'Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India' Recipes and Photos

by Celeste Heiter, Oct 22, 2005 | Destinations: India / New Delhi

This tempting Indian menu features a rich palette of ingredients, flavors, textures and preparation styles, including Golden Fishcakes, Tilapia Filets Stuffed with Spinach, Lamb-Filled Samosas, Mulligatawny Soup, Grilled Lamb Salad over Baby Spinach with Tomato-Cucumber Raita, Chicken Korma, Saffron Rice with Lime and Cashews, Vegetable Stuffed Eggplants Fried in Chickpea Batter and Warm Coconut Banana Pudding.




This nutty, golden clarified butter is ubiquitous in Indian cuisine. And while it is a little labor intensive, it is well worth the effort, as it adds a unique flavor for which there is no adequate substitute.


1/2 pound butter


Gradually melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, making sure that the butter does not brown. When the butter is completely melted, increase the heat to high and boil until the surface is covered with thick foam. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting, stir gently and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes. The milk solids will settle to the bottom of the pan and turn golden brown, while the clear butterfat rises to the top. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Pour the ghee into a jar through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to separate the residue from the clarified oil. Ghee may be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several months. Under refrigeration, ghee will solidify and must be warmed to room temperature before using.


Indian Fish Cakes


1/2 pound white fish (snapper, tilapia, halibut, etc.), finely minced
1/2 cup onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon ginger root, finely shredded
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1 slice white bread torn into tiny pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice


1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
1/4 cup water
vegetable oil for frying


In a large bowl, combine fish, onion, ginger, garlic bread crumbs and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add egg and lemon juice. Stir gently to blend. Set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes. Form the fish mixture into 2" cakes and set aside on a plate.


In a shallow bowl, combine besan, corriander and water and stir to form a thick batter. Pour batter over the fish cakes and turn each one over to coat both sides.


Pour about 1/2" of oil in a large skillet and heat to 375, or until a drop of batter sizzles instantly and rises to the top. Working in batches of 3 or 4, gently slide each fishcake into the hot oil. When golden brown on the bottom, using a spatula or slotted spoon, gently turn each fishcake over to brown on the other side. Remove from the oil and drain on layers of paper towels. Serve immediately. Makes 12 fish cakes.


Rolled Stuffed Tilapia


4 tilapia filets
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger root, finely shredded
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons lemon juice (divided)
1/4 cup ghee (see recipe)


Slice each tilapia filet in half lengthwise along the spine. Trim into 8 uniform rectangles about 4" long and 1 1/2" wide. Set the trimmings aside for another use (see Indian Fish Cake recipe). Place the tilapia filets on a plate and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Turn the filets over to coat with lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes.


Warm 1 tablespoon of ghee in a small skillet. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and saute until just tender. Add spinach and stir to blend. Add turmeric and remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Continue simmering and stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, until liquid is evaporated. Set aside to cool.


Divide the spinach filling into 8 equal portions. Place one portion of the filling in the center of each fish filet. Fold the ends of the fish filet toward the center to form a tight roll. Gently press the filling toward the center to form neat edges and place center-side up in a shallow baking dish. Repeat with the remaining fish filets, arranging the stuffed rolls snugly in the baking dish. Drizzle with remaining ghee and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, until fish turns white and flaky. Arrange the rolls seam-side down on individual plates and drizzle with a tablespoon of ghee from the baking pan. Makes 8 fish rolls.


Lamb-Filled Samosas


Samosas are little deep fried pies filled with various meats and vegetables, and the key to succes is in the shaping of the dough and the temperature of the frying oil.


Lamb Filling


1/2 pound lamb, ground or finely minced
1/3 cup onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger root, finely shredded
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add garlic, ginger and onion and saute until just tender. Add lamb and sautee until lightly browned. Add saffron, cumin, corriander and salt. Stir to blend. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally, taking care not to over-brown the meat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.


Samosa Dough


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee (see recipe)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
Vegetable oil for deep frying


In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and ghee. Mix with a fork until the dough resembles coarse meal. Gradually add water, stirring until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into about fifteen 1" balls and cover with a slightly damp cloth to prevent drying. Roll each ball into a 4" circle and cut in half using a knife or pastry cutter. Using your fingers dipped in water, moisten the edges of each half-circle of dough. Fold the straight edge in half, overlap and press together to form a small cone. Cup the open cone of dough in your hand and fill with a teaspoon of the lamb filling. Pinch the curved moistened edges of the cone together to form a small triangle pie. Set aside on a large plate or waxed paper and repeat with the remaining balls of dough.


Fill a frying pan or wok with about 3 inches of oil. Heat to 375 degrees, or until a pinch of dough sizzles and immediately rises to the top. When the oil is hot, gently slide the samosas into the pan, taking care not to overfill the pan. Each batch should be about 4 to 6 pieces. Using a pair of tongs, gently turn the samosas over until both sides just begin to turn golden brown. Remove immediately from the oil and drain on layers of paper towels. Working in batches of 4 to 6, repeat with the remaining samosas. The finished samosas may be kept warm on a baking sheet in a barely warm oven until ready to serve. Makes 30 pastries.


Curry Infused Shrimp with Mango Chutney


24 large shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails intact
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup mango chutney
2 cups water


Place the water and curry powder in a large kettle. Arrange the shrimp in tight curls on a steamer basket, place in the kettle and cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil and steam for abourt 3 minutes. Remove shrimp immediately and arrange on an attractive serving platter. Spoon a small dollop of mango chutney into the curl of each shrimp. Serve warm or chilled.


Mullligatawny Soup


1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbbsp curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp oil


Saute the chicken, onion and garlic in a large skillet until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, curry powder and salt and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Pour the soup into a food processer and puree until smooth. Pour the soup into a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes longer, until slightly thickened. Makes 4 servings.


Tomato Cucumber Raita


2 large tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced
1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped 2 cups plain yogurt


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir gently to thoroughly mix. Chill for one hour. Makes 4 servings.


Spinach Salad with Grilled Lamb and Raita


4 cups spinach, rinsed and trimmed
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup cucumber raita (see recipe)
2 tablespoons mango chutney


1/2 pound lean lamb, trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice


Combine olive oil, lamb and cumin in a mixing bowl and allow to marinate for 1 hour. Grill to medium rare. Slice into bite sized pieces.


Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Toss with spinach and mint in a large salad bowl. Arrange on plates. Top with raita and lamb slices. Garnish with mango chutney. Makes 4 servings.


Spicy Watermelon Rind Chutney


1 medium watermelon rind, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp minced ginger root
2 tbsp minced jalapeno peppers, deseeded
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt


Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened and the watermelon rinds are translucent, about 1 hour. Allow to cool, ladle into sterilized glass jars and seal tightly. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Chicken Korma


The term 'Korma' means braising, and Korma recipes vary widely from one region to the next. The most common Korma recipe features a mildly spiced cream sauce, typical to the Mogul region of northern India.


1 small onion, finely diced
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2" strips
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon ginger root, finely shredded
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
6 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt


Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves and fry until fragrant and crackling, taking care not to over-brown the spices. Add onions and saute until lightly browned. Add cumin and corriander, stirring thoroughly to blend. Add chicken pieces and saute until lightly browned. Add coconut milk and salt, stir to blend, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until chicken is tender and sauce is slightly thickened. Remove the whole spices (cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, and cardamom pods). Serve with rice and your favorite chutney. Makes 4 servings.


Saffron Rice


2 cups fragrant rice (basmati, jasmine, etc.)
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon saffron powder
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ghee
1/4 cup unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger root, finely shredded
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon green chile, finely minced
1/4 cup lime juice


Cook rice in an electric rice cooker, or on the stovetop according to package instructions. When rice is about halfway done, add saffron powder and coconut and continue cooking until done.


Heat the ghee in a large saucepan or kettle. Add garlic, ginger, cashews and chile and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add rice and lime juice and mix thoroughly to blend. Rice may be kept warm in the rice cooker or in a pan in a warm oven until serving time. Makes 4 servings.


Vegetable Stuffed Eggplants


2 Asian eggplants, cut in half lengthwise


2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 small tomato, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ginger root, finely shredded
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
12 mint leaves, finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)


1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander


Vegetable oil for frying


Using a tablespoon, scoop out the center of each eggplant half and discard the pulp. Heat the ghee or oil in a large skillet. Add garlic, ginger and onion, and saute until lightly browned. Add carrot, spinach, mushrooms and tomato and saute until tender. Remove from heat and stir in chopped mint. Allow to cool. Divide the filling into four portions and fill each eggplant half. The filling should be level with the top of the eggplant to form a flat surface.


In a small bowl, combine besan, water and corriander and mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Using a tablespoon, spread 2 tablespoons of batter over the surface each stuffed eggplant half.


Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Carefully place the eggplant halves batter side down in the oil and fry until golden brown. Transfer the eggplants into a large baking dish, batter side up and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until just tender. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


Coconut Banana Pudding


1 cup coconut milk
3 small ripe bananas, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until they form a thick paste. Add sugar, egg, cornstarch and vanilla and stir thoroughly to blend. Heat the coconut milk in a large saucepan until just boiling. Add banana mixture, stir thoroughly and continue cooking until the pudding thickens. Remove from the heat immediately and serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

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