Americans who know Indian food primarily from buffet-based restaurants are sometimes puzzled by how to translate the dishes to their home kitchens, which aren’t conveniently equipped with tandoor ovens. Neither are most Indian kitchens, Anupy Singla reminds her students.
“It’s critical to show folks we don’t eat naan at home: We eat roti, which you make on a griddle,” says Singla, the author of cookbooks including Indian for Everyone.
Still, Singla says, a few tools are useful for home cooks looking to develop their Indian repertoires. She’s coming to town this month to help promote Le Creuset’s Cuisines of the World line of cookware, which includes Moroccan tagines; woks and balti dishes, concave vessels designed for extremely hot temperatures. Unlike woks, baltis have walls of uniform width, so stir-fries and curries (more properly called gravies, since they don’t call for curry powder) heat evenly, Singla says.
“You need high heat all throughout,” she adds.
But little has gotten hotter than the U.K. debate over the pedigree of balti, associated with one of the most popular British curries. “I don’t think it has origins in any place we would want to visit,” the Daily Mail last fall quoted Indian food authority Madhur Jaffrey as telling a Cheltenham Literature Festival audience, which understood her to mean Birmingham. A curry house there is believed to have pioneered the balti cooking method in the late 1970s.
“Around the 80s, I really studied the balti,” Jaffrey said. “I think it was just a craze. I think it will slowly die. People like it, they obviously get a kick out of it. But I don’t think it has authentic origins.”
Authentic or not, Singla says it’s an excellent appliance for making chicken curry and aloo gobi, a cauliflower-and-potato dish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander and cayenne, among other spices. “With Indian cooking, the learning curve is not the slicing and dicing,” she sayd. “It’s really about the spices.”
And the spices aren’t confined to the main dish: Living up to her role as marketer, Singla points out that Le Creuset’s littlest dishes are perfectly sized for the pickles and chutneys that are essential to Indian meals.
Singla will offer a cooking demo at L’Atelier, 116 Ripley Point Dr., on May 21 at 6 p.m. The fee is $50. She’s also scheduled to sign books the following day at the Le Creuset Boutique, 112 N. Market St. For demo tickets or more information, visit <URL destination="http://www.lecreuset.com/content_events">lecreuset.com.