Saturday, December 29, 2007

Red Kidney Beans (Punjabi rajma) Review

3 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 169

Okay. Significantly different in color--it's lighter--and taste than the traditional chile-like rajmas I've had previously. This rajma smells of ghee, but only tastes of cream. I don't think it's bad, yet I won't cook it again, partially due to my lack of excitement about the taste and partially due to the dish's unhealthiness.

Red Lamb or Beef Stew (Rogan josh) Review

5 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 70-71

Very good: well worth the significant preparation time. I used lamb cut from the shoulder. It ended up pretty tender. I had to de-bone the lamb myself, which was a bit of a hassle.

Although I had some trouble with the recipe, somehow everything worked out and we were all very pleased with the results.

First, my blender had trouble blending the ginger, garlic, and water because most of it ended up sinking below the blades. I kept having to push things around to get it to puree. The result was a mixture of liquid and pulp: not quite a paste.

Second, the onions took about twenty minutes before they began turning brown, not the five the recipe said ought to be necessary to get them medium-brown. After twenty minutes, though they were not really yet what I'd call medium-brown, I moved on.

Although the recipe suggests using paprika that is "fresh and has a good red color," the paprika I used was probably two years old and reddish-brown. Nonetheless, it seems things turned out all right.

After the period of covered simmering, the dish still had too much liquid. I boiled it more, uncovered, for about thirty minutes. It didn't end up as thick as I wanted, but I was hungry and stopped then. Next time, I'll simply add less liquid (than the 1.25 cups the recipe says). The juices must've congealed overnight, as the leftovers had the perfect consistency.

After mostly everything was done,
but before adding water and simmering for an hour.

After adding water and simmering for an hour.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Red Split Lentils with Cumin Seeds (Masoor dal) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 165

Originally, I said the dal had too much ghee and was too soupy and I was going to give it three stars. J agreed with me on the latter count. Perhaps I should've boiled it less gently. However, leftovers both condensed (i.e., became less soupy) and mellowed, making the ghee less noticeable, and hence I'm bumping up the rating.

J tasted the coriander in the dal and appreciated it, saying that it added a kind of meatiness.

We both liked the cilantro and felt it complemented the dish well. I thought it so much that I added much more cilantro to my dal than called for in the recipe.

I didn't use the optional asafetida.

It's odd that the dal looks yellow yet is made from red split lentils.

Cauliflower with Onion and Tomato (Phool gobi ki bhaji) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 142

Not amazing, but both J and I liked it. She identified the lemon juice and enjoyed the tartness it added.

The cauliflower was supposed to brown in two minutes. I waited five to ten for it to brown; it didn't. I gave up and moved on. (I didn't want the cauliflower to get too soft during this step.)

It takes a while to prepare all the vegetables.

I used a serrano chile, seeds and all.

I wonder what soaking the cauliflower in water does.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro (Hare masale wali murghi) Review

4.5 stars (on a 5 star scale) (4 stars originally, 5 stars leftovers)
p. 95

A good dish of very moist chicken. As with other recipes from this cookbook, the leftovers were noticeably better than the original serving. Indeed, regarding the original serving, I complained the dish wasn't cilantro-y enough, partially blaming the state on my not using as much cilantro as the recipe called for. But the leftovers were quite cilantro-y. Even the lemon came out stronger in the leftovers. If the chicken was this good on the first night, I'd have given this recipe 5 stars.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • Two big bunches of cilantro were not enough! Each bunch, after chopping, made a bit less than a cup of cilantro. The recipe calls for three cups of cilantro, which I clearly didn't have.
  • I used all the juice from one lemon instead of measuring two tablespoons of lemon juice. (Past experience has taught me the two are roughly equivalent.)
  • I used a mix of chicken thighs (1.5 pounds) and breasts (1.0 pounds).
Some notes on the preparation:
  • It takes longer to prepare than what one would guess from reading the recipe. In particular, separating the leaves from the stem for that much cilantro a pain.
  • It's hard to thoroughly puree such a small amount of ginger.
  • Although the recipe recommended using six tablespoons of vegetable oil in which to brown the chicken, that seemed excessive to me and so I used less with no difficulty.
  • I didn't add all the spices at once because I didn't have them ready. I added them as I measured them.
  • I accidentally added garlic at the wrong time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gujerati-Style Green Beans Review

5 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 131

Very good and easy to make. Nicely garlicky, perhaps because the cloves I used were abnormally large. I think the mustard seeds add something as well.

