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Cook from the book: Nadiya’s Simple Spices

by Rachel Deeley

published on 27 September 2023

With her latest cookbook and accompanying BBC2 Show, Nadiya’s Simple Spices, Nadiya Hussain has demystified the art of incorporating spices into everyday cooking. The recipes in Nadiya’s Simple Spices showcase eight easily procured spices that you’ll definitely want to have in your kitchen cupboard, if you don’t already: cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, chilli, bay leaves, and curry powder.

From the book

We at The Happy Foodie can’t wait to get cooking with Nadiya’s latest collection of flavour-packed fuss-free recipes, so for each episode of Simple Spices, we’ll be cooking two dishes at home and sharing our thoughts on the experience. Looking for more of the recipes from the show? Discover all of your favourites from each episode here.

Episode 1

Who: Rachel Deeley, Content Lead, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Brown Daal

What I thought: Whenever there’s talk of ordering a takeaway curry in our house, my mind jumps to one thing and one thing only: Tarka Daal. I’ve always shied away from making my own version at home for fear of falling short of the mellow flavours and just-right texture that makes it my go-to veg curry, but when I saw that Nadiya’s latest cookbook included a quick and easy daal recipe, I knew I needed to give it a go. (Besides, any dish that calls for no less than eight cloves of garlic has immediately got my attention).

What I liked about this recipe was that prep for the daal component was super quick, so it was on the hob simmering away in no time and I could focus on prepping my ingredients for the tarka, a buttery concoction of garlic, onions, cumin, and dried chillis that smelled heavenly. As Nadiya promises in the book, it made a delightful sizzling sound when added to the steaming pot of daal (I deliberately hit pause on my podcast just to check), and the two elements combined created a warm, hearty curry with plenty of depth of flavour – perfect for a grey autumn afternoon. I chose to mop up my serving with a couple of store-bought chapatis, which I warmed for a few seconds in a dry pan then brushed with a little of the remnant tarka mixture of melted butter and spices – a combination I can’t recommend enough!

Who: Francesca Sleet, Marketing Executive, The Happy Foodie 

What I made: Badam Cheesecake

What I thought: I am a big fan of cheesecake but I rarely make it at home. However, this recipe is one I will return to in the future for special occasions. Aside from the classic creamy filling and buttery biscuit base, I appreciated the way that Nadiya managed to incorporate so much flavour into every part of the bake. The butter to brush over the filo pastry was infused with orange zest and cinnamon, adding a subtle fragrance to the crisp outer layer, and after baking, the whole cheesecake was doused in a cardamom and orange syrup, adding an extra sweet, spiced finish to the cake. The hardest part of the recipe is waiting for it to cool down in the fridge enough to eat it! I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an impressive dessert next time they’re hosting.

Episode 2

Who: Hattie Evans, Marketing Manager, Penguin Michael Joseph

What I made: Kulfi Ice Cream Bars

What I thought: I live in a house full of sweet tooths so when I saw Nadiya’s Kulfi ice cream bars, I knew I had to try them! They’re the perfect dessert for impressing friends and family yet really simple to make. I love the Custard Cream base, and the raspberries and pistachios bring a lovely element of colour to the bars. However, the real star of the show is the cardamom ice cream – just four pods make a vibrant addition to the creamy filling, and had us going back for more. Needless to say, I’ll be making them again!

Who: Rachel Deeley, Content Lead, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Smoky Aubergine Pizza

What I thought: I’m really not much of a baker, but I do love aubergine, smoky flavours, and pizza, so this was the perfect recipe to get me outside my comfort zone and making my own dough from scratch. It turned out to be a really easy, enjoyable process, and loved how I could get on with prepping my aubergine topping and coriander oil while I waited for the pizza dough to proof.

The end product was a delightful balance of contrasting flavours; the lightly spiced aubergine topping paired well with the creamy burrata, and the coriander oil (which I’ll definitely be using as an alternative dip or salad dressing in the future) added brightness to every bite. I served my pizzas for dinner with a peppery rocket salad, and I’m pleased to report that my boyfriend, who usually hates aubergine, asked for seconds.

Episode 3

tangy tomato prawns cftb

Who: Francesca Sleet, Marketing Executive, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Tangy Tomato Prawns

What I thought: This dish really encapsulates what Simple Spices is all about – a quick and easy meal that is packed with punchy flavour. Since the prawns cook in minutes and don’t require much effort, it’s all about letting the tomatoes cook down with the garlic and spices to create a silky smooth sauce that is brightened with a spoon of tangy tamarind paste.

