Next up on the book review agenda, The Spice Bible by Jane Lawson.
Oh. My. This is like my dream cookbook about spices everyone. It’s encyclopedic, everything from Ajowan to Wasabi, all broken down by type – seeds and pods, berries and flowers, and roots and bark. It has great recipes, every single spice has at least one matching recipe, often it has two or three to try. It even covers spice pastes, and spice blends, all with recipes for those pastes and blends, as well as recipes using those spice pastes and blends. It’s A-may-zing. (You can tell I’m in love, I sound like a ten-year-old when I talk about it)
It’s on my wishlist. Please buy it for me?
Last night I threw together some Indian food from this book, as well as a side culled from several places online. Butter Chicken is a very common Indian food recipe. It’s relatively easy to make, and tastes very close to what you have in most Indian restaurants under the name Chicken Tikka Masala.
The side dishes were rice, and Saag Paneer. Typically restaurants have Palak Paneer, which is specifically spinach. But I was looking to finish up the kale we had on hand before it went all droopy. So, the word saag just means greens, and it can be any kind of greens – collards, mustard, kale, chard, beet. And this recipe could be used with just plain spinach if that is what you have on hand. Green and leafy? Give it a go in this dish. I ended up changing the dish a bit from most Saag Paneers, since I had used all my yogurt in the Butter Chicken, and didn’t really want to double down on the dairy in our meal anyway, I substituted coconut cream. It was a surprisingly awesome sub! Some vegan saag paneer recipes call for using it instead of yogurt, or cream. Sometimes those vegans are crafty and smart (don’t tell Anthony Bourdain I said that!). I used regular paneer (a type of cheese), since that is what I had on hand, but it could easily be switched out for lightly-fried extra firm tofu, and it would be a full-on vegan dish.
- 3/4" piece of fresh ginger roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 lbs 4 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into large pieces
- 5 tablespoons ghee (it's the butter in butter chicken, but I've been known to use olive oil also)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 large handful of cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Place the ginger, garlic, and almonds into a food processor and turn into a paste. Blend paste with yogurt, spices, and tomato sauce in a bowl. Add chicken pieces and let marinate in sauce for four hours, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Heat ghee in a deep, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and fry for 10 minutes, until softened and brown. Remove onions to a dutch oven. Fry chicken pieces in batches for 5 minutes to brown a bit. Add to dutch oven. Deglaze frying pan with cream, let set for one minute, and then add to dutch oven with chicken and remainder of marinade. Put lid on dutch oven.
- Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and spoon off some of the excess oil.
- Optional: Remove lid on dutch oven and switch to low broiler. Allow chicken to brown for 5-10 minutes.
- 7 ounces paneer in half-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or ghee, or vegetable oil)
- 1 large bunch kale
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
- 1 large clove garlic peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 cup coconut cream
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 pinch Garam masala
- Melt the oil in a wide skillet over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the cheese cubes in a single layer, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the cheese brown on the first side, 3-5 minutes. It will spit and hiss, so be careful. Loosen the cheese with a thin, metal spatula, and flip each cube onto a second side. Let brown on the second side, 3-5 more minutes, then sprinkle with a bit of salt and remove the cheese to drain on a double layer of paper towels.
- If the oil in the pan burned or smoked, pour it out, wipe out the pan, and add another tablespoon of oil; otherwise, you can leave the oil in the pan for the next step.
- Use a sharp paring knife to slice the kale leaves off of the stems. Give the kale leaves a rough chop, then soak them in a large bowl of cool water, swishing occasionally to loosen any dirt or sand clinging to them. Drain and shake excess water off kale leaves.
- Heat the oil over a medium flame until it shimmers, then add the onion, ginger, cumin, garlic, chile flakes and turmeric. Saute, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then add 1/4 cup water and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Steam the chard until the leaves are just wilted and bright green; this will only take a few minutes. Take lid off and continue to saute until most of the water is cooked away and kale is no longer wet.
- Stir in the coconut cream, and cheese cubes, gently heat through over a low flame, then remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Taste, adding more salt or lemon juice if needed to bring up the flavors.
- Serve the saag paneer over rice, garnished with cilantro, a pinch of garam masala, and lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.