Former Chicago TV reporter and best-selling author Anupy Singla is bringing traditional Indian cooking that meets all dietary needs to your kitchen table. Her new book, "Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook’s Guide to Traditional Favorites," features more than 100 recipes, including meals for meat lovers, vegans, and vegetarians. There are even recipes for those looking for gluten-free Indian meals. Singla stops by Chicago Tonight to give a spice tutorial, and discuss her new cookbook and the future of her own cooking show.
Read recipes from the book below.
Yield: 2 1/2 cups / 300 g
Tools: You’ll need a shallow, heavy pan; a plate; and a spice grinder or powerful blender, such as a Vitamix.
- 1 cup / 100 g cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup / 40 g coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup / 25 g black cardamom pods
- 12 (3-inch / 8-cm) sticks cinnamon
- 1/4 cup / 20 g whole cloves
- 1/4 cup / 35 g whole black peppercorns
1. Combine all the ingredients in a shallow, heavy pan over medium heat and dry roast the spices for 4 minutes. During the entire cooking time, shake the pan every 15 to 20 seconds to prevent the spices from burning. The mixture should be just toasted and aromatic. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Place the cooled, roasted spices in a spice grinder or a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix, and process into a fine powder. Take your time, as this may take a few minutes. If your spice grinder is small, you may need to grind it in several small batches. Sift after grinding to refine the powder or use as is.
3. Store in an airtight (preferably glass) jar in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Yield: 17 (6-inch / 15-cm) rotis
Tools: You’ll need a food processor or stand mixer; a deep, wide mixing bowl; 1 damp and 1 dry dish towel or paper towel; a plate; a rolling pin; a platter; a tava, flat griddle, or cast-iron frying pan; and tongs.
Tip: Make sure your tava stays clean! As dry flour falls from the rotis, it collects on the pan and burns from the heat. Avoid this by cleaning the pan out after every 3 rotis you make. I use a dry paper towel and carefully wipe the pan clean over the sink.
Notes: In Punjab, where my family hails from, we use only flour and water to make roti or chapati. Cooks in other parts of India, like Gujarat, use 1 teaspoon of oil and 1 pinch of salt in the dough. Either way, you’ll love this recipe.
- 3 1/2 cups / 480 g chapati flour (atta), divided*
- 11/2cups / 350 mL water (room temperature), plus more as needed
- Butter, vegan margarine, or flaxseed oil, for stacking
1. In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, combine 3 cups / 410 g of the chapati flour and the water, and blend until a dough ball forms. You can do this by hand in a deep bowl, but it’s messier—which is a big reason why many of us Indian– American moms dread making roti. If mixing by hand, put the flour in first and make a well in the center. Add the water and stir vigorously using 1 hand until the mixture comes together into a ball. This is where experience comes in handy. If the dough is sticky, add a little more dry flour. If it’s too dry, add a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
2. Transfer the dough to a deep, wide bowl and knead by hand for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough reaches the desired consistency. Like any other bread, taking the time to knead the dough well is the key to successful roti, as kneading it develops a network of gluten, the principal protein in wheat. That helps it retain water, which turns to steam when cooking and lightens, or aerates, the rotis. Cover with a damp dish towel or paper towel and set aside at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Roti dough can be used immediately, but I find that it helps to let it sit for a little while.
3. Place the remaining 1/2 cup / 70 g of dry chapati flour on a plate. Pull off a golf ball-sized chunk (2 tablespoons) of the dough and roll it between your palms until it is as round as possible. The rounder and smoother you can get the dough ball at this point, the better your results will be later, when you’re rolling it out. If it is too sticky to work with easily, roll the ball lightly in the plate containing the flour. The trick to making perfectly moist roti is to use the dry flour sparingly. If you use too much, the roti will dry out when cooked.
4. Press the ball between your palms until it is slightly flattened. Place it on a dry, lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin, 6-inch / 15-cm disc. As you roll, practice pressing down on the rolling pin more one side. If done correctly, the roti will turn very slowly on its own, leading to a perfectly round roti. Don’t worry if you have trouble, as this technique takes years to perfect. If you can’t get it down, and the roti sticks to the surface while rolling, just pick it up, dip it very lightly in the dry flour on both sides, and roll it out again.
5. Repeat the process until you have made 6 to 8 rotis and placed them on a platter. The thickness and size of roti varies household to household. Generally, the thinner they are, the better they will puff up later. And not to worry—if you mess up, just roll the dough into a ball and start over.
6. Warm an ungreased tava, flat griddle, or cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. The key is to heat the pan enough that the roti will cook, but not so hot that it will sear as soon as you lay it in the pan. Test the heat level by flicking a drop of water onto the surface. If it evaporates right away, it is hot enough. Experienced roti cooks often just touch the pan quickly with their bare fingertips to assess the heat level. If you want to try this, just be sure your hand is completely dry. Any moisture will lead to a burn—I’m speaking from experience here.
