British Occupied, India Fed: 1930’s Dinner and a Binge Watch {Summer Style}

 

There’s something to be said about dramas that unfold slowly. Whether it be of the kitchen cooking kind or the visual arts kind,  storytelling that marinates in its surroundings for awhile always proves worth the wait.  In today’s post, we are kicking off the start of lazy summer weekends with a masterpiece of both food and television… the two season BBC drama Indian Summers and the two-days-to-prepare recipe, Tandoori Chicken. Both are steeped in the colorful, cultural land of India in the 1930’s and both do a big number on your senses.

Just like the beautiful bouquet that was Downton Abbey, Indian Summers is stunning in cinematography, costumes and casting.  Taking place over several 1930’s summers in the Himalayan Mountains of British occupied India, the story centers around a brother and sister trying to navigate the political and polite terrains of affluent society.

Alice and Ralph

Alice comes with baggage to the exotic land she left long ago, escaping an unhappy marriage and an uncertain future.  Her brother, Ralph sets up house in a gorgeous mountain-side estate while pursuing a career in the British government that is vying for ultimate control over India.  Romance, mystery, intrigue, murder and scandal surround both characters as their stories intertwine with local residents and visitors.

The premise sounds simple enough, but the story gets more complicated with each new episode. A murder occurs right at the very beginning but it takes more than half a season to even begin to understand how the characters are connected to the crime and why it is significant to the broader story. It is such a subtle, sophisticated form of writing that by episode four I thought I missed something completely and had to go back to episode three to find an explanation. But as it turns I didn’t miss anything. Explanations unfold gradually as all the characters try to figure out for themselves the details and the reasonings behind the mysterious death. This leaves plenty of time for your own theories about what happened and why which makes the whole show really engaging. Plus there are plot turns and twists that you’d never see coming.

Here’s the trailer from Season 1…

Unfortunately, Indian Summers only had a 2 season run before being canceled so there are just 20 episodes in total. But this actually turns out to be the perfect amount of viewing time if you find yourself in need of a break over a long weekend. No seven season stretches that require months (or more!) here. Indian Summers is one tidy, compact easily digested show that will hook you from the opening scene and have you sailing your way straight through to the end.

To complement this marathon of mini-series viewing is the perfect, low-maintenance Indian dinner that takes two days to make and results in a  feast enough for six. Which means that you can binge-watch with friends AND feed them a fun dinner. Two days of cooking anything may not sound like it is low-maintenance to you at all, but even easier than a crock-pot recipe, all this chicken dish requires is ten minutes of preparation.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

Introducing effortlessly easy Tandoori Chicken… the exotic entree that captured the appetites of mid-century eaters world-wide. Straight from Craig Claiborne’s 1963 Herb and Spice Cook Book, this recipe features simple ingredients, a slow marinade and a slow bake. As you fill your head with the dramatic experience of Indian Summers you’ll fill your space with an aromatic blanket of Indian spices. It’s a well-rounded sensory experience of a most magnificent kind!

The origins of this style of slow roasted chicken have their beginnings with Kundan Lal Gujral  who experimented with tandoori (a method of clay oven cooking) in a restaurant in Peshawar, British India during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Kundan Lal Gujral

By 1947 he perfected his methods and started serving it in his own restaurant in Delhi where it turned into a favorite signature dish. By the 1960’s it was all the rage being offered everywhere from humble houses to luxury hotels, restaurants and even on-board airplanes.  Craig Claiborne loved it for its feature of the spice coriander, which symbolizes hidden worth.

There are many variations of Tandoori chicken featuring different spice combinations – some turning the chicken a bright fiery red, others turning it a deep orangey brown. This recipe lies somewhere in the middle. Dark upon exit from the oven and infused with a tangy warmth encouraged by the citrus and vinegar, it practically falls off the bone once it is out of the  oven.  Ideally you’d have your own tandoori to cook it in, but if not, then a regular roasting dish works just fine.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

Tandoori Chicken

Serves 6

1 5-6lb. chicken

2 cups yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons coriander

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 table spoons fresh lime or lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

  1. Wash the chicken and place in a close fitting bowl. In a seperate bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, spices, vinegar, lime juice and salt. Mix well and pour over the chicken. Turn to coat well with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 12 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Just about to go in the oven.

3. Remove the chicken from the mixture and place it on a rack in a shallow baking dish or roaster. Save aside the marinade mixture for future basting.

