FIJI INDIAN CHEF - An insight into Indian culture and 150 delicious recipes

Jane Tara Nutta-Singh was the first Fiji Indian Chef to appear in a regular cooking segment on Australian television. She also did   regular cooking demonstrations for Bamix Australia. Demonstrating Bamix appliances. 

Jane was a restaurateur on the Gold Coast for a number of years. This phase of her life allowed for much experimentation, as dishes in the restaurant were changed regularly. Although she grew up with traditional Indian ways, the balance changed to a western style, which broadened her style of cooking. 

Jane has many other accomplishments listed in the book.  

This book is an adventure in Jane’s life and an insight into how some of the wonderful recipes became beautiful Indian dishes. Jane had the unique talent of making a tasty dish out of virtually nothing. 

These dishes and the story about how they occurred are in the book. 

Jane has a Diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition – American Institute of Drugless Therapy, Scotland, Great Britain. 

In Store Price: $AU32.95 
Online Price:   $AU31.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-02-7
Format: B5 Paperback
Number of pages: 286
Genre: Non Fiction

Buy as an Ebook version - $AUD9.00 pdf upload.



Author: Jane Tara Nutta-Singh
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English




Jane Tara Singh was born in Fiji. She was educated at Jasper Williams Girls’ Boarding School, Lautoka, Fiji. She came to Australia as a teenager, trained as a nurse at Royal Brisbane Hospital and undertook midwifery training at Royal Hospital for Women, Paddington, Sydney. As a cooking teacher at Gold Coast TAFE College for over 25 years, Jane was given a broad insight into a cosmopolitan mix of people, which helped in the formulation of her recipes. Jane holds a Bachelor of Science from the Open International University for Complementary Medicines, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Jane was a restaurateur on the Gold Coast for a number of years. This phase of her life allowed for much experimentation, as dishes in the restaurant were changed regularly. Although she grew up with traditional Indian ways, the balance changed to a western style, which broadened her style of cooking.

Jane’s many accomplishments include:

·        Winning Pineapple Cooking Contest in the Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine. This gave her exposure which helped in publishing a Curry and Rice Cookbook in the Australian Women’s Weekly. Later it led to great opportunities in publishing Indian and vegetarian recipe supplements for the Australian Women’s Weekly.

·        Cooking demonstrations for Butter Marketing Board, Brisbane.

·        Indian and vegetarian dishes at Dairy Maid Kitchens of Judith May International, Hamilton, Brisbane.

·        Cooking demonstrations on television:

o       John Crooke – Channel 0 Brisbane

o       Wombat – Channel 7 Brisbane

o       Roy Hamson Show – Channel 0 Melbourne

·        Don Seccombe – Channel 9 – Talk show

·        Cooking Teacher at TAFE College.

o       Basic Indian Cooking

o       Advanced Indian Cooking

o       Vegetarian Cooking

·        Diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition – American Institute of Drugless Therapy, Scotland, Great Britain.

·        Cooking demonstrations for Bamix Australia. Demonstrating Bamix appliances.

·        Doctor’s Sister Receptionist.

·        Registered Justice of the Peace.

·        Community Involvement in the following Charities:

Save the Children Fund

Church Guild.

Business and Professional Club – Gold Coast.

Red Cross.

Southport Quota Club.

C.W. Association,

International House Building Appeal.


·        Broadcasting Recipes on ABC Radio.

·        Wrote cooking columns for magazines and newspapers.

      Australian Women’s Weekly, Women’s Day, Gold Coast Bulletin, Gold      

      Coast Chronicle, Courier Mail Sunday Mail.

·        Evaluation on food products – White Wings Pty. Ltd., Masterfoods and Meadow Lea.

·        Relieving Chef.-Manageress, Rajah Mataj Restaurant, Surfers Paradise, Queensland.


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To my Readers


The stories and recipes throughout this book will bring some island magic into your kitchen. Savour your cultural journey of discovery. I hope the blend of storyline and special dishes in each chapter will leave your tastebuds enlightened as never before.
In Fiji where I grew up my youth was spent amid an invigorating and delightful blend of many races living harmoniously. Fijians and Indians have for generations captured the imagination of the visitors to their islands. Fiji is the way the world should be.

