Friday, 23 May 2014

Fish with Spinach

Having lived in the UK one is privileged to taste cuisines from all around the world, it is not a surprise that one is tempted to create fusion food. All major TV chefs are doing it. Though the fish curries from all regions in India are very good and popular, one thing which I find different between the Indian and European Fish recipes is that the spices in India tend to drown the original taste of the individual fish. This sounds awful even though I do love my Fish curry! Living on an Island gives us the benefit of availability of such a variety of River and Sea fish.

In this recipe I have combined Spinach which is easily available in the supermarkets with one of the much loved fish, ‘Cod’. I added a few chosen Indian spices which gave that Indian taste. If you like green vegetables you will love this dish.

  • 400 gms Cod fillet (one can use any other white fish)
  • Small bunch of Spinach roughly chopped taking out the thick stalks 
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic chopped lengthwise. 
  • 1 tsf Mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ tsf Salt
  • ¼ tsf coarsely crushed Peppercorns
  • ¼ tsf Chilli powder (optional, if you like it hot) 
  • 3-4 tbsf Olive Oil


  1. Cut the fish in small pieces. Rub some salt and crushed pepper and squeeze some lemon juice. Keep it aside for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Frying pan.
  3. When oil is hot add the Mustard seeds. They will sizzle and splutter for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chopped garlic and lightly brown. 
  5. Now add the Spinach, keep on mixing so that both sides of the leaves are cooked lightly.
  6. Add ½ tsf salt and chilli powder and mix. 
  7. When the spinach leaves start to wilt add the fish with all juices. Cove the frying pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes till the fish is just cooked. 
  8. Serve hot with Nan bread.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Shalgum Gajjar aur Gobi ka Khata Meetha Achar

When we were young achars were not seen in small jars bought from the corner shops but made by women, using age old recipes handed down by mothers and grandmothers. Unfortunately, my mother who was a wonderful cook could never make achars, so we relied on friends and relatives to give us achars. Somehow, because of my mum’s inability to make achar, both my sister and I never tried. We are lucky as most achars are easily available from Indian shops. Yet the taste of freshly prepared achar is something wonderful. On this trip I made amends and learnt some of the pickling methods.

As one would expect I am only able to learn the recipes of vegetable achars which are available in the winter. May be next time my long trip would be in the summer and then I would be able to learn to pickle fruits like mango, which is everyones favourite. For now I am sharing another favourite. This of course we in the UK would be preparing in the summer when we have plenty of carrots, turnips and cauliflower.

  • 1 Large Shalgum (turnip) sliced in half moons
    Shalgum Gajar and Gobi ka achar
  • 250 gms of Gajar (Carrot) cut in thin fingers
  • 1 Small Gobi (cauliflower) cut in to its small florets
  • 1 cup Mustard oil
  • 2 tbsf powdered Mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ tbsf Salt (according to taste)
  • 1 tsf Turmeric powder
  • ½ Katori Fennel seeds coarsely crushed
  • 2 tbsf Chilli powder
  • 10 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 inch Ginger chopped in julians
  • 2 tbsf White Vinegar
  • 50 gms Jaggery
  1. Heat the mustard oil till it starts to smoke.
  2. Add mustard seeds, ginger, garlic and rest of the spices except salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add all the chopped vegetables and sauté till vegetables are tender.
  4. Add salt and jaggery and mix well till jaggery has melted. Switch off the heat.
  5. Add vinegar and mix well.
  6. Once the mix is cool transfer the achar in a large glass container and keep in a sunny place for at least 10 days. For our Western friends where there is less sun shine can keep the achar in a sunny windowsill or a conservatory. 

When it is ready, enjoy it with every meal and don't forget to give some to your friends and family!

Thursday, 13 February 2014


Sev is a common snack available almost everywhere in India. It can be eaten alone or be form a topping with many chats. In its simplest form it is flavoured with chilli and salt but you may add other ingredients like Methi (Fenugreek) or Garlic. I am sure there are several other varieties made by specialists. It is an addictive snack and often served at Indian restaurants while you are sipping a cool beer or any other tipple! 

