Tuesday, August 30, 2011

dal nirvana and chicken vindaloo

So I've tried making Indian food a one or two times in the past, but I didn't really do it up right. There are a lot of different spices common in Indian cuisine that I don't normally have around, and even though a little goes a long way for spices, they are always so expensive! As a result, my previous attempts always fell a little bit short. They were tasty, but not quite as flavorful as the genuine article.

This might have continued indefinitely had it not been for my lovely roommate Laura, who emailed me one day to say that she was making some spicy chicken vindaloo for our friend Matt, and would I like to join them? Well, I had a recipe for some lentil "dal nirvana" that I had been meaning to try, so I offered to make that to go with it.

Both of these dishes are pretty common examples of Indian cuisine, at least from what I've experienced of it. The chicken is cooked with potatoes and a spicy tomato and onion sauce. The lentils are boiled with tomatoes and Indian spices. This particular recipe appealed to me because it was finished with some cream and butter for added richness, and cilantro, which I pretty much love in anything. We decided to serve them both with white basmati rice.

Laura went all out for this dinner, which meant we had a new set of Indian spices to play with: coriander, cardamom, turmeric... we even ground up our own garem masala with cloves and pepper and stuff. It was pretty exciting. I particularly liked the smell of the coriander, which I had never smelt on its own before. It was really fragrant in a way I can't quite describe. A very clean, fresh scent, it was almost citrusy.

Laura and Matt tackled the chicken while I made the lentils. I was a little bit worried while they were making the sauce. The spicy pungent mixture was so pungent that I was literally crying when they threw the garlic, onions, tomatoes, fresh ginger and spices in the blender. Luckily, it mellowed on the stove, with all the thick paste cooking wayyyyy down so it was just coating the chicken and potatoes rather than drowning it. A little patience made it all possible.

Similarly, my lentils looked like soup in all the water and canned tomato juice, but after an hour on the stove it was nice and thick, infused with some extra garam masala which I took the liberty of adding.

I don't know if I'd say that the dal lived up to its nirvana name, but it was very, very tasty, and both dishes actually tasted like real deal Indian food. I was proud of us for making such an ethnic meal. Laura gets major kudos for springing for the exotic spices. And now we've got them on hand for any future Indian endeavors!

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