I was honored to kick off the 2019 Maine Expo TrendZone global breakfast demonstrations with my signature masala chai – hot steamed milk infused with heady notes of freshly mortar-and-pestle-ground SKORDO cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, peppercorns, nutmeg, ginger and my unique blend of malty Assam and floral Darjeeling tea leaves from Vadham Teas. Although chai has been around Southeast Asia for centuries, in the last two decades it has become a trendy beverage of choice in the West. I enjoyed handcrafting small batches of chai for scores of attendees. In Hindi, chai means “tea.” So if you ask for a cup of chai-tea, you are literally asking for a cup of tea-tea. You might get a confused look from your chai-wallah.
In the southern part of India, masala chai is ubiquitous. “Masala” in Hindi means spices. So if you ask fora masala chai expect a potent version of chai: black tea brewed and blended with a powdered version of the spices. Masala chai is primarily made with whole milk, no water, in an attempt to mellow and balance out the robust spicy flavors.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of brewing a strong cup of chai the entire process is as therapeutic as drinking the exotic beverage. Back in Mumbai, chai was an intrinsic part of our daily lives, no matter how hot it got!
My morning ritual begins with the hottest water in an oversized mug. (Bigger is always better.) I adore watching those black tea leaves get christened with the scalding water slowly staining my porcelain cup with its mahogany goodness. Embracing the mug in both hands, I take long deep breaths as the blend of crushed spices disperse among the black tea leaves and permeate one another. As the heat warms my hands and the steam hits my face I can almost picture a Mumbai chai-wallah (a street vendor who makes chai for a living) pouring the strong brew from one glass to another like a silting Himalayan waterfall. I get lost in the aromatic fog. The whiffs of chai give my sleepy face a cardamom facial while the chai cools down. On quiet mornings when I’m not hurrying out the door, making a cup of chai also brings back memories of my childhood in the city of Mumbai.One of my fondest memories as a young girl was surprising my dad with a perfect cup of tea as he got home from work. Barely old enough to stand by a stove, I would open the stainless steel can filled with Nilgiri tea leaves and dig right in to get an oversized heap. Gently, I’d add in the raw milk that was hand delivered promptly at 5a.m. Occasionally, a little bit of heavy cream would slide in…ah, creamy perfection! I knew dad loved that extra treat. I watched impatiently as it came to a boil. I would then throw in the tiniest stick of cinnamon, a couple of cardamom pods, cloves, peppercorns, and if I felt adventurous a big knob of ginger.
I could always time my father and knew exactly what time he would walk in the door with his newspaper in hand. He was punctual to a fault and routine was his middle name. I didn’t need to ask him how his day went because with a cup of chai in his hand I knew life was good! His shoulders would relax as he took in his first whiff of his evening chai after a long day at work. I could sense the tension of his day melt away as he took his first slurp. It was always too hot to sip. Dad chose to slurp it instead.
I can’t even talk about chai without reminiscing about our evening family-tea time back in Mumbai. Marie and Parle-G biscuits were a staple to go along with our tea. If we were out of our stash, I was charged with 5 rupees in hand to walk to the convenience store at the end of our street and pick up biscuits to go along with our chai. Now, I can’t walk past the ethnic aisle at our local grocery store without picking up at least a couple of packs of those golden-wrapped Marie biscuits. I’ve gotten my daughter hooked on them, too. She won’t ask for them every day, but on days when she needs some special mommy time she knows to come up to me and ask for chai and biscuits. She even dunks the biscuits into her chai the way I did. We sit quietly at the kitchen table and share a pack. Sometimes she over dunks and a few chunks fall in and she scoops them out. She might not know how to make chai from scratch or realize how trendy it has become these days, but she does know that with mommy by her side, chai and her favorite biscuits in hand, life is good!
Check out the Pilot Episode of Mumbai to Maine! Mumbai to Maine – (my third child), was born right here in this kitchen, at this very kitchen table.
My hubby, Guy, pictured above, is my BIGGEST cheerleader, my BEST friend and the LOVE of my life! It took Guy almost three years to build this beautiful kitchen for me. No detail was overlooked, every appliance I could wish for was thoughtfully purchased and carefully built in to ensure efficient workflow without compromising any aesthetics. Guy called this labor of love – his Taj Mahal for his wife, Cherie (his Mumtaz)! Only in this case there were only a few hands that did all the work, not 20,000 laborers.
He knew I loved to cook and to be candid I’m sure he was tired of hearing me talk about food. One day he surprised me with a book on food photography and said, “For heaven’s sake please stop talking about food and now go blog about it!” The kitchen would have been enough to keep me busy for a long time experimenting with Indian inspired dishes. But Guy just knew that would not be enough for his wife. When I left Mumbai 23 years ago, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that Boothbay, Maine would one day be my home, my happy place, my creative muse. I knew I had to find a portal to share my passion for Mumbai and Indian cuisine and tie it into my deep love for my new hometown -– Boothbay and Maine’s dynamic food scene.
I created my culinary blog: Mumbai to Maine
Flash forward a couple of years, in the midst of what felt like the longest winter ever, between loads of laundry on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I felt this wave of inspiration come over me. I took out my laptop and sat down at my kitchen table and outlined what would become Mumbai to Maine’s six-part tv series.
I listened to my intuition and knew that I would only produce this series if I could collaborate with two incredibly talented filmmakers – Ryan Leighton, of Walking Home fame and Cody Mitchell, renowned cinematographer and BRTV Media Center’s station manager. Before I could talk myself out of it, I composed an email to them both and hit send. I went back to folding laundry relieved that I reached out and didn’t chicken out. Within minutes I heard from them both – they were on board.
Mumbai To Maine series will feature what life IS like in Maine and not just how it SHOULD be. ( Maine’s state slogan: Maine, the way life should be.)
Both Ryan and Cody were born and raised in the coastal Boothbay Harbor Region.
