Welcome aboard!

Indian cuisine is a riot of colours, flavours, and spices. Every state has its own unique culture- ingrained taste bud. And, to many of us staying within familiar tastes is a sacrosanct act. Of course an occasional trip to a speciality restaurant that serves another fare is ok. But, as a matter of routine ...at home...NO!

One of the benefits of being born to parents who dared an interstate marriage (am talking about India of the 70's) was being able to widen a regional taste bud to accept, experiment and, relish eclectic cuisines :-)

I love food! Be it traditional or fusion, cooking is all about turning out fare that is tasty and healthy.I welcome all lovers of good food to come on aboard and share your kitchen adventures.

If you like what you see, do leave a comment. If you don't, please leave a suggestion to help me make this better.

You can also request for any recipe you want. Just leave a note in a comment box.

Happy cooking!


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green brinjal stir fry

Out here in Muscat, people seem to love Brinjals. The stalls are full of brinjals in different hues, shapes, and sizes! And, at 200 - 300 baizas (Rs.20-30 approx) per kilo, it's the cheapest veggie around too :-) . Here's a simple dish made of long, green brinjals.
Long, green brinjals - 250 gms
Onions - 2 medium sized
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Green chillies - 5 Nos
Cumin (jeera) - 5 gms
Black gram (uzhunnu/urad) - 10 gms
Mustard (kaduku) - 5 gms
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 4-5 sprigs
Salt to taste

Clean and cut brinjal into roundels. Slit green chillies. Chop onions and garlic.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet and add the black gram and saute till light brown. Add and crackle mustard. Put the garlic and onions and stir fry. Follow with the green chillies and turmeric powder. Add the brinjal roundels and stir fry in medium heat. Add he curry leaves and salt to taste.
Enjoy with plain steamed rice or chappathis.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shrikand (flavoured hung curd dessert)

My first taste of 'shrikand' was at my aunt's sister's place. The son-in-law of the house was a north indian and an ardent fan of shrikand. Sadly, his wife abhorred it ! As a result, whenever a guest turned up (this time us), he would happily feed them, along with himself, to a generous helping of readymade shrikand picked off supermarket shelves. To be honest, I did not quite like the over sweet, sour taste of the thing. Then recently had it again at a restaurant, the fresh variety this time, and fell head over heels in love! Made it at home yesterday, of course with minor variations to the traditional recipe ;-)
This is my entry to Paajaka's 'Sweet series event - cool desserts'.
Thick curd (plain yoghurt) - 500 g
Demerara sugar (brown sugar) - 2 teaspoons (10 gms)
Cardamom (elaichi) - 4 pods
Saffron - 4-5 strands
Pistachios - 10 Nos
Almonds - 10 Nos
Red pomegranate - 1 large

Place a large pored sieve over a deep vessal. Drape a thin muslin cloth over it. Now pour the yoghurt through this, cover with lid, and leave for 4-5 hours for the water to completely drain out. This is hung curd. Transfer to another container.

Dissolve the saffron in a teaspoon of warm milk.
Powder the cardamom. Crumble half the pistachios and almonds in a mixer. Add these, along with the sugar to the hung curd. Refridgerate for 1/2 an hour. Serve over a bed of pomegranate rubies. Garnish with silvered almonds and pistachios.

Yummy! especially when you know it's dessert that good for you! All those probiotics sans the calories!
The Paajaka 'Sweet series event - cool desserts' is on at http://www.paajaka.com/2008/07/announcing-sweet-series-cool-desserts.html

Ragi dosa (finger millet crepes)

Ragi (finger millet/nachani/kelvaragu/panjapullu), a nutritional treasure trove is a great source of the essential amino acid, methionine. Methionine is essential for vitality. Ragi, especially if sprouted, goes a long way in supplementing the nutritional deficiencies caused by a diet of highly refined cereals like white rice. My ragi dosa recipe owes its origin to my mom's aunt with whom I shared an apartment at Chennai, during my journalist days :-)

