Sunday, April 13, 2008

Indian Food

I just love Indian cuisine! One of the best aspects of Indian food is that it is by an large naturally gluten free. You do however, need to check out your spices very carefully. I learned this the hard way after using something called Asafetida, or more commonly know as hing. The truth is, I got sloppy and I did not check all my Indian spices and this one slipped through the cracks as a result of my sloppiness. Hing is a gumlike resin made from three different fennel species. It is sold in a solid or powdered form and is often laced with flour to prevent clumping. After discovering that powdered hing indeed contained flour I consulted with my Indian cooking mentor, Raghavan Iyer who initially suggested trying the solid form. A few days later I got a second email from Raghavan warning me that the solid form may also have wheat in it and I should steer clear altogether! Raghavan is a local (Twin Cities, MN) cooking expert, author of three great Indian Cookbooks and instructor of Indian cooking. I have taken two classes from him and for my 50th birthday I hosted a home cooking class that Raghavan taught. I always struggle for an explanation when people ask, "What is curry". Raghavan's definition comes as close as any good explanation: "any dish that consists of either meat, fish, poultry, legumes, vegetables, or fruits, simmered in or covered with a sauce, gravy, or other liquid that is redolent with any number of freshly ground and very fragrant spices and or herbs." Since my partner does not like Indian food, I have to find moments when she is out of town or working late to experiment with this cuisine. I love Raghavan's approach to cooking Indian food and rely on his cookbooks for almost all of my recipes. One in particular that I really enjoy is a version of Malai Koftas that calls for opa (Indian squash) or zucchini.

Malai Koftas
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer

For the croquettes:

1 medium peeled opa squash, or two medium zucchini to render 1 1/2 cups 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger root
2 fresh Thai, Serrano or cayenne chilies, finely chopped
1 cup garbanzo bean flour (besan)
vegetable oil for frying
For the cream sauce:
1 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup cream
1 teaspoon Garam Masaala
1 tablespoon cilantro finely chopped.
To make the croquettes mix the shredded squash with salt in a medium bowl and let stand for 30 minutes. Squeeze as much water out of the squash to drain and then mix with remaining croquette ingredients except oil. Shape into eight balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Heat oil, 2-3 inches deep in a wok or other heavy pan, to 350 degrees (yes you need a thermometer!) Carefully drop the croquettes into the oil and fry for 2-4 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

To make the cream sauce heat the ghee in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the whole cumin seed and let sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and stir fry 2 -3 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in tomatoes, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and turmeric. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 5-6 minutes or until a thin film of oil forms on the surface. Gently stir in the fried croquettes. Cover and simmer 5-6 minutes or until the croquettes have absorbed the sauce and have softened. Remove from heat,  stir in the whipping cream and Garam Masaala, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


amalissy said...

This sounds like a recipe I made years back and which I lost...I will be making this for sure! Thanks

sweetpea said...

I hope this is a good replacement for a lost recipe! It is really quite good and even though the koftas are fried first, I often times make it ahead of time.