Ask Chef Alex: The Basics of Cooking Chat. In this segment of Cooking Chat, we try to sneak in some cooking and baking while keeping the conversation light. To that end, we chat to one of our favorite foodies — food blogger, author, TV host, and cookbook author Priya Arora. If you’ve read any of her articles or book reviews on the blog, then you know Priya is the queen of easy Indian recipes. She is a great source for information on vegetarian Indian cooking in general. So why are you still waiting? Let’s start talking! What prompted you to begin blogging?
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What made you start blogging?
When I was in high school, my best friend’s dad worked from home as an IT consultant. I often stayed with them; she always got bored as her dad was home alone. So she would make me Indian food like dal, dosa, and uttapam. I would sneak to my room, eat the same stuff, and think, “WOW, this is good!” I was not really into cooking but started experimenting on my own, so I could eat the same things as her and enjoy them without her knowing! I was a terrible cook, but I enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, and blogging was my outlet to let out the cook inside me!
Cooking and Baking Basics
– Keep a few basic spices like turmeric, mustard seed, red chili powder, garam masala, and coriander powder handy. You can use them to spice up rice, roti, dosa, idli, aloo gobi, naan, and more! – A few tips for all you kids: Never use the same knife to cut vegetables. Never use the same utensil for all the dishes.
Never use the same water for all dishes. – A few essential Indian ingredients are coconut oil, chickpea flour, tamarind concentrate, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, grated ginger, garlic, salt, and black salt. – For Indian food, don’t worry too much about the measurements.
If you’re not sure about the quantities, don’t measure them! Indian dishes are meant to be spiced up with a lot of spices so that the flavor will be enhanced with a little bit of everything. So season it with the basics to taste and adjust as you go along.
Kitchen Tools You Should Have
An Indian kitchen is incomplete without a few utensils. Make sure you have a large mixing bowl, a large ladle or a large spoon, a large kadhai (saucepan), a grinder, a blender, a chopper, and a food processor. – Invest in a few cast iron pans as well. They are nonstick, lightweight, and will not scratch your pots.
Cast iron pans are nonreactive and don’t react with your food, unlike aluminum pans. – If you don’t have appliances yet, make sure you stock up on any kitchen tools that you don’t have yet. You’ll thank yourself later once you get a few of them. – Apart from your everyday cutlery, invest in special Indian cutlery such as a strainer, a sieve, a masala holder, a serving spatula, and a spoon.
Invest in a few Indian spice jars. Every Indian kitchen needs a few garam masalas, Kesar (saffron), and pomegranate molasses. Don’t forget a few measuring cups and spoons for Indian recipes. Most Indian recipes call for liquid measurements like a full cup of water and a teaspoon of turmeric.
A high-quality knife set is a must for any serious cook. Invest in a set with high-quality Chinese steel, and you’ll never have to worry about your knife being blunt again.
Invest in a few cast iron skillets. They are nonreactive and lighter than aluminum pans, making them easier to use and store. They are also great for making authentic Indian dishes like tandoori roti, naan, and pagodas. Make sure you have a few cutting boards. They are great for chopping vegetables, fruits, and meat. They are also great for storing leftovers.
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Recipe Adjustments for Beginners
Don’t be afraid to add more water to a recipe. You can always add more water, but you can’t take it away again. So if a recipe calls for 2 cups of water, you can always add more if it is too dry. But if it is too soupy, you can’t add less water. So if a recipe calls for 3 cups of water, don’t add 1 cup of water and expect it to be okay.
Don’t be scared to add more spices and spices in bulk. You’ll get more flavor from them than from the small quantity called for in the recipe. – Don’t be scared to reduce the cooking time in a recipe. Yes, it will affect the taste, but if you need to save some time, you can reduce the cooking time by at least 30% without affecting the taste.
Do not be put off by the lengthy titles of Indian recipes. You may always wing it with the ingredients and make substitutions as necessary.
We appreciate you being here with us today. We hope you now have a better understanding of Indian cuisine and baking. If you have any queries or would want to share any tips from your kitchen, kindly leave a comment below.