Earlier this year I wrote a guest article for Paleo Magazine, emphasizing the importance of eating vegetables. Americans tend to give vegetables a lower priority than the rest of the world; when comparing the most economically developed areas of the United States (those with the most money to spend on food) to similarly developed regions in Europe and the Western Pacific, we only eat about 75% as many vegetables as the other regions. Comparing the lesser economically developed areas of the United States to their global counterparts is much worse: there, we eat only around 35% as many vegetables.
Vegetables are an important factor in overall health. While not as nutrient-heavy as organ meats, fish, seafood, and naturally raised ruminants, they are often superior to pork, poultry, and fruit in terms of nutrient density. Fermented vegetables, a food that has been consumed for thousands of winters, also provide unique and essential forms of probiotic bacteria and increase the bioavailability (ability for us to absorb their nutrients) of vegetables.
Aloo Gobi Matar is Punjabi dish, and an excellent example of the potential tastiness and diversity to be found in a vegetable dish. Using a small amount of many vegetables will give your dishes deeper flavors and will make you less likely to tire of certain foods. If I ate just tomatoes every day, I’d get sick of them; adding a tomato or two to several dishes in a row wouldn’t have the same effect.
Although I consider Butter Chicken to be the ultimate Indian chicken curry (I saved that recipe for my cookbook), Chicken Tikka Masala takes a close second. In fact, there is little difference in the dishes – both are usually made by adding roasted chicken pieces to a tomato-based curry sauce. Butter Chicken has more, well, butter.
The origin of Chicken Tikka Masala is disputed. It’s commonly believed that it was first whipped up in Indian restaurants in the UK (Glasgow in particular is often cited), but many argue that it was first influenced by dishes from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan well before it appeared in UK restaurants.
Putting the curry together is actually pretty simple – start to finish in under an hour. It gets a little complicated when the chicken comes into play, since it should be marinated for at least 6 hours beforehand (overnight preferred). But with a little forethought, this is an excellent weeknight meal.
Gobhi Musallam is a roasted cauliflower dish from the Uttar Pradesh region of Northern India. While the origin of the dish itself is hard to trace, the origin of cauliflower isn’t. Cauliflower is a direct descendant of wild cabbage, and a close cousin to broccoli. Although it was known in Europe during the Middle Ages, it disappeared until sometime in the 17th Century, when Italy reintroduced it to the rest of Europe. Surprisingly, the Italians probably got cauliflower from the Middle East and Asia, who had likely acquired it from Europe during the Middle Ages. I think it’s pretty cool that cauliflower disappeared from its place of origin, only to be re-introduced by another culture.
We love this dish for several reasons. First of all, it’s an easy dish to put together: parboil the cauliflower, whip up a sauce, combine the two and roast in the oven. It’s a very impressive dish to serve to guests, and slicing/serving the cauliflower is a memorable experience. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Gobhi Musallam is absolutely delicious and an interesting way to enjoy cauliflower.
Attukal Paya (sometimes spelled as Aattukaal Paya or just Paya) is a hearty soup made with lamb, sheep, or goat feet served in South India. What fascinates me about this dish is that it’s often served for breakfast – initially this sounded strange to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; why not start your day out with some nutritious bone broth soup?
I also love the idea of throwing together a bunch of ingredients at night and waking up to breakfast already made!
NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Rogan Josh is a popular Kashmiri dish that is believed to have originated in Persia before making its way to Northern India and beyond (in Persian, “rogan” means clarified butter and “josh” means hot or passionate). Its signature red color is historically the result of mild red Kashmiri chiles which were used in making this dish. Over the years, many restaurants started using tomatoes in the dish to bring about that red color easily. My recipe follows the more modern interpretation of the dish, mostly because you and I don’t have the money to travel to Kashmir for some chiles! Well, maybe you do, but I most certainly do not.
An excellent cut of lamb for this dish was the other half of Lava Lake Lamb’s beautiful lamb shoulder (the other half was used to make shashlik). This slightly-fatty cut imparted a ton of flavor into the dish, which just tasted better and better the longer it simmered.
I’m also happy to announce that this is my first recipe that features a printer-friendly version! I’ll be sure to do this with every recipe from now on, and as I get the spare time I will go back and make printer-friendly versions of all my recipes.
One of the most common curries you’ll find in Indian restaurants here in the US is chicken tikka masala, a creamy, tomato-based sauce with slow-roasted chicken chunks. Being that it’s so popular, it’s easy to find pre-made sauces in most grocery stores; after putting several through their paces, I’ve settled on a quick, foolproof chicken tikka masala for an easy weeknight dinner.
One of the more interesting facts about this dish is that its place of origin is under dispute; there’s a good chance that it was invented in either India or England.