Indian Lockdown Delights

Back in 2010, I was lucky enough to travel to India and spend some time backpacking around this crazy country! It was nothing like I expected, yet at the same time it was everything I thought it would be – I know that sounds like a huge contradiction, which it is but that is literally how I felt everywhere I went.

The one thing that has stuck with me was the food. It was nothing like I was expecting. Firstly, it was nearly all vegetable-based, very little meat which I was surprised at. Secondly, it was nothing like the Indian takeaways I loved in the UK and lastly, you couldnt wash it down with a nice beer as most places didn’t serve alcohol.

Since returning from India my tastes had totally changed and I now find myself always checking the vegetable main dishes as they are the closest you will get to the authentic taste of India. And, naan breads… they pretty much do not exist anywhere in India apart from Goa.

So, on to last weeks meal. We went for more of an Indian ‘fake-away’ over a traditional feast (which I will do when I can get the ingredients), opting for a chicken madras, red lentil daal, tandoori chicken tikka, onion bhajis, saag aloo and rotis with raita and mint yoghurt dressing.

We had to go for the ‘fake-away’ option as COVID-19 lockdown has left us craving our favourite Indian takeaway – the famous Sunday five course special from The Last Days of the Raj. If lie us you are missing yours, give this a go, you will not be disappointed…

Chicken Madras

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 Red pepper, chopped
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 1 Red chilli
  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 3 Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Tomato puree
  • 2 tsp medium curry powder
  • Tin of Chopped tomatoes
  • 450ml Chicken stock
  • Caster sugar
  • Salt and pepper (to season)
  • 15ml cooking oil

Method

  1. Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat adding in the garlic and fresh chilli to sauté for a few minutes. Then add in the chopped onions, peppers and chilli flakes, mixing well. Cooking for another few minutes until the onions start to soften.
  2. Add the curry powder and mix well. After one minute add the tomato puree and the chopped tomatoes, bring to boil and then simmer. Add a little salt, pepper and caster sugar to season.
  3. Add the chicken and stir well. Let cook for a few minutes then add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then simmer until the consistency of the curry becomes thicker.
  4. Sprinkle with some freshly chopped chilli or chilli flakes and serve with basmati rice in a warm bowl.

Lentil Daal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green chilli pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Salt (to season)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Chopped coriander leaves (to garnish)

Method

  1. Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of water. Turn the heat to medium and allow the lentils to cook for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium pan on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick; cook for 60 to 90 seconds, just enough time to release the flavours.
  3. Add the onion, green chilli pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are starting to soften.
  4. Add the turmeric, cardamom, paprika, salt, and tomato to the pan. Cook until the tomato begins to fall apart, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  5. Once the lentils are cooked, drain off any excess water. Stir the spiced onion mixture into the pot of lentils. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Garnish with coriander and serve in a warmed bowl.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka

Ingredients

  • 1 Kg Chicken breasts or (scored chicken legs)

For the first marinade

  • 3 Crushed Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste (or fresh minced Ginger Root)
  • 1 tbsp Red Chili Powder
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Salt (to season)

For the second marinade

  • 300g Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Crushed Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste (or fresh minced Ginger Root)
  • 1 tbsp Red Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Dried Coriander
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Crushed Mustard Seeds
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Red Food Colouring (this adds to the more authentic takeaway dark red colour)

Method

Preparation of Marinade

  • Dice the chicken breast into large chunks (or score chicken legs using a sharp knife).
  • In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the first marinade, add the chicken and stir well to evenly coat, then cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for one hour
  • In another large bowl, add all the ingredients of the second marinade and mix it very well. After one-hour transfer, the chicken from the first bowl to the new marinate bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and pop back in the fridge for as long as possible, 7/8 hours or overnight if you can.

To Bake It in The Oven

  • Pre-heat the oven at 220 degrees centigrade. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on a baking tray or a rack.
  • Grill the chicken for 25 minutes and then broil it for 5 minutes or till done.

Onion Bhaji

Ingredients

For the Bhaji

  • 2 onions finely sliced
  • 100g gram flour
  • ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the Raita

  • ½ cucumber
  • 150g tub Greek-style yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint

Method

  1. Soak the onion in cold water while you make the base mix. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the chilli powder, turmeric, chopped chilli and a good sprinkling of salt. Mix in about 100ml of cold water to make a thick batter – add a splash more if it feels too stiff.
  2. For the raita, peel the cucumber and grate it into a sieve set over another bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients with some seasoning and the drained cucumber – squeezing out any extra moisture with your hands – then spoon into a small serving bowl.
  3. Drain the onion well and mix it into the batter. Heat about 5cm of oil in a wok or deep pan. (Do not fill the pan more than a third full). You will know when the oil is ready by dropping a small amount fo the butter in the pan if it floats to the surface surrounded by bubbles it is ready to cook.
  4. Using your hands mould small balls of the bhaji mixture and then place on a spoon to lower into the pan, a few at a time, and cook for a few mins, turning once, until they are evenly browned and crisp, so about 3-4 mins. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt and keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve with the raita.

Saag Aloo

Ingredients

  • 1kg Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3cm piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 200g spinach
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

Method

  1. Simmer the potatoes for 10 mins or until tender. Drain and leave to air dry.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded pan over medium to low heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and fry for 1 min or until they start to sizzle. Add the onion; cover and cook for 10-15 mins until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato purée, the remaining spices and 1 tbsp water. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 5-10 mins until softened. Add the potatoes and stir to coat.

3. Add a large handful of the spinach and 100ml boiling water; cover and cook for 2 mins or until the spinach wilts. Add the remaining spinach and scatter with chopped chilli to serve.

Roti

Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and frying

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Sprinkle over the oil and add enough water to make a soft dough (about 140ml/4½fl oz) – add a little more flour or water if needed. Knead gently until smooth. Cover and leave to rest for about 30 minutes. 
  2. On a floured work surface, divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll each one into a thin circle about the thickness of a 20 pence coin (about 2mm), using a rolling pin. 
  3. Brush the bottom third of one of the rotis with oil using a pastry brush, dust with a little extra flour and fold the oiled third towards the middle. Repeat with the top third, fold inwards again. Give the roti a quarter-turn (90 degrees) and repeat the folding process – you should end up with a rough square. Leave to rest while you make the remaining five rotis. 
  4. Heat a little oil in a heavy-based pan. Using a rolling pin, roll out one of the roti thinly and then fry on one side until it puffs up and is speckled brown on the underside. Turn it over and fry on the other side for a few minutes, until it too is puffed and speckled brown. Remove from the pan, allowing the roti to cool for a few seconds, then fold into four. Repeat until all the roti are cooked. Serve warm.

Enjoy the above with a lovely cold bottle of Cobra beer and if you do give this a go please let me know how you get on!

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