Epic Indian Feast

One of the many beauties in life is friendship, we are able to learn so much from each other when we open our hearts and our homes.  I would like to dedicate this meal to one of Collin and I’s dearest friend, Bijeta Chakraborty! She along with Kumar, Aditya and Sanjay lived in Dallas for a year for an engingeering development program with Collin at Texas Instruments.  Back then Collin and I were living out in Wylie,TX in our trailer (I will reserve that story for another day), and seeing that #1 I lived in a trailer, therefore many friends were hesitant to come over and “hang out” and #2 I lived all the way out in Wylie,TX which to many people who live in the city, is in the middle of no where.  It was lonely out there, it literally was just me, Collin and the cows. (If only I had known you Alta back then!)

Then one day Collin told me a few of his coworkers had invited us over Saturday for dinner who recently moved here from India. My eyes instantly lit up, I have never had a home cooked Indian meal before — my tummy could hardly wait.  That week the days honestly seem to creep by, I almost felt weary with (Indian food) craving exhaustion but Saturday FINALLY arrived.  I remembered specifically wearing loose fitting pants that night because I had my game face on and I was ready to CHOW DOWN.  I love Indian food for several reasons: the COLORS — the greens, yellows, reds, and the beautiful smells of the SPICES, it’s as if I could just eat forever and ever.  But the best reason that makes Indian food not only fun to eat, but simply an art,  is the beauty of eating the various flavors on your plate using your hands.  I don’t know why Indian food tastes better when you use your hands but I highly recommend that everyone tries it.

Even before arriving at Bijeta’s door, you could already smell the magic brewing half way down the hallway.  And let me tell you what, the food that night was magical indeed — the crispy potato samosas, curried cauliflower, fried fish curry, chicken curry, paneer (from scratch), chutneys, yogurt, perfectly cooked basmati rice, and ending with a deliciously fragrant kheer.  By the time I was done I could hardly breathe,  but boy was I one happy camper! It was nice to experience a part of their culture through food, it’s definitely one of my favorite ways of learning from people of different backgrounds.  Though our native languages may be different, and at times communication can be hard — food will always be universal, a common ground that all cultures share and understand.

It was nice to learn (and taste) from Bijeta, Aditya and Sanjay, we exchanged stories of our families, our backgrounds, and even battled over a few games of Wii Sports.  By the time we were leaving, I felt as if they’ve been my friends for many years — and for the rest of the time they lived in Dallas we hung out with them often.  We had more dinner get togethers, a music concert, and even grabbed some brewskies to check out to the “American bar scene”.  When it was time for them to leave both Collin and I were really sad to see them go, but happy that we’ve made lifelong friends.  Since then, Bijeta and I keep in touch via e-mail and now Facebook and recently she sent me this amazing Fish Gravy recipe.

I told her I would have to dedicate a post to her featuring her amazing Fish Gravy (Hi Bijeta!!) and made an Indian feast in her honor as well as Aditya and Sanjay’s as well.  Though we are thousands of miles apart, while eating this meal both me and Collin decided you guys were there in spirit 🙂 This was also my first attempt in cooking Indian food — there were so many various spices that my head almost started to spin!  But a fun adventure nonetheless and the end result was a glorious complexity of flavors.

Ingredients for Fried Tilapia with Tomato and Onion Gravy:

(serves 4)

  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 4 green Serrano chiles, tops discarded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Tumeric powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Coriander powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Mustard Paste
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour

  • 1/2 tablespoon Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon Onion seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon Mustard seeds
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup of water

Make a smooth paste of the onion, ginger, chiles, lemon juice, tumeric and coriander powder, mustard paste, salt and cornflour in a food processor.  Place paste in a large bowl and marinate the fish pieces for 15-20 minutes. In a small or medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil at medium high heat.  Sear the Tilapia on both sides, about 3 minutes on each and set aside on a plate.  Remember, you do not want to overfry the fish because it will be cooked further in the gravy mixture.  Next you will make the Tomato and Onion Gravy:

Tomato Gravy:

  • 2 medium-sized Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon Tumeric Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
  • salt to taste

Place ingredients into food processor and blend together.  Place in bowl and set aside.

