Flaky Flatbread

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

These Flaky Flatbreads are fun to make and so versatile. Make them ahead and they reheat beautifully. While I make mine with a Bulgarian or goat yogurt, any yogurt will work, including non-dairy. And even though I brush mine with fresh garlic butter, you can use either a good EVOO or vegan butter instead. Recently, my husband was out of town and I made up a batch of these. I wrapped the leftovers in foil and reheated them in my toaster as needed. The outside got slightly crispy. And the layers flaked into these lovely fragrant pieces of dough that were perfect for dipping into soups and spreads.

Since I began doing more Indian cooking, I have become familiar with spices and herbs that I had not traditionally used before. Two of my favorites now are carom seed (ajwain) and fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi). Either one, or dried mint, cumin seed (or nothing at all) works wonderfully in this flaky flatbread. And because you control the seasoning, your flatbreads will be unique to you!

Unlike most breads, these flaky flatbreads don’t require any rising time. The dough comes together in just minutes. Then we let it have a nice rest until it becomes supple and easy to roll out. This resting time can be a 20 minute catnap or as much as a couple of hours. Your schedule can dictate the time. The longer resting time makes them a bit easier to work with, but I have made them both ways successfully. We enjoy these flatbreads at least once a week. They are the perfect compliment to Middle Eastern/Mediterranean foods as well as South Asian.

I came across many iterations of this basic recipe online so it is difficult to say exactly which one I ended up using. And the addition of the fenugreek and garlic butter is my own twist. How you use this flaky flatbread is only limited by your imagination. Leave out the garlic and this becomes a great bread for breakfast or snacking. Just add your favorite nut butter, smushed avocado or preserves. Smear on tomato sauce or pesto with the toppings of your choice and you have mini pizzas. Did I mention that this was versatile?

I am not going to claim that these are as healthy as the two ingredient lentil pancake/flatbreads that you can find all over YouTube. But eaten in moderation with an otherwise healthy meal, they are fine. And as much as I love a good lentil dish, these really do taste better than those pancake/flatbreads.

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

Recipe

Yield: 8 flatbreads

Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 cup more for dusting the dough

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1.5 teaspoons fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) Optional, but recommended

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup plain natural yogurt (I like full-fat)

8 ounces melted butter

2 large garlic cloves, crushed Optional, but recommended

Directions

Measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and dried herbs, if used, into a medium bowl. Using a fork or whisk, mix everything together so that the salt, baking powder and herbs are well distributed. If the bowl is wider and shallower, it is a bit easier to work with, but any bowl will do. You can do this ahead and cover it until you are ready to make the dough.

Flaky Flatbread

Add the yogurt and mix through the flour until you get a shaggy dough. I found that it was easiest to use my hands for this. It should take only about 1 to 2 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Then using your hands, gently knead the dough until the moisture from the yogurt is distributed throughout and you end up with a smooth, moist dough. Depending on the shape of your bowl, it might be easiest to transfer the dough to your counter to work with. If you use a thicker yogurt, like a Greek or Icelandic yogurt, you might need to add a Tablespoon of water to the dough. Natural yogurts are more liquidy and preferable for this recipe.

Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover it lightly with plastic wrap or a plate. This entire process from the time you add the yogurt to the time you form your dough ball should take no more than 5 minutes and possibly as little as 3 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Allow the dough to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. It will not double in size. We are not using yeast. But the dough will become more relaxed and supple and will be easier to roll out.

When the dough has rested, remove it from the bowl and divide it into 8 pieces. Unless you are doing this for a living, just eyeball the pieces. It is not necessary to weigh them out to be sure that they are exactly equal in size.

Flaky Flatbread

Cup your hand over the dough piece and roll your hand in a circle against the counter to form a ball. Lay the pieces out on the counter or a baking tray or platter to make it easier to work with.

You want to work with one section or ball at a time. I found it easiest to put 1/4 to 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl or container rather than sprinkling my counter. I then slightly flatten the dough ball with my hand and dip each side into the all-purpose flour. If I need to double dip, I can. Any excess flour can be sealed in a container and used for the same purpose since no raw dough gets mixed in. I know, but trust me on this.

Flaky Flatbread

Years ago, a dear friend, now dead, gave me a wonderful marble rolling pin to use in making mu shu pancakes. I never actually used it for that purpose, but it is perfect for these flatbreads and I think of Marge with great fondness whenever I handle it. But any rolling pin or empty wine or beer bottle will work too.

Place the flattened dough ball on the counter or board and roll it out as thinly as possible. Don’t worry too much about the shape. If it is round or oblong, or even slightly misshapen, this will still work. I am no expert! Brush the dough lightly with some of the melted garlic butter. Then working from the longest end, tightly roll up the dough into a log. Perfection is not necessary! If butter got on the board or counter, just wipe it away with a paper towel. Otherwise the next ball will be difficult to roll out. It doesn’t have to be perfectly clean – just wipe up any excess butter or oil.

