7 Recipes for Indian Food
All photos: Kelly Rossiter
I got to thinking about different cuisines after my crazed week of cooking Chinese food. While there are overlapping ingredients from different cultures such as noodles in various forms, breads and certain vegetables, it seems to me that what really makes the difference is spicing. Different spices can dramatically change the flavour profile of a dish. When you think about French, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Italian cooking you can see that what stands out the most is the basic flavouring. I think that cost and availability of spices may be a big reason that people don't make that foray into a different cultures' cuisine.
I remember a number of years ago, my husband bought me a little book of traditional Thai recipes, because he loved a Thai restaurant in our neighbourhood and thought I would like to try it at home. He was right in theory, but in practice, there were ingredients listed that I had never even heard of let alone seen for sale in any store. Given the very diverse population in Toronto, it didn't take long before things like lemongrass and bird's eye chilies were available and now, I could easily cook a Thai dish from that book using spices that I regularly keep in my cupboard.
People often find Indian cooking daunting, because the ingredient lists are often quite long, but those long lists are mostly comprised of many different spices. The interplay of spicing is really at the heart of Indian cooking, I think. If you love Indian food, it's worth it to spend the money on the spices, rather than just ordering in when you want it. None of these recipes is hard, but having the proper spices on hand makes all the difference. Go out and get yourself some cumin, turmeric (which has fantastic anti-cancer properties), and garam masala and you are ready to go.
1. Indian Spiced Lentils
This recipe for Indian spiced lentils is a perfect case in point. If you had lentils in Italy, they would probably involve tomatoes and perhaps some basil or oregano. If you had them in France, they would involve a vinaigrette and probably some tarragon. You can serve this hot over basmati rice, or at room temperature as a side salad.
2. Aloo Matar (Potato Pea Curry)
There are a number of potato (aloo) recipes in this list because potatoes are a favourite ingredient in Indian cooking. This aloo matar is a great dish for kids because it has peas which lots of kids like, and the tomato based curry isn't hot at all.
3. Butter Chicken (Murg Makhani)
Butter chicken may well be the most popular of take-out Indian foods. It is certainly the favourite for both my husband and daughter, and I was always searching for the recipe that came closest to the dish they loved at our local Indian restaurant. It's not quite it, but this is the closest I have come and it's delicious.
4. Indian Butter Chickpeas
This Indian butter chickpea recipe is perfect for people who love the butter chicken sauce, but want a vegetarian version. It's not a totally traditional butter sauce, if only because there doesn't happen to be any butter in it (go figure!), but it's still a really fantastic dish. I added some carrots to the recipe because we were eating it as our main course for lunch.
5. Aloo Kofta (Fried Potato Balls)
This aloo kofta is right up there as one of my favourite Indian dishes. It's actually broken down into two recipes, one for the aloo kofta, which is the potato and the other for the saag aloo which is the spinach base. Both recipes have a fair amount of bird's eye chilies which are quite hot, so you may want to cut that back a bit if the children are eating this.
6. Aloo Gobi
The other ingredient you will find many recipes for in Indian cooking is cauliflower. In fact, I often make an Indian dish when I have a cauliflower on hand, because my husband isn't super crazy about it, but he's always willing to eat it if it's an Indian recipe. This aloo gobi was served as a main dish with rice, but I think it's probably meant as a side dish served with naan.
7. Bombay Aloo
I suppose that this Bombay aloo should really be called Mumbai aloo, but that's another matter. This recipe comes together in the time that it takes for the potatoes to cook. It was very tasty, and a popular recipe in our house.
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