Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Keralan meal

One evening a couple of weeks ago I cooked a potato masala, of the sort one has in Kerala with dosas, for breakfast. Boil potatoes (with their skins on), peal them and then grossly crush them in a "soffritto" you'll have prepared of mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves, one fresh green chili, onion, ginger, curcuma and cayenne. One can add the potatoes' cooking water for extra creaminess, as I did. (The recipe could be simpler, and consist of the boiled pealed potatoes being cooked in a soffritto of onion-garlic-ginger-curry leaves, and curcuma added at the end.) I also made a fish "tagine" of sorts, a simple, quick and delicious dish directly and unabashedly copied from Gloria - prepare a soffritto of shallots, ginger and carrot; add a teasponful of "raz al hanout", a Moroccan spice mixture made of the same spices used in India, and which one can find at the Bon Marché's Grande Epicerie in Paris and also at Kalustyan in New York, for instance - curcuma, chili, ginger, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black pepper, fenugreek seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, star anise, salt). Into that mix you add a light white fish, cut into big squares, cook on low flame until coloured, just a few minutes, then add water and that's it. One can serve with fresh coriander leaves. Perfect with Indian dishes, given the identical nature of the spices used.

My husband wasn't hungry enough for all this, so we planned to have the leftovers for lunch the next day. So I decided to go for it and within one hour I'd made a few other dishes. First I made some dhal, the equivalent for Indians of pasta for Italians, more or less. I used yellow lentils, boiled, to which I then added a soffritto of mustard seeds-dry red chili-curry leaves then onion-garlic, then a masala of cumin seends, curcuma and cayenne. Water, salt, another 10mn on a low flame. Add lemon juice at the end, though I forgot to do that then. This recipe is from Maya Kaimal's "Savoring the Spice Coast of India", as was that for the potato masala, and the rest of the meal, which included:

- fresh spinach, sauteed in a soffritto of mustard seeds, a whole red chili, curry leaves, shallot, to which I added, half-way through cooking, some grated coconut mixed with water and a masala of cumin, cayenne and curcuma and a whole fresh green chili;

- a raita, made my usual way, with coriander, cumin and sweet paprika - had no cucumber in the house so left that out;

- basmati rice, made with some curcuma and saffron.

A proper Indian lunch then, easy to make, healthy, colourful and very good.