I’ve always been a big fan of Ryan’s award-winning work as a news reporter for the local newspaper, the Boothbay Register, and his award-winning documentary, Walking Home. (We once found ourselves in an html coding class together – how random is that?) Ryan is an exceptional storyteller. He just knows how to curate a richly layered narrative and I knew he would know how to bring out the best in me on paper and on the screen. I was lucky enough to catch him at the right time as he was in between projects. Ryan was intrigued by Mumbai to Maine because it gave him an opportunity to delve into a creative blend of culinary and documentary narrative on screen.
Cody is a formidable cinematographer, a sensitive and deeply thoughtful human being. A true artist. I am convinced Cody screens the world around him like no one else does. I knew this series needed someone with Cody’s creative eye and who would approach it with a unique perspective – one of a native, a local artist with a cinematic lens for a brush. So many of us are guilty of not being able to appreciate the simple beauty in the chaos of our daily lives. Cody has a way of capturing all the intangibles. His captures are cinematic gold and take my breath away. Just take a look at the Boothbay Region promo shot by Cody and directed by Ryan. Guy, my hubby, produced an original score for the promo!
I can’t wait for this pilot to air on December 11, 2018, in the very town it was created in. Here we are in the winter of 2018 working hard in post-production to produce a meaningful cinematic story that we hope will be embraced by a local and international audience. Driven by a love for culinary arts and “foodie culture,” the first season of Mumbai to Maine consists of 6 episodes; each taking a different narrative approach that highlights the characters and culture inherent to life here in Maine. What surfaces is a beautiful cinematic journey that seeks to connect us by our relationships through the people and places we call home.
We all have a story to share.
This is my story!
I hope you are captivated by it and feel inspired to perhaps one day share your story!
If you would like to attend the screening, check out this link to purchase tickets. We would love to see you there!
If you can’t join us, Mumbai to Maine will be available on demand via Roku, Apple TV, and the BRTV website boothbaytv.com.
Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I’m a sucker for great branding. Place an artfully crafted logo and a great jar together… and I’m SOLD! He always pokes fun at me saying it doesn’t matter what’s in the jar as long as it looks cool. Well a few months ago, he gifted me a couple of spice collections from SKORDO for my birthday. This time it did matter what was in the jar.
The instant I opened my first jar of SKORDO’s spice blends I was overcome with nostalgia and felt transported to the streets of Mumbai where I grew up. It was clear to me that only someone who really understood Indian food or lived in India could possibly craft an Indian curry collection with such accuracy. I just had to know the story behind the brand.
The Karonis family — John, Cari and his daughters – Erin & Annie, collectively launched the online SKORDO store back in 2016 and decided to open their brick and mortar store in Freeport, Maine the following spring and yet another in the food-centric downtown area of Portland, Maine later that summer. From the beginning their instincts were spot on. Portland recently won the Best Restaurant City of 2018 by Bon Appetit.
One morning I called to speak with Anne but her dad, John, the founder and co-owner of SKORDO, picked up the phone instead. After a brief introduction, John regaled me with stories of his extensive travels around the world while in the Navy and then as a retail consultant in Asia and India, specifically Mumbai and Delhi. I could hear the joy in his voice as he shared with me how much he fell in love with Indian food and its exotic spice blends.
John’s dream to launch a spice store (SKORDO) stayed with him for years. When John had the full support of his business savvy family SKORDO was finally born.
Anne shared a bit of her dad (John’s) story with me via email: “My Grandfather retired when my dad was in high school and that’s when they moved to Cushing, Maine. My dad (John Karonis) graduated from high school there and went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, was in the Navy for 9 years . He left the Navy, got his MBA, and was in a career as a retail consultant for many years before retiring from that career several years ago and moving back to Maine. My dad, Cari, my sister Erin and I always talked about a way to combine our interest in business and entrepreneurship with our love of food to create a shop that we wish existed… that’s how SKORDO came about.”
I was so inspired by the Karonis’ family narrative as it was similar to mine in that they shared a deep love and passion for food, family and creating meaningful narratives through their authentic spice collections. I launched Mumbai to Maine back in 2015 in an effort to reconnect with my Portuguese-Indian roots and to share culinary anecdotes of my childhood in Mumbai and my new home in Boothbay, Maine.
SKORDO’s mission is to empower the home cook with the freshest spices and handcrafted spice blends.
One thing’s for sure, my life has become much easier since I have an array of their jarred spices in my pantry. I don’t have to pull out a slew of Indian spices: cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, cayenne and cinnamon, then dry roast them and grind them all together to make up a fragrant Rogan Josh Lamb Curry. I enjoy the process of grinding and blending spices but the truth of the matter is I know its tough to get it done during a work week. When I walk in the door after a long day, I prefer to use that time to bond and catch up with my kids and husband knowing that SKORDO’s got my back in the kitchen.
Last weekend was the first day of fall. I ADORE fall! The crisp fall air and making the first fire of the season inspired me to get in my kitchen and make a batch of wholesome spicy Madras Curry Pumpkin soup for my family. I visited our local farm stand in Boothbay and bought a couple of sugar pumpkins.
I love the idea of using real pumpkins to make pumpkin soup. Canned pumpkin just doesn’t seem to lend the same flavor and chunky texture that a real pumpkin brings to a soup. I carefully cut them in half and pulled out the guts and seeds. I sprinkled a generous amount of the Skordo Madras Curry Powder and heavy-handedly drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over the pumpkins. The oil blended right in with the curry powder.
I could almost picture these pumpkins curry-melizing with the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek and cumin. After a solid 50 minutes, I pulled them out of the oven and let them rest for 20 minutes. I couldn’t help but snap some beautiful images of these roasted pumpkins now infused with the heady aromas of Indian spices.
These sugar pumpkins from a local Maine farm were now transformed into spiced-up curried pumpkins.
I pulled out my favorite cast iron pot, sautéed up some chopped shallots, leeks and garlic with extra virgin olive oil and a generous knob of Kate’s butter.
