Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years. Influenced by Mongolian, Persian and Chinese cuisines, among others, Food in India is not merely a means of sustenance but the pinnacle of culture and tradition. With over 19,500 languages and 31 cuisines originating from various regions, the country is a treasure-trove of flavours. May you be a novice vegan or a hardcore meat lover Indian food scene is a true foodie’s paradise.
Dal tadka or tempered Lentils has to be the most standard and quintessential dish in any Indian kitchen. The simplicity of its preparation and its creamy yet delicate flavours are not the only thing that set it apart, dal tadka is a vegan dish that can be eaten with rice, Roti (Indian flatbread) or even on its own as a stew. Dal Tadka is a one-pot meal that doesn’t take more than 30 mins to make, it is the final addition of the tadka or the tempering that sets this humble dish apart. Dal Tadka is Simply cooked by boiling split mung gram (or whichever lentils you prefer) with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies. And then tempered with spices like cumin, mustard seeds, dry red chillies(optional) and herbs like garlic or coriander leaves or curry leaves that are fried in oil or ghee. This fried mixture of the hot oil with the spices and herbs called Tadka is then added and stirred with the cooked dal. Moong Dal Tadka Recipe by Chef Manali is my favourite, One of the most basic and homely Indian recipes, the effortless yet tasty dal tadka is perfect for you if you are new to Indian cooking.
Literally Meaning a royal Piece of dessert, Shahi Tukda is one of the most decadent Indian desserts which is equal parts pocket friendly and easy to cook. The original recipe is believed to have been invented out of a way to use up leftover bread in the nineteenth century Mogul cuisine. This royal dessert from the palaces of Awadh is made from fried bread which is then topped with Rabri (condensed-milk-based dish ), garnished with almonds, cashews, pistachios, saffron, and a tinge of cardamom. While seemingly frugal in its description, the dessert is as classic as ice-cream and Pie.
Goan Fish Curry
India has a large stretch of coastline approximately 7516.6 Kms long and so seafood is part and parcel of the cuisine in Coastal regions. I chose to write about the dish for its subtle flavours and warmth, the Goan fish curry is an example of how not all food in India is spicy and that the art of Indian cooking is not as cumbersome as one may think, but simplistic and hearty at its core. Packed with flavour this dish has a creamy-ness bough on by the coconut milk and a slight tang from the tamarind, a perfect amalgamation to accompany the star of the dish which is the fish. This traditional Goan staple is a quick cook that is ready to be served within half an hour, with rice or your choice of bread. Once you taste this South Indian delight you will never go back to the Indian section at Tesco looking for tinned curry’s. Chicken Tikka who?.
A staple in every Indian household Matar-paneer is a vegetarian North Indian dish and Punjabi dish consisting of peas and paneer (cottage cheese) simmered in a tomato and onion based sauce, spiced with garam masala. One can easily modify the dish to make it vegan by substituting Paneer with Tofu. With over 37% of Indian households being vegetarian, most homemade Indian dishes are also vegetarian or vegan. Matar-Paneer is yet another pocket-friendly one-pot dish with a cook time is less than 30 minutes. Traditionally served with Rice or Roti (Indian flatbread) this is another Indian dish that will surprise you with how subtle flavours can be and how simplistic Indian food is at its roots.
While being a flavoursome rice pudding, this Indian dessert is anything but the goopy store-bought snack you are currently thinking of. This quintessential Indian dessert is a part of every Indian’s childhood memory. With variations ranging from Mango Kheer to chocolate kheer, this dessert is the go-to for any and every event, from birthdays to Sunday lunches. Served cold on a hot summer day on piping hot on a cold winter night kheer is and will forever be the OG homemade Indian dessert due to its simplicity and taste.
Essentially made with just three ingredients that can be found in every kitchen around the world Kheer is made with Milk, Sugar and Rice. Spices like Cardamom, Saffron are generally added to enhance the flavour. Nuts like Pistachios, Cashews and Almonds are also a favoured garnish.
