If you've been wondering where our Beyond Curry columnist, Denise D'silva Sankhé, has been for the last couple of years, here's your answer: She was writing a book, and what a book it is! Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. I get it. It's intimidating. But in this book—just like she did for years in her column—Denise breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. We're also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.
Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India that, like her column, focuses on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries.
We'll be excerpting some of our favorite recipes from the book in the weeks to come, but for now, take a look at some of the recipes from her column to get a taste (or two) of what you'll discover inside.
—J. Kenji López-Alt
Cabbage Thoran (Kerala-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage)
Thoran is a South Indian dish of vegetables flavored with grated coconut, turmeric, black mustard seeds, shallots, green chiles, and curry leaves. Any sort of vegetables can be used for thoran—in this classic version, we opt for green cabbage. Despite the array of strong spices, using them in small amounts ensures that the delicate cabbage won't be overpowered.
Indian-Style Stir-Fried Spiced Carrots
This simple carrot stir-fry is flavored with curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, red chili powder, and green chiles. As with the cabbage thoran above, the spices are used sparingly so that the carrots' earthiness can shine.
Capsicum Besan Sabji (Bell Pepper and Chickpea Flour Stir-Fry)
"Capsicum" may sound like an order of monks, but it's just another name for the mild green bell pepper. This stir-fry pairs the crisp texture of the peppers with the softness of chickpea flour, all of it seasoned simply with red chile, coriander, cumin, and black mustard seeds. It just might make you see the humble vegetable in a whole new light.
Beet Foogath (Beet Coconut Stir-Fry)
This hearty salad combines beets with curry leaves, black mustard seeds, green chiles, and coconut flakes—the chiles give the stir-fry a mild bite, while the coconut adds great texture. Eat it either warm or cold, as lunch or a light dinner.
Mirchi Salan (Curried Jalapeño Peppers)
A curry that's packed with big flavors and textures: hot jalapeños, rich toasted spices, crunchy peanuts, and more. Sweet and spicy, it's an intense side that pairs well with a plate of biryani. If you can't stand the heat of the jalapeños, replace them with green bell peppers.
Apple Sabzi (Apple Cooked in Mild Spices With Coconut)
It's normal to include all sorts of vegetable sides as part of an Indian meal, but fruit sometimes makes an appearance, too. Apple sabzi features tender apple coated with chiles, coconut, and various spices. It's sweet, flavorful, and wonderful alongside a fiery curry.
Sooji Upma (Indian Semolina Breakfast Dish)
This robust breakfast dish is made with semolina, spices, and vegetables—carrots and peas, in this recipe, but feel free to use whatever veggies you'd like. For even more flavor, try garnishing it with coconut, peanuts, cashews, or fruit.
Dry, Spiced Ladyfingers (Okra)
This recipe does away with okra's unappealing slimy texture and brings out the mellow flavor of the vegetable. The secret: adding a little lemon juice while you're cooking it. It makes a great comfort-food meal when served with rice and lentils.
Cilantro Fritters (Kothimbir Wadi)
Cilantro is often reduced to the role of mere garnish, which doesn't really do justice to its bright, fresh flavor. If you want to truly showcase the herb, try making kothimbir wadi, fritters of chickpea flour, peanuts, and spices. They're steamed and then fried for a bit of crispy texture.
Spiced Potato Bhaaji
These crunchy potato rounds are made by pan-frying quarter-inch slices of potato until they're golden brown and crispy. Seasoned with salt and chili powder, they're just spicy enough to keep you coming back for more.
Aloo Paratha (Indian Potato Bread)
Naan gets all the attention in the US, but this unleavened flatbread is a favorite of ours. It can be served plain or stuffed with vegetables, but it's especially tasty when packed with potatoes. Fresh off the stove with a little butter, it's a carb-on-carb treat that makes for a filling breakfast.
These crackers are often served in restaurants, but they're even better when made fresh at home. This version uses black gram flour and is flavored with black pepper and asafetida. You can dry the poppadoms in the oven in a pinch, but they're best when dried in the sun.
