So what are these Indian spice blends good for?
November 16, 2017 6:09 PM   Subscribe

I've got two boxes of spice blends from an Indian grocery store, Zatpat Kolhapuri Masala and Pay Bhaji Masala. For the life of me, I can't remember why I acquired them and I have no idea what to do with them (or any other mysterious spice blends I see in the Indian grocery store) but I long to learn.

I have some experience making curries, but I've mostly used recipes and followed them pretty closely. I just came across this old askme that was helpful but doesn't help me understand these or other Indian spice blends and what I can/should do with them. Any general approaches and/or specific recipes would be much appreciated. You can assume I have a well-stocked kitchen and pantry, that I am an adventurous eater (although I draw the line at squid legs. Eew.), and am willing to invest some time as needed in cooking something wonderful to eat. My spice collection is pretty extensive, plus I have a Penzey's nearby.
posted by DrGail to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pav (not pay) bhaji is a delicious vegetarian street food meal popular in Mumbai. Pav Bhaji masala is just a pre-made mix of the spices you need to make that specific dish. It's pretty easy to make, although it takes a while to cook down, as the vegetables need to be quite mushy so you can scoop them up with chunks of the fried bread. The best bread (pav) to use if you're making it in the West are those very soft rolls from the supermarket bakery. It won't win any nutrition awards, but it's the perfect comfort food, and tastes even better the next day.
posted by embrangled at 6:27 PM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Here's a pav bhaji recipe that looks pretty authentic.
posted by embrangled at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

To add to embrangled's answer I've had success using soft potato rolls as pav bhaji rolls before. If you don't feel like the carb fest you could try using the spice mix for keema pav instead- something like an Indian sloppy Joe.
posted by peacheater at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

the best way to cook cauliflower is to cut it into 3/4 inch steaks, coat it well with oil and a tasty Indian spice blend (has to include salt. Or add plenty of salt.) Roast on parchment paper on a heavy pan at 425 til brown on the bottom. You won't believe how good it is.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:54 PM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Get a book called 660 Curries by Rhagavan Iyer.
posted by matildaben at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2017

We did a really wonderful lamb curry last week that was amazing. If you have a food processor it was really easy and I bet either of your spice blends would work wonderful in it. This tasted exactly like a curry you would get from a good curry house in England so I think the finely chopped onions in water is they way they make their curries.

1 kg leg of lamb diced
1-2 onions
3-6 cloves of garlic
ginger (thumb sized)
Pepper diced
Can of chopped tomatoes
lamb stock cube
spices (probably 2 tablespoons of either spice blend)

Put the onions garlic and ginger in a food processor with 200 mL of water and blend until smoothish doesn't have to be a fine puree, but should be fairly free flowing.
Put into a pan and cook until the water has evaporated and then add some oil and the spices.
Add the diced lamb and cook until browned slightly.
Add the can of tomatoes and another can of water along with the stock cube and simmer covered for an hour adding more water if necessary.
Remove the lid and simmer while gently stirring until the sauce has the desired consistency and serve with rice and naan.
posted by koolkat at 12:20 AM on November 17, 2017

I have a snack idea - seasoned nuts. That may also help you familiarize yourself with the flavor of the spice blends overall, which in turn may give you ideas ("....hey, the way this tastes, I bet it would be good on roast chicken"). This is also a way I use up the random spice blends that I rarely use and don't want to go bad (or that I'm fuzzy on what they are becuase the label fell off the jar or something).

Seasoning nuts is super-easy, too. For about a pound of nuts - preheat your oven to 350 and get out a baking pan big enough to hold the nuts in a single layer. If your spice mix has salt in it, go with unsalted nuts; if it doesn't have salt, you can save time by using salted nuts. Whatever nuts you're using, have them ready in a big bowl.

Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet (or heat 2 tablespoons of oil). Stir 2 tablespoons of the spice mix into the melted butter/heated oil, and let toast for one minute (if it starts looking smoky before then, stop right away). Dump the oil-and-spices into the nuts and mix up real good. Then spread the nuts on the baking pan and throw that in the oven. Let toast for about 10-15 minutes (stirring them up a couple times on the pan during cooking time) until they're lightly-toasted. Let cool in the pan about 3 minutes before serving/storing/eating.

Indian spices work really well with cashews in my experience, but use whatever you like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 AM on November 17, 2017

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