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Stocking an Indian pantry


Popcorn
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So due to a variety of factors I have decided to cook Indian for the next 3 months. Pursuant to that I purchased the other day a coffee grinder for spice-related grinding. Today and tomorrow I will be stocking the pantry with whatever other hardware and software is necessary.

So I'm interested in hearing what are the staples of the Indian pantry. wet ingredients, dry ingredients, canned stuff, whatnot.

So far on the list:

Spices

peppercorns

fenugreek

cumin

kalonji

cloves

cinnamon

Other dry:

basmati rice

chick peas

wet

onion

garlic

ginger

I know I can gather a list like this by making a bunch of indian dishes and seeing what spices they need, but I'm looking to get a ready to go pantry so that when I get ready to cook I already have some of the shopping done.

Many thanks,

Ben

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Off the top of my head:

coriander (whole or powder)

turmeric

chili powder

black mustard seeds

garam masala (or make your own)

nutmeg

black cardamom/large cardamom/bari illachi

white poppy seeds

tej patta/Indian bay leaves

ajwain

Indian pickles

dry papad (poppadums)

block of tamarind (or the concentrate as Tryska suggests)

coconut milk

as many types of lentils as you can lay your hands on

kidney beans

stock up on almonds and/or cashew nuts (to be ground and used for thickening sauces)

raisins (again, used in sauces)

besan

fresh green chilis

fresh (NOT dried) curry leaves

coconut (fresh)

limes

mixes such as dosa mix, idli mix, rasam powder, etc. for the times when you want to eat Indian, but don't want to go to too much effort

I could probably be even more specific if you say what type of Indian food you most intend to cook. The spicing is quite different between north and south (not to mention east and west,and all points between these four).

Edited by anzu (log)
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Off the top of my head:

coriander (whole or powder)

turmeric

chili powder

black mustard seeds

garam masala (or make your own)

nutmeg

black cardamom/large cardamom/bari illachi

white poppy seeds

tej patta/Indian bay leaves

ajwain

Indian pickles

dry papad (poppadums)

block of tamarind (or the concentrate as Tryska suggests)

coconut milk

as many types of lentils as you can lay your hands on

kidney beans

stock up on almonds and/or cashew nuts (to be ground and used for thickening sauces)

raisins (again, used in sauces)

besan

fresh green chilis

fresh (NOT dried) curry leaves

coconut (fresh)

limes

mixes such as dosa mix, idli mix, rasam powder, etc. for the times when you want to eat Indian, but don't want to go to too much effort

I could probably be even more specific if you say what type of Indian food you most intend to cook. The spicing is quite different between north and south (not to mention east and west,and all points between these four).

what anzu said :biggrin:

also: dry red chillies

and there is a book called "indian grocery store demystified"

that should have a good list....

milagai

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Well, to be honest, I'm not sure what type I'm going to be cooking. I have two old madhur jaffrey books, "illustrated indian cookery" and "spice kitchen" which I will start with, and I will move on from there. Knowing how my taste in Indian restaurants goes, I'm more inclined towards south Indian.

A few questions:

Is there a difference between black and brown mustard seed? rough idea of what that difference is?

The block of tamarind - will it be in the freezer or on the shelf? Assume I'll be going to an Indian market for this stuff.

turmeric - fresh or the powder?

I understand the need for ghee, is there a default cooking oil as well?

are canned beans okay to use? frowned upon?

indian pickles - As with the tamarind, will this be in a jar on a shelf or in the refrigerator? I'm not familiar with indian pickles as of right now.

I'd also appreciate hearing more about the lentils. I know there are red lentils, and I've seen yellow split peas. what other types should I be looking out for? Does Indian cooking include green lentils?

Many many many thanks,

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black / brown mustard seeds, not much difference as they are used for tadka part of the dish (mostly) - for aesthetic purposes - stick with black

shelf for the block of tamarind - is dry but not like dried mushrooms - though reconstittution is similar process. stick with paste if you are still playing your way around. usually gives a darker color and at times more potent

turmeric - powder - fresh has different uses (salads - juliened, pickling - yummy).

default cooking oil for most dishes - peanut oil - unless coconut oil called for (south indian dishes)

canned beans are ok but they do impart a little bit of the battery-fluid taste. use dry beans, soak overnight (or atleast 4-6 hrs in warm water) and then use those instead. once you have your hand set, one or the other wouldn't matter

indian pickles - shelf. they are usually kept around for the extra kick

u serve a spoonful with the meal. its like using giardineria for sandwiches. think of it as being served on the side so you control the burn

there are tons of lentils. green ones are green gram. believe suvir's website has a list of them. so does sanjeev kapoor's

don't know if this was mentioned but we also keep jaggery - a type of unrefined sugar.

also kari patta / nimda

and kasoori methi - fenugreek leaves, dried

hope this helps

Edited by liv4fud (log)
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Okay, in order of questions asked.

