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.

Ajoy Joshi’s Pepper and Garlic Chicken

Serves: 4 – 6

Another cracking Ajoy Joshi recipe, where according to Ajoy, this recipe began life at the Nagarjuna Restaurant in Bangalore where it is renowned for this Tamil Nadu dish.

The steaming of the chicken is clever, finishing it in ghee (Ajoy asks for oil and unsalted butter) until golden.

We served this on steamed rice with mint sauce, lots of chutney and coriander… and it was excellent. It reminded us of eating Nilgiri’s (Ajoy’s wonderful lower North Shore restaurant) and on that basis, it has to be typed.

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick, about 7.5cm long
2 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1/3 c chopped fresh coriander
36 fresh curry leaves
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 fresh mild long green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and halved crosswise
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 unsalted butter (N.B. We substituted oil/butter with ghee)
Mango pickle/chutney to serve
Steamed rice to serve
Coriander to serve
Mint sauce to serve

Method

  1. In a spice grinder, combine cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns and grind to a fine powder. Transfer ground spices to a small food processor and add coriander, curry leaves, juice of 1 lemon, chilli, garlic, ginger, tamarind, turmeric, and salt. Process until a paste forms.
  2. Place chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl. Add remaining juice of 1/2 lemon and turn to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add paste and turn chicken to coat well. Set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.
  3. Line a large bamboo steamer with baking paper. Arrange chicken on a single layer on paper, cooking in 2 batches if necessary. Place basket over a wok or other pan of simmering water, Cover and steam until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter (or ghee) over a medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 1 – 2 minutes per side. Serve with rice, fresh coriander, mint sauce and chutney.

Mint Sauce

Serves: 1 cup+

There is more to mint sauce than mint.

Ingredients

1 c full fat yoghurt
1/4 c coriander leaves
1/4 c mint leaves
1 green chilli
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 – 1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Place coriander leaves, mint leaves and green chilli in a blender and process until smooth, adding 1 – 2 tbsp water to bring it together.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, spoon in the yoghurt.
  3. Now add the green herbs mixture, salt, sugar, cumin, garam masala and lemon juice to the yoghurt. Whisk together until well combined, cover and chill until needed.

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.

Crispy North Indian Style Aloo Tikki with Stuffed Green Peas

Serves: 6-8

Aloo tikki is a popular Indian street food snack made with boiled potatoes, aromatic spices and herbs.

These patties are crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside. The peas stuffing really adds to the dish though often you find recipes that don’t include the peas.

Do not cut this corner.

They are absolutely moorish and your guests will have smiles all over.

Ingredients

Green peas and potatoes

4 to 5 large potatoes
1/2 c frozen baby peas
2.5 c water

For the stuffing

1/4 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder (ground coriander)
1/2 tsp fennel powder (ground fennel seeds)
1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder or ¼ to ½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped green chillies
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
2 pinches black salt
Salt as required

For the potato mixture

1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dry mango powder or 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black salt
Salt as required
1/4 c bread crumbs or add as required
1/4 c cornstarch (or as required)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
4 to 5 tbsp oil for frying the tikki or as required

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes and the peas: I cooked mine together with the potatoes boiling under a trivet holding the peas in a metal bowl. This got a bit complicated so I would recommend peeling the potatoes and boiling them in a pot until soft.
  2. Steam the peas in the microwave safe dish until soft. About 4 minutes.
  3. Green pea stuffing: Take the peas in a bowl and mash them to a coarse texture.
  4. To the peas, add red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, coriander powder, fennel powder, dry mango powder, finely chopped ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  5. Potato mixture: Meanwhile drain the water from the potatoes and let them become warm.
  6. When the potatoes are warm, mash or use a ricer. Let mashed potatoes cool completely.
  7. Add chilli powder, Garam Masala, coriander powder, dry mango powder, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  8. Next add bread crumbs and cornflour and mix very well.
  9. Stuffing and shaping: Divide the mixture into small or medium shaped patties with a hollow center or cup shaped discs. You can apply some oil on your palms when making the patties or tikki.
  10. Place the green peas filling in the center.
  11. Bring the mashed potato edges on the top and seal them.
  12. Frying: Heat 2 tbsp oil on a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) or frying pan till it is medium hot. Gently place the tikki and begin to pan-fry them
  13. When the base is crispy and golden, gently flip each tikki with a spatula.
  14. Fry the second side till crispy and golden. You can gently flip once or twice more till the aloo tikki are golden and crisp evenly.
  15. Remove and on paper towels. Fry all tikkis this way. Add 2 tbsp more oil when frying the second batch.
  16. Serve with coriander, chutney and yoghurt.
Stuffing the peas into the potato mixture before sealing.

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.

Dan Toombs’ Keema Pau Samosa

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Dan Toombs doesn’t specifically make a Keema Pau Samosa.

Though he does make samosas. And he does make the Keema Pau.

And so I chose to bring them together and I am giving him pretty much all of the credit.

I made these as part of a bigger lunch and the boys – 13 and 10 – literally wolfed them down and asked for more to be made.

They’re not revolutionary. Keema never is.

Though they are as good as I have had.

Note, I skipped making the samosa pastry and went for store-bought shortcrust.

I also baked these samosas rather than (shallow) frying them. Hundreds of videos on how to fold samosas and so I’ll leave that for you.

