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photo courtesy C. Katt

An Indian menu for non-Indians:

Spicy, Pan-fried Fish Chettinad, from  Madame Jaffrey’s cookbook, ‘Flavors of India’ (Carol Southern Books, 1995)

Cauliflower/potato/cashew curry, adapted from *Joy

[* 1975, p 361-62, Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer, et al]

Fragrant rice (basmati) (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper)

Tea

Fresh Raita (also Jaffrey)

Paratha bread, from the local market & heated in the oven

Three Pickles:  Tamarind, bitter lemon, green mango

We ate ocean perch in a spicy marinade, sauteed,  with fragrant saffron rice, and cauliflower & potato curry with cashews, cooked in Ghee.  Also, various pickles, from bitter lemon, and hot mango-, to sweet tamarind.  Everything was brought together with a fresh mint and cucumber Raita.

Indian cuisine has close connections with The Ayurveda tradition, which means that food is also medicine, hewing closely to  Chinese beliefs.  Turmeric in particular is a potent purifying agent, and key to many basic curry blends.  Here are the recipes we used:

Spicy, Pan-Fried Fish Steaks Chettinad

For 2 fillets:

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

¼ tsp ground dried turmeric powder (very purifying)

½ tsp ground cumin (preferably roasted whole & ground)

1 tsp salt (or less)

3-5 tsp lime/lemon juice

An equal amount of water (I ignore this)

2 nice fish fillets, or steaks

2-3 Tbsp any good vegetable oil

Make a paste with all these ingredients and let the fish marinade in the paste for at least 15 minutes, up to 3 hours.  Eventually saute them 4-5 min on a side, depending on the thickness of the cut, It will be spicy, sharp and pleasant.

Fragrant Rice

1 c dry Basmati Rice (essential that it  is Basmati)

A 2” stick of true Cassia cinnamon, broken

One whole pod of cardamom- black or green- depending on your preference

Several (4-9) grains of Black Pepper

½” piece of fresh ginger

2 generous pinches of dried saffron

½ tsp salt (I often reduce salt proportions)

Rinse the rice in several changes of water, taking out the starch.  Then add a small can of coconut milk into a measuring cup, and add sufficient water for a total of 1-1/4 cups, and bring everything together up to a boil.  You can also substitute plain water with an equal measure of stock, for added richness and flavor.  Allow to simmer for an additional 12-14 min, with a lid over everything.  It’s done.  Let it relax before you fluff it all with a fork, and cover it with a tight lid, or some foil until service.

Cauliflower & Potato Curry

This is an adaptation of a preparation from *Joy.  I have taken liberties with a traditional recipe, but it is still very recognizable.  We used to prepare something very close to this at The Riverside Cafe, many years ago.

½ head cauliflower, de-stemmed & broken into medium florets

A large red potato, cut into generous cubes (maybe 1”)

Steam each vegetable separately until al dente and shock in cold water.  Drain.  This is a short-cut, but useful.

Meanwhile, add to a wok over medium-high heat:

2 Tbsp Ghee (clarified Indian butter.  It has a higher than average smoking point)

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp grated garlic

2 c minced onion

½ a jalapeno pepper, or one fresh red cayenne

(I spun the onions and fresh pepper in a food processor until it was a light pulp)

Add the cauliflower and potatoes to the mix and add:

1 big Tbsp good curry powder (I used a hot blend)

1 scant Tbsp all purpose flour

Stir-fry everything for 3-5 minutes, and then add:

1 small can of coconut milk

¼ cup chicken stock, or any good stock

½ tsp salt

½ cup broken roasted and salted cashews

Continue cooking until everything boils gently (important, because of the flour), stirring frequently.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and it will be ready to serve in about 4-5 minutes.

Raita

This is a cooling condiment, also improvised for our lunch:

½ peeled, de-seeded and coarsely grated fresh cucumber

2 Tbsp minced fresh mint

1-1/4 cups natural (plain) yogurt

½ tsp salt, to taste.

Whisk or stir all of the ingredients together.

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