Ellen Clifford
October 17, 2015 6:11 am

I love Indian food but knew very little about how to differentiate one Indian regional food from another. Nor had I really attempted to make it beyond a gnarly saag paneer I attempted once that was passable, but I resigned myself to going out to get good Indian food. It was time for a change.

Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey covers a full spectrum of Indian foods, from recipes she learned in in people’s homes, to work lunches, to food served in Ashrams. This book is as much a collection of stories as a cookbook. Each recipe is accompanied by its origins.

Vegetarians can delight in the fact that in India, many people eat vegetarian, so Jaffrey did not have to adapt meat-based dishes to create herbivore-friendly fare. A lot of the dishes are vegan too. I noticed many lacked gluten, so the gluten-free crowd would find a lot of dishes here too.

The recipes may send you to an Indian market, an adventure well-worth taking if there is one in your vicinity. I know that is not feasible everywhere but these days you should be able to find special ingredients online too.

Madhur Jaffrey, your guide in this cooking adventure, has quite the pedigree. She’s won seven James Beard Awards. That’s the Oscars of food writing. Although born and raised in Delhi, and currently living in New York, she spent time studying in London too. She’s so awesome the Queen of England gave her an honorary CBE. That’s a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. I had to look it up, too. It means she is thisclose to being knight. Not bad.

I made Jaffrey’s Egg Parethas late one night. They are a bit fiddly but SO WELL worth it. It was another one of those times where I bit into one and starting pumping my fist into the air and dancing about my kitchen in sweet victory. The victory can be yours. Try these. You are the champion.

Egg Parathas adapted from Vegetarian Indian: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

  • 1 cup chapati flour (this is an ultra-fine whole wheat flour-I found finely ground wheat at my Whole Foods and it worked smashingly)
  • salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp. olive or peanut oil, melted butter or melted ghee (I got the ghee, aka clarified butter)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-4 Tbsp. hot green chilies (I used serranos)
  • 3 Tbsp. peeled and finely chopped shallots
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 generous pinches garam masala (I made my own spice blend for this going heavy on the cumin, pepper, and a bit of cinnamon)

Put the flour in a bowl with 1/3 tsp. salt. Dribble in 2 tsp. of the oil (or melted butter or ghee) and rub it into the flour until it has a breadcrumb texture. Slowly add water (the book says one cup but I didn’t use much more than 1/2 cup) and work it into the flour until you have a soft ball of dough. Knead it for about ten minutes, until it is smooth. Then oil it put it in a plastic bag and let it rest 30-60 minutes.

After that knead it a few more minutes and divide in four. Flatten slightly and cover with a damp cloth.

Break the eggs into 4 different bowls and beat lightly. Put one quarter of the chilies, shallots, tomatoes, cilantro, black pepper and garam masala in each, along with a touch of salt and mix well.

Set a frying pan (she calls for cast-iron or a tava but I used my enamel skillet) over medium-low heat.

Dust a surface with flour and take out one of the balls of dough. Roll it out, flipping occasionally until it is a 7-inch circle. Brush with 1/2 tsp. oil or melted butter and fold in half. Brush with 1/4 tsp. of the oil/ghee and fold in half again. Now roll it into a big triangle, about 7 inches on each side. Lay it on your palm and slap lightly to get rid of extra flour.

Put 1 tsp. of the oil/butter in the skillet and slap the dough in the center. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp. of the oil/butter and cook 45-60 seconds, until there are golden brown spots on the bottom side. Use a spatula to flip it and cook 30 seconds longer. Now the tricky part. Use the spatula to lift a flap you created when folding the dough up and pour one of the bowls of egg in. Some will spill out so just corral it with your spatula. Let it set a few seconds then flip and cook a little longer. The books says 20 seconds but I like my egg more well done so I did it a bit longer. Flip again for about 10 seconds then transfer to a plate. Repeat the process with the other three balls of dough. You may have to take the skillet off the heat in between each one if it is getting too hot.

(Image courtesy of Knopf)

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