Ajoy Joshi’s Chicken Dhaniwal

Serves: 4

Ajoy Joshi is the genius behind Nilgiris, a bit of an Indian institution on the Lower North Shore of Sydney.

He also runs a smaller, quite intimate restaurant – Tellicherry – which serves wonderfully contemporary Indian cuisine. Small plate after small plate and even more wonderfully, completely BYO.

It is one of our favourite restaurants and a real treat on the few nights a week it is open.

Anyway, I recently hit the big 40 and Nat organised the best present of all: a long lunch (my favourite), Indian (my favourite) and 30 of my best friends (my favourites):

And she convinced Tellicherry to open especially for it!

As we left – after a cracking meal with cracking service – Mr Joshi gave me a copy of his cookbook (Regional Indian Cooking) – and the next night we did our first curry.

Hands down, it was one of the best curries we have cooked. (It reminded us of the amazing Christine Mansfield 100 Almond Curry.)

In the boy, Ajoy says: “I first tried this dish at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi. I knew instantly that if I ever wrote a book, this recipe would definitely be in it.”

No question.

Enjoy!

(And here is to being 40. The new 30, right?)

Ingredients

1kg chicken thighs, cut into pieces
2 brown cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
3 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods, crushed
2.5cm piece cinnamon stick
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, whisked until smooth
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Steamed Basmati Rice to serve

Method

  1. In a saucepan, combine chicken, brown cardamom, turmeric and water. Place over a low heat, bring to simmer and cook until the chicken is almost tender, almost 20 minutes. Remove chicken from stock and set aside. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve.
  1. In a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over a medium-low heat. Add onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are dark golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Reheat oil remaining in pan over medium heat. Add cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, yogurt and garlic. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens: 10 – 15 minutes. Sauce may appear curdled at this stage, but will be fine after further cooking.
  3. Add chicken to sauce in pan and cook, stirring, until sauce coats chicken. Add 1/4 cup reserved stock and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and tender: about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in fried onions, coriander and pepper. Serve immediately.

Coconut chutney

Serves: A dinner of dosai, as a side

Dosais are not the least expensive things on your Southern Indian restaurant menu and even then, I doubt they make much money from them.

There are plenty of ingredients that go into the whole show, they take time and technique and importantly, a truly wonderful chutney like this lasts… 24 hours. Time and economies of scale are not on your side.

The silver lining of course is that a good dosai is to die for and this chutney is simply part of the story. It is amazing.

The extra touch that turns the dial from 11 to 12. The addition that completes the meal, taking you into fine Indian cooking territory. The secret weapon in your cook-off that nobody saw coming.

Sure, you have 24-hours to get from bench to plate, though in-between making your dosai batter, your filling and a wonderful side of lentils, you’re signed up to the task right?

And the fact is, you cannot lose any cook-off – or dinner – if you pull the whole thing off.

Tie maybe, but who the hell are you cooking against?!

Ingredients

Half a coconut, grated
2 fresh green chillis
½ bunch fresh coriander leaves
1 tbsp fresh ginger
Salt to taste

Tempering

10ml vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
¼ asafoetida powder
1 sprig fresh curry leaves

Method

  1. Grind the coconut, chillis, coriander leaves, ginger and salt in a blender, adding a little water if required.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves and temper the chutney by pouring the mixture on top.
  3. Serve as an accompaniment to dosai.

** Enhances colour and flavour and settles the stomach; unless you have it or feel inclined to get it, you can live without.

Sambhar (Indian lentil-stew)

Sambhar (Indian lentil-stew)

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a very popular Southern Indian lentil-stew, especially as an accompaniment to dosai.

It is dead easy to prepare (once you have prepared your Sambhar powder), incredibly healthy and a great way to use up the lentils you probably have left over from winter soups.

Let it simmer and double the recipe so you have plenty leftover for lunch.

Yum.

Ingredients

100gm Yellow lentils or Tour Dal
¼ tsp Turmeric
1 cup Tomato puree (passata)
1 medium-size onion, diced
1 tbsp Sambhar powder*
¼ tbsp Tamarind concentrate
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
Salt to taste

*Sambhar powder (makes plenty; stores for 6-months)

1 ½ cups coriander seeds
1 cup dried red chillis, broken into small pieces
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 ½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ inch cinnamon stick
⅓ cup unsweetened dried coconut, shredded
¼ cup firmly packed fresh curry leaves
1 tsp asafoetida powder**

Method

For the Sambhar

  1. Cook the lentils with the turmeric in approximately 2 litres of water until soft and mushy.
  2. Add the tomatoes and onions and cook until they are soft.
  3. Add the Sambhar powder, tamarind concentrate, fresh curry leaves and salt to taste and bring to the boil. Simmer for a bit.
  4. Check the seasoning, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot.

Sambhar powder

  1. Heat small saucepan over low heat. Separately dry-roast coriander, chilli peppers, fenugreek, mustard, cumin and cinnamon until fragrant and only lightly coloured. Place in a bowl.
  2. Toast coconut in pan, stirring, until lightly browned. Add to spices.
  3. Dry-roast curry leaves, tossing often, until crisp. Add to spices with asafoetida. Mix well and let cool.
  4. Place mixture in airtight container until ready to use. (Will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.) Just before using, grind to a powder in spice grinder and use as recipe indicates.

** Enhances colour and flavour and settles the stomach; unless you have it or feel inclined to get it, you can live without.

Dosai

fullsizerender-4
Nat skillfully folding a dosai. With the hands of Fred Flintstone, it was suggested I photograph. A good suggestion.

