I was lucky to learn to cook at my grandmother’s side; she was an experienced Italian home cook, and her food was delicious. At some point in my history of cooking, however, I noticed that everything I made had a combination of garlic, onions, olive oil, basil, tomatoes and cheese in it. We were of Italian descent after all; this was what she knew and what I learned.
In time I could not help but wish that I had also learned (at the hands of another expert grandmother) how to use the spices and techniques of Indian, Chinese or Korean cooking. I envied my friends who had, and when the opportunity presented itself to learn a few tricks in Indian cooking, I took it.
By no means am I an accomplished Indian cook, nor am I suggesting that you become one (unless you’ve been blessed with an Indian grandmother to learn from). Instead I recommend you do as I did and master a few Indian recipes that can be prepared quickly. Choose straightforward recipes that require small additions to your spice cabinet (cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, turmeric and ginger are a good start). Add them to your arsenal of easy things to make. Your family, friends and your health will thank you!
Here are four go-to Indian recipes to try immediately: keema (or mince), basmati rice, raita and masala chai. If you like your food hot and spicy, buy mango chutney or mixed vegetable pickles to go with the dishes (and tea). And once the spice cabinet is stocked, add these flavors to other dishes, including your basic cauliflower soup (cumin and paprika), mashed sweet potatoes (with cumin, butter and honey or brown sugar), or roasted root vegetables (sprinkle any combination of cinnamon, cumin, coriander or ginger on the vegetables before you roast them). The trick is to get comfortable with tastes and incorporate them.
And then, when you are feeling adventurous and time is on your hands, you can pull out an Indian cookbook (I love “Classic Indian Cooking”, by Julie Sahni) and dive into some more complicated preparations with confidence and experience!