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Classic Indian Dishes - Starters

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Classic Indian Starters Indian

We’ve gathered together the recipes for some of our favourite Indian starters. While these will give you a base from which to work don’t forget you can adjust the spices and ingredients to suit your own tastes.


  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 80 ml warm water
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and some of the water. Using your hands, draw the mixture in and combine it to make a firm dough, adding more water as necessary. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover in clingfilm and set aside for 30 minutes.


  • ½ lb minced lamb
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the lamb mince. Pour away excess fat. Set aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan and toss the cumin and cardamom in it for 1 minute. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garam masala and stir well. Continue frying for another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Vegetarian Filling

  • 2 potatoes
  • ½ cup peas
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and boil or microwave the potatoes until just cooked. Dice. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and toss around for about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder. Stir well and fry for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and continue to fry for another 2 minutes. Add the chopped coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool.

To Bring it All Together

Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Taking each piece in turn, with your hand, roll it into a ball and then flatten it out to make a circle of 5” diameter. Cut in half.Brush the edges with water and make a cone shape. Place some filling inside - don't overfill - then fold over the remaining edge and seal it by pressing gently.

Deep fry the samosas a few at a time in hot oil until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen towel.

  • You can oven-bake, on a lightly greased baking tray, at 200oC, gas mark 6, for about 20 minutes. Samosas cooked in the oven won’t be as crispy as deep-fried ones though.
  • Alternatively use ready-made filo pastry for deep-fried samosas or puff pastry for oven-baked.
  • Try serving with mint or tomato chutney.

Onion Bhaji

  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Oil for frying
Fry the onions until slightly softened. Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl. Make a batter by adding the eggs, milk and a little water to give you a smooth but slightly runny mixture. Add the onion and stir well.

Heat some oil in a wok or deep fryer and drop in spoonfuls of the batter. Fry until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen towel.Serve with a selection of chutneys.

In Indian restaurants you’ll see a number of dishes called ‘Chaat’. It literally means ‘lick’ and it can refer to a spice blend or to a salad that uses that spice blend. You can buy chaat masala from Asian groceries or you can make your own.

Chaat Masala

  • 2 tablespoons amchoor (dried mango powder – available from Asian groceries)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black salt (available from Asian groceries – if you can’t find it, don’t try to find a substitute, just leave it out)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all the spices together using a mortar and pestle if necessary to get rid of any lumps. Store in an air-tight container.

Alu Chaat

  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • Tamarind chutney
  • Mint chutney
  • Oil for frying
Peel and chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Heat oil in a wok or deep fryer and fry the potatoes until golden and cooked through. Drain on kitchen towel.

Put the potatoes in a bowl with the spices and mix well. Add the chutneys to taste and serve garnished with chopped coriander.

Chana Chaat

  • 2 cups tinned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup paneer (available from Asian grocers, large supermarkets and delicatessens)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • 2 teaspoons coriander leaves, chopped
Cut the paneer into cubes. Peel the cucumber and dice. Peel and chop the onion. Mix the chickpeas, paneer, cucumber, onion with the tomato ketchup and chaat masala. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

Lamb Kebab

  • 1 lb lamb (use boned shoulder or neck fillet)


  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
Make the paste by mixing all the ingredients together. Cut the lamb into small cubes and cover with the paste. Leave to marinate for several hours.Thread the lamb on skewers and brush with oil. Cook under a medium grill until done, turning occasionally.

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