I know, I know. "Indian food? Scary!" But really, it's not all that scary. Not if you have an endless list of totally obscure ingredients you've never heard of in quantities much larger than you'll ever need, from the grocery store that's farthest and most inconvenient to the rest of your life.
See? Not so bad.
Today I had a car, and I made sure to take extra-long at my doctor's appointment. Read: I went to the Indian grocery store way the hell down Rockville Pike. I actually thought I'd missed it, and just as I sent a text to google asking where in the world "International Indian Supermarket" was (yea, that's what it's called. It's Indian and International), I found the IHOP, turned left, and there, on the side of the pancake house, was a small slice of Indian heaven. Think curry leaves, dried papadum, dosai mix, whole nutmeg and turmeric and amchur (huh?) and lots of frozen dinners. Daunting? A little, but also ridiculously fun. I was a kid in a candy store. Only I didn't recognize any of the candies. But still, candy store, people.
Here's what I came home with:
1 package toor dal
1 package whole nutmeg
1 package brown sesame seeds
1 tub tamarind paste (crack, as far as I'm concerned. This stuff is amazing.)
1 jar garam masala paste
garam masala and chana masala powders
1 bag curry leaves
1 bag dried papadum
1 box dosai mix
1 large box saffron
True to form, I used only four of the above ingredients in the curry I made tonight, and I used them in proportions that an Indian food connoisseur would poo-poo. And by that, I mean that I made it all up.
But hey, it was edible! In fact, it was so edible that even D ate it. And when it came time to take seconds, she chose my odd creation over the palak paneer (spinach and cheese) from a package. So it really must have been pretty decent.
I'll happily provide the recipe here, but as with most things I make, this "recipe" never really was a recipe as much as a taste-and-adjust experiment. The moral of the story is to always try new things, especially Indian food, because with Indian food, all the flavors on the plate are supposed to blend together -- so if you accidentally over or under-season something, just mix it with something else until it tastes like something you want to eat. Kapish?
2 large potatoes of any sort (I used regular old baking potatoes), in chunks
1 sweet potato, in chunks
1 small eggplant (I used most of one Japanese eggplant), in chunks
1/2 a tomato, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
2-3 small curry leaves
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala paste
1 Tbsp. tamarind paste
1 Tbsp. sugar
peanut oil (veg. oil is fine)
salt to taste
- Add 1/3 cup peanut oil to a heavy-bottomed pan. Add garam masala paste, curry leaves and diced red onion. Saute until translucent.
- Add potatoes, and toss to coat with seasoning. Saute five minutes.
- Add eggplant, and toss to coat. Saute 2 minutes.
- Add water by the cupful (I added about two cups), until curry stops sizzling. The idea here is to bring the water to a low boil, and allow it to cook of gradually. This will create a sauce with concentrated flavor, and it will also allow the potatoes to cook through.
- When the first round of water is mostly evaporated, add a cup or two more and keep cooking. Continue this process until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork; then allow the water to boil down to a thickened sauce.
makes 1 cup.
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. finely diced onion
finely diced cucumber and carrot, optional
Combine the above ingredients and serve as a condiment. It offers some relief from the heat (temperature) and heat (spice) of the curry.