Should Sambar be Sour, Salty or Hot? And Other Sambar Hints.

Advice for perfecting sambar

Meenakshi Ammal in her books Cook and See, talks about Sambar tastes, which she says are personal preference.

Sour, Salty, Hot?

Some prefer their sambar a little sour, some a little hot and some more salty. Sometimes, some varieties of tamarind are more sour than others, some chillies are hotter than other chillies. Experience, personal taste and discretion should determine the amount, the number and the quality.

Green chillies are not compulsory and may be substituted by red ones.

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Tulsi | Tulasi | Thulasi | Indian Holy Basil | An Essential Ingredient in Every Kitchen and Medicine Chest

Tulsi, a medicine chest in a sacred herb.

Tulsi is an amazing herb, indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. The word “tulsi” means “the incomparable plant“.  It is a bushy shrub that grows up to 2 metres in height. The plant has hairy stems with leaves that are oval and serrated of about 5cm in length – the colors ranging from light green to dark purple, depending on the variety. The plant has delicate lavender-colored flowers, and its fruit consists of tiny rust-colored nuts. There are two main varieties, the one with the green leaves is called Rama or Shri tulsi and the one with the reddish leaves is called Krishna or Shyama tulsi.

You might like to try Tulsi Rasam and Phanta Tea with Tulsi.  Tulasi can also be spelt as Tulsi or Thulasi, or called Holy Basil. Don’t get it confused with Thai or Sth East Asian Holy Basil, it is an Indian Holy Basil and quite different to the Thai herb. Our Tulasi recipes are here.

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How to Make Thick Thick Yoghurt | Strained Yogurt | Greek Yogurt | Yogurt Cheese | Labneh

Versatile, thick yoghurt.

The joy of thick yoghurt. As thick as thick cream, superb as a topping, spread or base for a dip or a dessert, it is a necessary ingredient in the kitchen. Easy to make, it leaves whey which can be used in oats, breads, juices and soups.

We have many recipes for yoghurt. You can browse them here. Have a look at our dips here and here and our snacks also. Or get inspired by our easy Autumn recipes here and here.

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How to Cook Rice | Buttery Steamed Rice | Sada Chaval

A very special way to cook rice.

There is a very gentle way of cooking rice using a combination of steaming and the absorption method, using indirect heat that leaves the rice so very fluffy with a wonderful texture. The method uses indirect heat to cook rice that as been previously soaked.

Soaking allows the long pointed grains of long grained rice to absorb some water, and allows the rice to relax a little before cooking. It does make a difference, especially if you are using basmati rice.

There are other ways to cook rice, including the absorption method and oven method.

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How to Cook Basic Risotto

A great Italian classic.

Risotto is a wonderfully versatile Italian rice dish whose creaminess depends on the selection of the rice. The basics of cooking risotto are very very easy. Take rice. Add stock gradually. Stir for 20 minutes. Serve. Enjoy! Of course, there is slightly more to it than that.

You might also want to read Caramelised Roast Pumpkin Risotto, Asparagus Risotto, Eggplant Risotto and Tomato Risotto. All of the Risotto recipes are here and here. Or browse our Italian recipes here and here.

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Chaat Masala | A tangy spice mix

The masala (spice mix) that adds tang to Indian snacks.

Chaat Masaa is a very special spice mix from India, full of wonderful, contradictory flavours. There are many ways to use it, and it is an essential ingredient to many street foods, including the wonderful Chickpea (Channa) Chaat, Kachumber Salad and Channa Chaat on Kovalam Beach. You will also find it on Watermelon Salad, Borlotti Bean Chaat, Spicy Vegetable Sticks and Chickpeas and Young Ginger Salad.

Chaat or Chat are appertisers, teasers or small bites eaten as a snack. They are flavoured with this very special spicy and tart spice mix that pairs well with vegetables, lentils and fruit. It is particularly used to flavour fried pastries, potato dishes, chickpeas and tomato based salads.

You might also like to make Sambar Powder, Rasam Powder, and Garam Masala. Browse our Indian Essentials here, and all of our Indian recipes here and here.

