The Conundrum of Chili Powder vs. Chili Powder

A particular terminology duplication has arisen in modern American cookery, and I’m at a bit of a loss on how to resolve it.

In ordinary USA recipe parlance, “chili powder” has come to denote a particular spice blend. Go to any grocery store, or even most dollar stores, and you will see offered among the spices “chili powder” which is not, for certain, powdered chilis. Perhaps powdered chili pepper might make up one component of the spice mixture, but those chilis are unlikely to be very hot since most mainstream American palates run to the mild side (certainly, mainstream Pittsburgh tastes do). This chili powder is, in fact, a blend of spices intended for Mexican and Tex Mex recipes, popularized and mainstreamed more than anything by recipes for the quintessential Tex Mex stew, itself called Chili.

Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers

I have nothing against spice mixes, certainly. As a hobby cook of some conscientiousness, I do like to make my own spice blends when it is practical to do so, especially when a particular blend is not easy to come by in a form offering consistent quality and/or value. Berbere, the standard spice blend for Ethiopian recipes, as an example, is not readily available in grocery stores, and those that do offer it usually do so at a high price, and purchasing a blend online incurs added expense of shipping and the ever-present risk that one’s favorite retailer will discontinue the specific brand of berbere mixed spices that the chef has come to rely upon throwing all of her tried-and-true Ethiopian-style recipes into flux and chaos… rather than tangle with all these contingencies, I make my own so that every batch of Mesir Wat will be the same as the last.

Other blends produce fewer stumbling blocks and thus fewer qualms on my part with using the pre-mixed grocery store blend. Badia makes a good line of spice mixes, including a turmeric-centered curry powder, cajun seasoning, chili powder, etc. I do have a preferred recipe for making my own chili powder (which I will share below), and my own recipes for various differing styles of curry powder, such as garam masala, which should never be confused with other types of curry powders, such as the turmeric-based powders or the Madras powders, etc. But sometimes, a gal just wants grab a jar of spice mix and measure, without going to the trouble of pre-mixing her own blend. By now, I have a pretty good sense, for the sake of my own tastes, when using my homemade blend makes the difference and when throwing myself on the mercy of a commercial spice company makes little to no difference.

And so, I have no qualms with recipes calling for spice mixes, chili powder among them, as it affords the chef a simple opportunity to choose either a homemade spice blend or a store-bought mix. The problem with “chili powder” is that there is an ingredient by the same name that shows up in recipes: namely chili peppers that are powdered.

Powdered Chili Peppers

Powdered Chili Peppers

I’ve become pretty good over the years at telling which type of “chili powder” a recipe is calling for. A recipe for Indian or Thai curry is probably calling for powdered chili peppers, whereas a Mexican, Spanish, Cajun, mainstream American cuisine recipe, quick & easy recipe, etc. are probably calling for the spice blend. This duplicative term bothers me the most as a recipe author; when I post recipes online containing the spice blend called “chili powder” I always feel that I have to clarify in some way. I more often find myself making recipes with chili powder, rather than powdered chilis, and yet I always feel that I have a responsibility to clarify as the writer of a given recipe.

This sense of responsibility, this commitment to clarity makes me wish to solve this terminology impasse in an easier, more efficient way. I suppose I could use the distinction indicated above, chili powder vs. powdered chilis. But this division would really only work for people who follow my recipes close to enough to know I had pre-established this distinction. The term “chili powder” is so well-established in both meanings out there in the world of recipe writing, that I would still feel the need to clarify every time I included “chili powder” in a recipe. What is the elegant solution here? What can I call “chili powder” to make it clear that I mean the spice mix, and not powdered chilis?

I am open to suggestions!

Component Spices for a Chili Powder Blend

Component Spices for a Chili Powder Blend


5 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon oregano
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon allspice

Combine all ingredients in a container. Mix well. Use in recipes calling for the spice blend chili powder.

Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower “Rice”

Encouraged by my most recent attempt at using cauliflower for a rice substitute, I continued my efforts this weekend with yet another rice recipe. While I suspect a similar cooking method to what I used with the Mexican “Rice” would work here, too, I wanted to try keeping the cauliflower raw this time. Due to my recent increase in vegetable consumption, I have discovered that I enjoy more and more vegetables raw or simply warmed to eating temperature, rather than cooked through. I wanted to see if cauliflower “rice” might below to the same category.

