Monday, 29 June 2015

Curry For Change 2015

Summer is here and it is time for the 4th annual "Curry For Change" fundraising campaign. The campaign is run by the small independent charity Find Your Feet. Curry For Change has a simple aim; to get the great British public to come together and enjoy one of our national obsessions, curry, whilst raising money at the same time. 

This is the third year I have supported this campaign. But just in case you are sceptical about helping yet another charitable cause, why listen to me, when far more illustrious people sponsor the campaign?
Atul Kochhar is the twice Michelin star awarded chef and creative mind behind the innovative fusion restaurant Benares, in London's Mayfair. He was our host for the campaign launch. He spoke passionately and eloquently about his addiction for the campaign, after seeing the positive and life-changing benefits to people in India and Nepal. 

“I grew up in India and have seen poverty closely and know the difference a campaign like Curry for Change can make.  I’m addicted to this charity; it’s doing amazing work.  What is different is that they don’t just simply give money; they invest in the community so people learn the skills they need for a life without hunger.  I’ve seen first-hand their passion and commitment to their work and the impact they have on the lives of poor people.  Raising £50,000 would be excellent – but I say let’s aim high and raise as much as we possibly can!”
The busy kitchen at Benares
Don't worry, you don't have to raise £50,000 by yourself! Either get together with some friends, go out to eat in one of the supporting restaurants, and they will make a donation to Curry For Change on your behalf. Or, if you're a keen cook, why not host a Curry Night? Cook something spicy and fun (I will provide a recipe link below) and get your guests to make a small donation. Any amount you can manage will be appreciated. But on top of that, Natco will match all donations, so you'll be giving double the benefit to Find Your Feet. If you are unfamiliar with Natco, they are a well known brand in the Indian community who sell great spice products for Indian cooking; my family have been using their products for years.

Atul Kochhar in the Benares kitchen
Because I have been supporting this charity for some years, I have got to know them pretty well. It's a small outfit punching way above its weight. This is because of their ethos of empowerment rather than aid. There are no handouts - they work on providing knowledge and skills to poor rural communities, and then they encourage those who benefit to pass on their knowledge to their neighbours. 

Jess from Find Your Feet is their senior fundraiser, and a completely inspirational person. 

Jess, Atul Kochhar, Mallika Basu and Hari Ghotra
She works with a very small team to make sure all funds raised are used efficiently and with maximum benefit. Her passion for the work of Find Your Feet (whose work is not restricted to just India and Nepal, but also extends to Malawi) is infectious. 

At the Curry For Change launch, Jess had a simple but compelling message: 
"Every penny raised enables us to help more vulnerable families change their situation for the better by being able to grow enough food, strengthen their voices to speak out against injustice and earn enough money so they can find their feet.  For example, just
£12 can provide a farming demonstration to a village in India so families can learn how to conserve water and grow more crops. This year we hope to raise more than ever and that’s where the great British public come in - simply sign up and enjoy an Indian feast with friends and family!"

Mallika Basu is one of the Curry For Change campaign ambassadors. Her "Miss Masala" cookbook is an excellent primer for anyone wanting to learn how to cook Indian food. It's unique structure is designed to be like a "training course" in curry cooking; starting from the basics and moving to more complicated dishes. 

Mallika says of the campaign: "Not that anyone needs a reason, but Find Your Feet's Curry for Change campaign is a fantastic way to enjoy Indian food and contribute to those suffering in Africa and Asia.  I would recommend everyone to throw a dinner party right now!"

Meeting Chef Atul Kochhar; a true honour
If you want to support Curry For Change it couldn't be easier... or more fun!

You could eat at one of the restaurant supporters of the campaign. They are among the finest Indian restaurants in town, so you won't regret it.

Benares; Renowned Indian fusion restaurant in Mayfair from twice Michelin Starred Chef Atul Kochhar. Innovative and classy food. Great wine list. 

Cafe Spice Namaste; Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala's amazing and atmospheric pan-Indian restaurant.

Cinnamon Club; Vivek Singh's superb restaurant where I had a memorable anniversary dinner. 

