Eat Their Words: The Indian Slow Cooker

By Molly Durham in Food on Apr 20, 2012 3:20PM

Really, what makes a recipe better than when you find out you can make it in a slow cooker? Instantly, the thought of being able to make food ahead and walk away for hours, only to come back to a home smelling awesome and dinner-ready fills your head. Chicago-based author and former TV reporter Anupy Singla must know that glorious feeling well, since her cookbook The Indian Slow Cooker shows you how to bring saucy Indian dishes together with the appliance that embodies convenience in a pot.

The cookbook begins with a great background on Indian spices and ingredients like common beans and legumes. Ingredient nerds (and fans of our Qu'est-ce que c'est series) will love this section, as it includes photos and breaks down spice mixes like garam masala, which is actually just a combination of common spices. Singla also gives general tips on how to use a slow cooker, how to purchase ingredients and what staples to keep around. The beginning of her book also points out a great reason to make Indian food with a slow cooker: "Indian slow cooking is scalable; virtually every recipe can be cut in half or by a third, and its taste and look will parallel the original recipe." A great point for those cooking for one, or even for 10.

The recipes are divided into Lentils, Beans & Peas, Vegetables, Meats and Sides, Desserts & More. She gives us some great food porn along the way, like her Tart Whole Pigeon Peas (pictures on the cover), Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes and Minced Lamb with Peas. You can learn how to make your own paneer (Indian cheese), learn the difference between masoor dal and urad dal, and have a stockpile of meat-filled, vegetarian and dessert recipes.

We tried her Chicken Tikka Masala recipe (below), a classic Indian dish and one of our favorites. We've made this dish a few times before, and we like Singla's version better. Maybe it was the idea to marinate the chicken overnight to give it extra flavor, but this version has a heartier taste and spicier kick. And that's how we like it.

Overall, The Indian Slow Cooker makes Indian cooking seem more accessible and makes the reader feel informed with her tips, techniques and glossary.

Singla will be signing copies of The Indian Slow Cooker at Williams-Sonoma (900 N. Michigan) Saturday, April 28 from 12-2 p.m.

Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, from The Indian Slow Cooker
Yields: 14 cups
Cooking time: At least 2 hours to marinate, then 6 to 8 hours on high
Slow cooker size: 5 Quart

Ingredients:

Chicken:
2 cups plain yogurt
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 (1-inch)piece ginger, peeled and grated
5 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1Tbs paprika
1 tsp-1Tbs red chile powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2-inch pieces

Masala:
6 medium tomatoes
3 medium yellow or red onions, pelled and cut into large pieces
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4-6 green Thai, serrano or cayenne chiles, stems removed
6 oz tomato pasta
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbs red chile powder
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs blanched sliced almonds (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
6 cardamom pods, crushed slightly in a mortar and pestle
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
chopped onions, for garnish
chopped green chiles, for garnish

Directions:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stovetop. Cut an X into the non-stem end of each tomato with a sharp knife and add the tomatoes to the boiling water. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the peel starts to curl back. Pull the tomatoes out of the water with tongs, allow them to cool, and peel them. Roughly chop the tomatoes.

2. In a food processor, grind the onions, garlic, green chiles, tomato paste, garam masala, coriander, red chile powder, salt, brown sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and water until completely smooth. Be patient, as this might take 5-10 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed.

3. Add the tomatoes to the food processor and pulse a few times until they break down but are not completely blended. Put this mixture in the slow cooker, along with the crushed cardamom pods.

4. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, slowly add the marinated chicken to the slow cooker. Discard the remaining marinade to make a thicker base for the chicken, or add it to the slow cooker for a thinner masala.

5. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. If you want an even thicker sauce, remove the lid an hour before the cooking time ends.

6. Add the cream and cilantro. Garnish with chopped onions and green chiles. Serve with roti or naan.

If you want to add another layer of flavor to the dish, brown the marinated chicken in oil on the stovetop before adding it to the slow cooker. You can also grill the chicken after marinating and serve it with toothpicks as an appetizer.