It is widely held among most of the Indians that all things should be cooked in earthenwares. Tastes, colours and other qualities of the fcods are not damaged when cooked in them. Iron pots are also widely used but foods cooked in them become blackish in colour. Aluminium and brass vessels are used on account of their durability but oil, ghee and other fats make a compound with them which is not beneficial for health. Therefore it is advisable to remove the foods from them as soon as they are cooked. Specially sour foods should never be kept in any metal container. Dishes made of glass, porcelain, marble, stone, earth, silver and tinned or plated iron should be extensively used for keeping food. Lastly, it should be remembered that foods must always be kept covered.
Indian cooking consists essentially of four parts, namely :—( I ) Browning ( 2 ) Boiling ( 3 ) Seasoning ( 4 ) Finishing.
Nearly all vegetables except only a very few are browned by frying them for a short while in boiling oil, ghee or any other fat before regular cooking is begun. Browning is necessary to kill the objectionable odours peculiar to the particular vegetables, e. g. onions, etc. where browning fails to kill the odour, it at least removes the excesses and thus makes the things pleasing to the taste. The distinction between browning and frying is only a question of degree. When anything is browned in oil for a sufficiently long time to make it soft, and salt and other spices are added to it, it is fried and is ready for the plate. All sorts of Saks and a few others are not browned before cooking unless they are specially intended for frying. It is expressly written in the body of the book wherever browning is necessary.
Little need be said about boiling except that there is a tradition that items cooked on wood and dung cakes are superior in quality than those cooked on coal, gas or electricity. It is held that the former method is more beneficial for health. The explanation for this lies in the fact that some vitamins contained in the items decompose at the high temperatures of coal-fire while many of them remain intact at the comparatively low temperatures of wood-fire. Rut everywhere and specially in big cities the conveniences we enjoy in the regular and cheap supply of coal, gas or electricity are the deciding factors in discarding the idea of wood fuel. Wood-fire is better than coal-fire in making some preparations, e. g. Sandesh, etc. which require slow heating. However, any oven or stove can be used whose heat can be regulated. In case a coal-fire is used it is sometimes necessary to remove the pot from the oven at intervals in order that its contents may not be destroyed.
Seasoning is the most important of the four stages of cooking. Success in cooking depends entirely upon it. The process of seasoning is as follow? : Take the necessary quantity of mustard oil ( cocoanut oil is used in the Madras Province, and in all cases ghee is a better-substitute for oil ) in a pan and boil it till the bubbles die out. Then fry some spices in it and when the bubbles have again subsided fry the materials to be cooked in the oil till slightly brown if they are not browned before. Then water with ground or pasted spices is added for boiling. Browning and seasoning are thus sometimes-combined together, and seasoning may be made either before or after boiling. When seasoning is made after-boiling, as in the case of Dal when boiled Dal is added to the boiling oil with spices fried in it, it is called "Sambhar". Otherwise it is called "Foron". Various-spices, and in variety of combinations, are used, of which the most common are red chillies, mustard seeds, cassia leaves, cumin, etc., and the most common combination is "Panch-foron" ( Panch means five ) consisting of cumin, aniseed, mustard, black cumin and fenugreek, five in all.
Before taking down a finishing touch is given by adding ghee and "garam-masalla", which consists of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, in the entire, ground or paste condition. In cooking dal, curries, fish, meat,, etc., these must necessarily be added.