The Basic Four (Chillies, Turmeric, Ginger and Garlic) - are the basic spices used regularly throughout Indian Cookery.
Learn how to use and combine the Basic Four, and you're well on your way to creating some exciting new meals and menus.
Chillies (Mirchi) and Chilli Powder.
An essential ingredient and a must have for every kitchen. There are lots of different varieties, that provide different strengths of flavour and intensity for your cooking.
Grown on bushes, they are at first green and turn red as they ripen. Left out in the sun to dry, they can turn a deep scarlet colour and ground down to make a fine powder.. It is in the powdered form that chillies are most commonly used in the Basic Four.
Whole dried chillies can be used, either whole or chopped, to add texture, but care should be taken to consider how much heat they will impart to your food. Use sparingly, until you have developed your tastes !
Turmeric is a root crop, bright yellow in colour, that is traditionally boiled then ground down to make a fine powder. Whilst its flavour is very subtle, it has strong preserving properties (and therefore used extensively in pickling) and provides a natural intense colour and is useful in drawing out and balancing other flavours.
Ginger is a root vegetable, which when purchased fresh, should have the firmness of a potato. Avoid buying fresh ginger that has been allowed to dry out. This will be shrunken, wrinkled and have a "woody" texture.
The skin can be peeled away & the flesh can be chopped, sliced or crushed to form a paste with a drop of water. This often provides a burst of ginger flavour for your meal.
Alternatively, ginger can be added as a dried powder, to give a more subtle, balanced background flavour. Used extensively in meals containing peas, beans and lentils, the ginger provides balance for these other ingredients.
Garlic is now widely used in Indian Cookery, and adds to the intensity of flavours brought out by the chillies and ginger.
Typically used fresh, as whole cloves, it can also be used as a ground paste to add a more subtle flavouring. by adding to a little water, it is easy to make up a garlic paste. It combines well with Ginger - which counteracts the natural pungency of garlic, and adds great flavour to any Indian dish.
Getting started with the Basic Four......
When I was learning - I was told there are no defined proportions in which to use The Basic Four, although I was given some basic tips to avoid any first diasters:
Try using the following combination as a first attempt - as I did - you can always tailor your proportions to suit your own tastes........
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground Garlic to 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
and always remember - enjoy your cooking.