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The Easy Indian Cookbook by Manju Malhi comes out next month, and we decided to take a look at some of the beautiful ingredients which Manju introduces in more detail at the beginning of the book. First-time cooks often find the number of spices and ingredients used in Indian cuisine to be quite daunting – but the simple truth is that preparing an Indian meal is very straightforward. Mastering just a few basic techniques and becoming familiar with some of the essential ingredients will strip away the mystery and make preparing Indian food less time-consuming, much more satisfying and incredibly rewarding.

YOGURT (DAHI)
An essential ingredient in Indian cooking, yogurt is a staple for many vegetarians and many homes in India still make their own practically every day. There are countless uses for yogurt but the main ones are making yogurt drinks and chutneys, such as raitas, and using yogurt as a souring agent, a thickening agent, a meat tenderizer and a flavour enhancer.The yogurt in India comes from buffalo’s milk and is thick and rich. Greek-style yogurt and natural unsweetened yogurt are the nearest substitutes.

 

BAY LEAF (TEJ PATTA)
The type of bay leaf used in Indian cooking is the leaf of the cassia tree. These leaves are long, thin and light green in colour, with a mellow, spicy aroma and a sweet taste. In Indian cooking, the bay leaf is used as a flavouring in meat and rice dishes and it is an important component in the Moghul style of cuisine. One or two dried leaves are sufficient to scent a dish and they can be removed easily before serving.

 

CURRY LEAF (KARI PATTA)
These small, shiny leaves, about 2.5cm/1in long, are used whole in Indian cooking, much like bay leaves. The leaves, which have a citrus scent, lend a dish a distinct curry aroma. Curry leaves are generally heated in oil to release their flavour. Once heated, they look shrivelled and crispy. Fresh curry leaves can be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.

 

DRIED BEANS
After lentils, dried beans are the second-most common pulse consumed in India. They need soaking and the longer you store them, the longer you need to cook them because they toughen with age. The green split mung bean (moong dal) is light and delicate when cooked, looking cream or yellow in colour with flecks of green.

CHICKPEA OR GRAM FLOUR (BESAN)
This flour is pale yellow in colour, silky in texture and has a pleasant, nutty aroma. It is used in the preparation of both savoury and sweet Indian dishes. Be careful not to confuse gram flour with graham flour, which is made from wheat. Like all flours, gram flour should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, as exposure to heat can cause it to go off and take on a stale, rancid taste.

 

RICE FLOUR (CHAWAL KA ATTA)
Rice flour is a fine, white powder made from grinding white long grain rice. Free from gluten, it is often used in Indian cooking as an alternative to wheat flour to make Indian-style flatbreads such as South Indian appams or soft breads. Rice flour also acts as a binding and thickening agent. You can make your own rice flour by pulverizing uncooked Basmati rice grains in an electric grinder but it is also available in speciality shops and in most supermarkets.

The Easy Indian Cookbook is available from 10th March.

 

Karma chichen
Nisha Katona invites you to try three recipe ideas, adapted by her mother. A little twist of traditional Indian dishes to surprise your family with an Indian Lunch.
Madras pimped cheese on toast
Every Indian living abroad needs to get their spice fix for the day. This was my mother’s way and now it is mine.
We had a version of this in Nepal and I have never forgotten how sublime it tasted. Mum worked hard to crack the right formula and voila. It also appeals to her need to take a great British staple and pimp it Indian style.
This dish is utterly addictive and great for a lunchtime treat or sly supper spectacle. It is so very simple but it has so much flavour.
The addition of the paste really gets this dish singing. No matter what time I eat this, it takes me straight to that Kathmandu guest house with the sun on my back and a slice of golden Himalayan heaven in my hand.

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:
4 pieces of bread-toasted on one side
grated cheddar
chopped red onion
chopped coriander
1 spoon Madras OR Balti Paste
black pepper
chopped green chili
Method:
Mix all the ingredients together, cover the non toasted side of the bread and grill until bubbling and golden.
Korma popcorn chicken with a spiced spinach yoghurt dip
This dish has its origins in my mother’s cocky resourcefulness. Ever has it been the way with Indian mothers, that they will not be outdone by any of the big chains!
I remember driving though one particular fried chicken chain with her and relishing the cute little balls of fried deliciousness. Nothing irks my mother more than this; than her own daughter enjoying a dish that she had not created.
She set to work in her kitchen of alchemy and invited me over one night, triumphant, at her creation. She had trumped the fast food warriors and I have to take my hat of to her.
These Korma popcorn balls were utterly light, packed with flavour and to top it all extremely quick and simple to make.  The Spinach dip is a quick construction job; deeply tangy and satisfying, a perfect cooling creamy accompaniment to my mothers lip smacking golden orbs of culinary genius.

