Fuck Loblaws. Seriously. If you’ve ever been inside an independent grocery store (and I don’t mean IGA) you’d know how much money you could save by just supporting your local immigrants. Local independent grocery stores are everywhere. When I lived in Montreal my favorite places to shop were in the little Indian grocers on Jean Talon between Acadie and Parc. In fact, I managed to revolve my whole life around that street. Bombay Mahal for fabulous dining, Dees for flawless eyebrow threading and I even took a Hindi course on that street as well. Now that I live in England, it’s no different. Local immigrant-owned grocery stores are the best for produce, spices, rice and pulses and loads of other fun “exotic” treats.
Okay so let’s face it: YOU FUCKING LOVE A THEMED DINNER PARTY
Here’s how to impress your friends with a delicious Indian themed dinner party. This evening will cost you next to nothing (provided your friends bring the Cobra beer) and the smells will have your neighbors salivating—begging to be invited. But you’re totally having an exclusive shindig aren’t you?
This is what you’re going to do.
First of all, you’re going to take the 80 Parc bus, or the Blue Line to the Parc X hood (or locate an immigrant-run grocer near you, the name should be something like Rajshree’s or Khalil’s or Tariq’s or Narendra’s and head over there).
Don’t forget to bring your eco-friendly yet trendy canvas bags!
Here’s what to put on your shopping list (that you will no doubt write on your iphone “notes” app)
- Okra (Every ethnic grocery store has it)
- Red and or preen pepper
- 2 yellow onions and 2 red onions
- A big chunk of ginger
- A head of garlic
- A healthy bunch of mint
- A healthy bunch of coriander
- A large head of cauliflower
- Several lemons and limes
- Some tiny green chilies
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
- Curry powder
- Fennel seeds
- Black mustard seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Chili powder
- Besan/chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or farine de pois chiche)
OTHER STUFF (If you need to go somewhere like Loblaws for some of this stuff then okay, I’ll allow it…)
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Tomato paste
- 4 juicy chicken breasts
- Desiccated coconut
You’ll also need some shit you probably already have at home…salt, pepper, olive oil, vegetable oil…
Now while you’re in Ahmed’s browsing around, wander over to their freezer “section”. Notice they have frozen packaged “parathas”. That’s Indian bread that you can just heat up in the oven or a frying pan, it tastes authentic and delicious. Trust me!
Now here’s what we’re going to make:
Okra Fries, Roasted Cauliflower, Grilled Chicken Tikka Skewers and a lovely mint chutney to go along with everything else!
First let’s marinate the chicken. Start by cutting the chicken breasts into nice sized cubes. In a bowl, add 3 big scoops of yogurt, a few squirts of tomato paste (or a spoonful if you’ve bought your tomato paste in a can) and a homemade curry paste.
To make the paste chop up a couple big cloves of garlic about a thumb sized piece of ginger. In a mortar and pestle (or using a bowl with a wooden spoon) bash up the garlic and ginger, with some fennel seeds, and about a quarter teaspoon of all the above-listed spices). Spoon the curry paste in with the chicken, mix everything up well (add a bit of olive oil or BUTTER if you like). Make sure all the chicken pieces are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and put the bowl in the fridge.
Next, preheat your oven to 400º. Chop up your cauliflower into medium sized florets. Chop up a yellow onion into quarters. Put the cauliflower into a large baking dish along with the onion. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, curry powder salt and some chopped fresh coriander as well. Stir everything well and place in the oven. You will want to let the cauliflower roast for at least an hour, stirring everything around every 15 minutes or so. You’ll notice everything reduce significantly, which is why it’s good to buy a large head.
While the cauliflower is roasting you can prepare the okra. Rinse and dry the okra well (it’ll probably look filthy) and chop the heads off. Then cut them lengthwise in halves or quarters depending on the size. Place the okra pieces in a large zip-lock bag and drizzle with a teeny bit of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, some chilli powder, a couple pressed cloves of garlic and about half a cup of chickpea flour. Shake the bag up so the okra is nice and coated well. Put the bag aside and let it chill out for a bit. A gooey pasty type of batter will form around the okra and when it’s time to bake them, the coating will be perfect.
Now on to your chutney—probably the most impressive part. The best way to do this is with a food processor, or a blender, or even an immersion blender. If you don’t have any of these things, you better ask a neighbor…and then you’ll probably have to invite them cause at this point they’ll be smelling the cauliflower…better off buying one yourself.
Here’s the easy part: In the food processor/blender, add about ¾ cup of yogurt, the juice of 2 limes, a couple spoonfuls of coconut, a small chunk of ginger, a small chunk of red onion and a nice big handful of mint and coriander. Cut the tops off of 2-3 green chilies (depending on how spicy you can handle) and toss those in as well. Add a spoonful of sugar, and a sprinkle of salt. Blend everything into a glorious puree. And pour into a pretty bowl.
So at this point the cauliflower will be a bit more than half way done, on another rack in the oven. On a baking tray, cover with parchment paper and glaze with a bit of olive oil. Pour out the okra pieces onto the tray and arrange them so they’re hardly touching each other. Place the baking tray in the oven on the rack that the cauliflower isn’t on, and make sure to keep an eye on them—they take about 15 minutes to cook, maybe a bit more.
Now get your chicken out of the fridge and place on to metal skewers. If you want, you can alternate the chicken pieces with chunks of onion and pepper. If you have a BBQ definitely cook the chicken on that. You can also use a George Foreman type grill for this (about 8 minutes). If you only have an oven—no fear! Put the chicken in a baking dish and place the dish on the top oven rack. Set the oven to “broil” and broil the chicken on each side for about 8 minutes, you want the chicken to get a bit black and crispy so if you need to add a couple minutes on each side, go for it, the chicken should stay nice and crispy and not dry out.
Set everything out, the okra fries, the cauliflower, the chicken, the rice and naan the chutney etc. At this point everything will smell so good that your friends will be DROOLING!
Sit back, stuff your face with food and beer (Cobra) and let the compliments roll in….
NOTE: This is just to start you off, for more ideas of other dishes to add (using the above listed ingredients, visit the “Indian” category of my blog: