I’ve had a soft spot for Cyrus Todiwala since I interviewed him donkey’s years ago for a TV feature on the Asian and Oriental catering school he helped set up in Hoxton in London. The school is long gone, thanks to a change in funding, but the Bombay-born Parsi chef has always been deeply committed to education and training and to giving young people a leg-up in the industry. It earned him an MBE back in 2000 and he’s since added an OBE to a long list of honours and awards.
I remember filming at his flagship restaurant, Café Spice Namasté, in an old courthouse in Tower Hill when he spotted me and the camera crew salivating over the food and invited us to share the kitchen brigade’s lunch. He is a genuinely nice man and I’ve been cooking for years from his first book, also called Café Spice Namasté.
This is one of the recipes: delicately spiced and gratifyingly quick to make (apart from the marinating time). In terms of Indian food it’s also quite low-fat and healthy, not that that’s exactly one of my chief criteria when making a dish. They don’t call me Mrs Portly for nothing.
400g monkfish fillet, cut into 4 cm cubes
8 garlic cloves
5 cm piece of fresh root ginger
3/4 tspn cumin seeds
3/4 tspn coriander seeds
3/4 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tspn ground turmeric
1/2 tspn garam masala
2 tbsp lime juice
50 ml mustard oil or groundnut oil
200g Greek yoghurt
Melted butter for basting
Salt and white pepper
Rub salt and pepper into the monkfish and set aside. Cyrus’s instructions are to put the garlic, ginger, spices, lime juice, salt and half the yoghurt into a blender and process to a smooth paste, but I bashed the garlic, ginger and spices first with the salt in a pestle and mortar. Either way, when all the spices are well ground, transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining yoghurt.
Taste and check the seasoning, adding more chilli if you wish. Mix in the fish cubes and check the seasoning again. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
To cook, put the tikkas on skewers if you like, to make the turning easier. If you’re using wooden skewers you’ll need to soak them in water for at least half an hour to stop them burning. Cook on a barbecue or under a grill, basting well with melted butter. If you’re using the grill, put the tikkas on a rack and make sure the heat isn’t too high. Alternatively cook in an oven pre-heated to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 8-10 minutes.