This recipe was inspired by my favourite Indian restaurant in Mumbai, Gaylord. It’s not that it is a particularly good restaurant, but it’s rare in being the only one in the centre of town that has three things I like – an outside terrace (Indians crave air-con!), they have non-veg food and they sell alcohol. I’m trying to stay off the latter now I’m dieting, and in the case of Gaylord it’s easy as I’m not going to Mumbai so often any more.
But back to food. Like so many, I love curries. Unfortunately, they (well, restaurant curries) can be around the unhealthiest food you can eat. Everything is cooked in ghee (clarified butter), and lots of it, the vegetable ingredients are cooked to death, and there’s cream and other fattening things in the sauce (or gravy, as it’s called in India).
One way out of this, I determined, was to eat the meat as dry kebab – generally served as a starter in India – and accompany that with dahl (lentils) or a (almost) fat-free vegetable curry. My favourite at Gaylord is Afghani Kebab (I doubt it has much connection to Afghanistan!). This replicates it pretty closely and reminds me of pleasant hot evenings, sitting on the pavement terrace in one of the busiest cities on Earth.
- 1 chicken leg, skinned and separated into drumstick and thigh pieces (chicken breast can be used instead, but it tends to dry out, and leg meat is better for this recipe)
- 2 tablespoons natural yogurt
- 1 dessertspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- Juice of half a lemon
- Make the marinade. Mix the spices with the yogurt and lemon juice to make a paste.
- With a sharp knife, score through the chicken pieces in a criss-cross pattern, cutting down almost to the bone
- Rub the marinade into the chicken pieces, making sure that it gets into all the cuts that you made in step 2. You’ll need to do this with your hands and it’s messy!
- Put the chicken in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (anything up to 24 hours).
- To ensure that the chicken is cooked through in step 6, without burning the outside, first microwave the chicken pieces (in the same bowl as they were marinated in, assuming it’s microwave-safe). For 2-4 pieces, 3 minutes in an 800w microwave is plenty.
- Next either grill the chicken pieces under a hot grill, or on a griddle (as in the picture), turning frequently to ensure that the surface is dry, they cook through but do not burn. This takes about 5 minutes.
The Kebabs are great eaten just as they come off the grill with a salad, or you can make it more of a curry meal with these ideas. Sorry I don’t have pictures for these.
This refreshing mix goes well with the kebabs.
Simply take ¼ cucumber per person, peel it and chop into strips (julienne style, about 2mm wide) or small cubes (5mm). Spread the cucumber on kitchen paper, sprinkle lightly with salt, cover with another sheet of kitchen paper and leave 15 minutes for the cucumber to “dry out”. Then simply mix it into 2 tablespoons of natural yogurt. Add chopped mint if you have it. Alternatively buy a pot of diet Tzatziki, it’s almost the same!
This lentil curry is a staple of Indian cuisine and comes in many varieties. It’s also appropriate for dieting as pulses are good for you, again as long as you don’t order it in a restaurant where it will have been prepared with a lot of fat. My method:
(for each person)
- take ½ onion, 1 clove garlic and 1 cm length fresh red chilli, all finely chopped. If you have ginger root in the fridge, add a little of this (chopped again).
- Fry these in a saucepan in just 10ml (1 dessertspoon) vegetable oil – keep stirring until the onion is lightly coloured.
- Turn down the heat, stir in 1 teaspoon ground coriander and 2 teaspoons Garam Masala and continue to fry gently for 1 minute.
- Wash 60g yellow lentils in a sieve under running water. Add the lentils to the saucepan together with 300ml water.
- Bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour. Check and stir occasionally, adding more water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency (very thick soup).
- To finish, stir in a small handful of chopped fresh coriander.