It can be daunting for a Chinese to try Indian cooking because most recipes call for ingredients not familiar. I think it is the same thing for everyone who tries cooking the ethnic dishes of other races.
One look at an Indian recipe, you will probably see lots and lots of spices names. Well, I have an easy way out of this problem. Just grab one packet of pre-mix spices from the supermarket shelves. It comes with little black and brown seeds plus some grains like things. These are poppy, fennel, cummin, coriander and fenugreek. Next, grab another pre-mix of bigger pieces of spices such as cinnamon, star anise, clove, cardamons and white peppercorn. You can find these pre-mix packets in bigger supermarkets like Tesco.
The above photo shows the various spices being stir fried with curry leaves, onions and garlic.
(Great news – I google for biji halba or fenugreek and my own parenting website comes out top! Woohoo! BTW, fenugreek is the flat brownish seeds that we believe to increase breastmilk production. You can find recipes believed to increase breastmilk on my website here.)
This is a bowl of grams/legume. They are red, yellow and green gram. These are either imported from USA or India. Again, you can find these different varieties from the supermarket or Indian shops. Soak them in water for a while to fasten the cooking process.
Any variety of vegetables is fine as long as they are the hardy type like snakegourd, the drumsticks or white radish. The essentials are tomatoes to give the sourish taste and green chillies for the flavour.
Since I am cooking vegetarian dhal, I use this meat substitute made from soya bean. It is first soaked in water to soften and added to the cooked dhal later. This is for the protein requirements.
The vegetarian dhal with a serving of French loaf. I have several portions which I freezed in individual container. They can be easily thaw and heat up for other days.
It took me very little time to prepare this because I merely need to chop up the vegetables.
Here’s an estimate recipe:
1 large teaspoon – Spices consisting of whole fennels, cummins, coriander, fenugreek and poppy seeds
Two or three each of star anise, clove, cardamon and 1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig curry leaves
1 bulb garlic, smashed and skin removed
2 large onions, quartered
1 packet of meat curry powder
1 tablespoon of ghee (or use some oil, ghee will provide that authentic smell)
Stir fry the above till fragrant.
1 bowl of gram, mixture of any varieties
2 potatoes, cubed
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 carrot, cubed
4 green chillies, cut length wise
4 bowls of water or until the water covers the ingredients.
Salt to taste
Cook till tender. It may takes a while using normal pot. Stir often because the grams may burn the pot bottom. I use a pressure cooker and it takes about 20 minutes.
To add in meat substitutes or meat, only add this in after the grams are soften.
Explanation by Wikipedia what is lentil, legume, dal and such.
Lots of Indian vegetarian recipes can be found here.