Back in August, I attended my best friend’s wedding. She and her husband are of Indian heritage, and they incorporated many Indian traditions into their wedding. They also incorporated many of their friends into Indian tradition—that is how I ended up in a sari for the event:
(I’m the Indian Care Bear on the right.)
I loved wearing it and I’m proud to own it, even if I never have another chance to wear it again (come to think of it, today is Halloween…that may have been a missed opportunity…).
That doesn’t change the fact that I am white as the day is long and have limited instincts where Indian cooking is concerned. Didn’t stop me from attempting homemade parathas, though.
I may not know much about the business of making these things from scratch, but I do know that they are not supposed to turn out with the taste and texture of a pocket pita. Parathas are stuffed flatbreads (in this case, lentil-stuffed) and mine came out…how shall I put it?…”meh.” That just about sums it up.
The recipe I (kind of…) followed was this one, and while I don’t think any of my changes should have caused them to come out wonky, I do think I lack the sweet talk and soft touch to make them cooperate with my WASPiness. So I won’t post the full recipe with step-by-step tutorial, as I imagined I would when I embarked on the project. Here are some progress shots, though:
This story does have a happy ending. See, the recipe for the filling made a huge quantity (like several cups), and each paratha only requires a tablespoon or two—I barely made a dent. So once I was done with my paratha experiment, I incorporated the rest of the filling into my Indian-inspired entrée, and it turned out so, so tasty. Start here:
Red Lentil Dal (vegan)
- 1.5 cups red lentils
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional)
- 1.5 tbsp oil
- dash of garlic powder
- salt to taste
- Simmer lentils in 2 cups of water with turmeric and salt to taste until soft and water is absorbed (maybe 10 minutes…keep an eye on it).
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add cumin and asafoetida (if using). When it starts to sizzle, add lentils, ginger, sugar and cayenne. Fry until all moisture is absorbed and the mixture begins to get a little crumbly. NOTE: I was in paratha-process at this point, but for the sake of making the following aloo-gobi-like entrée, I think you could skip the frying step and just simmer the lentils with all the spices and oil and be done with the dal.
- Set aside.
“Aloo Gobi” with Spinach and Dal (vegan)
- 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
- 2 large potatoes
- 12 oz cauliflower florets
- 1 tbsp oil (I used olive)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- Red Lentil Dal (see above recipe)
- 1/2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Set your spinach out to begin thawing. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, chop potatoes and cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Boil for 10-13 minutes, or until fork-tender, but not mushy since you will be cooking them further. Drain.
3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high and all the onion and garlic. Sautee for a minute or two, then add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer.
4. Add the dal and spinach, stir smooth.
5. Add the potatoes and cauliflower, plus rest of seasonings (curry, lemon juice, salt and pepper) to taste. Stir until well-incorporated and heated through.
Meanwhile, you might like to make some raita! I’m not at all sure that this is authentic—I eyeballed the ingredients in Trader Joe’s raita and then improvised my own—but if you would like a delicious, savory accompaniment to the above dish (and are not vegan) I highly recommend throwing this tasty side together.
- 1 Persian cucumber (these are small, about the size of a kirby cuke, but skinnier—feel free to use a normal cucumber equivalent)
- ~1/8 c minced carrots
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- pinch salt
- pinch dried cilantro (perhaps coriander would be fine)
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
- Cut up your veggies and place in a small bowl (a cereal bowl will be fine)
- Add the rest of the ingredients except yogurt and give them a stir.
- Add yogurt and stir until well-incorporated. Taste and add more seasonings, if you like. It is my opinion that homemade raita should be very subjective.
Plate it all up with your paratha/breadstuffs of choice and feast!
My sub-par parathas (sub-parathas?) were somewhat rescued by a couple of yummy chutneys:
The greenish one is a mint chutney and the brown one is tamarind. Mixed together, they became sweet and spicy. LOVE me some tamarind. If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant and ordered samosas as an appetizer, the brown sauce they serve with it is usually tamarind—it’s sweet.
As for the raita, I don’t suppose it’s necessarily traditional to mix it up with the entrée, but I enjoyed it most when I loaded my fork up with the aloo gobi stuff and then dipped it straight into the raita.
And yes, these dishes definitely fall into the category of tastes-even-more-amazing-the-next-day! Which is a good thing because you’ll be eating leftovers for a while. No complaints here!
Now that I’ve written like, the Bhagavad Gita of all blog posts about Indian meals, I don’t suppose anyone will actually make any of this. That’s ok—this meal came about through experimentation, trial and error, and that’s what makes one a better cook. The best lessons in cooking are learned while doing.
The lesson I learned here? Go to a restaurant next time a paratha craving strikes.
Have you ever made Indian food? Any successes (or otherwise) in particular?