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Category Archives: goat

Kashmiri Rogan Josh Pandit style

Another week, another blog, folks.

This dish is one of my favourites. When the rogan rises to the top, letting you know that after a long, slow cooking it’s ready to be eaten, it’s sheer joy!

So, let’s get started!

Here is a step-by-step version of this delicious Kashmiri ‘classic’ rogan josh recipe.

you can make this delicious Kashmiri rogan josh dish

For this recipe I use:

1 kg diced goat on the bone

diced goat meat left on the bone

First of all, we grind all the spices that we use to marinate our meat.

½ tsp ground Kashmiri chillies

Kashmiri chillies and ground Kashmiri chillies

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground green cardamoms

green cardamoms and ground cardamom

½ tsp ground black cardamoms

black cardamoms

¼ tsp ground cloves

cloves and ground cloves

½ tsp ground black peppercorns

whole and ground peppercorns

½ tsp ground fennel seeds

fennel seeds and ground fennel

I add the marinating spices one at a time.

adding one ground spice at a time

adding another ground spice

Press the spices into the meat, then set aside for a few minutes.

pressing the spices into the meat

Over high heat, heat saucepan for a few moments then add ½ cup vegetable oil.

adding the vegetable oil to the hot pan

Heat the oil until it starts smoking.

Reduce heat and add 1-inch cinnamon stick and 2-4 whole black cardamoms and 4–6 whole green cardamoms.

adding the green cardamoms

Add 6–8 whole cloves and 1 tsp whole peppercorns and increase heat.

heating the whole spices

Add 1 tsp whole fennel seeds and the marinated goat and fold the meat so it is coated with the oil.

adding the marinated goat

Cook until the meat is caramelised.

caramelising the meat

Add 1 tsp ground asafoetida and 1½ tsp dry ginger powder and fold into the meat and cook for 1 minute. Add salt to taste and fold into the meat. Next, add 1½ tbs ground Kashmiri chillies and fold into the meat, followed by ¼ cup rattan jot infusion.

adding rattan jot infused in hot oil

Beat 2 cups whole-milk yoghurt and then add to the pan.

adding the yoghurt

folding the yoghurt into the meat

Then gently fold the yoghurt until it thoroughly coats the meat.

Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is cooked and the rogan (red oil) comes to the surface.

the finished product…note the oil has risen to the surface

Serve with boiled, or steamed, Basmati rice and naan bread, if you wish.

This really is a velvety stew to die for!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!

The name of the restaurant game is ‘consistency’, but consistency of what?

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Recipe featured in this week’s blog

A step by step (with photos) ‘bhunaoed’ spinach recipe

“The restaurant trade is a tough trade. One has no personal life once one is in it, it is very demanding and it takes the hell out of you, and you can’t make any money, and blah, blah, blah. . !””

The only thing true about the above statement is the last part.

You cannot become a millionaire if you are a chef and run your own restaurant (you would have taken out enough mortgages on your house already, so there go the millions). There is not a chance either, unless of course you own the property, or have a freehold of the place.

Well, not many chefs can do it, and certainly not yours truly.

However, having said all the above, it is an extremely rewarding business. I mean, there must be other reasons why we keep on doing what we know best?!

Well, of course there are, but the rewards are not always in the form of awards like a ‘chef’s hat’ or a ‘restaurant and catering award’ (RCA) for the “best restaurant” but they come from two important people every night.

No, I don’t mean my wife or son, Meera or Aniruddh, though that’s another kind of reward!

No, the reward I’m talking about is, yes, you guessed it, the customer.

And the second?

Well, I bet you can’t guess the other one.

Okay, it is the staff!!

These two sets of people, who are at the opposite ends of the restaurant equilibrium, are what it takes to keep restaurants afloat and keep the rewards flowing in. The latter group (the staff) keeps the business alive whilst the former breathes life into the business which, in turn, keeps people like me in the restaurant trade.

It is the consistency of the staff that is paramount and you can’t put a price on it.

By this I mean it is those ‘intangibles’ that are so important, like receiving a guest with a smile, or doing something extra to make that guest feel special.

Or it is the ‘tangibles’, like the chef cooking a dish and the waiters serving that dish exactly the same way as it was done the last time, for example, Dr Mudbidri and his wife, Lucy, were here for dinner. And the chefs and waiters know exactly how this couple like their food. The waiter knows what the guest likes, and if he doesn’t, or if the guest is new, he is able to gauge what it might be.

So, it is this consistency of intelligent service, and nothing else but consistency, carried out consistently well that is paramount!!

And the guests? Well, that’s obvious. It’s coming back again and again, it’s treating the staff with the recognition they deserve, appreciating the food where it calls for it and letting us know, if heaven forbid, it doesn’t.

It’s so simple.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, if you’ll follow me folks, let’s go straight to the kitchen – which is the heart of any restaurant.

It is the hot, frantic yet ordered room that keeps the business going by producing the food with, yes, that word again, ‘consistency’.

Take, for example, a dish made with spinach, whether it be palak paneer, or saag murgh, or saag gosht, or . . . well, I won’t go on, you know where I’m heading with my spinach dishes!

