I can’t cook Indian food

That’s it, I just need to come to terms with the fact I can’t cook Indian food!

I spend a good hour earlier trying to solve the mystery that is getting a chapati to puff! I concluded the problem was not using a cast iron pan. The nearest thing I had was my mums le creuset casserole dish, which my chapati promptly stuck to. So I thought ok, this time ill add a little oil to stop that happening again, wasn’t thinking, in I pour olive oil (!) into a scorching hot pan which fills the kitchen with smoke and promptly leaves massive brown burn marks on the bottom. I then spend the next half hour trying to remove said burn marks before mother sees it and kills me for wrecking the uber expensive dish!!

Will my woes be remedied by biting the bullet and investing in a tawa? I’ve tried all sorts of doughs – wet, dry, with oil, without oil, with yogurt, with ghee, the best I’ve had so far was this half-puff with a reasonably moist flour and water dough (excuse the blurry photo)


And don’t even start me on curry! I can follow the same recipe twice and get two completely different currys, one nice, one nasty! I’ve memorised the recipe Babu taught me when he was here but that is different every time too, and I’ve yet to get it tasting the same as when he was here helping me make it – I tried the other day and didn’t even get past the onions because I got distracted and they got burnt!

And desserts, I have made dodgy jalebis, nasty chum chums, and crunchy gulab jamuns. No matter how much syrup I give my jamuns they drink it all up and end up with crunchy crystallised sugar on the outside – they taste good but they’re not right! And then there was the time I tried to make motichoor ladoos – mess, mess, mess, a couple of hours resulting in zero ladoos!!

Please don’t get me wrong, generally I am known for being a good cook and an excellent baker – I’ve been told on several occasions to quit my job and take up baking! I can cook Italian from scratch without a recipe, I make my own yogurt and paneer, and am generally quite good with other most dishes, it’s just Indian!!

I feel the need to justify this with the photo below . . . nom nom nom. . .


Am I trying too hard or what? I just can’t seem to master it and its driving me mad! Think I need to get myself a cook book and go back to basics!


18 responses to “I can’t cook Indian food

  • American Punjaban

    There is a difference between Indian and western cookware. Doing the same things and using the same ingredients I could cook better Indian food in India than here in the US. I know what you mean. It’s not you, it’s your cookware. My MIL used a cast iron tawa. The trick is not to wash it with soap ever and don’t wash after each use. I know that sounds bad but having cooked Southern US food all my life I know this is the truth. Cast iron needs seasoning. I learned from Emeril Lagasse the best way to clean it is using kosher salt after using it. The salt basically exfoliates the pan removing any cooking debris without damaging the seasoning of the pan. The salt will look horrible but you know the pan is clean. Anyway, lol, this isn’t about cleaning. The point is, the dishes matter more than we realize. Invest in the tawa, it will make you feel more accomplished when you master the chappati.

    • ria

      you’re right… i NEED a tawa – I did ask babu to bring me one when he stopped off on his way to work – he did have seaman’s baggage allowance after all – alas he didn’t – guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet and pay UK prices for one!

  • mynextlifewillbe

    Oh dear. Sure getting a cookbook or two will not be a bad idea. But i would also suggest to google “ask chitvish”, looking at app and definitly browsing the forums for her recipes and advice. She does cover many different recipes and explains the basics, so that might help you?

  • Andrea

    Oh miss Ria, you need one of these:

    A chapati rack!

    Except not this kind. Don’t get the kind that sits over the burner. Get the kind you hold in your hand and place over the burner at just the right distance to get the right heat! Don’t try to puff them up in the pan. I also use a nonstick pan since my iron tawa is in a box somewhere (why should I go buy another one?) You heat the chapati on both sides in the nonstick then place it on the rack over a second burner and POOF it is poofy.

    I have pictures of the whole process… I may make this my next blog entry!

  • Lyn

    Half-puffed is better than not-puffed-at-all. So in my books you are already one step closer to your goal. But then again I never tried to make Indian food. I am happy with ordering it out, since I wouldn´t have the patience to learn it – and also prefer other cuisines… And maybe you simply are overcritical, having an emotional connection to India and therefore wanting to make it just right?
    Happy Cooking!

  • Lyn

    P.S.: Those cupcakes look delicious!

  • Radha

    Hey Ria, I had the same problem with India, although my parents are originally from India. But then I found this author, Kurma Dasa, who has the most amazing recipes, for Indian and everything else. He is Australian but seems to have totally mastered how to give a fail-proof recipe. The book that got my Indian cooking going was his “Great Vegetarian Dishes”. My mother found it to be insane that I am looking up curry recipes, but after seeing the results from this book, she was asking me for recipes so often that I had to get her a copy! Give it a try and good luck! (Love those cupcakes, by the way!)

    • ria

      ooh, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, just checked out his website and there’s plenty I fancy cooking on there

      …and thanks, I made them as a wedding gift for a friend 🙂

  • coconutcraze

    Try, try till you learn the little nuances in preparing each dish. The right time, cooking temperature and the exact duration of cooking matter. I have learned the hard way. So, good luck!

    • ria

      I’m getting there, I just get SO frustrated when I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen sometimes only for it to go in the bin! …I always start with such enthusiasm!

  • Eliza

    I too had a problem with cooking Indian food, just took trial and error and after 1 year my hubby says my cooking is better than his mom’s (don’t tell her that) I still have a problem when a new recipe calls for ‘salt as per taste’ as I do not know approx. how much that should be. Chapatis have always been an issue and I have found a good quick way to cook them now. I use a flat non-stick frying pan (bought here in India for 100 rupees) and cook for 5 seconds on one side, flip and cook for 10 seconds and then I take them out of the pan using tongs and apply directly to gas flame and they puff right up. I keep the gas on medium while cooking and then turn it up when applying directly on flame.

    • ria

      That’s great to hear! I think I am getting better – I’m on quite a strict diet at the moment but before I started I cooked a banquet of chicken curry, Paneer Makhani and sag aloo with naan, chappati (well the best i can do lol) poppadom and rice for my family and it went down VERY well . . .oh how i miss curry right now!

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