Demystifying Indian Cuisine

December 30, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People
By Shubhra Ramineni
Tuttle Publishing
160 pp. $27.95

Like most useful things, the Indian cookbook Entice with Spice was born out of a personal need. Having grown tired of eating take-out and frozen dinners after a long day of work at the office, author Shubhra Ramineni resolved to develop simplified recipes that would allow her to cook delicious homemade Indian meals as quickly and as effortlessly as possible—all without sacrificing flavor. The result is a comprehensive collection of one hundred easy-to-make recipes from both the north and south of India. (Most recipes can be made within a half-hour or less; Chicken Biryani and Chicken Tikka Masala are exceptions, requiring about one hour from start to finish.)

In Entice with Spice, you will find a wide range of recipes, including everything from condiments, like yogurt and chutneys, to appetizers, main dishes and sides, breads and rice, and desserts and beverages. (more…)

Plain Boiled Rice

December 20, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Yogurt Rice, one of several flavored rice recipes in ENTICE WITH SPICE that uses Plain Boiled Rice

I’ve made the recipe for Plain Boiled Rice from Entice with Spice several times, and am very happy with the results: I’ve gotten perfectly cooked Basmati rice every time with fluffy, individual grains. I’ve doubled the amount and have had equally good results.

Plain Boiled Rice (Chawval) goes with several dishes in Entice with Spice, especially the curries or any dish with a bit of a sauce, such as Chicken Tikka Masala. It is also used to make several flavored rice dishes in the book, such as the one shown above.

Serves 4 as a side dish 

Prep time: 5 minutes + 30 minutes soaking
Cook time: 15 minutes + 5 minutes to rest
Refrigerator life: 3 days Freezer life: 1 month
Reheating method: Place the refrigerated or defrosted rice in a microwave, sprinkle a few drops of water on it and stir periodically. Or, place the rice in a saucepan, sprinkle a few drops of water on it and warm over medium-low heat, stirring periodically. 

 1 cup (180 g) uncooked white Basmati rice (or plain long-grained white rice) 
 1½ cups (375 ml) water 

  1.  Place the rice in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Carefully pour the soaking water out of the bowl. Rinse the rice three or four times by repeatedly filling the bowl with cold water and carefully draining off the water. It is okay if the water is not completely clear, but try to get it as clear as you can. Pour the rice into a sieve to drain.
  3. Place the drained rice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. It is okay if the water gets frothy.
  4. Stir and reduce the heat to low. Cover the saucepan. Simmer undisturbed until the water is completely absorbed and you do not see any more water on the bottom of the saucepan if you insert a spoon through the rice, about 8 minutes. You might see dimples formed on the surface of the rice, which is a sign that the water is completely absorbed.
  5. Turn off the heat. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes on the warm stove. Keep covered until ready to serve or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze for later. Before serving, gently fluff the rice with a fork.


  •  Making perfect rice can be tricky at first, as common problems are that the rice turns out mushy or it burns and sticks at the bottom of the pan. A good way to avoid burnt rice is to use a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • If your rice tends to be mushy: after reducing the heat to low in Step 4, make sure the rice is simmering. If it’s just sitting in hot water, it will take a long time to cook, and it will become mushy and sticky. Increase the heat if needed so the rice is simmering. If your rice is still mushy, you may have overcooked it. As soon as you do not see any more water on the bottom of the saucepan if you insert a spoon through the rice, turn off the heat.
  • If you are new to making rice, for best results for all rice dishes in this chapter, I would first try making the amount in the recipe instead of doubling it. Once you get comfortable with making rice, then you can double the recipe. It is best to gently fluff the rice with a fork after it has cooled a bit so the rice grains do not break apart.

(Recipe ingredients and instructions reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing, Recipe introduction was written by Holly Jennings.)

Chicken Tikka Masala

December 20, 2010
By Holly Jennings


I made this recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala from Entice with Spice for the first DCCC potluck, where it was a big hit. This rich and creamy dish with an elegant balance of Indian spices is great for special occasions or when you feel like treating yourself to something indulgent. This recipe involves a two-step process, making it one of the few recipes in Entice with Spice that takes longer than 30 or 35 minutes to make. The first step is to make Chicken Kebabs (Murgh Tikka), which, in Entice with Spice, is presented as a separate recipe in the appetizer chapter. The second step is to make the Chicken Tikka Masala, which involves making a masala, pureeing it, and then adding cream and the cooked chicken to it.

Here I’ve combined the two steps and have adapted the recipe to serve six to eight people. I suggest making this amount because even if you’re serving fewer people, you will wish you had leftovers the next day. And as long as you’re going to the trouble to make it, in this case, more is better. 


First DCCC Potluck: An Indian Feast

December 17, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Earlier this month the Randolph-area Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club had its first potluck: an assortment of 18 dishes and condiments from the Indian cookbook Entice with Spice by Shubhra Ramineni. 

After nearly two months of trying recipes from the book and sharing our experiences in the kitchen by email, we were finally all sitting down together around the same table. (Actually, the same two tables. To accommodate everyone and every dish, we pushed two tables together.) For several of us, the potluck was the first time we had met. 

