India: The Home of Spice

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Masala Aloo 1b

I absolutely love finding out about cooking and traditions from around the world, so I am delighted that Foodies100 member Nayna Kanabar from simply.food has written us a fantastic guide to Indian cooking, along with a delicious recipe…

Indian cuisine includes a wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. Due to the different climate and regions of India, the cuisines vary in taste, cooking methods and the ingredients used. India is a land of varied food culture because of religious, geographical and cultural varieties. There are four main regions of India; West India, East/North India, South India and North India. The cuisines vary enormously between these regions as a large part of India’s population is predominantly vegetarian. The uniqueness of Indian food is its spices and it is rightly known as the ‘home of spice’. There is no other country in the world that produces as many kinds of spices as India does. To an Indian there is no such thing as “one mix curry powder”, all spice powders are unique and each variety is freshly prepared to compliment the different types of cuisines so widely available.

The most important and frequently used spices and flavourings in Indian cuisine are whole or powdered chilli powder, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, cardamom, asafoetida, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon. One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices. The garam masala will differ from region to region as it will be from one family to another. Some are well kept family secrets passed down from generation to generation. Together with spices, some leaves that are regularly used for flavouring in Indian cuisine, these include curry leaves, fresh coriander, fresh fenugreek, and mint leaves. Together with the leaves, ginger, fresh garlic, onions and tomatoes are commonly used for all curries in North India, where as in South India the onions and garlic are replaced with coconut and curry leaves as most curries are flavoured with either fresh coconut, or coconut milk. Sweet dishes are nearly always seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences and garnished with almonds, cashew nuts, raisins and pistachios. Most authentic Indian cuisine is cooked with clarified butter (ghee) although nowadays recipes are adapted to be cooked in oil.

Many Vessels are used in Indian cooking and each has a very important part in preparing particular types of food.

Handi is a deep, narrow-mouthed cooking vessel used in north Indian, Pakistani and Bengali cooking

Karahi  is a type of thick, circular, and deep cooking-pot similar in shape to a wok used in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepalese cuisine. It is traditionally made out of cast iron, but now also available in stainless steel, copper, and non-stick surfaces, both round and flat-bottomed.

Tava is a large, flat or convex disc-shaped griddle made from metal, usually sheet iron, cast iron, sheet steel or aluminium. It is used in South, Central, and West Asia for cooking a variety of flatbreads and as a griddle for meat. It also sometimes refers to ceramic griddles.

Tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking. The tandoor is used for cooking in Southern, Central and Western Asia,

Uruli is a traditional cookware used in South India. It is circular in shape and is made of bell metal a type of bronze metal.

Each Indian household will have a spice box in their kitchen; the contents will vary slightly depending on the region and type of cuisine that is cooked in that particular household.

This is my spice box that I have in my kitchen:

masala box

The spices I commonly use are turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin and coriander powder (dhana/jeera), mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds, cloves, whole cardamom and salt.

I also make my own garam masala:

garam masala (Gujarati style)

Ingredients:

10 curry leaves

2 large sticks cinnamon

12 cloves

2 tablespoons whole cumin

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Method:

Dry roast all the above ingredients in a shallow frying pan for 3-4 minutes making sure not to burn them. Once roasted grind the spices in a coffee grinder and grind to a smooth powder. Transfer to a sterile bottle and use as required.

garam masala

I would like to share my masala aloo (spicy potato curry) here. This recipe will tickle and tantalise your taste buds, not only is it easy to make but it is delicious served with hot naan bread and rice.

 

MASALA aloo (spicy potatoes )

Ingredients:

12 small baby potatoes

3 tablespoons sunflower oil for shallow frying potatoes

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil for making the curry

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon homemade garam masala (made from above recipe.)

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin and coriander powder mixed

6 tablespoons of sieved tomatoes (passata)

100 ml water

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 small red onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon coarsely ground cashew nuts

1 tablespoon of fresh finely chopped coriander leaves

1 red chilli for garnish

Method:

1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until 90% cooked (par boiled)

2. Remove the skins from the potatoes and allow them to cool, once cooled shallow fry them in the 3 tablespoons of oil until golden brown and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.

3. Prick the fried potatoes all over with a fork and keep aside.

4. In a large pan add two tablespoons of oil and wait for it to heat up. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter, add the onions and garlic and sauté them until onions are pink and translucent.

5. Add the sieved tomatoes followed by the salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin/coriander powder and the garam masala and ground cashew nuts .Cook the mixture for a further 3 – 4 minutes until all the spices infuse into the tomatoes and the gravy starts to separate oil .

6. Add the potatoes and stir them around the gravy ensuring that each potato is coved by the gravy. Add the water and simmer the curry for 5 minutes on a low heat. The potatoes should now be fully cooked and the gravy should be thick and coating the potatoes.

7. Transfer the curry to a serving dish and garnish with fresh coriander and small red chilli cut into slits.

Serve with nan bread and saffron rice.

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK's largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK's best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.

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