I still remember the first bites of pakora and samosa, the little bowls of colorful condiments full of new flavors. Indian food brought me my first tastes of lamb (still pretty much the only occasion that I eat it) and lentils, and the rich and richly flavored sauces scooped up with soft, buttery pieces of naan. I remember coming home with my clothes saturated with the smell of spices.
When we were kids, my sisters and I each got one night a week, our “special” night, with each of our parents. For my night with my mom, it was either a movie at the Little Theater or a dinner out, often introducing me to something new: Greek, Japanese, Ethiopian, and of course, Indian. It’s continued to be a special occasion food in my life–birthday dinners then with high school friends (we felt so grown up when we finally didn’t need our parents to chauffeur us around), birthday lunches and dinners now with friends in Chicago and coining the term “Indian-full” when we over-indulge.
It’s the food I went to when I found myself suddenly back home earlier this year, spending the day hanging around the hospital with my dad, at night needing the familiar comfort of one of those high school friends over plates of samosas and naan and dal (and maybe a glass of wine or three).
As much as I love eating Indian food, I rarely make it; surprising considering my love of anything that involves spices. The few times I’ve tried, it just wasn’t quite right and I didn’t know enough on how to fix it. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to take a cooking class at Moksha Yoga, taught by a fantastic cook and cookbook author, Anupy Singla (her company and blog are also the title of this post). Over two classes she showed us, an attentive (if quiet) group of 10, how to make some of the simplest but most flavorful basics: dal (spiced lentils), basmati rice, salad, raita (yogurt sauce), curry (essentially, gravy or sauce), and roti.
Everything we made was spectacular, but the most fun was the roti, whole wheat flatbread similar to tortillas. Roti is the more common bread served in Indian homes, which makes sense–it’s simply flour and water, rolled, flattened, and quickly cooked in a hot, dry pan. Naan, on the other hand, needs yeast and rising and temperatures far beyond the capacity of most home ovens.
Making roti also means a fun little magic trick–in the process of cooking, the water in the dough boils and steams, puffing up the little circles of dough. They can be served with just about anything, made sweet or savory, stuffed with leftovers (those would be parathas), or even made with pureed cooked lentils instead of water for a little protein boost. I can’t wait to try these with a bowl of dal or cauliflower curry and rice!
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