Most chefs can cook these dishes and make them taste good (well, a little practice helps but you know what I mean).

A few chefs can even cook these dishes and make them smell good, too (this comes with even more practice and some procedure).

However, it is only a fraction of chefs who are able to retain the color of the spinach (this comes with lots of practice, great process and deep knowledge about the ingredients which are being added)!!

So, even our simple spinach dish belies a lot of experience and knowledge to raise it from being an acceptable green side dish to something fresh tasting, vibrant and totally delicious!

In a good restaurant, great results are achieved by using a simple technique called bhunao which you do to the saag. [Bhunao means to cook, uncovered, over a constant heat to remove any excess moisture. Keeping it at the same temperature means the purée cooks without getting a ‘shock’, as it were, and thereby it cooks evenly and retains an ‘even’ colour.]

This is a simple, yet very effective process that keeps the colour of the puréed spinach so that it remains bright green for at least a week! (Yes, that’s right! It’ll keep its colour for that long, if it hasn’t already sold out because it’s so good and looks so fresh.)

Don’t worry about the bhunao, the taste and smell will always be good!!

So, let’s take a closer look at this simple yet flavoursome dish:

“bhunao palak”


1. 2 bunches of English spinach, washed and stalks removed, approx. 400 gms

2. Plenty of water to cook the spinach (a.k.a blanching)

3. A pinch of Alleppey turmeric

4. Ice-cold water to cool the spinach (a.k.a arresting the cooking of the hot spinach)

clockwise from left to right: ice-cold water, turmeric & spinach


1. To blanch the spinach, in a large, wide pot bring water to a boil.

boiling water in a wide pot

2. Add a pinch of Alleppey turmeric (Alleppey turmeric has a bright yellow colour and helps bring out the colour of the spinach; it also acts as an anti-oxidant).

add a pinch of Alleppey turmeric

3. Add the washed spinach leaves and bring the water back to a boil.

add the spinach

4. In a strainer, drain the leaves immediately and plunge into the ice-cold water for a few seconds to cool the leaves. Do not rinse in running tap water as this will discolour the leaves.

plunge the spinach into ice-cold water for a few seconds

spinach leaves in ice-cold water

5. Remove from the iced water and lightly squeeze to remove any excess moisture.

remove the spinach from the iced water

squeeze well and lightly

the spinach is now ready for the food processor

6. Place in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

blended spinach

7. Refrigerate immediately.


1. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2. 1 teaspoon brown cumin seeds

3. 1 tablespoon crushed garlic

4. Salt, to taste

5. 1/2 teaspoon Madras turmeric (you may use Alleppey if Madras turmeric is not handy)

6. 1 fresh green chilli, chopped (retain the seeds)

clockwise from left to right: vegetable oil, cumin seeds, crushed garlic, Madras turmeric, salt & fresh green chillies

To bhunao the pureed spinach:

1. In a pan, heat the oil until it is just about to smoke (this makes the oil light and helps it rise to the surface easily).

heat oil in a pan

2. Remove the pan from the heat and crackle the cumin seeds.

add cumin seeds and let crackle

2. Add the crushed garlic, as soon as possible, and fold. Then add the salt (adding the salt helps to caramelise the garlic without burning it).

add garlic

add salt

3. Add the Madras turmeric (this has a very earthy smell and goes well with spinach).

fold quickly before adding the Madras turmeric

add the Madras turmeric

4. Now add the chopped chillies and fold.

add fresh chillies

5. Return the pan to the heat and add the puréed spinach to this ‘infusion’.

add the puréed spinach

6. Cook over moderate heat, folding regularly, and let the oil rise to the surface.

folding & cooking spinach

cooking the spinach, always over moderate heat

7. Once the oil has risen to the surface, remove the spinach from the pan. Let cool and then refrigerate.

the spinach is almost ready, just waiting for the oil to rise to the surface

yummm…the spinach is ready to go!!

portioning the spinach for a “rainy day”

refrigerate or have it now, this is pure “green gold”!!

Here are some great and simple ways to use your ‘bhunaoed’ spinach. Let me know which one works the best for you, folks!

1. Cook some chicken in a pan and add the ‘bhunaoed’ spinach. When you do this you will have created the best palak murgh on the planet. (Just remember to add some dried qasoori methi [that’s dried fenugreek leaves] to serve!)

2. To make saag gosht, heat some rogan josh (see here, also, for a particularly good rogan josh recipe and story!) in a pan and add the ‘bhunaoed’ spinach and, well, the result is the same as the palak murgh, all superlatives!

3. And to make palak paneer . . . well, here is my version. What more can I say? Just go and try it, please!!!

And remember to do all the little things right. Yes, that’s right. Every single little detail, no matter how tedious it might seem. If you get the small things right the big ones look after themselves. So, whether it’s cooking spinach, or boiling rice, or even frying pappads, follow every little rule.

And it is this that I call ‘consistency’!!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

(If you’re in Sydney, you can buy Alleppey and Madras turmeric from Herbie’s.)