There is a touch of magic about Indian cuisine; the contrasting colours of sambals, raitas, chutneys, side dishes and the way the spices evoke tantalising aromas and anticipation. Despite the enormously varied food eaten by the Indians around the globe there are still some common traditions. The combination and uses of spices and herbs is a major unifying element of Indian food which creates its distinctive character.

Of course the real secret in any recipe is love but the right selection, blend and quality of ingredients is the basis of any good dish. Indian food is based on vegetarian philosophy; however meat has been introduced on occasions and is featured in a number of important dishes.

My intention is to combine the carefree lifestyle with the exotic spices, herbs and edible flowers, wonderful seafood, tropical fruit, vegetables especially the coconuts, and the foods of Fiji. The stories of Meena’s life are interwoven with the recipes of her culture. Her account of Fiji Indian life as led by the first Indian arrivals nearly a century ago, deliver delightful insights.


Fiji Indian cooking is unique in the sense that its origin is Indian but the methods of preparation differ from those used in India.

The unique tastes of Fiji result from the clever blending of the right proportions of spices, fresh herbs, fresh coconut and a variety of local ingredients. The addition of condiments creates a special flavour exclusive to Fiji Indian cooking.

This style of cooking produces foods that are not spicy nor as hot as those I sampled when touring India. However, some of the flavours can be likened to those found in certain regions of India and Pakistan.

All these cultural influences have been combined to create a distinctive style of cooking. The thoughtful combination of spice mixes and local ingredients have produced some special recipes for exciting dishes. The unique flavours of these foods cannot be found in any other part of the world. Some previously non-Indian items have been adapted to create Fiji-Indian foods that cater for the palates of everyone.

It is with great passion and pleasure that I share with you a selection of recipes from my creative kitchen so that you can create authentic Indian food at home. Through Meena’s story you will come to understand the importance of the connection of culture and cuisine in Fiji Indian Society.

Jane Tara Nutta-Singh


Thousands of travellers, explorers, writers and historians have attempted to describe the Fiji Islands. Yet, until now, all have ignored one of its most delightful and descriptive features — its food.

Even the most modern encyclopedias, when trying to explain the geography of Fiji say “about 322 islands”, as though there are too many to count exactly or they are not sure if all the islands really are islands. Whatever the number they occupy a beautiful part of the world — a section of the South Pacific situated between 15 degrees and 20 degrees south latitude in the vicinity of the 180 degrees meridian, which is the International Date Line.

 I was born on one of these 322 islands, the largest one, Viti Levu where my mother and father and other kin folk gradually introduced me to the food cultures not just India, but also Polynesia, Melanesia, China and Europe. These races and culture provide confetti like image of the food growing, processing, cooking and presentation in this remarkable nation that inhabits the transparent blue ocean between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Somewhere back in ages lost, volcanoes shaped and created the islands in a garden of coral reefs — islands that reach up to 4000 feet above sea level, covered with rich red soil and tropical vegetation. These islands remained a secret to all Islanders until some were seen and recorded by Abel Tasman in 1643, and others by James Cook in 1773. It wasn’t until 1840 that the remaining islands were surveyed by an American expedition.

In the past 100 years, despite the introduction of modern comforts and technologies to Fiji, it is the carefree lifestyle of its people and exquisite environment that has resulted in a magic combination of foods. The happy smiling faces and the warm nature of the island people reflect their love of food. The people of Fiji are special, their smile, warmth and friendliness makes Fiji one of the world’s most popular tourist destination. In Fiji, the greeting is simple but beautiful — BULA- meaning welcome, or NISA-BULA — meaning you are welcome and Namaste — meaning, I pay my respect to you.

The Fijians and Indians are very hospitable and genial people that character stands out to a visitor. My Australian friend, a frequent visitor to Fiji told me from the moment they were introduced, so welcoming were the Fijians and Indians that every encounter, every meal or bazaar trip was a festive occasion. From chance meetings to the hospitality of friends of friends, relative, taxi drivers, bus drivers, shopkeepers all made us welcome.

In mid June, a cool southeast breeze blows in from the ocean across Fiji.
The climate is tropical, southeast trade winds blow from May to November.
Workers walking, cycling or driving home from the cane fields along the
yellow-red earth roads can smell the aroma of the evening meals.
There is a mixing of sounds and sights. Children’s voices noisy at play — overlay of music from Radio Fiji — the sound of motors dying away as people turn in for the night. And there is a mixture of sweet odours. The last of the season’s frangipani and hibiscus mingled with the spices of curries and gravies.

