The NY Times makes Indian food seem too complicated to make at home. It isn’t.

Since all things Indian are now hip and trendy and India is the new China or whatever, the NYT has more Indian food featured in its Dining section. This past weekend TheHusband perused the section before I did and was fulminating about a lamb curry recipe. I wasn’t sure what the big deal was; after all, what’s wrong with “simple lamb curry?” Nothing. But this is far from simple:

For instance, you can get into the pleasant habit of toasting and grinding your own spices. It is a simple matter of heating them (in this case cumin or coriander seeds) in a small dry skillet. When they become fragrant, after just a minute or so, they are ready to be pulverized using an electric spice mill or mortar. This small effort provides the aroma and fresh flavor that packaged ground spices often lack.

Another utterly simple technique is using the essential paste of fresh ginger and garlic found in so many Indian recipes. For a small amount, employ a micro-plane grater, or the fine holes of an ordinary box grater. The lamb, marinated briefly in this paste along with the spices, becomes transformed.

The next step is the careful browning of the meat with the onions. If the heat is too high, they will burn; too low and you won’t achieve the caramelized flavor you’re after. Attentive stirring for about 10 minutes is required.

You keep using that word, “simple.” I don’t think it means what you think it means. Toasting and grinding the spices before you use them is not simple. “Attentive stirring” of onions for 10 minutes is not simple. Marinating either “briefly” or “up to several hours refrigerated” is not a clear and simple instruction for someone unfamiliar with Indian cooking. And have you tried grating garlic on a box grater recently? If you’ve done it without ripping up your fingertips, please share your secret.

The raita has thirteen ingredients. That is not simple. And you forgot to tell the poor cook that the oil will be very very hot, so s/he might want to let it cool off for a few minutes before dumping it into the bowl of yogurt.

I’ve watched a lot of Indian cooks make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. There are professional cooks-for-hire who make lunch for a half a dozen households in a morning’s work, food that is made in home kitchens and eaten in home dining rooms. And it is excellent food.

This NYT recipe is Indian cooking re-designed for cooks for whom time doesn’t matter, perhaps.

Oh, I give up. I don’t know whom this type of recipe is for.

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4 thoughts on “The NY Times makes Indian food seem too complicated to make at home. It isn’t.

    • Ah, I thought so too. But three ingredients are cleverly put in the same line. There are three herbs (mint, chives, and cilantro) that are combined on the same line of the recipe.
      So you have to buy and chop all three of them.

  1. Any cooking article that talks about toasting and grinding my own spices is automatically slated in the “too hard” column and discarded. I mean, I might read it and lust for the dish, but I’ll never print or clip it because recipes requiring that much planning and effort or even just more than 10 ingredients in total just don’t get cooked in my kitchen.

  2. You know what I like? I get the Spice House’s mild Sweet Curry and add some to 0% Greek-style strained yogurt from Trader Joe’s (it’s way cheaper than Fage or … rats, the other brand I can’t recall at the moment, but that’s popular right now), and use that as a dip for carrots and other crudites. It’s a super easy Indian flare dish and lets me play around with exotic-to-me flavors.

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