KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Kung Pao chicken now globally popular originated in the Sichuan province of China during the Qing dynasty. For more on the history of this spicy chicken dish visit my Instagram profile @deshpandetara

Traditionally this dish is made with chicken and peanuts but you can also use tofu and cashews.

Soaking the chicken in egg white is a technique known as velveting and helps to tenderise the chicken.

Ingredients serves 4

Ingredients for Kung Pao chicken

For marinade

  • 800 grams skinless boneless thigh meat sliced into strips and soaked in half a cup of milk and one egg white for 3-4 hours.
  • 1/4 cup regular soy sauce or low sodium
  • 1.5  tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1  teaspoon white pepper
For the sauce
  • 1/4 tsp finely powdered Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or low sodium

Salt and more brown sugar if required

For stir fry

  • 1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely crushed Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup unroasted unsalted skinless peanuts
  • 2 Thai red chillies
  • 4-8 dried whole Sichuan red chillies or Mathania, Kashmiri or Arbol, stalks removed  (add between 4-5 for your preferred spiciness)
  • 6-7 scallions or green onions bulbs with an inch of the stalk, washed, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 inches of celery stalk cut in 6 pieces
  • 1.25 tablespoons of fresh garlic  paste
  • 1.25 tablespoons fresh ginger paste

METHOD

For chicken marinade

Rinse chicken under cold water and drain fully to remove egg white and milk. The milk helps deodorise the chicken and the egg white tenderises it. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade with the fully drained chicken, stir well and reserve.

Combine the brown sugar and soy sauce and stir to dissolve. Reserve for the sauce.

For the stirfry

Heat half the vegetable oil in heavy bottom non stick pan and saute the peanuts until golden on medium heat.

Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add remaining vegetable or peanut oil to the pan and saute Sichuan pepper and Thai red chillies on low heat until fragrant about 1-2 minutes. This allows the oil to absorb the flavours of the peppercorns.    Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers and red chillies and discard them.

Add dried whole red chillies of your choice, 1/2 the scallions and 1/2 the celery and toss on high heat about 1 minute.

Add garlic ginger paste and half the sesame oil and keep stirring to prevent burning about 1 minute until the paste is fragrant.

Add all the chicken with its liquid and toss well. Then pat down and arrange in a single larger in the pan. Lower heat to medium and allow it to cook 2 minute until sauce begins to thicken.

Add all the remaining ingredients for the sauce- chinese vinegar, toasted sesame oil sugar and soy  sauce and stir well. Add more water a little at a time only if required.

Add peanuts, remaining celery and green onions, toss and cook until chicken is tender.

Adjust for salt and sugar.

Serve hot with boiled white rice.

 

KALAN KERALA STYLE VEGETABLE, FRUIT AND BEAN STEW

KALA KERALA STYLE VEGETABLE STEW PHOTO:NIKHIL

Kalan is always prepared for onam sadya but its a great dish for anyday.mine is adapted because i put in several veggies and legumes to to make it a dish that can be a complete meal. you can substitute some of these items. LEAVE OUT THE DRUMSTICKS if you prefer AND USE doodhi instead of ash gourd, red peas instead of black eyed peas.

For VegETABLES

  • 200 grams raw banana peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 250 grams peeled and diced ash gourd in 1 inch pieces
  • 10 2 inch long pieces of drumsticks, moringa or shevya che shenga
  • 1 cup black eyed peas soaked in water overnight

For Coconut Paste

  •  stalks removed
  • ½ teaspoon mustard or cumin seeds
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup water – for grinding

Other Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour curd
  • ¼ cup water to be added later – add only if required and if the gravy is very thick

 

For Tempering Kalan

  • 1/2
  • 1  tablespoon vegetable oil
  •  lightly crushed
  •  2 dried red chilies
  • 10 to 12 fresh green curry leaves

Method

Put  5 cups of water in a pressure cooker and add the black eyed peas, drumsticks, turmeric, 1 tsp salt and black pepper. Cook on medium heat for 2 whistles. Add remaining veggies and more water if required and pressure cooker for another whistle.

