Today most Westerners I know who are new to Indian food consider it to be very hot and spicy, overpowering
from by chili pepper heat. How much more there is to learn about Indian food!
Of course many Indian dishes hot and spicy but to me even the mild dishes are always flavorful. Aggressive
use of spices and herbs, not necessarily chilies, are what makes this cuisine special to me. Because these recipes
are so flavorful, you can limit the amount of chili peppers or omit them altogether. For example Moghul styled food
from North India is known for silky smooth sauce dishes made from dairy cream or yogurt, flavored with fruit and
nuts and mild but very fragrant spices such as nutmeg and cloves.
So yes, chili peppers are used often in Indian cooking, but so are garlic, black pepper, ginger, coriander, saffron
and nutmeg. Sometimes special spice mixtures are used, like garam masala which is a blend of cinnamon,
cardamom, cumin and cloves. So besides being used to make a dish peppery hot, the addition of spices and herbs
in Indian cooking mostly adds a wonderful fragrance, exotic color, a flavor sharpening tartness and thickness as a
binder in sauces.
Cooking oils are often used to carmelize onions for the base of many basic curry dishes. Ghee, basically
clarified butter, used to be employed extensively but today mostly vegetable oils are used, especially peanut oil.
I started visiting Indian restaurants many years ago and developed a life long love of Indian food. In fact the
rehearsal dinner for my wedding was held at our favorite Indian restaurant. So when I had the opportunity to learn
some Indian food recipes, I jumped at the chance.
Here in North America I suppose every Indian restaurant offers butter chicken on their menu. My recipe for
butter chicken calls for leftover tandoori chicken, but you can use any cooked chicken in a pinch since the sauce in
this recipe is so good. In Indian cooking, the chicken skin is always removed before cooking for cultural reasons,
but more importantly to allow the flavorings to effectively penetrate the meat. I have a good starter recipe for Chana
Masala - Chickpea Curry which I have been using for years. Try adding pieces of apple as suggested here for a
different twist on this old favorite.
Everyone should try to make paneer cheese from scratch at least once. That's because it is so cool to watch
the cheese curds suddenly separate from the liquid whey when you add the lemon juice to the boiling milk at the
right moment. But even if you choose not to make the cheese, the sauce from my Mattar Paneer Cheese and
Peas recipe can be used to carry any combination of other vegetables.
Please try a few of my recipes that I have used many times with good results.