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TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Diwali With Indian Food

Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

Amira Rice

Diwali Rangoli
You don’t know how to cook Indian cuisine to enjoy a quality dinner at home. [1] and [2] A family favorite, Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala (photos courtesy Tandoor Chef). [3] Amira rice, an authentic Indian brand (photo courtesy Amira Foods). [4] A relatively simple rangoli made by college students. Some designs are very elaborate (photo courtesy VanityApologies.com).

  This coming Sunday, instead of brunch at home, we’re headed to a buffet at a neighborhood Indian restaurant. It’s Diwali.

WHAT IS DIWALI?

Diwali or Deepavali is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of India, a five-day festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Indians of all religions celebrate.

The date, based on the Hindu calendar, varies in countries that use other calendars (the U.S. uses the Gregorian calendar).

This year, Diwali begins on October 30th and continues through November 3rd. Here’s more from DiwaliFestival.org.

In India, families make vibrant rangolis, an art form in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards brightly-colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. lighting diyas, traditional oil lamps made from clay, sharing sweets and exchanging gifts with friends and family.

Another tradition is lighting crackers—rocket shaped firecrackers or sparklers.

Here, in New York City, we eat!

You can have a joint holiday this year: Diwali on the 30th and Halloween on the 31st. Dia de los Muertos also begins on the eve of the 31st, through November 1st.

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR DIWALI?

Cook an Indian dish, or go to an Indian restaurant.

While we have an easy rice recipe below, those with no time to cook have lots of heat-and-eat options.

that we always have on hand.

  • TastyBite is an inexpensive, shelf-stable brand in pouches. You can gather them all and have your own mini-buffet at home.
  • Saffron Road and Tandoor Chef, two top-quality frozen brands, have just about anything you could want. We often have the entrées and the crisp samosas.
  • Maya Kaimal makes authentic Indian simmer sauces. Add your own protein, and simmer away to a fragrant and delicious dinner.
  • Stonefire naan is a moist and flavorful flatbread we eat year-round, in original, whole grain and garlic (our current favorite). We serve it with breakfast eggs, make sandwiches with it, as well as serve it with Indian cuisine.
  • Swad coriander and tamarind chutneys are must-trys. Like hot sauces and salsas, they can be used with any grilled, fried or roasted foods, potatoes, grains and vegetables. Most Americans only know Major Grey’s chutney, a mango chutney sweetened for British palates. We like it, but the savory chutneys are dynamite.
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    HERE’S HOW TO PAIR INDIAN FOOD WITH WINE & BEER.

     
    RECIPE: VEGETABLE PULAO (PILAF)

    The reason America’s home cooks don’t prepare more Indian food from scratch, is that it takes lots of specialty ingredients.

    Unless one cook it regularly, it’s more practical to enjoy the prepared food brands or head to your favorite Indian restaurant. Otherwise, find other ways to use the spices in your regular recipes, from dips to sides to mains.

    Here’s a classic rice recipe that goes with everything, from Sharmilee Jayaprakash, a food blogger who lives in the city of Coimbatore, near the western border of the state of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Follow her cooking at SharmisPassions.com.

    See complete cooking photos for this recipe at SharmisPassions.com.

     

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • Spices for pot: 1 bay leaf, 1 cardamom pod, 2 whole cloves, 1 small star anise
  • Dry-roasted spices (list below)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • Rice spices (listed below)
  • 1/2 cup mixed carrots and peas
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil for jeera (cumin) powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon roasted jeera powder (roasted, ground cumin seeds—more information)
  • Fresh mint and cilantro leaves to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ghee, divided (substitute unsalted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • =

  • 10 cashews
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    To Make The Jeera

  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds*
  •  
    For The Dry-Roasted Spices

  • 1/4-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 small star anise
  •  
    ________________
    *If you have ground cumin and don’t want to buy the seeds, you can quickly toast ground cumin in a pan (how to toast spices). It will be lesss flavorful, but it’s a hack.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK the rice for 15 minutes; then cook, adding the rice spices to the pot: bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and star anise. As the rice cooks…

    2. DRY ROAST (a.k.a. pan-toast) the spices for 3 minutes in a nonstick pan (how to roast spices) until the aroma wafts up. Then grind them to a semi-coarse powder with a mortar and pestle. You may not use all the powder; Shari reserved 1/2 teaspoon for another use. Set aside until Step 5.

      Indian Pilaf - Pulao

    Indian Pilaf - Pulao

    Amira Rice
    [5] Ingredients for vegetable pulao (pilaf) and [6] the finished dish, from SharmisPassions. [7] Amira, a brand of authentic Indian rices (photo courtesy Amira Foods).

     
    3. STRAIN any water from the cooked rice, spread the rice on a plate, fluff it up with a fork and let it cool.

    4. STEAM-cook the vegetables until they are slightly soft yet toothsome. (Or, thaw frozen carrots and peas). Set aside. Use the pan to sauté the onion.

    5. MAKE the jeera powder: Heat the oil in a small nonstick pan; add the cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle. Add the ginger garlic paste and onion and fry for a minute. Add the spice mixture along with roasted jeera powder and garam masala powder. Add salt to taste, and give the mixture a quick sauté. While the onions fry…

    6. FRY the cashews in ghee until golden brown and set aside.

    7. ADD the steamed vegetables to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Garnish with the coriander and mint leaves and mix well until the leaves slightly shrink. Finally, add the ghee and fried cashews.

    9. REMOVE from the heat, give it a quick stir and place in a serving bowl. Serve warm.

      




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