Curried Lamb Meatballs

These lamb meatballs have become so popular in our house now that I subconsciously almost always have a pack of lamb mince in the freezer just in case. I’m not sure that it is a perfect summer recipe, in the same way that any meat and gravy dish wouldn’t be ideal in the heat, but the perfect summer is a dim and distant memory now. Otherwise, for me they are perfect.

The meatballs don’t have any breadcrumbs or starch holding them together so as a consequence they are very light, but it does mean you need to be gentle with them – they will be wetter than normal meatballs and its best not to stir them in the pan – a gentle shake will do. Despite their relative fragility none have fallen apart on me yet! I tend to make the meatballs in the morning and leave them in the fridge but it won’t really matter if you do them as you start the sauce. I have adapted this from Anjum Anand’s Curried Lamb Meatballs, from the brilliant Indian Food Made Easy – I have changed the quantity of the lamb required and removed the evil fresh coriander from the original recipe.

For the Meatballs:

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp very finely chopped onion, (from onion used for sauce)

For the sauce:

  • Splash vegetable oil
  • large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • small cinnamon stick
  • 3rd of tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 800 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala

So first make your meatballs. It’s simply a matter of combining all the ingredients in a bowl and giving them a thorough mix with your hands. Then, when the ingredients are fully combined, take a spoon and shape spoonfuls of lamb mixture into walnut sized pieces. AsI have said, you can make these in advance if you like.

Now, heat the oil in a wide non-stick saucepan. Put in your onion and cinnamon stick and cook over a low to medium heat until your onions are golden brown. In a blender, blend together your tomato, ginger and garlic. When smooth, add to the pan and cook for 7-8 minutes, until the oil starts to separate from the tomato mixture and pour in 200 ml of water. Cook, stirring, over a medium heat until the water has evaporated and it has reduced down to a paste. Stir fry this for 2 or 3 minutes and then stir in the spices and salt. Add the remainder of the water and bring to simmering point. When you have simmered for 5 or 6 minutes carefully drop in the meatballs and simmer for another 20 minutes. Resist the temptation to stir! When the meatballs are done, give the pan a quick shake and serve the over rice, with plenty of the gravy.


Dinner Out: Brunel Raj, Bristol

If there is anything guaranteed to make me happier than the proverbial pig in shit, then sitting in a curry house on a  summer evening with friends whom I love and make me laugh whilst drinking Kingfisher, gossiping and eating curries has got to be pretty  near the top of the list. That makes Indian restarants very easy and particularly hard to review, because I am predisposed to  love them – which makes being purely objective harder. But not impossible – as there are also some fairly shoddy curry places – I just happen not to eat in those for the most part. Anyway, objectively, The Brunel Raj in Clifton is one of Bristol’s best curry houses.  I am not the only person to think so, as the queues for table when we arrived last night, and the ability to book only for 6.15 or 9pm would testify. The small lobby was packed out with people waiting for tables and picking up takeaways – and I see that as a very good sign indeed.

We got our table a little after 9, and drinks, poppadoms and pickles were quickly arranged. We were absolutely ravenous by this time. They sat us by the french doors which looked out onto the quiet street outside, which was lovely – always great when you get the exact seat you would have chosen in a restaurant , especially when it is packed. There was a strange moment when my friend, (somewhat misguidedly in my view) ordered cider with his meal and was presented fairly unceremoniously with a can of Blackthorn, which seems a little strange in a place where the linen napkins are laid on your lap by the waiter as you sit down, and everyone else is drinking out of gold rimmed glasses but alright.  The poppadoms and their pickly friends came – five in total; mango chutney, lime pickle, tomato and onion salad, raita and that mango coloured coconut powder which I never know the name of. Really good quality, all, but maybe for 4 people, not really quite big enough.