Then take one end of the log and curl it in on itself and keep doing this to form a flat snail. [See the speeded up video below] Lay the snail onto the baking sheet lined with a silicone sheet. If you don’t have that, you can use a sheet of parchment barely dusted with flour. Those with more experience may try to pleat the dough instead of folding it. This is something that I saw Chetna Makan do. The more folds that you have, the more layers of flakiness. But honestly, life is complicated enough!

Keep repeating this until you have 8 flat snails. Cover them with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow them to rest for as little as 20 minutes or up to an hour.

Quick tutorial on rolling out flaky flatbreads
Flaky Flatbread

When you are ready to cook the flatbreads, set an untreated non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet on medium high heat. If you have a bigger pan, use it so you can cook several flatbreads at once. If all you have is a small skillet, don’t fret. It will take more time to cook everything, but it will work just as well.

Take one snail at a time, keeping the remaining snails covered while you work. Again, dip both sides of the snail into your reserved flour. Using your rolling pin, roll the dough out into an approximately 5-inch diameter circle. If it isn’t a perfect round, it’s okay. I have yet to achieve a perfect circle! Try to keep the roll from opening up. It seemed to work best for me to just flatten the snail a bit with my hand first before applying the rolling pin.

Once you have the circle rolled out, generously brush the surface with the garlic butter. Immediately pick up the dough and place it in the hot pan, butter side down. Then brush the top side with butter. If your pan will hold more than one flatbread, immediately roll out your next snail, repeating the above process. Each side takes about 5 minutes to cook. The dough may puff up a bit while cooking. That’s okay. Take a flat spatula, and gently press down on the top of the dough. You don’t need to pop the bubbles, but you don’t want them to get away from you or when you turn the flatbread over, it won’t cook evenly. All of the surfaces need to hit the pan.

You know the side is done when you have nice brown spots all over. If your heat is too high, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the dough won’t really get that nice browned look that you are going for. As with pancakes, the first one out of the pan is never quite as good as the subsequent ones. I always go for the darkest bread at the bakery. So check your bread after 4 minutes to achieve the desired doneness.

When each flatbread is finished, you can place it on a baking sheet in a warm oven until you are finished and ready to serve. If you are not eating all of the breads in one go, allow the leftovers to cool and then wrap the rounds in foil. They will keep in the fridge for several days or even on your counter if your house is cool. When you are ready to eat them, warm them in the oven or a toaster. Do not microwave them!

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is redolent with spices – warming, delicious and comforting. This lovely curry from Chetna Makan is easy to make and sure to please. Don’t be scared off by the list of spices. If you do Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, you will likely have these on hand. And if you are just getting into these cuisines, these spices are basic and easily accessible in most grocery stores and online.

My husband and I find these dishes so satisfying to make and eat. Served over some basmati rice or with a flatbread, you have a satisfying meal. However, I almost always serve these with some chutneys, raita and small salads. When I have these on hand in my fridge it’s like having money in the bank! And I have found that while it may not be traditional, mixing Middle Eastern salads and sides and Indian often works out really well.

Depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your appetites, this will easily serve 6 to 8 people. If you have teenagers – maybe 4!

While you could make this with chicken breasts, I wouldn’t. The thighs are more flavorful, moister and sized better. You will want chicken thighs with the bone in but without the skin. If your butcher won’t remove the skins for you, it is easy enough to do. Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is made with yogurt, but if you still wish to make this but observe the laws of kashrut, you can substitute, full-fat coconut milk.

I made this for a Shabbat dinner which I always go all out for to make special. So in addition to the curry and salads, we made an easy zucchini and corn fritter (kofta) to along. They make a lovely, simple, vegan appetizer or side, which just require a dab of chutney or yogurt to finish off. I will be posting that soon.

For other Indian sides:

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

For other curries:

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Tofu Coconut Curry

Chicken Curry with Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

Recipe

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For Marinade

1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt or coconut milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed in a garlic press

1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

6 to 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed and with 3 deep slashes made in the flesh of each

For the curry

3 Tablespoons neutral oil (I use Canola but sunflower etc. is fine)

1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)

4 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Directions

Combine all of the marinade ingredients, except for the chicken, in a bowl and mix well to combine. Place the chicken in a glass or stainless bowl or clean freezer bag and pour the marinade all over. Gently massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover the bowl (or seal the bag) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oil on medium heat in a heavy-duty pan with a flat bottom that can hold everything in one layer. Cast iron is great for this. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaf.

As soon as they begin to sizzle (about 1 minute) add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes or until a lovely golden color.

Now add the tomatoes and their juices and cook for about 10 minutes or until they have softened. Add the spices and salt and cook for an additional minute.