A story and a recipe all the way from Colorado…

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about ajoy

i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

A while ago, my friend John said to me, “Ajoy, you’ve been blogging for nearly a year now and everyone (who wants to) has read all your stories about the travels, the ustaads, the friends, and the food and etc. . . and I am sure you’ve got more stories to come, but don’t you think it’d also be great to hear stories about food and people from other bloggers, or chefs, in your blog.” I didn’t react, not because I was offended, or anything, but because I was listening to what he had to say and absorbing it.

So he continued, “I mean, no offence, we love what you have to say about Indian food not being a ‘curry in a hurry’ and all of that, and I now always cook my onions “Ajoy’s way,” but. . .”

And I cut in, nodding my head, as I knew exactly what he meant.

“Yes John,” I said, “I get the message. You want to read other people’s views on Indian food, and you want to read their ‘war’ stories.”

So, we decided to get Ansh Dhar, all the way from Colorado in the USA, to do a special blog for us.

Ansh is someone who thinks it is not wrong to think about dinner while eating lunch. She is the writer of the sometimes quirky, usually chirpy and intelligent blog, Spiceroots, which she started as an online recipe box for her friends.

She lives in Denver, Colorado with her daughter, who is the designated taste tester and the most loyal fan of her cooking, and her husband who works as the dishwasher and the clutter picker-upper!

Ansh discovered that she was fond of cooking when she moved from India to the United States about five years ago. Until then, she mostly thought food grew in her mum’s kitchen, or in restaurants. Now, however, she is ensuring that her daughter knows that this is not the case!

I hope you enjoy reading about her dish as much as I enjoyed cooking and eating it with my friends, right here in Sydney. And with no further ado, let’s hear what Ansh has got to say:

The Kashmiri Pandits call it kabargagah. The same dish is called tabakmaaz by the local Muslims.

“I don’t like ‘Indian’ curry,” said the kind gentleman whose identity I would like to keep anonymous since we survived this initial relationship hurdle and are now, I’m pleased to say, good friends.

As soon as the words had left his mouth, images of shelved bottles of grocery store “madras curry powder”, and its multiple incarnations, flashed across my mind.

It was the same scenario regarding the food that is dished out and served as “Indian” in the restaurants in Denver, Colorado where I live.

I knew his taste buds had been traumatized. But to get a real picture of just how much the poor old guy had been tortured I asked him which curries did he not like.

“Oh,” he cries, “There is chana masla curry and saag paneer curry, chicken tikka masala, goat curry, biryani curry. . .” And on he goes, listing dishes, counting them on his hands with great emphasis.

I can’t take any more and butt in exclaiming, “But none of these are curries! And the food you are being dished out, which is so-called Indian, is not even remotely similar to the spice infused, delicious Indian food that I grew up with and learned how to cook!” And I place my hand on his shoulder and smile in disbelief.

He looks slightly taken aback, “Really?” he exclaims, “So what is a curry? And what do you guys eat at home? How can you eat all that spice and not drink gallons of water?” and he looks intently at me, expectant.

Now I am about to faint. He is also confusing spices with the heat of chillies and he really has no idea what Indian food is really like.

Was I offended by his saying he did not like curries? NO!

Was I laughing when he called a biryani a curry ? NO and NO!

I was deeply ashamed as an Indian. For a country that has distinct and varied cuisines in each state, and sometimes even within a state, we really haven’t done a good job in letting the world know about the difference between cuisines like wazwan, chettinad, kathiawadi, bengali, muglai, malabar
. . . I could go on and on.

Even worse, a number of accomplished Indian chefs and TV food personalities have abused the term “curry” to pass off things that are not even within the “curry” genus.

So I just could not laugh. I had to do something about it.

To unravel a deeply rooted “curry myth”, I first thought that an episode on MythBusters might be needed. But thinking that the producers of the show might also believe that it was not a myth, I did not contact them.

So, I was on my own. I gradually introduced my friend to various Indian dishes that were not “curries.” And thankfully, I lived to tell the tale and he lives on, enjoying the broad range of Indian food.

Is the situation really so bleak that to break the myth surrounding Indian food seems insurmountable?

I think not.

When maestros like Chef Ajoy take part in the same crusade, there is Hope.

Where each of the recipes he shares are works of art, the stories behind the recipes are nuggets of culinary history, I feel assured.

His post on ‘curry’ tickled me to the core. It makes a phenomenal read.

His passion about Indian food is inspirational. His enthusiasm is totally infectious. But it is his educating and sharing his knowledge that makes me respect him with all my heart.

So, there is hope for the real Indian food to shine through the curry myth.

And when he asks you to do a blog post, you immediately say, “YES! I am honored that you asked me Chef. I would Love to do it.”

And then you freak out and realise that you said, “Yes!” in an unthinking, masochistic moment.

And later on you think, “Oh dear! What have I done? What could I possibly share with the readers of his blog?”

And the answer gradually dawns on you. You smile and go back to your roots and share something your mom taught you. Simple, homely, comforting. Just like all good food has to be. And yes, it is not a curry.

The recipe I am sharing today is called kabargah as made in Kashmiri Pandit homes and tabakhmaaz as made in Muslim homes.

The meat used is lamb ribs that retain some fat on them. Delicate in flavor, this dish is served as a starter at all important occasions and is served piping hot.