In Fiji, Indian cooking is an essential part of the cultural and social habits, introduced in the late 1880’s by Indian labourers, modified and magnified to adapt to the rich local resources of the islands.

 Jane Tara Nutta-Singh  

Brief History of Fiji

On the tenth of October 1874 the deed of cession was signed in Nasova, a small village south of Levuka in Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji, by Cakobau and his fellow chiefs, who ceded the colony to Great Britain and the new colony of Fiji was born.

A monument to mark this occasion in Nasova was built and is very popular with the locals and tourists alike. Levuka became the first capital of Fiji, but did not last very long. The infant government was short lived. There were many reasons so the capital moved to Suva in 1881.

 Fiji now a colony without economic growth. Sir Arthur Gordon was the new colony’s first governor who was against using natives to work the fields. So much so that he set in motion laws that would forever benefit the Fijian people by making sure they were never alienated from their land nor exploited as workers.
However, the colony’s sugar industry was still in an infant stage and did have great potential, but no one to work the fields. The C.S.R. Company desperately needed labour. Sir Arthur Gordon had previously seen indentured Indian labour work very well in Mauritius and Trinidad, so he convinced the C.S.R. Company to bring over Indians as the answer to their prayers. Sir Arthur Gordon set up the indentured labour system which opened the flood gates to Indian workers.

On the fourteenth of May 1879 the first vessel, Leonidas I, arrived from Calcutta with four hundred and sixty three Indians aboard. Between May 1879 and November 1916 when the final labour transport ship Leonidas III, arrived sixty three thousand people had come to serve as indentured labourers. Of these over eighty percent were Hindus, a small number were Muslims and the rest were mainly Christians. More about Indian culture in Fiji in Chapter two.
On the tenth of October 1970 Fiji became an independent state in the presence of H.R.H. Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth. In one of the first moves after independence, the government agreed to pay ten million Fijian dollars to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for its holdings in the country’s four sugar mills. The first step towards nationalizing the sugar industry and forming the government owned Fiji Sugar Corporation.

Sir Robert Foster was the last governor under colonial rule and Ratu Sir George Cakobau was sworn in as the first governor general of Fiji.
Fiji celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of its link with Britain and the fourth anniversary of its independence in October in the presence of H.R.H. Prince Charles again.

 On the fourteenth of May, 1987 the first coup had occurred and again on the twenty-fifth of September, 1987 the second had occurred. On 15th May 2000, the third coup had occurred. And on December 2006 the fourth coup had occurred.
Suva, the capital city located on the large island of Viti Levu. It is an exciting international city and is the business and trading focal point of Fiji — known as The Hub of the Pacific are all in my wonderful Fiji.




Spices can be used individually or combined, roasted and ground in a coffee grinder to a coarse to fine powder, or ground with water into paste to produce flavours anywhere in the spectrum from sweet to sour, fiery to bland and fragrant to pungent. In Fiji the spices are ground in a commercial grinding machine in large quantities or pounded in a stone mortar and pestle by the housewife in small or large quantities.

Spices keep best in glass screw top jars on a cool dry shelf. I keep mine in such bottles on the kitchen shelf with labels on as well as various dhals and dried chillies. It is helpful to keep the containers in order in which their small contents go into the dish. For spices it is best to use plastic or stainless steel small spoons, carefully dried before putting into the jar. Before roasting the spices it is advisable to pick out stones, small mud or pieces of stalk and leaf etcetera. I have the masala mixed ready to use instead of mixing the proportions each time.
The mixture of twenty-five or so different spices and herbs produce an unforgettable flavour and fragrance that is indefinable.
In Fiji and India the various ingredients used in cooking depends largely on the person making the curry. It is customary day to day for such ingredients to be grinded separately into a paste with a little water on what is known as a sil and lora, or curry stone.

