Mamta’s Indian Lamb Meatball Curry | The Keema Sutra

PARTNEREDPOSTYesterday I shared the news that my mum Mamta is one of the two Keema Nans working with Simply Beef and Lamb on their latest campaign, The Keema Sutra. Two of mum’s most delicious keema recipes are in the Keema Sutra flipbook , along with many of her tips for cooking Indian food.

Watch her show you how to make her Indian Lamb Meatball Curry in this short video and then have a go yourself.

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Mamta’s Indian Lamb Meatball Curry

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: Under 30 minutes

Lamb mince makes delicious kofta (meat balls) which can be added to any curry sauce that you like. This meatball curry is really delicious, perfect to serve for a special meal. Despite the long list of ingredients, this curry is easy to make and relatively inexpensive too.

These meatballs can also be served plain as a snack or starter – you can even squish them into flat burger patties and serve in mini burger buns. Just shallow fry in a pan and serve with a fresh green chutney or your choice of condiment.

For the curry, the meatballs are dropped into the curry gravy raw and simmered until cooked through.

If you like, make double the quantity of meatballs and freeze half to use another day.

Ingredients
For the Meatballs
450g/1lb lamb mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 slices white bread (2 small or 1 large slice), roughly broken up
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1.25cm/½ inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 green chillies (adjust to taste. If you do not have green chillies, add red chillies to taste)
1½ tsp salt, or to taste
½tsp freshly ground black pepper
A few fresh coriander leaves (or mint if you prefer)
For the Curry Sauce
30ml/2tbsp vegetable oil, for cooking
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
2.5cm/1 inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 large cardamoms, broken slightly with a mortar
6-8 whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
5cm/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark
½tsp ground coriander
½tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground chilli powder, adjust to taste
1 tsp mild ground sweet paprika, for colour
Salt, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, or use 200 grams chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
¾pint water (adjust for how thick you want the curry to be)
1 level tsp garam masala (see note)
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves

Note: Mamta recommends making your own garam masala for a more intense and aromatic flavour. Her homemade garam masala recipe is here.

Method

To make the meatballs:

  • Place all meat ball ingredients, except the lamb and egg, in a food processor and process finely. If you do not have a food processor, grate the bread, great or finely chop the onion, ginger, garlic and chillies and then add the other ingredients.
  • Place the lamb in a large bowl. Add the onion mix and the egg. Mix well by hand or with a large spoon. Transfer to an airtight container, cover and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to marinate. This helps the flavours to infuse.
  • Shape the mixture into 20 walnut-sized balls. Wetting your fingers and palms with water helps.

To make the meatball curry

  • Heat the oil in a pan, then add the whole spices – cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamoms.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add the curry sauce onion, ginger and garlic.
  • Fry until golden to dark brown. Be patient, this stage can take a while.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder, paprika and salt. Cook until the oil separates or the mix looks shiny.
  • Add the water, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.
  • Add the meatballs one by one to the simmering (not boiling) sauce.
  • Allow to simmer without the lid for about 20 minutes or so (closing the lid sometimes makes the meat balls break up), gently turning the meatballs over and shaking the pan from time to time.
  • When meat balls are ready, any oil will separate and float to the top of the sauce. Add half the coriander leaves and garam masala, stir gently and transfer to a serving dish.
  • Garnish with remaining coriander and serve hot with freshly made chapattis, steamed rice or plain pilaf rice.

Tip

To serve meat balls as a snack heat a little oil in a shallow pan. Add a few meat balls at a time and fry them on medium heat, turning over frequently, until they are nicely browned and meat is cooked through. Garnish with salad and serve with mint and coriander chutney, chilli sauce or tomato ketchup.

Mamta Gupta 12 MINI Mamta Gupta 15 MINI Mamta Gupta 20 MINI

Do visit the Keema Sutra flipbook for more wonderful keema recipes that will show you how delicious, versatile and family-friendly keema can be.

Save this recipe to Pinterest for later using this handy collage image.

The Keema Sutra - Mamtas Indian Meatball Curry Recipe

More keema recipes from other bloggers joining in with the keema sutra campaign:

Kavey Eats and Mamta’s Kitchen were commissioned by Simply Beef and Lamb to participate in this campaign. Photography by Simply Beef and Lamb.

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My Mum is a Keema Nan!

PARTNEREDPOSTFor the last few months, mum and I have been keeping a little secret! Together, we’ve been working with Simply Beef and Lamb on their latest campaign to remind the British consumer how delicious, affordable and versatile lamb is through the delicious Indian dish, keema.

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The keema nans! Mamta and Pervin

Mum (who is the home cook behind MamtasKitchen.com) is one of two ambassadors for the campaign along with Indian restaurateur Pervin Todiwala. Together, they are the Keema Nans! Yes, a groan-worthy but rather glorious pun… but wait for it, we have another one for you… the campaign itself is called the Keema Sutra!