The key to eating a good kabargah is to eat it hot. The fatty part of the rib that has been cooked in ghee (I have used unsalted butter instead) tastes best when it is hot.


ingredients clockwise: black pepper, black cardamom, nilgiri’s garam masala, asafoetida, salt, unsalted butter, cassia, bay leaf, clove, muslin cloth, red radish

2 pounds lamb ribs (not the chops, just the ribs – you can also use goat ribs)

6 cups water

2 cups milk and 1 cup water – mixed together

1 tsp of Chef Ajoy’s meat garam masala

a pinch of asafoetida


Ghee, for frying (I used unsalted butter)

A bouquet garni is comprised of

1 inch cinnamon or cassia stick,

2 Turkish bay leaves,

4-5 cloves,

1 long black peppercorn or 1 tsp black peppercorn

3 brown or black cardamom pods

The contents of a bouquet garni: black cardamoms, cassia, bay leaf, black peppercorns


Step 1

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the ribs. Continue to boil until the brownish ‘riffraff’ (scum) floats to the top

Step 2 – Remove the riffraff with a spoon and discard. Continue until all riffraff has been removed.

Step 3 – Now drain the water and wash the meat in clean water.

Step 4 – Bring the milk and water mix to a boil.

Bring the milk and water mix to a boil.

Step 5

Add the bouquet garni

Step 6

Add the garam masala

Step 7

Add the asafoetida

Step 8

Add the salt

Step 9

Add the meat

Step 10

Cook on slow heat until the meat is tender

Step 11

Once the meat is tender, remove from the milk

Step 12

Drain meat on a wire rack. This is important because your next step is to fry the ribs

Step 13

Heat up some ghee, or unsalted butter, in a pan

Step 14

Fry the ribs, a few at a time, ensuring you don’t overcrowd the pan

When they are nice and golden and crispy, you know they are ready.

Step 15

Serve with some thinly slice red radishes

And now, Ajoy here!

This recipe sounded so good I tried it and I served it with some good old Australian beer or, I thought, it would go brilliantly with a chilled, sweet Shiraz from the Iron Gate winery in the Hunter Valley (in NSW) or a Pinot Noir reserve from Nazaaray in the Mornington Peninsula!! (You can read about these places here.)

I am so pleased to have found Ansh and enjoy reading her blogs. I am also chuffed that there is another being who also has a similar mission to me namely: dispelling the myth of Indian food is now a forceful duo!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

It’s only been 15 years in the making. . .

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My restaurant, nilgiri’s, turns 15 on the 9th of July and it seems like only yesterday that we started this dream project.

Fifteen years is a long time in my industry, just like it is in cricket, another of my dream games!

Longevity in the kitchen, or on the pitch, is not a hallmark but a necessity. The longer you play, the better your credentials; just go and ask Don Bradman.

Well, running a restaurant is like playing cricket and just as in cricket there are lessons to learn.

These fifteen years have been a h-ll of a learning curve for me personally.

I had a dream, when I was younger, that I would run my own restaurant and here I am, to this day, living this dream!

But as in cricket there are some good ‘ups’ and some not so good ‘ups’. And yes, I mean “not so good ‘ups’” because there are no ‘downs’.

Success is not about what you have but how you deal with it.

They say cricket is the great leveller, a hundred today could be a first ‘ball duck’ tomorrow.

Well, running a restaurant is also a great leveller, a full house today could be a ‘duck’ tomorrow.

However, be that as it may, you must believe in yourself and back yourself and keep going, just like a good cricketer does; he keeps on going and going!! We have tried doing this for nearly two decades. You get caught out, you get stumped, you’re LBW but you keep batting for your team. Well, that’s what my team and I have been doing!

Nilgiri’s has been a memorable journey for us all, and to tell you the truth there have been a few regrets [these might appear in a blog one of these days], there aren’t many regrets, but overall, I would not change a thing!!

Every day brings something new. There is a cooking class to do, or a chef’s table to cook for. Then there is a cooking demonstration at a primary school, or at the restaurant. A new menu starts every month, or there is a birthday party to cater for, or there’s even a wedding reception to cook for. So, you get the picture, there’s never a dull moment. There’s always something happening!!

And last week was one such week that I will never forget.

happy faces at the function

We had the most amazing function at the restaurant.

No, it was not a birthday party, or a wedding reception, or a cocktail party to celebrate someone’s 21st. These are all amazing in their own way but this was different.

This was a charity dinner.

And it was a charity dinner for the game of cricket!!

Imagine that?! I get to give a charity dinner for cricket!

Basically, my son is going to Sri Lanka to play cricket against the local Sri Lankan clubs and schools and I am told it is going to be a ‘cracker’ of a tour.

Two teams of 12 players each, and some parents and coaches, will be on this island for about 12 days to give some up-and-coming cricketers from Sydney a chance to play on a different kind of turf [literally and metaphorically!].

The tour is self funded which means there are no sponsors and so all the players and parents must foot their own bill.

Some are comfortable with this idea, some parents are happy to fund it with a little stretch to their budget, and some just can’t stretch that far, no matter how keen. Well, there are three very talented kids who just can’t make it unless someone can dig deep into their pockets and sponsor them to go.

