My Culinary Journey in Northern India - Guest Post from Author Shira Barak

My Culinary Journey in Northern India

Smells, Colors and Flavors

When I landed in Delhi for the first time, I could not help noticing the colorfulness and diversity that characterize the city: Rickshaws, cows, women with babies wearing colorful saris and of course markets: a variety of spices, food on street corners and, smells and flavors. I did not know where to start.

When I started to turn north, towards the villages situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, the quiet and peaceful atmosphere, allowed me to go deeper into the culinary experience as I was heading. Although the great amount of tourists visiting the country created a reality where many restaurants served western food such as: pizza , pasta, croissant and cakes, my heart (and my appetite) were drawn to the local restaurants, to the markets and to the women cooking for their families in their yard.

My curiosity drew me to talk to the workers at the kitchens of the restaurants where I ate and to the watch and learn from the women whose house I lodged. Although most of them spoke only a few words in English, yet I managed to learn a lot and enjoy the fact that they opened the doors to the kitchen. Apparently the love of food is an international language....

My book "The Taste of Northern India" was born out of my love for traveling and cooking and especially for the people and culture of North India, which were home to me for a few months of my life.

Since food is a very important component in Indian culture and is an inseparable part of the colorful (and delicious) tourist journey to this wonderful subcontinent, there is no better place than India and especially North India, to go out on a culinary journey. This is exactly the experience I wanted to give my readers when I began to write the book.

I met many travelers in India that, except from drinking chai in the morning, have never eaten an authentic Indian dish. They held onto their omelet sandwich and argued that Indian dishes are too spicy, too weird or just not tasty…. But I'm sure this is just our tendency to cling to the familiar (pizza?), and the fear of change.
Many travelers choose to travel North India, to the snowy mountains of the Himalayas, to the ashrams and temples in order to go through a spiritual, personal journey. In my journey I have learned that culinary journey in India is no less spiritual: you must abandon the familiar habits, open your mind and loosen up! Try new flavors; lower the level of judgment and expectation for familiar tastes.

And experiment ... Cooking courses in India are not less important than meditation or yoga…
Once you do that, I promise you a delicious and satisfying experience!

The north Indian cousin

India is a huge country divided into 28 states. Each one of them are by different cosine that is affected by climate, culture, religion and the ingredients available.

Since India is not a country but a subcontinent, in western eyes it  may seem that there is "a typical Indian cuisine ", but in fact there are significant differences between the food common in the south and the food common in the north, between what's eaten by rich people and what's eaten by the poor, what's eaten by  Hindus or by Muslims, Christians or Sikhs.

Food in India is based primarily on vegetables, legumes, yogurt and sometimes meat, served aside bread, rice or both. Indian cuisine is one of the richest in the world – a typical main meal will normally contain four to five ingredients, served on one divided big plate (Thali ): rice (white) , dal ( lentils), cooked  vegetable dish, chapati and often yogurt or other dish for regulating pungency. You will find a variety of spices, used differently each time. Sometimes the spices are ground into a paste and at other times they will be toasted on a pan.

Extensive use of spices is very common in India; the Indians use it for taste and for health, since Indian medicine see spices as capable of healing. Indian food often contains: garlic, Ginger, coriander, cardamom, spice blends such as curry and garam masala and seeds such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds , fennel seeds and more.

North Indian cousin is influenced by other countries and areas such as: Kashmir, Nepal, Tibet and more.
The Punjabi cosine (Punjab- a geographical region between eastern Pakistan and northern India) which I like the most, serves dishes that are usually a combination of two components with curry sauce.

For Example:
 ALU GHOBI - Potato and Cauliflower.
 ALU MATAR - potatoes and peas.
 ALU PALKAK - potatoes and spinach.

I have included two selected recipes from my book, hope you'll like them ... Good Luck!
I wish you a Successful culinary journey!

~Shira Barak

Aloo Gobhi (potato & cauliflower dish)
Serves: 3-4
Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes
3 cups chopped cauliflower
2 peeled and diced potatoes
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 chopped raw green chilies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1-1/2 Tbsp red chili powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
3-1/2 Tbsp  coconut oil or ghee

Ingredients for tempering or tadka (frying spices to create a spice flavored oil):
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
A couple of fresh curry leaves

1. Heat oil in a pan and add in the mustard seeds. Wait until they start to fry. Then mix cumin seeds and curry leaves, sauté a few seconds and mix again.
2. Add ginger paste, green chilies, turmeric powder, potatoes, and mix. Place a lid on the pan and simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes.
3.  Make sure to stir occasionally during this time, to avoid burning.
4. Add chopped cauliflower, mix again, and cover.
5. Simmer another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. When almost cooked, turn down the heat to low and add the rest of the seasonings, stirring and cooking for a few more minutes to blend all the flavors and ingredients.
7. Be careful not to break apart the cauliflower while mixing or overcooking it so it turns mushy.
8. Turn the heat off.
Squeeze a little lemon juice on top, garnish with the fresh coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice or chapatti.

Mixed Spices & Vegetables
Serves: 2-3
Total Prep Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Basmati rice
1/2 cup oil
1 Tbsp mixed whole spices
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp fresh coriander powder
1 Tbsp each minced ginger and garlic
1/3 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
7 whole green chilies, chopped
A diced carrot
A diced potato
2 diced bell peppers
1/3 cup peas
1 cup cauliflower florets
3 chopped tomatoes
6 French beans (cut into pieces)
1 tsp kewra (rose water)
1/3 cup milk

Prepare rice (See “Mixed Veggie Dish with Rice” recipe on page 37 for instructions on preparing the basmati rice).
1. Sauté the onions in in a little oil until golden brown, and the ginger and garlic, sauté a minute more.
2. Add whole spices, tomatoes, chili, mint, and mix well.
3. Add veggies and yogurt and cook until the oil separates and the vegetables are tender.
4. Place half of the cooked rice in the bottom of a large and wide pan. Layer vegetable mixture, then the remaining rice, then put mint leaves on top, green chilies, rose water, milk and finally the chopped coriander as garnish.

You can enter to win ten more hand selected recipes from Shira Barak's cookbook The Taste of Northern India, along with other signed and digital books in my March Book Madness Book Giveaway!

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My Culinary Journey in Northern India - Guest Post from Author Shira Barak My Culinary Journey in Northern India - Guest Post from Author Shira Barak Reviewed by Joshua Cook on 11:30 PM Rating: 5

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