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I'm Anjum Anand. I'm a food writer, a chef, and I'm passionate about Indian food.
In this series I'll be going on a journey to show how different regional
flavours of the Indian subcontinent can be found up and down the country...
..from Gujarati cuisine in Leicester
to the spicy flavours of Kashmir up in Bradford.
I'll be showing novice cooks how to prepare great Indian dishes.
-Shall we execute?
-Let's execute. Yeah.
This week, I'm off to London to meet James Moody,
sales director of a silk merchant's.
James loves entertaining at home.
It's a time to spend time with your friends and relax,
feed them and see the pleasure or not so.
But although Indian food is his absolute favourite,
he's never attempted to cook it for his friends.
I'm always concerned that it will just come up and look an absolute mess.
Now James has decided to take the plunge and cook a three-course
Indian meal for his next dinner party.
-Are your friends convinced they're going to have a great meal tonight?
-The jury is out!
-The jury is out.
That's if he can hold it together...
I'm not stressed. I am not stressed.
Do you know your food is burning?
To get him started, I'm taking him to the curry capital of London's
East End to try some authentic flavours.
-I think crunch.
-Yeah, I'm crunching them.
And top Bengali chef Udit Sarkhel reveals some of his culinary secrets.
By the end of it, James hopes to wow his friends with a Bengali feast.
You know empty pans are like bad luck?
-Where's the food?
This is good wholesome Indian food that anyone can cook.
The Bengalis are known to be the artists and the poets of India,
and this creativity extends to their food.
The cuisine is refined and sophisticated, the use of spices
is restrained and dishes are often balanced with a touch of sugar.
Bengal is in the east of the Indian subcontinent.
The first Bengalis arrived in the UK back in the 19th century,
during the days of the British Empire.
Bengal was then the centre of the Raj.
The British made Calcutta their capital, and they stayed there for 300 years.
They left a legacy of their food,
and this tomato soup is one of those dishes.
This may look like an ordinary tomato soup, but my special ingredients will
give it an extra kick, and it's delicious.
Like a traditional tomato soup,
this one starts off with the basics - chopped vegetables.
Of course, I'm going to give my soup
an Indian twist, by adding garlic and a generous helping of ginger.
I'm putting in some butter, and a bit of oil to make sure it doesn't burn.
In goes a bay leaf.
Once that melts down, everything goes in.
To season, I'm adding salt and pepper,
and a tablespoon of cornflour, which will help the soup thicken.
Now for the chopped tomatoes.
I'm going to leave this for about thirty minutes or until the tomatoes are completely reduced down.
Then you'd normally puree a soup, but not me.
I'm very Indian that way.
I'm going to brown the tomatoes, once they've completely reduced.
Once I've got a really deep, rich flavour from the tomatoes, then I'll puree it.
Pour it back into the pan, and you can already see the colour is just so beautiful.
So now, just a bit of water to loosen it.
And a bit of milk to enrich it.
You can add cream if you want.
I'm off to meet James, and as it's lunchtime, I'm taking the soup with me.
I hope he likes it!
James is a sales director for a London silk merchant's.
He regularly travels to India to buy silks and has fallen in love
with authentic Indian food.
He's most comfortable cooking pasta but would rather be eating curry.
I like the texture and I like the ingredients...
the heat or not the heat.
The anticipation of the smell that's coming from the kitchen -
you know what you're going to get.
However, the smell never comes from his own kitchen,
and the only time James gets to indulge in his favourite cuisine
is when he and wife Catherine pop to their local curry house.
I haven't tried to cook Indian food because there seems to be a lot of components.
It's not just one spice, it's garam masala, it's cumin,
it's...you know, etc. It just goes on.
I am sure I can conquer James' fear of cooking Indian food,
so I've come to meet him at work.
It's also a good excuse for me to check out the wonderful silk. Hi!
-Nice to meet you.
-these are our interior fabrics.
-These look amazing.
God, my mother would have a field day in here.
-She'd spend a day looking at all the silks.
-We're happy to show her the range.
-Everything I like is pink. My husband wouldn't let me go for it!
-What's wrong with that?
It's stunning. But he'd say it's just pink.
Well, maybe he'll get to it on his feminine side.
He obviously doesn't know my husband!
This is truly silk heaven, but I am keen for James to try the soup I've brought.
There is nothing better than soup for lunch.
-So, this is a British classic...
Indianised with our spices.
That's incredible. Really beautiful.
I know you love throwing dinner parties and you love Indian food
and you go to India a lot, so you know about authentic Indian food.