Add the marinated chicken along with any liquid and mix through. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 40 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

This can be made earlier in the day if you like. It is best to allow the curry to rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to fully develop. Reheat on low when ready to serve. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh cilantro.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Cashew Curried Chicken

While it may officially be Spring, the weather is still quite chilly, damp and a bit dreary. Normally, I would cheer myself up by heading to the Art Institute or Museum of Contemporary Art, but until very recently these have been closed. And although you now can go to the museums, you have to think ahead and make reservations. So to brighten up our lives, I have been turning to Indian and Middle Eastern foods even more than usual. This Cashew Curried Chicken with its bright spices and herbs lend color to my otherwise somewhat dull existence. As mentioned in a previous post, I have become a fan of Chetna Makan and watch her on YouTube almost daily. This recipe is hers with some tweaks from me that do away with a pan, an extra step and the order of adding a couple of ingredients.

Do not be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients. The spices are used over and over again in both Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. So if you enjoy these foods, you will easily use them up. And everything is readily available online or in many grocery stores these days. But because the spices and herbs are so integral to the dishes, please look for the freshest ingredients and grind your own spices whenever possible. It only takes seconds in a spice or coffee grinder and you will be rewarded over and over with the most vibrant flavors. And by buying whole spices, they will remain fresh longer in your cabinet.

Chicken thighs are used here. They are more flavorful than the breast, in my opinion, and almost never get dried out or tough. However, if you really want, you can use an equivalent amount of chicken breast meat instead.

This curry comes together easily and you can have dinner on the table in about an hour. Served simply over rice or with a flatbread, it’s a complete meal. Since my husband just made some delicious pita, we went with that. But if you have the time and add on a raita and some pickle, you can have a feast. So brighten up your life and enjoy this luscious and luxurious Cashew Curried Chicken soon.

Recipe

Cashew Curried Chicken

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetite and sides

Ingredients

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour in hot water to cover

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped in a fine dice

2 Tablespoons neutral oil with a good smoke point (I use Canola)

4 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and grated or crushed

3-inch piece pf fresh ginger, peeled and grated

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – 2.5 pounds of boneless meat, trimmed of all fat. (You can use thighs with the bone-in, but you will need to increase the cooking time by 10 minutes.)

4 Tablespoons whole milk natural yogurt

1 sweet bell pepper, cut into large cubes

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces

1 Tablespoon fenugreek leaves (also called methi)

Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

4 green cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

In a large, deep pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Allow everything to sizzle and become fragrant – about 30 seconds.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Now add the chopped onion and stir through the oil and spices. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the chopped tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Then cover the pan and on medium-low heat, cook for 10 to 12 minutes. The tomatoes should be softened and a sauce is beginning to form.

While the tomatoes cook, drain and crush the cashews into a paste using either mortar and pestle, food processor or spice grinder.

Turn off the heat! Now add the yogurt and crushed cashews and stir through, mixing well. By turning off the heat, you prevent the yogurt from splitting.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the coriander, garam masala, turmeric, salt and chili powder.

Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce and coat with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes if using boneless chicken and 30 minutes if the thigh is on the bone. Add the bell pepper and onion sections and stir through. Recover the pan and continue simmering for 10 more minutes.

Take 1 tablespoon of fenugreek leaves and crumble them into the curry by rubbing the leaves between your hands. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they are fulIy incorporated. If you do not have fenugreek leaves, do not try to substitute them. Do NOT use fenugreek seeds, which would be very bitter. Fenugreek has a unique and wonderful flavor and I think they are worth having on hand. If you are leaving them out, you can sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top before serving. The flavor is completely different but is also delicious.

Serve the curry over basmati rice (white or brown) or eat it with flat bread.

For other delicious curry recipes:

Chicken Curry with Spices

Tofu Coconut Curry

Vegan Red Curry Coconut Soup

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji with basmati rice or flatbread makes a satisfying vegan meal – full of umami. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. However, we don’t eat a lot of meat and I cannot remember the last time I sat down and ate a steak. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t want visually interesting meals with a great mouthfeel and full of flavor. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to both Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Their use of fresh herbs, vegetables and spices make any meal a feast for the senses.

What is Sabji?

A sabji is simply a vegetable cooked in some sort of gravy with herbs. Sabji literally means green vegetable. In Persian cooking it is referred to as sabzi and can include meat as in Ghormeh Sabzi or chicken in this version. There is no surprise that there are similarities between Persian and Indian culture, which is especially evident in food and architecture. Persia invaded India twice – first in 535 BCE under Cyrus the Great and second under Emperor Nader Shah, the Shah of Persia (1736–47). In fact, many dishes that are thought of as quintessentially Indian actually were adapted from British, Portuguese, Mughal and Persia. Each conqueror brought new flavors and techniques to India. And while each nation ultimately lost India, there influences remain and enrich.

