Being on Friendlier Terms with Our Stomachs

Curry the provocative spicy concoction evolved out of India’s five-thousand-year-old healing system called Ayurveda (science of life: body, mind and spirit) and has traveled a fascinating voyage through time.  Based on sensible beliefs that developed during the Vedas (ancient knowledge), centuries of study, testing, and observation and nourishment of the body and contentment of the mind proved vital to the eating habits of the people of the Indian subcontinent.  The precepts of the six rasas or flavors developed and became part of every meal.  Each flavor is believed to have its therapeutic health remedy and was prescribed in a particular proportion to the others.  Since food was believed to influence behavior as well as physical well-being, these beliefs were taken seriously, evolving through time.  Today it is an important function of the Indian subcontinent’s consciousness, and could be the reason why most Indians tend to be on friendlier terms with their stomachs.

The word curry comes from the South Indian Tamil word kari, meaning a richly spiced sauce with kari podi or curry powder.  Tasty and tantalizing to the palate and the senses, curry is essentially a stew or a casserole of meat, fish, or vegetables sautéed and cooked in a mixture (masala) of several pungent spices.  Chili peppers, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, coriander, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, bay leaf, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, mace, saffron, and other healing spices form a part of many mouth-watering curry dishes.

These spices and herbs are Nature’s gift to us.  They are the heating and cooling energy specialists of the body and aid the digestive process in  keeping balance and harmony. They

  • stimulate the taste buds and increase the flow of saliva
  • relieve gas, and reduce nausea
  • soothe the nervous system
  • increase internal body heat to relieve chills
  • strengthen and promote digestion, absorption, metabolism,  elimination, and circulation

The much talked about ancient Indian curry spice curcumin or turmeric (haldi) powder, has been used for thousands of years to strengthen and tone the stomach, promote appetite, and helps to get rid of parasites in the intestinal tract.  As a natural antioxidant substance, turmeric has few equals in helping to prevent disease; slow the oxidation of oils, fats, and so forth; and check the deterioration of cells and tissues in the body.

Western researchers now claim turmeric powder “is arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence… There is definitely no shortage of scientific evidence these days to show that curcumin, the believed to be primary active ingredient in the spice turmeric hold incredible therapeutic value, and just might be the most advisable medicinal spice of our day. Besides quelling anti-inflammatory pain and promoting wound healing, turmeric is a seemingly miraculous anti-cancer nutrient of the highest order… Curcumin regulates inflammation that plays a major role in most chronic illnesses, including neuro-degenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases and aids in healing by ameliorating the chronic inflammation associated with a multitude of ailments and illnesses, from toothaches to cardiovascular disease… Curcumin is an all-round health agent that promotes vibrant health…”

http://truthisscary.com/2013/03/curcumin-vs-cancer-the-scientific-evidence-continues/

Mushrooms and Broccoli sautéed in Turmeric, Garlic & Green Chili

Serves 6

2 packages fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 pounds broccoli heads, cut into pieces
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
8 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1 small green chili, chopped fine
Salt to taste

Steam the mushrooms and broccoli for 5 minutes.  Rinse and drain.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the turmeric, garlic and green chili and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until they change color to a darker shade.  Add the mushrooms, broccoli and salt, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and serve hot with lunch or dinner.

We are what we eat.  My ‘gift of good health’ came from a spiritual reawakening through Indian food because it promotes creativity, life, vitality, strength, health, laughter, joy, and cheerfulness.

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

 

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Marvelous Indian Hamburger

This is a marvelous, super-fast grilled “hamburger,” with a blend of ground meat, onion, garlic, ginger, fresh cilantro leaves and other tingly spices served on a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and Sweet Mint Chutney.

Indian Hamburger (Kheema Tikka)

Serves 6

 2 pounds lean ground meat of your choice
1 egg
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 medium onion,  peeled and chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small green chili, chopped fine (optional)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
¼ teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon ground black mustard seeds
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients except the oil.  Divide the mixture into six equal hamburger patties.  Prepare the barbecue charcoal grill or heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the hamburgers and cook over medium heat until browned.  Turn the patties and cook until browned on the other side and done to your taste.  Serve on warm wheat buns or pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and sweet mint chutney.

