Simple Indian Vegetarian and Vegan recipes – Potato Fenugreek dish (Aloo Methi)

I prepared one of my mum’s quick potato dishes that champion fresh fenugreek leaves today. Using a handful of spices – coriander powder, red chilli powder and turmeric powder – with some salt and a dash of lime juice- it was ready in under 30 minutes. 

Not the easiest of vegetables to get hold of (at least not where I live) so if you do come across fresh fenugreek leaves, grab a bunch or two and give this recipe a go. The flavours are earthy, some may even say a bit bitter but the combination of the two – potatoes and fenugreek (also called Methi in Hindi) – prepared with such simplicity – creates mouthwatering results! 

 

Recipe: for 3 to 4 people

2 TBS (tablespoon) of olive oil

2 medium baking potatoes

2 bunches (200 grams) of fresh fenugreek leaves – washed

1.5 tsp of coriander powder

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1/2 to 1/3 of kashmiri chilli powder (or normal red chilli powder) – optional and based on your heat level

1 tsp of cumin seeds

1/3 tsp of hing (asafoetida)

A few drops of fresh lime

Method:

Remove the fenugreek leaves and discard the stems. Chop them coarsely and then wash them properly.  Peel and dice the potatoes. Take a wok, add oil. Once the oil is hot, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Now add the fenugreek leaves and cook these on slow flame, covered for 3-4 minutes. Mix from time to time so that they don’t stick/ burn. Now add the diced potatoes, add salt and turmeric powder. Mix and cover until the potatoes are just soft (so check by poking a piece of potato with a fork – it should go through but there should be a bit of resistance). At this stage, add the coriander powder and red chilli powder. Mix and cover. Cook until potatoes are ready and soft (check with a fork or try one). Now drizzle some lime juice. Mix and cover the wok. Switch the hob off. Enjoy this dish with Indian naan bread – parathas, wholemeal rotis (a type of bread prepared by cooking it in part on the tava and on the fire directly until it blows up!) or chapatis.

 

 

My special Masala Chai Recipe to beat the winter blues

It is that time of the year when I can’t wake up without my cup of masala chai. This simple, rustic mix of fresh spices, ginger and tea leaves simply warms me up during the cold winter days and fills me with a sense of joy!

I have had the pleasure of sharing this recipe with some of my participants and friends who have especially asked for it but would like to spread the joy by sharing it with all my followers, participants, friends and well wishers….my little way of saying thank you for supporting me throughout this year. I hope you give this recipe a go…

Here’s wishing you and your family a very merry christmas and a happy new year!

Masala Chai Recipe for two:

  • Roughly grind fresh ginger (approx 2 inches) , 2 green cardamom pods and a 1 inch cinnamon stick in a pestle and mortar
  • Take 2 cups (approx 200 ml per cup) of water in a pan and add the bits from the pestle mortar along with 1/4 tsp of black pepper powder into the pan
  • When the water starts boiling properly, add 3 heaped tsp of red label tea (preferably loose) or any other brand of English Breakfast tea. Mix, switch off hob and cover pan. Let this brew for 5 minutes. Now switch the hob on and add as much milk as you like (I usually prefer my tea milky and generally tend to add full fat milk for texture) and reheat the tea until its nice and hot
  • Use a sieve to filter the tea. Enjoy with some sugar/ sweetener (as we tend to have this sweet but that’s based on personal preference)

Best of both the worlds – learning & sharing special family food recipes from my UK based Indian cookery school

2019 has been a very memorable year for me personally. My Indian cookery school ‘Breech Lane Curry House’ has grown from strength to strength. I have been nominated and shortlisted as a finalist for a very special nationwide recognition award – The Business Mum of the Year, organised by the Family Network UK LTD. I had the privilege of running a children’s Indian cookery workshop at my daughters’ local village school, to help raise funds. I was invited to talk about my venture and my family dishes on the BBC Surrey Radio show ‘Up Close’! I held a variety of Indian cookery courses, meeting food enthusiasts from varied backgrounds and age groups, receiving such encouraging reviews of my sessions along the way. 

One of the most exciting experiences was my recent trip to India to visit family and celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights (you could call it the Indian christmas of sorts!). During my journey, I enjoyed home cooked Indian food at its very best. Whilst visiting my parents and sisters up north in the capital city of New Delhi and my in laws down south of India in a place called Coimbatore, I took every opportunity to add to my repertoire of family dishes. I was taught to make proper home cooked ‘Appams’, a type of bowl shaped pancake made with rice based batter, lentil and fenugreek seeds and enjoyed with home made coconut milk, not to forget my mum’s special ‘Rajma’ curry which is essentially red kidney beans cooked in a delicious onion and tomato based gravy with a blend of spices and my brother in law’s special Kashmiri mutton curry called ‘Yakhni’ created with a set of simple spices such as fennel and ginger powder and yet yielding such complex flavours. 

To top this off, I was handed down two very special kitchen utensils by my in laws – both more than a 100 years old and belonging to their parents – a brass spice tin used to store the essential spice powders and a biryani (rice dish) cum idli ( savoury rice cakes) making brass pot. I have since given them a pride of place in my kitchen and used the brass pot to prepare a very delicious, healthy and homely chicken biryani! I can’t wait to prepare some fluffy idlis next!