While vegetables are cooking grind ingredients for coconut paste and whisk the yogurt to a smooth consistency

Put the coconut paste and yogurt in a skillet on medium heat. keep stirring or it will split. Cook  until it comes to a rapid heat then pour over the veggies and stir. . Add more water if required and cook 5 minutes stirring from time to time. Add salt and jaggery if required to balance flavours.

Heat oil in a heatproof pan on high hear. Add all the spices and cook till they sizzle.

Pour over Kalan and mix well. Serve with boiled rice or chapatis.

LACY CUTLETS OR PARSI STYLE MINCED MEAT RISSOLES

LACY MINCED MEAT CUTLETS

This Parsi classic is called Lacey because the eggs beaten with a little water, a technique you see in Chinese and Thai cuisine also, gives the cutlet or rissole a frilly appearance.

Makes 12 4 INCH WIDE CUTLETS

Ingredients

  • 1 lb or about 1/2 kg ground chicken, turkey OR mutton
  • 250 grams  boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes
  • 2 red onions approximately 3/4 cup finely chopped
  • 2-3 Green chillies finely chopped and rubbed with a 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp good quality garam masala
  • 1 tsp freshly roasted and powdered cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp freshly roasted and ground coriander powder
  • 1 cup of plain breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs (more if required)
  • 2 tbpsns water
  • Oil for frying
  • A large wide non stick skillet

Method

  1. Saute the onions and chillies in 1 tablespoon of oil until soft on medium heat in a non stick pan.
  2. Add garlic ginger paste and turmeric and saute well about 1 minute.
  3. Switch off flame and add all the dried powdered spices and potatoes and mash well. Add salt to taste at this point a little extra because you will be added the meat.
  4. Add the mince meat and stir together. Then mash again until soft and well blended.
  5. Make flat oval cutlets about 1/4 inch thick. If you are doing this for the first time make smaller cutlets as they are easier to cook.
  6. Pat them in breadcrumbs. Place on a tray and cover. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour
  7. Beat eggs till frothy with a balloon whisk or fork about 2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp water and beat again until very frothy.
  8. Heat 1.25 inches of vegetable oil in a wide non-stick pan on medium heat.
  9. Pour the beaten eggs into a flat wide pan and lay one cutlet in the eggs. Dredge both sides well.
  10. Fry one cutlet until golden brown. Spoon hot oil over them as they fry. Use a wide big slotted spatula so its easier to turn them over without breaking them. Fry the first one until golden on both sides, drain and taste for salt. If short on salt add some to the beaten eggs.
  11. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with ketchup, onion kachumber, steamed vegetables or a condiment you like
  12. Cutlets can be frozen and rewarmed in an oven.

 

CHINESE STYLE MEATBALLS IN A SWEET AND SPICY ORANGE SESAME SAUCE WITH WILTED GREENS

 

 

CHINESE STYLE MEATBALLS IN A SWEET AND SPICY ORANGE SESAME SAUCE

YOU CAN SERVE THESE MEATBALLS WITH ALMOST ANY KIND OF NOODLE. YOU CAN ALSO USE A WIDE VARIETY OF GREENS. THE MORE TENDER THEY ARE THE FASTER THEY WILT. THIS IS A HOME STYLE DISH SO ADAPT IT TO WHATS AVAILABLE IN YOUR PANTRY.  I ALSO USE LEFTOVER SAUCES FROM CHINESE TAKE OUT- THE CHILLI VINEGAR, SOY SAUCE AND RED CHILLI PASTES YOU OFTEN GET.

