Indian YMCA is a new meatball and salted cod favourite find. Situated in the slightly unlikely neighbourhood of Fitzrovia, it is super-cheap, friendly and very unpretentious. The atmosphere is nice, especially if you like talkative neighbours. It’s a bit like a school canteen – if only canteen food had ever been delicious and the food ladies were nice old Indian chefs instead of intimidating force feeders.
On the day we went, we had a good meaty mutton curry (long cooking made it taste very rich and full of lamb, but given the price one shouldn’t expect too much from the meat), a tarka dhal which was smoky and delicious, and a tangy and spicy Goan fish masala, which made the Salted Cod recollect Portuguese fish stew (stemming from historical links between Goa and Portugal). To this we had rice, chapatis and popadoms, which were fine, really tangy mango pickle, cooling yoghurt (needed for the fish!), wonderful herby raita, and onion bhajis which were nice but not freshly made (the only thing that suffered for not coming straight from the fry).
We had lots to eat, beside which there is also a chicken curry, vegetable lentils, chickpea curry, mango chutney, mixed salad and mango lassi to choose from.
If you go two of you, pick random curries and condiments and make your own little thali at the table. But if you are on your own you are still in good company: there are lots of lone-eaters here and going on your own would not feel awkward. There is probably higher likelihood someone tries to start conversation with you, though. The chefs behind the food counter are helpful, and you just pick and mix whatever dishes you like (they are already dished up in small bowls, but it’s all newly made and given the lively queue it is doubtful much of it stands for long). Water is free and already placed at the table. We paid 11.50 for both of us, were very satisfied and absolutely stuffed leaving the place. In fact, we couldn’t finish it all.
Given the home-cooked flavours and the friendly atmosphere coupled with the incredibly good-values price, we award it 8 meatballs out of 10. As usual, you can find this place through the Meatball and Salted cod map of London here.
Last week I went home to visit my parents who, surprisingly, do not live in the land of salted cod, but in Paris! Every visit home is a chance to indulge in all the amazing food and ingredients Paris has to offer (I will soon be doing a mini-guide to Paris).
Among many meals this one stood out, especially as it is a French classic. It can obviously be made outside of France as most of the ingredients are easily available (you can substitute Toulouse sausages for Cumberland sausages or use normal green lentils instead of Puy lentils). This is my version of Saucisses de Toulouse aux Lentilles du Puy, which might be slightly different from the classic recipe.
You will need (for six):
- 1 large onion, finely chopped.
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped.
- Half a Spanish or Portuguese chorizo, sliced roughly.
- 1,5 kg of Toulouse (if you can find it) sausage meat, cut in pieces.
- 650 g of Puy Lentils, rinsed (or other green lentils).
- Some rosemary sprigs.
- A glass of red wine.
- Half a litre of beef stock.
- Salt and Pepper.
1. Start by browning the meat in some olive oil. When all sides are brown, remove from the pan and reserve.
2. Using the same pan fry chorizo for a few minutes on a medium heat and then add the onion and carrot. When the vegetables become soft, add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.
3. Turn the heat up, add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
4. Turn the heat down, add the sausages, the lentils and the rosemary and mix well. Add the stock (adding enough more water, if needed, to cover everything.
5. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
- 1 potato (if you use a King edward variety they will become really soft and gooey, which I like, but if you prefer consistency then get something firmer)
- 2 carrots
- 2 deciliters red lentils
- Fresh spinach
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely, chopped
- 1 cm ginger, finely chopped
- Garam masala. I use a Swedish variety which until recently was the only thing named “curry” you could get in Sweden. (Saying you fancy a curry to a Swede might have the same effect as if you asked for some nutmeg to eat.) A good thing about Swedish curry, however, is that it is a sweet, mild and nutty variant of garam masala with plenty of turmeric, and it is delicious.
- 1 litre stock (I have a massive thing for veal stock at the moment, which has a very delicate and soft flavour. This ruins the dish for vegetarians, but you can of course make this with veggie or mushroom stock)
- Chili flakes
Start by frying the onion in a bit of oil, then peel and chop the garlic and ginger and add into the oinons together with the garam masala to fry for a few minutes. Rinse the lentils and add them to the pan together with the stock and chili. Peel the carrots and potato, and chop in rough bits. Add these to the boiling lentils in the pan, and bring the heat down for it to simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils have softened and the potatoes and carrots gone the right consistency. Taste with salt and cinnamon, and stir in the fresh spinach so that it folds and softens.
The result is a yellow mix between a soup and a stew, not too dissimilar to Innocent’s Indian daal pot (but at 15% of the price). Serve on its own, or together with some cheese grilled bread.