Thursday, 28 June 2012

‘There's more to Indian food than Chicken Tikka Masala!'

TV chef Reza Mahammad on why Eastern recipes are appealing more and more to Western cooks

Written by Katy Pearson

When I finally pin down Reza Mahammad for a chat (he's just spend a month in South Africa researching more recipes) he's positively bubbling with enthusiasm for his new book Reza's Indian Spice.

'Oh my God,' he exclaims when I ask which recipe is his favourite. 'There are so many wonderful, super-duper recipes which I think people will identify with and can just do; they are all so doable and easy to make. I must say I love the Five Jewels Dal though, it’s fabulous!'

He hopes his book will get people using the spices they've had stashed in their cupboards. 'If you have got spices in the cupboard and don’t know how to eat them, then don’t be frightened by it,' he urges.  'Use them. It’s just a shame not to! They'll make dishes really delicious, you know, and give them another depth and a layer of flavour. It’s the little nuances can make a big difference to a dish.'

When I ask what he makes of Britain having recently got the hots for curry and other Eastern dishes he laughs delightedly.

‘There's more to Indian food than Chicken Tikka Masala!' I’ve noticed that a lot of people love watching food programs, you know, the “sofa-eaters”, and I think that has made Indian food appear less one dimensional.'

Well there's certainly nothing one dimesnional about this chef - or his recipes...

Reza's Indian Spice by Reza Mahammad, published by Quadrille (£17.99, hardback)




Reza Mahammad recipes

Spinach and apricot stuffed chicken with yogurt sauce

Here’s a chance to practise the art of transformation, creating eye-catching, dramatic medallions from the humble chicken breast. The stuffing bursts with colour and complex flavour, framed by succulent meat and a delicate, creamy sauce. The sauce and stuffing can be made in advance, then it’s just an assembly job on the day. As the sauce is quite rich, you don’t need much with it, perhaps just the light Colourful Spiced Cabbage.

Serves 4


For the stuffing

  • 2 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated root ginger
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 300g spinach, shredded
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 75g dried apricots, chopped
  • 75g grated paneer or ricotta
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted

For the chicken

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated root ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or flakes
  • 2–3 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil

For the sauce

  • 4 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp grated root ginger
  • 3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g yogurt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1–2 tbsp single cream
  • ½ tsp caster sugar, or to taste


Prepare the stuffing. Heat a heavy-based pan and add the oil. When hot, add the cumin seeds and allow to crackle. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until very soft and starting to change colour. Add the ginger, chillies and spinach. Cook on a high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir in the apricots. Allow to cool, then stir in the cheese, pine nuts and salt to taste.

Slice each breast in half horizontally with a sharp knife, keeping one side joined, then open it out like a book. Flatten evenly with a rolling pin. Place each on a piece of cling film large enough to wrap around the breasts. Smear on both sides with garlic and ginger and sprinkle with salt, cinnamon, cardamom and chilli powder. Divide the stuffing into four portions and put one on each breast. Fold the chicken in from both sides, then roll up like a sausage. Wrap the cling film round tightly. Poach in simmering water for five to seven minutes, then drain.

For the sauce, heat the ghee or oil in a pan over a medium-high heat until hot and add the onions. Fry with a pinch of salt until they turn pale gold. Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, chilli powder and cinnamon. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have softened. Whisk in the yogurt with the garam masala and continue to cook on a low heat for two to three minutes, until the oil starts to separate out on top. Add the cream and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar to taste.

Heat the ghee or oil for the chicken in a frying pan until hot, remove the chicken from the cling film and add to the pan. Sear on all sides, turning, to create an even golden colour. Rest for five minutes, then cut into slices and serve with the warm sauce.



Reza Mahammad recipes

Duck breasts with orange, ginger and cinnamon

Serves 4

Duck with orange is a typical and deservedly classic French combination, but I have tinkered with the notion, mixing in ginger and cinnamon to create another of my beloved ‘Frindian’ dishes. The duck goes so perfectly with my celeriac gratin that it would be a tremendous shame not to make both. The sweetness of the celeriac and cinnamon flatter the sweet-sharpness of the duck and make it a perfect harmony of flavours. This would be a lovely alternative Christmas dish.


  • 4 duck breasts, each
  • 180–200g 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes salt
  • 1 tbsp grated root ginger finely grated zest of
  • 1 orange, plus juice of 4, plus 4 more oranges cut into segments
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses


Trim the silverskin from the duck breasts. Using a sharp knife, score the fat in a criss-cross pattern, taking care not to cut into the flesh.

Mix together the cinnamon, allspice, chilli flakes, salt, ginger and orange zest. Rub this mixture all over the duck breasts, massaging well. Put into a mixing bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to marinate for a few hours in the fridge.

Return the duck to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Heat a wide, heavy-based ovenproof frying pan, or a cast-iron grill pan, over a low heat. Sprinkle some salt on the skin of the duck and place in the pan, skin side down. Cook until the fat has rendered and the skin is crisp. Spoon the excess fat from the pan, turn the breasts over and put into the oven. Roast for eight to 10 minutes, until the flesh is still pink in the middle. Allow to rest for three to five minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the orange juice, orange segments, maple syrup and pomegranate molasses with any juices that emerge from the duck. Reduce the liquid by half and adjust the seasoning. Thinly slice the duck breast on the diagonal and serve with the sauce.


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