 

CHINESE STYLE MEATBALLS WITH WILTED GREENS

FOR 8-9 MEATBALLS COMBINE IN A MIXING BOWL

  • 1/2 KG FINELY MINCED CHICKEN
  • 2 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED GREEN OR REGULAR WHITE ONION
  • 1 TBSP MINCED GARLIC
  • 1 TSP FERMENTED RED CHILLI PASTE
  • 1 TSP CHILLI VINEGAR
  • 1/2 TSP SALT
  • 1 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED PARSLEY OR CHIVES OR USE FRESH CORIANDER IF IN A JAM

TO ROLL MEATBALLS

  • 1/4 CUP WHITE SESAME SEEDS
  • 1 CUP CORNFLOUR
  • VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING

FOR SAUCE WHISK IN A BOWL

2 CUPS PACKAGED ORANGE JUICE

  • 1/2 CUP SOY SAUCE
  • 1-1.5 TEASPOON FERMENTED RED CHILLI PASTE OR TO TASTE (THE KIND TAKE OUT GIVES YOU!)
  • 1 TSP DARK HONEY OR TO TASTE
  • 1 TBSPN FRESH GARLIC  PASTE
  • 1 TBSPNS FRESH GINGER PASTE
  • ZEST OF ONE ORANGE PLUS USE THE JUICE ALSO
  • 1 TSP WHITE PEPPER POWDER
  • 1 TBSP OYSTER SUACE OR USE MORE SOY SAUCE
  • 2 TBSPNS TOASTED SESAME OIL (REGULAR SESAME OIL IS FINE TOO)
  • 2 TBSPNS CHILLI VINEGAR
  • 1 TBSPN CORNSTARCH

TO SAUTE

  • 2 GREEN ONION STALKS AND BULBS FINELY SLICED
  • 1 TSP VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL
  • 2-3 HEADS OF TENDER BABY BOK CHOY/ 1.5 CUPS OF WATERCRESS/MIZUNA/ROCKET

 

METHOD

  • LIGHTLY SAUCE GREEN ONIONS IN A SKILLET WITH OIL. SWITCH OFF FLAME AND ADD THE SESAME ORANGE SAUCE, RESERVE.
  • ROLL CHICKEN MEATBALLS AND PLACE ON A TRAY OR PLATE.
  • IN SMALL BOWL COMBINE SESAME SEEDS AND CORN FLOUR
  • SET A SKILLET WITH ATLEAST 1 INCH OIL TO HEAT.
  • ROLL MEATBALLS IN SESAME AND CORNSTARCH AND FRY UNTIL GOLDEN IN HOT OIL. DRAIN AND PUT INTO THE SESAME ORANGE SAUCE.
  • START THE FLAME ON MEDIUM AND SIMMER THE MEATBALLS UNTIL THE SUACE IS REDUCE TO HALF ITS VOLUME. ADD A LITTLE CORNSTARCH TO THICKEN THE SAUCE.
  • PLACE THE GREENS IN A WIDE SERVING DISH. POUR THE PIPING HOT SAUCE AND MEATBALLS OVER THE GREENS. THE HEAT WILL WILT THE GREENS. IF YOU PLAN TO USE LARGER BOK CHOY THEY TEND TO TAKE LONGER TO COOK SO PARTIALLY BLANC THEM IN HOT WATER. MORE TENDER GREENS LIKE WATERCRESS, ROCKET AND MIZUNA WILT QUICKLY.
  • SERVE WITH NOODLES OF YOUR CHOICE.

 

CHILI CON CARNE- Kidney Bean and Corn Stew

If you like Rajma you will love this dish. Its spicy sweet and robust. A one pot classic that will feed you for a couple of days.

A complete meal, this nutritious dish is of Mexican origin and a part of South Western cuisine in the United States. You can use a variety of kidney beans for it. It can be made entirely vegan with sweet potato instead of meat. If you use sweet potato add less brown sugar.

INGREDIENTS FOR 6

  • 250 grams  red or speckled kidney beans (you can use pinto or black beans or a mix as well)
  • 1-2 large red onion finely chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 bell peppers red and yellow
  • 6 garlic cloves finely sliced
  • 4 tbsp veg or olive oil
  • 500 gram minced chicken/beef or uses peeled and chopped sweet potato (about 1/2 inch dice)
  • 400g can tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 200 ml tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup fresh shelled corn
  • SPICES
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (optional)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1/2-1 tsp paprika or red chilli powder
  • Hot sauce of your choice  I used chipotle but habanero jalapeño is also fine
  • Salt to taste
  • TO SERVE (optional)
  • sour cream and or grated cheddar, to serve
  • cilantro or fresh coriander leaves to garnish
  • Tacos, gutLI pao, cornbread as an accompaniment

METHOD

Wash and soak kidney beans in excess water 4-5  hours or overnight. Wash drain and reserve.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker pan on a high flame. Saute onions and garlic till soft but do not brown them. Add bell peppers and cook until soft and water evaporates. Add carrots and saute one minute. Add tomatoes and tomato puree and saute 2-3 minutes. Add corn and kidney beans and combine. Add all spices and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well. Add some water if required and pressure cooker on medium heat for 2 whistles.

