28 November 2009

Overcoming My Fear of Indian Food

What do you fear most in the kitchen? Is there a particular cuisine or method of cooking that you really would like to try, but you fear to make on your own? Is it extra sad because you love to eat that particular food?

My fear: Indian food. I feel so silly admitting it, especially since my sister cooks it all the freaking time. I am sure part of my fear is due to my inexperience with enjoying Indian food. It is a giant country, and I have only recently discovered a love for certain types of Indian cuisine. Specifically, there is a lovely vegetarian Indian restaurant that I found with a friend in the past couple of years that has opened a world of possibilities to me.

I have been to several Indian restaurants, and none of them have ever moved me. None of them were vegetarian. I wonder if that is only a coincidence or the reason why I love the Banana Leaf restaurant here in Columbus. I know for sure that Banana Leaf is an excellent restaurant - I have had several experienced lovers of Indian food assure me that it is outstanding food. Honestly it was a relief to hear it was as good as I thought since I've had nothing comparable before.

It is safe to say that this restaurant has made me far more open-minded about trying Indian food. My sister made me an incredible feast inspired by a trip to Banana Leaf earlier this summer. It was delicious, and I felt somewhat confident afterward that I would be able to re-create our meal. But it wasn't until I saw a recent post by Kathy B on the CLBB about using stew meat that I was truly inspired to cook an Indian meal at home. Yes, I see the irony in me waxing poetic about eating vegetarian Indian food and then segueing into cooking an Indian pot roast.

Browning the meat thoroughly is very important to the finished flavor.

This dish is perfect for a cool autumn day. It was very easy to throw together with mostly pantry ingredients (I only had to restock my yogurt supply and buy stew meat). The beef falls apart and melts in your mouth. The Indian flavors are mild, and the yogurt combines with the beef juices to make a rich sauce. I loved eating this with a bit of naan and mango chutney. I also made the cauliflower and peas dish that my sister taught me how to make earlier this summer. It was the perfect accompaniment to the beef.

Fresh from the oven before stirring.

Check out Laura's blog for the Sauteed Cauliflower and Peas.

Beef Baked with Yoghurt and Black Pepper

Source: Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. boneless stewing beef cut into 1-1/2 in. cubes
3 med. onions, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. dried powdered ginger
1/8-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsps. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-1/4 c. plain yoghurt, beaten lightly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (I cooked mine at more like 275 degrees for 3+ hours)

Heat the oil in a wide, flameproof casserole-type pot over a med-high flame. When hot, put in as many meat pieces as the pot will hold easily in a single layer. Brown all the meat this way, then remove.

Put onions and garlic into the same pot and turn the heat down to medium. Stir and fry the onion-garlic mixture for about 10 minutes or until it has browned. Now put in the browned meat as well as any juices that might have accumulated in the plate. Also put in the ginger, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir for a minute. Now put in the yoghurt and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly, first with aluminum foill and then with a lid, and bake in the oven 1-1/2 hours. The meat should be tender by now. If it is not tender, pour in 1/2 c. boiling water, cover tightly, and bake another 20-30 minutes or until meat is tender. Stir meat gently before serving.
Serve with chapatis or another bread, or with a moist rice pullao.

Serves 4-6


Cate said...

congrats on your foray into Indian cooking! I love Indian food, but it helped to have old neighbors who are Indian. They introduced us to all sorts of stuff and really started my love affair with the food. One of the women in my mom's club does catering (Indian food) and now I get a weekly fix. Mmmm...

deraj1013 said...

There are two vegetarian Indian restaurants in Columbus. Aside from Banana Bean, there is also Udipi Cafe on Dublin Granville Rd. And many other Indian restaurants make both meat and vegetarian dishes. I'm a vegetarian, but despite my obvious prejudices, I love Bayleaf, Indian Oven, Taj Palace and Cuisine of India.

Remember, the only thing more difficult than overcoming a fear of Indian food is attempting to control an addiction to Indian food. That has been my experience, at any rate.