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Semolina crusted Karwari style fish (or barramundi!)

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!

This week I want to share this simple, yet delicious, crusted fish dish.

The best ever crumbed fish dish I’ve eaten was in India where they used the kane fish (also called lady fish) but in downtown Sydney I use a local fish, barramundi, which serves its purpose just as well!

This fish has a very earthy flavour and can be very easily crumbed. I love to eat it served with a mint and coriander chatni!!

I use a fish garam masala in this recipe and to slice Spanish (red) onions properly, see here!

step 1

ingredients, clockwise: salt, turmeric powder, garam masala for fish, fresh chillies ground, tamarind extract, fresh chillies slit lengthways, fried kari leaves, red (Spanish) onions, sliced

step 2

2-inch squares of barramundi

step 3

fine to medium coarse semolina

step 4

oil for frying

step 5

to finish – lemon juice and chopped parsley

step 6


add salt

step 7


add turmeric and garam masala

step 8

add ground chillies

step 8

add tamarind extract

step 9

mix spices into a masala or marinade

step 10

coat each fish piece in the masala

step 11

apply masala on both sides, or just one if you prefer

step 12

dust fish in semolina

step 13

add oil to hot pan and heat until it starts smoking

step 14

carefully place each fish piece in the hot oil

step 15

cook till the semolina is golden

step 16

carefully turn fish over to cook both sides evenly, taking care not to damage semolina crust

step 17

keep frying

step 18

fry until fish crust turns a dark golden colour

step 19

drain each fish piece of oil

step 20

prepare bed of Spanish onion and chopped coriander, fried kari leaves with a dash of lemon juice, to serve

step 21


Let me know how you go with this dish!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

Dum ka murgh

how can you not smile when you are about to eat dum ka murgh?

I want to share this recipe as it is my favourite chicken dish that uses a technique which the French call confit and we Indians call dum [dum derives from the Persian word ‘dum baksh‘  meaning ‘to give breath to’ or cooked in its own juices without the addition of any water].

Interestingly, this dish also has some Persian influences. It uses ground sesame seeds, a.k.a. tahini, as a binding agent to hold the yoghurt together, preventing it from splitting.

The original recipe uses ground peanuts, which are grown around that region, but I use ground cashew nuts for the simple reason that cashew nuts are more acceptable than peanuts, a.k.a groundnuts, and many people who cannot tolerate peanuts can eat the cashew nut which, as we all know, isn’t a ‘nut’ as such.

Before you begin, for all the ingredients that you need for a garam masala that goes with poultry, click here.

garam masala for poultry

Step 1

ingredients – from top, clockwise: salt, oil, 1 kg chicken on the bone cut into small pieces, lemon juice, chopped mint, finely sliced white onions. in the tray, clockwise: garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste, sesame paste, ground cashews, turmeric, poultry garam masala, 2½ cups yoghurt

Step 2

place garam masala in spice grinder: add cinnamon sticks first (break sticks in half, if necessary)

Step 3

grind spices until they resemble coarse sand

Step 4

Add ½ cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil to shallow frying pan

Step 5

your onions should be sliced evenly lengthways (i.e. from top to bottom, as you would cut an apple)

(See how to slice onions perfectly here.)

Step 6

place onions in mixing bowl

Step 7

add ½ teaspoon salt (adding salt to the onions at this stage makes them caramelise better)

Step 8

mix salt with onions

Step 9

when oil is hot, add onions to frying pan

Step 10

fold onions into the oil so that they are thoroughly coated, reduce heat to medium

Step 11

fold onions regularly

Step 12

leave the onions to cook, they will turn golden slowly [about 3–5 minutes

Step 13

the onions start turning golden, keep an eye on them and keep folding so they don’t burn! [about 7–11 minutes

Step 14

the onions are now caramelising, this happens very quickly

Step 15

the onions are now perfectly caramelised and the oil starts to separate

Step 16

gather caramelised onions away from the oil with a spoon

Step 17

holding caramelised onions with spoon, drain oil

Step 18

set aside caramelised onions

To watch my short video on caramelising onions, click here

Step 19

Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste to mixing bowl

Step 20

Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste to mixing bowl

Step 21

Add 1½ tablespoons green chilli paste to mixing bowl

Step 22

fold mixture

Step 23

Add 1 tablespoon sesame paste (tahini)

Step 24

fold mixture

Step 25

add 1½ tablespoons ground cashews and fold

Step 26

add 1 teaspoon turmeric and fold

Step 27

add 2 tablespoons poultry garam masala and fold

Step 28

fold so that it looks like this!

