I’ve tried to answer some of the questions I get asked regularly. Should you need advice and further assistance of any sort, Please don’t hesitate to contact me at mallika[@]quickindiancooking[dot]com. I would love to hear from you – the good, the bad and the plain ugly!

What oil works best for cooking Indian food?

A flavourless vegetable oil works best like sunflower, groundnut or corn oil. Mustard oil and coconut oil are used in specific dishes when a distinct flavour is required. Ghee is also used but I prefer to treat it with caution because of the high fat content.I would discourage you from using olive oil though. It is too expensive and full of flavour to be used in Indian cooking. And plain wrong, besides.

I used all the ingredients in the recipe, so why did my dish turn out bitter?

There are three main culprits for this. You may have burnt the masalas or the onions when frying. The trick here is to stir regularly when frying masalas and adding a little hot water t prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting burnt.You may have added garam masala too early. Garam masala should be sprinkled right at the end of cooking time to balance the sweetness of the dish without turning it bitter.

Conversely, you may have added an ingredient meant for hot oil, like asafoetida, too early. Hot oil makes sure spices behave the way they ought to.

Will it matter if I leave out some of the ingredients needed for this recipe?

The golden rule is this. If a recipe has an ingredient in its name, you must have it. For instance, Jeera (cumin) Chicken or Aloo Methi Curry. Also, if the recipe uses only a few ingredients it’s best you have them all.However, if there is a fairly long list of ingredients you can comfortably leave some out. It won’t make a blind bit of difference to the end result.

I can’t bear spicy food. Can I still enjoy authentic Indian food?

Yes! I am rubbish with spicy food (some stress-related gastro issue, I’ll spare you the gory details). My advice would be to work out how much you can stomach and add just a tiny bit extra for the kick.In reality, the amount of chilli added to dishes varies from home to home. That Indian food is searingly hot is a dastardly myth perpetuated by the ignorant.

Why don’t your recipes use more oil?

Because I don’t want to get fat. I use just the minimum amount needed to get onions and other masalas cooking. By all means, add more if you think the dish needs it.

How quick is quick Indian cooking?

Not as quick as making a sandwich or pasta sadly. But then no pain no gain, right? I cap my dishes at an hour and use all sorts of equipment to cheat, like pressure cookers and food processors.

Where can I buy Indian spices?

Head to your nearest Indian neighbourhood or just search online for a good spices website that can deliver to your doorstep. In fact, I can buy most of mine in the newsagent just under my flat. It’s worth checking your local shops to see if they are stocking Indian spices or can be persuaded.

If you live in London, check out:

Drummond Street, Euston in central London
Tooting Bec, in South London
Wembley in the North West of London
Green Street in East London

Why don’t you use diced chicken breast in curries?

Chicken breast is a very dense part of the bird and pretty impenetrable to masalas unless you spend some time tenderising.Traditionally, we use chicken on the bone to give the recipe added depth by creating stock in the curry. If a dish calls for boneless chicken, just de-bone and slice chicken thighs.

How can I get the smell of Indian food out of my kitchen (and home)?

Prevention is better than cure. Here is one I wrote earlier.

I hate biting into the whole spices in a dish. Is there any way to avoid this?

Sadly not. I agree that biting into a whole clove or cinnamon is pretty unpleasant. But unless you painstakingly fish them out when the dish is ready, there is no better way to avoid biting them.Over the years I have gotten a lot better at spotting them on my plate and moving them to a side. This is your best bet! Just don’t lave them out as they do make an invaluable contribution to the recipes they are used in.