I'm thinking about a trip to India next year so I jumped at the chance to meet Nandita Godbole, author of Crack the Code - Cook Any Indian Meal with Confidence and A Dozen Ways to Celebrate - Twelve Decadent Indian Feasts for the Culinary Indulgent.
In Nadita's new book Crack the Code, she breaks down Indian cooking through an easy to follow six-tier system. The tiers contain categories of ingredients and an order for adding them so each component has its time to shine. For instance, tier 5 is the main ingredient or protein and it is added after spices have had time to develop. Just like tier 6 is the garnish that you wouldn't want to bring in any earlier or it would just wilt or add too much flavor when cooked over time.
One thing Nadita drove home emphatically is - no curry powder! As someone who's been using a lot of curry powder in recipes of late, I wondered why. I love the taste. What's wrong with curry powder? I think that's like asking what's wrong with using Wishbone Italian dressing. Sure it'll work in a pinch, but you want to start with the freshest ingredients and give the spices time to develop on their own to create a richer, deeper layered tasting dish. She thinks curry powder creates a ubiquitous, boring, one note recipe. So curry powder be gone! We have more interesting flavors to develop.
I was able to sample some of Nadita's cuisine at Melissa's Produce and was happy to see really fresh flavors and no overbearing, gloppy sauces. My local Indian take-out could stand to learn a few lessons from her. Both of her cookbooks are chuck full of interesting and unique Indian dishes. I instantly fell in love with her spicy garlic chutney and have found so many great uses for it already.
I did tweak some of the spices, but not too much that it doesn't make a statement. I still used about a half cup of garlic, which is probably about a half cup more than most people are used to using. Garlic is so good for you, your heart and overall disease prevention. It's full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, B6 and selenium, but has very few calories. So don't be afraid of using a lot. It mellows as it's cooked.
I also swapped peanuts for pine nuts in the chutney, simply because that's what I had in the house, but I have to say I really liked the nutty flavor it leant. I've used this chutney on roasted cod, but you can add it to noodles, chicken or vegetables. Use it wherever you would use pesto.
Learn more about Nandita on her Curry Cravings website.
Spicy Garlic Chutney
Adapted from Nadita Godbole's recipe in A Dozen Ways to Celebrate
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
- 2-1/2 tablespoons dried chipotle peppers, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw garlic cloves, paper removed (about 20 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 10 fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Warm the coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the cumin and sesame seeds, but turn down the heat to medium-low and stir continuously to make sure your don't burn the seeds.
- When the seeds turn a shade darker, add the peppers and garlic, increasing the heat and stirring continuously. After 2-3 minutes, add the pine nuts and allow to brown slightly, then top with lemon juice, mint and salt. Mix and remove from heat.
- Once the mixture is cool, transfer to a food processor and pulse until combined, but still chunky. Serve on top of fish, chicken, vegetables or noodles.
I received the two cookbooks and some spices for recipe development, but all opinions are always my own.