Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

“Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak” went the metal potato masher against the tyre-sized pan. The fire beneath it was roaring and the smell of kerosine in the air was only making the lava-like Pau Bhaji smell more delicious. The skilled street vendor was hand pounding the spicy vegetable curry within an inch of it’s life whilst juggling another giant cooking vessel to his left. On top of the second pan was foaming butter, ready to become one with the fluffy white rolls, known locally as Ladipav. After a few seconds, they would be sporting a crisp, golden crust ready to be served with yet more butter, finely-diced onions, tomatoes and coriander. A wedge of lemon would complete the dish. I was about to dive in to my first Pau Bhaji on the streets of Old Town, Mombasa. With the bustling crowds and honking horns of oncoming traffic, I could have easily been in a buzzing Mumbai back street.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

For me, the Indian food of East Africa is some of the most delicious food that exists. There’s no shying away from scorching hot chillies and the tang of lemon. This combo seasons everything you eat, wherever you go and whatever you order. From raw mangos on the beach, to fire-roasted maize and fried cassava chips on the salty-aired streets, it’s the typical seasoning Kenya’s rustic coastal towns. I hope to visit India to enjoy street-style Pau Bhaji in its birthplace of Maharashtra, India, but my first experience of eating this iconic street dish was in Kenya, the home of my Indian immigrant grandparents.

Pau Bhaji is a great dish to make for big get-togethers. It’s easy to scale the recipe up to feed more, since the rolls (pav) are almost always shop-bought and making more curry (bhaji) simply requires doubling up the veggies and sliding in some more masala.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

My Pau Bhaji masala is magic dust. Not only is it a beautiful blend for this buttery vegetable dish, it also makes daal more delicious and peps up any Pulao (Indian fried rice). I often make up a triple batch of the masala recipe below and store it in an airtight container for using in other dishes. For this recipe, just work with the measurements below and use it all in the Bhaji recipe. It might look excessive but trust me, your buttery veggies are crying out for some spice.

The beauty of Pau Bhaji is that you can use any vegetables you like, since they’re all getting mashed like crazy anyway. The most common ones are potatoes, cauliflower, peas and carrots. This also happens to be my favourite combination but feel free to add red peppers, aubergine and green beans if you like those. I typically add in some sweet potatoes for colour and sweetness without having to add sugar or food colouring. It’s very common for some street vendors to add red food colouring to their Bhaji for a rich appearance. I find a combination of tomato passata (sieved tomatoes), sweet potatoes, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder do a great job of giving my bhaji a deliciously-deep colour without having to do that. Use your judgment and add it if you like though.

This is one of those dishes where the garnishes are as important as the main component of the food itself. Don’t skip the lemon wedges, finely diced red onions, tomatoes and coriander topping. And don’t skip the extra butter on top either. It adds the special, indulgent touch that separates good Pau Bhaji from average Pau Bhaji. Nobody likes average Pau Bhaji.

Lastly, the bread must be soft, white and most importantly, cheap rolls. Don’t get fancy with artisan rolls from a French bakery. The rolls are going to get bathed in salty butter anyway (the best kind of bath, IMO). In the end, they’re a crispy carrier for spicy, melt-in-the-mouth vegetable lava and erm… even more butter.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Flavour-rich mashed vegetable curry with toasted fluffy buns. This Indian street food favourite is so comforting and my version is cooked with plenty of salted butter.

For the vegetables (Bhaji):

  • 250 g cooked potatoes ((peeled and roughly cubed))
  • 200 g cauliflower ((stalks removed and florets chopped))
  • 150 g cooked sweet potato ((peeled and roughly cubed))
  • 100 g carrots ((peeled and finely diced))
  • 100 g peas ((fresh or frozen))
  • 500 g tomato passata
  • 100 g salted butter ((+ 50g for mashing in once cooked))
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large red onion ((finely diced))
  • 4 cloves garlic ((crushed))
  • 500 ml water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp sea salt

For the Pau Bhaji masala:

  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 green cardamom pods ((husks removed and seeds crushed))

To garnish and serve:

  • 1 red onion ((finely diced))
  • 2 large vine tomatoes ((finely diced))
  • 50 g fresh coriander ((chopped))
  • 50 g salted butter ((cubed))
  • Lemon wedges
  • Chopped red or green chillies ((optional))

For the bread rolls (Pau):

  • 12 soft white bread rolls
  • 100 g salted butter ((softened))

For the Pau Bhaji masala:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the pau bhaji masala. It will look like a lot but you will need to use it all, trust me.

For the vegetables (Bhaji):

  1. Melt the 100g butter in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the onions, bay leaves and salt and sauté until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. The salt will draw out moisture from the onions and help them to brown quickly.

  2. Add the garlic and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds. Next, add in the passata, cauliflower, cooked potatoes, cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, pau bhaji masala and water. Give everything a good stir and cover with a lid. Cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. If it starts to dry out, add more water and continue to cook until everything is very tender.

  3. Switch the heat off and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Now, add the reserved 50g of butter, grab a potato masher and give everything a good mash until it resembles a coarse purée. Adjust the consistency by adding more water if necessary. It should be slightly runny, like lava. Add salt and lemon juice and continue to mash until well incorporated.

  4. Return the pan to the heat with the lid on and simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes.

To prepare the bread rolls (Pau):

  1. Slather both sides of the rolls with butter and toast in a frying pan until golden all over.

To serve:

  1. Sprinkle the onions, tomatoes and coriander over the top of the pau bhaji. Serve with more onion, tomato and coriander, as well as extra butter, lemon wedges and the toasted pau. Chilli lovers can also top with chopped fresh chillies if they dare.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Love Sanjana




Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

I will always order Palak Paneer if it’s on the menu in a restaurant. It’s the law. I could forgo rice and bread and quite simply eat a bowl of Palak Paneer with a spoon.

You can tell a good Indian restaurant from a bad one by the quality of their Palak Paneer. Have they bothered to blend the sauce for a rich, luxurious finish? If it’s left chunky with tomatoes, lots of turmeric and far too many spices, it’s probably the base for another dish on the menu doubled up to be used for Palak Paneer too. It also shouldn’t be labelled Saag Paneer on the menu. Saag Paneer is an entirely different dish made with delicious, peppery mustard greens and shouldn’t be confused with the milder-tasting Palak Paneer made with spinach.

Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

It’s delightful when restaurant Palak Paneer turns out to have a smooth and creamy blended spinach sauce with a bright green colour. You can tell it’s been made with care and attention. simple flavoured sauce paired with a big, bold and spicy tadka on top (but using very few ingredients). You have to be able to taste the ginger, garlic and green chillies; they can’t just be part of the background flavour. Bonus points for a little splash of cream on top to temper the heat of the green chillies.

Palak Paneer is a stick-to-your-ribs North Indian treasure that was made to be a filling vegetarian option so please don’t cut out the butter. You can however, veganise this Palak Paneer easily by switching the paneer for pan-fried firm tofu, using a flavourless oil in place of ghee and butter and topping it off with a splash of coconut milk instead of cream. For a true restaurant-style finish, I have some simple tips to share. These will ensure you have a smooth, bright green sauce, melt-in-the-mouth paneer chunks and a luscious tempering of garlic and chilli on top.

Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

The trick to a super green sauce is to cook the spinach as little as possible. Just apply enough heat to wilt it at the beginning and heat the finished sauce just to warm all the ingredients through. Soak the paneer in slightly-salted boiling water to soften it up and give it a bright white colour. You only need to do this if you’re using shop-bought paneer. Fresh paneer will already be tender.

