Category Archives: Sauces, Spreads, Chutneys, etc.

Raita (Yogurt Sauce/Dip) with Pomegranate Seeds and Mint

pomegranata_raitapI thought this colourful raita might be like a ray of sunshine after a week of horribly cold rainy weather. The funny thing is that as soon as I prepared it, the sun really went out and suddenly the day felt like an extension of summer… so my roast chicken dinner felt particularly joyful. In spite of its summery appearance, this it is definitely an autumnal dish: here pomegranates are abundant (in full season from what I read, though of course imported) and, when it comes to fresh herbs, they still thrive on my balcony, so I am still able to pick fresh mint every day.

This delicious version of raita is one more jewel from Made in India: Cooked in Britain by Meera Sodha. As soon as I made it, I ranted once more about the boring almost identical choices in every Indian restaurant I went to in my area… but luckily I have wonderful cookery books and time to cook! Anyway, it’s the first time I added pomegranate to yogurt and I loved it! It can be served just like any raita (i.e. with Indian dishes), but it’s also fantastic with simple roast chicken, any kind of wrap and any heavy and/or fiery dish (such as my previous recipe, Spare Ribs in Guchujang), since it’s particularly mild and refreshing. I didn’t really look at Meera Sodha’s exact ingredients’ amounts, so I invite everyone to check the recipe in its original source.

TIPS: The recipe calls for dried mango powder (it’s available in Indian shops and on internet; I bought it from Amazon in UK), but I think you can easily replace it with tamarind juice.

Do not skip the tiny amount of sugar! It does add an additional flavour to the tangy raita.

If you are afraid of splashing pomegranate juice all around the kitchen, fill a big bowl with cold water, cut the pomegranate into 4 or two pieces and then tear it up under the water, taking out the seeds. The yellowish “skins” will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. All you need to do afterwards is straining the seeds.

Preparation: about 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate (or 1/2 big one)

1 natural unsweetened full fat yogurt (125 ml/about 4 oz)

a pinch of salt

a pinch of sugar

1/2 flat teaspoon dry mango powder

a pinch of powdered cumin (the best taste is obtained with freshly toasted whole seeds, which are then ground just before being used)

1 heaped tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Combine all the ingredients, taste and adjust the flavours, if needed. Chill for one hour (or not, if in a hurry) and serve.

Do not prepare it a day before: mint becomes soggy and spoils the whole raita.


Chilli Lovers’ Preserving Reminder

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

In many countries imported fresh chilli is available all year round, but the most delicious aromatic local ripe chilli – the best for preserves – is sold only for a limited time. In my part of Europe the beginning of August is the best moment to start thinking about preserving this fresh aromatic chilli, find the most interesting farmer market stalls, check the stock of empty jars, lids and, most of all, make a list of the fiery treats that will fill one’s pantry or fridge this year.

I have chosen here my favourite fresh chilli pickles and condiments, successfully tested every year (some short-term preserves are made even dozens of times a year). All of them are easy to prepare and guaranteed as addictive. Some can become long-term preserves, some keep for a limited time in the fridge. I hope my fellow chilli lovers will find at least one of them worth trying and those who cannot stand the heat might substitute chilli with sweet peppers. Write to me if you have any questions or problems.

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Habanero and Oil Paste

Habanero and Oil Paste

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Indian Mashed Stir-fried Aubergine (almost Baigan ka Bharta)

mashed_auberginepIndia – Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant is one of the biggest cookery books I own and I’ve ever seen. Its impressive almost 800 small print pages are filled with an impressive number of recipes collected by the author from different regions during twenty years. Contrary to other Indian cookery books I have and appreciate, this one is the only one where I know I will find a recipe for practically every vegetable known in India.

Last week I bought several beautiful aubergines, making first Baba ganouj, then Japanese miso-glazed aubergine… and then I needed spice, so obviously I turned to Pushpesh Pant’s collection. This is how I found baigan ka bharta, a dish I couldn’t compare to anything I have ever had or seen in an Indian restaurant. Its combination of buttery, spicy, slightly tangy and incredibly dynamic flavours make it one of the most fantastic vegetable dishes I have ever made. I call it “almost Baigan ka Bharta” because I have changed the ratio of ingredients (especially ghee), left the aubergines rather chunky (not completely mashed) and seriously simplified the roasting process, so I encourage everyone to check the extraordinary India – Cookbook.

TIPS: Do not replace the ghee (clarified butter) with anything else. The buttery taste plays a huge role in the final taste. At worst, you can combine neutral vegetable oil with normal unsalted butter instead. (Apart from Indian grocery shops and internet, ghee can be found in organic shops, at least in Europe).

The author doesn’t say anything about tomato skin removal and I didn’t do this. The taste was amazing, so if you have good quality aromatic tomatoes, don’t remove the skin.

The aubergines should be mashed, but I preferred to leave them slightly chunky and loved it this way. Both versions can be treated as a side-sidh or as a thick dip/spread too.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):

2 medium aubergines

2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

1 flat teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small onion, chopped

1 big garlic clove (chopped)

about 1 cm grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

1 hot green chilli pepper, sliced or chopped

1/5 flat teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon medium hot chilli powder (I have used Kashmiri chilli powder)

1 medium tomato, diced


chopped coriander leaves

Roast the aubergines over flame, grill or under the oven broiler until the skin is black.

Let them cool down. Remove the flesh and chop it roughly, mashing a bit (or mash it completely if you prefer).

Heat the ghee in a frying pan at medium heat and fry the cumin until it starts popping.

Add the onion and sitr-fry until soft.

Then add the garlic, the chilli and the ginger and stir-fry for about 20 seconds.

Add the aubergine, the chilli powder and the turmeric and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

At the end add the tomato and let them until they heat up.

Add salt to taste, sprinkle with coriander seeds and serve. (I liked it a lot only slightly warm).

Indian Mint and Yogurt Chutney/Sauce

mint_yogurt_chutneypI hope my dear readers aren’t bored yet with all my recent herb-centred posts because there will probably be more to come. With its abundant crops, my humble balcony garden has recently been dictating a big part of my meal choices and since I love fresh herbs, I certainly don’t complain, especially when it comes to mint. This chutney (or sauce, as it would probably be called by most non-Indians) is perhaps the best and quickest way to transform a big bunch of mint. It’s obviously refreshing (yogurt+mint) and the presence of fresh chillies gives it a nice fiery kick all the hot food lovers will appreciate. I imagine it with ethnic cuisines from all around the world, also as a dip, but it tastes best with grilled meats.

The recipe comes from Meera Sodha’s “Made in India. Cooked in Britain” and is a huge upgrade of the Mint Sauce I posted several years ago. As usually, I have adapted the amounts to my taste, so I encourage you strongly to check this wonderful collection of Indian home recipes to see the original and much much more.

TIPS: The choice of green chillies is not accidental here (in my opinion) because they have a sharper and livelier taste than red ones and suit much better this chutney. At worst you can replace them with red chillies, but make sure they are fresh.

The amounts below are very versatile; especially the yogurt’s amount plays a big role: the more yogurt you add, the creamier, the more refreshing and the milder the chutney will be. If you reduce it, the chutney will be sharper and hotter… I have already made it several times and each time the ratio between ingredients is different, but I love it every single time.

If, like me, you are regularly confronted with abundance of fresh herbs (or simply have a habit of buying them in huge bunches at farmers’ markets), here are some ideas you might find useful:

Meat Patties with Dill

Meat Patties with Dill

Indian Coriander Chutney

Indian Coriander Chutney

Kenyan Coriander Chicken

Kenyan Coriander Chicken


Fresh (Cottage) Cheese Spread with Chives and Radish

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup with Dill

Udon and Spring Onion Burger

Udon and Spring Onion Burger


Preparation: about 5-10 min.


125ml/about 1/2 cup natural yogurt

2 big handfuls of fresh mint leaves

1-2 fresh green chilies (the heat level is up to you; I prefer medium hot chillies here, but it can also be made with mild peppers)

2 teaspoons sugar (or more to taste)

juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon or 1/2-1 lime


Chop roughly the chillies (remove the seeds if you don’t want too much heat) and mix in a food processor with the remaining ingredients (add the lemon or lime juice gradually and taste as you mix to make sure your chutney is not too sour). Add salt to taste.

Keep in the fridge for several days.

Indian Coriander Chutney

corianderchutneypOne more fantastic discovery from Meera Sodha’s Made in India. Cooked in Britain: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen! This chutney has been the highlight of the past winter moths. Its combination of refreshing, tangy and fiery flavours has such a spring touch, I would almost forget it was just another grey cold day. I have been using it as a spread, as a dip, as a sauce, as a condiment… It is equally good raw and cooked, with seafood, meat or vegetables, with rice or pasta… After at least a dozen different experiments, I  haven’t had a single failure and now that warm weather has arrived, I intend to stretch my list of its use even further. Obviously, I’ll share with you my impressions very soon.

I have slightly changed the recipe, for example replacing the advised lemon juice with my beloved tamarind, so I encourage everyone to buy Meera Sodha’s book for the original and other Indian home cooking treats (as an example you might want to check Roasted Cauliflower I consider the best thing I’ve ever tasted with this vegetable).

TIPS: You need a really huge bunch of coriander here, so buy it at farmers’ markets. If you live in Switzerland, I also advise Aligro shops selling huge bags of coriander.

This recipe is an excellent way to use also branches you discard while adding coriander leaves for example to Indian dishes, so make sure you don’t throw them. Simply buy another bunch and prepare this chutney.

This is a particularly versatile product. As I have mentioned, it can be eaten raw or cooked/simmered. It spices up carbs, vegetables, seafood and meat.

This chutney freezes well if you intend to cook it afterwards (otherwise it’s too mushy to be served fresh) and is an excellent base for a quick weekday meal.

Tamarind is a delicious “acidifier” of Indian – and also Thai – dishes. It is sold either fresh (but usually it’s the sweet snack version) or in hard dried blocks or in ready-to-use jam-like paste (in jars). I definitely prefer the block version because it keeps forever in the fridge (the paste does start growing mould after a long time in the fridge) and has a more lively taste than the paste (it’s dissolved in hot water and then strained to obtain “juice”). I never use the paste, so cannot tell you how much of it you should use; if it’s your choice, try to adjust the amounts to your preferences.

Preparation: about ten minutes

Ingredients (makes enough for a dish with sauce for 4-5 people):

150 g coriander leaves and branches

4 heaped tablespoons unsalted peanuts

1/3 flat teaspoon turmeric


1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar

3 small fresh green chillies (or more/less, depending on your heat resistance), seeds removed (or not, if you want more heat)

3 cm tamarind block (see the TIPS above) or ready-to-use paste (no idea how much)

If you use the tamarind block, put the 3 cm square into a glass and pour 50 ml hot water. Leave for fifteen minutes. (In the meantime start preparing the masala paste and the curry). After this time, mix it well and strain leaving the seeds. You will obtain tamarind “juice”.

Chop the coriander roughly and mix it to a slightly rough paste in a food processor (or grind a mortar).

Taste and adjust the flavours if necessary (you should taste the heat, the tanginess and the sweetness at the same time, but of course their ratio is up to you).

Put into a closed glass container and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days (or freeze for months, but once frozen, you can use it only in cooked version later).