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Exotic Dining: Classic Indian Dishes Made Simple

(NC)India's ancient cultures have left an indelible stamp on civilization but perhaps no single aspect has impacted day-to-day life in Canada quite as much as the cuisine of India. In cities and towns from Victoria to St. John's Indian restaurants have sprung up and been eagerly embraced by a Canadian audience with an increasingly sophisticated taste for the new and exotic.

More and more Canadians are discovering the astonishing range of Indian foods and how easy it is to prepare them at home. Indian food is much, much more than just a plate of curry. Regional and cultural influences (Hindus do not eat beef, some are strict vegetarians who even shun eggs and fish; Muslims do not eat pork or shellfish) have given rise to an immense number of dishes, some hot and spicy, others mild and velvety.

What makes Indian cuisine so different from others is the skilful and imaginative use of blended spices and herbs in the preparation of food. Cooks add their own special ingredients and guard the secrets of their recipes. But all use various combinations of spices such as cardamom, cloves and ginger to add aroma to the dish; red peppers, ginger and mango powder for flavour; paprika, saffron and turmeric for colour.

The best Indian chefs grind their own spices, shred their own herbs and can often take hours to prepare the selection of dishes that make up a meal.

For cooks who do not have that much time, there is a simpler process. Sharwood's line of sauces make it possible to prepare a delicious Indian meal in minutes.

Balti sauce, the newest in the line, is a rich tomato-based cooking sauce piquantly seasoned with coriander, red chillies and fenugreek. It can be used to give an entirely new perspective on chicken, lamb, beef or even vegetables.

Butter chicken, a mouth-watering favourite in many restaurants, is made simple with Tandoori Makhani, in which cardamom and cream blend smoothly to produce a dish fit for the Moghul princes themselves. Tikka Masala is yet another rich sauce flavoured with caraway seeds and coriander - again, ideal with chicken.

These sauces are far too delicious to waste so, to soak them up, Sharwood's has introduced Naan Bread Mix. Quick and easy to make, it adds a real 'home made' feel to an exciting meal.

All sauces come with simple directions and have a shelf life of 18 months unopened - seven days opened. If you'd like to delve deeper into the secrets of this great cuisine, check out the wealth of information in the Internet at www.sharwoods.com.

- News Canada

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