Eating it, though, always meant going out to an Indian restaurant. I was too intimidated to try it at home. Just reading all the ingredients in recipes exhausted me. Plus, I like cooking delicious, healthy meals that are straightforward to prepare. Every recipe seemed to call for 80 spices, some toasted and then ground, others prepared in other special ways that to me shouted, "You will be in the kitchen for five hours and the dog will think you abandoned her." I understand the depth of flavor that can come from toasting and grinding spices, but I also understand that people, myself included, have a limited amount of time to prepare dinner most nights.
Despite reservations, something about cooking Indian food at home kept calling to me. I thought it has to be easier. And then a lot of synchronicity happened. I met my new friend Seema at a women's business event and she offered to take me to an Indian grocery and help me shop for spices and ingredients I had never encountered. While researching recipes at the library for an upcoming workshop, I happened upon two Indian cookbooks by Madhur Jaffrey. In both Simple Indian Cookery and Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, the recipes are short, simple, and a good introduction to cooking a sampling of Indian food. Coupled with both finding someone to help me and the books to guide me, is the growing data that many of the popular spices used have terrific medicinal effects. For example, India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world, a statistic attributed to the large amount of turmeric, an anti-inflammatory, in the Indian diet. Turmeric is also effective in quelling arthritis.
So yes, I do know it's Cinco de Mayo and I am posting an Indian dish, Murghi Ka Keema (Turkey with Peas), but that's how we roll around these parts. This recipe comes courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey. I've adapted it to our tastes (more spice!) and the way we cook. The original version can be found on p. 50 of Quick & Easy Indian Cooking.
Murghi Ka Keema (Ground Turkey with Peas)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
5 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 small Spanish onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
6 ounces fresh peas or frozen peas, defrosted
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala (a spice blend found in most grocery stores and Indian markets)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you like it spicy)
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it shimmers, turn down the heat to medium low and add the cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves. Stir until fragrant about 10-15 seconds and then add the onion. Cook the onion until transparent and just starting to caramelize. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Turn the heat up to medium and add the ground turkey. Working quickly, break up the turkey using two wooden spoons, stirring often so the garlic and ginger do not burn. Once the ground turkey has been broken down, turn down the heat to medium low. Add all the remaining ingredients, and cook for 3-5 minutes longer stirring often.
We like this served with brown basmati rice.