The warm flavors and rich colors of Indian cuisine, prepared by Chef Hari Nayek, recently helped melt away winter’s icy grip for students at the University at Albany.
“It definitely helped banish the winter blues by presenting aromatic and spicy dishes to our students,” says Stephen Pearse, executive director of university auxiliary services.
The “Spice Up Your Life” culinary event was part of Sodexo’s Visiting Local Guest Chef program, which serves to “expand the horizons of our local culinary team regarding food preparation and presentation,” Pearse says, adding that it’s also a great way to help students appreciate diverse cuisines.
Nayek, the author of the best-selling cookbook, Modern Indian Cuisine, prepared some of India’s best-loved dishes for the students. The event utilized several stations, making for a fun walk-eat-share-learn situation.
The action station featured Lemon Rice, Papadum and Goan Shrimp Curry, a spicy seafood dish that’s flavored with dried red chili peppers, cumin and cilantro. While Nayek prefers to use fresh shrimp, he says frozen can work, too.
“Goan Shrimp Curry is one of my most-requested party dishes,” Nayek says. He recommends serving this dish (see recipe below) with naan bread or Basmati rice.
Salads were also served, including South Indian Jicama Raita and Minty Potato Pomegranate salad. Dal Palak, a vegetarian yellow lentil and spinach dish was available too, and the main station served one of India’s most famous dishes in this country: Butter Chicken Masala.
“This is the most popular dish in Indian restaurants outside India. It was made popular by the curry houses in the UK, and is essentially a restaurant dish and not a home-style dish,” Nayek says. “I get a lot of requests from my non-Indian friends to make this dish at home. Here is a recipe that is by far the closest that one can get to the restaurant versions of Chicken Tikka Masala—aka CTM. The chicken is cooked two-thirds of the way through and then simmered in the sauce. I have also used grilled swordfish or halibut with the same recipe with very good results.”
Recipe: Goan Shrimp Curry
3 Tbsps. oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 dried red chili peppers, broken in half
10 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 red onion (about 1/3 lb.), diced
1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tsp. Asian chili powder or cayenne pepper
2 tsps. Home-Style Garam Masala
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
salt, to taste
16 fresh jumbo shrimp, preferably with tails, peeled with tails left intact
4 Tbsps. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the cumin seeds, red chili peppers, curry leaves, onion and green bell pepper, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the turmeric, Asian chili powder or cayenne pepper, Home-Style Garam Masala, tomato paste and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fresh coriander leaves.
Recipe: Butter Chicken Masala
1/3 cup (80 ml) thick, Greek-style plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons Home-Style Garam Masala
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic Paste
1¼ to 1½ lbs (600 to 750 g) skinless, boneless chicken pieces, cut into 2-in (5-cm) cubes
Nonstick cooking spray or oil, to grease grill pan
2 tablespoons oil
1 large red onion (about ½ lb/250 g), minced
1¼ cups (300 ml) tomato puree
2½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
2 tablespoons softened butter (optional)
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the yogurt or sour cream, 2 teaspoons of the paprika, 1 teaspoon of the ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of Home-Style Garam Masala, and half of the Ginger-Garlic Paste. Add the diced chicken and mix until the chicken pieces are well coated. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
2. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and grease with nonstick cooking spray or a little oil. Place the chicken cubes on the grill pan and cook all sides until well browned, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the Ginger-Garlic Paste and cook until the mixture turns golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of paprika and 1 teaspoon of ground coriander. Mix well and cook for another 30 seconds.
4. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste and salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until the oil separates from the masala, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Transfer the onion-tomato mixture to food processor or blender and process to a smooth paste. Add little water if the mixture gets too thick.
6. Pour the tomato-onion puree back in the skillet and set over medium heat. Whisk in the remaining yogurt or sour cream, making sure it is well blended.
7. Add the chicken and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and allow the chicken to simmer until it is completely cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of the Home-Style Garam Masala, the fresh coriander leaves and butter, if using, and mix well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve hot.