Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beef Roganjosh, Sweet Rice, and Pooris

All from the Jaffrey cookbook, which is turning out to be an excellent textbook. First of all, I should mention that this dish is really supposed to be made with lamb, but we didn't have any. Madhur Jaffrey says that stew beef is an acceptable substitute, and lucky for me, there it was in our freezer. So: beef roganjosh.

This is not a weeknight dish. (I made it on Memorial Day.) After you do about 45 minutes of cooking, it has to simmer over a low flame for an hour, so make sure you have lots of time for this one!

I made the poori dough first. This dough has to be made ahead of time, more so than chapatis or parathas—it has to rise for 1 1/2 to 3 hours. You can also store it in the fridge for 24 hours, which seems like the thing to do if it’s a weeknight. The dough is like paratha dough, except that it’s half whole wheat (spelt, in this case) and half white flour (gluten free, for me). I was a little worried about how the GF flour would perform—I was using Bob's Red Mill instead of Mr. Ritt’s, and sometimes it doesn’t behave as well. But I have no complaints here. It kneaded and rolled just as normally as I'd hoped. Set that aside and got started on the roganjosh.

For once, I didn’t use my cast iron pan—I was saving it for frying pooris. I just used a regular nonstick skillet. You get the oil hot, fry your first round of spices (cloves, peppercorns and a chili), and brown the meat. When the meat comes out, set it aside and fry your onions in the oil. In another pan, roast chopped blanched almonds, coconut, coriander seeds and whole cumin seeds until they all turn a nice toasty brown. Into the mini-blender: garlic and ginger, turmeric, water, and the roasted spice mixture. Get it good and smooth, and put it back into the pan with the onions. Fry for a spell, then put in your tomatoes and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Then you can put in the meat, along with some salt, turn down the heat, pop a lid on top and make your other dishes. Just check it every so often.

Next: sweet rice! This dish smells SO GOOD while it’s cooking. Like Christmas. Mmm. You put some oil in your pot and throw in some whole cloves and peppercorns. They will pop in your face, so stand back. Then put in your sliced onions and let them get light brown and a little bit crispy on the edges. Next, add your rice and warm spices (allspice subbing for mace, nutmeg and cinnamon) and keep stirring it dry so it doesn't stick to the pan. Then add your beef broth and put a lid on it for 15 minutes. After that, stir in the brown sugar and give it another 20. Start checking toward the end to make sure it doesn't burn. Make sure to smell it when you check it, because it's wonderful. If you have children, have them smell it so they'll have good memories when they grow up. It smells THAT good.

Finally, pooris! I’ve had good luck with my Indian breads so far, but I was sure these would be harder. We heated a few inches of oil in the cast iron pan, and while that got good and smoking I started rolling out the pooris. When I separated the dough into 14 balls, as Jaffrey instructs, they were so tiny that I was sure I'd made a mistake. I flattened them into itty little cookie shapes and started rolling them. I got them really thin. Joe put one into the oil, and POOF: a poori! The first few were too crispy, but once we got the timing right (about five seconds) they were perfect. We got them done just as everything else was ready to eat, because I am awesome.

Joe and I sat down to eat, and we were very, very happy. The roganjosh and rice went well together, and both were very warm and satisfying. This would be a good winter dish. And the pooris—man, those things are addictive. This was definitely the most flavorful bread I’ve tried so far. SO GOOD!

I’d invited Gagan to come over and tell me what his Indian palate thought, and he couldn’t make it at dinner time, but he showed up a little while after we'd finished and I made him a plate, with the two pooris I'd managed to stop myself from eating. He liked it! His criticisms: it could have been hotter (next time I'll leave the pepper in during simmering) and the sauce could be thicker. But he thought everything tasted delicious, and was very nice about hiding his surprise! I consider that success...

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