An Indian Fiesta, Uh, Feast

I am an Indian food afficiando, by which I mean I love about 3 things on the menu in Indian restaurants and order them in every Indian restaurant I go to. That is to say, chicken tikka masala, paneer pakora, sweet lassi, and naan. Some people may see this as a bad thing, limiting me in the kinds of food I enjoy, to which I reply that curries, like people, come in all different flavors.

Mmm... just thinking about this is getting me hungry...

I had this meal (minus the paneer pakoras) twice this weekend, once made by me and once in a sketchy little dive bar Indian restaurant near Bryant Park (it was terrible, a subpar CTM, completely empty of customers, and premixed lassi from a plastic jug and when the manager complained to the single other customers that business was terrible the karmic restuarantuer in me rejoiced. But I digress). After some tweaking and googling, I gathered enough recipes for a relatively cheap and easy Indian meal.

Paneer pakoras are basically Indian versions of mozzarella sticks. They're good and ridiculously easy to make. Instead of paneer (good luck finding that at your corner market) I used queso blanco, a Spanish cheese that's similar to paneer, although a little saltier

1 package queso blanco

1 cup flour
2 tsp Red chilli powder
2 tsp Cumin
1/2 cup water
oil for frying

Cut the cheese into bite-sized rectangles. Think finger food.
Mix the flour, water. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter
Coat the cheese with the spices
Heat up the oil. Canola oil works best, fill a small, deep pot several inches. Heat the oil slowly because it can suddenly burst into flames, which will sidetrack the whole cooking thing
Dip the cheese into the batter. Some of the spices might fall off, which is fine
When the oil is heated--it should make some gurgling noises--drop the batter-covered cheese into the oil
Fry until golden brown
Remove, cool, devour

Dave made this for me for our anniversary this past summer and it turned out ridiculously good (more so because of the extra special ingredient: love. Aw.) He got the recipe from AllRecipes, but after making it a few times I've tweaked it slightly.

For the marinade:
1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper --you can use less if you like it less spicy
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

The original recipe says something about grilling chicken here, but I live in New York and I do not have a grill. Stick those suckers in a wok, medium heat. Try not to get too much marinade in the pan, but a little is ok

While the chicken is cooking, coat a large heavy skillet with clarified butter* over medium heat. Saute garlic for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin and paprika. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

*Clarified butter is gotten by microwaving a small lump of butter in a deep shallow bowl or glass. The clear, yellowy liquid on top is clarified butter. The white stuff on the bottom is fat and will burn on the pan.

Oh so good. I have some in my fridge right now, waiting to be eaten. Naan is indian bread, and the best food ever. You will want to wrap yourself in naan and go to sleep. And then eat it. It's good. I usually start Naan before the masala, because the dough needs several hours to rise.

This recipe is from a cupcake blog, which got it from somewhere els

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cup warm milk--microwave for 1minute 15seconds
1 tablespoon sugar
Butter to taste

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk. Stir the yeast until the clumps disappear. It will take a while.
Let rest approximately 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast/milk mixture.
Mix in the salt.
Knead until soft and elastic.
Cover with a damp towel and leave in a dark place to rise until doubled, about two hours.
Coat surface with flour, make a small dough ball, roll the ball into amoeba-shapes. Thinner the better.
Heat up a frying pan.
Generously brush one side of the dough with water and begin to cook with that side down on medium heat.
Brush the other side with water.
The dough should bubble a bit as it cooks. Leave it on the heat for a few minutes, then flip it to cook the other side for a shorter amount of time.
Move to a plate.
You can drizzle with some melted butter, or add crushed nuts, garlic, sesame seeds, whatever

It won't save Timmy from a well (haha, get it?), but it is light, foamy, and delicious. An Indian milkshake. I make it with the leftover yogurt from the masala.

1 cup yogurt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)

Mix ingredients in a blender. Lassis are a matter of taste so feel free to experiment with the ratios of ingredients. You can make them salty or mango-flavored also, but I don't know how to make those because who would drink something salty or mango-flavored?

There's nothing fancy here. Buy a box of rice, and cook it. If you want to be "authentic," you can buy basmati rice for probably what I spend on the whole meal. Regular white rice works fine.

And you're done! A full-ish Indian meal. It is sooo good and, after you get the hang of it, ridiculousy easy to make and enjoy.


  1. i like the new blog.

    you've touched on a topic that's near and dear to me. i agree, there are few things better in the world than some fresh naan bread, and i'm sure this food item accounted for nearly 50% of my sustenance while studying in Manchester, UK. i remember visiting one particular indian restaurant 3 times in a 24-hour period just for the naan: lunch, dinner, and the obligatory 4am naan/curry run.

    thanks for the ideas. can your next post provide tips on convincing an unadventurous spouse to try indian food?

  2. Hooray! Yes, I would enjoy the idea of living off all that spicy food but I think my stomach would start to hate me. Jenna gets a check minus for not trying Indian food. Maybe you could try cooking it with her! I always find that I enjoy food better when I make it myself.