Indian cuisine consists of a wide variety of regional and traditional dishes. Due to the diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary substantially from each other.
Part of the lily, or alium, family, of which onions are also a member, garlic is one of the most indispensable ingredients around and plays a central role in Mediterranean and Asian cookery.
The use of garlic in China dates back thousands of years. It was also consumed by ancient Greek and Roman soldiers.
Garlic was rare in traditional English cuisine (though it is said to have been grown in England before 1548) and has been a much more common ingredient in Mediterranean Europe.
Garlic was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene during World War I and World War II.
TRY Coconut fish curry.
(China consumes the most garlic. Some Chinese people eat up to 12 cloves a day!)
Saffron comes from the plant commonly known as the ‘saffron crocus’ (pictured). The vivid crimson stigmas and styles, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent. It is among the world’s most costly spices by weight.
TRY Pistachio saffron seera.
Coconut milk is made by grating fresh coconut flesh and then working that with water, traditionally by hand. Always best used as fresh as possible and storage advice in commercial products should be adhered to strictly.
TRY Roast cauliflower, cumin and coconut milk soup.
(Due to their water resistance, coconuts are able to stay afloat over the ocean.)
This is an aromatic Mediterranean plant that produces long pods containing brownish seeds. The seeds have a slightly bitter taste and are roasted and ground and used as a flavouring in curries. The leaves from the plant (often sold as methi) can be used in salads. The seeds and the leaves have a strong aroma.
TRY Masala chicken with minted yoghurt sauce.
A tart fruit from the tamarind tree, used as a spice and souring agent. The pulp can be pressed to form a ‘cake’ or processed to make a paste. Tamarind tastes a bit like a date but is less sweet (and more sour), and is sometimes known as the Indian date. It is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
TRY Tamarind and lemongrass beef.
(Uses of the Tamarind pulp include traditional medicine and metal polish.)