Homestyle Cooking of the East - Part 3 A Taste of India
This three part article (spread out through three blog entries) will include inspiration for the homestyle cooking of Japan, Thailand and India. You'll find simple "formulas" that can be used for a variety of dishes, recipes that utilize these formulas, and suggestions for on-hand pantry items that make home-made Eastern cooking easy and inspirational!
A Taste of India
India is one of the largest countries in the world, as well as one of the most diverse. Having been a center for trade for centuries, and having endured conquests by Persians, Mongols, Turks, Brits and Portuguese, India has had a smattering of cultural influences that, in time, has shaped the people, religion, society and of course... the food.
Needless to say, there are more than a few styles of Indian cooking, each with their own unique influences and adaptations. Buddhism, Hinduism and Ayurveda have centered many of the Indian people around a predominantly vegetarian diet, yet the Persian influences emphasize meats, namely lamb and poultry.
The colliding Indian and Persian cultures created what is known now as Muglai cooking. The tandoor (hot charcoal oven) was introduced, and meats marinated in yogurt and laced with spices came forth. The original Indian flat breads, like chapatis and papadams, met their match with tandoori naans.
Most of the food that Westerners find in our favorite Indian restaurants have both the Indian and Persian traits as well as European accents, notably with the addition of cream in curried dishes. The cream mellows some of the pungent spices and adds a sweet richness to the food, making it more suited to the Western palate. Coconut milk is also used to impart a creamy texture and sweet taste.
For Indian food at home, I always use my own spices to make the curry seasonings, rather than prepackaged curry powders. All curries are different, and to get just the right flavor, adding a little cumin here and little turmeric there lets me create my own, unique dish. This, in fact, is the traditional way that Indian chefs prepare food; cooking is an oral tradition in India, and it is quite uncustomary to have hand-written recipes for any of the dishes.
To give a general idea of what spices (and how much) might be included in a basic Indian curry, see the Indian Curry Formula below, as well as the recipes that utilize this formula. Use this recipe as a guide, adding a touch more or less of certain ingredients to your taste. This recipe can also be used as a basis for the spices you should have on hand for easy Indian curries at home.
Indian Curry Formula
Chicken and Potato Curry
Curried Cauliflower Soup with Spinach
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