Cinnamon Kitchen; Another Vivek Singh gaff, so good even my dad (who can cook) was impressed. 

Cinnamon Soho – Third Vivek Singh restaurant, where I sampled a great lunch tasting menu.

The Regency Club – award winning Indian Bar and Grill which I really must visit. 

If you want to host a Curry Night, then sign up at the Curry For Change website to get a special pack, including some curry spices to whip up your creations. You can find out how here:

You can also find some great recipes AND demonstration videos here:

If you do get involved, please do get in touch and let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can lend your voice in support on twitter by using the hashtag #CurryForChange.

I hope you will join me in helping this excellent little charity in their important work against hunger. 

Snigdha attended the launch of Curry For Change as a guest of Find Your Feet and Benares restaurant. Snigdha has not received any form of financial incentive to write this post. Snigdha is a genuine supporter of Find Your Feet and Curry For Change. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

June 2015 Favourites List

This month's pictures are from my trip to New York this month. I went to New York not knowing what to expect. The city that never sleeps did not disappoint. Forgive me for doing all the “touristy” things, but what did you expect me to do on my first ever trip?

I discovered an energetic and frenetic city with great personality. Like London, it is fast paced and immensely cosmopolitan. The love its citizens feel for it is palpable constantly. The friendliness I experienced was simply astonishing. I have never looked at a map of a city on a street corner, utterly confused and found someone volunteer to help me find me way. Yet it happened more than once on the streets of NYC.

The starting point of the High Line, NYC.

New York is a magical city of bright lights, grand old buildings, skyscrapers, great art and a stunning food scene. Thankfully, as my time there progressed, I realised it was easy to navigate, the grid system making sense to me after I had gotten over the long journey.

I told myself when I went to make the best of it because I was unlikely to go back…. Now I just want to work out how soon I can get back!

The Flatiron Building

Jordanian Mansaf is a creamy, milky lamb stew which is so comforting. A nice choice for a long, lazy weekend cook-off.

If you are roasting chicken or cooking firm fleshed fish like monkfish, you might like this accompaniment, borlotti beans with kale (or cavolo nero if you can find it):

Asma Khan's Darjeeling Express supper club is completely wonderful. I recommend it thoroughly. This is a fab interview with Asma, and includes an authentic Bengali tomato chutney recipe. My own mum makes one very similar.

Cafe Wha? Where Hendrix, Dylan, The Velvel Underground and Springsteen played. Greenwich Village. 

As Summer arrives, dare I hope to cook on the Barbeque? These spicy Moroccan style kebabs sound lovely.

Simple and swift Italian steak for a quick midweek supper.

Articles/Know How:

The main concourse at Grand Central Station, NYC.

We all love a bit of sugar. So I won't preach that we avoid it completely. But it does deliver "empty" calories which give you a short buzz, but then leaves you hungry and wanting more. If you are trying to control your sugar intake, you might find that some of the food you are eating is sabotaging your attempts. Here is a guide to where that hidden sugar can be found:

Portuguese food - could this be the next big food trend? (I love a good sardine, me!):

Lady Liberty herself.

Tips, inspiration and recipes from Uyen Luu on how to cook and eat more veg, regardless of their hue:

Simple tips on seasonal cooking, with the caveat not to get too stressed about it all:

The Empire State Building

Vegans will soon be able to get Ben & Jerry's new vegan friendly ice cream:

So, let's get this straight... Quinoa - "keen-wa". Espresso - "es-press-o". Bruschetta - "brusk-etta". Moet (as in Moet and Chandon champagne) - "Mo-ett". As for Poutine, I don't know if it is "Putin" (like Vlad) or "putain" (don't even ask).

The "Imagine" mosaic at Strawberry Fields, Central Park, a tribute to John Lennon.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

How I was taught about how lamb can be quickly cooked and way more versatile than the perception of roasts, stews and curries:

My Summer potato salad with a difference, a mayo-free meaty meal in a bowl:

Freedom Tower


The Theory Of Everything 

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist


Gershwin's Summertime: The Song That Conquered The World


Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

The Brooklyn Bridge
Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Cyrus Todiwala on lamb + Recipe lamb in chilli, garlic and cinnamon

If you're English, Welsh or Scottish, perhaps you remember childhood Sunday lamb roasts. Or maybe you're of Indian origin and remember a relative making a lovingly stewed lamb curry. Or you remember slowly cooked kleftiko, falling off the bone, following hours of slow cooking? Either way, you probably loved it, and it is part of your food memories. But do you cook lamb yourself?

