[Photographs: Nik Sharma]
Raita, the yogurt-based condiment that’s often seasoned with spices and herbs and served with rice or meat dishes in a variety of Indian cuisines, is refreshing and incredibly simple to make. For this carrot version, almost all of the spices are added as part of the tadka, an infused oil, which gives the raita an added layer of flavor and texture. (“Tadka” also refers to the technique of infusing fat with spices and aromatics.)
After mixing shredded carrots, thinly sliced shallots, grated ginger, and finely minced green chili with full-fat Greek yogurt, you prepare a straightforward tadka: Heat oil, and then bloom mustard seeds, caraway seeds, and chili powders in it until they’re fragrant. Add a tiny bit of ground cayenne pepper off the heat, to prevent it from burning, before pouring the hot oil and spices over the cool yogurt and carrot mixture. The infused oil will steep into the cool dairy, providing crunch (the whole seeds), as well as a bit of chili heat that complements the sweetness of the carrots.
Use mustard seed oil for a more pungent flavor, or grapeseed oil for something more neutral. Don’t skimp on the chilies or chili powders, which add three layers of subtle heat. Like making a tadka, this raita is a multi-sensory experience. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells as you’re making it to ensure you end up with a pleasant, and not bitter, final dish.
Why It Works
- The tadka provides a hot and well-spiced temperature and flavor contrast to a cool raita made from sweet carrots and shallots.
- Fresh green chili and dried red chili powders add a range of heat and color.
- Adding the dried chili powders to the oil off the heat ensures they don’t burn.
- For the Raita:
- 1 cup (240g) plain Greek yogurt, preferably full-fat
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh juice from 1 lime
- Fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated (about 8 ounces; 225g)
- 2 small shallots, minced (2 ounces; 55 g or about 1/4 cup), see note
- 1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
- 1 serrano, Indian, Thai, or other small hot green chili, stemmed and finely minced (see note)
- For the Tadka:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) mustard oil or neutral-tasting oil, like grapeseed or canola
- 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds (see note)
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or 3/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the Raita: In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, water, and lime juice until smooth. Season with salt and stir in black pepper. Fold in carrot, shallot, ginger, and green chili. Set aside.
For the Tadka: In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1 or 2 mustard seeds to the oil: If the oil is hot enough, the seeds will pop and rise to the surface; if it isn’t, heat it a little more, then try the test again.
Once the oil is hot enough, add the rest of the mustard seeds along with the caraway seeds and cook, swirling gently, until the seeds stop popping and start to darken slightly, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat immediately, then add the chili powder and cayenne and swirl to incorporate. Pour the hot tadka over the raita. Stir just enough to partially incorporate the tadka into the raita, then serve.
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