The real surprise for me was the artisan cheese maker and general queen of all dairy products who walked through the door, Karen Bixler. My boyfriend and I had taken a raclette cheese class with Karen, organized by Rural Vermont. Though her name had appeared in the emails we’d sent back and forth, I hadn’t put the name and person together. Karen says that she makes homemade feta. How perfect is that for our next cookbook: The Food and Wine of Greece

With eight people cooking, and some making multiple dishes, the table was crowded with food. Before sitting down at the table, we enjoyed two appetizers standing around the kitchen island, as they came off the stove: Jhinga Kebab (Pepper Shrimp on a Stick) prepared by Sam and two types of Samosas—potato- and lamb-filled—served with Tamarind and Mint Chutneys prepared by Jenn. (more…)

Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

December 14, 2010
By Holly Jennings

This is yet another great recipe from Entice with Spice, an Indian cookbook from Shubhra Ramineni. Aloo Gobiis one of the most popular vegetable dishes in Indian cuisine: If you’ve eaten at Indian restaurants, you’ve probably seen this yellow-tinged medley of potato and cauliflower on the menu or listed as one of the specials of the day. In this dish the vegetables are sautéed rather than cooked in a curry base, making it a perfect food to pick up with torn pieces of fresh Indian flatbread. Its dry consistency also makes it a practical travel or lunchbox food. In the introduction to her recipe, Ms. Ramineni mentions that her mother sometimes makes an “Indian burrito” with Aloo Gobi and Indian flatbreads for her father’s lunch. (No worries about a turmeric-laden curry sauce dribbling on and staining your best office clothes.) And because this subtly spiced dish is relatively mild¾it has a lovely tingle of chili heat¾it is a great choice when deciding what to serve to friends or family who are new to Indian cuisine. If you serve this with Ms. Ramineni’s recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, you will have some converts on your hands.


Okra Indian Style

December 07, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Indian cookbook author Shubhra Ramineni lives in Texas, where okra is a popular vegetable and is available year-round. She says that Texans are always surprised to learn that okra is also a popular vegetable in Indian cooking.

Sauteed Okra with Onions and chapati

In the South, okra is prepared in a number of ways: fried, pickled, stewed. And it is a key ingredient in gumbo, where it adds flavor and serves as a thickener.

In New England, where I live, okra is nearly as exotic as fresh curry leaves. It is rare to find it fresh in grocery stores, and even frozen is a gamble. I have sometimes found it at farmers’ markets, but not often. (This is not so surprising because okra grows best in warm climates; it is a relative of cotton, after all.) And okra is highly perishable: once picked it should be used within about three days. So I can see why Northern grocers and farmers are not inclined to take a chance on breaking into the underserved okra market. It’s a catch-22. Northerners don’t often get the chance to experiment with it because it’s hard to find, and grocers and farmers, presumably, don’t want to take a chance with okra not selling because of a lack of interest. What we need is an okra education campaign!


Lunch with Lynne: Indian Scrambled Eggs and Paratha

December 03, 2010
By Holly Jennings

My friend Lynne is a librarian. She loves books; in fact, she used to sell them. That’s one reason her book displays at the library are so good. She enjoys participating in book clubs, and gave me some tips about running book club meetings when the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club was still just an idea. I would love to have Lynne in DCCC, but the thing is, Lynne likes to eat better than she likes to cook. So I’ve decided that a lunch with Lynne, featuring the food of the current DCCC cookbook, is a great way for Lynne to participate, Lynne style.

Luckily Lynne has an open palate and welcomes food made with fiery chili peppers—just so it’s not too hot. A few weeks ago, I had Lynne over for a lunch from the cookbook Entice with Spice: Indian Scrambled Eggs (Anda Bhurji) and Flaky Wheat Bread (Sada Paratha). Actually I had an ulterior motive when deciding to attempt homemade paratha for our lunch.


Discussion Questions for Entice with Spice

December 01, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Here are some discussion questions for DCCC’s first potluck on December 5th. If anyone has questions they’d like to add to the discussion, please comment on this posting or drop me an email.

  • Entice with Spice started its life as a binder of recipes collected from the author’s mother and mother-in-law. Does that inspire you to try to get your own binder of recipes published?
  • Did you find the author’s tone reassuring and her explanations of recipe steps and Indian cooking techniques clear and easy to follow? Is there anything in the recipe instructions that you think could be clearer?
  • Did you enjoy the author’s introductory sections and stories about the recipes?
  • Was cooking from Entice with Spice your first foray into Indian cooking? If so, do you think it was a good introduction for someone new to cooking Indian food?
  • What did you learn about Indian cooking that you didn’t know before using this book? Were you familiar with the terms curry and masala as the author uses them?
  • In general, what do you think of the food? Did you enjoy it? How does it compare to other Indian food you’ve eaten, either prepared by you using another Indian cookbook, prepared by other home cooks, or that you’ve eaten in Indian restaurants?
  • Have you been to India? If so, how does the food in Entice with Spice compare to the food you ate while there? If not, do you feel inclined to visit after reading and cooking from this book?
  • Of all the recipes you tried, including those prepared by others at the potluck, do you have a favorite (or favorites)?
  • Do you think you will cook recipes from this book again? If not, why not?
  • If the club were to do another Indian cookbook one day, is there a particular aspect or regional style of Indian cooking that you’ve like to delve into in more detail?

An Indian Birthday Feast with Surprise Paneer

November 29, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Our British friends James and Laura Perry love curry, a euphemism for Indian food. James and Laura say in Britain, every town, even the smallest villages, will have at least one “curry house.” (That’s “Indian restaurant” to you and me.) What a lovely notion. Can you imagine a small town in America, like the one I live in, with a population of 5,000, having not one but two Indian restaurants to choose from? I can dig it.