It had been quite some time since I’d made Indian-style curries for myself at home, so I resolved to make two favorites from my recipe box this weekend: Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag (Indian Creamed Spinach). What better opportunity to try out another Cauliflower “Rice” recipe than as a curry companion? And so, I struck out into the Internet to research Biryani recipes.

Some elements of this recipe are cooked and some are not. For this reason, the ingredients are divided up in sections.

Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower "Rice"

Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower “Rice”


2 lbs. cauliflower, riced

1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
pinch cloves
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tomato, finely diced
8 oz. frozen small mixed vegetables or soup vegetables (i.e. corn, chopped carrots, green beans, lima beans, peas, etc.)

1 tablespoon oil
1 green onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup peanuts or mixed nuts
fresh coriander

Rice your cauliflower in batches, doing the stems first and then florets, by pulsing in the food processor. Fold in a clean towel and set aside.

Combine the spices and salt in a small bowl or ramekin. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Saute the garlic briefly. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix. Stir fry until the spices are coated with oil. Add diced tomatoes and mixed vegetables. Saute until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine raw cauliflower “rice” with 1 tablespoon oil and the remainder of the spice mix. Add green onions and nuts. Stir until evenly distributed.

When the mixed vegetables have reached their desired tenderness, combine the contents of the skillet with with spiced cauliflower “rice” in the large bowl.

Serve with your favorite curries. If desired, warm on an oven-safe dish prior to serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

This dish was a smashing success! The spices, the texture, the mix of vegetables and nuts and raw “rice” struck a perfect balance and was an excellent accompaniment to the curries. The first helping I warmed up on an oven-safe plate, but subsequent helpings, I actually just ate at room temperature (the curries I ate with it were hot, after all). Both ways, it was quite delicious, and I think I’m a convert to raw “rice,” as I found the texture much more crisp and rice-like. Also, no worries about over-cooking and the cauliflower shedding too much liquid. Perhaps the most obvious advantage is that keeping the rice raw makes prep incredibly easy! Not having to cook an ingredient simplifies any recipe immensely, especially one where other ingredients (i.e. the vegetables) are cooked separately. After this recipe, I’m excited to try even more cauliflower “rice”!

Two Vindaloos

Of all the Indian curry dishes I have tried, Vindaloo seems to manifest with the most different permutations across Indian restaurants. Other curries that are equally widespread seem to be more standardized. If you order Tikka Masala or Korma or Saag (aka Palak), chances are you will get a curry that looks the way you expect, even if the specific recipe of spices differ from one establishment to the next. With Vindaloo, you don’t know what color it will be, whether it will be creamy or dairy-free… the only constant is the sourness of the vinegar, which of course is what the dish is named for. Recipes I have encountered online and in cookbooks vary just as much, leaving me torn and uncertain about which route to take toward Vindaloo greatness!

I recently tried two very different recipes, both with good results:

Vindaloo #1: A more complex vindaloo

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground hot pepper
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small onion, chopped
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed (or equivalent amount pork, beef, lamb, etc)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

images (3)Combine all ingredients in a saucepan or crock pot (use half the water for crock pot). Before adding the the meat, I like to process with my immersion blender to puree, but that’s up to you. The onion and garlic don’t strictly have to be pureed into the sauce, and whole mustard seeds add a nice texture — they won’t be completely pulverized by an immersion blender anyhow. Cook covered on low fire until meat is desired tenderness. If using a crock pot, 4 hours on high or 8 on low should do it. Serve with rice, garnish with parsley.

This Vindaloo turned out quite tasty. In fact, I loved the flavor of this spice combination and can say absolutely nothing against the way it turned out in terms of taste. However, I was less than thrilled with the color. It happens sometimes with recipes that feature the darker spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc.) as their dominant characteristic that the color of the curry is affected (e.g. chettinad curry), and such was the case here. This curry ended up a very drab brown color. Most Vindaloo I’ve ever had before is some manner of red or orange color, sometimes a little brighter sometimes a little darker, but usually has a bit of zest to its color. This recipe had none and I was disappointed in that result. Call me crazy, but given the choice, I’d rather have a colorful and flavorful dish!

