India: Maximum colour & fragrance

How to cheer up a gray and rainy day? Our guest of honnour will be India with its extensive fragrances and colours.

The indian cuisine is very special not only because of its specific spice blends but also because of its incredibly wide extent. I am  not so familiar with this type of cooking, which is rather rich in calories and has the tendency to cook all ingredients until very tender. This is of course perfectly understandable because of the climate and  often difficult hygienic circumstances.

Reading through indian recipies you  feel the passion for their eating culture .Preparing,  eating   and sharing means using all  five senses to the maximum.

Start the day before by marinating the chicken. I use thinly sliced chicken filet to allow maximal absorption of the flavoured marinade and to decrease baking time. I have a Tandoori spice mix in my cupboard so I used 2 tablespoons, and 1 teaspoon of garam masala with 3 chopped cloves of garlic,, a roughly chopped thumbsize piece of ginger, 1 roughly chopped onion and 1 cup of low fat yoghurt to marinate 500 gram of chicken filet.

You will have to try to bake the naan yourself, although I cannot say that my try is already similar to what you will receive in indian restaurants in Europe, and surely not similar to what I think you will get in India itself (hoping to travel to India soon!).

The recipe is based on 10 portions (which is of course far to much, but I decided to freeze more than half of the dough, as experiment). Start to make the dough several hours before baking. Warm 1 ¼ cup of milk until it is hand hot. Mix 4 cups of all purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of dry yeast, 2 teaspoons of Nigella seeds (black cumin), 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt. In another recipient mix 1 whole egg, 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee and ¾ cup of thick yoghurt ( although the recipe recommends plain, I prefer the thick 0% greec yoghurt) with 1 cup of the milk. By mixing the flour mixture and fluid mixture together you will form a soft dough. Add the remaining milk if the dough seems to dry. Cover the dough and leave for several hours in a warm place.

One hour before dinner time start making the side dishes. The traditional yoghurt dish RAITA cannot be missed on a table filled with Indian food. Put  a grated small cucumber (or ½ for 2) with a ripe tomato, finelly chopped in a colander for approx. 20-30 mins to loose excess liquid (you can add a little bit of salt to stimulate that process). Bake shortly 1 teaspoons of black mustard seeds in a little bit of oil (be careful, they will pop, so cover the pan) and grind them. Mix 250 gr of yoghurt with the cucumber and tomato, pour the seeds and oil over the yoghurt. You can always add some fresh chopped coriander if you wish.

Another tasty side dish from ‘The food of India, which is more than a cook book, mentions that this side dish is a speciality from Delhi is LACCHA. Slice 1 small red onion (for 2p) into thin rings. Make the onion sweeter by mixing with salt for 10 mins and rinsing it. Mix the onion with grinded roasted cumin (1/4 teaspoon) and some chili powder. Start your plate  with 1 thinly sliced tomato as first layer, peeled and thinly sliced cucumber (a small or, ½) as second layer and top up with the onion. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

The third side dish is a RADISH SALAD. Clean one bunch of radishes and cut them into smaller pieces. Heat ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds and ¼ of black mustard seeds in oil until the seeds start to pop (!!cover the pan). Add ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric and ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Roast 2 tablespoons of roughly chopped unsalted peanuts. Mix everything together immediately before serving.

20 mins before dinner start making the naan by kneading it briefly again and dividing it into 10 portions. I use ¼ to make 2 portions and the rest will go in the freezer for another Indian evening. Make flat teardrop shaped naans. Grease them and bake at 200° in a top position. Turn after 7 mins and remove after another 5 mins. Keep warm and soft in a cloth.

Grill the chicken covered with the coloured marinade on a grill. I used filets which will save you baking time. For larger pieces of chicken you need to count longer, and if you bake in the oven up to 45-60 min. Serve the hot chicken with all side dishes to create a colourful table.


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