January 14, 2010 @ 8:49 pm | Filed under: Books
Like everyone else, we are following the reports from Haiti with heavy hearts.
We are especially worried about the Antoine family near Jacmel, whose oldest boy, Arry, we sponsored through Childreach/Plan USA for 14 years, from age 4 until he turned 18. I watched him grow up in the photos and letters that arrived several times a year, and year by year we shared the news of our own growing family. After Arry aged out of the foster child program, we became the sponsors for children in other countries and have not had communications with his family in several years, but he and his parents and brothers and sisters have remained in our hearts. The news from Jacmel is very bad. We are praying.
Plan USA is one of several agencies rushing to lend aid to the victims of the earthquake. To contribute to Plan’s efforts, click this link.
A good source of reports from Port-au-Prince is @RAMhaiti on Twitter.
Whenever I get the opportunity to go out for Indian food, I order chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi. From the very first bite, my whole self is suffused with the most incredible sense of well-being. Must be something in the combination of spices, or maybe it’s one spice in particular, who knows: whatever it is, I think it affects me sort of the way chocolate does. Massive endorphin rush? Scott laughs because I shovel in the food and say, “I’m so happy!” after every bite.
So last week I decided to try my own hand at these favorites. I found a video tutorial for chicken tikka masala, and a friend sent me an excellent recipe for naan. I do believe these dishes will become regulars in my kitchen. Today I want to give aloo gobi a try. I’ve googled a recipe, but if you have a favorite—or pointers—I’d welcome the advice.
My cookery notes (recording them here because this is the easiest place for me to find things later):
Chicken Tikka Masala
• I couldn’t find cardamom pods in the grocery store, so I omitted those from the first step. (You season the oil with the cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick—which I also omitted—and remove those things before sauteeing your onions.)
• I forgot to defrost the chicken the night before, so I just took it out in the morning and converted the recipe to a slow-cooker dish. After Step 5 (you have already sauteed the onions, added the spices, tomato, and water, and cooked the sauce for a few minutes), I transferred everything to the crock pot. The chicken had thawed enough for me to cut it into cubes—it’s actually easier to cut when it’s a little frozen—so I just plopped it into the sauce and set it on high for an hour, then low for about three hours. I added a little extra water to the sauce so it wouldn’t cook down too much. This worked fine, and freed me up to fry the naan at dinnertime.
• The recipe calls for adding plain yogurt (amount vague) or coconut milk just before serving. I used plain yogurt, about 3/4 cup—had no idea how much to add. We would like to try coconut milk next time, but the yogurt was fine.
• Garam Masala question. I bought a jar at Henry’s: Spice Hunter brand salt-free garam masala blend. The final dish seemed a little heavy on cloves (to me; Scott didn’t think so) and the flavor wasn’t quite what I’ve experienced at Indian restaurants. I assume there is some variation among different garam masala blends, just like one jar of Cajun seasoning never tastes exactly like another. Anyone got a recommendation for a blend that isn’t quite so dominated by the cloves?
Despite the ubercloviness, the final dish was delectable. Definitely a shovel-in-the-mouth-I’m-so-happy meal.
UPDATED! How much do I love Twitter? I tweeted a request for a good aloo gobi recipe, and @KrisBordessa suggested I ask @mbhide, aka Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice. I added a second question about garam masala spice blends, and Monica replied with a link to this piece in the Washington Post about a garam masala taste test she took part in. (Scroll down a bit.) So very cool.
• This recipe produced some of the best naan I have ever tasted—and that’s in spite of my rookie hamhandedness. So flavorful, slightly sweet. The recipe called for 1/4 cup sugar, but I was afraid it would be too sweet, so I cut that a bit—I used an 1/8 cup and then a little more (maybe a third of the 1/8th cup measure; I’ll let you work out the math on that). 😉
• I should have read the comments below the recipe before I started. There are some helpful tips there. Several people advised to cut the flour to 3 1/2 cups, and I wish I’d seen that earlier! I should have added it more gradually than I did. I didn’t need much more than 3 1/4 cups, I think.
• I did add the minced garlic—YUM.
• The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt. This seemed rather high, so I halved it.
• I cooked on my cast iron grill pan (thanks, Mom), the side with the grill lines. It worked a treat. I think I need to make my dough balls a bit bigger this time—my naan came out more the size of silver dollar pancakes than the dinner-plate size I’ve always seen. Then again, the smaller size was great for my kids. The little ones would rather have their ownty-downty pieces than half a big one.
• We started mixing up the dough around 2pm, which was plenty of time for two risings before 5pm when I was ready to start grilling it.
Which means it’s almost time to move kitchenward for today’s dough-mixing.