Saag gosht: two ways, Jaffrey’s and Rushdie’s.

An Indian shelf would scarcely be complete without a recipe or two for this.

Saag gosht a la Madhur Jaffrey

8 tbsp vegetable oil
0.25 tsp black peppercorns
6-7 cloves
2 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
175g onions, peeled and finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2.5 cm cube ginger, peeled and finely chopped
900g lamb shoulder, cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
0.25-0.75 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp natural yogurt
900 g fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and finely chopped or 900g frozen spinach, thawed out
0.25 tsp garam masala


1. Put the oil in a large pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Stir for a second. Now put in the onions, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry until the onions develop brown specks.

Now add the meat, cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1 tsp salt. Stir and fry for 1 minute.

Add 1 tbsp of the beaten yogurt. Stir and fry for another minute. Add another tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and fry for a minute. Keep doing this until all the yogurt has been incorporated. The meat should also have a slightly browned look.

Add the spinach and the remaining 1 tsp salt. Stir to mix. Keep stirring and cooking until the spinach wilts completely. Cover tightly and simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.

2. Remove the lid and add the garam masala. Turn the heat to medium. Stir and cook another 5 minutes or until most (but not all) the water in the spinach disappears and you have a thick, green sauce.

3. Note The whole spice in this dish are not meant to be eaten.

PS: My experience with particularly tough looking meat, in this case some gravy beef.  I cooked it for an hour with extra water added to cover the meat completely, then reduced it to what it would have been otherwise, added the spinach, cooked for another hour or so. Did that yesterday, ate it today. It was divine, the meat melted in the mouth, the spinachy sauce was creamy.

And Rushdie’s version

900g boned leg of lamb
2 bunches spinach washed & finely chopped, less stems
175g onions finely chopped
1 tblsp garlic finely chopped*
1 tblsp ginger ” “*
225g tomatoes ” ”
6 tblsp cooking oil
½ teasp tumeric**
1+ teasp chilli powder**
2 teasp ground coriander**
2 green chillies finely sliced

1. Fry onions til golden. Add garlic and ginger, fry 1 min and add ** spices. Stirfry for a few minutes and then add meat.

2. Brown meat while stirring to mix well.

3. Add tomatoes and 120 mls water. Cover and simmer for 25 mins. Check for sticking and add water if necessary. At end of this period can add 120 ml water. If cheap meat continue this process for longer. Should be half cooked at least.

4. Add spinach, mix well. Continue cooking slowly over low heat until meat is absolutely tender.

5. Turn heat up, add chillies, stir-fry till extra moisture disappears and the sauce is thick, rich and clinging to the meat.

I used to think this was better than the Jaffrey recipe, but now that I’ve revisited MJ’s recently and was greatly enamoured of it, I’m not so sure. Maybe it needs a cook off.

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Indian pancakes

I’ve had some besan flour sitting about for a while now and finally got around to trying Indian pancakes yesterday.

Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from World Vegetarian Cooking was my first reference, but it is quickly obvious that one doesn’t need a recipe.

Ingredients for 8 pancakes

  • 2 cups of flour, sieved to remove lumps
  • dry spices such as salt, pepper, tumeric, chilli, garam masala, cumin ground or whole
  • 2 cups of water
  • wet ingredients might include garlic, ginger, spring onions, finely chopped tomatoes, coriander, or spinach wilted in a little water, thoroughly drained and chopped.


Mix the dry spices into the flour and then the flour and water: it is suggested that this is done slowly, eradicating lumps being more easily done when the mixture is less runny. Mix in wet things.

I was cooking for two and used two pans at a time. Otherwise leave in a warm oven while you are making the rest. Heat non-stick pans (mine are about 6″ at the base circumference) with a teensy bit of oil at a medium high heat. Put into each in a few tablespoons of the mixture, mixing it just before as the solids sink. Swirl the mixture to the edges of the pan. The base will turn reddish brown in places and around the edges when ready to flip. It will be about a couple of minutes each side.

From the pan food: we ate these in the kitchen while waiting for the next ones to cook.


What you put in the basic mixture will depend on what you are doing with them. We had the pancakes quite plain yesterday, by way of wet ingredients only spring onion, because we were having them with a vegetable dahl and a chickpea dish with a chutney on the side.

Half the batter then sat overnight and we knocked off the rest for dinner. In this case I added spinach and spring onions to the mix. We had a simple yoghurt, tomato and mustard seed dish on the side.