As Mamta’s daughter, I come from a family that loves lamb and mum’s keema and other lamb mince dishes are a firm favourite.

During these last couple of months, I’ve been helping mum to prepare two recipes and lots of handy cooking tips for inclusion in the Keema Sutra, popped into the photography studio to watch the professional food economist, stylist and photographers create gorgeous recipe images and went with mum on the day she was filmed making one of her two dishes.

I know I’m biased but I think mum is brilliant in the videos and I know her recipes are utterly delicious. I really hope she helps more people give the Keema Sutra keema recipes a go.

Studio Shoot
Fascinating watching professionals at work, choosing props, cooking and styling, shooting the image and checking on screen

The other part of the message is to know what you are buying. Mum rails against the myth that spices are used to disguise poor quality meat and has always been a firm proponent of the message that when it comes to meat, you should buy the best you can afford. Simply Beef and Lamb supports the Red Tractor Mark which confirms that rules about food safety, animal welfare, traceability and environmental impact are followed. They also run the Quality Standard Mark, which ensures that all beef and lamb marked with the logo meet very high quality standards. Look out for these logos when you shop.

Come back tomorrow for mum’s delicious Indian Lamb Meatball Curry recipe!

Kavey Eats and Mamta’s Kitchen were commissioned by Simply Beef and Lamb to participate in this campaign.

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A Taste For… Garam Masala

When cooks from the Indian subcontinent talk of garam masala, they talk of whole or ground.

In his seminal and encyclopaedic book, McGee on Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains that a greater surface area (from cracking or grinding spices) allows flavour molecules to escape more rapidly into the dish. This is why whole spices can be added at early stages of cooking, giving them plenty of time to release their flavours slowly, whereas supplemental spicing, added at the end of cooking, is best ground.

Chef proprietor of successful restaurant Café Spice Namasté, author of several Indian cookery books and celebrity television presenter, Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL shares his thoughts, ‘whole garam masala should always be delicate and fragrant; ground garam masala, if used incorrectly, can alter the flavour and taste profile of a dish beyond repair’. He adds that garam masala is not a ‘fix for all seasons’, in a gentle admonishment to those who add it where it doesn’t belong.

My mum Mamta Gupta, the home cook behind mamtaskitchen.com, has been sharing Indian recipes and cooking tips online for 15 years. She explains ‘although garam means hot, this masala (spice mixture) doesn’t include chilli; the warmth comes from black peppercorns’.

Her standard garam masala recipe consists of black peppercorns, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon or cassia bark and bay leaves. Although she will occasionally add cumin, nutmeg, or mace, she prefers not to include too many spices in her basic blend; ‘some people add star anise and fennel – I’ve even seen pomegranate seeds added. But I prefer to store them separately and add them individually to specific dishes.

Both Cyrus and Mamta warn that cheaper ready-made garam masalas are often bulked up with cumin and coriander seeds, as both are less expensive than the core spices both recommend. Yet another reason to make your own, and in small quantities so that the flavours don’t fade before use.

Indeed, Cyrus is keen to remind us ‘we all have different palates’ and that all of us smell and taste differently – ‘you make your own recipe as you go along, with trial and error – use your imagination!’ Although he talks through his most common garam masala ingredients (green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon or cassia bark, star anise, nutmeg or mace, black peppercorns and cumin), he also advises you to skip an ingredient if you can’t get hold of it and ‘don’t waste your time thinking you will not get a good masala’.

The biggest debate concerning garam masala is whether or not to roast the spices before grinding – as with much of Indian cooking, there is no one right or wrong answer. As Cyrus points out, ‘ground garam masala has a million recipes I should think, and a million thoughts towards it.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Mamta seldom roasts her garam masala spices prior to grinding as she feels that ‘the flavour is released and then lost before using’. She likes to make garam masala in small batches, so it’s still fresh when used and then ‘sprinkle it on top of the cooked dish while still hot, close the lid and let the flavours infuse’.

Cyrus, on the other hand, advocates careful roasting in a clean oven, free of smelly fat deposits. He bakes his whole spices on a tray for 20 to 30 minutes at gradually decreasing temperatures from 160°C down to 120°C. Once they are completely cooled, he grinds and sieves before storing the finished garam masala in a clean jar. To use, he suggests adding just half a teaspoon at a time, tasting and adding more if desired.

At the end of the day’ says Mamta, ‘there are no rigid rules for garam masala. Do what suits you and the recipe best.’

Mamtas Garam Masala Recipe on Kavey Eats (text)-1

Mamta’s Ground Garam Masala

Reproduced from MamtasKitchen.com, with permission

Garam masala is used to add flavour to many Indian dishes. Mum’s recipe is based on how she saw her mother making it; the choice of spices and amounts of each spice vary from family to family. This version is quite strong so use only a little at a time; mum’s recipes usually specify less garam masala than is generally recommended because hers is quite intense and fresh. As spices lose some of their most volatile flavour molecules on grinding, it is better to make small amounts at a time, use within a few weeks, and make more as needed. As it is often cheaper to buy larger bags of whole spices, these can be stored in the freezer to retain freshness.

