Culinaria India

Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious

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India is a large country with many regional variations in climate, custom, religion and food. The country has been invaded and colonized many times, and each time changes have taken place in the eating habits of the local population.
When the Moguls descended on northern India in the sixteenth century they brought with them their rich meat-based cuisine. From central Asia, too, came the tandoor, the clay oven, which gives its name to those delectable dishes now served in every Indian restaurant.
The north is a wheat-growing, bread-eating area. The preferred cooking fat is ghee, although substitutes are used. Generally speaking the food is mild; it gets progressively hotter and spicier the farther south you go.
The population of India is predominantly Hindu and vegetarian. When Hindus eat meat it is usually lamb - never beef, for the cow is sacred. There are, of course, many meat-eating minorities: the Goans from the ex-Portuguese colony on the west coast for whom pork is a speciality; the Muslims who eat beef and lamb but never pork; the Parsees who are omnivorous.
The more southern states grow rice as their staple food, use oil in preference to ghee and tend to be vegetarian. In Bengal on the east coast the food is again different, as they have plenty of fish — especially plump king-size prawns and lobsters - in the tidal waters of the Hooghly river. Mustard seeds and mustard oil are popular here too. But best of all are their sweets — little white and brown spheres floating in syrup and fudge-like pink, white and green squares.
All Indians love sweets but leave the making of them to the professionals. Those sweets that are simple enough to be made at home require patience rather than skill and the full attention of the cook or the results will be disappointing.
In India the traditional method of grinding spices to a paste or powder is in a large mortar or on a flat stone using a heavy rolling-pin shaped stone. Here an electric blender with a strong motor or a food processor will make quick work of pureeing spices.
To grind small quantities of dry spices a coffee grinder is ideal - but you will not be able to use it for grinding coffee again. If you do not have a blender, a mezzaluna (a curved blade with two handles), a garlic press and a grater will give very satisfactory results.
In India saucepans do not have handles. They used to be made of heavy copper with tinned interiors and curved bottoms, but now they are often made from aluminium and are flat bottomed.
For frying, a large heavy wok-like pan is used and for making bread a slightly curved, iron plate-like griddle. Any heavy frying pan can be used instead.
In a traditional Indian household plates are not used. Instead they serve food on thalis, round trays made from metal, usually brass although stainless steel is becoming more commonly used especially in urban areas, and silver (by those who can afford it) for special occasions. Small bowls called katoris are placed on the tray and filled with the various dishes. Chutneys and accompaniments are arranged on the thali itself as are breads such as puris or chapatis. Rice is also served directly on to the tray. In the south banana leaves are sometimes used and make delightful disposable thalis.
At the end of a meal, especially if it has been a heavy one, paan is served as a digestif and an astringent mouth freshener. Paan is made from the leaf of the betel palm, spread with lime (calcium) paste and filled with chopped betel nut and a variety of spices such as cloves, cardamom seeds and aniseed. The leaf is then neatly folded into a triangle small enough to be popped whole into the mouth. It turns the mouth red when chewed and is addictive especially when the ingredients include tobacco.

The following are available from Asian food stores and other specialist shops, some supermarkets, delicatessens and greengrocers:
Cardamom (elaichi) An aromatic seed pod which comes in three varieties: white, green (more perfumed than the white) and large black (not always available). The whole pod is used to flavour rice and meat dishes and then discarded, or the pod is opened and the seeds removed and crushed for sprinkling on sweets or vegetables.

Cayenne pepper or chilli powder Powdered dried red chillies. The strength varies from batch to batch. Use with caution.