I like to finish Palak Paneer off with a buttery garlic and chilli tadka. Only cook it up until the point that the garlic is blonde and crispy. Nobody likes the bitter taste of burnt garlic. Ensure the chillies are slit so that they don’t burst in the oil.

If there’s excess water in your wilted spinach, use a slotted spoon to drain as much as you can from it before you blend the leaves. Leave the cooking liquor in the pan and reduce it down to around 2 tbsp. This is full of flavour and goodness so you don’t want to throw it away but you also don’t want excess water blended into the sauce. This will ensure you don’t need to evaporate the water by simmering the finished sauce too long, preserving that lovely green colour and the spinach flavours.

Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

A simple take on the rich and delicious North Indian treasure. Silky smooth spinach with juicy chunks of paneer and a tempering of crispy garlic and spicy green chillies.

For the Palak Paneer:

  • 900 g spinach leaves ((washed and squeezed of excess water))
  • 450 g paneer ((cubed))
  • 5 cloves garlic ((peeled and chopped))
  • 2-inch piece ginger ((grated))
  • 2-3 green chillies ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp melted ghee
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 50 g salted butter
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp double cream ((optional))

For the crispy garlic tempering (tadka):

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 50 g salted butter
  • 2-4 green chillies ((slit lengthways))
  • 3 large cloves garlic ((finely sliced))
  1. If you’re using shop-bought paneer, place the cubes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. You can add a pinch of salt to this if you like. This will soften them up and give them a beautiful white colour. Allow this to soak.

  2. Place the ghee in a large pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow to sizzle for a moment before adding the ginger, garlic and chilli. Sauté for a minute or two before adding the spinach. Cover and allow the spinach to wilt, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

  3. Transfer the spinach to a blender, along with the butter. If there’s a lot of excess water in the pan (this depends on the spinach), remove as much of the spinach as you can and leave the water in the pan. Blend the spinach until totally smooth and creamy. The butter will help to emulsify the spinach and give the sauce a rich, silky finish. I use a Nutribullet to do this.

  4. Simmer the excess water down over a medium heat until reduced to about 2 tbsp. This is full of flavour and you don’t want to waste a drop.

  5. Drain the paneer cubes of their soaking liquid.

  6. Pour the sauce back into the pan and add the garam masala and salt. Stir to combine. Fold in the paneer pieces and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. You want to cook this as little as possible to retain that beautiful green colour.

For the crispy garlic and tadka:

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a small pan. Add the slit chillies and garlic slices. Sauté over a medium-low heat until lightly golden and crispy. Pour this over the Palak Paneer immediately and garnish with the optional cream.

Serve with paratha or naan. Or if you’re anything like me, eat it straight up with a spoon.

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Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

A simple take on the rich and delicious North Indian treasure. Silky smooth spinach with juicy chunks of paneer and a tempering of crispy garlic and spicy green chillies.




Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

One of my most favourite meals in the world is the iconic Punjabi dish, Tandoori Paneer Tikka. When this street food gem is served alongside lemon wedges, salad and mint and coriander chutney, nothing else comes close. The beauty of simple ingredients, very few spices and fiery cooking method ensures this dish is world famous for its leopard-spotted char and smoky flavours.

I’ve been working on this recipe for the ultimate Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka made without a tandoor or barbecue for SO long. You’ll notice my dreams of installing a big, badass tandoor in my garden still haven’t come to fruition. Don’t worry though, I’ve found a great workaround. It’s a recipe that gives you restaurant or street-style flavours at home with minimal effort. Spoiler: there’s no grill or oven involved either.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Juicy chunks of paneer marinated in a punchy hot and sour tandoori masala are skewered up with onion petals and pieces of pepper. The loaded skewers are then grilled on a wire rack directly over the gas cooker to infuse deep, smoky flavours into the paneer and veg. The ghee and oil combo in the marinade ensures the outside becomes freckled with the familiar scorch marks you’d expect from a restaurant or street-style tandoori dish. Serve it up with a pool of coriander and mint chutney, fresh salad leaves and lemon wedges. You can also toss in raw red onion slices and serve with butter naan or garlic naan for a true Punjabi-style feast.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

A few tips and notes before you start.

  • Marinate the paneer, peppers and onions for a minimum of 30 minutes to give the ingredients time to get acquainted. If you have time, you can pop the paneer and veg in the tandoori marinade the night before. Be sure to keep it covered in the fridge.
  • Being your resident paneer fangirl, you’ll know I’m always going on about soaking shop-bought paneer for a fresh, homemade texture and taste. You can find out how I do this in the recipe below. The basic idea is to rehydrate the paneer in boiling water to soften it up and give a brilliant-white colour that’s just like homemade. If you want to make your own paneer at home, you can find my recipe here: Homemade Paneer.
  • Ensure the wire rack you use on top of the cooker is sturdy and can handle the heat.
  • Open all the windows in your house for good ventilation. The cooking process will create smoke which will need to escape. If you have an extractor fan, switch it on. It will make your house smell like a restaurant kitchen. Glorious!
  • If you don’t fancy cooking this over a flame, you can also place the skewers on a wire rack and cook them in an oven until charred. Make sure it’s pre-heated to the highest temperature possible. Traditional tandoors average 400°C heat so it needs to be hot! You can also place these on a griddle pan or on the barbecue.
  • I used flat metal skewers (be careful when turning as the handles can get really hot) but you can also use wooden skewers. Be sure to soak them in cold water for an hour before you need to use them. This will stop them burning during the cooking process.
  • Most restaurants and street vendors add red food colour to their marinade for the iconic and eye-popping crimson colour. I’m no food snob and am not opposed to food colours in cooking but I just don’t find it necessary in this dish. Kashmiri chilli powder will give you a gorgeous natural red colour with very little heat. If you can’t get hold of it, use equal parts of smoked paprika and regular chilli powder in its place. I often use tomato paste for colour and tang which isn’t authentic but works a treat.

If you’re looking for a vegan tandoori option, check out my Tandoori Tofu Tikka recipe. The marinade for that recipe packs a huge punch to really infuse the tofu with plenty of flavour. If you prefer a milder tikka, you can easily veganize this recipe. Switch the paneer for tofu, tempeh or seitan, use all oil instead of ghee and sub in coconut yoghurt in both the tikka marinade and chutney recipes.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Juicy chunks of paneer marinated in a punchy hot and sour tandoori masala are skewered up with onion petals and pieces of pepper. The loaded skewers are then grilled on a wire rack directly over the gas cooker to infuse deep, smoky flavours into the paneer and veg. 

  • 450 g paneer ((3cm cubes))
  • 1 large onion ((cut into wedges or petals))
  • 1 red pepper ((cut into 3cm squares))
  • 1 green pepper ((cut into 3cm squares))
  • Salad leaves ((to serve))
  • Lemon wedges ((to serve))

For the tandoori marinade:

  • 200 g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil ((or any other flavourless oil))
  • 3 cloves garlic ((peeled))
  • 2 inch piece ginger ((peeled))
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder ((this gives the dish an amazing colour))
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves ((chopped))

For the coriander and mint chutney:

  • 180 g fresh coriander ((including stalks))
  • 30 g fresh mint leaves
  • 1 clove garlic ((peeled))
  • 3 hot green chillies ((stalks removed))
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt

For the Coriander and Mint Chutney:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. You might need to add a little water to ensure even blending. Stir in the yoghurt at the end. If you add the yoghurt to the blender the chutney will become super runny so it’s best to stir it in at the end for good body and texture. Refrigerate. 

