Tag Archives: Indian

Eating for £2 a day, part four: pulses

4 Jul
Simple spinach dal

Simple spinach dal gets its second run-out on this blog

Fourth in a vaguely self-important series of posts on cheap eating, in which I attempt to give inspiration to the moderately skint by preparing meals within a budget of around £2 a head per day.

If you’ve followed this blog over the last 18 months, you may have noticed that there are times when I appear to be promoting the joys of eating pulses with a near-suspicious level of zeal. This isn’t because I’m being paid to do so by the lentil-farming lobby; it’s because they offer (usually combined with rice) the cheapest and tastiest way of properly filling yourself up.

There’s one hurdle – pulses benefit from spices. For years I’ve spent 50p here, 70p there on bags of turmeric and chilli powder, cumin seed and cardamom pods – and eventually the more exotic likes of fenugreek and asafoetida – when I’ve found myself in the vicinity of an Asian grocer. For many recipes though, if you’ve got cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala you’re pretty much sorted – and for non-veggies, the small investment means you’re rarely stuck for a full-flavoured meal on weeks when shelling out on meat is out of the question.

As part of this week’s cheap eating exercise I’m making the basic spinach dal pictured above, featured here last year (cost: about £3 for four portions). I’ve previously covered mejaddara, and more recently have taken to its Egyptian cousin koshary – rice, lentils and pasta on the same plate may not sound appetising, but it’s a strangely addictive meal. As and when you can get your hands on more fancy-pants spices then the likes of this chickpea curry and this amazing recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi take things up another notch.

Best of all, these dishes taste even better the next day. So make twice what you need and take them to work, saving further pennies and avoiding one of my most hated tasks: preparing a sandwich pack-up when you’re knackered just before bed (or worse still, in the morning).

Eating a path across Glasgow

6 Sep

I recently spent two days in Glasgow, one of my favourite cities, but one in which I’d always reckoned it necessary to be flush with cash to enjoy. Not so, as the following proved:

  1. The Banana Leaf: I’d heard good things about this South Indian canteen on the fringes of the West End. Walk there down St Vincent Street and Argyle Street from town for a snapshot of why Glasgow can look more exciting than any other UK city.

    Century-old mini-skyscrapers (the reason film shoots such as the one for World War Z, the upcoming, Brad Pitt starring zombie thriller, use Glasgow as a stand-in for US cities) give way to vast slab blocks looming over a motorway canyon gouged into the earth, and finally to a landscape of genteel-looking tenements, where the tiny Banana Leaf can be found.

    A shared starter of Kozhi Varuval (marinated spiced chunks aka ‘Chicken 65‘), a giant, crisp masala dosa and a portion of rich curry came in at under £15. Worth a trek for even if you couldn’t care less about the surroundings.

  2. Black Sheep Bistro: finding this place was as simple as taking a punt on the number one Glasgow restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. A risky strategy maybe, but one that paid off (literally) in massive platefuls.

    Kitted out in a knick-knack strewn style that feels as if you’ve rocked up at someone’s home, and boasting an impressive disregard for food presentation, Black Sheep is not a place to go for trendy dining. But if the idea of tanning a solid, delicious portion of haggis, neeps & tatties before you’ve even moved onto a gloriously throwback main of beef olives fills you with greedy glee, then you should head here without delay. With a dirt-cheap wine list also part of the fun, Black Sheep Bistro gets a king-sized thumbs up.
  3. Where The Monkey Sleeps: in search of somewhere to get a sandwich in the city centre the next day, a list published in the Guardian last year provided the goods. Budgetary constraints meant that I only got a tuna butty from here, but packed with dill and dijon, and eaten sat in the sunshine at the top of the Necropolis, it was a proper treat.

On the pulse, part two

11 Mar

In which I continue my quest to give props to lentils and the like. Cos I really love eating them.

Spinach and lentil curry


This one had its basis in Anjum Anand‘s Indian Food Made Easy and is hands-down my favourite dal recipe – it’s dirt cheap, quick and simple to prepare, goes well with rice or breads, and tastes AMAZING. Nuff said.

You will need:

  • 150g skinned & split yellow mung lentils aka moong dal
  • 750-900ml water
  • A thumb-sized bit of ginger cut into small pieces
  • Several chillies left whole
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 2 or 3 regular toms, chopped
  • 200g spinach leaves
  • salt
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed & roughly chopped
  • 1 rounded tsp coriander powder
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

To prepare:

  • Put the lentils, water, ginger, chillies & turmeric in a pan, boil & simmer for 10mins.
  • Put in the toms & cook for another 20mins then add spinach & salt.
  • Cook for another 10mins or so – sometimes it comes out thicker, sometimes more soupy. Depending on how macho your guests are, you can leave the whole chillies in or fish them out at this stage.
  • About the same time you put the spinach in, heat the oil in a fry pan and cook the onion on quite a high heat.
  • When it starts getting crispy throw in the cumin seeds & garlic, then after a minute the other spices.  Give it a good stir then chuck the lot into the lentil pan & mix it up.  Ready!

Serves 2-3 as a main.

