India's lesser know recipes

2:18 PM

Last week I decided to open my old cook books and one of them was an Indian cuisine cook book written in French by an Indian lady married to a French guy. I completely forgot I had it, and remembered the recipes in it were the lesser known, more aromatic kind that would appeal more to an occidental palate. In it I found a recipe I wanted to try: Lamb and sauteed cumin potatoes, referred as Aloo Jeera Salan by the author as well.
This one is a Lucknowi dish and I thought it was perfect as the ingredients are easy to find, and the whole thing tasted yummy. If I have time I will try to post the recipe, but I wanted to write about my impressions today.

So this particular recipe is a slow cooking one and you really need to put each spice at a very specific moment, which is so unlike all the other Indian recipe I learnt from Tarla Dalal, the indian cooking shows on TV or my neighbours. I still got to cook it in my kadai instead of the flat bottom thick casserole the author recommended (in a concern about westerners who might not have woks or gas stoves), kadai cooking still meant it was a shorter cooking time.
In order to be true to the recipe I purchased sheep mutton, because here is a fact you might not know, but what is called "Mutton" in India is almost always goat meat unless otherwise specified. Unfortunately the original recipe called for lamb shoulder pieces, and all I could find was the infamous often mediocre "curry cuts" full of bone, and of lesser quality meat as it is often going to be marinated, dunk into a thick gravy of tomato and chilly and need not be tender and aromatic.

The verdict after one our of cooking? The light gravy is full of flavours of cinnamon, mace, cloves and just a hint of chili, but the meat turned out to be sadly horrendous, I expected that though, the bigger chunk of curry cuts that weren't ribs actually tasted very good and took the gravy flavour perfectly, but all the other were full of tendons and hard fat which made them chewy and gummy. Next time I'll do that dish it will be when back in Bangalore where I know a good butcher who will get me premium mutton cuts.
But here is a reflexion about Indian cuisine I would like to share, I find it sad that in restaurants country wide you now find the same old boring common "ghar ka khana" (home cook food) that are swimming in fat, tomato and chili gravy when this country has a much much much deeper culinary tradition be it vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Very few restaurants even in the higher end actually venture with more than one or two dish who is not elaborated starting with the base Check Spellingof a butter chicken, or a veggie dish who still has the texture and taste of the actual vegetable that went into the preparation. Chili is indeed overused nowadays, and really after 7 years in India I know why Indian cuisine as we know it is not the most popular with foreigner.
I got to experience Kashmiri and North Indian dishes that are so much more than the usual fare and really speak of a more refined side of India, I also got to experience South Indian true gastronomy that goes beyond the idli/dosa/vada/lunch thali, and guess what these dishes don't even take much more time or cost more to prepare than the more commonly known recipes I got to try in other people's home or restaurants.
I guess I am a bit sad again when it comes to cook books, because the one book that contain the most refined and lesser known side of Indian cuisine was purchased in Switzerland, is written in French (even if the lady is of Indian origin) and all we get here in India is Tarla Dalal and other of her clones going over the umpteenth way of cooking dal makhani, butter chicken, dal fry and other veg curries...Isn't it time to rediscover the lesser known classics?


  1. that's sad. i agree with you. i understand and respect the evolution of cooking. but, at the same time, people are forgetting the roots or the true value of the origins. i think also, because everyone wants to be "modern?" i don't know. not that i'm an old-fashioned geezer - i'm not. but, it's just a guess.(limon)


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