You can stuff and fold them if you wish.

This is fabulously easy, lends itself to ‘what’s in the cupboard?’, cheap, uses very little oil.


I could easily imagine these for breakfast, if the mixture’s already prepared. One of MJ’s suggestions is sesame seeds, added to the top before flipping, they’ll get nicely toasted. She also points out that you can omit all the Indian spices and make these a more European thing, but I love the Indianness.




Meat Maharaja

Meat Maharaja – and a detour into pornography

I will never understand the fact that it is obvious to me that all the best cookbooks have almost no pictures and yet what people buy are books with pictures. ‘Oh’ they will say ‘I need the picture, it’s what makes me want to cook the dish’. Rubbish! The ingredients, the story of the making as it unfolds, this is what makes your imagination understand the dish. Not a picture, least of all one by a food ‘stylist’ who has patently faked what you look at. And yet, this seems to be the cooking version of sexual pornography. Just as men are all too happy to watch ummm, actresses, pretending to have orgasms, so women seem perfectly content to know that these pictures are fake and yet not be the least put off by that. Amazing. The book for this recipe – Classic Indian Cooking – is no exception to the rule. Full of fabulous recipes, no pics, nobody has heard of it!

The title of this one is absolutely not the least of an exaggeration. This is a royal dish. I love it.

4 tbsp ghee
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1” piece of ginger, ditto
4-6 cloves garlic, ditto
1 fresh green chilli, seeded and chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, chopped
150g natural yoghurt
1 teasp black cumin seeds
3 teasps ground coriander
1 teasp garam masala
1 teasp turmeric
freshly ground black pepper
1 teasp salt
2 tbsps white poppy seeds, ground
1 kg leg of lamb in 1” cubes

2 tbsps blanched almonds, ground
2 tbsps fresh coriander leaves chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
30g unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped

Melt half the ghee over a medium heat and fry the onions, ginger, garlic and fresh chilli until the onions are just soft. Remove, cool a little and then blend/food process with the yoghurt to create a puree. I use a Bamix stick thing for this. Leave.

Heat the rest of the ghee over a low heat, we do not want the ghee to be too hot, and add the black cumin and then the other ground spices along with the poppy seeds. Fry for a minute or so, add the meat, increase meat to heading towards high and fry until browned, five minutes or so. Cover the pan, lower heat and let the meat cook in its own juices for fifteen minutes or so, stirring now and then.

Stir in the yoghurt and onion puree, mix well. Rinse out the container with the warm water and add this to the meat. Add the salt, bring to the boil, then simmer at very low heat until meat is tender, stirring now and then. The sauce will get thicker and require more attention towards the end of this process. If possible now leave overnight before finishing the next day thus: add the almonds and half the coriander leaves and stir uncovered for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and mix.

Garnish with the crushed/chopped pistachios and the rest of the coriander leaves. Serve. Utterly divine.

Pilau rice

This is a Rosemary Moon recipe I hadn’t made for yonks. In salad days I’ve been known to add marinated BBQed kebab chunks.

I made this as part of my Geneva on a severe budget cooking experiment: 4 weeks on 20CHF a day. This dish is lovely and it costs all of about 3.50CHF to make. And that’s buying the best aged basmati from my local Indian grocer. Don’t buy rice from the supermarket. The difference between it, and what you can get at an Indian shop is enormous. Just ask for the best they have: you can’t go wrong.

Pilau rice with chana masala
Pilau rice with chana masala


basmati rice to 450ml line in a measuring cup
a couple of tablespoons of ghee
1 large onion cut in half from top to bottom and sliced finely
4 garlic cloves peeled and finely diced
8 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods, tops slit open
2-4 inches cinnamon stick in pieces
8 peppercorns
1 teasp turmeric
600ml water
chicken stock cube or salt to taste, perhaps 1 teasp
butter for frying
30g dried sultanas
30g slivered or flaked almonds


Wash rice and soak for 30 minutes, then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt ghee in saucepan and gently fry onion over medium heat, stirring, until it softens and then starts to brown. Add the garlic and whole spices and fry, stirring until onions are golden brown. Add rice and turmeric and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Turn heat down and keep cooking and stirring for another couple of minutes – don’t burn! Add stock or water and salt, bring to boil while stirring now and again. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit another 10 minutes or so. In a small pan heat the butter and fry the sultanas and then the almonds. Stir gently into the rice with a fork.

