Food 2020 – The Great British Chefs Cookbook Club (Masala by Mallika Basu – Part 1)

Saturday 31st October, 2020 – Recipes (Sikandari Raan, Naan, Baingan Aloo, Zafrani Aloo)

October was incredibly difficult (what with the major building work and the house being in total turmoil), so after the first shot at cooking from October’s book from the Great British Chefs Cookbook Club, I lost interest in trying anything complicated as I tried to stem the flood of building related chaos. I decided I’d get an early start on Masala courtesy of Mallika Basu, so I cooked from it yesterday.


Saturday nights ever since lockdown in March have become “keep up our standards” nights. We get properly dressed up, open a good bottle or two of wine, and treat ourselves to some online theatre or ballet or opera. We set the table nicely (even though it’s only a folding table) and light as many tealights as we can. After that it’s back to the chaos of living in a building site.

Consequently (and in light of the UK government’s complete and utter fuck up of a Covid-19 policy which means we’re about to go back into lockdown for month) we needed something comforting for Saturday’s dinner, and we both love lamb so I opted for the Sikandari Raan (page 80), a lamb dish where the leg is marinated in spices and yogurt and then roasted. I set it up to marinate the night before, and left it for 20 hours. I know the recipe says 4 hours, but I’m a fan of long marinade times if you can manage them. And I have to say the result was fabulous! The meat was still slightly pink, but also suffused with the flavours or the spices. It was tender and tasty and just the thing we needed right now. The garnish was worth the time and energy too, the crunch of the nuts and onions making a lovely contrast. I didn’t change much apart from straining the pan juices through a sieve to remove any solids before making it into sauce, which I think was worth doing. Otherwise you would have crunchy bits of cinammon bark and chunks of bay leaves all over the place, and I don’t think that would have improved it!

I made the Baingan Aloo (page 168, one of the variants of the Sukhi Bhaji recipe) which is an aubergine and potato dish as one of the accompaniments. This is quite fiery but also very tasty, with asafoetida and mustard seeds in the mix along with a single dried red chilli. The one proviso I would add is that you would be well advised not to breathe in when you take the lid off the wok, because if you’re like me, you’ll end up coughing for ages. Those mustard seeds are ferocious (I assumed the recipe meant black mustard seeds and not yellow). The end result was more mellow than it started out, and I suspect will mature while it waits for us to go round a second time on Monday night.

Also on the menu was a portion of Zafrani Aloo, roast potatoes bathed in saffron infused milk (page 165). These were the most glorious colour, but I did find they weren’t as crisp as I would have liked after an hour in the oven. I remedied it by frying them for another 20 minutes or so in some ghee, at which point they were perfect.

The final item was a Naan bread (page 175). I used a silicon mat instead of baking parchment which meant they needed an extra couple of minutes to cook the side that started out on the mat. I added the nigella seeds while making the dough rather than adding them when I formed the breads, which made it easier (and less sticky). I reheated them as per the microwave method later and the one we had with dinner was pillowy and soft and spongy and tasted brilliant, helped by me brushing it with ghee instead of butter.

All round success, I would say.

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