Many Indian dishes tend to be very spicy. Hot food calls for a cooling side dish, a raita, which always contains yogurt. In the West, we are most familiar with cucumber raita, but in India the word covers a wide variety of dishes.
Karl’s Kashmiri Cucumber Raita
2 Persian cucumbers, grated (about one cup)
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. cumin seeds
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
Pinch black mustard seeds
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. red onion, grated
1 tsp. fresh mint, chiffonade
¼ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. black pepper,
Smidgen of Kashmiri chili powder
Sprig mint (optional)
Sprinkle of paprika (optional)
1. Put the grated cucumber in a small bowl and mix in the salt. Let it sweat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to redistribute the salt.
Tip: Many raita recipes call for peeled English cucumbers. This may keep your riata looking an attractive white, but you are losing all of the vitamins contained in the skin. I prefer to “go green.”
2. Toast the coriander, cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds in a small pan until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Grind them to a powder.
3. Put the cucumber in a fine meshed sieve and press out the excess liquid with a rubber spatula.
Tip: You can also take handfuls of the cucumber and squeeze out the moisture. Reserve the liquid.
4. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl and mix well.
Note: For those cooks who need exact measurements: Smidgen 1/32 tsp.; Pinch 1/16 tsp.; and Dash 1/8 tsp.
5. Place the raita in a covered bowl in the refrigerator to meld for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
6. The raita, when finished, should be fairly soupy. If it is too thick, stir in some of the cucumber liquid until you have the consistency you desire.
7. Transfer the raita to a serving bowl and garnish with a sprig of mint and a sprinkle of Kashmiri chili powder (for spicy) or paprika (for mild).