Ragi flour (you can buy it ready made, look for sprouted and ground varieties) - 2 cups (200 gms)
Black gram (urad dhal/uzhunnu) - 1/2 cup
Fenugreek seeds (methi/uluva/vendayam) - 5 gms
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Soak the black gram for an hour and grind to a fluffy batter (as you would for idli/dosa). Mix in the ragi flour with sufficient water to make a thick batter. Ensure there are no lumps. Let ferment overnight. Next morning add the cumin seeds and salt to taste. Add a little more water if the batter is too thick. This should be thinner than the ordinary rice dosa batter.
Heat a dosa pan (flat girdle) and rub a little sesame oil on using a kitchen tissue or muslin cloth. Pour out a ladleful of batter and make a thin dosa. Simmer cook till the side is crispy, turn over and repeat other side. Use a little more sesame oil, if you like the taste.

PS: Serve hot. If you make the entire lot and let it cool, the dosa loses its magic. The picture shows ragi dosa served with spicy puthina (mint) chutney.

Ragi kool is off to the JFI - Ragi event on at Madhuram's Eggless cooking

Horsegram chutney

In Tamil there's a saying 'Muthirai thinral kuthirai pole shakthi'. Translated, if you eat horsegram, you become as strong as a horse (remember, horsegram is fed to horses too :-).
However, it's a fact that horsegram is a great source of fibre, protein, and calcium. Here's a simple recipe popular in rural Tamil Nadu.

Horsegram - 1/2 cup (100gms approx)
Dry red chillies - 5-6 Nos
Garlic - 3 cloves
Curry leaves - as much as you wish
Salt to taste
Tamarind extract - 5 gms

Heat a thick bottomed skillet and dry roast the horsegram and garlic. Keep stirring to ensure even roasting. Add the dry red chillies and curry leaves . Roast till the chillies start turning colour and an aroma emanates. Cool.
Add tamarind and salt. Grind in a mixer or processor adding sufficient water.
Great accompaniment to idlis, dosas, or even plain steamed rice.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Venpongal is close to the tamilian heart. An integral part of Pongal, the harvest festival, venpongal is a wholesome mix of carbohydrates and proteins. The traditional way of preparing pongal calls for liberal quantities of ghee; the reason why most people who eat pongal for breakfast complain it makes them sleepy. In restaurants , ghee is supplemented by it's cheaper look alike, hydrogeonated vegetable oil. A greater health hazard!

I find that wonderful tasting pongal can be made sans the grease. Just add a little bit of milk to cook it.

Raw rice - 1 cup
Split green gram lentils (cherupayaru paruppu/moong dhal) - 1/2 cup
Ginger - 1" piece
Pepper corns - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin (jeera) - 1/2 teaspoon
Low fat milk - 1 cup
Salt to taste
Oil - 2 teaspoons
Water - 3 cups

Wash rice and lentils and drain. Chop ginger and add to rice and lentils. Add the milk and water to the rice mixture and pressure cook for 6 whistles. Once the pressure cooker is opened, add salt and mash the mixture well.
Crush the pepper corns lightly (so that they don't burst when frying). Heat oil and crackle the cumin and pepper corns.Add to the rice and mix well.
Serve piping hot with pottukadalai and malli chutney (roasted gram and cilantro dip). Watch this page for the chutney recipe tommorrow.

