By Prudence Wade
There are a lot of misconceptions around Indian food: that it’s a ‘cheat’ meal from your local takeaway, or can only be made at home if you spend hours slaving over a hot stove.
These kind of stereotypes make Chetna Makan’s eyes roll. “People think it will take hours or sometimes days where you soak and you ferment – which is all true, but it’s not how we cook every day,” she says with exasperation.
Although it’s seven years since Makan appeared on The Great British Bake Off, she’s still roundly referred to as a ‘Bake Off favourite’ – and now she’s onto her fifth cookbook: Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian: Quick And Easy Everyday Meals.
“Maybe it’s a good idea if I could do something in 30 minutes,” she mused. The idea of whipping a delicious dish up in just 15 minutes makes her belly-laugh, but it would seem like 30 minutes is the sweet spot.
And no, Makan says almost wearily, it’s not just a book of curries. There are some delicious curry meals catering to all different spice levels, but it’s got recipes for “everything – a bit of starters, a bit of snacks, some big meals, some small meals, for all seasons”.
There’s generous plates of spicy paneer and crispy spinach koftas swimming in creamy curry sauce. Readers might be surprised these dishes only take half an hour; Makan says her inspiration was “literally the clock”, and she worked backwards from there.
Coconut Paneer Tikka
For the paneer
200ml natural yogurt
1tbsp tandoori masala
450g paneer, cut into 2.5cm cubes
2tbsp sunflower oil
For the masala
2tbsp sunflower oil
1tsp black mustard seeds
1tbsp urad dal
10 fresh curry leaves
2–4 dried red chillies
3 onions, thinly sliced
60g fresh coconut, grated
½tsp ground turmeric
½tsp chilli powder
For the paneer, mix the yogurt, tandoori masala and salt together in a bowl. Add the paneer cubes and gently turn in the marinade until well coated. Set aside while you start to prepare the masala.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and urad dal and cook over a low heat for a minute. Then add the curry leaves and chillies and cook for a few seconds.
Add the onions and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until lightly golden. Then stir in the coconut and cook for five minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil for the paneer in another pan, add the marinated paneer with all the excess marinade and cook over a high heat for five minutes, turning halfway through, until lovely and golden all over.
Add the cooked paneer to the onions and coconut with the turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Mix well and cook over a medium heat for five minutes, then serve.
Gram Flour Sweets
100g ghee, plus extra for greasing
170g gram flour (besan/chickpea flour)
60g icing sugar
20g ground almonds
¼tspn ground cardamom
10g toasted flaked almonds
Heat the ghee in a pan. Once it has melted, add the gram flour and cook over a low heat for eight minutes, stirring often, until it starts to change colour and smell toasted. The mixture will start off clumpy but will gradually bubble and become smooth and creamy.
Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for five minutes.
Meanwhile, grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper.
Mix the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom together in a bowl, then add the toasted gram flour mixture and stir to combine.
Transfer the mixture to the lined tin, then spread it out and level the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle the toasted flaked almonds on top and let it cool in the refrigerator for five to 10 minutes until firm.
Cut it into small squares and serve. These sweets will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Let them sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan is available now