We've all tried korma and Madras dishes... But what about Keralan duck curry or pistachio ice cream? Here's how to cook up a very authentic Indian feast
This famous roadside favourite is traditionally not a dish prepared in Indian homes. It’s a dish best eaten outside in the middle of a shopping spree. The regular dish comprises wheat crisps covered in yoghurt, and tamarind and coriander chutneys. I gave the dish a makeover with battered and fried spinach leaves replacing the humble wheat crisps. The tamarind chutney has the addition of sweet dates to balance its sourness.
Serves: 6, as a starter
Fried spinach leaves:
150g chickpea flour (besan)
50g rice flour
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp salt
Peanut or canola oil, for deep-frying
1 bunch English spinach, leaves picked, washed and patted dry (about 20 leaves)
Mint and coriander chutney:
1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
4 long green chillies, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
Date and tamarind chutney:
30g pitted dates, chopped
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp grated palm sugar (jaggery)
21/2 tsp ground cumin
Tomato chilli chutney:
2 ripe tomatoes
4 long red chillies, chopped
21/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
260g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
100g sebago potato, boiled until tender, peeled, then diced
125g tinned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
1. To make the fried spinach leaves, first make the batter. Combine the flours, chilli powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, then gradually add 290ml of water and whisk until smooth. Cover and set aside until required.
2. To make the mint and coriander chutney, put all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and set aside until required.
3. To make the date and tamarind chutney, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, add 80ml of water and cook over low heat for ten minutes or until the dates have softened. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding the solids. Cool, then cover and set aside until required.
4. To make the tomato chilli chutney, score a shallow cross in the base of the tomatoes. Put in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then transfer to cold water and peel the skin away from the cross. Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and discard. Roughly dice the flesh, combine with the chilli and paprika in a small saucepan over low heat and simmer for ten–15 minutes or until soft. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the liquid. Cool, then cover and set aside until required.
5. To make the yoghurt dressing, heat a small frying pan over medium–high heat, add the cumin and dry-fry for about 30 seconds, shaking the pan regularly. Put the yoghurt and sugar in a bowl, add the cumin and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until required.
6. When you’re ready to serve, fry the spinach leaves. To do this, heat about 10cm of oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 180°C (356°F) or until a cube of bread turns golden brown in 15 seconds. Dip the spinach leaves, one at a time, into the batter, shaking off any excess, and deep-fry, in batches, until crisp and golden. Remove with a
slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
7. To serve, divide the fried spinach leaves among plates, scatter with the potato and chickpeas, spoon over a little yoghurt dressing, then top with 1 tsp of each of the chutneys. Sprinkle with the coriander and serve immediately.
This is a very popular dish at Aki’s. It’s rich in flavour, light in consistency and sweet from the flavour of the coconut and French shallots. Not much additional oil is required to cook this dish as the duck breasts cook in their own fat. Duck is not the most popular meat in India but the Keralites relish this dish.
Serves: 6, as part of a shared meal
6 duck breasts with skin and wing bone
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp finely grated ginger
50ml coconut oil
4 green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 long green chillies, thinly sliced diagonally
2 sprigs of curry leaves
12 French shallots (eschalots), chopped
5cm piece of ginger, finely shredded
250ml coconut milk
80ml coconut cream
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas 2–3) and put a baking dish in the oven to heat up. Score the duck skin a few times with a knife, then rub the skin and meat with the chilli powder, ginger and a little salt. Put in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat, add 1 tbsp of the coconut oil and cook the duck in two batches, skin side down, for about three minutes or until sealed. Turn over and seal the other side. This is just to seal the meat – do not overcook.
3. Transfer the duck to the preheated baking dish and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the duck and set aside. Drain the excess fat from the baking dish but reserve the juices and set aside for adding to the sauce later.
4. Heat the remaining coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, green chilli and curry leaves and let these splutter for a few seconds. Reduce the heat to low, add the shallot and cook for 5 minutes or until softened but without browning.
5. Add the ginger, coconut milk, reserved duck juices and 125ml of water. Add the duck breasts and cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes or until the duck is almost cooked. Add the coconut cream and cook, uncovered, for five minutes.
6. Remove the duck from the pan and thickly slice, then return to the sauce.
Tip: If you can’t find duck breasts with the wing bone attached, simply use duck breasts. Roasting the duck slowly at a low heat will keep them juicy and tender.
Kulfi is a very popular North Indian ice cream consumed by all. Traditionally it is served on wooden sticks by street hawkers. Back in the 1970s in India, my wife did not have the luxury of owning a fridge, so her after-school treat on hot days would be kulfi. When she heard the kulfiwalla’s bell in the street, she knew ‘heaven on a stick’ was just outside. The secret of a good kulfi is in the slow freezing – it should not have crystallised icicles. This is achieved by reducing the milk to a nice thick consistency thereby removing the water from the milk.
Today, we have evaporated milk, which is the closest to reduced milk. This recipe uses evaporated milk but if you feel adventurous, you can use full-cream milk and slowly reduce it to a third. The kulfi survives well in the freezer and can be prepared in bulk and kept for a long time.
Serves: 6, as a dessert
750ml evaporated milk
120ml thickened (whipping) cream
120g white sugar
5 tbsp pistachio kernels, coarsely crushed, plus extra to garnish
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
100g strawberries, diced
30g caster (superfine) sugar
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1. Put the milk, cream and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat and cook for 20 minutes, scraping down the sides of the pan regularly.
2. Add 3 tbsp of the crushed pistachios and the ground cardamom, then remove from the heat. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the milk mixture and set aside to cool. Pour into takeaway containers (either three larger ones or six smaller ones) or six 125ml capacity dariole moulds. Cover with the lids or tightly with plastic wrap to prevent crystallisation. Put in the freezer until frozen.
3. To make the strawberry coulis, put all of the ingredients in a saucepan with 125ml of water and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Once the strawberries are soft, discard the star anise and cinnamon stick and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, push the solids through to form a smooth coulis.
4. Remove the kulfi from the freezer about ten minutes before serving, then turn out onto individual serving plates, serve with the strawberry coulis and garnish with the extra crushed pistachios.
Tip: Feel free to experiment with flavours. Some popular ones are rose, saffron, fig and walnut.
These three recipes and images have been taken from From India by Kumar & Suba Mahadevan (£25), published by Murdoch Books. Pre-order your copy on Amazon now.