This adds 20 minutes cooking time to the rice because it takes so long to cook the onions, but it’s worth it.

Serves 2 for 3 meals. Reheat in non-stick pan.

Pilau rice, a variation.

Hands down, Indians do the best things to rice. If the rice is good, I’d happily stand at the pot eating it and not bother with the rest of the meal at all.

You can serve this on the side of meat/vegetarian dishes, or you can toss meat through it. Occasionally I’ve added marinated BBQed kebab chunks left over from another meal.

Pilau rice


Basmati rice measured to 450 ml
600 ml chicken stock or salted water
60g ghee
1 large onion, finely sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8 whole cloves
8 cardamoms, the top of each split open
2 cinnamon sticks, each c. 2” long, broken nup
8 whole pepper corns
1 teasp turmeric
15g butter
30g dried sultanas
30g flaked almonds


Wash the rice under running water until it runs clear, then soak in water for 30 minutes and then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt the ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion until soft, but not yet browning. Add the garlic and spices less the turmeric, and stir until onions are golden brown. Add the rice and turmeric. The idea now is to make sure the rice grains are coated in the ghee, this takes a couple of minutes, stirring vigilantly. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer on as low heat as possible for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes or so. This is such a nice thing to be able to do to the rice as it frees up hotplates to do other things with while it happily sits. It will stay warm and happy off the heat for half an hour if you need that much time.

Melt the butter over a low heat and fry the sultanas until they change colour and swell. Put on a plate and then fry the almonds until a little browned. Remove. Mix the sultanas and almonds into the rice. For looks you pile all this onto a warmed serving plate, leaving a few of the almonds and sultanas to sprinkle on top as a garnish. I quite like to leave it all in the saucepan, serve the rice from there and then I can put the lid back on and keep it warm until people ask for more…which will be very, very soon.

Everyday Chicken in a Fried Onion Sauce: a Madhur Jaffrey recipe

Aren’t everybody’s favourite foods the ones you can eat every day? I love this one, one of the first I ever tried from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

She would be the first to say that in all Indian cooking use meat with bones, it makes all the difference. In this case get a mixture of drumsticks, thighs and wings. Don’t bother skinning the wings, but do skin the rest. I ask the butcher to cut off the wing tips, leaving the meaty other parts.

Everyday Chicken in a Fried Onion Sauce

Serves 4-6
1 kg chicken pieces, skinned, on pain of death not breasts, anything but.
4 medium onions peeled
1 ½ inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic peeled
7 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ – ½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
2 ½ cup water
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped (canned tomatoes may be substituted)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

  • Coarsely chop 2 onions. Cut remaining onions into halves lengthwise and in very thin slices.

  • Put chopped onions, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Blend until a paste.

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium flame. When hot, put in sliced onions. Stir and fry until they are a deep, reddish brown color. Remove onions with a slotted spoon, squeezing out as much oil as possible to leave in pot. Set onions aside.

  • Remove pot from flame. Put in the blended paste (avert eyes), place back on medium heat, stir and fry until browned (3-4 minutes). Add coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne; stir once. Add 1 Tbsp of yogurt. Stir for 30 seconds until incorporated. Add remaining yogurt 1 Tbsp at a time. Add chicken pieces and stir to cover (1 min).

  • Pour in water, tomatoes and salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn to low heat and cook for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in the garam masala and fried onions. Cook uncovered on medium heat for 10 minutes (until sauce reduces and thickens).
  • Spicy Channa Dhal

    Spicy Channa Dhal

    An excellent vegetarian side-dish. There are exquisite dhals to be made; if you are cooking for people who don’t appreciate them, consider getting new dinner guests. It could be worth it.


    225g channa dhal or yellow split peas
    45g ghee
    1 large onion finely sliced
    2 cinnamon sticks, c. 2” long each, broken up into a few pieces
    6 cardamom pods, the top of each pod split open
    2-4 dried chillies roughly chopped
    half a teasp turmeric
    half a teasp chilli powder
    1 teasp salt
    600ml warm water
    2 bay leaves crushed
    45g dessicated coconut
    2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    2 tbsps freshly chopped coriander leaves


    Clean and wash the channa dhal and soak for at least 2 hours (cooking for longer will be sufficient). Drain well. Melt the ghee over medium heat and fry the onion, cinnamon, cardamoms and red chillies until the onnion is lightly browned. Add the dhal, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water, bay leaves, coconut and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for about 40 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves. Serve.