The kheema you should start with….


I guess there are just about a gadzillion versions of kheema. This is the version of the basic staple recipe that I prefer of the various ones I’ve tried. Leave out the peas, add spinach instead, or smoky pureed eggplant (see another chapter for making this), or….


  • 450g minced lamb (or beef)
  • 4 tblesp ghee/oil
  • 200g onions sliced coarsely
  • 4 large cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 2” piece ginger chopped finely
  • 1 teasp ground cumin
  • 2 teasp ground coriander
  • half teasp tumeric
  • 1 teasp chilli powder
  • tin of tomatoes plus juice, chopped
  • peas
  • fresh coriander, chopped


Over medium high heat, heat the ghee and then fry onions, stirring constantly until a deep brown. Turn heat very low, add ginger and garlic, fry for a minute or so before adding all the ground spices, stir for another minute or so, DON’T BURN THE SPICES!!!

Turn heat back up, add the meat and stir to brown, being vigilant to break it all up, no big lumps please.

Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, cover and then turn down to a vigorous simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, check now and then to make sure it isn’t drying out too quickly. At the end, it should be dry, with the oil seeping out. Add the peas a few minutes before serving and lastly, the fresh coriander. You may, for the last few minutes of cooking, turn the heat up high and stirfry to make sure it is a nice brown colour. In my opinion, if you’ve started out the right way, you won’t have to do that.

Serve with rice.

See another post for turning this into samosas.

(I’ve used Sameen Rushdie’s recipe for this post)

Kofta meatballs

So where were we? Singing the praises of mince. Mmm. Amazing what you can do with it in so many different cuisines, not least Indian. This recipe is always a huge hit. I serve it with the sauce and rice as a main dish. The sauce is utterly divine, it would be a shame to waste it, though you can, if you prefer, make it disappear.

Delicious cocktail koftas
By: Madhur Jaffrey
Serves: Makes 30 meatballs and serves 6 for snacks, 4 for dinner for the meatballs

• 450g minced lamb
• 0.5 tsp salt
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp garam masala
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 tbsp fresh, green coriander, very finely chopped
• 3 tbsp natural yogurt
For the sauce
• 5 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2.5 cm cube ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 4 tbsp water, plus 300ml
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tsp bright red paprika
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 5 tbsp vegetable oil
• 2.5 cm cinnamon sticks
• 6 cardamom pods
• 6 cloves
• 100g onions, peeled and finely chopped
• 100g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (a small can of tomatoes may be substituted)
• 4 tbsp natural yogurt
• a little salt


1. To make the meatballs: Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Dip your hands in water whenever you need to and form about 30 meatballs.

2. For the sauce, put the garlic and ginger into the container of a food processor or blender along with 4 tablespoons water. Blend until you have a paste. Put the paste in a bowl. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne. Stir to mix.

3. To make the sauce: Put the oil in a heavy, 23-25cm wide pan or frying-pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves. Stir them for 3-4 seconds. Now put in the onions and fry them, stirring all the time, until they are reddish-brown in colour. Turn the heat to medium and put in the paste from the bowl as well as the chopped tomatoes. Stir and fry this mixture until it turns a brownish colour. When it begins to catch, add 1 tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and fry some more until the yogurt is incorporated into the sauce. Now add another tablespoon of yogurt. Incorporate that into the sauce as well. Keep doing this until you have put in all the yogurt. Now put in 300ml water and the salt. Stir and bring to a simmer.

4. Put in all the meatballs in a single layer. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. Stir very gently every 5 minutes or so, making sure not to break the meatballs. Towards the end of the cooking period, you should scrape the bottom of the pan just to make sure the sauce is not catching. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of water. Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium-low. Stir gently and cook until the meatballs have a browned look. All the sauce should now be clinging to the meatballs and there should be just a little fat left at the bottom of the pan.

5. When you are ready to eat, heat the koftas gently. Lift them out of the fat and shake off any whole spices that may be clinging to them. Stick a toothpick into each kofta if serving with drinks.

6. If you have these koftas for dinner, you could leave more of a sauce.

Kheema Palak: one variation


more or less as Rosemary Moon does it in Classic Indian Cuisine


4 tbsp ghee
half a teasp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 fresh chilli finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled and very finely chopped, or grated or crushed
6 cloves garlic, ditto
500g minced lamb or beef, best quality
1 large onion finely sliced
2 cinnamon sticks, c. 2” each, broken up
half a teasp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
half teasp freshly ground black pepper
340g fresh spinach leaves chopped, or 225g packed frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 teasp salt
200g canned tomatoes, chopped or several ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 teasp garam masala


Heat half the ghee in a wide, shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the mustard seeds until they start popping. Add the cumin seeds, green chilli, ginger and half the garlic. Stir and fry maybe half a minute. Add the mince and cook until all the liquid evaporates, maybe 10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the ghee in another frying pan (or empty the first one) over medium heat and stir in the rest of the garlic. Add the onions and cinnamon sticks and fry until the onions are lightly browned, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the turmeric, cumin and black pepper. Stir and fry for a minute and then mix in the spinach thoroughly. Then add the mince and again thoroughly mix. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Increase the heat a little, add salt and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes and then add the garam masala and keep cooking another few minutes. Remove and serve.

