Mealtime Mama: Soulful dad takes to the frying pan

This series of recipes is from a local dad to two (well, #2 is due in a few weeks), Peter Horton. To give you a little of Peter’s philosophy on cooking, let’s just start with the fact that he doesn’t understand people who don’t like to cook.

To put it another way, he doesn’t understand why people don’t need to cook. For Peter, it’s essential.

“This is rejuvenation of the soul,” he explained. “It’s so much fun and there’s a deep satisfaction in eating something made by your own two hands.

“For me, food is more than just something necessary for the body. I think it’s necessary for the soul. Necessary for my soul, at least.”

Enjoy his soulful recipes:

Chicken Curry

curries3.gif4 chicken breast tenders, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes.

1 onion, finely diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small tomato, diced

2 cups water or chicken broth

2 cups plain yogurt

2 tablespoons garlic/ginger paste

2 tablespoons curry powder (I use Penzeys Maharajah curry powder, it’s my favorite. *Click here or on the curry wheel picture above to go to the Penzeys website.)

1 tablespoon garam masala (it’s an Indian spice mixture, mostly coriander, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and dried chiles)

3 tablespoons diced or ground almonds (for thickening the sauce)

Whole spices:

cinammon.jpg1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon ajowain seeds (it’s a kind of hard to find spice, but Penzeys carries it.  It has an almost thyme-like pungency)

1 or 2 dried whole red chiles (or more if you like it hotter)

 Step 1:  Toast your curry powder and garam masala in your pan on a low to medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  Put aside and let it rest. Don’t let it burn. The toasting process kind of ‘wakes up’ the aromas and flavors.

Step 2:  Pour in your oil and fry your whole spices on a medium to high heat. Some of the seeds may pop.  That’s ok. Don’t be afraid.

Step 3: After you’ve fried your whole spices for 2 or 3 minutes, add your onions first, then your tomatoes.  Fry for a few minutes, until the onions begin to turn translucent.

 Step 4. Add your diced chicken and about half of your toasted curry powder/garam masala mixture and the garlic/ginger paste.  Stir and let it cook until the chicken begins to brown.

 Step 5. Add the remaining toasted curry powder, then your water or broth and yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the almond powder and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Should serve 4 to 6 people, depending on how many side dishes you have.

Palak Paneer


Large container ricotta cheese

4 tablespoons oil

¼ teaspoon garam masala


1 large package fresh spinach

1 cup cilantro

Small bunch mint

Jalapeno (to taste)

2 tablespoons garlic/ginger paste

One lime, juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

Tempering oil:

2 tablespoons oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 whole dried red chile

1/8 teaspoon powdered fenugreek

The first step is making the paneer, or cheese. Since I have trouble making authentic paneer from lemon juice and milk (it always comes out too crumbly and tastes too sour) I press a tub of ricotta cheese into a baking pan and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Let it cool, then cut it into cubes, and lightly fry it for a few minutes in about 4 tablespoons of oil with a little garam masala (about 1/4 teaspoon).  Set it aside.

Next is making the palak part of the dish. Blanch 1 large package of fresh spinach in a small amount of boiling water, then drain it. Add the spinach, 1 cup of cilantro and a small bunch of mint to the food processor, along with some jalapeno (to taste, I use relatively little) and about 2 tablespoons of garlic/ginger paste. Puree until smooth, and slowly add water until it has an almost soupy consistency. Salt and pepper to taste, and the juice of one lime.

Next, make the tempering oil. In 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil (I eyeball it, like with just about everything) add 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 whole dried red chile and 1/8 teaspoon of powdered fenugreek. Fry lightly in the oil for about a minute, then pour it out and reserve it.

Finally, pour your spinach puree into your pot, add your paneer and pour on your tempering oil, then cook it over a low-medium heat for about 2 or 3 minutes. Should make enough to serve 4 to 6 people.

Cilantro naan:

4 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon yeast in 1/4 cup warm water
about 1 and 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
an additional 1/4 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon ajowain seeds
1 teaspoon kala jeera seeds
1 small bunch cilantro, diced fine

Combine flour, proofed yeast, water, yogurt, olive oil, baking powder and salt and pepper.  May need to slowly add extra water until it looks right (it should look like a thick but wet dough).  Mix well and let rise for at least 1 hour.  Cut into small balls, and flatten on a floured flat surface.  Rub some olive oil onto one side, and sprinkle with the seeds and cilantro, pressing them down into the dough.  Place them seed side down onto a baking stone in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, then flip.  Cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes, or until golden brown.