This stew is thick and juicy but not not runny. The meat when added will release a fair bit of water so add any extra liquid with care.

Open cooker and add meat. Stir well and pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Open and check for doneness. Add water salt, chilli powder and sugar as required.

This dish can also be prepared in a slow cooker. If using a large biryani or Dutch oven style pot you will need to add 2-3 cups of excess  water for the kidney beans.

 

MUMBAI PAO BHAJI

Pao bhaji

 

 

 

PAO MEANS BREAD AND BHAJI IS A MIX OF VEGETABLES. A classic mumbai street food this isn’t difficult to make at home. packed with nutritious vegetables its a complete meal.a variety of store brought pao bhaji masalas are available to choose from. you can also make ladi or gutli pao at home or substitute with soft dinner rolls, portuguese rolls, potato buns and brioche buns. COMMERCIAL PAO BHAJI MAKERS OFTEN ADD FOOD COLOUR TO THE MIX FOR IT BRIGHT RED FOOD COLOR. I PREFER NOT TO. YOU CAN ADD BEETROOT IF YOU LIKE.

INGREDIENTS

TEMPERING

  • 1 tbsp oil for tempering
  • 1 dried bay leaf/tejpata
  • 1 badi elaichi/large black cardamom

TO SAUTE

  • 4 tbsp butter and 4 tbsp vegetable oil for frying onions
  • 5 Roma or red cooking tomatoesfinely chopped
  • 1 cup peas / matar fresh or frozen but pre-cooked
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 6 cooking potatoesboiled until very tender, peeled  & mashed with a ricer 
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric / haldi
  • 1/4 cup  pav bhaji masala (your favourite brand adjust quantity to suit taste)
  • 1 tsp + 1 tsp kasuri methi / dry fenugreek leaves (if your masala has this already omit)
  • 3 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 cup peeled and finely diced red onion
  • Juice of ½ lime 
  • water if required
  • red chilli salt and jaggery or sugar to taste
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves or cilantro

FOR PAO OR BUNS:

 

  • 12 pav / gutli/ladi pao/soft rolls/buns
  • 1.5 tsp butter per bun
  • lime wedges
  • 4 tsp coriander leavesfinely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped raw onions

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat oil on a high flame. Add whole spices black cardamom and bay leaf and stir until golden and fragrant about 1 minute.

    Add and saute onions until soft, then add garlic ginger paste and cook till fragrant.

  • Remove the bad leach and tejpatta and discard.
  • Add tomatoes and cook until sides release oil about 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Add carrots, cauliflower  pao bhaji masala, turmeric, kasuri methi (if using) and saute. Then  pressure cooker until soft and mushy or cook on a slow flame . Add more water if required.
  • Now add mashed potatoes and peas and  mash all the vegetables with a potato masher until soft and squishy. Add water only if required. The bhaji should be thick and should not ooze liquid.
  • Add salt and sugar or jaggery to taste. If required add red chilli powder. Add coriander leaves and stir well.
  • Stir well and cook until thoroughly combined and soft.
  • Stir in lime juice.
  • To prepare the buns slice them open. Apply butter to all sides of the buns and grill under a salamander or over a grill. You can also do this in a cast iron pan on a slow flame until the buns are golden brown but soft.
  • Garnish with butter, coriander leaves and serve with a side of lime wedges and chopped onions. Serve with toasted or griddled bread rolls.

