Book Review : Reza’s Indian Spice

Indian food always seemed really complicated to me. All the recipes have so many ingredients and sometimes so many processes. But in the last few years, I have found several recipe books that simplify this so much and am happy to say that I am no longer daunted.

Reza’s Indian Spice is a new cookbook by Reza Mahammad with his Indian recipes adapted for Western cooks. (it’s on sale at Amazon now too)

Thumbing through my copy, I have already at least 5 recipes I want to cook immediately, see my pink bookmarkers. The combination of using local ingredients with Indian spicing works really well as it is sometime hard to recreate the really traditional recipes in today’s modern kitchen.

Reza has been running the Star of India in Chelsea for a while and he has elevated Indian food from your local Chicken Tikka Masala into much more sophisticated dishes and flavours. I believe his experience of running a restaurant that serves probably the most discerning Londoners has helped to hone his recipes.

The 1st recipe I cooked from the book is Scallops with Coconut and Ginger. The recipe uses scallops but since I had skate cheeks (which look a bit like scallops) I used those instead.

Rezas Indian Spice


Skate Cheeks With Coconut and Ginger

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Skate Cheeks With Coconut and Ginger

A very easy and stunning recipe to make that will impress your friends. It is so quick to cook. Don't be fooled, the recipe has multiple layers of flavour with the coconut milk, ginger, curry leaves and all the spices.


    For the scallops
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500g fresh king scallops/ skate cheeks
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1tsp coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
  • ½ tsp red chilli flakes
  • For the sauce
  • 2tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 10 curry leaves ( I buy these fresh and freeze them until ready to use)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2.5cm freshly grated ginger
  • 4 green chillies, slit open lengthways
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 1tsp salt


  1. Make the sauce first before the scallops. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the curry leaves, onion, ginger and green chillies.
  2. Cook, and stir until the onion is soft. Add the turmeric, followed by the coconut milk and salt. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Continue to cook for 3-5 minutes until the sauce begins to turn glossy and thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon
  4. To cook the scallops, heat the oil until hot in a large frying pan and add the scallops.
  5. Sear for about 1 minute per side until golden.
  6. Sprinkle salt on each of the scallops and remove from the pan
  7. Mix together the coriander, cumin and chilli flakes and spread on top of the scallops to give an even crust.
  8. Place under a hot grill for 30 seconds
  9. Serve with the warm sauce on top of some wilted spinach. I had this with some plain Basmati rice.


Instead of frying the scallops separately and then putting them under a grill, being a home cook who likes shortcuts, I coated the skate cheeks with the spice mix and pan fried them really quickly.

Transformations at Bombay Brasserie

Bombay Brasserie in Gloucester Road is one of the first Indian Restaurants that I’ve been to in London and it is one of the original posh Indian restaurants. The decor is elegant but relaxed, with massive chandeliers in the main dining room. It is certainly not your usual local Indian. My memories of it are of the colonial style seating in the conservatory and not a terribly imaginative menu. My last visit was about 3 years ago, with some Gujerati friend who are regulars, where we had a good but rather pedestrian meal.

Fast forward to 2010, a revamp of their menu accompanied by an interior renovation, bringing the Bombay Brasserie bang up to date.

Being a complete chillie addict, I could not turn down the invite to sample their new Chilli Gourmet Menu, designed by Grand Master Chef Hemant Oberoi who oversees the restaurants for the Taj Groups globally. His CV is unbelievably impressive from cooking in Davos to cooking for Royalty and Heads of States to overseeing a banquet for 30,000 people at a Mittal wedding. He jetted into London in time for our dinner and brought with him about 30 varieties of chillies for the new menus and they were used in such interesting ways on the menu.

On arrival, we were tempted with a couple of Chilly Cocktails, the Chocolate Chilly Cocktail and the Guava Juice and Chilli Cocktail, quite unusual flavours with an unexpected  kick from the chillies. These were accompanied by some bite size canapes.

Chocolate Cocktail

As we were led to the new live kitchen in the middle of the old conservatory room, we meet out chef, Silva, for the night. He was busy preparing our meal and we started with an amuse bouche of potato cake with tamarind chutney.This kitchen has the worlds strongest extractor fan as we could not even smell the cooking smells even sitting about one foot away from the hot plate.

