Shiva and Lina Gautam travelled from Kathmandu in 1996 with the lofty ambition of opening a Nepalese restaurant. They had planned to have their dream restaurant in Richmond in London but an Irish friend enticed them to Ireland saying ‘Why not Dublin? There isn’t a single decent curry house in Dublin and your restaurant would fly here.’ A seed was firmly planted so they worked on a plan to see if the idea could become reality.
Their first priority was to find someone who could back them. They took a giant leap of faith and signed a 25 year lease. The next challenge was to find chefs with knowledge of Nepalese food. They managed to entice two chefs from London to Dublin and on 25th September 1997 they opened Montys of Kathmandu. Sadly or perhaps fortuitously neither of the two chefs could settle in Dublin so Shiva and Lina were faced with a dilemma, either to close the doors or don aprons and go into the kitchen themselves, they haven’t looked back since.
Sixteen years later Lina has published Lina’s Nepalese Cookbook with a collection of the best loved Nepalese recipes which Myrtle Allen describes as a ‘must read book before visiting Nepal.’
When Lina was growing up, eating out in a restaurant was a very rare occurrence. Once or twice when she was little she got the opportunity to dine in a beautiful restaurant. She still has vivid memories of one such meal and can picture the whole fish in the centre of the table. “It looked and smelled so delicious but we were with my father’s boss so I had to wait patiently for my turn. I was so worried that the adults might finish the dish before it came to me, but to my relief there was enough for all of us and I can still taste that delicious fish.”
Lina spent most of her childhood in Kathmandu, but every year her family travelled around Nepal following her father’s various jobs, so she had the chance to experience many different cultures and food traditions.
Nepali cuisine can be described as a fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine, with spices like cumin, coriander, Szechuan pepper, garlic and ginger, so the end result reflects Nepalese culture and demographic diversity.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to dine at Montys of Kathmandu in Temple Bar, Dublin yet, here are some recipes from Lina’s Nepalese Cookbook to whet your appetite. Order the book from Montys of Kathmandu’s website www.monty.ie
Lina Gautam’s Spicy Gizzards (Ghuseuto Tareko)
Serves 4–6 as a side, or 6–8 as a snack
I was delighted to find this recipe for Gizzards; they may not be to everyone’s taste. They are inexpensive and delicious and a much loved snack or pre-dinner bite in Nepal. Gizzards can be found in most craft butchers and in almost all Asian stores.
1kg chicken gizzards
2 tsp salt
2 tsp turmeric powder (half for boiling, half for frying)
3–4 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp ajwain seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida powder
6 garlic cloves crushed
1 tbsp ginger peeled and crushed
½ tsp plain masala
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala
handful fresh coriander
Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with one teaspoon each of salt and turmeric, add approximately half a teaspoon of mashed garlic, and simmer the giblets for 15 minutes. Adding garlic to the cooking water significantly reduces the rather strong smell produced by the gizzards. Drain and cool before cutting the gizzards into bite-size pieces, trimming and discarding any hard parts as you go.
Heat the oil in a wok or pan until it starts to smoke, then add the ajwain seeds and fry for five seconds. Add the giblets, turmeric, asafoetida powder and a teaspoon of salt. Fry over a high heat for a minute or two, then cover, reduce the heat and continue cooking for five to ten minutes.
Meanwhile, mash the garlic and ginger together to form a rough paste. When the giblets have browned nicely, add the garlic-ginger paste together with plain masala and chilli powder and cook for another few minutes until the spices have lost their raw aromas.
Stir in the garam masala and check seasoning, adding extra salt as needed to bring out the various flavours. Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve warm or cold with a cool beer or warming whiskey.
Lina Gautam’s Nanglo Chicken Chili
Lina says that Chicken Chili is a hugely popular dish in Nepal and at Montys of Kathmandu. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it is not difficult to prepare. This dish demonstrates the Tibetan influence and can be found on the menu of virtually every Chinese restaurant in Nepal.
For the batter
½ tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of salt or to your taste
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp of cornflour
vegetable oil for deep-frying
4 large chicken fillets cut into small finger-long strips
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 medium red onion peeled and quartered
2 ripe tomatoes quartered
2 fresh chillies snapped in half
3-4 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp of peeled and grated ginger
½ green pepper cut into chunks
½ red pepper cut into big chunks
½ tsp of salt or to your taste
½ tsp of plain masala
pinch of asafoetida powder
¼ tsp Szechuan pepper
3 tbsp of tomato ketchup
2 tbsp of light soy sauce (or 1 tbs if dark)
2-3 stems of spring onion chopped into long strips
handful of chopped coriander
Prepare all the vegetables for the sauce and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer or non-stick saucepan. While the oil is heating, mix chicken strips with batter mixture. Once the oil is hot, fry the chicken strips in 3-4 batches for 3-4 minutes until cooked but not browned. Remove and set aside.
