Basic Chicken Curry

Monday, August 31, 2015

The funny thing about curry powder, is that I have found it used in a legit Indian recipe literally zero times.  All the spicy flavors come from all sorts of places that are much more familiar.  When you are talking about a dish being a curry, it is meaning a spiced sauce.  (note: there are dry curries as well, but trying to keep this simple)
This basic chicken curry is anything but basic. This dish has just the perfect touch of heat, paired with the fresh bite of cilantro and lime. I like serving this with Perfect Basmati Rice and Naan, and making an Indian style gordita. It is said that there may be over 1000 variations of a chicken curry, but Aarti suggests this one is a great place to get your feet wet in the world of curries.  I am a good 10-15 recipes into this cooking adventure, and this has been my favorite thing I have made thus far.

You will need:
3 TBSP sunflower oil
2 cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
 2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 2in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium serrano chile, sliced into half moons
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 TSP ground coriander
1/2 TSP paprika
1/2 TSP ground turmeric
1 TSP ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water
1 TBSP lime juice (or juice from 1/2 a lime)
1/4 cup minced cilantro

Start with a big skillet (non-stick if you've got it) and heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot and shimmery, add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cloves.  Let those heat for a few seconds until fragrant, they will add a nice flavor to the oil base.
It is time for the onion.  Add to the pan and then add a pinch of salt.  In 8-10 minutes your onion should be a beautiful golden brown color.  Saute longer if need be to get the onion to be a nice brown color.

Next into the pan goes the serrano, garlic, and ginger.  Stir together and heat for a minute or two before adding the next group of ingredients.
Now we add the tomatoes, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and cumin.  You will allow all these ingredients to simmer together for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the tomatoes have lost their structure.

After 10 minutes have passed, remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves from the pan.  You are going to carefully transfer the sauce to the blender to puree.  (but keep the bender handy) Again, be careful not to overfill your blender, or the steam will cause the hot liquid to explode out of the top.  No one likes a burned hand!

Take the pureed sauce and pour back into the pan and bring up to a boil.  Add in the chicken pieces and stir to coat.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Next add the yogurt in slowly, a few drops at a time so it doesn't curdle.  Put the water into the blender and swirl to get the remnants of the tomato puree and pour into the pot.  Add 1 TSP of kosher salt.  Cover, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer 5 more minutes to let the sauce thicken.  Lastly, turn off the heat, squeeze in the lime juice and top with the cilantro.

Now that is one nice looking curry.

Things I've Googled this week #2

Sunday, August 30, 2015

This is going to be a fun segment of the blog where I share the tips that I have been learning along the way.  I am forever googling things to make sure I am not missing any of the finer details of different cooking processes.  Maybe I can save you a little time and share what I have learned.

Q: Fennel vs Anise?
Boy was I having a time trying to find fennel at the grocery store.  I only sort of knew what fennel was prior to walking in, so thank goodness for smart phones! So I am looking and looking.  I see something called anise, but no fennel?  So the best I could gather was the grocers in America will use the names interchangeably but if it has the bulb and the fronds, it is fennel.  They are actually different plants, so I have no idea why this name confusion exists.  Fennel is pictured below

Q: Do you butter naan?
Apparently yes, according to wikipedia.  I was mainly curious because when I buy naan from the bakery aisle in the plastic bag, I just heat and serve.  I never was really a fan of this naan, but I didn't have much of a choice.  That was until Trader Joe's came to town, and we tried their naan from the freezer section.  It is out of this world, but the instructions say to top with butter after heating and I didn't know if that was unusual.  The naan we get at out favorite Indian restaurant never appears to have butter on top, but it too is delicious beyond measure.  Was butter the secret this whole time and I never knew? Or is this naan just superior?  I'm going with butter, for the win.

Q: How to tell if a mango is ripe?
I have mangoes for a recipe I am making for next week and I just bought two that seemed relatively unbruised.  I cut into one of them and it was beautiful orange pulp as expected.  The other one, identical on the outside, was hard and almost white inside.  I made it work, but needed to know if I could prevent this in the future.
Ok so it is ripe is it gives a little when you squeeze it (similar to a peach).  It may also smell fruity around the stem. The color on the outside means nothing, so ignore that when looking for signs of ripeness.  Speckles could mean ripeness similarly to a banana, but those may or may not be present.  Also a mango will feel a bit heavy when it is ripe vs under ripe.  Thank you to the very thorough wiki-how page for the info.

