Monday 20 October 2014

Shahi Paneer

Shahi Paneer is a north Indian dish, a preparation of paneer pieces in a thick, creamy gravy prepared in tomato, onion and cashew-nut paste. Because of its richness it is usually served in parties, dinners and other occasions which require special menu.

This is one of the paneer recipes you will find in every dhaba and restaurant, and to me brings back memories of dhaba food from my graduation days.

Shahi Paneer


Paneer (Cottage Cheese) - 250 grams (cut in cubes)
Cashew Nut - 7
Makhane  (Gorgon/Fox Nut) - 15 (optional)
Onion - 1 large (chopped)
Ginger - 1 inch (finely chopped)
Garlic - 2 cloves (finely chopped)
Tomatoes - 3 (chopped)
Green Chilli - 1 (chopped)
Bay Leaf - 1
Black Pepper - 6
Cloves - 3
Cumin Seeds - ½ teaspoon
Chilli powder - ½ teaspoon
Garam Masala - 3/4 teaspoon
Yogurt - 100 grams
Double Cream - 150 grams
Salt (to taste)
Oil - 4 table spoon
Coriander leaves - small bunch (finely chopped)


  1. Soak the cashew nuts for 15 minutes and then grind them to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  2. Dry fry makhane in a wok for a few minutes, let them cool, and then grind to a smooth powder. Keep aside.
  3. Add 3 table spoon oil in a kadai, add bay leaf, cumin seeds, black pepper and cloves. 
  4. When oil is hot add onion, saute.
  5. Add ginger and garlic, and saute for another 1 minute.
  6. Add tomatoes and green chili, cover it and cook for 5 minute.
  7. Leave it for 15 minutes to cool, remove bay leaf and grind the rest to smooth puree.
  8. Add 1 table spoon oil to kadai, once it is hot add the above pureed paste (of onion and tomato).
  9. Add chilli powder and salt, cook until oil seperates.
  10. Add makhane and cashew nut paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add Paneer, cook for a minute.
  12. Add yogurt, cook for 2 minutes on low flame till oil separates. Keep stirring.
  13. Cover and keep on low flame and cook for 5-7 minute.
  14. Add cream.
  15. Sprinkle garam masala.
  16. Keep on low flame for 3-4 minutes. Remove from fire.
  17. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.

Friday 11 July 2014

Red Lentil Soup (Kirmizi Mercimek Corbasi)

This is one of my favourite vegetarian soup since I had it when I visited 'Sultanahmet Koftecisi' in Istanbul. I still dream about this place. I was in Istanbul for holidays and on the recommendation from friends decided to stay in Sultanahmet, close to Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque. We went to 'Sultanahmet Koftecisi' after reading a recommendation on Lonely Planet, this very well known restaurant and it was very crowded but so worth it. The kofte (or "meatballs") are amazing and the stuff that dreams are made of.

I had obscene amounts of delicious food in Istanbul (one of the factors contributing to it being my new favourite city in the world) and this place still stands out.

'Sultanahmet Koftecisi' do an equally good Corbasi (soup) for a starter.

Red Lentil Soup (Kirmizi Mercimek Corbasi)


Onion - 1 medium
Potato - 1 large
Carrot - 1 
Oil - 2 tablespoon
Tomato - 2
Red lentil (pink masoor daal) - 1 cup (washed and drained)
Hot water (or Chicken stock) - 6 or 7 cups
Salt - 1 teaspoon
Mint - 1 bunch

Butter - 2 table spoon
Paprika - 1/4 teaspoon
Lemon juice - 1 table spoon

  1. In a medium-sized pot add oil.
  2. At medium heat, add chopped onions, sauté them (don't let it get brown).
  3. Add chopped tomato, carrots and potatoes and sauté them for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the washed and drained red lentils, salt and hot water (or chicken stock), stir well.
  5. Cook until the carrots and potatoes are soft. (Approximately 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat).
  6. Let it cool.
  7. Add lemon juice and chopped mint.
  8. With a blender mix the soup thoroughly.
  9. If it is too thick, you can add some more water and adjust according to your sense of taste.
  10. For the garnish in a small frying pan, add butter and melt over low-medium heat.
  11. When it starts spitting, stir in chilli flakes.
  12. Then, pour the butter over the soup.
  13. Garnish with mint twigs and paprika on top.
  14. Serve the red lentil soup while still hot.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Yakhni Biryani

“Yakhni” means broth or stock. The meat is cooked with whole spices and the broth is used to cook the biryani.


