Real Indian street food made easy

The classic Mowgli prawn curry

Real Indian street food made easy – courtesy of Mowgli

I love a good curry, and we are certainly blessed here with so many excellent curry restaurants to frequent. But I have to confess that when it comes to cooking it, I’m not that adventurous and tend to use the bog- standard Indian ingredients, and probably over-use those spices I do include. Nisha Katona, who gave up a 20-year law career as a barrister to follow her instincts and open a restaurant, has written a great new book. Her restaurant is not your average Indian restaurant though; it produces the food that Indians tend to serve in their own homes and on the street. Mowgli opened in Liverpool in 2014, was quickly voted the city’s best restaurant and soon she opened Mowglis in six other cities - but sadly not London, yet. The book is a culinary joy, a collection of recipes and stories from her restaurants. She uses easily available ingredients and, to my delight, not too many in most of the recipes! Nisha is now a regular contributor on TV, radio, and national newspapers. She is also a judge on the new BBC2 series Top of the Shop.

I’ve chosen some recipes that I thought appropriate for this changeable weather! There’s a delicious prawn curry and a couple of vegetable side dishes (either of which would make a really good meal on their own). And, guess what? I’ve also negotiated a copy of the book for one of you lucky readers to win, courtesy of the publisher, Nourish Books.

THE CLASSIC MOWGLI PRAWN CURRY

PREP: 5 MINUTES • COOK: 20 MINUTES • SERVES 4

“This dish comes from the heart and hands of my Aunty Geeta, who is a second mother to me in many ways. She has such a different way of cooking from Maa. Her dishes are sweeter and less ‘spicy’ – both are wonderful, but with prawns/shrimp the sweet gentility sings. The unusual flavour of this dish comes from the combination of English mustard and tomato. In India generally, we cook prawns/shrimp with the shells and heads on as this adds a natural stock. Try it like this if you want the real Aunty Geeta hit.”

4 tbsp vegetable oil
11⁄2 tsp panch phoron* (*Indian Five Spice – available at most good supermarkets)
1 large green chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
400g/14oz raw king prawns/jumbo shrimp
1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄8 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp muscovado sugar
2 tsp English mustard paste
80g/3oz/1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 tsp salt

1 Put the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the panch pho- ron and green chilli and fry for 30 seconds, then add the chopped tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes until the oil starts to separate from the tomatoes slightly.

2 Add the prawns, ground turmeric, chilli powder, sugar, and mustard paste and fry for 3 minutes. Then add the frozen peas, 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup water, and salt and stir until everything is mixed.

3 Cover and simmer for 6–8 minutes until the prawns are cooked through.

CALCUTTA TANGLED GREENS

PREP: 10 MINUTES • COOK: 35 MINUTES • SERVES 4

“This dish is at the heart of everything Mowgli is about. It is a dish that we eat at home at least twice a week. It is the best that Indians can do with the best of the humble, overwintered, robust, chlorophyll-rich, Great British veg.”

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
2.5cm/1 inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated 1 white cabbage, quartered, cored and finely shredded
1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster/granulated sugar
1 tsp English mustard, loosened with a little water
juice of 1⁄2 lemon

1 Put the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan set over a medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and fry until they fizz and pop. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to fry for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn the garlic.
2 Add the white cabbage, ground turmeric, chilli powder, salt, sugar and English mustard and mix well, then cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25–30 minutes or until the cabbage is cooked through and tender.
3 Finish by stirring through the fresh lemon juice just before serving.

HOME-STYLE AUBERGINE

PREP: 10 MINUTES • COOK: 30 MINUTES • SERVES 4

“Many Indians are vegan. Aubergine/eggplant is India’s best-loved vegetable and the reason for this, my Maa and I reckon, is because it is the closest many Indians get to that meat texture. We always fry the aubergine before we add our curry spices, unlike in Thai cuisine. This adds a caramelised
sweetness to the flesh that does much of the legwork in creating the massive flavours in this dish.”

4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp panch phoron
1 large dried red chilli
2 large aubergines/eggplants, cut into long, thin 5cm/2 inch slices
1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster/granulated sugar
juice of 1⁄4 lemon
250g/9oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

1 Put the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the panch phoron and fry until they start to crackle, then add the red chilli and aubergine and, turning the heat down to low, partially cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the aubergine is golden brown and tender.
2 Stir the ground turmeric, chilli powder, salt, sugar, lemon juice and the canned tomatoes into the aubergine mix and fry for a further 6 minutes until the oil has started to split out of the tomatoes. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve.

Alison Jee

Twickenham Tribune

Credit:

Mowgli Street Food: Stories and recipes from the Mowgli Street Food restaurants, by Nisha Katona. © Nourish Books, 2018. Hardback, £25. Commissioned photography © Yuki Sugiura