There aren’t too many vegetables, in my opinion, that are more refreshing than a cucumber. We eat cucumbers in some form with dinner at least twice a week, usually in a chopped salad…sometimes grated and mixed in yogurt for a nice raita. Cucumbers pair nicely with the spicy cuisine of Pakistan that we eat so often in our little house.
I love leafing through Indian cook books looking for inspiration. I took out the beautiful cookbook Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid from the library because I had heard such great things about the book. It is loaded with fantastic photography and tempting recipes from the Indian sub-continent. If you never heard of or seen this book and are at all into cooking or learning more about Indian food, then you should track down this book!
A recipe in the book for a spiced cucumber salad immediately jumped out at me as something I had to try. It is a salad made of chopped cucumbers tossed in a spiced mustard oil and yogurt dressing. I altered the recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand instead of running out and buying some additional spices. The end result is still very impressive.
Spiced Cucumber Salad
(adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves)
- 1/2 pound English cucumbers
- 2 Tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard oil
- 1 green chili cut lengthwise
- pinch of cayenne powder
- pinch of tumeric
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons minced cilantro
- Cut cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and then cut again into 1.5 inch long pieces.
- Put cucumbers in a strainer/colander in the sink (or over a bowl) and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds until golden.
- In a small bowl, mix sesame seeds, cumin, and yogurt to make paste. Set aside.
- Rinse cucumbers with cold water. Squeeze them gently to get out any excess water. Put cucumbers in a bowl.
- Add spice paste to cucumbers and rub all over to coat them. Set aside.
- Heat mustard oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the green chili and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the cayenne and tumeric and stir.
- Pour the flavored oil over the cucumbers and toss gently.
- Add the lemon juice and toss.
- Set aside for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors blend.
- Just before serving add the cilantro leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss gently to mix.
Animal’s People: A Novel by Indra Sinha
“Animal” is a 19-year old Indian boy who was disfigured as a result of a chemical plant explosion in his town when he was a small boy. The disaster caused his spine to become bent in such a manner that Animal is forced to walk on all fours. Since both his parents died in the incident, Animal is raised by nuns in an orphanage and also spends a good deal of time earning a living by running scams on the streets of Khaufpur.
My story has to start with that night. I don’t remember anything about it, though I was there, nevertheless, it’s where my story has to start. When something big like that night happens, time divides into before and after, the before time breaks up into dreams, the dreams dissolve into darkness. That’s how it is here. All the world knows the name of Khaufpur, but no one knows how things were before those nights.
“Animal” makes for an interesting if sometimes frustrating narrator. The text is full of his colorful language. Animal tells his story in a mix of English, Hindi, and French. His English and French are sometimes phonetically interpreted versions of the real word…for example he refers to spying on people as “jamisponding”, which he got from “James Bond”-ing. (don’t worry, if you don’t know any Hindi, there is a glossary in the back of the book). Just as Animal struggles with life in the aftermath of the disaster, the whole city struggles. There are major health and poverty issues throughout the city. Many of the people Animal interacts with lost loved ones after the explosion or have had negative health impacts.
“Animal’s People” is a fictional story based on the real Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India in 1984. The book is full of tragedy but has a good dose of black humor woven throughout. The book is a gritty read that will definitely leave a mark on you.
I recommend this book to people who enjoyed any of Salman Rushdie’s books or A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Read with caution though if you are turned off by crude language and lewd thoughts or if you don’t enjoy books with lots of foreign words in the narrative.
“Animal’s People” was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize and was also listed as one of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.
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You know those recipes that you make again and again over the years? This is one of those recipes for me. This recipe takes an all day commitment. It is a slow roasted leg of lamb that you have to “touch up” every hour or so. So, light the fireplace, grab a good book and spend your day cooking this lamb. It is well worth it!!
This lamb goes well with mint-yogurt raita, basmati rice and a salad of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions.
Masala Roasted Lamb Leg
Serves 8 (generously)
(adapted from Gourmet magazine recipe)
For marinade paste:
- 1 small onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1/3 cup chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
- 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt
- a 6 to 7 pound leg of lamb (bone-in), trimmed and tied by butcher
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Chop onion. In blender, puree onion and all remaining paste ingredients until smooth.
- Lightly oil a roasting pan just large enough to hold lamb. Rinse lamb and pat dry. With a small sharp knife make 6 deep (to the bone) 1-inch long slits at about 1 1/2 inch intervals on each of 3 sides of leg, being careful not to cut any strings.
- Arrange lamb, meaty side up, in pan and season with salt and pepper. Rub lamb all over with paste.
- Marinate lamb, covered with plastic wrap and chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 24. Let lamb stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.
- Pre-heat overn to 325 degrees farenheit.
- Cover pan with several layers of foil, sealing tightly and roast lamb in middle of oven 2 hours.
- In a small saucepan melt butter with honey and stir in citrus juices.
- Uncover lamb and pour half of honey sauce over it.
- Roast lamb, pan tightly covered with foil, 1 hour more.
- Uncover lamb and pour remaining honey sauce over it.
- Roast lamb, pan tightly covered with foil, basting lamb twice with pan juices, 1 hour more.