Ingredients
1 tbsp black pepper corns
1 tsp whole cloves
4-5 large, whole, brown cardamoms
4-5 dry bay leaves
3 inch cinnamon stick or equivalent amount of cassia bark
Optional
4-5 whole green cardamoms
Half a nutmeg, freshly grated or 2 tsp ground mace
1-2 tbsp cumin seeds

Method

  • Grind all ingredients together.
  • Sieve to remove coarse particles, fibres and husks.
  • Store in a clean airtight jar.

Mamtas Garam Masala Recipe on Kavey Eats (text)-2

 

This piece was written in 2014 and first published in Good Things magazine. ©Kavita Favelle.

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My Grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Long before I started this blog, I was sharing recipes online at Mamta’s Kitchen, our family cookbook on the web, named after my mum who has contributed the bulk of the recipes, with many more given by family, friends and readers. Mamta’s Kitchen has been going strong since 2001 and is a wonderful way to share the joys of cooking with people from all over the world. Mum continues to add new recipes and respond to reader queries via the discussion forum.

I’ve heard from friends about mothers who refuse to share their precious recipes even with their own sons and daughters, presumably gripped by a need to keep kudos for themselves, to be known as the only one who can make the very best victoria sponge, steak and kidney pudding, tandoori chicken, even at the expense of the recipe being lost to the world when they pass away. In some cases, a recipe is shared but a key ingredient or step miswritten or omitted entirely, all the better to cling to top dog status and ensure that no-one else can match them.

But that’s not how my mum is at all, nor any of our family or friends. Mum is quick to point out that she has learned how to cook from so many others – not just her immediate family but the wider extended family of in-laws and cousins and cousins of cousins not to mention a lifetime of friends, cookery books and TV cookery programmes.

In turn, mum loves to share her recipes, investing them with all the tips she can think of to help others achieve the best results possible. If she finds a better way of explaining how to do something, another way of helping someone understand, she goes back and updates the recipe accordingly.

And if others can make a dish that is just as good as hers by following her recipe, that doesn’t lessen the deliciousness when she makes it herself!

Indeed, I’ve come to see how it adds even more joy – I can no longer make my mum’s Lucknowi-inspired lamb biryani without thinking fondly of all the people who have made and loved the recipe (and come back to let us know).  The recipe we call “mum’s chicken curry” is now made by many other mums across the world, and I hope their children love it as much as my mum’s children do! There are many London friends who have not only tried my spicy tomato ketchup but are aware that the recipe was passed down from my grandfather to my mother and now to me and many others.

Unusually for his generation, my maternal grandfather (my “nana” in Hindi) was fond of both gardening and cooking. A sugar chemist by trade, he spent a few years of his early career making not only sugar but confectionery, sauces, pickles and chutneys the recipes for which he carefully recorded in a ‘Preserves’ notebook. Mum has translated these recipes, many of which were for cooking in bulk, to suit a domestic kitchen, and many of them are shared on Mamta’s Kitchen. Not only are they wonderfully tasty, they give us a way to connect with my grandfather, who passed away when I was very young. He may be gone but he is still part of our our family tree and our recipe tree.

This recipe for tomato ketchup can be adapted to your tastes and I’ve made batches with ripe red and yellow tomatoes and also with unripe green ones, adding a little extra sugar to compensate for the tarter fruit.

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Spicy ketchup made from ripe red and yellow (sungold) and unripe green tomatoes

 

My Grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients
1 kg ripe tomatoes, unpeeled, chopped if large
Half a small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Whole spices in fabric bag *
5-6 cloves
2 black cardamoms, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon whole black peppers, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
Ground Spices
Half teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
40 grams sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

* Instead of wrapping my whole spices in muslin tied with string, I use fill-your-own teabags for speed. These are easy to fish back out of the pot and throw away once used.

Method

  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in a hot oven, leaving them in the oven until I’m ready to fill them.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken anything from just give minutes to half an hour.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and jars are still hot.
  • Seal immediately with sterilised lids.
  • Once cooled, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard. ~

~ As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and been just fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

 

This post was commissioned by McCarthy & Stone for their Great British Recipe Tree campaign. Recipe copyright remains with Mamta’s Kitchen / Kavey Eats.

Monday Meet The Blogger | The Spice Scribe

If you ever attend a blogger event and spot a whirlwind of energy and smiles, a warm and exuberant character with a truly deep love for Indian food, you can be sure that you’ve found Zoe, aka The Spice Scribe. More recently, she also launched a second blog to share her love of chocolate.

