Thursday, 5 November 2009

Spare an hour for that perfect Indian Dinner

Cooking Indian food is always thought to be time consuming and labour oriented. But those were olden times. The new generation of Indian housewives is as lazy as their western counterparts. So how do we, the young and lazy ones, do ‘Indian dinners’? Well, a little planning and a lot of outside help in the form of readymade pastes go a long way to make that perfect Indian Dinner.

Here is a menu for an Indian Dinner for 6-7 consisting of

Chikken Tikka Masala (CTM)
Cumin Rice
South Indian Mixed Vegetable Stew with coconut milk
Onion and Cucumber Raita
Ready made shop bought Nans

Those who are looking for ‘made-from-scratch’ Indian dinner recipes can opt to hit the ‘Back’ arrow, as these recipes employ lots of ready made pastes.

I will be listing out the ingredients and method first, then tell you how to multi-task so that your dinner is ready and resting by the time the guests start arriving. Believe me, there is no ‘sweat’ involved, and you will be complimented for your tasty, homemade dinner. The ingredients are listed out and grouped in order of usage.

Here it goes:

Chikken Tikka Masala (CTM)

1. Chicken Breast – 500 grams
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Garam masala – 1 pinch
Lime juice – ½ a lime

2. Cooking oil – 2 teaspoons
Chopped Onions – 3
Store bought Ginger paste – 1 teaspoon
Store bought Garlic paste – 1 ½ teaspoon
Chopped Green chilly – 1

3. Store bought Garam Masala – 2 tsp
Tomato puree – 2 table spoons
Cashmiri Red chilly powder – 1 tea spoon

4. Cashew nuts – 20
Red food colour – a few drops

5. Double cream – 2 table spoons
Chopped Coriander (Cilantro) leaves – a few to garnish
Lemon juice – 1 table spoon


Cut and Marinate chicken overnight.
Chop onions and green chillies
Chop Cilantro leaves
Extract lemon juice
Using a good coffee grinder, powder cashew nut and then add some water to make a thick paste.

Cut chicken to small pieces. Marinate overnight in salt, lime juice, turmeric powder and a pinch of garam masala.

Grill the chicken pieces on a skewer for 8 minutes, basting with the marinate once or twice.

In the remaining oil, sauté chopped onions, ginger, garlic and green chilly till onions are translucent.

Add tomato paste and red chilly powder. Sauté till the paste is coated in the chicken pieces.

Add ground cashew nut paste and the food colour and heat till bubbles appear.

Add in the cooked chicken pieces and a cup of hot water and cook on slow fire with lid on for 10 minutes. Add cream at the last moment and switch off. Do not let the gravy boil after the cream is added.

Add lemon juice and cilantro leaves.

If you want to prepare CTM earlier and heat in the microwave when your guests arrive, reserve the lemon juice and cilantro for the last moment garnish.

For the real exotic look, sprinkle some pomegranate seeds and fried cashew nuts on top.

For a healthy version,
Replace double cream with single cream and eliminate cashew nut paste, instead add one more chopped onion to thicken the gravy.

Cumin Rice

1. Cumin – 2 teaspoons
Onion – 1

2. Basmati Rice – 3 cups
Water – 6 cups (adjust water accordingly if you are using a rice cooker)
Ghee or cooking oil – 3 teaspoons

Wash and drain rice. Heat the pan and sauté onions till brown. Add in cumin. Let cumin splutter. Add hot water along with rice and salt. Cook till done.

Note: The cumin, after spluttering will start to burn and start to omit a very strong odour which is not pleasant. Care must be taken to add water and rice as soon as the cumin splutters.

If using the rice cooker, switch off the cooker when it turns to ‘warm’ mode. The rice will absorb the excess moisture and will turn out to be soft and fluffy.

South Indian Mixed vegetable stew

1. Potatoes – 2
Mixed vegetables – 1 cup
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Onion- cubed – 2
Root Ginger- chopped – 2 teaspoons
Fresh Green chillies chopped – 1/2 teaspoon
Sunflower oil – 3 teaspoons

2. Ready made Coconut milk – 1 can
Coriander leaves – to garnish
Salt- to taste

Boil all except coconut milk in a cup of water. Let cook on slow fire till done. Once the vegetables are cooked, add coconut milk, let simmer for a minute and switch off. Make sure that the gravy is thick, not watery. Garnish with coriander leaves.