Q: Best food instagrams?
Because I want to know if there are good people I need to be following!
I took a sampling from several articles claiming 'these are the people to follow!!!!' and came up with:
(these aren't linked because you need to make a little bit of effort, it is character building)
@spoonforkbacon @food52 @alice_gao @ashrod @davidlebovitz @bonappetitmag @utosh @iamafoodblog @alisoneroman
and I'm at @nataliehinkley but it isn't very pretty at all #badwithfilters

Q: Fall TV lineup?
Mainly for new food shows.  No one here needs to know my excitement and devotion to Sisterwives...
Super bummed that The Taste isn't returning.  I loved that show.  I am really liking Food Fighters, but that is ending next week.
Looks like Masterchef Junior will be one I tune in to, also Parts Unknown with Anthony Bordain.  It seems impossible to find if anything new on Food Network is happening in a structured 'fall 2015' sort of way, to that is to be continued for now.

Q: Houston Restaurant Weeks? 
I was looking for the ending dates because I have got to try a few places before the deadline.  This is an annual event our city (and many other cities) put on to raise money for the local food bank.  All the hippest and tastiest restaurants in town offer a set menu of multiple courses for a set price - usually $25 lunch/$35 dinner.  Each meal they sell includes a $5 donation to the food bank.  It is all really cool, and livens up the restaurant scene in a typical slow month.  Info can be found here, and yay it doesn't end until September 7th!

Mum's Everyday Dal

Saturday, August 29, 2015

I wish I could just type out the exact phrases out of this cookbook to describe this dish.  Just go buy it, it is worth every penny and them some.  Aarti has a way with words, and a way with lentils that beckons a simple time.  This dish is pure comfort that reflects that very message.
I really enjoyed this version of lentils named Dal.  I confess that it is a rare occasion that I eat a lentil or bean unless it is refried out of a can, or mixed into a meg-sized Chipotle burrito.  I am happy to add this to my repertoire, because lentils are really good for us.  I cannot get over the gorgeous color of these either, you know I'll be asking for seconds!

You will need:
1 cup red lentils (picked through for stones)
2 cups water
1 yellow onion diced
1/2 in piece of peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 serrano pepper, halved (optional)
Kosher Salt

These humble lentils will need a good rinse and soak before we begin.  In a strainer or colander, rinse the lentils and soak them in water for 30 minutes.  Drain the beans when 30 minutes is up.
Next you start with a medium saucepan.  To the pan, add the water, onion, ginger, tomato, serrano, and lentils.  Using medium-high heat, bring the mix to a boil.
The directions say to skim the scum off the surface.  As the lentils boil, they give off what I saw to be a foam liquid of sorts.  Just take a spoon on the surface and try to take some of this foam out.  I didn't get a whole lot out on mine, but I just stirred and it go incorporated back into the liquid and didn't effect anything.  Once boiling, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.  The lentils will simmer for around 35-40 minutes - they will be done when translucent in appearance and nearly falling apart.
When the cooking is done, whisk the lentils to release any starches, and now you may add in salt to taste.  The mixture should thicken, then just ladle into a bowl and enjoy.  The only thing that would make these any better would be a cold day so they could warm your from the inside out.  August in Houston is no joke, you guys.


Friday, August 28, 2015

There is nothing more beautiful than Shakshuka.  Just take a moment and take it all in.  Shakshuka can be a delightful brunch, as Aarti prefers, or it is just as well a breakfast for dinner to captivate hearts.
This dish is what I so lovingly refer to as the Middle Eastern huevos rancheros.  Aaron loves huevos rancheros so much, so I must begrudgingly prepare it from time to time.  I am not really into it, truth be told.  Shakshuka, though.  Next level stuff, people.
I think people get the wrong idea about Indian food and that it is way too heat spicy for their palate.  Thus far in my cooking adventure I have yet to have anything cross the threshold of too hot to handle (and I am a mild gal, all the way).  This dish is yet another that elevates the simple egg into a near Nirvana-esque plate of food.
Aarti suggests serving this with crusty bread that you've rubbed with a clove of garlic, but we went with the world class naan from Trader Joe's frozen section.  It is the best ever.    

