Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Feeling Sad

We've been sad here at saffron and cardamom. See "House & Home" for details.

We're starting to feel a bit better and will be adding a new food post soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I'm a bit nervous about this post. Why you ask? Well, I'm afraid that if anyone tries my recipe for naan they will be very upset with me. Let me explain. The way I make this naan is a bit messy, challenging, definitely unconventional and maybe even dangerous. However, if you try it and stay the course, using the utmost caution during the baking process I think you'll be happy with the end result. This naan turns out toasted golden brown on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. In my opinion it's as close as I could get without an actual tandoor oven.

You'll need a pizza stone for this recipe.

1 packet dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (not hot)
2 cups flour plus 3-4 teaspoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fat free yogurt
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1/4 cup warm fat free milk
Extra oil for handling wet dough
butter or ghee
Makes 4

Slowly stir together yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let rest for a few minutes to bubble up and become active.

Mix all dry ingredients together (only use the 2 cups of flour). Then add wet ingredients including yeast mix with your hands.

This is where you'll be annoyed with me, because the mix will be very wet and messy. That's because my liquid to dry ratio is greater than most recipes. I did this because I felt it would result in a softer naan.

At this point, gather up your patience and add the 3-4 extra teaspoons of flour. Slowly add it little by little and just dust it over the top of the messy wet flour mound and each time gather it up from the bottom of the bowl. Gently turn it over then dust some more. Continue until the extra flour is used up.

I don't believe in over kneading dough when making naan and paratha (which I'm looking forward to posting soon). I just mix/knead the mixture together very gently. Actually at this point it's virtually impossible to knead because it’s so wet. Next grease another large bowl with about a teaspoon, maybe a bit more of extra oil and scrape the wet dough into this bowl. Now wash your hands clean, and then rub some oil on your hands so you can handle the dough. Take the dough gently away from the edges of the bowl with your hands and turn it over so that the whole mass gets lightly oiled. Now cover it with a damp warm towel and leave it to proof.

Here's where my unconventional steps comes in. You don't even have to do this first part because your dough will probably proof just fine without this step. It was a cold damp day when I made this dough so I was afraid my dough wouldn't proof the way I wanted it to. So…I placed the bowl of dough on my kitchen table next to a space heater set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with its fan blowing near the bowl but not at it. There I said it...I know it sounds strange but it worked. So don't judge me. Like I said if you don't have a space heater just let your dough rise like normal people do. If you do use a space heater, use common sense and do not leave it unattended. I've heard of people proofing dough in a warm oven that's been turned off. Unfortunately, that has never worked for me.

The dough should take about half an hour to proof maybe longer. You know it's proofed when it's doubled in size. When it has doubled in size, get ready to get messy again.

Brush the inside of 4 large cereal bowls with oil. Rub your hands with oil again and punch the dough down. Gather the dough together and separate it into four equal portions. You'll probably be angry with me here also because the dough will still be sticky. If you have enough oil on your hands then handling the dough will be much easier. Place each of the portions in the greased cereal bowls, cover with warm towels and allow to proof again, about 30 minutes.

Now comes the dangerous part. Turn your oven up as high as it will go and place the pizza stone in the oven. Allow the pizza stone to heat up. My oven goes up to 500/broil. When you feel your oven has reached a high enough temperature, get suited up with your best oven mitt. I'm serious, use the heavy duty kind that goes all the way up your arm. If you don't have one, don't even attempt this.

While wearing your heavy duty oven mitt, remove the pizza stone and place on your stove top. Take one of the cereal bowls, punch down the proofed dough, and remove it to a greased surface. Be creative here, you can use a wooden cutting board lined with wax paper which is greased or even your counter top brushed with some oil. I used a plastic cutting board with a very smooth surface. The key is to use a surface that will not allow the dough to stick to it.

Spread/stretch the dough flat into a long naan shape, not too thick and not too thin. Remove the dough from the greased surface and transfer to the pizza stone. The key here is to work quickly and limit the distance you have to walk from where you're stretching the dough to the oven. This is because as you travel with the dough it will continue to stretch and be difficult to handle. After placing the dough on the pizza stone wear your oven mitts again and place the pizza stone in the oven. Let the naan puff up for a couple of minutes.

