Indian Food Review: “From Mom with Love …”

Photo Courtesy of “From Mom with Love … Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining” by Pushpa Bhargava

I own an obscene number of cookbooks.  My kitchen shelves are methodically organized with all my treasured cookbooks.  Recently I purchased “From Mom with Love … Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining” by Pushpa Bhargava.

The book definitely lends an authentic perspective towards Indian recipes, though it is slightly confusing at times.  You have to read everything very carefully and precisely.  For example, usually ingredients are listed in the order they are used, but not this particular cookbook; it tends to jump all over so you have to pay close attention to what it is calling for and when.

That being said, the recipes are delicious and the care that goes into each dish imparts an authentic Indian flavor.

(On a side note, it’s really important in general to have a mortal and pestle for grinding your Indian spices.  I live in a more remote area so it’s difficult to find the spices locally.  I do however live approximately two hours from Seattle.  Pike’s Place Market has an excellent spice market – MarketSpice.  You can also order directly online from them.  I’ve found their prices and quality are nearly unbeatable and I highly recommend visiting their site.  It will make your taste buds water!)

I tried the “Rajma (Red Kidney Beans in a Spicy Sauce)” and the “Sag Paneer (Spinach and Cheese with Tomatoes).”  I served it with flat bread.  Normally I make my own flat bread, but with my recent visit to Trader Joe’s I was able to purchase whole wheat flat bread that was quite delicious when warmed over the open flame of our gas stove.

Making the “Precooked Masala” from scratch ahead of time is well worth the time and effort.  The flavor it imparts is fresh, unique, and very authentic.

While I give full credit to the author, Pushpa Bhargava, I will re-write the recipes in a more comprehensible order below.  There are some varying methods I used as well and I will note these, too.

Precooked Masala
by Pushpa Bhargava

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 small pieces of ginger, peeled
2 medium serrano chilies, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup oil
½ tsp. cumin seeds
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
28 oz. canned tomatoes, crushed
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. red chili powder
4 tsp. coriander powder
½ tsp. garam masala

In a food processor bring onions, ginger, chilies, and garlic to a fine paste.  Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cardamoms.  When cumin seeds start to pop, add onion paste.  Lower heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until onions turn golden brown (approximately 20 minutes).

Meanwhile puree tomatoes in food processor.

Add the rest of the spices and pureed tomatoes to onions.  Stir.  Cover and let cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When oil separates from sauce, the masala is done.

Rajma - Photo Courtesy of “From Mom with Love … Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining” by Pushpa Bhargava

Rajma (Red Kidney beans in a Spicy Sauce)  
by Pushpa Bhargava

28 oz. red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. red chili powder
¾ cup precooked masala (see above)
½ tsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

Add beans, turmeric, chili powder, and precooked masala to a medium pan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes.  Add garam masala, remove from heat, add cilantro, and stir.

Sag Paneer - Photo Courtesy of “From Mom with Love … Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining” by Pushpa Bhargava

Sag Paneer (Spinach and Cheese with Tomatoes)
by Pushpa Bhargava

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1-1/4 cups water
¾ cup precooked masala
1 cup paneer cubes, fried (see below)
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp. garam masala

Chop spinach with water in blender.  Over medium-high heat in a large saute pan add spinach, precooked masala, paneer, and salt.  Stir, cover, and cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garam masala, stir, and remove from heat.

Fried Paneer Cubes

Cut paneer into one-inch cubes, let moisture drain on a paper towel.  Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add paneer cubes. Let brown on all sides.  Drain on a paper towel to absorb oil.


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