I remembered a Vindaloo recipe I tried many years ago when I was first experimenting with Indian cuisine. It was a much simpler recipe, but I recalled that it had turned out a nice stark orange. I dug up the recipe last week and gave it a try:

Vindaloo #2: a simpler recipe

DSC018661 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or paprika
1lb. chicken, beef or lamb cubes
1/2 cup to 1 cup water
cilantro leaves, optional

Combine onion, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and spices in a saucepan or crock pot. Process with an immersion blender, adding water until the sauce is the consistency of a thick gravy. Stew the meat for a few hours on low heat until desired doneness, or slow cook for 4 hours on high, 8 on low. Serve with rice, garnish with cilantro.

This recipe is much simpler. The flavor is very good; the larger amount vinegar gives added tanginess. The color is it nice bright orange! However, I missed the more complex flavors of the first recipe.

For now, I am posting both of these recipes for preservation; they are both worthwhile and make for a great meal. I have not, however, given up on discovering or formulating a recipe that represents the best of both worlds.

Eggplant Curry

A couple weeks ago when Dayle reported having excess eggplant in her garden, she floated the idea of using it to make an eggplant curry. I didn’t have much to say about eggplant curry at the time, so she proceeded to use the eggplant for other things, but I never ignore an opportunity to explore new curry, and so I nosed around to find some recipes. I finally got a chance to try out the most intriguing one the other day.


1/2 cup dry coconut powder
3 tablespoons white poppy seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
4 tablespoons besan, i.e. gram flour
1/2 cup nuts, e.g. peanuts, cashews, etc. (optional)
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
4 fresh medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with chilis
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 large eggplant, cut into large cubes
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Toast the coconut, the seeds, the besan and nuts (if using) in a nonstick skillet over a low fire until lightly browned. In a different skillet, saute the onion, garlic, ginger and remaining spices in oil for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water if they get dried out. Add tomatoes, coconut milk and water, as well as the dry toasted ingredients. Simmer on a medium low fire until the tomatoes are softened. Puree the mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Heat through.

If desired, grill or broil the eggplant lightly before adding to the curry. Cook the eggplant in the curry sauce until soft but not falling apart. You want the eggplant to retain its shape, rather than dissolve into the curry sauce. Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves or coriander chutney.

I made some big changes from the original recipe in order to streamline the process… and because I wanted to use coconut milk to make it creamy, not just the dried coconut for flavor. I was serving the coconut alongside a peanut curry, so I decided not to add the nuts (which is why I marked them optional) to avoid too much sameness in my meal, but if I made this recipe again, I would probably try adding them.

This curry was tasty and the eggplant turned out very well; I was worried it would easily get overdone. My only regret was that the seeds from the first phase of the recipe made it somewhat grainy, despite much attention from the immersion blender. In the future I think I would let them cook for longer before attempting to puree in the hopes they would soften up and blend more smoothly.

Sweet Potato Kofta with Mango Raita

Sometimes I set out in search of one particular type of recipe, but sometimes a recipe finds me instead. While on the hunt for something else, I stumbled upon this recipe and said, “Well, heck, I’ve got to book mark this one.” It very quickly thereafter made it onto my shopping list for a lazy Sunday of recipe experimentation:


1 (40 oz) can medium sweet potatoes, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 cup dry red lentils, cooked
1/4 cup minced dates
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cilantro chutney
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
extra water, or an egg

MANGO RAITA (all ingredients to taste)

mango chutney
lime juice and/or zest
plain yogurt or sour cream
black mustard seeds

Unless I need sweet potatoes (which are functionally the same thing as yams) to retain their shape (e.g. as fries or in cubes), I use canned because they are so cheap, easily available, and pretty much ready to use right out of the can. Problem is, they are often stored in syrup. Just make sure you rinse the potatoes very thoroughly to get all the extra sugar off.

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare all ingredients as indicated in the recipe list and then combine in a large bowl. I used electric egg beaters and they worked well for pulverizing the potatoes without pureeing the other ingredients. Add a little water, or an egg, if ingredients seem too dry. Form into roughly golf-ball sized kofta and arrange on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake until golden brown (check after about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare the mango raita by combining all the ingredients in desired proportions. If you’ve never made raita or don’t know what it is, the yogurt or sour cream is the primary ingredient of this condiment, the fruit or vegetable (in this case, mango chutney is used for ease of preparation), should be a secondary amount, and then more lightly on the seasonings to taste. I like a little runnier raita so that it’s good as a dip, but don’t add so much lime juice it gets too liquid-y.

One additional innovation I made with this recipe… the weekend after I made them, I decided to try some modifications to my pakora recipe, and ended up with a lot of pakora batter, so I battered and fried the leftover koftas. Definitely tasty either way.

