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Simply Nigella: Indian-spiced shepherd’s pie

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Nov 2nd, 2015


Indian-spiced shepherd’s pie

Serves 4


For the topping:

  • 1kg sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked
  • peeled strips from 1 lime, preferably unwaxed, and juice of ½ lime
  • approx 1 litre cold water
  • 4cm piece (20g) fresh ginger, peeled, plus more for filling (see below)

For the filling:

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4cm piece (20g) fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • seeds from 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 500g minced lamb, preferably organic
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

To decorate:

  • 4 teaspoons nibbed or finely chopped pistachios


  1. Preheat your oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Start with the topping, cutting each of the sweet potatoes into approx 4-5cm chunks.
  2. Put the unpeeled potato chunks into a large saucepan (with a lid) and add the salt, peppercorns, cracked cardamom pods and lime strips (you don’t need the ginger just yet), then add just enough cold water (about 1 litre) to cover.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly, put the lid on and cook for about 30 minutes – or until the sweet potato is tender – while you get on with the filling.
  4. Slice the garlic and ginger roughly, quarter the onion, and put them all into the bowl of a food processor with the cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds, and whiz until finely chopped. Alternatively, use a bowl and a stick blender, or just chop everything very finely by hand.
  5. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan (with a lid), and then tip this paste in.
  6. Cook for a few minutes or so to soften, stirring frequently, then stir in the garam masala, chilli flakes and turmeric, and tip in the lamb mince, turning it in the spiced onion mixture and breaking it up gently.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes, then fill the empty can with cold water and, swilling it around, pour this in as well. Stir in the red lentils.
  8. Season with the salt and Worcestershire sauce, then bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice to stop it catching on the bottom of the saucepan.
  9. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain them, reserving the liquid, and leave until cool enough to peel away the skins. Put the flesh into a wide bowl.
  10. Mash the sweet potatoes, using a potato masher, or any gadget of your choice (even a fork would do) and slowly beat in some of the potato cooking water – adding as much as you need to make the mash a less dense, more spreadable consistency – and squeeze in the juice of half the lime.
  11. Grate the peeled ginger for the topping on to a plate – I use a coarse microplane grater – then spoon the grated ginger into the centre of a piece of kitchen roll. Moving quickly, pull up the edges of the paper and twizzle them, so you have a little wrapped swag-bag, then squeeze and wring out over the mash (an intense ginger juice will drip out). Beat this juice into the mash (above). Check the seasoning, tasting to see if you want any more lime or ginger, too.
  12. Once the lamb filling has had its time, ladle equally between 4 small ovenproof bowls or dishes of approx 400ml capacity (or a larger rectangular dish, measuring approx 30 x 20 x 5cm deep and 1.6-litre capacity), and then top with the mash, also dividing this equally between the bowls, spreading it to cover the rim of the dishes.
  13. Sit the dishes on an oven tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (or, if you’re cooking this in one larger dish, it will need 30-35 minutes). The mash should be piping hot (though it won’t get a crust) with the mince bubbling underneath.
  14. On serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of nibbed pistachios over each bowl.


The pies can be assembled up to 2 days ahead. As soon as the pies are cool (and within 2 hours of making), cover each one and refrigerate until needed. Bake for an extra 10-15 minutes, making sure that the pies are piping hot in the centre before serving.


Wrap each pie tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge and bake as Make Ahead Note.

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Indian slaw

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


Unless your mama is from western India, chances are this is not your mother’s mayo-smothered, garlic powder-ridden coleslaw.  Nutty, tart, with a citrus burst, these crunchy shreds of cabbage pack just the right amount of heat from the fairly benign Serrano chiles.  Serve it, as is, for a salad course, or as an accompaniment to your traditional picnic fare.

Indian slaw

Makes 6 cups


  • 1/2 small head of cabbage (about 1 pound) or 1 bag (14 ounces) coleslaw mix
  • 1 to 2 fresh green Serrano chiles, stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup dry unsweetened coconut shreds (see tips)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • Juice from 1 medium-size lime
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric


  1. Remove the tough rib from the lower center of the halved cabbage by slicing it through, ending up with a v-shaped opening at the base.  Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise.  Slice it into shreds, as thin as you can.  Dump them into a large bowl.  If using the pre-shredded coleslaw blend (which usually has a few shreds of carrots and purple cabbage in it for color), empty the bag’s contents into a large bowl.
  2. Slice the chiles lengthwise and then cut them into thin slices, crosswise, ending up with half-moons of chiles that still have the rib and seeds within.  Do not discard the seeds.  Add this to the cabbage.
  3. Empty the peanuts into a spice grinder (like a coffee grinder), food processor’s bowl, or mini chopper and pulse the nuts to a consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  Letting the machine run incessantly may yield a gummy product that you know more commonly as peanut butter.  Tip the contents of the grinder over the cabbage.  Add the coconut, cilantro, salt, and lime juice.
  4. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the mustard seeds, cover the pan, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the turmeric which instantly bathes the oil with its yellow hue, the heat just right in cooking the spice without burning it.  Pour this popcorn-smelling mélange over the cabbage.  I often grab some of the cabbage from the bowl and add it to the skillet, wiping it clean with the shreds to make sure I get every last bit of spice and oil.  Thoroughly combine the contents in the large bowl (tongs, spoons, or my favorite – clean hand) to ensure every shred is evenly coated with everything.  Serve either at room temperature (my preference) or chilled.

