 937 A.D. and settled on the west Coast of India, finally concentrating in Mumbai.)  The recipes in the book are very much like the ones my Hindu neighbors prepared regularly, as much Mumbai as Parsi, and each time I prepare one I am brought back to a flood of memories of my time there and the neighbors who taught me about India and everyday life.

This green sauce, more properly a chutney, smells like my neighbors’ kitchens – coriander (cilantro), mint, coconut, garlic – being ground almost daily as an accompaniment to ordinary meals or to become the base of the rich curries and snacks that came from every kitchen. Serve it on a thali (a metal tray on which many meals are served) beside other savory curries; add besan (chick pea) flour to it to make a batter for shrimp.   My neighbors would grind the ingredients on a masala stone, a thick granite slab with a roughened surface. Squatting beside the stone in their saris, women would roll over the ingredients with a granite “rolling pin” until the ingredients made a fine paste, filling the room with an aroma that bespoke India to me.

The granite slab was far too heavy to bring home.  Now I grind in a food processor, although it doesn’t create the same paste-like texture it has that unmistakable fragrance. I may someday get a wet-dry grinder that, I understand, creates chutneys with the same texture as the beloved granite slab.  And I use the chutney in all sorts of ways that my neighbors wouldn’t have dreamed of.

Mumbai Green Sauce

½ cup grated fresh or frozen unsweetened coconut, or 1/3 cup unsweetened dry coconut (see Note)
1 cup (packed) fresh coriander, both stems and leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin seed
12 fresh mint leaves
1-3 green chilies, seeded – depending on your taste
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped.
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar

If you are using dry coconut, soak it in warm water for ½ hour.  Drain coconut, saving soaking liquid.  Put all ingredients in food processor (or wet dry grinder if you are so lucky) and pulse until it is as smooth as possible.  Add a little of the soaking liquid or water if you need to.  But don’t add too much, you want this to be a little stiff, not a gravy.  This chutney makes 9 tablespoons, at 1.5 grams of fat/tablespoon.  It keeps well in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for about a week.

NOTE: I grew up in Miami, where coconuts grew on trees and fresh coconuts were easy to find.  But in the frigid northwest, nary a coconut palm can be seen.  I have difficulty finding fresh coconut – when I buy them they tend to be sour or moldy. Dry coconut is not ideal, but it works.


And how did I use this divine chutney (which I now make almost weekly)?

I put it on some plain pan-seared steelhead trout and boiled potatoes to dress them up.


I jazzed up poached eggs on toast (with a little light butter).


I used it on sandwiches, from roast beef (where it didn’t work so well) to veggie (where it knocked my socks off. ) I added it to non-fat yogurt to make the dressing for a tomato and cucumber salad I took for lunch.


And I put it in an egg substitute omelet with a bit of goat cheese.


The Manchurian Cauliflower

When I first saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I was a bit skeptical.  Ketchup and cauliflower?  I don’t know…and although it supposedly hails from China, it uses Garam Masala, a decidedly Indian spice.  Still, there was something intriguing about it, and I had a cauliflower to use up in some interesting way.  It turns out to be a really tasty, sweet and salty dish, and it’s easy to make.  It could be part of a dinner with other curries, or a hearty side dish.

Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower

5 ½ cups cauliflower (about 1 large head) trimmed and broken into florets
2 Tablespoons of Garam Masala (see note)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
Cooking spray
½ teaspoon black pepper
8 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup ketchup
½ teaspoon ground red pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F. Coat an 11 x 7 baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine cauliflower, Garam Masala, and salt with 1 teaspoon of the canola oil in a large bowl and toss well.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add black pepper and sauté 1 minute. Add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in ketchup and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in red pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes or until thick (be careful not to burn it.)

Remove cauliflower mixture from the oven. Stir in ketchup mixture.  Bake at 425 for an additional 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender, stirring after 10 minutes.  Makes 9 half cup servings at 1.5 grams of fat per serving (although I personally ate it in one cup servings.


A note on Garam Masala: Garam Masala is a spice mixture used in many Indian dishes. Garam means hot and Masala means spice mixture, so the spices used are those that give some heat to the dish. I use a good commercial mix, such as Spice Islands, or one from an Asian market. In India, many households have their own family Garam Masala recipe, handed down through generations.  You will find varied recipes for Garam Masala in Indian cookbooks and can try your hand at mixing your own family recipe, toasting the spices and grinding them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, but for most uses, I like the convenience of a prepared blend.

Saffron Yogurt Dessert (Shrikand)

In Mumbai, where I lived back when it was called Bombay, this simple dessert showed up at festive occasions.  Weddings, naming ceremonies, and other happy family occasions were sweetened with small servings of shrikand. It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, and keeps well when refrigerated.  It also looks very exotic with its deep yellow color and saffron scent.

Saffron Yogurt Dessert (Shrikand)

2 Tablespoons of hot milk
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron
2 cups of non-fat yogurt
1 cup of non-fat sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup golden raisins

Sprinkle saffron over 2 tablespoons of very hot milk for 20 minutes.  Soak raisins in warm water for 20 minutes.  Mix yogurt and sour cream (plain American non-fat yogurt is much tarter than Indian yogurt, and doesn’t have the right texture). Beat in sugar, cardamom, and the saffron with its milk. Drain raisins and add to the mixture.  This makes 6 servings, with virtually no fat/serving.

Variation: This dish is often served with pistachio nuts mixed in. Kesar pista (saffron pistachio) is a very popular flavor in western India.  You can add a quarter of a cup of chopped unsalted toasted pistachios to the mix (or sprinkle them on top of each serving).This will make your servings about 3 grams of fat.

Variation 2: Instead of the cardamom, add a tablespoon of rose water.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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