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Indian Cuisine

3 Mira Manek recipes for the perfect healthy vegetarian thali

Mira Manek’s mission is to bring you healthy Indian food
3 Mira Manek recipes for the perfect healthy vegetarian thali
May 8, 2017   |    Scarlett Russell

Most of us associate Indian cuisine with creamy, spicy tikka masalas or calorie-laden kormas from our local takeaway. But Mira Manek wants to shake up perceptions with her vegetarian, superfood-laden and ultra-healthy Indian recipes.

‘The north region of India is known for rich, indulgent and heavy food, which is what most of the restaurants in Britain serve,’ says Mira, whose book, Saffron Soul, is out now. ‘But there are so many variations. I’m from Gujarat, where the dishes are largely vegetarian and lighter.’

Mira, 33, grew up in north-west London feasting on dishes freshly prepared by her mother, aunt and grandmother. It wasn’t until her late-20s, while living in Dubai, that Mira developed her own cooking skills. ‘When I moved away from home, I fell into the trap of obsessive fad-dieting. I skipped meals, thinking snacking was better.’

Mira’s light bulb moment came on a work trip to India. ‘I was in a place full of fresh ingredients but was busy eating popcorn.’

In Saffron Soul, Mira puts a fresh spin on dishes. Think spiced tea, porridge with saffron, plus salads, with zingy cumin and ground coriander.

RAJMA (SIMPLE KIDNEY BEAN CURRY)

‘Kidney beans really remind me of my childhood – I was so excited when we had kidney bean and potato curry served with hot rotis. Here’s a simple kidney bean curry without the potato.’

Serves 4 as part of a thali or 2 as a main dish
• 2tbsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil
• ½tsp mustard seeds
• ½tsp cumin seeds
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 1½tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt
• 2in piece ginger, peeled and grated
• 4 cloves garlic, grated
• 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
• ½tsp ground turmeric
• 1tsp ground cumin
• 1½tsp ground coriander
• 3-4 tomatoes, chopped
• 4 spring onions, finely chopped
• 2 x 400g cans kidney beans, drained
• 4tbsp passata or tomato paste
• 200ml water
• Squeeze of lime
• Handful of coriander, chopped

1. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan on a medium heat, then add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the onions and a pinch of salt and stir. Once the onions are lightly browned (a couple of minutes), add the ginger, garlic and chilli and stir for another 30 seconds. Then add the ground turmeric, cumin and coriander, chopped tomatoes, spring onions and the rest of the salt.

2. Next add the kidney beans, passata, water and lime and mix everything together. Leave to cook on a low heat for at least 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

3. To finish, mix a healthy handful of coriander leaves into the curry. Lovely served with hot rotis or rice.

FUL GOBI NE MATAR NU SHAAK (CAULIFLOWER & PEA CURRY)

‘The great thing about cauliflower is how versatile it is – how it works well with so many different vegetables, and how it can take on any flavour. The defining ingredient here is Madras curry powder, an authentic blend of over 10 spices, which lends the curry an intensely warm and earthy aroma.’

Serves 4 as part of a thali or 2 as a main dish
• 350-400g cauliflower florets (about 1 cauliflower)
• 150g frozen peas
• 2tbsp coconut oil
• 1tsp mustard seeds
• ½tsp cumin seeds
• ¾tsp ground turmeric
• ½tsp ground cumin
• 2tsp ground coriander
• 2tsp Madras curry powder
• 1tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt

1. First cut the cauliflower into small florets and rinse the peas in hot water a couple of times.

2. To make the curry base, heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook until the mustard seeds pop, then add the cauliflower and peas.

3. Next, add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir everything together.

4. Leave the curry to cook on a low heat for 20–30 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked but still a little crunchy.

The Ful Gobi Ne Matar Nu Shaak is a dry curry, but if you prefer a moister curry or more gravy, add two chopped tomatoes right at the end just before the cauliflower is fully cooked.

POSHU NU SHAAK (GREEN BEAN CURRY)

‘This is a simple staple for weekday evenings, and an easy way to get those greens into a thali – a nice little addition that’s not over-spiced or heady. The green beans are soft but retain a slight crunch, and taste delicious with roti, dipped in yogurt.’

Serves 2 as part of a thali
• 300g green beans
• 1tsp coconut oil
• ½tsp mustard seeds
• ½tsp cumin seeds
• ¼tsp fenugreek seeds, optional
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• Pinch asafoetida, optional
• 3 chopped tomatoes or 5tbsp of tinned tomatoes
• ¾tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt
• ¼tsp ground turmeric
• ½tsp ground cumin
• 1½tsp ground coriander
• ½tsp red chilli powder, optional

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Chop the green beans either into small pieces or diagonally lengthways, then blanch in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan and add the mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, if using.

3. Once the mustard seeds have popped, add the chopped garlic and asafoetida and immediately stir in the green beans. Place the lid on the saucepan and let the curry
cook for around 15 minutes until the beans are cooked and soft, stirring every couple of minutes.

4. Once the green beans are cooked, add the chopped (or tinned) tomatoes, salt, ground turmeric, cumin and coriander, and red chilli powder, if using. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes.

FRESH INDIAN CUISINE

Saffron Soul, Healthy, vegetarian heritage recipes from India by Mira Manek is out now (£20, Jacqui Small LLP)

Read more: 3 Donal Skehan recipes from across the globe

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