So, we had a highly difficult, but not an impossible, task to raise money to pay for these kids to go on this cricket tour.

We discussed it and thought that a charity dinner could possibly help in getting the kids over the line.

The target was to raise $14,000 to take care of the travel, accommodation and food for these kids.

So, I said that I’d host and cook for the dinner. We advertised at our restaurant, the cricket club did the same and we got 98 guests who paid $75 per person which immediately gave us $7350.

Wine supplied by Samuel Smith & Son

But we needed at least $6500 to make up the deficit.

And this is what I love about Australians, they are always supporting the needy and the underprivileged and Sydney did not let us down!!

Mitchel Starc speaking from England

We had Mitchel Starc speak to the gathering from England via satellite and at our end Josh Hazlewood (he’s an Australian fast bowler for those of you who might not know), Alysha Healy (she’s the wicket-keeper with the Australian Women’s cricket team) and Chandika (he’s a former Sri Lankan opening batsman),Lachlan O’Connor (former NSW U-17 captain) came in to do their bit, at no cost.

Jeff Bolt brought in the audio visual system and was also the DJ for the night, at no cost, and the wines were supplied by Samuel Smith & Son, the beer by Mumbai Pilsner, the soft drinks by Coca Cola and nilgiri’s provided the food and service, at no cost.

beer by Mumbai Pilsner

The menu included methi murgh, laal maas, kalonji baingan, and for starters we had our speciality cocktail dosai, followed by kozhi milagu varuval with roomali roti.

Chefs Reddy and Durga in action, cooking naans and kebabs !!

But there is more, in spite of the generous gifts from all the above. If you can believe it we are still short of funds, so we decide there must, of course, be a few items to auction on the night to raise the extra few thousands. I mean, who has ever gone to a charity dinner and not had an auction?

Jeff Bojt and Ash ‘live’ auction

So, more generous donations appeared in the form of: Mr Greg Chappell donating his training cap, Kashmiri shawls were given from Meenakshi, the NSW Blues donated a fully autographed cricket bat, Mark Waugh donated his training shirt, and one Mr Sachin Tendulkar donated an autographed bat!!

Well, when I saw the last item I just knew who was going to bid for this one!

(No, not me, my son of course! The poor chap put in all his savings to get it, and he did!!)

My son, Aniruddh, helping out on the night, ‘no charge’

But there is more, all the photography was given free and the photos on the night taken by my friend JS (John Slaytor) and to celebrate 15 years of ‘survival’ in a tough business nilgiri’s did not take a cent.

And what a night it was.

Alysha Healy having a good time!!

We raised $9000 from the auctions and then came the icing on the cake . . . my friend Dr Alok Sharma promised $2000 from the Rotary Club of Wagga Wagga!!

Unbelievable! We asked for $14000 and we ended up raising $19000. You Beauty!!

What more could we have asked for to celebrate our anniversary month, good food, good wine and some good cricket talk?!!

Akhil on the floor

And, as I look back on that night and the extraordinary generosity and goodwill of all involved, the words of a Scottish minister come to mind, “You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others.”

Anna Datha Sukhi Bhava!!

This dish is the crowning accomplishment in any Indian chef’s career!!

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about ajoy

i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

biryani garam masala: includes cassia, cardamom, clove, black cardamom, nutmeg, mace, bayleaf, peppercorn, fennel

On a recent visit to my ‘spiritual hometown’, Hyderabad, I was shocked to hear that there were only six gharana chefs (called khansamas) still alive who could cook the classic dish kachche gosht ki biryani!

This dish was considered to be the ultimate measure of a chef’s skill that would guarantee him the title of “Masterchef”, if he could create it.

These artistes were a breed apart, and in the 60s and 70s they were the only people invited to cook for the Nawab and the Nizam families.

So what became of these ustaads?

Speaking to some of the local residents of the old city, I was told that the fine art of making kachche gosht ki biryani was all but lost as it was becoming surpassed by poorer versions.

A classic kachche gosht ki biryani requires genuine patience and untold love, what we call fursat and mohabbat, and there were plenty of those virtues and emotions, alive and kicking, in the land of the Biryanis!! This Biryani is made with partially cooked rice being layered on top of marinated meat which is ‘raw’ and is then ‘dum cooked’ till the meat and rice come out perfectly cooked!!

However, as the years have passed, people seem to have lost their love for really good, slow food, that is cooked with genuine expertise, and with that they have also, sadly, lost the creators of the dishes along the way.

Most of these chefs ended up dying penniless. What a shame for us all, because not only did we lose the art of cooking this dish properly, we also lost a genuine knowledge base and mentoring.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as I was extremely lucky to meet one of the ‘survivors’ of this fine art a long time ago.

It was the way he cooked, and the narrative he gave whilst cooking this classic dish, when I had the privilege of working with him, that I’d like to share with you this week.

The ustaad starts by describing the dish as khuda ki daen, meaning G-d’s gift’, and says that it is all about technique and constant, constant practise. Furthermore, he adds, chewing his paan with great relish, the more you try the better you become and, of course, the closer you get to All-h!!