In the UK one can buy from any Indian store. However, I was lucky to be present when sev were being made at my relatives home and I found they were relatively easy to prepare. They keep for several weeks in an air tight container. I am giving you the recipe for the simple salty sev but you may want to experiment and add Methi, palak or garlic.

Sev Mix

  • 1 cup Gram flour
  • 1 ½ tsf Salt
  • 1 tsf Ajwain
  • 1 tsf Chilli powder
  • 3 tbsf Oil for the mix
  • Oil for deep frying

Sev being Fried

  1. Mix all ingredients except oil for frying with some water to make the mix soft. (see picture)
  2. Heat the oil in a wok for frying.
  3. Put the gram flour mix in the sev maker mold.
  4. Once the oil is hot using the sev maker dispense the sev in the oil and fry till golden brown. Once done take them out on a kitchen paper to soak away the oil. Now you can keep the sev in a airtight container.
Ready to eat!

This is an excellent munchie, goes well with drinks in the evenings.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Khata Meetha Mirch ka Achar (Sweet and Sour Chilli Pickle)

Achar or pickle is something that everyone who has eaten at an Indian Restaurant would have tasted it. In the UK it is even brought with Papadums while you wait for your main meal. 
Pickling (achar is the name given to Indian version of pickle) is a way of preserving and keeping the vegetables, fruit and even meats, for when that particular ingredient is not available. I would think that every country would have their own recipes and favoutites. People use various ways to pickle, but in North India one uses Mustard oil as the chief ingredient. Besides preserving and eating a vegetable in off seasons, in India achar is eaten as an accompaniment with main meals. It is usually sour but can also be sweet and sour, which enhances the taste of already spiced up dishes that one eats in India. 

Being in Delhi where one meets with people from all parts of India, I have been lucky to learn from different experts new ways of making achar. In the following few posts I will bring to you several off beat achars. Achar is easily obtainable from any Indian grocery  store, but it is fun to prepare your self. Lots of people get scared of attempting but most recipes are quite simple, though most achars need several days of sunlight to pickle. In India one gets lot of sun but in countries like the UK I may suggest that you keep the achar to mature in the sunny windowsill or a conservatory. 

There are a few simple rules which prevents the achar being spoilt. One is ensure you do not add any water, therefore pat dry all the vegetables and use glass containers to mature and keep it after it is ready. Lastly, do share it with your friends and neighbours they would love it and to be honest that is what Indians do!

My first recipe is simple and different to most chilli pickle that I have had. My thanks to Mrs.Bhargava who is an expert snacks and pickle maker to show me how to make this achar.

  • 250 gms red large chillis cut into round pieces
    Red Chilli
  • 5 tbsf Mustard oil
  • 1 tsf Asafoetida (Hing) 
  • 2 tsf Salt
  • ½ tsf Turmeric (Haldi)
  • 3 tbsf crushed Fennel seeds (Soonf)
  • 3-4 tsf Jaggery (gurdh)
  • 2 tsf Tamarind paste
  • 2 tsf White Vinegar.

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy wok.
    Pickle being cooked
  2. When the oil is hot add Asafoetida (Hing).
  3. Add the chopped chillis fry for a minute on high heat.
  4. Add salt and turmeric powder and mix well.
  5. Add fennel seeds and mix well again. Lower the heat.
  6. Now add the jaggery and let it melt and mix for a minute.
  7. Add Tamarind paste and mix well. Stop the heat.
  8. Now add 2 tsf of white vinegar. 

The achar is ready but traditionally keep it for 2-3 days in a warm sunny position. In colder countries one can put it in the conservatory.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Marathi Style Toor Dal

No one in an Indian home would serve dal without adding a tarka. The preparation of tarka varies in the different regions of India. Each region boasting their version to be better. What I have found is that they are all good. Whenever I have varied it in one region by preparing a different region’s tarka it has raised question, ‘How did you make this dal?’ It just shows that by using different tarkas one can totally change the taste of dal and almost all of them are good.

My friend and mentor in Aurangabad, Ranjana shows me her style of tarka which transformed the dal into the most exquisite dish. This unfortunately would be the last dish that she could teach me on my whistle stop tour of Maharashtra.