Vegetable Pakora

Pakora VegetablesI’ve been meaning to try making a Pakora recipe for quite some time, but seeing that fried appetizers always call for a bit more work than the average recipe (and come with a much smaller margin for error) it took me some time to work up the ambition to give them a try.

It was also a matter of occasion and audience. To make a more-ambitious-than-usual recipe happen, I need time to do it with the necessary ingredients on hand. It’s also helpful to have someone to make it for. I can, and do, often enjoy cooking for myself, but that little extra motivation of social cooking is sometimes what I need to talk myself into those more ambitious recipes.

Ordinarily, my parents are a terrible audience for so-called “ethnic” food. They tend to be wary of dishes that stray too far from the ingredients and seasonings they grew up with. Lo and behold, though, my mother’s research into natural health and homeopathic treatments has led to the revelation that *shock* some of these “exotic” spices have unexpected health benefits. Batter in vegetablesHaving discovered that turmeric, and more recently ginger, are potentially beneficial to some of her specific ailments, my mother had taken sometimes to eating these spices dry on her finger, just to get a little in her system, not knowing what else to put it in. This method was ultimately far from pleasant. My challenge then became to show my mother that there are tasty recipes containing at least one, if not both, of these spices, while at the same time not sending her running from the dinner table at the sight and smell of a pungent, spice-rich curry. To keep my parents’ skepticism from rising as they saw and scented peculiar goings-on in the kitchen, I had to assure them that I was using no ingredients beyond what they might consider using in their own cooking… except for the ginger and turmeric, of course. Luckily, my mother had previous experience with besan in her search for flours low on the glycemic index.


1 cup besan (i.e. chickpea or gram flour)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons corn starch (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
salt, to taste
1/2 cup water


10oz spinach
1 lb. cauliflower, chopped
diced onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup cottage cheese, optional

oil, for frying

Combine all the dry ingredients for the batter in a medium bowl. Chop the vegetables, if desired. Whisk the water into the dry batter ingredients until smooth. Stir batter into the vegetables until well-coated. Heat oil in a deep fryer or in a skillet. Drop small balls of the vegetable mixture into the hot oil to fry to a golden brown. Serve with raita or chutney.

Vegetable Pakora with RaitaThe vegetables in this recipe, of course, can be changed. These were simply what I had on hand, but this recipe is open to a lot of variation in content. I don’t have a deep fryer and so I always do a shallow fry (i.e. inch or so of oil) in a non-stick skillet. That method worked out pretty well for these pakora, but the batch turned out very large and I was a little impatient so I make the pakora a bit larger, probably, than they should have been. Next time, I’ll make smaller fritters so they get fried through a little better. I also had to add some extra besan because my vegetables had been frozen and released some liquid while defrosting. If using frozen vegetables, make sure your vegetables are thoroughly thawed and dry, or else extra flour may be in order.

All in all, though, these fritters were a hit with my parents, and I quite enjoyed them myself. Definitely a recipe I will make again, and hopefully improve upon in the future.

Around the House Raita

I had a burst of cooking inspiration this weekend. Having been on vacation all week, I did a bit more culinary exploration of local restaurants than normal. I went to a couple Indian Buffets with Sabrina (not really new ones… but you may still be hearing more about them), and I got a chance to go back to Abay, which I had thoroughly enjoyed once before, and now have thoroughly enjoyed a second time.

Tomatoes, Mint, ScallionsAdd to this all a peculiar imperative to find opportunities for my mother eat more food with ginger (also more on that later), and I had an intensive weekend of cooking experiments. As part of the experimentation, I decided to make some Pakora, that is, Indian vegetable fritters, because I had been enjoying them all week at our Indian Buffet trips. I was enjoying them more than usual also because I had taken to dipping the pakora in the raita (a yogurt-based condiment) provided by each buffet. I don’t know if such practice is authentic, or just some spontaneous innovation of Americans at the India Buffet, but I found it tasty and so decided to make a raita to accompany the pakora fritters.

Problem was, I didn’t find all of the ingredients I had hoped to find at my parents’ house. In fact, after scouring many raita recipes online, I found that I couldn’t put together any one recipe in its entirety. I scoured the recipes, getting a feel of what ingredients seemed often to go together and what didn’t. I quizzed my dad on what he had available in the fridge and in his vegetable garden. There was no plain yogurt to be had in the fridge, but my suspicion was that sour cream would do just fine in a pinch. My impression from the recipes I found online was that no particular spices or herbs where standard, and so I put together a raita based on what my parents’ had around the house and in their garden:


cherry tomatoes, chopped
fresh mint
sour cream or yogurt
sprinkle of cumin
sprinkle of paprika
salt, to taste

Combine ingredients and chill.