Onion Gravy:

  • 2 medium-sized White onions
  • 1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Coriander leaves
  • 1 green serrano chile, top removed

Place ingredients into food processor and blend together.  Place in bowl and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil along with the Bay leaf and Cumin, Onion and Mustard seeds.  Add the onion gravy and fry until it becomes brownish in color.  Add the tomato gravy to the mixture and fry until the two gravies become thick and paste like.  If it becomes too dry add a little more oil.  Add 3/4 cup of water and put the fried fish in the gravy and cook, covered for 10-15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Remove from heat and serve with Basmati rice.

For the Indian Feast I made the following items, I am not going to post all of them for the recipes are quite lenghthy, however if any of these sound interesting to you, shoot me an e mail and I will be more than happy to send them to you :).

  • Mint Sambol (Srilankan)
  • Fresh Coriander Peanut Chutney (Indian)
  • Spiced Cabbage Salad (Srilankan)
  • Cauliflower Dum (North Indian)
  • Katchhi Village Potato Curry (North Indian)

I found all of these recipes above from Mangoes & Curry Leaves – Culinary Travels through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  A very wonderful book indeed, with captivating pictures of not only food but the regions from where they are from.

Ingredients for Spiced Cabbage Salad:

  • 4 cups shredded green or Savoy cabbage
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 to 3 green cayenne chiles, seeded and minced
  • 6 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or frozen grated coconut

Wash the cabbage, then put it in a medium heavy pot with the shallots, chiles, curry leaves, salt, turmeric, and cumin.  Place over medium-high heat, cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Give the pot a quick stir, cover again, and lower the heat to medium.  Simmer until the cabbage is cooked and tender, about another 10 minutes, depending on your cabbage and how finely it is shredded.  Add the lime juice and coconut and stir to mix well.  Let cook for a minute or two, uncovered, then turn out and serve, mounded on a plate.

Ingredients for Katchhi Village Potato Curry:

  • 2 tablespoons raw sesame oil, vegetable oil, or ghee
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 green cayenne chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon round cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Heat the oil or ghee in a wok or wide pot over medium heat.  Add 1 teaspoon garlic and cook for a minute, then add the potatoes and shallots.  Stir-fry for several minutes, until the shallots have softened, pressing the potato cubes against the surface of the hot pan, then add the chopped tomatoes and chiles and stir to blend.

Add the turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, and the remianing 1 teaspoon garlic and stir.  Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Cover tightly and simmer vigorously until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.  Check after 10 or 12 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid and that nothing is sticking; add a little more water if necessary.

I deem my first Indian cooking adventure a success!  Next time I would like to cook with lentils and more vegetarian options, it’s great to have so many delicious vegetarian options in Indian food.  Indian food also seems to taste better the next day and even better the second — the flavors of the spices are slowly drawn out by the oils creating a bolder flavor.  Bijeta, I thank you for your wonderful recipe!  It was Collin and I’s favorite dish, you were– right we loved it! Please send our love to Kumar, Aditya and Sanjay, we miss all of you dearly :).

Let’s do some Food Art!

The End.

44 responses to “Epic Indian Feast

  1. Simply beautiful, as always 🙂

  2. Lovely. Joy, everything looks heavenly. I love Indian food the same reasons you have. Food can definitely break down barriers of language. The photos are so gorgeous.

  3. Great piece! That meal looks delish!

  4. What a wonderful post! I’d never seen curry leaves before. Now I know what they look like. I love Indian food. Seriously I could eat Indian food everyday.

    • Ohmygosh me too Sook!! I’ve never seen curry leaves either, but this market I go to with this really nice man showed them to me. The smell of these curry leaves are so pungent! The scent of the leaves filled up my car on the drive home!

