The Balti Cookbook by  Shehzad Hussain

I’ve had this book quite a few years now, but when I feel the need to rustle up a quick curry or spicy dish then this book is the one I turn to. With plenty of recipes to choose from and written in an easy to follow, step by step guide, that even I can understand, it’s well thumbed pages bear testament to many a successful supper over the years.

Balti is usually done on the stove in a pot called a Karahi and is a fast and furious cooking method, usually reducing the sauce until it has almost evaporated, leaving behind a thick, delicious liquid that works well with pretty much any meat.

I like to experiment with the recipes and add whatever takes my fancy at the time, they usually work (usually). There is a bit of a debate as to where “ Balti” originated from, is it from a region called Baltistan in Pakistan or did it originate in Birmingham via Pakistani immigrants, whatever the answer is I’m glad it found it’s way to me because I love it and, I’m sure after the trying the recipe below you will love it too, for that excess turkey after christmas, try substituting turkey for the chicken and warm yourself after a chilly afternoon walk. It can all be cooked in 20 mins from start to finish.

Harry loves grilled banana on top of his, great for kids who love crushing it into the delicious, zingy sauce.

Sweet and Sour Balti Chicken

– 1 white onion, thinly sliced, my addition
– 3 tbsp tomato puree
– 2 tbsp Greek- style yogurt
– 1 ½ tsp garam masala, I usually add a little more to make it richer
– 1 tsp chilli powder
– 1 tsp garlic pulp
– 2 tbsp mango chutney
– 1 tsp salt
– ½ tsp sugar, only if you like it very sweet, the mango chutney is enough for me
– 4 tbsp corn oil
– 650g chicken, skinned boned, cubed, up to you but I think thighs work best for taste
– 150ml water
– 2 green chillies finely chopped, 1, deseeded works better for kids
– 2 tbsp fresh coriander
– 2 tbsp single cream



Blend together in a bowl the, tomato puree, yogurt, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, mango chutney, salt and sugar until all well combined together, you should have a smooth paste. This is Harry’s favourite bit!

Harry and Frank

Harry and Frank

Harry and Frank

Harry and Frank

Heat your oil and gently fry onions until soft and golden, then with a slotted spoon remove and set aside, add paste mixture and boil for around 2 minutes stirring now and again.

Heating the onions

Add the chicken and stir well, reduce heat a little and add the water slowly to thin the sauce to your liking, not too thin, check for seasoning, add the onions and cook for around 15 minutes, add the chillies, coriander and cream and cook for another 2 mins stir well. Serve straight away.


Goes great with basmati rice, plain naan bread, mango chutney, lentils and yogurt raita ( see below) on the side.

Yogurt Raita

– 2 cups plain yogurt
– 2 cups finely chopped or grated cucumber
– ½ tsp salt
– Freshly ground pepper to taste
– Couple sprigs coriander, finely chopped

Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well together and serve as a side or dip.


Bill’s Everyday Asian

Bills book, his ninth is another book that I go back to time and time again for new inspiring takes on ‘Fusion” as it never disappoints. His style is very much the relaxed Aussie take on ingredients, and by that I mean you can almost taste the freshness and shine of the simple ingredients that turn what can be a daunting experience into one that is sublime and, always tastes that little bit different each time you cook the same dish.

His Asian larder contains no more than 35 ingredients, many of which will keep for a considerable length of time but he has tailored them to be a nice manageable number which, when put together give wonderful results.

His Soy and chilli dipping sauce, using 5 ingredients, can be made in 5 minutes but the memory for your guests will last well into the week, total awesome!

This book does exactly what it says on the cover, everyday food made to taste special. I love it because it makes you want to go to very country and sample the food first hand.

Here’s my favourite recipe from the book:

Bill Grangers Beef Rendang

  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 6 large red chillies, 3 de-seeded and roughly chopped the other 3 roughly chopped
  • 3 lemon grass stalks, white part only, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons light flavoured oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2kg stewing steak, diced
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste or lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

Place the onions, garlic, chillies and lemon grass in a food processor and pulse to a paste. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the paste and the cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook, stirring, for two minutes or until you get those wonderful fragrances wafting around your kitchen. Add the stewing steak and cook until sealed about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, 400ml of water, cinnamon sticks, tamarind paste, salt and sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, as low as possible for about 2-2 1⁄2 hours, stirring now and then until the liquid has reduced and the meat is breaking up. Serve with steamed rice and Asian greens.  Yummy!

