Indian Food Fest

CBS/The Early Show
India is a country that embraces at least 5 different faiths, has 15 major languages, some 1568 minor languages and dialects, and it is composed of 17 states. With such statistics, it's understandable that the cuisine of the country is as varied as the people who live there.

Indian cookery is more than just curry. In fact, the use of curry is but a drop in the bucket where Indian seasoning is concerned. On The Early Show's Food Fest the premiere authority on Indian cookery, Mahur Jaffrey; executive chef of Tamarind, Peter Beck; and Dawat's Master Chef Sohan Singh visit us to show that food from the East is more than just dark, foreboding stews, super hot and overly spicy vegetable dishes.

The following are their recipes:

All 3 recipes are from "Madhur Jaffrey's Step-By-Step Cooking"

Murgh Lajavaab (India)
Serves 4 to 6

For this simple recipe, the chicken is marinated in a mixture of onions, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, vinegar, and oil, then boiled. It could also be barbecued over charcoal.

3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken (preferably legs, thighs and breasts) or a whole chicken cut into serving pieces.

2 medium onions
4 garlic cloves
1-inch cube fresh ginger
2 to 3 fresh hot green chillies, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2/3 cup of wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive or vegetables oil
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. First prepare the marinade. Peel and coarsely chop the onions, garlic, and ginger. Place in a blender with the remaining marinade ingredients and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken pieces, then prick them all over with a fork and place in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Cover and leave to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours, preferably 24 hours. Return to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Preheat the broiler to medium-high. Lift the chicken pieces from the bowl, with as much marinade clinging to them as possible, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil for about 15 minutes on each side until the chicken is well browned and cooked through, adjusting the distance from the heat source as necessary so it does not brown too fast.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter and sprinkle generously with cilantro. Serve accompanied by a rice dish, a green vegetable, and dal if you like.

Chingri Jha (India)
Serves 3 to 4

This recipe originates from Bengal, where a paste made from black mustard seeds is often added to fish to give it a very special nose tingling pungency.

1 pound medium shrimp
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons mustard oil, or other vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 hot dried red chili
3/4 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice


  1. Peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse well, then pat them dry.
  2. Crush the mustard seeds, using a pestle and mortar or spice or coffee grinder. In a small bowl, mix the crushed mustard seeds, turmeric, and tomato paste, together with 3 tablespoons hot water. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic cloves, ginger slices, and dried chili and fry, stirring, for a few seconds until the mixture begins to darken then add the shrimp. Fry, stirring, until the shrimp turn opaque.
  4. Stir in the mustard seed paste and turn the heat to medium-low. Add the salt, pepper, and lemon, or lime juice. Fry, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a warm serving dish. Serve with a rice dish, one or two vegetable side dishes and a yogurt relish, such as Fresh Cilantro and Yogurt Chutney.

Hari Chutney (India)
Serves 6

The chutney needs to be eaten on the day it is made. Serve it in a small bowl as a relish with almost any Indian meal, or spooned on to cooked meat, fish, or vegetables. If pressed to classify this dish, it would be described as a "sour" chutney.

1 packed cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 fresh hot green chili, sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Large pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted, ground cumin seeds


  1. Put the chopped cilantro leaves and chili into a blender with 3 tablespoons water. Blend to a smooth paste.
  2. In a non-metallic bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and paste from the blender. Stir well to mix, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Aloo Chole
Serves 6

This makes a tasty, substantial snack, served with Indian bread such as nan, and a relish such as Cucumber Raita, or Fresh Cilantro and Yogurt Chutney. It is also an excellent accompaniment to almost any meat or chicken dish. You will need to remember to put the chickpeas to soak the night before.

6 ounces (scant cup) chickpeas (large chanas)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 medium boiling potatoes
10 garlic cloves
Two 1-inch cubes fresh ginger
3 medium tomatoes (canned or peeled fresh)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch of ground asafetida, or a tiny lump asafetida
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (less if desired)
2 tablespoons lemon juice.


