Today I am sharing some tips on how to create a dish packed full of flavour – Anjum Anand
Anjum Anand, Indian food expert and founder of The Spice Tailor, shares her expert cooking tips on how to create bold flavour combinations and spice up any mealtime.
Over to Anjum;
I started learning how to cook authentic Indian food at a young age from my mother and her sisters and learnt much more than how to follow a recipe.
There are so many different techniques for cooking an individual ingredient and even when cooking the same dish time and time again, the flavours can vary.
That’s why understanding how different cooking techniques change ingredients and the resulting flavour is so important.
Contrary to some Western understanding of Indian food, spices are not used to hide substandard ingredients but are added for health benefits and to enhance the flavour of a meal.
Having spent my career learning and teaching Indian cooking, I’ve complied some fail-safe tips to create delicious Indian meals.
1. Understand Your Ingredients:
It’s important to know how to get the best out of your ingredients. If you’re cooking with whole spices they should be cooked first in hot oil until they slightly puff up or colour. Powdered spices are slightly different, as they burn quickly, so are best added along with the other ingredients and gently cooked.
When cooking a curry, the humble onion forms the base and is an important component of many Indian dishes. People don’t always realise that a curry is a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours and to make a great curry, the balance has to be right. Onion is often the sweet element (also coconut milk), so adding more or less will change the balance. An undercooked onion will not add the right amount of sweetness but the longer you cook the onion, the deeper the flavour. My general rule is that the darker the meat, the darker the onion can and should go to balance the flavours.
Additionally, tomatoes add sourness to Indian food, so be careful not to use very sweet tomatoes, as this will result in an unbalanced dish.
2. Always Cook Meat On The Bone:
Wherever possible, cook meat on the bone – this helps to enhance the overall flavour of a recipe while also ensuring the meat remains tender. Substituting in a commercially produced stock just isn’t as good and doesn’t always work with Indian flavours.
3. Include Yoghurt When Cooking Sauces:
In India, even though we love having a fresh, crunchy and cooling raita as a side to the main meal, we also enjoy cooking with yoghurt. This features in many dishes and is believed to be easier to digest when prepared with spices. I love yoghurt because it’s such a versatile ingredient and adds a wonderfully tangy and creamy flavour that works well with Indian food. When included in a sauce, it creates a yummy, umami-like flavour, but cooking with it can be a bit of a perilous task if you don’t know how. My top tip is to use full-fat yoghurt, as the fat helps to prevent it from curdling under a high heat. Remember to continuously and often vigorously stir the yoghurt in the pan, until it boils and starts to reduce. Only then will it have stabilised.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Charge Of Your Dish:
Over the years, I’ve learnt that cooking is all about having the confidence to take control of your dish. We like what we are used to, and if you like a dish a certain way but it’s not included in the recipe, then change it. Make it your own by adding more spices, less heat, some cream or yoghurt, less oil, a knob of butter, more or less herbs, some lemon juice or tamarind, or even black pepper. Cooking is all about preparing food you love, not just following a recipe word for word.
5. Don’t Forget To Season Your Food:
It’s not worth making a meal if you then don’t season it properly. Salt is a flavour conductor and is crucial to getting the flavours out of ingredients. Ideally you should use Pink Himalayan salt instead of table salt as it contains many health benefits, from promoting better sleep due to its high mineral content to aiding vascular health.
Sweet, Sticky And Spicy Paneer And Pepper Skewers:
Makes 3 skewers so double for 6
- 90g paneer
- ½ small red pepper
- ½ small red onion
- 1/2 tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/3-1/2 tsp. red chili flakes or to taste
- 2 good garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated into a paste
- 1 rounded tsp. finely chopped ginger paste
- 1 rounded tbs. The Spice Tailor Original Mango Chutni
- 11/4 tbs. dark soya sauce or to taste
- Good grinding of black pepper
- 3/4 tbs. tomato puree
- 2 tbs. water
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the ginger and garlic and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds or so. It shouldn’t colour. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients and bring to a simmer. You should have a glossy slightly syrupy marinade.
- Add in the paneer and vegetable cubes and stir to coat well.
- Thread onto pre-soaked wooden skewers starting with the pepper and the onion and then the paneer and continuing. I thread on about 3 paneer cubes each.
- Place on some foil in the oven, under a grill, I place mine on the middle shelf and grill under until the edges of the paneer and vegetables are charred, around 8-10 minutes.
Herby Grilled Salmon Papillotes:
- 4 nice salmon fillets, skin on
- 1 The Spice Tailor Mangalore Herb Curry
- 6 tsp. baby capers
- 40g diced butter
- Salt and pepper
- Handful of toasted almonds, roughly sliced or chopped
- 4 good squares of silver foil
- Preheat the BBQ or griddle pan.
- Open The Spice Tailor packets and reserve the spices for another use. Place a piece of salmon, skin side down, on a piece of the foil. Do the same with the remaining salmon. Evenly, spoon over the sauce, add 1 1/2 tsp. of capers to each piece of salmon, followed by a quarter of the diced butter and almonds. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Bring the edges of the foil up to the middle and seal the parcel by turning in the edges and twist under to enclose fully. Place the parcels on the pan and cook for 14-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) and the heat.
- Serve hot.
Spinach And Crème Fraiche Pizza:
This delicious pizza is light and delicious and in fact, with The Spice Tailor Naans, I think these are even tastier than pizzas!
You can use any of the naans from The Spice Tailor Range that you have or like.
It works with all. This is one version of the naan/pizza, there are others on the Spice Tailor Website but once you start you won’t be able to stop yourself from creating your own!
Makes 1, can be doubled
- 1 Spice Tailor Garlic and Coriander Naan
- 2 good tbs. crème fraiche
- 2 tsp. sun dried tomato paste
- 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small handfuls baby spinach
- 1/4 small red onion, finely sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 180C/350F and place the baking tray inside on the middle shelf.
- Place the cleaned spinach in a large bowl. Boil the kettle and pour over the spinach to cover, cover the bowl and allow to steam cook for 2 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the onions and a good pinch of salt and fry until golden. Meanwhile, drain the hot water and refresh the spinach with cold water. Squeeze this out and place the spinach in the pan with the cooked onions. Stir fry for a minute or two and turn the heat off.
- Spread the crème fraiche over the naan leaving a 2cm border. Spread the sun dried tomato evenly over the crème fraiche and place the wilted spinach over the top and sprinkle over some black pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Take out and serve hot cut into wedges.
Proscuitto And Crème Fraiche Topped Naan:
This sounds so simple that you will be amazed by how delicious and moreish it is. Much lighter than a pizza but just as satisfying. You can use any other type of ham or any of the other naans from The Spice Tailor Range. This is one version of the naan/pizza, there are others on the Spice Tailor Website but once you start you won’t be able to stop yourself creating your own!
Makes 1, can be doubled
- 1 The Spice Tailor Plain Naans
- 2 tbs. crème fraiche
- ¼ small onion, finely sliced
- 4-5 strips of prosciutto or as much as you like
- Handful of rocket
- 1 tbs. lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Place the onions in a small bowl long with the rocket and squeeze over the lemon juice, season, mix well and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Spoon the crème fraiche over the naan and spread around, leaving a1½-2cm border all around. Season lightly with salt and a good amount of black pepper. Drape the prosciutto over the top and place in the oven. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the borders are just crispy.
- Take out of the oven and scatter over the red onions and rocket and serve hot.
Tips and recipes courtesy of Anjum Anand, Founder of The Spice Tailor, an award-winning range of at-home Indian sauces, naans and daals, For more information please visit The Spice Tailor.