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.

Ajoy Joshi’s Chicken with Spinach

Serves: 4 – 6

A love a good spinach curry!

Unlike what we all get served up at our local Indian however, this dish by Ajoy Joshi has depth, heat and character. It is clearly a curry that doesn’t share a base with 200 other curries on the menu.

As with all Ajoy dishes, there are twists: the processed onions cooked gold in the oil is just one trick that makes this recipe special.

As part of a banquet, you could do a whole lot worse.

Ingredients

500gm (baby) spinach, stems removed
3 fresh mild long green chillies, slit lengthways
2 large yellow (brown) onions, roughly chopped
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 c whole milk
1 whole chicken (1.5kg) cut into 10 pieces, or 1kg chicken pieces (I used thigh)
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 c heavy (double) cream

Method

  1. In a food processor, combine spinach and chillies and process until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Rinse and dry process, add onions and process until finely ground. Remove from the processor and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat oil over a medium-heat. Add onions and salt and cooked uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and cook for another 5 minutes longer.
  3. Raise heat to high, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes.* Stir in the Garam Masala and chilli powder and cook, stirring, until all the moisture evaporates and the oil separates, 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spinach purée and tomatoes. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the chicken is cooked throughout and tender, 20 – 25 minutes. Uncover and if liquid remains, continue to cook on a medium heat until it evaporates.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the cream. Serve immediately.

* Respectfully, when chefs ask for meat to be browned in a sauce or gravy, I just don’t understand if this is possible without commercial cooking. Meat just doesn’t brown in milk. Just cook the meat.

Dan Toombs’ Chicken Xacuti

Serves: 4

This famous Goan curry is a hit.

Like so many I have typed – all I hope – it is just so unique, so special, so different to your usual local Indian. Indeed, we couldn’t see a world where we would get this served up outside of your really top Indian nosheries.

It is of course, a completely unique curry base.

I quartered the stock and then cooked it down far more than Dan suggests, though I cannot see how this wasn’t necessary to achieve the sort of gravy you would expect.

Substituted thyme for the ajwain seeds – which seemed fine – though ironically picked up some ajwain seeds the next day at an Indian grocer. Next time.

This is a special Saturday-night in curry.

Unique as I said. Special. Just special and oh wow wonderful.

Ingredients

Xacuti Masala

6 Kashmiri red dried chillies, chopped
1 c dried coconut flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black poppy seeds (substitute black sesame seeds)
7 cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
5cm piece of cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

For the curry

8 skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp rapeseed oil (canola)*
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
2 green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
2 c chicken stock (I suggest 1/2c)
1 1/2 tamarind paste or concentrate
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c coriander, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Start by making the Xacuti masala: in a dry frypan, toast the Kashmiri chillies for about a minute, turning regularly until fragrant. Place in a bowl of warm water to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the coconut flakes until lightly browned and set aside.
  3. Toast the cumin, coriander, ajwain seeds, fennel and poppy seeds, the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and star anise over a medium-heat until fragrant and warm to the touch. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  4. When the chillies are soft, drain them reserving the soaking water, then blend them with the coconut flakes and the rest of the masala ingredients along with a little of the chilli soaking water to make a paste. (If the soaking water is too bitter, use fresh water instead.)
  5. Pour the paste over the chicken in a large bowl and mix to coat. Marinate for as long as you can: overnight if possible.
  6. Heat the oil in a large frypan over a high-heat and when bubbling, adding the mustard seeds, stirring until they pop. Reduce the heat and add the curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft, lightly browned and translucent. Stir in the chillies, then the chicken and all the marinade.
  7. Stir well to cover the chicken in the marinade and onion mixture; add the stock and cook down to a gravy.
  8. Stir in the tamarind and nutmeg and season. Stir in the coriander, season with salt and serve.

* We have doubled down on our oils this year and it makes a difference. Of course. Coconut oil, especially mustard oil. Canola will make the cut here, though do yourself the favour and invest in some Grapeseed oil. Doesn’t burn, no flavour, great for this sort of thing.

