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The latest obsession

Ingredients for garam masala

Ingredients for garam masala

GC and I have a new hobby. You may remember that we tend to be a little obsessive about our new hobbies. We’re not dabblers; we’re full-immersion hobbyists.

This time? Indian cooking.

It all started when Hella Stella said something on her Facebook status about making curried chick peas.

I like curry and I like chick peas and I like Hella Stella, and the next thing you know I was making her recipe. It was delicious. So then I asked her for an Indian cookbook recommendation, and she suggested 660 Curries. I ordered it from Amazon, and two days later I had it – all 900 pages of it – in my eager little hands.

That was two or three days ago. Since then we’ve made six recipes – ghee, cashew chicken, curried chick peas and potatoes, garam masala, toasted coriander and cumin seeds blend, and roti bread. We’ve also made two trips to the Indian grocer at Somerset and Bronson, where we’ve purchased all kinds of exotic Indian things like black salt and mango powder and dried pomegranate seeds. We even bought a new pan, for making flatbread.

We consulted with the Indian grocer about various ingredients, and he was helpful even though he seemed a little skeptical that the two of us could actually manage to cook Indian food.

“Do you have a pan for cooking the roti?” he asked.

“What kind of pan would that be?” I asked.

“Come,” he said, “I’ll show you.”

And he started leading us to the pan section. GC whispered to me “Whatever he shows us, just say ‘Oh yeah, we already have one of those.'”

So he shows us this heavy, shiny, slightly concave disk with a handle.

“Oh yeah,” I said, “We already – ”

“We’ll take it,” said GC.

(I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned, but GC is a bit of a kitchen gadget freak. He loves kitchen stuff, and he has lots of it. If he sees something good that he doesn’t yet have, he is almost powerless to resist, despite his best intentions and despite his whispered admonitions to others.)

Anyway. Indian cooking. It’s a lot of work. Many of the recipes list other recipes among their ingredients. So you find yourself making garam masala, for example, because it’s an ingredient in the cashew chicken.

But it’s worth it, just for the aromas alone. Sometimes I go into the kitchen and unscrew the the garam masala jar and inhale deeply. It smells that good.

So far the results have been pretty good. I loved the cashew chicken. The only thing that didn’t really work was the ghee. But I think that’s because the recipe cautioned about not letting it get too hot. Not letting it boil. I watched a youtube video with a fat, half-naked dude making a big batch of ghee, and he had it at a rolling boil.

In other news, we went skiing at Mer Bleue yesterday, for two hours along a treacherously icy trail. I was soooo glad to get to the end. As soon as we stopped, my temperature started plunging. By the time we got home, it was 34.7 (94.5 F). I took a hot bath, but instead of the bath making me hot, I made it cold. Like I was a giant ice cube. So then I bundled up in my flannel sheep pajamas and a down vest and big fat socks, and started cooking Indian food on all four burners. That warmed me up.

21 comments to The latest obsession

  • I’m so pleased that I unknowingly led you towards your new obsessive hobby! It’s a good one to obsess over. I’d be happy to sample your curries… Just to test them out, you understand…. :)

  • grace

    I know I’ve bragged to you about our wonderful new neighbours here. Did I tell you about Gurmell’s cooking . . . her kitchen is always full of delicious smells and the door always open.

  • Malva

    I love 660 Curries! I had been meaning to check out the store at Booth and Somerset (that’s the one you’re referring to right? You wrote Bronson) because the indian grocer near me doesn’t have the black salt, mango powder and dried pomegranate seeds the author goes on about in each recipe.

  • How did your roti turn out? My mother-in-law has been trying to teach me to cook roti for 15 years now (she is Indian) and I fail every time. Perhaps it’s time I learned how to do it from a book, instead of a mother-in-law!

  • I watched that video for about 30 seconds, then I skipped forward to where he’s opening up the butter… and I had to turn it off. Probably because I have no sound so it was just a half-naked guy caressing a big block of butter.

  • Rae

    The Food Basics @ Merivale and .. Well, it’s in the merivale triangle of doom.. has Ghee. I use it for when I make puri and Chicken and Yogurt in Spices or Almond Chicken Korma.. I would link you except my blog archive is down…Hah

  • Hella Stella, I’m not sure we’re ready to cook Indian food for company, especially for company that is good at cooking Indian food! But…give us a little time to build up our confidence, and we’ll do it. (Which makes me wonder…do you think anybody ever invites chefs over for dinner, besides other chefs?)

    Grace, it seems almost cruel of her to tantalize the neighbours with the aromas but not the flavours…

    Malva, nope, we went to the one on Somerset between Bronson and Cambridge. I think it’s called India Grocer. There’s another one at Booth and Somerset called NASA – I imagine they’d have all the same things, but that guy sneezed on us once and we never quite got over it…

    Lynn, the roti turned out pretty good. I followed the instructions as best as I could. There were a lot of steps, but the end result was good. (Mind you, I’m not sure I’ve ever had roti before, so I can’t say for certain that it turned out the way it was supposed to.)

