Bratty bambino goes spicy (sort of)

21 April 2008 at 11:04 pm 10 comments

Take a picky Italian-born 4 year-old, add a mother who wants to get back to her Indian culinary roots, throw in a little curry powder and what do you get? “Ooooh spicy! Mommy, I don’t like SPICY!” Cut to one disappointed mommy turning on the stove to prepare her daughter’s favourite: pasta in bianco (plain pasta with butter).

I’ve been living in Italy for 12 years and while I absolutely love the food here, sometimes I crave a dish of my mom’s fiery beef curry or dosas or biriyani. And since Indians in Italy are few and far between, we don’t have a lot of friends from the old country we can mooch a meal off of nor are there many decent South Asians restaurants. So, I had to learn on my own, getting advice from my mom over the phone or studying her craft in person whenever we met up. I say craft because she can whip up an amazingly fresh, delicious and bum-burning dish with anything she happens to have in the fridge.

I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t stand Indian food when I was a kid. Chef Boyardee was a culinary god in my eyes. Ronald McDonald? Better than Bocuse. It was only when I left home for university that I felt those first pangs of spicy longing. I would visit my parents’ friends in Montreal just to get that taste of home. Then a few years later when I was living in Paris, I mustered up enough courage to tentatively cook my first Indian meal. I cheated and used Patak’s curry pastes but my dishes were hits. I made some misses too but I gradually improved over the years and can now safely say that I can cook a proper Indian dinner… for adults. Kids are a whole ‘nother ball game.

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter Bellie is as finicky as Morris the Cat. She is a sworn enemy of vegetables and actually threw up her dinner the other day because there was a microscopic piece of mushroom in her risotto. So you can imagine how difficult it’s been introducing curries and spices to her diet. I thought she would have been used to them from the womb but I was wrong. I really want her to get used to the tastes that I grew up with, to become familiar with the cuisine of her ancestors, because I believe food is a visceral way of getting in touch with your heritage.

So I tried a different tactic. I decided to take the tastes she already likes and morph them into Indian dishes. Bellie loves puff pastry and potatoes so my first experiment was a kid-friendly samosa. I improvised a lot because my son decided to wake up during my precious cooking time. But the samosas turned out surprisingly well and were easy to make.

Here’s the samosa recipe:


4 medium potatoes, chopped into big cubes (I leave the skin on while cooking but it can be peeled beforehand, too)

250 gr mixed vegetables (peas, zucchini, carrots, beans or whatever is in season)

400 gr. can of chick peas

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp of Mom’s special curry masala (made with 1 tbsp cumin seed, 4-5 cardamom pods and a 5 cm stick of cinnamon, ground to a fine powder in a spice mill)

1 tbsp lemon juice

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

salt (to taste)

2 sheets of puff pastry (230 gr. each)

Place chopped potatoes in pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt. Heat to boiling. About 7 minutes after the water starts boiling, add the mixed vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add drained can of chick peas. Boil potato, veg and chick pea mixture for 2 minutes, then drain. Let cool for about 10 minutes then blend mixture (with a traditional or immersion blender) until ingredients become the consistency of mashed potatoes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat oil on medium-low in a skillet. Add the curry masala and cayenne pepper (if you’re feeling daring!) and cook for 1 minute. Add the blended potato mixture to the skillet. Add lemon juice. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Cut puff pastry into 10cmx10cm squares. After the potato mixture has cooled down 10-15 minutes, place a tbsp in the middle of each pastry square. Dampen the edges of each square with water. Bring edges together to form a triangle shape, if possible. Place samosas in a parchment lined cookie sheet or baking pan and put in oven. Cook until golden, around 15-20 minutes.

As you can see from the picture below, my samosas didn’t look that perfect. But I can honestly say that both kids ate them up, vegetables, curry and all!

If you like this one I have my mom’s extra-spicy beef curry recipe waiting in the wings. But only if you ask nice! It’s an ancient Keralan secret.

Buon appetito!!

Entry filed under: Food, Indian food, Recipes. Tags: , .

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nyc/caribbean ragazza  |  22 April 2008 at 6:46 am

    These look yummy! I have only made curry chicken in the past. I think I might be able to make these (if I ever move into my darn apt. )

    Maybe as your daughter gets older she will try different things. It’s good that you keep trying. I have a friend who’s parents let her eat only what she wanted and she is a person you do not want to go to a restaurant with or cook for. She hates everything.