Black and brown mustard seeds are different, but (speaking personally here, others may disagree), I find it okay to use either in cooking Indian. Most Indian markets have only one color of mustard seeds available (choosing out of black or brown, that is, they usually also have yellow), so simply get the one they have and don't worry about it.

Tamarind blocks are on the shelf in groceries. I haven't seen them stored in the freezer yet. There is also a product (the one I know of is called 'Dri-tam') which is dried tamarind powder - just add spoonfuls of it directly to what you're cooking. Purist friends of mine sneer at this, but it can be a great time saver.

Turmeric powder is what you want. Fresh turmeric is not used an awful lot in India.

The default cooking oil tends to vary a lot according to different parts of India. Speaking very, very broadly here:

Mustard oil is used in Bengal and Punjab. This must be heated to smoking point in the pan before use, then reduce the heat to let the oil cool off to a more reasonable temperature, and only then cook with it. Often stocked next to hair oil (such as almond oil) in Indian grocery stores. Don't let the label about not being for internal use put you off. (there is a long discussion about the reason for the label elsewhere on this forum).

Sesame oil is used in the south. This is often labelled 'gingelly oil', and is NOT the same as Chinese sesame oil, it is made from untoasted sesame seeds. I personally find it an aquired taste.

Coconut oil. Used in the south, and along coastal areas. Again, can be a bit of an aquired taste.

Peanut oil. This is growing in popularity across India, I believe, as it has a fairly neutral taste and doesn't burn readily. This is what most of my friends use, and is what I would suggest to you as the default, especially if cooking southern, where ghee is not appropriate.

Canned beans are okay, as long as you drain and rinse them well to get rid of all the icky stuff they're canned in. However, if you are cooking beans a lot, these are not good value for money. Easier to soak them and cook them yourself. I usually make a lot at once (cooked till soft but no spices added), and freeze them in meal sized batches.

Pickles will be in jars on the shelf. You will find a whole bunch of them, usually next to bunch of bottled spice pastes and such like that I don't recommend bothering with.

If you are a complete newby to Indian pickles, then I suggest starting with mango pickles (don't start out buying the hottest ones), or lime, mixed pickles, or eggplant (this latter is usually somewhat sweetish). I myself like Pathak brand.

Each type of lentils will usually come (1) whole and unhusked, (2) split and unhusked, or (3) split and husked. Obviously, the whole ones take longest to cook, and the split husked ones are fastest. Time is not the only factor, though. The same lentils often taste quite different when husked, and when unhusked.

Most common types: (strictly speaking, some of these are beans rather than lentils, but get treated like lentils in Indian cooking)

urad/black gram: black husk, white inside. When husked is completely white. Is shaped like the green mung/moong beans and is related to them. Whole, with the husk still on, they have a very rich taste.

moong: these are the same mung beans that are used sprouted in Chinese cooking.

val/valor: white to tan color. needs to be soaked before cooking.

channa dal: yellow in color, look like yellow split lentils but are larger than them (and taste better than them too, IMO). Rather sweet tasting.

masoor: these are the red lentils you were referring to. Husked, they are the fastest cooking of all the lentils I know. Unhusked they have a blackish exterior (they are rounder than unhusked urad), and you can sometimes see some of the underlying red color showing through. Whole ones take considerably longer to cook.

arhar/tur/toor/yellow lentils: almost always sold split and husked. They look similar to the channa dal mentioned above, but are smaller. They come in both oiled and unoiled varieties, with the packets usually stacked next to one another. This should be a clue that you are looking at tur and not at channa dal. Don't buy the oiled one, as then you have to wash it several times before cooking.

There are more again, but that should be enough to get you going. :wink:

I can't make specific recommendations based on taste for which lentils to buy. I like all of them, and find it interesting to cook different lentils with the same spicing just to see how dramatically the tastes vary.