For the mutton :
1 kg mutton, cut into pieces 
2 Tbsp coriander seeds 
1 onion, roughly chopped 
12 cloves of garlic 
2 bay leaves 
4-5 green cardamoms 
2 cinnamon sticks 
6-7 cloves
Salt, to taste

For the pulao :
3-4 Tbsp oil 
2 bay leaves 
6-7 cloves
4-5 cinnamon sticks 
4-5 green cardamom 
7-8 onions, thinly sliced length-wise 
4 heaped Tbsp ground garlic
1 grated nutmeg 
1 tsp cinnamon powder 
2 cups of basmati rice 
4 cups of mutton stock 
Salt, to taste


         Preparing the “Yakhni”
  1. Add enough water to a pan.
  2. Tie up the onion and all the spices into a small muslin cloth (potli), drop it in the pan.
  3. Add meat.
  4. Add salt.
  5. Cook until meat gets tender.
  6. Discard whole spices from the potli

    Preparing the "Biryani"
  7. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed vessel.
  8. Add the whole spices to it. 
  9. Once they start spluttering, add onions. 
  10. Fry till they turn golden brown in color. 
  11. Add garlic paste and stir for some time. 
  12. Add nutmeg and cinnamon powder and mix well. 
  13. Mix in the cooked mutton and the rice. 
  14. Sprinkle salt over it and continue to stir. 
  15. Add the mutton stock and mix well. 
  16. Cover it with a heavy lid to prevent the steam from escaping. 
  17. Cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. 
Serve hot with raita or chutney.

Biryani - Lucknow or Hyderabad ?

I love biryani, it’s the best meal.

Among various Biryani the Lucknow and Hyderabad style are dominant with a friendly rivalry.

There are nearly 30 different types of Biryani served in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka today. Out of all most hyped Biryani, there are two competing Biryani in India: Lucknow, and Hyderabad.

The hype is orchestrated  to promote various restaurants. Lucknow is a grand old city once ruled by Nawabs and capital of Uttar Pradesh; while, Hyderabad is a grand old city once ruled by Nizams and joint capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This has become a friendly food fight between North and South over Biryani. After all, all the tastes are acquired. North Indians like Lucknow Biryani, and South Indians like Hyderabad Biryani. The hype has created a natural curiosity over the differences.

People can get into arguments over which city makes the best biryani, and then over which restaurant in that city makes the best biryani.

Biryani or Pulao ?

And then there are arguments about calling our's as "Biryani" and and other's as "Pulao", depending on which one you prefer. Lucknow’s biryani is also often – unfairly I think – referred to as pulao since the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered together at the end. That’s only semantics. Wheras Hyderabadi biryani is what Lakhnawis call pulao or tehri. Lakhnawis cook the yakhni separately and then layer it in a degchi with rice and put on dum. Whereas in Hyderabadi biryani, everything is cooked together like pulao or tehri in Lucknow.

Hyderabad Biryani

This is called Kutchi Biryani. Kutchi means raw. 

The process does not adhere to the name Biryani in Farsi meaning 'fry before cooking'. Neither the meat, nor the rice are fried before cooking.  The meat is marinated in a mixture of spices for a few hours. Meat and the meat marinate are put in Handi. The rice is mixed with spiced yogurt. The 'rice and yogurt mixture' is put on top of the meat. The Handi is sealed and cooked over low heat. Eventually, the meat and rice are Dum cooked. The result is very different than Lucknow Biryani. The Lucknow Biryani has a homogenous meat flavor throughout the Biryani; while, the Rice in Hyderabad Biryani has more of a yogurt flavor than the meat flavor. In theory, Hyderabad Biryani is simple to make, but requires a lot of experience.

