Maunika Gowardhan has been wafting her special blend of culinary magic across the tables of the North East for some time now.
Inspired by spice blends and traditional family recipes from childhood, her private chef business and cooking demonstrations have made her a well-known face in the region.
Thousands of people follow her food blog and soon she will enjoy a wider audience still with the publication of her first book, Indian Kitchen, launched at Café 21 in Newcastle.
Among her fans are Jamie Oliver who she has worked with and Yottam Ottolenghi who says; “reading Maunika’s book feels as though you’re actually sitting in an Indian family kitchen, sharing stories and recipes. I’ve been inspired by her to make my own paneer and to play with pickled watermelon rind. Delightful!”
Maunika hopes recipes from the book will transport food lovers to the authentic tastes of real Indian home cooking.
“Tucking into that gorgeous curry with smells wafting through our home is the essence of every Indian household.
“It’s a heady mix and one that we rarely delve into in contemporary British cooking. Indian Kitchen shares all this, the spice blends, the family recipes and the techniques of cooking which I know many people yearn to find out about.’
Maunika was born in Mumbai and has been living in the UK for 14 years. Though she trained in law, a life-long passion for Indian cuisine was inspired by family meals where the food always took centre-stage.
She shares four generations of family kitchen secrets and her own expertise in her book to reveal how delicious and authentic Indian food can be made at home.
Recipes cover snacks, street-food and restaurant cooking as well as comforting family meals.
The book is divided into four sections based on mood: ‘Hungry’ contains delicious but quick curries to help warm up the senses for a mid-week meal; ‘Lazy’ includes comfort food that you can make slowly; ‘Indulgent’ is for when you need to treat yourself to the satisfaction of cooking and the pleasure of eating; and ‘Celebratory’ helps you cook up a feast to share with family and friends.
Keralan Kozhi Kuttan
Chicken Curry with Chillies and Coconut Milk
This Keralan-style chicken dish (‘kozhi’ means chicken) includes an amalgamation of spices that go to make a gorgeous curry paste I quite often use for lamb as well as chicken. Coconut oil is traditionally used in this dish and it does add richness, but regular vegetable oil works just as well. The use of coconut milk is quite minimal and serves merely to thicken the sauce and add a creamier flavour – a little goes a long way.
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp Greek yoghurt, lightly whisked
800g chicken, skinned and jointed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 green bird’s eye chillies, slit lengthways
1 onion (about 170g), thinly sliced
2 tomatoes (about 140g total weight), puréed to a smooth paste
100ml thick coconut milk
Salt to taste
Pinch of red chilli flakes or chopped fresh coriander to garnish
For the paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
4 dried Kashmiri chillies (or any dried mild red chillies)
2 heaped tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
4cm cassia bark
5 green cardamom pods, seeds only
Put the turmeric, yoghurt and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the chicken pieces and leave to marinate for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, make the paste. Place a frying pan over a low heat and add the oil, followed by the ginger and garlic. Fry for about 1 minute, then add the rest of the paste ingredients and fry for 5–6 minutes until lightly coloured. Leave to cool, then put the mixture in a blender, add 50–70ml water and blitz to a fine paste. Set aside.
Place a heavy-based non-stick pan over a medium heat and add the 3 tablespoons of oil. When hot, add the bird’s eye chillies, letting them sizzle for about 10 seconds. Tip in the onion, add a pinch of salt and fry for 10–12 minutes or until browned. Add the puréed tomatoes and stir well, cooking for 3 minutes. Now add the spice paste and fry for 4–5 minutes stirring well, until the sauce thickens slightly and the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
Now turn the heat up slightly and add the marinated chicken pieces, stirring well to coat them with the spice paste. Fry for 4 minutes until lightly coloured. Add 100ml water and season to taste. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the coconut milk, stir well and simmer for a further 5–7 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Garnish with the chilli flakes or coriander and serve with Apple and Fennel Raita and parathas.
Bengali Prawn Cakes
This recipe is adapted from a traditional Bengali paturi, where fishcakes or prawn cakes are wrapped and cooked in banana leaves, which impart a really lovely flavour. I made this with sweet prawns, which work brilliantly with the chilli and turmeric. For me it wouldn’t be complete without mustard, and English mustard works so well alongside the prawns.
makes 8–10 cakes
250g raw tiger prawns, shelled and deveined
200g skinless boneless cod
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp garam masala
10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp English mustard
1 tsp gram (chickpea) flour
oil for shallow-frying
squeeze of lemon juice or chaat masala
salt to taste
Put half the prawns and half the cod into a food processor and, pulsing frequently, blitz to a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl. Finely chop the rest of the prawns and cod into little chunks and add to the bowl.
Add the turmeric, chilli and garam masala along with the curry leaves, coriander, mustard, gram flour and salt and stir well (the mixture will be a little sticky, which is how it should be to help it bind together). Divide into 8–10 equal portions and shape into round cakes.
Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the prawn cakes a few at a time, frying for 2–3 minutes on each side until they are crisp and light brown.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice or some chaat masala and Sticky Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce.
Recipes taken from INDIAN KITCHEN by Maunika Gowardhan, published by Hodder & Stoughton £25.
Photography Helen Cathcart