The southern states, which include Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, enjoy a hot and humid climate. “It is bubbling with amazing ingredients, including tamarind trees, asafoetida gum, peppercorns, mustard seeds and nutmeg,” says Hari.
“The one ingredient to highlight is the wonderful coconut that has so many uses, from oil, to a cream, to flavouring as well as being a drink and much, much more.
Rice is all-important here and is consumed with every meal in one form or another, whether this is rice cakes or pancakes for breakfast such as idli, dosa, vadas and uttapams. These are made from rice ground with lentils and are very popular in Tamil Nadu.
“The beautiful Malabar coastline, (which includes Kerala), is all about the fabulous delicacies from the sea – mussels, crab and prawns cooked with lovely aromatic spice pastes are simply wonderful.”
Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have hot summers and cold winters. Hari says there is a distinct Mughal influence in the cooking here.
“Mughal emperors ruled for almost 500 years, and they were known to have a real flair in the kitchen,” she says. “The style of cooking is similar to that found in central Asia. They loved having huge banquets with elaborate dishes consisting of red meats, yoghurts, fruit and nuts.”
In Kashmir there are two distinct cooking methods – the Muslims are happy to use onions and garlic, whereas the Hindus prefer to use asafoetida. This has given rise to different versions of classic dishes, such as lamb rogan josh.
“Punjabis cook with love and passion, and their food replicates this with layers of flavour. Food is served in small dishes, with a lentil option, vegetable option and maybe a meat option with roti and yoghurt.
The food is seasonal, spiced and generally cooked outdoors. The Punjab is known as the land of milk and honey because the soil is so rich and fertile. The importance of agriculture and farming is paramount here and means lots of wheat, vegetables and sugar cane, as well as dairy produce such as yoghurt, butter, ghee and paneer.”
Unlike the rest of India, Hari observes, Punjab’s main staple is wheat, which is why there are many flat breads, rotis, parathas, and naan breads. She recommends trying north Indian dishes, such as samosa, lassi, seekh kabab, shammi kabab, Kashmiri pulao, tandoori chicken, dhal makhani and gulab jamun.