You will need:
1/4 cup olive oil*
1/2 TSP cumin seeds
1 small cinnamon stick
1 large yellow onion, sliced 3/8 in thick
1 fennel bulb, out leaves removed, fronds reserved - bulb sliced 3/8 inch thick
kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, sliced 3/8 in thick
1/4 TSP red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/4 TSP turmeric
2 TSP granulated sugar
4 cups diced ripe tomatoes
small handful of roughly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
5 or 6 large eggs
1 3oz block of feta cheese (in brine is best)
crusty bread, toasted (or naan)

*Aarti's recipe lists extra virgin olive oil, but I learned a while ago that you shouldn't cook with extra virgin olive oil.  It is so refined that it will smoke (burn) without much heat at all.  This oil is best reserved for salad dressings, or a dip for bread, but not anything that involves high heat.  Regular olive oil, like the Italians use, is the proper olive oil for cooking.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed skillet.  When oil is hot and shimmering toss in the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick.  Only let these sizzle for a few seconds, then add your fennel and onion.  Add about 1.2 TSP of salt, and stir to coat everything in the oil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer around 10 minutes until onions are light brown, stirring every few minutes so nothing burns or sticks.
Once your onions are a gorgeous light brown color, add the bell pepper, red pepper flakes, turmeric and sugar.  Crank the heat back up to medium and saute until bell peppers are soft and get slightly browned. This should take around five minutes.
Next add the tomatoes, parsley and some of the reserved fennel fronds and another 1/2 TSP of salt.  Reduce the heat to low again, and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes until the texture resembles stew.  Feel free to add water if the mixture gets too thick.
After 15 minutes of simmering, do a flavor check.  Add more salt, pepper or red chili flakes to get the taste just as you like it.
Now time for the eggs.  With a spoon, make 5-6 little indents in the sauce- one for each egg.  Carefully break an egg into each one, working quickly.  If you aren't the best at cracking eggs, crack them into a bowl first, then remove any shells that get in there and easily transfer the egg into the indentation in the sauce.  
Break the feta cheese into crumbles and sprinkle over the mixture - but not onto the eggs.  Cover the pan and heat for 5-8 minutes until the eggs are cooked through.  Ideally the yolks will be a tad runny so that beautiful yolk runs through the spicy tomato mixture when you eat. 
When the eggs are heated through remove the cinnamon stick, and garnish with remaining fennel fronds and parsley. Then bask in the wonder of your most glorious creation.  


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Maybe you have heard of falafel?  I am a HUGE fan.  I can't get Aaron to get into it no matter what I try.  I love the flavor, I love the crispy texture, and by gosh I love anything stuffed in a pita with tzatziki sauce.  Whenever we are in a Middle Eastern or Greek restaurant, you can be sure that I will choose the falafel.
But, pealafel?  Color me confused.  I was a tad scared this creation would be overly sweet due to the peas, and I was just unsure about the mint.  Who eats so much mint except in jelly form with lamb? 
I, Natalie Hinkley, have been to the other side of this pealafel recipe, and let me tell you this: it is damn delicious.  The outside is crisp while the inside is warm and soft with the freshness of the mint yogurt sauce.  To.die.for.  These even won Aaron over, Mr. Ihatefalafelguy. I may never make a falafel again, it is pealafels for this household!  

You will need:
1/2 TSP fennel seeds
1/4 TSP coriander seeds
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup whole fresh mint leaves
kosher salt
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
1 cup frozen edamame, thawed and drained
1 large shallot, rough chopped
1 clove garlic
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Sunflower oil for frying
2 large pita breads, cut in half to make pockets
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 large english cucumber sliced into rounds

A spice grinder and food processor are helpful too!

We start with a dry pan over medium heat.  Toast the fennel and coriander seeds for about 2 minutes until fragrant and darkened.  Next transfer to a spice grinder and pulverize them into a powder.

Time out to make the yogurt sauce.  In a small bowl mix the yogurt, 1/2 cup of chopped mint leaves and a healthy pinch of kosher salt.  Cover and refrigerate.  This sauce will be the topping on your pita pocket at the end.

Now, it can't get much easier - toss the 3/4 cup whole mint leaves, shallot, garlic, peas, edamame, ground spices, olive oil and salt to taste into the food processor.  Puree until smooth as it will get, noting the edamame won't completely grind down so well.

