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Food Matters: Indian meals in a slow cooker; fundraising dinner for Texas Botanical Gardens

Staff Writer
Austin 360
This recipe for spicy cauliflower and potatoes is as simple as putting the right ingredients in the slow cooker and letting the machine do its magic.

Give slow cooker meals Indian flavor

Electric slow cookers are an American invention, but they are perfectly suited for cooking many Indian dishes, says author Anupy Singla, whose book "The Indian Slow Cooker" is still the top-selling Indian cookbook on Amazon a year after it was released. Singla, who will be teaching a class ($50, wholecateringaustin.com) at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, at Whole Foods' Lamar Culinary Center, says the idea of cooking food at a low temperature and trapping the steam with a lid is similar an Indian technique called dum pukht. "The slow cooker is an Americanized version of that," she says. Most recipes for Indian curries and stews usually require a multitude of steps, but "I wanted to try to see if you could cook it in one step and still get the same level of flavors," she says. Plenty of her friends and family were skeptical that Singla could reproduce the complex flavors of, say, lamb biryani in a Crock Pot, but she proved them wrong. "Once they try it, they are hooked."

Although "Indian Slow Cooker" contains plenty of recipes with meat, Singla's next book is about vegan Indian cooking and is due out next year.

Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi)

1 large cauliflower, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large potato (russet or yellow), peeled and diced

1 medium yellow or red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 medium tomato, diced (optional)

1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped, minced, or grated

3-4 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chilies, stems removed, chopped or sliced lengthwise

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

1 Tbsp. red chili powder

1 Tbsp. garam masala

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. turmeric powder

3 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

1 heaping Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Put all the ingredients except the cilantro in the slow cooker. Mix well. Cook on low for 3 hours. Mix once or twice during cooking, especially in the beginning. Eventually the cauliflower will release enough liquid to prevent anything from sticking to the sides of the slow cooker.

Add cilantro. Mix well but gently so as not to break up the cauliflower. Serve with roti or naan and a side of onion and cucumber salad. Makes 7 cups. (To make this dish in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. A half recipe makes 4 cups.)

- The Indian Slow Cooker, Agate Surrey ($19.95)

Texas Botanical Gardens group plans second fundraising dinner

For the second year, the team behind the Texas Botanical Gardens & Native American Interpretive Center in Goldthwaite, which is slated to break ground next year, is hosting a fundraising dinner on Oct. 1, that will feature a meal from Richard Hetzler, executive chef of the Mitsitam Café, which is in the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The Prairie Experience dinner will take place at the historic Duren Hotel, which has been relocated to private land in Mills County. Tickets cost $200, and because many of the guests are coming from the Austin area, the planners are chartering a bus for an additional $60 that will leave Austin at 3 p.m. on the day of the event. For reservations or information, call (325) 642-7527 or email lhtngwmn@centex.net.

Food briefs

• Many food delivery services offer a few vegetarian and vegan options, but now there is a company that makes and delivers vegan dishes exclusively. Veggytopia, which launched last week, offers weekly delivery of eight dishes - four entrees, four side dishes and a dessert, all in 24-ounce containers, so enough for about a dozen meals - for $97. Place your order by Friday and they'll deliver the food on Monday to just about anywhere from Round Rock to New Braunfels, Lakeway to Bastrop. (You can also pick it up and get a $5 discount.) veggytopia.com, 843-7700.

• A Philadelphia food touring company has expanded to Austin. Guides with Ready To Nosh (readytonosh.com) offer two walking tours: a food truck tour ($45) and a progressive dinner tour ($65). The tours last a few hours each and include the price of food and drinks. You can also hire the guides for private group tours.

• Queso is so much more than a can of Rotel tomatoes and a block of Velveeta. The quintessential Austin food is the focus of Quesoff 2011, a free queso cook-off at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Mohawk, 912 Red River St., that will pit home cooks and restaurants including Torchy's Tacos, Frank, Papi Tino's and Paco's Tacos against one another to see who can make the best cheese dip.

• Want to learn more about coffee? Houndstooth Coffee, 4200 N. Lamar Blvd., is hosting a three-part workshop at 7 p.m. starting this Sunday to help coffee drinkers expand their palates and learn about coffee origins and brewing methods. The workshop ($65) continues into October, but you can also take part in free public "cuppings" or coffee tastings at 1:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Register in the shop or by calling 531-9417.

Get your prix-fixe on at Austin restaurant Week

More than 60 restaurants, including Fabi + Rosi, Fion Wine Pub and Bistro, Olivia, Haddington's and Paggi House, are offering prix-fixe dinners or lunches as part of Austin Restaurant Week, which runs Sept. 25-28 and Oct. 2-5, and this year, diners can help navigate the participating eateries and menus with a new iPhone/Android app. As in recent years, restaurants are offering two-course lunches ($10-15) and three-course dinners ($25-35), as well as brunch ($15-20). A portion of the proceeds will go to Austin Meals on Wheels. You can make reservations and find a list of restaurants and the app at restaurantweekaustin.com.

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Reopening: Juiceland. Matt Shook has renamed and rebranded his Daily Juice locations as Juiceland, juice and smoothie bars at 1625 Barton Springs Road and 2307 Lake Austin Blvd. Juiceland features an expanded juice menu as well as a number of superfood snacks and salads. 480-9501 and 628-0782, JuiceLandAustin.com.

• Opening Sunday: Eleven Plates & Wine, a wine bar at 3801 Loop 360 North (Capital of Texas Highway). The "upscale casual" restaurant is owned by Mike and Kelly Swartz, who also own two Melting Pot restaurants in Austin, and features a menu developed consulting chef Sean Fulford (formerly of Vin Bistro) and Kevin Dee, who left the Hyatt Regency Downtown to work at Eleven. 328-0110, elevenplates.com.

• Open: Hat Creek Burger, the second location of the locally owned burger company at 5902 Bee Cave Road, where Pots and Plants Garden Center used to be. hatcreekburgers.com.

• Opening Monday : JMueller BBQ, a barbecue food trailer at 1502 S. First St. from Austin pitman John Mueller, who used to run the eponymous restaurant on Manor Road, which closed about five years ago. jmuellerbbq.com

• Renovated: The Driskill Bar & Grill, 604 Brazos St. The fine dining restaurant inside the 125-year-old Driskill Hotel has undergone an upgrade that includes expanded seating capacity. 391-7162, driskillhotel.com.

• Closed: Paradise Cafe, the 30-year-old restaurant and bar at 401 E. Sixth St.

• Closed: Wyland's Ocean Blue at the Hill Country Galleria.

• Closed: Bella Sera, the Italian restaurant at 11905 Bee Cave Road.

• Opening in October: Old School Bar and Grill, the second brick-and-mortar location from Dan Parrott, who also runs Old School BBQ and Grill, a food trailer located in a school bus. Parrott says he's hoping to open the new restaurant, located in the former Paradise Cafe location at 401 E. Sixth St., in October and that it will feature a live music venue called Austin Cotton Exchange upstairs. The school bus trailer is reopening at a new location at 27th and Guadalupe streets in a week or so, Parrott says. osgaustin.com