Mowgli’s, Crwys Road

26 Dec

Ready for takedown: the delights of Mowgli's

Someone with a little more flair for design than me could almost certainly knock up a nice visual illustrating locations of Cardiff curry houses while referencing the class system.

Sitting pretty on the city’s southside as the undisputed leader of the proletariat is the Vegetarian Food Studio, featured on this blog back in October. Head a few miles north to Heath, and Anand George’s aristocratic South Indian experience Mint & Mustard dominates the spice landscape.

Drop back townwards into the ever-so-slightly more urban surroundings of Roath and Cathays, and a wave of new-money upstarts can be found. The likes of Punitha’s and Mowgli’s have adopted some of M&M’s fine dining trappings, while knocking out meals that don’t dictate you eat there within seconds of being paid.

Of course, value for money isn’t just about price, so all this is only relevant if the eating is any good. I went to Mowgli’s, nestling on Crwys Road in the student heartlands, when my brother came to visit recently, and was impressed. The restaurant itself is functional rather than swank, but there’s very little wrong on the food front.

Mowgli’s Shahi Keema Momo delivered a fine version of one of my favourite dishes, minced lamb cooked with peas and flavoured with curry leaves – not too heavy or fatty and with complex spicing and just the right level of heat (though don’t expect to finish it without getting a sweat on). A platter of starters was also on the money, honey glazed paneer and excellent mixed kebabs offsetting one another well.

On this occasion I confess to breaking the Bare Grills tenner-a-head limit just slightly, but I’d have to say it was worth it.

On the pulse, part one

23 Nov

Here begins the first in an irregular series of posts in which I aim to promote the joys of the humble lentil and its brethren, through recipes which I eat regularly and with pleasure.

For the benefit of new readers or doubters, I’d like to state before going any further that I am not a vegetarian and cannot stand dull-tasting food. I just reckon that if you’re eating on a budget and are not doing fun things with pulses, then you are missing out.

Chickpea curry (Sindhi style)

The basis of this comes from Camellia Panjabi‘s ace 50 Great Curries of India. It’s got amazing depth of flavour due in part to the spice blend, and in part due to using onions cooked three different ways.

I can happily live on it for a week – this’ll serve three if you’re as greedy as me, up to six if less so. If you need to source ingredients then check my last post.

You will need:

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 3 onions
  • A thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 250g tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 green cardamoms, cracked
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt
  • A pinch asafoetida
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
  • About 200g baby spinach
  • Chopped coriander, to serve

Ingredients get busy in the wok


To prepare:

  1. Chop two of your onions, grate or process the third along with your ginger and garlic.
  2. Drain the stock from your chickpea cans into a pan and add one chopped onion, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, a tsp of salt and the asafoetida. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer gently with a lid on.
  3. Meanwhile heat your oil in a big heavy wok or similar. Fry the remaining onion until brown, then reduce heat slightly and add your pureed onion, ginger and garlic followed by chickpeas. Saute for 10 mins.
  4. Add turmeric, garam masala and coriander powders, pepper and mango powder and stir for one minute before adding chopped tomatoes. Leave to cook for a few minutes before straining in the remaining liquid from the other pan, which will now be rich and spicy.
  5. Now put in your spinach leaves and leave to cook down for 10 minutes or so, while you make ready some rice or flatbreads to serve with the curry. Season if necessary and top with chopped coriander.

The finished article

Grangetown and the Vegetarian Food Studio

24 Oct

Grangetown’s Vegetarian Food Studio was an obvious place to start: it’s pretty well known, it’s had praise lavished on it in the national press, but a lot of people I’ve met so far (some of whom have been living here for years) have no clue as to its existence, or if they’ve heard of it, don’t know where it can be found.  Something to do with the location?

From St Mary Street, pass by the turnoff into Central Station, veering right onto Penarth Road and ducking under one of Cardiff’s many Brain’s bridges.  Enjoy the vista of the station car park as you follow the bend to the right and head into a bleak landscape of call centres and self-storage facilities.  Cross the river, pausing on the bridge to admire the view of the Brains brewery and Millennium Stadium.  If you’re lucky, some passing rowers may provide a nice contrast to the urban grit.

Ok, congrats, you’re in Grangetown.  Stroll down the block, but not too quickly or you may go straight past the Studio’s tiny frontage.  Pop into the offy next door, grab a couple of beers and you’re all set.  Oh, did I forget to say it may’ve been worth booking?

If you’ve got a wait on your hands, take a stroll across Penarth Road.  Head into Dinas Place, along the side of the well-kept Pentre Gardens and down Dinas Street.  Hang a left at Merches Gardens and (I’m being serious this time) check out the domed splendour of the Shree Swaminarayan temple nestling in among the terraces.  Capture Cardiff did a nice little piece on the temple, which you can find here.  If, like me, you used to live in Sheffield, you can then have a little chuckle about the fact that it lies on Mardy Street, and speculate about whether this reflects the general misery of the citizens.

Unless you’re really unlucky, a table is probably ready for you now.  Retrace your steps and go fill your face.  The Studio’s Gujurati Thalis provide a complete meal in themselves for £5.99, but if you’ve got a full tenner to burn then you can look forward to being levered out of the place.  You may need a little walk at this point, so saunter for ten minutes back into town and the next move is yours.