Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for each of you that read my blogs, support me, cook with me and generally guide me through this fabulous foodie journey.
Today is a special day for me, time for another career change. Go back to the science lab or be a private detective for the day and learn about processed foods. Surely we should start to understand every ingredient we eat? Home cooking is simple and as I battle with my weight, I have started to look at mealtimes as fuel rather than pleasure, nutrition has become key.
I prefer to cook from scratch, where possible. It’s not difficult to prepare delicious healthy meals, particularly these days with the choice of ingredients we have available and the convenience of freezers and supermarkets. The difficulty is pleasing all members of the family and finding the time to eat together. I have always been against the use of ready-made curry sauces because they don’t represent authentic Indian cooking. Once you have mastered the art of making a really good curry sauce, you simply won’t go back to using jars. It doesn’t feel right to use ready-made curry sauces, although I have brought a selection for research purposes. The longest use-by date is Jan 2020, so impressive because I couldn’t make a curry sauce up and expect it to last two and half years, could you? In fact, would you even want to?
I can cook a curry from scratch in 30 minutes, even quicker if I don’t use onions (course it’s possible to cook a curry without onions) and my loyal pressure cooker to really speed things along.
So, here I am, in my office with the six jars, can this become a speedy option for me?
Let’s look at the ingredients, some I recognise and prefer not to use, others have baffled me:
As opposed to cumin powder I prefer to clean then lightly toast cumin seeds before I grind them in my pestle and mortar because it’s more potent and flavoursome in comparison to ready ground cumin.
E163, also known as, anthocyanin is colouring often extracted using methanol or ethanol, grape skin or red cabbage. After careful research, it is ‘believed’ to be safe. However, ‘believed’ doesn’t fill me with confidence, the use of natural ingredients can bring a dish to life where chemicals cannot try a squeeze of lemon, some fresh coriander, a knob of butter to bring life to your curries.
Lactic acid, “builds up in muscles and causes soreness” is the research I have found, there is no way this was available to add to our curries, our mothers’ won’t use or understand this ingredient and I’m not a scientist so don’t know what it’s doing in a curry sauce. After further research, I have come to the conclusion that I am indeed confused. Lactic acid is, in fact, a pH regulator or preservative, which is likely to be the way in which it preserves over a two year period. Again, this cannot be healthy.
Xantham Gum is a stabiliser, this is an ingredient I have used to make gluten free bread, a powerful thickening agent in the form of a bacteria. The same family of bacteria that causes rot in leafy vegetables…
Modified Maize Starch, is a thickening agent, whereas in home cooking a potato can do the same job.
Acidity Regulator, Acetic Acid a chemical formula, also known as CH3CO2H or C2H4O2 – perhaps you’d like to do your own research with this one?
Milk, cream and yoghurt, can be added to curries, my home made curry or sauces, with or without dairy, the cooled dish, is either kept chilled in the fridge for two days or I would store it in the freezer, not put it in a jar and store on a shelf. That’s where I struggle with processed foods. Interestingly, I noticed, of the six jars I used as my experiment, only three said they didn’t use preservatives.
Since I started my business in the masala world, I hadn’t anticipated my personal journey to a healthier lifestyle, I feel alive, happier than ever, so it must be working. You, my valued customers, have taught me so much about allergies, intolerances and foods you prefer to omit from your diets, it’s fascinating.
We, as a family have never eaten healthier and have never felt better, my cooking has become simpler with fresh herbs, salads, vegetables and nuts bringing dishes to life.
For the simplest curry, fry an onion, add some fresh ginger, garlic, a pinch of salt, a pot of curry masala and a little tomato and you have the freshest, tastiest and healthiest curry sauce of all. Don’t trust curry masala? That can easily be replaced by turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli, salt and garam masala, as usual, the spices can be tricky to master, which is why curry masala was invented, hit me with your curry queries and I will answer as best as I can, for now, I will stick to my curry creating.
Lajina Leal, Founder, Lajina Masala
Lajina had a Corporate Career as an Accountant for many years and whilst discussing an impending redundancy in an Indian restaurant with her friends, they persuaded her to set up an Indian Cooking School.
The fun started in October 2013 and the business has grown from strength to strength.