Why don't you ever cook it?
Oh, I think it's probably the amount of components,
the parts that are involved.
-What do you normally cook at dinner parties?
-Well, it can be varied.
English fare, a bit of Thai food - green/red curry, sort of thing.
So how do you know what to put into there, quantity-wise?
-Comes in a paste.
-It comes in a paste. Got it.
So all you've got to do is add coconut milk. See?
-You're gonna learn so much.
-You're gonna love it.
-Am I invited to your dinner party?
-You can come.
-You can help me cook!
-Not if I'm the one in the kitchen.
No, you're in the kitchen. I'll have my feet up with a glass of wine.
James has agreed to cook Indian food for his next dinner party,
so I've come up with three delicious but simple dishes,
all with a Bengali twist -
my sweet and earthy butternut squash with chickpeas,
the definitive taste of West Bengal.
Coconut and mustard prawns, a wonderfully delicious combination of two distinct flavours.
And finally, my fabulous Bengali fish stew.
Fish is a must in every Bengali meal and a staple of the cuisine.
But before we start cooking, I've brought James to Brick Lane,
London's famous curry hotspot,
to seek out some authentic fish dishes.
There are a multitude of cheap and cheerful Indian restaurants
in this one street alone.
Most of the owners come from Bangladesh,
which was once East Bengal.
James has eaten in Brick Lane before, but I think the best variety of fish
dishes are found in the backstreet cafes that the locals use.
I wouldn't mind trying this fishy here, this one here.
What did you say that was called again?
-Powder fish bhuna.
-I'll have a bit of bhuna.
And we have some pulse. It's a prawn with vegetables.
-Do you fancy that?
-Yeah, we'll start with that.
Almost every part of the fish is eaten or used to flavour the curries.
This one is a fish eggs bhuna.
Fish eggs. Do you want caviar?
-No, I think I will...
And this is a dry fish chutney.
Dried fish chutney?
When I opened this restaurant, and this one was the famous dish -
-Then I'd better try it.
-You'd better try it.
-It would be rude of me not to.
Shootkie, which is also known as Bombay duck, is fish which
has been dried and salted.
It has a strong odour and is eaten in a curry or as a pickle.
OK, I'm going in for the...
-This is quite good, even though it's cold.
-..traditional Bombay duck. The famous Bombay duck.
Oh, fantastic. This was the fried fish.
Fried fish, but careful with the bones they have.
So you reckon this is full of bones?
So if I pop this in like that, am I asking for trouble?
Hopefully, no. I'm joking.
I hear crunch.
Yeah, I'm crunching them.
I could spend more time in Bengal, eating this sort of thing.
-Yeah. That's a good idea.
-I've got a big bone now.
Undaunted by his fish bone, James is all fired up to make the first dish.
My Bengali fish stew - succulent pieces of sea bream in a
delicately spiced gravy, or a jhol, as the Bengalis would call it.
So, for the Bengali fish stew.
-It's really easy, really quick.
So, my fish. I've used sea bream, because you want quite a delicate
fish, as they would use there.
To me, there's no problem with having fish heads and tails,
but lots of people wouldn't want to have the heads and the tails in.
We don't use fish stock in Indian food,
so you have to have all the bits in there to give that fishy flavour.
My first ingredient is mustard oil.
Mustard in seed and oil form
is an essential ingredient in Bengali cooking.
Made out of pressed seeds, the oil has a strong, pungent flavour.
As the oil is also used as a massage oil,
it is important to buy one which has been refined for food preparation.
The golden rule with mustard oil is to heat it until it smokes.
-OK look, it's smoking.
-I can see. And it's also gone translucent now.
-Yeah. Now we take it off the heat.
-And wait for it to cool.
If we just start adding our spices, obviously they're gonna burn.
-If you could get me three bay leaves...
To a Bengali, his entire culinary worth is based on this fish stew.
If he cannot cook a good fish stew, then he may as well never go back
in the kitchen. "Don't come home"!
Once the oil has cooled, we're going to add bay leaves,
cardamoms and cloves.
-So the main kind of very typical Bengali spices, this mixture of spices, actually.
-As you can see, there's a mixture of seeds in there.
-It's called panch phoran.
-"Panch" is Bengali for "five"
and "phoran" means "spices".
The panch phoran is a blend of fennel, fenugreek, nigella,
cumin and mustard seeds, all in equal measures.
It's another key ingredient of Bengali cooking.
I'm adding a teaspoonful of this unique blend to the hot oil.
Onions are quite sweet , so we're always quite careful when we use them in a fish curry.