A grinding stone is one of the most important pieces of equipment in every Indian kitchen. It is a flat piece of stone about twelve to fourteen inches in length, eight to ten inches wide and three to four inches thick. It comes with a stone roller like a rolling pin without handles.
The woman’s role as homemaker is one that is highly respected by all. Her cooking talents are also considered to be equally vital and in the Hindu religion the bride stands on a grinding stone during the pre-nuptial rituals to symbolise her new status as a mistress of her own household.
I firmly believe, that love of food, personal attitude of the cook, interest and enthusiasm with which she performs her duty have an effect on the food with which she nourishes her family.
Almost all the Indians in Fiji, live on bread, not the western type yeast loaf but a wholemeal and plain flour mixed 1-1 or more called Aata or Sharps is used to make freshly cooked unleavened flat bread called roti or chappati.
Chappati is the lightest version of all the Indian breads because it is cooked dry and has to be cooked just before eating time as they soon loose their suppleness if allowed to go cold. It is normal practice in an Indian household for the cook of the house to dish out hot chapatis to the rest of the family straight from the hot oven to their plates. I still remember those wonderful years growing up in Fiji.


Most of the ingredients listed below are available in the supermarkets, health food and specialty stores. The spices comprise of valuable seeds, roots, barks, dried leaves and flowers.

Appetisers — a small portion of fruit, juice or any food served as the first course of a meal.

Aniseed — a small seed of an aromatic plant — used in sweet making and for flavouring puddings and pastries. Used in masalas as well.
Asafoetida — (Heeng) — a very strong smelling spice powder or crystals from Indian food stores. Used to replace onion as seasoning. Heeng is used in minute quantities when cooking any legume family. Excellent for digestive system. Also used by some religious groups to give an onion like flavour to food as they are prohibited to use onions in any form. My grandmother always used Heeng when cooking dhals and beans and some vegetables because it is famed as an antidote for flatulence, specially in Urad dhal and savoury snacks.
Bayleaf — a herb used extensively in Western cooking around the world in its dried form. Dried bay leaf is excellent ground in spices. Fresh bay leaves has many uses in stocks, casseroles, soups, rice and masala chai etc. Cumin — these tiny light greenish brown seeds are of the caraway family. These seeds are used more often in a large variety of Indian cooking. Cumin seeds are sprinkled on raitas (yoghurt salad) sambals, drinks, savoury snacks and others to give that special aromatic flavour. Also mixed in masalas.

Coriander seeds — a small round, yellowish seed which is used in stocks, soups, pickling spice and sauces. Coriander seeds are usually ground and are used in innumerable dishes in Indian cooking. Coriander powder added to make special garam masala, sabzi masala and masala and used separately in curries, pulaos and biryanis. A very versatile spice.
Coriander leaves and stems are from the same plant as coriander seeds. It is the coriander leaves that give dishes the special characteristic pungent aroma usually associated with Indian fare. The fresh green leaves are used for garnishing a variety of dishes and also for making chutney.
Cinnamon — the inner tender bark of the cinnamon tree. This aromatic spice is powdered and used both in sweets (cakes and puddings) and savouries as well as in curry powder.
In pulaos, cinnamon is mostly used whole. The piece is mostly removed from the dish just before serving if desired. Whole cinnamon stick is used in some special meat dishes as phoran.

Cloves — an aromatic spice used in so many ways. One of the most useful spice in garam masala and other ground masalas. Used as phoran occasionally in special meat dishes and rice. Also in soups, stocks, sauces, curries, gravies, puddings and masala chai. The spice is a dried flower with an unmistakable sweet and pungent appearance.

Cardamom - an aromatic spice, brownish and green pods containing fragrant seeds. The larger variety of green large pods is used entirely for curries, pulaos and biryanis either whole or powdered. The smaller variety with brownish pods is generally used for Indian and Western sweets, cakes and puddings. It is also used along with other spices for curries, pulaos and biryanis. Very popular spice in masala chai and the seeds as an after dinner mint.


Chillies — the most useful and famous spice known to mankind. The Portuguese traders introduced the chillies to Malabar and Goa, India in the 16th Century and spread to the ports on the Arabian Sea. From that humble beginning the chillies spread around the globe through many ways. From the fiery hot to mild, medium and sweet in taste.

Chillies are small capsicum family used to add heat to any dish. They range in colour from green, yellow, red, purple and orange. The shapes of round long, thin plump and bird’s eye variety from tiny, medium to plump ones, yellow and green in colour.

I like to add green chillies in dishes for its special aroma and taste. Chillies are very versatile. I am a chilli addict; I use chillies in almost every dish I cook. Chilli wine is excellent in winter. Dried red chillies are excellent in meat and seafood dishes and sauces. Chilli pickles, chilli relish, chilli jam and chilli chutney are popular. Chilli powder is used extensively in all cooking for convenience.

