Saturday, 30 March 2013

Banarasi Sem Aloo

Potatoes mix well with almost anything, here I have mixed them with Beans, which seems to be one of the few vegetables in abundance these days at the local supermarkets. I am sure most of it has been imported from the warmer climates of the African continent. There are so many different ways one can make Sem Aloo, but this dish originates from Banaras. I suspects the Bihari version is not different. I use French beans for this dish but I guess one could use any other variety. It is slightly spicy and for a change I quite like it. They go very well with puris (deep fried bread).

  • 200 gms French Beans cut to 1 cm length
  • ½ tsf Fenugreek (Methi) seeds
  • 2 medium sized Potatoes cut into small pieces
  • 1 small Onion cut small pieces
  • ½ tsf Garlic paste
  • ¼ tsf Turmeric (Haldi) powder
  • 1 tsf Salt (to taste)
  • ½ tsf Coriander (Dhania) powder 
  • ¼ tsf Cumin (Jeera) powder
  • ¼ tsf chilli powder.
  • ¼ tsf Garam Masala
  • 3 tbsf Oil
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pan or wok.
  2. When oil is hot put the Methi seeds and fry till they turn dark.
  3. Add onion and garlic paste and fry till golden brown.
  4. Add salt, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala and fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, mix well with the masala and cook on low heat with the pan covered. From time to time stir so that potatoes don't catch at the bottom. 
  6. When potatoes are half cooked usually 15-20 minutes, add the cut beans mixing well and once again cook with covered lid till potatoes are soft. 
  7. dry off any excess fluids with the uncovered pan.

Methi Dal

Dal is eaten in every region of India. No meal is complete without Dal. It can also be presented as a snack and mixed with all kind of vegetables and meat to give that twist to the dish which only dal can give! Sambhar and Haleem, are just a couple of well known dal combination dishes, which are well known but there are dozens other dishes from all quarters of Indian and Sri Lanka. 

This particular method brings together a fabulous combination of Meethi leaves and Dal. As I have already said in my introduction to Mrs.M, like so many other dishes that she has taught me, this version of dal also originates from Bihar. In fact we introduced this dal recipe at the launch of Banao aur Khao  evenings in Cardiff. It went down wonderfully. I am sure many in our community in Cardiff have started to make this dish rather than just serving tarka dal. 


  • Washed Moong Dal 2 Cups
  • Salt 1 ½ tsf
  • Haldi ½ tsf
  • Fresh Fenugreek (Methi) 1 bunch
  • Onion 1 small
  • Ginger 1 inch
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Dry whole chilli 3 long
  • Oil for cooking                1 tbsf
  • Jeera 1 tsf
  • Hing 1 pinch
  • Ghee or oil (for tarka) 2 tbsf


  1. Wash the Dal
  2. Put it in a saucepan with 5cups of water, 1 ½ tsf salt and  ½ tsf of Haldi. Bring it up to boil and then reduce the heat and cook for approximately 20mins. The dal should be almost ready.
  3. While the Dal is cooking remove the meethi leaves from its stem.
  4. Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger. 
  5. Heat 1 tbsf oil in a frying pan and put the dried broken red chilli and stir it slightly.
  6. Add the onion/garlic/ginger and brown this mix.
  7. When the above mix is brown add Meethi leaves and cook for 5 mins.
  8. Mix the Meethi mix in the almost fully cooked dal and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes
  9. Make Tarka with Jeera, Hing and one whole dried red chilli. Brown the ingredients and when sizzling spread it on the Dal

The Dal is ready for serving. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mrs.Mishra My Guru

My mother and then my sister have and remain my biggest source and muse when it comes to traditional and inspirational Indian cooking. However, my journey would not be complete without the inspiration and guidance from Mrs.Mishra. I think I could take the credit for spreading the word around in the South East Wales about the talent of this simple but wonderful person. Many had been treated at her home with some mouth watering vegetarian meals, but it was not till I inspired her to take part in what became very popular evenings at the India Centre in Cardiff, called ‘Banao aur Khao’ that her incredible dishes got the praise and recognition they deserve. 

Mrs.M was a hidden jewel in her family. Like in so many Indian homes, wives often stay in the shadows of their husbands, so did Mrs.M, till I felt she had so much to offer to the Indian community in our area and people need to laste her dishes. It was she who made it possible for me to venture the ‘Banao aur Khao’ evenings. These evenings gave the rightful status to Mrs.M, of a brilliant cook in our community. It was this association which I exploited to learn from a self taught cook. She is the only one, in my experience, who cooks same dal in five or six different styles and people actually praise her dal over and above some very nicely cooked novelty non-vegetarian dishes made by her husband. I actually feel sorry for my friend Dr.M who in his own rights is an excellent cook, but his dishes often are dwarfed in comparison to Mrs.M’s vegetarian dishes.

Mrs.M hails from an upper middle class family in Bihar and married as expected into an upper middle class family just before coming to the UK. Like so many other youngsters she was cosseted by the army of Bawarchis (cooks) and servants before marriage.   In one of her teaching sessions, narrating her story of earlier years in the UK, she remembers, on her maiden trip back to India her father asked her ‘How many servants has Dr.M employed for you?’ Her father must have been horrified to learn that she had to learn not only to cook, but to clean, wash and in fact do everything herself!