For Dal:
  • 2 Cups Toor Dal
    Tarka Dal Marathi Style
  • 1 ¼ tsf Salt
  • 1 tsf Turmeric powder (Haldi)
    For Tarka:
  • Ghee
  • 1 Tomato chopped
  • 2 Green chillies cut into small pieces
  • Curry leaves
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • Cumin seeds
  • Garlic chopped.

  1. Boil the dal as usual with turmeric powder and salt for approximately 20 minutes or when the dal is done. Some people use a pressure cooker when one would need to cook till the first whistle. Leave it aside. 
  2. Before serving the dal prepare the tarka by heating ghee or oil in a pan on high heat.
  3. Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
  4. When cumin seeds start to sizzle add the garlic and lightly brown.
  5. Add the curry leaves and fry for 30 secs.
  6. Add chopped green chillies and fry for 30 secs.
  7. Add chopped tomatoes and fry for a few minutes.
  8. Add chopped fresh coriander and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Add the tarka to dal before serving.
It goes with any meal. This was my last Maharashtra regional dish blog till I revisit or have the opportunity to be invited by a Maharashtrian friend!

Bandh Gobi, Potatoes and Peas Marathi Style

I was lucky to be in Maharashtra in the winter time, when the fields around were lush with mustard and vegetable fields in between the cotton plantations. The vendors displayed the freshest vegetables straight from the fields, so we picked all kinds of vegetables. 
After the success with the breakfast, Ranjana started to chop the cabbage and told us that she would give us bandh gobi, potatoes and peas Marathi style for lunch. Normally she was instructed to cook in the North Indian style for my North Indian host. That day she was demonstrating for my benefit so she could cook in her own Marathi style, which gave her great pleasure.

  • ½ Cabbage (Bandh Gobi) chopped small 
  • 2 Tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup of Green Peas
  • 3 small Potatoes cut length wise into thin slices.
  • ½ tsf Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsf Salt
  • 3-4 Green chillis cut length wise
  • ½ tsf Haldi 
  • Bandh Gobi Potatoes and Peas
  • 2-3 tbsf Oil

  1. In a thick wok heat the oil. Add Mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as the mustard seeds start to sizzle add green chillis and fry for 1 minute.
  3. Add cut potatoes and fry for approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Add peas and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add chopped Bandh gobi and tomatoes and mix.
  6. Add salt and turmeric powder and again mix well.
  7. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or till the poatoes and peas are cooked.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


Maharashtra is a fertile land where most of the fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance. Most people are vegetarians and I will introduce mainly the vegetarian dishes which I had the privilege of learning from a Maharashtrian cook Ranjana. As I stayed only for a few days she could only show me three dishes.
Poha is something which Maharashtrians eat for breakfast but on the streets of Mumbai I have often seen it being sold as a snack.

  • Chiwada (Beaten rice)
  • ½ tsf Haldi
  • 1 tsf Salt
  • 2 tbsf Oil
  • ½ tsf Mustard seeds
  • ½ tsf Cumin seeds
  • 1 small Onion chopped
  • 2 Green Chillis chopped at a slight angle
  • Few Curry leaves
  • 2 tbsf Peanuts
  • small bunch of Coriander leaves finely chopped
  • Grated Coconut (optional)

  1. Soak the Chiwada for 10 mins and drain the water.
  2. Add turmeric powder and salt to the chiwada and leave it aside.
  3. In a wok heat the oil and add mustard and cumin seeds, heat on high heat till these start to sizzle.
  4. Add curry leaves, green chillis and fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add Onion and fry till it start to brown.
  6. Add soaked chiwada and mix well and cook for approximately 15 minutes
  7. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut (optional).
We were served hot for breakfast.

Malvan Fish Curry

Maharashtra is one of the richest and most populist states in India. Though most of its population is Hindu (descendant Marathas), it has a healthy population of people of other religions. It has the biggest population of Parsees and their culture is seen quite clearly in all the big cities of the state. Despite meeting two good Parsee friends I could not learn their cooking which was unfortunate, but a reason for me to visit that part of the country.