  1. Put the chickpeas in a bowl, add the baking soda, and pour on 4 cups cold water. Leave to soak overnight.
  2. The following day, transfer the chickpeas and any remaining liquid to a large pan or cooking pot. Add 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth from the surface. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for about 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender. Turn off the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cut into quarters; set aside.
  4. Peel and chop the garlic and ginger. Put the garlic, ginger, and tomatoes in a blender with 2 tablespoons water and blend to a smooth paste.
  5. Drain the cooked chickpeas, reserving 1 1/4 cups of liquid.
  6. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or flameproof casserole over medium heat, then add the asafetida. As soon as it sizzles and expands, after a few seconds, add the paste from the blender, keeping your face averted, and sprinkle in the turmeric. Fry, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Pour in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of liquid and put in the chickpeas and potatoes. Add 1 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste, and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Check the seasoning before serving.
41-43 E 22nd St.
New York, NY 10010
(212) 674-7400
Peter Beck, Executive Chef

Serves 4

24 ounce Lobster Meat (Tail Part), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cups onion (finely chopped)
8 ounces Fresh Mushrooms Button
4 ounces fresh ginger, chopped
6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
16 curry leaves
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon crushed red chiles
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 cup cashew nut paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 vegetable oil
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Fenugreek leaves


  1. Place pan on fire (under medium heat) and add vegetable oil. As the oil gets hot, add cumin seeds, curry leaves followed by chopped onions.
  2. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped ginger, garlic, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, then add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, chile powder, salt, garam masala and sliced mushroom, then cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add white wine, tomato paste, cashew nut paste and lemon juice followed by lobster meat. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cream and butter and finish it by adding the fenugreek leaves. Serve with rice or nan bread.

210 E 58th St
New York NY 10022
(212) 355-7555

Recipes Developed by Madhur Jaffrey

Serves Four

1 lb Black-Eyed peas
1/2 lb shelled boiled corn
3 table spoon Olive oil
½ tea spoon whole black mustard seeds (Rye)
¼ tea spoon whole cumin seeds (Jeera)
8-10 spring curry leaves
2 peeled tomato
1 tea spoon ground Garam Masala
(Ground mixture of Cardamom seeds, Whole cloves, Black pepper, Black cumin seeds, Cinnamon stick, Nutmeg & Bay leaf)
½ tea spoon salt
1/8 tea spoon ground turmeric
1 tea spoon ground coriander seeds
1 table spoon ginger garlic paste
1 tea spoon dill


  1. Pick over the Black-eyed peas and wash. Drain and put in a small bowl. Add enough water so it covers the split peas by about one inch. Let the Black- eyed peas soak for 1 hour. Boil till tender.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan over a medium heat. When hot, put in first, the mustard seeds and whole cumin seeds, when the mustard seeds begin to pop add ginger garlic paste. Stir for about a minute, add peeled tomato stir for two to three minutes add turmeric powder, salt and Garam masala cook the sauce for eight to nine minutes add the black eyed peas and cook for another five minutes add corn and let it simmer.
  3. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add Dill and serve hot with Lemon Basmati rice or any hot Indian Bread.

Serves Four

1 lb Shitake Mushrooms
3 table spoon Olive oil
1/2 tea spoon whole black mustard seeds (Rye)
1/4 tea spoon whole cumin seeds (Jeera)
8-10 spring curry leaves
1 whole hot green chilli, very finely chopped
1 tea spoon chopped garlic
1 tea spoon hot Korean pepper
1/2 tea spoon salt
2 tea spoon lemon juice
2 table spoons finely chopped fresh green coriander


  1. Clean and wash the mushrooms.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan over a medium heat. When hot, put in first the mustard seeds and whole cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop add chopped garlic, after about 10 seconds put in the curry leaves. Stir once or twice and put in the Mushrooms. Stir a few times, add salt Korean pepper, chopped green chilli and lemon juice. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes till the Mushroom is done.
  3. Add chopped fresh green coriander (Chinese parsley or Cilantro) and serve hot with Indian bread.