What’s better than a combination of butter, olive oil, leeks, shallot and garlic? Well, SKORDO’s curry powder of course! I added in a generous tablespoon of curry powder and allowed it to infuse the shallot-garlic-leek mixture for a minute. I quickly deglazed the pot with some of my favorite white wine – Gewurtztraminer – that pairs perfectly with Indian food. I then added in some heated organic chicken stock and threw in a couple of fresh bay leaves. The plan was to use sage of course, but it was not available at the store that evening and nothing was going to stop me from making this soup. So I went with fresh bay leaves instead. Fresh bay leaves are so fragrant and lend a subtle earthiness to Indian cooking, so I knew they would work in this soup. In went a stick of cinnamon. I like how the spicy but sweet notes of cinnamon pair with anything pumpkin. I stayed away from adding in more cloves and cumin as I knew they were already in the SKORDO spice blend .
After the pumpkins cooled down, I gently scooped out the almost burnt-orange colored chunks and added them to the pot. I gave it all a good stir, covered the pot and allowed it to simmer for 25 minutes.
Now for the final touches: my roasted curried chick peas. Instead of a crouton I thought the crispy and curried chickpeas would bring yet another level of texture and nuance to the soup . I opened a can of chick peas, rinsed them well, patted them dry and laid them on some parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet. I sprinkled a loaded tablespoon of the Curry powder, some olive oil, mixed it all around and roasted them off for 20 minutes at 400 degrees making sure they did not burn.
I knew the soup was ready for my immersion blender when my kitchen was filled with aromas similar to my mother’s tiny spice laden kitchen back in Mumbai.
I added a drizzle of cayenne oil and a few roasted curried chickpeas and snipped chives for color. For the final touch, I gently poured some light cream to tame the spiciness of the cayenne oil.
This pumpkin soup, inspired by SKORDO’s Madras Curry spice blend, had just the right balance of spice, sweet and savory – a perfect way to to mark the first day of fall in my kitchen. I can’t wait to make it again for Thanksgiving.
Mumbai was in Maine. At least in my kitchen.
If you are as intrigued with SKORDO’s spices as I am and interested in being updated on any upcoming collaborations with Mumbai to Maine, click here to subscribe.
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsps of butter - I used a Maine-made Kate's Butter
- 1 large leek
- 4 shallots
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 2 medium size sugar pumpkins (this yields approximately 30-oz of pumpkin puree or use two 15.5oz cans of organic pumpkin puree)
- 1 - 32-oz Low Sodium Organic Chicken Stock
- ¼ white wine – preferably Gewürztraminer ( this lends a subtle balance of sweet lychee notes to a spiced up soup)
- ¼ cup of light cream
- Salt to taste - I use Maldon salt as a finishing salt
- 2 tbsp SKORDO Madras Curried Powder
- Garnish: Fried Sage leaves or Bay leaves, Garlic Naan toast points
- Cayenne Oil drizzle - this can be bought from Eventide Specialties or Fiore Oils and Vinegars
- In a cast iron pot, sautee the leeks and shallots on medium heat until lightly brown.
- Add the garlic and1 tbsp of Madras Curry Powder, stir for a minute, do not burn. This allows the powder to bloom and infuse into the garlic and onions.
- Add the white wine and heated organic chicken stock to de-glaze the pot.
- Gently add the pumpkin puree to the pot and stir well.
- Now throw in the whole cinnamon stick , bay leaves and give it a good stir.
- Allow it to come to a gentle boil, cover with a lid, turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for 25 minutes on low heat.
- Take out the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and add in the light cream, stir gently.
- Turn off the heat and take off the stove to rest for 5 minutes.
- Use your Immersion blender on medium speed for 2 minutes to mix throughly.
- Add salt to taste. I use Maldon salt crystals.
- Garnish with fried sage leaves, cayenne drizzle, light cream, curried chick peas, garlic naan toast points.
- To reheat, gently simmer on stove, do not boil again or it will break down.
- Roasting the Pumpkins:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400.
- Slice the top stem off the pumpkins. Cut in half, scoop up the seeds and discard.
- Wash out the pumpkin, dry and set on parchment paper, cut side up.
- Drizzle generously with olive oil and 1 tbsp of Madras curried powder
- Turn them over and roast for 50 minutes.
- Cool for 20 minutes. Peel off the skins and scoop out the pumpkin flesh in a bowl.
- Curried Chick Peas:
- One can of chick peas. Rinse them well, pat them dry and lay them on some parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle a hefty tablespoon of the Madras Curry powder, some olive oil, mixed it all around and roasted them off for 20 minutes at 400 degrees making sure they did not burn.
- Fried Sage or Fresh Bay Leaves:
- Heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sage or bay leaves and allow to brown lightly for 1 minute until crisp. Lay on a paper towel.
- Garlic naan:
- I use store bought garlic naan, its too easy. Heat it gently in a warm oven after the pumpkins have been roasted. Brush generously with butter. I cut them in triangles to make toast points to go with the soup.
I almost fell off my chair this past January when I received an email from the head of Stonewall Kitchen’s cooking school, Kate Ellingwood, wondering if I would be interested in teaching a couple of Indian cooking classes this summer and fall. One of the guest teachers at the school, who is a highly successful cookbook author and award-winning chef in her own right, knew I had a blog, had only met me once in person and thought I would have the right personality to teach a class at the school. GO FIGURE! Big thanks to the talented Dana Moos, author of The Art of Breakfast, for sticking her neck out for me!
It was one of the coldest days in Maine, but my head was filled with warm thoughts of summer. More than anything I knew that the most important goal for me was to help demystify Indian cuisine: make it accessible, approachable and less intimidating for those who had the courage to sign up for it.
The class was August 30, 2018, a few days before Labor Day weekend. I wanted the attendees to feel inspired when they walked out of my class. I would hope they would head right to the food store and pick out some key Indian spices and fresh produce right off the shelf (no online shopping involved. ) What could be better than taking an Indian cooking class and then hosting a Labor Day cookout with a bit of Indian flair!
Flash forward several months later, I was ready to make my debut at Stonewall Kitchen. I was restless the week before as I knew it was coming up. I had lost my dear mother a few month’s prior and wanted more than anything to make her proud of me. I could hear her voice in my head reassuring me I was going to do great because I was her daughter first and foremost…! I knew she would have loved to attend my class and sit in the front row – gleaming from ear to ear with pride.
