Our Thali by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 6 – 8

Every time Nat and I jet off on a holiday, I have a tradition of giving her a card and a new cookbook in the lounge.

We were headed to Vanuatu (our favourite place on earth) which oddly has no Indian restaurants of any fame. (Essentially, we have never stepped foot in and trust me, we’ve eaten everywhere in Port Vila.)

So the latest book was Thali by Maunika Gowardhan.

A brilliant, colourful book of dozens and dozens of side, mains and breads to make a Thali: a big plate.

We cooked seven dishes – all vegetarian – and it was a triumph.

Flavours so unique and serious. Each of them complimenting the other. The sum of its parts. So sophisticated.

We didn’t do a sweet, though I really appreciate how you could and probably should.

Start the night before, bring out the tray and your friends will fall off their chairs.

Life’s good.

And the dishes:

Spicy Stir-Fried Garlic Potatoes
Spicy Sweetcorn with Ginger and Green Chilli
Kidney Bean Curry with Cardamom, Ginger and Chilli
Andhra Aubergine, Coconut and Tamarind Curry
Paneer Koftas in a Creamy Spiced Tomato Curry
Wholemeal Flatbreads
Rice to serve

Maunika Gowardhan’s Wholemeal Flatbreads

Makes: 12

These flatbreads – known as Phulkas – are a softer, smaller version of a classic Indian chapatti.

Going forward, they’re a must for any Indian feast we cook.

Though the real takeout is chapatti flour.

The texture of the Phulkas was just so on-point. Something I know (having done some reading at least) cannot be achieved with white or wholemeal flour.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

250gm chapatti flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp ghee, plus extra to serve
Pinch of salt
3/4 c water

Method

  1. Put the flour in a mixing bowl with the ghee and salt. Now add the water a little at a time, mixing with a spoon or your fingers until it starts to come to together. Knead well (we used a Kitchenaid),to form a smooth dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cling film) and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough int 12 equal size balls. Flatten each ball and dust with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out each one as thinly as possible to around 12.5 cm.
  3. Heat a griddle pan or fry pan over a medium heat, until hot. Add one of the rolled flatbreads and cook for 30 seconds, then turn it on the other side cook for a further minute. As it begins to puff up, turn and cook the first side again for a further 30 seconds, pressing lightly with the back of a spatula.
  4. Remove from the heat and spread over the ghee. Cover with a clean tea towel and keep warm while you make the rest.

Andhra Aubergine, Coconut and Tamarind Curry by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

This is a lovely dish to be served alongside an Indian menu. The tamarind brings a sourness that is offset by the creaminess of the baked eggplant underpinned by a subtle nuttiness that the coconut adds.

All around a great side dish that won’t disappoint.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

2 aubergines (eggplants), cut into 1/4 batons lengthways
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c cup of grated coconut
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cm cinnamon stick
10 curry leaves
1 white onion thinly sliced
3 garlic gloves crushed
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 250ml water
2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Coriander to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, put aubergines in a roasting tray and coat with 4 tablespoons of oil coated. Roast for 20mins. Meanwhile, put the coconut and yoghurt in a blender and blitz into a paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds so they start to crackle then add in the cinnamon stick. Fry for a few seconds then add in the curry leaves and onion, fry for about 10mins so they are soft and starting to turn golden. Add garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to a low and add the coconut paste and remaining ground spices. Fry for 5 mins then add in the tamarind paste/water, sugar and salt.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the cooked aubergines. Cover and cook over lot for about 8 mins until the sauce is thick and coats the aubergines. Garnish with coriander.

Kidney Bean Curry with Cardamom, Ginger and Chilli by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

This is pure comfort food.

Like any good bean chilli, honestly, by itself with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, on the couch with a glass of red, this dish could help Monday night fly by.

As part of a Thali we prepared from Maunika Gowardhan’s new book – Thali – it was the knockout addition. Compared to the spices and uniqueness of some of the dishes, here came this wonderful, muted comfort in the form of kidney beans and a thick gravy.

