Recipes from Lands of the Curry Leaf


Bhutanese red rice  goji berry  hazelnut mountain salad

It is hard to find salads from regions that are high, cold and remote, and in Bhutan red rice is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner in many guises. This salad includes hazelnuts, which thrive in Bhutan and are being planted there in huge numbers, helping local people earn a living.

The goji berry vine has flourished in the valleys of the Himalayas for thousands of years, and its nutritious berries are reputed to have many healing powers. Unverified accounts claim goji berries were introduced to the West by a tourist who was astounded by the longevity of locals in a remote village in Tibet, ascribing their good health to all the goji berries they consumed.

Whatever the truth of this story, there is no doubting this salad is good for you.

REGION Bhutan | SERVES 4 | PREPARATION 15 minutes + 30 minutes chilling
COOKING 30 minutes | DIFFICULTY Easy

250 g (9 oz) Bhutanese red rice, or medium-grain brown rice if unavailable
4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
1 red capsicum (pepper), finely chopped
180 g (6 oz/1½ cups) dried goji berries, or other dried fruit such as mango, roughly chopped
180 g (6 oz/11/3 cups) toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
1 tablespoon mirin
80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar

Cook the rice in a rice cooker with 350 ml (12 fl oz) water and a pinch of salt. Alternatively, bring the rice and 350 ml (12 fl oz) water to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan, then cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes; turn off the heat, leave to stand with the lid on for 4 minutes, then fluff the rice grains with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Set aside for 20–30 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. When the rice is cool, place it in a large bowl and toss the remaining salad ingredients through. Add the dressing, to suit your taste. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving, to let the rice soak up the dressing.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


Vada Pav Mumbai burger


My first experience of these yummy burgers was on the train from Mumbai to Hyderabad, around 1983. This vegetarian delicacy originated around 1960, and combines a wonderful local deep-fried spiced potato ball with a touch of the colonial influence in the form of a burger bun. As with most things, this iconic Mumbai street food is evolving and finding its way all over India.

REGION India | SERVES 4 | PREPARATION 15 minutes + 10 minutes resting
COOKING 25 minutes | DIFFICULTY Medium

vegetable oil, for deep-frying
4 small white burger buns
butter, for spreading
Green coconut chutney, to serve
Tamarind chutney, to serve
chopped coriander (cilantro), to serve
deep-fried green chillies, to serve (optional)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
a few fresh curry leaves
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 green chillies, finely chopped
2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
a pinch of salt, or to taste
a few coriander (cilantro) sprigs, finely chopped

200 g (7 oz/1⅔ cups) chickpea flour (besan), sifted
½ teaspoon chilli powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
a pinch of salt, or to taste

For the potato masala, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes, then place back in the saucepan and put the lid on top; this will make the potatoes go fluffy. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until it starts to lightly smoke. Add the mustard seeds and, when they start to pop, add the curry leaves. When they stop popping, add the remaining masala ingredients, except the coriander, and cook together for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes fragrant.

Now add the potatoes and mix well, with enough force to break the potatoes but not mash them. Check for seasoning and leave to cool, then add the coriander.

In a bowl, mix together all the chickpea batter ingredients, adding enough water to give you a batter that resembles a pancake mix. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Shape the potato masala into balls the size of golf balls. (This can be done a few hours ahead if needed.)

When you’re ready to cook, pour about 20 cm (8 inches) of vegetable oil into a heavy-based saucepan and heat to 190°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 10 seconds.

Dip the potato masala balls into the chickpea batter, then cook two to three at a time for 3–4 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towel.

To assemble, cut the buns in half and lightly toast them, then butter them. Smear one half with tamarind chutney, and the other half with green coconut chutney. Place a few potato masala balls inside each bun and gently crush them, then sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Close up the buns and serve immediately, with deep-fried green chillies if desired.


This is the go-to chutney in India, served with virtually everything. It is particularly popular at breakfast, but you’ll also find it on thali plates, served with idli, dosa or vada (savoury fried snacks), and offered as a condiment with dinner.

REGION India | MAKES 1 x 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) jar | PREPARATION 15 minutes

25 g (1 oz/¾ cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves
60 g (2¼ oz/¾ cup) freshly grated coconut, or frozen coconut
1 Indian green chilli, chopped
1 cm (½ inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1½–2 tablespoons roasted chana dhal
a pinch of salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
½ teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
¾ teaspoon dried black lentils (urad dhal)
8–10 fresh curry leaves

Place the coriander, coconut, chilli, ginger and chana dhal in a blender. Add 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt, sugar and lemon juice, mixing well.

For tempering, heat the coconut oil in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the mustard seeds and lentils. Cook for a minute or two, until the mustard seeds splutter and the lentils brown. Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Stir the tempering mixture through the chutney.

Serve straight away, or spoon into a sterilised jar, seal and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the fridge for 2–3 days.


REGION Sri Lanka | MAKES 2 x 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jars | PREPARATION 30 minutes 

450 g (1 lb) tamarind pulp
150 g (5½ oz) ghee
1 onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
10 cm (4 inch) knob of fresh young ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
650 g (1 lb 7 oz) raw sugar
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
350 ml (12 fl oz) white vinegar
2 fresh curry leaf sprigs, leaves picked
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon salt

Soak the tamarind pulp in 350 ml (12 fl oz) warm water for 5 minutes, then push through a fine sieve, into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and discard any fibres.

