Global kitchen: Indian made easy

Written by mekeisha madden toby
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Cooking homemade Indian cuisine is simpler than most people think

Global kitchen: Indian made easy
Curry isn't a spice, it's a way of cooking. And it's not nearly as intimidating as it might seem. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Safe at home

Go to any major city and there is no shortage of Indian eateries.

But, as Kavita Gunda Bouknight points out, “Going out to eat Indian food and cooking it at home are two very different things.”

Bouknight is a wife and mother whose parents cook Indian dishes. She and her friends have devoured her dad’s scrumptious samosas since childhood. She said the trick to cooking Indian cuisine at home is awareness.

“There needs to be more programming on TV specifically designed to make Indian cooking at home easy,” Bouknight said. “Every channel seems to have an Italian cooking show, but the exposure to Indian cuisine is limited.”

“I love demystifying Indian food,” said Kandula, who works in the technology field but graduated from the culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. “People don’t have to be afraid of it at all.”

One example Kandula gives is an alternative samosa recipe.

“What’s not to like about samosas?” he asked. “They've got potatoes, peas and carrots. They’re spicy and flavorful, wrapped nicely in a pastry, and crispy, fried and delicious.”

Kandula said people unfamiliar with cooking Indian cuisine avoid homemade samosas because they don't know how to fold them. They don't want to fry them and have them explode.

"I cook them in a panini maker as opposed to frying them,” he explained. “I don’t use any special ingredients. I use potatoes, peas and carrots, crisp chilies, garlic and ginger, some mustard seeds and a little bit of the spice and grill them. It's simple as that.”

Kandula, who specialises in Southern and coastal Indian food, also recommends an easy green-bean dish with toasted coconut, dried red chilies, and chickpeas and cauliflower tacos made with mustard seeds, spices and dried red chilies. The latter can be served over rice.

Key ingredients and terminologies

Indian cuisine elements can even add flavour to non-Indian food items.

“I grew up eating every vegetable and never understood why my friends and classmates didn’t until I went over to their houses and ate vegetables the way they prepared them,” Bouknight said. “The school canteen was the same way. They poured cheese over everything to make it taste good.”

But with a little Indian spice, vegetables and most foods can taste more flavourful and delicious, she said.

“All you need is fresh ginger and fresh garlic,” Bouknight said. “Those two ingredients are easy to find and make any dish taste better.”

Kandula is also a big believer in garlic and ginger, as well as onions, mustard seeds, turmeric and dried and fresh chilies. But ingredients are just a part of the puzzle. The average person doesn't understand the terms used in Indian cuisine.

“Masala isn’t really a dish but a mixture of spices,” he said. “And curry is not a powder or a spice. It’s a way of cooking.”

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