Next, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan. Cook the onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, green chilies and green and red peppers for 4-5 minutes, until the onion softens slightly. Add salt and stir in plain masala, asafoetida and Szechuan pepper. Add the fried chicken and cook for a minute followed by the ketchup and soy sauce, and stir and cook for a further minute or so.
To serve, stir in spring onion and fresh chopped coriander. Serve this with rice or a green salad..
Lina Gautam’s Lamb and Radish Curry (Masu Ra Mula Ko Raas)
The most popular meat dish in Nepal, traditionally this would be made with goat meat but lamb makes a good substitute.
You can make this into a one-pot dish by adding peeled, halved potatoes at the same time as the meat.
4 tbsp mustard or vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp of asafoetida powder (optional) available from Asian shops
750g lamb (gigot chops or shoulder/leg on the bone cut into golf-ball-sized pieces)
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 red onion chopped into small pieces
1 green or red chilli
3 fresh tomatoes chopped into small pieces
1 medium mooli radish cut into longer pieces like thick chips
4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
1 tbs ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp plain masala
½ tsp garam masala
handful of fresh chopped coriander
Heat the oil in heavy-based pot, add the lamb, turmeric powder, salt, asafoetida (if using), chilli, onion, tomatoes and plain masala. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the radish and garlic, and stir until fully coated with the sauce. Next, add 250ml of boiling water, replace the lid and cook on a medium to low heat for approximately 40-50 min or until the meat is cooked and loose around the bone.
Once the lamb is cooked, add more hot water to make a thin sauce, then add ginger and garam masala. Stew the lamb and radish in this lovely rich sauce for a further ten minutes so that all the flavours mix together. Add coriander and serve hot with basmati rice.
Nepalese Rice Pudding (Khir)
Rice is, of course, the staple food of Nepal and is present at every festival and family event. Rice pudding is also an important part of religious ceremonies. Sweet rice pudding is sometimes eaten with the main meal and is particularly good with puffed poori bread and cauliflower and potato dishes on the side.
½ cup, 60g of Basmati rice (washed 2-3 times)
1ltr full-fat milk
3-4 strands of saffron (optional)
10 cardamom pods crushed in a pestle and mortar (skins removed)
3 tbsp of brown sugar (or to your taste)
3-4 tbs of cream
dry-roasted cashew nuts and/or almonds
Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (avoid non-stick pans to prevent brown specks). Once the milk begins to boil, add saffron, cardamom, sugar and the washed and drained rice. Cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat until the rice is soft, stirring continuously to prevent the grains from sticking to each other. While stirring continuously may sound tedious, you should find it a calming, Zen-like experience!
Add the cream and cook for a further 5 minutes until the rice has a creamy soup-like consistency. Be careful not to make the rice pudding too thick. Remove from the heat and transfer to individual serving bowls, sprinkle with some chopped dry-roasted cashew nuts and almonds, and serve warm or cold.
Nepalese Home-Made Lemonade (Sarbat)
4 glasses chilled water
4 tbsp sugar
½ tsp freshly crushed black pepper
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice with its bits
Add all the ingredients to a jug and mix well until all the sugar is dissolved. Serve chilled.
Wild and Free Food
Hairy Bittercress – Cardamine Hirsuta
a member of the mustard family it’s one of the very first edible plants of the year, it grows in little clumps on recently disturbed bare ground, and even on gravel paths and stonewalls. There’s lots around at present and it will continue until Autumn. It will have tiny white flowers later in the year. We love it’s peppery taste in salads, sandwiches and as a garnish. Apparently Queen Elizabeth also loves it and requested Bitter Cress as part of 90th birthday menu, so there you are now! As well as being delicious to eat it also has medicinal properties that stimulate the release of digestive juices to aid in liver detoxification, and help regulate blood sugars.
FOOD WRITING at UCC – Announcing a new UCC flexi-option graduate course in Food Writing. This innovative food writing course is the first of its kind in Ireland and is taught in collaboration with Ballymaloe Cookery School and Café Paradiso Vegetarian Restaurant. Lecturers include Darina Allen, Denis Cotter, John McKenna, John & Sally McKennas’ Guides and Regina Sexton, Food Writer/Food Historian. Course lectures take place in UCC and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School from 6th – 8th March Cost: €500. Closing date for applications: January 31st Email Gretta.McCarthy@ucc.ie for an application form.
For further details please contact Regina Sexton – firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website http://creativewritingucc.com/www/about-the-ma-in-creative-writing/content/food-writing/
Date for the Diary – Organic Centre Course
Starting a Garden from scratch with Ingrid Foley on Sat 22nd Feb
The ultimate start-up course to your first gardening year. You will learn how to select and assess your site, test your soil and build fertility. Day includes a garden plan, rotation plan, making lazy beds and selecting tools. The Organic Centre Rossinver, Co. Leitrim (071) 985 4338.