As with any kind of cooking, when people attempt to start cooking Indian food for the first, they are met with many challenges. Either the rice over boils, the chapattis become too hard or the vegetables get mushy. Especially in Phoenix where we experience dry weather most year round, food like chapattis and bread get dry, flaky and hard very easily. The Phoenix wheather also attracts insects to pantry staples. Seasoned cooks use some time tested methods to avoid disaster and whip up amazingly cool dishes. Here are ten tips to enhance your Indian cooking experience.
1. How to make chapattis soft: Tired of your chapattis turning hard? Here is what to do. Along with the whole wheat flour and warm water add 1 tbsp of any cooking oil to the dough. Also knead the dough well (take your time) and let it sit covered with a wet cloth for sometime before rolling out the chapattis.
2. How to freshen old chapattis: You are left with left over chapattis that are a day or two days old and you don’t know whether to eat or throw them away? Here is what to do. Wrap the chapattis in a wet cloth (thin cloth like muslin or cheesecloth). If you have a rice cooker, steam them wrapped for 3-4 minutes. Remove the wet cloth and transfer immediately to an insulated container (casserole). If you do not have a rice cooker, wrap in wet cloth and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Rest of the process is the same.
3. How to prevent cold boiled egg from smelling: You love egg sandwich but shudder at the though of egg sandwich packed for lunch because of the smell? Slice the eggs and mix them with a teaspoon of mayonnaise (or even ranch dressing). You can even throw in some greens and make them into a salad. Now you can safely pack it for lunch and the eggs will not smell.
4. Too much salt in curry: You got the seasonings mixed up and now the curry is too salty. You do not have to throw away the food. Peal and dice a potato and mix with the curry. Let it boil till the potatoes are soft. It would soak up the excess salt. Even a teaspoon of sugar does the trick if it is only slightly over-salty.
5. How to prevent freshly cut potatoes, raw banana and eggplants from turning black: Add a pinch of turmeric to the freshly cut potato, raw banana or egg plant and rub it well. The vegetables would not turn black and can now be stored in the refrigerator.
6. How to get the fishy smell out of your kitchen: A lot of people love to eat fish but cutting and cleaning the fish is a problem. The fishy smell in the sink, on countertops and on the hands is too much to bear. The solution is lime juice or vinegar. After cleaning the fish, add 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar to the sink. Rub the countertop and your hands with a freshly cut lemon. The smell would go away.
7. How to store ginger/garlic paste in the refrigerator longer: A lot of people use homemade freshly ground ginger and garlic paste in their cooking. After a couple of days in the refrigerator, the paste starts to turn brown and can even go bad. Add a teaspoon of cooking oil to the paste and mix well. Now it would stay longer in the refrigerator.
8. How to get rid of the smell of cruciferous vegetables: Cook cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli with bay leaves. Also use a teaspoon of ginger paste while cooking and you get rid of the gassy smell. Before cooking cauliflowers or broccoli, soak them in a pot of hot water for 5 minutes. Do not add water while cooking cabbages, otherwise it would taste really bad. Let the vegetable steam in its own juice.
9. How to prevent dry ingredients from attracting insects: Some dry staples in the pantry like semolina (sooji, rawa), all purpose flour (maida), chickpea flour (besan), bread crumbs and daals are notorious for attracting insects. If you are not planning to use them soon and would like to store them, keep them in the refrigerator. If you do end up getting insect larvae in stuff like atta (whole wheat flour), just use a sieve to strain them out.
10. How to get rid of the soya smell of soya chunks and granules: Soya chunks (and granules commonly available under the brand name Nutrella) are a good source of proteins for people who are vegetarians. However many people avoid them due to the strong smell of dry soya. Soak the dry soya chunks in hot water for an hour till they become soft. Then add 1 tsp of tomato ketchup and 1 tsp of any hot sauce and mix with the soaked chunks. Refrigerate overnight. Now you can cook them using your favorite recipe. Also add some garam masala in the end while cooking to enhance the flavor.