Lucknow Biryani

Lucknow Biryani is also called Awadh Biryani. Lucknow Biryani is a form of Pukki Biryani.

Pukki means 'cooked'. Both the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered and baked. The process also lives up to the name Biryani in Farsi meaning 'fry before cooking'.
It basically has three steps. First, the meat is seared in ghee and cooked in water with warm aromatic spices till meat is tender. The meat broth is drained out. Second, the rice is lightly fried in Ghee, and cooked in the meat broth from the previous step. Third, cooked meat and cooked rice are layered in a Handi. Sweet flavors are added. The Handi is sealed and cooked over low heat. The result is a perfectly cooked meat, rice, and a homogenous flavor of aromatic meat broth, aromatic spices and sweet flavors.

Kolkata biryani
There is a third kind of Biryani called Kolkata biryani, which is a version of the Lucknow one. The biryani in Kolkata is known for its subtle use of spices, fragrance and delicious potato, which is almost as tasty as the chunk of mutton in the rice. It was brought to the erstwhile Calcutta by Lucknow’s ruler, Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Oudh. When he was exiled to Calcutta , he brought his personal chefs with him. Potatoes were used in the biryani instead of meat during the recession, which later became a special feature of the Kolkata style biryani.

The variables are complicated such as amounts, moisture of yogurt mixture and marinate, and cut of meats. All the variables have to be carefully balanced so everything will cook together and come out perfectly.

As for India’s best city for biryani? Well, that depends on where you come from.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Spiced Roast Leg of Lamb (Tandoori Raan)

A lamb leg roast is extremely divine taste, it is rich with flavours. This marinated leg of lamb cooked in a deliciously spicy masala has that touch of royalty. First time I had 'tandoori raan'  was at Karim's when I took my family and friends for a dinner to celebrate the day I got my first salary. 

My only concern when cooking was about the inside of leg not getting cooked, but it went as I wanted it to, finely done inside out. It is important to make enough deep pricks with fork so that marinate gets inside and spreads the flavour. I used lamb shoulder for my first attempt.

Spiced Shoulder of Lamb


Leg of lamb (or Shoulder) - 1 and ½ kg

Onions - 1 large
Garlic cloves - 6 (crushed)
Ginger - 3 table spoon (crushed)
Green Chilly - 4

Yoghurt (plain) - 500 gram

Cumin Seeds (Dhaniya) - 2 table spoon
Coriander seeds (Zeera) - 1 table spoon
Cloves (Laung) - 6
Green Cardamom Pods (Choti elaychi) - 6
Cinnamon Stick (Daal-chini)- 1 and ½
Peppercorns (Kali mirch) - 10
Red Chilly (dried) - 2 (finely cut with scissor)
Garam Masala - ½ tea spoon
Salt - 1 teaspoon (or according to taste)

Lemon juice - 2 table spoon, or more, according to taste
Olive Oil - 2 table spoon (or use vegetable oil)
Vegetable Oil - 3 table spoon
Paprika - 1 tea spoon (optional, or use Kashmiri mirch)
Rosemary twigs - 2 (optional)


  1. Trim any skin off the lamb leg
  2. Place it in a in a large dish
  3. Blend onions, garlic,  ginger and green chilli's
  4. Add yoghurt and blend together
  5. Crush Whole Spices (cumin Seeds, coriander seeds, 4 cloves, 4 cardamom Pods, 1 cinnamon Stick, 6 peppercorns and red chilly)
  6. Add to the blend mix along with garam masala and salt, olive oil and lemon juice
  7. Blend for another 30 seconds
  8. Prick the lamb leg with fork, so that marinate gets inside.
  9. Rub over the paste

