Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Entertaining: Cambridge Style

I lived in India in the late 1970's and early 1980's. While there, I learned to love and cook Indian food. The unique blend of spices (sweet, savory, and hot) give a sensory sensation like no other food does. For Christmas I received Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking and have been experimenting ever since.

To test my skills, I invited some friends over for a 3 course meal on Saturday night.

The menu was simple northern Indian style and consisted of:
Saag Goshi (Lamb with Spinach)
Taridar Chukandar (Gently Stewed Beets)
Masoor Dal (Red Lentils Tarka)
Basmati Rice
Green Onion Chutney

Photos: By John Carlson

It was not difficult to time the meal and when guests arrived at 6:00 pm, everything was just finishing.

Photos: John Carlson

Sharing this meal with friends was wonderful. It was hot and spicy but the yogurt gave a cool break.

Photos: John Carlson

Here are the Recipes. Most of the spices can be found at the Village Store Coop or any good spice retailer.

Beef or Lamb with Spinach


Saag Goshi (Beef or Lamb with Spinach)

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
1 large onion (about 10 ounces) peeled and coarsely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bay leaves
10 cardamon pods
8 whole cloves
2 2-inch sticks cinnamon
1 1/3 pounds stewing beef or boned shoulder of lamb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1+ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you want it)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala


Following the instructions on the package, drop the spinach into boiling water and boil just until it is defrosted. Drain and squeeze out most of the water.

Put the onion, ginger, and garlic into the container of a food processor and pulse, starting and stopping with great rapidity until finely chopped.

Put the oil in a large pot and set over high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the bay leaves, cardamon posd, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Stir once or twice and put in the finely chopped onion, ginger and garlic. Sir and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Put in the beef or lamb, the spinach, 2.5 cups of water, salt, coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Cover, securely and bring up to full boil over high heat. Now lower the heat to simmer and cook (lamb for 1-hour/beef for 1.5-hours). Remove the lid and add the garam masala and bring the contents to a boil again. Cook uncovered, stirring gently over high heat for 7-10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and thick.

Masor Dal (Red Lentils Tarka

1.5 cups red lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1.25-1.5 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
Generous pinch of ground asafetida (this spice can be found in most health food stores)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3-5 dried, hot red chiles.

Pick over the lentils and wash in several changes of water. Drain. Put in a heavy saucepan. Add 5 cups water and the turmeric. Stir and bring to a simmer (do not let it boil over). Cover in such a way as to leave the lid just very slightly ajar, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Stir a few times during the cooking. Add the salt and mix. Leve covered, on very low heat, as yo do the next step.

Put the oil in a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot,put in the asafetida; then a second later, add the cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds sizzle for a few seconds. Put in the red chiles. As soon as they turn dark red (this takes just a few seconds), lift up the lid of the lentil pan and pour in the contents of the frying pan oil as well as spices. Cover the saucepan immediately to trap the aromas.

Taridar Chukandar (Gently Stewed Beets)

2 pounds beets without stems and leaves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes or lightly drained canned whole tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Peel the beets and cut into 1-inch chunks

Put the oil in a wide, medium-sized pan and set over high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds and bay leaf. As soon as the bay leaf darkens slights (this takes just seconds) put in the tomatoes, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne, beets, salt, and 1-1/2 cups water. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the beets are tender.

All dishes serve 4-6 people.

We added a nice red wine to the table.

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