Cooking is a skill that requires practice. A few useful cooking hacks can help you make your meals more appetizing and easier to prepare.
Keep a stock of fresh spices like turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin and coriander seeds. Store in airtight containers and in a cool dry place.
1. Keep it simple
While Indian cooking may seem daunting at first glance because of the list of ingredients, it’s really quite easy once you know a few tricks and hacks. For example, instead of adding all spices at once, learn to add them in small amounts at different stages throughout the cooking process. This helps bring out the layering of flavours that Indian food is known for.
Also, remember that spice is a balance of flavour and heat, so you can always scale up or down based on your personal tastes. Another great trick to keep in mind is that garlic burns easily, so it’s important to use a heavy bottomed pan and stir frequently while cooking it.
Another tip is to stock up on condiments, papads and preserves, as these can elevate a simple meal of dal and rice into something delicious. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of flavours – you never know what you’ll find!
Finally, make sure to keep your workspace clean as you go. It makes it easier to know where everything is and to find things quickly when you need them. Plus it helps to avoid wasting foods!
2. Start with the basics
Spices are the heart of Indian cooking. Learning how to use the right spices in the correct quantities and when is key to creating delicious dishes. Spices balance each other in a number of ways and can take the heat out of spicy food or add flavour to bland dishes. A great way to learn this is by tasting a variety of recipes and seeing which ones work best for your palate.
Cooking with the right utensils is also essential. Selecting round bottomed kadais for gas stove cook tops and flat based conductive metal ones for induction cookers will make all the difference when it comes to cooking Indian food. Also, it is always wise to invest in a good quality stainless steel strainer.
Keeping a clean workspace is another key to success in the kitchen. This will allow you to easily locate ingredients and prevents you from having a messy cook top that can interfere with the flavour of your dish.
It is also a good idea to prepare larger amounts of staple ingredients like rice and lentils so that you can repurpose them over the week. This will save time when preparing meals and reduce food waste. And finally, be sure to get a good quality garlic press and a sharp knife. Both of these tools are necessary for many recipes and will help ensure you have super thin, finely minced ginger and garlic.
3. Use a pressure cooker
While the sight of a pressure cooker may make you cringe if you were brought up in a family that didn’t use one, this kitchen tool will become your best friend as you learn Indian cooking. A pressure cooker can cut your cooking time by as much as half. You will also save energy as you won’t be heating the stove and letting it heat up all day long. This can be a major benefit for busy families.
When using a pressure cooker start with recipes that have few ingredients and simple spices. This will help you build up your skills before you try more complex recipes. Also don’t over cook anything. It is easy to overcook dals and vegetables but this can be easily remedied by adding some water or yogurt.
Use the cooking times in standard recipes as a guide but keep in mind that there is no evaporation in the pressure cooker so add less liquid. It’s also worth remembering that whole pulses and large pieces of meat will take longer than potatoes.
Invest in a good quality, easy to clean pressure cooker and use it often. It will pay off in the long run. If you want to save space consider getting a model that has separators so you can cook dal and rice at the same time.
4. Make extra
Cooking is a skill that takes practice and patience to master. The key is to keep it simple and learn as you go. If you are new to Indian cooking try starting with one pot dishes that can be repurposed throughout the week to cut down on both cooking and cleaning time.
Using a pressure cooker is every Indian cook’s secret weapon to reduce cooking times. Also always make sure you use ripe tomatoes for curries as this will add natural red color to the gravy. Always taste your food and season accordingly, a pinch of salt here and there can make all the difference in the flavor of a dish.
Grated coconut is an essential part of many fresh masalas used in Tamil and Malayalam cooking. Save time and effort by scrapping/grating the whole coconut, freezing it in ice cubes and use as needed when making a dish.