Our Chef from Kerala

Silva Our Chef from Kerala

Bombay Brasserie London

The first dish on the menu was Peeli Mirch Ka Scallop with griddled curry leaf, yellow chilli powder and Goan style pan fried goan chillies flavoured halibut on a bed of spicy prawns. Of the 2, the scallops were the favourites, being both very hot but so well marinated with so many flavours, it was hard to identify.

Bombay Brasserie London

Next followed a Rasam made with Pink Pepper and unusually Lemongrass. Rasam is a South Indian lentil soup and this one transcended any other rasams that I have had elsewhere. Certainly did its job in kick starting the appetite.

Bombay Brasserie

Next was a meltingly soft lamb with green chillies on little rotis and it’s really handy to be so near the kitchen as we duly had second helpings.  This was accompanied by crispy chicken strips with guntur chillies and tasted strangely familiar, then it hit me as it was reminiscent of the friend chicken that we get from Nasi Padang shops in Malaysia, which of course has origins in Southern India. So far, all the dishes had been expertly spiced and well balanced which to me means no jarring flavours that overwhelms each dish.

Drama followed with smoking bowls of tamarind, jaggery and chilli sorbet which caught the attention of some New York Foodies on the neighbouring table. In addition to them, we spotted “Desperate HousewivesNeal McDonough sitting in the corner. This place seems to be on the Hollywood radar as they have had quite a few big names eating there.

Jaggery and Chilli Sorbet

Jaggery and Chilli Sorbet

Chef Oberoi sat with us which gave us a chance to grill him about the ingredients, especially the use of all the different chillies and how his food takes influence from different regions of India. Most shocking in our conversation was when he said that he was in the hotel in Bombay when it was attacked by the terrorists and saw one of his chefs shot in front of him.

Executive chef Oberoi and Head Chef Prahlad Hegde

Executive chef Oberoi and Head Chef Prahlad Hegde

The chillies that were used in this meal included Ellchipur Sanman, Guntur Sanman, Hindpur, Jwala, Kanthari, Kashmiri Mirch, Mundu or Gundu Molzuka, Nalcheti, Warangal Chappatta, Naga Jolokia and birds eye.

Air Flown Chillies Bombay Brasserie

Just as we were starting to get full, the main event arrived. An Achari Chicken Biryani made with stuffed red chilli and saffron flavoured rice, with Lal Mirch Ka Gosht, a lamb dish cooked in red chilli powder flavoured gravy and Murg Khatta Pyaz which is a chicken tikka with vinegar shallots. To call the lamb dish just a lamb curry is doing it a disservice, didn’t find out where this dish originates from but I want more. It was spiced but flavours are quite unusual and was a complete contrast to the other dishes being served. We were told that this was the size of the main courses normally which is  quite an enormous portion.

Bombay Brasserie

Everyone needs to come and have this Achari Biriyani, a whole tasty meal all by itself and is my favourite dish as it ticks the box of being quite tangy from the Achari/ pickle flavours. The curries were accompanied by a Mirch Ka Slan from Hyderabad, a cucumber raita and crispy and freshly made plain, paratha and peri peri olive naan.

To end this feast, we had a trio of desserts – Narangi Malpua, Kala Jamun Brulee and Chenna payesh. Although beautifully presented, I didn’t really like all the flavours and especially not that stripe on top of the chocolate box, which was a shockingly unexpected smear of black pepper but the brulee was a winner though.

Bombay Brasserie

The service at the Bombay Brasserie throughout the meal was very attentive and I’d like to think that this is how they normally treat all their guests. Am glad to have been reintroduced to this fabulous restaurant and will be back for the weekend brunch soon. They offer a full on weekend brunch where you can sample most of these dishes for £22 and ordering from the ala carte menu could be considerably more.

In addition, Bombay Brasserie are holding some other themed events over the next few months

  • New series of Flavour Masterclasses for consumers – November to March
  • Flavours of Divali 5 November 2010
  • Regional Taste Tour of Chillies Friday 21 January 2011
  • Taste of the Royal Palaces of India Friday 18 March 2011
  • Chilli Celebration Dinner season – 17-30 January 2011

If you want an Indian fine dining experience, you can’t go far wrong eating here, also keep your eyes open as you might even spot some A list celebs.

    Bombay Brasserie on Urbanspoon

    Slow Food Kitchen was a guest at Bombay Brasserie.

    Delhi Grill, Islington 5 Stars!

    Delhi Grill, what a great addition to great Indian Restaurants in London. This is a newish restaurant in Chapel Market in Islington, opened by 2 brothers, Aman and Preet Grewel, serving Indian Dhaba food.  All the dishes are from family recipes, with slow cooked meats, roti made in front of you, fresh ingredients and a lot of attention on great flavours.

