Tasty Essentials for Your Kitchen – Part 1
Being an Indian woman I have realized that the present generation is leaning towards hotel foods. It is sad and bad both for health and pocket. Most urban Indian women of the 21st century find it difficult to cook even basic dishes either due to lack of time or due to lack of training. If you have the right orientation, you will find food preparation the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable job in the world.
To solve the problem of home chefs like me, I have decided to write this series that will guide you to stocking your kitchen with the basic taste makers. If you have these tasty essentials at hand, you will not be scrambling for stuff when you stand up to cook. The first and most important tasty essential is of course your variety of masalas.
Do you know that India is the only place where spices are produced? But the sad news is that the best of our spices are exported and we are left with the remnants. Yet, people outside the subcontinent are unable to bring out the flavour of India in their cooking. Ever wondered why?
The main reason for this is disproportionate mixing of spices.Indian flavoured dishes have that unique taste due to the right quantity of the right ingredient in the right manner. Let me take you through a few famous spice combinations that I think every kitchen in our country should have.
The courtesy for this masala goes to my dear aunt! It’s a simple mixture of red chilli powder, coriander seeds powder (dhanya) and cumin (zeera) powder. But hey, take a break! Don’t be lazy and get the readymade stuff from the shop. The spice powders available in shops are not roasted which means that you can use them while cooking but cannot consume them directly. So, unfortunately, you have to go through the pain of buying whole spices from the market. Roast them thoroughly and then grind them in your home grinder. The proportion of red chilli, coriander seeds and cumin will be 2:1:1. Once the masala is ready, it can be used for numerous dishes. A few simplest ones are given.
- This masala can be used to prepare almost any sabzi (vegetable). All you need to do is to chop the vegetable and add some salt, edible oil, turmeric and Ragda Masala. Mix welland place it in the microwave or fryer. A few minutes and your sabziis ready for serving.
- As the name suggests, it can be used to make ragda. All you have to do is boil white peas and sprinkle the masala on it. Add chopped onions, coriander leaves, mint leavesand even tomatoes as per your taste. Don’t forget to add salt!
- You can also boil eggs and cut them in fancy ways. Sprinkle salt and Ragda Masalaand serve. You may not believe this but my kids have added eggs to their list of favourite dishes thanks to this masala.
- Cut tomatoes in slices or any other fancy style. Sprinkle salt and Ragda Masala. It can be eaten with bread (pav). Tastes quite good!
These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure as the lady of the house you can come up with newer innovations. Do share your ideas with us!
This is a mixture of 32 Indian spices mainly pepper powder due to which the black colour is dominant.Kala Masala is available in specific areas especially in regions of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. It has several advantages:
- Kala Masala contains spices that lend heat to the body. Hence, it is widely used in areas that have torturous chill in winter and where the staple diet is vegetarian in nature.
- Besides being tasty, this masala is also medically beneficial. Proper use fights cold, flu, diarrhoea and prevents ageing. It also gives strength to bones and joints.
But the disadvantageous part is that it steals the colour of your veggies. So, if you are fascinated with dark vegetables, you can cook them in Kala Masala. For those who are non-vegetarians, the most delicious kababscan be made with various combinations of Hara Masala, and Kala Masala.
You cannot do without this masala if you are a hard core non-veg like me. Hara Masalais a combination of ginger, garlic, green chilli, mint leaves and coriander leaves all ground to paste. Take ginger and garlic in equal proportions and chilli one fourth of the paste. For better results reduce the amount of ginger by 10% than that of garlic. Add mint leaves and coriander leaves almost 20% of the complete paste. Some people also prefer adding cumin powder to the combination. Another taste maker in this concoction will be green papaya which is also beneficial while cooking meat.
Once the masala is ready, you can add it to any type of meat blindfolded. Chicken, mutton, beef all taste good with it. But be sure to fry it well in oil until it turns golden. Your stomach will start tumbling at the succulent smell of this masala even before your meat is cooked.
Another self-invented variation of Hara Masala is without cumin, mint leavesand coriander leaves or even papaya. It is just a paste of ginger, garlic and green chilli, in which the amount of green chilli is lesser. Now you might wonder, why these deductions! Well, I am a fan of Chinese food and so are my children. Any time they come up with a demand for noodles or fried rice, I cannot disappoint them. All I need to do is to chop the vegetables available in the fridge and fry them in my Hara Masala. Post, add noodles or rice and sauces and hey presto, the dish is ready! No jhanjhat, no khitkhit!