Find out more in my third Meet The Blogger interview…

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I’m Zoe Perrett, or, as most folks know me online, The Spice Scribe. I write about Indian food and the wider culture surrounding it. What perplexes people is that I’m a white, Essex-by-way-of-East-London girl – and my only tie to the country whose cuisine I so love is its food! I also blog about chocolate just for fun – but Indian food is my ‘true culinary calling’.

On Culinary Adventures of the Spice Scribe I share information on regional food, the UK Indian food scene in terms of restaurants, street food and supperclubs (the latter two both big loves of mine), food books, ingredients, produce guides, interesting characters, festivals… basically and broadly, anything related to Indian food that captures my heart and imagination which I think might resonate with readers.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

Hours of endless mulling… and a well-documented love for alliteration. The name of its ‘chocolate offshoot’, ‘Culinary Adventures of The Cocoa Nut’ clearly identifies it as a sibling, and, happily, manages to get in a pun to boot!

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Why did you choose to blog about Indian food and culture?

I don’t know if I chose Indian food. Maybe it chose me. Perhaps it was simply ‘Korma, Kheer and Kismet’, as the title of a new Indian food book I can’t wait to read puts it, that drew me in! Indian food just got under my skin. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and for some reason, I feel deeply connected to it. Sometimes just a whiff of a particular ingredient or dish will provoke a deep and unexplainable emotional response in me.

Does blogging about Indian food and culture present any particular challenges?

There’s too much to ever hope to cover if I were to learn – and type – 24/7! Even Cyrus Todiwala, one of the foremost authorities on Indian cuisine, concedes that if one were to devote many lifetimes to understanding India’s endlessly complex and varied kitchens, they would barely be able to scratch the surface.

Then there’s fact I don’t have a natural tie to the cuisine, which I find both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, it means some are quick to dismiss you as someone who knows nothing on the topic; on the other, it drives me to learn more and better in order to disprove that notion – something that only serves to benefit my own development in the long run!

Thus far, the many who champion what I do far outnumber the few who criticise – fingers crossed that remains the case…

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With Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

Despite the ‘Indian thing’, my strongest memories are of cooking with my paternal grandmother – Nanny Win. More and more I’ve realised that this could be why Indian food ignites the feelings that it does within me.

She may not have used spices or Indian recipes, but when I eat things like keema and the soft, slightly sweet bread rolls called pav; the Indian rice pudding ‘kheer’, or milk-based sweetmeats, it takes me straight back to Sundays spent eating her savoury mince and nutmeg-topped milk puddings made rich with tinned ‘Tip Top’ cream.

I recently wrote a ‘food memory’ piece for my Parsi friend the Bawi Bride – it was all about Nanny Win’s cooking – and how, strangely, it actually had many parallels with ‘Parsi bhonu’.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

My go-to flavours are generally Bengali or Keralite. For the former, I’ll use mustard oil, dried red chillies, white poppy seeds, the mustard-mango relish called ‘kasundi’, slit green chillies and panch phoron – a mixture of 5 whole spices that speaks to me louder than any Indian masala… except, perhaps, for South Indian sambhar powder.

For the latter, coconut oil and grated coconut meat are ever-present in my kitchen – I’ll make simple vegetable stir-fries – ‘thorans’ – tempered with the oil in which I’ve fried mustard and cumin seeds, dried lentils (interestingly almost used as a ‘spice’ in this manner down South), curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric, and finish them with coconut.

I’m also currently obsessed with ‘pittu’ – a mixture of lightly-fermented rice flour that’s rolled to resemble irregular grains of cous cous, layered with fresh-grated coconut, and steamed in log-shaped moulds. You eat it with coconut gravy, sambhar or relishes. Traditionally it’s a breakfast item but I could live off it!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Mustard oil, ghee, kasundi, curry leaves… there’s more on my own essentials here.

My cupboards are ridiculous, with spices shoehorned into any and every kind of container; multiple masalas; many types of dal, rice, and flour; condiments and esoteric speciality items. I also can’t resist a bargain – so there’s evidence of bulk buying. I might not be Indian, but I think my kitchen might fool you!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational?

Food writers – Chitrita Banerji. Culinary anthropologist Ammini Ramachandran. Pamela Timms, another ‘outsider’ drawn into India by its edible allures. Chefs – Cyrus Todiwala AND his wife Pervin – who many forget is a great chef in her own right. The family has done great things for ALL kinds of Indian food, but particularly with promoting Parsi and Goan fare.

Palash Mitra (Scarfes Bar), Gautham Iyer (Iyers Cafe), and Ashish Bhatia (Turban Street Cafe) are all doing interesting things and share my obsession with understanding all they can about the history, tradition and cultural issues around Indian food – as do the boys at Brighton’s Curry Leaf Cafe.