    My first encounter with them was when I wandered down here one lunchtime to sample their wraps. They have a stall outside the restaurant which sells these very tasty curries wrapped in a freshly made roti, all for under £3. There are a couple of choices every day and they are massive. I had a lamb keema curry wrap that day, which had very tender lamb and a bit of salad accompanied by a glass of their mango lassi which was thick, yoghurty and creamy. If you are looking for a quick bite in the area, you can’t do better than this. You can buy your roti and eat it in the shop.

    Delhi Grill Islington

    Delhi Grill Islington

    Lamb curry wrap at Delhi Grill

    On approching the restaurant, you can’t miss their distinctive blue sign and the colour is echoed on the walls inside too. The decor is not glitzy nor does it follow the flock wallpaper school of design, instead it is has a casual cafe atmosphere with some very friendly staff.

    On my second visit, I went back for dinner with a friend. On the next table were an Indian family with 2 young kids who had heard about Delhi Grill from friends and had trekked all the way from Ealing to eat there. They seemed really happy with the food.

    Delhi Grill Islington

    This was a good sign of things to come. Their menu is not very long but enough choices for variety. For starters, we had the mixed grill of kebabs and lamb chops. The lamb chops had been marinated in spices for a while and were so tender and full of flavour, so unlike the chewy offering that I had at Tayyabs just the week before. The kebabs were nicely spiced and they served with a few extra condiments including a dish of sliced chillies in case it was explosive enough. It may be a completely different recipe but I prefer Delhi Grill’s lamb chops and kebabs anytime. On the table there were some freshly made chutneys including one made of beetroot, to die for.

    Indian Lamb Chops and Kebabs

    Best Indian Lamb Chops in London

    We then had the Rogan Gosht, Bindi and Chickpea curry with some side orders of pilau rice and some nan. It was way too much food for 2 people but we did do some damage. My friend who is quite sensitive to over spicing of Indian food was raving about the Rogan Gosht, which was slow cooked to Auntie’s recipe.

    Delhi Grill Islington

    The bhindi was nicely spiced and very well fried in an obviously hot pan, resulting in the bindi remaining still al dente as they say on their menu and not over cooked and soggy. Not to be overly gushing but this is the best I have had and if you read my other posts on Indian food, this is the dish that I order at almost all other Indian restaurants. At this point, the button on the jeans had to be undone.

    The  slow cooked chickpeas in a coriander, garlic and tomato masala added a nice contrast to the other two dishes, adding a completely different flavour to the meal.

    Bhindi al dente

    Bhindi al dente

    For dessert, we had some pistachio kulfi, sweet and nutty to end a very satisfying meal.

    Delhi Grill Islington

    What I like about Delhi Grill is that each dish had it’s own distinctive flavour, the sauces are not greasy and were obviously not from one massive sauce pot. The menu has been tweaked since I last went so I will be back to check that out soon. It’s good honest Indian food at a really reasonable price and Londoners are lucky to have this restaurant. Get there soon before the masses discover it and you can’t get a table or you could always takeaway.

    Delhi Grill Islington

    Since my last visit, they have installed a man to make fresh rotis in the restaurant and they aspire to be like this guy in the video below.


    Our meal came up to £30 with a couple of drinks. If you thought the food at Tayyabs was good, think again. Give these guys a go and you will never go back to that place in the East End.

    Delhi Grill on Urbanspoon

    Review – Zayna A Great Find in Marble Arch

    In search of a good Indian meal around Marble Arch, I was about to go to Les Port Des Indes, which has somewhat past its sell by date. By chance, we came across Zayna on New Quebec Street.

    I used to live one street away from here and there never used to be anywhere to eat nearby except for the old Malaysia Hall in Bryanston square. Now the street has several choices from Indian, Chinese to a pub.

    Zayna is a great find in this part of Marylebone where there aren’t that many good eateries. It is hidden away on one of the backstreets of Marble Arch and behind the Churchill Hotel where the amazing Locanda Locatelli is.  Zayna is run by chef/ owner Riz Dar from Punjab but the cooking is described as Northern Indian or Pakistani.

    As you walk in, you realise that it is not going to be the usual Indian fare. No sign of flock wallpaper, Cobra beer sponsored ornaments and the like. Here, you get a sleek modern design, wood carvings and low slung sofas for seating, very civilised. On the evening we were there, it was busy with some regular diners.

