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India’s regional cuisines and recipes

Indian cookery is not the cuisine of a single nationality, but the collective combination of different cuisines from many different countries. The influences of many different cultures, including those of the Moguls, Portuguese, Persians, and British, have over the years given rise to many new ideas in Indian cuisine.

India is a vast subcontinent which is made up of 28 states and 7 union territories, and is home to an astonishing diversity of different peoples, speaking some 15 major languages and about 100 dialects. It is therefore not surprising that the cuisine is varied, with each state having its own cookery traditions and tastes, based on its available seasonal produce, livestock, culture influences, religious aspect, landscape, soil and climate. There are many shared meals but even those shared food are usually prepared subtly different and have slightly different flavors.

In the colder northern states, warming aromatically spiced dishes are eaten, whereas in the intense heat of the southern Indian states the food is generally lighter and uses more coconut and pepper. The various culinary features of each region combine to lend variety, excitement and character to Indian cookery as a whole.

Northern Indian cuisine –

North India (Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan) has extreme climates, summers are hot and winters are cold. There is an abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables to be had. As a result of its geographical position this region of the country has strong Central Asian influences both in its culture and its food. Mughlai and Kashmiri styles of cooking are not just prevalent, they are also popular. The north of the country is famous for its subtly spiced dishes and tandoori cooking, which owes much to the sophistication of the cooks at the luxurious courts of the Mogul emperors, who conquered northern India from Persia. The state of Punjab is very fertile due to the fact that it is irrigated by five major rivers. Although rice does grow here the staple diet is wheat. North Indian curries usually have thick, moderately spicy and creamy gravies. The use of dried fruits and nuts is fairly common even in everyday foods. Dairy products like milk, cream, cottage cheese, vegetable oil, ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt play an important role in the cooking of both savory and sweet dishes.

• Kashmir – Kashmiri curry features sweet flavors and mild spices, cooked with lychees and bananas. Another popular dish in Kashmir is the Rogan josh, a medium-hot curry with lamb in a tomato base.
• Uttar Pradesh – Awadhi curries hail from Uttar Pradesh and are distinct for their use of expensive spices like saffron, as well as for several distinct dishes such as malai kofta – curried vegetable balls – or samosas – fried pastries filled with spiced potatoes, onions, peas and lentils.
• Delhi and Punjab– in Delhi, the curries often feature meatballs, korma sauce and paneer. Punjabi curries are similar to those found in Delhi and make generous use of masala spice blends as well as cream.
• Rajasthan – Curries are a main staple of Rajasthani cuisine and often contain paneer or yogurt sauces. One famous Rajasthani curry is the kadhi, which features vegetable balls known as pakoras in a yogurt-based curry sauce.

Some of the typical northern Indian dishes include:-

Kashmiri chicken curry, Tandoori chicken, Karahi chicken with mint, Karahi chicken with fresh fenugreek, Chicken makhani, Chicken tikka masala, Chicken tikka, Chicken saag, Chicken in a green masala sauce, Spicy grilled chicken, Chicken in a cashew nut sauce, Chicken dopiaza, Chicken korma, Raan – mughlai style leg of lamb, Shammi kabab, Rogan josh, Minced lamb with peas, Lamb with apricots, Lamb kofta curry, Chilli garlic prawns, Corn in a rich onion sauce, Paneer with peas, Paneer butter masala, Dry spiced potatoes with cauliflower, Karahi potatoes with whole spices, Mushroom curry, Courgettes in a spicy tomato sauce, Cumin scented vegetables, Roasted aubergines with spring onions, Kidney bean curry, Creamy black lentils, Tandoori naan, Tandoori roti, Stuffed paratha, Kulcha, Biryani, Pulao