ASIAN STYLE AUBERGINE EGGPLANT BRINJAL WITH CASHEWS

This is an Asian ‘style’ eggplant made with spicy thai basil. you can add shrimp paste, fresh shrimp, chicken or pork mince to it as well. its important to cook the eggplant in water until it requires just a little additional cooking and drain it completely.

Ingredients for 3-4

  • 2 Japanese eggplants or 1 Italian eggplant (baingan used for bharta) about 850 grams
  • 6 tbspns vegetable oil (plus more for cooking)
  • 2 tbspns hot sesame oil or use 2 red chillies finely chopped and plain sesame oil
  • 6 cloves garlic finely sliced or minced
  • 2 inch fresh ginger peeled and julienned
  • 3 small onions peeled halved and their petals separated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch spicy basil or Thai basil stems removed (use regular Italian basil if Thai basil not available)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashew halves
  • boiling hot water and salt
  • Combine in a small bowl-
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, brown rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
  • 4 tbspns light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • more hot sesame oil if required

Instructions

CUT THE EGGPLANT IN HALF VERTICALLY. SLICE THEM INTO LONG PIECES ABOUT 1 INCH WIDE AND 2 INCHES IN LENGTH.

SET A STOCK POT OF WATER TO BOIL WITH A TEASPOON OF SALT. ADD THE CHOPPED EGGPLANT AND COOK 8 MINUTES or until just tender but holds its shape. DRAIN COMPLETELY. LET EGGPLANT COOL AND WIPE DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS OR A CLEAN KITCHEN CLOTH.

Heat your wide saucepan or cooking pan over medium-FLAME. ADD half the VEGETABLE AND all the HOT OR REGULAR sesame OIL AND SAUTE ONIONS AND GINGER 2-3 MINUTES UNTIL JUST SOFT. IF USINg REGULAR SESAme oil aDd your chillies now.

ADD EGGPLANT AND TOSS WELL .Spread the eggplant out evenly.  raise heat, cover and sear the eggplant to give it a smoky flavor for about 2-03 minutes. Remove cover and add remaining vegetable oil and garlic and toss again another 2 minutes.  add the mixed sauces  and stir until everything is combined. ADD BASIL LEAVES AND cashews TOSS WELL.cook another minute or two, by this time eggplant should be tender. if not

ADD small amount of WATER  TO COOK THE EGGPLANT TILL IT IS TENDER WITH A THICK GRAVY.

adjust for salt, sweetness and heat. add more sesame oil or honey if required.

SERVE HOT WITH SHORT GRAINED OR STICKY RICE.

 

CHEESY SPINACH FLAN

A FLAN IS REALLY A QUICHE WITHOUT A CRUST. THIS DISH IS VERY SIMPLE AND A CROWD PLEASER. ENSURE YOU REMOVE THE STALKS OF YOUR SPINACH AND SAUTE IT UNTIL DRY.

USE A SINGLE CHEESE OR A COMBINATION BUT THGESE CHEESE SHOULD HAVE A LOW MOISTURE CONTENT AND SHOULD BE A CHEESE THAT MELTS WELL. ADD SALT WITH CARE AS SOME CHEESES ARE HIGH IN SALT CONTENT.

INGREDIENTS FOR 6

180-190 GRAMS FRESH SPINACH, BOILED AND SAUTEED UNTIL DRY (APPROXIMATELY 700 GRAMS OR TWO BUNDLES OF RAW FRESH SPINACH)

400 GRAMS GRATED CHEESE (CHEDDAR, GOUDA, EMMENTHALER, GRUYERE, FONTINA)

5 EGGS WHISKED

1 CUP HEAVY CREAM

1 CUP WHOLE MILK

1 TSP FRESHLY CRACKED PEPPER

SALT TO TASTE

 

 

METHOD

YOUR SPINACH MUST BE DRY. IF IT CONTAINS TOO MUCH WATER IT WILL LEAK INTO THE FLAN.

CHOP THE SPINACH. WHISK WITH THE CREAM AND MILK. ADD PEPPER AD STIR AGAIN.

STIR IN THE CHEESE. TASTE FOR SALT AND ADJUST.

