Tag Archives: Indian food

Goan Dinner Party

I have wanted to cook Goan food since our trip to Austin, Texas and a visit to G’raj Mahal in February. The layered, warmly-spiced, creamy sauces are intoxicating. Goa, being a northern coastal region of India, incorporates a lot of chilies, coconut milk and seafood into their dishes. The heat of our current summer also made me want some spice and beer, to share with good friends on a lazy weekend.

Indian food is the kind of cooking I love. It begins with perusing my cookbooks and the web for recipes, a trip to an ethnic grocery store, and an entire day cooking in the kitchen. Zen.

Naan bread was purchased from our local Indian takeout joint. Unless you have a tandoor oven, naan is never quite right.

Our Menu

  • Naan
  • Chicken Makhani
  • Saag Paneer
  • Aloo Gobi
  • Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry
  • Coconut Scented Basmati Rice
  • Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and Candied Fennel Seeds

Chicken Makhani
(adapted from online recipes posted by Sayed Saquib)
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, slit to absorb marinade.

1 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 cup yogurt (I used goat’s milk yogurt)
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp ginger/garlic paste (available at Indian grocers)*

4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
1/4 cup grated khoya
1/4 cup ground cashews**
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, plus 1/4 juice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp all spice
2 1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 cup cream

1. Marinate chicken for at least 15 minutes or longer. Remove from marinade and discard marinade.
2. Grill chicken on bbq for 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and then cut into large chunks and put aside.
3. Heat butter in a large saucepan and saute ginger/garlic paste until it begins to brown.
4. Add khoya and ground cashews.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients except cream and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
6. Turn heat to low and stir in cream.
7. Add chicken back in and heat through for 10 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice or naan bread. This recipe is even better if made in the morning and left to sit all day in  the fridge so the flavours can develop.

* Ginger/garlic paste is sold in small and large bottles. It is a nice time saver in many Indian and Asian dishes that call for both ingredients, and provides a more mellow flavor than raw ginger and garlic. You will not find yourself burping up garlic after the fact.

**I use an electric coffee grinder to grind spices and nuts (I don’t grind coffee in it ever as that would flavour both the spices and the coffee).

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.


Ginger-Garlic Paste – a nice time-saver.
Ground cashew – a wonderful, rich thickener.

Saag Paneer (adapted from Canadian Living Magazine, September 2009)
Serves 6-8

11 ounce pkg of spinach (baby spinach, washed and ready to use)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seed, toasted for about 10 seconds and then ground in a mortar and pestle
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp ghee or butter
3 tsp garlic /ginger paste or 3 cloves of garlic minced and 2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp cayenne and a pinch of Kashmiri red chili powder if you have it. It adds a nice heat.
1/2 tsp salt
1/ tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch cinnamon
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped***
Just under 1/3 cup of cream
1/3 cup roasted cashews, ground
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
8 ounce pkg paneer, cubed

1. In a large pot of water, blanch spinach until just wilted; drain, chill under cold water and drain again. Reserve a 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Puree the liquid, cashews and spinach in a food processor or blender until smooth.
2. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and ghee, cook until onion is golden, about 8 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic/ginger paste. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in fresh cilantro, cayenne, kashmiri red chili powder, salt, ground coriander, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook, stirring until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes break down, about three minutes.
4. Stir in spinach mixture, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until steaming hot, about more three minutes.
5. Measure out the cream in a small bowl. Whisk a little of the hot spinach mixture into the cream to temper it so it won’t curdle. Add to hot saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and garam masala. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add paneer. Cook covered until heated through, about two minutes.

*** To peel tomatoes easily for this recipe, put a large saucepan of water on to boil (you need it to blanch the spinach anyways). Cut deep crosses in the bottom of the tomatoes. When water boils, drop them in for about 15 seconds. Remove and run under cold water while slipping the skins off.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

Aloo Gobi (adapted from www.quickindiancooking.com)
Serves 6-8

3 very large red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cauliflower cut into florets
1 tbsp ghee
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp garlic/ginger paste or 1 clove garlic minced and 1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup frozen peas

1. Heat the ghee and fry the onion and garlic/ginger paste. Throw in the potatoes, turmeric, chili powder, coriander and cumin.Add about a 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook the potatoes.
2. When the potatoes are almost cooked but still a little resistant to a fork, add the cauliflower. Cover the pot until cauliflower becomes soft. Be sure to add the cauliflower before the potatoes are fully cooked otherwise they will overcook. Toss in the frozen peas and heat through
3. Add salt and garam masala. Dish should be dry.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry (Adapted from Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur)
Serves 6-8