PS: Roasted cashewnuts can be added as an optional garnish

Friday, July 25, 2008

Beetroot mezhukkuvaratti (Stir fried beets)

Beets are rich in potassium, manganese, and folates. They are acclaimed to be natural cholestrol busters. Their high 'soluble fibre' content helps optimize high cholestrol levels while the flavonoid and caretenoid content prevent oxidization of the bad cholestrol 'LDL' in the arteries.
The red pigment abundant in beets are also said to have anti-cancer properties.
Beetroot - 3 medium sized
Garlic - 3 cloves
Green chillies - 5 Nos
For the seasoning
Broken black gram (urad/uzhunnu) - 1 teaspoon (5 gms)
Yellow lentils (toor dhal/sambhar paruppu) - 2 teaspoons ( 10 gms)
Dry red chillies - 3 Nos
Curry leaves - 4 sprigs
Olive oil - 1 teaspoon
Pressure/ Steam cook the whole beets with the jackets on. Cool, peel and cut into strips. Chop the garlic and slit the green chillies. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the black gram and yellow lentils. Stir fry till they change colour. Add the dry red chillies and curry leaves. Add the garlic and saute. Add the beets and saute till the flavours mix. Add the green chillies and saute till the green chillies start to wilt. Add salt to taste.
Serve with plain steamed rice.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Butter beans pilav

I love the creamy texture of butter beans. And when I like something , I look for ways to include it into everyday cooking, in simple yet unique ways. Here's a yummy, wholesome recipe that's so very easy to cook.

Any long grained rice (jeera rice/basmati/good quality raw rice) - 1 cup
Dried white butter beans (double beans/lima beans/madagascar beans) - 1 cup
Onions - 1 medium sized
Green chillies - 5 Nos
Fennel (perumjeerakam/saunf) - 1 teaspoon (5 gms)
Coconut milk - 1 cup (the instant one works well)
Salt to taste

Soak the butter beans overnight. Wash the rice well and drain. Finely slice the onions and slit the green chillies. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pressure cooker and add the fennel seeds. Stir till it turns light brown and add the green chillies and onions. Saute till the onions turn translucent and the fennel leaves a heady aroma. Add the washed rice. Mix the coconut milk to 2 1/2 cups of water and add to pressure cooker. Cook for 5 whistles. Let cool and seperate grains with a fork. Add salt to taste.

PS: Always soak butter beans overnight and cook well. Raw butter beans contain cyanogens.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Banana flower and Green gram thoran (Vazha chundum cherupayarum)

Thoran is part of everyday eating down south. A 'thoran' is a simple dish made with any vegetable with a little bit of seasoning thrown in. In Kerala it is called thoran and is seasoned with coconut, cumin, shallots, green chillies and at times garlic with a large measure of curry leaves thrown in. In Tamil Nadu, it is 'poriya'l seasoned with onions, green chillies, and garlic. It's 'Pallya' in Karnataka and more or less similar to the tamilian version.
Banana flowers are a great source of Vitamin A and C. Traditional Indian wisdom propounds the beneficiary effects of the banana flower in women as a natural uterine tonic. Green gram is a great source of good protein.

Banana flower (vazha chundu) - 1 medium sized
Green gram (moong/cheru payar) - 1 cup
Curry leaves - 3-4 sprigs
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Dry red chillies - 3 Nos
Salt to taste
For masala seasoning
Small onions (shallots) - 4 Nos
Garlic - 3 Nos
Green chillies - 4 Nos
Cumin (jeera) - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder (cayenne pepper) - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Peel of the outer magenta coloured petals of the banana flower. Finely chop the creamish white interior portion of the flower. Wash them in a bowl of salted water. Soak the green gram for an hour. Pour adequate water in a skillet and cook the green gram in it. When the green gram is 3/4th cooked and the water is evaporated, add the finely chopped banana flowers and simmer covered.
Grind all the ingredients of the masala to a coarse paste. Add to the green gram- banana flower mixture and saute for a couple of minutes till a fragrance emanates.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in another skillet. Crackle the mustard seeds, and saute the dry red chillies and curry leaves. Add to the green gram- banana flower mixture. add salt to taste.
Great accompaniment to plain, steamed rice.
PS: Rub a little oil on hands before cleaning and chopping the banana flowers to prevent staining.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Falafel with garlic labenah dip and salad

Just after our betrothal, my husband got posted to Beirut, Lebanon.So, our first home after marriage was the mediterranean country. The native population speak arabic and french, very few knew English. Born with a very dominant social streak, I cannot survive without friends...but the language was a barrier, initially!

