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Back in 2014, Nisha Katona made a huge career change, switching roles from barrister to restaurant owner. Her dream was to serve the sort of food Indians eat at home and on the street. The first Mowgli restaurant opened in Liverpool that year, and from then on, the Mowgli empire kept on growing. There are currently 15 Mowgil restaurant sites across the UK, with three more due to open soon. As big fans of Mowgil and proud owners of Nisha Katona’s cookbooks we wanted to share our review and highlights from both restaurant and books.
Following the success of the Mowgli restaurants, Nisha released a cookbook called ‘Mowgli Street Food: Stories and Recipes from Mowgli Street Food Restaurant’. Published in 2018, the cookbook features some of her favourite and most successful recipes from the restaurant’s menus, as well as personal stories from Nisha’s journey as a restaurateur.
Mowgil Street Food was well-received and won the 2018 World Gourmand Cookbook Award for Best Indian Cuisine Book in the UK. You may have also seen it on BBC2’s Top of the Shop with Tom Kerridge, Sunday Brunch, and BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Mowgli restaurant, you’ll recognise the signature flavours of the Angry Bird, the House Lamb Curry and the delicious Chat Bombs. This book lets you recreate these iconic dishes at home, where you can impress guests with tempting starters like the Fenugreek Kissed Fries, eat more plant-based dishes like hearty dahls and the Calcutta Tangle Greens, and indulge in a whole range of desserts and drinks like Cardamom Custard Tart to a Sweet Delhi Diazepam.
The recipes are set out with clear instructions and easy-to-follow ingredient lists to help guide you through. If you’re a fan of bold, daring flavours, you’ll be pleased to know that the recipes show off the complex flavour profiles of Indian food, and aren’t watered down for the Western palette. There are also plenty of vegetarian recipes to be found, although if you want to focus solely on plant-based dishes then you may want to check out Nisha Katona’s other book, Meat Free Mowgli (further details below).
Although we’ve found it difficult to choose, we’ve narrowed down our top three favourite recipes in this book.
Gunpowder Chicken (page 46) is a delicious side dish that the whole family will love. Think of it as an elevated popcorn chicken—using ground spices like cumin, coriander and cinnamon, these chicken bites are coated in gram/chickpea flour before being deep fried and crispy. Served with chutney and pickle, it doesn’t get better than this.
Another must-try is the Aloo Ghobi (page 70). It may seem like a simple dish, but as Nisha says, it’s ‘all about patience and a long, slow cook’. It’s worth the wait, as turmeric, coriander and cumin seeds add a subtle heat and deep, golden colour to the cauliflower and potatoes.
Those with a sweet tooth will be happy to hear that the book has a generous dessert section. Mowgli Rocky Road (page 178) is an Indian take on the classic—ground cardamom and ground cinnamon give it a more complex flavour, and chopped pistachios and dried rose petals add that special touch if you’re looking to impress at dinner parties.
Following the success of her first cookbook (Mowgli Street Food: Stories and Recipes from Mowgli Street Food Restaurant in 2018), Mowgli fans have another Mowgil cookbook to get their hands on. Released 2022, Meat Free Mowgli: Simple & Delicious Plant-Based Indian Meals is a collection of quick and easy authentic Indian recipes. The book is organised by main ingredients like gourds, beans, fruit and leafy greens to make it as useful as possible. The book is entirely vegan, except for one chapter which covers eggs and dairy products.
Meat Free Mowgil also has a section called The Mowgli Spice Box where Nisha has put together a list of key spices that bring instant, bold flavour to dishes. These Mowgil spices are used in the various recipes in this cookbook, and Nisha has explained how to use them and when to add them to dishes to maximise flavours. You’ll come across all the Mowgil spices you’d expect to find in Indian cuisine like cumin seeds, cardamom and ground coriander, but there are also less common spices like amchur (dried green mango powder) and asafoetida (a gum from a variety of giant fennel).
This section of the book also features Mowgil spice mixes like Garam Masala (the ingredients vary but can contain up to 20 different spices) and Panch Phoron (also known as Bengali ‘five spice’, which is a combination of cumin, fenugreek, nigella, fennel seeds and mustard seeds).
Some of our favourite recipes from the Meat Free Mowgil include Samosa Tart (page 116), which was featured on ITV’s This Morning. Using the Panch Phoron spice mix, this dish makes a great party food or light lunch. You can even alter the filling to suit your taste using whatever fresh veggies you have.
Another favourite of ours is the Angry Cauliflower (page 131), a plant-based version of the popular Mowgli Angry Bird. Whole cauliflower is left overnight in a hot, spicy marinade of turmeric, chilli powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, Kashmiri chilli powder and tandoori masala before being roasted in the oven. It’s delicious served with Turmeric-Rubbed Roast Potatoes and an Indian Green Chopped Salad.
The cookbook also has a range of mouth-watering drinks and desserts. Find sweet treats like Chocolate & Cardamom Shortbread Cookies (page 216), Coconut Panna Cotta (page 215) and Grandmother’s Rice Pudding (page 189) which is spiced with cinnamon quills, cardamom pods and Indian bay leaves.