4 Step Cooking for Beginners

Indian cooking, especially vegetarian dishes, are simple to master, and you can be very innovative once you know the basics.

Here, I am going to introduce you to 4 straightforward cooking steps that you can follow when making a wide range of healthy and wholesome Indian dishes. Add veggies, meat and spices to best match your cravings.

Using a Pressure Cooker

When I was teaching my son how to cook, I advised him to always use a pressure cooker as far as possible. For beginners, or if you’re in a hurry to put something together, a pressure cooker (with whistle) makes work fast and easy. It doesn’t require constant monitoring, your cooking time is standard and you end up using 1 utensil end-to-end. On most days, I prefer using a pressure cooker when putting together dinner for the family.

STEP 1: Tempering (in Hindi, called Vaghaar or Tadka)

  • Tempering is the process of making oil aromatic.
  • Heat oil in a pressure cooker
  • When hot, add Cumin or Mustard seeds along with Asafoetida (optional)

STEP 2: Add Ingredients

  • Once Cumin seeds turn pink and aromatic OR mustard seeds stop spluttering, reduce heat
  • Add vegetables, lentils, basic spices and salt
  • Basically, here is when you add the “subject” of you dish (whatever needs to be cooked)

STEP 3: Add water

  • Stir for 2mins
  • Add water according to the recipe

Follow this assumption –>

  • In case you’re making a gravy/ curry/ dal – add at least 1 cup of water
  • For dry vegetables – 1/2 cup water should be enough
  • Remember, water consistency can be adjusted later once the food is cooked.

STEP 4: Cooking

  • Close the cooker lid and attach the whistle
  • Turn the heat to HIGH and let cook
  • After 2 whistles (or as instructed in the recipe), switch off the burner
  • When the steam settles, carefully open the lid
  • The food is cooked and ready to serve
  • If required, adjust water consistency and heat up once again
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, lime juice, masalas or follow the specific recipe.


Using a Wok or a Frying Pan

Takes longer to cook and requires constant surveillance

STEP 1 and STEP 2 will remain the same

STEP 3: Add water

  • For dals and gravy recipe – add an additional 1/2 cup of water
  • For dry vegetables – Keep stirring after every 4 to 5 minutes and, if needed, sprinkle water so that the vegetable doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

STEP 4: Cooking

  • Cover the wok/ pan with the lid
  • Increase the heat and allow to boil
  • Once reached boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer till cooked (simple fork/ knife test to check if cooked)
  • Monitor every 4 to 5 minutes
  • Once ready, garnish with fresh coriander leaves, lime juice, masalas or follow the specific recipe.