02 June 2014

Substitute (or How to Cook Indian Food with a Bunch of Wrong Ingredients)

 One of the things I find myself having to deal with here so much more than I ever did in NY is using up food before it spoils. In part because of the lack of preservatives or maybe the lack of a good seal on our ancient refrigerator but mostly because in NY, I didn’t cook, unless you count the occasional pot of rice and beans and I don’t, not really. After getting home between 7p and 9p most nights, if I wanted to eat anything more than a few handfuls of Cheez-Itz, we’d either order in or walk up the block to get burgers or burritos. Here, though, I cook all the time and since it’s usually not Italian food, whenever I find an ingredient that’s either hard to find or generally expensive, chances are I’m going to have to use it all week or else have to throw it away.

Last night, we had a chicken we needed to cook and a bowl full of sad looking jalapeños and habañeros that were starting to wrinkle. We had already made burritos (twice. had to use the tortillas we found at Lidl on the cheap once we’d opened the package) and spicy guacamole (had to use those avocados before they got all brown and fiber-y) and were in the mood for something….other. I was thinking Indian. I would just substitute jalapeños and habañeros for green Indian chilies.

But I didn’t want to make yet another chicken curry. I checked the internet to find something else. 

There was this recipe for oven fried chili chicken. But I didn’t have any eggs. So I found a substitute: milk mixed with flour. It worked ok for double breading the chicken, but it didn’t help the batter stick that well. Noted.

Now, what to make with the chicken? I knew we had some spinach left in the fridge and it was wilting. We could make a spinach chickpea curry. But who wants a curry with fried chicken?

There was this pakora.

I substituted regular chickpea flour for besan, shallots for red onion, crushed chickpeas for potatoes, garam masala for chaat masala, fennel seeds for carom seeds. And it was good.

Now to find a way to include “cooking various and sundry cuisines using non-traditional ingredients because I couldn’t find them easily in Italy” to my résumé as a means of accounting for the past four years.

it tasted better than it looks. "giuro".

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