Anjum Anand's recipes for takeaway favourites with an Indian twist

Anjum Anand's 'best-ever' spiced beef burger with crispy onions.
Anjum Anand's 'best-ever' spiced beef burger with crispy onions. Photo: Martin Poole

There's a fair chance butter chicken is your Indian go-to order. But there's no reason to feel basic, British chef and author Anjum Anand has nothing against the creamy curry: "It's a part of Indian food – Butter chicken is Indian restaurants' favourite curry.

"So it's not like I'm saying, 'OK butter chicken's awful, you have better options', actually, butter chicken's great. There is just much more to try, which is much more reflective of Indian food."

Anjum Anand.
Anjum Anand. Photo: Martin Poole

Anand is keen to show there's more to Indian cuisine than the popular chicken dish. Her latest cookbook I Love India is a colourful ode to the country's food culture and regional specialties. "The north and south are so vast geographically, sometimes I think the only thing that ties Indian food together are the spices and the lentils," she says.

If you're eating out and looking to venture beyond butter chicken, Anand recommends asking the chef for regional dishes: "I'd say 'I don't want anything with dairy or nuts, I want something regional, I want something homemade, what can you suggest for me?' – that's a good way to go."

To get started at home, here she shares five fun Indian takes on familiar takeaway staples, including a riff on chicken and chips, and pani puris – the Indian answer to Mexican tostadas. There are also two spins on Aussie barbecue favourites; grilled chicken tikka skewers and spiced burgers – "They're really delicious, because the burgers are spiced, then the onions are crispy and caramelised, and then there's a lovely spice blend called panch phoran – it's got nigella seeds, cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel and fenugreek. It's a ready-made mix and it's the most delicious spice. The flavours are very clean so it's not muddy and murky."

Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook.
Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Photo: Emily Lapworth

And Anand didn't forget a curry, choosing her Keralan fish pappas because, "you have such great seafood in this part of the world, and people here love coconut".

Best-ever burgers with spiced onions

Indians cook a lot of kebabs, often highly spiced and flavoured from the inside so you need little with it. A burger, though, is quite different. The elements that go with the burger are almost as important as the meat itself to a perfect, sense-satisfying end. This burger has those qualities, the burger itself is lightly flavoured, the onions add sweetness, bite and a little flavoured crunch from the seeds, while the roasted chilli yoghurt brings creamy, spicy moreishness which makes them hard to put down. A really great, grown-up burger, these will soon become a favourite.

Ingredients

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For the burgers

450g minced beef or lamb, with some fat on it

1 red onion, finely chopped

10g (2 tsp) finely chopped root ginger (peeled weight)

2 large garlic cloves, finely grated

¾ tsp garam masala (fresh if possible, see recipe below)

1 egg

salt and freshly ground black pepper

5–6 burger buns or baps

1 large tomato, sliced

For the roasted green chilli yoghurt

3 large green chillies, stalks removed, pierced with the tip of a knife

2 rounded tbsp thick Greek yoghurt

2 tbsp creme fraiche or mayonnaise

good handful of chopped coriander

For the spiced caramelised onions

1½ tbsp vegetable oil

½ tsp panch phoran (nigella, cumin, brown mustard, fenugreek and fennel seeds; available as a ready-made spice mix from Indian grocers)

2 red onions, thinly sliced

Method

Mix together all the ingredients for the burgers (except the buns and sliced tomato), season with 1¼–1½ tsp salt and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

You can either cook the chillies on the barbecue later, or do them in a frying or char-grill pan in advance. Wherever you cook them, place them directly on the hot surface and cook, turning once the underside has charred and blistered. Once they are done, wrap in cling film and set aside.

Heat the oil for the onions in a frying pan and, once hot, add the panch phoran. Cook for 20–30 seconds, or until the seeds are popping and colouring. Add the onions and a good pinch of salt and cook over a high heat until they have coloured and are well browned on the edges, five to seven minutes. Adjust the seasoning and set aside. (You can reheat these on the barbecue later in a flameproof pan, or keep them warm in a low oven.)