The school was so kind and graciously put me up at the charming York Harbor Inn, the night prior. I drove 2 and half hours from Boothbay and got there at midnight after a long day at work; feeding my family and putting my two kids to bed. I was so excited I could barely sleep, so I gently leafed through some of my favorite Indian cookbooks to help me unwind. I woke up bright and early and headed over to the school, only 6 minutes down the road. The parking lot was already full of tour buses. Stonewall Kitchen fans getting an early start to their day- enjoying the Labor Day sale tent outside, the gorgeous cafe inside and the MASSIVE store.
Pictured above: Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School
I’ll never forget walking into the building at 7:59 a.m. and looking through this glass window pictured above. I wanted to explode with happiness. It felt unreal to be the one teaching the class. The culinary team had just walked in and went right to work prepping, chopping, etc, putting together all my mise en place trays for each dish I was going to have to demonstrate with later. They worked seamlessly together, almost in silence — so focused and completely engaged.
Pictured above: Jane St. Pierre , my chef leader, who also teaches sold out classes at Stonewall Kitchen. Jane put me right at ease and gave me the warmest welcome.
Earlier that week, I wrote to Kate (head of school) to let her know that if she could make my garam masala from scratch and then marinate the lamb overnight that would be great, but its not necessary, a couple of hours of marinating time on the day itself would do. Well it came as no surprise that Kate and her team actually did make a big batch of the spice blend the night before and prepped the lamb. The culinary team at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School wowed me in every way. They wanted to make sure those folks who signed up got the real deal -no shortcuts, no compromising of any flavors here!
Garam Masala: Brown and black cardamom, cumin, black peppercorns, cinnamon, dried red chillis, turmeric, black cumin seeds,coriander and bay leaves.
Pictured above: Getting ready to demo my Mumbai Masala Fish Pakoras.
Pictured above: Lisa Corsi, prepping my Warm Roasted Curried Chickpea salad. She fell in love with the recipe. We both high-fived at least 5 times when trying it. It was so darn good!
Pictured above: Saffron-Infused Basmati Rice Pilaf mise en place.
Saffron Infused Basmati Rice Pilaf: I took on making this dish myself only because I had so much time before the class. Click here for the recipe!
Pictured above: Marinated skewers of Mughlai Lamb Kebabs ready for to hit the grill.
Pictured above: Jane St. Pierre, chef lead, taking no shortcuts. Jane went outside and fired up that grill. In no time, the entire parking lot smelled divine. You know your recipes work when the head of R & D at Stonewall Kitchen pays a visit to the cooking school in person. 🙂
Pictured above: Only the freshest Maine corn to make up a batch of Indian street corn slathered with cayenne-red chili lime butter.
Indian Street Corn: Once these were grilled to perfection, I drenched them in the spice infused butter as a side dish to go with the lamb kebabs.
Pictured above: Noah, prep assistant, mixing the mango puree into the Mango Kulfi.
Interesting story about this ice cream (kulfi.) When I came into the school in the morning, it was already done churning in the ice cream machine. But it tasted more like pistachio ice cream rather than Mango ice cream (Kulfi). I took one look at Noah and said, “its missing the essential ingredient – mango!” It was late summer and hard to find fresh ripe mangoes when Noah prepped this the night before. Within minutes the team had sent for 2 pounds of frozen mango. It was thawed in the oven and blended and immersed right into the ice cream. This was a teaching lesson for me later in the class as well. I shared this story letting guests know that no cooking experience is flawless. You simply have to think on your feet and make decisions and save the dish!
Seen above, are the 12 brave women who took a chance on me and signed up for the class. I know they all learned so much that afternoon from their awesome reviews they filled out after the class. But to be honest, it was me, this rookie teacher, who ended up learning the most! The wonderful part of this experience for me was engaging with these ladies, hearing them share about their personal experiences with cooking Indian food or going to a restaurant and not knowing what to order on the menu. I do regret not taking pictures of every course that went out to guests. I was super focused on demonstrating these dishes from scratch and really listening to all the great questions. All this, while the the culinary team plated all three courses so beautifully for guests. This was the only shot I was able to snag as I was done teaching at this point and the ladies were filling out their reviews. At the end of the class, one of the attendees came over to me and said,
” Cherie, I came with a friend and we decided to make a day of it, so we went to a big brunch and shopped at the store before we came to the class not realizing that we were going to be served three courses of incredible Indian food. So now we have a ton of left overs!” So now you know folks: please know come hungry to a Stonewall Kitchen Cooking kitchen class!
This post was truly to archive one of the most amazing days in my life. I would encourage you to bring a friend,a date or come by your lonesome and treat yourself to this culinary experience. Stonewall Kitchen does it right! I was so impressed that the school allowed me the freedom to create and develop my own recipes. Not once did they intimate nor ask that I incorporate any Stonewall Kitchen products. If you have ever thought about attending a class there or know of a foodie that might love this culinary setting where you eat, watch and learn, consider adding it to your Holiday gift giving guide. I know I will definitely ask for a gift card to the school on my Christmas list. I was fortunate enough to attend a class during the week of Julia Child’s birthday celebrations and it was a quite the culinary experience.
I’ll close this post with one last anecdote of that day. In the picture below, there is a lady on the right dressed in blue. She asked me a question that afternoon after the class was done. I thanked her for asking a great question and asked her to share her name with the class. She replied, ” it’s Regina.” At that moment, I burst into tears and ran over to her in the front row and gave her the biggest hug. Regina was my mom’s name. And, she told me she was Portuguese by birth too! Isn’t it amazing how my mother found a way to be at my first Stonewall Kitchen cooking class? She wasn’t going to miss it for the world. Love you mom…you continue to amaze me!
