Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Tempering spices

Tempering in oil is a traditional method of releasing flavour from whole spices, common in Indian cooking, whether to start a dish, or to finish it (as in a tadka). It’s easier than toasting and grinding, but it takes a little bit of nerve the first time or two, to heat the oil to sizzling, and cope with the spluttering an popping. The final product is worth it, though — throughly fragrant, intensely flavourful oil for cooking or serving.
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Garam (and other) masalas

You can buy masala in the store, but there is absolutely no comparison between store-bought and the freshness of a masala you make yourself. The term “masala” just means “mixture”, and so a masala is one of any number of spice blends. Garam masala is the most well-known blend, but there are chai masalas, chaat masalas, egg roast masalas, and garam (or warm) masala–so called because it is made with “warm” spices. There is regional variation in garam masala–the more traditional Persian (or mughal) influenced garam masala has no cumin or coriander seed, which is prominent in the better known Punjabi, or northern, garam masala. The process is very similar among all the blends, and is simply dry roasting, and grinding. The spices stay reasonably fresh in a sealed container, for a couple of months.spice_mix


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Okra with tomatoes and vinegar

This is one of the best ways to eat okra. The okra binds the oil and tomato together into a luscious, slippery stew. You can use fresh, or frozen okra. You can cut the okra into rings, or just slice them into halves down the middle. Typical of Portuguese influenced cooking, this Angolan recipe has a little vinegar in it. It’s wonderful as-is, for a veggie main, or side dish. You can also add a whole, cut up chicken and turn it into a hearty meal (like a bare-bones muambha de gallina).okra_tomato


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Kerala pepper chicken

An intensely aromatic, spicy chicken from the state of Kerala, in the southwest of India. Like a lot of food from Kerala, mustard seed and curry leaf are prominent. With the sweetness of the onion, the richness of the chicken, and the fresh spiciness—it’s crave worthy. We were literally stealing the last few pieces off each-others’ plates. We made this at the Normandie house, as part of a big Indian-food-and-Bollywood night, with our good friend Mythili (check out her great blog!) who’s a regular collaborative cooker in our kitchen. It was perfect with a coconutty egg roast, and some chapati, rice, and beer.kerala chicken

–Mythili Menon

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Mayonnaise and aioli

Mayonnaise is a simple sauce, made by combining egg yolks and oil. It is used widely — from salad dressings, to spreads, to dips. It’s very quick, easy, and safe to make — and the homemade version is a far, far better sauce to make than you can ever buy. There’s really no excuse for bottled mayo. Aioli is just a spiffed-up version of mayonnaise, with garlic, lemon, and sometimes herbs. You can play around with almost any combination of oils, and seasonings, and make spectacularly good aioli, in about 5 minutes.

Lime and cilantro aioli

When Maggie lived at the Normandie house, she made aioli regularly (we ended up calling it Maggie sauce). At some point, we had to tell her she was forbidden to make it again, because we were eating it by the spoonful, right out of the bowl.
–Maggie, Eliseo

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Cauliflower kuku (frittata)

This is a very good, simple-to-prepare, dish. It’s a great main, or side-dish, or tapas. It’s got a rich flavour from the browned onions and cauliflower, and a great texture — somewhere between a torta and a quiche. It’s also a pretty effortless dish, so it’s a great addition to any big meal, Persian or otherwise.
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Ground lamb kebab (kubideh)

This kebab has a perfect oniony-meaty flavour, and a fantastic texture — a completely satisfying, kebab experience. Because of a dispiriting lack of decent Mediterranean street food in LA, we turn to this recipe to beat the doner kebab cravings. Kubideh is perfect served with rice, or in a wrap. It’s (of course) best done over charcoal, but it’s easy to make under a broiler, too.
Brad, Eliseo

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Tabouli (or tabbouleh) is one of the quickest, most versatile salads you can make, and is based on a few simple ingredients. It’s a visceral pleasure to prepare, because your fingers and hands will end up covered in fragrant parsley, mint, lemon and olive oil before you’re done. The process of chopping, mixing, and smelling (and tasting) is almost more satisying the serving the final salad. It can be served as a bright summer salad on its own, or as an accompaniment to grilled meat and kebab, almost like chimichurri. It can be made with couscous or bulgur; grain free; or you can substitute in quinoa, or even white beans or lentils. Just make sure to use plenty of mint, lemon, and olive oil.


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Everyone should have ajwain in their kitchen, and they should be using it all the time. It has a pleasant thyme aroma: clean, herbal, and with a bite like the best zaatar or spicy oregano. It’s absolutely ideal for any kind of spice rub on meat, north Indian curry, French soup, Mexican sauces, Ethiopian spiced butter, or Mediterranean stew. It’s not a familiar spice, but it’s common in Persian, Afghan, and northern Indian cooking.ajwain

This is a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, along with a number of other common kitchen spices. It looks like cumin or caraway, but the seeds are smaller and fatter.

If you don’t have it and need a substitute, the closest taste is dried oregano. It’s available at a lot of Persian and Indian markets, though — or cheaply on Amazon. It’s meant to be antiflatulant … make of that what you will.

Roasting bones for stock

Flavourful brown stock, usually made with beef, veal, lamb, or turkey bones is one of the fundamentals of home cooking. It takes a little time, but not much effort. And roasted bone stock adds an immense amount of flavour — as an ingredient, or on its own, as a soup. Stock keeps well in the fridge, for about a week; or you can freeze little aliquots of it, and add it as needed.

Homemade brown stock is much better than almost anything you can buy in the store (some of which is offensively bland). And making your own is a great way to use every scrap of food. Never throw bones away! Keep them (freeze them) and make stock.


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