Friends, on the 15th anniversary of nilgiri’s, we salaam these ustaads for helping us preserve this ancient art!!

So, here is my version of the classic kachche gosht ki biryani. It is cooked with deep respect, with patience, with love, and home-made garam masala. What more could one want?!

The dish revolves around six basic techniques:

1. The caramelisation of the onions.
2. The making of garam masala (click here for its recipe).
3. The marination of the meat.
4. The cooking of the rice until it is ek kan or al dente.
5. The layering of the rice over the marinated meat.
6. The dum (baking) of the dish.


Ingredients for biryani, clockwise: caramelised onions, crushed ginger, crushed garlic, garam masala, ground chilli, turmeric, crushed chillies, salt, chopped coriander leaves, chopped mint leaves, yoghurt, saffron threads [soaked in milk]

saffron-infused milk

caramelised onions

To make caramelised onions, watch my caramelised onions video

1 kg goat meat [on the bone], soaked in water to remove any blood

Marinating the goat
Step 1

add half caramelised onions and fold

Step 2

add garlic and fold, then add ginger and fold

Step 3

next add garam masala and fold

For the garam masala recipe, click biryani garam masala recipe.

Step 4

add crushed chillies and fold

Step 5

add 1/2 of the chilli powder and fold

Step 6

add turmeric and fold

Step 7

add 1/2 each of the coriander and mint, and fold

Step 8

add yoghurt and fold

Step 9

add 2 tablespoons oil and fold

Step 10

add 1/2 saffron-infused milk and fold

Step 11

set aside marinated goat for about 1 1/2 hours

Preparing the pot

Step 1

place goat in a large pot so it occupies 1/3 of the pot and add the remaining chilli powder. Do not clean the mixing bowl previously used to marinade the meat

Step 2

add remaining chopped coriander and mint to create a layer

Step 3

add remaining caramelised onions to create a layer

Step 4

set pot aside

Preparing the rice

Step 1

place rice in mixing bowl then add enough water so rice is covered by 2cm of water

Step 2

the rice will absorb the water – when it touches the top of the water the rice is ready to go into boiling water

Step 3

place water in the empty bowl in which you marinated the goat, swill it around, and then pour it into a large saucepan an bring to a boil

Step 4

drain rice and add to boiling water

Step 5

stir rice, but gradually, so the grains don’t break

Step 6

cook rice until it rises to the surface and the water has returned to the boil

Step 7

Cooking the biryani

add drained rice to saucepan containing marinated goat

Step 2

add remaining saffron milk on top of the rice

Step 3

place damp tea-towel on top of the rice

Step 4

Make a soft dough with wholemeal flour, pinch of salt and water (you’ll find full quantities for this in the one-page recipe below).

place dough collar around rim of pot

Step 5

place a lid on top of the pot and seal the gap with the dough

Step 6

half fill saucepan with water and heat pot on moderate  heat

Step 7

when steam escapes from the dough collar the biryani is starting to cook

Step 8

reduce heat and place pot in pre-heated fan forced oven [160C]. When the dough is cooked the biryani is cooked as well after about 1hr !!

Step 9

remove pot and saucepan and break off dough

Step 10

remove tea-towel

Step 11

mix rice and goat together

Step 12

serve KGKB with a mirch ka saalan!

If the Biryani is called the king of Indian Food, then KGKB is called the king of Biryanis!!

Click biryani for a one-page recipe and also, click mirchi ka salaan for a one-page recipe of this delicious, tangy side dish.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

Lamb and lentils slow cooked to make the perfect recipe . . . dalcha!!

the perfect dalcha (a slow-cooked Indian 'lamb stew' with lentils). see how easy it is to do this lamb recipe!

In 1991, when I decided to start my (sorry, I had a partner), when WE decided to start our first restaurant in Sydney ‘I’ was determined that this was not going to be another ‘curry house’. No way!!

I wasn’t going to cook any ‘bl..dy’ curries, not after having spent my time working with the Indian ‘masters’ (I called them ustaads), who taught me a simple lesson which I still hold true today.

“Son,” they said, “Indian food is a complete art. You can ‘see’ this art being created, you can ‘touch’ it, you can ‘hear’ the music when tempering a dish, you certainly can ‘smell’ the aromas wafting through the air, and last but not the least, you can ‘taste’ it.”

savouring the aromas wafting through the air

And they were right. Cooking is the perfect art that uses all the five senses!!

So, keeping these guidelines in mind we carefully worked out our menu and for the first time Sydneysiders got a chance to savour Indian food in its true form.

We had dishes like prawn balchao (marinated prawns in a spicy mix), chicken xacutti (a spicy chicken dish with cinnamon) and caril de piexe (another spicy dish, this time using fish with vinegar and coconut and chillies and so much more!) all from Goa, kozhi vartha kari (chicken pieces cooked in aromatic spices) from Tamil Nadu, meen porichattu (marinated fish cooked the Muslim way!) from Kerala, paththar ka gosht (slow-cooked lamb with cassia), shikampoor (delicious stuffed lamb kebabs), tali hui machali (pan fried fish with a spice crust), khatti meethi dal (sweet and sour dal), dalcha (lamb cooked with dal) and many more, along with my favourite masala dosai!!

