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The Secret is in the Spices

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The Secret is in the Spices
Red Velvet Halwa / Photo by Christina Oxford

I never knew that naan could taste so good. I have been eating Indian cuisine since high school, and although I liked the flat, chewy bread that came with my meals, I more often than not thought of it as a carrier for the other goodies on my plate, my “biscuit to sop” so to speak.

But at our recent Indian Cooking class with Chef Lavanya Sabin, the Benne Wafer Peshwari Naan, served with a Spicy Butter Bean Spread, was a revelation. It was hands down the best naan ever, its center filled with the licorice-y sweetness of fennel, crushed wafers, and coconut. And when we dipped it in the butter bean spread, you could hear sighs all around the room. This was worth the multi-step process.

Chef Lavanya didn’t pull any punches, and neither will I. Preparing Indian food at home can be out of the comfort zone for many a cook. It is not difficult methodology per se, but the amount of steps can be a commitment. And the first step is often the most daunting—the toasting and grinding of fresh spices.

“Indian cooking is built on fresh spices,” says Lavanya, “and it is common to have fifteen or so spices in a dish.”

But you didn’t even have to taste the naan and butterbean spread to know what a difference freshly ground spices make in a dish. In fact, you didn’t even have to walk in the door of The Coastal Cupboard and make your way to the demo kitchen. The scent of cardamom, and fennel and every other good thing was literally wafting out into the parking lot at Mt. Pleasant’s Belle Hall Shopping Center. And those spices smelled fresh, distinct, and bright, not a hodgepodge, but a deliberate symphony for the senses.

If you didn’t get a chance to join us for the class, you missed the secret to naan success. But not all is lost. We have the recipe for the delicious butter bean spread below, so share, make, and enjoy.

Spicy Butter Bean Spread
from Chef Lavanya Sabin, Charleston, SC