Heat half the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over medium–low heat and cook the onion, garlic and ginger for 3–5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, stirring regularly.

Add the reserved tamarind water, the sugar, chilli flakes and vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 hour, or until the mixture has reduced by about three-quarters and is thick and pulpy.

Heat the remaining ghee in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds and shake the pan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, then immediately add to the tamarind mixture with the salt, stirring well. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Spoon into two hot sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool.

Store In the fridge, and allow to settle for a week or two before using. This chutney will keep In the fridge for up to 1 year.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


Vegetable jalfreszi

Vegetable jalfrezi is said to have originated in India during the time of the British Raj. Once a creative way to use up leftovers, it has since evolved into a flavourful and texture-rich dish — a popular Indian restaurant menu item. Try this recipe with a mixture of vegies, or highlight just one or two. Either way, vegetable jalfrezi will add a colourful splash to your plate.

REGION India | SERVES 4–5 | PREPARATION 15 minutes
COOKING 35 minutes | DIFFICULTY Easy

1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
375 g (13 oz/3 cups) cauliflower florets
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
½ onion, chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) tomato sauce
½ red capsicum (pepper), chopped into bite-sized pieces
75 g (2½ oz/½ cup) frozen green peas, thawed
1 teaspoon Garam masala
chilli powder, to taste (optional)
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
lemon or lime juice, to taste

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, and have a bowl of iced water at the ready.

Add the salt and ground turmeric to the pan of boiling water. Add the cauliflower and carrot and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the vegetables, then immediately drop them into the iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain for 1–2 minutes, then set aside.

In a non-stick frying pan, dry-roast the coriander seeds over low heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to dance in the pan, being sure to stir them often so they don’t burn. Tip onto a small plate, leave to cool, then grind using a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Heat the rice bran oil in the same pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, or until lightly golden. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the oil separates from the sauce.

Stir in the capsicum and peas and cook for 2–3 minutes. Now add the blanched cauliflower and carrots, along with the reserved ground coriander, the garam masala and chilli powder, if using. Mix well, and season to taste with salt.

Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, but still retain their crunch, sprinkling a little water over them occasionally so that the spices don’t burn.

Stir in the chopped tomato and cook for a final 1–2 minutes. Stir in a splash of lemon or lime juice, to taste.

Serve hot, with rice, roti, chapatti or naan.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


Watakaolu Vanjanaya

This is a beautiful and unique curry, using an equally unique vegetable that is surprisingly easy to grow. In Sri Lanka, this is one of the curries you would have in your rice and curry selection. On a recent trip there I tasted this curry after many years, and it took me straight back to my grandmother’s smoky black kitchen, where one of the house girls would meticulously clean the gourd, ensuring that the skin on the hard outer ridges was removed, but the skin within the concave dips retained.

If the gourd is in perfect condition, the seeds will still be white and edible; otherwise, it’s best to remove the seeds if the gourd is a bit old. There is no real replacement for ridged gourd in terms of flavour and texture, but any member of the gourd family will work in this curry.

Vegans and pure vegetarians can omit the Maldive fish.

REGION Sri Lanka | SERVES 6 | PREPARATION 25 minutes
COOKING 20 minutes | DIFFICULTY Easy

2 ridged gourds
1 onion, diced
2 Indian green chillies, halved lengthways
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves picked
1 teaspoon Maldive fish (optional), finely pounded using a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Raw curry powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder
salt, to taste
300 ml (10½ fl oz) coconut milk
200 ml (7 fl oz) coconut cream
juice of ½ lime
a pinch of Dark roasted curry powder

Take the gourds and peel the skin from the ridges, leaving the skin on the concave inner dips of the gourds. Cut each gourd in half, and then on an angle into 4 cm (1½ inch) pieces.

Place all the ingredients, except the coconut cream, lime juice and roasted curry powder, in a heavy-based saucepan, stirring until well combined.

Bring to the boil over medium–high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the skin of the gourd is tender.

Stir in the coconut cream and bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat.

Stir in the lime juice and serve garnished with a sprinkling of roasted curry powder.


This is great for vegetable curries, and is best cooked with the vegetables. Use it as you would a store-bought curry powder. It is perfect for curried egg sandwiches.

MAKES 100 g (3½ oz)

6 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 x 5 cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick, crumbled
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
5 dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Turn on your kitchen exhaust fan, so you don’t have a houseful of coughing people.

Heat all the spices in a dry heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until aromatic and golden brown. Tip into a small bowl to cool.

Grind to a fine powder, using a spice grinder, and store in an airtight container.


This powder looks good and tastes amazing, and is wonderful sprinkled over your finished curry, or even a salad. When cooking a meat-style curry, this is the one to use.

MAKES 250 g (9 oz)

90 g (3¼ oz/1 cup) coriander seeds
3 fresh curry leaf sprigs, leaves picked
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
2 teaspoons raw rice
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) cumin seeds
5 dried red chillies, crumbled (including the seeds)

Toast the coriander seeds and curry leaves in a dry heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. After a couple of minutes, add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and rice and toast until golden brown.

Now add the fenugreek, mustard, fennel and cumin seeds and dry-roast for a few more minutes, or until fragrant, taking care not to burn them. Finally add the chilli pieces and toast for a minute or so.

Tip into a small bowl to cool. Grind to a powder, using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and store in an airtight container.

Download printable recipe (PDF)