Urban Rajah reveals the spice of life

Posted on: 14 May 2013 by 50connect editorial

Ivor Peters, food writer, cook and traveller shares his love affair with curry through these sumptuous family recipes.

The curry industry in Britain is estimated at £1.8bn and employs over 60,000 people. It is fair to say curry has become an integral part of our staple diet but few of us are aware of what ‘authentic’ means when it comes to Britain’s favourite food - how it is cooked and what makes it so sublime. Instead we have been patronised with dumbed - down versions of wonderfully spiced dishes through the provision of gooey mixtures that slime their way out of jars. ‘No more!’ cries self-proclaimed Urban Rajah, Ivor Peters. The search for homemade, straightforward fragrant food ends here.

The Urban Rajah (aka Ivor Peters) is a food writer, cook, traveller and lifestyle adventurer with roots deep in the Indian Subcontinent. A second generation immigrant and a son of 70s Britain he grew up on hot summers, street cricket and spiced Indian food which has narrated his life. Terraced living in Slough was shared with his brother, mother, father and a pair of orange curtains.

His cookbook tells the story of his love affair with curry through over 80 familial recipes. A practical, easy to follow and inspirational cookbook, it expresses his family’s food story through the eyes of the men in his family. Humorous, engaging, vivid, brave, delicate and abundant it’s through their stories he provides access to family recipes which have been passed down through 3 generations and crossed 3 continents. They’ve survived and thrived in an era of immigration.

Ladies fingersLadies’ Fingers


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 7.5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
  • 400g okra, washed, dried, topped and tailed
  • 2 fat tomatoes, chopped, retaining seeds and skin
  • Salt and pepper

This spiced okra is so straightforward it’s laughable. Over a medium heat, warm the oil and then pop in the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the cumin seeds for a minute, then slide in the onions and garlic. Let the onions soften until opaque, then drop in the chillies and ground coriander, and stir for a couple of minutes, coating everything with everything.

Add the ginger and push around the pan vigorously. The aroma will assault you, and when it does, it’s time to introduce the okra. Like ladies’ fingers, they’re delicate and need to be treated with care. So gently push them around the pan for around 2 minutes until they turn a deeper shade of green, then add the tomatoes for sharpness, season with salt and pepper and cook over a high heat for a further 5–6 minutes. The bhindi should feel on the verge of al dente, but not stringy. 


Chappli KebabsChappli Kebabs

Serves 6–8


  • 6 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into large chunks
  • 6 green chillies
  • 10cm fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 750g lamb or beef mince
  • 1 tsp garam masala (see page XX)
  • 3 tbsp gram (chickpea) flour
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil, enough for shallow-frying (around 5mm depth in a frying pan)

These round ‘sandal’-shaped minced lamb or beef kebabs are a popular barbecue snack. In a food processor, blend the coriander leaves, onion, chillies, ginger, and coriander and cumin seeds. In a large bowl, combine the mince, garam masala, flour and blended ingredients, and season with salt (reserve the oil). Get your hands stuck in and mix everything thoroughly. 

Grease your hands with a little oil, tear off walnut-sized pieces and roll into balls. You should aim to have around 24. Now, with your thumb or the heel of your hand, gently flatten each ball, shaping them into an oval of around 2cm depth, until they look like the sole of a sandal, i.e. a chappal.

Over a medium heat, warm the oil in a large frying pan. Test if it’s ready by tossing in a cumin seed – if the seed fizzes and swims it’s good to go. Slide in a few kebabs at a time, cooking in a single layer for around 3–4 minutes on each side until browned. 

Serve scorching hot with Sweet and Sour Tomato Chutney.


Sindhi FishSindhi Fish Fry

Serves up to 8


  • 8 white fish fillets, such as haddock, plaice or Vietnamese cobbler
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, bashed up
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp garam masala (see page XX)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil, enough to fry

Take a large plastic bag and pop in everything apart from the fish and the oil. Give it a good shake to combine all the dry ingredients. Now add one fillet at a time to the bag and rhythmically rustle it, coating the fish in the masala mix. Remove and do the same with the other fillets. 

In a large frying pan, add enough vegetable oil to fry the fish, approximately 5–7cm deep. Heat to a moderately high temperature and test whether it’s ready by dropping in a small cube of bread. If the bread fizzes and turns brown in 30 seconds, the oil is ready. Slip in a couple of fillets at a time and cook for around 4–5 minutes, gently turning over until it’s turned a gorgeous golden yellow and almost ready to flake. Drain on paper kitchen towels. 

Serve with lime chunks and tear apart with your fingers.



Serves 4–6 in smallish portions


  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 50g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 225g condensed milk
  • 3 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and pummelled into powder
  • 2 tbsp mixed raisins and cranberries
  • 2 tbsp mixed pecan and pistachio nuts, crushed (not powdered) 

Using a medium-sized pan, melt the butter over a low heat and, before it starts frothing, fry the vermicelli until golden brown.

Take the pan off the heat. In a separate pan, boil the milk, then add the condensed milk, vermicelli and cardamom powder, and cook for 3–4 minutes until the vermicelli (seviyan) becomes soft. Whilst hot, spoon into bowls and sprinkle the nuts and fruit over the surface. Stan’s seviyan can also be eaten cold.


Urban Rajah

Packed full of inspiring stories and generations-‐old recipes, THE URBAN RAJAH’S CURRY MEMOIRS opens the door into a world of family cooking that will teach us how to cook delicious curry in our own homes. So put down that jar of low-‐fat chicken tikka masala, rip up your takeaway menu and let Ivor lead you through a journey of spice that will leave you revelling in colour, yearning for the delicate smells of cardamom and cinnamon and desperate to tear a chapatti to shreds and plunge it into a curry feast of your own making.

The Urban Rajah's Curry Memoirs is available on Amazon from £11.04.

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