Indian restaurant dishes adapted for the Kiwi home cook

Indian restaurant dishes adapted for the Kiwi home cook. Photo supplied.
Indian restaurant dishes adapted for the Kiwi home cook. Photo supplied.

When Sukhi and Joanna Gill opened the first Little India restaurant in Dunedin 23 years ago, they developed Sukhi's mother Premjit's recipes for their menu.

Now, with the publication of Little India At Home: Indian Dishes Made Easy (Penguin) they have developed them backwards so people can cook them at home, according to Mrs Gill.

Little India, now a chain of 17 Indian restaurants around New Zealand, started in the kitchen of Sukhmohan (Sukhi) and Joanna above their dairy and takeaway shop in Ravensbourne. Sukhi's mother Premjit was visiting and she and Joanna created a lamb curry and sold it in their takeaway on Fridays. Word soon spread.

''We started with 2kg of lamb and after a few weeks ended up with 20kg,'' Mr Gill said.

Mrs Gill says they tried tandoori chicken on a rotisserie but it did not work well. Born in England, she learnt Indian cooking from her mother-in-law and made samosas for delis.

Mr Gill grew up in India but studied in England where he met his wife-to-be, a chef, and after a few years living there, they decided to move to Dunedin where his older sister, Sukhinder (Sukhi) Turner was living, he said.

The couple opened the first Little India restaurant in St Andrew St in 1991. Mr Gill, an accountant by training, had spent time in a friend's restaurant in Sydney learning the trade, and both he and Joanna worked in the Little India kitchen.

In those days, they had their tandoor oven specially made by a local potter, insulated and encased in stainless steel. Now they can buy them ready-built, and there is no problem sourcing fresh, good quality spices. Although you can get electric and gas tandoors, they do not give you the flavour you get from a more traditional charcoal one, Mrs Gill says.

''We buy all our spices whole and grind them because a lot of the prepackaged stuff has fillers in it. Some of the spices in some of the dishes need to be roasted and others don't need to be. The flavour changes if you don't do those sorts of things.''

Some of the dishes like rogan josh, dahls and other vegetarian dishes are the sort you eat every day, but others such as butter chicken or chicken tikka masala which are rich with cream, are for special occasions and big celebrations, she said.

Most of the recipes on the Little India menus are from north India where Mr Gill grew up, but they also have a few popular ones from elsewhere, such as chicken vindaloo, from Goa, lamb Madras or Bengali fish, recipes for which are included in the book.

Mr Gill's parents still have a hand in the restaurant, especially when it comes to selecting chefs from their home city of Chandigarh.

Chefs who are interested in working in New Zealand drop off their CVs to Mr Gill sen.

''If we need somebody, he would go to the restaurant where they work and find out how good they are there, and if he is satisfied with that, they would come home and my mum would look at them. That is how the process works,'' he said.

Customers who visited the Dunedin restaurant persuaded the Gills to open in other centres and the chain grew like Topsy. Most are franchised to former employees or chefs and some are run by Mr Gill's brother or son, but the menu is the same in all of them, he says.

• Recipes reproduced with permission from Little India at Home. Published by Penguin Group NZ. RRP $40. Copyright text Little India, 2014. Copyright photography Sean Shadbolt, 2014.

 

 


Amritsari chole
Serves 6

 

Chole was made famous on the side streets of Amritsar where they have perfected the flavours of this dish. There are eateries in Amritsar that only sell this dish and have big queues waiting to get a taste.

Amritsari chole is traditionally served with bhatura (fried bread), chopped onion and green chilli. Prepare the chickpeas the day before as they need to soak overnight. If you don't have a pressure cooker you can replace the dried chickpeas with tinned chickpeas and skip the soaking and pressure-cooker process.

2 cups dried chickpeas
1 black cardamom pod
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp crushed fresh garlic
1 Tbsp crushed fresh ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fenugreek
3 medium tomatoes, diced
½ cup tomato puree
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
2 cups cold water
½ Tbsp chana masala (see below)
salt and red chilli powder to taste
chopped fresh coriander and diced red or white onion to garnish (optional)

Place chickpeas in a bowl and fill bowl with enough water to just cover top of chickpeas. With your hands, mix chickpeas through water. Strain water from chickpeas. Cover chickpeas again with water. Add black cardamom pod, cover bowl and leave to soak overnight. Remove cover from chickpeas and strain.

Place strained chickpeas in a pressure cooker with 5 cups water and salt. Cook chickpeas until you hear five whistles or releases of air pressure. The chickpeas should be soft enough that you can squash them between your fingers. Strain chickpeas, leaving in the black cardamom pod.

Heat oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add onion, stirring continuously so it doesn't stick to bottom of pan. Cook until almost brown. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook until softened and browned. Add turmeric, garam masala, salt and fenugreek and continue cooking until you start to smell the spice aromas.

Stir through tomato and keep cooking until you start to see oil separating from onion and spice mixture. Add tomato puree and mix through until combined. Be sure to take your time with this and keep stirring so that it does not stick to bottom of pan. The mix that you are making is called a tarka.

Mix chickpeas into tarka until they are heated through. Add water and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir through fresh coriander and chana masala. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and chilli powder. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and diced red or white onion if wished.

Chana masala
Chana masala is a spice blend made to go with chickpea dishes. It adds zing to the dish and usually consists of coriander, green chilli, black pepper, mango powder and cumin seeds, as well as other additions. Chana masala can be bought at Indian supermarkets.


Rogan josh
Serves 6

Lamb rogan josh is a great go-to curry for first-time lamb curry cooks. Rogan is the oil that rises to the surface of the dish when cooked correctly.

¼ cup canola oil
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1 onion, pureed to a fine consistency
1 Tbsp crushed fresh garlic
1 Tbsp crushed fresh ginger
500g lean lamb leg, cut into 3cm x 3cm cubes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
3 medium tomatoes, diced
½ cup tomato puree
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
2 cups cold water
¼ cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
Salt and red chilli powder to taste
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add cardamom and cloves. Cook over a low heat until you start to smell the spice aromas coming through. Add onion, stirring continuously so it doesn't stick to bottom of pan. Cook until almost brown.

Stir in garlic and ginger and cook until softened and browned. Add cubed lamb and cook until just browned. Add turmeric, garam masala, salt and paprika and continue cooking until you start to smell the spice aromas.

Stir through tomatoes and keep cooking until you start to see oil separating from onion and spice mixture. Be sure to take your time with this and keep stirring so that it does not stick to bottom of pan.

Add tomato puree, coriander and water and cook until this combines. Turn heat down low and stir through yoghurt. Slowly increase heat so that yoghurt does not curdle.

Put a lid on the pan and continue to simmer over a low heat until oil has separated from sauce and comes to surface. This can take a few hours. You may have to add some more water if sauce reduces too much. Once oil has separated and lamb is tender, the dish is done.

Season to taste with salt and chilli powder. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander, if wished.

Cook's note
Lamb dishes take a long time to cook. You will need to be patient and cook the lamb until tender, which can take 2 hours or more. You can use a pressure cooker to speed up the process.


 

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