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The art of Indian cuisine at your fingertips.
Neeta Saluja simplifies Indian cooking with a unique approach to its preparation. She focuses on the fundamentalsthe special ingredients and techniques every cook can use to create fragrant, delicious, and well balanced dishes.
Six Spices demystifies the exotic and complex flavors of Indian cuisine by explaining the characteristics of its essential ingredientshot chili powder,
aromatic coriander, sweet cumin, roasted nutty mustard seeds, bold asafetida, and hearty turmeric. But here is the twist: the book also reveals the methods used to incorporate them into exquisite, authentic recipes.
Keeping clarity and simplicity in mind, Saluja has created recipes easy enough for beginners, yet inspirational enough to encourage inventiveness in the more seasoned cook.
Readers will discover that seasoning with chounk is one of the basic techniques used to enhance the flavor of beans and legumes. A dish of red lentils will become memorable when infused with aromatic seasoning of hot ghee, fresh herbs, and spices; and cooking with masala, or curry paste, can turn a humble dish into the essence of Indian cuisine.
Saluja has taken the fear out of approaching unfamiliar culinary fare. Her recipe collection has been tasted and tested throughout her more than twenty years of teaching and cooking Indian food.
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About the Author
Neeta Saluja, born in Agra, India, home of the Taj Mahal, has been teaching Indian cooking for more than two decades in the United States, Australia, and Japan. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
When I arrived in Australia from the city of Bhopal in the central province of India, the weather was cold and blustery. I felt alone in an unfamiliar land and among people I did not know. I thought I knew English, but in Sydney it was spoken with an accent that was hard for me to understand. Almost immediately, I regretted leaving friends and my native land. But these feelings soon passed as I was reunited with my parents, who had immigrated to Australia the previous year. Once I arrived, I was happy to learn that my mother had kept the Indian traditions alive. To welcome me, she had prepared a hearty meal of hot simmering dal, steaming rice, spicy curry, and warm chapatis. What a wonderful surprise!
To make this meal, Mom had special ordered the spices, lentils, and other essential ingredients from India. Every few months she would have them shipped so she could continue to serve us food that was familiar. She quickly learned to adapt her recipes by incorporating local ingredients and fresh produce into her daily cooking. We began to enjoy vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and zucchini prepared with the spices we’d always known.
That was back in the 1970s. In recent years, ethnic food has become tremendously popular. Besides Italian, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants, we now see Thai, Turkish, Japanese, and Indian cuisine available in towns and cities across the United States. Today, both casual diners and connoisseurs can enjoy the spicy and aromatic Indian cuisine. Some Indian restaurants serve authentic dishes while others offer fusion foods, adapting and combing ingredients and techniques from different cultures and countries to make even more creative menu offerings. In my travels, I’ve tasted a hint of curry powder in many pasta dishes served at Italian restaurants in Japan. Japanese supermarkets sold a special curry mix to prepare a popular Japanese curry-rise dish. And the renowned Restaurant Raji in Memphis creates French-Indian fusion delicacies.
In the last few years, I have noticed a surge in the number of Indian restaurants in my adopted home of Madison, Wisconsin, and in neighboring towns. New specialty stores and even grocery chains are offering good selections of spices, beans, basmati rice, and other essential food items from India. Accessibility and availability of these ingredients used in India cooking have instilled a desire in Americans to venture into a new world of cooking with spices. They long to learn to create the mouth-watering curries they’ve tasted at Indian restaurants and to incorporate more beans and lentils into their diets. Coriander and cumin become part of their collection of spices. Some simply want to learn new culinary skills.
Driven by the increased interest, food stores, cooking school, and community colleges are offering cooking classes in ethnic cuisine and bookstores are carrying a wide selection of ethnic cookbooks. When I began searching for a good Indian cookbook, however, I found that most were written either as memoirs with few recipes or as books with scores of recipes. Those recipes often consisted of long lists of spices and unfamiliar ingredients combined with little instruction on how to use them. The various regional cuisines of India created further confusion for a beginner. Finding the right Indian cookbook was both challenging and overwhelming.
Encouraged by the keen interest of many friends and students in my cooking classes, I decided to write a reliable Indian cookbook with simple, easy-to-follow instructions for some of my favorite authentic recipes. Although basic enough for beginners, my recipes will still inspire the creativity of more seasoned cooks.
Keeping clarity and simplicity in mind, I developed a unique way to present my recipes, relying on basic spices and similar cooking techniques. In my own kitchen I often use fewer spices than called for in a recipe, so the recipes I selected require no more than six spices to create tasty dishes. Most of the recipes are based upon four cooking techniques: seasoning with hot oil, seasoning with hot ghee, cooking with powdered spices, and cooking with curry paste.
In chapters 2 through 5, I give you an overview of each technique. The recipes that follow have been tested and tasted many times throughout my fifteen years of teaching experience. After twenty-five years of sampling my recipes, my family and friends still look forward to my meals.
I have included an additional chapter of recipes, “Beyond the Basics,” with my favorite breads, snacks, drinks, and desserts to complete a meal. The “Tips and Techniques” chapter contains detailed information about uncommon ingredients and instructs you on how to use them.
