Category Archives: Recipes

Curry

The word “curry” is kind of a funny thing. Westerners think of it as an Indian dish, but apparently, if you ask someone from India about curry, they won’t know what you’re talking about. Or at least it won’t be a “thing” to them.

Not that they don’t eat what we call “curry” in India. It’s just more a cooking method than a dish. Or so I gather.

There was a Thai place near our house that we were ordering take out on Sundays, and they had a couple different curries that we ordered just to have for lunches during the week. It seemed dumb to be spending take out side dish prices for a cup of curry when I could be making it.

I started doing research, but was quickly intimidated by recipes because every one was different, and they didn’t make it clear what was essential and what was optional. So here is what I’ve figured out.

The core of curry is a mixture of spices, called garam masala. I’ve read that there are as many garam masala recipes as there are cooks, so there’s not a standard combination.

Curry is essentially a sauce that is built on a base of onion, garlic, and ginger. This part seems pretty standard, kind of an Indian version of mirepoix (onions, garlic, and celery – a common French sauce base).

The spices are mixed with this base, and some combination of tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock, coconut milk, and yogurt.

The sauce usually has various chopped vegetables and/or meat cooked in it.

This obviously allows for all kinds of variations, hence all the different recipes. So here is what I ended up making:

Garam Masala

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 20 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed, seeded, and crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  1. Roast the first eight ingredients (everything but the nutmeg, salt, and ground pepper) in a pan over high heat for a few minutes (until it smells really good and the seeds start popping).
  2. Cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Grind everything together.
  4. Makes enough for several batches of curry. Store in a cool, dark place.

Curry

Ingredients
  • 1 pound meat (pork tenderloin, beef, chicken), cubed
  • 4 tablespoons garam masala (see recipe above)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 box or large can of chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi chopped tomatoes – see notes in Tomato Sauce recipe)
  • 1 can (13.5 ounce) coconut milk
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
Directions
  1. Season meat with 2 tablespoons of the garam masala and cook – I like cooking the meat sous vide.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil (I prefer safflower oil, but any neutral high-heat oil will do) in a sauce pan in medium-high heat.
  3. Sauté garlic, ginger, and chiles in the oil until they smell good (a minute or two).
  4. Add onion and 2 tablespoons of the garam masala to the pan, reduce heat to medium, and sauté until the onions start to soften and turn translucent (5-10 minutes).
  5. Add tomatoes and stir until the sauce starts to bubble and reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk, carrots and potatoes.
  7. Simmer long enough to cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally.
  8. Stir in cooked meat, and simmer until ready to serve over rice or noodles.

Makes about 8 servings.

The longer the curry simmers, the more the flavors mix and the better it tastes, but you may want to partially cover the pan to avoid reducing it too much.

Lasagne

Okay, here’s the lasagne recipe that I made with my tomato sauce.

This recipe is designed for a large 11×14″ (4 quart) casserole. If you only have the more common 9×13″ (3 quart) casserole, either make a second smaller casserole (like a 8×8″) or plan on having leftover tomato sauce and cheese.

Ingredients
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles (I like RP’s fresh gluten free lasagna sheets)
  • 2 batches (about 50 ounces) pasta sauce (see Tomato sauce recipe)
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1 pound ground meat (lamb, pork, beef, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
  • 2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • salt
  • pepper
Directions
  1. Make the tomato sauce (see tomato sauce recipe).
  2. Remove the sausage from casing and brown.
  3. Season ground meat with salt, pepper, and ground fennel seed and brown.
  4. Add sausage and meat to tomato sauce.
  5. Add just enough water to arrowroot powder to make a slurry and stir into the tomato sauce and let simmer, stirring occasionally.
  6. Place noodles in casserole and pour hot water over it for a couple minutes, then remove and stack between paper towels to dry off. (If using dried lasagne noodles, partially cook them in boiling water instead.)
  7. Whisk the eggs and mix into ricotta.
  8. Add chopped parsley to ricotta mixture.
  9. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on bottom of a lightly-oiled casserole.
  10. Spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top of the lasagne sheets and smooth with a spatula.
  11. Scoop 1/3 of the of the ricotta mixture on top of the tomato sauce and smooth out as much as possible.
  12. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese on top of the ricotta cheese.
  13. Add two more layers of noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella cheese.
  14. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  15. Cover casserole with foil and place in a 350° F oven for 1 hour.
  16. When 15-20 minutes remain, remove foil to brown top.
  17. Rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Tomato Sauce

For some reason, I don’t particularly like tomatoes themselves, but I love tomato sauce.