4. Bake until tender, about 3 and a half hours. During the first hour and a half baste the chicken once with the yogurt marinade (at about the 45 minute mark). At the hour and a half mark  baste again with olive oil. And then repeat the olive oil paste two more times within the remaining baking period (about every 45 minutes).  You might need to tent the chicken for the last 45 minutes with aluminum foil to keep from over browning.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

You’ll see in the photo above that the chicken does turn out quite dark – it was not burnt, as it sort of looks here – just very brown (similiar to the color of espresso) from the spices.

Once you remove the chicken from the oven let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. Serve it platter-style alongside warm naan bread and a simple salad of mixed greens and you have authentic Indian cuisine to pair with your Indian entertainment.

The house where Alice and Ralph live.

I hope the flavors and the film production transport you back to another era. If you have your own way of making Tandoori Chicken please share your recipe below. It would be fun to experiment with different herb and spice combinations!

In the Vintage Kitchen: Sage Smothered Chicken with Polenta

An Herb and Spice Cookbook

This week in the vintage kitchen we are celebrating the wonders of the summer herb garden with a vintage recipe that has absolutely antique roots.

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you’ll recognize the name and face of the recipe writer…

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…celebrated New York Times food critic and cook Craig Claiborne. Back in February Ms. Jeannie shared his recipe for Eggplant Pizza from his 1963 Herb and Spice Cook Book – a complete gem of a compendium organized by herb and spice for quick reference.  In that post, oregano was the featured herb and Ms. Jeannie gave all the credit to Craig for his imaginative and most delicious creation.

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Eggplant Pizza! Find the recipe here.

But while Craig was the chef in the kitchen, the writer of the words and the name attached to the dust jacket, there was another face behind the flavor of the book – a muse of intellectual imagination that inspired Craig and enhanced his cook book.

Hilda Layel (1880-1957)

Hilda Leyel (1880-1957)

Her name was Hilda Leyel and she was the woman behind the crusade to bring back the herb.

For centuries herb gardening has been considered a feminine endeavor and a maternal skill –  a salve for the sick, a staple for the diet and a component in clean living. But with the introduction of doctors and hospitals and modern medicine, and the dawn of the industrial revolution, herbs and herb gardening fell out of fashion by the early part of the 20th century. Then Hilda came along.

A life long lover of gardens, a student of medicine, and an appreciator of fine food, good wine and natural living Hilda published several books on the importance of herbs, opened Culpepers, the first herbal-only shop in England (which offered herbal remedies, food, makeup and holistic products) and founded the still-going strong  Herb Society all within a decade between the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The efforts of this one woman single-handedly revitalized the popularity of herbs in gardening, cooking and personal product choices for not only the citizens of England but also of the world at large.

Three of Hilda's cookbooks.

Three of Hilda’s cookbooks.

It was Hilda’s passion, promotion and sheer love that inspired Craig with his Herb and Spice cookbook. Her detailed research and botanical understanding of each of the 54 herbs and spices featured in his cookbook tell of the history, symbolism and importance of each plant. Which makes the two of them a great team. She tells why herbs are important and he shows how they taste great.

It is wonderful to see that Hilda’s efforts had numerous and lasting effects decades after her death in 1957.  To honor Hilda’s magnificent determination, it is only fitting to feature a recipe from the sage section of the Herb and Spice Cook Book which comes from the botanical name salvio, meaning to “save” since Hilda in her own way saved the herbs from obscurity. Cheers to Hilda!

This week we are making Sage Smothered Chicken with Polenta, which is on the heavier side of summer cooking but features so many garden ingredients that its hard to resist. If you want to make a lighter (aka cooler) dinner during this hot season, just omit the polenta and serve the chicken alongside a fresh garden salad. It’s delicious either way!

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Sage Chicken with Polenta

(serves 4-6)

1 4lb. chicken cut into serving pieces

Salt and freshly ground Pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (canned if your garden tomatoes aren’t ready yet!)

1 six-ounce can tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

A small bunch of fresh sage leaves (for garnish)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow or white corn meal

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with one teaspoon salt and one quarter teaspoon black pepper. Heat the oil and brown the chicken, onion and garlic lightly. Add the tomatoes, paste, sage and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon pepper or more to taste).

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Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 50 minutes or so. While chicken is cooking prepare the polenta by bringing two and a half cups water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl mix the cornmeal with one and a half cups water until combined. Add cornmeal mixture to the boiling water and stir until pot comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.