Beef redang

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Joseph and Joseph Utensils

I am beginning to get a pretty good collection of JJ products due to the generosity of friend’s and family. Not only do they look great, they really do the job they are designed for, be it food prep, spoons, storage or knives, the range is excellent, versatile and real space savers in the kitchen.

I’m going to do a quick review of the Nest utensils range of spoons and for  £27 you get this set of five great utensils:

  • Slotted Spatula, I use it for picking up fried eggs, griddled cheese on toast and anything else that requires a quick, drained flat approach.
  • Spaghetti Server, does exactly what it says, wide angled and slotted, great also for most pasta and noodles
  • Slotted Spoon, this is my life saver when it comes to picking up poached eggs, ravoli and other delicate foods from water
  • Solid Spoon, suitable for stirring all liquids up to 240 degrees C
  • Ladle, Perfect soup ladle with wide angle for pouring

All are heat resistant up to 240 degrees C , made from toughened nylon and dishwasher friendly, so be nice to your loved ones and get them on your wish list today.

n.b. they are also great for pretend sword fighting


Leon’s Family and Friends

Having been to quite a few Leon restaurants and bought a couple of their cookbooks I decided it’s time I review one of their books. Today, I have chosen Leon Family and Friends and with over 200 fantastic recipes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Also, there is a great section for any teenager thinking about leaving home for the first time “10 things you should know how to cook before you leave home”

It’s written in everyday English as if you were sitting around the kitchen table discussing the days events, and about to rustle up a great meal for friends and family. You know when you read it, that many of the recipes have been tried,  tested and lovingly handed down from mother to daughter, father to son and that’s how life should be.

I make this whenever we have had friends to stay over at weekends and keep a portion of the salsa (minus the chilli) to one side for the kids, they love squashing tortillas and making them oozy.

Leon’s Deconstructed Huevos Rancheros (that’s spicy eggs to you and me)

First the pepper and chilli salsa;

  • 1 Romano pepper, deseeded
  • 1 green Serrano chilli, deseeded
  • 2 tomatoes, deseeded
  • 1 shallot
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • handful of basil leaves
  • squeeze lime juice
  • dash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper, freshly ground


  • 1 x 400g tin black beans
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4-8 corn tortillas
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper


Vatch’s South East Asian Cookbook

With over 120 recipes to cook from this is another book that I always feel very comfortable working with. For someone like me who is not a trained chef, I find it very easy to navigate and with all the ingredients you are ever going to need all laid out for you at the beginning, this book will transform your Asian recipes into something special. Also once I get used to cooking with unfamiliar ingredients, I get brave and inventive and mix them up a bit to see what comes out, usually tested on close friends before unsuspecting dinner guests sit down to consume the result. Use good quality products which can be sourced from any Thai supermarket.

Two of my fav dishes are these two and they work well together, obviously go more or less on the chilli etc according to your palate.In Laos it’s Tam Som in Thailand it’s Som Tam, whatever you call it, it’s soooooo good, you will want to make a batch and eat it all week.



Books for Cooks 2

Books for Cooks is every foodies delight. It can all be found in a little shop in Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London, and has a vast collection of cookbooks housed in a quirky shop / tasting kitchen with cookery classes upstairs and is well worth a visit. They only have around 8000 titles to choose from, so don’t be offended if you can’t find the book you’re looking for, but if you can find it then you have a nice comfy sofa on which to snuggle down on to read it.

Books for cooks 2 is a great collection of recipes chosen for a selection of the books on offer and you won’t be disappointed. Amongst my favourites are the Carrot ginger and honey soup, Roast Cod with lentils and the Crispy sweet potato cakes with spiced yoghurt sauce.

Easy to read and easy to prepare, enjoy.