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.