Which 'green lentils' are you referring to? Green split peas are sometimes referred to as green lentils, and these are used in Indian cooking. If you mean lentils de Puy, IMO they are better off used in non-Indian applications (cost being one factor leading to this opinion).

edited to add: some of these answers are overlapping with liv4fud's responses, who posted just before me. However, I think what we've said is basically in agreement.

I also love jaggery, though I tend to eat it plain rather than cook with it!

Edited by anzu (log)
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wow anzu,

great minds thing alike ;-)

nobody mentioned at the same time - though we can put that caveat.

jaggery with ghee on a roti - beats PBJ any day

also lot of lentils taste better *imho* sweetened with jaggery rather than sugar because of trace flavors.

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Suvir recommends using frozen curry leaves if u don't have fresh, but 33% more than the recipe calls for. So if you are stocking up and don't intend to hit the indian market too often then definitely buy a ton of curry leaves and freeze most of them. They're a pain in the butt to try to find elsewhere. I dunno, maybe other Asian markets carry them but I've never found them.

Also, it's really tough to find a whole list of stuff in a market where nothing is labeled, so get someone there to help you find the stuff. Look for the guy on a cellphone who has no cart or basket. And make sure you go armed with the Indian and English names of the stuff you want (Amchur = Mango, Kalonji = Nigella, etc.) because sometimes it's hard to find someone who speaks English or who knows the English names. I would never have found Mango powder if I hadn't found someone who told me it was Amchur.

One thing I like to do is to follow someone down the pickle aisle and take one of whatever s/he takes. They're so cheap so just buy a dozen things and see what you like. And check the expiration date on pickles!!! Some will be on the shelf YEARS after their sell-by date.

Also, if you know anyone else who cooks Indian ask if they'll go in with you on a bunch of spices, cause some are only sold in bulk, and I mean BULK. I have enough Kalonji seeds to last a few hundred years. So far I've used a 1/4 tsp. Are you near Philly? I could give you all the Black Salt, Kalonji, turmeric, amchur powder, chunky chaat masala, ajwain, white poppy seeds, star anise, saffron, and asafoetida you'll ever need.

Other things you might need/want:

Mango pulp for lassi: Kesar mangoes are ideal, I think

Rosewater for lassi and/or naan

Basmati rice: Julie Sahni recommends Dehradun basmati from Uttar Pradesh rather than Patna basmati from Bihar

The spices I regularly run out of are:

Tellicherry peppercorns

Cassia cinnamon sticks

Cumin seeds (black)

Mustard seeds (black)

Coriander seeds

Green cardamom pods

Bay leaves

Cloves

I also always need/use

garlic

white onions

cilantro/coriander

ginger

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Forgot to mention earlier:

fennel -you'll want it particularly if cooking south Indian

kewra essence - if cooking sweet dishes and some Mughal dishes (usually stocked next to the food coloring)

seviyan (ultra thin vermicelli in very long strands) - if thinking of making an ultra-fast Indian dessert (called, amazingly, seviyan :laugh::cool: )

Re fresh curry leaves. Refrigerated they keep a maximum of two weeks, but they are constantly losing flavor throughout this period and start to grow black and very unhappy. Frozen, they do lose quite a lot of flavor compared to the freshest ones, but are still better than un-fresh unfrozen curry leaves. Dry leaves are good for nothing whatsoever.

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Thank you all so much!

I went yesterday for my initial foray and picked up a decent representative of the suggestions on this thread.

The dry spices were pretty straightforward, and ducksredux, I do in fact now have plenty of kalonji. No luck on the amchur nor the tamarind paste - though that was more a byproduct of my being in slightly more of a hurry than I had realized. I picked up a variety of pickles (pickle?) and am looking forward to busting into them hopefully tonight. Also picked up pappadum.

So now the next question (I hope you don't mind all these - I could read a book but I really prefer the flexibility and direct knowledge of y'all) Is there a standard structure to an Indian meal? For instance when I was learning to cook Chinese food there was a rough ratio of number of dishes to number of diners, and a logic to how dishes were chosen. Is this true with Indian dining?

Also is there a logic to when ghee is used and when oil?

Can anyone recommend a recipe for naan? My goal for friday is a complete meal with several dishes and naan, but since both my cookbooks are british the baking measurements will be off...

One last question I'd like to throw open to everyone. Are there any particular dishes I should try making which would give me insight into important techniques of Indian cookery?

