Homemade Indian food healthier than restaurant counterpart: author

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Spurred on by immigration from India, Canada has become the home of many restaurants serving the cuisine of that diverse country.

But restaurants are not representative of what Indians eat, said Anjum Anand, author of "Indian Food Made Easy" (Key Porter Books, $24.95, paperback).

Spurred on by immigration from India, Canada has become the home of many restaurants serving the cuisine of that diverse country.

But restaurants are not representative of what Indians eat, said Anjum Anand, author of "Indian Food Made Easy" (Key Porter Books, $24.95, paperback).

"At home we don't add cream, ghee (clarified butter) or nut pastes to our dishes," said the 38-year-old who lives in London, England.

She appears regularly on BBC television where she hosts a cooking show.

"Indian food bel-ongs at home," she said in an interview. "And it's healthier because Indians eat well-balanced, nutritious meals incorporating vegetables, lentils, whole grains and a little meat or fish."

Anand refers to Indian cuisine as "peasant food and food of the land and really deserves a chance to come into people's home repertoires."

She guides her readers through the particular spices used as well as a glossary of terms to demystify unfamiliar ingredients.

"If you are starting out to cook Indian food and are a little bit nervous, buy a handful of the main spices, including cu-min, coriander powder, garam masala and chili powder," she suggests.

(Garam masala is a standard mixture of ground spices. Ingre-dients vary, but the blend usually contains cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cu-min, coriander and pepper.)

Anand suggests cooks try experimenting with food they are already quite comfortable cooking until they learn how to work with the different spices.

"If you enjoy cooking fish, choose a fish recipe that you are already familiar with," she wrote.

And for the spices in her recipe for Tandoori Monkfish in the book, she uses small amounts of carom seeds, turmeric, red chili powder and paprika as well as ginger, garlic paste and garam masala.

Anand said for individuals who are eager to learn Indian cuisine, it's a good idea to enrol in a cooking class.

"I always find it easy to cook once I have seen someone else do it," she said. "You can always experiment at home and if it doesn't come out perfectly the first time around it will by the second or third."

She suggests looking for ingredients at Indian or Asian grocery stores or major supermarkets.

"It is really rewarding when you cook something new and you master it. It's such a great feeling of satisfaction."

Here from the book is Anand's flavourful take on scrambled eggs. It is an example of Indian cuisine that is not all spices and heat.

Masala Scrambled Eggs

5 ml (1 tsp) vegetable oil

5 ml (1 tsp) butter (scant)

1/4 small onion, peeled and minced

2 eggs

1/2 small tomato, minced

1/2 green chili, finely sliced

15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh cilantro (heaping)

Salt, to taste

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil and butter. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes.

Meawhile, whisk eggs with tomato, chili, cilantro and salt. Add eggs to pan and scramble as you would normally, leaving them a little longer than usual.

Makes 1 serving.

Organizations: Key Porter Books, BBC

Geographic location: India, Canada, London England

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