Serves 4
Ingredients:
4 Chopped chicken breasts
pataks korma paste
lemon juice
garlic puree
1 egg
salt
gram flour
oil
pureed spinach
greek yoghurt
pataks madras paste
Method:
Popcorn Chicken
  • Rub the chicken pieces with a 1 1/2 tablespoons of Korma paste,lemon juice, garlic puree, egg, salt.
  • Drag the pieces through the gram flour and plunge fry
Raita
  • Combine the yoghurt, a dessertspoon of the madras paste and the spinach, a touch of lemon juice and salt.
Tikka and tamarind glazed ribs
This dish is a firm family favourite. It is one of our signature New Years Eve Dishes. Ribs are such a great party cut of meat! These ribs are so simple and quick to prepare that you can create a banquet hall pile of them in no time and they make a stunningly extravagant centrepiece. I used to make these using just the tamarind but it was the addition of the tikka paste that really got people talking about them.  We are plagued by requests for this recipe and here it is. Marinade, roast and enjoy.
Ingredients:
pork ribs
pataks tikka paste
honey
garlic
tamarind paste
onions
ginger/garlic paste
garamasala powder
chopped coriander leaf
Method:
  • Rub the ribs with garlic and garamasala and roast.
Make the glaze as follows:
  • Fry onions, ginger and garlic, add 2 dessertspoons of Pataks Tikka Paste, 1 dessert spoon of honey, 1 dessert spoon of tamarind concentrate.
  • Simmer adding a little water to loosen the glaze. Add in the ribs and simmer for the last few minutes, sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with a finger bowl!

Pimp My Rice_Cover_WEL

 

Nisha Katona
Pimp My Rice
£20.00, Available from Nourish Books

 

Recipe from Pimp My Rice by Nisha Katona.

This is a berry-sweetened porridge made from a coconut-based congee. Congee is the beef tea of the East, the porridge version of motherly love. For many in the East, this blended congee has been the stuff of rib-sticking recuperation. The berries are a bright, tart European twist.

Serves: 4
Preparation: 15 minutes, plus soaking
Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
150g/5½oz/ heaped 1 cup raspberries, plus 6 whole raspberries, to garnishPimp_B_Caramel_Berry_Blend
150g/5½oz/1½ cups strawberries, plus 3 halved strawberries, to garnish
1½ tbsp demerara or muscovado/soft brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

THE CONGEE
90g/3¼oz/½ cup Thai fragrant rice or short-grain rice soaked for 2–4 hours, rinsed and drained
650ml/22fl oz/2¾ cups coconut milk
2 tbsp caster/granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

Method:
Chop the raspberries and strawberries roughly into large chunks, reserving all the juices. Reserve a few pieces to decorate, then leave them all to one side.

For the congee, heat the rice, coconut milk, caster/granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Once the rice begins to boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until you have a porridge consistency.

Meanwhile, put the raspberries, strawberries, dememera sugar and lemon juice in a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and stir for about 8 minutes until the fruit softens but still has some bite, and the juice thickens slightly. Don’t let it go to a to‹ee-like consistency.

Now you can either stir the berry mix into the congee until the red juices just bleed a little into the congee, or blend them together using a stick/immersion blender.

Serve warm or cold in bowls, decorated with the reserved fruit.

Pimp My Rice_Cover_WEL

 

Nisha Katona
Pimp My Rice
£20.00, Available from Nourish Books

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by Nisha Katona

Food is a little like fashion. There are fads that are bang on trend, there are timeless classics, there is the readily forgiven ethnic scene and the crushingly difficult haute couture of the Michelin aspiration.
And like fashion, certain genres inspire jaded disdain at any one moment – the ra-ra skirt, the slanket and the onesie of the food world now, seem to be the concepts of ‘dirty food’, ‘pulled pork’ and sadly for me, ‘street food’.

It is very easy to roll ones eyes at the ubiquitous. But are we being too harsh in our judgment? Are these genres of food, in fact, timeless; simply adding to the colours of the ever brightening food scene?

It is this question that keeps me up night after night. I built Mowgli Street Food only 9 months ago.  I gave up my  life as a Barrister and the hallowed security that went with that. Everything I own, or saved or inherited is in her. I would not have done this to build a vanity project based on a fad with no legs. And yet-night after night I moot the need to remove the words ‘Street Food’ from our title.

Mowgli is a pet name I called my children. It is a soft round word filled with love for me. Street food, the thorny phrase, to me, is the way a billion Indians eat every day. In fact it is not just Indians that eat like this. Street Food is the daily dining experience of the majority of the worlds population.

The restaurant is an eating construct of the cold and wealthy west. In the East, food has a brisker, more intense articulation. In the heat of the East, workers and diners do not want to sit inside a stuffy building filled with cooking fumes. Air conditioning, refrigeration, complex kitchen equipment, expensive overheads all militate towards humble great, food pedlars selling their signature dishes from open stalls on the worlds chaotic and peopled pavements.

Street food is the way Indians eat on the way to and from school, the office, at railway stations, outside their homes, day in day out. Street Food is a concept as old as the foundations of the earth. It was a concept born as soon as currency and community breathed their first.

Street food is to the food world what shoes are to fashion. From Choo’s to Chappals, it may have been hijacked by the niche but it will always be a humble, undress necessity.

For me, and for Mowgli, thankfully, whichever way I look at it, Street Food has legs and in a good way. I hope for all of us, that the informal, honest, smash and grab, big flavoured concept of world Street Food scene is going nowhere.

About the Author: Nisha Katona is a food writer, Indian Cookery teacher and founder of Mowgli pataks_nisha_squar_2852765bStreet food. She has series of Youtube video tutorials that have a worldwide following. She has over  22000 twitter followers for her daily recipes and live Curry Clinics. She has recently worked on a filming project with Food Network. Professionally Nisha has worked as a Barrister for over 20 years in the area of Child Protection. In 2008 the Department of Culture, Media and Sport appointed her as trustee of National Museums Liverpool and in 2009, the Cabinet Office appointed her as an Ambassador for Diversity in Public Appointments, and in this capacity has been engaged as an expert advisor by The Guardian newspaper.

 

Pimp My Rice_Cover_WEL

Nisha Katona
Pimp my Rice
Available from Nourish Books from October 2015