Mrs.M started attempting to cook only after her marriage and coming to the UK. Her style is very much Bihari and Eastern UPite, but she doesn’t hesitate to adapt and learn dishes from other regions and countries. Not only is she great at making main dishes but she has created many lovely snacks, using vegetables which are not even seen in India, like Brussel sprouts. She can pickle almost anything or converts surplus fruits from one’s garden into finger licking jelly. Once roaming in our garden she saw a crab apple tree loaded with fruit which would have really gone to waste. She asked me to bring a carrier bag and two days later these were converted into jars of jelly.

In the next few weeks I would like to introduce some of her dishes for people to try the wonders of Bihari vegetarian dishes which I would suggest are second to none and only available in Bihar or a Bihari home. If you haven’t been there than I don’t believe you would have tasted it. Well worth trying I would say!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kashmiri Rogan Josh

This is one of the signature dishes amongst Kashmiri pandits. I note that often people consider Rogan Josh as Kashmiri Muslim dish, however, my observation is that it is equally popular amongst the Kashmiri Pandits and it would be a disservice to the Kashmiri Pandits if they were not also given credit for it. In fact I have been taught how to make a proper Rogan Josh by my Kashmiri Pandit friends. 

Pandits in Kashmir surprisingly do not cook their food with onion or garlic yet eat meat, which is in contrast to the pandits from rest of India, where vegetarianism amongst pandits means no meat, onion and garlic. Historically, Kashmir was the land of Hindu ascetic, who were like other Brahmins, staunch vegetarians, eating food made without onion or garlic and only once a day. How, when and why then, the Kashmiri Pandits started to eat meat is worth researching. I have read somewhere that with the repeated invasion of India by the Muslim rulers and forced conversion to Islamism may be the reason for the introduction of meat amongst everyone in Kashmir including the Pandits. Yet then it is difficult to explain why unlike the rest of the Mughlai food, where onions and garlic is used in abundance, they don't use them. Perhaps they kept some of the Brahmin traditions but gave up others! Just as well, as this dish is such a winner. 


1 Kg Lamb
10-12 Cloves
1 inch Cinnamon stick
2-3 Brown Cardamoms
1/3 tsf Chilli powder
1 tsf crushed Fennel seeds
1 tsf Ginger powder
1 ¼ tsf Salt (to taste)
5 tbsf Yogurt
5 tbsf oil


Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, when hot put the cinnamon stick and cardamoms stir for 3-4 mins or when they sizzle. Now add the lamb, chilli powder and salt. Brown the meat and when it is slightly brown add yogurt spoonful at a time so that it mixes well. If the lamb catches you can add small amount of water. After browning add ½ cup of water, Ginger powder and Crushed fennel seeds and give pressure for 25 mins (time will depend on quality of meat). The lamb should be tender and the dish should be dry. With the lid of the pressure cooker off dry off any water.  

Monday, 11 March 2013

Shami Kebab

There are so many tales regarding the origin of this sophisticating kebab and I am not sure who gets the credit for this dish. It is not surprising then to see variation in the published methods. Most believe that this particular kebab was introduced by the Mughal Emperors, who brought their own Syrian Bawarchis (cooks). I am reliably informed that shami kebab translates to Syrian kebabs. 

However, in Hindi and Urdu the word sham means evening. Sham-e-Awadh, evening in Lucknow in the Kothi’s (Bunglows) of The Nawab’s of Lucknow are well know for serving many types of kebabs, and Shami Kebab certainly features prominently in their cuisine. 

Yet another claim comes from the village of Sham Churasi in Hoshiarpur district in Punjab. It doesn't matter which tale is true, I am just glad that someone did produced this kebab, which is really quite easy to make despite the elaborate write up.

  • 500 gms of Lamb Mince
  • 125 gms of Channa Dal
  • 2 finely chopped Onions
  • 3-4 Finely chopped Green Chillies
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 inch of Ginger
  • 1 tsf Cumin seeds
  • 4 Cloves
  • 6 Peppercorns
  • 3 Green Cardamons
  • 2 large Black Cardamons
  • 1 inch Cinnamon stick
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 tsf Coriander seeds
  • 3 Dry Red Chillies
  • 1 tsf Salt to taste
  • 2 slightly beaten Eggs
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Coriander
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • Oil for shallow frying

  1. Soak the Channa dal for approx 30 minutes
  2. Put all the ingredients except for the eggs, coriander and oil in a pressure cooker or a pan. Cook for about 5 minutes in a pressure cooker (full pressure) or till the mince is half cooked. Dry off any liquid.
  3. Grind the mix in a food processor till it is the consistency of a paste.
  4. Add the beaten egg and chopped Coriander
  5. Leave it to cool. Can leave it overnight in the fridge for the dough to settle.
  6. Take a small amount to make small patties ready for shallow frying browning the kebabs on both sides.

Serve with Mint Chutney as a starter or with drinks snack.