Israelis love travelling to India. It is a rite of passage for most young adults after they finish their army service, although Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal are also high on the list.
I would love to travel to India. My dream is to go on the Palace on Wheels. This is where my royal highnessness comes shining through. For me, the Palace on Wheels is the epitome of romance. Rajasthan is supposed to be an amazing place, full of bright colors; rich red and orange raw silk fabric. My wedding dress fabric was a gold duponi silk from India. I adore Indian textiles and sari fabric.
The surprising thing is that Indian food is not more popular in Israel. There are only a few Indian restaurants here. There is a chain called Tandoori: the food is good, but they are rather expensive.
I really enjoy getting Indian takeout in London. I love all the choices of curries, side dishes, samosas, stuffed naan, etc. I also like making it myself. All of the wonderful smells from the cardamon, cinnamon, whole peppercorns and other spices. It fills the whole house with a wonderful spicy, oriental aroma.
For Tu’Bishvat I decided to make an Indian meal, well at least most of it was Indian dishes.
All of the Indian dishes I made for this meal came from Madhur Jafrey’s A Taste of India. I have two of her cookbooks and both of them have delicious recipes, but this cookbook is also a work of art. The photography and the stories she tells take you to India. You can taste the food and smell the smells.
The main dish I made was Chicken with Apricots and Potato Straws (Sali Jardaloo Murgi). This dish is from the state of Gujarat, which is on the Northwest coast of India and borders Rajastan. It has some amazing Temples, one of which is the Temple of Krishna. The dish is spicy and fruity, seasoned with hot chilies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, cloves, fresh ginger and garlic.
(Sali Jardaloo Murgi) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey
1.4 kg (3lbs) whole chicken or chicken pieces, skinned
4 whole dried hot red chillies
5cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken up
1-1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
7 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely crushed garlic
100g (4oz) dried sour apricots
1/2 cup vegetable oil
225g (1/2lb) medium-sized onions, cut into very fine half rings
2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1 cup of water
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
200g (7oz) large potato, peeled
Vegetable oil for deep frying
If using a whole chicken, cut it into small pieces. For example, divide the chicken legs into 2 and the whole breasts into 4 pieces and place in a big bowl.
Place the red chillies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon and cloves in a coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible.
Rub in 1 teaspoon of the ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and half of the spice mixture on to the chicken, making sure the chicken pieces are coated with the mixture. Set aside for 1 hour.
Place the apricots in a small pan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, until the apricots are tender, but not mushy. Set them aside to cool.
Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until they are a reddish-brown in colour. Turn the heat down and add the remaining ginger, garlic and spice mixture. Stir well and add the chicken, browning lightly for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste liquid and the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the vinegar and sugar, cover again and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove as much fat from the pan as you can.
Place the apricot gently in between the chicken pieces and let them soak in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with about 8 cups of water. Mix in the salt.
Grate the potato on the coarsest grating blade and place in the bowl of water, stirring them around in the water. Remove one handful of the the potato straws at a time, squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Spread them out on a tea towel and pat as much moisture off as possible.
Put vegetable oil into a wok or frying pan until it is 5cm (2-inches) in depth in the pan. Heat slowly over a medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, this may take 10 minutes, put a small handful of potato straws in the oil. Stir them until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
When ready to serve, heat the chicken on medium-low heat and garnish top with the potato straws.
The next dish was Aubergines with Apple (Tsoont Vaangan). This dish is from Kashmir. I know this combination sounds strange, but it is delicious.
(Tsoont Vaangan) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey
550g (1-1/4lb) aubergines, cut crosswise into thick slices
1-2 large, hard, tart apples such as a Granny Smith, cut into sixths, unpeeled
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/2- 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
6tbsp mustard or vegetable oil
1/8 tsp ground asafetida
Put the fennel, salt, tumeric and chili powder in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water and mix into a paste.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the asafetida and then the apple wedges. Saute, until the apples are golden brown. Remove the apples and set aside.
Place one layer of aubergine in the pan. You may need to add a little more oil. Brown them on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat this until all of the aubergine has been cooked.
Put the apples and aubergine back in the pan, add the paste and stir gently. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve.
For dessert, I moved to a country whose dishes I have never made before, Georgia.
This is a Walnut Raisin Torte (Nigvzis Torti). It is not too sweet and is a perfect dessert for Tu’Bishvat. Full of nuts and raisins. It is also not very hard to make. I made a half a recipe, which serves about six people.