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An Expert’s Advice

Niru Gupta is a chef and a well-known author of popular cookery books. However, she is not trained as a chef; she didn’t study the culinary arts either. In fact, she recalls that when she was growing up she had almost no interest in cooking. Things changed after she got married. As a young wife in a traditional Indian family she was expected to cook. Back in those days, there weren’t recipe websites and food shows on television. So she turned to cookbooks for help.

Niru found these cookbooks very confusing, inconsistent and poorly written. She would often go wrong because of numerous misleading instructions contained in these books. Her dishes would go awry for no fault on her part. Fed up with this situation, she decided to write her own cookbook. That was the beginning of her journey as an author and she would eventually go on to write a whole series of cookbooks – crafted with simplicity, clarity and, of course, accuracy.

As a chef, Niru has some very interesting advice. She says that the selection of ingredients for a recipe, especially in Indian cooking, defines the flavour that the final dish will have. This is more so in the case of ingredients that have dominant, distinctive, definitive flavours; for instance, ingredients like garlic, asafoetida, red chilli powder and coriander. Niru points out that you can’t omit such ingredients. More importantly, you cannot substitute them with other ingredients. The taste of the final dish will change drastically, and one will fail to create the authentic flavour of that dish.

One such non-substitutable ingredient is Mustard Oil. In Indian cooking it is a whole lot more than just a cooking medium. It has a strong flavour and aroma, and it lends a typical texture to dishes, especially to gravies and fried foods. The use of Mustard Oil is also essential for maintaining the authenticity of cuisines like Wazwan (Kashmir), and other traditional cuisines like Punjabi, Himachali and Bengali food. This blog has always encouraged experimentation and the mingling of styles but it is important to remain true to the flavours that constitute the very essence of the dishes you are preparing.

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