Sweet Mint Chutney (Meethi Pudina ki Chutney)

1 cup fresh  mint leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
¼-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh green chili
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt to taste

Remove and discard the stems from the mint leaves.  In a blender, combine mint leaves and all other ingredients.  Blend to a fine paste.  Serve in a small bowl as an accompaniment to Indian Hamburger, hors d’oeuvres, or any meal.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Mung Beans with Spinach

Legumes (dals) or dried beans and peas contain enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.  Easily digested and highly nutritious, dal is an accompaniment of almost every Indian lunch.  The repertoire of dal dishes is indeed extensive, from liquid soups and thick purees, stews, fried appetizers, crispy pancakes and crepes, sauces,  and chutneys to sprouted salads and delicious sweetmeats.

Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies,  mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter (ghee).

Mung Beans with Spinach (Dal Palak)

Serves 6

1 cup split yellow mung beans
2 bunches fresh spinach or 2 (10-ounce) frozen spinach packets (thaw before using)
8 cups water
10 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated
Salt to taste
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 medium chopped onions, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chili powder
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh green chili, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Soak the mung beans in cold water for 20 minutes.  Rinse and drain.

Discard coarse spinach stems.  Wash and chop the spinach.

In a large pot, add 8 cups water, spinach, mung beans, garlic, ginger, and salt.  Cover and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes until the beans are tender.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until they change color to a darker shade.  Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.  Add the turmeric and chili powder, and mix for 1-2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and green chili, and mix for 1-2 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and mix.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice, lamb curry, vegetables, and salad.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net .

 

Cook up an Unforgettable Madras Chicken Curry…

The fame of Indian spices is older than recorded history.  Centuries before Greece and Rome had their birth, sailing ships carried Indian spices, perfumes, and silks to Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt.  It was the lure of these exotic products that brought many seafarers to the shores of India.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the “New World.”  Five years later four tiny ships sailed southward from the port of Lisbon, Portugal, under the command of Vasco da Gama.  Like Columbus, da Gama was searching for a new route to the spice lands of Asia.  Columbus failed, da Gama succeeded and his successful voyages intensified an international power struggle for control over the spice trade.  For three centuries the nations of Western Europe – Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, and Great Britain – waged bloody sea wars over the spice-producing colonies.

The spices of the east were valuable in Vasco da Gama’s time, as they had been for centuries because they could be used to stretch Europe’s inadequate supply of food.  Spices could be used to preserve meat for a year or more.  During the Middle Ages a pound of ginger was worth a sheep, a pound of mace worth three sheep or half a cow.  Pepper, the most coveted spice of all, was counted in individual peppercorns, and a sack of pepper was said to be worth a man’s life!

These spices were used for centuries in India’s ancient medical system Ayurveda (science of life – body, mind, and spirit) to stimulate the taste buds and increase the flow of saliva, relieve gas, and reduce nausea, soothe the nervous system, increase internal body heat to relieve chills, and strengthen and promote digestion, absorption, metabolism, and circulation.  For example, India’s ancient yellow colored curcumin or turmeric (haldi) powder, used in many curry recipes ‘is arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence.’  Today western research suggests that curcumin regulates inflammation that “plays a major role in most chronic illnesses, including neuro-degenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases and aids in healing by ameliorating the chronic inflammation associated with a multitude of ailments and illnesses, from toothaches to cardiovascular disease.”

The magic of curry is in the blending and sautéing of spices (masala) in hot oil as in this delicious healthy chicken curry!

Madras-Style Chicken Curry (Madrasi Murgh Korma)

Serves 6

1 4-pound chicken
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
¼  cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 cup water
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
2 dried red chilies
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ cup freshly grated coconut
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
6 cloves
½  teaspoon black peppercorns
6 black cardamom pods, pods removed and discarded
1 small cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces¼  cup plain low-fat yogurt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 bay leaves
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine

Remove the skin and fat from the chicken.  Cut into 10-12 pieces and place in a large bowl.  Rub the turmeric, salt, and yogurt over the chicken and marinate for 1 hour.  Place the water, onions, garlic, ginger, red chilies, coriander, cumin, coconut, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and bay leaves in a blender and puree.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the pureed mixture, and fry over medium heat for 10  minutes.  When the oil separates from the masala, stir in the chicken and yogurt marinade and mix thoroughly.  bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender, occasionally stirring and checking to be sure the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with plain basmati rice,  fresh salad, and legumes.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