I also think streetfood and supperclub chefs deserve to be held in just as much esteem. Jhalmuri Express’s Angus Denoon never stops yearning to learn more from the Kolkata street food-wallas from whom he learned his craft. And working at the Damn Good Curry supperclub, Nilanjani Pai’s devotion to perfecting the last detail of each and every dish so that it’s absolutely as authentic as she can get it never fails to astound me.

Are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I have about 200 Indian cookbooks and foodie memoirs. They’re all pretty special – but some favourites include Chitrita Banerji’s ‘Bengali Cooking – Seasons and Festivals’; Rinky Bhattacharya’s ‘The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles’; ‘The Calcutta Cookbook’, given to me by my great mate Angus Denoon, owner of The Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express street food business; and a load of funny little finds I wouldn’t part with for love nor money. Many are on Indian regional cuisines; priced in rupees and written by Indian housewives. My Ceylonese cookbook from the 1950s is also a treasured gem.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

I wouldn’t – I’d take you to Nel’s (Nilanjani’s), safe in the knowledge that her version would knock anything I tried to make into a cocked hat! But if I had to, probably poha – a tossed-up mix of flattened rice, spice, and all things nice, followed by Bengali bhapa ilish (river fish steamed with chilli-ed mustard paste), white rice, and a nice ‘dry’ (gravy-less) dish of spinach with a pinch of panch phoron. Dessert would be mishti doi – an amazing Bengali sweet yogurt set in clay pots which absorb the moisture. It develops a crust like clotted cream and is no less lovely.

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?

I’m really low-tech in the kitchen, but an electric spice grinder (mine’s James Martin brand; I’m not proud!) is a godsend for making masalas. Ideally I want to get my hands on a wet-and-dry grinder soon, too. Other than that it’s a dabba (spice tin) filled with little katoris (dishes) containing my most commonly-used spices and kept close to the cooker. And, of course, a pressure cooker. Once you learn to cook by number of ‘whistles’ rather than ‘minutes’, you’ve cracked it, and dal is near-instant.

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Filming a recipe for charity campaign, Curry For Change

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

Cooking: Picking my way through interesting regional recipes in Pushpeth Pant’s ‘India’. I find preparing a certain ingredient, like pumpkin, in a number of different ways ultimately instils a great instinct for recognising the provenance of a dish.

Eating: As I also blog about chocolate as The Cocoa Nut, I often have some lovely things to try lying around at home – at the moment I’m trying to eke out a box of Marc Demarquette’s ‘African Queen’ chocolates, newly awarded 3 stars at the Great Taste Awards – and I can tell why!

Otherwise, it’s Sri Lankan short eats (savoury snack items) I pick up from the hot cabinet at a local corner shop, or fish vindaye, octopus cari, and £1 fresh-rolled dal puris from the Mauritian guys at a chicken shop in Walthamstow.

Doing: As always, introducing people to new Indian ingredients, regional cuisines, foodie folks, cookbooks and places that make their eyes light up. There’s nothing more satisfying than someone falling in love with something you’ve been able to show them.

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What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

My Own Mahabharata – an Indian Vegetable Epic’. This is a guide to – and ambitious attempt to demystify – the endlessly fascinating world of the weird and wonderful vegetables (and a few fruits) that you see in Indian stores.

It’s by no means definitive – I still see many, many items that leave me scratching my head today, and people from different regions will use the same name to describe a different beast from their neighbours, or use a totally different name for a common vegetable.

But I do think it’s a useful primer, and I tried to make it as accessible as possible to people from all over so that they’re game to actually buy and try a few of whatever catches their eye in an Indian supermarket!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Probably ‘The Indian food places at which Indian foodies scoff’ where I asked many of my foodiest friends to share their top tips for eating Indian (and Pakistani) food in London.

Lots of lesser-known regional, neighbourhood-y places are mentioned; all endorsed by people that I know know about good food! If you want to know where chefs like Cyrus Todiwala and Vivek Singh eat with their families on their days off, you need to read this post.

 

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Blog URL: Indian food: http://culinaryadventuresofthespicescribe.wordpress.com/ and Chocolate: http://culinaryadventuresofthecocoanut.wordpress.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiceScribe and https://www.facebook.com/CulinaryAdventuresofTheCocoaNut
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/TheSpiceScribe and https://twitter.com/The_Cocoa_Nut
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/zoeperrett

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.

How to Make Mamta’s Delicious Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I love biryani!

I mean the real deal, with beautifully spiced meat between layers of fragrant basmati rice…

NOT stir-fried rice with a few bits of meat thrown in, served with a side of sloppy vegetable curry, that is sold as biryani by so many curry houses across the UK. *rolls eyes*

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference between pulao (pilaf) and biryani it is in the cooking method rather than the ingredients: rice is the core ingredient in a pulao, often supplemented by meat or vegetables, just like a biryani, however all the ingredients of a pulao are cooked together. In a biryani, the meat or vegetables are prepared separately, then assembled into a cooking pot with the rice, before the biryani is baked to finish. In some variations, the meat and rice are par-cooked before assembly, in others they are added raw.

Biryani” comes from the Persian birian / beryan, which is a reference to frying or roasting an ingredient before cooking it. The actual dish was likely spread across the wider region by merchants and other travellers many centuries ago.

Biryani was very popular in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled between the early 16th century to the early 18th century and it remains a much-loved dish in India today.

The Mughals were a Central Asian Turko-Mongolic people who settled in the region in the Middle Ages; their influence on architecture, art and culture, government and cuisine was significant. Mughlai cuisine is today best represented by the cooking of North India (particularly Utter Pradesh and Delhi, where my mother and father are from, respectively), Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Hyderabadi area of Andhra Pradesh in South East India. It retains many influences from Persian and Afghani cuisine.

There are many versions of biryani but two of the best known in India are Lucknowi (Awadhi) biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. For a Lucknowi biryani, the meat is seared and cooked in water with spices, then drained. The resulting broth is used to cook the rice. Both the pukki (cooked) elements are then layered together in a deep pot, sealed and baked. Hyderabadi biryani uses the kutchi (raw) method whereby the meat is marinated and the rice is mixed with spiced yoghurt (but neither are cooked) before being assembled in a deep pot and baked. The flavours of the meat and rice components in a Hyderabadi biryani are quite distinct, as compared to the Lucknowi biryani where they are more homogenous.

Also popular is Calcutta biryani, which evolved from Lucknowi style when the last nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata in 1856; in response to a recession which resulted in a scarcity of meat and expensive spices, his personal chef developed the habit of adding potatoes and wielding a lighter hand with the spicing.

What is common to most variations is the dum pukht method – once the food has been arranged in the cooking vessel, the lid is tightly sealed (traditionally using dough but foil or rubber-sealed lids are a modern-day substitute) and the pot is baked in an oven or fire; the steam keeps the ingredients moist and the aromas and juices are locked in.

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Biryani is often served for celebratory feasts such as weddings, though most don’t take it quite as seriously as the two families involved in a cautionary tale that my friend alerted me to – a wedding was called off after an argument between the two families about whether chicken or mutton biryani should be served at the reception!

My mum, who grew up in Utter Pradesh, makes a delicious pukki method biryani, in the Lucknowi style. However, rather than using the liquid from the meat to cook the rice, she makes a fragrant lamb curry (with just a small volume of thick, clinging sauce rather than the usual generous gravy) and she flavours the rice with fresh coriander and mint and rose or kewra (screw pine flower) essence. Her recipe involves slowly caramelising onions, half of which go into the lamb curry and the rest of which are layered with the meat and rice when the biryani is assembled. The pot is sealed tightly and baked until the rice is cooked through.

You’ll notice that I specify basmati rice for this recipe – and that’s because it’s the most traditional rice used for Indian biryani. Of course there is the taste – basmati is a wonderfully fragrant rice – but it is also important that the grains remain separate after cooking; some rice varieties are much stickier or break down more on cooking. Longer grained basmati is prized over shorter grain, perhaps because rice must be carefully harvested and handled in order not to break the grains or just because it looks so elegant?

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Tilda, the best known brand of Basmati rice in the UK, recently launched a new product into their range. They describe Tilda Grand as a longer grained basmati rice, particularly well suited to making biryani and other Indian and Persian rice dishes.

Mum comes from a Basmati growing region of India and has seen Basmati planted, growing and harvested many times. Her family in India buy large sacks of rice when it is newly harvested and store it to mature because the flavour gets better with age; indeed I remember mum telling me how her parents saved their oldest basmati rice to serve to guests and on special occasions. Since I was a child, mum has always bought Tilda Basmati rice, so I asked her to try the new Tilda Grand and give me her feedback.

She didn’t find it as fragrant as usual but confirmed that it cooked much the same as the rice she regularly uses and commented that the grains remained separate and were longer than standard. That said, the grains weren’t as long as she was expecting; she has come across significantly longer grained rice in India in recent years.

This biryani, made to my mum’s recipe, is the first I’ve ever made and it was utterly delicious!

 

Mamta’s Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I have halved mum’s original recipe. The amounts below serve 4 as a full meal.

Ingredients
For the rice
500 grams basmati rice
Large pinch salt
1.25 litres water
Small sprig mint leaves
Small sprig coriander leaves
For the meat
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
3 large onions (about 600 grams), peeled and thinly sliced
500 grams lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, grated or pureed
2-3 teaspoons (0.5 inch piece) ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 brown cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark *
2 bay leaves *
4-5 black peppercorns *
4-5 cloves *
0.5 teaspoon black cumin seeds (use ordinary cumin seeds if you don’t have black) *
1-2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your taste and strength of chillies)
0.5 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (quarter cup) thick, full-fat natural yoghurt
100-150 grams chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
Half a small lemon, cut into small pieces
For the biryani
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
A few drops of rose water and/or kewra (screw-pine flower) essence
Optional: Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 1 teaspoo water
Optional quarter cup of cashew nuts or blanched almonds

Note: The quality of the meat is important, so do buy good quality lamb or mutton. I used lamb steaks for my biryani.