I used less oil than suggested because I used a non-stick skillet.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • For the one-half to one dried red chili, I used one arbol chili because that's what I had at hand.
  • I forgot the ground black pepper.

On a plate.


And here's two more pictures that admittedly aren't very relevant to the dish:

The chopped but as yet uncooked green beans with which I made this dish.

A close-up of the chopped but uncooked green beans.

Tandoori-Style Chicken (Tandoori murghi) Review

3.5 stars (on a 5 star scale) (may be 4 if left to marinate for a long time)
p. 90-91

Quite different from tandoori chicken I get in restaurants:
  • Restaurant chicken tends to be spicy. This was not.
  • Restaurant chicken is often dry. This was moist throughout.
  • Restaurant chicken often isn't tart. This was tart, likely from the effect of heating yogurt. I'm told tandoori chicken is frequently supposed to be a bit tart, so this taste shouldn't be as surprising as it was to me.
The chicken was decent but not that interesting -- chicken that I'd be fine eating again but probably won't make again, at least given how it turned out the first night. Leftovers were better, possibly due to the longer time they sat, and also less tart. If the quality on the first night were as good as the leftovers, I might make it again.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I used drumsticks and thighs. Removing skin from the drumsticks is a pain. Next time buy de-skinned chicken!
  • I skipped the food coloring.
Some notes on the preparation:
  • I marinated the chicken for only six hours, a minimal amount of time.
  • Almost all of the paste went through the strainer.
  • I baked the chicken at about 550 degrees, the highest temperature my oven would go. When I checked the chicken after twenty minutes, it looked like it had just completed cooking.

Another picture of the chicken. This picture misrepresents its actual color.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Drunken Orange Slices (Sharabi narangi) Review

3.5 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 225

An extremely simple dish of sliced oranges, cinnamon, and Grand Marnier -- no more than the sum of its parts. I'm fairly indifferent between eating it and eating simple, unadorned orange slices.

It's neat that one can taste each ingredient, but so what. The Grand Marnier, some claim, comes more in the aftertaste of a bite than in a bite itself.

Yogurt with Eggplant (Baigan ka raita) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 212

An easy to make dish of mashed eggplant in yogurt. I like the refreshing coolness of the combination of the yogurt, scallions, and mint. It's better chilled, which implies that one needs to let the mashed eggplant cool for a long time, enough so that after mixing with the eggplant, the result is still cool.

I tried eating it with pita chips, but felt the flavor of the chips I had overwhelmed the dish. It's much better eating it with a fork or spoon.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Frozen Spinach With Potatoes (Saag aloo) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 157

A respectable, mild dish in which mushy spinach surrounds potatoes. Although I was disappointed when I realized it's not the type of saag one gets in Indian restaurants, when I judge it on its own merits, I'm fairly happy. It looks as an authentic dish should, dotted with black mustard seeds. Some bites are pretty flavorful -- maybe those are ones with more garlic, mustard seeds, and the stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I used a yellow onion, as the recipe didn't specify what type.
  • I used Yukon gold potatoes, as the recipe didn't specify what type.
  • I skipped the asafetida, as I didn't have any on hand.
Some notes on cooking:
  • I used three tablespoons of oil, not five as suggested by the recipe. I partially made this decision because I used a non-stick skillet.
  • I didn't bother chopping the spinach coarsely -- it didn't seem necessary.
  • I forgot to press the water out of the spinach, but I did leave the leaves in the colander for a while.
  • Perhaps as a result of the previous oversight, I found the spinach gave off enough water during cooking so that I didn't need to add any.
This dish doesn't need rice.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Chicken with Tomatoes and Garam Masala (Timatar murghi) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 99

A pretty good, quite mild chicken dish. The sauce was fairly liquidy, despite simmering uncovered for twenty minutes at the last stage in the recipe, instead of the suggested five. However, I didn't mind the thinness of the sauce.

Preparing the recipe is quite straightforward, though chopping two onions, six tomatoes, six cloves of garlic, and a cube of ginger takes quite a while. It's great to have people help.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I used 2.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken, including 1.7 pounds of breast fillet and 0.8 pounds of thighs. The recipe actually called for three pounds of skinless chicken parts; it wasn't clear whether these should be boneless or not. I figured 2.5 pounds was close enough that it wouldn't matter much either way.
  • I accidentally used chili powder instead of cayenne powder. Oops! The recipe called for one eighth to one half of a teaspoon of this spice; I used one-quarter of a teaspoon. These facts may have to do with the mildness I mentioned earlier.
  • I used a packaged garam masala mix, not Jaffrey's recipe.


