Inspired Indian Cooking

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Indian cuisine is probably my favorite of all global cuisines. It can’t be generalized, because the cuisine varies depending on where the recipes are derived. Northern Indian cuisine is very different than Southern Indian cuisine, for example. And, of course, like with all cuisines, coastal areas use very different inredients than the land-locked areas. And then there is the vast vegetarian aspect to Indian food. And I completely respect all of these differences.
I happen to have quite a few Indian cookbooks, and I have (pretty much) followed many recipes in these books. So I know that I have made many authentic Indian dishes – meat masalas, various curries, paneer, kulfi, and a vast number of vegetable and dhal dishes – just about everything except traditional naan, which requires a tandoor. (I doubt my husband will let me dig a giant hole in my kitchen floor so I can build a tandoor that heats to 1,000 degrees farenheit just for this purpose.)
But that being said, there is another way to prepare Indian food. And that is inspired Indian cooking. This is what I mean…
Pretty much “all” of Indian cooking begins with onions, garlic, and ginger. Those are a must. And I mean all fresh – no dried or powdered versions. These are usually sauteed in ghee, which is clarified butter. But regular unsalted butter works well, or you can use a combination of butter and olive oil. Personally the butter flavor to me is important.
Then there’s the curry powder. I would bet that in India there are millions of curry mixtures, because the blends vary so much between regions, and probably between towns and families. A curry “powder” can contain a multitude of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and so forth. Many of these are first used whole, such as cumin seeds, dried chile peppers, and cinnamon sticks, roasted, then ground and combined with the other spices. I have made my own curry powder before and it’s really fun. But, you don’t have to do it that way. It’s okay to have a curry powder that you really like on hand. I have a personal favorite called sweet curry powder.
However, don’t use it all of the time! You don’t want all of your Indian dishes to taste the same! Try using individual spices, and adjust the seasoning when you taste.
Curries are commonly made with beef, lamb, chicken, or shrimp. They can be yogurt based, tomato based, and cream based. They’re all good and worth trying.
Vegetarian curries often use dhal, which encompasses all forms of legumes, such as a lentil curry, and also vegetables, such as a butternut squash curry.
Then, cilantro is an integral part of a curry – sometimes cooked in the dish, sometimes sprinkled on the dish just before serving.
These are the integral parts of making Indian food. I’m simplifying things, so that you can go to your own kitchen, be creative with what you have on hand, not follow a recipe, but still end up with a fabulous, Indian-inspired dish. That is exactly what I did when I made Beef Curry.

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