However, the one dish that sold the most after the masala dosai was the dalcha.

I think the dalcha was so popular because it was the closest thing to eating a dal and roganjosh (lamb and lentils) with rice!! It was like an Indian lamb stew (or you may like to call it a broth) for the Sydneysiders!

So, here is how we made it then and how we still make it in my restaurant!

And yes folks, you’ve guessed it, this week’s garam masala is for, that’s right, red meat!!

If you’ve missed the other garam masala series that cover poultry, seafood, vegetarian and vegan meals, click six basic spice mixes

Ingredients for the red meat garam masala are as follows:
Step 1

red meat garam masala contains: 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 nutmeg (that has been grated!) and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Step 2

ground garam masala

grind the spices until they resemble coarse sand

Step 3

ingredients (clockwise from 12 o’clock) in the tray: slit green chillies, ground ginger, juice of a lemon, ground garlic, salt, ground red chilli, ground turmeric, crushed coriander seeds, vegetable oil; on the outside: chick pea lentils, yoghurt, diced lamb

Step 4

add 1 cup lentils (you might know them as yellow split peas) to mixing bowl

Step 5

add 3 cups water (at room temperature)

Step 6

set aside to soak for about 15 minutes

Step 7

add garam masala mix (2 1/2 tablespoons for about 1 kg meat)

Step 8

add 1 tablespoon ground chilli powder

step 9

add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Step 10

add 2 tablespoons ground coriander

step 11

mix spices together

Step 12

add 2 1/2 cups full-cream yoghurt

Step 13

fold yoghurt into spice mixture

Step 14

keep folding until mixture is smooth

Step 15

add 1 kg diced lamb

Step 16

make sure lamb is well coated with yoghurt mixture

Step 17

keep mixing yoghurt and meat until smooth then set aside for about 15 minutes

step 18

heat saucepan and add 1/2 cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil

Step 19

when oil is smoking, add sliced onions and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Step 20

fold onions till they star to caramelise!

If you want to see a simple video on how to caramelise onions, go to the techniques page of my blog.

Bringing it all together
Step 21

add 1 tablespoon ground garlic when onions have started to caremelise

Step 22

fold garlic into caramelising onions

Step 23

add 1 tablespoon ground ginger and fold

Step 24

when onions have caramelised, add marinated meat - set aside mixing bowl, you’ll need it in a moment!

Step 25

fold meat into caramelised onions

step 26

keep folding until meat is seared

step 27

drain lentil water into marinated meat mixing bowl

Step 28

add lentils to seared meat (with as little water as possible since you want the lentils to absorb the flavours of the marinade as they cook, not boil in water)

Step 29

mix the lentil water with the remains of the marinade to produce 'lentil stock'

Step 30

pour ‘lentil stock’ into pan when meat is seared and oil starts to appear, reduce heat to medium

Step 31

fold lentil stock into meat

Step 32

place shallow frying pan on stove (you will need one large enough for the meat saucepan to sit in)

Step 33

place meat saucepan into frying pan

Step 34

add sliced green chillies

Step 35

place clean stainless steel mixing bowl on top of saucepan

Step 36

add 3/4 cup water to mixing bowl

Step 37

use 3/4 cup of water

Step 38

water will evaporate (approx. 50 minutes) - when it has almost disappeared, turn off stove

Step 39

remove mixing bowl with tea tea towel as it will be hot!

Step 40

the meat will (should!) look like this

Step 41

add lemon to taste (I am using my hands as a ‘sieve’)

Step 42

fold lemon juice into meat

Step 43

serve with steamed basmati rice

Step 44

add tempered kari leaves for an extra 'oomph'!!

Folks, try this dish with goat or even lamb shanks, serve it with a bread of your choice, a simple salad of fresh greens and you have the most amazing and satisfying meal on the table!! For a one page summary of this recipe, click dalcha recipe.

If there are any leftovers (this does occasionally happen in my house as Meera doesn’t eat red meat, however usually Aniruddh and I generally wallop half the contents in one sitting!

However, as I started saying, should there be any leftovers keep them in an earthenware pot, covered. Place the pot in a ‘waterbath’ and leave overnight. It’s as simple as that, it’s the way many people cook in India and it preserves the meat. Make fresh basmati rice and serve the dalcha on to the hot rice . . . just like a Nihari!!

Need help with making basmati rice or tempering kari leaves? Then watch these quick videos and if you’re a diaspora Indian listen and weep!:

Next week we have a ‘BIG’ surprise for you….

Till then, happy cooking!! Oh, and last, but by no means least, if you’ve got any feedback, your mother’s best recipe for this dish that has its own quirks, or any comment at all, I really enjoy hearing from you! So, let’s get the chat flowing, until then. . .

Anah daata sukhi bhava!!

Six basic spice mixes – you may call them “garam masala”. . .Part 1 of my garam masala series.

 The above image shows the six garam masala spice mixes. From L to R top row we have the spice mixes for: seafood, vegetarian, poultry; from L to R [bottom row] for: red meat, nilgiri’s biryani mix, kebabs

How do you simplify a complex cuisine which has at least a billion different interpretations, all of them equally correct in their own way?