Step 29

add 1½ tablespoons salt

Step 30

add yoghurt (full-fat yoghurt, please, just the way the cow made it!)

Step 31

fold the yoghurt to form a marinade

Step 32

keep folding until mixture is smooth

Step 33

add caramelised onions

Step 34

fold the onions to look like this!

Step 36

add the chicken pieces to the marinade or ‘masala’!

Step 37

lightly massage the marinade onto the chicken

Step 38

….keep marinating until your chicken looks like this!

Step 39

transfer chicken to cold saucepan making sure chicken mixture will only take up a third of the saucepan’s depth. The remaining ⅔ of the saucepan is needed to circulate steam

Step 40

Select a shallow frying pan that is large enough for the chicken saucepan to sit in it and place on stove. Heat empty frying pan on high heat

Step 41

To determine when frying pan is hot enough, drop some tepid water into frying pan – the water should immediately bead and scatter

Step 42

Place chicken saucepan onto hot frying pan (n.b. the frying pan should have no oil, or water, in it)

Step 43

Place mixing bowl on saucepan like a ‘lid’. Keep the heat to medium!

Step 44

Add ½ cup water to mixing bowl ‘lid’. As the frying pan under chicken saucepan transfers heat to the chicken, the heat will also be transferred to the mixing bowl so the water in the mixing bowl will heat up (this is important to create ‘indirect’ heat for the chicken to cook)

Step 45

The water in the bottom of the mixing bowl

Step 46

The water in the mixing bowl will turn to steam and disappear, in about 50 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes, at least!! Remember, this is no “curry in a hurry”!!

Step 47

When the water from the mixing bowl has completely evaporated, your chicken will be perfectly cooked – remove bowl and voilà!

Step 48

Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ cup chopped mint

Step 49

Place a banana leaf on a plate (if you want!) and serve the chicken on top

Step 50

dum ka murgh

Cooking chicken, or any other poultry, this way has a number of  benefits:

1. The meat is tender and juicy.
2. As there is no water in the dish, it is loaded with flavour.
3. The dish tastes better the next day because it is cooked well, and slowly, in its own juices.

Happy cooking!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

Dhuyein ki machchi (smoked fish and tomato chutney)

sampling the wonderful dhuyein ki machchi smoked at home!

The dish I want to share this week is the easy-to-do-at-home, or on the barbie (great for the Aussies), dhuyein ki machchi!!

smoked fish and tomato chutney

ingredients for smoked fish from top, clockwise: ground garlic, ground ginger, chilli powder, turmeric powder, kebab garam masala (ground), oil, lemon wedges, salt; plate-sized NZ snapper (gutted and scaled); tea leaves for smoking

I like to serve this alongside a tomato chutney which you can prepare whilst your fish is smoking in the oven.

ingredients for tomato chutney, clockwise: kari leaves, chilli powder, oil, black mustard seeds, dry red chillies, chick pea lentils, white lentils, salt, asafoetida powder, lemon juice, turmeric, tamarind paste, tomato purée, fresh coriander leaves

step 1

the fish can be red snapper (pictured), baby barramundi, flathead, in fact use any whole fish that can comfortably fill a plate. It’s always a good idea to keep the fish on ice when out of the fridge

step 2

What’s smoking? To infuse the fish with a smokey flavour, you need something to smoke. Pictured is black tea with some of the ground spices that make up the kebab garam masala…… You don’t have to use tea! If you have time, use the fibre husks from sweet corn, dry in the sun for a couple of days. You can also use shaved hickory (available at all good BBQ stores)

step 3

If you’re smoking the fish on a stove you’ll need: heavy-based pan, glass lid, mixing bowl, whisk and a metal rack

step 4

If you’re smoking the fish in an oven you’ll need: baking tray, mixing bowl, whisk, metal rack

step 5

click kebab garam masala for the ingredients

step 6

grind until garam masala resembles course sand

step 7

your fish should be scaled and gutted – clean the insides thoroughly

step 8

on a chopping board, score the fish, three slashes on each side, about 1/2 cm deep

step 9

this is the right cutting depth

step 10

After you have scored all the fish, discard the ice.