Adam Liaw’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato Coconut

Serves: 4

I’ve previously written about what a big fan I am of Adam Liaw.

Brilliant cook. Funniest Twitter account. Genuinely lovely guy.

And so there I am during Sydney’s Covid lockdown; in-line in a Chinese grocer and who walks up behind me, but Adam Liaw.

So I introduce myself and tell him what a fan I am of his; that I have purchased several of his latest book for friends.

He politely thanks me.

Clutching snake beans, I explain that I accidentally purchased garlic chives the day before and ho ho ho, what an easy mistake that is right?

And he gives me that look: no it isn’t moron. Only you could make that mistake.

Anyway, still a fan and yes, it was a moron mistake.

In keeping with all of Adam Liaw’s recipes, this one is a keeper. A total keeper.

A wonderful coming together of Malaysian and Indian flavours as he puts it.

We had this mid-week as a date night and didn’t we have a great evening! This dish and a bottle of cold white were big contributors.

Ingredients

1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon quill
10 curry leaves
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large green chillies, sliced
2 coriander plants, leaves picked, stalks and roots roughly chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tamarind puree
400ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
10 okra, trimmed (optional and omitted)
750gm skinless barramundi fillets

Method

  1. Heat a large frypan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves, and stir for 10 seconds. Add the onion, garlic, chillies, plus the coriander stalks and roots and stir well.
  2. Cook for about 4 minutes until the mix is fragrant but the onion is not yet coloured, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir well, then add the tomatoes, tamarind, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar plus a splash of water* and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the okra (if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the barramundi and simmer until cooked through: about 6 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, then scatter with the coriander leaves and serve.

*Nat and I did a virtual cooking class with Neil Perry during Sydney’s lockdown and the most prominent comment from the 750 or so Instagram participants was “slow down”. And it wasn’t that we did not have the ingredients ready.

The issue was cooking time.

Neil’s induction was putting our gas hobs to shame.

And it is why I assume so many chefs ask for a cup of water to be added to a dish and then reduced in 10 minutes. Because they can… and we can’t.

I’m subscribed to the view that you add water as you go rather than reducing large quantities of it. Because it always takes multiples of what you are told it should take time wise. And with respect to Adam, adding a cup of water at this stage meant another 15 minutes frantically trying to bring this back over a very high heat.

Lara Dunson’s Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves: 4

Lara Dunston is a Cambodian food and travel writer: she also makes a solid coconut rice, something Nat whipped up to accompany a great Burmese Chicken Curry we had last weekend.

Nothing says you’ve made an effort than a rice that has colour, or additional elements, or both.

This is one such rice, perfect for any Southern Asian curry.

Ingredients

3 c jasmine rice
1 c coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves

Method

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then transfer to the rice cooker. (We cooked in the microwave).
  2. Pour coconut milk into the rice cooker and then water until it reaches the 3 cup measure.
  3. Add vegetable oil, shallots, salt, spices and bay leaves and combine well.
  4. Cook until the rice is cooked through and then rest for 10 minutes.

Burmese Lemongrass Chicken Curry

Serves: 2

Last Saturday night, Nat did this curry with a coconut rice.

We wanted something quick, easy and healthy: we were already up to our eyeballs in cooking prepping for Sunday.

Neither of us had high expectations, though wow. It was awesome.

It is the spice that really does it. Hard to put my finger on it, though the heat was so focused and simple. The aromatics from the lemongrass immediately followed.

One mouthful in, Nat said I wouldn’t type it, though two in, I challenged this. Three mouthfuls and we both agreed that it was traditional, wonderful and needed to stick around.

Just make sure you accompany it with the coconut rice.

Ingredients

250gm chicken breast cut into 4cm pieces
3 sticks lemongrass, bruised
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large wok and add the shallots and garlic and fry until translucent.
  2. Add half of the tomatoes and cook over a medium-high heat until soft. Add the remaining tomatoes and repeat.
  3. Add the ginger and lemongrass. Stir fry until the sauce becomes a richer, deeper red colour. Then add the chilli powder, turmeric, fish sauce and palm sugar and stir.
  4. Add the chicken pieces with 1 1/2 c water and mix. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, The cover and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Finish the curry by removing the lid and allowing the sauce to cook down and thicken (approximately another 15 minutes).
  5. Remove the lemongrass pieces and serve with steamed rice.