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee and fry the onions until they are dark brown, stirring regularly so they do not catch and burn. This is a slow process; mine took approximately half an hour.
  • Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the whole spices (marked *) plus the ginger and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes to release the aromas.
  • Add the lamb, salt and chilli powder and stir fry to brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, two thirds of the mint and coriander that is listed for the meat, the sliced green chillies, lemon pieces and half of the fried onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is done and only a little thick gravy is left. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the quality and cut of the meat.
  • Once the lamb curry is made, turn off the heat and set it aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Boil briskly with salt, the mint and coriander leaves listed for the rice until the rice is nearly cooked. (When you squash a grain between your fingers, only a hint of hardness should remain).
  • Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Grease a large oven proof dish or pan with ghee or vegetable oil.
  • Spread a third of the par-cooked rice across the base of the dish.
  • Spread a quarter of the reserved browned onions over the rice.

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  • Sprinkle a little saffron water, rose and kewra essence over the rice.

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  • Spread  half the lamb curry over the rice.

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  • Repeat to add another layer of rice, onions, lamb curry and the saffron and flavourings.

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  • Top with the last third of the rice, the remaining browned onions and another sprinkling of saffron and flavourings.

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  • Dot the surface with a little ghee plus a few drops of colouring, if using.
  • Sprinkle cashew nuts or blanched almonds over top, if using.
  • Cover the pan tightly with foil and then the lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180° C (fan) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

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Kavey Eats received samples of Tilda Grand rice from Tilda; as usual, there was no obligation on my part to write about it or to review favourably.

Spicy Sungold Tomato Ketchup

I love home-made ketchup, and it’s even more satisfying making it from home-grown tomatoes.

In the past, I’ve made several batches with red tomatoes and a couple of batches with green ones but this is the first batch I’ve made with beautiful orange sungold tomatoes, a variety we’ve been growing for the last few years. Sungold is a cherry tomato variety and naturally super sweet, so a lot of the harvest doesn’t even make it indoors, or last long if it does. But our plants are giving us plenty this year, both those in the greenhouse and the ones outside. I was keen to see if I could preserve the vibrant colour in a ketchup to enjoy once the growing season is over.

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I used my maternal grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup recipe – the same one I’ve used before. I had 940 grams of tomatoes, so I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to spices as well.

 

Spicy Sungold Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients
1 kg ripe sungold tomatoes
Half a small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Whole spices in fabric bag *
5-6 cloves
2 black cardamoms, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon whole black peppers, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
Ground Spices
Half teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
40 grams sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

* Instead of wrapping my whole spices in muslin tied with string, I use fill-your-own teabags for speed. These are easy to fish back out of the pot and throw away once used.

Method

  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in the oven, leaving them in until I’m ready to fill them.
  • If you like, you can cut the tomatoes in half, or just slash each one, which makes it easier for them to break down more quickly, but as the sungolds are small, I put them in the pan whole and squish occasionally with a wooden spoon as they cooked.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken half an hour. This time, I found the liquid was reasonably thick after 5 minutes boiling.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and bottles are still hot.
  • Seal immediately.
  • Once cooled, you can label and store in a dark cupboard.

Please note: As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and found it fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

 

How have you been preserving your garden or allotment harvests? I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas for tomatoes, apples and potatoes in particular!

Sweet Potato Curry, Spinach Optional!

It was a bit of a Ready Steady Cook challenge. My ingredients consisted of a large sweet potato, a white onion and a bag of baby spinach plus tinned tomatoes and a can of coconut milk from my store cupboard and a wide selection of spices on the shelf. I also wanted to try the tubes of chilli, ginger and garlic I was sent by Just Add.

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A sweet potato and spinach curry seemed to be the answer but as you can see from the photo below, I completely forgot to stir in the spinach! I only remembered when I saw the bag of spinach sitting forlornly on the worktop after dinner. Oops!

 

Sweet Potato (& Spinach) Curry

Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large, 4 small)
250 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
400 ml coconut milk
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated (or
3 cloves garlic (or 1 tablespoon fresh garlic puree)
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (or teaspoon chilli puree)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/5 teaspoons good quality garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to season
Optional: large bunch of spinach (baby leaves or larger, chopped)

Note: Cheaper brands of garam masala tend to bulk out more expensive spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with cheaper ones such as cumin and coriander. It’s easy to make your own garam masala – here’s my mum’s recipe.

