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Meet the Expert – Manju Malhi

Meet the Expert

About Manju Malhi

Manju Malhi, a TV chef and a cookbook author, was born in England to Indian parents. She grew up in West London surrounded by Indian culture, traditions and lifestyles. However, she spent several years of her childhood in India where she explored and experienced the vast and varied cuisines of the country. In her cooking, she draws upon her past and combines it with the realities of urban Western life and has come up with her own unique Brit-Indi style of food.

Why did you pursue a career in food?

I always wanted to get just one cookbook published with all the dishes that my mother fed me, which used British ingredients and Indian spices. That was called Brit Spice. So, five cookbooks later, I’m still a foodie celebrating dishes using all sorts of spices from around the world.

What is your biggest achievement/lesson you have learnt?

My biggest achievement, I would say, would be to introduce individuals to new flavours and spices so they can experiment and taste new experiences.

I’ve also learnt to make simple lists for my food projects and also things I do in everyday life to help me work smarter.

How do you use your favourite ingredient and why?

I have several favourite ingredients but at the moment it’s Kashmiri chilli powder. It’s so versatile and makes a change from everyday chilli powder. It has a warm flavour and can be used to give a rich colour to tandoori dishes. Plus, I’ve been using rolled oats for dishes and also mixing oat flour into chapati flour to make unleavened flatbreads.

How have you spent your time during lockdown?

During lockdown, I’ve been remotely teaching healthy cookery for a charity called Open Age in the form of conference call cooking, The elderly, who’re unfamiliar with video conferencing, pick up the phone to have group chats about cuisines and engage with everyone else on the other side of the line. This has become a welcome addition to their personal ‘lockdowns’ and has set up some form of routine to mix with people and their friends safely.

I’ve also been creating recipe videos for people from a cross generational landscape in the London Borough of Hounslow being assisted by Heston West Big Local. They are recipes for eating a balanced diet and cooking with good ingredients from scratch.

Could you share your favourite recipe?

Shahi Paneer

An Indian Cheese dish which can be made with chicken breast pieces. If you’re planning on making with poultry, then add the chicken after the onion and sauté till its white on the outside and follow the recipe minus the paneer. Taken from the Easy Indian Cookbook published by Nourish Books.

Utensils required

A food processor or a small electric chopper but not necessary
1 small bowl
A saucepan
A spoon for stirring
Chopping board
Knife
A bowl to hold paneer cubes

Serves 4

200g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp cornflour (optional)
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp cumin seeds or shahi jeera (black cumin seeds)
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed or 2 tsp garlic paste
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp natural unsweetened yogurt, whisked
1 tbsp tomato puree or paste
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
a generous pinch of chilli powder or Kashmiri chilli powder
500g paneer, cut into 2cm cubes
2 tsp peeled and grated root ginger or 2 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp double or thick cream or single cream
a pinch of garam masala
A few washed and chopped coriander leaves, or 1 tsp dried Kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

  1. Tip the tomatoes and their juice into a blender and blend until smooth, then set aside.
  2. Put the cornflour, if using, in a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons water to make a smooth paste then set aside.
  3. Heat a pan on a medium heat and add the oil. Tip in the cardamoms and the cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly or until they splutter. Add the garlic, chillies and onion and continue frying, stirring frequently for 6-8 minutes until the onion turns golden brown.
  4. Tip in the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes, or until the sauce becomes thick.
  5. Stir in the yogurt, followed by the cornflour paste, if using. Add the tomato puree, sugar, salt, chilli powder and 4 tablespoons of cold water and bring to the boil, stirring.
  6. Reduce the heat to low. Add the paneer and gently stir it into the gravy. Leave the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes, until droplets of oil appear on the surface. Stir in the ginger.
  7. Swirl in the cream and sprinkle with the garam masala and Kasoori methi, if using.

Explore Manju’s Books

Manju’s first book was the acclaimed ‘Brit Spice‘. She filmed a 40-part television series aired to over 800 million viewers in a series called ‘Cooking Isn’t Rocket Science’, making British cuisine to the masses. Through her books and work in the media (BBC, ITV, Sony, Zee TV, NDTV and Sky), she works to contribute positively to society. Manju’s other books include India with Passion, Classic Indian Recipes the Easy Indian Cookbook and her current publication Everyday Healthy Indian Cookery. Browse here

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