Since it takes just under 30 minutes from start to finish, this was perfect for a quick after-work meal and I will definitely be making this dish again midweek, particularly when I need something warming and bold on a grey afternoon. I think it would also be great as part of a larger spread of dishes for sharing with family and friends, definitely one to bookmark for another day!

Episode 4

Who: Katie Russell, Digital Editor

What I made: Hash Smash Breakfast

What I thought: I’ve always been a fan of hash browns, but I’ve never thought to season them with spices. Now, I’ll never go back. The curry powder gave these hash browns a gorgeous, earthy flavour that perfectly complemented the sweetness of the ketchup in the bap. I also loved the crunchy texture, which paired well with the runniness of the egg. The recipe itself was quick and easy to follow (although it would have been quicker if I’d had a lid for my frying pan) and the end result was a delicious, filling breakfast that would have worked as a lunch, too.

Who: Julia Pal, Head of Content

What I made: Dhansak Bake

What I thought: It’s time to meet your new favourite winter warmer, everyone. Speaking as a woman who has fed her family Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie approximately three million times over the past few years, I am over the moon to have discovered Nadiya’s Dhansak Bake. It is comfort food at it’s finest: umami-rich, hearty, and so easy to eat that you can spoon it up from a bowl while curled up in an armchair by the fire.

I had to adjust things a little from the original recipe. There was no way my egg-phobic children would tolerate the runny eggs that Nadiya suggests baking into the top of the pie. And I had to bring in my pressure cooker to blast the less-than-tender meat I had managed to pick up at the supermarket into melt-in-the-mouth softness. The final dish was a huge hit with all. I’m thrilled to welcome a new favourite dinner into my home (hooray, hooray for a bit of variety in our lives!) and grateful to Nadiya for her practical but inventive approach to family cooking.

Episode 5

Who: Izzie Thomas, Channel Lead, Crime

What I made: Crispy Leek Biryani 

What I thought: I really enjoyed making this biryani. I started off by baking Nadiya’s Art Masala, which cleaned out my spice cupboard for all the right reasons. With a sweet kick of cardamon and some gentle chilli heat, it’s a beautiful spice blend that really lifted the dish. And I don’t think I’ll ever want leeks any other way after frying them in ghee. The smell alone was incredible, and I loved having the crispy leeks to sprinkle on top at the end. Photography-wise, it’s very hard to make a fried egg look glamorous, but I promise it was a delicious addition!

Who: Rachel Deeley, Content Lead, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Back-of-the-fridge Pakoras

What I thought: I love pakoras, and hate that pang of guilt I feel on discovering a bag of forgotten veg at the end of a long week, so I knew I needed to give this recipe a try. Chopping my medley of vegetables (courgettes, carrots, broccoli, and potatoes) down to thin slices was a fun chance to practice my knife skills, and leaving the veg mixture to marinate in the mix of herbs, spices, and seasoning for 30 minutes meant I had plenty of time to rustle up a quick main dish for dinner. I have almost no experience shallow-frying food, but found the cooking process incredibly easy – my top tip would be to rub a little neutral oil on the tips of your fingers before picking up clumps of the mixture, to prevent it from sticking to your hands.

The final result was a substantial platter of gorgeously crispy yet light snacks that are perfect for keeping you full before dinner hits the table – I even munched on one or two while I was frying them in batches. Serve them with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and your favourite dipping sauce (I opted for sriracha mayo, but a mango chutney or fresh raita would also work beautifully) and, like the pakoras themselves, you’ll be golden!

Episode 6

Who: Ellie Morley, Digital Marketing Manager, Michael Joseph

What I made: Bombay Potatoes

What I thought: I love potatoes in all forms, so was very excited to give this recipe a try as it had a great twist on Bombay potatoes. Not only was it very easy to follow (I love anything that involves minimal washing up, and this all-in-one pan method is fantastic), but the dish itself was deliciously warming. I paired this with some curried roasted cauliflower, mango chutney, and a yoghurt raita. The potatoes were crunchy and packed a punch with every bite. I’d never cooked with tamarind sauce before, and the paste added a yummy level of depth to the heat of the potatoes. 

Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Channel Lead, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Coconut Bundt Cake

What I thought: This fragrant spiced Bundt cake is full of delicious surprises, from the gentle flavour of fennel and lime to a truly inspired desiccated coconut and condensed milk topping which emerges from the oven as gorgeously chewy, coconutty caramel. I served each slice warm with a big dollop of soft-whipped cream and some lime zest to really emphasise the lime in the crumb. The perfect bake if you’re looking to try something a little different.

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