Easy Indian Recipes at iVillage

As it gets steamy this summer, the last thing you want to do is stand by a hot stove and cook — especially a spicy Indian dish! Craving a zesty kick minus the steam? Try these cool and refreshing Indian food recipes for chaats (savory street snacks that have a cooling effect) — they're quick and easy to make, they're healthy and packed with flavor and they'll give any summer gathering an Indian twist. Follow up with a fiery main course with exotic flavors and end on a sweet note with a refreshing dessert that kids will love.

Let's Have a Little Chaat

Most Indian chaats have what I consider the five essential tastes: sweet, sour, spicy, crunchy and cool. This chickpea chaat is a really simple favorite Indian recipe that you can put together in minutes. It can be made ahead of time and left in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors combine. It can be served cold or at room temperature, and most of the ingredients are easy to find. You can substitute lemon juice for tamarind paste, but why tamper with a good thing?

    Chickpea and Potato Chaat
    Serves 4
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  • 3 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 large potato, boiled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, finely chopped, or 1/2 raw green mango, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 small fresh green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (available in any Indian store), dissolved in a little hot water, or juice of 1 lemon or more to taste
  • 1 bag plain potato chips, coarsely crushed, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)

Mix the rinsed and drained chickpeas with the potato, cucumber, chilies and onion. Mix the red chili powder, ground cumin and salt and pepper with the tamarind paste. This is your dressing, and you can make it as hot or as mild as you like. Combine the dressing with the vegetables in a large bowl. Mix, taste and adjust the seasonings. Before serving, add the crushed chips to each portion or simply pass the chips around as a topping so they don't get soggy. If you like, garnish the chaat with cilantro.

Bean There, Done That?

Most people know that mung beans are healthy, but a mung bean salad conjures up visions of a flavorless hippie-dippy medley of vegetables. Not this salad. It has plenty of zing, and it works either as a light lunch or a dinner salad. The yogurt is a great cooling agent for the spices. This particular Indian recipe is inspired by a staple Bombay dish called misal pao, which is served with hamburger-bun-like rolls. The original recipe is guaranteed to induce heartburn, and this less spicy, healthier version is my new diet favorite!

    Moong Misal
    Serves 4
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  • 4 cups mung beans
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Cayenne pepper or chili powder to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 carrot, very finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 beets, very finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups (or more) plain yogurt, beaten and strained

Boil the mung beans in salted water until soft (not mushy, not crunchy, but somewhere in between). Drain and mix with the spice powders and sugar. Add the chopped vegetables. The beets and carrots add some crunch, but if you don't like the texture (or want to avoid the extra chopping), skip them by all means.

Let the mixture cool. Add 1 cup of the yogurt (it reduces in volume when strained) to the vegetables. Chill. Add salt to taste and serve the salad cold or at room temperature.

A Hint of Mint

A raita is a yogurt-based accompaniment to a meal and is a natural coolant that's especially welcome during the summer months. It takes no time to put together and even less time to devour! This is an ideal Indian recipe for an outdoor meal or picnic, and it will be most appreciated when you serve it with a spicy dish.

    Cucumber Raita
    Serves 4
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  • 1 quart plain natural yogurt
  • 1 large English cucumber, grated
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pepper to taste

Beat the yogurt until it is completely smooth. Grate the cucumber and squeeze out the excess water. (You can also tie the grated cucumber in cheesecloth overnight and let the water drain into a bowl.) To the yogurt, add salt and sugar to taste, and mix. Add the cucumber and combine well. Sprinkle the mint, chili powder, cumin and pepper in a pretty, decorative design on top of the raita to serve — the first one who dives in gets to mix it up!

Forget the Cold Turkey

Keema is one of those dishes I put together when my husband decides to go on his low-carb diet. It's what I call my Indian version of meatloaf, except it's more like a stir-fry.

In India, keema is made from ground mutton, and you can also use lamb, which makes the dish richer. But I prefer ground turkey, which is unfairly underrated. It's much healthier, and there's no lack of flavor or moisture in this dish. Indian keema gets its flavor from a process of cooking the meat in spices and tomatoes until it turns a rich, dark chocolate color. You won't get that color with turkey meat, but the flavor more than makes up for it. I sometimes add sliced baby portobello mushrooms for a nice woodsy essence.

    Turkey Keema
    Serves 4
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  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 brown cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 8 curry leaves
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • 2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon mango powder
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen baby green peas
  • 1/2 cup button or portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fenugreek leaves
  • Flatbreads or hamburger buns, for serving

In a large saute pan, brown the turkey over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Remove the turkey with a slotted spoon. Drain the fat from the pan and add the oil. Add the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to crackle, add the onion, and cook until brown.