pat fish dry with a paper towel or the marinade won’t stick

step 11

pat dry the insides of the fish as well

step 12

place fish in tray and cover with paper towelling whilst preparing the marinade

step 13: Preparing the marinade.

add 1 tbsp salt to mixing bowl

step 14

add 1 tbsp garlic paste to mixing bowl

step 15

add 1 tbsp  ginger paste to mixing bowl

step 16

fold salt, garlic and ginger paste together

step 17

add 1 tsp chilli powder and fold

step 18

add 1/2 tsp turmeric and fold

step 19

add 2 tbsp ground kebab garam masala and fold, add any remaining garam masala to the tea leaves

step 20

add polyunsaturated vegetable oil and fold

step 21

your marinade is now ready and should look (more or less!) like this

step 22

smear marinade over fish and into scored cuts

step 23

smear marinade into fish cavity as well

step 24

this is how much marinade should be on the fish (both sides)

step 25

folding in remaining garam masala to the tea leaves

step 26

if cooking on the stove, add tea leaf mixture to pan – the tea leaves should be laid about 1-cm thick, covering about 60% of the base

step 27

place fish on rack, add more marinade if necessary

step 28

cover pan with lid – a glass lid is ideal as you can see when the fish is ready without having to take off the lid (which you don’t want to do as the smoke will escape). As the fish cooks, the gills will open up and the dorsal fin will rise. The fish is cooked when the scored cuts ‘weep’ (fill with moisture).

step 29

scored cuts ‘weeping’ (moisture will bead there) means the fish is cooked

step 30

If using oven: turn on temp. to 180-200 C and also turn on the grill (if your oven is able to do both), to medium heat. Place tea leaves on aluminium foil in a tray on top shelf of the oven (closest to the grill). Tea leaves should be laid about 2 cm thick. Keep fish on the rack and place on tray. Then place on shelf underneath the tea-leaf tray, as shown above!

step 31

A close-up of the tea leaves in the oven – they will start to smoke

step 32

The fish is ready when the gills are fully open and scored cuts are weeping

step 33

Making the chutney that goes alongside the fish (prepare whilst the fish is being smoked).

add 2 tbsp polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan

step 34

when the oil is smoking, add 1 tsp black mustard seeds – if the oil is hot, they will immediately sizzle and pop

step 35

add whole chillies and fold

step 36

add 2 tbsp lentils and fold

step 37

add 2 tbsp white lentils and fold till caramelised

step 38

add 11/2 tsp salt and fold

step 39

add 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder and fold

step 40

add kari leaves and let crackle (this is pretty instantaneous)

step 41

add 1 tsp chilli powder and fold

step 42

add 1/2 tsp turmeric and fold

step 43

add 1 tbsp tamarind paste and fold

step 44

add 2 cups tomato purée and fold (or you may add chopped tomatoes or a combination of both), cook until the oil separates and appears on the surface

step 45

tear coriander, add to pan and fold

step 46

add 1 tbsp lemon juice, to taste, and fold

step 47

remove from stove – then serve chutney as it is, or if you prefer, blend it for a smoother texture

step 48

your chutney is now ready!

step 49

place fish and chutney on a serving dish and enjoy!

There are a few things I’d like you to remember when smoking fish:

1. Never add lemon juice to the marinade, this moistens the fish and will ‘break’ it up when smoked. Add lemon juice to the fish after it has been smoked and removed from the oven and whilst it is still hot.

2. Avoid small fillets of fish as they are too delicate, use whole fish, especially when the fish is ‘plate sized’.

3. If using fillets of a bigger fish, crust the skin side (making sure you do not skin the fish, dry the skin side and apply the marinade, the skin will get crisp after smoking) and cover the flesh side with aluminium foil to prevent the fillet from drying out.

4. You may use any wood chips as long as they are safe! Please check this before you use them. Also, try rose leaves mixed with tea leaves, it creates the most fabulous aroma and taste!!

5. Remember, never fry the fish before smoking it like they do on MasterChef, nothing is worse than this as the smokey flavour does not permeate through the fish.

So, happy cooking till the next one!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

A baby eggplant dish, you will love it !!

