My Indian Basics

29 Apr

My Indian fiancé, Sam, has indirectly influenced my style in the kitchen, by introducing me to a whole new cuisine and way of eating. I now love home cooked Indian food – it’s flavorful, hearty, healthy, easy to veganize, and makes great leftovers.  When I picked up Terry Hope Romano’s “Vegan Eats World,” I was delighted that she had recipes for some Indian basics that I was still lacking.  Here are my favorites:

Basmati Rice Pilaf


Terry taught me how to make rice.  I’m not even kidding.  I will be forever grateful for her breaking down the steps and taking the time to teach her readers how to get it right.  I learned about soaking, toasting, rice to water ratios, and how to add a little something extra to make basmati rice sing.  I toast my basmati in coconut oil and cook it with cardamom and a cinnamon stick.  It makes the best rice I have ever had.

Cashew Yogurt Sauce


This versatile sauce can be used in a lot of different ways, but I like to serve a little on the side to cool down a spicy curry.  Her recipe turns plain yogurt into something really fantastic.  I plan to experiment and make it more like the raita Sam knows and loves (with cucumber, mint, and cumin), but I am just crazy about this sauce as it is.  I keep inventing new ways to use it!

Green Chutney

green chutney

This stuff is so good, I can’t have Indian food without it.  Make a big batch then freeze your leftovers in a mini muffin tin or ice cube tray.  Once frozen, pop them out, put them in a freezer bag and back into the freezer they go, ready for you whenever your next Indian craving hits.  I defrost them in the refrigerator a couple of hours before I start cooking, and then let them defrost the rest of the way sitting outside while I cook.  They’re ready to go by the time I’m ready to serve!

And now…How to Throw an Indian Family-Style Dinner


Making a proper Indian family-style meal can be daunting for a new cook.  Because I’m still learning and take some time prepping, I’ll often be in the kitchen for over two hours getting everything ready, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

For the meal above, I started soaking the rice and the cashews (for the sauce) in the afternoon.  I also started defrosting the chutney.  When I came home and was ready to cook, I got the rice ready first and let the rice cooker do it’s thing.  Mine has a “keep warm” setting which is so handy when I’m trying to get everything to the table at the same temperature!  Next, I made the yogurt sauce, since it needed to chill for a bit before serving.  The sauce was super easy and only took a few minutes to make, which was quite a relief.  Once I got it into the refrigerator, I took the chutney out to further defrost it.  Then, I attacked my main course, lobia, which is a Punjabi black-eyed pea curry.  This took some time to prep but it’s actually a pretty easy dish!  To round out the meal, I relied on my secret best friend, Tasty Bite.  When I’m cooking Indian food all by myself, I like to take care of the accouterments, rice/bread, and the main dish, but I have no shame when it comes to heating up some yellow dal and baingan bharta.  You’ll have an impressive spread that you mostly made yourself, and an Indian feast of which to be proud.

If you want to put on the whole show yourself, I suggest making the dal and/or a bean dish ahead of time.  They actually freeze really well, so you can make a big batch when you have time, and defrost when you’re ready.  If you’re serving anything with potato, however, save that to make the day of, since it doesn’t freeze as well.

I hope this helps budding chefs learn how to juggle the different dishes it takes to put on a proper Indian family-style feast!  Do not feel any shame if you need a little help from the restaurant around the corner or Tasty Bite at first.  I look forward to the day I can make everything from scratch, but we all have to start somewhere.


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