Cooking By Feel: Indian Ingredients and Flavors

One of the things that got us cooking in earnest was a desire to learn how to cook really good Indian food. We're still a long ways off (homestyle Indian food is a lifelong pursuit) but we've learned a lot about flavors, ingredients, and elements to help create Indian spice and savor in our meals.

As we work to become better at cooking without recipes, let's explore Indian food a little... Like other Asian cuisines, Indian cooking has a wide range of styles and regional specialties and variations in flavor. Here are a few of the basics...

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Ingredients and HerbsGingerGarlicOnions • Tamarind paste • Chilies • Mint • Cilantro • Coconut: Fresh and dried grated, as well as coconut milk • Tomatoes • Limes • Spinach • Nuts, especially cashews • Milk, especially preserved as khoya • Sugar or jaggery

For a wonderful tour of the spices used in a household Indian kitchen, as well as some good storage tips and ideas, check out this kitchen tour: Devesh and Tara's Spice Pantry.

Spices
• Black peppercorns
• Cloves
• Cinnamon
• Coriander
• Green and black cardamom
• White and black cumin
• Fenugreek
• Mustard seeds
• Turmeric
• Asofoetida
• Nutmeg
• Garam masala - a blend of the spices above. Make your own with this recipe.

Meal Basics
• Basmati rice
• Paneer (homemade cheese pressed into a firm tofu-like consistency)
• Homemade or storebought hot and sour pickles
• Ghee - clarified butter
• Lentils
• Beans such as chickpeas
• Potatoes

Recipes and tips based on these flavorsWeekend Cooking: How to Make CurryRecipe: Butternut Squash & Coconut CurryRecipe: Lemon RasamRecipe: Saffron Rice with Peas and CashewsThe Hungry Reader: Rogan Josh in Interpreter of MaladiesRecipe: D.I.Y. Mango LassiRecipe: Indian-Roasted CauliflowerQuick Tip: How Do I Clarify Butter?

Your turn! What's left off? What are your favorite Indian recipes and dishes?

(Images: Sabra Krock and Faith Hopler)

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