For the Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka:

  1. Place the paneer pieces in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water from the kettle. Ensure they’re completely submerged. Set aside while you make the tandoori marinade.

  2. Place all the ingredients for the marinade (excluding the yoghurt, ghee and oil) in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

  3. Put the yoghurt in a large bowl and add the blended marinade. Stir to combine.

  4. Heat the ghee and oil in a small pan until smoking hot. Carefully pour this into the yoghurt marinade and stir it in quickly and thoroughly.

  5. Drain the paneer, add the onions and peppers and toss in the marinade. Your hands are the perfect tool for this.

  6. Skewer the paneer and veg, alternating ingredients according to your preference.

  7. Place a strong, sturdy metal rack over the burner of your gas cooker. Arrange the skewers on top. I cooked two at a time to ensure even cooking. Switch on the flame and cook the skewers, rotating and adjusting their position until speckled and charred all over. Repeat for all the skewers.

  8. Serve immediately with salad, lemon wedges and coriander and mint chutney.

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Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka




Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

Yes, you read the title correctly and no, this is not a drill. I’ve been experimenting with my Vegan Butter Chicken recipe for a VERY long time. After dozens of iterations, I’m finally ready and so excited to share it with you.

There were multiple components to get right here; the seitan chicken needed to be firm, pullable and flavoursome without being overpowering or overly spiced. The colour needed to be light inside, not brown. Next, the sauce. Perfect Butter Chicken sauce is the holy grail of modern North Indian cooking and everyone has their own way of doing it. It’s one of the most popular restaurant dishes around the world because of its subtlety and simplicity and it’s not always easy to find that balance.

Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

For me, the tomato sauce has to be silky smooth, lightly spiced, a little bit sour but with a touch of sweetness too. I like using aromatic spices in small quantities – it makes all the difference increamy curries. In my Vegan Butter Chicken, you can pick out heady cardamom, citrusy coriander seeds and caramel-like kasoori methi whilst still enjoying a mild curry the whole family will love.

From start to finish, the dish might seem like a labour of love and that’s because it absolutely is. The stages include mixing the seitan “dough”, pressure cooking it, chilling it overnight, making the Vegan Butter Chicken base sauce and blending it before finally simmering everything together.

Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

I’ve switched the butter in my Vegan Butter Chicken with almond butter which lends a rich, creamy texture to the fresh tomato sauce. You could also use cashew butter if you prefer that. A touch of coconut milk mellows out the spices and finishes the dish perfectly. I’d highly recommend using a high-powered blender, such a NutriBullet to blend the sauce. For the silkiest sauce possible and a true restaurant-style Butter Chicken finish, pass the sauce through a sieve or food mill to strain away unwanted tomato seeds and skin, as well as any coarse spices. You don’t want rogue spices ruining your heavenly Vegan Butter Chicken experience.

Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

If like me, you need a Vegan Butter Chicken experience once a week, you can always double up on quantities and stow it away in the freezer to assemble later. I always keep seitan pieces in a ziplock-type bag in the freezer (you can keep it frozen for up to 3 months). You can also freeze sauce portions. The sauce can also be used for other curries, such as butter tofu or mixed veggies. The protein-packed seitan pieces are great in stir fries, salads, pasta and wraps if you’d like to try something different with them. I’ll be posting some other recipes using it soon.

Kudos goes to the brilliant Skye Michael Conroy and The Seitan Appreciation Society on Facebook who are generous enough to share their wonderful passion, tips and recipes. The addition of beans to this recipe was inspired by the Avocados and Ales Chickwheat recipe. Thank you.

Vegan Seitan Chicken

I’m so excited to share this with you. I hope you love it as much as I do. Let me know if you make it, I’d love to hear how you got on.

Vegan Seitan Chicken

This firm, textured vegan chicken is packed with protein and goodness. It’s made using tofu, beans and the magic ingredient… vital wheat gluten. Cube it, shred it and slice it for curries, stir fries, pasta, salad and wraps.

For the vegan seitan chicken

  • 300 g extra-firm tofu ((drained))
  • 1 400g tin haricot beans, inc. the liquid from the tin ((you can also use any other white beans, such as cannellini beans or butter beans))
  • 150 g vital wheat gluten ((I buy mine on Amazon))
  • 150 ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp white miso paste ((you can also use 1 tsp MSG if you can tolerate it))
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  1. In a high-powered blender, combine the tofu, haricot beans in their liquid, miso paste (or msg), salt, nutritional yeast, oil and water until you have a smooth paste. 

  2. Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the tofu mixture and mix on a low speed until the two come together in the form of a dough. 

  3. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on a medium/high speed for 10-12 minutes. Stay close by as the mixer may shuffle across the counter top as the dough is tough to work. You’ll also need to be very careful your mixer’s motor doesn’t burn out. This kneading of the dough is crucial in developing the gluten and proteins in the seitan and shouldn’t be skipped. The longer and harder you work it, the more fibrous and chicken-like the final product will be. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by hand as your arms might threaten to fall off. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger would struggle, seriously. Having said this, you can create seitan kneading by hand – it will not however, have a shreddable, “pulled” quality and you’ll finish up with a spongy end product instead. It’ll still taste good but probably won’t fool your meat-eating friends. 

  4. Once your seitan has been kneaded long and hard, remove it from the mixer and cut it in half so you have two pieces. Wrap each “loaf” very tightly in 3-4 layers of heavy-duty foil. You want it to be nice and compact inside to stop it expanding inside as this will promote sponginess rather than the shreddable texture we’re after. The multiple layers of foil will also stop water getting inside. 

  5. Next, fill a pressure cooker with plenty of water (about 3/4 of the way full) and bring to a boil. Carefully drop your seitan into the cooker and put the lid on. Cook on a medium/high heat for 40 minutes. Once the time is up, switch off the heat and leave it to cool completely. If your pressure cooker is too small to hold both parcels, you’ll need to cook them separately. 

  6. Once cool, remove the seitan parcels from the cooker and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. 

  7. Unwrap and check out that amazing texture when you pull it apart. Your seitan is now ready to cube, shred or slice, season and use in your favourite vegan chicken recipe. 

  • You can freeze the seitan pieces in a ziplock-style bag for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.

Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken

I’ve veganized one of North India’s most famous curries, Butter Chicken. Also known as Murgh Makhani, it’s known for having a lusciously-smooth and aromatic sauce laced with mild, fragrant spices. Seitan pieces replace the chicken in this recipe for a high-protein main course that pairs perfectly with roti, laccha paratha or garlic naan.

  • 1 kg seitan ((cubed))
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil

For the seitan chicken marinade:

  • 1 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder ((you could also use paprika for a milder flavour))
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garlic ((minced))
  • 2 tsp ginger ((minced))
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds ((ground))
  • 150 ml full-fat coconut milk

For the vegan butter chicken sauce:

  • 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp garlic ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp ginger ((chopped))
  • 1/4 tsp nigella seeds
  • 2-3 thin red chillies ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
  • 400 g fresh tomatoes ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 1 tbsp smooth almond butter
  • 200 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp kasoori methi ((rubbed between your palms until fine))
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar or agave
  • Salt ((to taste))
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander ((chopped))

To marinate the seitan pieces:

  1. Combine the ingredients for the seitan marinade until smooth. Add the seitan chicken pieces and gently mix until coated. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and carefully add the seitan chicken pieces. Cook until golden on all sides. You might need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Place the pieces onto a plate and set aside whilst you make the sauce.

To make the vegan butter chicken sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the nigella seeds and chopped onion. Sauté until translucent. Next, add in the ginger, garlic, chillies and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes.

