Curry is one of the most popular foods in the UK, with chicken tikka masala being the UK’s most popular Indian dish. But did you know that the humble tikka masala is actually a British creation, and that there is more to authentic Indian cuisine than meets the eye?

Indian food cannot simply be reduced to the word ‘curry’ – it is a wide-ranging cuisine as diverse as its home country; differing in style and ingredients from one region to the next. Here is our authentic Indian food guide, complete with a set of simple recipes that will inject a taste of this iconic cuisine into your kitchen.

Do try this at home!

Authentic Indian starters

Though samosas and onion bhajis are still quite popular in India, why not branch out and prime your meal with a selection of truly authentic Indian starters? Serve them at dinner parties, tapas-style, or enjoy them as snacks throughout the week.

Fennel and tomato shorba (fennel and tomato soup) – serves four

This Indian recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free

A bowl of fennel and tomato shorba topped with fennel seeds

Image c/o Hari Ghotra

A north Indian recipe full of flavour and subtle spice. Shorba soups are traditionally quite thin in consistency, but this tastes just as good when it is a little thicker, as created by Hari Ghotra.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 green chillies, whole
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 750ml water
  • 1 tsp fresh fennel, roasted and roughly crushed, to garnish

How to make:

  1. Heat oil and add the fennel seeds, cooking until they sizzle. Then, add the garlic and cook until it starts to brown.
  2. Throw in the whole green chillies and the salt.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and increase the heat to start them cooking.
  4. Pour in the water and bring to a boil before adding the coriander stalks.
  5. Leave everything to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
  6. Blitz the soup with a blender. To get the truly authentic watery soup, push it through a sieve after blending.
  7. Return the mix to the pan and warm through for five minutes.
  8. Serve topped with roasted fennel.

Other authentic Indian starters:

Authentic Indian mains

Authentic Indian main courses are incredibly diverse. Vegetables, meat, fish; fiery, creamy, sweet and sour; there is a dish for every mood – and every day of the week.

Chicken karahi – serves four

This Indian recipe is gluten-free
An authentic Indian chicken karahi served with naan bread

There are variations on chicken karahi across Indian and Pakistan, but this spicy yet tangy version by Scrambled Chefs is a crowd-pleaser you will return to time and again. Tone down the spices or add a little extra to find your perfect balance.

Ingredients:

  • 250g chicken breast
  • 500g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp white cumin powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 120ml water
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 green chillies (optional)
  • dash of lemon juice

How to make:

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into chunks.
  2. Roughly chop the tomatoes (keeping the skin on) and mince the garlic and ginger.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they start turning golden.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the chicken to the pan and sauté until the chicken has turned white.
  6. Add the powdered spices and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  7. Immediately add 120ml water to the pan to prevent the spices from burning, then add the chopped tomatoes.
  8. Leave to cook on a medium to low heat for around 20 to 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have completely dissolved. If the chicken isn’t tender yet, add more water and cook for five minutes longer.
  9. Taste and adjust the spices if necessary. Add salt to taste.
  10. Serve garnished with green chillies, coriander and a dash of lemon juice.

Other authentic Indian mains:

Authentic Indian sides

The joy of Indian side dishes is their versatility – many can be served in larger portions and enjoyed as main courses with rice and chapattis, or even served in smaller portions and dished out as a delicious tapas-style banquet.

Bhindi with amchoor (tangy fried okra) – serves four

This Indian recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free

A bowl of authentic Indian bhindi amchoor

Image c/o Hari Ghotra

Fragrant coriander seeds, spicy chillies and zingy amchoor powder (mango powder) give this okra dish by Hari Ghotra a whole new dimension.

Ingredients:

  • 500g okra
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli/1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp amchoor powder (dried mango powder)

How to make

  1. Wash the okra and dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. When dry, remove the tops and slice the okra in half lengthways.
  2. Place the coriander seeds and red chilli into a pestle and mortar and pound until you have a coarse powder, then leave to one side.
  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on a medium heat, then stir in the sliced onions and cook until they just begin to brown.
  4. Add the okra and fry for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the salt, turmeric and the coriander and chilli mixture. Reduce the heat and leave the okra to cook for five more minutes, uncovered.
  6. Once cooked, remove from the heat and serve sprinkled with garam masala and a dusting of amchoor powder.

Other authentic Indian sides:

  • Jeera aloo – cumin potatoes with earthy flavours and a distinctive tang
  • Imlee chutney – hot and sour tamarind chutney

Authentic Indian desserts

Authentic Indian food isn’t simply about spicy curries and tangy chutneys – the country produces some truly delicious and really distinctive desserts.

Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding) – serves four

This Indian recipe is vegan and contains nuts

A pot of authentic Indian kheer topped with pistachios

Image c/o Hari Ghotra

This Indian version of rice pudding is traditionally rich and very, very sweet. However, Hari Ghotra’s version tones down the saccharine side of kheer and makes the most of its status as a rich comfort food.

Ingredients:

  • 100g rice
  • 1 litres full fat milk
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 100g sugar
  • Crushed pistachios, to garnish

How to make:

  1. In a large pan combine the milk and rice. Cook, stirring, for about 25 minutes.
  2. Add the cardamom and stir for another 25 minutes.
  3. The mixture should now be thick. Remove the cardamom pods, add the sugar and stir well before serving topped with crushed pistachios.

Other authentic Indian desserts:

Have you tried any of these authentic Indian recipes? Will you be cooking any of these in your own kitchen? Let us know how they turned out in the comment box, below.

Charlotte Varela

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