Chillies, hot fresh green (hari mirch) Use with care. For a less pungent result slit the chillies and discard the seeds. Do not touch your face or rub your eyes while handling chillies, and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Chillies, dried red (sabat lal mirch) These add a good flavour when tossed in whole with other frying spices. The smaller ones are very pungent so add them cautiously. They can also be crumbled between finger tips, if preferred. Handle with the same care as green chillies (above).
Cinnamon (dalchini) Available in stick and ground form. The stick should be discarded before the dish is served.
Coconut (narial) Used in many sweet and savoury dishes. When buying a coconut choose one that is heavy for its size. To open it, pierce the ‘eyes’ with a skewer and pour away the liquid. Put the coconut in a preheated moderately hot oven, 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5, for 15 minutes, then place on a sturdy table or on the floor and give it a sharp tap with a mallet or hammer; it will break in two. Using a sharp knife, prise away the flesh from the shell, then peel off the brown skin and cut the coconut into pieces. If the coconut is already open - Indian shopkeepers will do it for you - put it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until you hear the shell cracking. The flesh will then be easy to remove. Grate the coconut in a food processor or by hand and use as required.
Coconut milk is an infusion used to flavour and thicken many dishes, particularly in Southern India. To make coconut milk, place the grated coconut in a bowl, pour over about 600 ml (1 pint) boiling water, just to cover and leave for 1 hour. Strain through muslin, squeezing hard to extract as much ‘milk’ as possible. This is called ‘thick’ coconut milk. To make ‘thin’ coconut milk pour another 600 ml (1 pint) of boiling water over the coconut flesh from which the thick milk has already been extracted, and repeat the process. Bought creamed coconut is a very useful substitute.
Coriander, fresh green (hara dhanya) A delicate, fragrant herb. Used chopped to sprinkle over dishes as a garnish or stirred in at the end of the cooking time or pureed to make sauces and chutneys. Parsley may be substituted, but it doesn’t have the same flavour.
Coriander seeds (dhanya) Come whole or ground. Used a lot in ground form. Very fragrant.
Cumin seeds (zeera) There are many varieties of this strong flavoured, caraway-like seed. The black variety is best. Comes ground or whole.
Curry leaves (kari patta) Aromatic leaves of the sweet Nim tree, available dried. They release a very appetizing smell when cooked. Fennel seeds (sonf) These aniseed-flavoured seeds are often chewed as a digestive. They add a fine flavour and aroma to many dishes.
Garam Masala A ground spice mixture used in many recipes. You can buy it or prepare your own: the flavour is obviously better when it is freshly ground. To make garam masala, place 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon black cumin seeds, 1 small cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, nutmeg, 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds and 2 tablespoons coriander seeds in a coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Store in a screw-toppedjar.
Ghee (clarified butter) A good cooking fat. It is better than butter because it can be heated to a higher temperature without burning. Ghee can be bought in tins or made at home. To make ghee, place 250 g (8 oz) unsalted butter in a small pan over low heat. Bring to just below simmering point and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until it has stopped sputtering and is beginning to change colour. Strain through several thicknesses of muslin. Keep in a screw-topped jar in a cool place - refrigeration is not necessary.
250 g (8 oz) butter makes 175-200 ml (6-7 fl oz) ghee. Larger quantities take a little longer to make.