Whilst my trip was a social visit, I would not hesitate to call it a culinary journey of discovery, rediscovery and enlightenment! I feel very lucky to be in this unique position from where I can tap into this family pool of authentic home cooked Indian recipes and techniques and pass them on to my participants. In a sense, I have the best of both the worlds!

 

Yes, I am having fun doing what I do! I never thought I would ever get to feel this way!

It would be right to state that it has taken me a while to figure out what I REALLY want to do with my time and my life and when I say ‘a while’ I mean 37 years of my life! And am I glad I have figured this out however long it has taken. 

For the first time in my life I consider my ‘work’ fun, exciting, interesting and most importantly engaging. 

I set up my home based Indian cookery school a year ago never once believing it would be so well received, that there would be people out there rearing to learn proper home made Indian food, all from scratch, right down to the spices used, that my cookery classes would be a great way to get not only family and friends together but people who may have never met each other before, all sharing the same passion for authentic Indian food, learning and having fun at the same time. I have been truly bowled over by their passion for simple, honest and yet delicious Indian food.

Having successfully run classes for more than 100 participants, with every participant review being an outstanding one (so far!), I feel I am on the right track. There is one person in my life without whom all this would not exist, in fact, it would be unimaginable, unachievable really and that’s my husband, my strongest supporter and confidant, encouraging me all the way through. I owe him a MASSIVE thank you!

I decided to write this just as I received this lovely review from one of my participants today – I guess the blog is an acknowledgement that I am having fun, that I am happy with and grateful for what I am doing now and that I owe it to my family and friends, especially my husband!

“I recently attended a private cooking session with my mum as a birthday treat. I can’t recommend Jaya enough, she is incredibly knowledgable and a very good teacher! The food we cooked was amazing, and all our family enjoyed trying the food once we got home! We will definitely be recreating the dishes at home soon and hope to attend some more of the classes Jaya runs! The classes are extremely well thought out and run in a relaxed “at home” setting. Thank you so much Jaya xx – Lois Brown

Family recipes that champion my home made spice blends:

Chickpea curry recipe using chick pea curry powder & garam masala:

19221436_1376242079129976_2761681834553062499_o

Ingredients for pressure cooking:

100 grams raw, uncooked chickpeas (makes for 2-3 adult portions) that have been soaked in water overnight

425 ml of water

1 tea bag to give whole the dark brown colour (optional)

1 to 1.5 tsp of salt

Ingredients for the gravy:

1 large onion chopped finely

1 to 1.5 medium tomatoes chopped finely

1 tsp ginger paste

1/2 tsp garlic paste

Dry whole spices :

1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cardamom, 1 clove, 1-2 dried red chillies (optional)

2-3 TBS olive oil

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1/4 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

1 to 2 tsp chick pea curry powder

For garnishing:

Chopped coriander

1 inch piece of Ginger julienne

Thinly sliced onion rings

Method:

Rinse and soak chickpeas in enough water overnight. The chickpeas will grow in size so ensure there is sufficient water to soak them in. In a pressure cooker, add the soaked chola with 425 ml of fresh water, salt and tea bag. The tea bag lends the chickpeas a dark brown colour. Traditionally Indian gooseberries are used but these are not easily available. The substitute is a tea bag. This step is optional. Without the tea bag, the punjabi chola dish is yellowish in colour. Pressure cook the chickpeas for 10 mins or 21 to 23 whistles (this may vary based on the brand of the pressure cooker). You will know the chickpeas are ready if they are easy to mash between the thumb and the finger. They should retain their shape but still be easy to mash with your finger or the back of the spoon. Heat oil in a wok or pan, add the whole spices, add the chopped onions. Sauté them for 5 minutes or so and as they start to brown, add the ginger and garlic paste. Continue to saute this mixture until the onions turn translucent and start turning into a paste. Add the chopped tomatoes to the onion mixture. Saute this mixture until you see the onion and tomato paste gel together properly. This final mixture of onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes can take up to 20-25 minutes of cooking to get to the required consistency. Now add the turmeric powder, salt and garam masala and mix well.  Now add the chickpea curry powder and let it cook for 3-4 minutes. At this stage, add the pressure cooked chickpeas (without any stock from the pressure cooker) into the onion and tomato paste. Check for salt. Add if required. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes. Now add approximately 200ml of stock (if this is less then just top it up with water) and mix well. Cook the dish on low flame until the gravy thickens and is of the appropriate consistency. You can even mash a few chickpeas to help thicken the gravy. Garnish the dish with chopped coriander leaves, ginger julienne and onion rings. Serve with Indian whole meal parathas or boiled cumin basmati rice

Additional notes: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you have two choices:

Use cooked canned chickpeas. Add them once your onion and tomato paste with the spices are ready OR wash and soak uncooked chickpeas overnight. Add a pinch of baking soda in the soaking bowl to help with the cooking process. After they have soaked overnight, boil them in a pot of water (enough to cover and top up by an additional 3 inches) partially covering the pot with a lid, leaving a small gap to let off steam, until they are cooked. This can take a long time. As they boil in water, the water may start getting frothy. Remove the frothiness and keep topping up with water.

