Dash of Class: Curry favor with Indian cuisine

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Food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

It has been some time since I wrote a column on another country’s cuisine. At the Woman’s Club of Elizabethtown’s April meeting, one of the members, Renu Shah, along with her husband, Dr. Navinchandra Shah, a psychiatrist, presented a program on India’s culture. She was assisted by six other women from India.


Mrs. Shah was born and grew up in Kenya, Africa. Her parents immigrated from the state of Gujarat, in the western region of India, in the early 1940s. They brought with them the very essence and culture of India. She grew up with those values as if she were in India. She experienced the length and breadth of India in the sense that they lived in a joint family, three generations under one roof. They lived a colorful, exuberant life and yet with its vitality, vibrancy, and worldliness, there was a strong current of spirituality.

Throughout her life she has learned and lived the culture of India. They learn humanity, tolerance, principles of Ahimsa (non-violence) unity, and spirituality.

Costumes worn in India — Ghaghara Choli (embroidered, mirror work) skirt and blouse, tie-dyed saris (bandhani), bindis (colorful dots on the forehead) and artifacts, jewelry — all depicted the essence of Gujarat.

In India, many festivals are held and dancing and other celebrations are part of the festivals. The musical rhythm dance styles including dandia ras (with sticks) and Garba (clapping hands), describe the gaiety of festivals of Holi (colors), Diwali (lights), Sank rant (kites) and Navratri (dances).

Gujarati cuisine with its rich spices can be experienced and incorporated with everyday and special functions. Although India has 18 main languages, the Shahs and other families from India who live in Elizabethtown speak Gujarati and Hindi.

Also in Elizabethtown, two Patel families have four generations living together, which is very common in India.

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me” is a native of HardinCounty and a retired home economics/ family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.

Coconut Ricotta Burfi
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
3/4 cup sugar    
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Mix all ingredients with a fork and spread in an 8” by 2” buttered pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Let them cool and then cut into small pieces.
Source: Renu Shah
Black Eyed Beans and Mushroom curry
12 ounces black eyed beans, boiled until tender, drained
1 1/2 tablespoons graham flour  (chick pea flour, can be found in specialty and Indian stores)  
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili
7 medium mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon garam masala (optional; hot mixture of ten spices in varying quantities, available in specialty and Indian stores)
1 tablespoon tomato puree                 
3-4 sprigs of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon turmeric powder      
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds               
1 ½ cups water
Heat the oil in pan, add mustard seeds until it sizzles. Add graham flour, stir. Add tomato puree and all the spices. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally then add beans, mushrooms and water. Mix well and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Garnish with garam masala and coriander before serving. Enjoy with Nan (similar to flat bread and can be found at Kroger) or plain white rice.
Source: Renu Shah
Jeera Biscuits
2 cups of white flour (you can use whole wheat flour, too)
3/4 cup softened butter or cooking oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
Place sugar and butter or oil in a bowl and beat well with an electric or hand beater. Add the egg and beat well by hand or on slow setting of an electric beater. Add plain flour through a sieve to remove any lumps. Add cumin seeds, salt and baking powder. Mix well using a rubber spatula. Finish off by gently kneading with your hand. Make the dough into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Roll out on a greased flat surface, to about 1 1/2-2 mm. thickness. Cut biscuits out with cutters. Shape is your own choice, but squares or rounds are the most common. Spread out evenly on a greased baking tray or on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown. This takes about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them, because oven performances vary. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight biscuit tin. Serve with Cardamom tea.
Nora Sweat, author of "Mama and Me," is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.