Almost a year ago to date, during a long deep dark winter in Maine, while I was watching my newborn son sleep peacefully I felt this urge to get back into my kitchen and make a rich warm Indian curry to nourish my fatigued body and wake up my senses after being buried in a nursing fog. I knew I couldn’t get too adventurous and tackle one from scratch as my baby only took cat naps and Indian food requires patience, time and a slew of spices. In an impulsive move, I decided to reach out to Maya Kaimal founder of Maya Kaimal foods and let her know I was a big fan of her writing and was intrigued with her line of jarred curries. Maya responded almost immediately and within a couple of days her team had sent me the entire line of shelf-stable jars of sauces to play with in my kitchen.
Back in college, I can remember buying a jar of Indian curry and feeling totally let down and even more nostalgic for my mother’s cooking. I figured no one could possibly transport a homemade curry with all its complex flavors into a glass jar. And then flash forward a decade, Maya Kaimal came along and accomplished the improbable: a line of signature Indian sauces that authentically reflect the subtle but discernable unique characteristics between the north, south, east and west regions of India.
In the interest of time, I decided to review three sauces from the line: Goan Coconut, Kashmiri Curry and the Butter Masala.
With my Portuguese-Indian (Goan) heritage running through my veins I knew I had to first give the Goan Coconut curry a try.
So what is a Goan coconut curry? A quick history lesson would note that the Portuguese attempted multiple voyages to India and finally sailed into Goa, a coastal state located on the Western Coast of India, in the late 1400s and colonized it until 1975. Spreading Christianity, “combating Islam,” and strengthening their Portuguese-Asian spice empire were the primary goals of the Portuguese. The Portuguese finally overthrew the Arabs and took over the spice trade routes through Cochin and Goa. General Afonso De Albuquerque encouraged the Portuguese soldiers to marry the local women and thereby ensured Portuguese presence among the locals. While the Portuguese enjoyed a monopoly over spice routes they also introduced the fiery red chili pepper to the locals.
What makes Maya’s curry uniquely Goan is the addition of coconut cream to tame and balance out the fiery red chilis.
Goa is located on the west coast of India and its gorgeous coastline is dotted with groves of coconut trees. The locals use every part of the coconut. I vividly recall my mother taking the time to squeeze freshly grated coconut in a cheesecloth instead of using a can of coconut cream or milk. She would do it exactly three times: once to get coconut cream, then twice more for its milk.
Luckily for me I didn’t have to add any coconut cream as this jar was chock-full of sumptuous notes of coconut that balanced out the tangy tamarind and the spicy chilis. What I did decide to add was a pot of hot water on the stove and made up a batch of fluffy aromatic basmati rice to go along with it. This mouthwatering dish was on the table in less than 15 minutes. Not only did I feel like a chef, but it also brought back memories of our Sunday suppers when my mother would make up an oversized pot of her lip-smacking shrimp coconut curry for her little girl.
Infused with heady notes of cumin, coriander, cardamom, clove and cinnamon ( what I refer to as The Holy Grail of Indian spices, the 5 c’s ) and finished with a luscious buttery tomato gravy this Butter Masala transported me back to a grand wedding I once attended back in Mumbai. For added decadence I laced it with even more clarified butter. I decided to play around with this dish and added an extra step . I marinated the boneless chicken in some yogurt with a puree of ginger, garlic, a generous squeeze of lemon juice with finely chopped cilantro. After an hour, I took it out of the fridge and added some clarified butter ( ghee) to my dutch oven and sautéed the chicken with the marinade for about 15 minutes and then added the jarred sauce.
Maya’s Butter Masala was supremely delicious. I knew it as soon as I opened the jar and snagged a quick taste. I really didn’t need to add the extra step of marinating the chicken. But the comfort of knowing that the sauce was ultimately spot on with its flavor profile inspired me to add my own personal touches.
Kashmir is located just below the Himalayas in India’s northern most tip. As a young girl living in the hot, crowded city of Mumbai, I have always held a quiet fascination for Kashmir. I recall my mom telling me stories about Kashmir – that it was hotly contested and fought over by both India and Pakistan. And yet, this war-torn state was one of the most beautiful places on earth with some of the best scenery, incredible food and warm-hearted people. My mother would regal me with stories about its rich cuisine.
Kashmiri chilis are long, skinny and have a wrinkled exterior. But when ground into a fine powder – the chili powder instantly adds a vibrant fire-engine red color to any Indian dish without bringing too much heat.
Maya embues her version of Kashmiri curry with notes of nutmeg, pungent mace and coconut milk to balance out the Kashmiri chili-infused tomato puree. My husband loves any Indian dish with lamb in it. I took the liberty of marinating cubes of lean lamb in yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and ginger paste for an hour in the fridge while I was on my lunch hour. I came home later that evening and let the cubes of lamb gently sizzle in some ghee and then simmer alongside hearty chunks of Yukon gold potatoes in this aromatic sauce. In less than 25 minutes, the cubes of lamb were fork-tender and the potatoes creamy and perfectly stewed. I cheated and bought some naan (Indian flatbread) and heated them up over a live flame with a pair of tongs and then lightly doused each naan with a garlic-infused clarified butter.
Maya Kaimal’s line of shelf-stable sauces have now earned a front-and-center spot in my highly-selective pantry. In fact I have even started gifting them to friends who are intrigued with Indian food and are tad bit intimidated to make an Indian dish from scratch. With each jar of Goan Coconut Curry, Kashmiri Curry and the Butter Masala I felt transported back to my homeland of India. I have already started dreaming about my next adventure in my kitchen. Perhaps a cumin-spiked potato and pea deep fried samosa with Maya Kaimal’s Spicy Ketchup for dipping. Stay tuned for my next post!
I was only 6 when I tried my first pork vindaloo. I will never forget that first bite: the tart but tender pork made my mouth pucker as my eyes widened in pleasant surprise. It was truly the first culinary roller coaster ride in my mouth. I had to have more!
As a little girl, I thought of vindaloo as a grown-up dish. The flavors were intense. I never questioned what went in it to make it so delicious. I just ate multiple helpings of it as my mother recalls. But over the years, I’ve developed a curiosity about its origins and what gave this signature Indo-Portuguese dish a special spot in my mother’s culinary repertoire.