From Classic Indian Cuisine Rosemary Moon

Pasta and chickpeas

It’s the basis of many a variant in Italy and I’ve decided to add it to our staples like this:


  • 1 tin chickpeas drained, rinsed, peeled
  • 1-2 tblesp tomato paste
  • some shallots finely chopped
  • fresh garlic finely chopped
  • small pasta shapes
  • anchovies mashed
  • salt and pepper
  • ghee
  • water/stock

Optional additions as you please….

  • parsley
  • chives
  • spring onion
  • spinach
  • lemon
  • bacon
  • parmesan grated for serving

I started out frying shallots and garlic in ghee, adding chickpeas and then the water or stock if you prefer and lastly the tomato paste. Let all this simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. This can sit in the fridge once it’s cool.

When you come to preparing the meal, boil the pasta but keep it underdone, drain, put back in the pot and add however much of the chickpea mixture you want as well as the mashed anchovies which will melt through. While this is reheating and the pasta is finishing its cooking chop herbs or other last minute accompaniments. Add and stir through. Serve.

For two people the first time I did this I added a small bunch of parsley, half a bunch of chives, the white of a spring onion and before serving sprinkled snipped spring onion greens on top. The second time I made the addition finely chopped spinach.

The possibilities are endless, one could add an Indian element by sprinkling garam masala on top. Fresh chillies would work well too.

It can be as soupy or stewy as you please. Part pureeing the chickpeas is an idea I have not explored yet but will obviously enhance a move from the one to the other.

This is cheap, healthy and tastes great. It is also quick and flexible – in Italy carrots and celery may be added, but I wanted something that wasn’t an echo of minestrone. You could also make in large quantity and freeze the first part of the recipe, the stock/chickpea/tomato paste combo.


White beans and chorizo

This ensued after buying San José smoked fresh chorizo at the Central Market last week.


  • two onions, peeled and diced
  • smoked fresh chorizo skinned and chopped
  • ghee for frying
  • white beans – I used two tins of cannellini
  • garlic finely chopped
  • tomato paste
  • half a bunch of spinach, chopped fairly finely
  • a cheddar that melts nicely, grated


Fry the onions until softening, add the garlic and stir a few times without burning,  add the chorizo and fry until it’s getting brown and the onions are fairly soft. Add drained and rinsed beans or dry beans you have cooked yourself. Add water and tomato paste at some point, bring to the boil and then put on a very low simmer for a couple of hours.

Sit overnight. Next day when serving add spinach while the spaghetti is boiling. After stirring the cooked pasta through the sauce, mix in cheese. This is a soupy stew you could serve with ciabatta, but we had it as a spaghetti sauce with parmesan on top.

A couple of bunches of parsley instead of spinach would be good. I had initially meant to cook it with celery, but forgot to buy any, but I could imagine trying that too.

Wherein meat is eaten.

Stay off the stuff for long enough and even Manor mince tastes mmmmmm. It’s been a couple of weeks since we had anything remotely resembling meat, of any colour, I might add.

For years I’ve stuck to the Italian way of doing spag bol, think cream and chicken liver as distinguishing features, along with minimal tomato. And although I love chicken livers, and the authenticity of Margaret Fulton, I’ve never been altogether happy with the result.

It was a revelation to me to discover that the American version is actually worthy of cooking and couldn’t be more different from my notion of the traditional version. This is the famous Italian-American cook Lidia’s version.

Spaghetti bolognese


olive oil for frying
an onion finely chopped
a carrot grated
a stick of celery and leaves finely chopped
glass of red wine
1/2 kg beef mince
1/2 kg pork mince
1 tblesp tomato paste
2 cans crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
water as necessary


On med-high heat, fry the onion, carrot and celery until onion is softened. Add the meats and fry, stirring constantly to avoid lumps, for about 10 minutes until browned. Throw in the wine, bring to the boil and burn off the alcohol. Add the tomato paste, stir in thoroughly, and then the tomatoes. Add a reasonably generous quantity of water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and leave on a lively simmer covered. You are going to cook it at this temperature for at least several hours. The longer the better. Six hours is better. Because it’s actually bubbling away, it means that you do need to check it from time to time to add water as required.

Yum. This is really good, just some parmesan on top to serve. True it takes a while on the way in, but on the way out you have, for two people, four meals ready at the push of a defrost button. And most of the cooking time, you are reading or knitting or doing Goodreads or….whatever your idle preference is.

Part of a minestrone

I guess sometimes soup can just be…pot luck. Under the misapprehension recently that winter had started, I assembled a group of ingredients for an affair I call minestrone, though I make no particular claims to a rigorous use of that name, only to discover that I had neither carrots nor celery, both of which I would have thought to be essential to the cause. And yet, the soup that resulted from their absence – I decided to soldier on with what I had – was a revelation in sweetness and taste that makes me wonder. Surely carrot isn’t the culprit that would stop this wonderful taste from developing in my usual minestrone – it is sweet, after all. That leaves celery to take all the blame. I have no idea if this has any merit as an idea. All I know is that the following looked quite dull and drab in the bowl, but this was completely belied by the taste.

a couple of onions, peeled and diced
leeks peeled, washed, and white parts sliced – I used about six.
several slices of bacon or some such, diced – GOOD QUALITY
a big bag of fresh berlotti bean. Shell.
green beans, washed topped, tailed, diced.
several large FANTASTIC tomatoes, washed and diced. Don’t need to peel.
olive oil
salt and pepper at the end, to taste.

