I have gone through many recipes to find a version which retains the traditional flavours and textures without the heaviness of cream or butter! So here I present to you my tried and tested Palak Paneer, tasty, nutritious and just spot on 🙂
Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 30 mins No. of Servings: 3-4
For the Spinach
500g fresh baby spinach, washed and drained
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 red onions
1 tsp salt
10-12 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 green chillies, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
good splash of water + more as needed
For the Paneer
350g Paneer, cubed
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
Pinch of salt
In a deep wok or karahi, gently heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. Wait until they begin to sizzle and then add the onions.
Stir in the salt with the onions, cover and cook on medium heat until soft and golden. Stir in the garlic, ginger and green chilli and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the dry spices (coriander and cumin) and cook 1-2 minutes adding a splash of water. Simmer for another minute.
Add the fresh spinach, cover on low heat cook until wilted.
Stir the wilted spinach to coat with the onions and spice mixture. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Transfer the cooked spinach to a large bowl and blitz to a rough pureed consistency and set aside.
To prepare the paneer, add the oil to the wok or karahi and heat gently. Add the paneer cubes together with the spices and salt. Stir fry until golden (approx. 4-5 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.
Return the spinach to the wok or karahi, add a little water cover and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another minute.
Stir in the paneer cubes and cook uncovered for another 2 minutes.
One of my favourite lentil curries often made at my in-laws, I have just reduced the use of oil to the bare minimum 😊 Enjoy with naan, boiled rice or fragrant zeera (cumin) rice for a wholesome, healthy and heart-warming dish on a cold winter’s day.
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins
1 cup whole red lentils
3 cups water + plus a more during cooking
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 green chilliest ( optional)
2 tbsp oil
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste, or 2 cloves finely minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp salt or to taste
Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Fresh ginger slivers and lemons wedges (optional garnish)
How to prepare
Rinse the lentils and pressure cook until tender (about 20 minutes).
Heat the oil gently in a saucepan and add the cumin. Wait till they change colour.
Add the onions and green chilli; cook until the onions have softened.
Add the garlic and cook off for 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomato with the salt, cover and cook until softened completely.
Add the dry spices and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Add a little water and continue cooking to create a semi-dry mixture – ‘bhuna’.
Add the cooked lentils to the pan and mix well.
Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup hot water, stir again and bring to boil.
Simmer the dal until the desired consistently is achieved – add more water if you preferred a runnier curry.
Stir in the coriander leaves and remove from the heat.
Top with the ginger slivers and lemon wedges, if using.
Last night I was ‘Desperately Seeking Spice’ and discovered a plump aubergine hiding out in my refrigerator 😊 I had 45 minutes to present something palatable and suitably spicy before it was time to break my fast. So I decided to cut out the elaborate prep and just throw it all into one of my dinky little woks and hey presto!
Prep time: 3 mins
Cooking time: 25 mins
1/2 large aubergine, cubed
1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/3 tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp roasted ground cumin
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
How to prepare
Place all the ingredients, except the oil, into the wok and mix well.
Drizzle the oil and stir in.
Cover and allow to cook until the aubergine is tender.
Word of caution: Those normally adverse to aubergine may just be tempted to delve in so keep the dish by your side and only offer to share at the risk of missing out 😜
Good to be back here! It’s a long shift in my kitchen tonight as I prep for a private catering event later today. Christmas parties everywhere! The biriyani masala mix is well under way, wafting its aromas at this rather ungodly hour 😳
While I wait, having of course done all my chopping, I thought a bit of blogging wouldn’t go amiss given it has been a while…
Last week I cooked this flavoursome traditional dish which, as the name suggests, does not use archar (pickle) in the recipe at all! No, no no. The achari tanginess is created with my favourite good old Bengali ‘five spice’ mix. I still remember the flavour created by this incredible concoction of five seeds when my grandma made her delectable chicken curry during our rare visits to see her in Bangladesh.
So this is how it goes:
Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 40 mins Serves 4
1 medium chicken or 2 chicken breasts cut into curry pieces
Wash and drain the chicken well (although it’s best not to wash the chicken to prevent campylobacter cells from spreading – the most common cause of food poisoning; cooking the chicken thoroughly will remove this as well as other bacteria – read NHS article here).
Heat the oil gently and add the five spice mix. Wait until the seeds sizzle.
Add the onions and cook over a medium flame until golden brown (up to 10 minutes).
Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until soft and pulpy.
Mash down the tomato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, salt and garam masala. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir well and allow to ‘bhuna’ (i.e. the oil should separate from the spices and float to the top).
Stir in the the chicken pieces ensuring they are well coated with the spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium-high flame, ensuring the spices do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the water and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 mins, then drop in the green chillies, if using.
Cover and cook on a low flame until the chicken is thoroughly done.
