Let’s talk about Indian food. Do you love it? Are you making it at home? If the answer to the first question is yes and the second is no, why not? Why are you not making Indian food at home? I’m guessing it is one of these reasons:
1) The recipes are too long.
2) The recipes have unfamiliar ingredients.
3) It’s too spicy!
4) Who has all those spices?
You might notice that reasons 1-4 actually have to do with spices. #1 Sometimes Indian food recipes have long lists of ingredients but if you look carefully, many of those ingredients are actually spices. Sometimes up to half of the list really just needs to be measured out of a jar. #2 Once in a while, I will find a recipe that calls for bitter gourd or drumstick (not the kind that is on a chicken) but usually the unfamiliar ingredients are actually spices. #3 “Spicy” and “spiced” are really too different things. Yes, there are a lot of spices in Indian cooking and that is why it is so intoxicating. Most of the spices are there to give the food flavor and color, not necessarily heat. When you are cooking it yourself, you control the level of heat so what are you afraid of? #4 needs a new paragraph.
If you cook regularly, you probably have jars of cumin, coriander, and cayenne at home, these are spices commonly used in Indian food but also in Thai, Mexican, and Middle Eastern food, among others. Perhaps you even have turmeric and mustard seeds. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to make a recipe that calls for fenugreek and garam masala and when you see that you think to yourself, “Now this is why I don’t make Indian food.” I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go buy whole jars of things that you are not going to use on a daily basis. Most grocery stores these days have a bulk spice section where you can buy a couple of teaspoons for less than a dollar. An added bonus is that the bulk spices tend to be much fresher than those you get in a jar because there is a lot of turnover. Take a tip from me and clearly write on the bag which spice it is and then store all your little bits of spices in one Ziploc bag. That way, you can pull out that one bag when you want to make Indian food. If you are looking for online resources for spices, I can highly recommend World Spice Merchant and Penzey’s. World Spice Merchant has a storefront in Seattle and Penzey’s has locations all over the U. S.
Now that we are not afraid anymore, can we continue? I make Indian food often in my kitchen. I was never a fan of the Indian restaurants in Seattle so when I craved it, I made it myself. I turn to several trusted cookbooks over and over and although I am a person always wanting to try new recipes, I gravitate toward the same dishes. They are that good.
This Cauliflower and Potato Curry is a great place to start if you are apprehensive about cooking Indian food. The recipe is easy, the ingredient list relatively short, ingredients are familiar, and it is not spicy (as in hot). I have probably made this recipe 30 times and I change up little things each time. Sometimes I use big tomatoes that I seed, sometimes I use cherry tomatoes, sometimes I use canned tomatoes. I have made it with more cauliflower and fewer potatoes, and also with more potatoes and less cauliflower. I’ve added frozen peas on more than one occasion. I’ve used all coconut milk and also half coconut milk and half water. I have made it soupier and drier. My point is this is a very adaptable recipe. How you see it below is how I like it best.
One Year Ago: Flan, Layered Pasilla Tortilla Casserole
Two Years Ago: Cheddar Crackers (I’ve made these about 1,000 times), Kaye Korma Curry
Three Years Ago: Gianduja Gelato, Orange Grand Marnier Cake, Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Tarragon
Four Years Ago: Mexican Brownies, Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce with Tofu,
Cauliflower and Potato Curry
Adapted from The New Tastes of India
Coconut oil (or canola or peanut oil)
1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. chile powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 ¼ pound new potatoes (assorted colors are nice), cut into large chunks
1 small cauliflower, about 1 ¼ pounds, broken into florets
4 plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
4 ounces coconut milk
4 ounces water
Kosher or sea salt
Handful of chopped cilantro
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle in the fennel seeds and allow them to cook, stirring often, until they are toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until the onion is turning brown, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and chile powder and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.
Add the potato, cauliflower, tomatoes, coconut milk, and another healthy pinch of salt. Next stir in the water. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Allow to cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 20 minutes. Be sure to check with a fork or a paring knife. If the mixture needs more liquid in your opinion, add more water or coconut milk. Just before serving, taste for salt, and stir in the cilantro.