Before I went to India in 2010 I loved Indian food and cooked it at home but it never seemed really authentic. And when I cook food from other cultures and countries I really want to get as close to authentic as possible.
Remember the days of curried mince on toast, which I loved as a kid. And it’s still pretty good when you’re camping. Cook up some mince and onions and add some Keens Curry power. Want it hotter? Just add more powder. Excuse the pun, but it doesn’t quite cut the mustard at home anymore.
Since returning from India in 2012 I have stocked my pantry with Indian ingredients with the help of my gorgeous Indian born Australian friend Anamika. We went to an Indian grocery in Adelaide and I was introduced to asoefetida…the smell of India!! I have to keep the container in a glass jar so it doesn’t take over the smells of our kitchen!
So my pantry now includes: urad dal, moong dal, toor dal and channa dal. I know there I more I still need to collect but I am aiming to get proficient with these first. Each one has a different use.
I have black cardamon and green cardamon, fenugreek seeds and fenugreek leaves. Add a pinch of these leaves to the top of your curry just before eating and you are transported to India.
Fenugreek leaves…the secret!
I have chillies; powdered, dried, fresh and frozen; cayenne pepper, paprika, black peppercorns, tamarind paste, jaggery, fennel seed, cumin seed, cumin powder, brown and yellow mustard seed, coriander seed and powder and fresh coriander in my garden. I have amchoor, kalonji seeds, turmeric, ajwain seed, saffron threads, curry leaves and a plant in the garden for fresh leaves, pappadams, rice flour, basmati flour and coconut milk.
I have made my own panchpora, rasam powder, garam masala and chaat masala.And recently Anamika introduced me to Indiagate basmati rice which is the absolute ants pants of rice. You can’t go wrong with with it. It is light and fluffy and so long you think you are eating coconut threads.
This is the bees knees as well as the ants pants!
I have ginge rin the freezer but fresh is best! And my favourite recipe with ginger is masala chai, a recipe shown to me by Mark Martin from Mumbai. Simple but delicious; ginger, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and tea, milk and sugar all stewed up for a delicious spicy tea.
The only problem I have is that I still need to follow recipes. I don’t have the confidence yet to mix up the spices as I am not yet familiar enough with what works with what for the best results. When I have gone by my own instincts I nearly hit the mark but not quite. I guess you need to be born in India or have Indian heritage to do this. Hanging around a kitchen where these spices are being used all the time must pay off in your cooking.
So I use these recipe books. The Madhur Jaffrey one is out of print and I bought it online. The southern Indian book was a birthday present while in India and the Dakshin book I bought from a garage sale.
But if you want an Indian feast cooked up, just give me a week’s notice!!