Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Nod to Anjum Anand

Anjum Anand is my favorite chef specializing in Indian cuisine, her books and programs taught me the basics of how to use and put together spices, and how to make dishes flavorful and delicious eliminating the need for unnecessary fat.  When deciding which dishes of hers to showcase in this post, I decided the two that were not only my favorites but, also ones that showcase this premise the best are her Coconut Chicken Fry, Stir-fried Cabbage, Bengal Gram and Coconut and Bengali-style Aubergines Cooked in Yogurt.  Do not be fooled by the use of the words “fry” or “fried” in the recipe titles, while they are used as the method of cooking, it is not the traditional means of unhealthy frying most of us are accustomed to.  In fact, as you will see the amount of oil used for frying is minute and used primarily as a means to bloom or intensify the spices adding flavor to the dishes.  Let’s get started.

Coconut Chicken Fry
Adapted from Anjum Anand’s recipe     

This is a wonderful dish to try if you are new to making or trying curry, while the spices are bold they are also subtle in the sense of how most curries taste and therefore, in my opinion, a great introduction to these flavors.

3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
6 chicken drumsticks, skinless preferred
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp allspice
1 sm. onion, finely sliced
12 fresh curry leaves
3 serrano chilies, one pricked with the tip of a knife
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
6 cloves of garlic, minced
a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
¾ cup unsweetened fresh, frozen or desiccated coconut
salt and freshly ground pepper

Start by heating the oil in a pan over medium; add the cinnamon, cardamom and allspice allowing them to fry until fragrant.  Next, add the onion and fry until golden, then add the curry leaves, chilies, ginger and garlic reducing the heat and cooking until the garlic has softened, about three minutes on medium-low.  Once tender, add the drumsticks, season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir fry for four minutes then add the garam masala and enough water to reach half way up the chicken pieces, bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for twelve to fifteen minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.  Remove the lid, bring temperature to high and boil off any remaining liquid, once the liquid has almost completely evaporated add the coconut and lemon juice, cook four to five more minutes until everything is toasted.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Stir-fried Cabbage, Bengal Gram and Coconut
Adapted from Anjum Anand’s recipe 

This is a positively pungent way to dress up boring old cabbage the spices complement the toasty flavor the cabbage takes on from cooking and the Bengal Gram or lentils balance the dish nutritionally.

½ cup Bengal Gram, dried chickpeas can also be used
1 tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil
½ cabbage, shredded
1/3 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp Nigella seeds
2 dried red chilies, left whole
10 fresh curry leaves
½-inch piece of grated ginger
¾ tsp turmeric powder
4 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
a small squeeze of lemon juice
¼ cup chopped roasted cashews
Salt to taste

It is best to soak the lentils over night, and then cook by boiling in unsalted water until tender, about thirty minutes.
Heat oil in a frying pan add the mustard and Nigella seeds, then once the popping stops add the red chilies, grated ginger and curry leaves.  Allow this to cook another few seconds before adding the shredded cabbage, turmeric and salt, stir fry everything together until the cabbage is crisp and tender.  Last stir in the cashews, lentils, coconut and lemon juice before serving. 

Bengali-style Eggplant Cooked in Yogurt

Surprisingly light, this dish is a great accompaniment to the robust spicy flavors of the Coconut Chicken and Stir-fried Cabbage recipes.  This side can be served hot, warm or at room temperature as the longer it sits after cooking the better the flavor.

1 ½ cups small Japanese or Italian eggplants, sliced into rounds
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chili powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
a handful of coriander, chopped

Toss eggplant rounds with turmeric, salt and a ¼ tsp of red chili powder then fry in a heated pan coated with vegetable oil until tender.  The goal is to gently fry not stew the eggplant therefore you may need to do this in more than one batch to avoid developing too much liquid.

In a sauce pan, combine 1 cup yogurt, sugar, salt and remaining ¼ tsp of red chili powder heat gently stirring to avoid the mixture from spitting, for five minutes.  Once heated through, stir in the cumin, and eggplant pieces, cook another three to four minutes until the eggplant is heated through, then stir in the remaining yogurt and sprinkle with coriander before serving.

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