 

Timeless Curry Powder (Kari Podi)

The turmeric-colored south Indian kari podi, or the Anglicized curry powder, was one of the exotic treasures that many sailors in the past brought back home to their wives or mothers.  In 1792, the following instructions for a “Curry of Chicken” recipe appeared in a book printed in Philadelphia: Get a bottle of curry powder.  Strew it over the chicken when frying… if it is not seasoned high enough, put in a little cayan (cayenne).

Today there are thousands of variations of freshly bottled or canned spice powder blends (garam masala), mixes, and curry pastes.  In time, a master cook in the art of seasoning and preparing sumptuous meals will develop a sixth sense for her or his ingredients without any assistance from recipes or measuring tools.

Garam masala literally means a mixture of “hot spices” and is composed of black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek seeds.  To obtain the best flavor, garam masala must always be roasted for 2-3 minutes on a small, hot skillet over medium heat.  Garam masala is used by itself or generally in combination with coriander, cumin, and turmeric to prepare a quick curry.  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, or walnuts are also used in combination with garam masala and other spices to create seductive, subtle, delicate flavors and textures in a dish.

Spices are strong and must always be used in small quantities, correct measurements, and precise combinations to get the desired flavor.  Some spices are more pungent and powerful than others.  Always use a level teaspoonful of ground spices (never heaped).  Excessive use of green or red chilies will ruin almost any curry.

Buy spices in small quantities and store them in airtight jars.  Whole spices retain their flavor and power much longer than ground spices.  The shelf life for ground spices is three months and for whole spices is six months.

sauteing-spices

Mughal-Style Curry Powder for Meats and Vegetables                    (Mughalai Kari Masala)

Serves 6

5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
12 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded
1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
12 cloves
6 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 tablespoons cumin seeds
1  tablespoon ground mace
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
4 dried red chilies
2 tablespoons ground turmeric

Heat a small skillet over high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices.  Stir constantly with a spatula for 3-4 minutes until the spices change color to a darker shade and release their distinct aromas.

Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Tandoori-Style Chicken Kebab

India is truly the land of spectacular mouthwatering kebabs (meats roasted on a skewer or pounded fried meat).  The art of Mughal-style kebab making was developed in the kitchens of the caliphs of Baghdad and perfected in Lucknow and Hyderabad, where kebab-makers mastered hundreds of variations of chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetables, cheese, and legume kebabs.

The king of kebab, or tandoori-style chicken kebab, is a very tasty way to prepare chicken.  The traditional clay oven, or tandoor, fired by charcoal is used for making this dish and is unmatched for flavor and aroma.  The secret of tandoori cooking is twofold: firstly in marinating the meat in yogurt and spices, considered a meat tenderizer, and secondly in basting the chicken with butter or oil, which seals in the juices to make it succulent.

Kababs

Barbecue Tandoori-Style Chicken Kebab (Tandoori Murgh)

Serves 6

2 pounds boneless chicken pieces
½ teaspoon chili powder
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
½  cup plain yogurt
1½ tablespoons ginger paste
1½ tablespoons garlic paste
1  teaspoon ground cumin
½  teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground peppercorns
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground mace
½ cup melted butter for basting

Remove the skin and fat from the chicken.  Wash and drain the chicken.  Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.  Make deep incisions in the chicken and then set aside in a pan.

In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, lemon juice, and salt.

Combine the lemon mixture with the chicken and marinate for 15 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with a fork.

Mix the ginger and garlic pastes, cumin, turmeric, pepper, cardamom, and mace with the yogurt.

Combine the yogurt mixture with the chicken; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF or prepare the barbecue grill.

Oil a deep baking pan.

Skewer the chicken pieces on 9- or 10-inch steel skewers at least an inch apart.  Set on the baking pan and brush with the marinade.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Remove the foil, baste with melted butter, and turn the skewers over.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until evenly brown and tender.

Baste with melted butter and skewer on toothpicks.  Serve hot with naan and mint chutney.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.