Growing up in a typical South Indian Telugu household, most of the day-to-day foods we ate were mostly the bread-and-butter pappu’s (lentils) and southern curries. North Indian preparations, like their excellent Chicken curries, were reserved for special occasions when my mom wanted to try something new, or for when we went out to eat. I looked forward to those meals and always promised myself that when I grew up and became an adult myself, I would have such food every day.
As an adult, however, I quickly realized that it was wasn’t healthy for either my body or my wallet to eat restaurant-made North Indian curries very often, and the best way to meet my cravings for these curries was to prepare them at home. However, given the complexity involved in cooking some of these items, we usually resort to pre-made (the horror!) masala mixes to whip up a quick curry whenever we want to.
Now, while this may seem like blasphemy to the usual Indian canon of healthy cooking from scratch, I distinctly remember that even my mom sometimes resorted to using spice mixes just to avoid having to put together and grind each of the dozen or so spices that give each curry a distinctive flavor. Modern mix packets just take this step a bit further by also included oil and salt in the mix; advanced science allowing for vaccum-packing of such mixes without using much, if any, preservatives or additional junk. The preparation just calls for adding the mix, along with some water or milk, along with the meat or vegetables of your choice to a saucepan, heating for the recommended time and getting a piping hot curry onto the table within 15-20 mins. Quickie Cooking at its finest!
So seek out these packets as your local Indian grocer; Parampara and Sanjeev Kapoor make some of the best tasting mixes which don’t contain too much unneccessary filling. Given the simplicity involved in putting these curries together, I decided to put in a tiny bit of extra effort and upping the health-quotient of these dishes by adding in some fresh or frozen vegetables – this helps counter any extra sodium in the mix, while also adding some texture and freshness to the curry. This week we tried the Chicken Kolhapur – a Maharashtrian dish with a spicy, dark sauce.