General Cooking Tips for the Gujarati Cook
Here are some of my cooking tips. I will keep adding as and when I remember more…..so keep referring to this list.
- Always soak daals and whole beans with twice the amount of water. My soaking scale for daals and whole beans would be, from least to most time required: masoor, mug, adad, vaal, and channa, in that order. Time required would be between 15 mins to 2 hours for daals and double this time for whole beans. Exception to this rule would be whole adad, which would require soaking overnight! When soaking lentils for longer times, remember to change water in between.
- Adding correct amount of water to a dish is crucial. When cooking lentils, add just enough water to cover the soaked lentils plus half an inch of water more. The balance is between enough water to allow complete cooking or too much water, such that the resultant dish becomes watery and weak. Of course you can drain off some of the extra water, but in doing so you will be draining off the nutrient value of the lentils! In the event that your dish has become watery, thicken the sauce by either adding one to two tablespoons gram(channa) flour or fine cornmeal dissolved thoroughly in cold water. Adjust the spices accordingly. This trick is also useful for cooking vegetables in the pressure cooker as you would need to add a little water for the pressure to build up.
- For cooking the lentils before spicing them, only add salt to the daals and not the whole beans. For the latter, add the salt when adding the other spices.
- Wash, cut and freeze vegetables soon after buying. This keeps them fresh and also helps in reducing preparation time when cooking after work. This process also helps in keeping unusual Indian vegetables at hand when required. Remember also that shop bought frozen vegetables are extremely fresh.
- Make good use of your freezer: for ground chilli/ginger paste( stored in old ice tray), left over cooked food, for stock piling sauces, rotlis, etc. Freeze ripe whole tomatoes to use for sauces. You can skin frozen tomatoes easily by just running them under water for a few seconds. Frozen skinned tomatoes are easy to grate or pulp in a grinder……Can you add anything else to this list? Do pass on your tip to me!
- The result of most Gujarati and in fact also most Indian cooking rests very heavily on the vaghar (વઘાર). Always make sure that the oil is very hot when you add the vaghar ingredients. You must also keep the balance between a strong vaghar and burning the other ingredients. To this effect always add fenugreek seeds (મેથી), garlic and curry leaves(લીમડી) just before adding the asafoetida powder(હીંગ)!
- If and when you make paneer at home!, collect the water from the curdled solids and use it to make kadhi(કઢી) or for grinding dhokra(ઢોકરા) or idil(ઈડલી) batter. Adds a tasty flavour to the dish.
- Many liquidy dishes taste better with added lemon juice or tamarind paste. You will need to balance this with a small amount of sugar or jaggery. Be aware though in India, Gujarati cooking is famed to be on the sweet side. My cooking does not have that much sweetness added to it. It could be the E.African influence
- Many recipes like muthias, papdi lot or patuda lot are cooked in a steamer. Use a large pan (can be large size pressure cooker) and add a litre of hot water at the bottom. Place an upside down flat metal sieve (without handles) inside. Place the ‘dough’ on top of this sieve and close the vessel before steaming.
- Always adjust the number of chillies according to their pungency.
- Always taste as you go along. Taste the batter and the cooked food too. Always also check the consistency of batter or dough or gravy. You can then add spices as required.