Roast Ocean Trout with Chilli-Turmeric Paste

Serves: 4

This recipe is awesome.

Think a good lashing of a wonderful, oily paste on a thick piece of ocean trout (or salmon), roasted at a high temperature.

Served hot with a drizzle of coconut cream and a squeeze of lime, this is what you would call vibrant. I mean, ocean trout in any setting is the finest of the fish, though add this wonderful paste and this is just moorish.

It would be just as good with barramundi or even chicken breast.

Just make sure you have a glass of cold, crisp white ready to go!

Ingredients

4 fillets of ocean trout
Coconut cream, for drizzling
Lime wedges and steamed rice, to serve

Spice paste

4 long red chillies, seeds removed
1 lemongrass stalk, white part, finely chopped
10gm piece of turmeric, coarsely chopped
1 small golden shallot
2 tsp dry-roasted, coarsely ground coriander seeds
1/4 c olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. For spice paste, using a hand-blender, blitz ingredients with a pinch of salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add spice paste and stir until lightly roasted (1 – 2 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  3. Spread spice paste over fish and bake until just cooked through (8 minutes for medium-rare). To finish, drizzle fish with coconut cream and squeezed lime juice. Serve with rice.

Dan Toombs’ Pakistani Dry Meat Curry

Serves: 4

This is an incredible curry. Hall of fame sort of stuff.

It’s from Dan Toombs’ latest book – The Curry Guy Bible – recommended to me by my mate Rich and what a great book.

There is literally nothing I don’t want to try and based on this dry meat curry cooked by Nat, I am going to cook it all.

I’ve typed up a few dry curries and they are my favourite. Cooking the sauce down until you really don’t have sauce at all.

For many, I appreciate that this defeats the purpose of a curry, though just trust me.

With this particular curry, once the meat is tender and at the point of starting to breakdown, together with the spices, the fried onions and the reduced marinade, my word. Read through the method and get excited.

Add then add this dry meat curry to your cooking shortlist and prepare to be blown away.

Ingredients

900gm lamb leg meat, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 c ghee (we used 2 tbsp to be healthy)
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder*
1 tbsp fenugreek leaves**
Salt, to taste
4 tbsp chopped coriander to garnish
3 limes, quartered, to serve

For the marinade

1/4 c white vinegar
1/2 c Greek yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp (chickpea) flour
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste***
8 (green) bird’s eye chillies, blended to a paste with a drop of water
2 tbsp mustard oil****

Method

  1. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until creamy smooth. Add the meat and mix well with your hands to ensure it is nicely coated and marinate for 3 hours or overnight – the longer the better.
  2. When ready to start cooking, bring 1 litre of water to the boil and add the lamb chunks with all the marinade and stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the lamb is tender. You want to be left with a cup of cooking stock at the end of the step. Tip the cooked meat and remaining liquid into a bowl.
  3. Now, using the same pan, melt the ghee over a high heat and add the onions. Fry for about 15 minutes or until the onions are a deep brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the onions to a separate bowl.
  4. Reduce the meat to medium high and stir in the garam masala and chilli powder and return the set aside onions to the pan. Now add the meat and remaining broth to the pan and cook until the broth has almost evaporated. Turn up the heat to high and flash fry the meat until it is crispy and the ghee is starting to separate from the other ingredients.
  5. Add the fenugreek leaves by rubbing the leaves between your fingers into the pan and season with salt. When you are testing the meat for seasoning, it is very easy to continue snacking, so try not to do that too much! Garnish with coriander and serve with lime wedges.

* Much more subtle than chilli powder so hunt it out.
** Order from Herbies.
*** Blend equal parts garlic and chilli with a little water.
**** Worth the investment.