There are an estimated 375 million vegetarians in India, mainly for religious reasons. Menus usually list dishes as Veg and Non-Veg rather than the mian or side dishes that is more usual in the Western world. Lentils are one of the Veg staples, and as well as being tasty with spices they also provide many essential nutrients. Combine them with spinach for a filling and healthy meal. Lentils are usually served with rice or roti.
What you need… • 250g brown lentils • Salt to taste • 1 teaspoon oil • 1 onion, finely chopped • 1.5 teaspoon garlic paste • 1 teaspoon ginger paste • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste • 1 tomato, chopped • 200g spinach, chopped • A few coriander leaves to garnish
How you make it… 1. Soak the lentils for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Drain the water and add to a pressure cooker, add a pinch of salt and cover with fresh water. Cook until the lentils are soft (about 30 minutes). Set aside. 2. Heat the oil to a medium heat and cook the onion until it softens (about 5–7 minutes). 3. Add the garlic, ginger, the Spice Mix, tomato paste and tomato with a little water, mix well and cook for 5 minutes. 4. Add the spinach until it wilts (about 3 minutes). 5. Add all the ingredients into the pressure cooker with the lentils and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. 6. Serve, garnished with coriander leaves
Goa’s location along the western coast of the country, by the ArabianSea, means seafood naturally features prominently in its cuisine. Coconut milk, tamarind, juicy white fish and blazing heat from the chillies creates a delicious Goan Fish Curry.
What you need… • 2 Tablespoons oil • 1 onion, finely chopped • 3 red chillies, roughly chopped • 1 teaspoon garlic paste • 1 teaspoon ginger paste • 150g coconut milk • 4 Tablespoons fresh coconut, grated (you can use desiccated coconut but add another 50g coconut milk if you do) • 1 Tablespoon tamarind chutney • salt to taste • 800g any firm white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
How you make it… 1. Heat the oil to a medium heat and add the onions until they start to brown (about 5 minutes) 2. Add the chopped chillies and cook for 1 minute. 3. Add Spice Mix and the garlic and ginger pastes with a splash of water and cook for 2 minutes. 4. Add the coconut milk, fresh coconut and tamarind and reduce until the sauce thickens (about 10 minutes). 5. Add the salt and the fish and cook until the fish is all cooked through (about 5–6 minutes). 6. Let the fish rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Malai Sag Muttar is a popular dish all over the sub-continent but especially in North India. It is simple dish, with just a few spices added to wilted spinach, onions and peas, and a dash of cream added just before serving.
What you need… • 100g spinach • 1 onion, finely chopped • 0.5 chilli powder • 0.5 garlic • 0.5 ginger • 0.5 fenugreek seeds • 70g peas (frozen are good) • salt to taste • 1 Tablespoon cream
How you make it… 1. Wash the spinach with hot water in a colander. Drain. 2. Heat oil to a medium heat and fry the onion until it softens (about 3–4 minutes). 3. Add the chilli powder, garlic, ginger, fenugreek and cook for 2 minutes. 4. Add the spinach and cook for 10 minutes until it well softened and wilted. 5. Add the salt and the peas and cook until they are warmed through (about 3–4 minutes). 6. Transfer to a serving bowl and add the cream just before serving.
Do you like cooking Saag Aloo or Lamb Saag but hate chopping the spinach? Freeze a bag of baby spinach, then while it is still in the bag simply scrunch it up and it will snap into tiny pieces. No chopping needed and after a couple of minutes defrosting it’s all ready for a delicious spinach curry.