My hope is that this book will become a valuable resource as you experience the joy of Indian cooking. With it as your guide, you soon will be preparing simple and satisfying home-cooked, Indian-style meals. Each recipe is sufficient to feed four people. To serve more, you can easily double the amounts.
Six Spices: A Simple Concept of Indian Cooking introduces you to the concept of spices and guides you in the preparation of healthy, delicious authentic Indian meals.
Shubharambh (pleasant start)!
Table of Contents
1 All about Spices 1
2 Seasoning with Hot Oil (Tel ka Chounk) 7
Using hot oil as a cooking medium for seasoning.
Blending spices in certain sequences to release their full flavors.
Adding seasoned oil to flavor salads, rice, and raita.
Cooking vegetables in seasoned oil to add flavor.
Spinach and Red Potatoes 12
Green Beans with Coconut 14
Mustard Greens and Radishes 15
Curried Dry Potatoes 16
Carrot Salad 17
Cabbage and Tomato Salad 18
Sprouted Mung Bean Salad 20
Seasoned Mung Beans 22
Potato with Mint in Yogurt 23
Tomatoes with Yogurt and Peanuts 24
Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt 25
Butternut Squash with Yogurt 27
Corn and Bell Pepper Rice 28
Yogurt Rice 29
Lemon Rice 30
3 Seasoning with Hot Ghee (Ghee ka Chounk) 31
Using hot ghee to flavor beans and lentils
Preparing seasoning with herbs and spices using ghee as a cooking medium
Simmering beans and lentils with seasoning to achieve their full tastes
Brown Lentils 37
Black-Eyed Peas 38
Yellow Split Lentils and Spinach 39
Red Lentils 40
Pigeon Peas 42
Spicy Pigeon Peas with Mixed Vegetables 43
Rice and Yellow Split Lentil Porridge 45
Spicy Corn Kernels 46
Curried Potatoes 48
Rice Pilaf with Mixed Vegetables 49
Egg and Tomato Scramble 50
Potatoes with Cumin Seeds 52
Saffron Rice 55
Rice with Cumin Seeds 56
4 Cooking with Powdered Spices (Sookha Masala) 57
Different techniques for cooking vegetables with powdered spices
Using spices in a certain order and at a specific time to achieve unique tastes
Potatoes and Cauliflower Curry 64
Cabbage and Peas Curry 66
Carrots and Peas Curry 67
Dry Curried Potatoes I 68
Dry Curried Potatoes II 69
Curried Zucchini 70
Curried Zucchini in Peanut Sauce 71
Stuffed Okra with Onions 72
Eggplant and Mushroom Curry 74
Vegetable Delight 75
Cucumber, Tomato, and Onion with Yogurt 78
Cucumber with Yogurt 79
Chicken in Peanut Sauce 81
Stuffed Peppers 82
Stuffed Baby Eggplants 84
5 Cooking with Curry Paste (Peesa Masala) 87
Preparing curry paste (masala) with fresh ingredients and spices.
Roasting curry paste to perfection.
Simmering meat and vegetables in masala to make perfect curries
Potatoes and Peas Curry 93
Red Kidney Beans 94
Mixed-Vegetables Curry 98
Curried Garbanzo Beans 96
Chicken Curry 99
Fish Curry 100
Curried Cheese Cubes and Peas 102
Shrimp Curry 103
Lamb Curry with Cashews and Poppy Seeds 105
Egg Curry with Potatoes 106
Curried Meat Balls 108
Cabbage Kofta Curry 111
Curried Stuffed Tomatoes 113
6 Beyond the Basics: Recipes to Complete the Meals 115
Understanding Indian cuisine
Recipes to round out an Indian meal
Recipes using spices other than the basic six
Fresh and Refreshing Drinks
Ginger Tea 121
Mango Shake 121
Yogurt Drink 122
Mango Yogurt Drink 122
Litchi Yogurt Drink 123
Crispy and Spicy Snacks
Corn Fritters 124
Eggplant Fritters 125
Mung Lentil Fritters 126
Vegetable Fritters 127
Potato-Stuffed Pastry 128
Cream of Wheat Porridge 130
Savory Pancakes 131
Crispy Tortilla with Potatoes and Garbanzo Beans 132
Potato Puff Rolls 134
Potato Patty 136
Tangy and Tasty Chutneys
Tamarind Chutney 137
Mint and Cilantro Chutney 138
Coconut Chutney 139
Hot and Spicy Breads
Deep-Fried Indian Bread 140
Indian Flat Bread 143
Spicy Deep-Fried Indian Bread 144
Oven-Baked Roti with Fenugreek Leaves 145
Sweet and Sensational Desserts
Coconut Slice 146
Cream of Wheat Halwa 147
Fried Noodles Pudding 148
Fried Milk Balls in Syrup 149
Yogurt Cheese and Saffron Pudding 150
Rice Pudding 152
7 Tips and Techniques 153
Use of appropriate kitchen equipment and cooking utensils
The characteristics of ingredients such as curry leaves, coconut, and lentils
Instructions for preparing uncommon ingredients such as paneer, ghee, and bean sprouts
Sample Menus 168
Recipe Index 175