Dosai

Serves: As many as you need

If you haven’t had dosai, you’re missing out on one of the better Southern Indian delicacies.

If you have had dosai, you’ll know what I mean.

A wonderful, thin, crispy pancake with a glorious, soft, spiced filling of potato, mince or vegetables; the contrast of the incredibly light, incredibly thin, crunchy pancake against a wonderful filling is just awesome.

So much so, that learning how to cook them was on my cooking bucket list.

And two weeks ago, I ticked that box!

The batter itself is easy enough to prepare. The real trick is in making the dosai pancake, because unlike a Sunday-morning pancake, you need to spread out the dosai batter by hand as opposed to a breakfast pancake that does all the spreading for you.

The more you spread, the thinner the dosai, the better the dosai.

Oh, and the spread needs to be circular. Our boys might eat the strangely shaped pancakes we serve them on weekends, though dosais are about having a round, dinner-plate sized disc.

To do this, pour a ladle of the batter in the middle of the heated, dry pan.

You then spread the batter evenly in concentric circles until it reaches the edges of the griddle. Something with a small, flat-bottom will do this job just fine.

Your first few attempts will leave you with dosai far too small, thick in parts and with tears and holes, though you’ll get the knick of it.

And the batter lasts for 6-months, so you’ll have plenty of time.

It might seem an effort, though once you get the handle of it, you’ll be the master of one of the finer foods you can cook from Southern India. And seriously, the contrast in textures, is to die for.

Ingredients

3 parts fine to medium rice flour
1 part split black lentil flour
Water for the batter
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil or ghee to pan-fry the dosai

Method

  1. Mix the rice and lentil flours with just enough cold water to form a thick, fine paste. Don’t mix too heavily as the lumps will disappear overnight.
  2. Add salt to taste and leave the batter in a warm place overnight to ferment
  3. Mix the batter thoroughly the next morning.
  4. Heat the pan until it is hot; if you can hold your hand for 10 seconds around 4cm from the top of the pan, you’re at the right temperature.
  5. Pour a ladle of the batter in the center of the pan and spread evenly in concentric circles till it reaches the edges of the pan.
  6. Drizzle a small amount of the oil or ghee on the pancake to baste. Cook on a medium heat until the dosai is golden brown.
  7. Place the filling of your choice in center of the dosai and roll or fold the dosai as desired.
  8. Serve hot with fresh (coconut) chutney and sambhar.

Paneer Chilli Fry

FullSizeRender.jpg
If you tell them you made the cheese, who knows how they’ll react. Because who the hell just makes cheese for dinner?!

Paneer Chilli Fry

Serves: 4 as a starter

Nat and I did the Nilgiri’s cooking class last Saturday and it was excellent.

The class, run by Indian restaurateur Ajoy Joshi, is pretty famous in Sydney and it wasn’t hard to see why. As a restaurateur, Ajoy has been very successful and we have eaten at all his restaurants including Tellicherry which serves upmarket, really clever Indian food backed by personable service.

In terms of the class, we learnt new techniques and gained a greater appreciation of the use and background of different spices and ingredients.

Case in point was this Paneer Chilli Fry, only the second time we have made cheese as part of a dish.

A combination of the cheese, the spices and the buttermilk, it is just wonderful. Really special in fact and definitely something you would look like a genius presenting as part of an Indian feast.

The cheese (Paneer: homemade Indian Cottage Cheese) component requires a little concentration at the beginning, though it isn’t tricky and I’ve written the instructions to keep it as foolproof as possible.

If you, like me, are on a never-ending quest to find better and better Indian food to cook, this is absolutely something you must try.

Just ensure that you don’t try and use anything but full-fat milk. Cheese needs an 8% fat content, with the addition of the cream in this dish making up the 4% fat content of the full-fat milk. Skim milk simply won’t leave you with anything but wasted milk.

Ingredients

Paneer

1 liter cream milk
100ml fresh cream
½ cup white vinegar
Muslin cloth (for straining)

Marinade

1 tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
1 tbsp fresh garlic, crushed
1 ½ tbsp fresh green chillis (including the seeds)
4 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp chilli powder
Salt to taste

To prep/serve

2 – 3 tbsp vegetable oil
300ml buttermilk
Juice of one lemon
Chat Masala to taste
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method

Paneer

  1. Place a saucepan over a medium-heat and add the milk and cream. Stir in a figure of eight, ensuring that you are scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure none of the milk/cream sticks.
  2. When steam starts to come off of the milk, stop stirring. Continue to heat until it starts to boil. Take off the heat and ensure that it doesn’t overflow and spill; this likely means blowing on it to cool it.
  3. Tip in some of the vinegar and the substance will curdle. Add enough vinegar until this is happening.
  4. Scoop the curdled milk pieces into the muslin cloth using some sort of strainer or slotted spoon. Discard the whey from the saucepan.
  5. Tie the cloth reasonable tightly and place the cloth/curdled milk in a colander to allow additional whey to drain out; place the saucepan on top of the cloth and weigh down so that you have an inch-thick compact disc. Allow to drain and compress for at least 20 minutes to allow all the whey to drain out.
  6. Cut/shred into dices and set aside.

Marinade

  1. For the marinade, mix the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander seeds, chilli powder and salt.

To serve

  1. Heat the oil in a pan until it smokes. Add the marinade to the pan, reduce the heat and cook until the marinade caramelises. Add the buttermilk and reduce until well heated and slightly thickened.
  2. Add the diced paneer and toss until coated in the marinade.
  3. Sprinkle with the freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste) and fresh coriander leaves.