My adventurous friends all opted for chicken dishes;  honey chicken, butter chicken and a chicken balti, and I chose a prawn bhuna. I would have liked one of their king prawn specials for which they are justly famous but as we were splitting the bill, I had to be a bit more circumspect. We chose garlic naan, peshwari naan, mushroom rice and pulao rice and saag bhaji. The table was absolutely groaning. Now, I don’t eat chicken in curry houses, I don’t eat chicken anywhere that doesn’t serve  at least free range (and this isn’t one of those places) , so sadly I can’t comment on their meals but from the sighs and groans and general lack of conversation I’m guessing everyone was happy. The rices and breads were light and  gorgeous, and the mushroom rice particularly so – I could have just sat there and eaten the whole plate, had my friends not started to give me funny looks, the saag bhaji was perfect and the prawn bhuna was fresh and full-flavoured, made with good quality prawns and very very moreish. But we couldn’t finish our food – nowhere near actually. We really didn’t need two rice AND two breads AND a vegetable side between us – god only know what would have happened if we had got a starter course too, but I’m glad we ordered it anyway.

I do think the quality of food is higher than average here, the service is fine if a bit brisk and in terms of cleanliness and comfort, I couldn’t ask for much more, certainly not at £20 a head for drinks and full bellies. This is probably not a restaurant for a romantic date – on a Friday or Saturday night, anyway – but it is a great place to go to eat, especially with friends, and if you are going to eat curry in Bristol the general consensus is that it’s not a bad idea to do it here. 4 out of 5 (point deducted for can on the table and strange poppodom/pickle ratio).


Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible (and HNY)

It feels like it’s been a while.  I am supposed to be studying but, meh, it’s the holidays right? I’ve been diagnosed with yeast intolerance. Have you any idea how many foods and drinks you just shouldn’t have if you’re yeast intolerant? It’s a lot. I’m a bit sniffy, normally, about people who are ‘intolerant’, in fact I am fairly intolerant of intolerants. So that will teach me. I’ve.. no, thats it. That’s my total news. Welcome back.

The point of this blog was never really my mundane life anyway. Here’s a recipe book review.

My favourite book of 2009 was Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. It wasn’t cheap – the good ones rarely are -( but neither are Jamie Oliver’s., and plenty of people buy those) This was £25 and is currently on offer at £16.25 at Amazon. I know some of my readers well enough to know that some people will think £25 is too much. This one isn’t, it really is not.
The thing about Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes is that they always work, she explains them well, they’re easy, they’re healthy(ish) and they’re interesting. And ok, if all you really want to do is learn how to make a good Chicken Tikka Masala, or Lamb Bhuna, or Korma, because thats all you ever get from the curry house, she will teach you how to make a brilliant Bhuna, easily. And spend less time in the kitchen dealing with it than you would getting it delivered. Depending on how often you get take-aways, you could have saved yourself the cost of the book within a couple of months. But where this book is strongest, in my view, is teaching you how to cook the stuff that you don’t necessarily get at your local Al’s Tandoori.
The book is split into:
1. Introduction (beautifully illustrated history of curry)
2. Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal and Goat
3. Fish and Seafood
4. Vegetables
5. Dals, Beans and Split Peas
6. Kebabs and Soups
7. Rice, Noodles and Breads
8. Relishes and Accompaniments
Special Ingredients and Techniques.
And the curries come from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, Kenya, Great Britain, Trinidad, Guyana, Japan & the US.
You will have to buy spices, but thats not difficult – there’s no recipe in this book that you can’t easily source the stuff for – and you will obviously be using the spices more than once. So far, I have made 12 recipes from this book, including the aforementioned (and well loved) Lamb Bhuna, some truly amazing Chicken Satays (with peanut sauce), a Biryiani, Naan Bread, Goan Prawn Curry and a Malaysian Korma. All of them made me so impressed with myself!
There are other curry books out there, sometimes I think I own most of them. There are even other Madhur Jaffrey curry books out there. But if you only have one, you should own this 342 pages of encyclopaedic lip smacking inspiration. Your local curry house probably won’t thank you for it, but what have they done for you lately?
Buy it here:Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible

Dinner Out: Joy Raj, Clifton Village, Bristol

Y’all know I’m not a professional food writer (No, really?). Nobody pays for my dinner, no one even buys me a drink actually, for writing this stuff. And I’m sure you realise this, when reading some of my reviews which may have been less than flattering. The ones I can’t pick any holes in? They’re just really good – there is no bias. It’s also worth considering that I do drink – and when I go to a curry house, I sometimes drink more than one beer. I just like to think I’m reviewing in context, anyway.