Fan Girl

Recently I have become a fan of Chetna Makan on YouTube and the author of several cookbooks, including Chai, Chaat & Chutney: a street food journey through India, where this Roasted Cauliflower Sabji appears. She is charming and enthusiastic about her dishes and just a delight to watch. It’s not difficult to follow and because I do enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I have all of the seasonings on hand. This dish doesn’t require any chilis so it wasn’t necessary for me to tone down the heat. My husband was responsible for making the quick, and flavorful flatbread. I made up some urad dal and we enjoyed a healthy and delicious meatless Monday.

As with many Indian dishes, do not get put off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do this kind of cooking, you likely will have most of not all of the spices on hand. And the actual cooking technique is very straightforward.

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji would also make a wonderful side dish or as part of a larger Indian meal. However you decide to use it, I encourage you to make it soon.

There are so many different kinds of dal (legumes, pulses or beans) available. And even more recipes for them. Here are just a few and I will be adding more over time.

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Chana Dal Kichadi

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Red Lentils with Ginger

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings as a main course and more as a side

Ingredients

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

For the cauliflower

1 head cauliflower cut into small florets along with the stems

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO

For the Sabji

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I only had brown mustard seeds, so that is what I used)

2 roughly chopped small onions

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated

A 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Handful of chopped cilantro

Directions

For the Cauliflower

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and have the rack on an upper shelf.
  2. Mix the seasonings together and spread over the cauliflower. Mix it around to coat. Spread on a baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. Turn over the cauliflower pieces and continue roasting for an additional 15 minutes (total 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the Sabji

  1. In a pan large enough to hold all of the cauliflower and the other ingredients, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. Add in the chopped onion and stir through. Cook until lightly golden.
  2. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring through.
  3. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add the chili powder, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Mix well.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower and stir through, mixing well but try not to break up the florets. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and stir through.

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg is bursting with color and flavor. It’s a one-pan meal to feed a family and satisfy your soul. Recently I have taken to watching Jamie Oliver on YouTube. This very engaging British chef and his charming young family makes cooking accessible and fun. It’s a very welcome change from the seemingly unending bad news we have had this past year.

When I watched Oliver make this dish, which is jam-packed with vibrant fresh veg and relatively inexpensive chicken thighs, I knew that I wanted to make it. In the early days of the pandemic, coming by reliable, fresh vegetables was hit or miss. Thankfully, we seem to be past that now and most produce is fresh and available.

The beauty of Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg is that you can change up the vegetables to suit your taste, your budget and availability. No eggplant? Use cauliflower. And because you are mixing the spices and flavors, you are in control of the heat level. By using chicken thighs on the bone and with skin, you are ensured of a tender and flavorful end result. The skin will get lovely and crisp and simply cries out to be eaten.

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Because everything is cooked in one pan, all of the beautiful flavors of each element are enhanced by the other components while still retaining their own unique texture and taste. When making this wonderful dish – and you will want to make it – don’t get too bogged down in exact measurements. Use the amounts below as a guide. This isn’t baking.

I like to do a lot of Indian and Mediterranean cooking so I had all of the herbs and spices on hand. Over the past year I have become a big fan of curry leaves. These are very different from curry powder and NOT interchangeable. Since the pandemic, the places where I shop have become much more limited and therefore, I do not have access to fresh curry leaves. However, I found very good quality dried leaves online and if I place them in an airtight jar, they last quite a while. You can also purchase fresh leaves online and keep them in your freezer. Everything else in this recipe should be readily available in your local markets.

This recipe includes a minty yogurt dressing. I was able to make the dressing in minutes. Any additional dressing can be used on salads, roast meats or as a sandwich spread. Our lives may have become a bit bland and colorless this year, but we can spice things up a bit with this vibrant dish.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

1 large onion

800 g potatoes (about 6 medium Yukon Gold or other thin-skinned potato)

2 large ripe tomatoes

1 eggplant

1 red pepper

2 cloves of garlic

Thumb-size piece of fresh ginger

½ a bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander (15g))

olive oil

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 handful of curry leaves

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

6 large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning the chicken

2 fresh red or green chilies

YOGURT DRESSING

½ a bunch of fresh mint (15g)

Juice of ½ a lemon

1cm piece of ginger

150 g whole-milk yogurt (If you use Greek-style yogurt, the sauce will be thicker. The choice is yours.)

1 fresh green chili (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Peel the onion, then cut into 3cm cubes with the potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper.

Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted water over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 8 minutes, then drain in a colander and leave to steam-dry for 3 minutes. (I did this step, but honestly I’m not sure that it really is necessary. The potato pieces are small enough that they should completely cook through in the overall cooking time.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Tip into a large bowl and mix with the tomato, eggplant, pepper and onion.

Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel and finely grate the ginger. Pick the cilantro (coriander) leaves and set aside, then chop the stalks.

