For Christmas, one of my very dear friends gave me an Indian spice box, or more accurately, a Masala Dabba, and it is by far one of the best presents I have ever received.
Obviously, my borderline obsession with her amazing Indian cooking was the inspiration for my gift. Certainly she has noticed how, when she and her husband invite us over for dinner, I hover close to her stove- glass of wine in hand and questions on the tip of my tongue- while she cooks with spices and grains that are somewhat foreign to me. I'm sure that she has also picked up on the way I eagerly sample every single beautiful dish she places before us, despite warnings that something may be a bit too spicy for my white girl taste buds. When it comes to delicious food, I dig in with reckless abandon, even if that means burning the hell out of my mouth on more than one occasion.
Up until a month or so ago, I had never really tried cooking Indian food on my own, and despite feeling fairly confident in my culinary skills, I had no idea where to start. Sure I had a random, half used jar of turmeric in my spice rack, but I used it mostly as a color replacement for the always expensive and ever elusive saffron threads that no local grocer ever seems to have in stock. Now, armed with an array of aromatic and intoxicating spices, (and a personal cooking lesson from my lovely friend!) I felt more than ready to take on Indian cuisine, one dish at a time.
I started with a dish called upma
-which is a very basic Indian dish, but nonetheless challenging for me-and I have made it about once a week since Christmas. The first time was a disaster but it's progressively gotten better! While I am certain that someday I will
be able to handle the same spice level in my food as my dear friend can, I am not so certain that I will ever be able to make my Indian dishes taste as wonderful as she does, but that won't stop me from trying.
Below I will list the ingredients you will need to build your very own Masala Dabba. It's perfectly acceptable if you don't do anything with it for awhile except sporadically open the lid and release the earthy, fragrant scents into the air. However, once you get the courage to start whipping up some authentic Indian cuisine, don't be scared to let loose. If I've learned anything from my Masala Dabba and my beautiful friend, it's that there are no rules when it comes to making delicious food. Flavor as you go with what you like.
Once you've mastered a basic dish or two, be sure to make some coconut chutney
as an accompaniment. It's shockingly easy to prepare and crazy delicious.
Build Your Own Masala Dabba:
Brown Mustard Seeds
Roasted Cumin Powder
Dried Red Chilies
The above recipes are not those given to me by my friend, but they are very close. I am sure that they will be absolutely amazing.