Sambhar Powder

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Home made sambhar powder is way more flavourful than anything you can buy. To use it in sambhar (a lentil and vegetable stew), follow the recipe here. You can also use it in dishes other than sambhar - sprinkle it into soups and stews or Indian curries and vegetable preparations for an instant smoky, spicy hit. I also like to use it when grilling shrimp or fish.

Dried curry leaves are available in Indian grocery stores or can easily be made at home as well. Simply strip the leaves off fresh curry leaf stems and spread them evenly on a paper towel lined plate. Let them dry out on your counter top for a couple of days. Seal in an airtight bag.  

Sambhar Powder

1/2 cup coriander seeds

20 hot dried red chilies

2 each: cinnamon stick (broken up), star anise, mace flowers (optional)

2 tbsp chana dal (yellow split peas)

1 tbsp each: urad dal ( white gram), arhar dal (split pigeon peas), cumin seeds

1 tsp each, whole spices: black peppercorn, fenugreek, black mustard, cloves, green cardamom

1/4 cup each: dried curry leaves, dried coconut flakes

2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp dried ground ginger

A large pinch of hing (asafoetida), optional

Set a large non stick frying pan over medium low heat. Add all the whole spices and dals, except for the curry leaves, coconut flakes, turmeric, ginger and hing (if using).

Toast for about 5 min or until spices darken and become aromatic and dals change colour too. Add curry leaves and coconut flakes and continue toasting for another min or two, until coconut becomes lightly brown.

Cool and grind in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Mix in the turmeric, ginger and hing (if using).

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.


Tandoori Mustard Chicken Tikka

Inspired by Bengali cuisine, these mustardy grilled chicken skewers take ordinary tandoori chicken to a whole new level. You will love the mustard and the typical Bengali spice mix Panchphoran that make this chicken so flavourful and special. A good way to boost flavour is to leave it marinating in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This will give the spices a chance to mellow and infuse the chicken with aroma and flavour. Basting the chicken with leftover marinade as it grills, also keeps it moist and flavourful. 

1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 2 inch pieces

1 small onion

8 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

2 tbsp each: chickpea flour (optional), thick Balkan style plain yogurt, lemon juice, oil and mustard oil (or melted butter) for basting

1 tbsp grainy Dijon style mustard

1 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi), ground fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp each, whole seeds: nigella (kalonji), fenugreek (methi), fennel, black mustard, cumin (or any of these that you have on hand)

A tiny pinch of tandoori or red food colouring or saffron

Salt to taste

Place chicken in large mixing bowl.

Combine all remaining ingredients (except whole seeds) in jar of a blender or food processor and process to a smooth paste. 

Fold in whole seeds, then pour marinade over chicken, tossing pieces to coat well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

When ready to grill, heat barbecue to medium. Lift chicken pieces out of marinade (reserve marinade) and thread onto skewers.

Grill skewers covered, basting occasionally with reserved marinade until cooked through and lightly charred, about 8 min per side, turning once. 

When chicken is almost done and marinade has cooked off, brush lightly all over with mustard oil or melted butter, grill for 1-2 min until done and remove.

Serve with lemon wedges, a fresh salad and warm naan.

Serves four



Moroccan Harira (spicy lentil) Soup

Hearty, flavourful and warming, this lightly spiced soup is the perfect comfort food for winter! Although my recipe is vegetarian, you can add pieces of chicken, lamb or meatballs to the soup. You can also substitute pasta or Freekeh for the rice in the recipe and use red kidney beans for the white. If you are using Harissa paste, cut back on the amount of cayenne pepper, if desired. 

Moroccan Harira (spicy lentil) Soup

1/4 cup dry red lentils
3 cups water
2 whole cloves
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
½ inch ginger
1/2 carrot
1 stick celery
1 small white potato, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp each: ground cinnamon, ground cumin, 
paprika, cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Pinch Saffron 
1 cup each: diced tomatoes, water or broth
1/4 cup each, cooked: Canneleni ( white kidney) beans, chickpeas, rice
1 tbsp each: Harissa paste (optional), lemon juice, chopped fresh cilantro, parsley & mint

