Indian Food on Whole30

Did you read the title of this post and think, “Ooh, I bet Nisha posted some authentic Indian recipes handed down by her grandmother in India?”

Welp, sorry if I got your hopes up.

Ever since I developed an interest in cooking, I have noticed one thing in particular about Indian food, particularly the food that my mother cooked. Traditional, home-cooked Indian food is very time- and labor-intensive.

I would sit in the kitchen and prepare my 30-minute grilled chicken and pasta while my mother worked on a six-course, ten-hour vegetarian delight made from scratch. And when I say from scratch, I mean everything is from scratch. From flour and water, she kneads the dough for roti (traditional unleavened Indian flat bread made from stoneground wholemeal flour, similar to a tortilla) and then rolls it out into perfect circles using just a rolling pin and years of experience. She sorts through jars of dried lentils and beans by hand, picking out individual pieces that are deformed; then she soaks the legumes overnight to prepare dals and curries. She dices up pounds and pounds of fresh garlic, ginger, and chilies, and makes her own pastes.

She even makes her own ghee and yogurt from scratch. For homemade ghee, she heats unsalted butter on the stove on low heat, watches the fat separates from the milk solids, and heats until the milk solids are deep brown in color; then, she strains it until she’s left only with the clear liquid, which is pure ghee. For homemade yogurt, she boils milk, and when it’s cooled to a lukewarm temperature, she adds bacterial cultures and mixes well and lets it rest for 5-6 hours or overnight. 

I love to cook but I certainly do not have the same patience that my mother has. My mother is, by the way, the most patient person you will ever meet. I, on the other hand, develop homicidal thoughts when I have to wait in a line more than two people deep. So I assumed that I would never cook Indian food because I simply didn’t have the patience to make everything from scratch.

I may never make my own roti or yogurt like my mother, but I’m happy to say that I’ve finally embraced the tantalizing world of Indian cuisine. The aromas of the spices, the vibrancy of colors, the warmth of flavors. There’s something magical about Indian cooking.

A lot of traditional Indian food can be very heavy and carbalicious, but I found some ways to make a Whole30 approved meal: Kofta in Curry Sauce.

Kofta is a type of meatball that can be found not only in Indian cuisine, but also in Afghani, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Lebanese, Turkish, and other similar cuisines. Indian kofta comes in the vegetarian variety as well, as at least 30% of people in India are vegetarians, but you can make it with beef, lamb, or chicken.

My local butcher shop had grass-fed beef on sale, so I went with beef. I bought 2 pounds of ground beef but used only 1 1/2 pounds, freezing the extra half pound for delicious burgers post-Whole30. I served the kofta with Tandoori-spiced roasted cauliflower.

The key to Indian food is adding layers of flavors – chilies, aromatics, spices. You’ll notice that in both of the recipes below.  These recipes use a lot of fresh garlic and ginger, so if you want to save on prep time, buy pre-peeled garlic cloves or bottles of fresh pre-minced garlic and ginger.

Kofta in Curry Sauce

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Kofta (meatballs)

  • 1 1/2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef (or lamb or chicken)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 large serrano chile, minced
  • 1 TBSP minced ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 TBSP of fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 1/2 TBSP of fresh mint, mint
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 sweet potato, grated (use a cheese grater)
  • heaping 1/2 tsp garam masala (make your own, or buy in the spice aisle of your grocery store)

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Curry Sauce

  • Coconut oil for cooking
  • 1 1/2 cups of onions, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 small Serrano chile, minced
  • 1 TBSP ground coriander
  • 1/2 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1/2 heaping tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 heaping tsp chili powder
  • 1 14 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid (or use crushed tomatoes)
  • 3 bay leaves, torn
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or use 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 can of full-fat coconut milk
  • 8 ounces of water
  • 3/4 tsp of salt
  • 3 TBSP of fresh lime juice to finish
  • 3 TBSP cilantro, minced, to finish

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Directions

  1. Make the meatballs: in a large bowl, add ground beef, beaten eggs, chilies, garlic, ginger, cilantro, mint, onion, sweet potato, and garam masala. Mix well until combined (with your hands or wooden spoon) but don’t overmix  or the meat will get tough.DSC_0002DSC_0005DSC_0009
  2. Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and roll into meatballs. Place on a parchment-paper or aluminum-foil lined baking sheet or tray while you prepare the curry.DSC_0020
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until it’s nearly smoking. Add the onions, and after a few minutes, add the bell pepper. Once onion is almost translucent, add the garlic, Serrano chile, and ginger. Cook until golden brown.DSC_0029
  4. Then, add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder. Stir and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. It will be very fragrant!
  5. Add the canned tomatoes and liquid, cook for approximately 5 minutes until the mixture begins to evaporate.
  6. Add the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil.DSC_0042
  7. Turn down the heat to a simmer, and add the meatballs. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, approximately 15-20 minutes.DSC_0047
  8. To finish, add lime juice and cilantro.

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Tandoori-Spice Roasted Cauliflower

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Ingredients

Tandoori Spice Blend 

Notes: this makes a bit more spice blend than the recipe calls for; save the rest for another dish. You can also purchase a pre-made Tandoori spice blend at a grocery store or specialty market.

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  • 1 TBSP ground ginger
  • 1 TBSP ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cauliflower

  • 2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 TBSP of Tandoori spice blend
  • Juice of 2 small lemons
  • 1-2 TBSP coconut oil

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Directions

  1. For Tandoori spice blend, mix together all ingredients until well incorporated.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 °F.
  3. In a large bowl, add the garlic, ginger, Tandoori spice blend, lemon juice, and coconut oil. Mix together until a paste forms
  4. Add cauliflower to bowl and toss evenly to make sure all florets are coated in spice blend. Spread out on a baking sheet or two (use parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy cleanup). DSC_0060
  5. Roast cauliflower in oven at 425 for 20-25 minutes, tossing once, until golden brown and cooked through.

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Do you like spicy Indian food? Would you like your entire home to smell of rich aromas and spices? Are you looking for a perfectly hearty fall dinner? Then, you should try out these recipes and let me know what you think!

-Nisha

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