British lamb, despite being farmed to some of the highest standards worldwide, is not as widely purchased as it should be. The average age of the typical lamb purchaser is ever increasing, and the market share is dropping. Why? 

Apparently, there is a perception problem. Lamb is seen as an unhealthy and fatty meat. This perception was as a direct result of the farming methods of the 1970s. Times have changed, however. Lamb is much lower in fat today and specific super low fat varieties are available.

People also consider lamb to be difficult to cook; time consuming and impractical in our busy contemporary world. This is not always the case.

I recently went to a cooking demonstration by one of the two "Incredible Spice Men", Cyrus Todiwala, to show how lamb can be quick, easy, healthy, fun and sustainable. Cyrus was awarded the 2014 BBC Food Personality Of The Year; unsurprising given how entertaining, informative and fun the Incredible Spice Men show was. However, Cyrus is not a mere TV cook; he is a true hands on restauranteur. With his wife, talented chef Pervin Todiwala, he runs Cafe Spice Namaste (the venue of this demonstration), Mr Todiwala's Kitchen (Hilton, Terminal 5, Heathrow), The Park Cafe (Victoria Park East) and Assado Waterloo.

Cyrus is a passionate champion of British produce and farming. He buys his lamb direct from the producer, choosing to buy whole lambs rather than "cuts" of lamb. He advocates supporting small producers who farm rare varieties and aims to achieve as close to "nose-to-tail" eating as is possible under the regulations. (Lamb heads and certain items of lamb offal are not permitted to be sold in the UK).

Much has been said about whether meat farming is ecologically justifiable. Without wanting to enter into a big debate, Cyrus reminded us that sheep are capable of grazing on land other animals cannot. Therefore sheep farming can happen on terrain and in conditions where much other farming is not possible. He told us that every 1 job in sheep farming leads to a further 7 further down the line. 

Sheep do not have the same sustainability issues as cows. "The most sustainable animal which grazes is the sheep", Cyrus told us. There are none of the issues of methane production, ozone depleting fecal matter or water depletion associated with other meat production farming. He also suggested we looked at the issue of sustainability in a wider context; "sustainability is also about sustaining communities and preserving jobs in rural areas". 

Cyrus was quick to advise us not to fear cooking lamb: "It is quite scary to some people, but lamb is quite easy to cook". His demonstration was geared to show how easy, quick and fun cooking with lamb can be, so it doesn't solely need to be saved for long-winded weekend cookery sessions. 

If you are short on time, or cooking on a weekday night, then leg steaks, cutlets and chops are ideal. They are quick to cook. You can use a spice rub or marinade to infuse extra flavour, or keep it simple.

Breast of lamb, Cyrus advises us is an "unattractive" cut of meat which doesn't look very nice, but cooks well and is flavourful. It can be flattened, marinaded and grilled for speedy cooking. 

I am delighted to feature one of Cyrus' recipes here. It's a doozy.


Cyrus says of this dish: 
“On the streets of Bombay and other cities, it is not uncommon to find a person perched on a hand cart in the evenings, fanning a brazier and in a little glass door cabinet there will be skewers of diced pieces of meat and offal. These are all marinated slightly differently and are made fresh to order as you stand there waiting for your order to be finished and served in a newspaper piece lined with a leaf. Some of those marinades can be quite strong but when the hot meat is served along with fresh red onion salad with mint, coriander and a squeeze of lime everything starts to taste amazing.”

Cyrus made us this Indian street food dish during the cooking demonstration whilst chatting away to us about his passion for British lamb and British farming. Obviously, being an expert chef, he wasn't going to miss a beat, chopping, preparing, blending, talking, and cooking at the same time. But I do think this is a simple dish which a home cook can make easily. It is true that there is a long list of ingredients, but once you have bought the spices listed, you will have a wonderful resource to spice up your cooking. You can use the spices in your regular cooking to add flavour or experiment with Indian cookery. Naturally, the results in Cyrus' hands, were delicious.