Place the polenta on a large platter. Arrange the chicken on top and spoon the sauce over it. Garnish the platter with fresh sage leaves for presentation. Serve hot.

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You will most likely have extra sauce left over with this recipe, which you can freeze for later use as a homemade tomato sauce for pasta or pizza. Delicious and helpful! A big cheers to Hilda for inspiring Craig who then inspired Ms. Jeannie.

Find the Herb and Spice cookbook for sale in Ms. Jeannie’s book shop here. 

Happy cooking dear readers!

 

9 Ways to While Away Your Holiday Weekend!

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It’s here! It’s here! The summer holiday season has officially started. Happy Memorial Day dear readers! If you are looking for some fun activity suggestions look no further, Ms. Jeannie has just the thing. Whether you want to get out or stay-in, celebrate or sleep, here is a list of nine different ways to while away your weekend…

  1. Go Stargazing!

stars

The How and Why Wonder Book of Stars. 1960 edition. Find it here in the bookshop.

Give that neck of yours a break from always looking down, down, down at computer and phone screens! Nothing is more relaxing or more magical than taking some time to simply look up at the stars. Right now, in Ms. Jeannie’s section of the globe, the constellation Hercules is taking center stage in the night sky, which is appropriate for the holiday weekend because Hercules led an exhausting life performing all sorts of daunting tasks in service to King Eurystheus before succumbing to a fiery death. He needed a restful break, just like you and he finally got it in his after-life as star of the spring/summer sky. His kneeling pose proves that he is truly relaxed (finally!) in the night sky.

Hercules is the upside man in gold. Photo courtesy of RetroPrintMaker.

Hercules is the upside man in gold at the top of the picture. This antique constellation print can be found at RetroPrintMaker via Etsy!

You are never to old to enjoy astronomy from a child’s point of view, and that is exactly what the How & Why Wonder Book of the Stars brings to you directly from 1960. Whether you read it to yourself or to a little one, you’ll come away with a new found sense of the solar system that is both whimsical and wise. Find the book here. And visit EarthSky to find out what stars will be appearing in your specific section of sky tonight.

2. Feed Your Friends and Family!

Cooking for a Crowd - vintage style!

Cooking for a Crowd – vintage style!

Whether you are grilling out, picnic-ing, pot-lucking or just plain partying this weekend bring something new to the festivities with a vintage recipe! Find all the inspiration you need in Ms. Jeannie’s instagram feed and in the vintage kitchen section of the blog, where she features recipes from all the vintage cookbooks available in her bookshop.

3. Plant Some Flowers!

vintage planters

Liven up your indoor spaces with some outdoor plants and flowers! These versatile vintage planters transition so well between all the seasons. Great for herb gardens, micro plants and artistic succulent-scapes these ceramic vessels bring pretty personality to any shelf, table top or sill. Find the the above assortment here.

4. Go Birdwatching!

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Fall in love with your favorite birds day after day after day with these vintage 1950s bird botanical prints. Find a large assortment here.

This past week Ms. Jeannie’s neighborhood was taken over by an unexpected kite festival. Not the colorful cloth kite flyers that you find at the beach but the bird species, the Mississippi Kite.

The falcon-like Mississippi Kite in all it's silvery beauty. Photo via pinterest.

The falcon-like Mississippi Kite in all it’s silvery beauty. Photo via pinterest.

Dozens of these intriguing characters swooped and dipped and dived for days around the house giving Ms. Jeannie the opportunity to take a break and look at the wonderful world happening around her. Closely resembling falcons, kites have silver under-bellies that shimmer in the sky like diamonds. And just like star-gazing there is something both calming and curious about looking and listening to the bird world around us.

5. Get Back to You!

tea_collage

Bright and cheery vintage tea treasures can be found in the bookshop here.

Sometimes we all just need to calm the heck down. Tea helps in this department immensely! A pretty personalized tea service and some embroidered vintage linens make the presentation of your soothing experience all the more zen-like. Dive into a novel set in China, written by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck, and you have set the mood for a mini-vacation in the making.

pearl s buck

A vintage 1969 edition of The Three Daughters of Madame Liang can be found in the bookshop!