  • Junkie Monkey, I watched it twice, with a mix of horror and fascination.

    Rae, I ended up buying some ghee too. I’m so confused now. The fat naked guy said it should be clear and liquid, like oil, but the stuff I made and the stuff I bought is neither clear nor liquid. Is yours clear and/or liquid?

  • I love indian food so much that I use my spice mixes in my bath and body recipes too.

    The best thing for me was making friends with a Pakistani womyn who cooked for her huge extended family every day – she taught me how to make it all almost effort free and explained how to get by with many fewer spices than I thought were needed. How you prepare the spices – dry, roasted, fried or pickled/fermented all matter more than having tons of different ones.

    My ghee is a semi solid normally, solid when cold and liquid when its really hot out.

    What to try something amazingly fun? Make Paratha – its better than a doughnut – stuff it full of fresh mint and coriander and serve with peach or mango chutney.

    Oh! Try making paneer! So easy and you’ll feel like a magician!

  • grace

    Zoom, I would never have you think badly of my neighbour! Her door is open in the sense that she welcomes people to eat her delicious food; not hanging open . . . that would be just silly in January.

    She was born in Punjabi but has been here since 1973. She can’t walk the 30 feet to ur house at this time of the year without hat, mitt, scarf, warm coat and insulated boots. Her door would only hang open at 40 C.

  • Mudmama, paratha – I’m looking it up now! Happy birthday, by the way.

    Grace, I’m so literal sometimes. Forgive me. :)

  • Julia

    Have a look at this too:
    I don’t htink there is any magic to it.

    I love the taste of curries. Back in the 70s, in Kingston, when we were all making our own granola and yogurt, there was a vegetarian restaurant called “Scarecrow” and there, I had a curry where they had left all the spices separate, instead of crushing them together. That was different!

  • Zoom, my temperature is crazy low all the time, like my normal morning temp is between 35.0 and 36.0 I used to take it every morning orally. Is this something strange I should mention to my doctor? My thyroid is normal.

  • lucy

    Well, that sounds like a really good hobby to acquire; even if you lose interest in the hobby after a while, you will at least have learnt new recipes that you can continue to make.

    I’ve never been the Indian Grocer. Should try it some time. I normally go to Nasa and so far the guy hasn’t sneezed on me. Nasa used to have really really good samosas, fresh and crisp with perfectly-spiced potato filling, but then one day they stopped selling those and switched to a new brand of flat samosa with a mushy mashed potato filling. So now I only go there for rice and spices. I wonder if the Indian Grocer has better samosas.

    Speaking of samosas, does your book have a good recipe for making them? I once made some with my Indian roommate and her friends, but now I don’t remember how to make the pastry; I think we used gram flour. We were too health-conscious to deep fry them so we pan-fried them with a relatively small amount of oil, but in spite of that the end result was quite good.

  • lucy

    P.S. As far as I know, ghee is supposed to semi-solid at room temperature; it only turns liquid when heated. but it could be that its room-temperature consistency depends on how it has been prepared. I’ve only seen the store-bought stuff, haven’t tried to make it myself.

  • grace

    You watched it twice??? I couldn’t even make it through once. The half-naked dude was too much for my delicate sensibilities I guess.

    We have our resident chef (daughter’s boyfriend) over for dinner all the time. He loves everything I cook for him and, even better, will often pitch in for all the last minute and fresh vegetable stuff. I can’t think of a much more appreciate audience actually. I think picky eaters are the worst to entertain and chefs are not that.

  • Thanks Julia.

    Mudmama, by sheer coincidence, an Ottawa researcher just announced findings today that being cold is good for you. See here:

    Lucy, I love a good samosa. I used to have an Indian coworker who, for a time, would get up at 4:00 am every morning to make a big batch of them to sell at work. It only lasted a few weeks before she decided it was too much trouble. The 660 Curries cookbook does have a recipe for samosas.

    Grace, I only watched it twice because I really wanted to know how to make ghee, and I was too distracted by the half naked As for chefs for dinner guests, I think it could go either way. Some (like yours) love and appreciate food. But others might be judgmental and critical, don’t you think? Even if they don’t say anything?

  • I love Indian food!
    I wish I could cook :(

  • grace

    Oh no . . . maybe he’s cleaning his plate and not saying anything ;0)

  • I’m so impressed with your Indian adventures!! Also hungry. And then I couldn’t stop laughing over GC’s “We’ll take it!” at the store – reminds me of going to the Best Buy with Kate for some DVDs and leaving with a new monitor and a Wii. Gadget lovers and the women who love them…

  • Lisa in Toronto

    I seem to be getting a rash if too cold these days – I hope that passes.

    I think cooking Indian food is an excellent antidote to winter.
    I want to try to make the south indian steamed dumpling idli. I bought a mix, but maybe I should try it from scratch. The problem is that the mix is for 40 idli, and I am just one person … Time to break out the calculator.

    have a good week