Garnish with coriander leaves, if using, just before serving.
Aloo (ka) Bharta (spicy mashed potato) is a timeless comfort food which can be enjoyed equally with rice or rotis. As a Bengali, my staple meal growing up consisted of boiled rice and my mum often prepared this bharta in traditional Bengali style, either using mustard oil as a base or ghee; the latter treating one’s sensory palette to the ultimate taste experience which I dare not replicate for obvious health reasons!
Aloo Bharta, a dish of Bihari origin, has many variations. My recipe is based on a Pakistani version which I have adapted from my mother-in-law and is very different to the Bengali method of preparation and personally, best enjoyed with handmade rotis 😀
Feel free to replace the tomato purée with fresh tomatoes. I only used the purée as I was out of tomatoes 😱
750 g potatoes, boiled and mashed with a tsp salt
3-4 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
11/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp tomato purée
4 spring onions, chopped
Green and red chillies, chopped
How to cook
1. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin seeds. Allow seeds to sizzle.
2. Add the onions and chillies. Cover and cook until softened.
3. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute over a medium flame.
4. Add the tomato purée and mix well. Cook until the oil separates from spices. Stir in the salt.
5. Turn down the heat and add the mashed potato. Mix well until the spices is evenly distributed throughout the potato.
6. Stir in the chopped coriander and transfer to a serving dish.
I used to love my Mum’s simple chicken curry with its distinctive flavour of green peppers and whole spices. Ironically though, when visiting my parents’ home, Mum would often ask me to make ‘my’ chicken curry to give her respite from her own cooking.
Now let’s get this right, my version of chicken curry is based on a combination of ingredients from two different cultures. As with many of my recipes, my Bengali roots call for the use of ‘panch phoron’ (five spice mix), which (to me) lends the curry a nostalgic flavour, vaguely reminiscent of my grandma’s cooking. However, the use of fried onions and yoghurt is more akin to a Pakistani-style Korma, very much influenced by my mother-in-law’s cookery which I was introduced to more than some 20 years ago…
I have replaced the whole spices used in my Mum’s original recipe with my home ground garam masala (owing to the somewhat fussy eating habits in my household) and substituted the green peppers with red ones to lend the curry a subtle, yet natural sweetness. It is a simple recipe, surprisingly bursting with flavour, blog-worthy for it classic simplicity.
Chai for me is to be enjoyed on its own. Simple. No food required. I often long for a ‘dhaba’ (roadside restaurant) style desi (with reference to all things South Asian) chai. The last time I enjoyed the authenticity of sitting by a roadside kiosk at dusk, sipping a hot, sweet masala chai, was during one of my rare visits to Bangladesh – a place where I spent a good part of my childhood. Sadly, most restaurants in London will not serve a tea without a meal…unlike our coffee shops. So whilst my day always starts with a desi cardamom chai, when out and about, like a bee to drawn to nectar, I find myself in my favourite coffee shop ordering a “Grande Soya Chai Tea Latte, extra chai, no water” – a bit of a mouthful but certainly worth the effort. Worth noting: The soya lends a creamy sweetness which I find lacking in the dairy version. However, during a recent visit to a well known curry house, I was blown away by the luscious Kashmiri Chai served, on request, BEFORE my meal. Now let me tell you a little about this beverage. Kashmiri Chai, otherwise know as Sheer Chai or Pink Tea is a traditional Kashmiri drink brewed from special tea leaves and served with cardamom, pistachios and almonds served as a warming beverage during the cold winter months in India and Pakistan; also enjoyed during festivities and celebrations. It’s characteristic pink colour is achieved by adding a pinch of baking soda. Not wanting to go out for a full blown meal, but longing to indulge in this very superior version of chai, I took to the stove with a zealous determination to recreate the magic of Kashmir in my South West London home kitchen, albeit a lower fat rendition.
Cooking Time: approx. 1-2 hours Serves: 4
2 tbl kashmiri or green tea leaves
2 cups water
1 cup half fat milk
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup half fat evaporated milk (opional)
10-12 cardamon pods, split and used whole or seeds crushed
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of ground pistachios (optional)
pinch of ground almonds (optional)
How to brew
Bring 2 cup of water to boil.
Add the tea leaves and bring to boil.
Cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes until the liquid turns a reddish colour.
Add the baking soda and shake, then bring back to boil.
Add the another cup of water (preferably chilled), pouring it in from a height.
Shift the liquid between the pan and another pan or jug, by pouring the liquid from a height from one to the other – this process enhances the flavour and pink colour.
Return to boil.
Strain the liquid and return to the pan.
Bring back to boil and add the milk and sugar.
Gently bring to boil and simmer for 5 mins.
Pour in the evaporated milk (if using) and again bring to boil and simmer for 1-2 mins.
Pour into your favourite chai mugs and top with crushed nuts if desired.