Written by Anika Marino, Content Management Intern
My mother’s side of my family is from Northern India, and I grew up very close to my maternal grandparents. Thanks to this proximity both in location and in relationship, my comfort food at home is from Northern India that I either grew up eating or grew up watching my family eat. Today, in honor of National Herbs and Spices Day, I am sharing some recipes from my family and a recipe that is a common dish in Northern Indian food as well as discussing some spices that are frequently used.
To begin, one of the most recognized spices in Northern Indian food is turmeric (haldi or हल्दी in Hindi), however, overuse of turmeric creates a bitter and unpleasant taste. Turmeric is mainly used for color and to add some warmth to food. Coriander (dhaniya or धनिया) and cumin (zeera or jeera, spelled ज़ीरा in Hindi) are used to create the curry flavor that is widely recognized. Also commonly used is garam masala (गरम मसाला in Hindi). Garam masala is a mix of spices, garam meaning warm and masala meaning spice mix, that are used to create flavor and warmth in food.
*All of these recipes are vegetarian, and the ones that are vegan are marked with a (V).
Aloo Gobhi Sabzi (V)
1 head of cauliflower – cut into bite size pieces
2 potatoes – cut into bite size pieces
2 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
5 Tbsp canola or corn oil
2 dried red chilies
4 Tbsp finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp garlic
0.5 Tbsp crushed ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
0.5 tsp cumin powder
0.25 tsp garam masala
3-4 Tbsp crushed tomatoes/diced tomatoes
3-4 Tbsp canola or corn oil
Making the masala (i.e. spice mixture):
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chilies, onion, garlic, and ginger – brown on medium for 1-2 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, and garam masala and brown for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes. Set aside the skillet.
Making the potatoes and cauliflower:
In a separate skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil. When hot, add 1 tsp cumin seeds. Cook for 1 minute. Add potatoes and cook on high until browned, then sprinkle salt to taste and sprinkle turmeric, turn down heat, cover, and cook until done. Put into the skillet with the masala. Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in the skillet just used for potatoes. When hot, add 1 tsp cumin seeds. Cook for 1 minute. Add cauliflower and cook on high until slightly browned, then sprinkle salt to taste and sprinkle turmeric, turn down heat and cook until done (do not overcook or will get mushy).
Add cauliflower to the skillet with the masala and potatoes and combine gently.
Ritesh Pathak, CC BY-SA 4.0
Bhindi Sabzi (V)
1 lb okra – cut into small pieces
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp canola or corn oil
Heat oil in a medium skillet. When hot, add cumin seeds and cook for about a minute on med-high to get them slightly brown. Add okra and salt to taste. Cook until pieces are tender.
Haresh, CC BY-SA 4.0
Recipe for Saag Paneer via Fatima Cooks
500 g paneer, cubed
Oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
0.5 tsp chili flakes
0.5 tsp turmeric
1 kg mixed leafy greens (mustard leaves, spinach, spring greens, arugula etc), chopped.
5 tbsp double cream (known as heavy whipped cream in the US)
Heat enough oil in a pot/pan to generously fry the paneer in. Once hot, add the paneer and fry on a medium-high heat, stirring often to ensure the paneer browns evenly. Once the paneer is golden, drain and set aside.
If the oil in the pot/pan doesn’t have small bits of paneer crumbs remaining, you may re-use the oil for the next step. You just need about 3-4tbsp of it, so remove any excess. If the oil has crumbs, you can switch out for a new batch of oil. In the oil, add the chopped onion and fry until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and spices and fry for 2 more minutes
Add in the leafy greens. Allow them to wilt and release their water fully on a medium to high heat without the lid. At this stage, if you want a smoother saag base, you can pulse it in the food processor. Add in the paneer. Allow everything to simmer together on a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring in the double cream right at the end.
The BEST Saag Paneer! — Fatima Cooks
Garam masala recipe — Swasthi’s Recipes
Public domain — Featured image