Four Recipes to Help You Cook Nutritious But Cheap Indian Curries

Much of the food eaten in India is vegetarian, and while local delicacies vary greatly from region to region, many of the staple foods remain the same throughout the vast subcontinent. Rice, potatoes and pulses of many kinds provide cheap and accessible sources of protein, and dishes are embellished with exotic herbs and spices, endowing traditional Indian food with its celebrated diversities of flavour.

Essential Budget Indian Cooking Spices: Chilli, Garum Masala, Turmeric & Salt

There are numerous spices used in India, but it is not necessary to buy them all in order to make fantastic tasting and authentic food. For these four dishes you need only chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, cumin powder and same good quality salt. Indian food is generally quite heavy on the salt but you can adjust measurements to your own taste. The same goes with garlic and spices.

Buy your herbs from an Asian supermarket if you can, as they tend to come in bigger packets at much better prices. Fresh coriander can be grown on your windowsill or bought from any greengrocer or large supermarket when needed.

Eat Indian Food the Traditional Way with a Thali

All over India you will find regional variations of the thali. Literally meaning plate, a thali is a balanced meal served on a metal dish with separate compartments for different dishes. A thali usually consists of rice, dhal, vegetable curry, flatbreads, yogurt raita, pickle and poppadoms. Make all four of the dishes below and buy the accompaniments from your local Asian supermarket or make your own for an authentic, economical and filling Indian meal. All recipes serve four.

How to Make Authentic Yellow-Lentil Dhal


  • One can /cup dried yellow lentils (rinsed and soaked overnight if using dried)
  • One large onion
  • Five large cloves garlic
  • Four medium tomatoes (preferably ripe organic ones with lots of flavour)
  • Seven cups water
  • Handful fresh coriander (washed and roughly chopped)
  • Pinch garam masala
  • One tsp salt
  • Two tsp chilli powder
  • Two tsp turmeric


  • Heat the lentils, water, salt and spices in a pan over a moderate heat without stirring until nearly all the water has evaporated and the lentils are soft.
  • Stand to one side and once cool add the coriander.
  • Heat the garlic in lots of oil in a pan. Dice the onion and add it to the pan.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until softened. Roughly mash the ingredients using a potato masher or the back of a ladle or wooden spoon.
  • Add the dhal to the pan and simmer for five minutes.

How to Make Potato Tomato Curry


  • One large onion
  • Four tomatoes (preferably ripe organic ones with lots of flavour)
  • Five medium baking potatoes
  • Four cloves garlic (crushed)
  • One tsp salt
  • Two tsp chilli powder
  • Two tsp turmeric
  • Half tsp garam masala
  • Handful fresh coriander (washed and roughly chopped)


  • Heat the garlic in a pan in lots of oil
  • Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring once or twice
  • Add the tomatoes, the salt and spices and when the tomatoes are soft roughly mash the ingredients as above
  • Meanwhile cut the potatoes into chunks and boil them in a pan full of water
  • When the potatoes are cooked, drain and mash them roughly. Add them to the other ingredients with the fresh coriander.

How to Make Onion, Mint or Cucumber Raita


  • Five tbsp plain yogurt
  • Half tsp cumin powder
  • Either half an onion (finely diced), a handful of fresh mint (washed and roughly chopped) or a three cm piece of cucumber (cut into fine slivers)
  • Pinch salt


  • Spoon the yogurt into a bowl
  • Add the other ingredients and stir thoroughly
  • Store in the fridge until you are ready to eat

How to Make Spicy Chickpea Salad


  • One can/ cup dried chickpeas (rinsed and soaked overnight if using dried)
  • Half red onion
  • Coriander
  • Half a hot red chilli
  • Two medium tomatoes (preferably ripe organic ones with lots of flavour)
  • Five cm piece of cucumber
  • Juice of one lemon


  • If using dried chickpeas, boil until soft and allow to cool. If using tinned, drain and place straight into a bowl.
  • Dice the red onion, tomatoes and chilli as finely as you can and add to the chickpeas. Leave the seeds in if you like a kick, otherwise discard.
  • Peel and dice the cucumber and add it to the bowl with the lemon juice. Give the mixture a good stir so that all the ingredients soak up the lemon juice.
  • Roughly chop the coriander and add it to the bowl.
  • Store in the fridge until you are ready to eat.