Indian food is commonly known for its super savory and fragrant spices, slow and long cooking techniques and lots of recipe titles that sound strange. My family growing up did not eat Indian food often, as it was hard to find kosher ingredients and definitely not a familiar flavor profile. But as I became trained in cooking techniques, I enjoyed exploring these new spices. Now, I love the dishes and make them at home often. It’s wonderful to try new cuisines and open your taste buds to new flavors. I’ve taken long cooking times and complicated techniques from famous Indian dishes and made them at-home friendly. Trust me – these are savory, rich and delicious recipes you will love.

Lentil Spinach Soup

Photo by kitchentreaty.com

Serves 10

This is the perfect soup for a weeknight. It’s filling and hearty but also heart healthy. Butternut squash pairs so well with garlic, lentils, pumpkin, and cumin – a beautiful blend of warm fall flavors and simple technique. I like to roast the squash because it brings out its natural sweetness when it caramelizes. Feel free to use any hearty green you have on hand instead of spinach. I’ve made this dish with kale and Swiss chard, too, with great success.

  • 1 cup butternut squash, chopped into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock, or pareve chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • Seasoned, toasted pita triangles, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the cubed squash in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

In a large stock pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Add the stock, water, lentils, cumin, cayenne, pumpkin, tomato paste, salt, and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are cooked but remain firm, 30 minutes.

Add the roasted squash and spinach and bring back to a boil for 3 minutes. Serve with the toasted pita triangles, if desired.

Butter Chicken

Serves 8

This recipe is a family favorite. It keeps for days and freezes well too.

Photo by Port and Fin

The dish, which is also called Murgh Makhani in Hindi, is without question the most popular dish to emerge from India. If you are just going to an Indian restaurant for the first time, your friends will likely recommend it as a starting place. It’s mildly spicy, creamy, and full of fragrant spices.

Butter chicken originated in Delhi, the capital territory of India, sometime during the 1950s. During this time, a man named Kundan Lal Gurjal operated a restaurant in the city, called Moti Mahal. Kundan had settled here and started his business after fleeing from political upheaval in another region of India. Moti Mahal was a success, serving many delightful tandoori chicken dishes. The refrigeration facilities or lack of thereof at that time led to Gujral having to innovate to avoid wastage, especially that of the unsold tandoori tikkas. He deduced that a tomato gravy, lush in butter and cream, would soften his leftover chicken and served it as such. The combination proved to be a masterstroke and thus, by accident or an act of genius, the butter chicken was born. I’ve made a few alterations to make it kosher and the results are fantastic.

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 lbs. Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup Tofutti sour cream
  • ¾ cup water

Serve with rice and chopped cilantro, optional

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until onions are golden, about 4 more minutes. Add tomato paste, brown sugar, cumin, garam masala, red pepper flakes, turmeric and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken cubes and stir to coat well with sauce. Add Tofutti sour cream and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Serve over rice with chopped fresh cilantro.

Yellow Turmeric Rice

Serves 8

The fragrant turmeric and saffron turn this rice a gorgeous yellow. It’s beautiful on the plate and mildly flavored, so it can accompany just about anything.

Photo by Chefdehome

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups basmati white rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or sliced almonds, toasted

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and rice. Sauté until the rice begins to turn opaque and to smell nutty and the garlic is softened and lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add broth, water, salt, turmeric, saffron, and frozen peas. Bring rice to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 16 minutes. Stir in nuts. Fluff with fork and serve warm.

Beef Biryani

Serves 8

This Beef Biryani recipe is made with golden raisins, toasted almonds, saucy beef, warm spices, and fragrant basmati rice. So, so good.

For the simmer sauce:

  • 1 white onion (half used here, half used below)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger
  • ¾ cup Tofutti sour cream
  • ½ cup water
  • For the biryani:
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 lb. beef stew meat
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed with water
  • 3 cups beef broth

Make the simmer sauce: Cut the onion in half and set one half aside for later. Cut the remaining half into quarters. Place in the food processor with the garlic, cilantro, and ginger. Puree until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Set aside.

In a large ovenproof pan over medium low heat, melt 1/2 tablespoon margarine and 1/2 tablespoon oil. Cut the reserved half onion into thin slices and add to the pan. Caramelize onion until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the almonds and raisins and cook until everything is slightly softened, and toasty. Set aside.

Make the beef: Return the pan to the stove and melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon margarine and oil over medium high heat. Sear beef stew pieces until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe excess grease out of the pan; add the simmer sauce from step one to the pan. While it simmers, add spices to the pan. Stir fry until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the Tofutti sour cream and about 1 cup water and stir until smooth. Add the browned beef back to the pan with the simmer sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Prepare the rice: Heat 3 cups of beef broth in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add the rinsed rice and simmer, covered, for 5-10 minutes. Drain off the liquid and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon the rice on top of the beef and make a small well in the middle for moisture. Sprinkle the caramelized onions over the rice. Cover with two tight layers of foil and a tight fitting lid.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving. Top with cilantro and serve with naan.

Watermelon cooler

Serves 4

Super refreshing and very beautiful too.

Photo by Jennifer Meyering

  • 4 cups watermelon (seedless, removed from rind, cut into rough pieces, about 1 inch cubes),
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoons agave
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, or to taste
  • 1 cup ice (optional), but gives a nice coolness, so I do recommend it

Place watermelon pieces, lime juice, sugar and mint leaves in a blender and blend until smooth. Turn blender off.

If using ice, add it to blender and blend until smooth. Turn off and serve.

Garnish with fresh mint or as desired and serve!!

For Sparkling Cooler:

Pour about ¼ cup sprite into each cup of watermelon cooler.

Red Curry Lentils

Serves 8

I make this almost every week. It’s fantastic with grilled chicken or steak, over rice, in omelets or on its own.

Photo by alaskafromscratch

  • 1 ½ cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • ¼ crushed red pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • cilantro for garnishing
  • rice for serving

Cook the lentils according to directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until fragrant and golden. Add all the spices (garam masala, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, sugar, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper) and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes; stir and simmer until smooth.

Add the lentils and the coconut milk. Stir to combine and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Apple Masala Chai Cake

Serves 8

The original version of this cake appeared in Sunset magazine, as pictured. I simplified the recipe by using chai tea in place of the Chai masala blend. My version is a bit sweeter too as the Jewish palate doesn’t always like that much pepper in desserts.

Photo by Nik Sharma for Sunset

  • 2 tablespoons loose-leaf Darjeeling or other black tea leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Chai tea leaves
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large Fuji or Granny Smith apples
  • ¾ cup unsalted margarine/butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus more for pan
  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-in. round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Grind tea leaves and Chai tea to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or in a clean coffee grinder. In a large bowl, whisk tea with flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Peel and core apples, then cut into 1/4-in. dice. Put in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream margarine/butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stop mixer, add flour mixture, and beat on low just until no streaks of flour are visible, about 1 minute. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in apples.

Pour batter into prepared pan and level it with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating halfway through, until cake is golden and a skewer inserted into center comes out with some crumbs adhering, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside of pan to release cake, then invert onto rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

Before serving, dust liberally with powdered sugar.

MAKE AHEAD Up to 3 days at room temperature, in an airtight container lined with a clean kitchen towel to absorb moisture.