A quick history lesson would note that the adventurous and ambitious Portuguese attempted multiple voyages to India and finally sailed into Goa, a coastal state located on the Western Coast of India, in the late 1400s and colonized it until 1975. Spreading Christianity, “combating Islam,” and strengthening their Portuguese-Asian spice empire were the primary goals of the Portuguese. Since the 12th century AD the Arabs had controlled all the spice trade routes into India. Eventually, after over a decade of battles the Portuguese finally overthrew the Arabs and took over the spice trade routes through Cochin and Goa. General Afonso De Albuquerque encouraged the Portuguese soldiers to marry the local women and thereby ensured Portuguese presence among the locals. While the Portuguese enjoyed a monopoly over spice routes they also introduced the fiery red chili pepper.
The Goa vindaloo was derived from the Portuguese dish, Carne de Vinha D’alhos: a meat (carne) dish that was marinated in wine (vinha) and garlic. Since wine was not commonplace in Goa, the locals tapped into the abundant coconut trees that dotted the coastline and used the coconut tree sap to make palm vinegar. The local vinegar, commonly known as coconut toddy, replaced the wine in the marinade. Thus, the Goa vindaloo took on a life of its own and evolved into a fiery-red, spicy, vinegar-based stewed pork dish. The dish became uniquely Goan and no longer authentically Portuguese.
I have tried the spicier versions of vindaloo, which are so high on the heat index that they fail to deliver the layered complexities of this Goan dish. But then there is vindaloo that leave you aching for just another bite; vindaloo that doesn’t sear your tongue upon impact, but is slow-cooked and seasoned to perfection– leaving you wanting more. With an artful vindaloo you want to aim for tangy, tart, sweet, spicy, melt-in-your mouth pork with a fatty exterior and a lean interior.
I was fortunate to have a tried-but-true recipe handed down to me by my dear mother, who has spent much of her adult life trying to master this nuanced dish. My mother’s eyes always glistened with nostalgia as she shared stories about her childhood summers in the village of Candolim, Goa. Every pig harvest was crucial for survival in this small village. The men would slaughter and carefully butcher the pig, while the women would take care of the cleaning, marinating, curing and pickling process. Everyone in the family would share a part in the harvest, the cooking and of course the feasting. Refrigeration was not an option and so locals had to pickle the meat in barrels with chili, garlic and palm vinegar. Another option was to cure the harvested and pickled meat in the intense summer heat and then resurrect the sun-dried meat with an addition of chilies and vinegar or coconut milk.
Vindaloo was an important part of the Goan family unit. It was proudly served at every big Catholic holiday as in Easter, Christmas Day and special family occasions. The flavor profiles in this dish called for a sophisticated palette.
This was my first attempt at a Goa vindaloo. It had to be authentic in every way possible.
I was determined to source the Goa coconut vinegar online, and set my sights on the finest pork on the market: Berkshire pork from D’Artagnan, sourced from a co-operative of sustainable pig farmers at the base of the Ozark mountains. I took one glance at this tender, prime pork, intricately marbled with just the right layers of fat and my face lit up in delight.
For the seasoning I imported a bag of whole dried Kashmiri chilies from an online vendor. You can also purchase Kashmiri chili powder. I chose the whole chilies and soaked them for a couple of hours in the vinegar until every chili slowly re-hydrated itself — plump and bursting with the unctuous vinegar flavor. It is important to note the value in sourcing the right chilies – the Kashmiri chili is known for its signature fire-engine red color, a signature pepper of choice for Goa vindaloo. If you cannot source these chilies you can always substitute with a red chili powder and add paprika to add the red color. I ground the drunken chilies and the cloves of fresh garlic into a wet paste and rubbed the pungent potion into the two-inch cubes of pork. The piercing smell of the coconut vinegar and garlic took me right back to my mother’s kitchen.
I took out my spice grinder and carefully measured the whole spices, as per the recipe. My mother always did her best to source whole spices, and suggested that I grind them right before adding them to the pork. Her sage advice was to lightly toast them in a pan before grinding, as her recipe below explains. I knew the complex flavors of the toasted cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and peppercorns would balance out the robust vinegar, chili, garlic and onion base.
After a good forty-five minutes into the cooking, I weakened at the knees and gave in: I opened my Creuset and shamelessly stole a good chunk of the melt-in-my mouth pork – the luscious gravy dripping down my chin and apron. In that private moment, time stood still, and I felt like I was 6 all over again, longing for one more bite. Only this time around I was at my own kitchen counter with my daughter asking for her first bite of her mommy’s special pork vindaloo.
3 pounds of D’Artagnan Berkshire Pork Boneless Loin
1/2 tablespoon of fine salt
12 whole Kashmiri dry chilies
1/2 cup palm vinegar or Goa coconut toddy
2 teaspoons coriander seeds.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of cloves
2 one inch pieces of cinnamon sticks
10 pods of green cardamom
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 medium sized yellow onion – roughly chopped
1 medium-sized yellow onion- sliced finely
1 inch knob of ginger sliced finely
3 flakes of garlic diced
2 green chilies – slit length-wise into 6 pieces
2 cups of boiling water
1. Cut Berkshire pork into 2 inch pieces, salt, and set aside in a big glass bowl in the fridge, covered.
2. Soak 12 whole Kashmiri dry chilies in a 1/2 cup palm vinegar or Goa coconut toddy for two hours until re-hydrated.
3. Toast the following spices in a pan on low heat for 1 minute. Allow to cool.
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of cloves
2 one inch pieces of cinnamon sticks
10 pods of green cardamom
4. In a food processor grind 1 yellow onion ( roughly chopped) and 5 flakes of garlic with the soaked Kashmiri chilies and the toasted spices into a thick wet paste or marinade.
5. Pull out the cubed pork from the fridge, rub the marinade into the pork gently, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge overnight. The next day, take the pork out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.
6. In the meantime, make the gravy: Put 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy bottom pot, medium heat. Add 1 medium-sized finely-sliced yellow onion, sliced ginger, 3 flakes of diced garlic, 2 green chilies. Fry on medium-high heat, until soft, with lid on. Stir occasionally, don’t let this burn.
