Thursday, October 8, 2009

660 Curries

I finally cooked a recipe from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer and it was delicious. I've decided to cook my way through the book over the next year -- 365 days, 660 curries. Just kidding, but I've been wanting to write that since seeing Julie and Julia.

Started with a very simple chicken curry with tomato and coconut milk. It was quick and easy and perfect for a week night. You just sautee some red onion, garlic and ginger, then sear the 1-inch cubes of chicken breast with curry mix, add the coconut milk and simmer till cubes are done (only a few minutes), remove the chicken and thicken the sauce, add tomato and cilantro, pour sauce over the chicken and serve.

I was going to grind the Madras curry powder myself from the component spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, thai chiles, and turmeric) but Wholefoods didn't have either whole fenugreek seeds or thai chiles so I just used some of the packaged curry powders on my shelf. Obviously, though, the real secret to this cuisine is to grind the spices fresh and I will just have to improve my sourcing for ingredients.

I bought this book some time ago after reading about Iyer being International Association of Culinary Professionals Teacher of the Year. I have other Indian cookbooks, including a couple of the classics by Madhur Jaffrey, and I like Indian cuisine, but I've found the undertaking daunting. This book seems to me to make Indian cooking accessible in the way Julia Child did for French cooking.

Curry of course refers not primarily to the powder or the sauce in a dish -- though that is the way most Americans would define it -- but to the dish itself. The frontispiece of the book defines it this way: "Any dish that consists of either meat, fish, poultry, legumes, vegetables, or fruits, simmered in or covered with a sauce, gravy or other liquid that is redolent with any number of freshly ground and very fragrant spices and/or herbs."

It was a revelation to me the first time I went to Indique how the spices could burst with flavor when freshly ground. In the meantime, my favorite area Indian restaurant is Passages to India in Bethesda, where again that freshness is paramount.

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