It’s no secret that I’m fond of Indian food and that my family is too. As with everything I have my favorites and perhaps the single most favorite dish is from the inimitable Madhur Jaffrey.
It is to be found in her wonderful book, “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.” I especially like this book because it is designed for ordinary home cooks in a hurry. Substitutions are made or recommended for difficult-to-find Indian ingredients and the dishes really are all easy to prepare. It is also one of the few cookbooks I own from which I have never ever made a dud.
So the backbone of dinner was the easy grilled chicken. This is a huge family favorite. However I had to make it without yoghurt and so I was forced to improvise a bit. I decided to venture afield for the other mainstays of this meal. On a recent trip to London we went on one of the truly fantastic Original London Walks tours. This one was “A Slice of India” and is basically a tour of Southall given by Monisha Bharadwaj who it turns out has also written a nice, also simple, Indian cookbook called “Stylish Indian in Minutes.”
I liked the look of a dish with peas, mustard seeds and coconut so I adapted it fairly heavily to go with the beet greens and kale that I had.
Finally, I turned for the rice to that trusty rice cooker savior, Beth Hensperger. (Also bread machine and crockpot saviour – her books about these machines are literally the best there are. If you own one, just get her book and learn afresh just what they are capable of). Anyway, I adapted a yellow Indian pilau from her book, “The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook.”
I made pretty hefty changes to all these recipes so I am giving my versions here…with the exception of the grilled chicken. The original can’t be beat – I didn’t have yoghurt and it showed. Just make the original. You’ll make it again and again and again…I di, however, add four asian eggplants cut into quarters lengthways in the pan as I grilled/roasted and they absorbed some of the spices. I was going to mash them up with the remaining pan juices/sauces as a spicy eggplant dip, but the starving hordes polished the whole lot off…
Yellow Pilau Rice
You’ll need two small onion, a tablespoon of mustard seed, a tablespoon of cumin seed, a tablespoon of ground turmeric, two cups basmati rice and some chicken stock and butter. Turn the rice cooker on and set it to cook as if rice were already in it. Put three tablespoons of butter in the cooker to melt and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the butter is melted and starting to get hot, chop the onions up finely and stir them in. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally for ten minutes. Then stir in the rice and the turmeric coating everything thoroughly until the rice is also getting hot. Now add 3 and a half cups of chicken stock and salt to taste and put the lid on the cooker and leave to cook the rice normally. Once the rice cooker is done, fluff the rice with a fork when ready to serve.
I used a bunch of beet greens and a bunch of dino kale (cavalo negro I believe), but you can use any greens really. You’ll also want one small whole chilli, a tablespoon of cumin seeds, a tablespoon of mustard seeds, some salt and some lemon juice. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil (I used olive) in a large skillet and heat on high. Drop in the seeds and the whole chilli. Meanwhile wash and chop the greens. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the greens and spend a couple of minutes stirring them in until they start to wilt and reduce. Now add the lemon and the salt to taste (about a teaspooon of salt and a tablespoon of lemon juice). Keep cooking until the greens are thoroughly wilted. Remove the chilli pepper and serve.