8. Add 2 cups of boiling water and stir. Cover and cook on a slow to medium heat without burning at the bottom. Stir every 15 minutes until the meat is tender and skin of pork is soft and well done.
I dare you to not steal a piece of the tangy pork. Allow the pork to cool and then refrigerate. Heat again and add 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro.
Enjoy with steamed white rice, crusty bread, or in Goa we eat it with rice sannas (steamed rice dumplings.)
This dish always tastes better the next day, so make it ahead of time and then reheat before company arrives.
Most days when I drop off my daughter to school in the morning, I listen to her sing along to the latest show she might be rehearsing for in her local Musical Theater group or we might chat about what’s in store for her day. But on this particular morning, on a whim, I asked Sophia, “What would my baby like for dinner tonight?” The first thing out of her mouth was, “Butter Chicken!”
I knew I was in trouble. Typically, for this dish, I would make sure I had all the ingredients prepped and marinated in the fridge overnight for best results. But I just couldn’t say no to my little girl. I mean, how often does a 7-year-old ask for Butter Chicken for dinner? I could come home and prep it all on my lunch break, I thought silently as I stared at those innocent brown eyes in my rearview mirror. I was going to make it happen, somehow. All I needed was a pair of wings and my magic wand today!!!
I had a packed day: meetings and more meetings. But I was determined to sneak out for a bit. I drove home and ran into my kitchen. My husband, who works from home, thought I was a little crazy as I ran past him in my heels muttering something about chicken, but I didn’t have time to defend myself. I guess when it comes to my daughter’s love for Indian food, I do go a bit overboard and over compensate. In true Rachel Ray fashion, I grabbed every ingredient in both hands and kicked the fridge door shut with my left stiletto, my pearls dangling in between the yogurt and the cilantro.
I tossed the pieces of dark chicken meat into the yogurt and the spices, squeezing the life out of my one life-saving lime. I gave it all a good stir and wrapped it up with cling wrap in a glass bowl. Back in the fridge it went and out the door I flew, back to work, as my belly rumbled reminding me that I just won the award for the best and hungriest mother on the planet.
I comforted myself knowing that the secret to Indian food is not in the cooking, but in the prep. If you can let the spices, the citrus and yogurt break down the meat and season it, you’ve scored.
That evening, I quickly diced the onions and sautéed them in butter. I typically use ghee, but I had run out that afternoon. I tossed in the marinated chicken, the tomato sauce and covered it on low heat for 40 minutes, resisting the urge to peek. While it simmered softly, I soaked my Basmati rice and proceeded to make a fluffy bowl of it to go with the rich gravy.
Minutes later, I could hear Sophia yell out, “Mommy is my Butter Chicken ready yet? I’m starving!”
I opened my Creuset and it smelled exactly the way I remembered it should: heady aromas of cumin, cardamom, ginger, and garlic, among other fragrant spices coating the tender morsels of chicken. The two-hour marinade had done the trick. Who would have thought it were possible? Tickled with my epiphany, I smiled on my way back to the fridge, pulled out the Half ‘n Half and added a full cup of the creamy goodness into the thick red gravy. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head, “If you’re going to take on Butter Chicken, don’t stop at the butter,” she would say. “Add the cream. You’ve earned it!”
PART 1: MARINATE THE CHICKEN
2 cups thick Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin or Shah Jeera ( Black cumin seeds)
2 tablespoons of ground cardamom – brown or green cardamom, or a mixture of each
2 tablespoons ground coriander
4 tablespoons Kashmiri Chili powder – this gives the butter chicken it fiery red color
2 tablespoons garlic paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 tablespoons freshly ground ginger or ginger paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 teaspoons salt
Juice of 1 lime
3 pounds of boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
Mix the yogurt, spices and lime juice together in a large glass bowl. Add the chicken pieces and coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic, refrigerate and let the meat marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE GRAVY
6 tablespoons ghee or salted butter
4 yellow onions, finely diced
2 – 15 oz cans of tomato sauce or puree, no spices added.
1 cup of chopped cilantro
1 cup of heavy cream, light cream or Half ‘ n Half can also be substituted!
Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and let it reach room temperature, about an hour.
In a 3-quart oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, sauté the yellow onions in the ghee for 5 minutes on medium-high heat until golden brown. Add the marinated chicken with the left-over marinade and cook until the chicken changes color, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and allow it to cook on medium heat for another 5 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce to a low simmer until the chicken is cooked, approximately 40 minutes. Resist the urge to peek! Now give it a good stir, add the Half ‘n Half and chopped cilantro and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve warm over Basmati Rice with Naan and or Papadums for a side.
Thank you Ted Axelrod for these stunning pictures!
- Saffron-Pistachio-Cardamom Indian Ice cream
- 8 cups of Whole Milk - Half gallon
- 1 large pinch of saffron
- 3 tablespoons of crushed salted pistachios ( the salt adds a nice balance to the sweetness in the ice cream )
- 2 heaping tablespoons of Almond Meal -this adds another level of nutty flavor and acts as a thickening agent
- 5 tablespoons of sugar
- 8 Cardamom pods - slighted crushed
- Place the 8 cups of milk in a heavy based pot
- Add the cardamom pods, saffron and sugar to the milk
- Bring to a slight boil, turn down heat and simmer.
- Keep scraping down the sides of the pot and stirring the cream that assembles on top of the milk back into the milk.
- You must keep stirring and never allow it to come to burn at the bottom or sides of the pot.
- After you have reduced the milk to a1/3rd of its original amount = approx 2.5 cups (discard the cardamom pods entirely.)
- Stir in the almond meal with the crushed pistachios.
- Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes and thicken.
- Turn off the heat. Take the pot off the stove top; pour the mixture into a glass bowl and allow it to cool down completely.
- Based on your accessibility to an ice-cream machine and time on your hands, you have two options now:
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Every twenty minutes stir up the ice-cream with the fork and break up the ice crystals that will form inevitably. As soon as the mixture begins to freeze up, scoop and place it into moulds and freeze tightly. Before serving, place into a hot water bath and slip out of moulds onto a pretty plate and garnish with chopped pistachios and couple of saffron strands.