  2. Add in the fresh tomatoes, ground coriander seeds, garam masala, ground cardamom seeds, almond butter, coconut milk, kasoori methi and brown sugar or agave. Give everything a thorough stir and cover with a lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

  3. Transfer the tomato mixture to a blender and blend until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve, back into the same pan. Season with salt to taste. Switch the heat back on and add the golden seitan chicken pieces. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on. Garnish with fresh coriander, more kasoori methi and a splash of coconut milk, if desired.

  • You can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months. Defrost and room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.

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Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken




Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

Well guys, I only went and freakin’ had a baby! I’ve been meaning to update you here for a while now but have sort of had my hands full with a brand new little human. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my daily updates on the little terror’s progress. For those of you who don’t, let me fill you in…

Nothing went to plan. I half expected that to happen because when it comes to babies, nothing is straightforward. The parents amongst you all will know that all too well. Our little guy decided he was no longer going to grow in my belly so was evicted at 37 weeks under our doctor’s advice. And superb advice it was because after a failed induction, he arrived via emergency c-section at a tiny but mighty 4lb 1oz. Yeah. He was serious about getting out of there and getting some real food on the outside. Sounds like my boy. Yep – I had a BOY!

He’s been doing some serious milk guzzling over the past 7 weeks and has put on weight like nobody’s business. Now, at 8lb, he’s alert, smiley and super adorable. You can see his mini series, Daily Cute over on my Instagram Stories.

Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

My little Bodhi Veer is a blessing in every sense of the word. His name means enlightened and brave and it suits him down to a tee. I can’t wait to watch him grow and learn with each day.

To celebrate, we ate Matar Paneer. What else is quite as delicious and indulgent, eh?

I’ve got a sneaky Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer recipe that’ll knock your socks off and it’s easier than you think. The base sauce is made with ground almonds and tomatoes. The spicing is mild but complex, making you wonder if you really just made that at home in the comfort of your own kitchen, without having to go to a restaurant or pick up a takeaway menu. Mad skills.

The secret to making shop-bought paneer butter-soft and like the homemade kind is soaking it in boiling hot water for 20 minutes before popping it naked, under the grill until golden. No need for oil or frying.

Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

If paneer and peas aren’t your thing, my sauce recipe is actually a great base for any sort of curry. Cauliflower, chickpeas or mushrooms are great options too. But let’s be real, who doesn’t love cheese and peas? For a vegan version, swap out the paneer for fried tofu and omit the cream.

A blender is key to getting a super-smooth sauce and be sure to have a lid handy because it needs to simmer for 20 minutes – and it’s volcanic! Turn your back for a minute and you’ll be spending the rest of your evening scrubbing the ceiling free of orange splodges. You have been warned.

Serve with whatever you like. I chose my beloved Garlic and Coriander Naan because there is no restaurant bread greater. If you’re pushing the boat out, bust out a bowl of Pilau rice and your family and friends will love you forever.

Here’s to family 🍻

Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

A rich North Indian curry made with tender paneer pieces and peas in a mild, creamy almond sauce.

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil ((you could also use vegetable or rapeseed oil))
  • 1 large red onion ((peeled))
  • 3 cloves garlic ((peeled))
  • 80 g ground almonds
  • 200 ml hot water ((plus another 400ml))
  • 450 g paneer ((cubed and soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes, drained))
  • 2 whole black cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 whole green cardamom pods ((seeds removed and ground))
  • 1 tsp 5-spice powder
  • 680 g tomato passata
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 300 g frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp double cream ((optional))
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves ((plus more to garnish))
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander ((to garnish))
  1. Add the ground almonds, onion and garlic to a blender along with 200ml hot water. Blend until smooth.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based non-stick saucepan (one with a lid). Add the cumin seeds, black cardamom pods and bay leaves. Allow to sizzle and then add the almond mixture.
  3. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder, ground coriander seeds, ground cardamom seeds and 5-spice powder. Stir to combine and cook on a medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring all the time to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. Once cooked, the paste should come away from the sides of the pan and the oil visible around the edges.
  4. Next, add the tomato passata and salt. Stir. Switch the heat off and allow to cool a little. Add the mixture to a blender – I used my Nutribullet. Blend until you have a super smooth sauce. Return to the pan, add 400ml hot water and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes with the lid on (VERY IMPORTANT) otherwise the sauce with spit and bubble like a volcano.
  5. Meanwhile, grill the paneer until lightly golden. Carefully add it to the sauce and cook it for a further 10 minutes. Finally, add the peas, garam masala and fenugreek (rub it between your palms to release more flavour). Cook for 5 minutes and switch off the heat. Finish with cream, a sprinkling of fenugreek leaves and fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with Garlic and Coriander Naan and Pilau Rice. I served a red onion, coriander and chilli bowl on the side for extra toppings.

Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

Head on over to Instagram for a full step-by-step in my Stories.

Pin the image below to save the recipe to your Pinterest board.

Creamy, Restaurant-Style Matar Paneer

Love Sanjana x




Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I’ve recently been posting about the joys of my pregnancy so far. We’ve managed to finish up the nursery, pack the hospital bags (so they’re ready to go when we need to) and found out that the baby is measuring up well. She or he (we are keeping the gender a surprise for all our friends and family) is a proper night owl, spinning, hiccuping and fidgeting at the most unsociable hours. Sounds a lot like my Mr if you ask me…

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

Three weeks ago I also found out that I have gestational diabetes (GD). Sitting in that hospital for over 2 hours for my glucose tolerance test, I had a feeling deep down that it wouldn’t go so well. We have a family history of type 2 diabetes and being Asian meant I ticked two of the three boxes on the high risk checklist. Still, that didn’t mean that the news wasn’t a shock. I was at work when I found out and I had an absolute meltdown. I was devastated because I thought I had brought it on myself – that it was because of something that I had done. And that made me feel like a failure.

For those of you who don’t know, GD is a fairly common issue with pregnancy which usually disappears after the baby is born but once detected, it is to be taken very seriously and treated appropriately. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here, but this is what the NHS website says about it if you’d like to know more.

Ultimately, it means that I must check my blood sugar levels 4 times per day and ensure they are not too high. In order to control them, I need to balance everything I eat for the next 9 weeks or so. The basic premise is to treat it like a sugar and carbohydrate intolerance. That’s not to say that all carbs are off limits – we all need carbohydrates to stay fit and healthy. Cutting them out completely is a bad move. Having said this, it’s low GI carbs you need, and less of them than I would normally eat at a single meal. Now, each meal consists of a slow release carb such as brown basmati, wholemeal pasta or wholegrain bread, LOTS of protein like tofu, paneer and soy-based products, good fats like natural yoghurt, nuts and seeds and as many leafy green veggies as I like. Together, they are the perfect balance of goodness for me and for baby. It’s a good job we ADORE vegetables.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

I’ve been doing this diet for almost a month and now that I’ve done my reading and am informed, it’s not so scary anymore. After I found out, my midwife said to me that knowledge is power and she’s absolutely right. I no longer feel like it’s my fault because it absolutely isn’t. The same goes for millions of other women who get diagnosed with GD every day. Knowing that it’s there and being informed of the risks allows us to adapt our lifestyles for our little ones and gives them the best start in life.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

For the next few weeks and beyond, I’ll be sharing some of the recipes I’ve been cooking on this diet – they’re delicious everyday meals that are full of goodness and you can enjoy them whether you’re on a GD diet or not. I must say that we’re all different in the way our bodies process different foods so please check your tolerance to different things and find a balance that works for YOU. What keeps one person’s sugar levels stable can make another person’s rocket. For anyone who has GD, know that you are amazing, your body is busy creating a little miracle and it’s all going to be worth it in the end!