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Heat about 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large oven-safe pan over a medium heat. (I used my mom’s old paella pan which was perfect, but any large roasting pan would work. Since this was the pan I was going to use in the oven, it was one less pan to clean.) Add the garlic, ginger, coriander stalks, mustard seeds and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds more. While still hot, add the chicken, skin-side down to the spice mixture.

Then add the veg and potatoes and smush everything around. Using tongs, arrange the chicken on top (skin-side up now) and season everything with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil over the vegetables. (I didn’t do this and it wasn’t called for, but I think the EVOO would help the veg roast better.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Roast in the bottom of the oven for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked, the skin is crispy and the veggies are well-roasted.

(My oven is really garbage, so it ended up taking about an hour and 20 minutes for mine to get where I wanted it. I also didn’t trust the process and hadn’t added any EVOO over the veg. I was worried that it would be too dry so I added a cup of water to the pan at the beginning of the cooking. In the end, I didn’t need it although the resulting gravy was awfully delicious…. So if you want your vegetables more steamed with a lovely gravy, add the water. If you want the veg more roasted and “gnarly” as Jamie Oliver would say, just drizzle them with a bit of EVOO and forego the water. You really can’t go wrong either way.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

For the dressing, pick the mint leaves into a blender, squeeze in the lemon juice, then peel and add the ginger with the remaining dressing ingredients and a pinch of seasoning. Blitz until smooth.

Top the chicken, potatoes and veg mix with the coriander leaves. Finely slice and scatter on the chilies, if using, then serve with the dressing on the side and a little drizzled on top.

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty)

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken blends cultural food influences deliciously. Now more than ever, I have become an armchair traveler. My world has narrowed down to our apartment and so I take every opportunity to bring the world safely to us. This fragrant dish conjures up spice markets in India and the Middle East. Perhaps a little history is called for in order to understand the origins of this curried coconut chicken dish.

While we Jews are small in number, we can be found in pockets all over the world. In part this is because we have been driven out of so many places over the millennia. But it is also because of the trades that we were limited to practice as merchants of goods ranging from spices and cloth to diamonds. And as we have traveled and changed our homes, we have adopted local cuisines.

This Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty) originates with a small community of Baghdadi Jews living in India. “The community, according to professor Shalva Weil of Hebrew University who has written on the Baghdadi community, traces its origins to 1730 when a man named Joseph Semah moved from Baghdad to Surat, a city north of modern day Mumbai. By the mid-19th century thousands of Jews from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria migrated to India, escaping persecution under the rule of Daud Pasha and seeking business opportunities.” Most of this community left when India gained independence from the British.

I came across this recipe for Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken on a Jewish heritage food website called Naama. It documents our varied and deep food traditions from Jewish communities all over the world. And there are always fascinating family stories to go along with the recipes.

Influences from whatever country Jews lived in were absorbed and adopted while making changes that allowed them to continue to observe the laws of kashrut. For example, this delicious curry is made with coconut milk rather than yogurt in order to honor the prohibition to not mix milk and meat. But you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this traditional Iraqi/Indian Shabbat meal.

Don’t be frightened off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do much South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, you should have most of the spices on hand. Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken isn’t difficult to make, but I do urge you to use fresh spices and whole spices that you grind yourself when cooking these cuisines. It is the spices that make the dish.

Since I was making this only for me and my husband, initially I did not also cook up a rice pilau to which I would have added English peas and carrots for additional color. I did serve this with a simple Moroccan beet salad and a Jerusalem salad along with a fresh mint chutney that I made. [See recipe below] Mint grows like weeds and I happen to have it in my terrace garden. You can also buy mint or coriander chutney. While normally I enjoy Indian food with naan or roti, Shabbat challah actually went beautifully with this dish and along with the potatoes served to sop up the delicious sauce. Served with some ripe cantaloupe and cherries – a perfect Friday night meal.

Since I had plenty of left-overs, the second time I served this with dal and a rice pilau. For some ideas of Indian side dishes to make, check out these suggestions.

While very well-seasoned, this dish is not at all spicy so is a perfect introduction for those who are heat averse. And the bonus in making this dish is that your house will smell absolutely amazing!

For another Iraqi chicken dish:

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on sides

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut in half if large
2 pounds of chicken saddles (thighs with legs attached)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric, divided
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Canola)
5 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 generous teaspoons ground coriander
3 generous teaspoons ground cumin
About 2 pounds of small-medium potatoes, peeled [I used Yukon Gold and cut the potatoes in half so they would fit into my pan.]
1 large onion
1 piece of fresh ginger (2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut cream
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can of bamboo shoots, drained and cut into thin slices lengthwise (Optional)
1 teaspoon garam masala 

Directions

1. Place the chicken pieces into a large bowl or plastic freezer bag and sprinkle and rub all sides with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper and ½ teaspoon of turmeric. Set aside for about 30 minutes. [This can be done hours ahead and refrigerated.]

