Adding yoghurt: this procedure has to be done carefully or the yoghurt will separate. Take the pan from the heat and add the yoghurt a spoonful at a time, stirring well between each addition. Then return the pan to the heat, stirring all the time, until the sauce bubbles.
Fried onion paste is a key ingredient in many curries from northern regions of India and Pakistan. It provides a smooth sweet, dark brown paste that mellows out the harsh flavors of ginger and garlic.
Curry base building - the most of all the liquids is water. Many of legume curries use water to cook the grains, with a simple seasoning of spices to give flavor to the water; Acidic liquids like tomato sauces, pastes, and purees provide valuable moisture but also tartness and color. Dairy products like yogurt, buttermilk, cream, half and half and reduced milk solids not only provide a sauce base but also lower the hot tastes in curries.
Some curries are meant to be thin-bodied, and some are naturally thick because of the inclusion of a nut, vegetable, fruit or legume puree. Then there are a few that need to bulk up, and for that we look to flours made form chickpeas, rice and wheat. Some curries employ cornstarch, and other potatoes as a natural built -in thickener.
The point of this is to allow the spices to absorb as much oil as they can, and thus to give out their full flavor. When the spices are saturated, the excess oil runs out of them (you can drain it off, if you like), and you can proceed to the next step in the recipe.
Colorings: the use of subtle coloring in Indian cooking is commonplace. Saffron and turmeric are often used. However the latter imparts a particular and sometimes overwhelming, flavor and the former is expensive, so a popular alternative is to make up a weak solution of orange or yellow food coloring.
Dry roasting: When all the spices for a recipe require dry roasting, they can be roasted together for convenience.
Many spices are dry roasted for a few seconds to heighten their flavors. This is best achieved by gently heating either a non-stick or heavy-based frying pan. Add the spices and over a very gentle heat move the spices around the surface of the pan. Because of their pungency, dry roast chilies in a covered pan.
Dropping spices into hot oil - this is often either the first or the last step in an Indian recipe. The oil is heated until very hot and then whole spices or dried chilies are dropped into it. Within a few second they pop or expand and their concentrated flavor is released.
Grinding spices: a coffee grinder is ideal for making a spice paste. You can also use a blender or a pestle and mortar.
Tempering (Baghar, Phoran, Darka): the terms given to the process in which a seasoning, combined with oil or ghee, is poured over a dish before it is served. The purpose of this is to either add a flavor without incorporating it in the cooking process or to increase the amount of oil.
Thickening sauces: flour is not used as a thickening in Indian cookery. Instead, spice pastes, yoghurt, tomatoes and coconut are all use to thicken and add their own individual flavors.
Fish: the people of Bangladesh and the Bengalis use mustard oil to cook the fish. The fish are frequently cooked with skin, bones and head intact, giving the dish full benefit of all the nutritional value, and this extracts the most flavor from the fish, too. If you use frozen fish, cut or slice the fish before it is completely thawed so that the pieces retain their shape during preparation. Chili powder is used in these recipes. As it can vary in strength use it cautiously.
Instead of frying the fish it can be arranged in a baking tray, brushed with oil and either placed under a preheated grill or baked in a preheated oven 180° C (350° F).
See also methods of cooking fish.
Pealing tomatoes: You can use tinned tomatoes to save time, and in winter, but fresh ripe tomatoes are the best. Drop them into a bowl of boiling water and leave for 2 minutes until a split appears in the skin. Drain and refresh in cold water. Then remove the skin.
Rice: whichever type of rice you choose to cook with, remember that it increases 2-3 times in volume when cooked. Before cooking the rice rinse it in several changes of warm water until the water is clear.
Meat: As a general rule, all the tougher cuts of meat are cooked by a moist method such as stewing, braising, boiling or currying. Tender meat such as fillet, rump, loin and shoulder are good for dry heat cooking e.g. roasting, frying and grilling. For curries choose middle neck, shoulder, leg and scrap end, and it is common for the bones to be included, too. For biryani and pulao choose leg or shoulder, and for kebabs and keema use leg.
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