An Indian Feast fit for a Birthday Boy

A reluctant friend shared his birthday with us this week. He isn’t one to relish attention on his big day, but I coerced him out of his shell with the promise of curry. Have you ever met a Brit who doesn’t love curry?



Curried Lentils in Tomato Sauce
Spicy Vegetable Red Curry
Saag Paneer with Homemade Cheese
Hardboiled Eggs
Buttery Garlic Naan Bread

Curried Lentils in Tomato Sauce

From Martha Stewart

Serves 8-10


3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 piece fresh ginger (2 inches long), peeled and finely grated
Coarse salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala (sub cumin if you don’t have this spice mix on hand)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jar (26 ounces) best-quality store-bought tomato sauce ( I made my own with a can of tomatoes, smashed, seasoned with salt and pepper and stewed with 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes)
2 cans (20 ounces each) cooked lentils, rinsed and drained (Or cook your own from dried lentils as I did)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime) (I subbed for a lemon)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional) (I used parsley instead)


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
Add tomato sauce, lentils, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and cilantro; season with salt.
Serve lentil mixture with rice; garnish with more cilantro, if desired.

Saag Paneer

From 101 Cookbooks with notes from Caely in double parentheses

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds fresh (baby) spinach, well washed and dried
2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
8 – 12 oz paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (( I made my own paneer with the help of this beautiful blogpost))
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon spice mixture* (see below)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup buttermilk ((I didn’t have, so I subbed 1/2 cup of plain yogurt))
splash of cream or dollop of plain yogurt (optional)
fresh lemon to finish, and toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle

Chop the spinach well, and set aside in a large bowl.

While you’re chopping spinach, cook the paneer in one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure the paneer is in a single layer and use a spatula to flip it regularly so all sides get deeply brown. This typically takes 7 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of butter in your largest soup pot. Add the onions and salt, and saute until the onions soften up, five minutes or so. Add the garlic, ginger, spice mixture, and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nicely combined – a minute or two.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the spinach to the pan all at once, if possible. Cook, stirring all the while, until the spinach is collapsed and wilted, a couple of minutes. If you need to add the spinach in batches (adding more spinach as it collapses), that is fine too, just do it as quickly as possible.

Stir in the buttermilk and cream and heat gently while stirring. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk a splash at a time (this rarely happens to me). Taste and add more salt if necessary and more red pepper flakes if you like. Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, stir in the paneer, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

*Spice Mixture: Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind the following spices as finely as possible: 2 tablespoons cumin seed, 1 tablespoons coriander seed, 2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 3 whole cloves. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Spicy Red Vegetable Curry

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 large potatoes, boiled and cut into bite size pieces
5 carrots, sliced into 1/2″ thick slices
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tbsp red curry paste
400 grams (16 ounce) can coconut milk (you can sub with a mixture of equal parts chicken or vegetable broth with plain yogurt)
225 grams (1 cup) peas

Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, potatoes, garlic and curry paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk or broth and yogurt and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until carrots are soft.

Buttery Garlic Naan Bread

Adapted from Anjum Anand for BBC

Serves 5


For the dough

250g/9oz plain flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
110-130ml (3½-4½ fl oz) milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the topping

2 tablespoons butter, melted 
3 cloves garlic, chopped 

Variations: Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chopped parlsey

For the dough, sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the milk and oil.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Slowly mix together the dough by working from the centre and incorporating the flour from the edges of the ‘well’, to make a smooth, soft dough. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky. This can be done in a mixer if you’re lazy like me!

Once kneaded, place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into five balls.

Preheat the grill to medium and place a heavy baking sheet on the upper shelf of the grill to heat. If you don’t have a grill handy, preheat the broiler of your oven.

Roll the dough balls out quite thinly, ideally in a teardrop shape, but really this is just aesthetic. Brush the naan with the melted butter and then sprinkle over your chosen topping and press into the surface of the dough. Place the naan onto the hot baking sheet and grill for just 1-2 minutes, or until lightly browned, or place onto a baking sheet and cook under broiler for 2-3 minutes.

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