Indian Recipes Grown in Brooklyn

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.

Kara Rota
4-minute read
Episode #10

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.


About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.