It is a busy weekend and you want to fancy a spicy Indian meal, the question is how can you cook a quick Indian dinner in 30 minutes or even less, is there anything like easy Indian cooking?
The answer is a very Hearty Happy YES !! 🙂
And I say it with such conviction as it comes from a Modern-Day Indian Kitchen where the cooking mantra is convenience, quick and easy!
If you have been following my blog or on social media, you may have noticed that I call myself a ‘lazy cook’.
I love to cook but hate to slog in the kitchen.
I am always looking for quick Indian dinner ideas and shortcuts to lengthy cooking process which my mother does not really approve of much :-). You see I do not have the luxury of having a kitchen help to do the grinding tasks like most households in India.
Even with using cooking shortcuts, I take pride in serving different meals in our house (if I plan on cooking every day that is).
In this post I share how I plan my quick fix Indian dinner at home, time saving cooking tips that help me cook Indian food faster and close the kitchen down at 7:30 pm (unless I sneak in for a cheeky chocolate/cake treat) squeeze in cuddles and giggles with my kids before bedtime and finally enjoy some ‘ME’ time !
Is Cooking Quick Indian Dinner A Myth?
One of the key deterrents for not cooking Indian food on a weekday is because it is considered time-consuming, complex and strenuous with all the chopping, mincing, stirring and waiting time required to cook a good Indian meal.
So, how to Indians cook Indian food faster?
A normal Indian household in India cook meals three times a day. Not all the meals are extravagant.
The Indian dishes prepared are easy quick Indian recipes using simple spices and cooking methods.
Cooking any meal requires a degree of preparation. Sometimes finding shortcuts requires creative thinking and a certain knowledge of ingredients. Experienced homecooks like our moms and grand parents have lots up their sleeve.
But that is not something that comes naturally if you happen to be a beginner cook.
This is where these culinary shortcuts, comes handy. The live interactive online cooking sessions share tips on how to learn cooking Indian food the quick and easy way!
There are many assumptions surrounding Indian cuisine and Indian food. One of them being eating Indian food everyday can be unhealthy.
This is certainly untrue as Indian cuisine is based on the ancient science of Ayurveda that promotes cooking habits that retain the natural goodness of foods.
What makes Indian Cooking Complicated?
1.The use of spices
Indian cuisine uses many spices which can lead to confusion and make it complex. But in reality you only need these 5 essential Indian spices for variety of quick Indian dinner ideas.
2. Too Many Cooking Steps
Cooking Indian food is not about throwing together aromates, vegetables or meat with a dash of curry powder and broth and to call it an Indian curry! Sadly this is not how it works.
3. Prepping for Ingredients to Cook Takes Too Long
The consistency of a thick rich Indian gravy comes from using onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic pastes!
Mincing or chopping each of these takes a considerable amount of time.
Not the best way to release stress over a pile of chopped onions. I share tips below on how to by pass this process to make quick Indian dinner on busy weeknights.
4. Too Many Ingredients To Use
Almost 85 % of the dishes you search for as ‘Easy Indian Food Recipes’ will have a minimum of 10 listed ingredients, which is enough to put you off cooking.
Besides, you may not even have some of the ingredients.
Given the complexities, ingredients, and time-consuming techniques, can I justify my claim to make Indian Cooking easy and complete a dish in 20 minutes?
And the answer to this again is a YES I CAN. All you need to keep in mind are the time saving, healthy cheats and short cut tips I share below.
Handy Tips To Cook Quick Indian Dinner
The tips that I share below will counter challenge the pain points I listed above and show what you can do to make Indian cooking easier and faster.
1. Choose The Right Kitchen Gadgets That Makes Cooking Easy
During my early days of kitchen ventures, I used to spend a considerable amount of time prepping, ie. chopping, grinding, slicing.
Of course I still need to do the basic, but the modern-day kitchen utility gadgets have taken away some of the stress and cut cooking time!
Few of my kitchen must have gadgets especially for cooking Indian food that I absolutely recommend are:
A Good Food Processor or Blender
Investing in a good processor is perhaps one of the best time-saving kitchen tip.
A food processor for me is not a luxury but a necessity just as having a car!
You have flexibility, you save -time and you can do more than one thing at a time.
A food processor not only makes Indian cooking easy, but it can also be used for many other purposes apart from blending or juicing.
You can use a food processor for making sauces, chutneys, pastes, mincing, grating and also grinding spices.
A processor with multiple attachments such as this one from BERG comes with a 4L Bowl, Splash Guard, Dough Hook, Whisk, Beater, Juicer, Blender, Food Processor, Meat Grinder and Coffee/spice Mill.
This one gadget is great for making bread doughs, getting that perfectly sliced cabbage, onions, carrots or any vegetable that you find difficult and time-consuming to chop and slice.
The slicing tool helps me quickly put together salads for a crowd or just for family. ( I HATE slicing or chopping large quantities like any sensible person)
If you live outside Europe then this KitchenAid Food Processor with ExactSlice System comes as a recommended all-purpose food blender.
It has the first ever externally adjustable slicing system that gives you precise slicing and accuracy for all kinds of food—hard or soft, large or small.
As I make many spice blends and mixes at home, a spice grinder is where all my thinking comes to a stop.
You don’t need to have a large food processor as the one above.
I have been using the nifty little magic bullet for years before I moved to the big one. (As I had a bigger Kitchen and more storage)
It’s great for blending spices, making spice pastes, sauces other than smoothies.
The only problem I had with it was that it made a lot of noise and you had to ensure that the blades and the motor are stored dry and not used if damp. ( I was pathetic with it, had to replace one every 2 years)
You can choose any food processor that fits your purpose and your household need. If you are not much into fancy chopping and slicing then a basic hand blender like this 3 in 1 Hand Blender by Russell Hobbs works equally well.
You will find few more suggested food processors that come recommended depending on where you live on the shopping for ingredients section.
The idea behind buying a food processor or a hand blender is to make tasks such as mincing, grating or chopping easy.
This addresses one of the pain points of cooking Indian food, that is the tedious task of mincing, chopping and grating aromates such as ginger, garlic and onions.
Trust me when I say that having one of the gadgets above will instantaneously reduce prep time by half!
2. Have a Spice Grinder to Make Fresh Spice Blends and Mixes
Spices are at the realm of Indian cuisine. Refer to this list of the basic Indian spices for a rough idea.
It’s a given that most Indian households will have some kind of equipment for grinding spices.
Having a spice grinder will help you make your own blends with your chosen spices that suit your individual and household taste.
With a homemade blend, you don’t have to solely rely on the shop bought mix which has a standard set of ingredients and may not be suitable for all tastes.
So for example, if your kids or partner is not into hot spices then you can choose not to grind chillies or peppers for making a curry powder at home.
Or if someone does not like strong cinnamony flavours then simply cut down on them and make your own Garam Masala Powder.
It gives you so much flexibility, use and ease of making quick meals without the need to measure each time.
A spice grinder can be in the form of an extra spice grinding attachment like the one I showed in the multi-use food processor, a separate nut/spice/coffee grinder like this electric spice and nut grinder from Cuisinart
Or a more traditional mortal and pestle.
Freshly ground spices bring out so much flavour to your dishes.
If you already have many spices, this list will help you identify if the spices have gone stale or are still fresh to use.
Pre-blended spice mixes takes away the complexity as you can make easy flavourful meals without the need to mix individual spices everytime.
So no more ‘Where do I start with spices?’
3. Buy, Make and Store Common Spice Blends
If the above idea of making your own spice blends is not something for you, then buying good quality shop-bought common blends also helps.
Few of the blends that I have all the time are
2) Curry Powder
3) Homemade roasted cumin-coriander spice mix.
4) Any homemade spice mix made with your chosen spices.
One of my recommended spice stores is The Spice House to buy spices online.
The ease of using these pre-blended spice mixes is astonishing.
All you need to do is simply add it to stir-fried vegetables or meat dish, top up with a bit of stock/ water/ coconut milk/ beaten yoghurt or tomato puree, cover until the veges/meat is cooked and you have an Indian meal ready!
You can also use these pre-blended spices to make Indian meals in the slow cooker as well!
Using a Slow cooker makes cooking an Indian dish even more effortless. This easy Slow cooker Lamb Roganjosh recipe is a classic example.
4. Use a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot if Possible
Do you know how Indians manage to make almost 3 meals every day!?
Because they use a pressure cooker!
If you do not know what a pressure cooker is, its a closed airtight vessel for quick cooking or preserving of foods by means of high-temperature steam under pressure.
The modern-day pressure cookers are absolutely safe to use without the fear of an eruption in your kitchen!
This Pressure cooker from Tower is reasonably priced for beginners and user-friendly too!
You do need to get used to it and get familiar with the settings before making meals in it.
Pressure cooker comes handy to cook rice, lentils and meat dishes within 20-30 minutes.
All you need to do in saute the aromates, add your chosen spice mix, add your chosen protein, veg or legume, top with some sort of liquid preferably water, broth or tomato puree, cover and bring to full pressure.
Once it reaches full pressure reduce heat or remove from heat depending on the time it takes to cook the raw ingredients used.
Here are few tips on using a pressure cooker.
5. Skip Using Onions
This is perhaps one of the best tips, when it comes to cooking Indian food at home I share with everyone!
When you fancy Indian flavours but want to avoid the lengthy task of standing over the kitchen counter following each cooking process, then simply skip using onions in the dish!
I say this because most Indian dishes require onions to be cooked untill brown which can take anything between 8 – 12 minutes.
By skipping this process you can instantly save 10 minutes of cooking time.
If you must, then replace onions with either the lesser own Indian spice called Asafoedita, leeks or use pre-fried onions that you get for burgers.
I am happy with using garlic or ginger which takes just about a minute in hot oil to cook and bring out the flavour.
So there you are, with my handy Indian Kitchen Tips and cooking ideas that will save you about 20 minutes cooking time without compromising on taste or health!
Recap Of Tips That Help Reduce Time To Cook Indian Food
Here a recap of what I do to make Indian cooking easy and cook Indian meals in minutes:
- Get a good food processor or hand blender to help you with chopping, mincing, slicing and grinding. This will save time chopping as well as make quick sauce base for easy sauteing.
- Having a spice grinder gives you the flexibility to make your own homemade blends and keep pre-blended spices ready to use without the need to measure and mix.
- If grinding spices is not your thing then buy readily prepared spice mixes and use them for making quick Indian meals. You will not need to buy different spices and yet have easy meals to cook.
- Use a pressure cooker for cooking hard, time-consuming ingredients such as meats, lentils, legumes. They help retain flavour while reduce cooking time by half.
- Using onions to make an Indian curry is optional (although not for traditional Indian recipes). You can replace it with leeks, pre-fried onions or asafoetida for added taste.
Will you be trying any of the tips shared above to see if it helps reduce your cooking time?
If yes, then do share your experience and other tips you may have up your sleeve.
And as always if you think this article will help others solve their Indian cooking phobia then please share and make Indian cooking easy:-)!