A total joy to eat.

(And there is enough left over for Monday night!)

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

2.5cm ginger root
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
4 black cardamom pods, whole*
5cm cinnamon stick
1 onion, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
2 x 400gm tins of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
Pinch of asafoetida (substitute garlic or onion powder)
350ml boiled water
Salt, to taste
Pinch of garam masala
Chopped coriander, to garnish

Method

  1. First, put the ginger root and garlic cloves into a blender with a splash of water, and blend to form a smooth paste.
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, letting them fry for 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds as the raw flavours cook through.
  3. Increase the heat to medium, add the chopped onions and cook for 14 – 15 minutes as they soften and go light brown. Stir well, making sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the tomato paste and fry for 2 minutes, then add a splash of water and scrape off any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Now add the red kidney beans, along with the ginger and chilli powder, as well as the asafoetida. Stir well and fry for 1 minute, then add the water and season to taste.
  5. Cover and cook over a low heat for 17 – 18 minutes, stirring halfway through. Crush some of the beans with the back of a spoon to thicken the gravy slightly. Finish with the garam masala, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice.

* If you can, don’t substitute green Black/brown cardamom pods add a beautiful smokiness.

Paneer Koftas in a Creamy Spiced Tomato Curry by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

Any vegetarian curry with potato and paneer koftas is going to win your heart, add in a cashew creamy sauce to coat the koftas and boom! The sweetness of the raisins gives the dish a beautiful edge.

It takes a little while but its not complicated and its definately worth it.

We air fried the koftas and would definately do it this way again.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

For the koftas

300gms peeled potatoes boiled
200gms paneer finely grated
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom powder
2.5cm piece of ginger finely grated
1 birds eye green chilli finely chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped
3 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp raisins

For the sauce

1/2 c cashew nuts
6 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
2.5cm ginger roughly chopped
1 birds eye green chilli
3 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves
1” cinnamon stick halved
1 green chilli slit lengthwise
1 white onion roughly chopped
1 tomato roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp chilli powder (mild or Kashmiri chilli powder)
200mls water
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnish

Method

  1. Add the cashew nuts to a bowl with 50mls warm water and soften for 30 minutes. Blend the garlic, ginger and chilli (only 1) with a splash of water to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Use the same blender to blitz the drained cashews with about 3 tablespoons of the soaking water to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  3. Add the onion to a blender and blend to a smooth fine paste with 50mls of water. Set aside. In the same blender add the tomatoes, blend to a fine puree and set aside. (At this point you will have four seperate bowls of blended things: (1)Garlic/ginger/chilli, (2)Cashews, (3)Onion, (4)Tomato.
  4. For the koftas; Coarsely grate the potatoes and mash well to a smooth mix. To this add all the kofta ingredients except in a large bowl. Knead lightly to a dough like consistency. Cover and cling film until ready to fry. You can sit them overnight.
  5. To cook the gravy; heat the oil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the cloves and cinnamon stick and fry for a few seconds. Add the slit green chilli followed by the onion paste and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir well making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan as the moisture begins to evaporate.
  6. Add the ginger garlic and chilli paste and fry for 2 minutes. Stir and add blended tomatoes along with the blitzed tomato and tomato puree. Mix and cook for 6-7 minutes. The sauce will begin to reduce and go a deeper red colour
  7. At this stage add the chilli powder and the cashew nut paste. Stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes, lower the heat and add water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add the sugar, garam masala and mango powder. Season to taste and garnish with coriander. Turn the off and keep warm.
  9. To cook the koftas; Divide the kofta mix into equal portions about a large tablespoon. Take a portion in the palm of your hand and roll into cylindrical shape. Make sure they are shaped well or else they will fall apart while frying so pack them tightly.
  10. Put them in an air-fryer or oven for about 10 mins. Flip them after about 8 mins. (alternatively you can shallow cry them for about 3-4mins in oil).
  11. Add the koftas to the warm gravy to a serving dish and steep the koftas just before serving.

