As London-based chef and writer Anjum Anand embarks on her new series called Indian food made easy she demonstrates to friends, extended family and the British public easy and authentic recipes to Indian cuisine. Growing up in London, but having studied in Geneva, Paris and Madrid, Anand strives to make Indian food lighter to fit contemporary tastes. She has also worked with Café Spice in New York, and for Tommy Tang and the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles, as well as the Park Royal Hotel’s Indian restaurant in New Delhi. Anand talks to Lounge about her love for cooking and Indian cuisine.
How did your passion for cooking start?
It started comparatively late in life. I was in my 20s and wanted to learn how to cook Indian food so that I could cook light and healthy meals for myself. Cooking on a regular basis was so much fun and the more I cooked, the more I loved it and it soon became a passion and that eventually became a career.
When did you first realize that you were a good cook?
I suppose I realized that I was an enthusiastic cook at some point in my 20s. I also realized that I am a determined cook as I keep on cooking the same recipe until I am happy with it. I am someone who also cooks regularly. It is others who tell me my food is good, I am not sure when the compliments sunk in.
What spice do you use a lot? And why?
I do use a lot of turmeric as it is really good for us and the only way we get its goodness is in the food.
What would you recommend for people who are cooking their first Indian meal?
I would recommend cooking a simple dish that they are familiar with, but with Indian flavours. In this way, they get used to cooking with spices on more familiar territory. For example, a lamb or chicken burger; they are already familiar with the technique, so the only new thing are the flavourings.
How do you work towards making Indian food light versus the fried pakodas, heavy dal makhni and butter chicken?
While there are some very heavy dishes, even Indians do not eat this way every day. We eat simple, lighter curries, lentils and vegetables. I do not attempt to lighten all the heaviest restaurant dishes, but concentrate on the already delicious and healthy home foods from around the country.
What is your favourite style of Indian cooking?
It has to be Punjabi, of course, I am biased.
What are quick Indian snacks that you would recommend?
Aloo tikki, easy dhokla (made with besan), Handvo, pao bhaji, even using leftovers to make different kathi rolls.
‘Indian Food Made Easy’ will air on Discovery Travel and Living every Saturday at 8.30pm, beginning 5 July. The episodes will repeat every Sunday at 12pm
Tandoori lamb wrap
These wraps are the perfect grab-and-go meal. You can prepare all the ingredients well in advance and simply grill the lamb in the time that it takes you to slice the tomato and onion. The chutney also keeps well in the fridge for a few days. The flavours are clean and deep and the textures varied. You can also use seasoned yoghurt and some fresh chopped coriander and mint instead of the chutney.
400g boned lamb, cut into 2cm cubes and pierced with a fork
2 tbsp melted butter
10 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
sliced onions, lettuce and sliced tomatoes, to serve
100ml green chutney mixed with 3 tbsp yoghurt, to serve
150ml Greek-style thick yoghurt. K small onion, peeled and roughly chopped 15g garlic (approximately, 8 large cloves), peeled 8g fresh ginger, peeled
1 K tsp garam masala
1 K tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
K tsp fennel seeds, powdered
N tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
K tsp red chilli powder, or to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Blend all the marinade ingredients until smooth. Pour into a bowl, mix in the lamb and leave to marinate for as long as possible—overnight in the fridge would be best. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat the grill. Thread the lamb onto the skewers, leaving a space between each piece and place under the grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tender, turning halfway through cooking. Alternatively, cook in an oven preheated to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6 for 8 minutes. Baste with the butter and cook another minute or two for slightly pink meat.
Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time.
Divide the lamb into six portions and place in the centre of the warmed tortillas. Top with a some of the vegetables and spoon over 1 tbsp of green chutney. Roll and serve.
Bengali-style baked fish
Bengali food is quite unique and different from all other Indian regional cuisine. Here cooks use subtle flavours, but are generous with their use of eye-watering mustard, both the oil and seeds. They cherish their fresh seafood and their cuisine is almost a homage to the slippery creatures. This Bengali-style recipe is a delicious example of their food, but I’ve simplified and mellowed it a little. I love this dish—it takes just minutes to prepare, the same to cook and tastes wonderful.
1 tbsp white poppy seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 heaped tbsp plain yoghurt
6g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
K–1 green chilli, chopped salt, to taste
good pinch of black pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
15g fresh coriander stalks and leaves, chopped (a good handful)
2 pieces of white-fleshed fillets, such as haddock or sole
Lemon juice, to taste
Serve with fresh vegetables or with the warm corn, coconut and watercress salad.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
Make a paste of the poppy seeds, mustard seeds, yoghurt, ginger and chilli. I use a pestle and mortar but you can also use a blender. Stir in the salt, pepper, coriander powder and fresh coriander. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Place the fish in a well-oiled roasting tin. Coat the top of the fish with a good layer of the paste and dot with the butter. Cook for 7–10 minutes or until tender (it depends on the type of fish and the thickness). Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.