Move the puree into a bowl and add the chickpea flour.  This flour, in my experience, isn't crucial - you can use regular ol' flour instead.  I also tried it with whole wheat flour and it was pretty swell.  

Heat your oil in a pan over medium heat.  You want the bottom to be covered about 1/4 of an inch.  Keep a plate nearby with paper towels to place the cooked pealafel and absorb the excess oil.

With wet hands, form you pealafel rounds into a golfball size, then flatten into a patty.  There should be enough 'dough' to make around 12.  Drop carefully into the hot oil.  They will need about 2 minutes per side to get nice and browned.  remove from oil and let rest on the paper towel lined plate.

Pro-tips:  I made these one time and they fell apart as soon as they hit the oil.  I concluded that there was too much flour or oil in the mix.  When i followed the instructions more precisely they held better.  I also was having trouble getting the crispy outer crust.  It helped when I lightly dusted flour on the outside of the patty and made sure to not touch/flip them until the time was up.  Moving them around or over flipping the patties resulted in a mushy pealafel.  

Now that those easy peasy pealafels are fried and ready, we can assemble the pitas.  Cut your pita bread in half so you have two pockets fill with 2-3 pealafel patties, diced tomato, sliced cucumber and your minty yogurt sauce.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Monday, August 24, 2015

Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is hardly even authentic Indian food?  As it turns out, this national dish of London was created by a chef who was preparing a meal for a British military guy who instructed that there was to be 'none of that spicy stuff'.  Here, here!  I am an avid avoider of spice and it is only recently that I have trained my delicate palate to handle something mildly spicy. 

Chicken Tikka Masala is actually spicy in the perfect harmony of the word.  Not spicy with heat per se, but spicy with a hundred flavor notes that tantalize your taste buds.  Add to it, the richness of the heavy cream. It is akin to taking your mouth to Disneyland.

This dish is a teensy bit involved, but a good meal is at the end of that tunnel, so you ought to try at least once.

You will need:
(for the chicken)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 1/2 in chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP grated and peeled fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TSP kosher salt
1/2 TSP pepper

(for the curry)
2 TSP olive oil
3 TBSP unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced (one if you prefer less heat)
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TSP garam masala
2 TSP paprika
8 ripe roma tomatoes
2 cups water
1 1/2 TSP kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped cilantro

To prepare the chicken you will first trim the fat and stab all over with a fork.  This was a lot easier to do prior to the cutting into chucks, for your information.  In a bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Once this yogurt marinade is combined, add the chunks of chicken.  This chicken should marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but up to overnight covered in the fridge.  When I have made this dish, I will do the chicken prep the night before and I end up with the most tender chicken ever.  I have no anecdote for the 30 minute version, my apologies.

On to the curry portion.  Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, add your garlic, ginger and serrano.  Sauté for 1-2 minutes, enough for the components to soften.  A note on the serrano:  I made this dish a few times with different amounts of serrano.  1 with no seeds had a mere hint of heat.  1 with the seeds was perfect for my tastes.  2 with no seeds had my brow sweating a bit, but wasn't unreasonable - probably the hottest I would go without a glass of milk handy. #wimp

After your garlic, ginger and preferred amount of serrano have cooked for a minute or two, add the tomato paste.  You want the paste to darken a bit over the heat and turn a rich maroon color, around 3 minutes.  Next add the garam masala and paprika, and sauté for one more minute.

Are you ready for all those tomatoes? That was way too much chopping for me, I just quartered the tomatoes and into the food processor they went.  Add the chopped tomatoes and water to the skillet.

Cover and bring your skillet contents to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Let this mixture simmer for 20 minutes.  While you are waiting, lets cook the chicken!

This chicken is going to go into the broiler.  You want your pan to be first wrapped in foil, then spread  your chicken chunks around evenly.  Be sure to shake off the excess yogurt mixture because the heat is going to melt that stuff right off.  Your oven rack should ideally be around 4-5 inches from the heat.  Broil the chicken for 7 minutes, then with tongs or a spatula, flip the pieces to heat the opposite side for another 7 minutes.  You want to get those nice little crispy edges as seen below.

Don't worry about cooking the chicken all the way through at this point.  It is going to simmer in the sauce here in a minute and will cook all the way through at that stage.

*Broil tip - when I made this each time, no matter the effort into shaking off as much yogurt marinade as possible, there would be liquid pooled on my baking sheet when I went to turn my chicken pieces during the second half of the broiling time.  My solution was to very carefully tip the pan so the liquid would gather in the corner of my baking sheet and sopped it up with a few wadded paper towels.  I don't know that the liquid would hurt anything if you left it, but I wanted the chicken to stay dry so it would brown nicely instead of a steam effect.

The next step is a bit tricky - we are back to dealing with the curry now.  You are going to transfer this sauce to the blender or food processor to make smooth.  BE CAREFUL.  The sauce is hot, and you don't want to overfill your blender.  When you put hot steamy liquids combined with a spinning blade, the pressure builds up and it will either pop the lid off or send the hot liquid bursting through the lid and on to your hands.  If you have an immersion blender, use that and enjoy the fact that your life is a little easier than the rest of us.  (I might be bitter that I lost the motor half to the one I own)

Once your sauce is all blended put it back in the skillet add the salt and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add in your chunks of chicken and cover.  Simmer all together for 10 minutes.  Take off the heat, add in you heavy cream and stir to combine.  You should have a beautiful orange sauce that looks like an India sunset.  Garnish with cilantro and serve over some perfect basmati rice.

This is one of Aaron's all time favorites, so I am hoping to learn this recipe so well that I wont need to refer to the cookbook every time I make it and just know it by memory.  We may be a ways off from that even though I have made this three times in two weeks.  It is seriously that good.  If you have never tried Indian food, or think it isn't your thing - try it.  I think this will be the dish to convert you.

Things I've Googled This Week #1

Saturday, August 22, 2015

This is going to be a fun segment of the blog where I share the tips that I have been learning along the way.  I am forever googling things to make sure I am not missing any of the finer details of different cooking processes.  Maybe I can save you a little time and share what I have learned.

Q: How to make chickpea flour

I was having a time trying to find chickpea flour in my grocery store for the pealafels recipe.  Turns out you can buy dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans and grind them into flour using a spice/coffee grinder.  You grind them up then just shake them through a fine mesh strainer and boom, chickpea flour!

Q: Crispy falafel crust tips

It seems like the best bet is to form your patties and chill them before frying.  Another sure fire way is to deep fry them, which isn't the recipe so I am not even going to try it.  Through trial and error though I found that if you flour the outside of the little rounds it helps to crisp up the exterior.  Also you want to be sure you have your oil hot enough and don't flip them to early.

Q: Shakshuka Indian?

I was curious because I know there was a recipe in our Jerusalem cookbook, so maybe its roots were Jewish in nature?  Wikipedia says it is believed to be of Tunisian origin.  Either way, I consider it to be the Middle East and Northern Africa's tastier version of huevos rancheros.

Q. Can you freeze tikka masala?

Yes, but ideally you will freeze before adding the heavy cream.  Making a double batch next time, for sure.

Q. Kosher Salt vs regular salt

I knew Kosher salt was bigger, but I wanted to know why.  I found that it is the same, just bigger.  It is used in the process of preparing kosher meats.  I also learned that in baking you definitely want to use table salt and not kosher salt.  I think it is better for meat dishes to use kosher salt because something about the flavor being more earthy salty and the large crystals are able to slowly dissolve during the cooking process.   I will probably just going to use what the recipe calls for and not over think it for now.

Q. Aarti social media

Easy.  On her website: top right corner.

Q. Brown onions fast

So fast I can't even form a complete sentence!  I learned more about cartelized onions in this search, which is the extreme version of just browning onions for a recipe.  I learned two different methods (but have tried zero thus far).  First method is to brown your onions in a dry pan.  Just onion straight on the pan, and once they brown a bit, then add the oil and salt.  Seems clever.  The second and more popular tip was to add a pinch of baking soda.  This raises the pH apparently, and thus you get brown onions in a faster time frame.  It was mentioned however that you don't want to use any more than a small pinch or you will alter the taste of your onions and in turn your dish.  Don't you love a great food hack?

Q. Ginger benefits

Almost every dish I have been making is loaded with fresh ginger, thus I was curious if there were any notable health benefits from ginger consumption.  Seems like it is a solid way to help gastrointestinal issues and nausea.  It has anti-inflammatory properties and is also possibly helpful in prevention of colorectal and ovarian cancers.  Wonderful!

