Tools of the Trade
Get your key kitchen tools together and you’ll be cooking with ease soon after. Indian cooking does not require much in the way of special gear, so a well-stocked kitchen with basic, quality items will take you far.
Blender, food processor, and immersion blender: It’s essential to have a strong, heavy-duty blender. I have a Vitamix and love how it instantly breaks down chutneys and curries, but any quality blender will do. A food processor helps break down ingredients like ginger, garlic, onions, and tomatoes with ease. I have two—a large one and a small one. I also like to whip up dough for my roti in the large one. Keep an immersion blender on hand for a quick and easy way to blend down curries without having to transfer them from the pot you’re cooking in.
Idli mold: A stainless steel idli mold will help you make the steamed South Asian rice and lentil dumplings found in the bread section. You’ll use it for only this recipe, but I think you’ll find it’s worth making the small investment. You can purchase one at an Indian grocery store.
Kettle: If you need to add water to a dish while it’s cooking, it’s best to add boiling water so you don’t lose precious cooking time or bring down your cooking temperature. I always keep my electric kettle handy; I’ve had the same one for more than 14 years.
Pots and pans: Heavy-bottomed stockpots and pans are ideal for Indian cooking. Cast-iron pans work well, especially the small ones, for dry roasting whole spices. For making flatbreads, use a tava, a concave or flat metal pan. For deep frying, try using a kadhai, India’s take on the wok. If you don’t have these items on hand, just use a flat cast-iron pan for making breads and any deep, heavy pot for deep frying. A quality Dutch or French oven will serve you well, especially when making lentils. My 5-quart Le Creuset French oven was a wonderful investment that works great on days I haven’t thought ahead to put lentils or other foods in the slow cooker to prepare in advance. Just note that when using a Dutch oven, your cooking time may decrease and the amount of water needed may alter slightly from these recipes because of how well these pots retain heat.
Serrated peeler: I always keep this tool close by to easily peel tomatoes without a drop of water. You’ll never go back to peeling the traditional way. It’s also great for peaches and plums.
Slow cooker: Always keep a slow cooker or two on hand to help cook whole beans and lentils. Even though I have not included many slow cooker recipes in this book (my book The Indian Slow Cooker is full of nothing but, and there’s also a section in my book Vegan Indian Cooking), it’s an important tool. The Indian Slow Cooker, along with this book, will give you all the information you need to easily make several dishes at the same time, especially when you are cooking for guests. I typically recommend that folks have one 5-quart / 5-L and one 3½-quart / 3-L cooker. It’s even better if they have timers.