Indian

Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)

Generally speaking I’m an unashamed carnivore at heart, but when it comes to Indian food I’m more than willing to forsake my love of meat and go 100% vegetarian. Not only is this advisable whilst eating in India, the reality is that Indian food is truly a culinary-nirvana for the non-meat eaters amongst us.

Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world with a mind-boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. At any rate, this diversity of dishes make an Indian feast a great option for a dinner party as it allows you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

I’ve always thought of eggplants and Indian cooking as being the perfect partners. It was almost as if the silky opaque flesh of the eggplant was specifically designed to absorb the rich flavours of Indian cooking and as such could withstand even the boldest of spices.

Personally bhartha has always been my favourite way of preparing eggplant and is often a stalwart of any Indian meal of mine, largely for three reasons: it is easy to make, tastes amazing and can be made days in advance. Traditionally the eggplant is deep-fried resulting in a dish that is often swimming in oil and that should come with a health warning. I prefer to steam my eggplant in a microwave instead of frying it which makes for a far healthier and more palatable dish.

As with most Indian dishes bhartha can, and should, be made in advance and gently reheated before serving – again highlighting why Indian food makes the perfect dinner party option.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Advertisements

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)

The chances are, this recipe is nothing like the butter chicken you’ve ordered countless times from your local Indian takeaway. I too have ordered it more times than I care to admit, so I know what passes for butter chicken these days and most of it is pretty dismal. So much so, I have actually stopped ordering it altogether, for fear it would put me off Indian food completely.

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)As you might have gathered, I’m somewhat disillusioned about the state of butter chicken these days – especially when I consider what a wonderful dish it truly is! Unfortunately, this venerable dish has largely been reduced to being the poster-child for unimaginative and pedestrian Indian fare. When made well, however, butter chicken undoubtedly deserves its place amongst the great Indian classics. Rich, decadent and wonderfully spiced, this dish is a real winner and should feature in any Indian feast.

As tasty as it is, the real appeal of butter chicken is how easy it is to make! Primarily cooked in the oven, the dish frees up valuable stove space – a godsend when you’re trying to juggle up to six dishes on a 4 plate hob! Like most curries, butter chicken can also be made in advance and gently reheated before serving. In the case of butter chicken though, it should be placed under a grill to be heated through and lightly browned, rather than on a hob.

Note: Please do not ever be tempted to make butter chicken with anything other than chicken thighs, especially not breast meat, which will come out completely dry and taste terrible.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with “Roast” Potatoes)

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with "Roast" Potatoes)I’m always looking for new curries to make and this one fits the bill perfectly! Rich and tasty, this unusual lamb curry makes a nice change from my tried and tested favourites of rogan josh and chicken kadhai.

Whilst gosht shahajani is in many ways similar to gosht aloo, I love the idea of adding the precooked “roast” potatoes to the dish, instead of boiling them in the curry’s sauce. Of course, the potatoes inevitably lose their crunch when added to the sauce, but they do add a texture and flavour to the dish that sets gosht shahajani apart from similar curries.

My version of this dish has evolved quite significantly from the original recipe, as I found the quantities a tad excessive – 150ml of tomato purée and 10 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander for 800g of lamb? I adore flavour, but even my palette has its limits! I also prefer to fry my potatoes and onions in ghee rather than oil, as this gives them a fuller flavour and consequently, a greater presence in the dish. If you don’t have any ghee or prefer not to use it, you can just substitute it with vegetable oil.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Keralan Fish Molee

The concept of a fish curry seems to freak people out. So much so, the mere suggestion of it usually elicits looks of suspicion and a chorus of “ugh!” and “ewww!“. Such reactions have always confounded me because fish curry is, in a word, delicious. Over the years I have tried to introduce my sceptical dinner guests to the delights of fish curry and I have found the most success with molee.