Perfect Basmati Rice

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This recipe is 100% about the process, and not the ingredients.  Obviously.  It is only rice, water and salt.  Like many things in the kitchen, I can find 10 different ways to do one set of instructions incorrectly.  I'm really special like that.

In real time, I am about 10 recipes into the Aarti Paarti cookbook and I make this rice to go with every dish.  I really feel like I am a pro.  It is an unfamiliar feeling, being confident in the kitchen, but I can get used to this.
I have used several different cooking vessels while making all this rice and my favorite has to be the nonstick saucepan such as this: Simply Calphalon Nonstick 1-Quart Sauce Pan
It is just the right size for the recipe and the rice comes off the bottom without sticking.  I found when I used the dutch oven pot to make this recipe, the surface area of the bottom was just too large.  Much of the rice stuck to the bottom so there was less for eating. The water, while the same measurements in all the pots and pans, seemed lower to the bottom, so the water evaporated a lot faster than in the saucepan.  The result was rice that was undercooked and dry. This is all a moot point if you have a rice cooker, those make perfect rice without breaking a sweat!  I have a teeny city kitchen though, so I need to be prudent with my appliance purchases (but I'm not.) Without further ado, here is how you make Aarti's Perfect Basmati Rice:

You will need:
1 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 TSP kosher salt

Follow this process to the letter, and it should come out as soft pump little grains of tastiness.

In a separate bowl add your rice and cover with water.  With clean hands, run your fingers gently through the grains to help them release their starches.  The water will turn cloudy.  Drain the cloudy water off the rice and repeat until the water remains mostly clear when you are delicately jostling the rice. 
Once you have all the starch rinsed out of your grains, cover the rice with water and let sit for 30 minutes.  This time lets the grains soften and gives a head start on the water absorption.

When you are at about 25 minutes into the soaking process, put the 1 3/4 cup of water, and 1 TSP kosher salt on the stove to boil.

::Ding:: the 30 minute timer has gone off, your rice is done soaking.  Drain off the water from the rice.  I usually pour the whole bowl of rice and water into a metal sieve so it catches all the grains. 

By this time the salt water should be at a boil, you can now add your rice.  Stir for the rice to all be covered by the water.  Once the rice is in and the water has come back up to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes your rice should be perfectly done, and you will just need to maybe fluff with a fork before serving.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When I happened upon this recipe, my mind instantly filled with salt water taffy, the gulf air, and amazing seafood.  This dish is none of those things actually.  The only Kheema I'd ever known is just a homophone (Kemah, the boardwalk town outside of Houston). I assure you, this Kheema is just as good. :)

This delectable spiced dish from South Asia is pure warmth.  It can be served over rice, used as a filling for samosas or naan.  It is very versatile while capturing the intense spice profiles of India so nicely.  The Hinkley household enjoyed this dish with as stack of home made chapatis, much like Aarti did as a child.  Highly recommended!

This version from Aarti's cookbook is made with beef, since it is more readily available to us in the US.  Traditionally this is a lamb or mutton curry, as in the Hindu culture, beef is not eaten.  I made the version to stay true to the cookbook, but look forward to trying the lamb version as well.

For this Kheema recipe, you will need:
3 TBSP sunflower oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 TSP ground coriander
1 TSP paprika
1/2 TSP garam masala
1/2 TSP ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 TSP cayenne (depending on how much heat you like)
1 pound ground beef
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 1 drained can of diced fire roasted tomatoes)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 TSP malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Start with a skillet.  Add oil and heat until oil shimmers (med-high heat).

First you will add the onion, and stir until they soften and turn golden brown.  The book recommends around 5 minutes, but mine took closer to 10, so use your best judgement.

Next you are going to add the spices: coriander, paprika, garam masala, and cumin.  You will stir these in and keep stirring so they won't burn.  If they stay still to long, they *will* burn and your whole dish will taste burnt. (not that this happened to me..) Warm the spices whilst stirring for about 30 seconds.

Now we add the beef.  Like any ground beef dish, break up the chunks with a spoon, and completely brown.

Once the beef is browned entirely, add the tomatoes and water.  Here is when you can also season with salt and pepper.  Partially cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Next step, stir in the frozen peas and let those simmer in the mixture for another 5 minutes

Now you are ready for the final step.  Add the vinegar and stir all together.  Top with cilantro and serve.

