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Delicious Indian food... without all the calories

Ella Walker leafs through a quality new release by Asian grub aficionado Dan Toombs

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Dan Toombs

Dan Toombs

Baked onion bhajis

Baked onion bhajis

Dan Toombs

Blogger-turned-cookbook author Dan Toombs may not have Indian heritage, but he has spent the last 30 years cooking and falling in love with food from all over India and Asia, with a particular passion for curries - the kind you get in a British takeaway, as well as more regional dishes full of flavour and colour.

Dan began documenting his recipe experiments online and is now celebrating his fourth cookbook. The Curry Guy Light. Here's what we think of it.

Who will love it?

Those who are trying to wean themselves off their takeaway habit, those looking for heat and spice, those interested in learning to make a few new curries and those who are trying to slim down but not scrimp on flavour.

What is it trying to get us cooking?

All your favourite curries and chutneys, from Kashmiri chicken and chicken tikka masala, to tarka dal and lime pickle - just slightly healthier versions than usual. Toombs has cut the fat, gone big on veg and notes calories and carbs on every page, so if you're keeping count, you can stay on track quite easily. There are also quite a few dishes you might not be so familiar with, like fragrant swordfish ambot tik, a burnished squid roast and bamboo-cooked seafood.

How easy is it to use?

Relatively straightforward. Of course, making a curry from scratch takes far more processes and stages than ordering one in, so the recipes can be a little wordy at times, but once you've got your larder fully prepped and your rice on, you should be fine.

Overall rating

I'd give it a 7/10 - it's a really helpful book if you're trying to cut your calories but don't want to skimp on spice. Toombs' full-fat versions are definitely more luxurious, though.

Baked onion bhajis

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

  • 3 large onions (about 600g)
  • 1tsp fine sea salt
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • ¼tsp ground turmeric
  • ¾tsp ground coriander
  • 3tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 2 green bird's eye chillies, finely chopped
  • ¼tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 100g chickpea flour
  • 1 ½tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • Chutney or raita of your choice, to serve

METHOD

1. Peel and finely slice the onions. Cut each slice into 3cm pieces. Place the onions in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, mixing very well with your hands. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes or up to three hours. When ready to form the bhajis, squeeze the onions with your hands to release the water into the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients - up to and including the chilli powder - to the bowl, and give everything a good stir.

2. Now sift the chickpea flour over the onion mixture and mix well. There should be enough water released from the salted onions to form a batter that sticks the onions together, like you would expect a bhaji to stick together. If too dry, you could add a drop of water, but I have never found this to be necessary. If you add too much water, just sift in a little more flour. Mix in the oil with your hands so that the onions are evenly coated.

3. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/gas 6). Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray (do not use foil as the bhajis will stick to it). Using a spoon or your hands, make 20 equal-sized onion balls and place them on the parchment paper. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remember, ovens vary, so check the bhajis from time to time. Serve with a good chutney and/or raita.

Note: If you would rather deep-fry the bhajis for up to 27 extra calories per bhaji, heat 10cm (4 inches) of rapeseed (canola) oil to 165C/330F in a wok or saucepan, and fry them for about two minutes - until just turning brown. The bhajis will probably still be a bit raw in the middle. Remove from the oil and heat the oil to 185C/365F, then fry again for about two more minutes until crispy and brown and completely cooked through. You will need to do this in batches. Transfer to paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

MAKES 20

The Curry Guy Light by Dan Toombs is published by Quadrille, priced £15. Photography Kris Kirkham. Available now

Belfast Telegraph