The stars are aligning, and in a irresistibly Indian kind of way. Six months ago I was sent on a food-writing assignment to India with British chef and television personality Anjum Anand; a friend recently gifted me a ticket to an Indian film called The Lunchbox starring, you guessed it, Indian food; I’ve just been asked to review a batch of Sydney-based Indian restaurants; and Anjum’s Quick & Easy Indian recently landed on my desk for review. It’s a tough life, but I’m coping – one curry at a time.
I’ve long been besotted with Indian cuisine. I cook it often, and from scratch, devoting entire afternoons to making pastes, pounding spices, and fashioning tricky, triangle-shaped samosas out of ghee-laden pastry. Nothing brings out my fighting spirit more than a plate of poppadums and a bowl of raita, and don’t get between me and a well-blistered naan.
On that trip six months ago Anjum taught me the distinguishing factors of Punjabi food, which spices to mix for particular masalas, and how to balance complex sauces. Six months later the lessons continue, this time through the pages of her latest lovely book.
Bright, paisley swirls adorn a white hard-backed cover which packages page after page of quick, healthy recipes. Anjum propels traditional Indian cooking into the health-conscious, time-poor 20th Century with recipes such as tandoori roast salmon tacos; quick masala dosas – the traditional crisp, spongy pancake cleverly replaced with rice paper wrappers; and Parsi poached eggs on potatoes. The pages are punctuated with time-saving tips.
So-long laboursome Indian cooking, hello Anjum’s “30-Minute Suppers” (other chapters include Indian Tapas, After Work and Quick Sides). Her “tangy near-instant prawn curry” took about 20 minutes to make (including peeling and deveining a tangle of green prawns) and boy it was a beauty. Her “near-instant grilled naan” (do you see a theme here?) studded with nigella seeds was soft and light and the perfect accompaniment to the saucy prawns. The “quickest ever tarka dal” may refer to the quick cooking time but could equally relate to the eating – it was gone in under 10 minutes, mopped up with Anjum-inspired Indian bread.
“Everyone I know is busy. This generation fills each moment of every day. Even our weekends are stuffed with plans … This book is the perfect way to help you spend less time in the kitchen – if you know what I mean,” Anjum writes in the introduction. She’s not wrong.
Tonight dinner is Anjum’s “20-minute Indian west coast baby squid”. I’m off to roast some poppadums: don’t get in my way.
Tangy near-instant prawn curry
2–3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
8–10 fresh curry leaves
3 fat garlic cloves, grated
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped or blended
4 tbsp sun-dried tomato purée, or to taste
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp roasted ground cumin
500g raw king prawns, shelled and deveined
3 tbsp crème fraîche, or single cream
large handful of chopped coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and, once the popping subsides, add the curry leaves. Follow quickly with the garlic and cook for one minute, or until the garlic smells cooked.
Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, ground spices and some salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the masala has released oil on the base of the pan.
Add the prawns, crème fraîche and a good splash of water and simmer until the prawns are cooked through, a matter of three to four minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, stir in the coriander and serve hot.