All my recipes are for simple, thrifty as possible home cooking and can be made by anyone. I assume no expertise, so, if you are an expert, ignore any information that seems patronising. I try to write so the ‘children’ in my life would be OK, they’re niece 13, nephew 11, friend 16 and other friend nearly 14. (Well they were these ages in early 2012)

I also assume you’re on a budget (except when I am feeling extravagant), busy and possibly not adverse to the odd corner being cut and don’t have such hugely refined palates that would notice too much.

With that in mind here are some definitions:

stock: obviously it’s marvellous if you have some proper, handcrafted, jellied, deliciousness to hand, but unless otherwise specified, use supermarket ready-made, those thick stock base things, powder or a cube or even water – I’ll tell you if it really matters for a particular recipe. Just watch the seasoning, particularly saltiness if using something you didn’t make, be especially careful with powder or cubes.

chicken:  buy the best you can – not always possible to have the really delicious, cared for bird, but do what you can – recipes will still work, you’ll just lose flavour and texture and maybe you should cook something else tonight  (and if you need to use the el cheapo versions – please campaign against horrible, nasty, inhumane ways of rearing chickens)

spices: nice and fresh – don’t keep them too long, buy them from Indian grocery shops and keep in the dark – in a drawer or a non-see through jar. If you want to cook something and don’t have one spice, you can probably do it anyway – you’ll lose one layer of flavouring, but if you taste what you’re cooking you can add more or less of the other ingredients and still make something lovely.

garlic, chilli, ginger: fresh is best, lazy stuff from jars or the freezer are absolutely fine, just add a bit less than the recipe suggests and taste until it’s right. For garlic and ginger dried is a really different thing and isn’t really a substitute. For Chilli I use fresh and dried flakes as two separate ingredients – though it won’t be a disaster if you substitute one for another, just be careful – dried is generally hotter than fresh


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