Most often, people I talk to are intimidated and confused by the long list of ingredients that they see in Indian cookbooks. Now, those of us who are familiar with cooking the foods of India know that it is only a matter of keeping a stocked pantry and getting to be friends with each spice and its unique features. But the flurry of CinnamomCuminCardamomClove is, understandably, quite frightening if you are new to the world of spices. That's why I wanted to talk about a book that I found in the library recently.
The cookbook is called "5 spices, 50 dishes" by Ruta Kahate. The premise of the book is that the author asks you to stock up on only five spices- coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground cayenne (what I know better as red chilli powder) and ground turmeric. Using just these 5 spices, plus other pantry staples like onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and perhaps just a couple of "specialty" ones like coconut milk and cilantro, the author offers 50 recipes. They come in all categories, like vegetables, lentils, rice, bread, meat and seafood.
I have to say that I liked this book very much. By keeping things simple and clean, the author is able to showcase some of the home-style dishes that, to me, are the gems of Indian cuisine. I think this is a book worth looking at, for anyone who is new to Indian cuisine and wants to start off with something tangible and basic, yet packed with flavor. If I understand correctly, the author's family comes from Western India (Maharashtra and Goa) and there is a distinct slant towards simple dishes from this region. For those of us who already cook the cuisines of India (especially that of Maharashtra and Goa) and who already have well-stocked Indian pantries, I don't know if the book is going to teach us anything new, quite frankly. But the book is wonderful for the audience that it is intended for.
Examples of Kahate's recipes include railway potatoes, spicy corn with mustard seeds and several everyday dishes like these. Here is another easy and delicious recipe adapted from this book. It is a cool raita (yogurt-based salad) that is just perfect for summer. Bright green spinach is folded into mildly spiced yogurt. Now, I missed the Food Blogga's event, but with the yogurt and the greens, this dish packs a calcium punch for sure.
(Adapted from 5 spices, 50 recipes by Ruta Kahate)
4 cups packed spinach leaves (I used baby spinach; chop leaves coarsely if using mature leaves)
1 t cumin seeds
1 C low-fat yogurt
2 T minced onion
1 t minced fresh ginger (I used 2 drops ginger spice extract)
salt to taste
4-5 mint leaves, shredded (optional)
1. Wash the spinach leaves. With water still clinging to them, place the leaves in a glass bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until they wilt but still remain bright green. Place the leaves in a colander to drain and cool.
2. Toast the cumin seeds lightly and crush them in a mortar and pestle.
3. Place the minced onion in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain. I saw Rick Bayless doing this on his TV show and I love this trick; the cold water rinses off the sharp acrid "raw onion" smell while keeping the flavor of the onion intact.
4. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, salt, ginger, mint, cumin seeds, rinsed onion and wilted cooled spinach (chop the spinach coarsely if necessary). Chill until it is time to serve.
I served the spinach raita with some mixed-vegetable pulao, but it makes for a delicious side-dish to any meal, and would be a tasty dip as well. I am sending this raita to Siri for her yogurt event.
Some of my other favorite yogurt recipes:
Shrikhand (a no-cook dessert)
Dahi Bhaat (yogurt-rice)
Cabbage pachadi (a zesty salad)
Several weeks ago, TheCooker sent me the sweetest "reverse Arusuvai" package filled with some wonderful Kachcha (raw) masala, a package of rosematta poha (so flavorful!) and a cute toy for our resident pooch.
Dale loves playing with the toy and has become quite possessive about it. Sometimes he uses it as a small pillow and lies down with his head on it. Even when he is not actually playing with it, he tucks it safely under his paw. You never know when V or I will run off with the toy, and he's not taking any chances!
Hope this week is going well for everyone...see you in a few.