Ginger, fresh (adrak) A khaki-coloured, knobbly rhizome. Should be smooth and fresh looking. Keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Always peel before using. It can be grated, finely chopped or pureed in an electric blender or food processor.
Ginger, dried (sonth) Sold whole or powdered. Does not give as good a flavour as fresh ginger.
Gram flour (bessan) Ground chick peas or split peas. Excellent for making batter and used in place of flour.
Mustard seeds (sarson) Small, round reddish-black seeds. When fried for a few seconds they sputter with the heat and give out a delicious smell.
Oil Use any vegetable oil for cooking Indian food. Ground nut oil is commonly used in India.
Panir (Indian cheese) A curd cheese used in cooking. To make panir, bring 1.2 litres (2 pints) milk to the boil, remove from heat and stir in a bare 1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid dissolved in 120 ml (4 fl oz) hot water. Stir gently until the milk curdles, then leave for 30 minutes. Line a sieve with muslin and strain the curdled milk, squeezing out all the liquid. Form the remaining curds into a rough rectangle about 1-1.5 cm (1/2-3/4 inch) deep in the same cloth and wrap it tightly round. Place this packet between two flat surfaces and place a 2.5 kg (5 lb) weight on top. Leave for 2 to 3 hours.
1.2 litres (2 pints) milk makes 125 g (4 oz) panir.
Pulses (dhals) These form an important part of the Indian diet. There are nearly 60 varieties in India but the most commonly used are mung, both olive green and yellow; masoor or Egyptian lentils - the common salmon pink lentils available in every supermarket; channa - split peas; kabli channa or Bengal gram - whole peas; tur - the vari-coloured pigeon-pea; lobia - black-eyed peas; and rajma - red kidney beans.
Saffron (kesar) Available in threads and in powdered form. The threads are soaked in hot water or milk before using. Saffron gives food a lovely yellow colour and a fine aroma and taste. Expensive but worth it.
Sesame seeds (til) These have a fine nutty flavour. They are used to flavour some vegetable dishes and to sprinkle on naan. Tamarind (imli) Pods from the tamarind tree, used as a souring agent. Sold as pods or pulp - pulp is easier to use. Both must be soaked in hot water, then squeezed and strained before use.
Vinegar or lemonjuice may be used instead.
Turmeric (haldi) A rhizome commonly used in its powdered form for its earthy taste and yellow colour. It stains clothing and work surfaces so be careful not to spill it.
Yogurt (dhai) Yogurt is eaten daily all over India, either plain or with vegetables or fruit mixed in. It is also used in cooking, particularly in the north. Yogurt is quite easy to make at home, using a special machine or electric oven.
To make yogurt, bring 600 ml (1 pint) milk to the boil. As the milk begins to rise in the pan, take it off the heat and dip the pan in cold water to cool. Put 2 teaspoons bought natural yogurt in a heatproof bowl and stir well. Pour over the warm milk and mix well. Place in a preheated very cool oven - as low as your oven will go - and leave for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl in the oven for 5 hours or until the yogurt is set, switching the heat on and off as necessary during this time to maintain the temperature.

50 g (2 oz) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
8 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
Heat the butter in a pan, add the onion and fry until deep golden. Add the chillies and fry for 30 seconds, then add the eggs, coriander and salt to taste, and cook, stirring, until the eggs are scrambled and set. Serve hot. Serves 4

Shish Kebab
500g (1 lb) minced lamb
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery leaves 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 2 onions, finely chopped i teaspoon turmeric salt and pepper
TO GARNISH: chopped parsley finely chopped onion
Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Roll the mixture into thin sausage shapes and cook under a preheated moderate grill for about 10 minutes, turning several times. Serve garnished with parsley and chopped onion.
Serves 4

125g (4 oz) gram flour
1 teaspoon salt V2 teaspoon chilli powder about 150 ml (V4 pint) water 2green chillies*, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
1 teaspoon melted butter or ghee
2 onions, cut into rings
oil for deep-frying
8 small fresh spinach leaves
2-3 potatoes, parboiled and sliced
Sift the flour, salt and chilli powder into a bowl. Stir in sufficient water to make a thick batter and beat well until smooth. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Stir the chillies and coriander into the batter, then add the melted butter or ghee. Drop in the onion rings to coat thickly with batter.
Heat the oil in a deep pan, drop in the onion rings and deep-fry until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.
Dip the spinach leaves into the batter and deep-fry in the same way, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.
Finally, repeat the process with the potato slices.
Serve hot.
Serves 4

Chicken Tikka

150 g (5.2 oz) natural yogurt
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds*
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons oil
750 (1/2 lb) chicken
breasts, skinned and boned
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered
4 lemon twists
Mix together in a bowl all the ingredients except the chicken. Cut the chicken into cubes and drop into the marinade. Cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Thread the chicken on to 4 skewers and cook Under a preheated hot grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning frequently.
Remove the chicken from the skewers and arrange on individual serving plates. Garnish with onion, tomato and lemon to serve.
Serves 4

Meat Samosa
125g (4 oz) plain flour V4 teaspoon salt 25 g (1 oz)ghee or butter 2-3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, minced
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
250g (8oz) minced beef
125g (4 oz) tomato, skinned and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
oil for deep-frying
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in the ghee or butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and knead thoroughly to a very smooth dough. Cover and chill while preparing the filling.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry until golden. Add the chilli and chilli powder and fry for 3 minutes. Stir in the meat and cook until well browned. Add the tomato, coriander, and salt to taste and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the meat is tender and the mixture is dry; skim off any fat. Stir well and cool slightly.
Divide the pastry into 8 pieces. Dust with flour and roll each piece into a thin round, then cut each round in half. Fold each half into a cone and brush the seam with water to seal.
Fill the cone with a spoonful of filling (do not overfill), dampen the top edge and seal firmly. Deep-fry until crisp and golden. Serve hot or warm.
Serves 4