Obviously, this is not a precisely measured recipe. Nor, I believe, should it be. It should be noted that the cherry tomatoes I found in my dad’s garden were especially small, and having only quartered them, I felt like even then, they could have been smaller. The scallions and fresh mint leaves were easily snipped small. The sour cream was stirred in to the fresh ingredients to create a dip-like consistency without overwhelming the fresh ingredients (I even added a little milk to make it a little saucier). The spices were simply to taste. I did not add salt to the initial batch, for the sake of my dad’s dietary restrictions, but I added some to my own portion.

Easy Samosas

I am always looking for ways to turn any ol’ recipe into an easier version of itself, so when I find myself confronted with a recipe that claims, in and of itself, to be easy, I’m all for it…

Well, not quite, I lied. The unfortunate fact is that most recipes online touting themselves as “Easy” do so because they incorporate a number of canned and processed products chalk full of MSG. If I see onion soup mix on an ingredient list, I close the browser tab and move on.

But I came across a recipe for Easy Samosas and the only pre-packaged ingredient was crescent rolls for the dough. As I have previously discussed, my relationship with fresh made bread and pastry is tenuous at best, and so refrigerated Pilsbury dough is one of the few packaged items I’m happy to use.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 lb) package of frozen mixed vegetables (i.e. peas, corn, carrots, green beans, etc.)
5 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cilantro chutney or chopped fresh
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash red pepper
1 tablespoon water
2 (8 ounce) packages jumbo biscuits

Saute onion and garlic in the oil. Add mixed vegetables, seasonings and water. Simmer until cooked through.

Roll out the biscuits one by one on a floured surface. Fill each with the vegetable filling, leaving enough room around the edge to wet the dough, fold it over and crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork. Bake at 375 for at least 10 minutes; check and bake longer if the dough is not yet golden brown. Serve with your favorite chutneys.

I was really quite pleased with the vegetable filling in this recipe. I did very few alterations (i.e. substituting cilantro chutney for dried, adding more ginger than the paltry 1/4 teaspoon called for), and the filling turned out amazingly tasty, and pretty much exactly as I remember samosas tasting the last time I had them on an Indian buffet.

The dough, of course, wasn’t quite as authentic tasting. I tried both flaky biscuits and buttermilk biscuits. Both were serviceable, but I recommend flaky biscuits if you have the choice. Of course, the original recipe called for crescent sheets, so those could also be substituted, but I opted for biscuits due to the fact that they don’t need to be cut from a sheet and are ready for rolling right out of the container. Other recipes I found called for other types of pre-made pastry sheets, such as phyllo or puff pastry, so certainly those could be used instead. If I’m feeling ambitious someday, I might try making samosas with this filling and the dough from the pita recipe I tried recently.

The original recipe also included a dipping sauce, which I made but found unimpressive. I preferred using the cilantro, tamarind and mango chutneys I had on hand.

Curry Sauce Victory, plus Spinach Kofta

A few weeks ago I took my first foray into Kofta (i.e. Meatball) Curry. The meatballs I made turned out quite pleasing, but the curry sauce recipe I made to accompany them was disappointing. Somehow a recipe that looked to contain all manner of interesting flavors ended up underwhelming and bland.

I resolved to have another go at Kofta Curry, in particular the curry sauce. I contemplated what might have gone wrong in the sauce recipe I used last time, and how it might be fixed. I considered what makes other, similar tomato-based curries (such Tikka Masala or Makhani) that I know and love so tasty. I resolved to pool several curry recipes, including my Tikka Masala and Makhani recipes and a number of Kofta Curry recipes I found online, comparing and contrasting them, taking the common ingredients, adopting uncommon ingredients with special promise, and getting rid of ingredients or methods that appeared troublesome… all with the hope that the resulting recipe would embody all of the glorious flavor one could ever hope for in a Kofta Curry!

Well, at least I wanted it to be tastier than the recipe I tried two weeks ago. And in that goal, at least, I succeeded. While I don’t claim it is the pinnacle of all curry on Earth, it turns out to be a pretty darned good tomato curry with its own character, similar in some ways, but also distinct from the other types of curry recipes I consulted.


