from one generation to the next
When a teenage daughter announces that she has embraced vegetarianism, it’s a tough gig for a working Mum to come up with tasty, nutritious, cheap and quick meals that will satisfy the omnivores in the family. Being the sort of person who takes a recipe book to bed at the end of a day, I was well aware that ancient cultures ate little meat and then mainly as a festive treat, so it was to India and the middle east that I turned for inspiration. This was the beginning of my love of Indian food, not the dumbed down, muddy, palate searing “curries” served as cheap eats to satisfy tastes in the west, but the fragrantly spiced dishes based on vegetables, pulses, wheat and rice, the food that the Hindu, Jain, and Muslim communities have flourished on for centuries, respecting their individual dietary restrictions with no compromise to flavour and variety.
My 1988 edition of Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook” was my inspiration in those early years, she spoke to me of authenticity. The food splattered pages, all in the India and Pakistan section are evidence to how often the book sat open on my kitchen bench. Looking for variety in my repertoire, next I found inspiration in Madhur Jaffrey, my favourite of her publications, a well thumbed 1991 edition of “Eastern Vegetarian Cooking”.
Curry feasts evolved into my favourite way to feed a crowd of family and friends.
It was not until 2007 that I finally travelled to India, igniting a late in life passion for the people of the subcontinent, their history, culture and food. Two subsequent trips have exposed me to the diversity of the cuisine, from north to south. The omnivores have control of the menu once again, so the variety of dishes is on the up, though I still return to Charmaine every now and again.
The understanding of the buying, storage and use of spices has gone from 0-100 in Australia in the last 30 years. It is impossible to I start at the beginning of my Indian food journey for Leah because of what I know now that I didn’t then.
I recommend online shopping at “Herbies” in Sydney for top quality fresh herbs and spices. Buy them in small quantities so you use them up quickly and replace them often.
These are two basic spice mixes appear frequently in recipes for Indian Cuisine. Mix keep on hand
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
Grind all the spices together into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container
10 cardamom pods
3 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves)
I teas black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
10cm cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and discard the pods. Break the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves into small pieces. Put all the spices into a grinder and process to a coarse powder. Store in an airtight container until needed.