Indian Food basics (North Indian)

Lots of people are fascinated by Indian food and assume it is very complicated. It may seem daunting; reading the ingredients list of many Indian recipes; the number of spices is overwhelming and makes the dish seem hard and time consuming to make. But it need not be that way; there is such a thing as Indian food for busy people as well!

The main principle to follow with all cuisines is very simple: Quality ingredients! You cannot make tasty food if your ingredients are old, stale and tasteless.

You need fresh and ripe vegetables, fragrant spices and good quality meat, or you’re going to end up disappointed. Disappointment happens to me as well, and I have been cooking Indian food for quite some time now; I tend to get demotivated and frustrated if the food turns out bland, but what we need to remember is that these things happen; and it does not necessarily mean you’re a bad cook, or the recipe was inaccurate. It could just be that the ingredients were at fault!

If you’re going to venture into cooking Indian food at home, and you do not want to go all out buying spices right away, there are some basic supplies to stock up on and you can get cooking right away:

The bare minimum: Turmeric Powder (“Haldi” in Hindi), Red Chilli Powder, Cumin seeds, Coriander powder.

Jeera Aloo (Cumin Potatoes, no gravy)


approx. 400gr Potatoes – peeled cubes

two medium sized Onions – sliced evenly (Optional)

one Green Chilli (fresh) – finely chopped

Vegetable oil (neutral in flavour, like Sunflower Oil)

1 tbsp. Cumin seeds

1 tsp. Coriander powder

1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder

Salt & Red Chilli powder to taste

Chopped Coriander Leaves as garnish


Have all your ingredients ready for use. To save time, boil the Potato cubes in salted water for a few minutes, until they are almost cooked.

Heat the oil in a Wok on medium heat, add cumin seeds and fry until they crackle. Add Onion. Fry until onions get translucent, then add Green chilli and Coriander Powder. Fry for a few minutes more, then add some salt. Keep stirring so the onions don’t burn. You want the onion to get brown (in case of white onions, or dark purple in case of red onions). Once onions are nicely browned and getting softer, add Turmeric Powder with two tablespoons of water. Mix well. Add Potato cubes. If they stick, add a little more water.

Cook until the potatoes are done. Adjust seasoning; If you want more flavour; add more salt, Coriander powder and some Red Chilli powder. If you prefer a tangy flavour; add some lemon/lime juice. Turn off the flame and top with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Serve hot, with roti/naan (store bought if you’re in a hurry).


The recipe above is one of the most simple Indian dishes to cook, and quite tasty! Purists would say that actually Jeera Aloo does not contain Onion, but decide for yourself; I personally like the flavour with onion a lot. You can vary and adjust and add different ingredients as well. For a better flavour, do not pre-boil the potatoes, instead chop them into smaller pieces, not thicker than 1cm and put them in raw. Add more water while cooking to slightly cover them while cooking, and let the water evaporate to required consistency in the end. This way it will take considerably longer to cook them, but they soak up more of the flavour and you do not end up making them too mashy.

You can also add French beans to the dish or garden peas for more variation. Basically any vegetable can be added, as long as it’s chopped into bite-size pieces and does not take longer than the potatoes to cook. Traditionally, if you add other vegetables, you use less cumin seeds or none at all. But again it’s up to you to decide!



  1. odzer Said:

    Interesting what you mention about the freshness of the ingredients. Personally I like onions in this recipe as well, one thing I would like to mention is that this is the perfect Indian picnic food or travel food. There is also a Tibetan version of this same recipe that involves cutting potatoes in to long thin slices and then cooking it with onions and green chilli. It is a bit hotter and spicier than the Indian variant. One additional thing that I would like to mention is that if you do not boil the potatoes the results are nice as well, you can steam the potatoes by just covering the wok and cooking it at a very low heat. It can be tricky though and you can burn up things if you do not stir things up occasionally and watch the dish.

  2. hedonist666 Said:

    Indeed picnic food! it gets more tasty after sitting in the fridge for a while too, the flavours really get absorbed by the potato more.

    BTW I’d love to try the Tibetan version of this dish, hotter and spicier simply cannot be a bad thing!

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