Monday, 18 July 2016

2 Minute Egg and Soldiers

Egg and Soldiers is an English breakfast favourite. But if you struggle to boil eggs, or just can't be bothered, then why not try steaming an egg or two on top of a deliciously crisp Malabar (Kerala) paratha? Once it’s done, tear off pieces of paratha to form the “soldiers” and dip them in the runny egg yolk. Serve with typical English breakfast items, such as grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and sausages. Alternatively, serve with spicy coriander-mint chutney.

This recipe was inspired by the Frankie, a popular Indian street food in which a chapati is topped with a beaten egg, cooked through, and stuffed with spicy filling. Parathas don't roll up very well, but they nevertheless make a delicious base for a cooked egg. You can buy parathas ready cooked in most Indian shops in the UK; alternatively, you can use leftover parathas as long as they're reasonably intact.


1/2 to 1 teaspoon oil or ghee
1 Malabar paratha, cooked
1 egg
Garam masala (optional)



1. Heat the oil or ghee in a non-stick, lidded frying pan over a low-medium flame. Gently place in paratha into the hot oil and fry for 1 minute or so, until the underside is crisp and golden.

2. Reduce the flame to low. Flip the paratha and crack the egg into the middle. Carefully spread the egg white around the surface of the paratha with a spatula, keeping the yolk as central as possible. Don't worry if the white leaks into the pan. Cover and cook for 1 minute, or until the white is opaque and the underside of the paratha is crisp.

 3. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and garam masala. Tear off strips of paratha and dip them in the runny yolk.


  • Covering the pan in step 2 allows the steam to cook the egg white. If you leave it uncovered, the underside of the paratha may burn before the egg white is fully cooked.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Indian Style Chilli Con Carne

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When my husband (then boyfriend) lived in the UK, he was obsessed with Chilli Con Carne. In fact, it was our last meal together before he returned to India. Cooked from a can, and served with spaghetti, it was hardly the romantic meal I had envisaged, but there you go. Three years later we got married, and one of the first dishes he asked me to make was Chilli Con Carne. I was hesitant at first because I couldn't get the Schwartz's pre-mixed seasoning that I had come to rely on. But now I make it every other week, from scratch.

This dish has several things to recommend it. First, it doesn't use oil - the onions cook in the moisture from the beef. Second, it needs only one cooking pot. If you cook the beans from dried, as I do, then after they're done simply empty them into a bowl, give the pressure cooker a quick wipe inside, and cook the Chilli in it. Just remember that when you cook the Chilli, don't use the cooker's own lid - cover it with another lid or a steel plate. Third, this dish can be served with several different things: cumin rice and yoghurt, spaghetti, baked potatoes and cheese, chapatis, and nachos, to name just a few.

A note on the beans: You really ought to try cooking the beans from scratch at least once, because they become so deliciously creamy inside. To make 250g of cooked beans, you'll need approximately 120g of dried ones. Kidney beans and black eyed peas go particularly well together, but you can use one or the other. Soak them for 8 hours, or overnight, in 2 cups of water. Drain and rinse them, then cook them in a pressure cooker with 2 ½ cups of water for 12-15 minutes over a low flame. Not only will you save money, but you can use the cooking liquid in your stock.


1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds (see Notes) 
2  onions, thinly sliced
500g beef or buffalo mince
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons chilli powder
4 teaspoons ground coriander 
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons plain flour
450ml vegetable or beef stock, made with 1 stock cube
3 tomatoes, chopped
250g cooked beans, such as red kidney beans or black eyed peas
3 tablespoons tomato purée
1 extra vegetable or beef stock cube (optional)
½ to 1 teaspoon garam masala powder


1. Heat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast them for 1-2 minutes. Add the onions, beef, and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until the beef is browned all over and the onions are soft.

2. Add the garlic, chilli powder, coriander, cinnamon and flour. Stir well, and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato purée and stock. Stir well, and bring to a simmer. Check the sauce and, if necessary, crumble in the extra stock cube. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and leave to simmer gently for 45-50 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking.

4. Once the mince is tender and the sauce is thick, remove from the heat and stir in the garam masala. Adjust the seasoning to taste.


  • Serves 3 to 4.
  • If you don't have cumin seeds, then add ¾ teaspoon of ground cumin in step 2.
  • Like many spicy dishes, this one benefits from being left for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to develop. 
  • Adapted from The Hairy Bikers' recipe.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Extra Special Besan Laddoos

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Besan Laddoos
Hummus! One of my favourite words of all time, and the only use for chickpeas that I could conceive of before I moved to India. Oh, how ignorant I was! Because, much as I love hummus and pita bread, I have now discovered the true destiny of the chickpea - the Besan Laddoo.

Laddoos are ball-shaped sweets, often served at festive occasions. Besan (gram flour) is powdered chickpeas, which admittedly doesn't sound very appetising. But when roasted, the slightly bitter, vegetative taste of the besan gives way to a wonderfully nutty, and ever so slightly sweet, flavour. And when you combine this with the right amount of ghee, sugar, and spices, you end up with something that resembles damp sand but tastes superb. For me, the just-warm mixture has the same appeal as cake batter or cookie dough - it takes a lot of self control to roll it into laddoos.

Enough gushing. There are various recipes for besan laddoos. Cardamom is the spice most commonly used; cinnamon and nutmeg also make an occasional appearance. But I have found that a generous pinch of saffron adds a certain something to the flavour, as do a few sliced dates. Here is my recipe, inspired by this recipe by Anushruti RK. I highly recommend watching her video before you start, as the method is pretty much the same.


1 cup (220g) ghee
2 1/2 cups (250g) besan (gram flour)
generous pinch of saffron strands
10 cashews, roughly chopped
4 dried dates, pitted and finely sliced
2 tablespoons of raisins
generous pinch of cinnamon powder
2 cups powdered sugar
seeds from 8 cardamom pods, powdered



1. Heat the ghee over a low flame in a large non-stick pan, for example a wok. Stir in 2 cups of besan, along with the saffron strands, and roast, stirring continuously, for 20 minutes or so. The mixture should have the consistency of melted chocolate. It will darken a little as it roasts, and will smell delicious. If it begins to burn, it will start to smell pungent.
2. Stir in as much of the remaining besan as you require. The mixture should thicken and become slightly sticky. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or more.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cashews, dates and raisins, and stir for a few more minutes while the besan and dry fruits roast in the hot ghee. Once you are confident that it will not burn, stir in the cinnamon powder and leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.
4. Once the mixture is cool, mix in the sugar and cardamom with your fingers. Add in a little at a time, breaking up any sugar lumps. 2 cups of sugar is approximate - you may not need all of it, or you may need extra if it is still too loose. Test it by pinching off a small portion and rolling it into a ball - the ball should keep its shape nicely. Taste it and adjust the spices accordingly, but resist the temptation to keep eating it!
5. Roll the mixture into balls, and arrange in a box or plate lined with greaseproof paper.









  • Makes approximately 30 medium-sized laddoos, if you don't eat most of the mixture.
  • The time required for roasting the besan depends on the amount of heat, and on the weight of the cooking vessel.
  • When the laddoos are fresh, the spices can be quite strong, but when they're left overnight the flavours blend and mellow nicely.