Indian food is taking over the culinary world, globally. More and more Indian restaurants and Indian food outlets are opening up in America and Europe, with food lovers all across the globe, falling in love with the taste of authentic Indian curries and flat breads. This is probably because of the heavy use of nutritious vegetables and meats cooked in varied spices to bring out beautiful flavors. But as delicious as Indian food is, there are about a hundred things that can go wrong while you’re cooking it.
If you’re a fan of Indian food and love cooking Indian dishes at home, then here are a few general tips and tricks to help you:
Chapatis or wheat flat cakes are an indispensable part of the Indian cuisine. They go with all curries and gravies, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and can be eaten for both lunch and dinner. And yet, it’s one of the most difficult things to nail while cooking Indian food. To make dough for softer chapatis, add a little warm water and then some warm milk and knead the dough. Let it rest for 15 minutes before rolling it out for the chapatis
To make round chapatis, keep rotating the rolled out dough while rolling it with a rolling pin. This ensures that the rolled out dough gets an even thickness all over and the shape becomes round. But if that’s one of your pet peeves, then just place a small, clean and round stainless steel plate on top of the rolled out dough and just cut out the sides that are exposed to get a perfect round shape.
Kheer is a milk rice pudding that is made in a variety of ways across India. But again, preparing kheer is a tedious and time consuming task. A lot of times the pudding tends to thicken too much and sticks to the vessel. To avoid that from happening, just add a little water to the vessel, before putting the milk in. Use the deepest most heavy bottomed vessel you have, for preparing kheer, to make sure that it doesn’t boil over and fall out of the vessel.
Dal is also a very important part of Indian meals. To make the dal more flavorful, roast the lentils before cooking them. The same goes for rava. You can use the excess dal water for making rasam, to be eaten with appams and idlis. You can even add the water to chapati dough to make it flavorful. You can also use the leftover dal to make delicious dal parathas.
Fried foods like pooris, bhaturas, potato patties and vadas are savored across the country. When cooking pakoras or vegetable fritters, add some warm oil and half a tablespoon baking soda in the batter. While making potato tikkis or patties, make sure that the potatoes are boiled well. The mashed potato mix can be refrigerated for some time, before frying the tikkis. This ensures that the patties are not gooey. While kneading the dough for the pooris, add a little rice flour to the wheat flour, to make the pooris more crispy. To make sure that your subzi is flavorful, heat the oil properly, before adding vegetables and seasonings.
Curries are a signature preparation of Indian cuisine. For a tomato based gravy, always use only ripe red tomatoes, so as to retain the bright red color of the fruit. Discard the green parts before pureeing the tomatoes. Always fry the masla on a reduced flame, to ensure that the flavor is enhanced. The quality of spices and condiments can make or break gravies. Make sure that you have all the adequate spices, that they are from a well known brand and make sure you know them well.
When cooking meats for mutton curry or in biryani, make sure to slow cook it under reduced flame to seal the flavor and the juices in and then increase the heat and cook it till it’s tender. If you have to store fish for over a day, rub it with salt, turmeric and just a dash of vinegar and then freeze it, to ensure that it stays fresh. Partially frozen meats are easier to cut and slice. But make sure you allow the meat to stand for some time before cooking. This ensures that the meat cooks faster.
To prevent the rice from getting sticky, add a little bit of oil to it before cooking. A few drops of lemon also do the trick and the grains separate beautifully when cooked. You can use the leftover rice for the meals next day. All you have to do is add a little bit of stir fried vegetables with some spices and fried onions, and you can make yourself a plate of delectable pulav.
Idlis are the most popular South Indian foods, and are enjoyed with spicy cooked lentil curry or sambhar and coconut chutney. For making softer idlis, add a little sago or sabudana or cooked rice, while making the batter. South Indian food uses a lot of coconut, so store a good amount of grated coconut in the refrigerator, if you have to cook a lot of this particular cuisine. Use good quality sambhar powder for making the delicious curry. Make sure you stock up on common condiments used in South Indian foods, like curry leaves and asfoetida or heeng. Also ensure that the asfoetida is good in quality and potent.
The tandoor might be an archaic oven now, but it’s still very popular in North Indian villages, particularly in Punjab. The tandoori roti is an indispensable part of the Punjabi cuisine. Marinading the breads and meats is the key to cooking with tandoor. Add a little gram flour or besan to the marinade, before dipping your cottage cheese, vegetables or meats that you want to grill on the tandoor. The flour makes the marinade bind to the meat, making it more flavorful.
The best leftover fix is to use the mashed potatoes you used to make potato parathas or tikkis the night before, in making a vegetable toast for breakfast the next morning. You can mix the brown discard left after making ghee at home, for making soft parathas by mixing it in the dough.