“Food for the Body is not enough, there must be food for the Soul.”
Indian cuisine utilizes the entire palette of flavors at the same time – spicy, hot, sour and sweet. With the array of spices and condiments available today, Indian cuisine allows Home cooks to get adventurous and creative.
Before I get started on my first menu which is going to be Indian Vegetarian – here are a couple of kitchen tips I’d like to share with you.
Anytime you walk into my Kitchen you will always find a Tetra pack of tomato purée, Amul fresh cream, a packet of curd, some cashew nuts, Basmati rice, ghee, 2-3 sachets of coconut milk powder, Kashmiri chilli powder (this chilli powder it’s not spicy and renders a great colour to the dish) and of course all the other Indian spices.
Listed below are a few useful substitutes and household tips which I hope will be useful to you.
- When tomatoes are expensive, use a dash of tomato sauce -a tbsp of sauce for every tomato.
- To peel tomatoes easily and quickly, first plunge them into hot water and then into cold water.
- Whenever you cook with tomatoes, add a pinch of sugar to enhance the flavor.
- Instead of tamarind you can always use 2-3 slices of green mango cut small.
- If you run out of breadcrumbs use semolina or crushed cornflakes.
- Instead of an egg coating for fish and cutlets or tikkis you can use a paste of flour and milk .
- Spices like chilli powder, cumin and coriander can be preserved for a long time if lightly roasted before storing.
- When boiling eggs straight out of the fridge, add a few drops of vinegar to the water and boil- for the first 2-3 minutes on a low flame and then increase it to high. Immediately after boiling, immerse in cold water to prevent any discolouration to the yolk of the egg.
- While on eggs, to slice hard Boiled eggs perfectly, first wet the knife in cold water. This prevents the egg- yolk from crumbling.
- A pair of scissors is most essential in the kitchen for snipping coriander and mint leaves.
- Skins of small onions can be removed easily by soaking them in hot water for an hour.
- To avoid watering of the eyes while cutting onions, peel and cut them into half and soak them in cold water for 5 minutes before cutting.
- To remove the strong smell of onions from your fingers, rub them with a lemon peel.
- Always keep a bottle of ginger – garlic paste – 2 parts of ginger to one part of garlic and a pinch of salt. Do not add water while grinding – if need be, add a few drops of vinegar.
- When cooking cauliflower, add a little milk or lime juice or vinegar to retain its white colour.
- Always add vegetables to boiling water into which you’ve added salt and sugar – to retain the colour. Once the vegetables are partially cooked pour through a sieve and rinse under cold water.
- A potato peeler can be used to slice frozen butter, which can then be spread easily.
- If the dish you’ve prepared is too salty, cut a washed raw potato into quarters, add it to the gravy and boil for 5-10 minutes. Remove the potato quarters and serve your dish.
- To soften chilled butter quickly, cover it with a heated bowl or place on a warm griddle/Tawa. Dip your knife in hot water occasionally to make spreading easier.
- If curd is too sour, hang it in a muslin cloth for 10 minutes to discard the whey. Add a little milk to the strained curd and use. You can use the whey to knead wheat flour for rotis .
- If going on a picnic, brush sandwiches lightly with milk and store in aluminium foil- will remain fresh for 6-8 hours.
- To cut dates through easily – dip your knife in flour.
- When frying cottage cheese or paneer, soak the fried paneer in hot water, drain and keep aside, it will remain soft. If you don’t want to fry the paneer or cottage cheese soak in hot water till you add it to the gravy. (squeeze out water thoroughly)
- If brown sugar becomes hard, transfer it to a clean dry jar and put in a slice of bread. This will soon soften it.
- When making corn soup or corn pakoras it is always better to grate the corn off the cob than remove it with a knife.
- Greens should be cooked in an open vessel to retain the colour and flavor.
I remember when I had just passed out of school, my mom took me to an institute and enrolled me for my first cookery class. I was just 16 and on the first day the ladies around asked me – how old I was? And if they were shocked I was shell-shocked as well. From then onward, every Sunday My Mom would tell me to try out a new dish and I would start reading up by Friday so that I could tell her what I wanted to make for that Special Sunday Dish!!! On Sunday when I served my dish, I really didn’t know how to judge it! but for my mom and dad – it was always excellent! I guess, all those kind words of encouragement have paid off after all these years.
While following a recipe for the first time, see that you have all the ingredients.You should not be tempted to leave out steps or change the quantities specified in the recipe. Before you start the actual cooking process, all the preparations must be done.
The bottom line is : Keep it simple when you’re starting out at home. Your food can be only as good as the ingredients you start with, having said that for a good tasty dish, you really don’t need the most expensive ingredients.
The recipes that I have chosen are simple , no- fuss and easy to follow and the ingredients are readily available.
Till my next post