My little world is changing. Days are longer and lighter. Although still cold and sometimes wet, every now and then we have a warmer day, full of promise of things to come. Some blossoms are arriving, magnolias are flowering and today I saw some jasmine in bloom. A new café opened in our street. Pre-Spring is here.
I often think about our poorly named 4 seasons. And this week, dear Lucy posted about her troubles with our Australian seasons, so inextricably linked to the European sense of weather. Our aboriginal forefathers had many seasons, in India there are between 1 and 6 seasons depending on the region, Hawaii has many as well and people who live close to nature and the land know that 4 seasons do not adequately describe our beautiful and changing weather patterns. I even know a group of people in a part of the world who celebrate only 3 seasons. They laughingly call them A Little Wet, Wet, and Very Wet. In Tamil Nadu, I am told, the seasons are Hot, Hotter and Hottest.
I would love to think that we have 8 distinct seasons in this part of Australia. How many do you have? To my way of thinking, we have:
* Pre- Spring
* Early Summer
* Late Summer
* Early Winter
Ah yes, such a secret that nature has held close to her chest, and here in Australia, after 250’ish years of white settlement, we are only just beginning to let go of our European seasonal rules to recognise the rich diversity that our weather brings us.
There is another secret that I want to share with you. It’s about Indian cooking. In the approx 12 years of playing with Indian food, learning just a few of its many many intricate secrets, I discovered another just recently and it has changed the way I approach Indian food just a little. And that time period for the secret to reveal itself is about right. Nothing happens fast in India. Learning is about mastery – no secrets reveal themselves to fly-by-night indulgers in any area. Secrets only come with personal commitment, discipline and persistence. Talk to any of the master craftsmen of South India or the incredible musicians or the rigorous dancers of the traditional genres of India, and they will tell you so.
So I was musing over Indian cooking the other night and how the wonderful play of spices caress the food, thinking in my small head that it is the spices that are lifting and highlighting the characteristics of the food.
But really it is not so. There is a very subtle difference.
Indian food is not so much about the “main ingredient” whether that is a vegetable or fruit, or lentil, or mix of these. Indian food is all about the spices. Spices first and foremost. Spices in the middle, and spices at the end.
Everything else in the dish is just a carrier for the spices. Anything else in the dish is there to highlight and lift the spices, carrying them beyond their raw, lone flavour to exquisite culinary heights.
The carrier can be anything:
- Water. Think rasams, which are basically spiced water.
- Milk. The myriad of desserts based on milk which carry the sweeter spices so well.
- Yoghurt. Add spices to make a magnificent curry.
- Flour. Think Besan Curry, made from chickpea flour, spices and water.
- Lentils. Millions of recipes where lentils or dried beans carry a range of spices to give textural bases to spices.
- Vegetables and fruits, unripe and ripe, form solid platforms for great spice performances.
Spices can disappear into the liquids and not be seen. But they can also be stuffed into vegetables (e.g. okra, eggplant, lemons, limes), encased in pastries (samosas), squished into sauces (palak paneer), and baked into goodies (paneer tikka).
So here, for you today, is another wonderful spice dish, where the flavours are carried on silky, beautiful yoghurt. Enjoy.
Yoghurt Curry (Kadhi)
My first yoghurt curry was cooked by a Persian lady in Sydney for a group of us attending an Ayurvedic seminar. As we helped ourselves to rice and curry, we moved outside to sit in the sun, chatting and laughing as a group of like minded people do. Then suddenly there was silence. The absolute wonder of this curry carried us away and the only sound was sighs of great satisfaction.
I recently saw eCurry‘s wonderful yoghurt curry and had to make my own and again was reminded about how special this easy curry can be. This recipe is based on her’s, but as usual I tweak it a bit. It is a fairly standard recipe and I have included links to other posts below the recipe. What I love about eCurry’s is the double layer of spiciness that she achieves through the spiced yoghurt and then the talimpu/tadka added at the end.
I love yoghurt and this dish is a firm favourite.
Cooking with Yoghurt
Yoghurt can split when heated and although this does not alter the taste, the appearance of the dish can suffer. Here are a few tips for you to experiment with. I rarely have any trouble with yoghurt splitting.
- Use a thick yoghurt, ie a good Greek Yoghurt. Even then, drain it in a piece of muslin cloth for an hour.
- I buy my yoghurt from an Indian shop. If you have one close by, you might consider getting yours from there too. My Indian grocer sells the most silky yoghurt, already thick, from India.
- Whip the yoghurt a little. The addition of air seems to minimise the risk of splitting.
- And the best tip of all, add besan flour (gram flour, chickpea flour) to the yoghurt as you beat it. A tablespoon will do the trick. Since I started doing this, I have had little trouble cooking with yoghurt.
In the South of India it is more common to stablise the yoghurt with rice flour and ground coconut. I am in the process of testing a recipe from one of the foremost South Indian cooks. Watch out for it in the coming weeks.
Yoghurt Curry: Kadhi
Source : inspired by my Persian friend who grew up in India, and eCurry
Prep time: a few mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
1.5 cup yoghurt
2.5 cups water
1.5 – 2 Tblspn besan flour (gram flour, chickpea flour)
1/2 Tblspn ghee
0.25 tspn asafoetida powder
0.5 tspn turmeric
0.25 tspn fenugreek seeds
1 large tspn cumin seeds
2 green chillies
1 tspn ginger, chopped
12 curry leaves
1 tspn jaggery (or brown sugar)
salt to taste
1 Tblspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
0.5 tspn urad dal
1 dried red chilli
6 curry leaves
0.5 tspn smoked paprika (I love the addition of this, it is an act of genius!)
Firstly, we need to make a paste from the green chillies and ginger. Either chop them finely then use a mortar and pestle to render them into a rough paste, or through them into a processor with a small bowl attachment.
Then take the yoghurt, add the jaggery, turmeric and the besan flour, and beat for a few moments until there are no lumps and the yoghurt is slightly aerated. Slowly beat in the water until all is combined.
Heat the ghee in a pan and add the and add the asafoetida, cumin and fenugreek. Add the curry leaves at the end and allow to sizzle for a moment or two.
Add the chilli-ginger paste, stir, and then gradually add the yoghurt mixture, stirring as you add. Simmer and keep stirring for 10 minutes. Remove it from the heat and add salt to taste.
Now make the tadka. In another pan, heat the tadka ghee. Add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. As it settles, add the urad dal, wait one moment and add the chilli, one more moment and then add the curry leaves.
When the sizzle of the curry leaves dies down, pour the tadka over the yoghurt curry, sprinkle with the smoked paprika and with chopped green coriander. Serve and enjoy!
You can serve with rice, or even enjoy it as a soup.
Other Yoghurt Curries you Might Enjoy
- My Food Blog’s Tomato Yoghurt Curry
- Aayis Recipe’s Fenugreek Yoghurt Curry
- Enjoy Indian Food’s Vadi in Yoghurt Curry
- Food.Com’s Dried Fenugreek Yoghurt Curry
- Talimpu’s Ginger in Tempered Yoghurt
The Yoghurt Series
- Blueberry Shrikhand
- Cacik: Turkish cucumber and Yoghurt Mezze
- Tender Eggplant
- Thick Thick Yoghurt – how to make
- Using Thick Thick Yoghurt
- Thick Yoghurt Tahina Dip with Herbs
- Yoghurt and Rosepetals
- Yoghurt, Feta and Mustard Dip