Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Passage to India

Hello all.  GetFresh here, subbing in again for the temporary New Yorker WMM.  Thank you for stopping by on Saucy Sunday.  (Nope, you don’t have to have seen the David Lean movie or read the E.M. Forester novel to make it to the end of this epic – although both certainly have their charms.)

If your home is anything like mine, on any given evening it can feel like there are 1,001 things standing in between you and the dinner table, whether it’s bumper-to-bumper cars, a dog begging to be walked, a lost homework assignment sheet (in my case, when on sitter duty), or just the Walking Brain Dead faced with the yawning maw of a close to empty refrigerator.

To beat take-out, the grumps, tossed produce and too many cereal dinners, we try to set aside time every Sunday – early morning or late afternoon – or whenever one of us is struck with an unlikely chunk of empty schedule, to prep some eats for the coming, usually crazy week.   .

Some of our favourite make-ahead staples are inspired by Indian cooking.  (At this point, if Tabitha from
Bourbon & Pearls lived in audio range, I’d try to make her laugh by doing a badly accented Essex gal riff on Jamie Oliver’s “Pukka tucker!” catchphrase.  BTW, pukka is a Hindi-Urdu superlative that means authentic, first class, well cooked.)

The great thing about learning a few Indian (or Thai) sauces and condiments is that you can prep then refrigerate or freeze them in appropriate serving sizes and give new, customized meaning to the words “Curry in a hurry” even when you’ve totally run out of steam.


N.B. Before you hit the kitchen, I strongly suggest that you do like
DaniBP and pop on an apron, or at least an old, “who cares” tee.  Spices like turmeric, curry powder and chilies are easy to get to grips with, but they can stain.

Lentil Sauce 101
Prep 15 min.| Cooking time 45 min. with an occasional stir | 6 servings as a sauce or 4-5 as a main dish
1-1/2 c. dried red lentils, rinsed
1 large tomato or 2-3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
Approx. 1” piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated or very finely minced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
(you can also throw the ginger and garlic in a mini food processor together)
¾ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin seeds, finely ground in a mortar and pestle OR 3/4  tsp. ground cumin
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro, green onions or flat leaf parsley, optional
1. Combine the lentils, 6 cups water, the tomato, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin and cayenne in a saucepan over medium high heat.
2. Bring to a steady simmer and cook uncovered, whisking or stirring vigorously once in a while, until the lentils break down and the mixture is thick, about 45 minutes.
3. Season generously with salt and lemon juice to taste.  Sprinkle with cilantro etc. when serving, if desired.
Serve with a simple, oven-roasted piece of white fish or salmon, over rice or bulgur wheat, with steamed or oven-roasted veggies (potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, eggplant), reheated with canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas, or thinned out with vegetable or chicken stock as a soup.  You can also add diced carrots, onions and/ or red pepper at the start of cooking.
It’s traditional to dry skillet roast Indian spices before cooking, but in this subtle dish you can easily skip it.  If some of your table doesn’t like spice, skip the garlic and cayenne in the sauce.  Individual diners can then flavor their dishes with thinly sliced garlic sautéed in a bit of butter or olive oil, and a few drops of hot sauce.

TODAY’S DYK: Tumeric, a minimally flavoured but bright yellow spice powder first used as a natural fabric dye over 2,500 years ago, is reputed to be one of nature’s most powerful healers for its anti-inflammatory, metabolic and detoxifying properties.

Spinach-Tomato Curry Sauce
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking)
Prep 15 min. | Cooking time 25 min. | 4 main course servings
1 tsp. each ground turmeric, cumin and coriander
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. grainy mustard (Pommery, Moutarde de Meaux, Country Dijon)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
½” piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
¼ c. canned diced tomatoes, lightly drained
4 oz. (2-3 handfuls) fresh spinach, sliced into fine strips
½ c. canned (unsweetened) coconut milk, “light” versions are fine

1. Combine the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, black pepper, mustard and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl, stirring to combine well.  Put the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and set over high heat.  When the oil is hot add the garlic and ginger.  Stir and fry until the seasonings begin to soften and just turn light brown.  Add the spice paste and cook for 15 seconds.
2. Add the tomatoes and spinach and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.  Add 1 cup water and bring to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk (light table cream can be substituted) when re-heating.  Shrimp can be cooked directly in the re-heated sauce just until opaque.  Or add cooked potato chunks, stir-fried chicken breast or thigh chunks, or pan-seared scallops.

Often, while I am in the kitchen, I have fashion time-outs, either thinking about what I saw in the blogosphere, planning some sort of closet intervention (strictly my own) or catching up on WNTW, Project Runway and other telly the DH does not appreciate.   Today’s T-0 got me thinking about bangles (which originated around Bangalore, snap) and bracelets, particularly in layered looks.