Soak red lentils for 30 minutes. Drain and cook them with 3 cups of water and cloves until very tender, about 30 min. Reserve, along with all of the cooking liquid.
Finely chop onions; mince garlic and ginger. Finely chop carrots, celery and potato. 
Warm oil in a soup pot set over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté 5 minutes, then add all vegetables and sauté for another 5 minutes until softened. Add spices, salt and saffron. Sauté 1 minute, then add tomatoes, 1 cup water or broth, cannelini beans, chickpeas, rice, cooked red lentils with cooking liquid and Harissa paste (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until veggies are very tender, about 45 min. Stir occasionally in between. 
Stir in lemon juice and herbs, then ladle soup into individual bowls. 
Serves four

Chicken Curry With Chickpeas

Chicken Curry With Chickpeas

The delicious meaty goodness of chicken and chickpeas come together in this unusual and tasty dish! Serve with basmati rice.

1 lb (about 8) boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 tbsp oil, divided
Salt to taste
½ tsp each, divided: ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, dried fenugreek leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ inch piece ginger, minced or grated
1 ½ cups (about 8 large) canned whole plum tomatoes, lightly drained and pureed in food processor or blender
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup water
1 tbsp each, finely chopped, fresh: parsley, coriander, mint, dill
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment.
Cut chicken into small bite sized pieces. Place in large mixing bowl. Add 2 tbsp oil, salt to taste and ¼ tsp of all the spices. Mix well to combine, then spread chicken in single layer on parchment lined tray.
Bake for 20 min. Remove from oven and reserve chicken with all of its juices.
Warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in deep non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 min. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes, salt to taste, remaining ¼ tsp of all the spices and ground almonds. Cook for 5 min until mixture thickens slightly.
Add chickpeas, water and reserved chicken with juices. Mix well, cover skillet and cook for 20 min on medium low heat.
Fold in chopped herbs and butter.
Serve hot.
Serves four



Coconut Rice

Delicious, aromatic and mildly nutty in flavour, this rice tastes great with Kerala Fish Curry!

1 1/4 cup Basmati rice

2 tbsp butter

2 each, whole: green cardamom, cloves

1/2 inch stick cinnamon

1 Star anise

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

20 fresh curry leaves

1 cup each: water, unsweetened coconut milk

Salt to taste

Place rice in large mixing bowl and wash several times under running water. Cover rice with water and soak 15 min. Drain in fine mesh sieve and reserve.

Warm butter in heavy bottomed large saucepan over medium heat. Add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Saute 1 min until spices sizzle and seeds start to pop.

Add drained rice and stir gently to coat with spiced butter. Add water, coconut milk and salt. Stir gently to mix, cover saucepan and bring contents to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and cook 15 min without uncovering the pan in between. Let rice rest 5 min before uncovering. Fluff gently with a fork or transfer to a platter and serve hot.

Serves four


Salsa Rajma Biryani

1 cup basmati rice, uncooked
1 cup bottled Salsa
½ cup thick coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tsp each: garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, dried oregano
salt to taste
½ tsp each: turmeric, chili powder,
cumin seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked Rajma (kidney beans)

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add rice, cook on medium heat until just tender, about 8 minutes. Do not let it overcook and become mushy. Drain, spread on tray to cool.

Combine salsa, coconut milk, water, salt and spices in bowl.

Heat oil in large non stick wok or karhai on medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, splutter 30 seconds. Add ginger and garlic, saute 1 min. Then add onions and saute for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add salsa mixture and rajma. Stir gently to mix, cook on medium heat 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly. Add rice, combine gently, cover and cook on medium low heat for 20 minutes or until all moisture has been absorbed and rice is dry and fluffy.
Serve garnished with chopped fresh coriander if desired.
Serves four


Tandoori Coconut Chicken


1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (about 3 small breasts)
2 tbsp each: Olive oil, lemon juice
4 tbsp coconut cream
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch piece ginger
Salt to taste
1 tsp each: ground cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
½ tsp cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp red or Tandoori food coloring, optional

Cube chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place in deep mixing bowl.
Process all remaining ingredients in food processor or mini blender. Pour over chicken.  Mix well, tossing chicken pieces to coat with marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.
Heat outdoor barbecue grill to medium. Lift chicken out of marinade (discard marinade), and thread onto skewers. Grill covered, turning occasionally until cooked through and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes per side.  Serve with rice pilaf or coconut chutney for dipping.