Aarti Paarti!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

This is going to sound very contrived, because it is.  But I want to cook my way through a cook book.  I know Julie and Julia did it, and probably several others I don't even know about.  The idea isn't original.  I will tell you one thing though, the idea is smart.

My cooking repertoire is not vast.  I can count on one hand, the items that I make consistently well.
1. Tuna Casserole
2. Bahn Mi Sandwiches
3. Eggs
4. Oven Fried Chicken

The oven fried chicken is really grasping too, because I am usually unhappy with how the crust turns out.

So in 33 years, this is not a great body of work.  I rely very heavily on the prepackaged 'helper' style meals and lots of frozen pizza.  Let us not forget breakfast for dinner.  It is my love language, and I would go against an Iron Chef with confidence if the secret ingredient were breakfast food.

Long story short, for the start of this journey while I am energetic and optimistic, I want to go exotic. But healthy too because Aaron and I both could stand to lose a few pounds.  We are taking this train to India.  Or Los Angeles by way of Dubai.

I received the Aarti Paarti cookbook last year and shame on me, I haven't put it to much use.  Story of all my cookbooks, and I should be and am embarrassed.  I love love love her show, and think she is just so cool and fun.  I was thumbing through and there were a ton of dishes I wanted to try.  I thought, why not just take the opportunity to immerse yourself in Indian cuisine and really try to gain a semblance of competence in that arena.  So that is just want I am doing!

Aaron and I are big time fans of Indian food, so I am excited about this undertaking.  We even had our very first kiss in the parking lot of an Indian restaurant.  It is destiny.
pic credit

Stay tuned for delicious meals courtesy of Aarti Sequeria.  Just in case you are reading this - Aarti, if you want to become my best friend, please contact me, we can make this happen.

If you'd like to cook along with me, you can find Aarti's cook book at all the bookstores, or on Amazon below

This is affiliate linked content.  You are not required to use to purchase, but it helps the site when you do.  Thanks in advance!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Here is a list of all the recipes I am making from the Aarti Paarti cookbook.  These are in order, but I am not cooking them in order because I am rebellious ;)

Indian Omelet
Shakshuka for 'Stroke-Stroke'
Chard & Cashew Upma
The Overachiever's Breakfast Pudding
Shrikhand Parfaits
Good Girl Granola
Kaya & Cornflake French Toast
Aloo Tikki Egg Bennys

Green Chutney
Ketchup Chutney
Date-Tamarind Chutney
Ruby Red Chutney

Real-Deal Hummus
Baba's Ghanoush (aka Baba Ghanoush)
Baked Samosas
Masala Kale Chips
Pout-Plumping Wings
"Pleasantly Plump" Arayes
Lasagna Cupcakes with Sausage & Mango Chutney
Sweet Potato Pakora-kes
Kebab Sliders with Date Chutney & Arugula Raita

Mum's Everyday Dal
French Onion Soup with Cinnamon
Cardamom & Paneer Croutons
Tomato Rasam
Tiger vs. Dragon Soup
Fish Chowder for the Idea Man

Perfect Basmati Rice
Lucia-Lucica Fried Rice
Sunny-Side Pulao
Bacon, Mint & Pine Nut Stuffing Muffins
Pregnancy Potatos

"Juldi Juldi" Everyday Veggies
Aloo Gobi
Cauliflower Steaks with Limey Yogurt
Saag Paneer
Roasted Root Jumble with Feta
Beetroot Thoran
Mushroom "Potlis"
The Converter's Brussels Sprouts
Indian Street Corn

Coleslaw with Some "Dhum" in It
Massaged Kale Salad with Mango & Pepitas
Quinoa Tabbouleh
Moroccan Carrot Salad with Caramelized Lemon & Pine Nuts
The Girly Salad
Tomato & Halloumi Salad with Za'atar
Shaved Artichoke Salad with Cashews & Mint

Dal Bukhara
Burning Man Black Channa
Chickpea Artichoke Masala
Monsoon Black-Eyed Pea Curry
Greens 'n' Beans
High-Five Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Cucumber-Scallion Pancakes with Kimchi

Tandoori Chicken
Chicken Tikka Masala
I Ain't Chicken Chicken
Christmas Cornish Hens with Sweet Pulao Stuffing
Manamana Chicken
Basic Chicken Curry
Turkey Meat Loaf with Maple-Fenugreek Sauce
Bombay Sloppy Joes
Intimidation Station Duck Breasts

