Indian food uses a lot of different spices and is rich in flavour. It can be made to be very healthy and there are many great vegetarian and vegan options (with a few minor substitutions). I enjoy Indian food, but I have always felt that Indian restaurants were overcharging for their food. My suspicions were confirmed when I started making Indian food at home; it turns out that many of the popular Indian dishes are ridiculously easy and cost effective to make! If only I could afford the money and space for a tandoor oven…
If you’ve never cooked Indian food before, don’t be intimidated by the long lists of ingredients, because once you’ve picked up a few spices, the cooking part is easy. Most of their meat dishes involve slow cooking, but I have created some fast-cook recipes that still taste authentic and won’t take hours to make. Another great thing about cooking Indian food is that most dishes freeze well, so you can make one large batch of curry at a fraction of the restaurant price, and freeze the leftovers for future meals.
Check out my recipes for Indian food! You can find them under the Recipe Index, under the Indian category.
Below, I have listed a few simple tips for using Indian spices that will hopefully encourage some of you to try making this cuisine at home. Please share your tips by posting a comment!
1. To get the best flavour from your spices, buy whole seeds (ie. buy coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and whole cloves as opposed to buying them pre-ground) and then dry roast (in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, tossing periodically) and grind them just prior to cooking with them. Note that according to a review done in an episode of Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag (website here), it is better to use a mortar and pestle than an electric spice grinder. If you don’t have either, you can use a blender (just note that some spices won’t be as finely ground as others, ie. coriander seeds because they’re so light).
2. Spices (especially ground spices) lose flavour over months of storage. So, unless you’re planning on cooking a lot of Indian food, regularly, I recommend buying small amounts at a time from a Bulk Barn or similar store.
3. Store your spices in airtight containers in a cool, dark place or in the freezer.
4. Garam masala is a mild spice mix that is commonly used in Indian cooking. If you do a google search you will see that every site recommends a different ratio and combination of spices, but it almost always contains cinnamon and cloves. Once you get an idea of which spices you like, you can play around with the ratios and combination for your own garam masala. Personally, my garam masala usually contains green cardamom, black peppercorn, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. Sometimes I’ll add other spices like nutmeg or fenugreek seeds. Although most garam masalas also include cumin, I personally don’t include it in mine, because I almost always add cumin separately to my Indian dishes. You could also simply purchase a pre-mixed (some come pre-ground) garam masala. Just keep in mind that each brand name will taste slightly different.