- Or you can place the room-temperature mixture into an ice cream machine (I borrowed a friend’s Breville ice cream machine) and allow it to churn for an hour. It will stay cool in the machine for 3 hours after its done. After dinner, pull out some chilled martini glasses, and scoop the ice-cream into the glasses; garnish with a couple of saffron threads and crushed pistachios.
I ran downstairs to my freezer and much to my dismay the entire mixture was frozen and full of ice crystals. I panicked and called a friend who told me to keep stirring it vigorously with fork. To my surprise I was able to bring it back to the consistency and room temperature it should have been before I put it into the freezer the night before. I then drove over to her house and borrowed her miraculous Breville Ice cream machine. I poured it into the machine and turned it on. Voila! I had Kulfi! There were a few ice crystals but minimal. it tasted delicious though!
Three Lessons learned:
Don’t take cat naps when making Kulfi.
Don’t start Kulfi ice-cream at 10p.m.
Buy an ice-cream machine. It’s not necessary but worth it. It saved my dessert.
Adapted from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, Barron’s Educational Series 2003
This dish is a true labor of love and brings back a flood of memories. Mom slaved over it for days and fed close to 40 people at each of our family celebrations back in Mumbai. Biryanis date back to the 1600’s when Mughal emperors entertained and feasted on it.This signature dish cannot be thrown together in a rush. It demands love; patience; attention to detail and a bit of planning ahead. But when you take your first morsel of saffron-kissed rice and melt-in-your-mouth Indian-spiced lamb be prepared for a symphony of flavor to explode in your mouth. Open a bottle of your best wine: this lamb feast is fit for a king and calls for nothing less than a celebration!
Portland Press Herald’s (brilliant) Food Writer Meredith Goad captured the back story on this special family recipe in her new column: Signature Recipes. Meredith watched me make this dish from scratch and then we feasted on it together (just so she would know what the hype was all about!) I also would like to thank John Patriquin, PPH photographer who was so engaged during the demonstration and took stunning pictures. Peggy Grodinsky, PPH Food Editor for her diligence in making sure the recipe was clear and concise so readers could enjoy making it without sweatin’ it! Thank you to the design team for the gorgeous pagination on the article too! I got the last few copies at our local grocery store for posterity, the day it came out! Check out Meredith Goad’s Signature Recipe: Mom’s Lamb Biryani
MOM’S LAMB BIRYANI
Makes 8 to 10 hearty portions
PART 1: MARINATE THE LAMB
2 cups thick Greek yogurt, beaten with a spoon
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 tablespoons freshly ground ginger or ginger paste (available in tubes in the produce section of large grocery stores, or in Indian groceries)
2 teaspoons salt
Juice of 2 limes
4-5 pound leg of lamb cut into 2-inch pieces
Mix the yogurt, spices and lime juice together in a large glass bowl. Add the lamb pieces and coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic, refrigerate and let the meat marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE GRAVY
6 tablespoons ghee or salted butter
4 yellow onions, sliced lengthwise
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 pieces each
2 yellow onions, chopped ( yes, another 2 yellow onions)
4 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped cilantro
Remove the marinated lamb from the refrigerator and let it reach room temperature, about 2 hours.
Add 2 tablespoons of the ghee to a medium-sized skillet. When the ghee is warm, add the white onions and sauté for about 8 minutes on medium-high heat until they start turning brown; set aside. (You should have about 2 cups.)
Add 2 more tablespoons ghee to the now empty skillet and pan-sear the potatoes on one side on medium high heat about 5 minutes, until they are crispy brown. Turn the potatoes over, cover the pan and let the potatoes steam another 5 minutes; set aside.
In a 3-quart oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, sauté the yellow onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the marinated lamb and cook until it changes color, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cups hot water, the cilantro and the reserved lamb bone. Cover the pot and simmer on low on the stove top until the lamb is tender, approximately 11/2 hours. Resist the urge to peek!
After 11/2 hours, add the reserved pan-seared potatoes and 1 cup of the reserved caramelized onions to the pot to thicken the gravy.
Re-cover the pot and simmer for another 25 minutes.
PART 3: MAKE THE RICE
3 cups basmati rice
3 tablespoons salt
4 (1-inch) cinnamon sticks
15 whole cloves
4 black or 10 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
4 Turkish bay leaves
Red 40, Yellow 5 or Yellow 6 food coloring, a few drops each
1/4 cup milk
Large pinch of saffron
While the lamb is simmering, soak the rice in 3 cups of water for 25 minutes. Run your fingers through the grains to help remove the starch; do this gently so the grains don’t break. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve.
Fill a large pot with 15 cups water and the salt. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin and bay leaves.
Bring the spiced water to a roiling boil. Gently add the basmati rice. Boil the rice until it is three-quarters of the way cooked. Keep an eye on it and check a couple of grains after 5 minutes to make sure it is parboiled and not overcooked. The grains of rice should feel a bit starchy or gritty in the middle, as if they could crack in your hand. The rice will finish cooking in the oven with the lamb.
Drain the rice, leaving in the whole spices. Pour the drained rice into the pot with the lamb. Add the food coloring.
Warm the milk, add the saffron and stir gently. Let steep for a couple of minutes at the most.
PART 4: ASSEMBLE THE BIRYANI
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Handful of toasted cashews
Chopped cilantroChopped mint
Pre-heat the oven to 335 degrees F.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining caramelized onions over the pot with the lamb and rice. Save the remaining caramelized onions for garnish.
Pour the warm milk mixture onto the lamb and rice in circles. Do not stir. Close the lid and bake the lamb for 35 minutes.
Arrange the lamb biryani on a large platter. Garnish with the last ½ cup of caramelized onions, the eggs, cashews and a sprinkle each of cilantro and mint.
To serve, dig a flat serving spoon into the rice, being sure to go to the bottom so you get meat, rice and potatoes in every portion.
THANK YOU to my dear friend Ted Axelrod ( Ted Axelrod Photography) for this gorgeous image.