It is easy to cook, that means even a novice can make it!!

It has no onions, no garlic and no ginger, that means even the Jains can eat it!!

It has no dairy, that means it is great for vegans!! (I made another dish like this, so if you’re eager to try this recipe, you might also really like this one, too!)

It takes very little time to prepare [assuming that you already have your own garam masala ready]!!

It is an adaptation of Mumbai Maushi’s recipe of hirvya masalachi vangi [which literally means eggplant cooked in a green masala]!

And last, but not least, this is the first time my son has eaten an eggplant dish, and a vegan one to boot, and he just loved it. So, thank you Maushi !!

To celebrate the beginning of the festive season and the end of Navratri, which literally means nine nights, here is my little contribution to all those who believe in this biannual festival.

I hope you enjoy the last few days of Navratri. . .

So, here’s how we make hirvya masalachi vangi:


1.  1 kg baby eggplants

2.  1/2 cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil

3.  1 tablespoon asafoetida

4.  salt, to taste

5.  1 tablespoon turmeric

6.  2 tablespoons garam masala (please see the recipe for garam masala for vegetables)

ingredients from left to right: vegetable oil, asafoetida, salt, turmeric, garam masala & baby eggplant (centre)

Green masala ingredients:

1.  1/2 fresh coconut grated, or 1/2 cup coconut powder

2.  1 bunch fresh coriander

3.  4-6 fresh green chillies

4.  1 teaspoon peppercorns

5.  2 cups of water

ingredients for green masala from left to right: grated fresh coconut, fresh coriander leaves, green chillies & peppercorns


1.  Preheat the oven to 150 C. Slit the eggplants into quarters but do not cut totally through.

slitting the eggplant

make the second slit

eggplant should look like this

do the same for all the eggplants

2.  In a thick bottom pot, heat the oil till it is about to smoke, reduce the heat and add the asafoetida.

heat oil

add the asafoetida

3.  Add the slit eggplants, and gently fold them till they are coated with the oil. Now add the salt.

add the eggplant

fold gently

the eggplant will start to colour lightly

it is ready for the salt when it starts to split open

add salt

fold gently

4.  Add the turmeric followed by half the garam masala. Fold gently.

add the turmeric

fold gently

add half the garam masala

fold gently

5.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or till the eggplants are soft.

cover & place pot in oven

cook till eggplant is soft

6.  In the meantime, prepare the green masala by placing the coconut, coriander, chillies and peppercorns in a blender, add 1 cup of water and blend to a fine chatni [paste].

add the ingredients for the green masala to the mixer

add water

grind green masala/chatni to a fine paste

7.  Remove pot from the oven and add the green chatni, and the remaining cup of water, to the pot. Fold gently and either place the pot on top of the stove or replace in the oven for about 30 minutes, or till the oil rises to the surface.

add green masala/chatni to the soft eggplant

add remaining water to the mixer bowl, mix well & add all the liquid to the eggplant

fold gently till the masala coats the eggplant

cover with lid & cook in the oven for about 30 minutes

the masala is cooked when the oil rises to the surface

8.  Sprinkle the remaining garam masala on top and serve with a hot roti, or chappati, or even moist boiled rice!!

sprinkle remaining garam masala

mumbai maushi’s hirvya masalachi vangi

Happy Navratri and now back to some serious meat eating from. . .!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

The king of kebabs . . . perfect for a father’s day lunch or dinner!!

When my son, Aniruddh, asked me, “Hey dad, if you were to describe a perfect father’s day – what would it be?”

No sooner had he finished asking me than I immediately replied, “Son, it has to be a day I still remember to this day like it was yesterday.”

Well, the year was 1969, and the place was Hyderabad.

I had spent a full day with my dad [I called him ‘Papa’], watching a game of test match cricket in Hyderabad. It was India versus New Zealand. Day 1. And what an amazing and unforgettable day it was!!

We watched Papa’s favourite players in action.

We saw Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi Jnr, the youngest player ever to captain a national team in the world, take on the Kiwis who were led by the well-respected Graham Dowling.

The Indian team also had Ajit Wadekar, Bishen Bedi, Venkataraghavan and Prassanna.

On the Kiwi side there was Turner, Bevan Congdon, Dayle Hadlee and . . . well, the list goes on!

It was also my first experience of watching a test match ‘live’, as it were. It wasn’t on the television but in the stadium, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium we called it “Fateh Maidan”.

At the Fateh Maidan my dad and I were sitting in the stand next to the members’ section. “Son,” I grin at my son at the memory, “it was the most exciting day of my life!!”

Mum had packed lunch for us, and it included aloo paratha with home-made mango pickle served in two boxes: one for me and one for my dad.

We reached the stadium at around 8 a.m. just as it was being announced on the radio that all roads leading to the stadium would be closed after 9 a.m. which meant that if we’d been late my dad would have had to park  his Lambretta scooter a long way from the stadium.

But we arrived well in time, we weren’t going to be late for this game, no way!!

Anyway, the day finished with NZ making a smallish total, I don’t remember the exact score but the Indian spinners did what was expected of them. It was a great day’s play.

But there was more to come.

my Papa with my Bachcha in April 2003

On our way home, Papa took me to a small restaurant called a dhaba which I was told later was the name for a roadside eatery.

At this eatery we ordered two “full tandoori chickens” as a ‘parcel’ which is a term used to this day in India for a ‘take home’, ‘take-away’, or whatever you want to call it!

All this wonderful smelling food for just the four of us, sorry, the three of us as my mom’s a vegetarian.

Papa bought mirchi pakoda (batter fried stuffed banana chillies) for my mum.

the king of kebabs – tandoori chicken!!

“Son,” I said remembering the feeling as a young boy, “Can you imagine carrying all this food in your hand, riding pillion on a scooter?”

I smiled at the recollection as I remembered my sensory system was about to explode with the wonderful smell the parcel was giving!!

Well, we reached home after what seemed like forever to get to.

We ran inside. My Papa had his ubiquitous gin and tonic and we all (that’s my sister, my mother and I) sat around a small dining table savouring the. . .[cue music] “And and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. . .”]

“So bachche (son),” I say, returning to the present, “that to me is a perfect father’s day!”

And my son replies with candour, “No issues with that dad. I am sure we can do all of those things, can’t we? We can watch India take on NZ at the cricket in India, on TV. You can have your Shiraz and call it a ‘gin and tonic’, and we can certainly make the mirchi pakoda for mum .” And he pauses and then adds, “And I am pretty sure we can also make the tandoori chicken. Happy?”

I am.

So friends, for a perfect father’s day, I suggest you watch the cricket, have a gin and tonic (with extra ice and an extra splash of lime juice) and have, well, I’m sorry about this part as you’re going to have to make your own king of kebabs: tandoori chicken!!

So, to help you do this, here is my version of the king of kebabs, and yes, you certainly can make it at home even if you do not have a tandoor, just don’t call it ‘tandoori chicken’.

You can, however, certainly call it the king of kebabs!!

So, without further ado, it’s now time to cook the KING OF KEBABS for the King of the house!

1 kg whole chicken, with the skin on

whole chicken

Preparing the chicken for the first marinade:

  1. Skin the chicken & remove any excess fat & sinew. Also, remove the parson’s nose.

skin chicken & remove excess fat & trim

2. Remove the ends of the winglets on each side.

remove the ends of winglets on either side

3. Trim the ends of the drumsticks.

trim the ends of the drumsticks

4. Make a tiny slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully.

gently make a slit between the thigh & the drumstick on each side, without cutting it fully

5. Make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways.

make three evenly spaced slits on each drumstick, lengthways

6. Make three slits on each thigh, as well.

do the same lengthways slit on each thigh, as well

each chicken leg should look like this

7. Make two slits along each breast, lengthways.

make two slits lengthwise along each breast

8. The chicken is now ready for the first marinade.

the prepared chicken should look like this!!


