Healthier recipes for three Indian dishes | Cook residency

Cook residency: Indian food doesnt have to swim in fat curry-house style to taste wonderful. With three vibrant recipes, our resident reveals how she made her cooking healthier without compromising flavor …

My two girls, Reet and Neev, were both born in Britain. We feed a huge various forms of foods at home: some British, some Indian, and some that riff on both cuisines. Food is an important part of our lives, and as a mother Im conscious of my responsibility to teach them how to feed themselves. That entails setting a good example.

The Asian community is in the major at risk group for heart disease, and, nine years ago, I worried about my own heart health. Appearing in the mirror, I insured a woman who had never lost her baby weight and who, fuelled by curries induced with creamy sauces and pounds of ghee, continued to get fatter. I decided to do something about it, combining exercise with a change in my cooking practices.

Many people will believe Indian food and image curries swimming in oil. And this is often the occurrence. The clarified butter we call ghee is a staple across the country; oils are utilized abundantly in marinades and many recipes involve deep frying, too, such as the unleavened bread known as puri, jalebi( a sweet, deep-fried wheat batter ), Keralan banana chips, samosas the listing goes on.

But Indian food doesnt have to be bad for you! Its easy to accentuate it with spicing and powerful flavours, without excessive sums of fat or sugar. Im still enjoying all the same dishes I used to, but have modified my ingredients and methods, deconstructing Indian cuisine to suit my wants. Where standard recipes call for tablespoons of ghee, I instead select teaspoons of rapeseed oil( lower in saturated fat and a good source of vitamin E) and often build intense stocks in a pressure cooker to heighten flavour.

ROMY If youre go looking for bright, fresh Indian dishes that dont sit heavily in the stomach, this weeks recipes fit the bill, says Romy. Photo: Elena Heatherwick for the Guardian

Like many Bengalis, I have a sweet tooth. Perhaps the hardest thing to give up was sugar, both added to chai tea, and in desserts. Now I substitute date sugar for the refined stuff in my cakes and Indian rice puddings, and enjoy lassis with roasted cumin and black salt instead of sugary ones. Ive had to retrain both my palate and cookery palette, inducing sure I cook as much as I can from scratch to stay aware of what goes in. Its be paid for: Ive lost over three stone as a result.

If youre looking for bright, fresh Indian dishes that dont sit heavily in the stomach, this weeks recipes fit the bill. The roasted aubergines feature garlic and a variety of spices and, importantly, a beautifully rich charred flavour that doesnt rely on saturated fat. I use rapeseed oil for the pan-frying stage, rather than the typical vegetable oil or ghee. I roast the aubergines over a gas burner( but they can also be done in the oven if you use an electric or ceramic hob ); roasting them in such a way lends a smokiness and induces the skins easy to remove.

These pair perfectly with my refreshing mung dal salad with pomegranate, dressed with a vibrant concoction that uses merely a tiny quantity of oil alongside mustard, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Ultimately, theres my recipe for chicken promptly marinated with dried fenugreek foliages, which lend the meat a specific bitter note, balanced here by the honey. All this is proof I hope that healthy food neednt be second rate or day consuming, and that the Indian culinary canon is as conducive to a healthy lifestyle as any other.

Smoky roasted aubergines

Serves 4
4 aubergines
4 tsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
4 green chillies, finely chopped
4 tsp fresh coriander foliages, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt, to taste

1 Char the aubergines on a gas burner over a medium hot, turning regularly for even roasting. When roasted, set aside to cool. Once cooled, peel the skins from the roasted aubergines, then mash.

2 Heat the oil in a nonstick pan. Add the cumin seeds, then immediately add the sliced garlic and stir for a minute. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes on a high hot. Keep stirring.

3 Add the chopped tomatoes, green chillies and coriander and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the spices and the salt. Mix well.

4 Add the mashed aubergine, encompass the pan and cook for five minutes over a low heat.

spices Indian food doesnt have to be bad for you! says Romy. Its easy to accentuate it with spicing and powerful flavours. Photograph: Elena Heatherwick for the Guardian

Mung dal salad

Serves 4
200g mung dal
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of olive oil
tsp salt
Seeds from 2 pomegranates
8 small radishes, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 spring onions, chopped
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 Wash the mung dal well and soak in water overnight. Once ready, simmer the soaked mung dal for 10 minutes. Drain the water.

2 Add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to a bowl. Add the olive oil and salt, then mix well.

3 Combine all the other ingredients together, then add the dal. Add the mung dal and mix very well. Encompass the bowl with clingfilm and preferably let the salad rest for a while before serving.

Chicken drumsticks with dried fenugreek leaves

Serves 4
500g chicken drumsticks
Juice of a lemon
Salt, to taste
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
4 tsp ginger, grated
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp honey
4 tsp dried fenugreek foliages( not seeds)
2 red onions, finely sliced
2 green chillies, chopped

1 Slice the chicken( near the bone if your pieces have them ), then marinade the meat in the lemon juice, salt and turmeric powder for around 10 minutes.

2 Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaves. Add the ginger, then cook for a minute. Add the marinated chicken on a high hot. Maintain moving until the chicken is brown on all sides.

3 Add the soy sauce, honey and dried fenugreek leaves, mix well, and cook for another minute. Add the sliced red onions and green chillies. Mix all the ingredients well and cook on a medium heat. Maintain stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked approximately 15 -2 0 minutes if boneless and 30 -3 5 minutes with bones.

4 Once cooked, cover the pan and let the chicken remainder before serving.

Romy Gill is head chef-owner of Romys Kitchen, in Gloucestershire; @romyskitchen