    Zayna Restaurant Marble Arch

    Onto the menu which is organised by how the food is cooked, the grill, the pan, the tawa, the oven, dum pukht, vegetarian and on the side. It is emphasised that they only use free range eggs and meat and it’s all halal too.

    We didn’t have much time so we didn’t have starters and just had some mains. While waiting we had the usual papadums with some chutneys which came in cute little shot glass things which only held like 2 teaspoons of chutney. (We were charged £4 for the chutneys, shocking). We also ordered the mango lassi which was perfectly thick with good mango flavour. No cutting corners here.

    There were some interesting things on the menu and we ordered the Ishtu (£16.50) , which is slow cooked lamb in a yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger and mixed herb. This was delightfully tender, the meat was very well spiced, creamy and we would have ordered more if we had the time. This takes about 20 minutes to cook but was well worth the wait.

    Zayna Ishtu Slow Cooked Lamb

    With this we had a couple of vegetable dishes. The first was the Bhindi Karahi (£12.00) which is fresh okra mixed with sliced onions and dried pomegranate seeds. This was gorgeous as the okra was lightly cooked and there were flavours from all the fresh ingredients that you can see in the dish. Unlike the overcooked gluey mess that you normally find in flock wallpaper Indian places.

    Bhindi Karahi Okra

    The other dish was Shahi Palak (£9.50), spinach with sautéed paneer cooked in ground spices. Again, great depth and very distinct flavours of the spinach and contrasted nicely with the paneer.  We had a couple of order of nicely flavoured pilau rice and naan to go with the dishes.

    Shahi Palak

    We didn’t have that much to eat as it was a quick meal but here are the dishes that caught my eye and will be back to try : Biryani Shah Jahani, Kapora Taka Tak (lamb sweet breads cooked with yogurt, ginger, onions and tomatoes) and Gurda Qeema (Pubjabi street food of mince and lamb kidneys).

    This was a delightful find, not your average “cook everything in the same nondescript sauce” kind of place but a truly above average North Indian cooking. The dishes we tried were all good, cooked fresh to order and this is reflected in the price. Service was very friendly and not rushed or pushy.  One big mistake here is the way they serve Masala Chai, made with a teabag! This was shockingly bad but seeing as this was the only issue, it is forgiveable.

    The meal came to £70 which included a couple of drinks. If you would like a really good Indian meal, you need to try this place.

    Zayna Restaurant Marble Arch

    Zayna Restaurant Marble Arch

    25 New Quebec Street
    London, W1H 7SF
    Phone 020 7723 2229

    Zayna on Urbanspoon

    Review – Tayyabs, something’s changed

    If it seems like I am visiting a lot of Indian restaurants, I am. From the cheap and cheerful to the high faluting refined fine dining type places. Since London has them all, it’s a constant merry go round.

    There are so many Indian/ Pakistani restaurants in London and one that keeps being mentioned as one of the best is Tayyabs in the East End of London. I have been coming here for quite a few years, always with a big group of Pakistani friends because it is one of the better affordable halal restaurants. A recent visit was disappointing, the standards have dropped.

    Tayyabs is like the local canteen and used to be full of families tucking into it’s  Punjabi food. On this recent visit, I brought a visitor from Washington where good Indian food is a bit harder to come by. We queued with anticipation of the authentic culinary  experience that I promised. Eventually, we got shoehorned into a table close to the kitchen end of the dining room which meant we ended with hair and clothes smelling of grilled meat. Served by a Bollywood star lookalike with only a hint of acknowledgement and a grunt. This really is the Wong Kee of curry places.

    So we started off with a sizzzling dish of lamb chops and shami kebabs. The lamb chops were not marinated enough, spiced but not chilli hot and were really tough and the kebabs had shrunk in size and were really soggy. These used to be meaty, well spiced and seasoned and not soft and soggy.

    Tayyabs Grilled Lamb Chops

    Tayyabs Grilled Lamb Chops and Shami Kebabs

    Each dish was served in it’s own wok like karahi, which was more for decor as the curries were obviously cooked in a massive pot and served in these karahis for presentation. A bit redundant really seeing as it took up so much space and on the little tiny tables, there is hardly enough room for more than 2 dishes.

