Monday, August 17, 2009

curries and the spices | therapeutic properties of spices and a few basic curries UP style..

Being a homemaker and a work from home mother from India , I believe in simple, uncomplicated cooking with basic unprocessed ingredients , want to tell my friends that home cooking is not that difficult , just a bit of planned grocery shopping and a little advanced planning can deliver you good , nutritious meals within the comforts of your home. Also I think that if you are cooking yourself, you should not over exhaust yourself so that you can enjoy the meal with your loved ones...after all meal time is the most precious family bonding time . I have been a microbial biotechnology researcher , being full time at home came with loads of responsibilities , taking care of my ailing (with a retrogressive neurological condition) daughter as her full time nurse maid has not deterred me from being away from the kitchen and having a good nutritious meal everyday. I just want to convey that , it is possible to cook a hearty and nutritious meal for your family everyday , however busy you are , you have to work intelligently though.

I belong to the land of curries , the spicy gravies which we all find delectable and is so versatile that it can be fused with almost any cuisine.....yes , fusion curries are the new way of adapting the curry to your own individual palate. Talking about curries, I must tell you, that curries are considered therapeutic, thanks to the blend of spices used in it and each spice has it's own medicinal value....according to Ayurveda , spices can be hot, cool, astringent or cleansing......and different types of spices are prescribed for different seasons . Believe me, the Ayurvedic way of incorporating different spices for different seasons is so effective that once you are hooked to it, you are with it for life. This way of eating keeps your body detoxified and nourished and your energy levels high.

What else we want from our food.

Food can heal your body and can improve your immune system , you just need to pick your ingredients carefully , and I can assure you that your food need not be boring and monotonous to be healthy and healing. For me food is an enjoyable experience right from picking up the veggies from the store , processing it, cooking it and serving it , this way my food heals me spiritually too.....may be it's not that easy to understand.....you will, once you fall in love with what you decide to eat......

The curries of India are as diverse as it's people and it's landscape...the Kashmiri curry , the Awadhi curry , the Bengali curry and the curries of Tamilnadu , Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka and Kerala are very different from each other....all of these curries developed in those particular regions according to the climate and locally available ingredients. Each of these curries are delectable and very different from each other. These curries are considered therapeutic but most people do not know how they benefit our system, although there is much awareness about the medicinal properties of the spices used in the curries, it has been a sort of absentmindedness regarding it's therapeutic uses.  

All I say, is that cooking a curry confirms to the procedures of Ayurveda . In Ayurvedic procedures a herb is boiled with water till reduced slightly in quantity and is called a ' kwaath' or decoction ....like if you boil a handful of Tulsi (Indian holy basil) leaves in 500 ml water till it reduces to 400 ml , the liquid extract is called a 'kwaath' which is digestive , antipyretic , mild analgesic , astringent and much more.....when you cook a curry with spices, the extracts of spices come to the food.....simple......some spice extracts are water soluble and some are fat soluble , so the curry provides a better extraction with a ghee frying of spices first and boiling with water later during cooking. Ghee is considered a good vehicle for herb extracts , it nourishes the tissues and cleanses the intestines.

Apart from ghee , mustard oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil are used for making different curries and cooking in general.

So if you feel like having a curry for your indigestion , you may think of using a pinch of asafoetida , some cumin n black pepper and a liberal dose of ginger into a light curry made with a watery (like guards or squashes) vegetable. In winters you can opt for the hot spices like dry ginger, black pepper, red chilly peppers, nutmeg, cloves, black cardamom and ajwain (bishop's seeds) etc. while fennel seeds, cumin , coriander , fenugreek etc. are cooling spices. Once you make friends with the spices they will tell you how to choose them for your daily cooking and for different moods. I hope I could make it more understandable and common knowledge for everyone that the curries can cure, if you choose the spices judiciously.


Apart from all these spices , turmeric is an integral part of curry cooking and is considered to prevent cancer , arthritis and even Alzheimer's.....it has antiseptic and healing properties.


I like making my own curry powders and never use any store bought spice mixes , as when you make them at home they are good quality and you can make every curry taste different by using the different spice powders each time.........

Here are the recipes of two of my curry powders which can be used individually for some curries and together for some more complex curries....