Next it's three green chillies.
I'm just going to prick them.
-What, does that just sort of, like, releases essence of chilli?
If I don't prick them, when I put them in,
the pressure inside will create tension and it'll burst.
Then I'm going to add two teaspoons each of ginger and garlic paste
followed by salt, two teaspoons of cumin powder,
a tablespoon of coriander power, half a teaspoon of turmeric, and for some heat, a good pinch of chilli powder.
-All your spices are in.
-We've given it a stir.
All we're going to do is add some water.
-And we're just going to let it cook.
So everything cooks into a really beautiful stew.
While that's cooking away, I've heated up some more mustard oil to pan-fry the fish.
-I'm just going to brown it.
-Just get a bit of colour. Like a searing.
-Is that what we're doing?
Once it's browned, the fish is added to the gravy.
-I suppose I need to be a bit faster.
-What's the hurry?
-I want to eat it.
-That's the hurry!
-Then cover and leave to simmer for a few minutes.
-Not a lot...
-No, that's cooked, actually.
-So not a lot of pressure.
-If it just falls in...
So here's my moment to decide whether to present the heads and tails.
-There's no pressure.
Unfortunately, on this occasion the heads and tails stay in the pan.
I'm going to go for it.
-If I wasn't a fishy person before,
I am now. That's delicious.
Because you just taste the flavour of the fish first.
-And all the spices come after.
I know how much James enjoys eating out at Indian restaurants,
so before we move on to the next dish,
I brought him to meet one of the country's top Bengali chefs,
Udit's going to show us how to make aloo keema chops - spicy mashed potatoes with a minced lamb filling.
But if James thought he was just here to watch, he is so wrong.
-Your turn now.
-Let's get stuck in.
-So I'm going to take a little bit of potato...
-A bit of potato.
How much would you normally put in, then?
You can actually put in about 50% meat, 50% potatoes.
It all depends, how much you like the person you're making it for.
-OK. Well, I'm going to be mean.
-That looks very good.
-First go. Yeah, it's not quite as nice as yours.
Or yours, come to think of it.
Mm. Well done, James.
The aloo keema chop is eaten as a snack any time of the day.
But a traditional Bengali meal is more formal.
Rather than pick at all the dishes at once,
Bengalis like to savour each dish in turn. Udit explains how.
We start with a bitter gourd. It's called karela in Bengali.
I love it. And I think you're going to be surprised by how bitter it is.
-It's an acquired taste.
-To cut the bitterness, you have it with dal.
The bitter taste gets your mouth watering, ready for the next dish.
During the course of the meal, you should excite each and every taste bud.
I could really enjoy that. It's beautiful to start you off.
Then the meal moves on to lightly flavoured vegetables before
progressing onto the richer-flavoured dishes.
We move on to the next stage, which is prawns cooked with bottle gourd.
-Thank you. That is amazing.
-Those little prawns are just...
It just gets better and better.
Then fish curry is the next thing, right here.
-Mm. That is delicious.
-That is amazing.
Last but not least,
it's a spoonful of chutney, which is always eaten at the end of a meal.
That's interesting, as I would normally have a chutney before the meal.
As I was starting, I'd have chutney with a poppadom or...
If you have chutney before the meal, it's the opposite
of having the bitter because chutney actually makes you feel satisfied and full.
-Could you eat this every day?
-I could. Yeah.
It's not too overpowering.
You're motivated to learn to cook this now at home?
With James's taste buds working overtime,
we're going to start my next dish.
Sweet butternut squash with earthy chickpeas,
a typical Bengali vegetarian dish.
So, I'm really excited about this dish, because I
love butternut squash, and I think it goes really well with spices.
So if you grab a butternut squash, I'm going to get a small onion.
-I think I need about half of that.
Are you all right with that technique, sort of chopping it, doing it that way?
Any technique! As long as you're getting it chopped in the end.
Well, I don't know whether there's always a special way
-of doing things, all the same size...
-It should be the same size. That's true.
-Well, you've got a multitude of sizes.
-It'll still taste great.
I'm going to start off by adding my spices to the hot oil.
A pinch of asafoetida,
panch phoran, a bay leaf...
..one dried chilli, and sliced onions, which need to be browned.
-You travel a lot in India.
-Yeah, I have done.
You do the whole Indian thing there, or you have an Indian meal and then...?
-No, completely Indian.
In India, it's incredible what they can do with a vegetable.
And would a piece of chicken or beef make it any different? No. It wouldn't.
-No. All right, so...
..our onions are soft, so I'm going to add my spices.