Baby K.O is a massive fan of this one. It is loaded with green goodness, golden paneer kofta and with a salad of fresh cucumber slices, red onions, mint and coriander, it’s the ultimate veggie curry. Enjoy it with brown basmati rice, straight from a bowl to save on washing up.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

A fresh, nourishing bowl of greens for when you’re craving comfort food.

For the paneer kofta:

  • 225 g paneer
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Oil for coating the kofta

For the curry:

  • 1 head savoy cabbage, finely shredded
  • 75 g frozen peas
  • 200 g broccoli, broken into small florets
  • 150 g fresh baby spinach
  • 6 spring onions, quartered
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 thin green chillies
  • 10 skinless almonds, blanched
  • 400 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

To garnish:

  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350°F.

  2. Place all the ingredients for the kofta in a blender and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball.

  3. Divide the paneer into 15 small balls, rolling between your hands to ensure there are as few cracks as possible. Place onto a lined baking tray, coat each one in a little oil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden on the outside. Remove from the oven and set aside.

  4. Place the cabbage, broccoli and spring onions in a large roasting tray, season with 1/2 tsp salt and bake in the oven, around 15 minutes. The edges of the broccoli and onions should brown a little and the cabbage should crisp up.

  5. To make the curry, blend together the curry leaves, almonds (along with 60ml of the soaking water), garlic and chillies, along with a handful of the spinach leaves until you have a smooth, green paste. Add extra water if needed.

  6. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Pour in the green paste and cook for 10 minutes until the oil separates from the paste and leaves the sides of the pan. Next, stir in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then add the roasted veggies, frozen peas, remaining spinach and golden paneer kofta. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

  7. Garnish with fresh coriander, mint and chillies (optional).

Serve with brown rice, onions and cucumber.

 
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Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

Love Sanjana + baby K.O (any gender guesses from you? Let me know!)




20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

I had five new recipes lined up, ready to photograph and post but last week when I shared a photo of my dad’s signature Channa Bateta, I was inundated with requests on Facebook and Instagram for the recipe. This made me super nostalgic, thinking back to the days when I’d come home from school and my dad would proudly say, “Jo, Ravi, Sanju, I’ve made Channa Bateta for you all.” A large pot of simmering golden liquid would puff up steam that filled the kitchen and my nostrils with the aroma of fresh green chillies and turmeric. It was heaven. I’d be first in line, queuing up with my bowl to ladle in the potato and chickpea broth and subsequently hit up all the extra toppings laid out like a burger bar. The recipe here includes a range of topping options but how you customise your bowl is all down to your personal taste. I’ve often only topped this with coriander and crisps. If you only have the time and energy to pick one topping, choose the crisps. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Channa Bateta (or CBs as we called it as kids) was the simplest of dishes using very few ingredients, but dad would put his heart and soul into it. He’s always been a well-seasoned cook and one that adds a fistful of this, a splash of that and a pinch of something else… and he makes cooking East African classics like Channa Bateta look so easy he could be doing it with his eyes shut. The son of two brilliant cooks, he acts as cool as cucumber raita about his mad skills and he nails flavour-packed East African dishes, chutneys and chaats every time. He’s got “chatpata” (hot, sour and sweet) flavours down. What I owe him greatly for is his wonderful encouragement and support over the years with my cooking. I started out as a curious toddler with a taste for Doodh and Khichri (stewed rice and lentils with milk). It was my equivalent of porridge and I’d wolf it down as I watched my Mum roll rotlis, thinking I wanted to be just like her when I was big enough to reach the stove. She’d give me pieces of dough to practice rolling and I’d sit on the floor cross legged in the tiny kitchen above our shop and roll rotlis using my coveted kids chapatti set from Popat’s, an Indian homeware store in Wembley. Needless to say, my rotlis totally sucked. They weren’t soft round, they were chunky frisbees of play-doh which my mum would still pop on to the tawa and cook into a biscuitty puck. And it was dad who would eat them up and tell me how delicious they were. Everything I know is down to those “map-of-Britain” monstrosities that were only fit for the bin. If he hadn’t have eaten them and told me they were great, I’d probably never have fallen in love with cooking and trying my absolute best in sharing that passion with others. So thank you Dad, you’re the source of my motivation, determination and self belief.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

At home, if ever a bag of Seabrook Ready Salted crisps, Kenya Chevdo (a kind of potato-based trail mix) and lemon wedges were on the counter top and I instantly knew Channa Bateta was for dinner. You see, this dish is traditionally served with a crispy topping that comes in the form of said crisps, chevdo or even cassava crisps. A squeeze of lemon brings the whole thing together so what you’re left with is an orchestra of tender potatoes and chickpeas, a spicy chilli-laced coconut broth, fresh and fragrant coriander, a crunchy potato chip topping and sour raw mango chutney that brings the entire thing to life. It’s so balanced, filling and flavoursome… and all without trying too hard.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

I posted a recipe for Mombasa-Style Kachri Bateta before which is a similar kind of thing but uses sour tamarind as the broth base. Channa Bateta is quicker and the heartier of the two. Filling carbs like potatoes, cassava and ugali are the essential sources of energy in East Africa. People work long hours, often have multiple jobs and of course, it’s damn hot. Usually what’s needed is a hearty, energy-rich bowl of stew or savoury porridge to keep bodies fuelled throughout the day.

I use tinned chickpeas because life is too short when you’re just home from work and are in need of a quick-fix meal (and that’s what this is). If you follow this recipe, it should take no longer than 20 minutes from start to finish. And that’s not including time to do the washing up which, if you were really smart, you’d enlist a minion to do for you. You should then put your feet up and wait for this to bubble away, filling your home with the smell of the simplest Indian-African dish there ever was.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Dad’s 20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Serves 4

Ingredients
1kg baby new potatoes, steamed and peeled
2 x 400g tins chickpeas (drained weight 480g in total)
8-10 curry leaves
400ml full-fat coconut milk
800ml hot water
2 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
2 chillies, chopped (adjust to your taste)
1/2 raw green mango, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

For the Channa Bateta toppings bar
1 red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp chopped coriander
4 packs of salted crisps/potato chips, crushed (you could also use cassava chips)
4 tbsp Kenyan Chevdo and/or Jinni Sev (trail mix), optional – you can buy these in many Asian supermarkets
Green chutney, to taste (recipe below)
Tamarind chutney, optional
Daal vada, optional
Red chilli powder, optional

For the Raw Mango and Coconut Chutney
1/2 raw green mango, grated
1 whole fresh coconut, shelled, peeled and grated (the coconut water is the chef’s treat)
100g fresh coriander
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
240ml cold water

Method

1. Pour the coconut milk and water into a large pan. Add the curry leaves, chopped chilli, turmeric, green mango, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil.

2. Add in the chickpeas and potatoes, along with the lemon juice.

3. Simmer on a medium/low heat for 15 minutes with the lid on.

4. Ladle into a bowl and customise with all your favourite toppings. Serve immediately.

5. To make the Raw Mango and Coconut Chutney: Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until you have a semi-coarse, bright green chutney.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Love Sanjana




Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup & Twisted Naan Knots

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

“Indian soup again?! Urgh!” I said as my mum prepared a weeknight meal of Indian-style tomato soup to be eaten with buttered rolls. As a hungry eight year old I wondered why we couldn’t just be like a “normal” family and eat cream of tomato straight from the can, with not a speck of masala in sight. I didn’t realise it at the time but deep down, what I was really asking for was the soup my “normal” non-immigrant white friends had for tea. I thought we weren’t normal and most worryingly of all, I thought normal was good.

