I lived in Springfield, Missouri for a number of years. This may come as a great shock to some of you, but Springfield is not much of a culinary mecca, though the occasional gem of a place does come and go. When I first moved there, two Indian restaurants fought for dominance. One was, in my opinion, the very clear winner. The food was incredible and I was addicted. Unfortunately, after much too short a period of time, the owner decided to close the restaurant and open a chain of gas stations instead (such a waste, ugh!). This left me with my adequate, but underwhelming second choice. My solution: I set out to teach myself to cook Indian cuisine. Armed with the internet and one terrific cookbook – Indian Home Cooking, by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness, I set out to satisfy my cravings in this particular area, and I’m happy to say I’ve had great results! I have yet to make a recipe I didn’t like out of this book.
Over half the households in India are vegetarian, due to religious, cultural or economic reasons. Good news for me in my quest here, since it meant I had plenty to choose from. I decided to make Mushroom Mattar, with rice and grape raita. Mushroom Mattar is flavorful, but not spicy, with a creamy rich sauce. Raita is kind of a yogurt salad, which comes in many versions. It’s particularly nice with spicy food, cooling the palette a bit, but I like it with pretty much any Indian food. I use it more like a condiment – on top of my entree, to dip naan or poppadum and I love it as a salad dressing. Claire eats it with a spoon.
We were lucky enough to have friends sharing dinner with us, and many yummy noises ensued. Always a good sign.
Mushroom Mattar (I’m not positive, but I think this just means “with peas”)
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1-2 red onions, chopped
1/2 c. tomato puree
1 tsp. garlic paste (you can use minced garlic if you don’t want to buy this)
1 tsp. ginger paste (minced fresh ginger works too)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat butter in pan. Add garlic & ginger. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add onion & mushrooms. Cook until onion is golden brown. Add tomato puree and cook 4-5 minutes. Add spices & stir well. Stir in cream & keep stirring til mixture thickens slightly. Add peas and cook until heated through.
When I go to an Indian restaurant I love how the rice is all separate and falls apart instead of sticking together. If you like it this way, it’s easy to do. Just fill a pot with water like you’re making pasta. Bring to a boil and add your rice (I used 2 cups). Give it a stir so it doesn’t stick together. Boil for 8 minutes. Drain off the water. Leave the rice in the pot, cover with a lid and let it sit until the rest of the food is ready. It comes out perfect every time.
3 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups seedless grapes, halved
2 tsp. ground toasted cumin (I use cumin seeds, toast them for a minute or two in a pan and grind them with a mortar & pestle)
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or paprika
3 tbsp. canola or olive oil
2 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
6 curry leaves (optional – I didn’t use them)
Salt to taste
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl until it’s smooth. Add grapes, cumin, sugar and cayenne. In a small pan, heat oil with mustard seeds & fennel seeds over medium high heat (watch out, the seeds tend to pop). Cook 1-2 minutes. Add curry leaves if using. Pour over the yogurt mixture and chill. Add salt & stir just before serving.