First, in goes the turmeric...
That enough? Perfect. Thank you.
..followed by coriander powder, cumin and ginger paste.
As in many Bengali recipes, we're also adding sugar,
and a pinch of salt to balance out the sweet.
And this is also very Bengali. They're very particular about their spices,
-so adding water cools the temperature in the pan.
The spices won't burn and all the flavours marry really well together.
In with the butternut squash.
-Just as it comes?
-Just as it is.
I'm going to add a touch more water and leave the butternut squash to soften.
This should take around twelve to fifteen minutes.
Then I'm going to stir in the chickpeas and the final spices.
Can you put in a little less than a spoon, three quarters maybe, of garam masala?
-Yeah? And about the same of fennel-seed powder.
One last stir.
Because you like lots of chilli, you're going to say it
needs more chilli, because that chilli's more flavour than heat.
But sometimes it's nice not to be too hot,
cos it's such a delicate flavour of the vegetables itself.
-Do you want to go first?
-No. Age before beauty!
-Think that's about right, actually.
-Oh, it's fantastic.
And if you imagine this in the sequence of a Bengali meal, this
would be quite early on, because the flavour's quite delicate.
-Mm. Can I have some more?
For my final dish, I'm cooking coconut and mustard prawns,
a slightly unusual combination,
but it's delicious and really shows off the diversity of this cuisine.
First I'm going to marinade the prawns with turmeric
and chilli powder.
For the masala, I'm going to fry nigella seeds...
then add sliced onions and a couple of green chillies.
And I've sort of got my cheat for this dish.
-So this is just three teaspoons of prepared mustard and a teaspoon of
cornflour and a bit of water to make it into a smooth paste.
In Bengal, they would make it with fresh mustard seeds.
So I wanted to show you...
-So they would have their trusty grinder...
..and if you give it a bit of a bash, already.
-And then we're going to add some water.
-If you start smelling it, it'll smell very mustardy.
Yeah, very much so.
The grinding of spices is an essential part of the Indian cooking experience.
Traditional stone grinders like this one are a common
sight in most Indian homes.
It is generally believed that the heavier the tool,
the lighter the work.
Bengalis make this dish with freshly ground mustard seeds,
but sometimes ground mustard seeds can be bitter,
so I suggest trying it with my prepared mustard first.
So in goes our mustard-cornflour slurry. Cornflour just thickens it
because the mustard seeds' husks would add a natural thickness,
which you miss out if you use the prepared mustard.
Then I'm going to stir in grated coconut, garlic and ginger and a
little bit of water before leaving this to cook for about ten minutes.
While this cooks, I'm going to chop some coriander,
which I'll add just before serving.
In with the prawns.
With a splash of water.
Once they're cooked, mix in the coriander and serve immediately.
I kind of feel I want to get my fingers in there, really.
Please do. As long as you have some masala to eat with that.
-Oh, that's very good.
-I'm looking forward to trying your version at your place.
Well, I hope it will be the same as that!
Well, I mean, how simple can it be?
I think, when you've got the butternut squash, prawns, fish stew,
three colours. Yeah. That's a good plate of food, isn't it?
I think your friends are going to be surprised,
-that this is what Indian is about and that you cooked it.
The big day is finally here,
and James is already making a start on the butternut squash.
James, who's always been too afraid to try his hand at Indian cooking,
has invited his friends round for a Bengali meal.
He's hoping to impress them with my three dishes...
Traditional Bengali fish stew,
sweet butternut squash with earthy chickpeas,
and one of my favourites, coconut and mustard prawns.
But despite having my recipes to hand, he's not feeling confident.
No, feeling a bit slightly out of my comfort zone,
to be honest with you.
I've got all my guests, got my friends coming over,
and I'm a bit nervous.
I don't want to poison them all.
Well, I don't either. After all, I have my reputation to think of.
So I'm going early to make sure everything is going to plan.
-Hi. You must be Anjum.
-Yeah, hi, Catherine.
-Hi. Nice to meet you.
-Hi. How's he doing?
-Good, I think.
-Something's smelling good.
-Yeah, it's going OK. How are you?
-I'm good, thank you.
So I'm just trying to finely chop these onions...
-You're doing a great job.
-Don't know why I came!
-I don't think I'm needed here.
-You ARE needed here!
-Have you helped him?
-No, not at all.
-Not at all?
-He won't let me.
-You know empty pans are like bad luck?
-Where's the food?
-It's in the fridge. It's prepped.
-You've cooked it?
-No, no, no.
You've prepped it. All right.
