MARK DeWOLF: Soul-satisfying recipes inspired by India

When I seek to shed the vestiges of my summer gluttony I invariably turn to my own form of diet, Indian cuisine. Why Indian food has never been purported as one of the next health food crazes is a mystery to me? Perhaps it is our historical European roots that have made Mediterranean and Nordic (one the latest trends) diets popular for those seeking a healthier but less restrictive diet. While these align to my own ancestral roots, I find myself experimenting more with the lacto-vegetarian rich cuisine of India.

Indian cuisine broadly speaking is rich in vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, and fruit. It’s also low in carbohydrates and meat. According to statista.com a staggering 24 per cent of the Indian population are vegetarians and a full 81 per cent (pewresearch.org) limit their meat intake. It’s the kind of balanced approach that aligns to my own inner omnivore. What Indian cuisine delivers more than other low carb, low fat, low meat diet is the instantaneous flavor provided by its generous mélange of spices such as cumin, coriander, chili peppers, ginger, and turmeric, amongst many others. Begin the morning with a bowl of yogurt (a popular ingredient in many Indian dishes) and fresh fruits and then explore the wonderful world of Indian cuisine.

Chicken Simmered in Yogurt and Coconut Milk

4 to 6 servings

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 red chilies, finely chopped or 1/2 tbsp dried chilies
  • 1/2 tsp each turmeric, chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 cup coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter (or ghee)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 small can coconut milk
  • Salt, to taste

Directions: Place chicken thigh pieces in a bowl. Add spices and coriander. Toss to combine. Refrigerate overnight. Add butter (or ghee) and onion to a large sauté pan. Sauté over medium-low heat until onions begin to brown. Add marinated chicken, raise heat to medium, and sauté until chicken is browned on all sides. Add yogurt and coconut milk. Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Check chicken is cooked through. Season with salt, to taste.

This version of Chana Masala (chickpeas cooked with tomatoes) is not only satisfying but a great source of protein.  -Mark DeWolf
This version of Chana Masala (chickpeas cooked with tomatoes) is not only satisfying but a great source of protein. -Mark DeWolf

Chickpeas Simmered in Tomatoes

4 to 6 servings

  • 2 13-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 2 tbsp butter (or ghee)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp each ground coriander, cumin, garam masala
  • 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 2 chilies, finely diced or 2 tsp dried chilies
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • Cilantro, to garnish

Directions: Place butter and onion in a pot set over medium-low heat. Saute until onion is soft and translucent. Add spices and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chickenpeas and tomatoes. Bring to a quick boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Aromatically Spice Basmati Rice

4 to 6 servings

  • 1 ½ cup Basmati
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 tablespoon butter or ghee (clarified butter)
  • Salt, to taste

Directions: Wash rice in colander under cold water. When wash is clean, drain, season with pinch of salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Place stock and saffron to a pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, then bring to a boil. Add the rice, cinnamon and anise. Cover and reduce to medium-low. Cook for about 12 minutes. Add butter (or ghee). Taste and then season with salt.

Spices such as cumin, mustard seed and turmeric give the dressing of this carrot-based salad an aromatic lift.  -Mark DeWolf
Spices such as cumin, mustard seed and turmeric give the dressing of this carrot-based salad an aromatic lift. -Mark DeWolf

Carrot & Raisin Salad

4 to 6 servings

  • 6 large carrots, peeled, shredded
  • 1 cup raisin
  • 1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp each cumin, turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp each mustard seeds, coriander seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice, zest

Directions: Place carrot and raisins in a bowl. Set aside. Place a sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil and spices. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes (or until seeds pop), add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool. Add salt, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk to combine. Pour vinaigrette over carrots and raisins. Toss to combine.

This simple version of raita (cucumber and yogurt) makes for a refreshing counterpoint to spicy Indian-inspired dishes.  -Mark DeWolf
This simple version of raita (cucumber and yogurt) makes for a refreshing counterpoint to spicy Indian-inspired dishes. -Mark DeWolf

Simple Raita

4 to 6 servings

  • 1 English cucumber, shredded
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1 lime, zest, juice
  • ½ tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup coriander, chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Directions: Season cucumber with a large pinch of salt, and then place in colander to drain (about 30 minutes). Place cucumber along with remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Season with salt to taste.

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