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Those first recipes

Yesterday I wrote a fairly long post on some of the recipes in my Julie Sahni book. As I was finishing I deleted the whole lot and I could not work out how to get it back. I was somewhat depressed by all of that and simply did not have the energy to rewrite it all. Which is why no post yesterday.

So here I am again today having another go. Except I don't think I shall do the same as yesterday. Well it's another day, and I am in a different situation, having already had one go at this. Yesterday I sort of included four recipes but I don't think I'll do that today. it was probably all rather boring. Indeed I worry that I am becoming somewhat boring with the whole exercise anyway. I must try to find some inspiration. Maybe it's because I am not walking these days because of my still healing foot - now there's a thought.

But back to Julie Sahni. As I mentioned before, the first 'real' recipe does not appear until page 105 and it's for a cracked wheat porridge. I could not find a picture of it - and that's another thing that shows how forgotten Julie Sahni has become. If you look for images or blogs about other 'old' cooks like Elizabeth David, you are likely to find somewhere that somebody has reproduced the recipe, even tested it out. Not Julie Sahni. I did find a list of ingredients for the porridge but no recipe and no pictures. She is definitely not fashionable in spite of appearing on all sorts of 'best of' lists.

I doubt that any of you are particularly interested in cracked wheat porridge with almonds and apricots, although judging by the lack of oats in the supermarket at the moment there might well be a revived interest in porridge. And as this picture on the left demonstrates it can even be seen as trendy. Just put it in a pretty bowl, decorate with fruit, seeds and nuts and hey presto.

Porridge might be trendy here, but it's basic food around the world. A grain, cooked in some milk or even just water to make a soft pulpy sort of mess - that's the definition of porridge. I don't like it. But that's just me. Julie Sahni's recipe uses bulghur which is cooked with half milk and water and dried apricots then finished off with more milk, some jaggery or honey and sprinkled with nuts - in this case, almonds. The Indian name for it is Dalia and if you do a search on Dalia you will find that it is often given to babies and is a staple from the northwest frontier lands which are now actually Pakistan. Some of the recipes I saw also had various spices cooked in with them - this version looks as if it has saffron. In India, or should I say Pakistan, the cracked wheat is untreated which means it takes

ages to prepare. Not here. Bulghur - the stuff you make your tabbouleh with - is treated and it should only take quarter of an hour or so to cook. The picture on the left at the top of the page is another one that I found that was the closest I could get to what I thought it might look like.

So that's the first 'real' recipe of the book. But the technically 'first' recipe is The original Vedic curry powder - which I shall more or less ignore - just three ingredients - curry leaves, urad dal and black peppercorns, roasted and ground together and even in India only used for ceremonial purposes. But following that is her Curry Powder Master Recipe - and this is the recipe that I use for making a general curry powder. And this is the one I will pass on because I do use it and because it is good when you don't feel like doing anything fancy with a curry and yet you don't feel so lazy that you turn to a bottled curry paste. You must roast your spices first by the way. It gives a much richer flavour. Just a few minutes in a dry frying pan will do the trick. It will make around 125g of curry powder which is enough for a few curries.


60g coriander seeds

15 dry red chilli pods (optional or to taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds (brown ones I think)

1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns

15-20 curry leaves, (dry or fresh and optional)

3 tablespoons turmeric powder

Mix coriander, chilli pods, cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds and peppercorns in the container of an electric blender or spice mill and grind the spices to a fine powder in several batches. Pour into a bowl and combine well.

If you are using fresh curry leaves, dry them briefly (about 4-5 minutes) in an ungreased frying pan over low heat. Grind them in the blender and then add them to the spice powder in the bowl.

Stir in the turmeric.

Transfer to an airtight jar, cover tightly and store in a cool place for up to three months.

I do make curries from individual recipes, but I also tend to make curries using a basic method as follows: Fry onions, garlic, ginger, until well browned. Add your spice flavouring whether it be individually chosen, a prepared curry powder like the above or from a commercial jar, and fry for a minute or so. Add your meat and fry until seared. Add your liquid and any other vegetables you might be adding and cook until meat is cooked. At the end you can also add things like garam masala, some fresh herbs or lemon juice. I'm sure the gurus would be a bit horror struck but that's mostly what I do.

So what does this say about first recipes being the be all and end all of books? A book such as this does not entice you in by its first recipes. Actually there are even a few recipes in the introductory section for things like paneer and ghee, but they don't stand out from the text. I suppose this little writer's block exercise does make me look at the first recipe in a book. And in this instance, it made me turn the page after the porridge to see what else Indians might eat for breakfast - and I found a spiced yoghurt dip that sounded nice and also some paneer served with grated cucumber sprinkled with lemon juice and black pepper. A nice side dish or part of a mezze kind of meal I guess.

No you buy books like this because you want to learn how to cook Indian food - specifically Indian vegetarian food - or a different kind of vegetarian food. It has all the information you might require and lots of tempting sounding vegetarian dishes, such as (just picked at random) Hot and Sour Garlic-braised Aubergine. Now that I could have a go at.

#indianfood #meals #breakfast #spicemixes #grains


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