Courtesy Raghvan Iyer, www.raghavaniyer.com

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Vikram Vij’s Indian salmon and potato cakes

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 29th, 2014


Vikram Vij’s Indian salmon and potato cakes


  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb fresh, wild salmon
  • a little over ½ lb russet potatoes, boiled and mashed (about 1 potato)
  • ¼ lb boiled yams, mashed (about 1 yam)
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeño peppers
  • ¼ to ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 ½ Tbsp garam masala or 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ajwain seeds
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • ½ cup canola oil for frying pan


  1. Lightly pound coriander seeds in a mortar or on a plate with a heavy spoon. (You just want to break the seeds in half.) Set aside.
  2. Beat eggs in a small bowl.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse salmon and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and allow salmon to cool. Peel off the skin.
  4. Thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, form round cakes about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Set them on a baking tray.
  5. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a shallow nonstick frying pan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium so that the cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or burn. Place 2 cakes in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn cakes over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.The cakes should be brown and crispy on both sides.
  6. Repeat, using 1 Tbsp of oil for 2 cakes, until all cakes are cooked. Serve cakes as they cook or keep cooked cakes warm on a plate in the oven while the remaining ones are cooking.

Courtesy Vikram Vij, www.vijs.ca

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Indian spice-roasted chicken with pan gravy and basmati rice

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Dec 2nd, 2013


Indian spice-roasted chicken with pan gravy

Serves 4, generously


  • 1 3-4 lb Chicken, whole
  • ½ Lemon
  • ½ Onion
  • 1 tsp Canola oil
  • ½ tsp cracked Black Peppercorns
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced (a microplane or garlic press makes light work of this)
  • ½ tsp Ginger root, minced
  • ½ tsp Chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground Turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground Coriander
  • ½ tsp ground Cumin
  • ½ tsp Garam Masala
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ Lemon, zested (use a microplane or fine grater)
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Onion, cut into 6 wedges
  • 2 Carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks Celery, cut into 2-inch pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 475°F.  Remove and discard the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity.  Sprinkle the cavity with a good pinch of both salt and pepper.  Place the lemon and onion halves inside the chicken cavity.  Tuck the wingtips under the body and tie the end joints of the legs together with kitchen twine (unless your chicken pre-tied).
  2. In a small bowl, use a spoon to combine the softened butter with the flavouring ingredients from the minced garlic through to the brown sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Now for the fun part: it’s time to get to know your chicken a little better… With gloved or ungloved hands (gloves are ideal if you have longer fingernails), wiggle your fingers under the skin covering the breast and leg meat to loosen.  Be careful not to tear the skin.  Use a small teaspoon to spread the flavoured butter mixture under the skin and spread it all over the breast and leg meat.
  4. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion wedges, carrot and celery pieces in a tight cluster.  You are keeping them close together to create a rack for the chicken to roast upon.  Place the chicken on top of the vegetable “rack” for roasting.
  5. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes at 475°F.  Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.  The chicken is considered fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 185°F.
  6. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board and allow it to rest 10-15 minutes before carving.  Meanwhile, it’s time to make the pan gravy.

Pan gravy


  • 2 Tbsp All-purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups low sodium Chicken Stock
  • Contents of roasting pan
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


  1. Use a wide spoon to skim and discard the excess fat from the chicken drippings.
  2. Once skimmed, place the entire pan (including roasted vegetables) onto the stove covering two burners.  Depending on your stove, one burner may be slightly exposed; ensure that it is the burner furthest away from you.
  3. Over medium-high heat add the flour to the pan and use a whisk to incorporate into the oil.  Continue stirring with whisk for 2 minutes before adding the chicken stock.  Simmer until the pan gravy thickens to the desired consistency.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, season and enjoy with the roasted chicken.

Note:  This is a basic pan sauce technique that can be applied to many types of proteins.  Keep it in your repertoire!

Basmati rice with carrots and raisins 


  • 2 Cups Basmati rice, rinsed well
  • 2 Tbsp Canola Oil
  • 2 Shallots, chopped
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 1 Star Anise, whole
  • ½ tsp ground Cumin
  • 2 pods Green Cardamom, whole
  • 1 ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Carrots coarsely grated, approximately 2 cups
  • 1 Cup Golden Raisins
  • 4 ½ Cups Water (be mindful that slightly more/less water may be required)


  1. In a fine mesh sieve rinse rice under cold water until the water runs clear.  Soak rice in a bowl filled with cold water for at least 15 minutes, up to one hour.  Drain.
  2. In a skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, cardamom and salt; sauté 2 minutes until fragrant.  Add rice and sauté for an additional two minutes to toast the rice.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid, adjusting the heat so that the liquid is gently bubbling while covered.  After 10 minutes, stir in the carrots and raisins with a fork.  Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Fluff the rice with a fork and taste for doneness.  Adjust seasoning according to your taste.  Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamom pods before plating for service.  The cinnamon stick and star anise may be used to garnish the rice. Enjoy!

Courtesy Camille Moore, @CAMI_cooks

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Vij’s Thanksgiving turkey coconut curry

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 4th, 2013


Vij’s Thanksgiving turkey coconut curry

Serves 6

Preparation time: 30 minutes


  • ½ tsp saffron (optional)
  • ¼ cup very hot water (optional)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds or black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp asafetida (optional)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic (6 medium cloves)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika (optional)
  • 5 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 pound of cooked turkey – Thanksgiving leftovers are perfect!


  1. Place saffron threads in a small bowl. Add water and soak for 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, heat oil on medium-high for 45 seconds. Add cumin (or mustard) seeds. Allow cumin seeds to sizzle for 30 seconds (or wait 1 to 2 minutes for mustard seeds to start popping). Sprinkle in asafetida, stir, then immediately add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add turmeric, salt, cayenne and paprika and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in coconut milk and stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add cooked turkey, cover, decrease the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in saffron and its water. Stir in cilantro and serve immediately.

Courtesy Vikram Vij, www.vijs.ca

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