My husband introduced me to Indian food when we first started dating. It was love at first bite. I believe my first was The Clay Oven in Portland, Maine, soon followed by forays into Indian Row in New York City. When we moved to California, we went to Kulbir’s India Palace in Alameda faithfully for over a decade.
I remember being a new mom, apprehensive because it had been three days and I still didn’t have any breastmilk. My daughter was under a bilirubin light in Children’s Hospital in Oakland. My husband and my parents managed to convince me to take a break and go out to eat. I had a bit of raita and it was like a dam broke. My milk had arrived! From then on, I became a believer in the medicinal power of raita.
Combine 1 cup of whole milk organic plain raw yogurt, 1/2 cup shredded cucumber, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 2 tablespoons chopped mint or cilantro, and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to eat. I usually do this before anything else. The longer it chills, the more the flavors come together.
The entree in this Indian meal is a Western favorite: Chicken Tikka Masala on basmati rice. On the side, we have naan, raita, tamarind chutney, and sweet mango chutney.
We are lucky to have naan in our grocery store. If you don’t, there are easy recipes online for making it from scratch. Last resort, you could always get it at Amazon. Also in our grocery store ethnic aisle are tamarind chutney and sweet mango chutney. They also have hot mango chutney, but the sweet mango chutney has enough spice to make me happy. The tamarind chutney comes in a concentrated paste that needs to be diluted and sugared to taste.
I start the Chicken Tikka Masala in a crockpot early in the day. Believe me it’s worth it.
Chicken Tikka Masala
1 pound organic chicken tenders
15 oz organic tomato sauce
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk organic plain raw yogurt
Green onions or cilantro for garnish
Combine all ingredients except yogurt in a crockpot. Set on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Ladle a cup of sauce from the crockpot into a medium bowl. Whisk the yogurt into the sauce until smooth. Stir back into the crockpot. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a bed of basmati rice and topped with cilantro or green onions.
Before I add yogurt to the Chicken Tikka Masala pot, I get started on the Basmati Rice to make sure everything is served warm altogether. Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups basmati rice and stir it about until rice is translucent and slightly toasty, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 1/4 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cinnamon stick, and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heart to low and cover for about 14 minutes until liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff rice with a fork.