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How to Use Deep Fried Tofu

A perfect quick meal or snack!

Deep Fried tofu can either be store-bought in packets, or made at home.

Versatile Deep Fried Tofu is available from any Asian or Chinese Grocery, where it might be called Tofu Puffs, or Fried Tofu Squares. As the name suggests, it is a tofu that has been deep fried. It is quite firm in texture and therefore is easy to slice and dice, to include in wet dishes, or simply serve as it is. It is definitely a delicious way of using tofu.

An alternative is to deep fry your own tofu. The texture and taste is quite different to store-bought deep fried tofu, and is worth the effort involved. See below for instructions on how to deep fry your own tofu.

All of our Tofu recipes are here and here. You might like to browse our Asian recipes here and here, the Chinese recipes here and here or our tempting Snacks here and here. Or simply explore our easy Mid Summer dishes.

You might also like to try tofu dishes without deep frying. Try Two Marvellous Tofu Recipes (Tofu Napoleons, and Tri Coloured Stuffed Tofu), Marinated Tofu with Sweet Peach Salsa, Cucumber and Tofu Salad, Tofu, Herb and Sesame Salad, and a dipping broth for tofu.

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How to Make Vegetable Stocks

Healthy tasty stocks make all the difference to your soup.

Many people ask me about vegetable stocks, saying it is hard to make a truly good and tasty veggie stock.

I tell them that I believe it is actually easier to make vegetable stocks because we are not working with one dominating flavour. We work with a combination of flavours, and the joy is that we can fine tune that combination to suit the mood, the day, the recipe. People are so attuned to adding meat when we want a certain, gutsy flavour that they don’t spend time thinking about how to get gutsy flavour without meat. Here are some of my tricks that I would like to share with you.

This article gives you guidelines. You can find a specific recipe for a great vegetable stock here.

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How To Cook Rice | The Absorption Method

How to perfect this common method of cooking rice.

Remember really gluggy rice? Yes, those were the days. Certainly in Australia, our parents and grandparents mostly did not know how to cook rice. Well-cooked rice makes a meal, and poorly cooked rice spoils it. It took me a long time to be able to cook rice consistently well. Like my mother, I would put rice into buckets of boiling water, cook it rapidly, strain it when done and then hope for the best. Sound familiar?

These days, rice cookers take any guess work out of the process, and they are great. But I still like the meditative art of the stovetop method when I have the time. It is not hard at all. At one time someone I worked with taught me this foolproof method – once you have mastered it you will never have gluggy rice again.

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How to Make Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a wonderfully warm and versatile mix of spices used in a range of Indian dishes.

Make your own Garam Masala

If you are even the smallest bit familiar with Indian food, you will have heard of Garam Masala. It is a wonderfully warm and versatile mix of spices used in a range of Indian dishes. Not necessarily spicy hot, it consists of spices that warm and nourish the body, such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Garam Masala is particularly loved in the North of India where the winters are cold. It is not a prescriptive mix – it is open to interpretation with each region of India creating distinct blends with flavours characteristic of the region. A teaspoon of Garam Masala gives a North Indian character to any dish – try it with Basmati rice, or sprinkle it over cooked dishes.

Occasionally Garam Masala spices are used whole. Try a rice in whic you grind only the nutmeg and add the other spices into the rice water as it boils.

This is part of the Indian Essential Series on our sister site Heat in The Kitchen. You might like to browse the other articles. If you are looking for information on spices, our spice articles are here.

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How to Make Ghee | Nature’s Fabulous Food

An Ayurvedic ritual

I have been making ghee for myself and others since around 2000. It does take a few practice attempts to perfect, but once you have done it you will never buy ghee again. It is quite different.

All it requires is butter and mindfulness – it does need to be watched continually. The end point tricky to judge the first couple of times that you make it. But after that, you are a pro. It takes about 30 minutes all up. The amount of time that it takes depends on the amount of water in the butter, and different brands of butter will take different times.

Feel free to browse our Indian recipes here and here. Or try recipes using ghee here and here. Our Spring recipes are here and here.

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