Why is there no Indian food delivery on Capitol Hill?

I hate to start a conversation like this:  Why is there no good Indian food delivery in Capitol Hill? And I hate it even more when a conversation takes this turn because it sounds so whiny: When I lived in San Francisco there was…Indian food. Just 1 phone call plus 10 minutes away! I can’t help but long for San Francisco though, when I think of times I was deliriously tired with a 2 year old and a new born and wasn’t up to hauling out my mortar and pestle and standing in the kitchen cooking for hours. Star India was there.  Ten minutes after I called  I would have 3 or 4 paper bags with pakoras and samosas, raita, naan, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi and these wickedly spicy chickpeas with ginger that my newborn (who is now 7) probably still hasn’t totally forgiven me for eating.

Fortunately, I love making Indian food myself – when I’m not wiped out from parenting.  I have this pal in San Francisco, and we used to get together and make our own garam masala and all kinds of other things that would have  friends who are actually Indian in stitches and wonder.  Why would you make that yourself?!  Well…it’s really really fun.

I have even less time now, three kids, a wiggly puppy, a mountain of  laundry, all those other meals I’m in charge of, there isn’t time to make elaborate Indian meals on a whim. And, there isn’t any delivery. Not in my neighborhood anyway. Sometimes I need an Indian food fix mid-week. Now, I’ve found a recipe which may not be authentic, but is very satisfying. What it lacks in nuance, it more than makes up for with how easy it is to throw together. Combined with a few sides that are quick (one is from my old Madhur Jaffrey book, Indian Cooking), I can have a great Indian meal on the table in 45 minutes.  It’s practically crazy Thursday worthy.

Mid-Week Indian Menu in 45 Minutes

Chicken Curry

Gujerati Style Green Beans with Black Mustard Seeds Or Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Coriander

Basmati Rice

Work Plan: Cauliflower Variation

The plan may seem complicated at first.  Don’t give up on this menu!  The second time around it will be a LOT easier.

  • clean and cut up cauliflower, toss with olive oil and spices
  • make the curry spice paste, slice the onion and begin to cook
  • Start the rice
  • Pop cauliflower in the oven
  • Add the yogurt to the curry and continue simmering
  • Remove foil from cauliflower
  • Add chicken to curry
  • Flip cauliflower

Chicken Curry – 20 minutes prep.  25 minutes on the stove

The recipe comes from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Ms Kasper uses chicken thigh in her recipe and I have tried it.  Too greasy and gamey for me, and I like chicken thighs. Breast worked better; it tasted fresher. Ms. Kasper also uses a spice blend with coriander, cumin and pepper. I tried it and it was fine but I found it easier and closer to what I was looking for when I used Murchi Curry Powder from the Whole Foods line of spices. The turmeric adds the right warm notes and color.

Curry Paste

  • 1 large onion cut in half
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • 3″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 tbsp excellent yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeds removed if you like it less hot
  • 1/2 cup water

Chicken

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, in 1″ pieces
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced cilantro leaves
  1. In the food processor, puree one of the onion halves, garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, tomatoes, jalapeno, and the 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Slice the remaining half onion thinly.  Film the bottom of a 12″ heavy bottomed sauté pan with vegetable oil  and heat it over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Add onion and sauté until lightly colored.  Add the purée and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté for 10 minutes.  Don’t skimp.
  3. Blend 2/3 cup yogurt into the sauce and simmer again, scraping the bottom of the pan until thick – 8-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken, adding remaining yogurt and 1/3 cup water. Slowly simmer, uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Because you are using breast meat there is less margin for overcooking.  Do check carefully to see it is done and then remove to a serving bowl.
  5. Raise the heat on the sauce and boil it down until quite thick.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  (I had time in the morning to make this and none at night.  When the chicken was done, I cooled it as the sauce reduced.  I reheated the sauce at dinnertime adding the chicken for 3 minutes just before serving. The time in the fridge allowed the flavors to blossom.)

Roast Cauliflower

  • a two pound head of cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp powdered dry coriander
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 475 F
  2. Trim off leaves of cauliflower. Cut  head into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets.
  3. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and pour olive oil onto sheet.  Toss florets with oil directly on sheet.  sprinkle with spices and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover cauliflower with another sheet of foil and place in oven on rack set in lowest position
  5. Cook 10 minutes and remove foil.
  6. Cook a further 8-10 minutes and then, using tongs, flip over each floret.
  7. Cook another 8-10 minutes.

Basmati Rice

This is hardly a recipe, just a method for those pressed for time. In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni says you have to rinse the basmati until the water is clear and then soak for 1/2 an hour before draining very carefully because the grains are so delicate from soaking. Well, I have done that and it is lovely; but honestly, who has the time on a week night?  When I am set on getting dinner on the table AND having Indian food in a short period of time, this is what I do:  I take 2 cups of water and set it on the stove on high, with a big pinch of kosher salt added when it boils. While the water is heating up, I put a cup of basmati rice in a sieve ( I have a little one) and I rinse it for a couple of minutes under running water. When the water boils, I dump the rice into the pot and stir. Then I wait until the water reaches the boil again. Quickly, I clamp the lid onto the pot and turn the heat down low. I set the timer for 18 minutes. Then I turn off the heat. I NEVER PEEK. The rice can sit like this for 20-30 minutes. It’s usually quite good this way.

Gujerati Style Green Beans

I have served these beans with so many  meals.  They’re great with grilled chicken, tandoori chicken, steak and potatoes. I have also substituted broccoli (ok – maybe that was not so great).

  • 1 lb. frozen haricot vert, defrosted under hot running water and dried
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  When shimmering, put in the mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as the seeds begin to pop (you’ll hear it!) put in the garlic.  Stir the garlic until it just begins to brown.
  3. Add the chile flakes – stir a few seconds.
  4. Add the beans , salt and sugar.  Stir and turn down the heat.  Cook for 3 – 5 more minutes.
  5. Add black pepper and serve.
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