Today’s Tiffin


Anglo-Indian hard boiled eggs in a lentil sauce, and one of my all time favourites, chicken saagwala.   Plain basmati rice on the side. 

Anglo-Indian in this case does not mean English people of Indian extraction (the term usually used to describe such folk in the UK media is British Asian, and in India, NRIs) but the rather less well known people who are descendants of the unions between East India Company-employed European men and their Indian wives.  Contrary to popular belief and fashionable history, during the early days of British India – when beyond a few outposts on the eastern coast India was a vast unknown continent, and of every ten white men who disembarked at Calcutta eight would be dead within a year – many Company officers intermingled with the local populace, affected local dress and customs, learnt Hindi and Persian and being both young and single, took Indian wives.   I remember reading somewhere – probably a William Dalrymple book – that in the early part of the 19th century, a third of all Company workers’ wills left estates to their Indian bibis.  In addition to the Company officers, there were many other European men who settled in India and would have left descendants: pressed sailors who had jumped ship on arrival, wanderers and tradesmen from the Continent looking to make money and the huge numbers of white mercenaries who took up employment with the local rulers (these included such legendary gentlemen of fortune as Benoit de Boigne and Paolo di Avitabile; their masters being Scindia and Ranjit Singh, respectively).  Probably one of the most famous “country-born” heroes of British India was James ‘Sikander Sahib’ Skinner; his career from Maharatta mercenary to Commander-in-Chief of the lengendary yellow-coated Skinner’s Horse (a cavalry regiment that exists to this day) is a fascinating tale.   Anyway, this dish comes from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe book and is quite excellent; made with a mixture of masoor and chana dahl, with no spices other than turmeric but with buckets of flavour from fried onions, garlic and green chillies, it is perfect bento/tiffin material.


8 responses to “Today’s Tiffin

  1. Adam, I love your tiffins! And I’d love them even more if you shared the recipes, or at least the exact name of the source. I have a number of Jaffrey books, and would love to know where this came from, for example.

  2. Hi Maninas:
    The Anglo-Indian egg and lentil recipe is straight from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Ultimate Curry Bible”. I would not reprint such a recipe here when people should be buying the book instead!
    The chicken sagwala is of my own invention, largely based on the dish served at my favourite Pakistani/NWFP restaurant back home in London.

  3. Thanks for naming your source! 🙂
    I agree, people should buy the book. I’ve got it, and I love it. I also have the Taste of India and the Flavours of India, both of which are absolutely fantastic.

  4. Maninas:
    Taste of India is one of my favourite recipe books; wonderful stories and photography too. ‘Indian Cookery’ is the one that got me started in Indian cooking many years ago.
    Have you read her autobiographical ‘Climbing the Mango Trees’? Excellent read with recipes too.

  5. No, I haven’t, though you’ve definitely intrigued me now! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it.

    If you like Taste of India, you migh like Flavours of India even more. It focuses only on 6 states, but it goes into more depth, and the recipes are a real joy. I’ve cooked lots from it, though I haven’t had it for that long.

  6. I forgot to add that Flavours of India is probably my favourite cookbook I own.

  7. Thanks, I’ll definitely look it up!
    Also, if you do give the Anglo-Indian egg/lentil recipe a try, I highly recommend you add a generous pinch of hing (asafoetida) when frying the onion-garlic-ginger mixture!

  8. Will do! Thanks for the tip!

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