When Anupy Singla was studying foreign policy at Honolulu’s East West Center, cooking was never far from her mind. At the shared kitchen at her dorm at Hale Manoa she regularly cooked Indian food for her fellow students. She assures me, they really enjoyed it.
I believe her.
She’s still a foreign policy wonk but her main interest now is spreading the gospel of Indian cuisine. She’s done several cook books but her newest zeroes in on one of the most popular cooking tools on the market–the Instant Pot.
Her new book, Instant Pot Indian, says it all.
I’m a big fan of Indian food (and the Instant Pot). Having spent a great deal of time living in Fiji, where roughly half the population is of South Asian origin, I learned to do a quick dhal but honestly haven’t taken a crack at other recipes.
Now I’ve got an opportunity to show my friends what I can do.
Thank you Anupy. (Full disclosure–I’m also an alumni of the EWC).
A little about Anupy: Born in India, raised in the Philadelphia area, and a former broadcast journalist—she grew up making trips to her grandfather’s village in Punjab, where she learned how to cook traditional Punjabi-style food. Singla’s books combine her deep knowledge of traditional Indian cuisine and her journalistic sensibility to provide readers with accessible meal ideas that demystify authentic Indian cooking for the home chef. Her book offers 70 classic Indian recipes, each tested for three different Instant Pot sizes, along with a primer on Indian spices.
The following Q&A with Anupy will give you an inside track on the evolution of her new book.
How did the experience of writing Instant Pot Indian differ from that of your last cookbook?
I write cookbooks based on what I think a home cook needs. Why, this cookbook project quickly turned into writing three cookbooks in one with three recipes for each dish! As I began testing, I realized it was not enough to give users just one recipe using a cup of
product like other cookbooks. At least three recipes are needed to navigate successfully from one size of Instant Pot to another. And it was not enough to add notes at the end on scaling up or down, which is where the idea of a chart for each recipe developed. I know
it’s not conventional, but it’s the most efficient and foolproof way for any Instant Pot user to pick up my book and successfully cook.
Why the Instant Pot? How has this cookbook made Indian food more accessible?
I have been writing this book in my head for over a decade. As soon as I saw my first electric pressure cooker, I knew this was going to be the easiest way for Americans to access cooking seemingly tough ingredients like beans and lentils. Much like a Crockpot,
the Instant Pot allows you to add ingredients to the pot, press a few buttons, and literally step away and go on with your day. Sure, you can use a pressure cooker on the stove, but plugging a device into a socket is what changes the playing field. And now with a
cookbook that walks you through every favorite Indian recipe, there’s no reason you can’t get Indian food on your table every week, if not every night. I’m especially thrilled to offer this book to my fellow Indian American moms and dads who struggle not only to
get food on the table but to offer up their childhood food memories to their own children. My mission is to preserve our family recipes for generations to come.
What is one of your favorite recipes from this new cookbook? What was the
inspiration behind it?
In all my books, I lead with a recipe for Rajmah, Punjabi kidney bean curry. I love this dish so much we even photographed it for the cover rather than just a butter chicken or chicken tikka masala, which are both delicious but not as authentically found on our
tables. It is truly what we eat every single weekend and what my girls grew up loving. Our pediatrician even started eating this dish after my kids raved about it to her in every doctor’s appointment.
You’re the author of four cookbooks now. How do you find inspiration to create
I love to eat. My family loves to eat. And I truly love the process of taking a dish and breaking it down over and over to simplify it to the point that it can be replicated without losing any of the essence of the dish itself. What am I most proud to offer in my
cookbooks? Recipes that are clear, concise, and very well-tested. People don’t have the time and resources to waste on recipes that flop. I want to be sure when they invest in me and my cookbooks, they truly take their cooking and eating to another level. I also want
to be sure that my own community can use my cookbooks as an anthology on how to preserve their food roots with their own family. My most treasured feedback is when someone from my community makes a recipe and responds that it made them think of
their mother’s cooking or reminds them of their childhood home. You’ve talked previously about how wanting to teach your daughters to appreciate good Indian food is why you pivoted from being a reporter to being a cookbook author.
Have your daughters inspired any recipes in the cookbook? What are their favorite recipes?
My daughters are now in college. It’s hard to believe, because I began writing these recipes down essentially for them when they were babies. How do I know I have made a difference? Whenever they come home, the first thing they look for is my cooking and
something Indian in the fridge. They have a huge love for Indian food and cooking. And they constantly share this love with their friends. They are proud of their culinary roots and invite their friends over to share their mom’s cooking. Every recipe I make, I always
try on them and my husband first, and they typically always give me a thumbs up before it goes into the cookbook.