No more than this: gently fry the onions in the olive oil, add the bacon and leeks after the onions have softened a little. To tell the truth, I can’t recall whether I added garlic or not. After the lot has softened some more, add maybe 6 cups of water, the beans, the borlottis and the diced tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours.

That’s it. Unprepossessing indeed, but delicious.

Celery soup, dare I say a la Simon Hopkinson?

It’s dreary outside and in, with little more than a bunch of celery – tired looking at that – in the fridge. But let’s see…

Take a roomy pot, sweat an onion in a generous quantity of butter. When softened add a bunch of chopped celery, leaves too. Stir and continue to cook gently for a while and then add water to cover. Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour or so. Puree.

Meanwhile you have made Simon Hopkinson’s ‘curry essence’ as he calls it.

Very gently fry finely chopped onion, maybe 50g or so, in oil not butter or ghee as you don’t want it to solidify after cooking. I used grapeseed oil. Add 2 heaped teaspoons of good curry powder, I use Julie Sahni’s Master Curry Powder and fry very gently, you don’t want this to burn. Add a heaped teasp of tomato puree, stir a minute to mix and then add bay leaf, 150ml red wine, 120ml water, 2 tblesps mango chutney or apricot jam. Bring this to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. Hopkinson now suggests putting it through a fine sieve, I don’t see any need for this, maybe it depends on one’s next intention….not to mention if you have a fine sieve. I don’t. It keeps in a jar for a few weeks and he suggests adding it to a salad dressing as well as an egg dish.

Now add this to the celery soup, maybe a couple of tablespoons, but obviously to taste. Salt and pepper. Cream if you wish – I did.

We had this with toast on which we lavished Gentleman’s Relish from Fortnum and Mason’s. I don’t know why they say to use it sparingly, having finished a jar over two sittings. Manny suggested it was to make you feel like it wasn’t so expensive. Cunning!

Chicken in pomegranate and walnut

I can’t stop making this, it is too easy and tastes divine.

Turkish chicken in pomegranate and walnuts


3 pomegranates: extract juice from all but one half. From this you take the seeds for garnish at the end.
1 chicken cut into casserole pieces (or pieces of your preference, I would never use breast in a dish like this)
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 cup of walnuts, crushed
2 teasp ground cinammon
1 teasp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few leaves of mint shredded for garnish
juice of one lemon


Mix the pomegranate juice with the lemon juice.

Fry the onion in ghee until it picks up a bit of colour. Add the chicken and brown lightly. Add the cinammon and sugar, mix and add the juice of pomegranate and lemon. Bring to boil and then turn down to a simmer until cooked.

At some point toast the crushed walnuts in a frying pan (without burning). Add them to the chicken maybe ten minutes before serving.

Serve garnished with mint and the pomegranate seeds you set aside. A plain pilaff is perfect on the side, though I imagine mash would also work.

Fennel soup

Fennel soup, more or less as Simon Hopkinson has it in The Vegetarian Option

Much my favourite way to eat fennel.

The butter


The soup:
2 medium onions chopped
350g fennel, trimmed and chopped
1 medium potato chopped
1 teasp fennel seeds
2 tblesp olive oil
salt and pepper
stock as you prefer in the quantity of 3/4 to 1 litre.

The butter:
Into 250g of softened butter mix a bunch of parsley, quite a lot of finely chopped (mashed?) garlic, a splash of Pernod or something else aniseed flavoured, I used Pastis, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste, a few drops of Tabasco. Roll it into a cylinder on waxed paper. This is a vast amount, so what you don’t use now, (by cutting off discs of it) store in the waxed paper, with a roll of alfoil tightly fitting around that, in the freezer.


Soften onions in a large saucepan over medium or maybe even low heat – they are not to brown, of course. Always be patient with onions. Cooking them more quickly than one is supposed to, will always change the nature of the result. It might take 20 minutes. Then add the fennel and its seeds, and stir occasionally over another ten minutes. The potato can go in now with the stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, simmer until soft, maybe half an hour.

This is where I part company with Hopkinson. In that very English way, he now extremely finely sieves the soup and then adds cream. I do love cream, and I never try to avoid it, but this is already a lovely dish by simply pureeing, reheating and serving with a disc of butter in each bowl. Serve with buttered toast.

Fennel soup with garlic butter

The aroma, as you swish that butter around the soup and it gently blends in, is as inviting as I can imagine a bowl of soup to be.

Afterthought: it will surely be obvious what else one can do with the butter. I am dying to try it on a plain grilled steak; it would be perfect in fish soup. I wonder what it would be like thinly sliced and tucked into the middle of an omelette. Tres bon, non?