Garam Masala is, as its name goes, a hot masala used for tempering or garnishing veggies and an essential ingredient while cooking non-veg dishes. Every region has its own way of preparing Garam Masala, but mostly it is the combination of these common spices – cloves (long), bay leaves (tezpatta), long pepper (pippali), cumin, cinnamon (dalchini), cardamom (ilaichi – all types), nutmeg (jaifal), mace (javitri), star anise (badiyanaphool),black and white pepper and black cumin (shah jeera). There are other spices as well but it all depends on your choice. It is better to prepare your own Garam Masalabecause it is more aromatic and tasty.Roast these spices and grind them finely.Garam Masala is very hot, hence should be used sparingly. Here are some common places where you can add this spice combination.
- Almost all non-vegetarian dishes are flavoured with Garam Masala. The best kababsare prepared with a combination of Garam Masalawith other spices. Tandooris and mughlai dishes just can’t do without it.
- Although it is added sparingly, it is the most vital ingredient in Indian dishes without which you cannot make tasty biryanis, khichdis or pulaos.
- Garam Masalais sprinkled over papads, dals and fried items. Some special salads are garnished with this powder.
- Vegetables which are difficult to digest cab be cooked with Garam Masalato make them more tasty and digestible. For example, lady finger, cabbage, brinjal, potatoes can be cooked in Garam Masala.
Garam Masalahelps to improve your immune system and also makes your body more compatible to face tropical heat found in India and related diseases common in the subcontinent. Do you know, there are legends associated with Indians being able to speak so many languages because regular use of spices has made their tongues sharper?
This is one of my favourites! Flat suggestion is to buy it readymade from the grocer. If you try to make it at home, the product will be in paste form and then you will not be able to use it as a sprinkler.
- PaniPuri Masala can be used to make golgappas, panipuris, dahipuris and other such delicacies.
- Another simple way is to sprinkle it on French fries. Believe me, the French in the fries will get transformed into chatpata Indian form!
- An unusual dish suggested by my sister is, as she termed it – Khistchiya! Sounds weird, but it’s tasty nevertheless! All you need to do is fry finely chopped potatoes and lay them on small pieces of fried papad of your choice. Put another layer of chopped tomatoes and steamed capsicum (if you are a fan of it!) Sprinkle PaniPuri Masala liberally and serve immediately. (The papadsoftens after a while due to the masala.)
There are a lot of other things you can do with this masala including, of course preparing those luscious panipuris.
Chat Masala is a sweet and sour tangy masala which is used as a sprinkler over appetizers, fruits, chips and snacks. It is a blend ofcoriander seeds, cumin, raw mango, black pepper, salt, black salt, ginger, asafoetida, mint and chilli powder. Besides being digestive, it can also add a delicious aroma to your cooking. Raw vegetable salads should always be sprinkled with Chat Masala so that they are digested easily.
Chat Masala can also be used in lemon drink, jaljira drink, orange juice, tamarind leaves chutney,kokamsharbat,golgappas, panipuris, etc. But be careful! Overuse can cause hyperacidity and diarrhoea.
These masalas can make cooking easy-peasy for even kids. But I need to make a few pointers before you start preparing your monthly ration of masalas.
- Make sure you buy the most fresh and good quality spices. Spices lose their scent and flavour over a period of time which means that you will be left with an odourless and tasteless powder if you keep it for long.
- Before grinding any masala wash your grinder well. The container in which you are about to store the spices should also be cleaned thoroughly. If the combination is dry, both the grinder as well as the container should be wiped and dried properly. Avoid wet spoons or rusted containers to keep your masalas fresh.
- In case of wet combinations like Hara Masala, it is better to use boiled water to make it last long. Use very little water just enough to make it into a paste.
- Store wet spices in the refrigerator and dried ones in a clean dry cupboard which is close to sunlight. Some women store all masala powders in the fridge. Besides making your fridge smell like a masala shop, it also takes away the flavour of your spices. Clean the masala cupboard regularly.
- Keep a limited stock of masala in monsoons because humid weather is known to spoil spices very fast. Sometimes, fungus develops in spices. Don’t ever use such fungus-effected products. They can be poisonous.
- Keep your masalas in transparent or see through containers. This will save you the trouble of opening each container and checking whether you have found the right one. In case you cannot recognize the spice by look, it is better to label your containers.
- Make sure that the containers are airtight. Don’t use them for storage if their lids are broken or loose. Don’t exchange containers as this might cause a mixing of flavours. For example, if you have stored turmeric in one container, always use the same container for turmeric in future.
Dried spices combinations can last up to six months if they are ground and stored with proper care. This means that you don’t have to take the trouble of preparing them every month. It takes a day or two to get all your masalas ready and then you can have six months of comfort cooking! Some women spend daily labour in chopping, roasting and grinding spices. This is causes delay in cooking and the proportion of spices also keeps changing which affects the taste of your dishes. Keep these tasty essentials in your kitchen so that you can be a swift and expert chef.
P.S.: Our next article will be on various types of sauces required for continental cuisines.
Written by:- Mr. Afrin Abbas