For instance I am planning (from a madhur jaffrey book) on making "Bhuni Band Gobi" for my first dish, as I truly love cabbage. This looks promising as it has several techniques I'm unfamiliar with, making a "tarka", the inclusion of spices at different times for different results, and making a paste of onion tomato ginger and garlic.

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Thank you all so much!

I went yesterday for my initial foray and picked up a decent representative of the suggestions on this thread. 

The dry spices were pretty straightforward, and ducksredux, I do in fact now have plenty of kalonji.  No luck on the amchur nor the tamarind paste - though that was more a byproduct of my being in slightly more of a hurry than I had realized.  I picked up a variety of pickles (pickle?) and am looking forward to busting into them hopefully tonight.  Also picked up pappadum.

So now the next question (I hope you don't mind all these - I could read a book but I really prefer the flexibility and direct knowledge of y'all) Is there a standard structure to an Indian meal?  For instance when I was learning to cook Chinese food there was a rough ratio of number of dishes to number of diners, and a logic to how dishes were chosen.  Is this true with Indian dining? 

Also is there a logic to when ghee is used and when oil?

Can anyone recommend a recipe for naan?  My goal for friday is a complete meal with several dishes and naan, but since both my cookbooks are british the baking measurements will be off...

One last question I'd like to throw open to everyone.  Are there any particular dishes I should try making which would give me insight into important techniques of Indian cookery?

For instance I am planning (from a madhur jaffrey book) on making "Bhuni Band Gobi" for my first dish, as I truly love cabbage.  This looks promising as it has several techniques I'm unfamiliar with, making a "tarka", the inclusion of spices at different times for different results, and making a paste of onion tomato ginger and garlic.

Typical structure to an Indian meal:

Take a plate. In the 6 o'clock position is either rice or some roti

of whatever kind. THESE ARE NOT EATEN TOGETHER in Indian custom.

It took me forever to get accustomed to my non-Indian friends

wrapping rice into their rotis :laugh:

The rice / roti takes up about the largest space for a single item.

From 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock are different sabzis and dals/meats/

raitas, relishes, etc.

The goal is to have a complete meal with protein (dal and/or meat)

sabzis (veggies) and also balance wet and dry dishes.

Your Bhuna BG would count as a sabzi (=veg side dish).

Is it dry? So at the very least you need one dal or nonveg thing

to complete the meal, and decide if you are having rice or roti.

If you want both, just have them one after another.

You can have multiple sabzis and dals of course.

Try and have a small salad type thing (a few teaspoons of finely

chopped fresh vegs, e.g. cucumber and tomato, appropriately

spiced).

You can have papad (aka pappadum, aplam etc.) for fun

also pickles.

most indian communities consider some version of dahi

(yogurt) either plain or raita-fied etc. essential to end the meal;

to cool you off, aid digestion etc.

Sweet at the end.

and if you are really doing the full monty, then end with

paan, mukhwas (mouth freshener - there are a myriad varieties) etc.

I am sure others can chip in re naan recipe (though Madhur Jaffrey's

is pretty good the one time I tried it - it's just too much labour for me).

Tarka is the one most basic Indian technique and without it you'll

really be at a loss. So it's good to master that one.

Nothing much to it - sizzle the spices in hot oil without burning them,

and dump over the dish you are making and mix well.

The spice-infused oil permeates and seasons the dish.

HTH

Milagai

Edited by Milagai (log)
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I would seriously recommend staying away from trying to cook naan, or any other Indian griddle-type bread for that matter - at the same time as trying to cook an entire meal's worth of other Indian dishes for the first time.

You will already have your hands full working with different tecniques, and adding a semi-raised bread into the equation is raising the hassle level to pretty high (timing, bench space, trying to keep track of all the different things at the same time, knowing when the naan has cooked enough).

Very few people in India would cook naan at home.

While still in the stage of learning how to do it, I would suggest cooking plain or lightly spiced rice, and leave the breads - and particularly naan - for when you are trying to learn fewer other new things.

Obviously, it depends on what you are cooking and how the tastes fit together, but in addition to Milagai's suggestions, it's also quite normal to serve a raita (yogurt based side dish) on the table. So: at least one 'wet' dish, ane at least one 'dry' dish (balancing out the lentil, vegetable, meat, components so that it is not top heavy in any one direction), plus pickle, salad, raita. Appetisers don't usually appear in the Indian context, except under Western influence.

