You will need to have the following ingredients on hand for many of the
recipes. These can be bought from Indian stores and stored in separate
jars with tight lids in a cool place ready to cook a great meal. It makes
for a very decorative display and shows that you are well versed in the
art of Indian cooking.
Cardamom Pods (Elaichi)
The best-known Indian spice, cardamom has been called “seeds of
paradise.” Its sweet aroma and taste stimulate the appetite while
adding that characteristic Indian flavor. This spice is used in ever so
many dishes and is one of the main flavors in chai.
Cardamom comes in green and white pods. The green ones have a stronger
flavor that is perfect for these recipes. You can also buy the seeds only,
which can be coarsely ground in a food processor. Store in a tightly closed
jar in a cool, dark place.
Cayenne Pepper, Red (Lal Murchi)
Red cayenne pepper makes a dish hot and spicy. There are hot and medium
cayenne peppers. The recipes in this book are written for hot peppers,
but the quantity in each recipe will result in a medium-flavored curry.
You can add more at any point in the recipe. Remember that it takes some
simmering to bring out the full flavor, so don’t add a lot at a
Cinnamon Sticks or Bark (Tuj)
Cinnamon gives food a warm-chest sensation with a pleasant, sweet aroma.
The best can be bought at Indian stores and is made from the tenderest
cinnamon bark.These small bark chips release flavor more easily and are
more aromatic. Do not buy the coarse, big, curled cinnamon sticks except
for making chai.
(Coriander Leaves, Chinese Parsley or Khotmiri)
This flavorful and aromatic herb is used as a garnish in most of my recipes.
It is also used in many chutneys. Grown from coriander seeds, cilantro
greens are readily available in grocery stores.
Citric Acid (Limbu Na Phul)
Citric acid can be used in small quantities instead of lemon juice. It
has a strong tangy flavor so add carefully, to taste.
Coconut Milk, Canned
The regular works better than the light variety. Just eat less if you
are concerned about calories.
Cumin Seeds, Whole (Jeera) Citric Acid (Limbu Na
This ingredient is used in most vegetable curries, prawn curries and rice
dishes. The seeds can be stovetop-roasted in a dry, nonstick frying pan
on medium-high heat for 2 minutes (turn off the burner and keep stirring
until cool), then coarsely ground with a rolling pin to make a flavored
yogurt drink (chass).
Curry Leaves (Limbdo)
Buy limbdo fresh and freeze the leaves in a zipped plastic bag for immediate
use in khadi, dhal and vegetable curries.
Fenugreek Seeds (Methi Seeds)
Fenugreek is used in some vegetable curries. The seeds can be planted,
and the greens can be added to vegetable curries. They are called muthia
or methi bhaji and are available in Indian stores either fresh or dried.
Gram Flour or Chickpea Flour (Besan or Channa Flour)
Made from hulled ground and split chickpeas, this flour is used for badjias,
dhokra and thickening certain curries. Sieve and store in a jar.
Dhals are a great protein source for vegetarians. Here are some of the
varieties that I like to use:
Yellow split chickpeas (channa dhal)
Oil dhal (tuar dhal)
Split moong dhal
Cleaned blanched moong dhal
Masoor dhal (non-blanched)
Blanched masoor dhal (pink in color)
Mustard Seeds, Black (Rai)
Black mustard seeds are used in some vegetable dishes, fried until they
burst with flavor and aroma. I use the black variety exclusively.
I like to use safflower or sunflower oil because they are light and don’t
have a strong odor or flavor. I personally do not like the flavor of canola
Omum Seeds (Ajwan or Ajma Seeds)
Omum seeds are used in vegetable dishes and are well known to aid digestion.
Papadum is available in so many varieties. My favorite way of cooking
this delightful, crispy complement to any curry is to place 5 separate
pieces in a brown paper lunch bag and heat unsealed in the microwave for
1 minute at full power. Check for crispiness. When ready the papadum becomes
opaque and slightly browned.
Hungarian paprika has a mild flavor and is the best spice for adding color.
Poppy Seeds, White (Khas Khas)
White poppy seeds are sprinkled on desserts and sweetmeats and are available
in most Indian grocery stores.
The best rice is long-grain basmati rice from Amritsar, India. It comes
in various packages, often in burlap bags. The older the rice, the better
the flavor. Rinse the rice only once with cool water before cooking to
retain the vitamins and nutritional benefits.
This extraordinary spice brings rich color and a delicate, permeating
and memorable aroma even when used in small quantities. To get the most
aromatic flavor, place 1/2 tsp (2 mL) in a metal spoon, heat on a burner
for a moment or two, then crush with your fingers and soak in 1/4 cup
(60 mL) of hot water.
It is said that saffron is more expensive than gold. Thankfully you don’t
have to use much of it.
The best-quality saffron is of Spanish or Iranian origin and is dark red
with very few or no orange strands. This type has exceptional aroma. Store
it in a tightly closed container.
I like to use sea salt, so all the recipes in this book are based on this.
Sea salt is less salty, so if you substitute regular iodized salt, definitely
use less. Salt always reminds me of Gandhi’s civil disobedience
action against the repressive English colonial salt laws.
Keep a couple of small 8-oz (250-mL) cans on hand.
If using fresh tomatoes, use the Italian Roma variety. They are better
because they are fleshier and have less liquid. Fresh tomatoes are nicer
to use in the summer, but you can use canned varities all year round.
Crushed or diced canned tomatoes can be substituted for fast cooking.
Turmeric gives food a deep mustard color and adds a bitter flavor. It
is used in small quantities in most curries. It is available at grocery
stores and can be bought in bulk in Indian grocery stores.
Yellow Food Color Powder
You need only a small container for a few recipes.