Sunday, January 23

52 Flavors Challenge Week 3: Delhi Deliciousness

I'm going to ruin the element of surprise and just tell you straight up: I love Indian food.

It is delicious. Like really delicious. Like super yummy I want to eat it all the time delicious. (How's that for imagery, imagination, and creative license? Book deal anyone? Book deal? No? Okay then)

Since Indian food is more of a culinary genre than a flavor, I wanted to maximize this week's challenge by both cooking some Indian recipes and venturing out to try it from a restaurant. I scoured the internet for recipes that sounded easy and not-so-scary. I checked out Jenna from Eat Live Run's Channa Masala and Vegetable Curry, but since I've never had chickpeas before either and that will eventually be one of my 52 Flavors Challenges, I ruled both out. Instead I went with an Indian Curry Chicken recipe for our main dish with Mama Pea's cauliflower on the side. We followed that up with some garlic and coriander naan (and red wine, of course).

After a successful at home meal, Sean and I took to the streets so I could get the full experience. We ordered a few dishes between the two of us: Balti Tikka Chicken Masala, Abo Gooli, and Special Naan (the bread was stuffed with garlic, onion, cheese, minced lamb, coriander and chili pepper- spicy, a little smokey, awesome).

Everything was, once again, delicious. (I really need to think of a new word besides delicious. Can someone buy me a thesaurus? Quickly, before I start simply referring to it as epic)

I am SO glad I decided to give Indian food a shot. I was scared of it before this week. It ranked right up there with spiders, cockroaches, and Sean's breath first thing in the morning- terrifying. But there were a few tricks and tips from my lovely readers and comments that helped to ease me into it. I also have a few foolproof strategies of my own for surviving in the kitchen. I hope these will help you as much as they helped me.

Survival Strategy #1:
Before cooking even enters the picture, you need to set up shop. There are a few key elements any good chef must have on hand and I don't mean a bitchin' set of Wusthof knives. (Although I'd love some please!) My secret weapons? A glass of cabernet, a little social media, and a framed picture of toy chefs playing with garlic.

Every cook needs a picture of garlic somewhere in their kitchen. When things start to get hairy, I just turn to my little garlic guru's and am instantly calmed. Namaste.

Survival Strategy #2:
Don't judge a book by its cover. I know this is really more of a life strategy than a cooking one, but it's applicable here as well. As I was researching recipes for this challenge, the names alone terrified me. Garam Masala sounded like an island in the Carribean, not something I was going to put in my mouth (errr...that's what she said). But when I got to the grocery store and started reading the spice ingredients in curry powder and garam masala, I was delightfully surprised.

Garlic? Cayenne? Cinnamon? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Survival Strategy #3:
When in doubt, dance it out.

Wondering what to do while your curry simmers for 25-30 minutes? Feeling a bit anxious that you may either a) burn off all your taste buds with these weird sounding recipes or b) burn the entire house down because you turn the flame for the rice up to high?

The solution to all of your woes? Dance. Turn on a little Cee-Lo Green, crank up the volume, and whip out the spoon shaped microphone, because it's showtime baby.

Survival Strategy #4:
Don't get scared if your dinner starts to resemble baby poop.

As the curry began to take formation, it got uglier and uglier. In a matter of minutes, we somehow went from this:

to this:

See what I mean? Having never cooked anything like this before, I wasn't sure what to think. It smelled incredible, but looking at wasn't pleasant. It didn't help that every 2 minutes Sean would walk into the kitchen, look into the saucepan and remark "that looks like poop" and turn around and walk out. Thanks, dear.

Survival Strategy #5:
Say it with me: alcohol is our friend. Some people pick wine by the region and some pick by the label. Me? I pick by the price. £4.98 for this bottle? Souuunnnnds great! I'd predict my success rate with this method is about 76%. Not ideal by any means, but when you're a poor graduate student in a foreign country, you need to prioritize. I can't wipe my ass with a bottle of £15 Merlot.

This week, however, has been a lesson in food and wine pairing. The Wine of the Week special I got tasted like gasoline the first night we tried it. It was way too spicy and bitter and a slightly smokey flavor that I hated. I sighed and pushed it to the back corner of the kitchen. When Indian night rolled around, Sean suggested we try the wine again. He thought the spice we hated so much earlier would be more complimentary when paired with the curry sauce. He was right! Perhaps it was because my mouth was literally on fire, but the wine tasted fantastic with the meal. I couldn't believe what a difference the right food made.

Survival Strategy #6:
Marry a man willing to do the dishes.

'Nuff said.

Soon enough, it was time to try it.

It was spicy.


I put in a little too much cayenne pepper. Woops. (Side note: I love that my hand is blurry in this photo. Who would've known we should've put it on Sports/Motion setting since I'd be fanning my mouth like a rabid dog)

(If you'd like the Clif's notes version of today's post just watch the video below of my first impressions eating Indian food. Try not to be intimidated by my awesome unwashed hair, undecorated "dining room", or the giant curry stain on my t-shirt)

So there you have it, I love Indian food. A lot. While I do not have the time, patience, or desire to give you step by step recipe instructions for the meal I made (#SorryImnotsorry), I will give you the links to them:
So ch-ch-check them out! You won't be sorry!

Next week's flavor: Quinoa. I know. I know. Pick your tongue up off the floor and be careful not to break your jaws as your mouth dropped open in shock. I realize it's practically illegal for someone in this community like me, who writes about running and stalks healthy living blogs on a daily basis, to have never eaten this magical grain product, but alas, it is true. So what do ya got for me? I know you have some incredible recipes up your sleeves, ladies and gents. I want breakfast ones, dinner ones, lunch ones. I will eat it on the couch. I will eat it on the street. I will eat it all over London, Sam I am. Send those Quinoa recipes my way please!

52 Flavors Tally:
Foods I like: 2 (Fennel, Indian)
Foods I dislike: 1 (Figs)
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