The Easy Indian Cookbook by Manju Malhi comes out next month, and we decided to take a look at some of the beautiful ingredients which Manju introduces in more detail at the beginning of the book. First-time cooks often find the number of spices and ingredients used in Indian cuisine to be quite daunting – but the simple truth is that preparing an Indian meal is very straightforward. Mastering just a few basic techniques and becoming familiar with some of the essential ingredients will strip away the mystery and make preparing Indian food less time-consuming, much more satisfying and incredibly rewarding.

YOGURT (DAHI)
An essential ingredient in Indian cooking, yogurt is a staple for many vegetarians and many homes in India still make their own practically every day. There are countless uses for yogurt but the main ones are making yogurt drinks and chutneys, such as raitas, and using yogurt as a souring agent, a thickening agent, a meat tenderizer and a flavour enhancer.The yogurt in India comes from buffalo’s milk and is thick and rich. Greek-style yogurt and natural unsweetened yogurt are the nearest substitutes.

 

BAY LEAF (TEJ PATTA)
The type of bay leaf used in Indian cooking is the leaf of the cassia tree. These leaves are long, thin and light green in colour, with a mellow, spicy aroma and a sweet taste. In Indian cooking, the bay leaf is used as a flavouring in meat and rice dishes and it is an important component in the Moghul style of cuisine. One or two dried leaves are sufficient to scent a dish and they can be removed easily before serving.

 

CURRY LEAF (KARI PATTA)
These small, shiny leaves, about 2.5cm/1in long, are used whole in Indian cooking, much like bay leaves. The leaves, which have a citrus scent, lend a dish a distinct curry aroma. Curry leaves are generally heated in oil to release their flavour. Once heated, they look shrivelled and crispy. Fresh curry leaves can be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.

 

DRIED BEANS
After lentils, dried beans are the second-most common pulse consumed in India. They need soaking and the longer you store them, the longer you need to cook them because they toughen with age. The green split mung bean (moong dal) is light and delicate when cooked, looking cream or yellow in colour with flecks of green.

CHICKPEA OR GRAM FLOUR (BESAN)
This flour is pale yellow in colour, silky in texture and has a pleasant, nutty aroma. It is used in the preparation of both savoury and sweet Indian dishes. Be careful not to confuse gram flour with graham flour, which is made from wheat. Like all flours, gram flour should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, as exposure to heat can cause it to go off and take on a stale, rancid taste.

 

RICE FLOUR (CHAWAL KA ATTA)
Rice flour is a fine, white powder made from grinding white long grain rice. Free from gluten, it is often used in Indian cooking as an alternative to wheat flour to make Indian-style flatbreads such as South Indian appams or soft breads. Rice flour also acts as a binding and thickening agent. You can make your own rice flour by pulverizing uncooked Basmati rice grains in an electric grinder but it is also available in speciality shops and in most supermarkets.

The Easy Indian Cookbook is available from 10th March.

 

Whether you’re taking part in Veganuary and looking for inspiration, or have been eating plant-based for ages and just want to freshen up your weekday menu, we’ve got some great books for you to check out.

 

Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegan 

Rose Elliot has been at the forefront of vegan and vegetarian food writing for over 35 years. In this book,
Rose gives readers a masterclass on vegan cookery, with over 150 recipes from basics including vegan milks, butters, cheeses and creams to breakfasts, labor-light midweek mains, spectacular dishes for entertaining and delicious desserts and baked goods.

The recipes range from the comforting and familiar like Vegan Macaroni Cheese to more exotic fare, such as a fragrant Aubergine Pilaf Cake. Following a vegan diet doesn’t mean missing out on your favourite foods!

 

Virtually Vegan

This modern collection unlocks a whole host of inspirational vegan dishes – with delicious suggestions of meat and dairy variations to add in the later stages for those who want it.

Try a classic breakfast of Vegeree (eggs optional), master the ultimate lentil and ale pie, or enjoy the flavours of a niÇoise salad (with or without fish). And with a dedicated, dairy-free baking section, learn how to make sweet treats that everyone can enjoy.

With over 120 delicious, flexible recipes, from Sort of Sushi to Almost Paella, rice pudding to pavlova, discover how easy it is to eat vegan (or not!) whenever you want.

 

The Best Gluten Free & Dairy Free Baking Recipes 

 

Grace Cheetham reveals how to perfect the art of baking without gluten and dairy. Try your hand at Thyme Biscuits or Olive & Rosemary Foccacia for a delicious snack, make a quick Fig, Rosemary & Olive Pizza for friends and family, or go for full-on indulgence and bake Chocolate & Beet Cake, Fondant Fancies or Passion Fruit & Coconut Cheesecake (or all three!)