Nobody does potatoes better than India’s, from sandwiches to deep-fried snacks, from curries to pancakes, potatoes are the MVP of Indian cuisine mainly due to its versatility. Pao Bhaji is another Indian favourite, mainly a street food, Pao bhaji is also a beloved breakfast favourite made in every household. To make pav bhaji, specifically the bhaji – onion, ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes, are sauteed in butter first. Later to which boiled and mashed vegetables including potatoes, peas, cauliflowers ( any leftover vegetable in your fridge) are added followed by pav bhaji masala.
While the dish might seem like a tall order, when it comes down to cooking it Pao Bhaji is essentially is a one-pot meal. With easy cooking methods and spices, all you have to do is buy Pao Bhaji masala, which you can find at any Indian story for no more than 3 euros. Also a plus, this dish popular amongst kids and a sneaky way of feeding them vegetables, its what my mum did.
If you like eggs, get ready to fall in love. Anda Curry or Egg Curry is one of those dishes you can throw together when you don’t wanna cook, and still end up with something utterly delicious. Anda curry is basically boiled eggs that are cooked in a luscious tomato and onion based curry, the slight tang from the tomatoes is a perfect accompaniment to the creamy egg yolk, preferably accompanied with Naan or simply rice, this quick to make dish is will not disappoint you. All I will say is, try before you dismiss it.
India’s national drink, chai which literally means Tea in Hindi is at the centre of the Indian socio-familial cosmos, served with your daily breakfast, lunch, mid-day snack, evening supper, tea is at the centre of it all and while tea is universal staple Indian’s take pride in their love for the beverage. Slightly different than the European version, chai is made by boiling black tea in milk and water with a mixture of aromatic herbs and spices. There is nothing better than an early morning cup of chai on a rainy day, thankfully we have plenty of those on the Emerald Isle.
P.s Chai-tea, not a thing.
Punjabi chole masala or chana masala is one of the most popular curry dishes from India. In fact in north India, no wedding or party is complete until you have chole masala on the menu. I remember whenever we would call someone over for lunch or dinner, mom would almost always make chole. This gluten-free dish is served with rice or poori (fried Indian flatbread), cooked in a slightly spicy curry base mainly made with tomatoes, mango powder, onions and cumin, this dish is perfect for a cheat meal or even if you are planning on dieting.
The star of every Sunday dinner or lunch, this dish is part of every Indian kid’s childhood, it takes you back to a time when you would go visiting your cousin during the summer holidays and spend the entire day playing, watching tv and eating rajma chawal. This dish can be found everywhere in India, from being a staple in every household in the subcontinent to being a popular fast food item that you would find in every market across the country. May you be a meat-lover or a vegan, this simple yet decadent dish will not only fill your stomach but your soul. Consisting of red kidney beans that are cooked in a silky thick gravy with fragrant Indian whole spices rajma is best served with rice, yoghurt and salad. While the dish packs some heat, it’s just enough to warm you up, this hearty curry makes for a perfect bowl on a winter day.
You can make the curry paste in bulk and store is for up to 4 weeks, as most Indian recipes have the same curry base this would be cooking any dishes manageable within half an hour. Just fry up the curry paste and store it in an airtight jar.
You can buy some basic pre-made spice mixes at any Indian store that are used in every dish. Mainly a mix of turmeric, Cumin, dried Coriander at the holy trinity of any Indian dish and spice mixes of any brand contain a mix of all the for under 3 bucks.
When it comes to spice remembers two things
1. spices are not synonymous with spicy, spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, tamarind or garam masala have no element of heat to them, so do not feel intimidated if you see a dish with all of the above.
2. They get stale and will lose their flavours and fragrance, hence roast them in a non-stick pan over medium heat till fragrant before adding them in for that extra punch.
The world of Indian cooking is more than just spicy, it’s flavourful it’s colourful and it’s spiritual, our food is like the country itself warm and welcoming so for all those preparing to venture into the world of Indian cuisine, Namastey!.