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Recipe – Tandoori chicken

In a large mixing bowl add
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 dsp garlic paste
1 dsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste
3 tsp tandoori powder
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
1/6 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Stir and mix well then add
1 skinless medium chicken jointed into 8 pieces, with a little slit on each piece for the marinade to penetrate into
Leave to marinade over night or for as long as you can
Cover baking tray with kitchen foil and spread chicken pieces all over
Cook in the oven for 30/35 minutes at gas mark 200 turning pieces over after 15 minutes

Southern Indian cuisine –

South India (Karnataka, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala) has a hot, humid climate and all its states are coastally situated. The region is lush and green with a maze of small rivers, rainfall is abundant and so is the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and rice.The population is predominantly Hindus, and the Brahmins (priests) in the area who were the monitors of the Hindu faith and its temples, taught non violence, and also advocated not eating meat. They declared the cow a scared animal, which their followers were prohibited to eat. The staple foods in the south of India are therefore vegetable, fish, shellfish, dhals and rice in one form or another (boiled rice, Idlis, dosas, uttapams). Coconut oil is generally used as the cooking medium, vegetable oils like sunflower are also used and ghee is poured over rice in daily meals or in special occasion dishes. Southern cuisine differs greatly from other regions, its curries contrast differently in their textures and can typically be categorized according to the drier consistency, or those favoring a soupier or stew-like presentation. The curries from this part of India are mostly lightly spiced and refreshing, with coconut and coconut milk being used in many of the local recipes. They are also fiery with much use being made of the chillies that are grown throughout the region. They are also flavoured with curry leaves, mustard, pepper and peppercorns, asafoetida, tamarind, and fenugreek seeds.

• Andhra – In Andhra cuisine, curries are very spicy and feature abundant chili powder. Most Andhra dishes are vegetarian yet it has a huge range of seafood due to its coastal location. One unique food item found in Andhra is the gongura leaf, a sour leaf from a stalk-like plant that is served in curries or pickled.
• Karnataka and Hyderabad – In Karnataka, curries are much milder than in most of South India and are largely vegetarian. Lentils are used often. The masala dosa – a popular crepe filled with potatoes curried in a masala spice blend – is said to originate from a region of Karnataka. Hyderabad is home of the Nizams (rulers of Hyderabad) and regal Nizami food rich and flavorful with tastes ranging from spicy to sour to sweet. Hyderabadi food is full of nuts, dried fruits and exotic expensive spices like Saffron.
• Kerala – From Kerala hails Malabari cooking, with its repertoire of tasty seafood dishes, which is one of the most diverse of South Indian cuisines. Kerali curries usually feature heavy use of coconut oil, coconut milk or grated coconut, which combats the spiciness to create medium-hot dishes.
• Tamil Nadu – Tamil curries are usually very spicy with Chettinad cuisine perhaps the most fiery of all Indian food, and are largely vegetarian. They are often served on banana leaves. The word “curry” is derived from the Tamil word for sauce – “kari.”

Some of the typical southern Indian dishes include:-

Mughlai style chicken, Chicken madras, Madras beef curry, Chilli meat with curry leaves, Lamb korma, Marinated fried fish, Cauliflower in coconut sauce, Mixed vegetables in coconut sauce, Potatoes in chilli tamarind sauce, Masala beans with fenugreek, Chilli and mustard flavoured pineapple, Poriyal (dry curry consisting of a variety of vegetables and spices), Sambar (lentils and vegetables seasoned with tamarind and garlic infused oil), Rasam (a hot sour lentil tomato and tamarind soup dish), Kootus (similar to curries found in other regions, but, rather than being creamy like the dairy-based curries of the North, kootus get their consistency from boiled lentils), Idlis & Vadas (steamed or fried delicacies similar to savory doughnuts that are served as accompaniments to sambars and rasams), Dosa (large crepe-like rice pancake that is usually filled with vegetables chutneys or masala curries), Uttapams (similar to dosas, but are thicker with the filling sprinkled on top like a pizza), Payasam, Stuffed bananas, Spiced lentils with spinach.