Add the chilies, garlic and salt. Add the tomato paste and tomato puree; cook for 7 minutes. Add all the other ground spices and stir. Add the chopped peppers, and cook until softened. Add the frozen peas and the mushrooms; cook until the vegetables are soft.

Add back the browned turkey. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the mixture. Add the fenugreek leaves, and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with Indian flatbreads (rotis or chapatis) or soft white hamburger buns.

A Real Crowd Pea-ser

There's nothing like fresh green peas to evoke a summery feeling. In India, frozen vegetables are regarded with suspicion, and come pea season the women of the family gather around to shell large bags of fresh peas and exchange gossip. It's purely for sampling purposes, of course, that a majority of the sweet bounty never makes it to the intended dish. This Indian recipe is one of my favorites for several reasons: You can get high-quality frozen peas quite easily in the States, there's no chopping involved and the dish is ready in less than 15 minutes! I do miss the family gossip, but the natural fresh sweetness of the peas accentuated by a touch of sugar always transports me back.

    Tossed Peas
    Serves 4
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  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 8 to 10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 small green chilies
  • 1 package good-quality frozen tender peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste

In a small wok or medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to sizzle. Add the curry leaves and chilies, and cook until you can smell them. Add the frozen peas, sugar and salt. Cook until the peas are tender. Taste, and add a squeeze of lemon juice. You should be able to taste the natural sweetness of the peas, which is why this dish uses minimal spices.

Red-Hot Chicken

Barbecued chicken is practically unavoidable on summer weekends. In India, tandoori chicken is the natural substitute. But in the southern region of the country, the focus is on fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds for flavoring. Curry leaves are one of the two fresh herbs commonly used in the country (the other is cilantro), and they have nothing to do with the curry powder most people in America are familiar with.

In fact, curry powder is not even an Indian invention but was created and popularized by the British as a single spice mix to do away with the numerous spices that are a requisite in Indian food. Fresh curry leaves have a fabulous aroma. This recipe gets all its flavor from the leaves, so don't be afraid to use plenty of them — they're much milder than you would think.

Like most Indians, I use skinless chicken pieces because we are generally squeamish about the texture of chicken skin. This quick and easy dish is finger-lickin' delicious, and you don't even need the grill!

    Spicy Kerala Curry Leaf Chicken
    Serves 4
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  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red chili powder
  • 3 to 4 cups fresh curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or 1 teaspoon tamarind paste dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 pounds skinless chicken (medium-size pieces on the bone)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Sliced onions and flatbreads, for serving

Crush the garlic. Mix it with the chili powder, curry leaves, salt and vinegar or tamarind water. This is your marinade. Add the chicken pieces and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat until smoking. Add the chicken, cooking on all sides until it gets brown and crispy. Reduce the flame and add the marinade. Cook on a low flame until the chicken is fully cooked and moist and all the liquid has dried up. Serve with sliced onions and flatbreads.

Any Given Sundae

Kulfi, or unchurned Indian ice cream, is a summer staple that you can whip up at home without an ice cream maker. It's rich and creamy, and it's usually full of nuts in some form. The most common flavors are malai (plain), badam (almond) and pistachio. Although you can make kulfi at home, you might just want to save time and pick up a quart for these refreshing South Asian sundaes. Stick to the flavors mentioned; avoid the newfangled mango and chocolate versions, since they won't complement the rose syrup in this Indian recipe.

Kulfi is commonly sold on the street in India, in traditional terracotta molds (matkas) that impart their own unique flavor. The dish is of Pakistani origin and is one of those old-fashioned desserts that are falling out of favor. That's unfortunate, because kulfi has so many unique and interesting flavors and textures, part of which you'll sip through a straw and part of which you'll slurp off a spoon. It's delicious and refreshing and will bring back memories of childhood treats like root beer floats!

    Kulfi Falooda Sundae
    Serves 4
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  • 2 teaspoons falooda seeds or takmaria (basil) seeds
  • 8 ounces Chinese noodles or falooda sev
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons rooafzah syrup (available in any Indian food store)
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 quart kulfi
  • Chopped nuts, for garnish

Soak the falooda seeds in water for at least 1 hour. Set aside. Boil the noodles or falooda sev in water for about 15 minutes. Drain the water and add 2 cups of milk. Simmer over low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes until the noodles are soft. Immediately transfer the noodles to an ice bath to cool.

To assemble, set out 4 tall, clear glasses. To each, add a quarter of the noodles, 1 tablespoon rooafzah, 1/2 cup of milk, a quarter of the seeds and a little crushed ice. Stir. (Rooafzah is very sweet, so you don't need any additional sugar.) Top off the glass with 2 small scoops of kulfi and pour a little rooafzah along the sides. Garnish with chopped nuts.

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