Ingredients

500gm minced lamb
5 tbsp canola oil
2.5cm cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods, bruised
500gm onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste*
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 very generous tbsp garam masala**
Generous handful of coriander
4 birds eye chillies
1/4 c frozen baby peas
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves***
Salt, to taste
Shortcrust pastry
1 egg
Mint yoghurt to serve

Method

  1. Mix the minced lamb with 2 cups of water and break it up with your hands until the mixture is about the same consistency as porridge. (This will help achieve a smooth keema without any lumps.) Set aside.
  2. In a large pan or wok, heat the oil over a medium-high heat and when visibly hot, stir in the cinnamon and cardamom pods and let the flavours of the spices infuse in the oil for 30 seconds. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns light brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for an additional 30 seconds and then tip in the meat/water mixture. Cook until the water is evaporated.
  3. Add the turmeric and garam masala and stir well to combine and simmer.
  4. In the meantime, blend the coriander and chillies with 1/4 cup of water until smooth and add to the pan; continue to cook, remembering that this needs to be a dry mixture. Add the peas and cook for a few minutes more.
  5. Finally, add the dried fenugreek leaves, breaking them up as you go. Continue to cook until the oil separates from the meat. Season with salt.
  6. Make an egg wash, heap a tablespoon of the mixture into the pastry and fold the samosas one by one, using the egg wash to seal. (I didn’t egg wash all over though will next time.)
  7. Bake until golden brown.

* Mince equal parts garlic and ginger with a small amount of water.

** I ended up adding at least two tbsp. Taste and go from there.

*** Order from Herbies.

Anjum Anand’s Best Ever Burger with Spiced Onions

Makes: 5 – 6

Looking back on every recipe I have typed from Anjum Anand’s cookbook I love India, I always start by praising the book and just how great it is: unusual recipes, great food photography, passionate stories, amazing meals.

So let’s not do that, nor dwell on how I start each burger recipe by talking about how much I love burgers and how the best burgers are about simplicity blah blah blah.

Instead, let’s talk about why you must set aside a lunch in the next week to cook this just awesome burger. I’m talking top three for me. 1. being Gordon Ramsay’s 1-Million Subscriber Burger, 2. being Neil Perry’s classic beef burger with cheese and bacon and 3. being this burger.

We didn’t invest as much in the mince as we usually would and second time round with a mixture of freshly ground chuck, brisket and lamb mince, I reckon this burger would nudge 2.

Possibly 1.

Don’t delay.

Ingredients

For the burgers
500gm minced beef or lamb (including some fat)
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 – 6 burger buns
1 large tomato, sliced

For the roasted green chilli yoghurt
3 large green chillies, stalks removed, pierced with the tip of a knife
2 rounded tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp crème fraîche (or mayonnaise)
Good handful of chopped coriander

For the spiced caramelised onions
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp panch phoran (or garam masala)
2 red onions thinly sliced

Method

  1. Mix together all the ingredients for the burgers except the tomatoes and the buns, season with 1 1/2 tsp salt and rest for 30 minutes.
  2. On a BBQ or a pan, cook the chillies until charred and blistered on all sides. Once done, wrap in cling wrap.
  3. Heat the oil in a fry pan and when hot, add the panch phoran. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the onions and add a good pinch of salt and cook over a high heat until they have coloured and are well browned on the edges. Adjust the seasoning and set aside.
  4. Mix together the yoghurt, crème fraîche and coriander for the topping, adding a good grinding of black pepper and salt lightly. Once the chillies are cool, peel off their skins, slit lengthways and deseeded, discarding the seeds. Chop the flesh, add to the yoghurt and set aside.
  5. Heat the BBQ/grill to HIGH. Make 5 – 6 large patties out of the minced meat mixture, remembering to make a little flat indent in the centre with your fingers; this will help them cook evenly and not puff up in the middle. (I did not know this, haven’t tried this though good point and will.)
  6. Place the burgers on the grill and cook for 4 – 5 minutes until charred, flip and cook for another 1 – 2 minutes. Split the buns and char on the grill.
  7. Place 1 slice of the tomato on each bun, top with a burger, a generous dollop of the yoghurt and some onions. Place on the lid and eat immediately.

Christine Manfield’s Cauliflower & Potato Curry

Serves: 4

I have definitely subscribed to the view that vegetarian Indian is the best Indian.

This particular curry tells you why.

Just so, so good.

The mustard oil (don’t cut this corner). The fried cauliflower. The curd.

Served along a brilliant Christine Manfield Mughlai Chicken, this absolutely took the night over the line.

(And for breakfast with some rice the next morning: stop it!)

Ingredients

4 tbsp mustard oil
200gm cauliflower florets
2 cloves
3 green cardamom pods, cracked
250gm, diced and parboiled
8 curry leaves
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
2 small ripe tomatoes, finely diced
150gm curd (drained yoghurt)
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chopped mint leaves
3 tsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the cauliflower for 2 minutes until just starting to colour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  2. In the same pan, fry the cloves, cardamom, ginger and curry leaves for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the potato, tossing to combine and coat with the spices. Return the cauliflower to the pan and toss to combine. Stir through the ground spices, salt and sugar.
  3. Add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the tomato and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft.
  4. Add the curd and simmer gently for another 3 minutes. Season with garam masala and garnish with mint and coriander.