Himalayan lamb and yoghurt curry
This is a really unusual, clean, mild and fragrant curry from Kashmir. It is so different from most people’s perception of Indian food that it is worth trying just to understand the full range of diversity of Indian flavour combinations. It is typical of this region in that it has no onions or garlic, and ginger is in the form of a powder. The flavour is provided entirely by the spices, yoghurt and meat and for this reason all should be good quality and the meat, in particular, should be cooked on the bone as this provide much of the lamb’s flavour. As a bonus, there is no chopping and hardly any cleaning required.
2 bay leaves
O tsp ginger powder
2 black cardamom pods
2 shards of cinnamon
8 small cloves
10 green cardamom pods
1 piece mace
O tsp salt
12 black peppercorns, lightly pounded
4 good tsp fennel seed powder
600g cubes of lamb, with the bone in
2 tbsp oil or ghee
O tsp garam masala
Salt, to taste
Place the bay leaves, black cardamom pods, cinnamon, half the cloves, half the green cardamom pods, mace, salt, peppercorn and 3 teaspoons of the fennel seeds powder in a non-stick saucepan along with the meat and the water. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook on a low heat for around 35 minutes until the meat is tender.
Stir in the yoghurt and bring to a gentle simmer, then cook on a low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a splash of boiled water from the kettle, if necessary.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in your smallest pan and add the remaining cloves and cardamom pods, cook for 20 seconds and stir into the meat with the garam masala and remaining fennel seed powder. Check for seasoning and serve with plain boiled rice.
The dish has pale, thin, flavourful and aromatic gravy that is delicious with rice or Indian bread. If the gravy has reduced too much, add a little boiled water from the kettle.
Serve with simple boiled rice.
Kulfi is traditional Indian ice cream, but made without cream and without eggs. At its simplest, it is reduced milk and sugar, flavoured with green cardamom powder. Restaurants normally add cream. I have enriched my basic recipe with ground almonds and rice flour, but you can make a simpler version by doubling the quantity of milk and leaving out the above. It does take a long time to make and does require some loving attention so if you tend to hover around the kitchen, it’s really easy to make.
1 litre full-fat milk
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp rice flour
5–6 tbsp sugar, or to taste
L–K tsp green cardamom powder, or to taste
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
2 tbsp flaked almonds
Heat the milk in a wide, thick-bottomed pan over a low heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and cook gently. You need to stir often to prevent the milk from catching the base of the pan and burning. Place the ground almonds and flour into a small cup and once the milk is warm, stir in a little milk, make a thin paste and stir back into the pan with the sugar. Continue to cook gently as the milk needs to reduce by half—this takes about an hour. If a skin forms on the surface, just stir it back in.
Then stir in the cardamom powder to taste. Cool completely, then decant into four kulfi moulds. I know of it being set in polystyrene cups or normal freezer-proof containers. If you have the time, 2 hours after it has been put into the freezer, take it out and give it a good whisk to break up any ice crystals. Take the moulds out of the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Dip them into hot water and turn out. Sprinkle generously with the nuts.
Charantais Melon Rasayana
This wonderful seasonal fruit is the stripy melon with the orange flesh. If you cannot find it, use cantaloupe or musk melon. Check it is ripe by sniffing an end—it should give off a fruity aroma. This melon is juicy and sweet and perfect in this south Indian-inspired dessert. The melon leaks into the creamy coconut and is uplifted with the pomegranate seeds. A beautiful, refreshing dessert.
225g Charantais melon flesh (weighed without the skin), cut into small dice
225ml fresh or canned coconut milk
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste (depending on sweetness of melon)
Seeds from K a pomegranate
2 handfuls of crushed ice, handful of flaked almonds, lightly roasted in the oven until just changing colour
Place the melon dice in a deep bowl. Using your fingers, crush them so that they are no longer regular in shape and start to leak our their wonderful juice but do not let them become mash. Add the coconut milk and sugar and mix well.
The colour should be a beautiful pale peach; you may want to give the melon another crush to assimilate the two. Stir in the pomegranate and chill until ready to serve. Place a tablespoon of crushed ice in the bottom of the serving bowls and top with the rasayana. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and serve cold.