HomeLifestyleFood & RecipesThree simple and delicious plant-based Indian recipes

Three simple and delicious plant-based Indian recipes

This is a vegetarian take on the classic Parsi dish of meat (usually mutton) cooked in a lentil and vegetable base, known as dhansak,” says chef and founder of the Mowgli Street Food restaurant chain, Nisha Katona.

“Hearty and comforting, a good dhansak should be spicy, tangy and a little sweet. Here, aubergine replaces the traditional mutton and soaks up the flavours of the sauce just as beautifully. It can easily be eaten on its own or with some chapatis and brown rice.”

Aubergine dhansak

A vegetarian take on the classic Parsi dish dhansak

(Gareth Morgans/PA)

Serves: 4


100g dried red lentils

3 garlic cloves

2.5cm piece of fresh ginger

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cinnamon stick

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 large aubergine, finely chopped

1 potato, finely chopped

1 tsp salt, or as needed

2 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tbsp tomato purée/paste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sugar, or as needed

Up to 450ml boiling water

2 handfuls of kale, leaves only, torn

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tsp garam masala


1. In a bowl, cover the dried lentils with boiling water and leave to soak for 20 minutes.

2. Blitz the garlic and ginger to a fine paste in a food processor.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, wide pan that has a lid over a medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon and stir for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the red onion. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and ginger paste and cook for a further minute. Add the chopped aubergine and potato with the salt and stir together before adding the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, spices and the sugar. Cover with the pan lid and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.

4. Add the lentils, plus their soaking liquid, and 350ml of the boiling water to the pan. Cover and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked and soft. Keep an eye on the water level and don’t let it get too dry.

5. Stir in the kale until wilted, then add the lemon juice and garam masala. Before serving, taste for seasoning, adding salt or sugar, as needed. Add more water if it’s looking a bit dry.

To drink

Indaba ‘Braai’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019, Western Cape, South Africa

A softer style, smoky Cab is ideal with Aubergine! Buy now

Paneer, cashew and mango curry

A fruity, nutty, creamy, sunshiney delight

(Gareth Morgans/PA)

“A fruity, nutty, creamy, sunshiney delight, this dish is a real lift to the senses. Make sure you get large, ripe mangoes for optimum flavour. It is easily doubled to serve four.”

Serves: 2


2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ tsp black mustard seeds

1 red onion, roughly chopped

2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

1 green chilli, finely chopped

2 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

225g paneer, chopped into small chunks

½ large mango, flesh diced into 1cm pieces

50g cashew nuts

50g coconut cream

100ml water, or as needed

Lemon juice, to taste

Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped


1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan that has a lid over a medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let sizzle, then add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until starting to soften.

2. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and green chilli, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the ground spices, chilli powder, salt and sugar.

3. Add the paneer and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until starting to colour all over, then add the diced mango, cashews, coconut cream and measured water. Cover with the pan lid and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until the paneer is cooked through, adding a splash more water if needed.

4. Season with lemon juice and garnish with the chopped coriander before serving.

To drink

Domaine de la Coume de Roy ‘Alma’ Carignan, 2015, Languedoc, France

Carignan is a great choice for curries like this with its lighter body and complex aromas, this one has a bit of age which will just add to its complexity. Buy now

Mowgli sticky fingers

These sticky ‘wings’ are a great starter or snack

(Gareth Morgans/PA)

“What happens when the famous Mowgli sticky wings go veggie? This is what happens! My classic naughty, sweet, dark glaze works just as beautifully with paneer, so there’s no need for anyone to miss out on all the finger-licking fun. These make a great starter or snack and they are good to enjoy with a few other bits of finger food.”

Serves: 3-4


2 tbsp date syrup

1 tbsp black treacle/molasses

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp garam masala

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp black mustard seeds

4 tsp dark rumJuice of 1 lime

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp salt

(Gareth Morgans/PA)

1 x 226g pack of paneer, cut into fingers

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Fresh herbs, to garnish (optional)


1. Add all the ingredients, except the paneer, oil and herbs, to a saucepan, stir to combine and set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. Add the paneer fingers to the cooled marinade, mix until well coated and leave for 10 minutes to marinate.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. When hot, add the marinated paneer fingers and cook until caramelized all over, drizzling over a little of the marinade if the pan is looking dry.

4. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if you want.

To drink

Astoria ‘El Ruden’ Veneto Rosso, 2018, Veneto, Italy

By partially trying the grapes before vinification, this wine, whilst dry, retains enough sugar to balance the dates and ginger in these fingers. Buy now

Recipes from ‘Meat Free Mowgli’ by Nisha Katona (Nourish Books, £25; photography by Gareth Morgans).

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