ADD WHISKED EGGS AND MIX WELL.

POUR INTO A BAKING DISH 8 BY 10 AND BAKE IN THE MIDDLE RACK OF OVEN FOR 25 MINUTES UNTIL THE TOP HAS SET AND CORNERS ARE GOLDEN.

REMOVE LET REST 10 MINUTES. SERVE WARM.

 

 

EASY PANEER KORMA WITH PEAS

 

250 GRAM ANEER CUT IN SMALL CUBES

200 ML CREAM

10-12 UNSALTED CASHEWS, HALVED TOASTED LIGHTLY

1/4 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

1 DRIED BAY LEAF

1 BLACK CARDAMOM

1 INCH PIECE OF CINNAMON

100 GRAMS ONION FINELY CHOPPED

2 GREEN CHILLIES SLIT

150 GRAMS TOMATO PUREE

2 TBSPNS GARLIC AND GINGER PUREE

1 TBSP FRESH GOOD QUALITY GARAM MASALA

1 CUP FROZEN PEAS

RED CHILLI POWDER AND SALT TO TASTE

METHOD

HEAT OIL ON A MEDIUM FLAME AND SAUTE THE DRIED SPICES FOR A MINUTE. REMOVE AND DISCARD WITH A SLOTTED SPOON.

ADD ONIONS AND GREEN CHILLIES COOK TILL SOFT.

ADD GARLIC GINGER PASTE AND SAUTE AGAIN ABOUT 1 MINUTE.

ADD TOMATOES AND COOK UNTIL SOFT AND PULPY.

ADD GARAM MASALA AND STIR WELL. COOK UNTIL OOIL L;EAVES THE SIDES OF THE MASALA.

ADD A 1/4 TEASPOON CHILLI POWDER. COOK UNTIL PEAS ARE TENDER. DISCARD GREEN CHILLIES. COOL AND PUREE. STIR IN CREAM AND SALT AND RETURN TO A LOW FLAME.

ADD THE PANEER  AND STIR WELL.

ADD MORE CHILLI POWDER AND SALT TO TASTE. LET SIMMER ON A LOW FLAME ABOUT 3-4 MINUTES.

GARNISH WITH CASHEWS.

SERVE WITH BREADS SUCH AS PARATHA, ROTI OR KULCHA.

 

Parsi Fish Vindaloo

 

 

 

 

I’ve always believed that birds of a feather ‘feed’ together. Otherwise there is no explaining why most of my father’s closest friends’ wives were excellent chefs and all their get-togethers were always about great food.

Vera Umrigar is a jewel among cooks. Wife, mom, petrol pump owner, she managed a spatula with the same fervour she did a broken axle. Her smoked ham, dotted with cloves and glazed with honey, her exquisite apricot soufflé, as frothy and festive as a wedding frock and her sugar-studded apple pies are memorable to me 20 years after I first feasted on them.

The families went to the Umrigar’s home in Lonavala for long weekends and the boot of the car was converted into a mobile freezer, piled high with everything from my mother’s vindaloo and pao bhaji to Vera’s dhansak and kheema cutlets, all frozen rock solid a week in advance to survive the drive. Any space leftover was meant for waffle machines, OK wafers and mom’s Balicao jars.

Whatever thawed first was demolished quickly and efficiently. We were lawn movers and there was no grass too tall.

The weekend rolled by, literally, as Vera’s Maharashtrian maid, togged up in a nine-yard sari, drawn between her legs like some Roman warrior, rolled puran polis to fill the tiny gaps between 4-course meals.

Let me tell you this. There is nothing, nothing quite like a puran poli straight off a hot tawa. Those cold chindis sold in shops are very sad.

The crisp top is paper-thin and the weight of a spoonful of ghee cracks it open like a pond of ice on a sunny day. Ghee meets warm jaggery in an eternal romance. My fingers would get all jammy as I tried to break off bits of poli and turn the pages of my Enid Blyton all at the same time. I pitied Fatty; all he got was cold tongue sandwiches.

