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If you are setting up your kitchen for the first time, or need a few ad ons, here are a few basics that I cannot do without in my kitchen.

  • Spice grinder – I use a coffee grinder, a cheap one we picked up as students at Canadian Tire. It has lasted me quite a while now and always does the job. I use it to freshly grind spices as I cook.
  • A good cutting board. Keeping two helps when you cook both veggies and meat, and helps keep the cross-contamination at bay. If that isn’t an option, labeling each side (veg or meat) with permanent marker does the trick.
  • Knives – my culinary world revolves around these shiny objects! Sharp knives add ease to cooking, and investing in one good knife will be worth the while. Remember to buy a sharpener as well.
  • A grater
  • A colander
  • A whisk
  • A couple spatulas – silicone is the way to go, they dont melt if you were to use them to stir, or scrape the bottom of your dish.
  • 2 Deep heavy-bottomed pans – preferably non-stick, just because they are so much easier to wash.
  • 2 wide non-stick pans
  • A deep pressure cooker – a wonderful time saving addition!!

SPICES: If this is your first time cooking Indian food, start with the basics. Here is a list of spices that will make your dishes sing! This list will keep you from keeling over, overwhelmed by the array of spices found in an Indian grocery store. Buying whole seeds and grinding them as and when you need them adds a fresh flavour to the dish. However, if you were to use them on a regular basis and are looking for convenience, powdered spices work just as well!

  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Turmeric powder
  • Garam Masala (pre-made powder)
  • Red chilli powder
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Fennel seeds / Aniseed
  • Curry leaves
  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cloves
  • Pepper corns
  • Green cardamom/Elaichi
  • Whole red chillis – (button or long or both!)

A few lentil /dal favourites!

  • Masoor (red lentils): These lentils take the shortest time to cook and require no pre-soaking whatsoever. They provide the base for a delicious quick dish and can be dressed up or down to suit the mood.
  • Toor (yellow lentils): This dal needs some soaking, but if thrown into the pressure cooker, that step can be avoided! Adding it to a stew, provides a rich creamy texture. It provides a wonderful base for sambhars and serves as a good binder.
  • Chana (split-pea lentils): Like the Toor dal, pre-soaking is required. The process can be sped up by using a pressure cooker or even a slow cooker. It provides a contrast in texture when used to temper dishes like curd rice.

So, with that your pantry is set! Once you have experimented with a few dishes and feel confident enough to venture into the spice isle of an Indian store feel free to buy anything you fancy, after all recipes did originate as an experiment of sorts! Eventually you will find flavours you favour and changing up a dish to suit your taste only makes it your own!

FRIDGE ESSENTIALS: Now there are a few things that go into most of my dishes, and I make sure these items are always well stocked, lest I have to make a mad dash to the store, an hour before having guests over. These are my must haves for the fridge.

  • Yogurt
  • Green chillis
  • Fresh coriander
  • Ginger paste
  • Garlic paste

You have the option of buying the mix of ginger-garlic paste. Buying them separate provides you with more flexibility.

There you have it! These ingredients should give you all the ammo you need in your kitchen to conjure some out-of-this-world flavours. After all cooking is magical.