Mix together the yoghurt, mayonnaise and coriander for the topping, adding a good grinding of black pepper and salt lightly. Once the chillies are cool, peel off their skins, slit lengthways and deseed; discard the seeds. Then chop the flesh up and add to the yoghurt. Set aside.

When you are ready to barbecue, make five to six large patties out of the minced meat mixture, remembering to make a little flat indent in the centre lightly with your fingers; this will help them cook evenly and not puff up in the middle. Preheat the barbecue.

Place on the hottest part of the grill and cook for four to five minutes, or until a little crisp and charred, then turn over and cook for another one to two minutes. Place one slice of the tomato on the base of each bun, top with a burger, a generous dollop of the yoghurt,, and some onions. Place on the bun lid and eat immediately.

Makes 5–6

Grilled herby chicken tikka recipe from Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

Indian kebabs: Chicken tikka skewers. Photo: Martin Poole

Herby grilled chicken tikka

Kebabs are a huge favourite throughout India; you will find them everywhere and in many guises. This murgh hariyali version is deep and flavourful, with the herbs adding an amazing freshness. We serve these pretty little bites with drinks before dinner, with a little tangle of seasoned red onion slices drizzled with lemon juice and some tangy herb chutney. Typically, the little chunks would be taken off the skewers, but you can also cut the chicken into strips and serve them on small skewers; they look dramatic in little shot glasses with some chutney spooned into the bottom. These kebabs also work really well on the barbecue when a hot, sunny day beckons you outdoors, or they make delicious wraps with chutney and sour cream. Basically, they can work at almost any occasion.

Ingredients

For the marinade

40g (2 packed cups) coriander stalks and leaves, torn a little

20g (1 packed cup) mint leaves

1 small Indian green finger chilli, stalk removed, deseeded (optional)

15g (1 tbsp) roughly chopped root ginger (peeled weight)

6 large garlic cloves

1 rounded tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala (fresh if possible, see recipe below)

80g (⅓ cup) thick Greek yoghurt

1½ tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp vegetable oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken

bamboo skewers

500g skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 4cm cubes or long, thick pieces

a little unsalted butter, melted

chaat masala, to serve (a spice mix available from Indian grocers)

Method

Soak the bamboo skewers in water, to stop them catching when you cook the kebabs.

Blend together all the ingredients for the marinade until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning; it should taste slightly salty at this point. Add the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for at least two to three hours, or overnight is best.

Heat a fan-assisted grill to a high heat, around 230C. Thread pieces of the chicken on to the skewers, keeping them close together to stop them drying out. Rest each end of the skewers across a deep roasting pan so that the meat is suspended in mid air.

Position the tray 5cm–7.5cm under the grill. Grill for about five to seven minutes, or until the chicken is lightly charred on the top, then rotate the skewers and cook for another two to three minutes. As the edges of the meat start to brown, baste with melted butter and cook for another 30–40 seconds.

Remove the skewers from the heat and cool for a minute or so, before sliding the chunks off the skewers on to a plate. Toss with the chaat masala and serve with rings of red onions marinated in seasoned lemon juice, wedges of lemon and/or some tangy herb chutney.

Serves 4

Avocado pani puri from Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

Indian tostadas: pani puris with avocado and sour cream. Photo: Martin Poole

Sprouted lentil and pomegranate pani puris

Pani puri is one of my favourite street foods. It consists of a spherical crispy puri, often filled with potatoes and chickpeas, or sprouts, and topped with a flavoured water, or "pani". The "water" is spicy, salty, herby, sour and a little sweet. When I make them at home, I am always reinventing them as I come up with a new idea. I have kept this one quite close to the original, but have replaced the potato with avocado – as I think the creaminess works really well – and have added pomegranate seeds. Don't try to bite into these – they need to be placed whole in the mouth so they can explode into a delicious, complex mouthful. For special occasions, I often add half a teaspoon of creme fraiche on the top of the filling, before pouring in the pani.

