Indian Night…

The other night I wanted Indian food.  Specifically, I wanted to make Naan, the flatbread everyone loves in Indian restaurants. But I couldn’t just eat bread for dinner.  Well, I could have I suppose, but I’d rather not. So I also roasted some cornish game hens with a cumin honey sauce and make a cucumber yogurt dipping sauce (Raita in India)  for the naan. I topped it all off with some Indian rice.

Half a hen was a good serving size per person. I roasted them close together in a pan and topped them with the cumin, honey, and orange juice sauce before and halfway through the process.

I like these little birds. They make for a nice presentation, since you don’t have to cut up a big chicken into parts for people. And the breastbone is thin enough that a strong chef’s knife can slice right through it for a half bird serving. Plus, they’re tiny and they make me feel like a giant, and maybe I like that kind of thing.

Indian rice varies depending on who’s making it. Some make it solely with ghee and saffron while others throw raisins and almonds in it with curry powder. I went for the curry flavoring without raisins. I used whole cardamom pods for flavoring. Cardamom is a very daunting spice. It has a subtle sweetness (chai gets its flavor from this spice), but if you use too much or bite into one of these pods, they will burn like no other. That’s why I remove them after cooking the rice. They’re one of the more expensive spices, and I recommend whole pods because they last so much longer. Plus, if you wanted seeds or powder, just de-shell the pods and throw it in the spice grinder.

The naan was pretty easy to make. I have a recipe from a culinary class in which yogurt and milk are added to the batter. I thought that was interesting and it was the only recipe I found that featured this so I gave it a shot.

They don’t have to rise long (flatbread…duh), so you can make them simultaneously with your rice or hens. Traditionally, these are cooked in a Tandoori oven, which looks like a big cauldron with a small opening. Because I didn’t pick one up on the way home from the kitchen supply store (sarcasm), I used a cast iron bridge burner that I placed on top of my counter-top range. Bridge burners are great because they give you a long grilling surface if you don’t want to start a fire outside. I also used this particular burner a few days ago to cook five big new york steaks.

They cook really quickly so keep an eye on them.


2/3 cup milk
2 t sugar
2 t yeast (instant or active dry)
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
2/3 cup whole milk yogurt
1 egg
3 3/4 cup bread flour (quality matters)

In a 5 qt (or larger) mixer, add all dry ingredients and mix with paddle to incorporate. Add all liquid ingredients on low to combine. Increase speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes with a dough hook. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide into eight pieces and shape into a ball. Let the dough rest for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare some olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper in it. This will be the flavoring oil you brush on before grilling. Prepare burner or grill for medium high heat.

Roll dough out with rolling pin into a 10″ circle, or go for an oblong shape if you’d like. Brush the top with the oil and place oiled side on grill. When bubbles form on the top, flip over. Total grilling time is about 1-2 minutes.

Game Hens with Cumin Honey Sauce

4 Cornish game hens, patted dry
salt/pepper to taste
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T orange juice
2 T honey
1 t garlic, minced
1 T cumin, ground

Pre-heat oven to 500 F. Rub birds with 1 T olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Put breast side up in a pan just large enough for them to fit (a 9×13 works great here). Combine the rest of the sauce ingredients and brush half of it on the birds. Place in oven.

After 10 minutes, brush birds with remaining half of the sauce. Roast another 10 minutes and remove. Rest 10 minutes before serving.

Indian Rice

2 cups Basmati rice
8 cups water
2 t salt
2 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 2″ stick of cinnamon
3 T olive oil
1/2 t mustard seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/4 t chile pepper flakes (more to increase spice level, this one was mild)
1 sweet onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 t turmeric (sub with curry powder if you don’t have)

Soak rice in cool water for 30 minutes and drain.

Boil water and add rice, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom pods. Reduce to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes. Taste rice to see if it’s done to your liking. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove spices.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chile flakes. Cook until mustard seeds start popping.  Add onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and slightly caramelized.

Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add rice back into the pan along with turmeric. Cook for another 3-4 minutes and taste for flavor.

Cucumber Yogurt Raita

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
2 cups whole milk yogurt
10 mint leaves
1/2 t cumin, ground
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt/pepper to taste

Run cucumber through sieve to remove excess water. Mix with yogurt and spices. Taste for flavor and keep chilled until ready to serve.

*Next up…Seared Duck Salad…*


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