Any home cook will tell you how frustrating it can be to serve a dish that has taken a lot of time and energy to prepare, only to discover that it is a little on the mediocre side. If it is a dish you are serving to guests (polite guests that is) it is unlikely that they will draw attention to the fact, but you (the chef) will know. And you will probably feel pretty gutted about the fact – it’s hard not to sometimes.
However, with the right ingredients to hand, this is no longer a problem. There are some ingredients any cook likes to have to hand to give any dish an extra bit of pizazz. What these ingredients are depends on where you are in the world. A dash of this or a sprinkle of that can add wonderful depth of flavour to a dish and give a ‘disappointing’ meal an added taste sensation. So, when it comes to India’s cuisine, what are the golden ingredients that will save any dish?
There are the spices, but that seems too obvious. Adding an extra blast of spicy heat may mask an otherwise bland dish, but there’s got to be more creative ways of pepping up a meal. More interesting Indian seasonings that can be added with a flourish at the eleventh hour include dried pomegranate, black salt, mango powder and blends such as panch phoran.
Then there’s the wide array of Indian chutneys, pickles and relishes. They are served with almost every meal in India, so why not follow suit? Alongside the salt and pepper in the centre of the table, make sure there are at least three different jars of Indian chutneys that people can dive into. Mango chutney and lime pickle are probably the most common Indian chutneys that people have lurking in their fridges. But beyond those two, there’s mint chutney, coconut chutney, pineapple chutney and combinations of them all. What’s more, they are pretty easy to make yourself.
Adding a sprinkle of tempered spices is another great way of giving meals (and not just Indian food) a real wow factor. To temper spices you need to add a handful of whole spices to a pan of hot oil. Almost immediately you will hear them start to pop and you will be able to smell the aromas of the spices as they are released. They don’t take long, so be ready to take them back off the heat. You can use pretty much any spice for this – whatever is to hand. The only criteria is that the spices have to be whole. Add them to summer salads, dips and coleslaws or to a warming winter mash or roasted vegetables.
We hope this has given you the inspiration to add a bit of Indian sparkle to all your meals. Another way to have a meal with a bit of glitz and glamour is to book a table at one of London’s fine dining Indian restaurants: it will be a meal to remember.