Apr 30, 2013

My first "from scratch" Indian food cooking - success!

Roti - Unleavened bread
We lovvvve food from India! There's a hole-in-the-wall restaurant a few miles from us that serves their food buffet-style, and it's our "go to" place for a good Indian meal. Our local international grocery store, Jungle Jim's, also carries several lines of excellent frozen entrees and side dishes, which I've bought several times, and these are quite good too. However... nothing beats "from scratch" food normally, so I thought it was time to try my hand at cooking an India-themed meal.

The menu: No Butter, Butter Chicken; Cauliflower stuffed Roti, Panack Paneer (spinach with paneer cheese cubes - this was a frozen pre-bought item, so no recipe)

Motivating me was the TV show "Spice Goddess" on the Cooking Channel. The show host, Bal Arneson, brings a healthy approach to Indian cooking. If you're familiar with this style food, you've probably heard of "Butter Chicken" -- a fragrant, spicy chicken dish in a sauce made from butter and cream. Arneson, however, has a more healthy take on it, replacing the butter and cream with her homemade yogurt. I took that one step further and used a no-fat no-sugar plain Greek yogurt. Here's the recipe:



  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
     (I used olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 small red onion, chopped (I used white)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (I used ground)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I did not add salt)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used 1/2 cup no-fat Greek yogurt)
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the grapeseed oil. When it starts to get hot, add the garlic, ginger and onions, and cook until the onions are golden, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, cumin, garam masala, brown sugar, chili flakes, salt and turmeric, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir well to coat. Stir in the yogurt and 1/2 cup water and simmer until the chicken is done, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, and then shred the meat using a fork or your fingers.

My changes: Olive oil in the pan, add chopped onions, cook 2-3 minutes, then add ginger and garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add tomato paste, cumin, garam masala, chili flakes and tumeric; stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir to coat with spices. Cook 4 minutes. Add brown sugar, yogurt and 1 cup water and simmer (low boil) until chicken is done, 10 minutes. I did not shred the chicken (nor did she on the TV show).  I served this over brown rice.

What I'd do different: Absolutely nothing. This was perfection on a plate. I might add some chic peas just to get the extra fiber in the meal. Other than that, not a thing.


"Roti" is an unleavened flat bread, reminiscent of a tortilla but without salt. It doesn't need flavor because you use it to dip up the other flavor-enthused foods on your plate.


  • 1 cup grated cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I used fresh chives)
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small green chile, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I did not add salt)
  • 1 recipe Roti dough, recipe follows

    • Roti Dough
    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 3/4 cup to 1 cup water
     Add cauliflower, herb, ginger, chile, coriander and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

    Mix your Roti dough. In a medium sized bowl, add the water to the whole wheat flour. Start with 3/4 cup and add more if necessary. Mix with your hands until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, then knead in the bowl until completely mixed.

    Make a little pile of white flour on your rolling surface. Pull off a smaller-than-golf-ball sized piece of dough, roll in your hands to make a firm ball, then flatten and dip each side in the flour. Use a rolling pin to roll out VERY thin. Mine rolled out to about an 8 inch circle. You need TWO circles of dough for each stuffed Roti.

    Once you have your dough rolled out, place one dough round on a flat surface, spoon 1/4 cup or less cauliflower mixture in center and smooth out to about 1/2 inch from the edges of the dough. Place second Roti on top and seal the edges by pressing together.

    Heat a flat pan (she used a cast iron Roti pan that was what we'd call a round griddle pan, and I used a non-stick flat frying pan). Do NOT oil or butter. When good and hot, place stuffed Roti in pan and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. When you see the edges of the Roti becoming dry, flip over and cook for another 30 seconds. The Roti will have small browned cooked spots on them.

    That's it! For me, the part that took the longest was rolling the Roti's out and trying to get them close to the same size. Of course, the show host made that look easy! But then, she's made thousands of these and these were my first, so I'm sure I will get better/faster at it the more I make them.

    What I did different: I don't care for cilantro. On the show, Bal said you could replace it with either fresh chives or parsley. I just happened to have garlic chives in my garden, so that's what I used. She also said you could use ANY flour you have on hand. I used 100% Whole Wheat flour, but I'd like to try Almond or Coconut flour just to make this dish that much more healthy.


    Unknown said...

    You have inspired me, Joan! I do love Indian food, so we'll try the no-butter chicken with coconut milk in place of the yogurt and honey as a substitution for brown sugar.

    I will need to look into the roti, but as far as I know, almond and coconut flour will not be a 1:1 substitution for whole wheat flour. These flours are lacking the carbohydrate chain that give structure, therefore other building blocks must be used for them to cook properly, such as eggs or xantham gum. But the idea of Indian spices wrapped in tortilla-like bread is so tantalizing I may just have to do some research here!
    Now it's lunchtime, thank goodness!

    beebee said...

    glad to see you posting again.
    I am not a big fan of Indian food but that No butter butter chicken recipe looks pretty good!

    Karen said...

    I'm not a fan of Indian food either, but your recipes sound great. Isn't it fun to make things from scratch?