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Lucinda in the Kitchen at Rasam Indian Restaurant

Lucinda in the Kitchen at Rasam Indian Restaurant

Wednesday 04 July 2012

Indian food is Ireland is perhaps the most misunderstood cuisine of all.  Hot, fatty, and calorie laden, is the most popular misconception.  Wrong! Wrong that is unless you are indulging in a double dose of Beef Vindaloo from a takeaway every night of the week, after a feed of beer and crisps at the boozer, before collapsing into the ‘scratcher’!  It is in fact a very healthy cuisine with all of the spices involved having very specific medicinal qualities.  Indeed, regular Twitter followers will know that I spend a lot of down time in Indian restaurants loving the aromatic spices, herbs, and their wonderful way with vegetables.  In fact, I guess I am almost the perfect candidate to have joined the group who took off to India in the recent movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!  I might have ended up on the back of Bill Nighy’s scooter instead of Judi Dench – I always fancied his long legs since he played the ‘ancient rocker’ part in Love Actually!   I love too the graciousness of the Indian people, who are unfailingly courteous and welcoming, and I guess this is why they frequently win Best Service Awards with their restaurants and hotels.    This year RAI’s Life Magazine Best Customer Service Award for Dublin went to Nisheeth Tak’s superb Rasam Indian Restaurant in Glasthule whilst a runner up and a previous Best Customer Service Winner was another favourite haunt of mine, Asheesh Dewan’s Jaipur in Dalkey, where Manager Jayraj Poojary leads a great team in an always interesting restaurant.

People tend to think of Indian food as heavy, but nothing could be further from the truth. If the aforementioned Beef Vindaloo man wants a good belter he can have that but the subtlety of spicing in so many other dishes is heavenly and is also very good for your digestion.  We think we are great imaginative cooks here if we manage to throw in the Divine Trinity of chili, garlic and ginger, into a stirfry whereas the level of medicinal knowledge and properties of each of the hundreds and spices that individual Indian people have is quite astonishing.  Where we have lost a lot of what were old remedies and cures in the West, they have retained and know the benefits of everything they eat.   What people have to remember most of all is that Indian food is not at all about heat – in fact very little of it is about the heat – so you can totally forget chilies if you wish.  It’s all about subtlety and aroma and good health.

With Indian food you get the satisfaction of an instant hit of flavor and aroma and they are just amazing with vegetables.   Brought up in an Ireland of cauliflower and cabbage boiled to extinction, you can understand how the cauliflower has spent years in the wilderness until its recent minor revival in restaurants, mainly in a puree form.  We still haven’t really got the message here regarding vegetables tending to see them as the fairly drab accompaniment or padder to the MEAT.  The virtuous bit still has to be spelled out to us on Pyramids that we should have 5 portions plus of fruit and vegetables whereas better education re cooking vegetables in an interesting fashion would make people realize how great they are rather than lumps of dry grilled meat.   The staples for years were always the carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, parsnips and turnips, with the mushroom being almost exotic because it was tasty when fried or added to a sauce.   We never had access to the myriad of exotic vegetables common in every country east of Dublin, such as the now ordinary red and green bell peppers, courgettes, aubergines, avocados, but the fact of the matter is that we still don’t really know how to make them an interesting factor in their own right and this is where the Indians excel.

