Indian recipes – healthy cooking tips

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 11 September 2012.
Tagged: eating out, foodie, guides, health, healthy cooking, healthy eating, tips

Indian recipes – healthy cooking tips

Do you start salivating at the thought of spicy Indian fare? Indian food is a colourful blend of different regional cuisines, each influenced by climate, geography and historical events. In Australia, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a wide variation of interesting Indian dishes and be part of the growing interest in Indian cuisine.

North

Around Kashmir and the Punjab, curries are thickened with yoghurt and cream while meat is fried in butter, reflecting the use of dairy products.

Northern dishes are generally mild and more fragrant and are usually accompanied by Naan, the staple bread.

This is also the home of tandoori, marinated meats traditionally cooked in the tandoor - an egg-shaped clay over fuelled by charcoal.

Central

Islamic influences appear in the many stuffed dishes like kebabs and koftas (Indian meatballs). Dhal (spiced lentils or peas) and chutneys are common.

East

The Bengalis are famed for their love of fish as well as rich desserts.

South

Here vegetarianism is popular, with fresh vegetables being combined to create numerous side dishes. Hot madras curry is a speciality, whilst crispy poppadums accompany meals.

West

These coastal areas feature a wide range of fish recipes. Bombay duck is a traditional delicacy, but is in fact made from a small dried fish called the Bummalo.

Indian cooking tips to make Indian fare healthier

  • Cook curries ahead of time to allow them to improve with age.
  • Not all Indian dishes are hot. Kormas and Kashmir style are mild and creamy, for example. Indians add chilli and mustard seed to spice mixes to increase heat but you can omit them if you prefer mild curries.
  • Allow meat to marinate to soak up the spices (ideally overnight in the refrigerator). Cut deep gashes in large pieces of meat or chicken to let the curry paste flavour penetrate. I find pastes deliver the best flavour.
  • Mix yoghurt into a curry paste and coat the meat or chicken first to tenderise.
  • Always cook chicken without skin. The spices penetrate the chicken more and the dish contains less fat.
  • Condiments such as mango chutney tease the palate with sharp contrasts and add balance to main dishes. Yoghurt and cucumber sides provide a cooling contrast.
  • The authentic accompaniment to all Indian meals is basmati rice, a fragrant long grain rice. Stick to plain steamed rice, NOT rice with butter and vegetables
  • The best way to finish off an Indian meal is with a plate of fresh tropical fruit. Cut up pieces of pineapple, mango, papaya and lychees.

Cuisine essentials

  • chillies - ranging from tiny hot ones to mild sweeter types depending on the dish and your own preferences
  • garlic
  • curry paste/powder
  • cumin
  • fresh coriander
  • tumeric
  • spice pastes
  • chutneys and relishes
  • basmati rice
  • coconut

Indian food

Dish

Kilojoules

Fat

(g)

Sat. fat

(g)

Sodium

(mg)

Samosas, 3  1608 18.6  9.3 168
Pakora fritters, 4  2078  19.4  9.7  520
Tandoori chicken*  1406  14.0  6.5  230
Tandoori lamb chops  2210  38.4  19.2  260
Chicken tikka*  1540  18.0  8.3  320
Butter chicken  1866  36.0  17.4  234
Beef vindaloo  1126  17.8  8.9  328
Lamb korma  1490  19.6  9.8  112
Potato & pea curry*  736  12.8  4.2  882
Vegetable curry*  1528  25.3  6.8  160
Spinach curry  1616  33.2  8.4  134
Pea fritters, 2  1986  33.4  11.2  99
Dhal lentil puree, 1 cup*  1130  2.7  0.5  12
Cucumber raita, 1 tbsp*  58  0.4  0.2  72
Lamb biryani  1992  28.4  14.2  532
Rice, steamed, 1 cup*  999  0.4  0  262
Kashmiri rice with almonds and spices*  770  8.5  2.5  42
Naan bread, 1  1201  8.6  2.8  95
Roti, 1  1168  5.4  1.4  97
Paratha, 1  1115  9.7  3.2  104
Chapatti, 1*  317  0.5  0.1  121

 *Indicates best choices based on kilojoule content

How to stop the chilli burn

Forget water. Drinking water doesn't help as capsicain (the active ingredient in chilli responsible for the burn) is not  soluble in water, but in oil. So sip lassi (yoghurt drink) or rinse out your mouth with some cold milk.

Forget wine. Indian fare blasts your mouth so it's impossible to appreciate a delicate white. A gutsy red is better. But beer or cider are best to counteract the heat.

Sucking on an ice cube helps for a while but the heat quickly comes back to sting once your mouth returns to normal temperature.

Eat lots of the cucumber-yoghurt raita side dish. This cools and mops up the heat there. 

Other than that, time will gradually restore your burning mouth back to normal! The good news is that your palate adjusts so you can eat hotter and hotter dishes as you get used to chilli!

Samosas, 3

 

1608

18.6

9.3

Pakora fritters, 4

 

2078

19.4

9.7

Tandoori chicken

*

1406

14.0

6.5

Tandoori lamb chops

 

2210

38.4

19.2

Chicken tikka

*

1540

18.0

8.3

Butter chicken

 

1866

36.0

17.4

Beef vindaloo

 

1126

17.8

8.9

Lamb korma

 

1490

19.6

9.8

Potato & pea curry

*

736

12.8

4.2

Vegetable curry

*

1528

25.3

6.8

Spinach curry

 

1616

33.2

8.4

Pea fritters, 2

 

1986

33.4

11.2

Dhal lentil puree,  1 cup

*

1130

2.7

0.5

Cucumber raita, 1 tbsp

*

58

0.4

0.2

Lamb biryani

 

1992

28.4

14.2

Rice, steamed, 1 cup

*

999

0.4

0

Kashmiri rice with almonds and spices

*

770

8.5

2.5

Naan bread, 1

 

1201

8.6

2.8

Roti, 1

 

1168

5.4

1.4

Paratha, 1

 

1115

9.7

3.2

Chapatti, 1

*

317

0.5

0.1

Poppadams, 3

 

268

2.3

0.6