I grew up in a small village in West Yorkshire. We were one of three Asian families living there and until I reached my first decade I never felt too different to anyone else. My brother and I were the only Hindus of Indian and African descent at our school and sometimes our customs would get poked fun at by the other kids, but never in a way that made us feel embarrassed. The rakhis I tied on my brother’s wrist every August on Rakshabandhan were cajoled for being girly bracelets when in fact, they were a symbol of my love, to bond us as siblings, and offer him protection for the year ahead. At that age nobody ever said anything to my face. I was blissfully unaware. But that all changed when I hit my teens.

It was the mid 90s, the Spice Girls were at the top of the charts and you weren’t cool unless you wore mini skirts and jelly shoes. Multiculturalism wasn’t as prevalent as it is now and knowledge of Indian culture beyond that red dot we sometimes have on our foreheads was about as advanced as it got. Truth be told, we lived in a small village surrounded by wonderful people, but it also happened to be a place where samosas were thought to be a type of exotic food us Hindus ate at “Ramadam”.

My family and I would go to Pakistani shops to seek out aubergines for Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry and unearthing a bunch of coriander in the local supermarket was unheard of. Going to Asian shops and bumping in to a friend from school in the area scared the living hell out of me. A million thoughts would blitz through my head like a tornado. “Would they think we were weird going to ‘ethnic’ shops?”, “Would they bring it up at school on Monday in front of everyone?”, “Would I be shunned for being different?” When really my questions should have been, “Why are they so afraid of something different? Wait, why am I so afraid?” and “Why do I care so much?” It was a childish, irrational fear that felt absolutely rational at the time. But then I was a child.

Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit that those sorts of thoughts troubled me. I should have been out learning to ride a bike, or choreographing my own Kathak routines, but I never learned to do either of those things. The same thoughts ran through my mind when we went to the “Asian part of town”, or dressed up in (beautiful) lenghas to go to a family wedding, and sadly, when we spoke Gujarati in front of people that weren’t part of our family.

Twisted Garlic Naan Knots

The funny thing is that when we got home I relished the fresh vegetables, paneer, spice blends and bunches of herbs like coriander and dill my parents picked up from the aforementioned shops I’d previously tarnished with my ugly mindfarts. I was in my element browsing those aisles learning about picking the best coconuts and papayas, yet on edge throughout thinking I’d get caught indulging my alien heritage by a popular kid from school. It’s sad to think that I believed that just being me, a British Indian-African Hindu would somehow undo the “Britishness” I’d feigned in trying to fit in with my white friends. At the time, embracing my roots didn’t feel like an option and looking back on it as an adult, that breaks my heart.

My husband’s story is the polar opposite of mine. He grew up in Leicester, a city famed for its Golden Mile, curry houses and massive immigrant population. There were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Kashmiri families on every street. Some streets comprised of only immigrants and his entire school year was made up of 95% Asians, half of which were Gujarati like him. Going to the Indian shop was a mundane chore. He’d probably bump in to 5 or 6 kids from school there and he’d most likely wave, ask how they were and swap some football stickers. Thinking about that makes my soul burn a little bit; with embarrassment, with envy, of feelings of being cheated, I don’t quite know.

Part of me wishes I had it a bit easier growing up but I also appreciate that perhaps I wouldn’t have eventually embraced Indian customs, traditions and cuisine quite as much as I had, if it wasn’t for knowing I was different – the kids at school certainly knew it. I was a running joke during the weekly P.E lesson; the 10 year old Indian girl with dark hairs on her legs. She developed early and has to use the teacher’s bathroom. Whispers as we got changed in to our yellow and black polo shirts and short-shorts, girls and boys together in the same room except I was the only one who wore a bra and had downy baby hair on my lower back. It was brutal and would be for any young woman. The advice I’d give to my younger self and every young lady out there is this: Love yourself because YOU MATTER. You’re unique and beautiful and one day the kids pointing and muttering will feel like idiots for making you feel isolated and sad. The boys will remain ignorant for some time. The girls will realise how stupid they were when they experience puberty for themselves. I wish I’d have known this back then. Be fearless, realise your potential and the impact you have on your own life as well as the lives of others. Be kind because people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel.

My parents always made my brother and I feel special, never let us feel like we missed out on things. We were allowed to hang out with our friends, go to school discos and dress however we liked. Mum even bought me two pairs of jelly shoes in both purple and pink. They always wanted us to be fully integrated and immersed within our peer groups, and never outcasted or made to feel strange because of the colour of our skin or for listening to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on our iPod Minis. There was always a handful of kids (and parents) who saw us differently but that’s inevitable. Looking back on it now I realise how easy we probably had it in comparison to other families who have experienced horrendous racism throughout their lives. I also appreciate everything my parents did to help us feel like part of the crowd, yet never let our cultural values slip away.

It took me until I was about 18 years old to realise I didn’t care what others thought and that my real friends would stick around for the whole me. They would come over for Indian dinners and not think pomegranates in yoghurt were weird, or that fresh, homemade cheese in creamy spinach curry was gag inducing. We’d feast on Biryani, Raita, Mutter Paneer, Homemade Naan and Channa Masala until we were ready to burst. Hell, we’d even watch Zee TV and dance around the living room together. By the time I reached university I was back to being that girl who wasn’t afraid of admitting she was at her happiest singing Bollywood songs in the car with dad, Jalebi in one hand, Fafda in the other, middle finger ready to be flipped to anyone waiting to judge. It’s sad that it took that long for reality to kick in but I don’t regret anything. I’m stronger for it.

I’ll take that soul-warming bowl of Masala-spiced tomato soup now. It really is delicious.

This is one of the most soul-warming dinners. The curry leaves are crackled in hot ghee along with cumin seeds for the most fragrant finish. Perfect for dunking the buttery naan knots.

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the soup:
900g passata
4 tbsp melted ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2-inch piece ginger, grated
1 large onion, diced finely
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
60ml double cream
10-12 curry leaves
3 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 stock vegetable cube dissolved in 600ml hot water

For the naan knots:
310g strong, white bread flour
1 teaspoon dried fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
140ml warm water
2 teaspoons sour yoghurt

For the garlic and coriander butter:
100g salted butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

Method

1. To make the dough for the twisted naan knots: In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and nigella seeds. Make a well in the centre and add the oil, yoghurt and water. Using your hands, bring the dough together. If the dough feels sticky, oil your hands and knead for 15 minutes.

2. Grease the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to prove in a warm place for one hour.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan and add the finely sliced garlic. Allow to fry until aromatic. Add the chopped coriander and set aside until needed.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.

4. To make the twisted naan knots, take a ping pong-sized ball of dough and roll using the photos below as a guide.

Twisted Naan Knots

5. If you’re short on time, grease a baking dish and make little dough balls to nestle into the dish. Bake at 160C for 20-25 minutes until golden. Cover with foil to keep warm and brush with the garlic butter before serving.

6. To make the soup, heat 2 tbsp ghee in a large pan and add the onions and brown sugar. Sauté until deep golden brown and caramelised. At the last minute, add the chopped chilli and ginger and stir briefly. Place into a blender along with the passata. Blend for a minute until smooth and creamy.

