A good workman never blames his tools, or so the saying goes. My ancestors were cooking some mean Punjabi dishes without all the mod-cons at our disposal now. However to be able to work quickly and efficiently in the Punjabee Kitchen I have the below tools to hand and am also very careful about cleanliness and storage to ensure the longevity and freshness of the ingredients I use. Do what works for you – it’s your kitchen so your space – but make your cooking time a comfortable and enjoyable one. Don’t forget your inspirational tunes! My family know they’re in for a treat when the Indian music is being played loud in the kitchen and Alexa is having trouble understanding the confusing music titles I put to her!
Chopper – Invest in a good chopper. I use mine regularly so you want something that won’t let you down mid-cooking. You will use this to prepare your garlic and ginger paste and also for the chopping of chillies and other ingredients.
Chopping boards – Have a solid chopping board – lots of onions to be chopped and vegetables to be prepared. Keep a separate chopping board for meat preparation. Wood is the ideal material to use for your meat. Plastic is alright but when grooves start to show, throw it out as the grooves will harbour bacteria. Glass chopping boards can be damaging to your knives but are non-porous so bacteria won’t form on them.
Cooking Utensils – Keep all the utensils you use regularly in a drawer close to the hob. I have a drawer under my hob where I store my wooden spoons, peelers and other items I use regularly and don’t want to go searching for whilst I am in the middle of creating my dish.
Knives – Invest in a good set of knives and always make sure your knives are sharp for chopping, cutting and slicing. A blunt knife will not only slow you down, it can be dangerous because a dull blade will require more force to do its job so there is a higher chance if it slipping and missing. A sharp knife will always cut food evenly which will therefore cook at an even rate.
Pans – Decide what works for you – it all depends on how many you are feeding. I was gifted a Le Crueset by a work colleague and I use that pan specifically for my meat dishes. It has a heavy base and you can turn the heat off knowing the dish will continue to cook just from all the heat the pan is holding in it. For rice, I use a larger pan as it allows the rice to expand freely so my grains are separate after the cooking process rather than squashed together in a small pan and becoming one sticky mess. I also use a Karahi (Indian Wok) which is great for making a veggie dish or a Tadka Dal.
A Pressure Cooker is also a handy piece of equipment as you can sail through making lentils, pulses and even a Saag in a fraction of the time it would take in a normal pan.
Pestle & Mortar – I keep one on the worktop as I am always crushing cardamom or pistachio nuts so I get a lot of use out of mine. I even pulverize garlic and ginger in it sometimes, when I am cooking a dish the old school way, and it also gets used for grinding down my own Garam Masala or a Masala for one of the dishes I am creating. You can achieve the same results with a spice grinder or even a coffee grinder if you have one. Double up on its usage!
Rolling Pin – You need a solid rolling pin. I have one that swivels in the centre and find it a lot easier to maneuver when making chapatti but find one that you feel comfortable using.
Spice warmer – I use this to warm my dry spice before I grind it – however you can do exactly the same with a non-stick frying pan.
Ingredients you’ll use regularly
Atta (chapatti flour) – should always be kept in an air tight container away from sunlight. Also keep a small amount in a sealed container for when you are making chapattis – you will need easy access to the dry flour (prethan)
Garlic – If your garlic and ginger turnover is anything like mine – store it in the fridge in the salad drawer. However if you don’t plan to be using it often – then I suggest you store the garlic in an open bag in a cupboard or dark place that has plenty of air circulation as light, moisture and garlic really don’t get on. You can also buy in bulk and peel, wash and chop it and freeze for efficiency. I did this when my children were getting married as I was cooking so much and needed easy access to these ingredients. I have ice cube makers with lids that are great for storing them in the freezer. Generally, as I use so much of it, I sit in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon with a good movie and peel enough to get me through the week, wash and dry it and then store it in a ziplock bag.
Garlic – Store the bulbs at room temperature in a dry, dark place with plenty of air circulation as moisture and light encourage mould growth
Ginger – Store the whole unpeeled ginger in a ziplock bag with the air pushed out of it in the salad drawer of your refrigerator. If the ginger has been cut or peeled blot it dry before you store it.
Green Chillies – Wash, dry and remove stalks, then store your chillies in a ziplock bag with a piece of kitchen towel which will help absorb any excess moisture from them.
Onions – Whole onions should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Preferably away from the heat of the cooking area. I store them in the garage
Potatoes – If possible store potatoes in a brown paper bag. Don’t store them together near onions as gases from the onions can encourage the potatoes to sprout faster.
Spices – Invest in a Spice Tin/Box. You don’t want to be rummaging in drawers or cupboards when you need a particular spice. Keep your commonly used ones for Indian cooking in one tin, and keep the others in airtight jars in a cupboard. You can buy a good one on the internet. Alternatively take a trip to Southall and pick up a good stainless steel one and also pick up your spices whilst you are there. Keep your Cha spices separate from your Tadka spices (see Spice Box section).
Rice – store rice in a cool dry place in an airtight container or alternatively keep it in the bag it came in as most companies sell it in a re-sealable airtight bag.
Water – always have a jug of water next to you when cooking. Not just for drinking but also to add to the pan should your mixture get sticky or need additional moisture. A lot of my recipes require minimum oil so water is a great substitute to keep the dish healthy.