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This is an installment of NPR's Cook Your Cupboard, an ongoing food series about working with what you have on hand. Have a food that has you stumped? Share a photo and we'll ask chefs about our favorites. The current submission category: Booze!
Bombay native and cookbook author Raghavan Iyer explains how to improvise Indian cuisine with juniper berries, fish sauce and mixed berry jam — three ingredients submitted by Victoria Dougherty's second-period nutrition class in Hudson, N.Y.
After teaching cooking classes for 20 years, Dougherty says she has ended up with some pretty random ingredients in her classroom cupboard — like juniper berries. They're a distinct form of conifer cones produced by the juniper bush, often used as a spice in European cuisine.
Though not a traditional Indian ingredient, Iyer argues that "a good Indian chef should be able to extract at least eight different flavors" from any given spice. Iyer recommends seasoning wild game or pork with the berries. Here are some of his tips:
A staple of Southeast Asian cuisine, fish sauce, which is extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt, was not a particularly popular ingredient with the students in Dougherty's class because of its unpleasant smell. Nonetheless, fish sauce can add a lot of flavor to seafood dishes, Iyer says.
He offers an easy scallop recipe:
Lastly, Iyer offers some creative ideas for all those half-eaten jars of jam.
If you have culinary conundrums, join the Cook Your Cupboard project! Go to npr.org/cupboard and show us a photo. You'll get guidance from fellow home cooks, and you might even be chosen to come on the air with a chef.