Sometimes, only the glimpse of a stunning picture noticed in a travel and food magazine, or the visual memory of a colorful scene remembered from a movie or documentary, makes me want to pack my bags, and travel far away. It actually happens often. I keep a list of sub-folders on my laptop under a Places-to-visit label. The list keeps growing.
I imagine the vastness of India friendly and intimidating at the same time. I dream to find peacefulness when I will visit, with magnificent sceneries of the Taj Mahal, tall mountains, gushing rivers and lush forests. One day, I will go to the Himalayas. The hot sun will scorch my fair skin, and perhaps for once, I will not mind too much. Gatherings of people everywhere will be the sign that the country is densely populated. I will walk through vibrant markets displaying richly colored textiles, delicate panels of silk, bags full of colorful vegetables and aromatic spices. Later, I will wander the country’s even busier streets, where mingled smells of different foods will transport me to exotic foreign places. I will drink tea and try my hand at making Naan bread, the right way. I have never been to India, but I am lucky to have a lot of Indian friends in Boston, to tease me with the idea of going soon. The melody of the English language they speak really enchants me. I love to hear their accent especially when, like the French, they struggle to pronounce the “th” sound. And then, I am in love with their food. “Comforting” is the adjective I would choose if asked to describe Indian food, with only one word.
I can still remember the first time when I cooked an Indian meal. It was so spicy that after the first bite of the lentil dish I had prepared, P.’s and my cheeks turned pink red. I am not sure whether it was from the surprise, the heat in the room, the spices or the incontrollable laughter moving our entire bodies, or all of the previous. Not being initiated to how much spices I had to add, I had obviously used too much.
The best, of course, is when Indian friends invite you over for dinner. B. used to when he lived in Boston. We felt sorry to see him move out of town, especially since we knew that his delicious cooking would go with him.
Whenever I cook Indian, I rarely do it on the spicy side. It is only a question of preference. For many, curry is a love affair; everyone prefers the dish prepared a certain way. Me? I like my curries mild.
I found the recipe for this curry in an old copy of the French Elle à table magazine but, because it is somewhat a habit of mine, I also decided to change it according to my taste. Add vegetables, leave pepper out, increase the quantities to have more sauce. The recipe is not difficult but like many comfort foods, it requires time.
You can buy garam masala easily in specialized stores, but it is probably best, and more fun, to make your own. The garam masala added to the dish called for black and green cardamom pods, but because I only had green, this is what I used. Once you make garam masala, you will wonder why you would consider buying some again. Not only it is more fragrant and delicate, but it is also extremely easy to make. Mine used a combination of cinnamon (stick), green cardamom pods, coriander and cumin seeds, and cloves. Also, keep in mind that to keep its full fragrance, garam masala should only be added at the end of the cooking time.
Our friends J.F. and L. loved the dish when I served it for dinner last weekend. After J.F. helped himself with a third serving, he did not know it, but my whole face stretched into an enormous smile. Did he sense that this was the best compliment a hostess could receive? French house cooks are always pleased when guests finish their plates, and ask for a second serving. A third is beyond expectation.
“Tu en veux encore ?” (Do you want some more?) I said to J.F. when I saw his plate cleaned so carefully.
“Ah ben évidemment !” (of course!)
To my surprise, he liked the dish despite the carrots I had decided to add. J.F. does not like vegetables much. In fact, he does not like them at all.
“Mais cuites comme cela, les carottes, tu vois, c’est bon,” (cooked like this, carrots are actually nice) he added after swallowing one. They had soaked in the aroma of the sauce and spices, and acted perfectly to tempt the most reluctant-to-vegetable candidates, like J.F.
“This is a good way for Monsieur to eat vegetables,” L. added. Her open smile indicated that this piece of news pleased her a lot.
In fact, when I brought the large pot of curry to the table, I was convinced that I would have a lot left for the following day. But nothing remained.
Curry is simply a dish that has to be shared, until the last piece is gone. With company like good friends, it somewhat tastes even better.
For the garam masala :
- 2 cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp canola oil
For the curry :
- 3 garlic cloves, grated finely
- 1 inch ginger root, peeled and grated thinly
- 3 tsp turmeric
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 tomatos, blanched for 1 min, peeled, seeds removed and diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 Tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
- 4 Tbsp canola oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 3/4 pounds lamb, diced
- To prepare the garam masala, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. On low heat, cook the spices in this order: the cinnamon stick (for 5 min), coriander seeds (3 min), cloves (2 min), cardamom pods (2 min) and cumin (30 s). Let cool and grind using a coffee grinder or a spices grinder. Keep.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in the pan and brown the meat on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Keep.
- In a large cocotte, heat 2 Tbsp oil and add the onion. Cook until soft on low to medium heat for 2 min, then add the garlic and ginger.
- Add the slices of carrots and the tomato. Cook for 3 to 4 min, then add the turmeric and a a few Tbsp water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil, while stirring.
- Add the meat and reduce the heat to low. Simmer covered for 2 h 30 min.
- Ten min before the end, add 3 Tbsp garam masala.
- Season to taste, and add the chopped coriander. Serve with white steamed rice to which you add pink peppercorns.
Pour le garam masala :
- 2 clous de girofle
- 6 capsules de cardamome verte
- 1 bâton de cannelle
- 1 càc de graines de cumin
- 1 càc de graines de coriandre
- 1 càs d’huile d’arachide
Pour le curry :
- 3 gousses d’ail, râpées finement
- 2,5 cm de racine de gingembre, râpé finement
- 3 càc de curcuma
- 1 gros oignon, émincé
- 4 tomates, blanchies, pelées, épépinées et coupées en dés
- 3 carottes, pelées et détaillées en rondelles
- 2 càs de coriandre fraîche, hachée
- 4 càs d’huile d’arachide
- Sel et poivre
- 800 g d’agneau, coupé en gros dés
- Pour préparer le garam masala, faites chauffer l’huile dans une poêle anti-adhésive. Sur feux doux, faites dorer les épices dans l’ordre suivant : le bâton de cannelle (pendant 5 min), les graines de coriandre (3 min), les clous de girofle (2 min), la cardamome (2 min) et le cumin (30 s). Laissez refroidir, et réduisez en poudre avec un moulin à café ou à épices. Réservez.
- Faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile dans une poêle et faites dorer la viande sur tous les côtés. Salez et poivrez. Réservez.
- Dans une grande cocotte, faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile et ajoutez l’oignon émincé. Faites blondir pendant 2 min, puis ajoutez l’ail et le gingembre.
- Ajoutez ensuite les rondelles de carottes et les dés de tomate. Faites suer pendant 3 à 4 min, puis ajoutez le curcuma et un peu d’eau. Salez et poivrez, et amenez à ébulition.
- Ajoutez la viande et réduisez le feux à doux. Mijotez à couvert pendant 2 h 30 min.
- Dix min avant la fin de la cuisson, ajoutez 3 càs de votre garam masala.
- Rectifiez l’assaisonnement et ajoutez de la coriandre fraîche. Servez avec un riz blanc parfumé auquel vous ajoutez des baies roses.
Once again…what a beautiful dish, looks absolutely delicious. I agree with your description for Indian food, I find it very comforting as well- curries are my favorite, specially with shrimp.
Of course I would not be able to resist making this just a bit spicier….!
Béa, what a gorgeous post, even though I don’t eat meat! I love reading about your dreams of India 🙂 As long as you are prepared for the crowds as much as the colors, the culture, and of course the food!
I am pleasantly surprised how you found this recipe from an old French magazine, and it reminds me of being back in India — my mother *always* blended her own masalas. Up to this day, if she has some store-made masala, she will definitely customize it. So, you’re doing it like a native 😉
I hope you make it some day to India; I know you’ll love it!
This sounds delicious. I have never made my own garam masala but it sounds like it makes a lovely difference…probably similar to using fresh herbs from the garden vs. dried. I am intrigued by that in particular, but of course the whole dish sounds really excellent!
I could definitely be a vegetarian if I could eat Indian every day – I love the spices. Brava for making your own garam masala and keeping all those spices on hand – I even took a course but am not ready to delve into the spices on a daily basis.
I am going to India for Christmas so I hope to come back with some hands-on experience and recipes!
Looks beautiful. I like the photos of the spices on the “burlap”.
I thought the pink peppercorns were pomegranate seeds at first.
What wonderful dreams! That dish looks gorgeous!
yum! and as for this entire…I know exactly what you mean.
It looks great, even for someone like me who deeply dislikes lamb! Lovely combination & awesome photos!
your photos are just exquisite! I enjoyed them a lot – you think about them a lot and that can be seen in the result. Very nice.
If you want to go to India, go and go now. It is changing so rapidly. It is a wonderful, magical, mystical place that will engage your soul (and your stomach). I can’t get enough. I go as often as I can. Other parts of the world pale in comparison.
enjoy the taste of curry
I can’t wait to make this!
I feel the same way about Indian food, and I also dream of traveling through India and learning how to cook their dishes properly. I agree that garam masala is best made fresh, and why not? It’s so easy! Lamb curries are my favorite. Do you have a favorite Indian restaurant in Boston? When I lived there a few years ago, there weren’t many, though one on Beacon near Coolidge Corner was quite good.
I adore curries. I went through a mad, tumeric induced haze of Indian cooking a couple of years ago, and even though our little home smelled strongly of curry and cumin most the time, it was a great, tasty time indeed! You might just have inspired me to dig out those old recipes again… what more perfect end to a chilly day, non?
L’Inde est jolie. C’est un très beau pays qui devient à la mode. J’aime l’idée du curry. La cuisine est d’épices envoutant….Ah l’agneau dans toute sa splendeur.
Do you by chance, know of any quality online food services? I am starting to order all my food online because of various reasons. (Health being one of them) So far I have found 2 services, Fresh Dining (an LA company) and Celebrity Foods, but you have to call them so they can talk to you about your need. I would really like any suggestions that you may have, so I can widen my list of quality places online where I can order healthy food from.
Thank you and have a great night or day…depending on when you read this. LOL!!!!
May I say I would probably be as gourmande as your friend and ask for seconds or thirds. I love curries and lamb and when you combied both, well, I am a happy gal! Beautiful b&w photography!
The Indian look of the photo very chic.
Liostening to your friend enjoying this curry, got me swallowing this side of the world…it looks delicious!
Bea – this looks like a curry that even I can make. When my mom cooks Indian dishes, she never gives amounts. I agree that mild is best, even if I am half-Indian. And I am serious about going there together.
You just take the BEST pictures. I love the plating of that dish.
Chez toi même la viande est appétissante, c’est ça le talent !!
Brilliantly photographed Bea.
Dommage que les blogs ne nous délivrent pas encore les arômes car ce doit être très délicat…
C’est bon, j’aurais certainement demande a l’hotesse un peu de piment en plus, mais j’aurais sauce l’assiette.
I love, love, love the diptych with the curtain, so clever and very beautiful!
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tht is the best recipe u have there but try putting some coconut milk towards the end of resipe and bit of chilly powder it will be a total diffrent experience ,pictures r as always wonderful.
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I have enjoyed this dish. I am sick of recipies with premixed curry powders and pastes. This recipe gets back to the basics and with no chilli the subtle flavours of a golden olden dish can be enjoyed .
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Fantastic Photography. I like the way you set up the props.