Julie Sahni has been teaching the art of Indian cooking in the United States for more than 40 years. Her teaching goes beyond her cooking school; her books, which include Classic Indian Cooking, Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking and Moghul Microwave, are wonders of their kind, and have been part of my library since Classic was first published in 1980. The fact it has been printed another 42 times tells its own story. We used her recipe for tandoori chicken in my restaurant for years.
Sahni’s recipes are simple to follow. Although those of us not brought up in the kitchens of India might find it hard to agree with her introductory note that “There is no mystical secret behind Indian cooking …”, sticking with Sahni gives you the right outcomes, every time. That said, it is clear from her writing that a recipe from one household will differ from that of the house next door, or around the corner: “Indian cooking is more of an art than a science,” she writes. “It is highly personalised, reflecting individual tastes … In most cases the Indian cook will add an ingredient or two beyond what is required in a dish, without deviating from the classic flavour, simply to give it his or her personal stamp.”
In reality, that is the truth of all great cooking—you will see on page 18 that the master of Thai cooking, David Thompson, is also a believer in cooking “the way you want it” and varying quantities of individual ingredients to achieve the particular flavour accents you desire.
There are, of course, techniques in all cooking that can’t be meddled with, but once you’ve found the basis, then it’s up to you, your tastes, and/or what’s in the cupboard.
In this case, we’ve added the Thermomix to Sahni’s classic Moghul kabobs with raisin stuffing. Grinding the lamb yourself in the Thermomix lets you determine how much fat to include—choosing shoulder meat will give a fattier, juicier, more powerfully “lamb-y” flavour, while leg meat will give
a leaner result. It’s a technique you’ll be able to adapt to making any of the minced-meat skinless “sausages” and meatballs that are enjoyed across the Middle East through Afghanistan to India, often on skewers, under the names kofta, kebab or kebob.
Here, we also add a little Western flavour by marinating the raisins for the stuffing with sherry to give them more oomph. The sweetness of the raisins in the end result is a triumph, and no doubt one of those “personalised” additions to which Sahni refers. Optional also is a touch of chilli. Please yourself.