- Uncover lamb and roast until meat is almost falling off bone, about 30 minutes more. If lamb begins to blacken, cover loosely with foil. (NOTE: lamb roasts about 4.5 to 5 hours total)
- Transfer lamb to a platter and discard strings. Let lamb stand until cool enough to handle and skim fat from pan juices. (lamb may be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely before being chilled, covered. Chill pan juices seperately. Bring lamb to room temperature before reheating, covered. Chill pan juices seperately. Bring lamb to room temperature before reheating, covered, in a 350 degree oven and reheat pan juices)
- Serve leg whole with pan juices or pull meat from bone and drizzle lamb with juices.
I don’t recall eating many lentils in the first 23 years of my life…and then I met the man who would become my husband. Since then I probably eat lentils on average about once a week. We love to cook them up to make a basic dal to serve with rice.
I came across this idea in an Indian cookbook…spiced lentils cooked with a touch of coconut milk and served atop wedges of hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes. Usually when I cook lentils, I don’t include coconut milk, otherwise most of the ingredients in this dal/lentil stew were similar to what I usually make. The coconut milk added just a hint of sweetness. I also liked the twist of spooning the lentils on top of tomatoes and eggs. Will definitely make this again!
Egg & Lentil Curry
(modified from recipe in perfect indian)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/3 cup red split lentils
- 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
- 8 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
- fresh cilantro sprigs, to garnish
- Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, and gently fry for 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, red pepper, and spices and cook gently stirring frequently for 1 minute.
- Stir in the lentils, stock, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
- Meanwhile, place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and cover immediately with cold water.
- Stir the coconut milk into the lentil mixture and season well with salt. Process the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the pan and heat through.
- Shell the hard-cooked eggs and cut into wedges. Divide between 4 serving dishes. Arrange a tomato wedge between each egg wedge. Spoon the hot lentil sauce over the eggs and tomatoes, adding enough to flood the plate. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with hot flat bread (chapatis, rotis, or pita bread)
So, having a baby has made me think of future family friendly meals. At this point the baby is still in the land of pureed peaches and mangoes but I am sure that he will be eating table food before I know it (time HAS been flying!). What little kid doesn’t like chicken tenders? I decided to try these out since we tend to eat a lot of Indian/Pakistani food. The spice level was kid friendly but enough flavor to keep the adults interested. 🙂
I really liked them. My husband voted that next time I should reduce the amount of panko on each tender. The superstar of the night though was the spinach raita (a super tasty spinach yogurt sauce) that we had to dip the tenders in.
Tandoori Chicken Tenders
- 1/2 cup light plain yogurt
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1-1 1/2 pounds chicken tenderloin/tenders
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 – 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1) In a small bowl, mix yogurt, salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne, garlic, and ginger.
2) Put tenders in a resealable plastic bag and add the yogurt mixture to the bag. Toss to coat the chicken.
3) Seal bag and marinate, refrigerated, at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.
4) When ready to cook chicken, remove tenders from marinade. Pour panko on to a plate and press tenders into panko, turning, until well coated.
5) Heat oil in large skillet until shimmering. Cook tenders, in batches if needed to avoid crowding, 3 to 4 minutes per side (or to 165 degrees). Add additional oil to pan as needed. Transfer tenders to a serving plate.
Serve with naan or roti and spinach raita.
I make raita all of the time. Raita is a yogurt sauce that is a favorite condiment in our household. Usually my raita is a pretty simple mix of plain yogurt, salt, and some masala spices. I decided to try this spinach raita recipe that I saw in a local supermarket flyer. It got rave reviews for its flavorfullness…and who can hate something with the added health benefit of spinach??? If you feed this to your kids they may not even notice the spinach…serve it as a dipping sauce for chicken tenders.
- 1 1/2 cups light plain yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- black pepper (to season)
- 6 oz. baby spinach
- 1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
- 1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves
1) Heat oil in a large non stick skillet until shimmering. Add spinach and sprinkle with black pepper (vary amount depending upon your own personal preferences). Stir-fry until spinach is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove spinach from pan. Cool and drain, then squeeze out excess moisture. Chop and set aside.
2) In food processor or blender, combine yogurt, cilantro, mint, salt, and cumin. Process until mixed. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in chopped spinach and refrigerate covered until ready to serve.
We make kofta kebabs a lot in our household. Kofta kebobs are ground/minced meat mixed with spices and cooked up. A few months ago I posted about some chicken kofta in tomato sauce. My spousal unit would be in perma-nirvana-state if I made kofta kebabs multiple times a week.
This particular recipe makes for a very bright and colorful presentation with the bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions and chopped cilantro. The kebabs are moderately spicy, but if you are a spice-wimp you can reduce the amount of chili peppers and garam masala. We eat these kofta kebabs with roti or paratha (Indian flat breads).
Kofta with Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon garlic pulp
- 2 medium fresh green chilis, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons corn oil
- 16 baby onions (thawed if frozen)
- 4 fresh green chilis, sliced
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Preheat broiler.
- Blend together the ground turkey, onion, garam masala, garlic, green chilis, cilantro, salt and flour in a medium bowl. Use your hands to make sure that all of the ingredients are completely mixed.
- Form small handfuls of meat into small sausage shapes about 3-4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Brush the kebabs with 1 tablespoon of the oil and place under broiler for 12-15 minutes, turning and basting with oil occasionally, until they are evenly browned.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil in a deep pan. Lower the heat slightly and add the whole baby onions. As soon as they start to darken, add the fresh chilis, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes.
- Add the kebabs to the onion and tomato mixture. Stire gently for about 3 minutes to heat them through.
- Transfer to a serving dish, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
- Serve with roti or paratha.