Indian Saturday

I rarely eat Indian food. I like it, but somehow it just doesn’t make it into my regular rotation. I actually cannot remember the last time I ate Indian food, but having recently bought the book Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape, which has 100 of his favourite Indian recipes, it was time to make some! I flicked through and found a couple or recipes that didn’t require too many extraneous ingredients and set to work… Three hours later we ate, and it was all delicious.

photo of Indian food

The main dish of our mini Indian feast was Chicken Badami, which isn’t too overpowering, and would be a good dish to use as an introduction to this style of cuisine if you are unfamiliar. With its plethora of spices, it would be easy to think this dish might just have that generic Indian spicy taste, but on the contrary, this dish is so well balanced and crafted, that you can actually taste each of the spices, and the peaks and troughs they create on your palate.

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken thigh fillet
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2cm of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 25g slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee or melted unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 50g finely ground almonds
  • 300ml natural yogurt

Method

  1. Put the chicken pieces into a large bowl with the garlic, ginger, lemon juice and some seasoning. Mix well, cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Place a large frying pan over medium heat, add the slivered almonds and dry-toast them until they are a light, golden brown, remembering to toss them once in a while to avoid burning the nuts. Tip on to a plate and leave to cool.
  3. Return the pan to the heat and add the ghee or butter and the onions. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Add the cinnamon, cardamon and cloves and fry for 2-3 minutes before adding the cumin, coriander, turmeric and ground almonds. Add the chicken to the pan and stir well to coat the meat in spices. Turn the heat up slightly and stir frequently until the chicken turns opaque.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and gradually stir in the yogurt. Bring to a slow simmer, cover the pan and cook for another 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the chicken in tender.
  5. When ready to serve, ladle the chicken into a serving bowl and sprinkle over the otasted almonds to garnish.

To accompany the chicken, I made sweet potatoes with panch phoran. Panch phoran is an equal blend of five spices, quite popular in Bengal, that is quite unusual to the palate if you are not that experienced with Indian fare. The fennel gives it a distinct aniseed taste and I found this dish to balance the creaminess of the chicken rather well.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon nigella or black onion seeds (I couldn’t find these)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I could only find brown)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Method

  1. Combine all the spices for the panch phoran and set aside.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 2cm dice. Blanch them in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain well.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the panch phoran and when the seeds start to crackle, and pop, add the sweet potatoes. Stir well and sauté until cooked through and browning slightly around the edges. Add the ghee or butter and when it has been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Tip the potatoes into a warm serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped coriander and strips of ginger.

No Indian feast would be complete without naan to mop up all the delicious juices and sauces. Although missing that tandoor oven flavour, it is worth making using just your domestic oven.

Ingredients

  • 150-175ml tepid milk
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried yeast (one sachet)
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or melted, unsalted butter, plus extra for brushing
  • poppy, sesame or black onion seeds for sprinkling

Method

  1. Pour the milk into a bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Stir well. Set aside for 20 minutes until it becomes frothy.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the yogurt, ghee or butter and yeast mixture and bring everything together to form a soft ball of dough. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 220˚C. Put two large trays in the oven. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Work with one ball at a time and keep the rest covered with cling film to prevent their drying out. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand, roll out to 5mm round and then pull one side to make a teardrop shape. Gently prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle the naan with your chose topping and gently press into the dough. Transfer to the hot baking trays. Bake for 4-5 minutes until they have puffed up, slightly brown and spots appear on the surface of the bread. If you wish, brush with ghee or butter and serve hot.


A bottle of gewurtztraminer is the ideal match for the spice of such cuisine. Luckily, I have a supply in the fridge.

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