Basmati Rice and Pea Pilaf (Peas Pulao)
There are a million ways to eat rice—this simple basmati pilaf is flavored with cinnamon and cumin, but what really sets it apart is the addition of green peas, which add bursts of sweetness. If you have access to great fresh spring peas, use them, but frozen will work otherwise.
Fodni Bhaat (Indian Fried Rice)
When you think of fried rice, your mind might immediately turn to Chinese or Thai food. India, though, has its own version in fodni bhaat. Our recipe gets tons of flavor from garlic, chiles, turmeric, cilantro, and black mustard seeds.
Got leftover rice? Try stir-frying it with tamarind pulp, peanuts, and spices like fenugreek, black mustard seeds, and asafetida. Called puliyodharai in the south of India, it's a quick, easy way to transform boring leftovers into an exciting meal.
Scrambled Eggs With Chili Oil
These scrambled eggs get a little bit of Indian flair with the addition of chili oil. Make the chili oil with serranos or, if you can find them, bird chiles. If you need a refresher course on scrambling, check out our guide to the best scrambled eggs, whether you like them soft and creamy or light and fluffy.
Anda Bhurji (Spicy Indian Scrambled Eggs)
If you want a slightly more extreme take on scrambled eggs, then anda bhurji is for you. It's packed with flavorful ingredients: onion, tomato, chiles, turmeric, and more. Be sure to serve it with some bread on the side—you're going to need something to soak up all the juices.
Indian Masala Omelet
Masala omelet sandwiches are a common snack across India, especially popular on long train trips. The omelet is made by whisking up eggs with chili powder, cilantro, chiles, onion, and tomato and cooking them until golden brown. You can eat the omelet on its own or serve it with buttered white bread.
Kerala-Style Egg Gravy
This egg dish is amped up by a spicy tomato gravy. If you want, you can make the gravy and add halved hard-boiled eggs (fried for a little crunch) directly to it. But it's easier to just crack eggs into the hot gravy and let them cook, shakshuka-style, to your desired doneness.
This vinegary Portuguese-Indian classic is hot—and unashamedly so. Its punch comes from dried Kashmiri chiles (though you can also use chiles de árbol).
Pork Indad (Sweet and Savory Indian Stewed Pork)
This rich, vibrantly red pork stew is packed with ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin. Raisins and a pinch of sugar give it a little sweetness, while vinegar lends a great sour tang. Make a big batch—the leftovers are delicious.
Chicken Ghee Roast
A form of clarified butter ubiquitous in India, ghee absolutely makes this roast—it might seem like too much, but resist the temptation to cut the amount down. Despite the name, we cook the chicken on the stovetop after marinating it in yogurt, lime juice, and turmeric.
Chicken Pepper Fry
In Kerala, pepper is the king of spices (and you'll find it growing on vines all over people's walls and roofs). This stir-fry is made with a full tablespoon of whole black peppercorns ground with a mortar and pestle, plus more for the marinade. Onions and tomato give the accompanying gravy some extra body.
Indian Village Chicken Curry
Hailing from the western coast of India, this curry features chicken swimming in a spicy gravy flavored with cumin, coriander, chiles, cloves, and cinnamon. Traditionally, it'd be made with lean, gamy, free-roaming chickens, but use whatever you can find at your local butcher's shop.
Indian Fried Chicken Marinated in Green Spices
Who doesn't love fried chicken? We have no shortage of recipes, but if you're looking for a new variation to add to your repertoire, try this home-style Indian version. It gets a slight green color from an aromatic marinade of cilantro, green chiles, and garlic. Pull the meat off the bone, wrap it inside a piece of naan, and you've got yourself an awesome lunch.
Crispy Indian-Style Simmered Goat Chops
The wonderful texture of these flavorful goat chops comes courtesy of a two-stage cooking process—we begin by simmering them in a spice mixture until they're tender, then bread and fry them until they're crisp. You can do the simmering step ahead of time, making this handy for entertaining. If goat is a little too gamy for your taste, use lamb chops instead.
