Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood

Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood

by Raghavan Iyer

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Growing up in Bombay, Raghavan Iyer was immersed in a colorful, flavorful world of homemade Southern Indian cooking and irresistible street food (forbidden by his mother and sisters, but too good to pass up). In this touching, vivid, and expert cookbook, Iyer—now a successful caterer and cookbook author—returns to the recipes and memories of his delicious upbringing: rich curries and stews, irresistible rice dishes, spicy chutneys, crispy poori breads, grilled kebabs, savory vegetable samosas, ginger-spiked chai, and sweet fruit desserts.

With clear recipes that even a novice can master, this richly woven, deeply personal, and above all authentic cookbook brings Southern India to life. Anyone who likes to cook, loves Indian food, or is fascinated by Indian culture will relish the recipes, anecdotes, and reflections in The Turmeric Trail.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312276829
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/29/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.82(h) x 0.97(d)

About the Author

Raghavan Iyer is a chef/caterer and cooking instructor based in Minneapolis. His first book is Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking (Hungry Minds, April 2001). He emigrated to the U.S. in 1982, at the age of 16, and has returned to India several times to research the recipes of his family. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Table of Contents

Preface: Akka's Journeyxi
Introduction: Indian Cooking, North and South1
Herbs, Spices, and Legumes in the Indian Pantry3
Baahar Ka Khaana--Street Foods of Mumbai13
Dals--Lentil-Based Stews91
Sevai, Idlis, Aur Kozhakuttais--Noodles, Cakes, and Dumplings117
Murghi, Gosht, Aur Meen--Poultry, Meat, and Fish141
Maa Annapurna--A Tribute to the Rice Goddess159
Rotis--Breads, Pancakes, and Crepes181
Chutneys, Achars, Aur Masaalas--Relishes, Pickles, and Spice Blends203
Mail-Order Sources243


SUKHA BHEL -- Puffed Rice with Green Mango
Serves 8

The word sukha is really a misnomer, since it means "dry" and this dish is wet thanks to the tart lime juice. I prefer this combination to the one with gilla Bhel [see book] because I love the freshness and clean taste of freshly squeezed lime juice that barely coat the vegetables without overpowering them.

1 cup finely chopped peeled, unripe green mango
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled, cooled, and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 fresh Thai, cayenne, or serrano chilies, finely chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
1 package (1 pound) bhel mix (see note)

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the bhel mix.
  2. Just before serving, add the bhel mix and toss well. Serve immediately.
Bhel mix is available in Indian grocery stores. It is a mixture of turmeric-stained puffed rice (murmura/moori), very fine fried garbanzo bean flour noodles (sev) and pieces of flat crispy bread (poori). It has a relatively long shelf life (like potato chips) and can also be eaten as is for a snack.

The texture of this dish is very important -- since you want to experience the bhel mix's crunchiness with the vegetables' relative softness. For this reason, combine the wet and dry ingredients just before serving.

The vegetable mixture can be prepared up to two days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

ADRAK CHAI -- Ginger-Spiked Milk Tea
Serves 4

Chai, that milky sweet and spicy brew, is the lifeblood of India's social, political, and business gatherings. In a store selling silk sarees, when you are faced with a choice between the flame red silk laced with gold or the midnight purple with a sea green border and green leaves, the owner will offer you a cup of hot chai in a stainless steel tumbler to enlighten your decision. Visit your best friend or close a hostile business deal, but first sip chai. Stroll down the dry streets of summer Mumbai or wade through a flood of standing water in the harsh monsoons, but do take a moment to sip chai, available on every street corner, hawked by vendors everywhere. Chai: Darjeeling tea stepped with milk, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and a kick of black pepper. This adrak chai is quintessential Mumbai: bold, spicy, and sensuous.

The red double-decker bus waded through the murky, fudge-colored waters in the gray morning of a typical June day -- ah, monsoons in Mumbai, you've got to love them! Pervasive dampness, clinging to moist skin and polyester clothing, climbing up a woman's petticoat under her six-yard saree, seeping through leather clogs by Bata Shoes, failing to keep the soaked, virulent waters from invading every core of your being. Raincoats, umbrellas, and gumboots (those knee-high rubbers often worn by garbage collectors) are ineffectual in their battle with the sorrow of the pregnant clouds. I gingerly stepped from the bus into knee-deep water and waded to the entrance of the college canteen, joining my friends huddled together, deep in discussion of the upcoming practical on frog, earthworm, and cockroach dissection. The gory details never bothered even the daintiest stomach as gulps of steaming hot chai with freshly crushed ginger and cardamom provided comfort against the angry downpour.

2 cups water
4 teaspoons loose Darjeeling black tea leaves (or 5 tea bags)
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped gingerroot, crushed
1 teaspoon cardamom seed (removed from pods), crushed
4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk or 4 teaspoons sugar

  1. Bring the water to a rapid boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tea leaves and brew for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, taking care not to let the milk boil over.
  3. Strain the tea into cups. Served immediately.

Crush gingerroot using a mortar and pestle for 1 to 2 minutes, until some juices are released. Use the crushed gingerroot along with any residual liquid to flavor the chai.

Crush cardamom seed with a mortar and pestle until they are coarsely cracked. You can also place the seed between layers of plastic wrap and crush with a rolling pin.

You can use reduced-fat milk, but whole milk results in a richer tasting and creamier brew.

ZEERA CHAAWAL -- Cumin-Scented Basmati Rice
Serves 4

In this dish, the haunting sweetness of basmati rice is enhanced by the caramelized combination of stir-fried red onion and nutty cumin seed.

1 cup uncooked basmati or long-grain rice
1 tablespoon Ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt

  1. In a small bowl, cover the rice with water. With your fingers, gently swish the grains until the water becomes cloudy; drain. Repeat 3 or 4 times until the water appears almost clear. Cover the rice with cold water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes; drain.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seed and sizzle for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown.
  3. Stir in the rice, water, and salt; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring once or twice, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until almost all the water has evaporated. Lower the heat as far as possible and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Turn off the burner and let the pan sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork or spoon to release the steam.

I always serve this rice as an accompaniment to more full-flavored curries and stir-fries. Even a piece of simply grilled fish served on a bed of zeera chaawal makes for a satisfying meal.

Copyright © 2002 by Raghavan Iyer.

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