First Marinade

1. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
2. 1 teaspoon cooking salt
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons kashmiri chilli, ground

ingredients for first marinade: white vinegar, kashmiri chilli [ground] & salt

Tandoori masala/second marinade

1.1 1/2 cup thick yoghurt
2. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
3. 1 tablespoon ground garlic
4. 2 tablespoons ground kashmiri chillies, soaked in oil
5. Kebab garam masala , 2 teaspoon
6. salt, to taste

kashmiri chillies soaked in oil & kashmiri chillies ground to a fine paste

ingredients for second marinade/tandoori masala:
top row, left to right: yoghurt, crushed ginger & crushed garlic
bottom row, nilgiri’s garam masala, ground kashmiri chillies & salt

1. Skin the chicken, remove any excess fat but leave some as it helps keep the bird moist. Prepare the chicken for the first marinade.

chicken ready for the First Marinade

2. Prepare the chicken for the second marinade/tandoori masala by applying the white vinegar, salt and the chilli.

marinate the chicken with vinegar, making sure you rub gently into all the slits

add the salt & rub in

add the chilli powder & massage gently into the breast

do the same with the legs

3. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

the chicken should look like this after the first marinade

cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes

4. Prepare the second marinade by blending the yoghurt with the crushed ginger, crushed garlic, ground chillies with oil, garam masala, salt together to form a ‘tandoori masala’.

start with yoghurt for the second marinade

add crushed ginger

add crushed garlic

mix well

add salt

add ground kashmiri chillies in oil

mix well & check for seasoning

add nilgiri’s garam masala & fold

the Second Marinade/Tandoori Masala is ready

5. Remove the chicken from the fridge and apply the Tandoori Masala onto the marinated chicken.

apply the tandoori masala on the marinated chicken

apply the marinade all over the chicken, massaging gently in every slit & cavity

another angle of the marinated chicken

6. Cover and place the marinated chicken in the fridge for about an hour.

marinated chicken, ready to go!!

cover & refrigerate for about an hour

7. Remove the chicken from the fridge, place a skewer through the chicken. place the chicken in an earthenware, or clay, pot and place this in a pre-heated oven, temp. 160C.

run a skewer through the chicken & place on an earthenware pot or roasting tray with your choice of spices to give a ‘smoked’ flavour!

9. Cook in the oven for about 45 mins, or till the meat is cooked.

place the chicken in a pre-heated oven at 160 C

chicken cooking in the oven after 10-15 minutes

chicken after 25 minutes

10. To caramelise the chicken, turn on the grill in the oven. Cook for about 5 mins, or till the meat is golden.

chicken almost cooked, after 45 minutes, it is now ready for the grill

chicken after being grilled

tandoori chicken, hot from the oven

11. Serve the ‘king of kebabs’ with a mint and coriander chatni, sliced onions and a lemon wedge.

tandoori chicken, with onion rings, lemon wedge & mint & coriander chatni


Mint and Coriander Chatni
1. 1 bunch fresh mint, roots removed and some of the thick stems taken off, washed
2. 1 big bunch fresh coriander, roots taken off, stem removed, washed
3. 4-5 small green chillies
4. 1 tablespoon pomegranate extract
5. salt, to taste
6. 1 red onion
7. lemon wedge

chatni ingredients: fresh mint, fresh coriander, pomegranate extract, lemon wedge, fresh green chillies & one red onion


1. Grind all the ingredients, except for the red onion and lemon wedge, to a fine paste. Add salt, as required.

grind all the chatni ingredients (apart from the red onion and lemon wedge)  to a fine paste. add salt

2. Refrigerate and serve with the hot chicken alongside the sliced red onion and lemon wedge.

mint chatni, ready for the chicken, refrigerate until required

the perfect accompaniment to the “king of kebabs”!!

A few things to remember:

1. Buy the chicken with the skin on as this keeps the meat moist, even if you are not marinating it the same day.

2. Remember to prepare the chicken for the second marinade by applying the first marinade. Do not add the first marinade to the second and apply it on to the bird altogether. This won’t save you time, also, the marinade will not stick to the chicken.

3. To get the red colour, soak the chillies in lukewarm water till they swell (balloon), then squeeze the chillies and crush in a food processor with some vegetable oil.

4. Cook the chicken at a temperature of 160- 170 C as this keeps the meat moist and allows the chicken to cook from the ‘inside – out’.

5. To caramelise the chicken, flash under a hot grill or do as I do here!

6. add your choice of whole spices to the earthenware pot before placing the chicken in it. as the oven heats up, so do the spices and the smoked flavour permeates into the meat.

“Well, it looks like it’s all ready,” says my son. “All you now need is a good Shiraz from the Iron Gate in the Hunter’, right Dad?”

“Yup, son.’ I reply yet add, “But there is only one thing missing. Where is my Papa?”

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

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!!

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

Posted on

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!!

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