Mangalorean Beef and Bacon Gravy
The majority of Indians practice Hinduism, which forbids eating beef; however, the country's Muslims and Christians don't follow the same dietary restrictions. This dish, from India's Mangalorean Catholic community, is made by cooking beef in a pressure cooker and adding it to a rich tomato-based sauce.
Indian-Style Stewed Beef With Chili
This spicy dish is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and hot green chiles, plus some turmeric and a generous dose of cumin. For a contrasting texture, and to soak up the gravy, Denise likes to serve it with something you might not associate with Indian cuisine: French fries.
Mangalorean Mutton Gravy
Another recipe from India's Mangalorean Catholic population, this mutton gravy is flavored with a masala paste made with cinnamon, poppy seeds, chiles, coconut, coriander, cumin, and cloves. Traditionally, a masala is ground by hand with a heavy granite rolling pin—but we don't expect you to have the equipment or the patience for that, so go ahead and use a blender.
Potato Chops (Meat-Stuffed Indian Potato Pancakes)
Potato chops are an East Indian specialty of mashed potato pancakes that are stuffed with meat, breaded, and fried. Ground beef or lamb will work fine for the filling. They're a little labor-intensive, but you can make a big batch of the patties at once and fry them whenever you get a craving. Crunchy, rich, and spicy—what's not to love?
Fried Fish, Kerala-Style
In the coastal state of Kerala, seafood is an important part of the cuisine, and fried fish is a favorite. Pick out a firm-fleshed fish, like kingfish, and coat it generously in a spice rub made with peppercorns, curry leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and coconut before frying. For a complete meal, serve the fish with our beet foogath.
Aromatic Indian Shrimp Pilaf (Kolambi Bhaat)
Shrimp pilaf isn't the most common rice dish, but it's a really good one. This basmati rice pilaf is made with whole spices, coconut milk, and a restrained amount of chiles—it's intensely flavored without being overly spicy. The shrimp add a fresh sweetness to the rice.
Spiced Shrimp and Eggplant Stir-Fry
Shrimp and eggplant is one of my favorite combinations—the shrimp's sweetness perfectly contrasts the mildly bitter vegetable. Smaller, flavorful shrimp are the way to go in this spicy stir-fry, best served with rice or roti.
Indian Prawn Patties
These fritters are unique to the Parsi, a small community of Indian Zoroastrians. Crispy outside with a soft center, they're hard to stop eating. They get their body from a mixture of potato and bread, and flavor from Indian spices like cumin and chili powder, but a bit of Worcestershire sauce provides a unique twist.
Prawn Patia (Indian Sweet and Spicy Shrimp)
Not to be confused with prawn patties, prawn patia is a dish made with curry leaves, tomato purée, onions, and a variety of spices. It's traditionally served on a bed of white rice and yellow lentils, but just as good on its own.
Drinks and Dessert
Indian Mango Cooler (Panha)
Panha is an amazingly refreshing drink made simply with water, mangoes, and sugar and flavored with a touch of saffron and green cardamom. Cook the ingredients into a concentrate, and whenever you want a glass, just mix a couple of tablespoons with cold water. Use mangoes that are still fairly green to give the drink a nice tart edge.
Aamrakhand (Mango-Flavored Yogurt)
Panha is best made with unripe mangoes, but for aamrakhand you want ripe, soft, and sweet fruit. (Alphonso mangoes are the best option.) This dessert is a breeze to make—just strain some plain yogurt through a cheesecloth and blend it with mangoes and a pinch of saffron. Give it half an hour to chill and you've got a refreshing treat for a hot afternoon.
Phirni (Indian Rice Pudding)
Phirni is a sweet, creamy rice pudding popular with India's Muslim community. We make our version with almonds and pistachios—dried fruit is another common addition, but rice is the star of the dish. Soak the rice, grind it into a coarse paste, and simmer it until tender. The resulting pudding should be rich but not heavy.