indian dinner buffet
Last night’s dinner was an Indian food buffet for six, one of my favorite meals to make. I grew up with vegetarian Indian dishes and curries in regular rotation for everyday dinners, probably influenced by the fact that my mom was working as a vegetarian, macrobiotic and natural foods cook in the ’70s. As a result, I’m a huge fan of pretty much all beans and peas and well-versed in the arsenal of “c”-spices common in Indian cooking.
My cheat for samosa filling is setting aside a little of the aloo gobi, adding in some green peas, and frying the mixture briefly with a little extra spice in just a teaspoon of oil. That leaves only the samosa dough to make, which also takes just a few minutes. Baking rather than frying the samosas not only makes them healthier but gives you more flexibility as to when to serve them - I usually use them as a hot appetizer that can be popped in the oven as soon as guests arrive.
- 1 cup samosa filling
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- Mix together the flour, vegetable oil and salt in a bowl. Add water bit by bit as needed to make a dough that’s easily workable, not too dry and not too sticky. Knead the dough for a few minutes, and then let it sit while you make the samosa filling.
- Split the samosa dough into six spheres. Roll each sphere into a flat circle, about six inches wide.
- Cut each circle in half with sharp knife.
- Pick up half a circle and roll it into a cone shape, pressing the edges together to stick. Fill the cone with 2 heaping tablespoons of samosa filling and pull the top of the cone down to seal the samosa like an envelope. Press the edges together to seal.
- Repeat with all twelve samosas. Brush the finished samosas with an egg wash or a little oil to help them brown while baking.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
This is one of those repertoire meals that I make about once a week. It’s easy, healthy, vegan, delicious and the leftovers are even better the next day. Aloo means potato and gob(h)i cauliflower, so the chickpeas are optional but included in my version. I sometimes add green peas or chopped tomatoes as well.
- 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 head of cauliflower, chopped
- 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into sixths
- 1 cup dry chickpeas
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp powdered cumin
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 + 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp garam masala
- Soak chickpeas for a few hours, then drain and boil with peeled and chopped potatoes until beans are tender and potatoes are just beginning to fall apart, about half an hour.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan or stock pot and add cumin seeds and diced onion. Saute until onions are golden and translucent.
- Add minced garlic, turmeric, powdered cumin and salt, and a tablespoon of water to create a sauce.
- Add raw chopped cauliflower to the sauce and stir to coat. Let simmer for five minutes.
- Add cooked chickpeas and potatoes to the mixture and stir well. Potatoes will begin to take on a mashed-like quality.
- Remove from heat, cover and let sit for flavors to combine as long as possible before serving. When reheating, adjust spices as necessary.
The perfect condiment to offset the heat in Indian food, raita is a yogurt-based sauce and dip with many variations, akin to tzatziki sauce in Greek cooking. I start with plain full-fat or Greek yogurt, then add an entire cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced finely. Fresh mint, dill or other herbs are next; last night’s raita included only chopped parsley. A teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice finish the dish. It’s best to make raita a few hours ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
This is a variation on dal makhani that I make with brown lentils, rather than black (which I can never find here). Makhani is the Hindi word for ‘buttery’, and this dish traditionally includes ghee (clarified butter). I used just a little butter to saute the onion in, and coconut milk to add creaminess and flavor - plus cardamom, cumin, coriander, and a little cayenne for kick.
The basmati rice, lamb curry and garlic naan escaped foodtography: when I’m having a dinner party, I do always prioritize getting food on the table and into guests’ mouths while it’s still warm and just off the stove over getting a good photo of it - a policy I sometimes regret the next day!