This is a bland dish and will be a perfect accompaniment to the spicy CTM.


Low fat yoghurt – 500 grams
Chopped onions – 2
Chopped cucumber – ½
Chopped green chilly – 1
Cilantro leaves
Salt to taste

Mix well and keep refrigerated till serving.

Now the 1 hour challenge lets start cooking at 6.

6.00-6.08 – Start to grill chicken

While chicken is grilling, complete the following steps

6.02-6.04 – Chop the onions and green chilies

6.04-6.05- Chop Cilantro and extract lemon juice – keep aside

6.05-6.07 – Prepare cashew nut paste

6.07-6.08- Heat a sauce pan with cooking oil.

6.08-6.12- Remove the grilled chicken pieces. Sauté the onion and green chilies in the heated oil. Add ginger and garlic paste.

6.13-06:15-Add tomato puree, red chilly powder, garam masala, food colour and let simmer.

6.16-6.17 – Add cashew nut paste and a bit of water for the gravy. Let boil.

6.18-6.19 Add chicken pieces and let simmer till oil separates on top.

6.19-6.22 – Switch on the rice cooker with cooking oil, let it heat. Meanwhile chop one onion in the chopper. Wash and drain rice.

6.23-6.25 – Sauté the chopped onions for a minute, and then add in cumin. Measure in hot water and add salt and rice. Close the lid. Let the rice cook.

6.26-6.30 – Chop onions, green chilies, cucumber and cilantro roughly in the chopper and add to yoghurt. Mix well and adjust salt. Put in refrigerator till serving.

6.31-6.32 – Check rice.

6.32-6.40 – By now CTM would have been ready. Add double cream and switch off. Transfer to serving dish and add lemon juice. Add the garnishing.

6.40-6.45- By now the rice would be ready. Fluff up with the fork and transfer to serving dish. Garnish with a few Cilantro leaves.

6.45-6.55- Boil 2 cups of water. Cut potatoes, green chilies root ginger. Add potatoes, Frozen mixed vegetables, turmeric, root ginger and green chilies with a dash of cooking oil to the pan. Let simmer on close lid. Once the vegetables are done, add coconut milk, let boil once and switch off. Transfer to serving dish and garnish.

6.55-6.59 – Cut poppudums to 2, place them in the Microwave in the microwave and heat on Full power for a minute. Your roasted poppudum is ready.

6.59-7:00- Place nans in a microwave safe platter, sprinkle milk and heat them for a minute.

Remember : Slow heat is the key here. Everything is cooked on slow heat so as not to burn.

And here are some anecdotes on Indian food to keep your guests entertained.

There in no such dish called Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) in traditional Indian Cookery. CTM is Said to have originated between 1950s and 1970s and birthplace is sometimes cited as a Glasgow curry house. Legend has it one obstinate diner demanded gravy on tandoori chicken. A bemused chef responded by adding tin of Campbell's tomato soup and pinch of spices, unwittingly partaking in early example of fusion cookery. (source:BBC)

A 1998 survey by Real Curry Restaurant Guide of 48 different CTMs found only common ingredient was chicken. (Source: BBC)

Several British firms have now started exporting CTM to India. Remember the phrase coals to Newcastle. (Source: BBC)

Cumin either boiled with water or as candied, accompanies all heavy Indian meals as a breath freshener as well as a digestive aid.

Indian food is never meant to be consumed with alcohol or wines. Normally the food is served with either lassi (yoghurt based drink) or homemade lemonade.

The curry powder is not a must in all Indian curries. In south India, almost all vegetarian curries are made without curry powder.

Turmeric, wildly used in Indian cuisine, has proven to delay and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Each Indian state has their own different way of cooking as well as cooking oils.

Shopping list

Onions – 6
Cucumber – 1
Cilantro- 1 bunch
Lemon – 1
Potato – 2
Root ginger – 1 inch piece

Tomato puree- 1 small jar
Chicken breast – 500 grams
Yoghurt – 500 grams
Frozen Mixed vegetables- 500 grams
Double cream – 1 small container
Coconut milk – 1 can
Pomagranate - optional

Green chillies – 5
Ginger paste
Garlic paste
Cumin – 1 small packet
Garam Masala
Turmeric powder
Red food colour
Cashew nut – 1 small packet
Kashmir Red chilly powder- 1 small packet
Ready made Nan bread- 8
Basmati rice – 500 grams
Poppudums- 1 packet