One way is to call it a ‘curry’ and just leave it at that!

But that is not the point and honestly does not do any justice to the millions of khansaamas, bawarchis, dastarkhwans, aka chefs, who have devoted their lives trying to tell the world that this is an intricate cuisine and not just ’a bit of this and a bit of that.’

So, let’s get down to one of the basics of any dish.

What is it? The type of pan used? Cast iron or copper, or is it the oil that should be used? Or the sort of bread that should accompany a dish?

No folks, none of these is the basics of a dish that I want to discuss [though hold your breath because in the following year I will be touching on some of these]!

But for now I want to direct my attention to spice mixes. This week I want to show you how to make, step-by-step, six spice mixes that we use in my kitchen at nilgiri’s.

Next week I’ll be using one of the spice mixes and over the next SIX weeks I’ll be be using all six spice mixes that I am explaining today. If you want to make the recipes in the coming weeks that use these spice mixes, get started and make all six now – since  they’re spices, they won’t ‘go off’, in fact, the more they’re left to ‘talk’ to each other in the jar, the more infused and enthused they’ll become! But  you must store your spice mixes in airtight glass jars that are kept away from direct heat, sunlight, or any moisture. If you get this right your spice mixes will be perfect for months.

Okay, so let’s start. You’ll need whole spices and six separate airtight glass jars and once you’ve got that, you’re sorted (of course, you can make one, or two, or all, or none of the spice mixes!). The choice is yours.

Follow my method of adding each spice as I have. Want to know why? I believe it is a good habit to add one ingredient at a time even if it is not being cooked as in this case.(When cooking it is important to add the biggest spice first followed by the next  in size and so on…. this gives the biggest spice a longer time to cook and bring out the volatile oils, you know what I mean!!!)

Anyway, the first garam masala mix that we’re setting up is for seafood.

I call this one, guess what? Seafood GM, not too romantic I know, but it does its job and is a sensible name.

Let’s begin.


Starting clockwise you have:  1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 3 dried red chillies and 2 teaspoons fennel seeds.

Add the cinnamon stick to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

The cloves

Then the black peppercorns

Then the dried red chillies

And finally, the fennel seeds

Here is your spice mix for seafood ready to be stored in its glass jar

Place spices in the glass jar

SPICE MIX 2 ~Vegetarian garam masala

As its name implies, this is great for flavouring vegetarian dishes, including dishes made out of paneer, or cottage cheese, or fresh cheese…I like to think of it as my “vegetarian garam masala”. You can call yours what you want but trust me, it’ll taste superb.

Starting clockwise we have:  2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 bay leaves and 3 dried red chillies.

First of all add the coriander seeds to your bowl

Then add the cumin seeds

The bayleaves

And finally, add your dried red chillies

Now store all your whole spices in an airtight glass jar

And as I mentioned before, keep your spices away from direct heat, light and moisture

SPICE MIX 3 ~Poultry Garam Masala

Poultry garam masala is as follows: 1 cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons cardamom pods, 1 1/2 teaspoons cloves, 3 star anise, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons mace blade.

Add the cinnamon stick to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

And the cloves

The star anise

The fennel seeds

And finally, the mace

Your poultry garam masala is now ready for storing in its glass jar

Putting the poultry spices into the glass jar

Voila! All ready for storage.

SPICE MIX 4 ~ Garam masala for red meat

Starting clockwise: 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 nutmeg and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns.

Take the cinnamon sticks and place in your bowl

Then the cardamoms

The cloves

The nutmeg

Yes, you’ll have to grate your nutmeg!

But don’t grate it all, about a 1/2 a nutmeg should do

Then add the peppercorns

And your red meat garam masala is ready for storing in your glass jar

The final product for red meat garam masala!

SPICE MIX 5 ~Biriyani mix (nilgiri’s garam masala)

From clockwise: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons cardamom pods, 4 black cardamom pods, 2 teaspoons cloves, 1 nutmeg, 3 spears mace, 4 bayleaves,  2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon saffron threads.

Take the two cinnamon sticks and place in your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

Then add the black cardamom

Then add the cloves

Add the nutmeg

And the mace spears or blades

The bay leaves

The black peppercorns

The fennel seeds

And finally, the saffron threads

Place all spices  into the glass jar,except the saffron. Place the saffron in a separate container as this will be soaked in milk when we use it for our recipe for the biryani!!!

And your biryani garam masala is ready for storage

SPICE MIX 6 ~ Kebab Mix

Starting from clockwise:  2 cinnamon sticks, 12- 15 cardamom pods, 2 teaspoons cloves, 3 mace spears, 5 dried red chillies, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon saffron threads.

Add the cinnamon sticks to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

Then the cloves

Then add the mace spears or blades

And the dried red chillies

The coriander seeds

The bay leaves

And finally, the saffron threads

Here is your melange of kebab garam masala without the saffron. Place saffron in a separate container.

Storing your spices in the ubiquitous glass jar

Ready to be stored. A visual feast!

Phew!!! Once done we will use each one of the above spice mixes to create a dish starting with the seafood spice mix next week.
My plan is to create a southern style fish with coconut.
Until then. . .

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

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