MURG SAAGWALA – CHICKEN & SPINACH INDIAN STYLE

I know there are several variations of this dish but I tried to create a creamy one without using cream. In some variations, I notice that the spinach loses its vibrancy and can be gritty so I created the dish where part of the spinach is pureed and the rest is added in the end.  In India, Saag will often be made from mustard greens, silverbeet or other greens but I’ve used spinach. You can adjust the number of green chillies based on how hot they are and also your heat tolerance. The curry is not meant to be hot – kind of flavourful and spicy with a touch of chilli heat.

Murg Saagwala

INGREDIENTS

400g chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces

200g fresh spinach

200g onions, finely chopped

2 medium sized tomatoes

3 tablespoons oil

2 cardamom pods

5-6 cm piece of cinnamon

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

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SOM TUM STYLE SALAD WITH KOHL RABI

One of my favourite South East Asian dishes is Som Tum. Traditionally it is made with green papaya but here I made with kohl rabi and carrot. It is such a classic and if you get green papaya do try with it although kohl rabi works well too. The salad is slightly acidic, a little sweet from palm sugar, a little sour from tamarind contrasting the crunchy kohl rabi, green beans and peanuts.

Som Tum Style Salad with Kohl Rabi
Kohl Rabi

INGREDIENTS

1 kohl rabi

100g carrot

1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ – 1 finely chopped bird’s eye chilli

8-10 French beans, halved lengthways

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PUMPKIN RAITA – PUMPKIN YOGHURT SAUCE

I love pumpkin – they are so versatile. Suitable for sweet or savoury dishes and lends well to all manner of cuisines and cooking methods. There are a few months during summer when pumpkins are in short supply and I do miss them. Pumpkins have become one of my staples that I buy each week.

This is one of my mum’s recipes.

Pumpkin raita

INGREDIENTS

2 cups plain natural yoghurt (Greek style)

200g pumpkin, peeled and grated

1 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 green chillies, chopped

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut threads

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 dried red chilli halved

½ teaspoon urad dhal (optional)

10-12 curry leaves (optional)

Salt to taste

METHOD

In a small fry pan, toast the cumin seeds. Place the toasted cumin seeds, green chillies and desiccated coconut in a spice grinder and blend to a fine powder. Mix this spice powder into the yoghurt, season with salt and whisk until smooth and creamy.

Heat the ghee in a fry pan and gently fry the grated pumpkin on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Once cool, mix it in with the yoghurt.

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan. Add the urad dhal if using and let it become light brown. Now throw in the red chilli, followed by mustard seeds. Stir well with a spoon. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the curry leaves if using and remove from heat.

Pour the seasoning over the raita. Serve with rice and dhal as a side dish or to accompany parathas.

Serves 3-4

CORIANDER FLAT BREADS

I adapted these coriander flatbreads from King Arthur Baking Company’s recipe collection. It is kind of a wet dough and don’t be alarmed as they roll easily with a dusting of plain flour. I served mine with an herbed yoghurt (dill, mint, and lemon rind and lemon juice, sweetened with honey). Personally I feel they are a cross between Indian Nan and flat bread.

Coriander flatbreads

INGREDIENTS

½ cup warm water

½ teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

200g atta or fine whole wheat flour

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KING ARTHUR BREAD ROLLS

I call these my King Arthur bread rolls as my recipe was inspired and adapted from the recipe collection of King Arthur Baking Company. I believe good things take time and while these rolls can’t be whipped up in a jiffy, they are so delicious and definitely deserving of the time spent making them. They are incredibly soft with just the right amount of chew. Serve them up for lunch with a hearty soup and you will be a winner.

King Arthur Bread Rolls with Pumpkin Soup

High grade flour or bread flour has a higher gluten content and this is first preference. I used atta (sourced from Indian grocery store or you can use finely ground wholemeal flour – the kind that does not have any bran or grain bits in the flour)

INGREDIENTS

241g high grade flour or bread flour

113g atta

43g oats

½ cup ground linseed or flax

2 and ½ teaspoons instant yeast

1 and ½ teaspoons salt

50g sunflower oil

1 large egg yolk, save the white for brushing on top of the rolls

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GROWER’S PIE

I’ve made variations of a vegetarian shepherd’s pie for a long time now. The kids loved the idea of a shepherd’s pie albeit vegetarian. I have modified the recipe over the years and this version is filling, satisfying and absolutely scrumptious even though I say so myself. I also stopped calling it shepherd’s pie and started calling it grower’s pie to reflect the meatless nature of this pie.