I admire the arm festivals created by
Ina in Wonderland (I’ve snaffled one of her recent ones to feature here – danke viemals), Atlantic Pacific and lots of others online, especially those snapped by Tommy Ton on the streets of NYC (hmm wonder where WMM is sightseeing today?) Ditto some that I see daily on what we call the TTC (transit).

DISH, PLEASE: While I start out stacked and encircled, the jingle, jangle, tap, click clack always gets me at my desk.  This is only the past weeks’ worth of abandoned costume bracelets (J. Crew, Hayden-Harnett, Tory Burch, Club Monaco, Mum’s and one genuine Bollywood film bangle).  All ditched in the saucer by 10:00 a.m.  Do you have any styles or baubles you love, but have to cut loose long before the day is over? Come on, confess.  As
ajc says, it wouldn’t be any fun without you.  Do you still like an occasional replay of The Bangles too?

What have you got cooking in the week ahead?  Stand tall and stay safe…


  1. Thanks for the link love GetFresh and you should start your own blog!
    Now i am curious,which one is the Hayden-Harnett bangle? I love their stuff:)

    I always plan ahead my weekly cooking,because it makes life much more easy.

    Have a great sunday!

    1. My pleasure Ina. The HH bracelet is the brown leather cuff at top right with the striped metal plaque. I've had it "forever" along with one of their collapsible travel bags, fantastic. Happy Sunday to you too!

  2. I'm going to be cooking up both of these recipes TODAY. Brilliant! The house is going to smell delicious which will be a bright antidote against the gloomy day!
    I've gone the other way with baubles, I'm back to wearing small diamond studs in my ears and a single strand of pearls. wedding stack and that's it. It feels like my true look.
    But I adore the way Ina wears her bracelets, she puts them together so well and it's her signature!
    Well. I'm meeting my new cleaning team at the office this morning (I found a service that sends out teams on Sundays!) and then I'll be trotting over to the health food store with your recipes in hand. Thanks GF!!

    1. Dani, I think those pearls and a frock are your signature look. Glad you've given up on the office cleaning as well as the shirts. Let us know how your curry cook-up turns out.

    2. Dani - I've done the same with jewelry. It always feels more "me". But, I love the stacked look on others and GF your stack looks so festive in the kitchen!

    3. Hah Kathy, I have repository dishes on my kitchen island, in my home office and a little cloth bag in my purse for when I'm working other places. The DH thinks all daft, "why do you buy and not wear?!" But at least I am more careful about few "good" pieces I have. Think bangles are a bit like cheap penny sweets for me.

    4. Thanks Dani!
      I like the way you look in pearls and i always wished i would like pearls on me.

  3. Love the Bangles. And your bangles (and Ina's too of course). If I wear bracelets to work, even one, they come off when I type but go back on when I go teach or run errands around campus. When I stay late for my evening debate meetings though, all bets are off. I either change into jeans or a tee or at the very least take of all my jewelry and tie my hair back--and very often leave my shoes off and either put on flip flops or pad around in stocking feet. Classy!

    These sauces look delish! Especially love that they are vegetarian--we are meat eaters extraordinaire over here but it's nice for a switch up, and with all this flavor my husband likely wouldn't notice the lack of meat (or at least not mention it till later...).

    1. Danielle, I will have to follow your example and put my bangles back on when AFK. If I was surrounded by midshipmen in shiny shoes that would just be another reason to end-of-day abandon heels for flops or fun socks - "overtime rules."

    2. The girls on my team have got wise to me--if they want a peek at my outfit plus accessories they swing by early in the day to have a look-see. Bonus points for them if they come bearing coffee.

      The mids actually now change in the evening too--after 6 they can be in the academic buildings in their sweats or "midshipman casual" (blue polo and khaki pants). So I don't feel too out of place!

    3. Oh that's cool that they get a relaxed "after school" dress code now too, along with the rest of the world. And you can't beat a good coffee delivery "bribe."

  4. Fine. You twisted my arm. I will make the lentil sauce (love me some lentils) this week. Last night I went to a wine auction and the tasting menu was done by Dean Fearing from Fearing's at the Ritz in Dallas. It was sooooo good - Tortilla soup, shrimp tacos, chicken fried quail, buffalo steaks, apple crumble. Every Sunday evening we head to my folks and mom makes us dinner (usually something with gravy). Guess I need to get my cook on this week.

    1. BB, no twisting - I have linguine arms although I am working on making them more Mrs. O. in time for kayak season here. So lovely that your mom cooks and you all enjoy family Sunday dinner. Love me some tortilla soup, upscale tacos too.

  5. I'm going to make that Spinach/Tomato/Curry sauce this week, throw in some chicken. I'm very lazy today, so watching A Passage to India sounds perfect.