Small Yellow Split Peas (Chana dal) Review

4 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 167

I like it. This is a pretty strong statement, as I usually don't like dals. It's certainly better than the average dal I've had at a restaurant. And it's really easy to cook -- although it takes a while, it requires practically no attention.

The dal ends up quite soft and with a strong and pleasant ghee flavor. It still had texture: i.e., it isn't uniform mush.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I used chana dal. (The recipe allows yellow splits peas as an alternative.) Apparently they are different:
    This bean looks just like yellow split peas, but is quite different because it doesn't readily boil down to mush. It's more closely related to garbanzo beans, or chickpeas. The differences are that chana dal is younger, smaller, split, sweeter, and has a much lower glycemic index.
    That web page also contains some interesting stories about how some stores mislead customers and how other stores valiantly attempt to prevent confusion.
  • I used a packaged garam masala mix, not Jaffrey's recipe.
  • I used bottled ghee.
Regarding cooking, during the initial boiling phase, I removed scum as directed by the recipe -- perhaps a bit more than half a cup in total. Also, I had no problem with the dal sticking to the pot as the recipe warned may be an issue.

Another picture of the dal.
This one better represents its color but is slightly out of focus.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chicken in a Fried Onion Sauce (Murghi rasedar) Review

3.5 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 93

A decent recipe. The initial version was surprisingly mild given that four onions went into the preparation. Three stars. The third round of leftovers (and beyond), after the recipe sat for several days, was better, with stronger and more interesting flavors. That'd be four stars.

The main aspect preventing the dish from getting a better rating is the chicken. It was fairly tasteless; no flavor penetrated it.

Although the taste of the sauce wasn't initially assertive, the smell was. The puree smelled strongly of onions and ginger and, to some extent, garlic. The fried onions smelled potently of, well, onions. My apartment smelled of fried onions for several days after cooking. These facts make it even more surprising that the sauce, until it sat for a time, wasn't that strong. (Maybe most of the flavors went into the air?)

Incidentally, the dish felt like it ought to have rice. It actually requires little because the sauce is relatively mild and only slightly more than is required to cover the chicken. Thus, although it requires little rice, it should have some.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I used 2.1 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets. The recipe called for 2.5 pounds of skinless chicken parts; it's not clear if the recipe wanted bones or not. I figured 2.1 pounds was close enough that it wouldn't matter much either way.
  • As the recipe didn't specify which type, I chose to use red onions.
  • I forgot the cilantro/parsley garnish.

Some notes on the preparation are below. One common theme is cooking takes longer than one might expect.
  • Peeling tomatoes is easy using the technique described on p. 30: drop tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds, rinse with cold water until cool, and peel by hand.
  • Frying onions takes a while.
  • When adding the paste, it didn't splatter or sizzle as the recipe suggested it would. Maybe I should've fried the paste at a higher heat? I fried it at medium, as the recipe directed.
  • The paste was supposed to brown within four minutes. I waited close to ten without any significant color change, then continued on with the recipe.
  • By accident, I simmered the mixture uncovered.
  • The last simmering stage said to simmer "for 7-8 minutes or until the sauce reduces and thickens." I was hungry so after eight minutes, although the sauce was thin, I ate. I simmered more later and the sauce properly reduced.

frying pureed onions

finished dish, in pan

Carrot and Onion Salad (Gajar aur pyaz ka salad) Review

2 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 217

Disappointing. The onion overpowers the rest of the flavors. It's so strong the salad is hard to eat. Maybe I shouldn't have used a red onion. (The recipe didn't specify. I used a red onion simply because most Indian recipes use red onions. This cookbook, sadly, never mentions anywhere what type of onions to use.) Or maybe I should've used four carrots, not three. The recipe calls for three carrots, "about half a pound," and I guess I chose smaller carrots because it turns out I should've used four to get half a pound. On the other hand, in an attempt to make the salad more palatable, I tried removing the onions; the result was simply not interesting. Adding the onions gradually back makes the salad remain not interesting until a particular point at which it switched instantly to having too much onion pungency. There was no middle ground.

Incidentally, match-sticking carrots is a pain.

Random remark: What the heck does "bring to a boil again. Boil rapidly for 2 seconds only" mean?! It's impossible to be so accurate with two seconds whereas defining boiling is much less precise.