Simply food


With a young Indian lady helping us out a couple of days a week, it was time to use her expertise to cook up some tasty vegetarian dishes from the Punjab.

The ubiquitous chana masala

My whole family has always loved Indian food, but having never been to the sub-continent, it’s hard to tell how authentic our favourites are. Now we have an expert on the spot and I’m delighted to have her share some of her recipes with us. She assures me that these are all easy dishes and not too spicy for Western tastes. Personally, I love hot spices, so I lean more heavily on them than others, but the following recipes have been thoroughly Westernized, tested and tasted in my new kitchen here in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

My first exposure to Indian food was through my Dad, who had spent several years both in the Far East, where curries were popular with the British ex-pat crowd, and later in India itself, where traces of the Raj still existed. Even in the hottest weather during our sojourn in Egypt, curry was often on the menu, the go-to favourites of a series of very tall Sudanese cooks. Dad’s take on curry was much Anglicised, and in the 60s his monthly curry luncheons in Kenya’s up-country Rift Valley attracted a good crowd for the Sunday feast. Again, most of the food was prepared by the local cooks, but under the firm direction of my father.

Now, on our frequent trips across the pond, we find ourselves eating more curries than roast beef and Yorkshire pud, or fish and chips, than is perhaps good for us. Butter chicken and tikka masala have become England’s favourite take aways.  Click the link for an excellent butter chicken recipe.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India

In India, I am told, meals don’t evolve in the way we are used to: starter, salad, mains and dessert. Typically, everything is served at once. However, veggie pakoras are a popular street food which can also be used as a snack or starter. Since my lady guide to Indian cooking is from the Punjab in the north, bread is the usual accompaniment to a meal, she tells me, rather than rice, appearing as naan, chapati, roti and dozens of other varieties. Crispy wafers called papadums are served as a snack or side dish. But since these dishes have spread out across the Indian diaspora with abandon, one can do as one wishes and serve rice on the side at will.

What I know about the Punjab could be written on the back of a recipe card, so I have to do some research. It is a populous state in northwestern India, chopped in two during partition in 1947, so that there is also a Punjab across the border in Pakistan. The name Punjab describes five rivers, of which three are now in India and two are in Pakistan. The state is heavily agricultural, contributing nearly two thirds of the total production of food grains and a third of milk production in the country, and is the leading producer of wheat. The Indian state is home to Sikhism with the Golden Temple of Amritsar at its centre. As Sikhs are typically vegetarians, the dishes which follow are all veggie based.


India’s favourite street food.

Shopping list

  • 250 g / 9 oz chickpea flour – chana daal
  • 50 g / 2 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 250-300 ml / 1-1 ¼ cups water
  • 300 g / 10 oz potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 300 g / 10 oz onions, coarsely grated
  • 100 g / 3 ½ oz fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 fresh hot green chilli, finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying (canola or rape seed oil)


  • Tomato sauce, ketchup or hot red chilli sauce

Special equipment

  • Deep fryer

Preparation and cooking

  1. In a large bowl, mix the chickpea and all-purpose flour together with salt and spices. Slowly whisk in about a cup of water until the mixture is like thick cream. Mix in the grated potato and onion, spinach leaves and chopped chilli.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep fryer, or about 2/3rds the way up a deep saucepan with a basket. When a cumin seed dropped in the oil sizzles nicely, the oil is ready. NOTE: Make sure the oil is not too hot, or the pakoras will not cook through.
  3. Drop dollops of the mixture into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 mins, until crispy and golden. Drain on a paper kitchen towel and serve at once with a side of sauce for dipping.


Comfort food from the streets of India.

Shopping list

  • 350 g / 3/4 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 65 g / 2 oz butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 400 g / 14 oz ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 300 g / 10 oz frozen green peas, defrosted
  • 3 tsp pau bhaji masala spice blend (OPTION: garam masala)
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • Bunch of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), well washed and chopped


  • Fresh soft bread rolls and butter (OPTION: Brioche buns)
  • Bunch of fresh coriander leaves, washed and chopped
  • 1-2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

Preparation and cooking

  1. Peel and boil the chopped potatoes in salty water for 12 mins until soft. Drain thoroughly and mash.
  2. Heat most of the butter in a heavy pan, holding back a small dab. Add chopped onion and cumin seeds and fry for 10 mins until softened and browned. Stir in mashed potato and fry for 1-2 mins. Mix in tomatoes and cook for another 5 mins. Stir frequently to prevent burning or sticking.
  3. Add drained peas, spices and salt and cook for a further 5 mins. Stir well and mash everything together.
  4. Just before serving, stir in a dab of butter and a handful of fresh coriander.
  5. Serve a good dollop to cover half a buttered roll. (OPTION: Serve on the side and use the roll to scoop up the curry.)
  6. Garnish with fresh coriander, lime wedges and red onion rings.


The most popular vegetarian curry in India.

Shopping list

  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 25 g / ¾ oz fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 fresh green chillis, seeds left in, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 300 g / 10 oz ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 540 ml / 19 fl oz can chickpeas with liquid
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


  • Bunch of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), well washed and chopped

Preparation and cooking

  1. Heat oil in a heavy pan. Add onions and fry until browned. Stir in garlic, ginger and green chillis and fry for 1 min, then mix in ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder and turmeric and fry briefly.
  2. Add tomatoes, chickpeas with liquid, and salt, and bring to a simmer. Add a few TBSP water if the mixture looks too thick. Cook for 20 mins.
  3. To serve, stir in garam masala and lemon juice and garnish with chopped coriander.


Every family makes this dish a little differently.

Shopping list

  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 TBSP garam masala
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 500 g / 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 400 ml / 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into medium florets


  • Bunch of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), well washed and chopped
  • Raita (OPTION: plain yoghurt, with or without peeled, deseeded and chopped cucumber)
  • Chapatis (OPTION: naan bread)

Preparation and cooking

  1. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add chopped onions and fry until golden. Add chopped garlic and fry for a further 1-2 mins. Stir in garam masala, chili powder and salt and fry for another 1 min.
  2. Now add tomatoes and cook for 2 mins until slightly softened. Add potatoes and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 mins.
  3. Add cauliflower and cover again. Cook for a further 7-8 mins, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender but hold their shape.
  4. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with raita and your favourite Indian bread.
Featured image: A feast of Indian dishes and spices

Simplifood: Amazing food, simply prepared is now available as an eBook well priced at 9.99 in any currency. Click on Amazon for Kindle devices, Barnes and Noble for Nook devices, Kobo for Kobo eReaders, and Lulu Publishing for any other formats, including Apple iPad.

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