2 pounds wild-caught gulf shrimp
1/2 tsp kosher salt plus 1/2 tsp
1/4 tsp black pepper plus a 1/4 tsp
1/8 tsp cayenne and/or Kashmiri red chili powder for more heat (this dish is not hot)
Juice of two limes
1/4 cup canola oil
4 dried red chilies
2 tsp garlic/ginger paste or 2 cloves garlic minced and 1 inch ginger, minced
1 sweet, white onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
8-10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tbsp tamarind paste concentrate (available at Asian Markets)
1/2 tsp medium curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Peel and clean shrimp. Place in a resealable freezer bag. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, cayenne and lime juice. Mix well. Put in refrigerator and marinate for a half hour but not longer. If you need more time for prep or waiting on guests, take the shrimp out of the marinade at this time so the citrus does not “cook” the shrimp.
2. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, combine oil and chilies and cook for about two minutes. add 1/4 tsp black pepper and cook for another minute. Add garlic/ginger paste, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ground coriander, turmeric, shredded coconut and curry leaves. Continue sauteing for another minute until fragrant.
3. Reduce heat to medium low and add tomatoes and their juices and the tamarind paste. Stir, scraping sides and bottom of pot, for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
4. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil and add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp are opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro.
5. Serve with basmati rice.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.


Coconut-Scented Basmati Rice
Using the traditional stove top method or in a rice cooker, make enough rice for your guests. Substitute coconut water, widely available now, for the water or cooking liquid.

Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and candied Fennel Seed
Purchase cardamom, coconut (coconut “sport” or macapuno, being a mutant variety of coconut with softer, juicier meat), or mango ice cream, whatever your heart desires. Get a denuded, cored fresh pineapple at your grocers and cut it into 6 rings. Grill it to cook it and bring out its sweetness. Get some nice grill marks on there. Take it off the grill and cut it into chunks and toss with a little brown sugar and butter. Serve over ice cream and sprinkle with candied fennel seeds –  which Rob could not find at the Indian Food market but curiously found them at Loblaws.

The meal was a huge success. Here are our impressions of each dish:

  • Naan – We didn’t make this but it was great Naan – rich, slightly sweet and savoury and great for not wasting a drop of those amazing sauces.
  • Chicken Makhani – Rich and luscious.  The goat-yogurt marinated chicken was grilled before adding to the sauce, so the charred and caramelized smokiness was a great foil for the bright tomato and yogurt flavours.
  • Saag Paneer – This was surprisingly the spiciest item on the menu, no doubt, due to the Kashmiri red chili powder. This dish tasted like it had the most ingredients of the night. This saag was unlike others I have tried which tend to be simpler side dishes.
  • Aloo Gobi – Potatoes, cauliflower, chilies, spices, peas — yum. What’s not to like?
  • Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry – The star fo the show to be sure. Creamy, coconut-sweet, rich, spicy, but never overpowering the sweet delicate flavour of the shrimp. This is the style I yearned for the most since our visit to G’raj Mahal. The best of Goan-style cuisine.
  • Coconut Scented Basmati Rice – A great staple dish to carry the sauces.
  • Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and Candied Fennel Seeds – A fitting tribute to the tropical, coastal flavours of Goa.









Food Truck Day

Today is food truck day! Our goal: to have all of our meals at Austin food trucks around the city. Food truck culture is well ensconced here and there are a large number of choices available to hungry meal seekers. Every type of food is represented, across enthnicities, styles, and trends, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and from the basic to the hautest of haute.

These aren’t your father’s chip wagons. In Austin and other cities, food trucks are a lower cost alternative for a chef with vision to open a food business and to get known, gain a following and to be self-sufficient. The overhead and start-up costs are considerably lower. The nature of the competition is different as well as access and ambiance are taken out of the equation. The focus is on the food.

Our first stop of the day was one of Austin’s original and very popular food truck businesses, Torchy’s Tacos. One of the deciding factors for choosing Torchy’s was that only a small fraction of the trucks are open earlier in the day. Most open around 11:30 for the lunch crowd.

Torchy’s had a large assortment of Tacos available. I chose breakfast variants, chorizo and egg and a migas taco (egg, onion, green pepper, cheese and crisp tortilla strips). Both came with mild red sauce and a green sauce with a green chile kick.

Maureen ordered a “Dirty Sanchez” (probably just so she could say she did) and a green chile pork carnitas taco. The Dirty Sanchez had egg, poblano pepper that was battered and deep fried and dressed with guacamole, escabeche carrots and cheese. The other was stuffed with lots of pork carnitas,  green chile, cilantro , raw onion and soft queso cheese, with a mild herb creamy sauce.

Often tacos ordered this way can be quite small, and the idea is to order a few. These were not that kind. They were larger and full to the top with their fillings. All were delicious and were a great start to the day.

Torchy's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Our second stop was 400 feet down the road.

Gourdough’s specializes in big-ass doughnuts with exotic flavours. Among the 20 or so varieties that all look spectacular. After some major consternation we finally settle on one each.  Ordinarily we might order more and have a taste of each, but these doughnuts were $4.50 each, signaling that they were substantial in size.

I originally asked for the “Flying Pig”, with Bacon and a maple syrup glaze. After all that work of whittling the offerings down to a single choice, I was told that they were out of bacon. So back to the menu board. My plan B choice was  “Porkey’s”, a doughnut with cream cheese and jalapeño jelly topped with Canadian bacon.

Maureen choose a “Sarah’s Joy”, a doughnut with coconut cream filling, frosted with chocolate and covered with large, coarse coconut flakes.  Doughnuts are fried to order so when they called our names, the just-topped donuts were warm and very fresh. And large. Very large — a little wider than a CD in diameter, with no hole.

First mine: The fresh yeasty dough, the cream cheese and the jalapeño jelly were perfect together, not needing the superfluous bacon as it didn’t add or take away from the experience. Although, “Superfluous Bacon” is a very good name for a rock band. Maureen’s, however, was hands-down too sweet. The coconut cream was quite sweet and chocolate icing killed any chance the doughnut had left to be enjoyed. A word to bakers: Chocolate icing obliterates all other flavours — it’s strong and sweet and is almost always paired with more delicate ingredients that can’t stand up to it. Even chocolate cake suffers for it.

All was not lost, however. These are big doughnuts, so I happily gave up half of mine.

Gourdough's on Urbanspoon

Mid-afternoon we headed to our choice for a late lunch, called Fat Cactus, a truck that specialized in combining a couple of our favourite things: they made tacos and  sandwiches using Navaho fry bread, a crispy, fluffy, rich flat bread (similar to a Beaver Tail for our Ottawa-based readers). But alas, they were sold out by the time we got there… That’s an important lesson to learn for food truck aficionados — get it while you can.

The good news was that we were across the street from one of the largest collections of food trucks in Austin along South Congress. We looked at the many offerings, ranging from Cajun/Creole, to cupcakes, sausages, shaved ice treats, assortments of food cooked and put in cones and the one we selected, Thai. Food trucks often have great names built on puns and ours was no exception. “Coat & Thai” served the full range of Thai and near-Thai specialties.

We ordered red curry, pineapple fried rice, spicy Thai chicken wings and crab rangoon. A few minutes later our number is up and we bring it back to one of the communal picnic tables in the area. Everything is hot, home-made and delicious.

The fried rice has a subtle heat and is full of plump shrimp, pineapple, cilantro and vegetables. The red curry is medium spicy with a cilantro backbeat and goes very well on rice. Our chicken wings have that sweet, spicy Thai chili sauce on them and are addictive. Lastly, the crab rangoon (crab and cream cheese in a dumpling and deep fried — not a Thai dish, but an American invention first served at Trader Vic’s as faux Polynesian food) was creamy, and cooked so it was still tender. Lovely.

Coat and Thai on Urbanspoon

We headed out at about 8PM for our dinner spot, G’raj Mahal, and Indian food truck that has stretched the boundary of what could still be called a food truck. It started out as a trailer and some tables, but while the trailer is still the kitchen, they’ve added some semi-permanent structures to provide shelter for the tables and now have a seating capacity of about 60 people across three areas, and recently added full table service with waitstaff. You can also BYOB and many tables were making a night out of good food, company and wine. It’s still outside, the kitchen is in a trailer and it had humble beginnings, so it’s a food truck.

The theme is Indian food and their specialty is Goan cuisine, known for its use of coconut milk, seafood and chilies. We order some naan bread, sag paneer (Indian cheese with pureed spinach in curried cream), dahl, tandoori shrimp, chicken malabar (sweet coconut in caramelized onion cream sauce), and Goan Coconut Curry (Shrimp with freshly grated coconut, simmered with chilies).

The food is made with the freshest ingredients and the chef shies away from the usual artificial colours and shortcuts used by many Indian restaurants. This is without a doubt, the best Indian food I have ever had. The spice level of the food that the chef designates as “spicy” is well within our comfort zone. The coconut dishes are terrific. Sweet, nutty, spicy and creamy all at once. The creamy and rich sag paneer was also a standout. As with all really good Indian food, it’s impossible to stop eating! It takes almost superhuman strength to resist that last piece of naan soaked in the coconut curry.

G'Raj Mahal on UrbanspoonThat’s it for Food Truck Day. The variety and quality are both outstanding. Great food cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland and Austin are seeing more and more food trucks emerge as a key force in the culinary evolution of the city. One will only hope that other cities (Ottawa: hint, hint!) will change their minds about the crippling regulations that they have stacked against these businesses and will ensure they are allowed to flourish. Cities can only be better for it.