Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

I know, the title of this recipe makes it sound disgusting. Frankly, my pictures don’t look so hot either. Spiced buttermilk? That thought you’re thinking right now – that was also my first thought when reading the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. But then my second and third thoughts went something like this – a) it’s Madhur Jaffrey, so it probably is good despite the nasty title, and b) who the heck cares if it sounds nasty? I’m going to make it anyway. So I did. And guess what? It’s pretty great.

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Now, after adding a cup of buttermilk to an acidic pot of tomatoes and spices, as you might expect, it curdled just a bit. But don’t be terrified! Think of it as cottage cheese. Still good. Also, when I looked up other spiced buttermilk recipes, the internet seems to be pointing me to a chilled drink. Ms. Jaffrey says to serve this soup-like concoction at room temperature over rice; therefore, I assume it is different than the spiced buttermilk that the rest of the internet is drinking.

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Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno (or other hot, green chile), seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and seeded, chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 large handful fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a small pot and sauté the garlic and jalapeno. After about a minute, add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and tomato. Stir around for about 30 seconds. Add a sprinkle of salt and then stir in 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the peas and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes, until peas are thawed. Add the buttermilk and pepper, plus any extra salt seasoning you may need. Serve with brown rice at room temperature.

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Yogurt Cheese

I have made this yogurt cheese from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking twice now. I still don’t fully understand the difference between this and Greek yogurt, except that there is even less water content in yogurt cheese than there is in Greek-style yogurt. But still, what makes it cheese?

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Either way, it’s good! Eric and I have been eating it on crackers, but it’d also be good slathered on some toasted french bread. The combinations of spices are endless, but I’ve been sticking with my new favorite spice of the moment, turmeric. Add in some really fruity olive oil and fresh black pepper, and you have a snack worthy of those moments when you’re procrastinating on writing a paper related to healthcare in Nicaragua.

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Yogurt Cheese with Turmeric, Olive Oil, and Black Pepper

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 32-ounce container plain yogurt (I have been loving Brown Cow brand)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Double line a strainer with cheese cloth and place the strainer over a bowl. Pour the entire container of yogurt in and let strain for 8-12 hours, depending on how thick you want it to be. After 12 hours, I had almost two cups of liquid when mine was done. Transfer to another bowl and mix in the turmeric, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to mix and penetrate every bite, then eat on crackers, bread, or by the spoonful!

Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes

Some time ago – I can’t remember why – I took this cookbook from my mom. I can’t remember if she was offering it or if I outright stole it, but it sat up in a shelf that I could not reach for a good two years or so since.

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And that’s why moving once in a while is a good thing. I found this book when we were moving out of our old apartment and realized that I should be using it. I took this book even before I knew who Madhur Jaffrey was or that she was considered the “world authority on Indian food”, but tonight’s dinner confirmed her expertise.

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This book was published in 1981 and includes a collection of vegetarian recipes from East Asia. China, Japan, India, Korea, and even Indonesia are all covered. I started with an Indian recipe, though, since this realm seems to be her specialty.

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Of course, I tweaked it a bit. And even though Fenugreek is listed in the title in the book, I could not find any in my not-very-thorough search, so I just omitted it. The recipe is still great.

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Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 small to medium head of cauliflower
2 medium-sized potatoes (I used russet)
6 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 whole dried hot chile peppers
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic (my addition)
1 teaspoon fresh minced jalapeno (my addition)

2 ripe tomatoes, diced (my addition)

Chop the cauliflower into small, thin flowerets. Chop the potatoes into 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 cubes. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes. When done, dry them in a dish towel.

Heat the oil in a large skillet on high heat. When the oil starts smoking, add the fenugreek (if using), fennel, cumin, and peppers. Stir for a minute, then add the garlic and jalapeno. Add the potatoes and cauliflower almost immediately and toss together all the ingredients.

Cook for a few minutes, then toss in the turmeric, coriander, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir around and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and let simmer on low for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat, then sprinkle in the garam masala and stir. Taste for seasoning. I needed to add a smidge more salt to mine.