6. Go to the Zoo!

Speaking of unusual nature sightings, if you want a little bit of whimsy take yourself to the zoo! In the land of Ms. Jeannie curiosity comes in all forms, and travel happens both literally and metaphorically, so if you find that you don’t have access or ability to a real-life zoo – no problem! Take your imagination on a pictorial adventure with Robert Lopshire and his polka-dotted pal. Find them here.

zoo1

This 1960 edition of Put Me In the Zoo is so cute and colorful! Find it here.

7. Go on a Date!

dressup_collage

Sometimes all the dinner date inspiration you need is wrapped up in one vintage clothing piece. Make new memories with old classics like this 1960s beaded cashmere sweater or this snappy vintage silk bowtie.

One of the few seriously great and often overlooked activities in the warmer months is eating outdoors. In the South practically no one eats outside because of the humidity except for Ms. Jeannie! Whether its a bustling city cafe, a rural garden restaurant or even just the back patio of your favorite local hangout, nothing says easy summer like a breezy Memorial Day dinner that you have no hand in preparing (or cleaning up!). So pull out your best dress and your date’s summer suit and make this Memorial Day the most romantic one on record!

8. Have a Cocktail!

Vintage 1950's flash card spells out the sentiment of the holiday weekend! Find it here

Vintage 1940’s flash card spells out the sentiment of the holiday weekend! Find it here.

Or maybe two or three! It’s the sign of a spirited environment when your fellow weekenders say “I’ll have another please!” One of Craig Claiborne’s favorite May-inspired cocktails was Luchow’s May Wine Bowl, which featured two stars of the late spring/early summer growing season: woodruff and strawberries. If woodruff (the herb) is unavailable in your area you can substitute it for vanilla.

Luchow’s May Wine Bowl

1/2 cup dried woodruff (or two teaspoons of vanilla)

1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar

1/2 cup cognac

2 bottles Rhine or Moselle  wine

1 bottle champagne or club soda

1/2 cup whole fresh strawberries

  1. Tie the woodruff up in a small piece of cheesecloth. Place in a bowl and add sugar, cognac and one-half bottle of wine. Cover closely and let stand overnight.
  2. Strain the woodruff-wine mixture into a punch bowl containing ice cubes or a large chunk of ice. And the remaining still wine, champagne and strawberries. Serve in stemmed glasses. Yields eight to 10 cups.

This recipe was featured in Craig’s Herb and Spice Cook Book which you can find here.

9. Take a Trip!

travel_book_collage

Find a bevy of assorted travel books and other vintage reads in the bookshop here.

This may be the ultimate luxury on a three day weekend! But if you can’t afford a trip away this holiday, do not fret! Traveling is a mindset as much as it is an experience. Relish in the adventure of reading with this selection of travel inspired books that will transport you to other places and other times.

Hitchhike your way around 1970’s Europe in the Hitchhiker’s Road Book; kiss the shore goodbye as you head out on ocean waters in Let’s Explore the Seas; fly through 1930s Africa in Following the Sun Shadow; explore 1960s New York City with composer Ned Rorem; learn how to parlez vous in French like a local with Collins French Phrase Book; and take in the sights around London with adorable Zachary Zween.

As you can see, holiday adventures await in an assorted number of ways. However you chose to spend this festive weekend, Ms. Jeannie hopes that it is magical!  Happy Memorial Day dear readers. Now… let the summer begin!

*** From Friday through Tuesday, take 20% off your purchase in Ms. Jeannie’s shop using the coupon code: MEMORIAL2016 ***

 

 

 

 

 

In the Vintage Kitchen: Eggplant Pizza

Eggplant Pizza

Pizza has been a favorite in the U.S. since the early 1900’s with the first of its kind debuting in New York City in 1905. Popular right from the start, pizza wars started popping up all over the city, then the region then the country as Italian immigrants spread across America with their claims of making the best pizza in town.

G. Lombardi's the trendsetter on the american (pizza) frontier.

G. Lombardi’s on Spring Street in New York City was the trendsetter on the American (pizza) frontier.

And while bravado and traditional recipes may have fueled the pizza craze initially, creativity, with its variations on a theme, has kept it going ever since.

Strolling through 19th century pizza signs

A walk through 20th century pizza signs…

By the 1960’s American home chefs were experimenting with the complimentary trifecta of tomato sauce, bread and cheese in new and spectacular ways.  By thinking beyond the boundaries of size, shape and similarity, pizza was elevated to a nouveau cuisine that could incorporate a host of  ingredients from the humble to the exotic appealing to palates both simple and sophisticated.