  10. Refrigerate for 24 hours
  11. Remove from the fridge and let the meat come to room temperature.
  12. Preheat the oven to 200 degree C
  13. Place a silver foil on baking tray, place the marinated leg on silver foil
  14. Heat vegetable oil and fry remaining whole spices (2 Cloves, 2 Cardamom pods, ½ Cinnamon stick and 4 Peppercorns) for a few seconds
  15. Pour the hot spiced oil over the lamb
    Oil over lamb

  16. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1.5 hours
  17. Then remove the foil
  18. Sprinkle Paprika
  19. Place Rosemary twigs on side in the baking tray
  20. Bake for a further 45 minutes
  21. Serve sliced with plain yoghurt and mint sauce

Wednesday 5 March 2014


I was introduced to Hummus by a Mid-eastern friend of mine during my university days, and ever since I have loved it. In Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East, celebrated British Armenian cook Arto der Haroutunian calls hummus, "One of the most popular and best-known of all Syrian dishes" and a "must on any mezzeh table."

Hummus can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and can be kept in the freezer for up to one month, add olive oil if it is dry. Hummus tastes great with bread, olives, cheese.

It's very important to season it so-gradually, the idea is that the heat of the garlic, and the zing of the lemon suits your particular idea of perfection. If you love garlic but don't want it to overpower the recipe, the easiest solution is to roast or microwave the garlic first, this will sweeten the garlic so it's not as offensive.


Hummus Ingredients
Hummus Blend

Chickpeas - 200 gram (canned)
Tahini (sesame seed paste) - 1 and ½ table spoon
Garlic cloves -2 (crushed) or more, according to taste
Lemon juice - 2 table spoon, or more, according to taste
Ground cumin - ½ teaspoon (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil - 2 table spoon
Salt - ½ teaspoon
Paprika or za'tar - 1 teaspoon (optional)

  1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse (set aside liquid from can). Reserve a few whole chick peas for serving
  2. Add tahini and lemon juice to food processor and blend for 30-40 seconds
  3. Add chickpeas, garlic, cumin, salt, and a table spoon of olive oil and then blend to a creamy purée
  4. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas (while blending), gradually tip in to make it a soft paste
  5. Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus
  6. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter with the reserved chickpeas
  7. Sprinkle with paprika or za'tar

PS: There can be various additions to get different flavours of Hummus, you may add few sun-dried tomato or 2 green chilly or few leaf of coriander/mint when blending.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala stimulates the senses; the mildly spiced masala coating tender pieces of marinated, char-grilled chicken is one of Britain’s favourite takeaways.

Although it is claimed the dish was created in Glasgow, it certainly has Indian influences.There is no standard recipe for chicken tikka masala; a survey found that of 48 different recipes, the only common ingredient was chicken. I found Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation to be the most interesting for my taste buds. Her recipe of marinating chicken in whipping cream, ends up flawlessly moist, and it is all because of her grilling technique. No one can beat Jaffrey’s DIY answer to the fiery tandoor, it gives the chicken an intense charcoal flavour.  I went through few of the recipe's before deciding on what I want to do. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

The Marinade


500 g boneless, skinless chicken, thighs or breasts, cut into 2.5 cm chunks

The marinade:

Lemon juice - 3 table spoons
Salt - ½ teaspoon

Ginger - 1 table spoon (peeled and finely grated)
Garlic cloves - 2 (finely grated)

Ground cumin - 1 teaspoon
Paprika - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric - 2 teaspoon
Garam masala - ½ teaspoon
Dried red chillies - 2 (crushed)
Cardamom pods - 10

Whipping cream - 6 table spoons
Sunflower oil - 3 table spoons


  1. Rub in ½tsp salt and lemon juice to the chicken. Leave for 20min.
  2. Add rest of the marinade ingredients to the chicken, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The Masala