Vegetable Samosa
125g (4 oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
25g (1 oz) ghee or butter
2-3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small onion, minced
2 green chillies, minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
125 g (4 oz) frozen peas
125g (4 oz) cooked potatoes, diced V2 tablespoon
chopped coriander
1 tablespoon lemon juice oil for deep-frying
Make the pastry as for Meat Samosa (opposite). Chill while preparing the filling.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Leave for a few seconds until they start to pop, then add the onion and fry until golden. Add the chillies, turmeric, ginger, and salt to taste and fry for 3 minutes; if it starts sticking to the pan add 1/2 tablespoon water and stir well. Add the peas, stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and coriander, stir well and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice. Cool slightly.
Shape and cook as for Meat Samosa. Serve hot or warm.
Serves 4

Fresh Lingonberry Sauce
1 1/5 lbs sugar to each
2 lbs lingonberries
Glean the berries and weigh them. Rinse and drain well, place in a wide crock. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the berries crushed and pulpy. Pour into cold preserving jars. Cover and bind immediately.

Honey Cake
about 18 slices
1/3 lb honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/5 lb butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2cups raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix the honey, sugar and butter and stir. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir vigorously. Mix in the raisins, sift in the baking powder, cinnamon, and flour, and stir for a couple of minutes more. Grease and flour a one-quart pan and pour in the batter. Bake at about 350°—375°F. Do not cut until the following day.
Apple Cake with Nuts 16 pieces
3/4 cup milk ,
1 ounce yeast
1 egg
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/2cup sugar
3—3 3/4cups flour
4 apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/2 ounces butter or margarine
1/5 lb flour
1/2 cup sugar
25 chopped nuts
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Stir in the egg, butter, sugar and flour and leave the dough to rise for about 20—30 minutes. Peel, core and slice the apples thinly and mix them with the sugar and the cinnamon. Mix the butter for the garnish with the sugar, flour and chopped nuts. Grease a fryingpan thoroughly and spread half of the dough on the bottom. Then a layer with the apples, then the rest of the dough and sprinkle with the garnish mixture. Let stand for 10 minutes, then bake at 400°—440°F for 40—50 minutes.

Cabbage Soup
4—5 servings
1/2 small cabbage head
4 small carrots
1 leek
2 large potatoes
2 quarts lightly salted pork-stock
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon butter
Cut the cabbage and the leek into strips and the carrots into thin slices and cook them together with the seasonings in the stock. About 15 minutes before the soup is done cut the potatoes into strips and add. Season to taste and add 1 tablespoon cold butter and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Sailor’s Herring
4 servings
2 salted Iceland herrings
7 large potatoes, raw
2 onions
3 tablespoons margarine
Clean and fillet the herring and remove the skin. Soak the fillets 12—15 hours. Peel and slice the potatoes and the onions. Grease a china casserole thoroughly and alternate layers of potatoes, herring, and onions, ending with a layer of potatoes. Place the casserole in a double boiler and fill it with enough water to reach the bottom of the casserole. Cook well covered.

Tigerräkor är speciellt goda att servera på detta sätt. Ett billigare alternativ är att använda vanliga skalade räkor istället.
1 dl grahamsmjöl 1 dl vetemjöl
1 msk ghee eller vegetabilisk olja
2 krm salt
3/4 dl hett vatten
250 g sköljd och rensad färsk spenat
4 msk ghee eller vegetabilisk olja, samt olja för stekning
1 skalad och hackad lök
1 skalad och krossad vitlöksklyfta
½-1 msk hackad rödpeppar
1-1 ½ msk medelstark currypasta
1/2 burk (250 g) krossade tomater
1 1/2 dl kokosmjölk
250 g skalade tigerräkor (vanliga räkor)