As for spices, did you know for instance that Black Pepper alleviates constipation, dry hemorrhoids, gas and loss of appetite and has antibacterial properties, or that  wonderful aromatic cardamom, known as the Queen of all Spices, can counteract stomach acidity, stimulate appetite, ease nausea, cure bad breath, and is often included in liver detox.  The Chinese apparently use powdered cardamom sprinkled on cooked cereal to correct gluten intolerance in children.  It is also said to strengthen the heart and lungs, sharpen the mind, and is also rich in antioxidant.  The benefits attributed to Cayenne pepper are too numerous to go into but are said to include effective pain relief, cardiovascular benefits, and be good for cleansing the large intestine. Coriander contains antioxidants that keep animal fats from becoming rancid and has other compounds with antibacterial qualities, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and coriander oil is a natural remedy for arthritis relief, it aids digestion and acts as a natural diuretic.  Ginger has always been used to treat morning and travel sickness.  It contains very potent and anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, good for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis if used regularly.  Whilst cardamom may be the queen of spices, Turmeric is the King.  I use it in large amounts, in rice, in sautéing anything, even fried or scrambled eggs.  Turmeric is reputed to give you extra protection against colon cancer.  It is also good for cardiovascular, brain, nerves and apparently shows promise where Alzheimer disease is concerned.

With all of this in mind, and knowing my obsession with Indian food, Nisheeth Tak bravely let me loose in his Rasam Restaurant kitchen to watch and work with Chefs, Manish Kumar, Anubhav Srivastava, and Jagmohan Singh, who are just founts of knowledge, and to share with us some light quick and easy recipes which any of us can knock up easily in our kitchens. All chefs at Rasam have Catering College Degrees and come from 5 Star Indian Hotel backgrounds such as the Oberoi and Taj Groups.  We kicked off with a rapid fire dish of spiced Stir Fry Prawns with mango and avocado salad followed by Gobhi Matar – a wonderful stirfry dish of cauliflower florets and peas stirfried with spices and chopped tomato.  Every Indian home always has Dal on hand – I particularly like the light yellow split peas – easy to cook and very satisfying.  We also did a great Home Style Chicken Curry and finished with one of my favourites – Baingan Paneer Bharta – which is a brilliant dish of Aubergine and Paneer cheese or cottage cheese which can be eaten on its own, as a side dish ,or is very useful and satisfying to use as a filling in flatbread wraps, on top of toast, or rolled in slices of grilled Aubergine – perfect for those of us avoiding wheat. <ep>


• 06 Nos. Large King Prawns
• ½  tablespoons Olive oil
• ½  teaspoon Mustard seeds
• 1 chopped medium Onion
• 2 tablespoon Ginger- Garlic paste
• 2 teaspoon Red Chili powder
• 2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
• 1 teaspoon Coriander seeds powder
• ½ teaspoon Coarse Black Pepper powder
• 1 fresh Green Chili , finely chopped
• Salt to taste
• 1 teaspoon Fresh Lemon juice.

For Salad

• Mango
• Avocado
• Rocket Lettuce
• Sun flower seeds
• Pickled Cucumber
• Cherry Tomatoes
• Red Onion

For Side Salad Dressing
Lemon Juice
Salt to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper powder
Freshly roasted Cumin Powder
Cooking Method
• Clean & de-vein the prawns, remove from shells.
• Heat oil in a non-stick pan, heat and add mustard seeds, green chilies and finely chopped onions, fry until onions are golden brown,
• Add ginger & garlic paste, allow it to cook for a short while until they release the oil.
• Add red chili, turmeric and coriander powders and stir.
• Finally add King prawns and stirfry until Prawns change colour and are cooked tender. Sprinkle Black pepper powder, finish with lime juice and garnish with freshly chopped Coriander leaves.

For Salad dressing:-
Mix honey, lemon juice, black pepper powder, cumin powder and salt to taste.

For Salad:-
Mix all the ingredients in a salad bowl and drizzle the dressing on top.

