“Indian food is, by its very nature, exotic, scintillating and immensely varied… number one position in world popularity, it is poised to conquer the palates of millions of gourmets around the world.”
If you have time, take a peak at this impressive work, “Gastronomic journeys”, written by Vilma Patil. It is an article that traces the spicy mix of regional Indian flavoring, native and colonial influences, and the historical, gastronomic changes that take place in the country over time. The impact of Indian culture and cooking on the larger world is undeniable, and it is having a unique and powerful impact in my own home this month!
So I did it. I cooked a full Indian meal. I was prepared for it to take a long time, due to the length of each recipe. Cooking a recipe that has more than 5 ingredients was not new. What was new, however, was learning to get over my long-standing aversion to certain spices (e.g., fennel, ginger, anise) and herbs (cilantro, is not a personal favorite).
I got all the gear out: spice grinder, knives, cutting boards, and some Indian music thrown into the air to inspire and energize. Check out Alka Yagnik, a popular singer in India that my daughter found on line. Her music provided a nice backdrop for cooking, dining, and occasionally – dancing!
The Onion Bhajias is like a North American version of fritters. They are fairly popular in Northern India where they are sold, packaged, or freshly made in almost any Indian market or stand. Made with some intense spices, like fennel and onion seeds, I found them to play a rather minor role. The onion was the star here! All you non-onion lovers out there, have no fear – you can barely recognize that you are eating onion!
The Bhajias were a perfect companion for my curried soup and they were easy to make and pop in your mouth. I took them to work the next day, and they actually tasted better the second time around! The only problem I had, like the Chapatis, was making them fast enough for the extra hands and mouths that kept wandering into my kitchen.
Curry Cauliflower Soup was next on the menu. What exactly is curry? Curry has been referred to as a sauce or gravy. According to “The Best Ever Indian Cookbook” the word “curry is generally believed to be an anglicized version of the south Indian word kaari and belongs to the Tamil language, which is spoken in the state Tamil Nadu, of which Madras is the capitol.” When the British were active in the area, it was believed that they changed the spelling of kaari to curry. Of course, there are also other theories out there about where the word curry is derived.
Basically, a curry includes spices like fennel, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, among others. Some curry powders can include at least 30 different spices. Curry can range from mild to hot depending on the spice, and if you really like it hot ( like my husband) look for a madras curry powder. What gives curry the “yellowy” color is the turmeric. Curry is highly aromatic and fragrant and making it, I believe, is an art. It is one of those things I am convinced can only get better with practice. Oh, one other thing that was new to me – you have to know the best temperature to add the spice so that the spice will not burn and you have to know in which sequence to add what – one of the many ancient secrets that I am uncovering about Indian cooking.
The soup was a great starter for our family to get introduced to curry, especially with the younger palates at the table. The one I made came from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, the Moosewood Collective.
If you are interested in making one, there are many online. Here is one I found that is closely related, but uses curry powder instead of buying all the spices separately.
For dinner entertainment and small bit of culture, my son and husband were moving sinuously to the Indian music (my families’ version of a cross between belly dancing and snake handling; no video footage, but maybe next time!). Later, we watched part of an Indian movie called “Delhi 6” and there was a line that really hit me. The scene had one character trying to force his specialty Indian sweets on a person who was not wanting to partake. As best I can remember, the dialogue went something like this:
“I told you, I don’t want any right now. Thank you. I am not hungry.”
“Only dogs eat when they are hungry. Humans eat to bond with each other.”
I couldn’t agree more. Slow down and enjoy the food! Phir milenge – see you later in Hindi.