Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indian Night: Dal Nirvana, Butter Chicken, Rice Pudding

Last Wednesday was Indian night at CA's. We made dal nirvana, butter chicken, and rice pudding in her tiny kitchen. All three dishes began at the same time, which was fine because the rice pudding was still warm when we were finished eating everything else. Considering the size of her kitchen, we were also efficient and didn't even bump into one another.

We didn't make the naan from scratch this time. I ended up buying some fluffy pita bread on my way home from work. When I was in the bakery area of the grocery store, I couldn't find Greek pitas anywhere. It's a great substitute for the pricey naan (President's Choice brand - 2 for $2.99). I stumbled upon some pita bread (8 for $2.69) and figured it would be fine to get them instead of the naan. The pita breads that I bought were closer to Greek pita breads than it was to the thin pita breads I'm used to. It was more cost efficient too. Second carb option: check.


Simplified Butter Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small onions, finely diced
1 tsp sugar
Tandoori masala and sour cream to taste
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil (vegetable oil is fine too)

The chicken breasts were trimmed of the connection tissues and then diced. Tandoori masala was mixed with the chicken breasts to briefly marinate. I'd recommend you do this the night before and then leave it in the fridge overnight, if you have the time.

In a medium-sized pot, the ginger, garlic, and onions were cooked with the olive oil and a bit of butter over medium-high heat until fragrant. (The oil is there to prevent the butter from burning.) The diced tomatoes and sugar were mixed in. Then I seasoned everything in the pot with tandoori masala to taste. The contents were simmered on medium heat for about 5 mins.

The briefly-marinated chicken was added to the pot and cooked for about 10 minutes. Once all of the chicken was fully cooked, the sour cream was added to taste. After getting a second opinion and one final taste, we adjusted the flavour with more tandoori masala. The heat was turned off and then served with steamed rice, warmed flatbread, and dal. I'll get to the dal in a bit.

We had a few issues with the butter chicken. The first problem was that I forgot to drain the diced tomatoes. The addition of water made the sauce really watery, so to thicken it, we made a slurry of water and cornstarch*.
*When we made the slurry, we tempered the slurry instead of mixing it into the butter chicken right away. We added a few spoonfuls of cooking liquid to the slurry to bring up the temperature. After the slurry and cooking liquid was mixed thoroughly together, a few more spoonfuls of cooking liquid was mixed in and then everything was added into the pot. If we tried to mix in the slurry directly into the pot without tempering the slurry, the slurry would've cooked soon after being poured in.

The second issue was that we used yoghurt instead of sour cream. At first, we tried adding a few spoonfuls of 0% fat yoghurt but that separated soon after we mixed it into the butter chicken. (0% fat yoghurt? Does not compute...) The pot was taken off the heat too. We added 2% fat yoghurt afterwards and it didn't separate as easily.


Dal Nirvana
Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes' version

1 can brown lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch ginger, minced
1½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp butter
½ tsp olive oil
½ cup cream

Since the canned lentils were already cooked, we first cooked off the garlic and ginger with the olive oil and a little bit of butter over medium-high heat until fragrant. The canned of diced tomatoes (seasoned with black pepper) was mixed into the pot and was allowed to cook down for about 5 minutes.

The drained and rinsed lentils were poured in with the cumin and cayenne pepper. The heat was turned down until the lentils gently simmered. Everything was cooked for about 10 minutes.

The cream was stirred in when most of the liquid reduced to a creamier consistency. We tasted the lentils and then adjusted the flavour one final time before serving with steamed rice, butter chicken, and warmed flatbread.


Rice Pudding
Recipe adapted from All Recipes' version of Indian rice pudding (kheer)

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups milk
3 tbsp sugar
¼ cup basmati rice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup dried cranberries

In a small pot (which was able to hold 5 cups of liquids), the coconut milk, milk and sugar was brought to a simmer over high heat. The basmati rice was stirred in once the milk just before the contents began to boil. Cinnamon and nutmeg was stirred in and the heat was turned down to a gentle simmer.

With the pot uncovered, the contents were allowed to cook for about 15 minutes until the rice was cooked. Once the contents had reduced to a creamy consistency, the pot was taken off the heat. The dried cranberries were mixed into the rice pudding and then covered the pot with the lid. The pot of rice pudding waited patiently off the heat as we ate our entrée.

Butter chicken: Done.

Dal: Check.

Steamed basmati rice: Yup.

Pita bread: Lightly toasted and buttered.

CA, JL, and I plated up as we continued our conversation. We didn't even stop at all. We passed the plates back and forth in a coordinated dance.

Service please! *Ding* Oh wait... we're the servers too.

We sat down and took a few photos before we began eating. Since we thickened up the watery butter chicken with cornstarch and also used yoghurt instead of sour cream, I felt like the flavour wasn't as rich as the last time I made butter chicken. I tried my best to adjust it with more tandoori masala and salt, but it wasn't the same. CA, AA, and JL were fond of the butter chicken though.

The dal was pretty good. I ended up adding a bit more cumin at the end, which I regretted. The cumin was on the stronger side. I think the dish needed diced onions and bursts of fresh cilantro.

There were enough leftovers for two generous lunch portions.

The table was cleared and then we brought out the warm rice pudding. I wouldn't call it an Indian rice pudding though, since we omitted the spices. Hahaa! The rice pudding still looked great in the glasses. The pudding wasn't overly sweet and the addition of coconut milk added a nice touch of richness. The flavour of the coconut milk was in the background and complimented the cinnamon and nutmeg pretty well. I was skeptical of the flavour combinations when I heard the recipe at first but it worked.

We washed down the rice pudding with green tea -- not very Indian, we know. It was still a fun night of cooking and catching up. From start to finish, it only took us about an hour and a half to make the three dishes. Not bad at all.

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