Several years ago I happened to be in an Indian household and the aroma permeating that home was just wonderful. I wanted to duplicate that fabulous flavour in my kitchen, but I didn’t understand what made it so special. I had a small tin of curry powder and added a pinch to an egg salad, and it was good, but Indian? Nah! I needed to learn more.
Soon afterward I was delighted to find an Indian cookbook in a thrift store, The Bombay Palace Cookbook, by Stendahl. It promised a fascinating, wide world of new and exciting meals, but first I had to get a whole bunch of spices I hadn’t used before, like coriander, fenugreek and cardamom, as well as fresh gingerroot.
After cooking many recipes in that book, and inventing many afterward, I still like to browse though it occasionally. It’s a great book, especially for beginners. They took two recipes and broke them down into the simplest, detailed, step by step way to prepare them.
The Bombay Palace Cookbook is primarily comprised of North Indian recipes, but also features other regions of the sub- continent as well.
The book explains the ingredients and techniques (such as bhoona-ing, sort of a combination of sauteéing and braising) of Indian cookery and has separate chapters
covering soup, seafood, vegetarian, poultry, legumes, rice dishes, and desserts.
I’m quite fond of this book because when I was new to Indian food; it helped me learn to prepare it properly. And having explored Indian food, I have since reached out to the foods of Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. I have 5 big spice racks just off my kitchen, containing many different spices and herbs.
Here is a lovely recipe from the Bombay Palace Cookbook, by Stendahl.
SPICY CHICKEN CURRY (Murgh Masala) serves four
1 3lb (1 ½ Kg) fryer, skinned and cut into 8 pieces; or an equivalent amount of boneless, skinless pieces.
4 tablespoons (60 gm) butter (1/2 stick)
4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Dry Masala mixture:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 piece of gingerroot, the size of a walnut, minced
2 tablespoons of ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons powdered turmeric
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
6 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
2 sticks of cinnamon
- Set prepared chicken aside. Pulverize the masala in a blender or food processor. Rub the mixture well into the chicken parts.
- In a wok or heavy skillet, heat the butter and brown the chicken on both sides. This should take about ten minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened, another ten minutes.
- Try not to add water unless you see the chicken is about to scorch. Salt lightly before serving.
This is a good introduction to Indian food if you haven’t tried preparing any yourself. I usually use a mortar and pestle to pre-grind things like the cloves and cinnamon and cumin. In the beginning you may prefer to use ground spices until you get more familiar with masalas. But for flavour and aroma, it’s hard to beat Indian food.