Kofta Curry Sauce1 oz butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon minced)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
water, as needed
1/2 to 1 cup cream or beaten yogurt

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter. Add spices and other ingredients as they simmer. After adding the tomatoes, a little water may be needed if the sauce is too thick. Depending on how long you simmer the sauce (i.e. if you’re going to use it to stew meat, or just keep it warm on the stove while cooking other things), you may need to add a little water as it cooks to keep it at that desired gravy-like consistency.

I’m a fan of smooth sauces, so I used my immersion blender to process this sauce; however if you prefer a chunkier sauce there is really no need to process it, as there are no whole spices in this recipe. Add the cream shortly before serving, and heat through. Serve with kofta meatballs or vegetable balls. Garnish with cashews and fresh cilantro.

The only adjustment I made to this recipe after trying it was that I added an option for less lemon juice. I used the full 2 tablespoons when I made this recipe; when I ate the sauce a second time as leftovers, I noticed it was just a tad acidic after sitting a day in the fridge. Probably adding additional cream would help to tame this acidity, but I may use only one tablespoon of lemon juice in the future.

One day soon, I hope to try this sauce with my previous Kofta Meatball recipe, but in the interest of keeping my repertoire varied, but this past weekend I decided to try a recipe for Spinach Kofta.

I spoke in my afore-referenced blog about different varieties of kofta. Among the Malai (i.e. vegetable) koftas, there seems to be quite a lot of variation from one recipe to another in terms of what vegetables are used. Sometimes the variance is minor, sometimes two recipes will use different vegetables altogether.

I decided to start with a recipe for spinach kofta, as it looked easy enough to make with things I already had around the house. As the recipe called for mashed potatoes, rather than chopped potatoes, I knew I could use my favorite potato substitute, canned yams.


1 (29oz) or 2 (16oz) can(s) of yams, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 lb. frozen spinach (i.e. half a 1 lb. bag), thawed
2 green chilis, diced
2 tablespoons cottage cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 egg
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
corn flour or besan (chickpea) flour

Mash the yams in a bowl with the spinach. Mix in the remaining ingredients up to and including the breadcrumbs. Form golf-sized balls (add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist). Roll the balls in corn flour.

Heat oil in a small skillet or deep fryer. Fry the kofta balls, drain on a towel, serve with my Definitive Kofta Curry Sauce.

A few notes on this recipe. I indicate that the cottage cheese is optional, not because I think that one would want to omit it for any particular reason, but rather because I accidentally left it out when making my kofta balls this weekend (in fact, now I’m stuck with an enormous tub of cottage cheese and nothing to do with it). They were tasty enough without it, but cheese can only make them better, right?

Finally, a note on frying. When a cooking method akin to deep frying is called for, as in this recipe, I use a modified shallow fry. Deep frying can be such a waste of oil that I try to avoid it. For these koftas, I used my smallest skillet filled with about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of oil (i.e. about half the diameter of the kofta balls). I let the koftas fry a half at a time, rolling them around until they got done on all sides.

Amazingly Delicious Korma with Mango

I forget how wonderful this korma recipe is when I don’t make it for awhile. I should probably preface any further remarks about this recipe by saying that I make no claims of authenticity with this recipe; in fact, I have never seen a curry like this one on any Indian restaurant menu. This recipe is designed to be easy and tasty and whether anyone outside of Western culture would touch it with a ten foot pole, I couldn’t tell you.

As with most of my curry recipes, I treat this one as a sauce that can be used to cook whatever items (animal, vegetable… maybe not mineral…) of sustenance one desires. I have make this recipe with chickpeas and with mixed vegetables, and I suspect it would be quite tasty with chicken or seafood. I made this recipe two weekends ago and I was so happy with it that I’m making it again this weekend.


1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 to 2 teaspoons hot red pepper or paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 cup blanched almonds or cashew pieces
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 lb. chicken, seafood, tofu, chickpeas, mixed vegetables, etc.

Sauté the onion in the melted butter. Combine all remaining ingredients in the pan and simmer until nuts are softened. Process smooth with an immersion blender (or, in the alternative, process smooth in a food processor before adding to the pan). Add the meat or vegetables and reduce heat. If sauce gets too thick, add a bit of water to achieve a more curry-like consistency. Cook until meat and vegetables reach desired doneness.