One kid's adventures in gastronomy

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I “Heart” Indian Food

Mama makes something she calls a one-pot Indian dish. It’s really simple, and I’ve mentioned it before because we have it about once a month. She starts with onions, cooked in oil, then adds whatever she finds in the fridge, beginning with garlic and ginger, curry powder, cardamom, some veggie stock, and coconut milk; she often adds home-canned tomatoes, chickpeas, peas, spinach, and basmati rice. This is always a “what’s-in-the-fridge” sort of dinner, but if Mama’s planning ahead, she might buy some paneer (Indian cheese) from an Indian market beforehand, and I really like that. Anyway, before you know it, the house smells so good and warm and inviting.

But before she even does that, she gets to making naan. Naan? you ask. Naan is a leavened bread–that means, it uses something (in this case, yeast) to rise. What’s funny about that is that naan doesn’t rise like the other breads we’ve made; it’s actually a flatbread.

Mama’s recipe is super simple to make and pretty good to eat. (I told her so myself.) And if you make the dough before you start the rest of your dinner, it’ll be ready to put in the oven by the time you’re just about ready to eat.

3 pieces of naan, all shiny from the melted ghee

3 pieces of naan, all shiny from the melted ghee

But Mama didn’t stop at naan. She made me a mango lassi. (I helped press the button on the hand blender.) I’ve had one of these drinks before, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved it tonight. It’s really similar to a smoothie, except I had it with dinner! I sported a lassi mustache through most of the meal. The drink was refreshing and cooling, as Mama made the dinner a wee bit spicy. (I like spicy, though.)

I'm saving this lassi for later.

I’m saving this lassi for later.

All in all, this was a great dinner. I wouldn’t mind having it more than once a month–and the lassi, maybe every night.

Love, Jude


1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 c warm water (105–110°, hot enough to hold your finger in it without scalding)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp veg oil or melted coconut oil
Pinch baking soda
2 1/2 Tbsp plain yogurt (or 2 Tbsp milk with a tsp. of lemon juice)

Preaheat oven to 500°. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Use a whisk to be sure it’s all dissolved and slightly foamy.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, oil, soda, and yogurt. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine, until smooth. Oil your hands and coat the dough ball. Set on a sprayed baking sheet and allow to double in size, 30-60 minutes. (Mama covers it with a light towel to keep the draft off.)

Divide the dough into 6 and roll out each piece on a floured surface–roll into more of an oval, rather than a circle (you know, like naan!). These don’t have to be perfect, remember. Wet your hands and flip the dough between them (so it stretches a bit). Put directly on a clean pizza stone on the bottom (or bottom rack) of oven, working in batches if necessary. (Mama feels a regular baking sheet that’s been preheated would also work, too.) Bake 4 to 6 minutes–keep an eye on them to bake them to your desired puffiness. (They’ll crisp up and brown the longer they’re in there.)

Remove from oven with tongs and immediately brush with melted butter. (If you want to get fancy, brown the butter for more of a ghee-like taste. And if you really want to get fancy, clarify that butter to make your own ghee.)

Mama’s Mango Lassi

1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
Couple big tablespoons yogurt (plain, vanilla, or “banilla”)
About 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
Enough milk to thin [or swap out this and the canned coconut milk for coconut milk in a carton]
Few dashes of cardamom

Place all the ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth and creamy. (May also use a hand blender.) It should be thin enough that you can drink it with a straw, but not runny.


It’s an Acquired Taste

Not everyone enjoys curry, but I do. Mama cooks her version of Indian food, and she and Papa once took me out for Indian. But I’ve found I really like it in a soup. Mama made a soup that she packed up for the freezer, and it never even made it there. Just look at me devouring it:

I pulled my chair over to the counter and dived right in. The soup wasn’t even warm, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

Mama tells me that even though curry comes in a spice jar, it isn’t actually a spice that grows as curry. It’s a blend of different ingredients, and people all over India and other parts of Asia have their own way of making it, as it is passed down from generation to generation. Some blends are hot, some are sweet. Some are orange, some are yellow, and some are green. Sometimes the whole spices (such as coriander and cumin) are toasted in a dry pan to enhance their flavor before they are ground into a powder.

We don’t make our own curry, but we could. And maybe we will! What I like about the idea of making a curry powder, is that we can’t really go wrong. We’ll add a little of this and a lot of that until we like the taste we’ve developed. Here are some individual spices that could go into a curry:

  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Mustard
  • Garlic
  • Fenugreek
  • Fennel seed
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Red chili
  • Poppy seeds

Alas, I cannot give you the soup recipe, but Mama said that in addition to curry, it had turmeric and some cayenne, along with red lentils (because they cook quicker), onion, carrots, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. She cooked them in a pot, and once the lentils and vegetables were soft, she pureed it. The soup was creamy a flavorful, but not overly pungent. And I really liked the color.

I ate this soup for dinner and again for lunch the next day (out of a bowl, sitting at the table). And you know I’m not a big fan of leftovers. If anyone makes their own curry, please feel free to post your recipe here, as I’d sure like to try it.

Love, Jude