  5. Joy you cook Indian food like a pro and with so much flair. Clearly I can see that you enjoyed it so much. It all looks so perfect and delicious.

    • Aw thank you so much Kajal for your kind words 🙂 I really did enjoy cooking Indian food very much — all of the bright colors and aromatic spices!! I can’t wait to learn more, I find Indian food very beautiful 🙂

  6. I love the spices too. And it seems that made a pretty ‘light’ indian. Nice!
    I love the colours are well. So cheery.
    And another set of beautiful photos.

  7. Mmm, looks delicious! You know, I never really tried Indian food until college, and didn’t fall in love with it at first, but when done right, it’s soooo good! This looks like it was done right. ;D

    Also love the shot of your curried fingers, hehehe.

    • Aw thanks Kristan — you know I didn’t really try it til college either actually. But now I am hooked!! Hee hee right after i took that picture Layla buried her nose in my hand and had a huge yellow nose, I couldn’t get a photo op cuz she wiped it all over my carpet. I am lucky to have such a wonderful dog…

  8. Hey Joy, those photos look stunning! That’s such a great experince having the home cook Indian meal at your friends’ place. Lucky you! I’m sure you had a great time there! Btw, the talipia recipe sounds wonderful. I’m saving it for later use. Thanks! Have a nice day, girl!

    • Hey Kristy, thanks for the kind words 🙂 I truly am lucky to experience a home cooked indian meal, they flavors are truly wonderful! I hope you enjoy the tilapia recipe as much as collin and I have, its delicious!

  9. As always, beautiful photos Joy! This looks like an amazing feast! I love tilapia, but had never thought of doing an Indian version… I cannot wait to try it 🙂

  10. Please come over and cook for me.

  11. Wow, that is quite a feast! I love all the fantastic flavors and spices here!

  12. indeed an epic feast!! i love indian food and all of your dishes look like perfection. next time, i want to be invited too. 🙂

  13. Beautiful photos. I really like the one at the bottom of the spices. I have curry leaves in my fridge at the moment & am definitely going to have to make that cabbage dish.

  14. I’m in love!!! Indian food is amazing – I want to jump right through my screen into these amazing shots! Beautiful – I just recently purchased Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking cookbook – maybe this is old news to you – but it is great!

  15. beautiful pictures and wondreful writing! i’m glad i stumbled across your blog, can’t wait to start following!

  16. I love Indian food. I love the picture of your doggie. I love your food art.

    Hence, I love this post!

  17. Great read and wonderful photos!

  18. We met an Indian family during a Fall Festival. not too long ago in FL. Both families were both new to the area and we were surprised that we had a lot of things in common. From that time on and up to this day, we are still great friends… and yes because we bonded among all things… FOOD!
    Your post reminded me of how much we loved and enjoyed Indian food and how much we miss our friends since we moved to Cali.

  19. As usual, another great post. I love anything Indian, so it’s always good to have unique and refreshing recipes to make. As always, your photography is absolutely stunning. I actually used your page as a reference for great food photography to one of my friends!

    • Kristi!! That is truly too kind of you 🙂 Thank you for that, really! I am such a fan of Indian food as well, my fiance actually made some more Indian food this weekend!

  20. Hi Joy! I am new to blogging but I also love food and have a good time in the kitchen. Your photo’s are beautiful and I love the story of your indian feast! Would you mind sending me the cauliflower dum recipe? I too love indian food.

    Thank you and keep up the fun blogging!


  21. Joy, I think you can cook any dish from any culture. You cook like an Indian now! 😀 Are you going to try Scottish cooking? Just don’t cook haggies for me…haha. Your Indian dishes here looks awesome. I love Indian food too cos I love all the spices.

    • Hahahaha!! I would like to think so Mary. I would like to try Scottish cooking, certainly! I do not know what that entails though…what are haggies…they sound..strange hahaha. Thank you for your kind words!!

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