In the homes of graceful Punjabis everywhere, the most delicious meals require discernment: an artist’s sensibility--the inspiration of a poet, the palette of a painter, and the timing of a musician. The myriad combinations of vegetables, lentils, spices and techniques lend themselves to the creative genius in each cook. Rarely, if ever, will you have the same flavor or texture in the “same” dish prepared in a neighbor’s house. A little pinch of this or that, the onions ground into a paste rather than chopped; tomatoes added or peas—even small changes influence the result.

Spices can be used in many ways as well. Whole spices that are sautéed in ghee taste different from those that are ground and added directly to the dish. So once a cook has the basics of a dish, he can experiment. This suits me well since I was born to “tinker.”

I was reminded of this when one of the readers of my book emailed me to ask about his friend from Delhi who always add whole cumin seeds directly into oil or ghee when she begins cooking. My mother-in-law never did that. I do once in awhile, but caution "newbies" that cumin burns quickly and can ruin a dish.

For my January 31st cooking class, one of the recipes I'm going to teach is layered breads made with freshly grated veggies Gobi Ya Mooli Parauntha. It's different from the recipe in the book using leftover veggies. So here, instead of a different technique using spices, the change is using grated fresh, rather than cooked vegetables plus a change in the way the bread is layered. All good, believe me!