Keralan Fish MoleeA speciality of Kerala in Southern India molee is, strictly speaking a fish stew, but with its rich and fragrant coconut sauce it can still be considered a curry. Simple to make and requiring very few ingredients, molee is surprisingly complex in flavour and makes a great addition to any Indian meal.

Aside from the fish, the key ingredient to molee are curry leaves. The dish benefits immensely from fresh curry leaves, but if you can’t find these then dried leaves will do at a pinch. Whenever I manage to find fresh curry leaves I always make sure I freeze some, as these will still be superior to dried.

Still not convinced about fish curry? Give molee a go and trust me, before you know it you’ll be tucking into some Fish Head Curry!

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Tarka Dhal

Tarka DhalDhal is perhaps the unsung hero of Indian cuisine. All too often dismissed as a poor man’s curry or a dreary side dish, dhal is in fact so much more. Nutritious, simple and varied, dhal deserves to feature in any Indian meal. Personally, I could happily tuck into just a bowl of dhal and rice!

This recipe is dhal in its purest form. Flavoured with turmeric and seasoned with a tarka, this dhal recipe is delightfully simple and incredibly tasty.

The recipe uses two different types of dhal, red and yellow, but feel free just use 150g of either.

Unlike curries, dhal is best eaten on the same day it is made.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)

Sometimes the best meals come into your life quite unexpectedly and they stay with you forever – this is such a dish!

Many years ago I was planning a dinner party and one of the guests came with a painfully long list of dietary restrictions, chief amongst them being the double-act of inconvenience that is veganism and gluten intolerance! As I suffer from neither affliction, my instinctive response was just to cancel the dinner altogether, problem solved! Never one to back down from a culinary challenge, however, I decided to go ahead with the dinner after all and serve the mother of all vegan cuisines – I went Indian.

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world. With a mind boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. An Indian feast is always a great option for a dinner party as the multiple dishes needed, allow you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

Which brings me to this particular recipe. Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms) is a great addition to any Indian spread, be it part of a full-on feast or humble midweek meal. Hearty, wholesome and filling, this dish is so good it could almost turn me vegan! Whilst the black-eyed beans add an earthy undertone that balances out the spices, the mushrooms are actually the star of the dish, adding a “meatiness” that appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Add some tarka dhal and rice to the mix and you have a meal fit for the most pious (and discerning) monk. Who knew that good karma could ever be so damn dharma-delicious.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Note: this dish also makes an excellent alternative to your traditional sides dishes like mash potato, as it is mild enough to “fit” comfortably alongside most flavours. I recently served it with some pan-fried fish, sautéed kale and a tomato lemon butter sauce and it was absolute fusion-heaven!

Click here for the recipe

Kadhai Murgh (Chicken Kadhai)

One of my staple Indian curries, Chicken Kadhai regularly features in almost all Indian meals I make; big or small.

Kadhai ChickenThe key ingredient in this curry is the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) as it adds a distinct flavour that is both delicious and alluring. Although widely available from spice markets, kasoori methi isn’t a flavour many are accustomed to and makes a nice change from the typical curry flavours most people normally encounter.

A personal favourite, to my mind this curry tastes and smells of India herself; a heady blend of fragrant spices, the earthy tones of the kasoori methi – all marry into a potent assault on the senses. Just like India this curry will charm you, its flavours will linger and it will invariably leave you wanting more.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Rogan Josh

Rogan JoshArguably the King of Indian Curries, Rogan Josh is one of the most recognised Indian curries outside of India. Sadly, its ubiquitous stature has done it no favours beyond the borders of the sub-continent. Like many noble dishes before it, Rogan Josh has suffered from the inevitable gentrification that comes with Western popularity. Along with its equally maligned cousin Butter Chicken, Rogan Josh has been largely reduced to a synonym for a generic lamb curry. This is an absolute tragedy because Rogan Josh deserves its enduring popularity, it just shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.

In its true form, it is an amazing curry; incredibly tasty and surprisingly easy to make – it is my top pick for any Indian feast!

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe