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Cook from the Book: Ammu

by Jessica Lockyer-Palmer

published on 18 March 2022

One of the most exciting books of the year, Ammu, the new cookbook from esteemed restaurateur Asma Khan, has rapidly become a Happy Foodie team favourite. Packed with the vibrant, heart-warming recipes that have earned Asma hordes of devoted fans of her London-based supper-club-turned-restaurant, Darjeeling Express, it is also a practical guide to accomplished regional Indian home cooking.

Keen to get started on the recipes in the book, we assembled a team of recipe testers to try everything from fragrant beef curries to mushroom noodles. Here’s how we got on…

From the book

Asma Khan

Who: Claire Daverley, Marketing Manager, Page Turners

What I made: Mushroom Hakka Chow Calcutta-style Noodles

What I thought: What a hearty dish to lift the spirits on a midweek evening! Packed with vegetables and full of mellow yet comforting flavours, it also looks like a complete party in a bowl (and isn’t that what we all want when it’s dinner time?) With the red pop of pepper, crunchy carrot and flourish of crisp spring onion, it’s as colourful as it is delicious. Plus it’s simple and quick to make, which is always a bonus in my book. You’ll need a decent-sized pan or wok to make it for four, though I can testify that it makes an excellent leftovers lunch for the following day, so make it for four either way! Meaty mushrooms. Fresh veg. Wholesome noodles. No complex ingredients – it’s such a warming and satisfying meal to add to your “cook again” list.

Who: Ellie Auton, Communications Assistant, Ebury

What I made: Hussainy Curry (Skewered Beef in Gravy)

What I thought: I made this for my family at the weekend and it went down an absolute treat. There weren’t many ingredients in this and it was really easy to make, so I was blown away by how flavoursome it was. We served it with the rice that Asma suggested and it was so delicious. I will definitely be making this again!

Who: Mia Oakley, Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Jhal Steak

What I thought: There are so many wonderful recipes from Ammu that it was hard to whittle them down. What decided me on this dish was the fact my family are keen steak eaters. We normally grill them out on the BBQ (no matter the weather) with green beans and doused in Maggi and garlic. So I wanted to try a different recipe, one which wouldn’t require large winter coats to cook. I loved how packed full of flavour this whole dish was, from the marinated steaks to the spiced Garlic and Chilli Mash. It’s the sort of dish which makes it look like you’ve spent a lot of time and effort when in fact you haven’t. My favourite type of cooking! I chose a sirloin and managed to cook it just to my liking (medium-rare albeit slightly more on the rare side), which is one of the first times I have managed to do this at home. It was very easy to slice when serving and the marinade gave it a great colour. Using garlic and butter in the mash added for a rich texture as well. I made an addition to the dish by frying up some padrón peppers till they blistered and then sprinkled them with salt. I will definitely be cooking this again.

Who: Lara McLeod, Brand Executive, Ebury

What I made: Methi Chicken and Sada Pulao

What I thought: I’ve always been a bit nervous about cooking Indian food – I love Indian restaurants and the Darjeeling Express is up there with the most delicious places I’ve eaten, but I have always felt a little too out of my depth to try it myself. However, the methi chicken was simply divine. It was actually really quite simple but gave such delicious flavours. It had a little kick, and with the different herbs and spices, made the chicken so, so tasty. The method of cooking the chicken in a pan over the hob meant it was so tender, falling away so easily. I have also never been a good rice cook, with it always going a bit stodgy or putting too much water. I soaked the rice which Asma is very clear to do, and I really could taste the difference. It was fluffy and light and for the first time ever, perfectly cooked. This is how I will always be doing my rice from now on!

Who: Alice King, Publicity Manager, Ebury

What I made: Mattar Paratha

What I thought: These parathas were incredibly delicious and so much simpler than I expected. The filling is only made up of three ingredients so can be pulled together really quickly, you just need to mark out some time to leave the dough to rise. I served them with a paneer curry and they were the perfect vehicle to mop up all the extra sauce. I’ll definitely be making these again.

Who: Francesca Thomson, Campaigns Assistant, Ebury

What I cooked: Indo-Chinese Chilli Chicken 

What I thought: Amongst all the beautiful chapters of Ammu, the final one is entitled Being Ammu, and it features delicious recipes that Asma cooked for her own children when she became Ammu. This is a collection of “quick, modern recipes for instant solace”.

I chose the Indo-Chinese Chilli Chicken, which was the perfect one-dish dinner for a rainy evening in, with easy-to-source ingredients and a simple process. With its inspiration hailing from Calcutta’s Chinatown, Asma’s take on Chilli Chicken is certainly a crowd-pleaser. I chose to serve mine with the Chickpea Pulao rice dish (Ammu, p. 273) and a refreshing cucumber salad which made it an impressive spread for guests.

Who: Sam Crisp, Commissioning Editor, Ebury

What I made: Golda Chingri Malaikari, Shahi Gobi Salaan, Tomato Bhorta, and Chapati

What I thought: These recipes were incredibly easy to follow and the end result was delicious comforting food. The Chapatis were great fun to make – so simple and they are much better when they’re homemade – and the fresh tomato bhorta was a really nice zingy side that contrasted well with the creamy Golda Chingri Malaikari. I swapped for smaller prawns so that I didn’t have to shell them and it worked really nicely. The Shahi Gobi Salaan is a brilliant vegetarian dish, it was super satisfying and great to have a veggie option with a thick gravy that is often reserved for meat dishes. 

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