Everyone knows the Goan Pork Vindaloo, but when Vera offered her mother’s recipe for a Parsi Fish Vindaloo, I was all ears. Parsi cuisine unites ancient Persian traditions with both Indian and British colonial ones. Sour Zereshk or barberries in Berry Pulao is Persian while Worcestershire sauce in Lagan no Saas is a British one.

“Parsi vindaloo? It’s not a prawn patia?” I ask incredulously.

Vera explains that there are many kinds of prawn patia, the classic sweet and spicy Parsi prawn dish, not pickle, less curry that’s served with dhan dal. “Some Patias are made with kadipatta, while others are not. Some have garam masala, others do not.”

Like all vindaloos, this one is also an Indian-Portuguese fusion. It contains red chilies, red wine vinegar (vin in Portuguese) and garlic (alho in Portuguese) and is sweet, spicy and sour. The vinegar and jaggery balance the spicy chillies.

So how is it different from a Goan Vindaloo?

Vera whispers conspiratorially. “It’s got lots of fresh kothmir in it and you eat it with hot Toor Dal Khichdi.

As you can guess by this point I’m lying in a pool of drool.

When Vera pulls the ground masala out of the fridge, its deep almost unreal red colour brings back a flood of memories. My Dad would always say that he could tell my mother and Vera’s vindaloo by the red colour.

Good vindaloo must have this flaming colour. Not the dull brown that so many inferior restaurant-vindaloos have.  So what’s the secret? How do you give the gravy such a deep red without synthetic colour or an overdose of chilies.

Vera uses dried Kashmiri chilies, but suggests you can also use bedgi. She insists you use fresh homemade tomato puree, processed in a food mill, also called a puran maker in India, not in a mixer.

When you blitz tomatoes they lose their red colour and turn pink.

She then proceeds to fry the masala in oil. “This dish needs oil ha? You can’t fry a masala without oil ok?”

I imagine someone trying to make vindaloo with non-stick, fat-free cooking spray.

I can’t help but giggle. Those days of excess, of ‘lagaooing’ and ‘enjjwaaaying’ good food are a thing of the 80s. Of showing up at your friends place at midnight and honking for kheema pao are gone. Everyone is caught up with immortality. If it weren’t for the Parsis, I really think there would be no majja in life.

“And Tara, add the chopped kothmir and the pomfret to the masala together so their flavours get into the gravy. Dhaniya is not a garnish. It’s part of the curry.”

She puts the steaming fish vindaloo on the table.

I will stop writing now.

I won’t describe it.

Just make it.

Be zindadil for a day.

Lagao.

Use dried red chillies and tomato puree for a bright color.

Vera Umrigar’s Parsi Fish Vindaloo

The Goan pork vindaloo is extremely well-known, but this tangy fish vindaloo is a gem that deserves a permanent place in your recipe collection. The flaming red colour is a red herring – it isn’t that spicy!

Make the tomato puree using bright red tomatoes and process them in a puran maker or a food mill. This way you will maintain a bright red colour.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

1 kg silver pomfret steaks (about 8 pieces plus head and tail)

For the masala:

15 red kashmiri or bedgi chillies with stalks removed, broken into bits

8-10 large cloves of peeled garlic

5 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp red vinegar or to taste (kolahs or kalverts)

½ cup chopped red onions

4 cups fresh tomato puree

¼ cup crumbled jaggery or to taste

1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

¼-1/2 cup vegetable oil for cooking

Salt to taste

Method:

1. Grind the first 5 ingredients for the masala to a smooth, fine paste. This will take several minutes. Add a little water if required.

2. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet on a medium flame.

3. Add the ground paste and cook, stirring frequently about 8-9 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan and the sides to prevent the spice paste from sticking to the bottom. When the oil begins to separate from the sides, stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook for 10 minutes on a medium flame until the mixture bubbles and thickens.

4. Add 1 tbsp of jaggery and 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir well.

5. Lower the flame and add the fish slices one at a time and the coriander leaves. Stir gently.

6. Cook until fish is tender.

7. Taste for salt and sweetness. Add more vinegar, jaggery and salt if required.

8. Serve with toor dal khichdi or plain white boiled rice.