The following chillies I am familiar with and grow in my garden:
- Poblano — special flavour not so hot
- Jalapeno — also mild in flavour
- Ancho Chilli and Long Red — also mild and tasty, I dry these and keep for years
- Hot Chillies — Habanero- orange or yellow
- Mexican — hot
- Chinese — hot

-African — frilly red and orange
- Bird’s Eye — green and yellow — excellent for drying
- Mini bird’s eye — my favourite in fresh chutneys and sambals Cayenne - hot

-         Thai bird’s eye - hot

-         Salsa - medium

-         Dutch - medium

Preserving chillies in many ways:
1. Chillies can be frozen for winter in cooking. Just rinse the chillies under cold running water, drain and pat dry on absorbent kitchen paper. Pack in polythene bags that snap locks and freeze.
2. Chillies can be sun dried successfully and kept in an airtight jar for 12 months or longer. I have kept mine in a large screw top jar for display in the kitchen shelf for at least 5 years.
Rinse, drain and dry the fully ripe chillies. Remove stems, spread on a large flat tray. Keep moving the chillies now and then.

Another way: Place the rinsed, drained and stems removed chillies on a microwave safe tray. Spread out the chillies and cook on high for two minutes. Remove and spread on a tray, dry in the sun until completely dry and crisp.
Chilli powder — Grind the dried red chillies in a coffee grinder to powder. Alternately grind with a mortar and pestle to powder.
Simple Chilli Pickles
Cut chillies into pieces across, cover with salt, stand all night. Next morning drain well and cover with cold water, bring to a boil, strain and bottle. Pour on cold boiled white wine vinegar and store. Bay leaves, ginger strips and small garlic cloves may be added.
Bird’s Eye Chillies
Wash chillies, remove stems. Cover with water, add salt bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Strain. Spread the drained chillies on a flat tray. Dry in the hot sun or in a slow oven. When completely dry. Keep in airtight jar. Fry few at a time in hot oil until crisp. Serve as sambal or crush the crisp chillies, add chopped salad onion, a crushed garlic, chopped coriander or mint, few drops lemon juice and mustard oil. Combine. A tasty sambal may be used as an accompaniment to any meal. Extra virgin olive oil may be used in place of mustard oil. Try with tiny bits at a time.

Fenugreek  — Methi — these brownish tiny bitter tasting bean like special spice, particularly good in fish, beans and certain dhal recipes to counteract inflatulence. In the Vedic Era, centuries ago fenugreek laddu was most prized sweet for special occasions. It is very rich and nutritious. Such a lengthy process. I usually sow these seeds every winter and enjoy the tender leaves in salads, chapatis and cooking.

Fennel Seeds — Greenish brown seeds — bit like caraway seeds. These are used whole and ground. Whole fennel seeds are used in phoran and many vegetable and dhal preparation. I serve lightly roasted fennel seeds as a mouth refreshner — chewed as an after dinner mint, Its often a focal point of conversation. Fennel seeds grow well in winter. Excellent herb in salads sandwiches and cooking. Stems can be used in poaching, fish or chicken. Dry the seeds in the sun and keep in airtight containers.

Turmeric — Haldi — this is the spice that gives that distinctive yellow colour to every dish. It has medicinal properties, which is described in my book. Essential ingredients in curry powder. The root (rhizome) of the turmeric plant is easily grown in the tropics. I have some growing in my garden every year. Saffron - the most used expensive spice in the world is bright orange in colour. Saffron is used to colour and flavour certain special dishes. Small pinch is a  flavouring in sweets, pudding, chutney and drinks. Most popular in pulaos, biryanis and special meat dishes. Buy in thread form. Saffron is obtained from a plant of the crocus species. I was fascinated to see saffron in the Kashmir, Valley in India.

Pepper - a commonly used spice. There are four varieties — black, green, white and red. The black, green and white are from the same shrub. Green pepper is freshly plucked and black and white peppers are dried, white pepper is obtained by removing the outer husk of the seed.
Red or cayenne pepper is prepared from the seeds of certain types of red chillies or from red capsicum pods. Pepper is generally used in a powdered form in cooking but in some recipes it is also used whole such as pickles, sauces, stocks, masala chai. These dried whole berries are called peppercorns.

Mustard Seeds  — There are two varieties, small black and brown. Small black seeds are mostly used in Indian cooking. It is used whole in phoran and many recipes at the beginning of cooking. Especially good in omelettes, rice dishes and coconut chutney.
The brown variety is mostly used in pickles, powders and spices and spreads. I use these for sprouting to use in salads and sandwiches.  

