One of the most special trips that profoundly moved me was India. Its vibrant, chaotic, joyful world enveloped me in a way no other place has. Their simple acceptance of human nature, with all its dualities and complexities, held a mirror to myself with a little more kindness. All the Gods who attend to their needs gave me comfort as well. Their enthusiasm for life inspired me. The sincerity of their gratefulness gave me hope. Yes, the ice around my heart began to melt, under the Indian sun.
Challenging in its polarity and chaos, it is actually an incredibly sensual place, if only you allow your guard down and let it take you in. Once you let your prejudice and expectations go, it immediately wakes up your emotions and opens up your senses. The brave, deep colors in paintings, saris and peacock; the freshness of fruits; owning their artful heritage with pride, the craftsmanship and detail in their attempt to make everything as beautiful as it can be. The slow, self-assured movement of the elephants. The gentle touch of the shy girl hana-painting your hands; the softness of Indian silk. Sounds of people singing mantras in temples with a happy gratefulness, the twirling dancer’s dance with the sitar. The hypnotizing smell of incense and spices.
Sometimes, when I feel lost in Istanbul‘s angry push and pull, I try to escape in my mind, to India where I learned chaos can have its own logic, rhythm and charm. So this month, I was happy when my family told me that they’ve already decided (while I was traveling) that we would be together on New Year’s Eve and that it would be an Indian dinner party. Perfect…. celebrating life with all our senses, and remember their wisdom, humor and love.
Make sure to examine the ingredients and make a proper shopping list. You will find that most of the recipes use the same ingredients. You can buy ready-made Mango Chutney and Mint Sauce to add extra flavor and serve as condiments on the table.
INDIAN SUMMER BLUES COCKTAIL
- 3-4 green cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar
- juice of half a lime, plus a few thin slices for garnish
- 3 tablespoons gin
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon rosewater
- sparkling water
- Put the pods in a dram-type glass (about 1 1/2 cup capacity) and give them a gentle crush with a muddle stick or other blunt object. You just want to crack them; pulverizing them will result in lots of small, floating particles that will unpleasantly get stuck in your teeth.
- Add the agave, lime juice, gin and rosewater, and stir to dissolve the agave. (Optionally let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or longer to infuse with the cardamom.)
- Add the ice, then top with sparkling water and a slice or two of lime, and serve.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour or 1/2 all-purpose and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup hot water (but not boiling, just hot tap water)
- 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- melted butter for brushing (may use olive oil)
- fresh cilantro or other herbs for topping
- In a medium size bowl, or 4 cup glass measuring cup, dissolve the sugar in the warm water (about 105 degree F). Add the dry yeast to the warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let it sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth and rise.
- Add the four, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a large mixing bowl.
- When the yeast is foamy and smells like bread add the warm milk and yogurt. Pour the wet ingredients right into the middle of the dry and begin mixing the wet with dry using a wooden spatula. When the dough is about to come together, use your hands to finish mixing. As soon as it comes together, stop kneading. It should be sticky, but should form a ball and be soft. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place 1 hour or if not using right away overnight in the fridge.
- When ready to cook divide the dough into 8 equal balls and using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an oval shape. It should be about 6-8 inches long and about 1/4-inch thick, but no thinner. Repeat this method with the rest of the dough.
- Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Brush both sides of the naan with melted butter and if desired sprinkle on any spices you like such as cumin and garlic. Place the naan on the hot skillet, cover with a lid and bake for 1 minute, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside.
- Brush with a bit more butter if desired, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt, fresh cilantro or other herbs.
- Place the naan in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the naans and serve. These are best eaten fresh, but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
- 675g boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 2½cm chunks
- 3tbsp lemon juice
- 1tbsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 1tsp paprika
- ½-¾tsp chilli powder
- 6tbsp whipping cream
- ½tsp garam masala
- 3tbsp olive or sunflower oil
- 4tbsp olive or sunflower oil
- 140g onions, halved and finely sliced
- 1tbsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
- 5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1tbsp ground coriander
- ½tsp turmeric
- ¾tsp chilli powder
- 2tsp paprika
- 4tbsp yoghurt
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and very finely chopped
- 350ml chicken stock
- ¼tsp garam masala
- 4tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- Start by marinating the chicken tikka. Put the chicken in a nonreactive bowl and rub in 1¼tsp salt and the lemon juice. Prod the chicken pieces lightly with the tip of a knife and rub the seasonings in again, then set aside for 20 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika, chilli powder, cream and garam masala. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (longer will not hurt).
