It's curry time!

After speaking with cookbook author Raghavan Iyer about curries, I decided to try one of his recipes. This would be my first time cooking anything Indian so I randomly chose Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Chiles which can be found in the "Contemporary Curries" chapter of 660 Curries. (By random, I mean I thought this would be a relatively easy curry to make since there weren't very many steps involved with the recipe. And I do like potatoes.)

To see if I was right about the level of difficulty, and how I fared with my attempt at Indian cooking, read on.

The curry recipe doesn't call for many ingredients and putting everything together isn't very difficult. The part that got me, though, was the sub-recipe: Balchao masala. The masala calls for a lot of different spices, many of which I did not have. Thank goodness for my friend Devi who has a massive collection of herbs and spices because it was in her kitchen that I made the masala.

Here are most of the ingredients for the masala. Iyer does not like pre-minced garlic in jars but that is all that Devi had in her fridge. The masala also calls for 1 cup of dried red Thai or cayenne chiles but I am a wimp when it comes to hot spicy foods. Out of kindness to my taste buds, I reduced the amount of chiles by half.

This is the masala, pre-blending. Most of the ingredients, sans ginger and cinnamon, are in the container.

Here's the finished masala. It smelled delicious, but I knew better than to stick my finger in there and give it a taste. Now it's curry time!

I went with the Yukon Gold potatoes because I prefer the texture and consistency of them over russets.

Here is the first layer all in place. Two more layers to go.

As the dish cooked, the temperature of the kitchen seemed to be nearing 100, if not higher, but the aroma-tamarind, ginger, cinnamon-had me anticipating the dish's final exit from the oven. And finally, out it came. Here's another look at the curry. Yum.

So, what did I think about the curry? It tasted delicious, and it smelled so good, too. With 1/2 cup of dried chiles, there was definitely a fiery kick to it but the heat was one I could tolerate (note to self: next time, try 1/3 or even just 1/4 cup of chiles). The coconut milk helps lower the intensity of the spiciness, and adds sweetness and creaminess to the dish. Making the masala wasn't difficult at all. If anything, it's inspired me to expand my spice collection. I definitely need tamarind paste in my kitchen!

But the real taste test came down to three people. I first shared the scalloped potatoes with Devi and her fiancé Mark, both of whom liked it a lot. I took it to be a very good thing when Devi said she would make the dish herself. The third taster was Keith, a fellow CondéNet-er who is a huge, huge fan of Iyer and 660 Curries. He liked it as well. All in all, this delicious curry is a great way to get into Indian cooking. I highly recommend that you try the Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Chiles, both for its ease and flavor. Go ahead, give it a try!

If you're into Indian cuisine, what was the first dish that you tried cooking at home? Regardless of whether you're a novice or a pro, check out these Indian recipes from our database.

Esther Sung first joined in 2006. Prior to this, she spent several years in book publishing, including at Harper Entertainment, where the proverbial three-martini lunch was sadly nowhere to be found. When not in the office, she moonlights at the Bottle Shoppe in Williamsburg , Brooklyn , and through this she has developed a fondness for Syrah and Malbec. A quasi-vegetarian, she admits to having relished eating yuk hwe, a Korean raw beef dish.


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