Mustard seeds one of the useful spice in Indian and other cuisines. So many varieties of mustard spreads are on the market. I like my own spicy mustard spread. Try them, use your imagination.

Curry Powder  — is readily available everywhere in the supermarkets and specialty stores. However, you can make your own mix without much effort to create that special magic into your kitchen. Here is a recipe that is very popular with my students.

Simple Curry Powder
¼ cup coriander powder
1 ¼ Tbs turmeric
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp mustard powder                                    
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder or cayenne
1 Tbs roasted paprika
Combine. Store in a screw top jar.

Aajee’s Special Garam Masala
6 bay leaves
3 Tbs coriander seeds
3 Tbs cumin seeds
1 whole cinnamon coil
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 star anise seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds
1-2 tsp chilli powder or cayenne
1-1 ½  tsp ground ginger
2 tsp amchoor — mango powder
½ tsp - asafetida-hing optional


1. In a heavy based fry pan, dry roast the first seven ingredients until aromatic. Remove from the heat and grind to a powder. Combine with the remaining ingredients. Store the spices in a screw top jar. Use in recipes.
Ginger — (Adrak) Fresh ginger, the aromatic rhizome is peeled, grated, minced, julienne and chopped in nearly all recipes in this book. Ginger pickle and masala chai are my favourites.
Ginger is an important flavouring in Indian cooking. Ginger is regarded as a digestive aid, which is always added to beans, dhals and vegetables. Ginger powder is also used in tandoori marinade, chai masala, chutneys, relishes, sweets, cakes and other preparations. If fresh is unavailable, ginger powder (1 teaspoon ginger powder for 1 tablespoon fresh ginger), may be substituted. As long as I remember an ancient cure for cold in a warm drink with honey and lemon.
Curry leaves — (Teg Patti) A beautiful plant, grows well in a dry sunny position. I grow couple in pots and others in the ground. During summer I spread the leaves in my pantry for moths. Occasionally I use the stems of shiny leaves in vases with chillies for a centre piece.

The most important leaf in Indian cooking. This is the first ingredient fried with phoran during any Indian recipe preparation to impart that special flavour to the oil. Fried curry leaves are excellent for garnishing. Chopped curry leaves are used in savoury snacks and breads. Tender leaves make a delicious chutney. Dried leaves are ground into masala and curry powder. Curry leaves — fresh are available in supermarkets and vegetable outlets. Mint Leaves - (Pudeena) Mint an aromatic herb used both in fresh and dry form. It is used for flavouring soups, some meat dishes, savoury dishes, garnishing, chutneys, pesto and raitas. There are so many varieties on the market. However, the old favourite, wild type is widely used. Mint chutney is well known — recipe given in the book. Dried mint leaves are also very useful in many recipes, crumbled over raitas or in recipes. Mint tea made from fresh mint leaves is very refreshing.
Parsley — a very popular herb grows easily around the globe. There are two varieties, the frilly and plain, also know as Italian parsley. This herb is used for flavouring and garnishing. One of the most useful herbs in the world. When coriander is out of season, I use parsley in place. Parsley is very nutritious. When in season I make parsley pesto with almond flakes and chilli. Excellent as spreads or dips I use parsley in egg and rice recipes as well as in salads sandwiches, stocks and sauces. Fried parsley sprig is excellent as a garnish for fish or savoury dishes.
Tamarind — (Imli) A bean like fruit of the tamarind tree. Looks like a long brownish bean with feathery leaves. The pod clusters of the tamarind tree contain seeds and light brown sticky pulp. At maturity it turns darker. The pulp is very tasty to eat fresh from the tree with a touch of salt and chilli powder or sugar and chilli powder. This is used as a souring or acidifying in Indian cooking, often blended with palm sugar or brown sugar to produce that special sweet and sour effect. Dried pulp makes a very tasty chutney, sauces and drinks.
The juice, which is extracted by soaking a few pods in hot water for 15-20 minutes, squeezing the softened pods and then straining the juice. This juice, which is sour, is used in a number of curry and sauce dishes. My favourite is tamarind soup — Rasam. 