Chicken Xacuti recipe using curry powder & garam masala 

Chicken curry

Utensils used: wok or kadai with a lid, pan, food processor or mixer

Ingredients

250-280 grams of boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into small pieces (for two portions of curry)

Salt to taste

60 grams fresh coconut pieces

5 garlic cloves

2 inch piece of ginger – roughly chopped

1.5 small red onions roughly chopped

1 small onion finely chopped

15-20 grams of tamarind pulp

1 TBS of my home made curry powder

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1/3 tsp garam masala

Handful of coriander leaves

2-3 TBS olive oil

Handful of curry leaves

Method:

  • Cut the chicken thighs into small pieces
  • Take a wok, add 2 TBS of olive oil, add 1.5 small roughly chopped red onions, ginger and garlic and fry this for 10-15 minutes. Let this mixture cool down
  • In a separate pan, dry roast the coconut pieces until they brown at the edges. Allow it to cool down
  • Transfer all of the above into a mixer/ food processor, add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and approx 20-30 ml of water to make a paste (should not be runny but thick in consistency)
  • Now heat some oil in a wok, add some curry leaves, add the finely chopped onion and fry properly for 20-25 minutes until it is paste like
  • Add HALF the mixture of onions, ginger, garlic and coconut into the wok and fry for 5 minutes
  • Add 1 TBS of curry powder and fry for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the chicken pieces and coat these with the curry paste and cook for 5-7 minutes with the lid on. While this is cooking, add 10-20 ml of hot water to 20 grams of tamarind pulp, wait a minute and then gently mash the tamarind pulp with the fork until it dissolves in the water. Take out the fibre so that you are left with the smooth tamarind paste
  • Now take some water and add it (make sure the gravy does not become watery or too runny so add as much water as is required) and cook for 10 minutes
  • Add the tamarind pulp and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Finally,  add garam masala and cook for an additional minute
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with Indian naan bread or hot basmati rice

 

Food that takes us back in time

I guess everyone has those special dishes that take them back to their childhood days. I have a few that instantly transport me back in time. Here’s one that brings back special memories. Our mum’s favourite dish – stuffed cauliflower with green peas and chutney – it reminds me of the time my eldest sister entered a cooking competition in college. My teenage sister who very rarely made visits to the kitchen decided to master this dish. It was special, both in taste and appearance. I recall my dad advising her to try something simpler but she was adamant. She wanted to impress her teachers and friends in college. You can imagine our plight. She would practice the dish every day and we had to eat it for six days at a stretch! She had mastered the dish by day six (thankfully) and pulled it off by winning the first prize, but at home, it was only cooked again after two months!
Another dish that is very close to my heart has been lovingly named ‘Picnic Aloo’. It reminds me of my childhood travel on the Indian railways. A simple dish of boiled potatoes prepared in a blend of Indian spices and eaten with fried puris (a type of naan bread), our mum would always pack this in the traditional Indian tiffins or dabbas when we would travel as a family. Midway through our train journeys, she would carefully take the tiffin and lay the food out for us to enjoy along with some home made mango pickle. Today, when I make this dish at home, just the whiff of its aroma takes me back in time to those simple, long and fun filled days on the train!
What’s your favourite childhood dish?

Have I made the right decision?

I recently launched my very own home based Indian cookery classes from Walton on the Hill, Tadworth (Surrey). In hindsight I felt it was a brave move for me, considering that I didn’t hold any prior experience of running my own business and more so because my only experience of working was within the corporate sector, for some one else, in a more structured environment of sorts. After 10 years specialising in Human Resources, I took a career break to start a family. With two little ones to look after, I took up the role of a full time mum with a new sense of passion and energy. Five years on, it just felt right to start something of my own. Returning to a 9 to 5 environment felt alien and uninteresting. It was the time that I spent in my home kitchen during those five years that changed my life and helped me visualise and then set up Breech Lane Curry House.

The mission of my venture is to promote traditional family recipes, some of which have been in my family for generations. The focus is on using only the best of ingredients – meat from the local butchers, sea food from the fish monger, seasonal fresh vegetables, home made ginger and garlic paste, as many home made Indian spices as possible and the usual suspects such as olive oil and wholemeal flour to make my parathas (Indian layered flatbread) and my food, in general, healthy and delicious.

I decided to extend my offering to include a gourmet curry collection service of the same high end quality Indian food to those of us who don’t have the time or inclination to take Indian cookery classes, or would just like to treat themselves to a delicious and healthy meal once in a while.

Since my launch, I have been busy running cookery classes for friends, preparing meals through the gourmet curry collection service and there is not a moment when I regret starting my own venture.

Its after a hard days work, when I have made someones meal a happy one or passed on the knowledge and skills for making and replicating that delicious Indian chicken curry or paneer tikkas that I know for certain that I have, indeed, made the right decision!