Another festival is around the corner and we Malaysians know what that means – food! And when it comes to Indian food, exotic spices and heat – from chillies to be precise – come to mind. With all the cuisine’s medley of ingredients and tongue-titillating flavours, Indian cuisine is both exciting and delicious. It is a cuisine, (similar to even Thai cuisine) that uses a whole palette of flavours: spicy, sour, sweet and hot – all at the same time.

If you’ve not cooked Indian cuisine before, and would like to start, here are some tips to help you build your mini stock cupboard at home. It’s useful to have some staple ingredients around at home so that you can whip up a variety of dishes at any time.

These are some good staple ingredients:

  • Cans of beans (chickpeas, red kidney beans, butter beans)
  • Cans of fruit (pineapple, lychee)
  • Cans of peeled tomatoes
  • Cans/packets of coconut milk or sachets of dried coconut powder
  • Cans of evaporated milk
  • Different types of nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts)
  • Tamarind pulp
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Palm sugar
  • Spices and spice mixtures
  • Various types of lentils
  • Flours (atta flour, gram flour)
  • Rice

Some people may find cooking Indian cuisine a little intimidating to try at home. Sapna Anand, who is arguably the queen of modern Indian cuisine, makes it a lot friendlier!

 

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If you don’t know who Sapna is, she’s the author of the cookbook, “New Indian Kitchen”, a compilation on her experiments with Indian cooking methods. Due to popular demand, her book has been reprinted and slated for release in middle of October 2017. She is also currently working on 2 new book titles due for release in 2018. Besides writing books, Sapna has teamed up with Hexa Food to launch her own brand of organic spices and blends, called Signature Series by Sapna Anand. Her spices can be purchased at the Hexa concept store in Kota Kemuning and online at eBaza. Trained under multiple chefs over the years focusing on spices and its use in Indian cuisine, this supermom of two is also a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu-Dusit, Bangkok. She is also a graduate of the prestigious Hautes Études du Goût program from the University of Reims, France. Currently, she is running her own culinary classes and a consultancy firm.

With Deepavali just around the corner, Sapna took some time out to share with us on how one can create some simple, yet scrumptious dishes for you to rock in your kitchen.

 

Deepavali Fare #1: Roasted Red Rice Puttu

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Roasted Red Rice Puttu with Kadla Curry.

 

Ingredients

1 cup red rice powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup water

Freshly grated coconut

 

Method

  1. Roast red rice powder in a skillet on low heat. Set aside to cool.
  2. Add salt and water and mix to moisten the rice. You may additional water to moisten the rice, if necessary.  The rice powder should resemble wet mud.
  3. Add about 2 tbsp. of coconut first into a puttu steamer, followed by red rice powder, filling the tube half way.
  4. Add another 2 tbsp. of coconut followed by red rice and top with another 2 to 3 tbsp. coconut to finish. Steam for about 20 mins.
  5. Serve hot with Kadla Curry.

 

Deepavali Fare #2: Kadla Curry

Main ingredients

1 cup Brown chickpeas, rinsed and soaked overnight

3 cup water for cooking

Salt as per taste

 

Ingredients for the spice paste

3/4 cup coconut (about 1/2 of a packet of a store-bought packet)

2 heaped tbsp. coriander seeds or 1 heaped tbsp. coriander powder

2 small shallots

2 springs curry leaves

1 tbsp. chilli powder or 2/4 dry red whole chillies

1 tsp black pepper (crushed or whole)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 inch cinnamon stick

2 cardamoms

2 clove

Salt as per taste

1/2 cup water for blending

 

Ingredients for tempering (optional step)

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves

1 tbsp. coconut oil

2 red chillies

 

Method:

  1. Rinse and soak the beans in water overnight or minimum 4 hours. Drain the beans and cook with 3 cups water and salt.
  2. Dry roast all the ingredients. Start with dry roasting coconut and shallots till it turns light brown and then followed by the spices. Blend with water to a thick, smooth paste.
  3. In a large pot, add the soaked brown chickpeas and the coconut spice paste with enough water enough to cover the beans. Check for seasoning – add salt if necessary – and cook for about 20 minutes till and bean is cooked and sauce thickens.
  4. In a pan heat coconut oil, add in the mustard seeds, followed by curry leaves and red chilli on low flame.
  5. Toss the tempered oil into the curry; serve with red rice puttu or brown rice.

 

Tips

  1. You can replace the brown chickpeas with the white chickpeas or beans of your choice.
  2. The beans can be pressure cooked. While using pressure cooker, the first step of cooking the beans can be skipped, thus saving time!

 

Deepavali Fare #3: Kerala Mutton Pepper Fry

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Ingredients for marinading and precooking the mutton

1 kg mutton chopped into cubes

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp crushed black pepper

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 spring curry leaves thinly sliced

Salt as per taste

1 tbsp. coriander powder

1 tsp chilli powder

4 tbsp. oil

 

Cooking ingredients

4 to 6 tbsp. coconut oil

About 20 pcs shallots

2 sprig curry leaves

1 tbsp. fennel seeds

1 tbsp. chopped garlic

1 tbsp. finely sliced ginger

1 tbsp. chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

Salt as per taste

Chopped coriander leaves

 

Method

  1. Wash and drain liquid from the mutton. Rub all the marinade ingredients together, set aside for about 1 hour.
  2. Heat a heavy bottom pan, cook mutton with 1/3 to 1/4 cup water on very low heat, or use pressure cooker and cook till mutton is completely cooked or softens.
  3. In a heavy bottom pan, heat coconut oil, add in the fennel seeds, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and shallots, sauté till onions turns lightly golden brown, add in the coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder (add 1 tbsp. water to keep the spices from burning if necessary).
  4. Toss in the cooked mutton and stir well to coat with spices. Season to taste with salt. Cook till the spices stick to meat and all the liquid has completely absorbed. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves

 

Deepavali Fare #4: Vermicelli Sago Payasam

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Ingredients

1 cup vermicelli

1 cup sago soaked in water

4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar (increase or decrease based on your preference of sweetness)

1/ 2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds

1 tbsp. ghee

2 tbsp. cashew nuts roughly chopped

1 tbsp. raisins

Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

 

Method

  1. Rinse and soak sago for about an hour. Peel cardamom pods, take the seeds out and crush to a coarse mix.
  2. In a large pot bring to boil vermicelli, sago, milk and sugar and crushed cardamom seeds. Cook on low heat, so milk does not overflow from the pot, it is important to use a large pot. Stir occasionally. Cook till vermicelli and sago and cooks and thickens, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. In a separate skillet, heat tbsp. ghee and add the raisins first followed by the cashews, stir for about a minute on low heat.
  4. Add the ghee toasted nuts and raisins to the payasam. Serve with garnish of edible flowers and drizzle of ghee. Serve chilled or warm.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Indian cooking, Sapna has a new 6-part cooking series coming up, produced by Wildsnapper TV called “FAST INDIAN COOKING WITH SAPNA”. It will be premiering on Asian Food Channel (AFC) at 9pm on 26th October 2017, bringing to the table modern Indian dishes with pleasant twists and surprises. Happy cooking!

 

By Ann Lee.

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