LET'S GET SPICY-Indian Street Food

Posted on 9th February, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'd probably live on Indian food if truth be told, proper street style dishes not the ubiquitous takeaway offerings that usually bear no resemblance to the authentic dishes. To this end I always, and I mean always, have basmati rice, gram flour, jars of spices and spice mixes, garlic (usually the lazy kind but often fresh) and ginger (again the lazy kind but occasionally fresh when I see it).

On a cold February evening there’s nothing as good as the spicy aromas coming from a rice dish such as Tawa Pulao or Masala Rice. I’m sure by now though you’ve come to understand I’m not a recipe collector as such, don’t get me wrong I have a huge collection of recipe books but they are really only used for inspiration. Let’s be honest here we all know that you may find an ideal recipe in a book but then realise you have ingredients missing. So what if you don’t have a particular spice to hand? Just swap it. Use cumin instead of coriander, use turmeric instead of cumin. Of course the final dish will be a bit different but that’s the joy of cooking, experiment. Don’t like fennel seeds? Leave them out. Like spicy but not heat? Cut down on the chillies or leave them out. Not all Indian food is chilli hot, some dishes rely on black pepper for heat or mustard seeds. Anyway I digress, the point here is that Indian street-style food can be simple, should be simple in fact so there’s no reason not to give it a go. Experiment with ingredients, the basics are easily mastered so what’s stopping you?

I quite often make my own spice mixes and store in jars for those evenings you simply don’t have time to start grinding spices from scratch. Sambar Powder is a good example but one I particularly like is Tandoori Spice Mix. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking we’ve been here before and that  ‘life’s too short to grind spices’ but the taste is so much fresher than some shop bought varieties it is worth it, however if you can buy ready-mixed spices from a good outlet then by all means do so, I’m not averse to buying ready ground mixes if I see something a bit unusual (it’s got to be tried after all!)

Now of course Tandoori is usually associated with meat dishes and really refers to recipes made using a Tandoor but let’s not nit-pick here I’m referring to Tandoori-style spices and these can easily be adapted to use in vegetarian food. Anyway back to the main gist of this post, on this particularly cold and miserable February night I made a simple Tandoori Masala rice dish and served it with dosa, another simple but staple South Indian accompaniment, cucumber and mint raita and lime pickle (mine is courtesy of my daughter the lime pickle queen) or a fruit chutney. You could use chapattis instead of dosa (easily bought or better still made) or the more usual Naan bread but dosa are delicious and relatively easy to make too.

Serves 4 but obviously adjust quantities depending on numbers, I like to have enough left over for lunch or dinner the following day. Why cook twice if you don’t have to.

Tandoori Spice Mix

 

Dried red chillis – 7 to 8

Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp

Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp

Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp

Black peppercorns – 1 tsp

Cardamom seeds–10 or so (if you have both black & green then 5 of each)

Cinnamon stick – 2 or 2 tsp already ground

Clove – 15 or so (just the actual cloves not the hard sticky bits)

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp (3 grams)

 

This list is not set in stone so feel free to add/subtract things to taste.

 

When all is ground to a fine powder then you can add in ground red paprika for colour if required.

 

Tandoori Masala Rice

Ingredients:

Approx 250gr Basmati rice

Good handful of Quorn pieces or use TVP, tofu or paneer (preference s the key here) or use a pulse such as butter beans or chick peas-we’re just aiming for a protein source after all

1 onion (red or white depends on what you have)

1 carrot

1 pepper (any colour)

¼ cauliflower

3 small potatoes

1 or 2 sticks celery

3 fresh tomatoes (I actually used roasted tomatoes from last season’s crop from the freezer)

2 or 3 dstspn Tandoori spice mix

Stock or bouillon cube made up with boiling water

Salt/pepper

Vegetable oil or coconut oil

 

 

Method:

Chop the vegetables into similar sized pieces, not too large but not finely chopped.

Heat oil in a heavy based pan and sauté gently until soft but not brown. Add the rice (now the purist will say wash it first but in my opinion basmati rice doesn’t need to be washed as there’s less starch in it than long grain rice but it’s your choice), making sure the grains are coated in oil and allow to sauté with the vegetables. Add the protein source (see above) and again allow to cook for a few minutes. Now sprinkle in the Tandoori spice, stirring to make sure all elements are coated. Add the chopped tomatoes (skinned if preferred).

Now you’re ready to add the stock, pour in enough to cover the other ingredients and allow it to reach simmering point, stir occasionally and as the rice starts to absorb the stock just add more stock until the rice and vegetables are cooked. If there seems to be a bit too much stock add a little tomato puree to thicken. Season to taste. What you should have is a vibrant red and tasty main dish ready to serve with your dosa, chapattis or naan.

 

Dosa:

 

I won’t pretend this version is authentic because the batter should really ferment before using but when you’re in a hurry this simple version is more than acceptable. If you’ve read any of my ramblings before you’ll know I keep a store cupboard and there are always several types of flour in there. For this easy dosa recipe I use gram flour (also know as besan or chick-pea flour), salt and water. Effectively that’s all you need; however, I often add a little spice such as cumin and on this occasion I toasted sesame seeds and added those too. Feel free to adapt to your taste.

Depending only on the number of dosa you want to make you simply put the flour and any other dry ingredients in a bowl and add sufficient cold water to make a batter, similar to a normal pancake batter consistency, when thoroughly mixed and smooth leave to stand for an hour if you can (as you would with normal batter).

You’ll need a non-stick frying pan or Seasoned (cast-iron) skillet and a little oil. Heat a small amount of oil until hot but not burning and pour in enough batter to coat the bottom, be careful not to make them too thick, think French crêpe. The batter will form tiny surface bubbles when it’s cooked on the bottom, just flip or turn over to cook the other side for a few seconds.

 

Raita:

Hardly needs instructions as it’s usually plain yogurt, chopped cucumber, chopped mint (an ideal way of using up that mint you put in the freezer last year!! Just me then?) with a little salt and pepper to taste. You can also add toasted cumin seeds for variety, worth a try.

 

So there you have it-in truth this post probably took longer to write than the recipes took to cook so give it a go, let me know how it goes plus there’s a couple of links to dishes I mention. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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