Everyday curry powder

It has only 4 ingredients and I call it everyday curry powder because I use them for daily cooking ..... for dry stir-fries, as well as for soupy curries which are light.


coriander seeds 250 gm
black pepper corns 100 gm
cumin seeds 100 gm
a handful of scissor cut bay leaves



dry the spices completely under sun or using your oven ( do not roast them) and grind together to make a fine powder.



Special garam masala powder
This is a more complex and aromatic powder which lends a rich feel to the recipe. Use of this powder is occasional in summers but it is used almost daily in winter months and for non vegetarian curries.



black cardamoms 50 gm
green cardamoms 20 gm
cloves 30 gm
star anise 30 gm

cinnamon 50 gm
one whole nutmeg

mace 4-5 flowers
shahi jeera 10 gm
kababchini (allspice) 5 gm





these spices are to be dried like the previous ones and ground in the spice grinder , the color is a deep dark brown which is so aromatic you will fall in love with.


black cumin or shahi jeera and cubeb or kababchini are two very aromatic spices which are used for making special mughlai curies and biryanis , I keep them in the kitchen whole and use them as required.

there are many more spice mixes like kashmiri masala and pav bhaji masala which keep well for months in airtight containers and are used for making different curries.

using the garam masala , you can make vegetarian or meat curries which may sound complex , but when you have these spice powders ready , it's just the cooking time which matters.

I am telling you about matar paneer , which is a vegetarian curry very popular in the northern part of the country and a lamb masala curry , also cooked in a northern style.

As this post is intended to be a sort of tutorial for north Indian curries, I would write about a dry stir fry, which is sukke aaloo, a medium hot curry which is matar paneer and a hot n spicy mutton curry ............three very different types of curries , each one of these can be adapted with other veggies and meats.......

sukke aaloo



ingredients

boiled potatoes with skin and cooled to room temperature 200 gm
everyday curry powder 2 tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp
amchoor powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 1 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp

procedure

peel and cube the potatoes.

heat oil in a pan and throw in the cumin seeds n let them splutter.

throw in the cubed potatoes with salt and turmeric powder and stir fry on medium heat till they turn golden brown.

throw in the curry powder and fry some more till it becomes aromatic, sprinkle amchoor powder... mix well and it's ready....

serve it with rotis, parathas, stuffed in a sandwich or like a side dish.......it's yummy..

matar paneer

this curry can be made with any green veggies like cauliflowers, turnips, wax guards (parval), plantains or chickpeas and spinach.....just with anything ....you just need to saute' the veggies to make them absorb more flavors from the curry..


ingredients

paneer or Indian cottage cheese 200 gm ( cubed and fried in ghee)
green peas or matar 100 gm
coarse onion paste 1/2 cup
ginger paste 1 tbsp
garlic paste 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
everyday curry powder mentioned above 1.5 tbsp
special garam masala powder 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp
red chilly powder 1-2 tsp (depending on how hot you want it)
cumin seeds 1 tsp
salt to taste
freshly made tomato puree 1/4 cup ( canned can be used)
ghee 2 tbsp ( paneer has to be fried in the same ghee)
a handful of chopped coriander leaves to garnish
a tbsp of fresh cream to finish ( optional)

procedure

heat ghee in a pan and fry the paneer cubes with a little salt so that ghee does not splutter during frying....drain and reserve the ghee for further cooking ...keep the paneer aside sprinkled with 1/2 tsp of the garam masala.

boil the green peas with salt or microwave them and keep aside.....you can add a pinch or soda bicarb to keep the peas green....I did not use any.

now in the remaining ghee, throw in the cumin seeds and let it splutter ....add the onion paste and little salt (keeping in mind that paneer and peas have been cooked with salt already) and fry till the color changes to pink....add the ginger and garlic paste and fry till ghee separates....

throw in the turmeric and everyday curry powders and about a tbsp of water to prevent the masala from getting charred....after about 2 minutes add the garam masala powder and red chilly powders ......this is added later because the aromatic oils in these oils are more volatile and will be lost if added early during cooking....mix properly , add a little water
( depending how much gravy you want) , boiled peas and fried paneer , cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

add tomato puree and cook covered for another couple of minutes.

finish with fresh cream , if using ( fresh cream can be used as much as you want...it makes the heat of the curry little subtle)....if you find the curry too hot you know what to do....add some more fresh cream...:)

garnish with green coriander leaves and serve with ant Indian flat bread.