   Gobhi Matar
• ½  Kg Cauliflower florets
• ¼  Cup Green peas
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
• 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
• 1 teaspoon Cumin powder
• ½teaspoon Turmeric powder
• ½ teaspoon red chili powder
• ½ teaspoon dry mango powder
• 1 tablespoon Ginger chopped
• 1 teaspoon Green Chili
• Freshly Chopped Coriander
• 1 medium chopped Tomato
• Salt to taste

Cooking Method
• Wash and clean Cauliflower florets and keep aside in water.
• Heat the oil in a wide pan to medium hot and crackle cumin seeds
• Add chopped ginger, green chili and Cauliflower florets in the pan with a pinch of salt, Turmeric, Cumin and Coriander powder. Stir-fry for a while.
•  Cover and cook on medium flame stirring every once in a while so that cauliflower sweats and gets half cooked.
• Now add the peas, chopped tomato and cover and cook till done to a bite.
• Finished with chopped coriander.
   Baingan- Paneer Bharta
• 1 large Eggplant
• 100gm grated Paneer or Cottage Cheese
• 2 tablespoons Mustard oil
• 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
• 1 medium Chopped Onion
• ½  tablespoon Garlic paste
• ½ teaspoon Chopped Ginger
• 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
• 1 diced Tomato
• 1teaspoon red chili powder
• ½tsp turmeric powder
• 1teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
• 1 chopped fresh green chili
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 bunch fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
• ½ tablespoon Butter

Cooking Method
• Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
• Place eggplant on a medium baking sheet. Bake 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.
• Remove from the oven, allow it to cool, peel the skin, and roughly chop.
• Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds allow it to crackle then add onions and chopped garlic cook until onions are golden brown
• Add chopped ginger, red chili powder, turmeric powder, cumin, coriander powder and tomato into the saucepan, and cook for a few minutes. Add green chili, eggplant and cottage cheese and season with salt to taste.
• Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Stirring occasionally
• Remove cover, reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Finish with chopped coriander leaves and butter.

• 1 cup dal (Yellow Split Peas/Toro dal/Moong dal or Urad dal)
• 7 cup water 
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/ teaspoon Cumin seeds
• 1/4 teaspoon Asafoetida
• 1 tablespoon Mustard  Oil
• 1 chopped medium Onion
• 1 chopped fresh Tomato
• 1/2 teaspoon chopped Ginger
• 4 chopped garlic Clove
• 1 teaspoon Green Chilli

Cooking Method
• Soak the dal in 4 cup water for 1/2 hour then wash and drain.
• Boil Dal with 3 cups of water along with ginger, turmeric, tomato and salt in a pan.
• Cover the pan and cook over medium flame for 30 minutes or till the Dal is tender, stirring occasionally.
• For the tempering, heat oil in a pan and when hot, add cumin seeds and Asafoetida
• When the seeds begin to sputter, add onion, green chilli and chopped garlic .
• Stir well and fry until onion and garlic turns light brown.
• Add the red chilli powder and pour it immediately over the cooked dal and cover the pot for a few minutes to seal in the aroma.
• Garnish with fresh Coriander leaves and serve.
   Home Style Chicken Curry
• 250 grams Chicken  Breasts (diced)
• 1 tablespoons Mustard oil
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 2 nos. Clove
• ½ inch Cinnamon stick
• 2 nos. Green Cardamom
• 1 nos. Black Cardamom
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• 1 tomato, diced/2 tablespoon low fat yoghurt
• ½ teaspoon chopped Ginger
• ½ tablespoon Garlic paste
• ½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
• ½ teaspoon Coriander powder
• ½ teaspoon Red Chilli powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 bunch fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Cooking Method
• Heat oil in a pan and add all the whole spices, sauté until they begin to release aroma.
• Add onion, garlic & ginger paste and sauté till golden brown
• Add turmeric, coriander and red chilli powder and add ½ cup of water.
• Keep stirring until water evaporates and then add tomatoes or low fat yoghurt and cook for a few minutes.
• As soon as the oil starts separating, add chicken and 1 ½  cup of water and salt to taste
• Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Occasionally stirring.
• Once chicken is done lower the heat and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes.
• Garnish with fresh coriander, add a few drops of fresh lemon juice and cover.

Rasam Restaurant,
18-19 Glasthule Road,
Dun Laoghaire,
Co. Dublin.

Tel (01) 230-0600