2. Place the vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3. Place all the chicken pieces into the pot with the skin side down. Sear the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken onto a plate. 

4. Place the potatoes into the pot with the oil and spices and fry the potatoes until golden brown on all sides, flipping them occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, place the onion, ginger, and garlic into a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until a paste is formed, about 2 minutes. [This can also be done ahead and refrigerated.] Add the paste to the pot with the fried potatoes. Add the paprika and remaining ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric. Cook until golden, about 4 to 6 minutes. Place the chicken pieces back into the pot with the skin side up. Add the coconut cream, vinegar, water and bamboo shoots (if using) into the pot. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. The dish can be made several hours ahead and gently reheated. I didn’t add the garam masala until just before serving.

6. Sprinkle garam masala over the curry and serve hot. 

Mint Chutney (Phodino) Recipe

1 generous cup of packed fresh mint leaVES

1/2 cup of roughly chopped scallions, including green stems

1 Tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

2 fresh hot green chili peppers, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of one lemon or up to 2 limes (I used limes)

Directions

Blend everything together. Unlike commercial chutney which almost certainly has food coloring added, the green of the mint will darken some if made ahead. The taste will be fine, however. If you wish to have that vibrant green, add a couple of drops of a vegetable food coloring. I store this in a glass container in my fridge and it will perk up any meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian meal.

I actually was unable to get any hot peppers in my most recent grocery order so I substituted some Gojuchang. You could use other hot sauces like Sriracha or harissa and while possibly not quite authentic, the taste will be great.

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Comforting Khichari is nutritious, delicious and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal. It’s also a great pantry meal and easily adaptable. Like most of the world, my husband and I are sheltering inside until the Covid 19 pandemic is defeated.

We are eternally grateful to the brave and heroic healthcare workers, grocery shoppers, delivery people and others who are putting their lives on the line so that we can be cared for and fed. There cannot be enough shout-outs to those who are risking their own lives during these extraordinary times.

In order to help in some small way, we are trying to limit grocery deliveries. But we also know how important it is to so many families living on the edge to have any income coming in. So if you are receiving deliveries, please be generous with the people who are making them. Every little bit helps. For those lucky enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely and the incomes to go with it, be very generous.

So why Khichari? The most basic is comprised of a lentil, rice and some seasoning. Not only are these pantry staples for many, but it is loaded with nutrition for those who are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. While not a vegetarian, my husband and I often eat vegetarian or vegan meals. I came across this particular recipe recently and knew that I had everything on hand. Well almost. I didn’t happen to have the Thai chile or cauliflower. But I did have a butternut squash and a jalapeno pepper.

I made up a simple raita (yogurt and cucumber) to eat alongside with some pita that I had in my freezer. If you are vegan, a chutney of some sort or some other vegetable dip would be appropriate. And if you don’t have either of those, this dish is comforting and delicious on its own.

I simply peeled, cubed and roasted my butternut squash with EVOO, salt and pepper at 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And I added a cup of frozen peas to the end of the cooking time as much for color as anything else. What I am trying to say, is don’t stress if you are missing an ingredient or if you want to substitute something. I had mung dal in my pantry and curry leaves in my freezer. If you don’t, then double up on the split red lentil and just leave out the curry leaves. Maybe add some lemon or lime zest if you have it or a bit of asafoetida.

This is not a traditional recipe so don’t be afraid to play with it a bit. Now is a great time to be a bit fearless with cooking. However you end up making Khichari, just keep the proportions of grains and lentils to liquid. And if you are not using a split lentil, the cooking time might increase a bit along with the liquid. You can always add liquid as you go if necessary. Assuming you can receive deliveries, most of the ingredients are available online and keep well stored in airtight containers. After that, go for it!

For other great dal and side ideas:

Chana Dal Kichadi

Punjabi Chana Dal

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

¼ cup red split lentils

¼ cup yellow split mung dal

¼ cup basmati rice

¼ cup white quinoa

2 tablespoons ghee or melted virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

6 fresh curry leaves or 2 dried cassia leaves (optional)

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1 small green Thai chile, finely chopped

2 cups chopped cauliflower florets and/or peeled daikon

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon (or more) Himalayan rock salt (or kosher salt)

Optional

Cilantro, basil, lime slices, black pepper, and olive oil (for serving)

Directions

Cover lentils and mung dal with water in a small bowl and let soak 30 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, rinse rice and quinoa and drain well.

Heat ghee or oil in a large pot over medium-low. Add turmeric and toast just until slightly darkened, about 10 seconds. Add curry leaves, if using, ginger, and chile and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add drained lentils, mung dal, rice, and quinoa and cook, stirring, until nearly dry, 1–2 minutes. Add cauliflower, fennel seeds, 1 tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that forms on the surface, then simmer covered until grains and vegetables are very tender, 30–40 minutes; the khichari should be thick, very soft, and just loose enough not to stick to bottom of the pot (add water as needed to loosen). Season with more salt, if needed. Note: I did not have the cauliflower so I roasted my butternut squash separately and added it on top for serving.

Divide among bowls. Top with cilantro, basil, black pepper, and limes. Drizzle with oil.

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Like many people, my husband and I try to eat healthily. Since we cook and eat almost all of our meals at home, this is fairly easy to do. We also try to keep a balance of vegetarian vs. meat-based meals. These Indian-spiced lentil burgers will make Meatless Mondays anything but boring.

As it happens, Andrew and I have both been home sick for the past 10+ days. No Novel Corona Virus, but very bad colds and coughs. It’s pretty easy to get down and out right now, so I am paying special attention to creating interesting and healthy meals. And as anyone who has had a terrible cold knows, the taste buds are one of the first casualties.

So when I came across this recipe for Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with a Cilantro Chutney, I immediately perked up. I figured, rightly so as it turned out, that there would be enough flavor here to break through even my currently stuffed nose. I had all of the ingredients needed for the burgers, but unfortunately was short on ingredients for the chutney. The ingredients for the chutney can be found below, but I actually used a delicious onion chutney that I happened to have on hand instead. You can also purchase Indian Cilantro or Mint Chutney which should be equally delicious and one less thing to have to put together yourself. When you are coming home from work or are not feeling your best, simplicity is key.

I happen to love Indian food and the particular mix of seasonings given here. However, the recipe is pretty flexible. It is really the method and proportions that count. So if you prefer a more Mediterranean set of flavorings, just swap out the cumin, turmeric and coriander for the seasonings of choice. And instead of a delicious chutney, use a tomato-based or pesto spread on your bun. If you are going the Asian route, spread on some Teriyaki sauce or Peanut Sauce.

By using a food processor to do the main chopping, and the speed with which red lentils cook, this dish comes together pretty quickly. You do need to refrigerate the patties before cooking them, however. Because of that, you can either throw these together in the morning before you leave for work or make the patties the night before.

These burgers are not going to fool you into thinking you are eating meat. So junk that notion and enjoy them for the deliciousness that they are.

Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

INGREDIENTS

For the Chutney:

  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped to make 2 packed cups 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from about 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the burgers:

  • 1 cup dry red lentils 
  • 2 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for broiling the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

Garnishes: Optional

  • 4 hamburger buns or similar rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • Chutney (Onion, Mango, Mint, Coriander)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves, a handful of sprouts, or greens of your choice
  • Quickly pickled onion

Make the chutney, if using: In a food processor, puree the cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth “ish”, scraping down the sides of the bowl two or three times. The mixture will still have some texture but should be predominately smooth. 

Transfer to a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the food processor. You’ll use it again in a second.

Pick over the lentils: Spread the lentils on a baking sheet and pick out small stones or pieces of dirt if there are any. Place them in a sieve and run them under cold water to rinse them. Drain. 

Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and the lentils to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. 

At this point they should still hold their shape somewhat, though you will notice that the outer husks may have separated. Drain well in a fine-mesh colander or sieve. 

Chop the vegetables: While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped. (If you are using a different flavor profile, you can omit the ginger.)

Cook the vegetables and spices: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

Mash the lentils: Stir the well-drained lentils into the still-warm vegetables in the skillet. With a fork or potato masher, mash about half the mixture, leaving the other half intact.

Clear a space on one side of the skillet and add the eggs. Beat them well with a fork, and stir them into the lentils. Add the breadcrumbs and stir again. Let the mixture cool enough for you to handle and form into patties.

Form the patties: Form the lentil mixture into 4 patties that are about 4-inches across. Brush lightly with oil. Refrigerate the patties, uncovered, for 30 minutes or overnight.

Cook the burgers: Set a rack 4 to 6-inches from the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Using a well-seasoned cast-iron pan or a baking sheet lined with foil, heat the pan in the hot oven. Brush the tops of the patties with oil and place onto the hot pan. There should be a nice sizzle. Broil for 6 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn carefully, brush with more oil, and brown on the other side (another 5 to 6 minutes.)

Serve the burgers: You can lightly toast the buns if you like. Then spread some of the yogurt and chutney/sauce on the two halves. Place the burgers on top. Top with sliced cucumbers and lettuce or greens of your choice. And while these certainly didn’t need it, I could see adding a slice of cheese on top if I were going with a Mediterranean profile.

For other Meatless Monday ideas:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Roasted Tomato Soup

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Tofu Coconut Curry

Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi)

Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi) is a classic Northern Indian dish. The name is a literal translation of the ingredients with “aloo” meaning potato and “gobi” meaning cauliflower. This combination is perfect as part of a vegetarian, vegan or meat meal. And if you just want to add a little spice to an otherwise plain piece of broiled or baked meat or fish, this is just the dish to kick things up a notch. It makes wonderful left-overs too.

