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The world of raitas is an open pallet of flavour. It is essentially whisked yoghurt with either vegetables or other seasonings. The importance of raita is to have a creamy mild dish available for those guests who want to either calm the spice in the food or want to use it as a palate cleanser between bites. There are hundreds of versions of this dish with the most common variations having a finely grated vegetable (cucumber, onions, carrot) with mild spices and occasionally something sweet like raisins, dates or fruit. Pairing the correct raita with the meal is important and depends on whether the chef wants to enhance the flavours of the food or use it to calm the spices.

This is a North Indian variation that is beautiful. It is a very simple recipe, but the magic is in getting the perfect balance between the ginger and garlic without making them very dominant. The spicy mustard oil and chilli add the mildest hint of heat. I used this raita with a slow-cooked leg of lamb. The mild raita served to compliment the flavours of the deeply spiced meat.

This specialized cookbook brings to my library, and dining table, a variety of flavours, styles and diverse sets of dishes. The book also is wonderful at detailing the process of cooking a true biryani, versus the pulao and kichiri. I do enjoy this book for the diversity of flavours, from the super spicy South Indian biryanis to the regal Lucknowi and Hyderabadi biryanis to the mild and delicate North Indian biryanis. This is one of those cookbooks that anyone interested in the art of biryani should own. You will see me cook from here again.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


2 cups hung, or Greek yoghurt

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 tablespoon ginger paste

2 garlic cloves, minced and pasted

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons mustard oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 dried red chilli

For this recipe you need hung, or Greek yoghurt for very thick raita. Whip the yoghurt with a whisk till very smooth. Add the cumin, ginger, garlic and salt and whisk in to mix well. Taste and adjust salt and spice. You want a good flavour of the ginger and garlic but it should not be too dominating. Pour into a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a small vessel and add the mustard seeds, when they splutter add the chilli and take off the heat. Pour over the yoghurt.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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