Dan Toombs’ Malabar Fish Curry

Serves: 4

I wasn’t sure about this curry at first glance.

Though anyone doubting Dan Toombs when it comes to Indian is brave. And so on I went.

What threw me was that the ingredients are boiled in water. No oil except for the fried shallots which are a garnish.

Conclusion. Brilliant. Aromatic and a delicious sauce.

I simmered the coconut mixture for longer though not intentionally. Perhaps it added to it, perhaps not.

Check your salt though get this right and you have a wonderful, entirely unique fish curry on your hands. Absolutely top notch.

Ingredients

1 1/2 c fresh or frozen coconut*
1/2 ground turmeric
1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 green chilli, finely chopped
3 kokum peels or 2 tsp tamarind concentrate
500gm cod or other meaty fish like halibut or ling, cut into medium chunks
1 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
3 shallots, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Blend the coconut and turmeric into a fine paste or powder and set aside. **
  2. Bring 500ml of water to the boil in a pot (preferably a clay pot). Add the coconut mixture, chilli powder, ginger, green chilli and korum (or tamarind concentrate) and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the fish and simmer with the pan covered for a further 7 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan over a medium-high heat, When visibly hot, add the mustard seeds and when they begin to pop (30 seconds), reduce the heat to medium and stir in the curry leaves and shallots and fry until the shallots are soft and slightly browned.
  5. Pour over the curry; leave as a garnish and/or stir the oil into the curry. Check for season and salt as needed.

* Easily sourced in the freezer of an Indian grocer.

** I didn’t process and left the grated coconut combined with the turmeric. We loved the texture though the smoothness of the curry processed would be an equally lovely experience.

Christine Manfield’s (Indian) Mustard Fish

Serves: 4

Occasionally after cooking a dish we are compelled to immediately type it; even at the table whilst we finish a wine.

This is one such dish.

From the book Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class, this is a knockout.

I chose barramundi rather than Murray cod, though any freshwater white fish would do.

Paste away!
And yoghurt both sides!

With some steamed rice and lots of coriander, wow. Subtle, sophisticated, just wonderful weekday cooking.

Ingredients

600gm (4 even fillets) of Murray Cod or similar
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp black mustard seeds, coarsely ground
2 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp wholegrain Dijon mustard*
2 tsp chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 small green chillies, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tbsp mustard oil
100gm thick plain yoghurt

Method

  1. Prepare 4 sheets of foil and 4 sheets of baking paper of the same size, ensuring the sheets are big enough to wrap around the fillets. Place the ground spices, 1 tsp salt and wholegrain mustard in a bowl and mix to combine. Rub spice mixture liberally over the fish and set aside.
  2. Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander leaves, remaining 1 tsp salt and the mustard oil in a food processor and blend to make a paste. Place in a bowl with the yoghurt and stir to combine. Spread the yoghurt mixture over both sides of the mixture. **
  3. Preheat oven to 220c. Place one sheet of baking paper on top of each sheet of foil and top with fish fillet and its yoghurt coating. Wrap the fish in the paper to secure before enclosing with the foil. Don’t wrap too tightly, the parcels can be slightly loose, just make sure they’re sealed tightly at both ends.
  4. Place in an oven side-by-side and bake for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender and just cooked. (Test this.) Remove from oven for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Unwrap the fish, discarding foil and paper. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.

* I used straight Dijon. Nat feels I should have mixed in some wholegrain mustard. I disagree though will try next time and be found to be wrong.

** I didn’t blend the paste to make it a bit more rustic.

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.

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.