Don’t be put off by the list of spices. This is an easy dish to prepare, and uses the classic spices that would be on hand in any kitchen that enjoys either Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine. And you can be in control of the heat, making the curried cauliflower and potatoes (aloo gobi) as spicy – or not – as you like. I do strongly encourage you to grind your own spices. I can’t emphasize enough the difference it will make in your cooking. Using a spice or coffee grinder, this only adds seconds to your prep time, but will immediately transform you into a better cook.

This recipe dates back to a May, 1980 Bon Appetit article on the cuisine of northern India. The chef is Paul Bhalla and his recipes do take some preparation, but they are all well worth the effort. Unfortunately, I have not been successful in finding any of his recipes online….

For a few ideas of putting together a complete Indian meal check out these links.

Indian Sides with Something to Please Everyone

Red Lentils with Ginger

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita

Eggplant Pate (Bharta)

Karhi (Yogurt Sauce)

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce

Recipe

Yield: About 6 to 8 servings, as part of a complete dinner

Ingredients

About 6 Tablespoons of margarine or vegetable oil

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5-inch cubes (I used red potatoes but Yukon Gold would also be nice)

1 teaspoon black or white whole mustard seeds

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (this makes the dish mildly spicy)

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Pinch of asfetida (Optional, but I have it so add it. Asfetida has a unique flavor and is worth getting if you do Indian cooking)

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1.5-inch cubes

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons slivered fresh ginger root

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

About 3 pounds of cauliflower, broken into florets (You can include some tender green leaves if you like. I did not.)

Garnish Options

Coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro

Chopped scallion

Lemon wedges

Directions

Melt the margarine (or heat the oil) in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and saute just until lightly browned. Remove the potatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Return the oil to hot and add the mustard seeds, shaking the pan until they begin to pop. This only takes about 30 seconds. Add the onion and brown lightly. Reduce the heat and add the dry spices and blend well with the onion.

Add the tomatoes, cilantro, ginger, jalapenos (if used) and salt. If your tomatoes are not particularly juicy, you will want to add about 2 Tablespoons of water so things don’t become too dry. Now add the cauliflower and potatoes, and turn them to coat well with the spices.

Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and cook for about 15 minutes. You want the vegetables to be firm but tender. Garnish when ready to serve.

Lamb Korma at Home

Preparing Indian cuisine does take some time and lots of spices. But the rewards are worth the trouble. This lamb korma at home recipe comes from the same source as the oven-baked chicken tandoori that I posted previously.

What is korma and how does it differ from curry? Korma is a mild curry made with yogurt and nuts and includes lots of coriander. It is rich in flavor and texture with many layers.

As I have mentioned before, while Indian recipes call for lots of spices, the same ones are used often in both Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. I like to buy the whole spice and grind them as needed, which takes only minutes if you use and inexpensive coffee or spice blender. The difference from the pre-ground spices that you buy in stores is huge and will make or break these dishes. Once you get in the habit of grinding your own spices you may never go back to buying them ground again.

As with many cuisines, organizing your ingredients before you actually begin to cook is essential. Things get added quickly and there is no time to suddenly start chopping or blending ingredients once the cooking commences. Preparing these recipes with someone else to help makes short work, but they can be done by one person.

For some ideas of how to put together a complete Indian meal, check out the suggestions I give on my post for tandoori chicken. And always be sure to have some good naan, roti or other bread and basmati rice to soak up the delicious sauces. Even if you only serve the lamb korma at home with a simple rice and a veg, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

Yield: About 6 to 8 servings as part of a full Indian meal

Ingredients

2 ounces of garlic cloves (about 8 large)

2 ounces of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup of milk

2 ounces of raw cashews

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/2 cup butter or ghee

1/4 cup of Canola or vegetable oil

1 pound (about 1 large) onion, finely chopped

2 pounds of lean lamb, cut into 1/5 inch cubes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1.5 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 pound tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

Directions

Puree the garlic and ginger in a processor or blender and set aside.

Combine all of your spices and the salt and set aside.

Mix the milk with the cashews and poppy seeds in a blender and process until smooth. (I found that this worked best if I first ground the cashews and poppy seeds in my spice grinder.)

Melt the butter or ghee in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until lightly browned. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic/ginger puree. Brown lightly.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the lamb pieces. Saute until lightly browned on all sides, turning as needed. This takes about 8 minutes. Scrape the skillet as necessary to prevent sticking. You can add a few drops of water to loosen any brown bits, but I found that the butter and oil was sufficient.

Add the spices and mix well being sure to coat all of the lamb pieces. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until the lamb is nicely glazed.

Add the tomatoes, yogurt and cashew, poppy seed milk mixture and stir through.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired.