Indian cooking expert reveals the secrets to mastering the cuisine in your own kitchen – and says every one should invest in a spice grinder

  • A culinary historian has revealed the secrets to cooking Indian food at home
  • Charmaine O’Brien shared her top tips when it comes to perfecting flavours
  • She said you need to buy whole spices as ‘taste comes from using fresh spices’ 

Culinary historian Charmaine O'Brien (pictured) revealed her top tips to cooking and nailing Indian food at home

Culinary historian Charmaine O'Brien (pictured) revealed her top tips to cooking and nailing Indian food at home

Culinary historian Charmaine O’Brien (pictured) revealed her top tips to cooking and nailing Indian food at home

An Australian culinary historian and Indian cooking expert has revealed the secrets to cooking the cuisine at home. 

Charmaine O’Brien, author of Food Guide to India, shared her top tips when it comes to perfecting food flavours and said the ‘great taste comes from using fresh spices’.

‘You have to remember that Indian food in restaurants is different from the food [that is] cooked at home. Cookbooks often give domestic recipes,’ she told Good Food

Charmaine said it's important to buy whole spices as the 'great taste comes from using fresh spices' (stock image)

Charmaine said it's important to buy whole spices as the 'great taste comes from using fresh spices' (stock image)

Charmaine said it’s important to buy whole spices as the ‘great taste comes from using fresh spices’ (stock image)

‘Buy whole spices. Invest in a spice grinder to quickly grind the masala, which means mixture,’ she continued.

She added: ‘Most spices need to be cooked. Often spices are cooked in oil or ghee to release their essential oils. This can then be added to a dish at the end of cooking to finish it off.’ 

‘When making a wet masala, which includes onions, garlic and ginger, Indians cooks will add a little water to cool the pan and stop the spices from burning,’ she said.

What are other food tricks from top chefs around the world? 

Bicarbonate veggies

Add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to water when boiling green vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. The bicarbonate of soda helps to soften the vegetables, but retains their bright green colour so that you can achieve a perfectly cooked vegetable without losing any colour to the water

Mark Threadgill, head chef at Portmeirion Hotel, Minffordd, North Wales

Pizza in a pan

Throw away your pizza stone and make your pizzas at home in a hot frying pan and finish under the grill. See below for full method. 

The frying pan technique replicates the intense heat of a traditional pizza oven, making a much more authentic pizza.

Pizza Pilgrims’ co-founder James Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims.

Rest batter

For fluffy puddings, rest the batter for an hour before using. Resting the smooth batter makes it lighter, ensuring it rises better.

Three Michelin starred chef Marco Pierre White, brand ambassador for Knorr.

Salt your onions

Adding salt while cooking onions cooks them faster. The salt draws out moisture from the onions, making it quicker to cook, fry and colour

Vivek Singh Executive Chef, Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho.

Charmaine went on to say that when spices are ‘dry-roasted’ they are added towards the end of cooking.  

She added: ‘When you do this, make sure you blend the spice mix with cooking liquid before adding back to the pot for smooth integration.’

The food expert also recommended a cookbook for home chefs wanting to perfect Indian cuisine called India: The Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant.

She also revealed that when spices are 'dry-roasted' they must be added towards the end of cooking (stock image)

She also revealed that when spices are 'dry-roasted' they must be added towards the end of cooking (stock image)

She also revealed that when spices are ‘dry-roasted’ they must be added towards the end of cooking (stock image)

Charmaine’s Food Guide to India, is also a ‘ guide to regional foods across India’ and gives readers ‘historical informational, cultural insights and recommendations.’ 

In the book, she writes: ‘Indians believe that for a meal to be balanced, there must be six flavours on the plate: bitter, pungent, astringent, sour, salty and sweet.’

‘To create texture satiation, soft items like rice are patterned with crunchy ones like papad,’ she explains.

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