Cooking with Friends: Volume 1

Indian Food with Dee’s Mom

One thing I love most about food (beside eating it) is its power to bring people together and bridge cultures. Through my travels, I have had countless experiences where I’ve made new friends while sharing a meal or have had the opportunity to learn more about a different culture through its food. In the last couple years, I have not been able to travel as much, but why should that stop me? I’m so lucky to have friends from all over the world right here in Vancouver. And so – I’ve decided to start a Cooking with Friends blog series .

I’ll be bringing a few friends together and learn how to cook a new kind of cuisine each time. Lucky for you, I’ll report back on new recipes I learned and some of those family secrets to ensure the best results!

First off, Indian food with my friend Dee’s mom. I absolutely love (no really LOVE) Indian food. I’ve recently had a few failed attempts at making daal  so I was particularly excited to learn right from the master (Dee’s mom is an amazing cook!). This is how on a lovely Saturday afternoon, myself and 6 other friends gathered to learn how to cook Indian food.

Today’s menu:

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Learning how to cook with Dee’s mom was so much more than going through a few recipes together. It’s is an art and as any artist, she does not usually go by rules or recipes; she adds her spices and ingredients by feel. Through years of experience cooking for friends and family, she’s perfected each dish to what she is now sharing with us. And with this many years of experience, she had some wisdom to share with us!

Secret #1 – Onions are the secret to any good Indian dish.
And she’s not kidding. In honour of our afternoon of cooking, we went through a 10lb bag of onions! O, it was delicious! Chopping this much onions may bring you a few tears and so I will share with you a tip from my friend, Lewis. Apparently the trick is to head straight for the freezer. The cool air should relieve your teary eyes right away! Not sure if it’s scientific but seemed to work for him…

Secret#2 – Good rice does not come in small quantities.
And with indian food, it’s basmati all the way! I’ve pictured here the brand she recommended which comes in a minimum of 10lb. It may be hard to store but the pilaf is so good, you’ll want to make it at least once a week!

Secret#3 – When it comes to spices, it’s all about the prep.
My favourite trick I learned from Dee’s mom was to prep all my spices into a bowl before adding them into my dish. It makes it easier to double-check you’ve not missed any and that way it all cooks evenly as soon as you add it in. No burning here!

Secret#4 – Not all chilies are equal.
Whether you’re talking about chili powder or fresh, know what you are adding and how much because some are much spicier than others. Dee’s mom knows that and will adapt her recipes depending on her crowd. For us newbies, she added Himalayan chili powder as it is milder. She also taught us the difference between Serrano (mildest), Indian (medium) and Thai (hottest) green chilies. Again, they can be added to your recipes differently depending on your audience.

Secret#5 – Spices are so much more than flavour.
Turmuric, cumin, asefetida and black salt all have proven health benefits. Her spice cabinet is a true (and natural) pharmacy. From promoting healthy bowel movements to healing wounds, each spice has a myriad of benefits and she knew them all.  She even has chewable spice tablets for us to try! Guess I can feel better about the second serving (and maybe third) I had that night. It was all for my health, right?

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You ain’t cooking indian food if you ain’t crying! Don’t worry. It’s worth the pain!
This brand of rice has been approved by Dee’s mom. Apparently, it’s the best!
If cooking with spice isn’t enough, you can buy the chew tablets!



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