A Note on Ingredients

Although the recipes in this blog come from all over the place -- and sometimes from no place in particular -- a lot of readers are especially interested in the Indian recipes. That makes me happy -- I've always contended that Indian food is far easier to make than most people think, and more forgiving even if you make a misstep. I've tried to make the recipes as straightforward as possible, avoiding some of the more elaborate techniques, partly because that's the way I learned to cook from my parents, two doctors who, at the end of a long day, didn't want too much fuss getting dinner on the table. On weekends, when guests were coming, things would get a bit more involved -- I've included some of those recipes, too. And my own versions, borne of a far greater patience in the kitchen and the luxury of time.

Some of the ingredients you'll encounter sound terribly exotic and out of reach, but in fact are more than likely available in your town (or, if you're like me, your very New England village in the middle of nowhere). It's worth investigating. Most big grocery stores have "ethnic" sections, and both the Latino and Indian shelves will have a lot of stuff, as well as the regular spice section. The four most basic spices (ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, and cumin seeds) are available everywhere. Period.

For the slightly less obvious ingredients, do a Google search for "Asian grocery" or "Indian grocery" in your area -- most likely you'll find one, and it's nice to know that even groceries specializing in East Asian cuisines usually keep most Indian ingredients in stock, too. If you live anywhere near a research university, there will DEFINITELY be a shop like this around, catering to all the science, engineering, and computer profs. Heh heh. A lot of these ingredients will also be available at your local organic or health food store.

When you find the stuff, stock up: spices at Asian/Indian stores tend to be MUCH cheaper than those at your local grocery store, and keep well in the freezer. You can also freeze fresh green and red chillies and curry leaves in ziploc bags to have around when the mood strikes.

Some ingredients may be harder to track down, but don't despair -- the history of Indians cooking in the US and Canada was one of omission and substitution in the years before things became more widely available. My mom almost never had access to curry leaves when we were growing up; she'd make dishes without them, garnishing with cilantro at the end. If there's a dish where no substitution is possible, I'll let you know. Feel free to contact me with questions.

You can also get a lot of the dried spices etc. online. I've had excellent luck with single spices through Penzey's, which is slightly pricey but the products are excellent quality; however, I do find their blends (especially the curry powder and the garam masala) to be sort of weird tasting. Kalyustans, a great store in New York City's "Curry Hill" neighborhood (Lexington Ave, in the 20s), does a quite exhaustive on-line trade of very authentic South Asian ingredients, including pappadoms, chutneys, rices, and even fresh curry leaves. These are only two of many good online sources, keep in mind.

As for what you'll need to keep around: this post gives you an idea of what I think is essential in one's cupboard no matter what cuisines you're interested in. But for a specifically Indian larder, I suggest having the following on hand:

  • Ground spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chili powder (note: this is not chili powder as in the stuff you make chile con carne with -- it's ground dried red chilies, straight up), amchoor (dried mango powder), garam masala.
  • Whole spices: cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom pods, bay leaves, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, whole dried red chilies.
  • Pulses and grains (I keep the dried versions on hand; you can substitute canned in some cases): chick peas, masoor dal (red lentils), chana dal (also called Bengal gram), toovar dal, besan (chick pea flour), aged Basmati rice. 
  • Fresh ingredients to keep on hand in the fridge or freezer: garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, curry leaves, green chilies.
  • Other items: tamarind paste (available in concentrate form)

These recipes are written with the idea that you will tweak and adjust according to your taste, but I've tried to be as accurate as possible in my descriptions for the novice cook. Even if they look intimidating, that's only because of the list of spices involved -- if you set them out in advance, the cooking methods are actually super easy.

Most recipes start with some spices bloomed in hot oil, then aromatics sautéed for a while, then spices added, then tomatoes, then braising liquid -- not so different from European methods. Many dal recipes reverse the order: the dal is cooked simply, and then a tadka (a mixture of hot oil, spices, and aromatics) is stirred in at the end.

Happy cooking!

Comments

Cartloot said…
Hii there, thank you for sharing this such a wonderful info. I’d like to tell you about Indian Maggi Instant Noodles which loved by almost everyone in India. Also you might know about Indian spices and their magic. If you want to know more, simply Indian Grocery Online.You can order Indian Spices Online in the USA.
And do not forget about Ayurvedic Himani Navratna Hair Oil massage it to keep you away from daily stress. Here Are Some of the Most Favourite Instant Noodles and Loved By Almost Every Indian. Get Maggi Instant Noodles At Cartloot.
Try Authentic and Fresh Indian Grocery Online at cartloot is one of the trusted Indian online grocery & shopping Store, which provide Genuine Indian Food, Indian groceries, Indian snacks, Spices, baby care, beauty care, and jewelry at the best prices with high quality.

Many individuals battle to discover food alternatives that are solid and simple to devour each day. Indian foods generally are filled with canvas, ghee, and multitudinous spices that make them less healthy, but what if we tell you that some of the healthy Indian food is toothsome and healthy at the same time! Indian Food Online - What is charming about Indian food is that you simply can make it with numerous combinations; there really may be a big variety of options.
Maggi Oats noodles is one of the decoration brands with trim quality oats. Rather than influencing the taste and high protein esteem, it upgrades the taste. It makes breakfast for all health addicts who are especially avoiding it due to constancy and texture.
red label tea Brand Brooke Bond Red Label is one of India’s largest dealing tea brands that offer formal quality tea leaves. They bring the perfect combination of taste and originality. It's one of India’s stylish herbal tea brands with Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Mulethi, Ginger, and more herbal elements proven to enhance exemption.

maggi pazzta cheesy tomato is mouthwatering, quick, and easy. The pasta is made with 100 suji/ Rava (semolina) and is ready in just 5 beats! It makes a great snacking option or sides for your everyday feeds.