Grower’s pie

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:

400g tin of lentils

400g tin of beluga lentils

400g tin of kidney beans, drained, rinsed and mashed

200g onion, finely chopped

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MATTAR PANEER – PEAS & PANEER IN TOMATO SAUCE

Back in the day, I used to make my own paneer (it kind of resembles and tastes like ricotta) and it used to be quite the ritual of weighing the paneer down overnight with a tower of cans. Now like everyone else, I use store bought paneer.

Paneer is versatile because it absorbs the flavours of whatever sauce you are using. Mattar is peas in Hindi so this dish is peas with paneer in a thick tomato sauce. It is really nice with rotis, puris or any flatbread.

Mattar Paneer

INGREDIENTS

300g paneer

450g peas (frozen is fine)

150g onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons ghee

5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

2-3 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

½-1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin seed powder

2 teaspoons coriander powder

60ml cream

Salt to taste

For the sauce

100g onion, chopped

100g carrot, peeled and chopped

300g tinned tomatoes

1 red chilli

1 tablespoon oil

METHOD

To prepare the sauce heat the oil in a small saucepan. Fry the onions and carrots for 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and 200ml water. Let it come up to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Once cool enough blitz in a food processor or a stick blender. Set aside.

Heat the ghee in a kadai or sauté pan. Fry the onions on low heat for 12-15 minutes until they are pale brown.

Pound the ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Toss this paste into the onions and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and cumin and coriander powders. Keep frying and when it starts sticking to the bottom of pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Fry the spice off for a couple of minutes.

Tip the sauce into the kadai and season with salt. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cut the paneer block into 16-20 pieces. Soak in warm water.

Soak frozen peas in water and change the water a couple of times. This way when you add to the sauce, they will retain their bright green colour.

At the end of cooking time, add the peas and paneer. Cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the cream. Continue on the heat for a further minute or so.

Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves 6.

CREAMY MUSHROOM MASALA

This was a dish I used to make on a regular basis when the kids were younger. It’s a mild and creamy curry popular with adults and kids alike. My good friend Mini, asked if I could send her the recipe – I realized I hadn’t prepared this in over ten years! It was my concoction, so I recreated the recipe and my son vouched that it tastes like what it used to.

Please do try as I am sure it will become one of your favourites too.

Creamy Mushroom masala

INGREDIENTS

500g mushrooms

250g onion, divided

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 tablespoons ghee

½ teaspoon caraway seeds or shah jeera

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

½ teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

60ml cream

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves to garnish

1 teaspoon liquid honey

1 tablespoon oil

1 clove

1 fresh red chilli, slit in half, optional

2 tomatoes (I used tinned tomatoes)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3-4 roots and stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped

METHOD

Chop 100g of the onion and finely dice the remaining and set aside. To make the sauce, heat oil in a saucepan, add the clove and let it fry gently. Toss in the red chilli and chopped onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and half cup water. Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Blitz using a stick blender and when cool enough sieve the sauce through a fine sieve and set aside.

Wipe the mushrooms and if too large, cut in halves or quarters. Heat the ghee in a kadai and add the caraway seeds. When they splutter, toss the garlic and then the finely chopped onion. After frying for two minutes, add the mushrooms. Mix well so mushrooms are coated in the onion mix. Cover with a lid and let sizzle on medium high heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder along with salt. Cover and cook for a few more minutes. When you see water in the kadai, remove the lid and evaporate most of the water.

Stir in the prepared tomato sauce along with the honey. Let it simmer gently for 4 or 5 minutes. Pour in the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cook for a further minute and turn off the heat.

Sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves. Serve with rice and roti.

Serves 4

GRILLED FLAT BREADS (STOVE TOP)

I’d say these are my version of a pita bread. Knead the dough well and you will be rewarded with soft flat breads. With any bread, you have to plan ahead and can’t rush the proving time. I had a few leftovers which meant lunch was sorted. Heating in the microwave was not ideal but wasn’t bad either. They are yummy so do try them.

Grilled flat bread

INGREDIENTS

300g high grade flour or bread flour

200g white wholemeal flour like atta (from Indian grocer)

Salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon instant yeast

125g plain natural yoghurt

225ml lukewarm water

Extra virgin olive oil to brush on the flat breads

METHOD

In a large bowl, measure out the flours, salt, sugar and the yeast. Mix well with your fingers. Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt. Pour the water in batches and knead well to form a soft dough. Cover with a wet cloth and leave to rest for one and a half hours. It should double in size.

Oil a large baking tray and set aside. Lightly grease your hands and gently knock back the dough. Shape dough into balls of about 60 – 65 grams. Place on oiled tray and cover with wet cloth. Rest for half an hour. Roll dough into an oval shape about 3 mm thick and 15 -16 centimetres wide. Cook on a preheated grill plate for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately. Makes 8-10 pieces.