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check out naan recipes in northern india breads in the egullet culinary institute forum

they have a simpler home made variety naan - which is usually cooked in tandoor. I also have a stove top one, which I will try to post once I get my hands on it.

pappadum was a good one. can't believe it slipped past all of us.

oil v/s ghee logic - something similar to using oil v/s evoo (sorry had to quote rachel ray here ;-) ) ghee is more fragrant and rich. there are times when the dish is done in oil and then the *tadka* done with ghee. traditionally - the wealthier you are, the more ghee you would use.

also a quick suggestions - amchur powder and chaat masala go very nicely into making a home-made vinagerate for your salads. amchur powder will provide the tartness with trace flavors of mango and chat masala is mainly salt and pepper with other ingredients added in different proportions.

also a certain number of hispanic markets carry a lot of *similar* varieties of Indian spices.

and you can always substitute any whole black pepper corn with tellicherry and vice versa

similarly with tartness and amchur powder, I know the trace flavors are important and can help set the dish aside BUT like Alton Brown would suggest - you can achieve tartness with other ingredients as well i.e. citrus (lemon/lime) or even vinegar. the only problem here would be that experience will need to be your guide to get proper amounts for substitution

regarding yogurt - also believed (and some chemist can correct me here) to have something that dissolves capsecium i.e. the heat of the chillies. like a reset button for your tongue so that you can have round after round of flavors hitting your mouth and every time you feel like its the first time....

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I would stay away from trying to make naan, but then I don't think that I would attempt to roast and grind my own spices, either. chapatis can be cooked on the stove top, and most of my indian friends ate those on the day to day.

I buy very good chapatis from an indian grocery store near me - I dont know if you have decided not to buy anything?

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I'm getting a good picture of how this is going to work. I'll stay away from naan (for now). a few last simple questions:

"wet" dishes refer to dishes in which sauce plays a major role right? This isn't some ayurvedic term? (Getting the terms "hot" and "cold" straight in chinese cooking was tough)

If appetizers don't play a role, in what context are things like samosas or dosai served?

between a large decent wok or a largish castiron skillet, which would be preferable for this type of cooking?

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wet dishes are dishes where there is a souce to mop up. dry are when there is no sauce, or too little to be relevant. it would be considered strange to have all your dishes with no sauce, or all with sauce, a nice combination would be valued. the starch is used to do the moping.

at least in resteraunts in india, appatizers are common - appitizers are usually drier foods, like kababs, papadams, samosas. samosas are also often snacks.

dosas are usually a free standing light meal.

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I'm getting a good picture of how this is going to work.  I'll stay away from naan (for now).  a few last simple questions:

"wet" dishes refer to dishes in which sauce plays a major role right?  This isn't some ayurvedic term?  (Getting the terms "hot" and "cold" straight in chinese cooking was tough)

If appetizers don't play a role, in what context are things like samosas or dosai served?

between a large decent wok or a largish castiron skillet, which would be preferable for this type of cooking?

yes: wet dishes are gravy based.

dry dishes have no gravy.

these are straightfwd descriptors, no ayurvedic terms.

samosas = snack

dosais = can be breakfast, tiffin, i.e. full meals in themselves.

youo'll need a wok AND a skillet. and a flat tawa for chapatis.

but if you are really really forced to choose then go with wok and tawa.

milagai

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If your wok is one with a good seasoning you've built up on it, then be wary of using it for certain Indian dishes. A lot of Indian foods have a high acid component, whether from tomatoes, yogurt, or other things, and if you are simmering the food for a long time in a seasoned wok, this might play havoc with your hard-won seasoning.

If doing a bhunao (frying onions, garlic, etc. with spices for a long time, while letting them stick just a little, then releasing the sticking with a little water, and continuing to boil/fry) as a preparatory step for a dish, then this almost-sticking step can also be pretty hard on a seasoned wok.

The other issue with a wok is that it might conduct heat a bit too well. A 'karahi' is often used in India for cooking in. It is wok-shaped and was actually developed from the Chinese wok (or so I have read), but is generally smaller than a wok, and is thicker as well. The thickness makes it easier to fry onion, etc. to the stage desired without them burning.

If you are cooking something without acid ingredients, and which cooks quickly (I think I know the cabbage dish you were discussing earlier, and it fits into this category), then go ahead and use a wok without any qualms.