7. Heat another 2 tbsp ghee in the pan and add the cumin seeds. When the cumin starts to sizzle, add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Add the tomato mixture and vegetable stock. Add the salt and stir. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, switch the heat off and allow to cool slightly. Stir the cream through. Serve with the twisted naan knots.

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

Love Sanjana




Vegan ‘Butter’ Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Bring me a head of cauliflower over a bunch of flowers any day.

Yep, I’ve always been this easy to please. My first memories of cooking with cauliflower began at the supermarket where mum trained me in how to pick the freshest veggies for our homemade vegetarian feasts – all reliant on the senses. Think Karate Kid but with more legumes and fewer spinning leg kicks. “Look for the slimmest aubergines – they contain the fewest seeds”, “Always feel for the firmest okra – they’re the freshest”, “Shake the coconut and listen to hear if there’s water inside – the flesh will be more tender”. 20 years on and I remember these and hundreds more tips every time I pick fresh fruit and veg. I’m talking Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind but with zero algebra and loads of brassicas.

Vegan 'Butter' Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

My lesson on picking the perfect cauliflower? The florets should be firm, pure white and the leaves enveloped around the cauliflower head. Bonus points for a lack of baby caterpillars.
When I was growing up in Yorkshire, I had incredible fresh ingredients from the local farm shop on my doorstep (not literally. – we lived above a newsagents, not in a field). I didn’t know many other 13 year olds who preferred doing the food shop with mum over heading into town with friends, but that’s okay. Back then I truly believed I was a bit odd. So, as a 27 year old, I wish to give my teenage self some advice…

  • Don’t worry about being different to your friends, you’re you and that’s what makes you special.
  •  Your obsession with cooking isn’t weird. It’ll help you later in life.
  • Don’t be a jerk to your parents, they’re your number 1 fans and love you unconditionally.
  • Stop obsessing over what you think makes people ‘pretty’. You’re fine the way you are. One day you’ll find a husband who loves the whole you.
  • Your brother isn’t as evil as he seems.
  • Friends come and go. Just hold on to the ones you really like 😉
  • Mess with your hair as much as you want. Dye it purple and forget what other people say. Your genes are badass.
  • Find beauty in everything. It’s there, you just need to look hard enough.
  • Keep dancing in your bedroom every night.
  • You are not the only person in the world who feels ‘this way’.
  • Dedicate your time exploring the things you love. A career will follow if you show people how passionate you are.
  • Talent is overrated – work hard and be patient.
  • Gently let go of people who bring negativity into your life.
  • Be respectful of other people’s time.
  • Don’t focus too hard on big aspirations and goals. Pay attention to the smaller ones and bigger things will come.

Before I burst into a crappy rendition of Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen Song, I’d better get back to the recipe.

The cauliflower is first broken into small florets, scattered with a combination of turmeric, whole black peppercorns and cracked cardamom pods. After a liberal squeeze of lemon juice and a good rub, it’s roasted in a hot oven until it’s golden and tender. Once it comes out of the oven it’s succulent and smokey, with a wicked texture that’ll flabbergast all your meat-eating friends.

And the sauce? Let me tell you about the sauce. It’s rich, creamy and all kinds of comforting. A base of ground almonds blended with fresh ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon and chilli keep it fresh but with a gentle heat that tricks out the cauliflower and dances the Giddha on your taste buds.

A hailstorm of fresh, summer peas add a welcome sweetness and crunch. Bonus points if you strip the pods and throw those in too. I used to love sitting at the table on a Sunday afternoon chatting with mum, drinking chai and shelling fresh peas. She taught me how you should always remove the inner membrane of the pod if you want to use it in a dish. Once, when I was at university I forgot to do it and my Matar Bhaat left a lot to be desired. The cooked pods were like actual shards of glass. I won’t forget to do it again.

A video posted by SANJANA | K.O RASOI (@sanjanamodha) on

To make the perfect jeera (cumin) pilau, I usually start with a good-quality Basmati rice, cumin seeds and ghee. As this is a vegan meal, sub it for coconut oil. Actually, even if you’re not vegan, I recommend you try this coconut version – it’s seriously good and will make your house smell sublime too.

Perfect Indian Jeera Pilau Rice

The trick to perfect rice is patience. Wash it in cold water for a minute to remove excess starch (I use a fine-holed sieve). Next soak it in cold water to soften the grains – 20 minutes will do. Boil the kettle. Heat the oil or ghee in a large, non-stick pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the aromatics. Wait a sec and then add the rice. Make sure it’s well coated. Add double the volume of boiling water and some salt. Bring it to a boil and put the lid on. Turn the heat down very low and after 8 minutes, switch it off. Leave it with the lid on for 15-20 minutes. When you take the lid off you’ll have amazing jeera rice.

Garnish the Vegan ‘Butter’ Cauliflower with a final flourish of chopped coriander and a drizzle of coconut milk for that luscious restaurant-style finish.

Serve with rice and hot chapattis.

Vegan 'Butter' Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Vegan ‘Butter’ Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Ingredients

For the cauliflower:
800g cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
Juice and zest of a lemon
3 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

For the vegan makhani sauce:
50g coconut oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp ground almonds
6 small green chillies
2 tbsp freshly-grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 dried bay leaves
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
400g good-quality passata (sieved tomatoes)
2-3 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
100g coconut cream
Fresh coriander, chopped

You’ll also need: 300g fresh peas, shelled with the pod membranes removed (take a look at my instructions and Instagram video above if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Place the cauliflower in a large roasting tray. In a bowl, combine the coconut oil, turmeric, black peppercorns, crushed cardamom pods, salt, lemon juice and zest. Drizzle the mixture over the cauliflower and use your clean hands to give it a good rub.

3. Roast the cauliflower for 25 minutes.

4. In the meantime, make the sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy based non-stick pan. Add the cinnamon, green chillies, garlic, ginger, ground almonds and bay leaves. Sauté for a minute.

5. Next, add the passata, turmeric, ground coriander, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil. Put the lid on and allow to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

6. Take the cauliflower out of the oven.

7. Remove the lid from the sauce pan and stir. Remove the peppercorns and cardamom pods from the cauliflower and add it to the simmered sauce.

8. Place the sauce in a blender along with the coconut cream and blitz for a minute or two until it’s silky smooth.

9. Return the sauce to the pan and add in the peas and cauliflower. Stir and place the lid back on. Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Check the seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Ladle into a big serving bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander and a drizzle of coconut milk.

Serve with jeera pilau and chapattis.

Perfect Jeera Pilau

Ingredients

185g good-quality Basmati rice (I use Golden Sela)
470g boiling water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
8-10 fresh curry leaves
2-3 whole cloves

Method

1. Wash the rice with cold water in a fine-holed sieve for a minute.

2. Soak the rice in cold water for 20-30 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the cumin seeds, cloves and curry leaves. Sauté for a moment. They will snap and crackle.

4. Drain the rice and add it to the pan. Stir gently to coat all the grains.

5. Add the boiling water and bring the pan to the boil. Put the lid on and turn the heat right down. Simmer for 8 minutes.

6. After 8 minutes, switch the heat off and leave the rice to stand, undisturbed for 20 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and marvel at your perfect rice. All that’s left to do is fluff up the grains with a fork, serve and demolish.

Vegan 'Butter' Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Love Sanjana

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Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

In my book, anything served on a stick is a winner. It seals the deal if what’s on the stick is smothered in a charred tandoori paste, restaurant style.

