The Clever Cookstr talks with Chitra Agrawal, blogger at ABCD's of Cooking, founder of condiment line Brooklyn Delhi, and author of an upcoming cookbook. about using Indian-inspired spices and techniques in your everyday meals.
Welcome to the Clever Cookstr, your ultimate window into the kitchens of the world's best cooks.;
Our guest today is Chitra Agrawal, blogger at ABCD's of Cooking, co-owner (with her fiancé, Ben Garthus) of condiment line Brooklyn Delhi, and author of an upcoming cookbook. She's here to share tips for using Indian-inspired flavors and techniques in your everyday meals.
CC: Chitra, you refer to the cooking you do as, "Indian recipes grown in Brooklyn." What does that mean?
CA: A lot of my recipes are definitely based in traditional Indian cooking technniques, but often what I'm doing is using locally-sourced produce. A lot of my recipes are inspired by my CSA, or my weekly farm share.
CC: How do you use the flavors and spices of Indian cuisine to influence your everyday meals?
CA: I have a spice dabba (a metal box used for storing fresh spices), as many Indian households have, and it holds the spices that I use most often. In many recipes, I'm taking a traditional dish and using whatever produce I have on hand. For instance, sambar, a South Indian lentil stew, is a recipe that is really flexible. I've used kohlrabi in that stew, but I'll use all of the same spices you would use in a traditional sambar.
CC: How does seasonality play a role in your cooking?
CA: I categorize then recipes on my blog based on the season when you can cook them. I want my readers to be able to take advantage of what's available locally. That's how I organize things.
CC: What are some pantry items people need to cook Indian recipes at home?
CA: As far as fresh ingredients, I love curry leaves. That's something you can get at an Indian store. To make them last longer, I put them in the freezer. You can actually grow curry leaves--my aunt has a plant in her backyard in New Jersey--so if you have a green thumb, that's a great ingredient to have on hand. There's really no substitute for it; it has an herby and citrus-y kind of flavor, and you can use it in a lot of things. I usually fry it in oil, so it seasons the oil. You can use it in rices, stews, and stir-fries.
Another good ingredient is fresh, frozen grated coconut, which I always have on hand in my freezer. That's a great thing to buy because it lasts for a while.
The main spices I use in South Indian cooking are black mustard seeds, dry red chile, and fenugreek seeds. You can start with a few of those ingredients.