Method

  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan and fry onion until soft.
  • Add ginger, garlic, chilli and spices and cook for another minute, stirring continuously so spices don’t catch.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk and mix well.
  • Once thoroughly combined, add the diced sweet potato and cook on a medium heat until the potato is cooked through; test with a skewer or fork after about 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from the heat, add the spinach and stir in until wilted.
  • Serve over basmati rice.

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The curry was tasty – I really enjoyed the combination of sweet potatoes and Indian spices.

Because the Just Add purees only last 21 days, they’re not a product I’d buy as I don’t use ginger, garlic or chilli often enough to get through a tube before it spoils. That said, the quality and convenience were good.

 

Kavey Eats was sent sample products from Just Add.

Curry For Change – Find Your Feet

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Curry for Change is a fundraising and awareness campaign by charity Find Your Feet.

Find Your Feet is a small organisation currently working in the most remote areas of India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They help poor rural families improve their agricultural practices so they can grow enough food; support them in finding their voice so they are better able to speak up for themselves when it comes to defending their rights, dealing with injustice and corruption and claiming any meagre grants or benefits that might be available; and help them to create income streams which allow them to find their feet.

The Curry for Change campaign aims to raise awareness of the charity’s projects in India, through a celebration of Indian cuisine and by doing so, hopes to raise £10,000 towards it’s projects in all four countries.

 

The Indian project office is based in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, which is where my mum grew up and where most of her family still live. She had the great fortune to be born into a family that lived in comfort, ate well and could afford to educate all their children to university level and give them the best start in life.

But many in the state don’t share that good luck and live lives of hardship, poor health, grinding poverty, prejudice and injustice.

Find Your Feet, through their Curry For Change campaign, are asking you to help them improve the lives and prospects of communities that are isolated, marginalised and struggling to survive

 

There are two prongs to the campaign:

 

Dine Out

A number of Indian restaurants (including charity patron Atul Kochhar’s restaurants) have committed to asking diners throughout the month of June to add donations to their bills. Visit any of the partner restaurants any time in June, enjoy a wonderful meal and contribute to Curry For Change at the same time.

Other restaurants on the list for 2013 Atul Kochhar’s Benares and Indian Essence, Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice as well as Roti Chai and Regency Club. Hopefully, that list will be even bigger by the time June 1st rolls around.

 

Cook a Curry

Find Your Feet is calling on you to organise your own Curry for Change event to raise funds for their many projects.

Bring your family and friends together, ask them to buy tickets or donate during the evening and see how much you can raise.

It’s much easier than you think to cook a fabulous Indian feast at home and share with it family and friends.

When you register online, you’ll receive a bag of Indian spices, some great recipes from Atul Kochhar and Anjali Pathak, invitations and thank you notes for your guests, and a donation form and envelopes to collect contributions. And everyone who hosts a Curry for Change event will be entered into a prize draw for a personal cookery class with Anjali Pathak.

Mum and I have put together some Mamta’s Kitchen menu suggestions for you here. Or you can put your own selection of dishes together, we have hundreds and hundreds at mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

You have until November 30th to take part, so plenty of time to plan, invite, host and return the donations.

 

I’m posting today to give you a heads up and encourage you to get involved, either by visiting one of the partner restaurants during June, or hosting a fundraising curry night between June and November. Thanks for reading!

Darjeeling Express–Asma Khan Cooks

I met Asma Khan online a few short months ago. It’s always a pleasure chatting about food to someone as enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgable, as Asma. When she needed some advice on how to bottle her Indian chutneys and pickles, I was able to help, having learned how to do this myself only a few years back. On that occasion, we met for ramen at Shoryu and I was pleased that we clicked in real life as we had done via the web.

But when I really fell under Asma’s spell was the evening I tasted her cooking, attending her Darjeeling Express Supperclub, held in her Earl’s Court home.

I’ve grown up with Indian food, not just my mum’s cooking but that of family and friends and a fair few restaurants over the years. My mum’s remains my favourite because it is made for me, with all her love in it and it’s not only delicious but familiar, comforting and wonderful.

But wow, Asma’s cooking is at another level. I’m often impressed by great Indian food but I can’t remember the a time I’ve ever been quite so blown away by the flavours, textures and sheer delicousness of what is essentially home-style cooking.

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Every single dish of the incredible selection we were served was excellent but I must give special mention to the cashewnut alo, the paneer Chettinad, the tomato ke cutt, the fish malai curry and the dried apricot dessert, khoobani ka meetha. Chilli fiends in our group were particularly delighted by the mirchi ka salaan, a chilli and peanut stirfry unlike anything we’d had before.

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The good news is that you can try Asma’s cooking for yourself, and to be honest, I’d get in there fast because this lady is destined for huge success and I think tickets to her table will only become harder and harder to get your hands on.

Asma is cooking for a one-off special event at the Cinnamon Club later this month, which I’m very much looking forward to. Tickets are selling fast so if you are interested, do book now. Or drop her a line for dates to attend her next supperclub.

Me… I’m still dreaming about that feast…

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