1 Tillagning av poori: Lägg mjölet i en bunke och gör en fördjupning i mitten. Tillsätt ghee eller olja, salt och hett vatten och blanda till en deg. Låt stå i 1 timme.
2 Tillred fyllningen under tiden. Lägg spenatbladen tillsammans i en knippa och skär dem på bredden i breda strimlor med en vass kniv.
3 Hetta upp ghee eller olja i en stekpanna. Tillsätt lök, vitlök, rödpeppar och spenat och stek på låg värme. Skaka pannan och rör om ofta. Tillsätt currypasta, tomater och kokosmjölk och låt sjuda i 10 minuter. Rör om då och då. Tag av från spisen och blanda i räkorna. Smaka av med salt.
4 Knåda degen väl på ett mjölat underlag. Dela upp degen i 6 delar och forma dem till bullar.
Forma varje bulle till en kaka, ca 12 cm i diameter. Hetta upp 2,5 cm olja i en djup panna tills den är rykande varm. Sänk ner en poori i taget i oljan och låt den friteras 10-15 sekunder på var sida så att den blir gyllene och fluffig. Tag upp poorin med en hålslev och låt den rinna av på hushållspapper. Håll den varm medan de övriga tillagas på samma sätt.

5 Hetta upp räkblandningen så att den blir riktigt varm. Rör om under tiden. Placera en poori på varje tallrik och lägg en sked räk- och spenatblandning på varje. Servera omedelbart.

Servera dessa smakliga små grillspett på en bädd av finhackad sallad, skivad lök och rivna äpplen. Stänk lite citron- eller limejuice över.
500 g skinn- och benfria kycklingbröst
salt och nymalen svartpeppar
1 1/2 msk tikkapasta
1 dl urvattnad yoghurt
1 msk citronsaft
1/2 skalad och finhackad lök
1 1/2 msk hackad gräslök
1 1/2 msk finhackad färsk ingefära
1-2 skalade och krossade vitlöksklyftor
1 1/2 msk sesamfrön
2 msk matolja
citron- eller limeklyftor till garnering
1 Skär kycklingköttet i lagom stora bitar. Lägg dem i en grund skål och krydda med salt och peppar.
2 Blanda de övriga ingredienserna i en liten skål, med undantag av sesamfröna och oljan. Häll blandningen över köttet. Blanda ordentligt så att alla köttbitarna täcks med blandningen. Täck över skålen och ställ kallt i minst en timme.
3 Trä upp kycklingbitarna på grillspett av bambu eller metall och strö över sesamfröna.
4 Lägg spetten på ett grillgaller och stänk över olja. Grilla på hög värme i ca 15 minuter eller tills köttet är genomstekt. Vänd spetten ofta och stänk eventuellt på mer olja. Serveras omedelbart tillsammans med citron- eller limeklyftor.
Praktiskt tips
För att inte grillspett av bambu ska bli brända under tillagningen kan man lägga dem i vatten i ca 30 minuter innan köttet träs på.

Besanmjöl är ett fint, gult mjöl som tillverkas av kikärter. Det finns att köpa i affärer som säljer asiatiska livsmedel.
2 dl kikärtsmjöl
1/4 tsk cayennepeppar
1/4-1/2 tsk malen koriander
1/4—1/2 tsk malen spiskummin
1 msk hackad, färsk mynta
salt och nymalen svartpeppar
4 msk avrunnen yoghurt
6 1/2 dl kallt vatten
1 stor lök, skalad, delad i 4 delar och skuren i tunna skivor
vegetabilisk olja till fritering
myntablad till garnering

1 Lägg kikärtsmjölet i en skål och tillsätt cayennepeppar, koriander, kummin och mynta. Smaksätt med salt och peppar. Blanda ner yoghurt, vatten och den skivade löken och blanda väl.
2 Fyll en stor och djup panna till en tredjedel med olja och hetta upp. Använd en matsked för att lägga ner klumpar av blandningen i oljan. Forma degen grovt med hjälp av två gafflar.
3 Fritera bitarna under ständig omrörning tills de är gyllene och genomstekta. Ta upp och låt torka av på hushållspapper. Håll dem varma medan resten tillagas.
För en starkare smak kan man tillsätta 1 urkärnad och finhackad grön pepparfrukt (1 tsk peppar- fruktspasta) till de övriga ingredienserna och utelämna cayennepepparn om man så önskar.

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