What’s next for you?
I have a few other book ideas as well as a cooking show on Indian cooking. I am also working on getting my spice and sauce line on more grocery store shelves. You cannot make Indian food successfully without the right ingredients, and it’s about time that
someone made it easier to access those ingredients in mainstream grocery stores and beyond. My line is sold under the brand Indian As Apple Pie and is slowly gaining recognition and is on shelves in the Midwest and other regions. I also write weekly on my
website www.indianasapplepie.com so that I can continue to showcase not only Indian food, but healthy Indian cooking.
It took me more than two dozen tries to perfect this dish in the Instant Pot and get to the point where my family prefers it over the restaurant version. Making it at home means that you don’t have to overload it with butter or cream, so you can feel less guilty about eating it and feeding it to your family.
|Warm up||8 mins|
|Cool down||10 mins NR + MR|
|Total time||33 mins|
|ghee or unsalted butter (dairy or alternative)||4 Tbsp|
|green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (keep the husks)||1|
|black cardamom pods (no need to crush)||1|
|cloves, finely ground||6|
|cassia leaves (or bay leaves)||1 (or 2)|
|almond flour||1/4 cup|
|turmeric powder||1/2 tsp|
|yellow or red onions, puréed||1 small|
|piece of ginger, puréed||1 (2-inch)|
|cloves of garlic, puréed||6|
|fresh Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed, thinly sliced||2–4|
|garam masala||2 tsp|
|ground cumin||2 tsp|
|red chile powder or cayenne pepper||2 tsp|
|paprika (unsmoked)||2 tsp|
|light brown sugar||2 tsp|
|boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces||2 lb|
|tomatoes, puréed||1 medium|
|unsalted tomato paste||1 Tbsp|
|half-and-half or heavy cream (dairy or alternative)||1/4 cup|
|chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish||2 Tbsp|
1. Place the inner pot in your Instant Pot. Select the SAUTE setting and adjust to NORMAL. When the indicator flashes HOT, add the ghee, green and black cardamom, cloves, and cassia or bay leaves. Stir and cook for
2. Add the flour. Stir and cook for 40 seconds. You can also add ½ cup of ground blanched almonds or use all-purpose or quinoa flour instead.
3. Add the turmeric. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
4. Add the onions. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
6. Add the garam masala, cumin, red chile powder, paprika, brown sugar, and salt. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
7. Press CANCEL. Carefully remove the inner pot and place on a heat-resistant surface. Once cool enough to handle, transfer the contents to a bowl. Scrape the bottom to loosen anything stuck—use a tablespoon of water and warm the pot on the SAUTE setting to help deglaze if needed.
8. Return the inner pot to the base. Add the water and then place a trivet in the pot. Place the chicken on the trivet and then add the mixture from Step 7 on top of the chicken. Do NOT stir.
9. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Again, do not stir—the key is to prevent the tomatoes from touching the bottom during the cooking process.
10. Lock the lid into place and make sure the pressure release valve is set to the sealing position (upwards). Press the PRESSURE COOK button and then press the PRESSURE LEVEL button until the panel reads LOW. Adjust the cook time to 15 minutes.
11. Once the cooking is complete, release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes. Then manually release any remaining pressure, press CANCEL, and remove the lid. Let the dish cool for 2–3 minutes and then remove the trivet with tongs and stir until all the chicken is coated. Remove and discard the green cardamom husks, the black cardamom, and cassia or bay leaves or leave them in for flavor and eat around them. All the other spices are edible. Add the cream and stir. The cream holds up better once the dish cools slightly.Garnish with the cilantro and serve with basmati rice or Indian bread like rotior naan.
NOTE: This recipe features measurements for the 3 Quart size Instant Pot. Instructions and measurements for the 6 Quart and 8 Quart Instant Pot sizes can be found in Instant Pot Indian.
Reprinted with permission from Instant Pot Indian by Anupy Singla, Agate, April 2023.
Anupy Singla is a journalist and cookbook author based in Chicago, Illinois. She is the proprietor of the food company Indian as Apple Pie, and also has a blog by the same name, for sharing her easy, healthy, delicious, and authentic recipes with a wide audience. She is a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a global philanthropic organization of women leaders in the culinary and hospitality industry. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Wall Street Journal, and more.
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