Here’s my take on a British-‘Indian’ dish. It’s loaded with homemade tandoori spices, garlic, lemon, ground almonds and coconut cream. The best thing about it is that it’s 100% vegan. That’s got to get me extra brownie points, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s not an ‘authentic Indian recipe’ and have heard far too many times, ‘Ask any Indian what tikka masala is and they won’t know.’ To this I say, ‘Whatevs’. For me, this started out as a guilty pleasure dish I’ve grown to love and adapt to my own tastes, incorporating my love for tandoori dishes. I’ve gotten over it and I promise once you’ve tried it yourself, you will too!

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

I’ve been obsessed with tofu puffs for as long as I can remember. I like to think of them as sailboats for any sauce or spice you add. They soak in flavours like there’s no tomorrow and you don’t have to marinate them for hours. A lot of the time, we make our weeknight stir fries in a matter of minutes and thanks to these spongy little fellas, they’re filling and seriously flavoursome. In this recipe, tofu puffs the perfect carriers for my homemade tandoori paste and creamy vegan tikka masala sauce. If you like a mild curry that still packs a punch in terms of being aromatic, this one’s for you.

As compromised as I feel for not owning my own tandoor (I keep telling myself it will happen one day), this works just as well in the oven. Whack the temperature up as high as it goes and cook your skewers for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly charred. It’s also worth noting that while it’s not exactly authentic to add tomato puree to a tandoori masala paste, I do because I don’t like adding red food colouring. It’s tandoori paste, not red velvet cake. However, if you don’t like tomatoes, go ahead and add some red food colouring. This is your dish.

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

If you can’t get tofu puffs (I get mine from our local Chinese supermarket), try this with cooked cauliflower florets, baby potatoes, paneer, mushrooms, idli pieces or anything else that will hold its own on a skewer. If you still want to use tofu but can’t get the puffed kind, try using firm tofu, weighted and pressed for a few hours to remove excess water, cubed and lightly pan-fried. I’m afraid that medium or silken tofu won’t cut it on the kebab skewer for this recipe.

Also, an FYI that I used metal kebab skewers – they get really hot so be careful if you’re using them too. If you can only get wooden skewers, soak them in cold water overnight to ensure they don’t burn in the oven.

Serve with flaky paratha, rice and lime wedges. It’s also delicious with garlic and coriander naan.

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

Serves 4

Ingredients

300g tofu puffs
Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish
Lime or lemon wedges, to garnish
Paratha or naan, to serve
Rice, to serve

For the homemade tandoori paste:
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns
2 dried red chillies (or fresh if you like)
2 inch stick cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
4 cloves
Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom (optional)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
2 tbsp coconut cream
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice

For the sauce:
1 tbsp oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 red chillies, chopped (or to taste)
1 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
400g passata
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp ground almonds
2 tsp ground green cardamom seeds
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
400ml coconut milk
1 tsp kasoori methi (optional)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt, to taste

Method

1. To make the tandoori paste, heat a dry frying pan until hot. Add all the spices apart from the coconut cream, lemon juice, salt and concentrated tomato puree. Toast until aromatic, a couple of minutes but don’t leave it unattended because it can burn very easily.

2. Place all the spices in a high-powered blender or coffee grinder. I use my NutriBullet. Once ground to a fine powder, stir in the lemon juice, coconut cream, tomato puree and salt.

3. Add the tofu puffs to the paste and give them a good mix, taking care not to break the tofu pieces up. Set aside while you make the vegan tikka masala sauce.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

5. To make the vegan tikka masala sauce, heat the oil in a medium, non-stick pan. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies. Sauté for a few moments before adding the concentrated tomato puree. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring all the time. Add the passata, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good whisk, cover and cook on a low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often.

6. Lightly grease a non-stick oven tray. Skewer the tofu pieces onto your kebab sticks. Arrange on the baking tray and pop into the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning them halfway to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven.

7. Serve immediately, bringing the kebabs and sauce to the table, letting everyone mix their own sauce and tofu pieces for a bit of fun and drama. Garnish with chopped coriander, lime or lemon wedges and extra coconut cream. Serve with jalebi paratha or garlic and coriander naan and rice.

Love Sanjana

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Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

If you’re a fan of vegetarian Indian main courses that pack enough punch to trounce any meaty curry, look no further. These gorgeous aubergines might be small but the smooth-as-velvet sauce and filling make it an unforgettable veggie curry you’ll want to make over and over again.

Toasted Coconut and Pistachio

Stuffed with rich coconut, pistachios and paneer before being baked in a tomato masala containing no fewer than eleven incredible spices (important: in small amounts) to create a beautifully balanced, aromatic aubergine experience.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

You’ve probably worked out by now that I’m a total aubergine fiend, always thinking about where my next fix is coming from. Whether it’s Slow Cooker Aubergine Makhani or the love of my life, Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry, I’m obsessed.

Pistachio Masala Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Kolhapuri Vegetables and Kolhapuri Chicken are popular dishes from, you guessed it, Kolhapur, Maharashtra in India. These curries are notoriously spicy and almost always contain a killer combo of crimson Kashmiri chillies, black pepper and poppy seeds.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines Masala Plate

I’ve played about with the masala recipe to come up with my own blend, which I think lends the ultimate kick to vegetarian dishes. Meat eaters won’t even complain. The masala recipe makes double the amount you’ll need for this recipe but I like to keep some in an airtight container in the fridge for later. It’s amazing sprinkled into pasta sauce, over crispy fries and in spicy soups.

Skillet-Baked Kohlapuri Aubergines Masala

If you don’t have baby aubergines, you can omit the stuffing part and roast regular, cubed aubergines before adding to the sauce and simmering for 20 minutes. The sauce base is also delicious with regular white chickpeas (serve with Masala Poori), potatoes or mixed mushrooms and sweetcorn.

Be creative and play around with it until you find your favourite combinations. This one is mine.

Pistachio-Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

16 long baby aubergines, washed and dried

For the Kolhapuri masala:

3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 tsp red Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tbsp white poppy seeds or sesame seeds
4 curry leaves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp salt

For the Pistachio and Coconut filling:

100g unsweetened desiccated coconut
30g unsalted pistachios
100g paneer, grated (replace with an additional 70g unsweetened desiccated coconut and 30g unsalted pistachios if vegan)
1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
1 tsp white pepper
¼ tsp salt

For the Sauce:

2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp Kolhapuri masala
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar

400ml water

Fresh coriander and sliced red chillies, to garnish
Paratha and optional plain yoghurt to serve

Method

1. Begin by making the filling. Toast the pistachios and desiccated coconut in a dry non-stick pan until golden and aromatic. Transfer to a food processor and pulse to a crumb-like texture. Transfer to a bowl and add the grated paneer, amchur, white pepper and salt. Stir to combine well. Set aside.

2. To make the Kolhapuri masala, blend all of the ingredients together in a coffee grinder or food processor until fine. Set aside. This will make twice as much masala as you’ll need for this recipe but I love to stash it away in the fridge in a sealed container to sprinkle over fries (guilty pleasure alert!)

3. Next, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the sliced onions. Allow to soften, about 8 minutes. Don’t let them get too brown. Add the tomatoes, 4 tablespoons of Kolhapuri masala, water, salt and sugar. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20-30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, slit the aubergines lengthways not slicing all the way through. Stuff each aubergine with the pistachio and coconut masala.

5. Make yourself a cup of tea and pre-heat the oven to 190C.

6. Take four cast iron skillets or any deep, large baking dish and pour in the sauce. Arrange the aubergines on top of the sauce and bake for 60 minutes until the aubgerines are tender all the way through.

7. Serve with flaky paratha, a bowl of cold natural yoghurt and nothing more.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

Love Sanjana