Since I’ve been buried in deadlines the past week, writing and researching for some of my upcoming freelance assignments, I had the privilege of spending many long hours at the bookstore amidst some of the best collections of cookbooks.
Don’t you just love it when you can grab your favourite cup of coffee, and comfortably settle yourself on a cozy plush leather chair in the cookbook section of a huge store? Yea, me too, and that’s just why I plan on spending many more days there. I figure even if I don’t actually get any work done, I could at least read about food to my heart’s content. While on the topic of simplifying Indian food, something I was working to write on, I decided to go on a little hunt and see what I could find. Shockingly, I wasn’t impressed at all!
I picked up a few books, most that looked very promising, and began skimming through some of the most popular recipes, that the authors, no doubt tried their best to recreate as quick and simple as possible. While many made good sense to me, I was horrified by what a few others instructed. So, as I sat myself down and began taking notes, I decided to make my own list of do’s and dont’s, more on the dont’s actually, of what NOT to do when making an Indian dish.
Here is what I came up with:
- In no case, and I mean NO case, should you add ketchup while making curry. If you’re short of time for chopping tomatoes, run them through a food processor to puree. If that’s still not an option, then please, at least use canned tomato paste. But DO NOT use ketchup! That just won’t work. I can only begin to imagine the taste it would give to your so-called curry!
- Whatever people may like to think, curry powder is not really a solution to making a quick curry. In fact, until and unless it’s a blend from an actual Indian location, like say, Madras curry powder, or Malabar curry powder, then it probably won’t and can’t even taste anything close to the Chicken Curry you ravished for dinner at the nearby Indian restaurant. The pale yellow curry powder found on the shelves of many grocery stores hardly taste anything like the real deal. For a quick solution, make sure you have the 5 most basic spices at hand – red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric, garam masala and cumin powder. When you have less time to spare, just add about half a teaspoon of each of them, adjusting the chilli powder to your taste of course, before stirring in the yogurt. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
- No matter what happens, DO NOT add flour to thicken your gravy. Stir in some yoghurt, or better still, a tablespoon or two of cashew/almond paste/powder. The results will be delicious, without being lumpy and looking a mess.
I really do hope this helps in bringing people a step closer to understanding the basic of Indian cooking. I will try and touch upon similar subjects through my Indian 101 series, and can only hope that Indian food will be perceived as something that one can easily whip up on a normal weeknight.
On that note, I leave you with this quick recipe, something I whipped up for dinner last night after the long ride home in the rain. For a pea lover like, it’s a wonderful treat. And even better is how simple it is to make.
MUSHROOM & PEAS PULAO
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4
1 tbsp light cooking oil
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
salt, to taste
3 3/4 cups of water
2 cups Basmati rice
1/2 cup frozen green peas
fresh coriander leaves, for garnish
Heat oil in a non-stick deep pan and saute cumin seeds, garlic and onions till tender and fragrant. Add mushrooms, and fry till brown all the moisture evaporates. Stir in salt and spices, and fry for a minute.
Add 3 and 3/4 cups of water, and once it comes to a boil, stir in rice and peas. Let simmer on a low heat till water evaporates and rice is cooked through. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm with a side of raita.