Then while wearing your oven mitt, remove the pizza stone and place it under your broiler for about a minute. Please be very careful during these steps because you can easily burn your hands or drop the pizza stone on your toes. Also get any pets or children who may be under foot out of the kitchen while you do this. After about a minute, maybe less you'll see that the top of the naan has turned golden brown. Remove the pizza stone (while wearing those oven mitts) and place back on stove top. Use a spatula to transfer the cooked naan to a plate and brush with butter or ghee. If the naan is cooked through it should easely lift off the pizza stone. Repeat with the other three portions of dough.

So there it is. After reading that if anyone tries this recipe, I'll be very surprised. The naan turned out pretty darn good though! It would go well with lamb curry, vegetable korma, any curry really.

While preparing for this post I've looked at many different naan recipes both online and in my cookbooks. I see that some use only yogurt and some use only milk, others use milk and egg. I used yogurt and milk because I always only have fat free versions of both in my fridge. I feel if I add the yogurt along with the milk it gives the dough some more substance. Not sure if this is really true as I've never tried it with milk or yogurt alone.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vegetable Korma

Several days ago I was standing in the international food isle at my local supermarket looking for inspiration for my lamb shanks recipe.

As I stood browsing through "Spanish" spices, standing just next to me was a woman studying and examining prepackaged "Indian" meals. I had once tried the very same vacuum sealed, ready to eat microwavable meals she was attempting to select from; cardboard boxes of items like palak paneer, dal, curried chickpeas etc. all stored at room temperature. They tasted absolutely terrible, worse then terrible. I felt compelled to warn her and I did. She mumbled something about her family really liking vegetable korma, quickly put the packet of korma back on the shelf and rushed away looking disappointed that I had just squashed her quick and easy dinner plans.

It occurred to me that vegetable korma is probably up there with butter chicken as most frequently ordered dishes at Indian restaurants. It's really not that hard to make at home.

I've posted today my version of vegetable korma. Now keep in mind, korma is supposed to be a slowly braised meat or vegetable curry made with yoghurt, cream or coconut milk. The south Indian in me prefers coconut milk. I'm using frozen vegetables and my recipe is not slowly braised so I'm not claiming that it's authentic. Tonight we had it with homemade naan (which I'll post next). This korma also goes really well with appam (Kerala pancake made with rice flour and coconut milk).

Canola oil
2 generous pinches of mustard seeds
2 generous pinches of cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods bruised
One inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/2 onion diced
1/2 teaspoon ginger minced
2 large garlic cloves minced
2 green chilies chopped
~6 curry leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon chili powder (if you want it hotter add more)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Handful of raw cashews (about 22)
7 oz. coconut milk
12 0z. Frozen veggies (which contain cauliflower, and carrots)
1/2 cup of frozen cut green beans
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 medium potatoes peeled cut to same size as other veggies
1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Boil cut potatoes in salted water until fork tender and set aside.

Boil the cashews in water for about 5 minutes. Then blend the cashews with a few spoonfuls of the boiling water into a paste, set aside.

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a pan. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to crackle and pop, add the cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Fry this mixture until it gives off a nutty aroma.

Add onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves. Season with salt, and continue to fry until onions are translucent and begin to lightly brown at the edges. Add ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder and black pepper and season with salt. Continue frying, and control the flame as you cook - don't let it burn.

Add tomato paste and continue frying, when the oil and tomato paste begin to separate add the cashew paste and stir together and continue to heat together. Now add the coconut milk, season with salt and mix together and heat through, keep the heat low so the sauce doesn't boil too much and separate.

Add the cooked potatoes, and all frozen vegetables. Continue to cook, slowly simmer until veggies are heated through. If the sauce is too thick add some more water and simmer longer. You can even add more coconut milk. Try not to add too much water though to avoid the flavors from becoming too diluted. Check again for salt. I have not put how much salt I used because I salt and taste as I go. I encourage you to do the same. This way you'll add the amount of salt appropriate for your taste.

You can also add some chopped cilantro at the end. I haven't because I wanted the curry leaves to stand out.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

I love it when an experimental recipe turns out well. That's what happened last night. I went out on a limb and purchased lamb shanks, a cut of meat that I've never cooked before. I am also using ancho chilies for the very first time.

The whole idea came about because I had a bottle of Paringa Sparkling Shiraz that I wanted to open and try - another thoughtful gift from my sister. See Poor Girl Gourmet for a detailed post on this wine. I figured beef or lamb would go well with it and I just cooked beef the other day so lamb it was. The ancho chilies have a fruity almost raisin or prune scent to it, so I hoped it would be a nice match for the Shiraz.