Green Beans Cooked with Split Peas and Coconut
Serves Four

2 table spoon yellow split peas
1 lb Green Beans
3 table spoon Olive Oil
1/8 tea spoon ground asafetida (Hing)
1/2 tea spoon whole black mustard seeds (Rye)
1/4 tea spoon whole cumin seeds (Jeera)
8-10 spring curry leaves
1 whole hot green chilli, very finely chopped
1/2 tea spoon salt
1/2 tea spoon sugar
1/8 tea spoon ground turmeric
1/4 tea spoon ground cumin seed
1 tea spoon ground coriander seeds
50 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
2 table spoons finely chopped fresh green coriander


  1. Pick over the yellow split peas and wash. Drain and put in a small bowl. Add enough water so it covers the split peas by about one inch. Let the split peas soak for 1 hour. Drain.
  2. Trim the ends of the beans and cut cross wise ¼ inch - 0.5 cm rounds.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy pan over a medium heat. When hot, put in first the asafetida, then a second later, the mustard seeds and whole cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop put in the curry leaves. Stir once and put in the drained split peas. Stir a few times until the split peas are lightly browned. Now put in the green beans, the green chilies, salt, sugar, turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander. Stir for one minute. Turn the heat to low.
  4. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the beans are done. Add coconut and fresh green coriander. Stir to mix. This bean dish is best served with steamed Basmati Rice.

Walk in any Indian restaurant or home and one can sniff out, almost immediately, that Indian cooking is all about the spices, herbs and flavorings. The form in which a spice or herb is used (dry or fresh) can significantly influence the overall flavor of a dish.

The most common ingredients used in Indian cuisine are:

Herbs: basil, coriander (cilantro), mint and parsley
Chili (red and green)
Garam Masala (blend of cumin, pepper, cloves and cardamom)

With this cuisine every ingredient compliments the other in a very specific manner. Madhur Jaffrey says Indian's are alchemists when it comes to spices. She adds, "It think it's because for us spices are used for both food and medicine so it's important to know what properties of a spice or herb work to heal, and also gain an understanding of how differently the same works in cooking." Jaffrey says an Indian dish can be made with one spice, four, six or twenty. The key is understanding the perfect combination of each. She says, "Indians know just how to do that."

The mere look and aroma of a dish often tells the story of its origin.

From the regions to the North come dishes influenced by the Persians and Afghans who were brought to India in the 16th century by the Mughals to cook. Rice and meat based pilafs, spicy kormas (braised meat in creamy sauces), koftas (grilled spicy meats) and Kababs are the types of dishes found there.

To the West the original cuisine is mostly vegetarian. Generally vegetables are doused in clarified butter (ghee) to provide additional flavor and make up for the lack of variety in materials available in the spartan desert areas. The cuisine from the west is very simple: spicy potatoes (allo bhajis), karhi (chickpea dumplings in yogurt sauce) and lentil dumplings oozing with ghee duned in dal which are pulses (dal batti).

The lush coastline to the East is where savory seafood dishes are found. Rain is plentiful here so fish and rice reign supreme. In fact, fish curry (fish in a sauce or gravy) is legendary all over India. No event is complete (birth, death, marriage, etc) without the serving of hilsa - a certain variety of fish.

Finally, down South rice is eaten all day...all the time. Long grain or the aromatic Basmati rice is what you'll find served all over the country. In the South rice is used to compliment the spicy curries found in this region, which are more liquid based than the curries found up north. These spicier curries are most often made from chillies, mustard, coconut oil and other spicy seeds.

There are several misconceptions about Indian cuisine.

  1. Indian food is always hot and spicy

    Jaffrey says chiles weren't introduced into Indian cookery until the 16th century. She adds a touch of hot spice is one thing, but too much is disastrous.

  2. Everything is made with curry

    Curry is not a spice. Curry a word used to describe a sauce or gravy, and not every dish in the cuisine calls for such. Many Indian dishes are dry (meaning cooked with no sauce). Some curries are thick like those made with coconut milk and others are thinner, made from some other liquid.

  3. Most dishes are dark, served with a lot of sauce and practically indistinguishable.

    That is not true, says Tamarind owner Avtar Walia. Tamarind is an upscale traditional, yet slightly modern Indian restaurant in New York's trendy Flatiron district. Walia and his chef Peter Beck say Indian food has real texture and distinct flavor in much the same way as other cuisines.