Julie Sahni is America's leading authority on Indian cuisine and cooking. She shares her knowledge and technique in her published works with great passion. The following cook books are currently available for purchase. Enjoy!
Classic Indian Cooking, an award-winning cookbook has been touted by The New York Times as one of the ‘Six Most Important All-time Cookbooks For The Kitchen.’ It introduces the properties of all the basic spices and special ingredients of Indian food, then explains the techniques involved, always with the help of comparisons to familiar Western methods. Every recipe has been specially designed for the American kitchen -- practically all the ingredients can be found in any American supermarket and there are scores of time-saving shortcuts and handy directions for make-ahead preparation.
This book is available at Amazon.com
Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking is Julie's second book. To prepare it, Julie traveled extensively throughout the regions of her native India to assemble a splendid second volume of Indian culinary delights. This totally new collection of recipes systematically reveals the treasures of India's vegetarian and grain cooking. For the first time anywhere, Julie describes every classical blend of curry in the Indian tradition, with accompanying recipes on how to use them.
This book is available at Amazon.com
Julie shares must-know secrets of flavor, aroma and color for 100+ spices and herbs. With 200 recipes, this book made The New York Times' and The Washington Post's list of Best Cookbooks.
This book is available at Amazon.com
The underpinnings of Indian cuisine are spices, called masala. They are incorporated into dishes at every meal from breakfast to dinner, lacing tea, coffee, lemonades and yogurt drinks as well as meats, vegetables, pilafs, ice creams and candies. Spices give Indian food its characteristic flavor, texture and aroma. Judicious blending enhances rather than overwhelms the basic flavor and character of a dish.
An Indian cook’s pantry will always contain a fresh supply of green cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, Kari leaves, nigella, mustard, saffron, tamarind and turmeric. These are used individually or as blends, also called masala. Garam masala, chat masala, chai masala and panch phoron are the four most popular and frequently used spice blends. Equally important, but used slightly less often, are ajowan, asafetida, amchoor, black cardamom and pomegranate seeds. Amchoor, a dried mango powder, and pomegranate seeds are used in dishes in place of lemon due to their sour taste.
For most Indian cooks the bond with spices begins early with the enhancement of sensory perceptions. An Indian infant, just days old, is massaged with fresh turmeric paste to help develop smooth skin. Virgin mustard oil is rubbed on the scalp to promote lustrous hair growth; tamarind juice to impart coolness to the body; clove oil rubbed on gums to help alleviate teething pains; and ajowan or cumin infusion to cut colic pain. The first solid food offered to an Indian infant is, in fact, rice pudding flavored with cardamom.
AJOWAN SEEDS (Ajwain): Ajowan seeds come from the thymol plant, a close relative of caraway and cumin. Seeds resemble large celery seeds; have a sharp taste and, when crushed, smell strongly of thyme. Used to flavor breads, crackers, chickpea batter and papadams.
ASAFETIDA (Hing): Resinous substance obtained from the rhizome and root of certain plants. Best known for its distinct odor, present in ground, raw form, but mellows when it is cooked. Used in small amounts, 11⁄44 - 11⁄42 teaspoon.
CARDAMOM, BLACK (Badi Ilaichi): The pods of black cardamom are large, coarser, and somewhat stringy with large gray-black seeds. An important spice of North Indian spice blend garam masala, which is used in Moghul cooking.
CARDAMOM, GREEN (Ilaichi): Used whole and ground in both savory and sweet dishes. To make ground cardamom, pods are peeled and seeds finely ground to a powder. Should be stored away from light as it bleaches easily.
CHAI MASALA: In parts of India the chai (tea) is drunk laced with masala (spices). The tea spices, called chai masala, is a blend of baking spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger. It can be used to flavor flan, cheesecake, pot de crème, fruit compote, ice cream or chocolates.
CHAT MASALA: Popular appetizers bhel-poori, papri-chat, chicken-chat and paani-poori are collectively known as chat. Used for flavoring, chat masala is a blend of highly aromatic and appetite-stimulating spices such as roasted cumin, asafetida, mango powder, mint and black salt. (Black salt is not a table salt but a sulfur compound.)
CHILI, DRIED RED AND FRESH GREEN (Lal Mirch): Gives food a hot taste. Dried chili pods are added to hot oil and fried until they turn black and smoke. This smoky-hot oil is an important flavoring in Indian cooking. Green chilies add an herbal aroma as well as heat to a dish.
CORIANDER, SEEDS & LEAVES (Dhania): Yellowish brown and about the size of peppercorns; mild and floral aroma. Used in countless Indian recipes. Ground coriander seeds are the main spice in curry powder. Fresh coriander, also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, has a pungent aroma quite unlike the seeds of the plant. It is used as a green and an herb.
CUMIN (Jeera): Warm, earthy and pungent spice; used both whole and ground. One of the most important spices in North Indian cooking; an ingredient in the spice blend garam masala and Eastern spice blend panch phoron. Often roasted before use to intensify flavor. Black cumin seeds are lesser known but more earthy scented, similar to truffles, and are used in delicate pilafs, salads and confections.
FENUGREEK (Methi): Both the leaves and the seeds are used in Indian cooking. They have different flavors and aroma, hence are not interchangeable. The tiny, brown, bitter-tasting seeds, when roasted or fried, impart a maple syrup-like aroma. Seeds and leaves, either fresh or dried, are used in stews, soups, vegetables, sauces, chutney and pancakes.
GARAM MASALA: A blend of sweet and savory spices, roasted and ground to a brown-colored powder. It includes cumin, coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Popular in Moghul and North Indian cooking. Use the spice blend as a rub over lamb and pork chops, steak and roast or to flavor soup and braised vegetables.
KARI LEAVES (Kari Patta): Kari leaf is an herb, not a spice. It should not be confused with curry powder, a blend of several spices. Kari leaves have a captivating balmy aroma, reminiscent of juniper berries and lime. One of the primary flavorings of South Indian and Southeast Asia cooking. Fresh kari leaves are available in Indian grocery stores.
MANGO POWDER (Amchoor): A pale gray-beige powder produced by grinding dried slices of unripe mangoes. Has a distinct floral aroma and tart taste. Used as a souring agent and a tenderizer with chickpeas, root vegetables and meat.
MUSTARD SEEDS, BROWN (Rai): Tiny round brown, black or red seeds that look like large poppy seeds. Added to hot oil and fried until they pop to release their fragrance. This mustard-infused oil, a primary step in the making of almost all dishes, is the predominant flavor in Indian cooking.
NIGELLA: Similar to black onion or caraway. Widely used in Indian cuisines, particularly in mildly braised lamb dishes such as korma. It is also added to vegetable and dhal dishes as well as in chutneys. The seeds are sprinkled on to naan bread before baking. Nigella is an ingredient of some garam masalas and is one of the five spices in panch phoran.
PANCH PHORON: In the Eastern regions of India, mainly Bengal, five aromatic seeds are combined to produce this blend: cumin, brown mustard, fenugreek, fennel and nigella. The spices are added to hot oil to “bloom” them. Use the spice-infused oil as a base for cooking and flavoring. Lightly crushed panch phoron makes a wonderful spice rub for fish and seafood.
TAMARIND (Imli): The fruits of the tamarind tree, native to India, bear seedpods containing dark brown seeds surrounded by an acidic pulp that is used as a souring agent in many recipes. Sweet tamarind chutney is one of the cuisine’s most popular dipping sauces.
TURMERIC (Haldi): This brilliant spice colors everything it touches yellow. One of the main ingredients of curry powder, the primary flavor of South Indian cooking. Used in moderation, turmeric imparts a woody scent and lemon color to legumes, rice and vegetables.