- When you’re ready to cook, make the masala: pour the 4tbsp of oil into a large, preferably nonstick, lidded pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onions. Stir and fry until they brown, 6-7 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to fry, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and paprika. Stir for 10 seconds, then add 1tbsp of the yoghurt. Stir and fry until it is absorbed. Add the remaining yoghurt in this way, a tablespoon at a time.
- Now put in the tomatoes. Fry them for 3-4 minutes, or until they turn pulpy. Add the stock and ¼tsp salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. The sauce should turn thick. Stir in the garam masala and coriander leaves, taste for balance of seasonings and add more salt if you need it.
- Shortly before you eat, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Thread the chicken on to 2-4 skewers (the flat, sword-like ones are best). Brush with the 3tbsp of oil and balance the skewers on the rim of a shallow baking tray, so that the meat is suspended and does not touch the tray. Place about 13cm from the source of heat and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned, cooked through and charred in places (cut a large piece of chicken to the centre to check there is no trace of pink). When the tikkas are cooked, reheat the sauce and fold in the chicken. Serve immediately.
- 120 ml sunflower oil
- 2 red onion, peeled and cut into 3 cm dice (340 g)
- 2 charlotte potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 cm dice (250 g)
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3 cm dice (500 g)
- 1 aubergine, cut into 3 cm dice (240 g)
- 1 red pepper, cut into 3 cm dice (150 g)
- 1 1/2 tbsp panch phoran
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 5 cardamom pods
- 2 courgettes, cut into 3 cm dice (280 g)
- 250 g green beans (or okra), trimmed
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (160 g)
- 3 green chillies, finely chopped
- 10-12 curry leaves
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 3 tbsp tamarind paste
- 4 tbsp lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
- Chopped coriander leaves, to serve
- Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, add the onion, potato and squash, and fry on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the aubergine to the pan, fry for eight minutes, then transfer to the other cooked veg.
- Top up the oil, if necessary – you need two tablespoons in the pan. Add the pepper and spices, and fry on high heat for three minutes, stirring. Add the courgettes, beans (or okra), tomatoes, chilli and curry leaves, and fry for five minutes on high heat.
- Return the cooked vegetables to the pan, add the sugar, tamarind and 200ml water, and simmer for five minutes. Season with salt to taste.
- Spread the mix on a baking tray, sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and bake for 12 minutes. Serve sprinkled with coriander.
- * Indian whole seed mix – you can make it yourself by mixing equal amounts of fenugreek, fennel, black mustard, nigella and cumin.
- **A popular alternative is to use lime juice (or sometimes white wine or rice vinegar) mixed with an equal quantity of light brown sugar as a substitute for tamarind
CHAI ICE CREAM
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted (3/4 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries (about 10), toasted (3/4 teaspoon ground)
- 8 cloves, toasted (1/2 teaspoon ground)
- 1 whole star anise, toasted (1/2 teaspoon ground)
- 6 cardamom pods, slightly crushed and toasted (3/4 teaspoon ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted (1/2 teaspoon ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup black tea leaves, like Assam, English Breakfast, or Orange Pekoe
- 6 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a medium saucepan, bring cream and milk to a simmer. Toast whole spices and stir into dairy along with cinnamon and ginger. Bring dairy to a boil, then remove from heat and cover to steep for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, return dairy to a boil, then remove from heat and stir in tea leaves. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
- Pour dairy through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup or bowl, pressing on tea leaves with a spoon to extract all liquid. In a clean medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale in color and slightly thickened. Slowly add strained dairy, whisking constantly.
- Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring frequently, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line. Stir in salt to taste, then strain custard into an airtight container and chill overnight
- The next day, churn ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and chill in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.