Category Archives: Indian Recipes

Naan (Indian Leavened Flatbread)

Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and made from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, however, we can now easily make it on top of the cooker. It tastes best hot and slathered with ghee (clarified butter). I am also quite happy to eat it with normal butter (full fat and salted – none of this tasteless margerine crap). It is, of course, also fabulous with curries.



  • ¾ cup water heated to 115°F/ 46°C
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 (¼-oz.) packet active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (‘bread powder’ for you Sri Lankans out there 😉 )
  • ½ cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt or curd in Sri Lanka
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup finely chopped coriander
  • Melted ghee or butter, for brushing


  1. Stir water and honey in a bowl; add yeast and let it sit until foamy, approximately 10 minutes. Add flour, yogurt, oil, and salt; stir until dough forms. Using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, approx. 5 minutes. Cover dough with a damp tea towel; let it sit in a warm place until doubled in size, for about 1 hour.
  2. Transfer the dough to a work surface; divide into 10 balls. Working with 1 ball at a time and using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 7″ (18 cm) circle about ¼” (0.6 cm) thick. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp. coriander; press into dough.
  3. Heat a 12″ non-stick skillet on medium-high. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, cook dough, plain side down, until bubbles appear over the surface, for about 45 seconds. Flip dough; cook until bubbles appear once more, for about 30 seconds. Transfer the naan to a plate and slide the skillet off the heat. Using tongs, cook naan about 2″ (5 cm) over the open flame, flipping once, until browned in spots, for about 1 minute. (Alternatively, finish cooking the naan in a frying pan until browned in spots, for about 1 minute). Return naan to plate, brush with ghee (or butter) and sprinkle with more coriander if desired. Serve hot.
Nom nom naan; credit: Ingalls photography
Nom nom naan – credit: Ingalls photography

This goes particularly well with Chettinad Chicken!

Chettinad Chicken – Complete Taste Explosion

When I was in India last year (Chennai – previously known as Madras) I had a cheap Chettinad chicken dish on my last night from a take-away restaurant in a local non touristy area (aka Koli Milagu Masala = Chettinad Pepper Chicken). The guesthouse owners got it for me as it was not deemed safe to wonder around that particular area near the airport (for my early flight back to Sri Lanka) as a white woman alone after dark. Happy to be waited on and enjoying a couple of beers from the fridge in the reception area downstairs I relaxed until my food arrived. I had not expected much, having enjoyed the food on offer in 4* establishments in the city and after surveying the urban, dirty, market area where I was to spend my last night.

I was in for a surprise.

Not only was the portion enormous so great value for money regardless of taste but when I did taste it I was blown away. Not just by the spice of the dish (if you don’t like pepper or chilies I’m afraid this food is not for you) but it was delicious and the flavours wonderfully balanced. It was easily one of the best curries I have ever had, and I have had a few. I had it with naan bread and finished the lot!

I have since been on the look out for a good recipe that does not involve too much work as the original-style recipes I found all involve the grinding of spices yourself – you will need a spice grinder and blender for this recipe. Below is one of the best I have found so far.

This spicy chicken recipe is adapted from one in Madhur Jaffrey’s classic Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). It is flavoured with fennel seeds, curry leaves, and urad dal, the skinned split black lentils that are a popular ingredient in southern India. It serves four.


  • 6 tbsp oil (I use olive but only because that is my preference)

For the Spice Paste:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 8-10 dried hot red chillies, broken into halves
  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp white poppy seeds
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cm or 1 1/2 in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 -2tsp salt.

You also need:

  • 3 Indian or normal bay leaves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2.5cm or 1in cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp urad dal (the skinned split black lentils), rinsed, soaked 30 minutes, and drained
  • 15-20 fresh curry leaves, if available (or frozen)
  • 2 medium-sized onions (175g or 6oz), peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large (or 2 small) tomato(es), chopped
  • one 1kg/2 1/4 lb chicken, skinned and cut into smallish serving pieces (breast halves into 3 and legs into drumsticks and thighs)
  • Some chopped coriander leaves (for garnish).