The lamb turned out moist and tender and just fell off the bone after two hours of braising. The sauce that resulted was so delicious over mashed potato. It tasted like a rich and silky gravy. The Paringa was a hit too. Shiraz is one of K's favorite wines. I find it a bit too strong for me unless I'm having it with a nice grilled steak. K was a bit hesitant, he kept teasing that it was a wine cooler before he tried it. I'm no wine connoisseur, so all I can say is "I like it". The bubbly fizz made it light and pleasant to drink.

Just a few notes for next time...I may use 3 or 4 ancho chilies so the ancho chili flavor will have more of a presence and I may add a pinch or two more red pepper flakes. Either that or leave the seeds in one or two of the ancho chilies. Other than that this recipe was a success and definitely a keeper. I may try it with beef short ribs next time. 

I just had leftovers and it tastes even richer and even better the next day.


2 lamb shanks (~2.5 lbs.)
Olive or canola oil
2 ancho chilies
1 onion chopped
4 large cloves garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
32 ounce vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 generous pinch of red pepper flakes

Soak the ancho chilies in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the stems and seeds and blend them with some of the soaking liquid until you have a smooth thick puree.

Season lamb shanks with salt, black pepper, rosemary and thyme. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large heavy bottom pot. When the oil is hot, begin to brown the lamb shanks on all sides until they get a nice golden brown sear. Be careful and control the flame to avoid burning the rosemary and thyme. Remove the shanks and set aside.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the same oil. Season with a generous pinch of extra salt and the sugar. When the onion and garlic are translucent and slightly beginning to brown add the ancho chili puree. Fry this together for about a minute. Add the tomato puree and fry this for another minute or two.

Return the lamb shanks to the pot; add the vegetable stock and wine. The liquid should come halfway up the sides of the lamb shanks. Turn the flame high, when the liquid begins to boil, cover the pot and turn the flame low.

Leave the lamb to cook for about 2 hours. Periodically stir and check on the shanks, turn them to avoid sticking and burning. Towards the end of the cooking time taste the sauce for salt and add more if you feel it needs it. I added more salt and ground black pepper. After two hours, remove the lamb shanks from the braising liquid and set aside. Use a hand blender to blend the liquid smooth until the sauce clings to a spoon. Then return the lamb shanks to the liquid and simmer the sauce on a low flame for a few minutes. Skim the fat off the top of the sauce as best as you can. Serve the lamb shanks over mashed potatoes and topped with the sauce.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Spicy Fried Beef

The dish that I'm posting today is not a saucy type curry; it's a Kerala style dry fried curry. The recipe is my attempt at recreating the flavors I remember from my mom's recipe. The extra step of frying, while seemingly over-indulgent, turns a simpler saucy curry into tender, browned, caramelized mouthwatering goodness.

My mom, until she recently retired, was a registered nurse who worked the night shift for 30 something years. On some evenings when she was sleeping before her shift our dad would take her left over curry and fry it up like this for dinner. K, my husband calls this "boonjay" beef, not sure how it's spelled but that's how it sounds when he says it. "Boonjay" is the Guyanese word he uses for dry fried curry.

Typically this Kerala style beef is fried with onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, spices and slices of fresh coconut. I left out the coconut when I made it today simply because I didn't have any on hand. But the addition of coconut is authentic and adds a nice sweet and nutty flavor to the dish. So if you have coconut be sure to add it.

You'll need a pressure cooker for this recipe.

1 lb. cubed boneless organic beef chuck or sirloin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 cardamom pods bruised
1/4 cup water
Coconut oil or canola oil
1 generous pinch of mustard seeds
1 small onion sliced thin
1 teaspoon ginger minced fine
3 large garlic cloves minced fine
2 green chilies chopped
1/2 tomato sliced thin
10 curry leaves
2 inch piece of coconut sliced thin

Season cubed beef with the coriander, chili powder, garam masala, ground fennel, turmeric, black pepper, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Mix together with water and pressure cook according to your pressure cooker directions until the beef is tender. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan large enough to hold this amount of beef. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds. When mustard seeds begin to crackle and pop, add the onions, ginger, garlic, green chili, curry leaves and coconut and continue to fry until the onions become translucent. Add the beef and fry together with other ingredients. As the water begins to cook away, add the thinly sliced tomato. Continue to fry these ingredients until all the water has cooked away and beef begins to form a light crust. Taste for salt. Fry the beef as dry as you like but be careful not to burn. Serve with rice or Indian bread.