Masala means “mixture”, and in cooking this refers to the mixture of spices and other ingredients that form the base of curries. As discussed last month, there are two basic ways of preparing curried vegetables, either with a gravy-like masala, or the drier style (bhajia). We’ll start this month with a few simple recipes for this dry style of curry.
Probably the most important part of making your masala is to cook it long enough and at high enough heat that the spices release their essences into the oil. Be certain that the spices sizzle in the oil or ghee, but not so long as to burn!
This first recipe is so simple to prepare. You can use any other vegetable, cut into bite-size pieces, in place of the peas. When you use fresh vegetables (as opposed to frozen peas), it will need to cook a little longer. You can speed things up a bit by blanching the chopped fresh vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes, until just tender and still bright with color. Then, simply drain and add them to the spice masala. This makes a wonderful vegetable side dish.
1 Tbsp. ghee or olive oil
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red chilies
12 oz. frozen peas (or 1-1/4 lb. fresh peas, shelled)
salt to taste
Heat ghee or oil in a 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Add turmeric, pepper and chilies and sizzle for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add peas, stir, and lower heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender. Yield: about 2 cups
HOT & SPICY CAULIFLOWER
Did you know the summer months are the best time for eating spicy hot food? You might think that a nice bowl of ice cream or cold soda is the perfect thing to cool off with. They do feel refreshing going down, but your body is going to work hard to warm up that chilly belly. Spicy food, on the other hand, helps you keep cool from the inside. This is probably why so many cultures in hot, tropical climates, have so much spicy food.
This recipe for cauliflower calls for a lot of crushed red chilies and jalapenos. If you have little tolerance for spicy food, you can easily omit these ingredients. Also you may substitute 1/2 bell pepper in 1/2″ dice, for the jalapenos.
YOU WILL NEED:
1/3 cup olive oil or ghee
1/3 cup chopped ginger (peeled, and cut into 3/16″ dice)
10-12 whole cloves garlic, peeled (about 1 bulb)
2 jalapeno chilies, cut in half lengthwise, and then in 1/2″ slices
1 heaping teaspoon of each spice:
– garam masala (literally, “hot mixture”, this is a spice blend available in Indian grocery stores and better markets)
– curry powder
– crushed red chilies
– 1 tsp. salt
– 2 tomatoes (blanch in boiling water for 1 minute to easily remove skins), chopped
– 2 lbs. cauliflower, cut into large bite-size pieces
Heat the olive oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add chopped ginger and sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add whole peeled garlic cloves and jalapenos and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add spices and salt, stir well, and cook another minute, being sure the spices sizzle in the oil. Now add chopped tomatoes and cauliflower pieces. Lower heat to medium and cover, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower can easily be pierced with a fork.
Yield: about 6 servings
If you are unable to find the spice blend, garam masala, you can make your own by combining the following spices:
2 Tbsp. ground coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. ground cumin seeds
1 tsp. cardamom powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cayenne