    1. David Lean was so brill at sweeping epics like Oliver, Doctor, Lawrence. Have an assignment to finish today, but with you on lazy Sunday next week Kathy.

  6. Love all the bangles. I have a couple , but if I wear something on the wrist, it's usually cuffs. I have 3 silver ones from AZ, all under 1/2", and all 3 at once is how I roll. I have a wide copper one from AZ by a man without a website who does beautiful things to "age" the copper, $20. Tried to find him again without success.

    The lentil sauce sounds good and what an idea, to just make a sauce and use however the universe directs. I'll try toasting the spices.

    1. Hey Lane, I have one metallic cuff, but that might be an idea to find something that can "pinch together". I think a lot of the slide that bugs me is because my wrists are small and I can't wear quite a lot of clasp bracelets as they slide off right over my hands.

      I love handcrafted pieces and am sharing one of my fave "fancy, non-jewel" sources Wednesday. When are you off south? (And yes, toasting first really brings out the flavour and a bit of nuttiness.)

    2. I have small wrists as well so that must be why I prefer cuffs. Tuesday, on my own at first.

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  8. Hi GF, thank you for the curry sauce recipes - they look easy to do and I think I have all the ingredients. Always have red lentils anyway, for making lentil soup, my favourite.

    I love the look of lots of arm candy, but like Dani and Kathy, my jewellery is pared down, and I usually wear the same thing every day - stud earrings, watch, mum's wedding ring and a Nomination charm bracelet, a gift from a dear friend. I only ever remember my own wedding set and other rings if I'm going somewhere special. Looking forward to hearing about your source for handcrafted goods.

    1. Hi Patricia, I've heard of but never seen a Nomination bracelet. Like the idea that they are stainless steel tho' and will definitely Google now that you've mentioned them. I also wear the same earrings daily, only swap them out if really dressing up. How lovely that you wear your mother's band as a momento.

  9. Hi GF, my Nomination bracelet is almost full - only one space left - with charms with family significance, as well as a few from our travels, so it was the gift that keeps on giving!

  10. Thanks for another great post! I have always wondered on the healing properties of spices since my mom used to cook spicy soup instead of chicken soup when I was feeling under the weather. Today I cooked Tom Yum soup because DH has a bad cold & adapted your curry recipe above. I'm out of spinach so I substituted Japanese eggplant & it was a big hit. DH is now well enough to run some errands & I asked him to buy me Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking from nearby B&N. I will be doing meat-free Wednesdays & Fridays at home & the kids have agreed (in the spirit of Lent) so I need that book. Not much of a jewelry person as I just wear a watch and alternate between a pair of pearl or diamond studs for work. Scarves are my poison though and can never have enough. I'm always freezing & my neck and nape need to be covered.

    1. Marie, so glad the curry recipe worked out and that you made it your own! Ditto that your DH is on mend. Hope Madhur brings you lots of inspiration - she often helps me when I am in a dinner rut. And I agree scarves are one of the best ways to switch up an outfit and stay warm. I don't like wearing metal necklaces or dangly earrings in winter - cold spots.

  11. Hi GF - great post! I will let you know how curry goes tomorrow and can't wait to try this! I can't stack either - even the big statement pieces seem too much for me right now!

    Hope all are well! Have had a long day! No peony tshirt for me - that flower looked huge on the girls - I figured as much but worth a try!

    1. Oh yes WMM, think of me when you are at Utsav. If I tell my DH where you're going, he will be virtual drooling over thoughts of that lamb. Sorry about the tee but try-on opportunities best. And maybe the jacket was a better bet?

    2. GF- Another great post. Okay, now you need to do something about getting your own blog running. I like your bangle story. I have always been a bracelet girl. I don't love the feel of something around my neck- except pearls, of course!
      WMM- I extrapolated from your reply that you have already visited a J Crew ;) I am looking forward to your review when you get home. Enjoy NY!

    3. Thanks KnitYarns I really appreciate it. Until fairly recently I was responsible for quite a lot of blog and social media content as part of my job. So the last thing I wanted to do was come home and spend more time writing etc. online to relax. (I do love to read blogs and have learned much, "met" some truly wonderful peeps.) Starting to reconsider, but we'll see at the end of the week. You all can let me know ;-)

  12. Hi GF, thank you very much for the recipe. I have never tried cooking Indian food at home. For some reason it has always seemed very daunting but this recipe looks straightforward. I quite like the arm parties seen on other bloggers, but as I have a laptop, the bracelets usually come off within 10 seconds of getting on the computer.

    1. Louise, I do like some of Madhur Jaffrey's newer books that have a simple list of ingredients (like substituting French country/ grainy mustard for buying a bag of mustard seeds) that give an Indian flavour and are fast. Even if not perhaps 100% authentic. Kind of like Giada's Italian cooking vs. the long, traditonal versions iykwim.


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