Recipes / Indian

Recipes from Meera Sodha’s Fresh India

By bristol247, Thursday Jul 7, 2016

Fresh India by Meera Sodha features Bristol’s own Thali Cafe’s recipe for mango paneer.

Here is that and a few other recipes from the new book:



Jim Pizer is more Indian than a lot of Indians I know. While growing up he was in and out of his Indian friends’ houses in Birmingham, eating their mums’ home cooking, and was so disappointed with the state of Indian food in restaurants in the UK that he decided to set up his own, the Thali Café in Bristol.

It did so well that, ten years later, one restaurant has grown into five. This is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and always has been. Although you might not find it on menus in India, it’s one of the finest ways to eat paneer that I know.

Makes 6 to 8 kebabs (enough for 4 people)

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons chickpea (gram) flour
600g hard paneer, cut into
3cm cubes
4cm ginger, peeled and grated
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1¼ teaspoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped
fresh coriander
1½ red peppers, cut into
3cm chunks

Put the oil into a small pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the chickpea flour and stir into the oil. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the oil is absorbed and you have a paste. Don’t allow it to burn, but aim for a nutty brown colour – this is where the deeply savoury flavour of the marinade comes from. Allow the paste tocool for 3 minutes.

Put the chickpea flour mixture into a bowl with the paneer and all the other ingredients apart from the red pepper. Mix well and leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes (the longer the better). If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in a bowl of cold water and leave to one side.

When you’re ready to cook, thread the paneer pieces alternately with the red pepper on to the skewers. Meanwhile, heat up a griddle pan, frying pan or barbecue. Cook the kebabs for around 8 minutes, turning them every couple of minutes, until they are lovely and chargrilled on each side.

Serve immediately, with naan bread or rice, cucumber and mint raita



These are a step forward from the deep-fried favourites: they are healthier, more pleasant to cook, and just as tasty. I like to serve these with a fresh coriander or mango chutney, or beetroot raita.

Makes 24

3cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green finger chilli, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1kg brown onions
4 tablespoons rapeseed oil
180g chickpea (gram) flour
40g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and line two baking trays with lightly oiled foil. Put the ginger, green chilli and cumin seeds into a pestle and mortar along with a small pinch of salt, bash to a coarse paste and leave to one side. 

Peel and halve the onions, then slice them into 0.5cm half-moon shapes. Put the oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Fry for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re translucent and just soft enough to cut with a wooden spoon.

Put the onions into a bowl and add the ginger, green chilli and cumin paste, along with the chickpea flour, fresh coriander, chilli powder, ground coriander, turmeric, lemon juice and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Mix thoroughly and, little by little, add up to 30ml of water, until you have a very thick batter. 

Take a tablespoon of the mixture and drop it on to a tray. Repeat with the rest of the mix, leaving a couple of centimetres between each bhaji. 

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the bhajis start to crisp up and brown on top. Remove from the oven – you may need to gently lever them off the foil using a palette knife – and place on a plate alongside some chutney before devouring.



I’ll never forget my mum’s head-turning squeal when she saw a bag of Desiree potatoes marked ‘grown in Lincolnshire’ in the aisle of a London supermarket. She’s evangelical about their butteriness, and proud of the fact they’re grown near our family home, so this dish, which uses a classic Gujarati spicing of cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli, appears regularly on the Sodha family table. 

Serves 2 to 3 as a main course

400g rainbow or Swiss chard
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 medium brown onions, sliced
600g Desiree potatoes
3cm ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
400g ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1??? teaspoons chilli powder
??? teaspoon ground cumin
??? teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1¼ teaspoons salt

To prepare the chard, cut the stems from the leaves. Cut the stems into 4cm pieces and slice the leaves into 4cm strips. 

Put the oil into a large lidded frying pan and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the onions and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until soft and golden brown. In the meantime, peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm cubes. When the onions are ready, add the ginger and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the potatoes and 200ml of water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes and the chard stalks, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the chard stalks are soft. Add the chilli, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt and stir gently. Finally, add the chard leaves, coat with the mixture and pop the lid back on for a final 2 to 3 minutes, until the leaves have wilted. 

Serve with hot chapattis or rice, yoghurt and a little pickle.



This dal is my and every other Gujarati’s taste of home. One spoonful and I am transported. It has a more complex taste than most dals due to the subtle jabs of star anise, curry leaves and lemon, all rounded off with the sweetness of honey. Because of the time it takes to soak and cook toor lentils, this is more of a weekend dish in our house, although a daily staple across Gujarat.

Serves 4 as part of a main course

300g yellow toor lentils
2 star anise
rapeseed oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
1 green finger chilli, slit lengthways
2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1??? teaspoons salt
2½ teaspoons runny honey
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
30g red-skinned peanuts, crushed  

Soak the toor lentils in cold water overnight, or in warm water for an hour before cooking. When soaked, wash the lentils in a few changes of cold water until the water runs clear, then place in a saucepan and cover with 4cm of cold water. Add the star anise and set to boil over a medium heat. The lentils will take around an hour to become tender (so you can crush them easily with the back of a spoon), and you may need to remove the scum that forms, using a large spoon. While the lentils cook, you can prepare the tempering.  

Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, green chilli and 6 curry leaves. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until you can smell the spices, then add the tomatoes. Cook for around 5 minutes, until the tomatoes become soft and paste-like, then add the turmeric, salt, honey and lemon juice. Cook for a couple of minutes, then turn off the heat.  

When the lentils are cooked, whisk them to thicken, then add the tempering. The mixture will be quite thick, and Gujarati dal is normally thin, so add at least 200ml of hot water (or as you prefer), then simmer for a further 15 minutes. Check that the salt, lemon, chilli and honey are to your liking, then take off the heat. 

Put another tablespoon of oil into a separate frying pan and, when hot, add a sprig of curry leaves and the crushed nuts. Fry until the curry leaves crisp up and the peanuts brown, then take off the heat. Transfer the dal to a serving dish and scatter over the curry leaves and the peanuts. Serve with steamed basmati rice, a green leafy vegetable curry like savoy cabbage, black kale and potato subji, and a side of yoghurt and pickles.


Read more: Meera Sodha visits Thali Cafe in Southville

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