Indian cuisine seduces us with images, colors and aromas. To understand it, it is necessary to know the history and culture of the country and of course, its rich spices to create some successful wine pairings.
Along with peoples’ migrations, some traditional Indian recipes have traveledaround the world.. Many countries present their interpretations of Indian food. For example, in England chicken tikka masala is considered as “a true British national dish”. But to deeply know the flavors of this cuisine with 5,000 years of history, we must seek its roots in India, a vast country, which is almost a continent, so different in language, culture and traditions to other Asian countries.
History and religion influence its recipes and culinary habits. Tradicionaly, Indian culture is known for a system of harmony between population and natural environment, so vegetarianism has such a stable position in the minds of its people. To many people it is still impossible to eat beef for religious restrictions. Besides, the suggestions of Indian Ayurvedic medicine are present in everyday cooking, as the use of ghee or clarified butter, cooked over low heat for at least 20 minutes without any seasoning of dairy origin. This remedy is known as a fortifying health propeties of other ingredients and is used in many recipes, in addition to other oils such as peanut, mustard, coconut and sesame.
Indian food is based on grains such as rice, millet, wheat, various beans and lentils, vegetables and fruits, fermented and cooked such as for example its famous chutneys (sweet and sour vegetable mixes and fruits). We will find in Indian food also dairy products like milk, sometimes fermented, cashew nuts, coconuts, almonds and pistachios, plus sesame seeds and honey.
However, what make the difference in Indian food is its famous spices. Indian recipes contain various mixtures, among which the best known are masala and curry. Each mix has at least 5 different spices, such as turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaf, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, ginger, chili, cloves, and peppers of various colors, anise, mustard seeds, tamarind, mint and many others. Some very particular flavors, such as a rose water are also used, for example to flavor desserts.
Indian cuisine covers a wide variety of regional recipes. The heterogeneity comes from their geographical and climatic differences, such as the proximity of the sea or the mountains. But anyway differences are marked by historical, religious and economic influences of each region. One of the best known cuisines comes from the Punjab region, with recipes such as tandoori chicken or lentil stew dhal. In this region,ghee is often used to prepare meals. From whole wheat, people make naan, paratha, roti or chapatti bread, which are a side of almost every dish.
The other region with great popularity in the Western world is Kerala, with a wide variety of vegetarian recipes. The traditional menu is called Sadya and involves rice with twenty different side dishes and desserts. In this corner of India it is also consumed a lot of seafood prepared as curry (a fish or shrimp stew with curry sauce and coconut milk) served with rice.
The spiciest Indian food comes from the Tamil region. The fire on the palate is off by preparing steamed rice and yogurt. But if you want to have a complete experience of Indian cuisine, then you have to visit Delhi. There are people from different regions, so you will be able to find a variety of food traditions. In the past, Delhi was the capital of the Mogol Empire and became the cradle of its cuisine. The city is known for its street food, where we can enjoy kebab, kachauri, chaat, sweets Indians, Indian ice cream (commonly called kulfi) and some Western food, such as sandwiches and hamburgers prepared in the unique style of Delhi.
For the world’s chefs and sommeliers, pairing wines with Indian recipes is a real challenge. Spicy food causes some difficulties, such as increasing the feeling of fire on the palate and the perception of alcohol and tannins. The first consideration, as always in a good matching, is the weight of the dish. For example, you can enjoy a vegetarian curry with potatoes, squash and other vegetables with Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay, while a rogan josh lamb will be perfect with Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir.
The second consideration is the style and the level of spices used in the recipe. You can pair the famous tandoori chicken (marinated in paprika, turmeric, spices, yoghurt and then grilled) with Casillero del Diablo Carmenere. The spicy strain Carmenere is very successful with recipes which contain curry. While chicken tikka masala, with its impressive blend of spices, tomatoes and yogurt sauce, is a dish that leans more acidic flavors and should be served with Casillero del Diablo Viognier.
If you want to prepare an Indian feast with several dishes, you need a style of wine that works with the entire menu. That wine is Casillero del Diablo Rosé, a fresh rosé wine with good body and a seductive bouquet. If your food is not only hot, but also fried, like fried Keral prawns, you will need a super refreshing Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection Brut.
Now I want to present you a delicious and ultra easy to prepare recipe for a red lentils masoor dahl. This dish has a medium consistency, between a soup and a stew, and can be served with rice or naan bread. It is an excellent vegetarian dish, full of flavors and aromas, which allow us to imagine a true Indian food. This dish does not contain any meat, but the lentils protein and spices act as a plate of light to medium body. The option for moderately spicy Indian food is a white aromatic wine like Casillero del Diablo Pinot Grigio, which leaves us a wonderful cooling sensation and enhances the delicate notes of ginger, coriander and garam masala.
Masoor dhal recipe
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1.5 cup of lentils
- 4 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of turmeric
- 1 sheet of chopped fresh ginger
- A pinch of red garlic
- A pinch of garam masala mix
- 2 tablespoons of sour cream or coconut cream (optional and according to your taste)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
- Juice of half lemon
- Salt to taste
- Soak lentils for 1-2 hours. Cook until soft.
- Heat oil in a skillet. Add cumin, then onion and fry until onions are golden.
- Now add garlic and ginger and fry for a minute or until the aroma of raw garlic and ginger disappear.
- Add tomatoes and green pepper, mix and store on fire again, for a few minutes, until tomatoes are tender.
- Finally add all the dry spices and garam masala. Mix well.
- Now add the lentils to this mixture into the skillet and cook. Mix well and add salt.
- Simmer. If the dal is too thick, add a little hot water to get the right consistency.
- Turn off the heat. Finally add the cream and the lemon juice.
- The dal is ready to serve with some basmati rice or roti or naan bread.
- Serve in a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves.