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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)


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.


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.


Last week was pie, this week it’s cake!  This is my grandmother’s recipe

Nonnie’s Rhubarb Cake

½ c shortening

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs Mix well

Sift:            2 cups flour

½ teas. Salt

1 teas. Soda

Add alternately with

1 cup buttermilk (I used yogurt today, since I didn’t have any buttermilk)

Beat well and fold in rhubarb

Sprinkle over top of cake the following:

1 cup brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Bake in a well greased and floured 9X 10 pan for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

2 or 3 cups of rhubarb should be cut in length once then in pieces about an inch long.

(Today I also added a couple of cut up, sliced apricots, because I had them nearby- they made for a nice variation on this simple cake, which is almost like  a pineapple upside down cake recipe).

We always had this cake, and other simple homemade desserts when we were growing up.  We often froze quantities of rhubarb in the spring so we were able to make rhubarb cake all through the year.  But of course, it was always wonderful when it went right from your garden into the kitchen and into whatever you happened to be cooking.  We also took the fresh rhubarb stalks and dipped the ends in sugar, which was a very big treat for very small children.

I almost forgot to tell you.  I nearly destroyed this cake- after more than 30 years in the kitchen. The oven was at 300, instead of 350, so I turned up the heat to almost 400, on and off for about 5 minutes.  It survived pretty well, which says something about the recipe and not the baker.

To make a simple Farmers-type cheese, mix anything you like into your yogurt.  I picked a few herbs from my balcony herb garden, minced a little garlic, a little salt and pepper and mixed it into the yogurt.

To make cheese:  pour your yogurt into a make-shift settling form- in this case I used an unbleached paper coffee filter sitting in an ordinary kitchen sieve, which I placed over a small bowl to catch the whey.  After a night in the refrigerator, you have cheese!

It was time to make yogurt- I hid my yogurt machine on myself in the hallway storage shelf a few months ago by accident, and a good friend of mine helped me discover it two weeks ago when I was preparing for a trip out of town.

The first time I tried making yogurt, I was 16, maybe around 1977, I had been reading The Mother Earth News, wanted to build a yurt.  Our family lived deep in the rural upper midwest, so people had big, amazing family farm-gardens.  My first yogurt experiment was not successful or impressive.  It was runny sour milk.  I had no idea what I was doing (I made tofu from scratch around the same time, and was very interested in all things self sufficient, and subsistence of course.)  I haven’t been a huge consumer of dairy products over the years, but I do use more dairy now than I did 10 or 20 years ago.  If you have low tolerance for cow’s milk, sometimes it’s easier to digest in the form of yogurt (or kefir).  A lot of Native people have lactose intolerance.  It’s what happens when you don’t have cows occurring naturally in your environment for 10,000 years or so.  But it can be good for you, and it has beneficial flora (bacteria) that makes your digestive environment happy.  Or is bacteria a fauna?  Anyway, it’s one of the things they now call ‘active-culture foods’, or pro-biotics.

Other pro-biotic benefits include- reducing the risk of colon cancer, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, immune boosting, and other good things.  Other pro-biotics you know, or have eaten, or may have heard about:  kim chi, tempeh, miso, kombucha tea, amazake.  And they all taste good and almost have too many good qualities to list here.

To make good yogurt, now I use a yogurt maker, which is easier, more reliable, less work- intensive,  with a better product.  I found one for- I think- about $30 years ago.  Not a bad investment.

-commercial yogurt, a quart, is anywhere from $3-5 a quart now (especially organic yogurts, whether cow’s milk, sheep or goat milk, or non-dairy soy)

-2 quarts of milk is $2-4 (at least rbgh-free- that’s commonly known as bovine growth hormone- more and more commercial diaries are now loudly and proudly steering away from it.  I think Europe may have banned bgh comestibles initially, although I’m not sure about that any longer.  There’s always detective work to do if you want to eat foods that nourish you and do not harm you.)  So that’s maybe a dollar or 2 for a quart of milk, a few cents of electricity, and maybe 25-50 cents of commercial culture.  The closer food is produced to home, the fresher it is, the better it tastes (in most cases), the better is is for you – and the COST is amazingly lower than what you will pay at the store.  And yes it may take time and practice, but it’s all good.

-therefore, you can make your own yogurt for 1/2 the price- maybe for 1/3.

I use a commercial culture- it’s called Yogourmet (this is not an endorsement) and it’s easy to use.  The live culture is portioned in little envelopes, like gelatin always used to be packaged.  You mix some into a cup of milk at the right temperature, stir it into the 1 quart of milk (that’s the capacity for my machine) and after a few hours you have very fresh yogurt.

quick cinn rolls

quick cinn rolls

*2 c all purpose flour, 1/2 t salt, 2-1/2 t baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda, 2 T sugar- whisk these all together quickly and cut in finely  1/4 cup of shortening (butter, veg. shortening, etc)- you can use a food processor to reduce these steps to about 1 minute of work.

* 1 egg in a 1-cup measuring cup, yogurt to fill the cup; and a splash of milk or buttermilk to make a dough almost too soft to handle.

Lightly and quickly mix the wet and dry together in a bowl with a spoon, your hand or a spatula; press lightly down into a rectangle and spread with a couple Tbsp of soft butter- sprinkle with brown sugar (1/2 c- 2/3 cup I’d say) a tsp cinnamon, dried fruit if you like- and roll everything up.  I always use a heavy canvas pastry cloth to roll/pat dough out, and I often use the pastry cloth to help roll up the dough and filling together- kind of like how you roll up a traditional jelly roll.

If you made the dough with the minimum of mixing, it will be difficult to handle.  Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be that way.  Cut the roll in half, and then in half again- and then each quarter by three.  You’ll have a dozen soft, squishy, nearly formless swirls of cinnamon roll dough that I can almost guarantee will be difficult to get onto a baking sheet.   Figure out a way to plop them closely together, so they sort of prop each other up and bake them at 425F for about 15 minutes.  They will be tender enough to melt in the mouth- they will be frustrating to make the first few times, but when you crave a homemade cinnamon roll, this is as fast and tastes far far better than any convenience product you can get out of the refrigerator case at the grocery store.