So on Friday night, the opportunity for a curry presented itself, somewhere new. In CliftonVillage there is  some stiff competition in terms of curry houses ( I can think of maybe 4 within a 5 minute walk) and loads of other places to eat, Joy Raj doesn’t particularly stand out for me in the street. But, Greedy Companion girl insisted and down we went. And we went downstairs, were greeted and sat down immediately. The tables we really wanted were booked out (always a fairly good sign that people would bother to book for a high street curry house in Bristol) and they were fairly busy so I don’t think our spot was the good, but it was lit well and comfortable. The decor wasn’t stunning.. by any means, but it was clean and bright.We had pickles and poppodoms to start – the pickles were delicious, and I am fairly picky about pickles . So far so tasty. When ordering our the rest of our food I got into a conversation with our charming waiter about one of my obsessions, the tandoor. Would I like to go into the kitchen and watch them cook in it? Would I? You don’t need to ask me a question like that twice. So I waited until the chef was ready and I tottered in. I know I don’t get out too much, but wow, it made my night! I think the kitchen staff were a bit bemused as I stuck my head down and started taking photographs of the oven, but you know, simple things for simple minds..  The other bonus, as an inveterate nosy parker who is always trying to stick her head through the kitchen door, is that its always nice to see that your food is being freshly prepared (it was) and that everything is nice and clean (it was) and that people working in the kitchen at the very least, appear happy, and clean (they did). This may seem like some fairly basic criteria to people who aren’t always poking their nose about but believe me, not all is as you’d hope in some of the least obvious places. And to avoid getting sued by anyone in particular, I’m going to stop it there.


So, I went and sat back down and our food arrived very shortly after. I had lamb saag (the best dish out of the three mains), greedy companion girl had a lamb dansak and greedy companion boy had a tandoori mixed grill. We also had garlic naan, mushroom rice and saag bhaji. It was all lovely, with beautiful fresh flavours. The naan was particularly delicious, light and fluffy and without any dry or burnt spots – seemingly so hard to acheive in some places. Oh naan, how do I love thee? All very trad curry house of course, and nothing surprising, but theres really nothing up with that on a friday night after a beer or two.


With all our chatting, eating and drinking, we must have been in there a long time and I think we were the last to leave. Staff were extremely welcoming and we never got any feeling like they were waiting for us to get lost so the could clean up and go home. In fact, apart from a small incident with an unpleasant drunk (hazard of a friday night curry), which got cleared up very tidily, the atmosphere was lovely all through. In short, it was a great curry, a great night and a great place to go.

Joy Raj, Clifton

Brown Stew Chicken with Yard Style Gravy

I’ve been poorly with a bad head cold this week (not the flu, if you are a male reader) and I haven’t been able to taste anything at all. This has understandably taken the edge off any enthusiasm I had for cooking  but last night, despite my infirmity, I had guests so I had to cook. I wouldn’t have minded just dumping a takeaway menu in front of them and asking them to make their own arrangements while I went to bed in all truth, but people generally expect free grub and company out of a dinner invite so I manned up with a curry. Another Levi Roots recipe, this time from his Reggae Reggae cookbook (one of the few savoury recipes within not requiring a dose of his Reggae Reggae sauce, which I have never tried, but feel slightly reluctant to – surely there must have been Jamaican cooking before Reggae Reggae Sauce?) Anyway, I fear the Lemsip has driven me off the point. I wanted an easy curry. This is an easy curry. Rated as ‘Wow, delicious!’ and ‘Really, really very good’ by my fellow diners, I reckon it tasted just fine . I just cannot vouch for it personally, you understand. Serves 4-6


  • 16 pieces of chicken thigh, drumstick or breast, skin removed.
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp all purpose seasoning
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 spring onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • knob of butter

Put the chicken in a non metallic dish, sprinkle over the lemon, salt and pepper and the all purpose seasoning. Use your hands to rub everything into the chicken flesh and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

In a large, deep flameproof casserole dish, add about half a centimetre depth of your vegetable oil and heat over a medium flame until its very hot, and then add your chicken in batches of four or five pieces at a time. Cook until browned on each side and leave on a plate while you finish the rest of the batches. When the chicken is all done, pour out most of your oil and leave just a small bit coating the pan. Retuen the chicken to the pot, along with any left over juices or seasoning mixture and the rest of the ingredients. Stir them all together until well combined and then add 450 ml water. Cover, and bring to simmering point. When simmering, remove the lid and cook for 15-20 minutes. Serve with rice.