BTW, the same hot/cold food distinction you learnt from China is also present in India. Garam masala, literally 'hot spice', is called that because the spices in this mix are meant to be 'heating' ones.

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Report on my first attempt at indian cookery:

As mentioned, I started with browned cabbage and onions, from a very old madhur jaffrey book. Roughly the recipe calls for heating some whole spices in oil, adding sliced onions, cooking 3 minutes, adding the sliced cabbage, cooking an additional 30-45 minutes, meanwhile making a garlic ginger tomato paste - which is fried in oil and added to the cabbage for the last 5 minutes of cooking.

My thoughts - I was surprised that the recipe called for heating the spices first and then keeping them in the pan through the entire cooking. They didn't get bitter, but they did get awfully black during the cooking of the onion. Is this typical?

How dark are the onions supposed to get? 3 minutes barely made them translucent - I like well caramelized onions so let them go for a good 15 minutes. did I break any rules here?

The cabbage was straightforward. The tomato garlic ginger paste was somewhat rough. The cookbook suggests using a blender. Mine would definitely not do the trick. I wound up mincing the ingredients, adding some salt to act as a kind of sandpaper, and using the flat of my knife to make a rough paste. Frying this mix was a wonderful experience, flavorful smelling, fresh, and the mix almost seemed designed to develop a fond (bunhao?).

The final dish was good. The one issue that I had with it was the last minute addition of lemon juice, which I found really distracting and not harmonious with the rest of the dish.

I'm looking forward to picking out some new dishes to try. I found this dish at least to be very sanguine with my ideas about cooking. I love the fact that at its base, this dish seemed like it was all about cooking the water out of a variety of ingredients in different ways. Onions and spices in the beginning, tomato and more onion later on. The twin indicators that the cooking is nearing an end being the development of the fonde and the decrease in the amount of steam coming out of the pan. That may seem abstract but it's good way for me to understand this stuff.

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hey popcorn,

you didn't break any rules

unfortunately one thing that I have found about Indian cooking is that rules are like guidelines ('pirates of the carribbean...') and so are the times given.

just like the power of microwaves would differ, ovens would heat unevenly - there is a lot of difference in texture, flavor and color of dish depending on the type of vessel used and the stove you use it on i.e. thickness, btu's...

either its that or we have yet to get the pain staking research and development that have been going in the French cuisine for years. we are thankful now to have people like Monica Bhide whose work (from what I have known) is like a culinary anthropologist for indian food.

now to also quote emeril here, ' its a food of love thing '

so yes, some of it might be lost in translation from the book to the cook, but what you did and if you enjoyed, becomes *your* recipe.

that's one way recipes have been developing in home cooking atleast in the families that I have known.

now regarding the spices, frying in oil and then with onions imparts the flavor to whole dish. many cooks even suggest that the flavor of your onions will be the flavor of your dish. only caution here would be that you shouldn't be tasting burnt spices. try a little lower flame (sweating kind). now a secret is to get the spices as near to the burnt state as possible without turning over.

from what the dish sounds like, I don't think it called for caramelized onions. so it seems you were fine there

for the paste, use the blender to blend fresh ginger by itself (use lemon / water mix here for some juice that is needed). these freezes well too in ice cubes for later use. now use this paste along with tomatoes paste or puree. you would have done this for the gravy.

bhunao - will be process of caramelization / cooking of onions. depending on the dish you will either stop at translucency or take it all the way to the sweet dark state. you will have to reverse your process here ie. get the onions to where you want, remove, then add some more oil, sweat the spices and put the onions back.

hope this helps

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Report on my first attempt at indian cookery:

As mentioned, I started with browned cabbage and onions, from a very old madhur jaffrey book.  Roughly the recipe calls for heating some whole spices in oil, adding sliced onions, cooking 3 minutes, adding the sliced cabbage, cooking an additional 30-45 minutes, meanwhile making a garlic ginger tomato paste - which is fried in oil and added to the cabbage for the last 5 minutes of cooking.