    Don’t worry. If I can cook a decent curry, anyone can!
    So I guess your friend’s daughter is the ultimate “bratty bambino” 😉

  • 2. rowena  |  22 April 2008 at 8:52 am

    Hi LInda,
    I can absolutely understand the craving of foods from your roots — I’ve been here for only 5 years but go back home to Hawaii at least once a year if only for the local cuisine!

    Thanks for stopping by! Now that I know you’re in Milan, perhaps I’ll be seeing an occasional mention of a great place to eat. Oddly enough, we do have an indo-fusion restaurant in Lecco named “Masala” and although it does receive positive reviews, I’ve a feeling that it is NOT the type of impressive indian cuisine that I see gracing the web pages of some very talented indian food bloggers. Spicy? Bring it on!

    Hi Rowena! Thanks for visiting my ‘umble blog and for the kind words.
    Hawaii?!? I’m so jealous. I’d love to go one day.

    I do know of a couple of good Indian restaurants in Milan that actually make a proper curry. I should post a review one day. Plus, when I get the chance, I do eat out at some great, affordable places in the city. Will let you know.

  • 3. Joanne at frutto della passione  |  22 April 2008 at 11:39 am

    Sounds like someone takes after her Mommy 😆
    Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll get a real hankerin for Indian food as she gets older, just like you did – just don’t dress her in green 😳

    Yeah, I guess she does. But I just might make Thai green curry for her one day 😉

  • 4. Frances  |  22 April 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Welcome to She Who Blogs.
    The samosa recipe looks yummy.
    I grew up in an Italian family, but am a huge fan of Indian food.
    I spent quite a while going to an ashram.
    Looking forward to sharing.
    Waving at you wildly from New York,

    Thanks Frances! Did you go to an ashram in India?
    I’ll definitely post my beef curry recipe for you.
    Send my regards to your wonderful city

  • 5. Sheryl  |  23 April 2008 at 7:42 am

    Mmmm… I’m already missing the ethnic food, and I haven’t even left California yet! You’re really funny – I’ll be visiting!!

    Thanks for stopping by, Sheryl! When I was in California I couldn’t get enough of the Mexican food. Soooo good!
    You are too kind, my dear lady. I will return the favour and check out your blog too. Ciao!

  • 6. bleeding espresso  |  23 April 2008 at 8:27 am

    I need you near me to introduce me to proper Indian food; I’ve never been big on it, but I’m convinced it’s because I haven’t had the good stuff.

    Welcome to She Who Blogs, btw, and also–*love* that article on!

    Michelle, if you ever come up to Milan I will take you to a fantastic Indian restaurant. I swear you’ll change your mind.
    Thanks! The editors tinkered with my article a bit so I’m not 100% thrilled with it but I guess that’s the way things go.

  • 7. Val  |  23 April 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Great little piece there. And your writing’s good too!

    Funny, just yesterday we were using Patak curry sauce because David prefers it to his own, and I wondered – not sure if it was aloud – if you knew about this stuff. And today I read this! Weird! And yummy!

    Tanks man! Oh yeah, I used Patak’s all the time. I still buy their naan bread once in a while. But me mam’s curry powder is da best!

  • 8. figcharlie  |  23 April 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Lets start a revolution! All together now, “More foreign food in Italy! Ban the bland merendas! More foreign food!” xxx

    Hello Ms. Fig! Thanks for stopping by. Where do you live?
    I agree with you on the lack of foreign food here but I must admit that I sometimes eat merenda snacks for breakfast. Can’t help it. It’s the junkaholic in me.

  • 9. Bee in Italy, Debby  |  30 April 2008 at 3:02 pm

    I love samosa, but have never tried to make them. I am not Indian and my Mom’s idea of spicy was salt, so my first trip to an Indian Restaurant, with a proper Indian, so he knew how to ask for spicy! I suffered through that meal, but the aromas stuck with me and I found after that I craved the flavours! I love lots of types of cooking and Indian is one of my favourites -Italian is too!

    Indian food is addictive. I am so craving my mom’s cooking right now.

  • 10. pot-limit omaha  |  19 August 2008 at 9:38 am

    I have been living in Philippines for the last 20 years. Once i visited India along with my parents and the food culture there was really amazing and very diversified. Each and every state there has it’s own speciality in especially in food (language cloths, and tradition would be other terms). I enjoyed many recepies their, some of them i remember Chola bhatoora, shahi paneer, matar paner i like most. If in future i will get a chance to visit India, I would not like to miss it, exclusively for Indian Food 🙂

    Yeah, Indian food is addictive!


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April 2008


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