Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Aarti Sequeira, celebrity chef, cookbook author and host of Food Network’s Aarti Party. In 2010, Sequeira was catapulted to culinary fame by winning Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star, a reality show on The Food Network.
She was among 12 contestants participating in cooking competitions and
on-camera challenges to determine who would be awarded their own
culinary show on the network. Aarti’s diverse background and work experience, along with her enchanting personality – I feel she has what Tim Sanders would describe as “the likeability factor” – provided a strong platform on which to outshine her competition. Born in India, raised in Dubai, educated at a British school in the Middle East, and then at Northwestern in Chicago, Sequeira started her career at CNN with the dream of becoming a journalist. After coming to the realization that her heart was not in journalism, she moved to LA with her husband, fellow Northwestern alum and actor Brendan McNamara, who gifted her a certificate to a local cooking school. She parlayed her unique background into a stage at Suzanne Goin’s Lucques (one of my culinary idols), where she was inspired to blog and post YouTube videos based on her own creations.
I am looking forward to cooking my way through her cookbook, Aarti Paarti, as it shares easy ways to enhance American dishes with simple but unique Indian influences. I got inspired to pull out my Indian recipes, and would love to share one of my favorites with you, a recipe for Kheema Matar, a ground meat dish spiced with turmeric and garam masala.
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 T ginger, roughly chopped
1-2 green chiles, seeds removed (I use jalapeños)
3 T of oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground lamb
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground beef (not being Hindu, I like to cut the lamb a bit with beef)
pinch of asafoetida **
2 T tomato purée
1/4 t. ground ground turmeric
1/2 t. chili powder
2 T natural yoghurt, drained
3 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
8 oz. fresh or frozen peas
1/4 t. garam masala
5 T finely chopped cilantro
Place the onion, garlic, ginger and chiles in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, add the onion mixture and bay leaves, and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the ground meat and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the clumps. Add the asafoetida and tomato purée, and lower to a simmer. Add turmeric, chili powder, coriander and cumin and stir for a minute. Add the yoghurt, salt and pepper. Add some water, about a cup, a little at a time until absorbed. Add the peas and simmer until peas are cooked, 5-10 minutes. Add the garam masala and chopped coriander and stir well before serving.
** Asafoetida, or heeng, is a spice used as a digestive aid and flavor enhancer that, along with
turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine. It is a yellowish powder made from the dried latex of a type of fennel that has an extremely pungent smell, giving it the nickname “devil’s dung”. No doubt, based on that description, you are dying to run out and buy some…or not. It can be found at Indian markets, such as Little India Grocery in Tempe should you find yourself craving the smell.