Forget about jarred pasta sauces. They may be convenient, but the ingredients are usually a horror show of preservatives and mystery additives. It’s just not worth it – it’s way too quick and easy to make your own sauce.

If you have the time and energy, you can use fresh tomatoes. But you want to peel and seed them, which is a bit of a process. For everyday sauces, I keep chopped tomatoes in the cupboard. It’s a shortcut but it means you can make homemade tomato sauce in a flash.

I currently use Pomi chopped tomatoes. They come in 750g (~26 oz) boxes and stack nicely in the cupboard. I also like diced San Marzano tomatoes (even though the ones you can get in markets in the U.S. aren’t exactly “real”), but the Pomi boxes are BPA free (unlike most canned tomatoes), taste like actual tomatoes, are super-convenient, and there’s nothing added.

Honestly, most nights that I need a tomato sauce, I dump a box of the Pomi chopped tomatoes in a sauce pot, sprinkle in some dried oregano and basil, add a little sugar, and maybe some Sriracha sauce, and simmer for a bit. It takes 10-15 minutes, tops. It usually takes longer to cook the pasta.

However, here’s a recipe for when you have a little more time:

Ingredients
  • 1.5 pounds of tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped – about 1 box or 1 large can
  • 1 medium onion (I like red, but white or yellow is fine), diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Safflower (or other high-heat) oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • fresh-ground pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (optional)
Directions
  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a sauce pan.
  2. Sauté garlic until it smells good.
  3. Add onion and carrot and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent and the carrots start to soften.
  4. Stir in chopped tomatoes.
  5. Season with 1 tablespoons each of oregano and basil.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to bubble.
  7. Decrease heat to a simmer.
  8. Add sugar to taste, if desired. The carrots should already provide some sweetness, but you may want a sweeter sauce.
  9. If you want a thinner sauce, use an immersion blender to adjust the chunkiness as desired.
  10. Stir in remainder of oregano and basil.
  11. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  12. If desired, squirt in Sriracha sauce.
Notes

Makes about 25-30 ounces of sauce, depending on your add-ins and how long it simmers – enough for about a pound or two of spaghetti, depending on how much you like. You can double the recipe to make enough for a typical lasagna.

The longer you simmer the sauce, the better it gets. It also gets thicker and less watery as well, which can be helpful if you want to use it for pizza or lasagna.

You can add in cooked meat or vegetables as needed for your use.

Flower Pot Chicken

The easiest way to avoid gluten or other foodstuffs you can’t eat is to avoid prepared/processed foods by cooking it yourself from whole, raw foods. If you buy a whole chicken in the store, it’s a safe bet it’s 100% chicken. The trick is having a variety of preparation techniques, including super easy ones for when you don’t have a ton of prep time or energy.

Alton Brown of Good Eats likes using unusual materials for cooking, such as terra cotta flower pots.  This turns out to be a great way to cook a chicken.

The pot has to be unglazed (you have no idea what’s in the glaze and you don’t want unknown chemicals touching your food).  You’ll want a pot and a saucer, with the saucer being a couple sizes bigger than the pot.

The saucer is base, and the pot (upside down) becomes the lid. There should be a drain hole in the pot that becomes a vent in the top.

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Garam Masala

The best way to avoid gluten (or any other ingredients) is to cook from whole foods. Processed foods are are risky, generally of lower quality, and less healthy.

It’s easy to get into a rut with routine food preparation, though, so it’s handy to have some tricks up your sleeve.

Garam masala (literally “hot mixture”) is commonly used in Indian cuisine. It is a mix of a variety of spices such as pepper, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander seeds. The mix of ingredients varies by region and chef, so there is no official recipe.

Just because it is considered an Indian seasoning doesn’t man it isn’t useful for other things. There’s a reason it’s enjoyed by over a billion people – it’s good on just about everything. It is a great mix of spice and sweet, and adds dimension to most anything.

There are commercial mixes available, but you should try grinding your own. Whole foods and all that. Also, ground spices do not keep their flavor as long as whole. Most commercial garam masala mixes include chili pepper powder, which causes me trouble.

There are a lot of places to buy whole spices. You can get some at your local supermart, but look for an Indian market in your town. And there is always the internet.

It is said there are as many garam masala recipes as there are families in India. There aren’t quite that many recipes to be found on the internet, but there are quite a few. Take your pick.

But what do you do with it? You can use it to season meats and vegetables. Sprinkle it in cooking rice and you have pilaf. And it is the basis of curry. Garam masala would add an extra punch to soups, risotto, cream of buckwheat, or oatmeal.

Whole spices keep a long time when stored in a cool, dry place. So you should prepare garam masala in small batches, toasting and grinding the spices as you need them.