To learn about the cooking style of Maharashtra I chose Malvan, a Sea side town on the West Coast and the Historical City of Aurangabad in the heart of Maharashtra. Malvan is not on most people’s of wish list though, should be, as I was informed by a British coupe who were staying at the same resort as I did. We were staying in Tarkali which is a small fishing village just south of Malvan. It reminded me of Goa at the time of its independence in 1960's. It had several, what essentially are Bed & Breakfast however, local people call these as Home Stay. Malvan boasts a water bound Sindhudurg fort besides the many lovely beaches. As expected the local people are either Vegetarian or eat Fish (which come in plentiful each morning at its many beaches). Their style of cooking is basically Konkan, though locals in Malvan corrected me that Malvan food is different to Konkani food. They tend to eat their Fish Curry very hot and use Kokum to give the Fish curry its distinctive sour taste and the bright red colour. Unfortunately, it is not available easily in the rest of the country so I have used Tamarind, which gives a similar taste but not its bright red colour.


  • Pick a fish of your choice (preferably Pomfret)
  • Close to 3 dry red chillies
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 big Onion of finely chopped
  • 1 cup of desiccated dry coconut
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3-4 Garlic roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp 
  • 2 tbsp Ghee/Oil 


  1. Heat the dry roast red chillies, peppercorns and turmeric in a wok on low heat till the ingredients become fragrant, put out the flame and leave it for cooling.
  2. When the ingredients cool down grind these in a mixer along with desiccated coconut, tamarind pulp, garlic and some water to get a smooth paste.
  3. Heat oil/ghee in a wok on medium flame and fry onions till they turn soft and translucent.
  4. Add the paste to the onions and fry till you see the oil separates from the masala.
  5. Add the coconut milk and bring the curry to a boil.
  6. Reduce the flame and add the fish pieces to the gravy and cook for around 8-10 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook the fish.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Afgani Chicken Tikka

I was introduced Afgani Chicken way back in 1970’s by my best friend and my cousin Yogesh. Unfortunately, he passed away just over a year ago. This entry is in his memory. Yogesh was a brilliant host and often gave lavish parties especially when I visited India. He had a chef, Heera (literally translated it means Diamond) who created lovely Mughlai dishes and this was one our favourite starters and this recipe was given to me by him.Since my interest in cooking I have slightly tweaked the recipe to give that extra flavour. As I write I will indicate the extra bits as optional.

  • 4 Chicken thigh (I use thigh as opposed to breast because the thigh meat is more succulent. I cut them lengthwise) cut into small tikka sized pieces
    Afgani Chicken
  • 4 tbsf of Yogurt
  • 5-6 cloves of Garlic crushed
  • 1-2 inches of Ginger crushed (optional) 
  • 1 tsf Sea salt
  • 12-15 Peppercorns coarsely crushed
  • 2 inch Cinnamon stick crushed (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsf Olive oil


  1. In a bowl mix all ingredients except the chicken pieces and 2 tsf of oil.
  2. Now add the chicken pieces and rub the marinade well, ensuring covering the folds of the muscle belly. Leave it in the fridge or a cool place for at least 4 hours.
  3. About 30 minutes before serving lay the chicken pieces on a baking tray. 
  4. With a brush apply oil on the chicken pieces.
  5. Now put the tray with chicken pieces in a preheated oven (temp 200F). Cook for 25 mins turning the pieces a couple of times during cooking.
  6. Take the chicken out and garnish with some fresh coriander leaves.
I have not been disappointed serving this dish for anyone! 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Makki Ki Roti Bala Style

Anyone from the North India would know the only way to have Sarson Ka Saag is with Makki ki Roti. Every home in Punjab and Haryana will vouch their version of Makki ki Roti is the best. I was privileged to taste Bala’s made roti with her Saag. I think if anyone else had the opportunity they would not be disappointed either.

The most difficult part of making this roti is the mixing of the dough. Unlike, normal roti flour mix which is prepared by adding water to the whole of the flour, Bala mixed small amounts of makki flour with little water. This she would rub with the heel of her hand. She informed me that this way the Makki becomes soft for a better flovour. She mixed (or rubbed) small amounts for only 2-3 rotis at a time. In between cooking the rotis she would mix another lot of dough. She managed to feed 7-8 people with hot fresh rotis! 

