Nisha Katona (50) is so impressive, any second you manage to snatch with her means you’re guaranteed to learn something, feel empowered and want to spend more electrifying minutes with her.
She is commanding, knows exactly what she’s trying to achieve and there’s a generosity to everything she does – be it the stories that accompany her recipes, the way she supports the staff in her restaurants, or her charm on telly.
The Wirral-based chef’s new cookbook, 30 Minute Mowgli, was born from lockdown cooking, when shopping was limited and ingredients restricted. “I went into the cupboards and found the detritus, saving splendour hidden behind bottles of store cupboard ingredients,” remembers Katona.
30 Minute Mowgli is not just about using up ingredients. Things might be busy, but regardless, “We have big flavour requirements in our house,” she says.
Nisha Katona’s gingerbread lamb steaks
4tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 cube frozen crushed garlic or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cube frozen crushed ginger or 1 thumb-sized pieces fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 x 200g/7oz lamb rump steaks
1tbsp garam masala
1tbsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 ginger biscuits
1. Preheat the grill/broiler to high and line a grill pan with foil.
2. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan/skillet over a medium heat, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for six to eight minutes, until the onions are soft and golden.
3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the lamb steaks and cook for two to three minutes on each side, until browned. Transfer the lamb steaks to the rack of a grill pan while you prepare the topping.
4. Add the garam masala, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, salt and sugar to the pan with the onions and cook, stirring continuously, for one minute. Tip the spiced onions into the bowl of a food processor and crumble in the ginger biscuits. Process the biscuit and onion mixture to a thick, smooth paste, then divide the mixture between the lamb steaks and spread out in an even layer.
5. Grill/broil the steaks for four to five minutes, until the lamb is bubbling and the paste has formed a golden crust. Serve hot.
Nisha Katona’s chicken, coconut and pineapple curry
2 thumb-sized pieces fresh root ginger, peeled
5tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (approx. 600g/1lb 5oz), chopped into 2cm/3⁄4in cubes
2tbsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground turmeric
1⁄4tsp chilli powder
100g/31⁄2oz creamed coconut
400ml/14fl oz canned coconut milk
2 green chillies, finely sliced
1tsp brown sugar
10 chunks canned pineapple, cut into 1–2cm/1⁄2–3⁄4in pieces
100g/31⁄2oz roasted salted cashew nuts
Small handful fresh coriander/cilantro, finely chopped, to garnish
1 red chilli, finely sliced, to garnish
Cooked rice, or flatbreads, to serve
1. Finely mince one of the pieces of ginger and slice the other into fine matchsticks. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and minced ginger and fry, stirring continuously, for eight minutes, until golden brown. Add the chicken to the pan and stir to combine with the onions, then add the garam masala, ground coriander, ground turmeric and chilli powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, to seal the chicken and coat it in the spices.
3. Add the creamed coconut, coconut milk, ginger matchsticks, sliced chillies, salt, sugar, pineapple and cashews to the pan and stir to combine, adding a little of the juice from the canned pineapple if the mixture is too dry. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for five to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Scatter with chopped coriander/cilantro and sliced red chilli, then serve hot with rice or wraps alongside.
30 Minute Mowgli by Nisha Katona is published by Nourish Books, priced £25. Photography Yuki Sugiura. Available now.