Ingredients

For the pani

40g (2 packed cups) coriander leaves and stalks

20g (1 packed cup) mint leaves

6g (1 rounded tsp) roughly chopped root ginger (peeled weight)

3½ tbsp chaat masala spice mix, or to taste

5 tbsp tamarind chutney, or to taste

600ml (2½ cups) filtered water

For the filling

salt

100g mixed sprouts, or mung bean sprouts

½ small red onion, finely chopped

½–⅔ large avocado, finely chopped

large handful of chopped coriander

¼ tsp roasted and ground cumin seeds

seeds from ½ pomegranate

For the puris, and to serve

40 pani puri shells (available from Indian grocers)

sour cream, to serve (optional)

Method

Blend together all the ingredients for the pani; it is nice if you can still see little shreds of the leaves. Taste and adjust as necessary. It should be a little sour, sweet, salty, herby and spicy. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and return to the boil, then drain. When the sprouts are cool, mix them with the remaining filling ingredients. Salt lightly to taste.

When you are ready to serve, make medium-sized holes in the top of all the puris; through the side that is slightly thinner and easier to break gently. Pour the pani into a jug.

When you are ready to eat, either spoon two teaspoons of the filling into each puri and serve with the pani jug for people to serve themselves, or have the filling in a little bowl, so people can spoon and pour just before eating. I really love to dab a little sour cream on top of the filling before adding the spiced water.

Makes 35–40

Fish pappas curry from Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

Swap butter chicken for this fragrant coconutty fish curry. Photo: Martin Poole

Fish pappas curry

Kerala is a beautiful, verdant coastal region and its food is as abundant as the waters of the Arabian sea that laps it. If you look at Kerala on the Indian map, it looks like a languishing green chilli along the coast and I find a similar sense of serenity in the people. When you visit Kerala, it does seem as though time slows down, whether you are on a houseboat, slowly gliding along the backwater canals, stopping for a bite to eat at one of the restaurants bordering the canals, or staying in one of the many Ayurvedic spas. It is full of character, but it isn't brash. This fish curry is a little like that, full of delicious coastal flavours (fish, curry leaves, coconut), even green chillies and other spices, but with nothing harsh about it. It is comforting enough for every day, but elegant enough to serve to friends. Serve with rice.

Ingredients

For the marinade

600g rockling, cut into large pieces

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 large garlic clove, finely grated

10g (2 tsp) grated root ginger, juice squeezed out (discard the fibres)

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vegetable oil

salt and ground black pepper

For the sauce

5 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp for the fish

⅔ tsp brown mustard seeds

⅓ tsp fenugreek seeds

15 curry leaves, fresh if possible

2 onions, finely chopped

30g (2 tbsp) finely chopped or grated root ginger (peeled weight)

1 large tomato

45g (about 10–11 large) garlic cloves

⅔ tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground coriander

1½ tsp ground fennel seeds

¼ tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala ()

400ml can of coconut milk

4–6 small Indian green chillies, stalks removed, pricked with a knife

1½–2 tbsp white wine or other vinegar

50g (3 generous tbsp) coconut cream

Method

Marinate the fish with all the remaining ingredients in the list and two good pinches of salt and leave for 20 minutes or so.

Heat the five tablespoons oil in a large non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Once the popping slows down, add the curry leaves.

Follow within 10 seconds with the onions and some salt. Cook until soft and just turning colour. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

As the onions cook, blend the tomato and garlic until smooth. Add to the ginger along with the powdered spices and a splash of water. Cook until the paste releases oil back into the pan, a good eight to 10 minutes or so. Then stir-fry the paste for another couple of minutes. Taste: the garlic should be cooked and it should taste harmonious and a bit salty at this stage.

Add the coconut milk and chillies, bring to the boil, cover and cook for four to five minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining two tablespoons oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and add the fish; you might have to do this in two batches. Fry over a medium-high heat until lightly golden on both sides. Place on a plate and repeat with the second batch. It shouldn't take more than two to three minutes in total for each batch.

Add 350ml water to the sauce pot, along with the vinegar, and bring to the boil. Cook for four to five minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Add the fish and coconut cream to the pot and cook for three to five minutes more, turning the pieces of fish halfway through. The fish should be cooked and the sauce should be creamy.

