……….is not only derogatory, it’s based on historical lies from a cultural misunderstanding pertaining to trade and gift-giving. As Thanksgiving approaches children are still learning the incorrect historical lessons in school of the Pilgrims and their relationship of the original owners of the land we call America.
The term Indian giver when I was a kid was used to describe someone who took back something they had given you. I strongly suspect that it was the white man who did most of the taking, and taking back throughout the early days of our history by broken treaties, and reclaiming of land “given” to Native American populations. As a holiday gesture I unofficially change that term to Pilgrim Giver.
That however is not what this post is about. I’m thinking of the wonderful gift of Indian spice blends and the vast array of curry preparations available to those who explore the intricate cooking of India.
Some years ago I had a young line cook working for me, a CIA graduate. We were discussing curries in the kitchen one day and he used his very expensive culinary education to exclaim that he thought there was only one curry. You know the one, coconut milk, ginger, tomato, and generic curry powder. Simmer a protein in it and presto! quintessential Indian curry.
The complexity of Indian cuisine is one I hope to understand better. I certainly accept the fact that I will never have a grasp on it as I do Mediterranean cooking, but if I can get myself beyond the simple use of basic garam masala, generic curry powder, and a chutney or two I’d be far better off as a cook.
Since I’m home to cook dinner almost nightly I have discovered that it’s easy to fall into a rut, especially with young kids in the house (one of which has a dairy allergy). Stella seems to have passed from her phase of hating almost everything to excitement over trying new foods. She has even fashioned a chart to keep track of everything she adds to the list of new foods she’ll eat. Last Sunday’s roast duck was huge hit and she had requested it for Christmas dinner.
Yesterday I decided to do some simple Indian cooking since the kids are exploring new tastes and I introduced them to some curries. Nothing I can call regional or authentic, but both a learning experience for me and something different on the dinner table. As Jennifer said at the end of the meal “I really needed this.”
Above is one of several spice shelves in our kitchen. As my exploration continues we’ll need more shelves. Below are whole spices toasting in a cast iron pan which were used for a cauliflower in coconut milk based dish. I wish I had a photo of it even though it needs tweaking. I made a total of three different blends each with unique characteristics and applications. One thing I had to be mindful of was the heat level for the kids.
Below is a tomato based lamb and pumpkin curry which was great. Jennifer and I agreed that the chili paste we each added at the table was needed to bring out a lot of the flavor. Theresa liked it, and was told it was lamb and not beef after the meal.
While the lamb simmered I put Tate on naan rolling duty. He rolled then I hand stretched them before throwing them directly on the top of my makeshift tandoori oven.
The finished product. They need a bit of work, but the kids loved them. Seeing them puff into pillows was particularly fun for them. “Pillow bread” is now in our repertoire and simple to make.
Two pizza stones close together and an oven at 550° did a nice job with a tandoori style pork tenderloin. Rather than using yogurt I used dairy-free sour cream from Wayfare available at Healthy Living. It has a thick creamy texture like Greek yogurt and a pleasant tangy flavor. Te mild spice blend was perfect for the kids.
It was a satisfying meal rounded out with some basmati rice and a couple of glasses of flavored seltzer. I think the kids would be fine without having my version of Indian food again except for the pillow bread, but I will definitely continue to explore and learn.