Spicy Stir-Fried Garlic Potatoes by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

If ever 3 words were meant to be together, it would be “spicy garlic potatoes”, stir fired.

Maunika writes that when she was a child growing up in Mumbai, the highlight of her day was lining up with her for these potatoes in the different markets and roadside stalls across the city.

Pretty easy to tell why.

As a side to an Indian feast, they’re just awesome. And simple enough to make the night before and reheat.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

700gm floury potatoes, such as Roosters, boiled and cooled
8 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
10 – 12 curry leaves
3 green birds-eye chillies
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of asafoetida (substitute garlic or onion powder)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chopped coriander, to garnish

Method

  1. Peel the boiled potatoes and roughly crush them. Set aside.
  2. Put the garlic, cumin seeds, curry leaves and green chillies in a mortar and pestle and pound the mix to a coarse, rough paste. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based, non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spice paste along with the asafoetida and fry for a few seconds, stirring well. Reduce the heat to low and add the turmeric, sugar and crushed potatoes, mixing well.
  4. Season to taste, then cover and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat, squeeze over the lemon juice and garnish with fresh coriander.
  5. Serve with puris, dal and a pickle of your choice.

Spicy Sweetcorn with Ginger and Green Chilli by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

This vegetarian accompaniment is Indian simple, Indian quick and particularly Indian delicious.

We used canned sweetcorn kernels and it was tremendous. And wow, you won’t see the roasted peanuts and lime coming.

Hard to see how this will not sit aside every thali we serve going forward!

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

520gm tin of sweetcorn, drained
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of asafoetida (substitute garlic or onion powder)
1 heaped tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the chilli and ginger paste

1 green bird-eye chilli
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
5cm ginger root, roughly chopped

Method

  1. First, make the chilli and ginger paste by placing all the ingredients into a blender, along with 3 tbsp of the sweetcorn, and blitz to a coarse paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the asafoetida and mustard seeds, and fry for a few seconds until they splutter.
  3. Add the prepared chilli and ginger paste and fry for 1 minute, stirring well. Add the turmeric and stir, then adding the sweetcorn and fry for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, season, and add the fresh coriander and crushed peanuts. Cover and cook for 1 more minute. Finish with the lime juice and serve warm.

Yotem Ottolenghi’s Aubergine Dumplings Alla Parmigiana

Serves: 4

This really is a dish that tells you that vegetables really are better than meat.

Line it up against a chicken parmigiana and hands down the eggplant wins. Even without the shallow fried-breadcrumb.

The basil. The ricotta. The Parmesan. The toasted breadcrumbs.

Brilliant.

I don’t often cook a dish twice in quick succession, though this is now in the repertoire. Make the sauce a few days ahead, the aubergine mixture in the afternoon and bam, with a salad of greens, you’ll have just a marvellous dinner on your hands.

Another Ottolenghi home-run.

Ingredients

90gm fresh breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)
4 aubergines (eggplants) roughly cut into 2 1/2cm cubes (1kg)
150ml olive oil, plus extra for shaping
100gm ricotta
75gm Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
10gm parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
6 garlic cloves, crushed
15gm basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 x 400gm tins of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed until smooth (600gm)
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
45gm pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and dried out. Set aside to cool and turn the oven temperature up to 220c.
  2. On a large, parchment-lined tray, toss the aubergines with 75ml of oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until golden brown.
  3. Roughly chop the aubergines not a chunky mash, then transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Once cool, add the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, yolk, flour, breadcrumbs, a third of the garlic, 10gm of the basil, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, then with lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into 16 golf-ball-sized dumplings, about 55gm each, compressing them as you go so they hold together.
  4. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. In two batches, fry the dumplings for 3-4 minutes, turning them until golden-brown all over. Adjust the heat if they’re browning too much. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and fry the remaining dumplings in the same way. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chilli flakes, paprika, oregano, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Pour 400ml of water, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Pour the sauce into a medium baking dish, top with the dumplings and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven, scatter over the olives, the remaining basil and a grating of Parmesan, and serve.

Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

Tis the season of soup: four days into winter and I don’t think we have managed to get over 10 degrees in Sydney.

Cue the long line of winter soups and we’re not sad about it.

This one is a winner: its thick, warming, healthy and kids love it – Tom Tom went in successively for four bowls.

And it’s sophisticated enough to serve as a starter at a lunch over the next few months. This really is French bistro.

Bring on winter. And extra Parmesan.

Ingredients

For the roasted vegetables

4 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots
1 capsicum
1 broccoli
1 red onion
1 head of garlic (or about 6 cloves)
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the stew base

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cans tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups of vegetable stock
100g of green beans, trimmed and cut 0.5cm pieces
1 cup French lentils
Parmesan soup

Method

Roasted vegetables

  1. Turn on oven to 180C. Chop up vegetables (don’t bother peeling the carrots) and drizzle with olive oil and toss so the veges are evenly coated.
  2. Wrap the garlic in foil and drizzle with olive oil and seal in a bundle. Put in the oven with the tray of vegetables.
  3. Roast for about 30-40 mins.

Stew base

  1. In a large pot on medium heat cook the onion and garlic until it is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, canned tomatoes, stock, beans and lentils. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 15 mins or until the lentils are cooked, stirring so the lentils don’t stick to the pot.
  3. When the vegetables have finished roasting put them in a blender with roasted garlic, balsamic, tomato paste and a couple of big spoons of the soup. Blend to combine.
  4. Mix the blended vegetables into the soup base and simmer for another 5-10 mins depending on how thick you want the soup.
  5. Add the Parmesan cheese to serve.

Bianca Zapatka’s Spinach Ravioli with Mushrooms

Serves: 4 – 6

This is probably one of the most comfortable pastas I have ever eaten, though calling it comfortable is an understatement.

It’s simplicity is its sophistication.

This is 2-hat sort of stuff. And yet, so simple.

Nat served this as the first course of a slow, Sunday afternoon of pastas and wow.

She adapted the dough slightly and I cooked the mushrooms for longer because mushrooms only improve with time in the pan.

We discovered some time ago that pasta assembly is best accompanied with a few flutes of good Champagne. A celebration of sorts that you have hit the final straight!

As the first course for a late autumn lunch, people would be blown away. A crisp Pinot Grigio, a fire and some good music and here you have all the pieces to start a very good afternoon.

Well done Nat.

Ingredients

For the Ravioli

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 00 flour
1/4 semolina flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c water
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Spinach Filling

225gm frozen spinach, thawed
125gm cream cheese
5 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300gm brown mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan to serve

Method

Pasta Dough

  1. Mix the flours, semolina and salt. Heap into a pile and press a well into the centre. Pour in water and olive oil and knead to a smooth dough. (We used the dough hook on a KitchenAid.)
  2. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling foil and place in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.

Spinach filling

  1. Squeeze the spinach to remove all excess water and chop.
  2. Add the Parmesan, cream cheese, season and mix until combined.

To make the Ravioli

  1. Roll out the prepared pasta dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. (We used a pasta roller down to setting 2.)
  2. Cut out 7cm circles with a round form.
  3. Place approximately 1 tbsp of the spinach filling in the centre of each circle. Brush the sides with a bit of water and fold over the filling into semicircles. Carefully seal with your finer and then press down lightly with a fork.
  4. Bring salted water to the boil in a large pot. Let the ravioli slide in a simmer for 3 – 4 minutes until they have floated to the surface.
  5. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.

Fried Mushrooms

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms until browned and all the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Deglaze with the soy sauce and sauté for at least a few more minutes.
  3. Serve with the drained ravioli. Season and garnish with fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan.