A short tale of small dishes of Indian cuisine.
Last weekend during a trip to London we headed off in to the East of the capital to Brick Lane. Once associated with slum living and the crimes associated to Jack the Ripper, Brick Lane is now, as well as being the hub of London’s Bangladeshi community, a hive of market trading, art and social activity. There are so many restaurants you could probably spend month’s down there and not sample all there is to offer. Delicious smells fill the air as restauranteurs stand at the doorways, luring you in with offers of free wine or beer, all claiming to have the best curry in London.
Ordinarily I don’t like places that have faded photographs of their food outside the restaurants, it reminds me too much of 1980’s Spain in largely British resorts where chips and egg were the dish of the day but, I saw a photograph of a tray of Thalia outside this little place on Brick Lane and I was sold.
And I was not disappointed. Tiny dishes of saag aloo, spicy vegetable curry, creamy yogurt and mint dip, sweet onion bhajiis, little fried parcels of fresh vegetables, carefully folded aromatic chapati and crisp fresh poppadoms, and the most delicate rice I have ever tasted. Everything was cooked perfectly and the flavours married up together so well.
All week I have been planning my own Thalia and I am pleased to share with you my simple recipe for saag aloo. It will serve 4 as a side dish and sits happily alongside curries or grilled fish or chicken.
- 300g Potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled until tender
- 200g spinach, chopped
- Half a red chilli, finely sliced
- Half a large white onion, roughly chopped
- Two cloves of garlic
- Half a teaspoon each of mustard seed, cumin seed, ginger powder and turmeric
- A little water or coconut milk
In a blender mince up the onion, garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, ginger powder and turmeric. Heat a little oil in a pan and sweat off the mixture for a few moments before adding the cooked potatoes and enough water or coconut milk to make a thin sauce. Add the chilli. Cook for a few moments before adding the spinach. Leave the spinach on top of the potatoes whilst it wilts, then stir it in. Serve as a side dish to other curries or on its own with rice and chapati.