    This is what wikipedia has to say about the Karahi

    Karahi (also spelled KadaiKaraikadhikadahi, or kadhai (all pronounced the same, ka-rai ({IPA-en|kəˈraɪ|})is a type of thick, circular, and deep cooking pot (similar in shape to a wok) used in Indian[1]and Pakistani cuisine. Also called a cheena chatti, kadai are useful for the shallow or deep frying of meat, potatoes, sweets, and snacks such as samosa and fish, but are most noted for the simmering of stews or posola[2][3], which are often also named karahi after the utensil. Stews prepared in a karhai include “chicken karhai” and “karhai paneer.” Stews prepared using other methods are sometimes also referred to as karhai. The word is frequently used in Pakistan, India and Nepal.

    Before we made a dent in the grilled meats, the other dishes, rice and naan arrived together with our jug of over sweetened mango lassi. On the next table was a Punjabi couple and the guy was so big he looked really uncomfortable wedged in between us and the next table. They did order the sizzling keema dish which smelt wonderful and they kindly offered to share some with us.

    Tayyabs Lamb Karahi

    The lamb karahi was delicious, rich creamy sauce, great with the naan and not too hot either. (The place was a bit dark and I can’t seem to take decent decent pictures in that light.)

    Tayyabs sag aloo

    The sag aloo was a waste of time, the potato was so undercooked and still hard, it tasted like it had just been peeled and warmed through in the spinach mush.

    Tayyabs Karahi Bindi

    Tayyabs Karahi Bindi

    The bindi or okra was done very well, just crunchy enough, nicely spiced and a very nice accompaniment to the meat dishes.

    This place used to be a reliable family restaurant with decent cooking and very very cheap (like below £10 per head) . Not so anymore, the meal for 2 with the drinks totalled £30, which is still cheap by London standards but about a 50% increase from what it was for lower quality food. Time to try some new places. I hear that Mirch Masala in Tooting is a good substitute and for good halal food nearby, try the Medinah Grill a popular Turkish family restaurant across the road.

    NB: If you want alcohol, it’s BYO but do check during Ramadan which starts on 11 August 2010, menus might change and alcohol might be disallowed.


    83-89 Fieldgate Street
    London E1 1JU
    020 7247 6400

    Review – Dishoom Hot or Not?

    This corner of Covent Garden along St Martins Lane has recently seen a  lot of building activity and the emergence of several new eateries including Jamie’s Italian, Cantina Laredo and Dishoom.

    On a recent windy evening in London, I took a friend who was visiting London to Dishoom, the new Bombay Cafe in Covent Garden. It’s only been open for 2 weeks and have had a bit of buzz on the Twittersphere.

    The decor is contemporary and the only hint that it was an Indian restaurant are the various Bollywood pictures and “aged” pictures of family and friends on the walls. All hard surfaces, so if the place is full, you won’t be able to have a conversation with anyone across the table. They have about 70 covers upstairs and a whole lot more downstairs when they get the planning sorted out.

    NB. This review might slightly be biased as my friend ended the meal by throwing up.

    We started with some Samosas which were unceremoniously dumped on the table as the waitress whizzed by enroute to another table. (Maybe this is what they mean when they say “Food will be dishoomed to your table as it is prepared”. It took a few more minutes to ask for some chutneys to go with that. The samosa were crispy and generous filling, tasty but the chutneys were essential.



    Then came the mains, we had spicy lamb chops, chicken tikka, the house black daal accompanied by roomali roti and some garlic naan.

    dishoom spicy lamb chops

    Dishoom chicken tikka

    Dishoom chicken tikka

    The lamb chops were tender but overspiced. The chicken tikka was recommended by the nice lady at the door and is made with the meat from the chicken wing. We just did not like the dal, the consistency was a bit too gluey and there was no distinction in the taste. Jay Rayner agreed with me on this.

    By this stage, my friend had to make a quick dash to the loo and we didn’t stay too long to sample desserts. Overall, the food was fine but nothing exceptional, the service was rushed, the staff were not overly helpful with suggestions and way too loud.

    I did tweet that my friend had just thrown up at the end of the meal and an hour later got a tweet back to offer help. We had left by then and they did get back to me to say that they had eaten the same dishes the same night with no side effects and followed up with the offer for breakfast. We don’t really know what was the cause, whether it was the food there but we have not taken up the offer for the breakfast yet. I may be back later after they have had a few weeks to sort themselves out.

    The meal cost about £30 for 2 without drinks.

    Dishoom Covent Garden

    Dishoom Covent Garden

    Dishoom on Urbanspoon