My thoughts - I was surprised that the recipe called for heating the spices first and then keeping them in the pan through the entire cooking.  They didn't get bitter, but they did get awfully black during the cooking of the onion.  Is this typical?

sizzling the spices in oil is tarka.

it's either done at the end and dumped over the dish (typically for dals)

or done at the beginning and other ingredients added in and cooked

(typical for sabzis).

but the spices infuse the oil when done this way and the oil in

turn permeates the dish.

the trick is to sizzle the spices without burning, then add other ingredients

and lower the heat, so that other stuff cooks but nothing burns.

milagai

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    • By liuzhou
      This almost had me in tears of nostalgia. My London home is a few minutes walk from here and I love the place. So glad to hear it seems to be being protected from developers, as I had heard it was under threat.   Wonderful food, too. Mostly vegetarian, which I'm decidedly not, but will happily eat from time to time.   London's most authentic Indian food?    
       
    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.
       

       
      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
       
      Ingredients:
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
       
      Directions
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By loki
      Sour Tomatillo Achar

      Made this one up from a recipe for lemons. It really works for tomatilloes. A unique spice mix, and really sour for a 'different' type of pickle, or achar. It is based on a Marwari recipe - from the arid north-western part of India. Tomatilloes are not used in India (or at least not much) but are quite productive plants in my garden while lemons or other sour fruits are not possible to grow here. No vinegar or lemon juice is used, because tomatilloes are very acidic and don't need any extra.

      Ingredients
      3 lbs tomatilloes husks removed and quartered
      1/4 cup salt
      1 Tbs black mustard seeds
      2 star anise buds
      10 dried chilies (I used very hot yellow peppers)
      1 tsp fenugreek seeds
      2 inch ginger (ground to a paste)
      2 TBL dark brown sugar
      1/2 cup sugar

      1. In a large bowl, put the tomatilloes and sprinkle salt over them. Cover it and leave for a day, mixing occasionally.

      2. Next day drain the tomatilloes.

      3. Dry roast the star anise (put in first as these take longer, the black mustard, and the chilie pods (add last and barely brown in places). Cool.

      4. Grind the roasted spices with the fenugreek and put aside.

      5. Add tomatilloes, ginger, sugars, and everything else to a large pan and heat to boiling.

      6. Cook till fully hot and boiling.

      7. Fill half-pint jars and seal.
    • By loki
      Sweet Eggplant Pickle

      This is an Indian pickle, some would call a chutney, that I made up from several sources and my own tastes. It is based it on my favorite sweet brinjal (eggplant here in the US) pickle available commercially. It has onion and garlic, which are often omitted in some recipes due to dietary restrictions of some religious orders. It also has dates which I added on my own based on another pickle I love. I also used olive oil as mustard oil is not available and I like it's taste in these pickles. Use other oils if you like. This has more spices than the commercial type - and I think it's superior. I avoided black mustard seed, fenugreek, and cumin because almost all other pickles use these and they start to taste the same. One recipe from Andhra Pradesh used neither and I followed it a little. It's wonderful with all sorts of Indian foods - and also used for many other dishes, especially appetizers.
      SPICE MIX (Masala)
      4 Tbs coriander seeds
      3 hot chilies (I used a very hot Habanero type, so use more if you use others)
      18 cardamom pods
      2 inches cinnamon
      24 cloves
      1 1/2 Tbs peppercorns
      MAIN INGREDIENTS
      1 cups olive oil
      4 inches fresh ginger, minced fine, about 1/2 cup
      6 cloves garlic, minced
      1 large onion finely chopped
      3 lb eggplant, diced, 1/4 inch cubes
      1/2 lb chopped dates
      1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
      2 cups rice vinegar (4.3 percent acidity or more)
      2 cups brown sugar
      2 Tbs salt
      2 tsp citric acid
      Spice Mix (Masala)

      1. Dry roast half the coriander seeds in a pan till they begin to brown slightly and become fragrant - do not burn. Cool.

      2. Put roasted and raw coriander seeds and all the other spices in a spice mill and grind till quite fine, or use a mortar and pestle. Put aside.

      Main Pickle

      1. Heat half the oil and fry ginger till slightly browned, slowly.

      2. Add garlic, onion, and half the salt and fry slowly till these begin to brown a bit too.

      3. Add eggplant, turmeric, and spice mix (Masala) and combine well. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      4. Add rest of ingredients, including rest of the salt and olive oil and heat slowly to a boil.

      5. Boil for about 5 minutes. Add a little water if too thick - it should be nearly covered with liquid, but not quite - it will thin upon cooking so wait to add the water till heated through.

      6. Bottle in sterilized jars and seal according to your local pickling instructions. This recipe will be sufficiently acidic.
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