 

You’ll find straightforward instructions carefully worked out to keep cakes moist, pastries and pies in once piece, and cookies with just the right amount of crunch. Grace offers up a whole host of delicious treats so that you don’t have to give up on one of life’s greatest pleasures.

From steaming to stir frying, deep-frying to braising and even smoking, I Love My Wok will show you exactly how versatile the wok really is. Showcasing over 100 delicious and nutritious recipes for all occasions, Nicola Graimes shows how one pan really can do it all.

To showcase these fantastic recipes we have chosen just three of our favourite recipes…

Golden Purses

Serves: 4, Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. sunflower oil (plus extra for deep-frying

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

5 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped

5cm/2in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

250g/9oz minced/ground chicken

2 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

20 wonton wrappers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sweet chilli sauce, for dipping

 

Method:

  1. Heat a wok until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, then the garlic, spring onions, ginger and chicken and stir-fry for 4 minutes until cooked through.

 

  1. Pour in the soy sauce and wine and cook, stirring for a further minute or until all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a flat surface, keeping the others covered with a damp cloth. Put a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the middle of the wrapper. Brush the wrapper with a little water, then gather the sides up around the filling and pinch together to make a bag, enclosing the filling. Set on one side, covered with a damp cloth. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

 

  1. Heat enough oil in the wok to deep-fry the filled wontons. When the oil is hot enough to brown a day-old cube of bread in 35 seconds, add 3-4 wontons and cook for 1-2 minutes until golden. Repeat with the remaining wonton.

 

  1. Serve immediately with sweet chilli sauce, for dipping.

 

 

Yakisoba Noodles

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

(plus 1 hour marinating time)

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

 

 

Ingredients:

350g/12oz firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cubed

250g/9oz dried ramen noodles

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. tomato ketchup

2 tbsp. vegetarian ‘oyster’ sauce

1 tsp. soft light brown sugar

1 tbsp. sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing

1 tbsp. sesame oil

5cm/2in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 carrot, sliced diagonally

2 courgettes/ zucchini, slice diagonally

250g/ 9oz Chinese leaves, shredded

6 spring onions/scallions, white and green parts separated, sliced diagonally

Handful of toasted sesame seeds

 

For the marinade:

3tbsp Japanese soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce

3 tbsp. mirin

 

Method:

  1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a dish. Add the tofu and stir to coat. Leave for 1 hour, turning the tofu occasionally. Drain, reserving the marinade for later.

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4. Put the tofu on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway, until crisp and golden.

 

  1. Meanwhile, cook the noodles following the packet instructions. Rinse, refresh under cold running water and set on one side. Mix together the rice vinegar, ketchup, oyster sauce and sugar in a small bowl and set on one side.

 

  1. Heat a wok until hot. Add the oils, then toss in the ginger, red pepper and carrot and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the courgette/ zucchini, Chinese leaves and the white part of the spring onions/scallions and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.

 

  1. Mix the rice vinegar mixture and the reserved marinade together and add to the wok with the cooked noodles. Toss over a medium heat until combined and heated through, then serve with the tofu, sesame seeds and the green part of the spring onions/scallions sprinkled over the top.

 

Crispy Pork Balls with Spinach

Serves: 4, Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling, Cooking Time: 20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

500g/ 1lb 2oz. lean pork fillets, roughly chopped

2 birds eye chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced

5cm/2in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

Handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

2 sticks lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped

4 spring onions/scallions, chopped

4 tbsp. groundnut oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp. mustard seeds

½ tsp. chilli powder

500g/ 1lb 2 oz. fresh spinach, tough stalks removed

4 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

3 tbsp. light soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

Juice of 2 limes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

Method:

  1. Put the pork, bird’s eye chillies, ginger, coriander/cilantro leaves, lemongrass and spring onions/scallions in a food processor and process to form a coarse paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then form into 16 walnut-sized balls and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

 

  1. Heat half the oil in a wok and fry the pork balls, four at a time, for 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Add more oil if necessary before cooking the next batch and keep the cooked balls warm while cooking the remainder.

 

  1. Wipe the wok clean; pour in the remaining oil and heat. Add the garlic and mustard seeds and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the chilli powder, spinach, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve, topped with the warm pork balls.

 

Nicola Graimes is an award-winning cookery writer and former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine. She has written more than 20 books, including The Top 100 Recipes for a Healthy Lunchbox, The Big Book of Wok, The Big Book of Low-Carb Recipes, Veggienomics, The New Vegetarian Kitchen (that was chosen as one of OFM‘s Top 50 Cookbooks of the Year) and The Part-Time Vegetarian for Nourish.

 

‘I Love My Wok’ is available to buy from the 17th August 2017 from Nourish.