Sambals and Side Dishes

I like to put a selection of entrees, such as chicken pakoras, pappadams, samosas, chaat — a plate of spicy salad, and vegetable bhugias on a platter and let the guests serve themselves. There is a surprising variety of fresh fruit and vegetable sambals, herb chutneys, raitas and side dishes that are a traditional and very colourful part of an Indian meal. An Indian chef will take great pride in presenting them well. Sambals are served as an accompaniment to the meal in small dishes to the side. And they are meant to garnish the main meal and give it a relish appeal. Some sambals are hot, some refreshing, while others are very cooling to the palate. Then all the food is served at once in the centre of the table one takes whatever they fancy. Looking from the hostess’s point of view, it is easier. She can sit down with her guest or family and enjoy her meal as well.


Beer introduced by Europeans to the Indians in Fiji has become the beverage to be used with curry.
People drink a lot of cold water in Fiji, and some prefer cold beer as well or there are those, who like myself, enjoy champagne. Any dry white wine will go well with Indian food. However, rosè has been also popular.

Spices are the magic ingredient of Indian cuisine and they determine the taste of each prepared dish.
Essential Points to Remember when Cooking Indian Food

1. Ghee - although it is traditional to use ghee in Indian cooking, if desired any fat such as butter or margarine and any oil can be used. (If on a diet, start with a teaspoon of oil and finish with water or cook in all stock).
2. Onions - In Indian cuisine onion plays a very important role in the preparation of the recipes as a thickening agent. Onions are never allowed to brown which
would ruin the flavour and appearance of the dish. In some curries the finer the onions are chopped the better and in some cases spring onions or shallots are preferable.
3. Garlic and ginger is another major ingredient in Indian cooking.  Garlic should never be allowed to brown, as it will spoil both the flavour and appearance of the curry. Garlic is only really pervasive when it is raw or only briefly cooked. Longer cooking brings out its sweet mild flavour and smooth consistency. I often cook a
few cloves in the microwave or oven less than a minute and enjoy the delicate special flavour.
4. Lemon Grass - tender fresh lemon grass stalk is excellent in meat gravies for poaching fish and chicken. Dried stalk is used in curry powder. Most popular being used as lemon grass tea, fresh or dried.
5. Curry Leaves - green leaves are used as Phoran: at the beginning of cooking. Dried leaves are used in curry powder
and chutneys. Young shoots and leaves are also used to make chutney and savoury snacks.
6. Sour or Tang - tomatoes, lemon, lime, vinegar, tamarind pulp, and yoghurt.are generally used.
7. The Masala - spices or curry powder ingredients, when added to the onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, chillies in oil with whole seeds before adding other ingredients should always be fried gently for 2-3 minutes on low heat to get rid of the raw flavour of the Masala or curry powder which is done by continually
adding a splash of water to the pan and stirring all the while. This is known as ‘chauch’ and the whole seeds used are fenugreek, mustard, cumin, and fennel which is known as ‘Phoran’ and this is the most important step in the art of making an Indian curry. Knowing how to use spices with subtlety is the secret of authentic Indian cooking.

I rarely add water to curry but add akni (stock) whenever gravy is required in a recipe. However, if you must use water, ensure that it is hot. By adding water you automatically dilute the flavour. By adding stock you automatically increase the flavour and nutritional value.
Coconut Milk — where recipes call for coconut milk, if time does not permit to extract milk and you are out of canned milk, use evaporated milk or carton milk instead. Try coconut milk next time. Otherwise use instant coconut milk powder, I often do. Follow directions on the packet.
For best results, try to cook curry very slowly to extract all the richness and flavour of the curry spices. For seasoned curry eaters, make a good curry sauce base and keep in the fridge.
Yoghurt — is used frequently in the cooking as a base for curry or as a marinade and used in raitas (yoghurt salad) as well as made into a refreshing drink called Lassi by whisking and diluting with milk, a little sugar or honey, rose water and ice cubes, even soda water. Many of the recipes in this book give an alternative of red peppers or chillies as an ingredient. Use of red peppers will result in a mild curry, the chillies will give a hotter curry. The hotness of the curry will depend therefore, on the number of chillies used and their size. For a curry with medium heat, you might like to use a combination of both — a pepper and small chilli or half a chilli. For the beginners of Indian food, always make sure the seeds are removed from the chilli before using, as the seeds are very hot and most unpleasant to bite into if you are not used to
it. Remove the seeds from peppers too (use plastic gloves).

The above is a sample of Chapter One. 



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