Serves four

Masala Chicken Burgers

This recipe is a great way to incorporate South Asian flavours into burgers. The cheese in the meat really helps keep the patties tender and flavourful. This is a healthy, quick and delicious meal that the whole family will enjoy!   


For burger patties:
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
1 medium cooking onion, quartered
8 sun dried tomato halves
1 cup fresh coriander
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 slices bread, broken up
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
Salt to taste

1 tsp each: garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin
½ tsp: cayenne pepper, ground black pepper
1 lb (450g) ground chicken
For burgers:
4 hamburger buns
1 cup baby greens
4 slices each: cheese, tomato, red onion
4 tbsp green chutney

Combine all ingredients for patties, except ground chicken, in food processor. Process until minced. Add chicken and process again until everything is well blended. Transfer to a bowl, refrigerate covered for 1 hour.
When ready to grill, preheat barbecue to medium heat. With dampened hands, divide patty mixture into four equal portions. Shape them into smooth patties. Place on barbecue and grill for about 18-20 minutes, turning once, until patties are cooked through and lightly browned.
To assemble burgers, divide greens on bottom of buns, top with a grilled patty. Add cheese slice, onion and tomato over top. Spread chutney on top half of buns and place over top of burger.
Serves four


Tandoori Paneer Tikka


Deliciously crisp on the outside, delightfully gooey on the inside, this is Paneer at its best! Serve with green chutney for dipping, warm naan for wrapping and perhaps some grilled tomatoes or a salad on the side. Read more about saffron in The Glory Of saffron.

1 lb. Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)

4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

2 tbsp each: plain Balkan style yogurt, oil, lemon juice

1 tsp each: garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), ground fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp red food colouring or saffron strands, optional

Salt to taste

Cut paneer into 3 inch X 1/2 inch thick slabs or cube into bite sized squares. Place in deep mixing bowl.

Combine remaining ingredients in jar of a mini blender or food processor and blend till smooth. Pour over paneer in bowl, tossing gently to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate bowl for at least 4 hours or overnight if desired.

When ready to grill, heat barbecue to medium high. Thread paneer onto skewers, place on grill and cook covered until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 7-8 min per side.

If you have any marinade left in the bowl, baste paneer occasionally with it to keep it from drying out, turning skewers only once to prevent paneer from falling off.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon if desired.

Serves four

Chicken Curry With Potatoes and Carrots

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3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 each, whole: cardamom, cloves
½ inch stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed (about 2 lb)
1 tsp each: garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp each: turmeric, cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1 cup plain Balkan style yogurt
1 cup water  

Warm oil in deep non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add the whole spices, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Allow spices to sizzle and become fragrant, about 30 sec. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for about 1 min until they brown lightly. Add the onions and sauté for about 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Add carrot and potato, sauté 2 min. Add chicken and brown for 5 min.
Add spices and salt, sauté for 1 min.
Add yogurt and water, mix well.
Cover, and bring the contents of the pan to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium low and cook for 1 hour, until chicken is tender and sauce cooked through. Stir occasionally. If sauce is too soupy at the end of cooking time, uncover skillet, turn up heat and boil off excess sauce for a few minutes.

Serves four

Bengal Fish Curry

This curry is made Bengali style with coconut milk and mustard. Serve over basmati rice for a satisfying meal.

1 lb (500g) skinless Sea Bass fillet, cut into 2 inch chunks
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ inch piece ginger, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, thinly sliced
1 cup canned plum tomatoes
1 cup premium coconut milk
1 tsp each: garam masala, ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric, red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
1 tbsp prepared grainy Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander


Place fish in deep mixing bowl. Add salt, ½ tsp turmeric and lemon juice. Toss well to coat, cover and refrigerate 15 min.
Meanwhile, warm oil in deep non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, sauté 30 sec till they start spluttering. Add garlic, ginger, onions and green chillies. Sauté until onions are lightly softened, about 5 min. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 - 7 min until they break down and blend into the sauce. Add coconut milk, salt, remaining spices and mustard. Mix well, cover skillet and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 5 min until sauce has thickened slightly.
Wash fish and dry gently with paper towels. Add fish pieces to skillet, stirring to coat with sauce. Cover skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 10 min or until fish is cooked through and tender.
Fold in fresh coriander.

Serves Four.