It's now just, you know, doing the final execution.
-Shall we execute?
James still has two more dishes to get under way.
His dinner-party guests arrive in half an hour, so he's going to have
to get a move on if they're not to be disappointed.
-Are your friends convinced they're gonna have a great meal?
Well, I hope we can prove them wrong.
I see you've got the fish heads in there.
-Yeah. I'm going to do as you told me to do...
-I'm going to put them in there, add them for flavour.
-But I still haven't quite decided whether...
-You haven't decided?
-..whether they're going out on the final plate.
-The jury is out.
-Right. Oh, gosh.
-I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming.
You see, a cook cannot abandon his food, because
-it's going to burn!
-This is Jo.
-This is Martin.
-Anjum. Nice to meet you.
-You know, it's great you've gone to answer the door.
-Your food is burning!
-I know, I'm supposed to be cooking.
James has really got to stay focused on the cooking and keep on top of the ingredients.
-Because you're doubling, four teaspoons of cumin, two tablespoons of coriander.
But he's finding it difficult.
And now the party's really starting.
Yeah. And I'm stuck in the kitchen. That can't be right.
Well, this IS James's dinner party
and there's no reason why I should be stuck in here with him.
I know he can do this on his own. You don't need me, James.
I do. Yes, OK, I don't. I can do it.
-You can do it. You know where I am.
-I know where you are.
15 feet away in the garden.
Pull me by my hair back to the kitchen. But until then...
I think I'm leaving him to it now.
I'm not stressed!
Five. Five and a half.
I think tonight's curry is probably going to be a slightly
different curry to the curry that Jim might have brewed before.
Is that the one when he cooked out of a jar with the paste?
Is that what he did?
Oops! I think I've put my foot in it there.
-Maybe it IS best that I go back to the kitchen. Hey!
I've been enjoying my glass of wine. How's it going?
-All right. This is looking fine.
-Do you need me?
You do. OK, I'll stick around.
There's still a lot of cooking to be done, so it's time to get cracking.
-Is it all right?
This is the moment where I decide whether to put fish heads in or not.
-In or out. In or out! Let's hear it.
-They're not going in.
The first two dishes are on the home straight.
But his friends are hungry, and there's still the coconut and mustard prawns to make.
James has done a great job. I hope it all tastes as good as it looks.
-Go for it.
-OK. That's good. Let's do it.
Here's the first dish - prawns and coconut.
Ooh, great! Wow!
And some kind of a butternut-squash type...
And then we have Bengali fish stew.
I left the tails on for you so you can pick them up and use your fingers.
So what's the verdict?
I love pumpkin and chickpeas. It's gorgeous.
Well, it's butternut squash.
And it's got a real sort of kick to it but it's not too spicy. It's lovely.
Well, it looks like James's efforts have paid off.
While they all tuck in, I'm going to make a dessert which will be a
fitting end to this meal -
my spiced poached peaches with star anise yoghurt.
First I'm going to make a syrup by boiling some water with star
anise, cinnamon, ginger and sugar.
Once the sugar's dissolved,
I'm adding the peaches, which have already been peeled.
I'm covering the pan with greaseproof paper and leaving it to simmer until the peaches are soft.
Out come the peaches, and I'm leaving the syrup to reduce.
Now the syrup's cooled down, I'm going to stir some of it into the yoghurt with ground star anise.
To garnish, I'm sprinkling on toasted almonds and a mint leaf.
-Here we go.
-Wow! Look at that.
Guys, you just finish this beautiful dessert by Anjum, but
you had the three courses from me.
Erm, what do you all think? What did you think of it?
Yeah, excellent, mate.
Are you impressed, Catherine?
-Yeah, I'm really impressed.
-Did you think he could do it?
I thought he could do it, cos when he puts his mind to something he does well at it.
-But yeah - that was really good.
-Delicious. Very well done, mate.
-It tasted good.
-So you can cook a curry now.
-You can. Are you gonna do it again?
-Yes, I am.
-Without a doubt.
-Glad to hear it.
I might, obviously, give it a bit of a twist. You know?
You're allowed to do that.
An extra chilli here or there. But otherwise, yeah,
I'll do my best to keep it the way you taught me.
I thought I was going to struggle.
At times, I really did struggle.
You came along and helped me through the times where I got a bit confused and a bit sort of anxious.
Thank you. You've given me another skill.
Thank you very much.
-What's for next week?
-Yeah! And next week I am doing Japanese sushi.
For all the recipes on the series as well as an exclusive video recipe
from today's expert, Udit Sarkhel, go to:
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd