Sunil Ghai – Ananda Restaurant


We had another terrific guest chef at the cookery school recently, Sunil Ghai is a tall handsome chef from Gwalior but he is firmly established on the Irish Restaurant scene. He was chosen as Chef of the Year in Ireland in August 2009 by Food and Wine Magazine– no easy task at the best of times but even more difficult for a non-Irish chef. It was a very popular choice, he is widely respected and admired by his fellow chefs for his knowledge, affable personality and the food served in the Indian restaurants he is associated with in Dublin.  Some may have seen him on Masterchef Ireland last week.
As you all know I have a deep affection for Indian food, in all its extraordinary diversity, I enjoyed the food at Ananda so much that I invited Sunil to come and teach at the cookery school.
His food is simple and delicious, the recipes work and we can now easily source the Asian ingredients and the fresh spices, tamarind, Kashmiri chilli powder, kolonji seeds, chatt masala and ghee are available in most supermarkets and the growing number of Asian shops.
In Cork city it’s still so worth a visit to Mr Bell in the English market from whom I’ve been buying ‘ethnic’ ingredients for over 30 years.
For fresh spices, it’s difficult to beat Green Saffron for freshness – Arun Kapil now has a mail order list, check out  or seek him out at Mahon Point, Midleton or Douglas Farmers Markets. We all loved the dishes that Sunil cooked for us and I’ve done several since. Aloo Tikka are delicious little potato cakes with a secret filling of peas, fresh ginger and spices, we love them as a starter or they could be a vegetarian main course. Sunil’s version of the classic Rogan Josh is particularly delicious and we absolutely loved the easy peasy Lahsooni Patta spinach with cherry tomatoes and spices and the rice pudding is like none other you’ll ever taste but definitely exotic enough to serve for a dinner party.
Here are some for you to try and if you want to taste the original check out Ananda Restaurant

Sunil Ghai’s Aloo Tikka with Spiced Peas and Sweet and Sour Yoghurt

Serves 4-6

2-3 large potatoes, boiled in their skins
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 tablespoon gram flour (optional)

2 tablespoons of oil
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 green chilli, chopped
110g (4 ozs) green peas, cooked or frozen peas defrosted
20g (3/4oz) chopped raisins (golden)
1/4 teaspoon salt
red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground dry-roasted cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ghee (or oil),  for pan-frying.

To Serve
250g (9oz) yoghurt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt

Peel the potatoes and once they are cool enough to handle, grate them very finely. Add salt and ghee and knead until properly mixed, add 1 tablespoon of gram flour if too soft and starchy.  Divide it into 12 equal portions and roll each into a small ball.

To make the stuffing.
Heat the pan and add the oil, then add ginger and green chilli and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the green peas and raisins and all the spices and check the seasoning.

Taking one at a time, gently flatten each ball into a round patty of about 1cm (1/2 inch) thick and place a portion of stuffing in the centre. Fold the edges together very carefully so that mixture does not come out.

Now very gently flatten it into a 5cm (2 inch) patty. Repeat the procedure for all potato balls.

To make the stirred yoghurt.
Heat a pan over a medium heat.  Roast the cumin until really quite dark, grind in a pestle and mortar.  Add 1 teaspoon to the yoghurt with the sugar and a pinch of salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Heat the ghee or oil in a non-stick pan over a low heat. Slip in the patties, not too many at a time, into the pan. Fry on both sides until crisp and golden brown, over a low heat, adding ghee if required.

Serve aloo tikka hot with stirred yoghurt.

Sunil Ghai’s Kashmiri Lamb Curry
Rogan Josh
There are various stories attached to this controversial recipe –
Roganjosh is a classical preparation traditionally with lamb but it has versions into chicken, seafood and even vegetables!!   There are various stories about the name of Roganjosh.   Some claim “Rogan” is the red colored chilli oil that floats on the curry gives the name, some has it that violet bark of a Kashmiri tree called “Ratanjog” should be boiled in oil to prepare “Rogan” and then lamb curry made with this oil is called Roganjosh.   Recently, I met up with my Kashmiri friends, I went to school with – there version was – Cocks comb flower (Marwal ka Phool) extract should be used to give characteristic color to this classic preparation.   So, there are numerous stories – to keep it simple, I use a recipe and extract the colour from red chillies & tomato paste to get the right looks for this preparation.

Serves 4

Soak 2 almonds over night

1 kg 2¼ lb) leg of lamb
150 g (5 oz) natural yoghurt – tenderises, gives a sourness
½ g saffron
30 g (1½ oz) almonds, peeled and crushed
100 ml (3½ fl oz) sunflower oil
Whole garam masala
1½ tsp cumin seeds
6 green cardamom
2 black cardamom
1 inch (2.5 cm) cinnamon
8 cloves
1 star anise
2 blades mace
1 tsp black pepper
350 g (12 ozs) onions
50 g (2 ozs) ginger-garlic paste – (2 ½ teaspoons)
10 g (½ oz) red chilli powder – Kashmiri chilli powder
10 g (½ oz) coriander
3 g garam masala
5 g turmeric
60 g (2½ oz) tomato paste
1 bunch coriander leaves
10 g (½ oz) ginger – peeled and cut into fine julienne

Trim the fat from the lamb, remove the bones and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes.   Whisk the yogurt, add almonds, saffron, salt & half the ginger garlic paste, add the lamb, toss and marinade for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Meanwhile pound the whole spices roughly in a mortar and pestle. Peel and slice the onions thinly. Wash & finely chop the coriander leaves, peel the ginger and cut into fine julienne.
Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the pounded spices, and stir while the  spices start to crackle. Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the sliced onions, add 2½ teaspoons ginger garlic paste, stir and cook for about 5 minutes until golden brown .  Add the lamb and all the marinade. Stir and cook on a high heat until the oil separates and the meat is browned & 3/4 cooked. Add the dry spices and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the tomato paste.  Add ½ pint water and salt, bring back to the boil and simmer covered until the lamb is cooked.

* When the lamb is added, lamb will shed the excess of moisture and will cook in its own stock, if there isn’t much liquid in the pan, some water or lamb stock may be added.   Once the meat is browned, it will tend to get stuck at the bottom, one has to keep stirring and scrape the bottom. This is important for the characteristic development of the flavors.
Serve in a warm bowl, garnished with coriander & ginger julienne.
Roganjosh can be served with saffron rice or an Indian bread

Sunil Ghai’s Tadka Dal

Home style lentil preparation
(North India)

Serves 3

This lentil preparation is famous for its unique spicing.   It is highly seasoned perked up with chilli and garlic.   A really easy preparation that needs no forward planning.

300 g (11 ozs) yellow pea split peas or toor / chana lentils
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chopped coriander leaves

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 medium tomatoes, chopped but not peeled
Coriander leaves

In a heavy bottomed pan, cook the lentils with salt, turmeric and 1litre (1¾ pints) of water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft and cooked.
In a sauté pan, heat the oil and stir fry the garlic to light brown colour, add red chilli powder, sauté for a minute.   Add tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes and add cooked lentils.   Simmer the lentils for 10-15 minutes and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Lahsooni Patta – Baby Spinach Tossed with Tomatoes, Garlic and Fennel.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel powder
salt to taste
400g (14ozs) baby spinach or destalked spinach leaves
1 teaspoon butter

Heat the oil in the wok over a medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic, sauté for 1 minute, add the tomato halves, then freshly ground fennel, butter and salt. Add the baby spinach leaves and toss quickly for a minute or two – just until they wilt. Serve hot.

Saffron Pear with Saffron Jelly

Serves 10

2 litres (3½ pints/8½ cups) water
750 ml (27 fl oz) sugar
6 green cardamom
1 bay leaf
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
10 g (½ oz) fennel seeds
10 pears
Thinly pared rind of 1 orange
4 g (¼ oz) saffron

Boil the water, sugar and thinly pared rind of 1 orange, add the spices and saffron and boil for at least 20 minutes to get the spice flavour in the syrup. Peel the pears, remove the seeds. Add the pear to the syrup and let it boil until the pear gets the saffron coating and the pear is cooked in they syrup but still holds its shape.
Saffron Jelly
1 cooked pear
4 g (¼ oz/1½ leaves) gelatine
150 g (5 oz) pear syrup

Soak 1½ leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water.  Use the pear syrup, strain it and puree one cooked pear and add to the syrup bring it to the boil and add the gelatine and set aside for 3 hours until it forms a jelly.

Sunil Ghai’s Marwadi Kheer

Serves 4

Cooking time: 1 hour – this dessert can be made ahead and served warm or cold

50 g (2 ozs) basmati rice, soaked for an hour and drained
1.5 litres (2½ pints) milk
3 tbs whole peeled almonds ground to a paste
2 tablespoons water
100 g (3½ ozs) sugar
50 g (2 ozs) fresh coconut, grated
25 g (1 oz) raisins
50 g (2 ozs) Chironji nuts (optional)
50 g (2 ozs) pistachio nuts cut into slivers
50 g (2 ozs) blanched almonds cut in to slivers
½ tsp ground green cardamom seeds
2 tsp Kewra essence – keeps indefinitely, use Rosewater instead
To decorate:  silver or gold leaf.

Heat the ghee in a pan  Add the soaked rice and cook, stirring all the time for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the milk and cook over a low heat for an hour until the rice absorbs the milk and the kheer thickens
Stir in the almond paste, sugar, coconut, raisins, chironji, pistachios and almond slivers.  Cook for a final couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground cardamom and kewra essence.  Cool and chill.
Serve in individual dishes.
Rice Brulee: Put the rice into ramekins, sprinkle about a generous tablespoon of demerara sugar on top, caramelize with a blow torch.

Piemontese cattle are from the mountainous region of Piedmont in Italy and have less fat, cholesterol and calories than chicken. For those who like really lean meat you can now order Irish Purebred Piemontese Beef from Michael and Mary Fennelly’s farm in Stradbally Co Laois, they will courier it to you. for an order form.

Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Sausage Making. There’s a growing interest among chefs and enthusiastic amateurs for home-curing and sausage making if you’d like to try your hand Philip Dennhardt will take the mystery out of it when he teaches a one day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 15th October, Phone 021 4646785 or book online

Irish Farmhouse Cheese maker wins Supreme Champion at UK Cheese Awards
Kilree goat’s cheese made by Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese was crowned Supreme Champion at this year’s British Cheese Awards.  A record total of 905 cheeses were entered so Ireland has much to celebrate – a further 30 additional Irish cheeses enjoyed success at what is commonly known as the “Oscars” of the dairy world Irish farmhouse cheese plays a fundamental role in the growth and development of Ireland’s artisan dairy sector.  From its beginnings, only 30 years ago, the sector has grown to encompass 47 producers and over 127 individual cheese types.  The sheer breadth of cheese produced reflects the innovation and ingenuity these entrepreneurs offer.

On a recent visit to Dublin I ate at a gastro pub in Stoneybatter called L Mulligan’s Grocer. Kish Fish text them every day to tell them what is fresh and all beef on the menu is grass fed and Irish, their sausages are from TJ Crowe in Tipperary and Jack McCarthy in Cork. Their pork, eggs and chickens are free-range and Irish. They set up a tasting panel of their best customers to decide on the ultimate Irish coffee they plumbed for Bailies Roastery in Belfast and Kilbeggan whiskey from Cooley distillery. They also serve a selection of Irish craft beers and cider. See the menu on their website

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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