To many home cooks, Indian cuisine can seem intimidating. But armed with the right shortcuts and techniques, it’s easy to pull off on a weeknight without sacrificing flavor. We took inspiration from the celebratory rice dish biryani — an elaborate affair layered with spiced meat, nuts, vegetables, and dried fruit — for a streamlined version that relies on curry powder to deliver several spices in one. Turmeric brings earthiness to mild-tasting cauliflower, which we brown deeply in hot ghee to build flavor, and then top with a cooling cucumber-mint yogurt sauce. And though panna cotta is not Indian, our recipe made with Greek yogurt, honey, and turmeric evokes the flavors of the spiced drink haldi doodh, or golden milk — with only 20 minutes of active work.
Turmeric Cauliflower With Cashews and Raita
Makes 4 servings
This cauliflower gets its warm golden hue from earthy, aromatic, and subtly bitter ground turmeric.
Raita, a cooling mixture of yogurt, cucumber, and mint, is the perfect accompaniment to the skillet-cooked chili-spiked florets. To lightly crush the cumin seeds before toasting and mixing them into the raita, use a mortar and pestle or pulse them just a few times in an electric spice grinder. If you like chili heat, leave some or all of the seeds in the serranos or jalapeños.
To prevent hot ghee (or a neutral oil) from splattering when the cauliflower goes into the pan, be sure the pieces are completely dry. The cauliflower should not be stirred for the first 4 to 5 minutes — this allows the florets to brown deeply, which builds flavor.
Don’t be shy about squeezing the water from the shredded cucumber. Removing the excess moisture prevents the raita from becoming watery.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed
½ English cucumber, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons ghee or neutral oil
1 2- to 2½-pound head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets
1 or 2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped
In a 12-inch skillet set over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, stirring often, until fragrant and slightly darker, 2 to 3 to minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; set the skillet aside. Using your hands, squeeze the shredded cucumber to remove excess water, then add to the bowl with the cumin, along with the yogurt, mint, and ¼ teaspoon salt, then stir to combine and set aside.
In the same skillet over medium-high heat, warm the ghee until barely smoking. Add the cauliflower in an even layer and cook without stirring until well charred on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chilies, turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons water, then immediately cover. Reduce to low and cook, stirring once or twice, until the pan is dry and the cauliflower is tender, 15 to 17 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the cashews, and serve with the raita.
Curried Chicken and Rice With Cranberries
Makes 4 servings
South Asian biryani, a mixture of rice, spices, and meat, inspired this aromatic, flavor-packed recipe. We use coconut water to cook the rice; it adds just a touch of richness and a savory-sweet quality that works perfectly with the curry and cardamom.
Be careful not to stir too much after adding the rice to the skillet. If allowed to cook undisturbed for a few minutes, the mixture forms a crisp, flavorful crust on the bottom. A wide metal spatula is ideal for scraping up the browned bits.
Mango chutney is a great complement for this dish.
3 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil, divided
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2½ cups coconut water, divided
12 ounces shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (2½ cups)
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
2 tablespoons lime juice
2½ cups fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
In a medium bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the oil, the ginger, curry powder, cardamom, 2½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to form a paste. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the paste to a large saucepan and set aside. Add the chicken to the bowl with the remaining paste and stir to coat. Marinate at room temperature while you cook the rice.
Stir the rice and 1¾ cups of the coconut water into the paste in the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce to low, and cook until mostly tender but still slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, and fluff the rice with a fork. Set aside.
To a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and warm until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Push the shallots to the side, then add the chicken in an even layer. Cook, without stirring, until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir the shallots into the chicken, add ¼ cup of the remaining coconut water, and,
using a metal spatula, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated, about 20 seconds.
Add the rice, the remaining ½ cup coconut water, and the cranberries. Stir, then cook undisturbed over medium-high heat until the rice begins to crisp and brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Off heat, add the lime juice. Using the spatula, stir to combine while scraping along the bottom with the spatula to loosen the crust. Stir in 2 cups of the cilantro, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro.
Yogurt Panna Cotta With Honey and Turmeric
Makes 6 servings
Golden milk, an Indian beverage, is spiced with earthy turmeric and black pepper; cinnamon is a common ingredient, too. The fragrant brew gave us the idea for this colorful take on panna cotta. This is an excellent make-ahead dessert — after three hours of chilling, the ramekins can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to three days.
Panna cotta usually is made with cream, but we add Greek yogurt, which heightens the creaminess and lends a tangy, more nuanced flavor than cream alone.
1½ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
Chopped roasted pistachios, optional, for garnish
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, honey, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring, until simmering at the edges. Off heat, stir in the gelatin, then cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Strain the cream mixture into the yogurt, then whisk. Divide among 6 ramekins, then refrigerate uncovered until cold and set, about 3 hours. To serve, top with the pistachios (if using).
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.