The Indian Kitchen: The Basics

Jun 20, 2011
-A +A

An Indian blogger and mum tells us how she stocks her pantry – and gives us a couple of quick and easy vegetarian recipes.

The first step towards an organised cooking area, is to know what's already there in the kitchen cabinets and fridge.  Make a list of things which you think are missing.  Basics like lentils, flour, rice, gram flour (besan); spices like cumin seeds (zeera), coriander powder (sookha dhaniya), turmeric powder (haldi), garam masala (North Indian ground masala mix), dried red chillies or chilli powder, black peppercorns or powder, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom - all these can help you cook anything.

984 Spices and herbs at an Indian grocer (Photo: Ganeshk)

The second and important step is to go shopping for various food articles.  The thing to keep in mind is to buy lots of fresh vegetables and a few packs of frozen vegetables too.  Go for frozen mixed vegetables, French fries, non-vegetarian frozen food for the times you have nothing left in your fridge.  Another option is also available now for the ones who just don't have any time.  Processed and packaged North Indian dishes (like Rajma and Chane) and South Indian dishes (like Sambhar) are available in most big stores.  Even packaged ready-to-eat chicken dishes are available, which just have to be heated before eating.

I've listed a few ingredients, which people having vegetarian food can keep at home at all times:

# Curd - curdle milk at home, it's easier in summers.

# Curd Cheese (paneer) - setting it properly at home is a bit difficult, but you can still try.

# Boiled Potatoes - You can boil around 8-10 medium sized potatoes in a pressure cooker and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

# Cream or malai - adds instant richness to any dish.

# Tomato puree - This is a must have.  Buy small packs and store in a cabinet. Or else make it at home (boil whole tomatoes with little water in a pressure cooker; cool it and grind; cook in a kadai or wok to evaporate extra water; cool again and store in a closed container in fridge. It lasts a week to 10 days).

985 Green chillies. (Photo: Biswarup Ganguly)

# Ginger-garlic paste - helps to pep up any dish (I don't like the packaged ones though).

# Onions and green chillies - they are versatile and be used in many ways

The third andmost important step is to get into the kitchen to cook!  

Try these two simple and quick vegetarian dishes which save time and are nutritious and delicious too:

Quick Paneer (Curd cheese in cream)

987 Paneer, a type of fresh curd cheese. (Photo: Sonja Pauen)


Heat a little cooking oil in a Wok.  Add chopped ginger to it, fry for a while and then add 3-4 spoons of tomato puree to it.  Add salt, pepper, garam masala, coriander (dhaniya) powder and red chilli powder to it. Mix and now add 2 tablespoons of whipping cream to it. Mix well, add a little water. After about 1 minute of frying, add small cut pieces of curd cheese to it. Lastly, you may like to add dried methi leaves (kasoori methi) or coriander leaves to the dish. Serve hot.

Dahi ki sabzi (Curd delight) - My mother's recipe

Heat a little oil in a pan, add thinly sliced onion (1 medium-sized), shredded ginger (depending on your taste), green chillies (2-3, sliced in half) and fry briefly.  Add salt, garam masala and a little red chilli powder.  Fry briefly, pour 2 cups of curd into the wok and immediately turn off the fire.  Serve it then and there. Don't prepare in advance and keep this dish, as it will turnwatery.  It's a quick, spicy and tangy dish which can be had with chapattis.


This post was originally published on My World – My Perception in June 2011.