7. Carefully place 1 roti flat in the hot pan. Cook for 30 seconds and turn it over. The roti will be barely cooked. Cook on the other side for 30 seconds. I’ve been perfecting my roti recipe for years, and find that cooking for 30 seconds on both sides first makes for a softer roti later.
8. Turn over the roti. Ball up a dry paper towel or dish towel in 1 hand, use it to press down on the roti, and cook for 40 seconds, until the roti starts to puff up. This is how the roti cooks best—with steam searing through it. The process is counterintuitive, because if you press gently where it puffs up, you’ll see the rest of the roti blow up like a balloon. Turn the roti over and press down again. Cook for another 40 seconds, until the roti is lightly browned on both sides and cooked through. For even better results, after cooking it through (but not completely) in the pan and when it starts to puff up, transfer it to an open flame on another burner. Working quickly with the tongs, turn it, move it around, and flip until it puffs up for you. Be careful not to let it sit for too long, as it will burn. This is best done on a gas burner, but can also be done on an electric burner covered by a metal diffuser.
9. Transfer the roti back to the platter and lightly apply the butter to the top side. Don’t butter roti that you plan to store; see the note below for storage information.If stacking and serving immediately, stack the roti with the buttered sides facing each other. This way, the butter stays contained and never touches both sides of any 1 roti.
10. Repeat Steps 7, 8, and 9 until you have made all the rotis, making sure to clean out the pan after every 3 rotis you prepare.
11. Clean the tava thoroughly. Repeat Steps 3 through 9 until you have used all of the remaining dough. I find that the best way to regulate the pan’s heat level is to remove the pan from the heat (keeping the heat level steady on the cooktop) while you roll out the roti.
12. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Palak Dal Yellow Dal with Spinach
Yield: 12 cups / 2.8 L
Tools: You’ll need a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart / 6-L stockpot or Dutch oven with a lid and an 8-inch / 20-cm sauté pan.
Note: If you love tomatoes, add 1 diced tomato with the spices in Step 5. This is a very basic recipe for dal; really, you can substitute any fastcooking bean or lentil for the duhli moong dal, including masoor dal (split and skinned red lentils).
- 3 cups / 640 g duhli moong dal (dried, split, and skinned green dal), picked over and washed (they look yellow)
- 9 cups / 2.1 L water
- 3 tablespoons / 45 mL ghee or vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon hing (asafetida)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 medium white or red onion, finely diced
- 2-3 teaspoons plus 1 pinch salt, divided
- 1 1/2-inch / 4-cm piece ginger, peeled and minced or grated
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2-3 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Garam Masala
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1-2 teaspoons red chile powder or cayenne pepper
- 6 ounces / 170 g fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- Brown or white basmati rice, Roti, or Naan, for serving
1. Combine the duhli moong dal and water in a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart / 6-L stockpot or Dutch oven over medium–high heat and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. I cook mine uncovered and keep an eye on it to make sure it does not overflow. At first, you’ll see a white film form over the duhli moong dal. Just skim it off and discard, and continue to boil until the dal is soft. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to cool slightly while you prep the remaining ingredients. This will end up a little thick, but will loosen up after the following steps. If you want to thin it out a bit, just add a little more water until it’s at the preferred consistency.
3. In an 8-inch / 20-cm sauté pan over medium–high heat, warm the ghee. Add the hing, cumin seeds, and turmeric and cook for 40 seconds, until the cumin seeds sizzle and turn reddish-brown.
4. Add the onion and the pinch of salt to the sauté pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is slightly browned. Add the ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add the Garam Masala, coriander, and red chile powder to the sauté pan and cook, stirring well, for 20 seconds or so. Be careful not to burn the spices. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, until just wilted. Remove from the heat and transfer the contents of the sauté pan to the stockpot containing the duhli moong dal.
6. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and the cilantro to the stockpot and stir well.
7. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve ladled over the brown or white basmati rice or with the Roti or Naan. This is delicious as a soup as well.
Reprinted with permission from Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook’s Guide to Traditional Favorites by Anupy Singla, Agate Surrey, October 2014.
Indian For Everyone
Anupy Singla Book Tour, Fall 2014
Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 pm
“An Evening with Anupy” pre-launch, with a demonstration, tasting, and discussion. Food, drinks, and book included. Cost: $55
Savory Spice Shop
4753 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
RSVP: (773) 293-4559
Friday, Oct. 17 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm
“Diwali for Everyone” book launch, with food, music, and demonstration. Indian beer and books will be available for purchase.
1550 N. Kingsbury St.
Chicago, IL 60642
RSVP online or at: (312) 587-0648
For more information about Anupy’s other Chicago area stops, visit her website.