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.
Over the weekend I decided to recreate Christmas. No, we didn’t deck the halls with boughs of holly (for that you would need halls and holly, and I have neither), dust off the tree and unwrap gifts, but we did have a great whopping breast of turkey that had been uncovered during a recent freezer raid at my partners house. I love turkey and I always think it is such a shame that it is traditionally left for the one day of the year when you are so busy with family & friends, drowning in wrapping paper and instructions for new toys that by the time the meal is served it often doesn’t get the appreciation it surely should deserve.
It was a delicious meal accompanied by roast potatoes, honey roast carrots and onions, sage & onion stuffing and thick gravy. But what is even better than a full turkey dinner? Leftovers of course!
I love left over turkey, it is the one roast meat that I really enjoy cold and I find it to be so versatile. It is great with some leeks in a creamy sauce wrapped in some flaky pastry, in a simple sandwich served on the side of some freshly fried chips (fries) with pickles or, as I did yesterday, curried.
This colourful curry is so simple and can be whipped up in no time. If you are vegetarian, just leave out the meat. You should adjust the amount of chilli to suit your own taste, I prefer it nice and mild so the flavours of the turmeric and ginger come through. It also makes it child friendly.
Serves 2 adults and a child, with rice or bread.
- One leek, washed and finely sliced
- One carrot, washed and finely sliced
- One small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
- One mild green chilli, finely sliced
- One thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric root, grated
- A 1cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
- A clove of garlic, finely chopped
- Two tablespoons of nuts (cashew and pine nuts are great)
- One tablespoon of raw coconut
- Teaspoon of cumin seed
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- One can (400g net weight) of coconut milk, followed by half a can of water
- Two handfuls of spinach
- Two handfuls of left over turkey meat, chopped (optional)
- Avocado or coconut oil
You will need:
- A hob and oven proof pot, no lid required
- Your oven warmed to 170°c
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in your pan and add the leek, carrot, sweet potato, turmeric, ginger, garlic and cumin seed and sweat off for a couple of moments to get the flavours going.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the spinach. Bring the pan to a simmer before transferring to the oven. Cook, uncovered for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir half way through.
- Remove from the oven, stir, and add the spinach. The heat of the curry will wilt the spinach in seconds.
- Serve with some fluffy rice or naan bread.