Meatball Curry
Pretzel-Fried Steak with Mango-Onion Gravy
Mummy's Pepper Steak Sandwiches
Spicy Sticky Lamb Chops
Sheesh! Kebabs
Birthday Curry, a.k.a. Rogan Josh
Mango Pulled Pork
Chai-Brined Pork Chops with Spiked 'n' Spiced Apple Chutney
Wilderness Ribs

Fish Tacos with Garlic, Mint & Cumin Mayo
Hometown Fried Fish
Misa-Mango Black Cod
Roasted Whole Fish with Tamarind-Herb Salsa Verde
Salmon in Paper Hearts with Peach Pachadi
Masala Shrimp 'n' Grits
Iron Chef Shrimp
Shrimp Po'Boys with Pineapple Chutney
Hypocrite's Lobster Roll
Goan Beach Day Squid

Kulfi Pops
Nomad's Ice Cream Sandwich
Homemade 'Magic Shell' with Garam Masala & Sea Salt
Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding
Gulab Jamun
Apple Galettes with Pink Salt & Pepper Caramel Sauce
Rose Petal Strawberry Shortcakes
Hot Stuff Pots de Creme


Saturday, August 1, 2015

You can reach me all over the web!

Twitter  @nataliemhinkley

Instagram @nataliehinkley



Do you ever half heartedly throw an overcooked piece of chicken over some noodles and call it dinner?  Are you finding yourself relying on frozen premade meals that only require preheating your toaster oven?  Have you made the same meal several times and it is hit or miss if it tastes good? 

If you have answered yes, you might be me. 

I long to be a domestic goddess.  I want my family to be excited when I bring dinner to the table.  When I bring a dish to the potluck, I want it to be the first thing people scoop onto their plate.  When my future children are all grown up, I want them to miss their momma's cooking.  I mean, we eat three times a day give or take, don't we want them to be the best?

I don't have time or money to go to culinary school, nor do I have a desire to open a restaurant one day, or cook professionally at all.  I am just determined to be a really good home cook. 

So how does one become especially skilled at being a home cook?  I am going to figure it out as I go.  I am an owner of an enormous collection of cookbooks, so that seems as good a place as any.  I know however, that my instincts in the kitchen aren't great.  I usually find the one weird way to mess up a recipe because the instructions weren't specific enough.  I figure that I will learn as I go, and share what I learn.  If you think you are hopeless, you are just the right reader for this blog!

So, who am I?  I am Natalie Hinkley.  I live in Houston, Texas and am an accountant by trade.  I have been married to my main squeeze Aaron since 2012.  I've been eating food for approximately 33 years.  I love to eat, cook, travel, spend time with my family, and write.  Sadly, I have more kitchen nightmares than success stories, but I know that will change.

They say 10,000 hours is how long it takes to master something.  If I do the math correctly, and take an hour to cook meals 5 nights a week, in 38-39 years I will be a pro!  I hope I still have teeth by then.  Maybe this is why grandmothers are usually such good cooks? 

Even if I don't reach expertise status, cooking from cookbooks with fresh ingredients seems like a no-brainer to me.  Anything from a package is going to be laden with preservatives and likely a higher amount of salt/sugar/fat/chemicals.  I can't wait until the day when I have a few random vegetables lying about and I can whip up a meal from my own brain. 

Before I ramble on for an uncomfortable amount of time, I'd like to invite you to join me.  Try the recipes I post, or grab the cookbook yourself and make a few items that look good to you.  Aaron and I have a taste for the exotic, so I hope I can introduce you to something new and interesting that you will love.  And please, if you do have cooking skills, leave any pointers you have in the comments for myself and the other novices. 

In closing, I'd like to extend a sincere thank you for the time you spend here with me, I think it is going to be really fun.  I feel it rings true for many that food is comfort, it is memories, and it is love.  To me, it is also an adventure into the unknown.  A lot of times I will avoid things that scare me, but I hope to come out on the other side with a lot more knowledge, experience, and confidence in the kitchen.  And I hope to never serve another piece of over cooked chicken again.

Cake is what keeps us together

Me and my darling baby friend

My BFF Katrina and I, reppin' our alma matter, University of North Texas
(those are Eagle talons we have is a Texas thing I think?)

Enjoying a LeBron soda...I don't have a ton of recent pictures of myself.