  1. Make the spice paste: In a small frying-pan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium- high heat. When hot add the cumin seeds, chillies, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and poppy seeds. Stir and fry briefly until lightly roasted. Now put these into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Empty into the container of an electric blender. Put the garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt into the blender as well, along with 6-8 tbsp of water. Process until you have a fine paste and then set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining 5 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves and urad dal. Stir and fry briefly until the urad dal turns red, then add the curry leaves if using. Stir once or twice and add the onions. Fry the onions until they are soft and just lightly coloured. Now add the spice paste. Continue to stir and fry for about 4-6 minutes, adding a little water to prevent sticking. Add the tomato. Stir and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken pieces to the onion and spice mixture. Stir until they are well coated, then add 600ml/1pt/2 cups of cups water, just enough to cover. Bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces. Turn the heat up to medium- high, and reduce the sauce until very thick. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Replace the chicken, fold gently into the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with rice, naan, paratha or idly appams.

Chettinad Pepper Chicken
Chettinad Pepper Chicken – courtesy of Ingalls Photography

Chennai – A City Quite Like No Other

The title says it all really, however, I haven’t been to any other major Indian cities so I could be wildly wrong but I’ve been informed except maybe in Delhi (or is it New Delhi now? Or was that before? The country is rather confusing), perhaps, Chennai (the former Madras)  is rather crazy. Now I know and adore many Tamil people in Sri Lanka, but here they are on a different level. The rich are fine (100% like the rich Colombo equivalents), the very poor are moody and take begging to extents which I have never experienced before. They probably need to but it was a little intimidating to me. I ignored them and then felt guilty afterwards. BUT I had been warned by several people don’t give them money because there will be lots of them around you like flies around sh*t if you do. I took this advice, but still with a heavy heart. They are desperate – the sooner South Asian countries start implementing social security the better – but that’s for another blog. I have heard India is heading in that direction…I sincerely hope so and that Sri Lanka will follow.

What actually impressed the most was the general friendliness of folk in such a large city (except for the beggars, but they are exceptions). They don’t stare at white women like many still do in Colombo – I was treated equally in shops and so on without the preference that so often occurs in Sri Lanka (where you can be waved to the top of a queue just because you are white). This really impressed me. I always feel like a dick when they do it here…..inwardly pleased but super embarrassed 😉

Also the number of Tamil devotees walking around the filthy streets barefoot in their full devotion sarongs and other colourful clothing, most of them with dreadlocks, beards and their forehead in white and red stripes surprised me – having seen a number of Tamil movies in my time – I still didn’t expect these guys to be so numerous in public in Chennai (I was expecting the more mustached Kollywood type of guys that would jump into a song with 50 other dancers on my arrival haha). The devotees didn’t do anything strange there other than smile at you with such honesty that it I had to clench my teeth to stop a stray tear, but they are capable of exceptional stuff, like walking on fire and piercing their bodies without pain – seen all that in Kataragama here in the South East of Sri Lanka – not hugely impressed then, I think “majorly freaked out” was a better expression at the time (younger and more easily upset). No photo’s of that but this one may give you some insight into the beauty of the Tamils:


The food – well what can I say? Scrumptious. I have no recipes but I will get some for you soon.

The best things I ate were:

IDLY (the small white pancake things):


I actually didn’t eat the donut-shaped thing because it was too oily in the hotel breakfast buffet (they have a similar thing in Lanka  – I ate it once and was on the toilet for 3 days after). But the idly was lovely, not dry, not squidgy, just perfect….but what really makes the dish is the accompaniments. My favourites were the tomato chutney (bottom left with the green leaf), the coconut chutney (next to the tomato chutney), the sambar (oh luscious – the curry on the right above) and the coriander chutney (not shown).  JUST YUMMY. I didn’t miss my pol sambol at all. Instead of the donut-thing I went for boiled eggs and immersed them in the sauces too. Plus I had a cheeky portion of garam masala scrambled eggs on toast). Set me up for the day!

After that, I missed lunch and mainly had curry at night. Do not miss the Chettinad Chicken – incredible. Not being the greatest fan of rice I sadly missed out on a Buriyani but have since been told they are superb there too. Also note – Chennai is mainly vegetarian. This didn’t bother me. However, if your stomach is demanding beef, lamb or even chicken – head to the big hotels. Your average street shop will not have them…most do not even serve fish.

My only regret is that I went alone. I will return but with boyfriend or friends to hit the real sights and nightlife.

And why are all the tuk tuks yellow? Some metered, most not. Is paint illegal there? 😉