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Spicy And Delicious

Chef on a Shoestring is trying something very new this week: authentic Indian food. The menu includes Spicy Chickpea Crostini, Tandoori-Baked Chicken with Green Rice and Vermicelli Pudding.

Chef Monisha Bharadwaj is author of Indian in 6: 100 Irresistible Recipes That Use 6 Ingredients or Less and she joins The Saturday Early Show to lead the way.

Monisha was born and raised in Bombay, and now lives in the UK. She is one of Britain's leading Indian food writers, a journalist, film producer and a classically trained Indian dancer who does choreography for Bollywood.


Sunflower Oil: Monisha uses this in all of her recipes instead of olive or canola oil. The oil is extracted from sunflower seeds and is very high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated fat.

Ginger-Garlic Paste: Many of her recipes also call for this paste which you make at home by simply combining equal quantities of each in a food processor until smooth.

Garam Masala (gah-RAHM mah-SAH-lah): Garam is Indian for warm or hot, and this blend of dry-roasted, ground spices from the colder climes of northern Indian adds a sense of "warmth" to recipes. There are many variations of the spice blend which may contain up to 12 spices. It can include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chilies, fennel and others.

Tandoori (tahn-DOOR-ee): This refers to food that's prepared in a tandoor oven; a small brick and clay oven that's used to bake food over direct heat. Meats are traditionally marinated in yogurt and spices first, giving the meat a bright red or yellow color. When you buy tandoori spice powder, you are buying another combination of spices such as ground annetto or saffron (lending the red or yellow color) as well as ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cayenne pepper, and garam masala.


Crisp and Spicy Chickpea Canapés
Channe ke Kurkure

Cosmopolitan parties in India are often elaborate dinners preceded by cocktails. Various canapés are served as a finger buffet with drinks, with toppings as diverse as asparagus or cilantro relish. This one is a real taste-bud teaser, with a blend of salty, spicy, and tangy flavors.

Serve 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste (recipe below)
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
150g (5 oz) canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
20 crostini
Few fresh cilantro stalks, finely chopped

1. Heat the oil in a wok or heavy saucepan.
2. Fry the ginger-garlic paste for 1 minute then add the garam masala powder.
3. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the chickpeas to the pan, season with salt and heat until heated through.
5. Spoon the chickpeas on top of each crostini and serve warm, sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Allow 5 per person.

Ginger-garlic paste
Ginger root

To make the garlic-ginger paste used throughout the book, use equal amounts of each, peel and whiz in food processor until fairly smooth. I usually make this paste in big batches and freeze it in thin sheets between plastic. Of course, you will have to put the ginger and garlic in big freezer containers otherwise everything will smell, from your ice cream to ice cubes! Just break off bits when you need them and add straight to the pan.

Tandoori-Style Baked Red Chicken

Tandoori cooking is possibly the most popular style of Indian cooking outside of India. Traditionally, tandoori referred to a dish cooked in a clay oven called the tandoor. However, today it may mean the spice mixture associated with these dishes. Tandoori spice powder or prepared paste, a combination of spices, salt and red coloring, is readily available.

Serve 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
2 teaspoons tandoori spice powder
2/3 cup plain yogurt
8 large chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
Garnish: red onion and lemon, thinly sliced

1. Combine the ginger-garlic paste, tandoori spice powder, and yogurt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the chicken drumsticks and mix well.
3. Heat the over to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the coated drumsticks on it. Drizzle with the oil.
4. Bake the chicken for 45 minutes or so, turning a couple of times and basting with the cooking juices.
5. Finish off under a hot broiler if you like a slightly charred effect.
6. Serve hot, garnished with onion rings and slices of lemon.

Green Rice
Green curry paste is made with herbs and therefore has a fresh summery taste at any time of the year. The basic paste can be used with a variety of ingredients such as prawns, chicken (my favorite), cauliflower, and potatoes. Be sure to use very fresh mint and discard any brown or wilted leaves as this herb is at the heart of this delicious rice dish.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

For the green curry paste
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and drained
1 bunch fresh mint, washed and drained
2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
2 fresh green chilis, roughly chopped

1 ½ cups basmati rice, washed and drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Tear the cilantro and the mint into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the green chiles. Whiz to as fine a paste as possible, adding a little water at a time to hasten the process. The final paste should be the consistency of thick custard.
2. Season with salt and set aside.
3. Put the rice in a heavy pan and add 1½ cups hot water. Stir in the green herby paste.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer until the rice is done. You may need to add a little water if the rice is still raw at the center. Remove from the heat and run a fork through the rice to loosen the grains.
5. Serve the rice hot.

Vermicelli Pudding
This is an easy and quick dessert to make and can be prepared well in advance. Vermicelli is used in sweet as well as savory Indian dishes. Indian shops sell roasted as well as plain vermicelli. I like to use the plain one as it has better appearance and neutral flavor. I prefer it cold but it can also be served warm if you prefer.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

1 tablespoon ghee or butter
3 tablespoons mixed nuts, chopped
1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups (5 oz) vermicelli, broken into short lengths
1 ¼ cups milk
2/3 cup canned evaporated milk
5 tablespoons white sugar

1. Heat the ghee or butter in a heavy saucepan and fry 2 tablespoons of the nuts for a few minutes, until golden brown.
2. Add the vermicelli and fry until it begins to turn golden, taking care not to over-brown it.
3. Add both the milks and the sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, scraping down the sides of the pan to return the creamy residue into the milk.
4. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until the vermicelli is soft.
5. Remove from the heat and pour into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle with the mixed nuts. Allow to cool thoroughly then chill in the refrigerator if serving cold, or you can serve it warm.

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