lamb (mutton) masala curry



this is a hot curry made with freshly ground spices and you can make it even if you do not have the above mentioned powders.....so this is an attempt to tell you friends that a curry can be made even if you do not have any Indian curry powders in your pantry.....you just need the whole spices and go ahead, make the curry.

ingredients

mutton or lamb meat 500 gm
(boil the meat in a pressure cooker till done with salt , 1 tsp of pepper and 2 cloves of garlic and 3-4 bay leaves) using about 500 ml water.

this curry can be made with chicken , fowl or any mature fish but in that case you do not need to boil the meat...

finely chopped onions 2 cups

spices to be dry roasted lightly...

coriander seeds 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tbsp
black pepper corns 1 tsp
a flower of star anise

other spices needed

2 inch piece of cinnamon
2 black cardamoms
4 green cardamoms
6 cloves
2 cubebs
1/2 tsp of shahi jeera or black cumin

and some more

ginger 1 inch piece and another inch piece julienne
garlic cloves 4-5 nos.
whole dry red chilies 4-5 ( as required)

poppy seeds 3 tbsp (soaked for 10 minutes and ground to make a fine paste)

ghee 3 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp


procedure

you have already done the preliminary preparations .....is it too many things needed??
and now is the time for actual cooking...

first of all separate the cooked meat pieces and reserve the stock for later use....discard the bay leaves.

heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and throw in the cumin seeds...let it splutter and then add the chopped onions and fry with a little salt till lightly browned.

add the boiled meat pieces n fry on low flame till the skin gets seared...it takes about 10 minutes.

in the meantime grind all the roasted spices , other spices and ginger,garlic n red chillies together in a sturdy grinder ....first without water and then with some water so that it makes a fine paste...

now add the masala paste to the frying meat and mix well....cover and keep turning n tossing in between....till the ghee separates .

pour in the meat stock , cover and cook for 10 minutes on very low flame....add the poppy seed paste , mix well , cover and cook again for 5 minutes.

garnish with ginger julienne and some coriander leaves if using and serve with any Indian flat bread or with plain boiled rice.

enjoy having Indian curries made freshly in the comfort of your own sweet home as now you have an insight in the curry making.

love from India.

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful post,sangeeta! Curries are the best healers.love the tasty array of spicy dishes :D

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  2. Very informative post.....and nice step by step recipes of all vital masalas used in Indian curries.....

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  3. Nice....its very tasty...thanks.

    पाखी की दुनिया में "बाइकिंग विद् पाखी" http://pakhi-akshita.blogspot.com/

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  4. A special thanks from my wife for these daily to use recipes,she has eagerly scribbled them down in her cookery notebook !

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  5. These masalas add zing to the food... Simply love both the masalas, your everyday curry powder has been named as magic masala in my house :)

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  6. This is the most helpful post by a blogger in my opinion. You have managed to address audiences varying from a novice to the expert! :) So glad that I managed to find your blog.

    Do drop by @ http://flavorandtang.blogspot.com/ my food space. :)

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  7. Thanks SuhailAmrita ...'most helpful post by a blogger' is a huge complement and you made m day...

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  8. :) I am glad I did that!

    So in order to proove that I am not bragging here is how I tried innovating with your recommended 'everyday curry powder'. Just posted my recipe where I've liberally used your secret ingredient... :D

    Click on http://flavorandtang.blogspot.com/2011/02/soybean-nuggets-in-ribbed-gourd-and.html

    My recipe of Soybean nuggets in ribbed gourd and carrot curry. :)

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  9. Enjoyed reading the recipes and homemade amchoor as well as khoya. Ayurveda blog is good too. nice info.

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  10. really nice blog !

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  11. When I think "Banaras" I know where to come:)Thanks for the amazing recipes.Have a friend coming for dinner and since a UP garam masala curry will be new to the Maharashtrian palate I'm going to make this for dinner.Thanks for the amazing blog too.Even miles away I can smell home in your recipes.I made mattar ghugni once and could feel the Banarsi winters:)Cheers!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Desi Chai..I am glad BKK smells of home for you. It does the same to me too :-)
      Cheers.

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  12. Hi how does kababchini spice look.Its the first time I have heard of this. Thanks :)

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  13. It looks like a black pepper corn with a stick.

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