Serves 4

Parsi salli chicken from Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

Chicken and chips, Indian-style. Photo: Martin Poole

Parsi salli chicken (aka chicken and chips)

Parsis came to India from Persia hundreds of years ago, fleeing persecution, but a legend says that the Indian ruler didn't want to let them in, saying, "We are full". The Parsi asked the ruler to bring a bowl and fill it up to the brim with milk. He then added a spoon of sugar. The cup did not overflow.

"We will be like the sugar," he said. "We will only add sweetness to your country." And indeed they did, and are now a very respected part of the community. Parsi food is not only influenced by its Persian roots but also by the British and the Indians. This is one of their better-known dishes.

I visited a well-known Parsi restaurant in Mumbai a few years ago. The owner has a giant portrait of the Queen. When he found out we were from England, he spent a good amount of time chatting with us. He recommended this chicken dish topped with salli: crispy fried potato straws.

Ingredients

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions, finely chopped

5g (1 tsp) finely grated root ginger (peeled weight)

5 large garlic cloves, finely grated

3 large vine tomatoes (400g), blended until smooth

salt and freshly ground black pepper

¾ tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste

2 tsp garam masala (fresh if possible, see recipe below)

½ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp chilli powder, or to taste

1 rounded tsp ground cumin

6–8 medium-small skinless bone-in chicken thighs (1.25–1.3kg in total)

handful of coriander

large handful of crispy potato salli (see below) , or as much as you like

Method

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Then increase the heat and cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook gently for one minute, or until the garlic smells cooked.

Pour in the blended tomatoes, then add the seasoning and all the ground spices. Cook down until the masala releases oil, about 15–20 minutes. Taste – it should be harmonious.

Tip the chicken into the masala along with a good splash of water. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and cook for 25–30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Give the pot occasional stirs as it cooks and check that there is enough water in the pan. At this stage you can make the crispy potato salli (see below).

Taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency of the sauce, which should have a light, creamy consistency. If it is too watery, cook over a high heat until thickened to your liking, or add some water from a boiling kettle to loosen a little. Stir in the coriander, sprinkle with crispy potato salli and serve.

Serves 4

Parsi salli potato straws?from Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

Parsi salli potato straws. Photo: Martin Poole

Crispy potato salli

Parsis love these delicate, crunchy potato straws. Needless to say they are really moreish and work very well with the flavours of the parsi salli chicken (above). You can make these a day or two before.

Ingredients

2 large potatoes

vegetable oil, as needed

salt

chilli powder (optional)

Method

Peel the potatoes, slice thinly widthways, then line up some of the circles and slice into short matchsticks. (To slice my potato, I use the slicer on my box grater.) However you do it, try to slice them evenly. Place on a dish towel and pat dry.

Heat 7.5cm of oil in a wide, deep saucepan or in a deep-fat fryer to a medium heat (dip a shred of potato in: it should sizzle). Add the potatoes in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook over a medium heat until the potatoes are crispy and golden. You will need to carefully separate any clumps that stick together with a fork quite early on. Each batch will take two to three minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Repeat to cook the rest.

Sprinkle over salt and chilli powder to taste and toss well to combine.

Makes enough for 4

Images from?Anjum Anand's I Love India cookbook. Supplied by Hardie Grant for Good Food. Photographer Martin Poole

The makings of garam masala. Photo: Martin Poole

Garam masala

Ingredients

10g cinnamon sticks

10g cloves

10g green cardamom pods

7g black cardamom pods

2 dried bay leaves

7g black peppercorns

3 pieces of mace

10g cumin seeds

½ nutmeg, grated (optional)

Method

Place all the spices, except the cumin and nutmeg, in a large frying pan over a low heat. Stir often enough that the spices dry out but don't actually toast – three to four minutes. Add the cumin and nutmeg and toast for 30 seconds. Pour straight into a spice grinder and grind until fine. Pass through a sieve over a bowl and discard any coarse pieces. Place these back in the grinder and grind again until fine. Store in an airtight container away from light.

This is an edited extract from I Love India by Anjum Anand, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $39.99.