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One of the basics in any sort of cooking is spices, and Indian cooking uses a lot of them. Spices and spice blends. Curries and masalas. Panch purans and chaunks. Anyone wanting to cook Indian quickly learns that curry powder out of a box does not a curry make, and every good Indian cook has their own special blend of spices. It's similar to the "gravy" found in Italian American homes. Everybody's family has their own special way of making it.
After toasting and grinding spices for Indian food for the last 21 years, I thought I'd pretty much seen it all. And then I met Vadouvan. If I hadn't taken on the challenge of attempting to add an Indian twist to Workman Publishings' Bastille Day Celebration of Richard Grausmans' French Classics Made Easy I never would have heard of Vadouvan.
So just what is this mysterious Vadouvan? In doing my research into the connection between Indian and French cuisine, I discovered a spice blend that found it's way back to Europe from the Subcontinent. Unlike the curry powder that the Brits took away, the French came up with a chunky blend of onions, shallots, leeks and assorted roasted, toasted, ground spices. But that's where the specifics end, because Vadouvan can be customized and tailored to one's individual taste. Pinning down one basic recipe is pretty nearly impossible.
Indian Vadouvan Watercress Soup
So here's how I made my vadouvan:
Drizzle them well with olive oil.
Spread them onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.
Roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
1 Tbs of urid dal
1 T of coriander
2 T of cumin
10 curry leaves
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of turmeric
2 dried red chili peppers
4 tsp of mustard seeds
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
But now the big question. You have your vadouvan, what to do with it? Well, it can be added to sauces a tablespoon or teaspoon at a time. It can be put into dips or soups, and it can also be put into what goes into soups. Which is exactly what I did with it.
I took Richard Grausman's recipe for French Watercress Soup which you can find here.
I decided to make a sirkhand out of plain yogurt. (Take a cup of yogurt and place it in a yogurt strainer suspended over a glass. Let it drain for at least 4 hours, or until it's slightly thickened.)
You may also use thickened Greek style yogurt.
Whip the sirkhand until it's creamy and add in a nice dollop of vadouvan. Swirl a tablespoon of this mixture into each serving of soup.