White onion - 1 (finely sliced)
Garlic cloves - 5 (finely sliced)
Ginger - 1 table spoon (peeled and finely grated)
Sunflower oil - 5 table spoons

Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Coriander seeds - 1 teaspoon
Dried red chillies - 3 (crushed)

Paprika - 2 teaspoon
Turmeric - ½ teaspoon

Yogurt - 4 table spoons
Tomatoes - 3 (finely chopped)
Tomato purée - 1 table spoon
Ground almonds - 1 table spoon
Chicken stock - 350 ml
Single cream - 120ml

Garam masala - ¼ teaspoon

Coriander leaves - 4 table spoons (fresh, chopped)


  1. Grind the cumin, coriander seeds, chillies in a pestle and mortar and fry for 1-2 minute. Add paprika and turmeric.
  2. Heat the sunflower oil into a large, preferably non-stick, lidded pan on medium heat. 
  3. Add the onion and fry for 6-8 minutes, until it caramelises. 
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to fry, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the spice mixture (cumin, coriander, chillies, paprika and turmeric). Stir for 10 seconds.
  6. Then add a tablespoon of yoghurt. Stir and fry until it is absorbed. Add the remaining yoghurt in this way, a tablespoon at a time.
  7. Add the tomatoes and fry until they turn pulpy.
  8. Add the tomato purée, ground almonds and chicken stock. 
  9. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, the sauce should turn thick.
  10. Stir in the cream.

and the Chicken


  1. Preheat the grill to its highest setting.
  2. Thread the chicken on skewers.
    Marinated chicken
  3. Place the skewers across a casserole dish or baking tray so the meat is suspended above the dish.
  4. Grill for about 5 minutes each side, until the meat is cooked through and charred in places.

    Grilled Chicken
  5. When the chicken skewers are cooked, reheat the sauce and fold in the chicken.
  6. Garnish with garam masala and coriander leaves.

If you don’t have skewers, oil the chicken, place on a baking tray and grill on a high heat for 5 minutes each side until the meat is cooked through and charred.
When you think the chicken is ready, cut a large piece of chicken to the centre to check there is no trace of pink. 

Thursday 2 January 2014

Chicken Chickpeas Curry ( murgh cholay )

Tried to amalgamate chicken and chickpea together, and it did work great.

Chicken Chickpeas ( murgh cholay )


Chicken - 1 (about a kg)
Onion - 3 (medium size, roughly chopped)
Garlic (grated) - 4 cloves
Ginger (grated) - about 2 table spoons
Green chili - 3 (diced vertically and cut into two half horizontally)
Tomato - 5 (medium size, chopped)
Chickpeas - 1 kg (soaked and boiled, or use canned chickpeas)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil - 5 tablespoons

Whole Spices
Bay Leaf (tez patta) - 2
Cinnamon (dalchini) -1 stick
Black Cardmom (badi elaychi) - 2
Cloves (laung) - 3
Black Peeper (kali mirch) - 5
Nutmeg (Jaiphal) - about 3 pinch
Mace (Javitri) - 1 strands

Ground Spices
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Chickpea spices - 2 tablespoon (choley masala, you can make your own spices but this is readly available and far easier)


  1. Heat oil in a non-stick pot
  2. Add whole spices
  3. Add chicken, ginger and garlic, salt and fry it, keep turning till all sides get white
  4. Remove chicken and keep in a bowl
  5. Add Chickpea spices to chicken, leave it to marinate for about an hour or more
  6. Heat oil, and fry the onions until golden brown
  7. Add turmeric and fry for another 10 seconds
  8. Add Green chili and tomato
  9. Add marinated chicken to the pot
    Fry the marinated chicken
  10. Cover the pot and cook it on medium heat until the chicken for 10 minutes
    Cover and cook
  11. Soak and boil chickpeas (or use canned chickpeas)
  12. Add chickpeas (add water if and cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes (until chicken and chickpeas are done)
    Cook on medium flame
  13. Garnish with green coriander