One such experimenter determined to add a new twist to the traditional pizza pie was food editor, critic and chef Craig Claiborne.

craigclaiborne2

In his 1963 Herb and Spice Cookbook, he capitalized on the subtle yet dynamic flavor pairings of basil, oregano and garlic and came up with a dough-less version of eggplant pizza.

An Herb And Spice Cookbook by Craig Claiborne

Craig was no slouch in the cooking department. He knew his way around a home kitchen just as much as he did a commercial kitchen and he knew what and how people liked to eat. As the The New York Times food and restaurant critic for 29 years from 1957-1986, he pretty much pioneered food journalism in the Unites States at a time in the mid-1950’s when such editorial posts were primarily held by women for the female homemaker audience. But Craig was different, he was interested in casting wider nets, reaching more diverse audiences and bridging a relationship between restaurants, patrons and cultures.

craigclaiborne1

The author of over twenty cookbooks throughout his career, Craig’s Herb and Spice Cook Book is marvelous in both content and presentation. Organized alphabetically by spice or herb name it is a great reference cookbook when you have ten pounds of basil ready to harvest in your garden or you are craving a specific spice like curry or cinnamon… or marjoram!

marjoram

The eggplant pizza recipe fell under the oregano section which included recipes for Eggplant Antipasto, Chicken Napolitana, Herb-Broiled Swordfish and Creole Cabbage among four others. Excited by the possibility of giving her indoor oregano plant a hair-cut, Ms. Jeannie was happy to try this new version of pizza which turned out to be really delicious.

pizza1

It is a fun recipe for a few different reasons: 1} you make a quick version of homemade tomato sauce that takes little time and tastes great; 2} the “pizzas” can range in a variety of customizable sizes depending on the girth of your eggplant… if you have a skinnier eggplant you could serve those as appetizers or hors d’ouevres  for a party (maybe this weekend’s Super Bowl?!) or if you have a more rubenesque eggplant that would be a perfect size for dinner entrees; and 3} the breadcrumbs add a fabulous bit of crunch to the whole package just like a traditional pizza dough would.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe…Ms. Jeannie hopes you love this magical version of pizza just as much as the tradtional.

Eggplant Pizza (serves 6)

2 tablespoons cooking oil (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

1 small clove of garlic, minced

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

4 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon oregano

3/4 teaspoon basil leaves

3/4 teaspoon sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons salt* (Ms. Jeannie thinks this might be a typo as it seems like a lot of salt for this size recipe so please use caution and your own sensibilities with this ingredient. And remember you an always add more salt but never take it away.  Ms.Jeannie used about 1 teaspoon total but you might adjust that according to your taste).

1 medium eggplant

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 cup bread crumbs (Ms. Jeannie used plain panko-style bread crumbs)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesean cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

flour for dredging

Oil for frying (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

Toppings of your choice: whatever  you normally like on a pizza ie: mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olives, etc.

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a one quart saucepan. Add the garlic, onion and green pepper. Cook, stirring, three minutes or until the onions and green pepper are limp.

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2. Add the tomato paste and water. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, over low heat until very thick, about ten minutes Add the oregano, basil, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt* before the end of cooking time. *Salt to taste here. If you think the sauce needs more add a little bit, just keep in mind you’ll be adding salty parmesean cheese and possibly salty toppings later).

3. Remove sauce from heat and set aside while preparing the eggplant.

4. Wash, peel and cut eggplant into cross-wise slices one half inch thick.

5. Beat the egg with the milk and set aside. Mix bread crumbs with the remaining cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper.

6. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.

7. Saute the eggplant in the hot oil until golden, turning to brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all eggplants are cooked.

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8. Place the cooked eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and spread them with the cooked tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese and your desired toppings . Place under a broiler until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

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Ms. Jeannie kept her pizzas simple and just topped them with mozzarella, capers, basil and garlic but other ideas include prosciutto, pineapple, mushrooms, pepperoni, olives, figs, etc. So many possibilities!

Happy experimenting dear readers! With love from Ms. Jeannie and Craig Claiborne

You can find Craig Claiborne’s Herb and Spice Cook Book here and a host of other vintage recipes Ms. Jeannie has blogged about previously here.

Want to know what it is like to run a real-life modern day pizza kitchen? Check out the recently published book Delancey by Molly Wizenberg – it is completely entertaining. And if you are not craving pizza by the end of all this, you are extraordinary:)

mollywizenberg