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Recipe – Chicken madras

In a large size cooking pot add
6 tbsp rapeseed oil, medium heat, medium burner
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
2 bay leaves and/or 10 curry leaves
2 medium onions blitzed coarsely in a food processor
– fry until onions are golden brown then add
1 dsp garlic paste
1 dsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste
– fry for half a minute then add
500g skinless chicken breast or thighs one inch pieces
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
1/5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
– stir and seal chicken for 2 minutes the add
3 tbsp concentrated tomato puree mixed with 400ml water
– cook for 30 minutes medium heat, with lid on stirring occasionally then add
½ tsp garam masala
juice of half a lemon
5 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
– cook for further 3 minutes low heat, then switch off heat

Eastern Indian cuisine –

Eastern India which encompasses the states of (Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, and Assam) has fertile plains, and is surrounded by rivers and seas. The coastal area is lined with coconut palms and the fields covered with mustard and tea plantations. Fish from the Bay of Bengal which is both plentiful and inexpensive is eaten throughout eastern India and is an important part of the local diet, and in areas close to the sea fish is eaten daily in place of meat. Other local produce such as coconut, vegetables, lentils, and rice are also used frequently. Mustard oil is used as the principal cooking medium, which gives a pungent but slightly sweet flavour. Foods are spiced with mustard, cumin, anise and fenugreek seeds. In general, Eastern Indian cuisine is subtle in its use of spices. Curries in Eastern India often come in the form of fried curry (bhaja curry) or curry cooked to a paste (bata curry). Other curries may be mild (chochchoree curry) or they may be spicy with a thin sauce (jhol curry). The easterners are also known for their delicious savouries and desserts. The cuisine of Northeast India is distinct from other regions of India. Northeast Indian cuisine is largely influenced by Burma, Tibet and Nepal. Popular meats include fish, shrimp, yak, chicken, pork, duck, pigeon, frog and even turtle. In some areas, beef is also eaten. Although common Indian spices like turmeric, fenugreek and cardamom are used, they are used less often and in moderation. The dishes in Northeast India tend to be savory rather than spicy, relying heavily on onions for extra flavor.

• Bihar – Bihari cuisine features heavily spiced, calorie-rich foods. They use a variety of lentils, beans and chickpeas in their cooking.
• Bengal and Orissa – In both Bengal and Orissa, panch puran, a blend of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard seed and nigella seed, is in heavy use for flavoring vegetable curries, while garam masala and turmeric are often used to flavor meat or fish curries. However, Bengali and Oriya cuisines differ in that curries in Oriya tend to be less spicy and more subtle in flavor.
• Assam – Assam curries rely on fresh vegetables and exotic herbs for their flavors. One popular curry in Assam is the tenga curry. It features lentils and fish, which may be fried in mustard oil or pickled with gourds. The tenga is made sour with the use of lemon.

Some of the typical eastern Indian dishes include:-

Chicken jhalfrazi, Cumin scented chicken, Chicken in coconut milk, Fish jhalfrazi, Fish stew, Fish in a rich tomato and onion sauce, Prawn curry, King prawn korma, Masala channa, Mixed vegetable curry, Crisp fried aubergine, Sweet and sour pineapple, Potatoes with roasted poppy seeds, Spinach with golden potatoes, Chana dhal and bottle gourd curry, Tarka dhal.

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Recipe – Chicken Jhalfrazi

In a large size cooking pot add
7 tbsp rapeseed oil, medium heat, medium burner
6 whole black pepper corns
3 cloves
4 one inch cinnamon sticks
2 medium onions blitzed coarsely in a food processor
– fry until onions are golden brown then add
1 dsp garlic paste
1 dsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste
– fry for half a minute then add
300g tin tomatoes blitzed finely in a food processor
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
1/5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
– bring to the boil until oil splits from the tomatoes then add
500g skinless chicken breast or thigh pieces
50ml water
– cook for 20 minutes medium heat, with lid on then add
1 green and 1 red pepper quartered and then cut into thin strips
2 whole green chillies slit length ways
– cook for further 12 minutes medium heat, with lid on then add
½ tsp garam masala
juice of half a lemon
5 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
– cook for further 3 minutes low heat, than switch off heat

