Recently, I posted this message on Twitter:
What do Rickrolling and asafoetida have in common? Stay tuned!
It was one of those weird days that I love and which seem to inspire me to write. My muse has an odd sense of humour, to be sure.
Buckle up and come along for the ride, it's a fun and delicious one. Promise!
Unpacking the Title - what's with the R's?
Raghavan - refers to Raghavan Iyer, author of 660 Curries. His book has been a delightful introduction to cooking Indian cuisine at home.
Ruhlman - is Michael Ruhlman (does anyone call him Michael, I wonder?) author of the "...of a Chef" series and the recent Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.
Rickrolling - refers to Rick Astley's 80's hit "Never Gonna Let You Down" which has enjoyed new life in a mashup blitz where folks set new music to the old tune. The most recent one I saw was Nirvana's Teen Spirit - a little odd but...
What do these three have in common? Here we go.
I've enjoyed Indian food for several years but never really made it at home until recently. Raghavan's book has been a wonderful guide to my learning. We've enjoyed several recipes from 660 Curries (see review here) and the book is quickly becoming tabbed, rumpled, and well-worn.
When Doc brought home some lamb from DiLuigi's (see All Sausage, All the Time) we decided an Indian meal was in the works. A recent trip to Rani in Coolidge Corner also reminded me how much I like dal or lentils. So I decided that the yellow split peas we had (Gouveia, of course) were going to be our side dish.
Now, I'll let you in on a little secret. When I first began cooking, I was fanatical about following recipes. It's kind of funny to think about now, because I've grown to think of them as more like guides. But that's the difference between a new cook and an older, more confident cook. This highlights Ruhlman's point in Ratio. He didn't set out, I don't think, to position Ratio as the end of all cookbooks, though he wants us to be free of the hysteria I faced as a new cook discovering a missing ingredient at the last minute. Instead, he wants to inspire more confidence by helping us understand the basic structure of most recipes, the ratios of the key ingredients. Once we have that under our belt, he posits, the "ratios will set us free." Free to riff on all the other elements in a dish that we might choose to modify.
So, here I was with this beautiful lamb, gorgeous split peas and a great cookbook. I am developing confidence in my Indian palate. And I have that silly Rick Astley song in my head because someone sent me this link in Facebook and I couldn't resist it.
My Indian Mashup or Rickrolling Raghavan...
Raghavan's book is written in the friendly tone of confidante at your side in the kitchen, authoritative yes. His charming stories and encouragement make you feel invited into a world which is new to many of us. I looked over several lamb recipes and several dal recipes and decided I was confident enough to use bits of several different ones to make our meal. Lamb was marinated in yogurt and spices. I made ghee (clarified butter which imparts a nutty aroma and flavor, buzzed up ginger and garlic pastes in the blender. We had some beet greens, carrots, and red onion which I added to the lamb. Dash of cayenne for some heat. Finished with homemade Punjabi Garam Masala. Some of these things might not traditionally be thrown together, but following the basic ratios of the recipe for Spicy Lamb (page 207) with yogurt, cream (I used buttermilk), and fenugreek (I used beet greens.)
At the end of the dal recipe, you're instructed to heat ghee in a pan, toast the mustard seeds. I added fenugreek seeds to bring in the fenugreek flavor missing from the lamb dish. Also the asafetida or asafoetida, is a combination of three giant fennel plants' resins, powdered. That powder is sizzled into the ghee then the fragrant oil is mixed into the dal.
The second day, I added some additional split peas (soaked briefly then cooked in the spicy liquid from day one, with additional sambhar masala), chopped pepper and chopped tomatoes to the dal. The original recipe calls for a small amount of skinned split black lentils or urad dal are used to thicken the liquid, but I have none, so I used the immersion blender just a bit instead.
Served it over/around the rice we made, courtesy of Koda Farms. Their rices and rice blends proved a nice nutty counterpoint to the Indian dishes I am growing to crave.
The green thing in the rice is a green cardamom pod which I steamed with the rice.
The dal on day two, with additional ingredients and more mustard seeds and asafetida sizzledin ghee and added.
With basic ratios of a recipe in hand, delightful mashups can be enjoyed. And the fundamental structure of a recipe (isn't a ratio, at heart, a recipe?) really does free you to improvise. Feel free to choose dining music of your choice...
- To read more about Raghavan's other books and recipes, see here.
- To read my review of his 660 Curries, see here, Cooking with Ghee and Gratitude.
- To read more of Ruhlman's blog and about his books go here.