  • 250 gms Maize Flour
  • 125 gms Wheat Flour
  • Water for mixing
  • White Butter for spreading on the roti (optional)

  1. Mix maize and wheat flour with small amount of warm water. As opposed to kneading the flour with fingers you need to rub the flour mix with the heel of the palm. This action not only mixes the flours but makes the Makki grains softer, I have been informed. If one was to make larger quantity you may find it easier to mix and rub the flour in smaller amount at a time.
  2. Once the four is mixed take a small amount of dough and roll it in circular roti shape, then heat it first on a tawa (Indian griddle for making rotis - a necessity for making any type of roti, but at a stretch one can use a flat frying pan). The roti is first heated on one side then turned over. As soon as you start to see brownish burnt areas the lift it from the tawa and heat both side on the naked fire.
  3. Traditionally one applies white butter on one side of the roti and served hot with Sarson ka saag.

Sarson Bathua Methi and Palak ka Saag (Haryana) - Bala Style

Sarson ka Saag is very popular in North India especially Punjab. However, in Haryana they make Sarson ka Saag with three other greens - Spinach, Fenugreek and Bathua. When I went shopping for the four greens I forgot the names. But I need not have worried as the vendor knew exactly what these would be as it is so common in the region. I was introduced this version by Bala who hails from one of the villages in Gurgaon. She tells me she remembers having it since her childhood, when her grand mother prepared it for the extended family. It was popular then as it is now in her family. Even her mother-in-law concedes Bala’s saag is the best she has had, this must be a first in India as Mother-in-laws rarely praise their daughter-in-laws!

I expect most Indians would have heard of Sarson, Spinach and Fenugreek, but not many would be aware of Bathua (it’s botanical name is Chenopodium album, but some common names in Europe are goosefoot and pigweed). It is often considered a weed, reducing the yield of the main crops dramatically. As Bala’s Grandmother used to say it is God’s gift which comes every year only in the winter, a perfect description of a perennial weed. However, these days it is cultivated in North India for making Saag and raita dishes. It is available only in the winter and such a saag will be relevant for people living in North India as probably it is not available in the other regions of India. If you can get your hands on Bathua, please do try it as it is exceedingly tasty. Bathua can also be used to flavour parathas and making raita.

For this recipe I had to get rather larger quantities as it is difficult to get small bunches in the shops. I could see why Bala’s Grandmother made it for the extended family! It keeps well so you can leave leftovers for another day.

  • 1 Bunch Sarson (Mustard) ka Saag chopped coarsely
    Sarson Methi & Bathua
  • 1 Bunch Methi (Fenugreek) ka Saag chopped coarsely
  • 1 Bunch Palak (Spinach) ka Saag chopped coarsely
  • 1 Bunch Bathua (Chenopodium album) ka Saag chopped coarsely
  • A Handful of Flour
  • 3 Tomatoes 
  • 6-8 cloves of Garlic
  • 3 inches of Ginger
  • 10-15 Fresh Green Chillis (according to your taste)
  • 2 ½ tsf Salt to taste
  • 1 tsf Chilli Powder
  • 4 tbsf Oil
  • Ghee for tempering
  • 4 cloves of Garlic chopped for tempering

  1. In a large pan boil the chopped four greens with a cupful of water. Do not add too much water as all four greens leave water when heated. Once it comes to a boil lower heat and let it simmer for at least an hour or when the greens become very soft. Drain excess water but you do need a little.
  2. Now coarsely grind it in a blender. Do not liquify!
  3. Mix the flour in a cupful of water. Keep it aside.
  4. Coarsely grind the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and green chillis in a blender
  5. In a pan heat the oil and add the tomato, garlic, ginger and green chilli mix and brown it, till oil separates.
  6. Add ground greens and mix well. 
  7. Add salt, chilli powder and mix well.
  8. Bring it to a boil.
  9. Add the flour and mix well again. Now just let it cook stirring it from time to time till the Saag become thick and there is no standing water.
  10. Heat the ghee in a smaller pan and add the chopped cloves till they are brown.
  11. Add the ghee and garlic temper with individual serving rather than in the whole pan! 

Bala made Makki ki Roti to eat the Saag with. You will have to wait for the recipe for Bala’s version of Makki ki Roti, which is one of the finest Makki ki Roti I have had.