If you want to know more about lamb and find some simple lamb recipes, then do visit:

Serves 6


675g lamb leg, shoulder or neck fillet, cut into 1 inch/2.5cm cubes
5-6 whole red chillies, broken into pieces
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 x 2-3 inch piece cinnamon stick or cassia bark, broken into pieces
1 x 3 inch piece ginger, finely crushed
6 garlic cloves, finely crushed
½ tsp ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 tsp salt, to taste
Freshly chopped coriander, to garnish
(Raita to serve as a relish)


1.    In a small pan dry roast the spices for a few minutes until they give off a great aroma and become crisp. They will change colour but do not allow to burn.

2.    Cool and crush to as near a powder as you can get.

3.    Transfer the spices to a blender or liquidiser with the ginger, garlic and oil then blend to form a smooth paste.  You may need to add 1-2tbsp cold water too.

4.    Spoon into a large bowl, add the lamb and coat in the masala, transfer to a sealable container and chill in the fridge for a few hours.

5.    Either thread the cubes onto small kebab skewers (if using wooden ones soak in warm water for 20 minutes) and cook under a preheated grill or prepared barbecue for 6-8 minutes on each side

6.    Garnish with coriander and serve with a cooling raita.

Recipe by Cyrus Todiwala, 2015. 

Snigdha attended the Learn With Lamb cooking event as a guest of Cafe Spice Namaste. I did not receive any form of financial incentive to write this post. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Potato and salami salad

Summer has finally arrived! This weekend pretty much across the UK has been glorious. If your weather hasn’t been warm and sunny, please don’t begrudge us. We spend all year looking forward to the Summer and often end up with a single one week heatwave… 

No-one will forget the Summer of 2007 here; Rihanna had her monster hit “Umbrella”, and it rained and rained and rained. We begin to wonder if the beautiful Barbadian had cursed us. During the “Olympic” Summer of 2012, almost the whole first week of the “greatest show on earth” was a washout, and we wondered if the world would regret bestowing the Olympics upon London. Thankfully, the sun came through and the event was a success.

Summer brings some favourite British food and drink; jugs of Pimm’s, strawberries and cream, cucumber sandwiches, coleslaw and potato salad. The barbeques are going to be stoked up. At last, we can put away the scarves and layers. Hooray!

This dish is my spin on potato salad. Rather than lashings of mayonnaise with spring onions and chives, I wanted something a little lighter. I wanted a dinner-in-a-bowl salad rather than a side. I love traditional potato salad, but you can’t have a whole plate of it.

So vinaigrette and herbs replace the mayo. Veggies and salami provide some substance, fibre and protein to complement the carbs. 

Potato and salami salad

(Serves 2)


For the salad:

80-100g sliced salami cut into bite sized pieces

3 small shallots, chopped finely

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh flat leaved parsley, chopped

8-10 asparagus spears, cut in half lengthwise

250g small sized waxy salad potatoes, unpeeled, cut into bite sized pieces

2 or so broccoli florets, cut into small slices (optional)

1-2 tablespoons dry white wine

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Boil the potatoes in boiling water until cooked, around 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool down. Drain again.

2. In another pan of boiling water, blanch the broccoli and asparagus; broccoli goes in first for 1 minute, then add the asparagus and cook together for another minute. As with the potatoes, stop them cooking; drain and run under cold water. Drain again.

3. Move the potatoes to a non-metallic bowl. Add the shallots and drizzle with the white wine. Mix up thoroughly.

4. Make the dressing: in a bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Add the salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Add the olive oil and keep whisking. The Dijon mustard should help emulsify the dressing, so once mixed you can leave it a while. Just remember to give it a last whisk before using.

5. Now it is time to make up the salad. Add the remaining ingredients for the salad to the potato mixture. Try to combine without breaking the ingredients up too much. Now add the dressing, ensuring all the ingredients are thoroughly coated.

Serve at once and enjoy.