Western Indian cuisine –

Western India includes the states of (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and Konkan), which are all strikingly different. To the north lies Gujarat with its flat, fertile plains. Bombay now called Mumbai the cosmopolitan capital of Maharastra is where all the contrasts can be experienced. The Deccan plateau is in the heart of Maharashtra and well known for its cotton and barley fields, and sugar plantations. To the south Goa and the Konkan regions which are lush green and tropical. The cuisine in the western region is highly diverse, and Maharashtra’s coastal location is responsible for its fish and seafood and coconut milk dominant cuisine. Interior regions rely heavily on grains and cereals for their proteins and nutrition. The state of Gujarat has developed an excellent repertoire of vegetarian dishes, using fresh vegetables, dairy products and lentils and peas. The region is also well known for its chutneys, which are popular Indian condiments that use cooked, fresh, or pickled vegetables and fruits with sweet, sour, or spicy flavors. Goa acted as a major trade port and colony for Portugal, resulting in a distinctive and unique blend of Indian and Portuguese culinary elements. Goan cuisine uses pork and beef with greater frequency than other regional cuisines in India, fish is also a staple. Goan cuisine usually tends to be hot and spicy and uses a lot of coconut milk, coconut paste, vinegar, and tamarind juice. Dishes are cooked very slowly for a long time, which gives them a wonderfully rich flavour.

• Gujarat – In Gujarat, sugar and salt are used more heavily than in other parts of India, producing a cuisine that is simultaneously spicy, salty and sweet. The region is primarily vegetarian, and there are a variety of local “shaak” dishes – vegetable dishes. These include potato curry, eggplant curry, and okra curry, to name a few. These dishes are usually served with dhal, a type of Indian lentil soup.
• Maharashtri – In Maharashtrian cuisine, fiery seafood and mutton curries prevail, but milder curries are also popular. Curries are often served with a raw Indian salad called a “cachumber” or a “raita” – yogurt cucumber sauce.
• Goan – Goan curries usually contain a masala spice blend, often consisting of chilies, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and coriander. Goan food often centers on meat and seafood dishes. They are notorious for being spicy. Goa is home of the vindaloo, a spicy Indian pork curry featuring garlic, black pepper, vinegar and chilies.
• Konkan – Along much of the west coast of India sits the Konkan region. Many aspects of the culture and food are very similar to Goan. Here, curries often have a coconut base and make use of tamarind and curry leaves, and are mostly pesco-vegetarian (excluding all meat except for fish.)

Some of the typical western Indian dishes include:-

Goan chicken curry, Chicken with green mango, Beef vindaloo, Pork balchao, Goan prawn curry, Parsi prawn curry, Fish cakes, Spicy omelette, Eggs baked in potato sticks, Samosas, Stuffed okra, Okra in yogurt, Bombay potatoes, Chickpeas with spiced potato cakes, Potatoes in a yogurt sauce, Stuffed vegetables.

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Recipe – Pork Vindaloo

In a large mixing bowl add
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Stir and mix well then add
500g pork loin diced into 1 inch pieces
Leave to marinade over night or for as long as can

In a pressure cooker add
4 tbsp rapeseed oil, full heat, small burner
6 whole black pepper corns
2 tsp of crushed mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies halved
2 medium onions diced finely
– fry until onions just start to brown then add
1 dsp garlic paste
1 dsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste
– fry for half a minute then add
500g pork and marinade
– seal meat for 5 minutes then add
2 tbsp vinegar
150ml water
2 whole green chillies slit length ways
– cook for 20 minutes on high weight
– leave to rest for 10 minutes before opening lid

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