As someone who indulges in exotic cuisine as much as I can, I find that I never actually cook the stuff at home. Sure, I’ll go out to dinner to my favorite Japanese, Chinese or Indian restaurant and order the most obscure thing on the menu. But when it comes to home cooking, I am not nearly experimental enough with these bright and vibrant flavors. Is it because I’m fairly certain there’s no way that my creation will be half as good as the one I get from my favorite local place? Probably. But there’s also another reason: the intimidation factor. Having grown up in a household that was devoid of spices like garam masala, tamarind and curry, I’m slightly out of my league. But this is the time when I can take advantage of having my own kitchen and really branching out. Next stop: Indian cuisine!This week’s food blog of the week, Coconut Raita, is a culinary road map for anybody interested in cooking Indian food in their own home. Reena, a culinary graduate from Le Cordon Bleu and the blog author, shows us just how tantalizing the cuisine of her native home can be with a variety of exquisite recipes for any level of chef. From simple Lamb Shish Kebabs and Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Cumin, to Chicken Biryani and Chicken Tikka, the recipes on Coconut Raita are simple to understand and enjoyable to execute. Not too confident in your Indian spice knowledge? Have no fear! Coconut Raita’s Indian Cooking 101 section breaks down this sometimes complicated endeavor so you can walk into your local Indian grocery store with the utmost confidence.
As you may or may not be able to tell, I’m fairly intrigued by Indian cuisine, and Coconut Raita is the perfect gateway blog to opening my eyes to this unique style of cooking. Reena breaks down her recipe index into easy-to-navigate sections, keeping Indian meat dishes separate from Indian vegetarian dishes, as well as dishes that aren’t Indian at all. Dishes like Prawn and Sweet Potato Curry and Tandoori Chicken are what I find to be the stars of her meaty section, focusing on two classic preparations that are fundamental to Indian cuisine: curry and tandoori. Not in the mood for meat? Coconut Raita provides a fairly extensive vegan and vegetarian menu, including Mushroom Curry, Paneer Spinach and Pav Bahji, a spiced potato mash served on toasted rolls.
While poking around Coconut Raita, I have to admit I had zero expectations for the Dessert section. While I have eaten my fair share of Indian food, I have never had the courage nor the knowledge to order a proper dessert. So what are the key words to look for in this section? Kulfi and Halwa. Kulfi is an Indian-style ice cream, which, according to Reena, is usually thick and not very appetizing. However, Reena’s recipe for Pistachio Kulfi is sweet and creamy, and a serious upgrade to the traditional kulfi. Halwa is a sweet and savory dessert, traditionally made with carrots, cardamom and pistachios, among other things. As Reena puts it, “unlike many Indian desserts, it is not overly rich or sweet”; her Carrot Halwa is a great representation of how dessert doesn’t necessarily have to be covered in chocolate and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. (Although I can’t argue with any dessert that is just that.)
If you have been searching for that gateway blog into Indian cooking, Coconut Raita is the perfect collection of recipes and stories for just that. Unfamiliar cuisine may seem intimidating to tackle in your own kitchen, but I guarantee after you make Coconut Raita’s Killer Chicken Curry, you’ll be wondering why you’ve been wasting time with the same old roast chicken every night.
Have any food blogs that you love? Let us know about them in the comments section below!