We lived in a serviced apartment which sent in a native lady to clean the place. Within days, we became friends..if that was ever possible between two people with a wide age difference, different backgrounds, and who virtually did not understand a single word the other one spoke! She introduced me to mediterranean cuisine... Where she couldnt explain the ingredients to me...she wrote down the names of items I should buy at the supermarket in Arabic. I just took it to the nearby mart and got the sales assistants to read the slip and get me stuff. At home , my friend demonstarated hummus, falafel, and a few other very yummy recipes. The falafel recipe I give is hers modified a bit with the help of other recipes I found on the internet.

Falafel is made of chick peas,a great source of protein, zinc, and folates.Parsley, which is thrown in a good measure, is a treasure trove of vitamins, C, K, A, potassium and fiber.
Protein content in 100 gms of chickpeas - 10 g (approx)

White chickpeas (kabuli channa) - 1 cup
Chopped onions - 1 cup
Chopped parsley - 150 gms
Chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) - 50 gms
Pepper powder - 10gms
Chopped garlic - 5 gms (about 3 cloves)
Wheat flour - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Good quality oil for deep frying

Soak the chickpeas overnight and pressure cook for five whistles. Drain. Mash them up in a food processor. As they granulate, add all the other ingredients except wheat flour. Add the wheat flour last, little by little, and knead with hand into a dough. Shape little lemon sized balls out of the dough and slightly flatten them with palm.
Heat oil in a skillet. Add the balls. Fry till all sides turn a choclatey brown.
For garnish
Finely sliced cucumber - 2
Salt to taste

For Garlic labenah dip
Hung curd - 200 ml
Crushed garlic - 1 clove
Freshly squeezed lemon juice - 20 ml
Salt to taste

To make 'hung curd' place a large pored sieve over a deep vessal. Drape a thin muslin cloth over it. Now pour the yoghurt through this, cover with lid, and leave for 4-5 hours for the water to completely drain out.

Blend all ingredients together to make a smooth dip.

Serve hot falafel with cucumber salad and garlic labenah dip.
PS: Add only sufficient wheat flour to bind the dough. Too much can spoil the taste.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Indian cottage cheese in spinach gravy (palak paneer)

Palak paneer is a popular Indian dish. There exist many variations to the recipe. Some people overload the simple dish with spices. Some others, like the expat celebrity chef I saw on TV the other day, choose to boil lots of water , cook the spinach in it, drain the water and dunk the leaves in cold water! I was outraged at the sheer waste of all those fabulous nutrients. Greens are delicate store houses of nutrients. Treat them easy! I like my palak paneer simple. The dish tastes yummy too. Do try and let me know what you think...
Spinach (palak)- 2 bunches
Onion - 1 big (finely chopped)
Green chillies - 3 Nos
Ginger - 1 short piece
Cumin (jeera) - 1/4 teaspoon
Low fat paneer (cottage cheese) - 200 gms
Milk - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Cream for garnish

Clean and rinse out the spinach well.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick skillet, add the cumin and let crackle. Add the onions, ginger, green chillies and saute till onions turn translucent. Put in the spinach and simmer cook with a lid on. Cook only till the leaves wilt (about 5 minutes).Cool and grind in a mixer bowl.

Cut the paneer into small cubes and place in chilled water for few minutes. Drain. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet. Add the paneer and stir fry till the cubes start browning. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and fry again. Pour the spinach mixture in. Simmer for a minute and add the milk. Add salt to taste and keep on low fire for a couple of minutes. Taste to check if the raw flavour has left the gravy. Take off flame. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a squirt of cream on top.
PS: At home , I sometimes avoid the cream. Save the fat for parties :-)

Tinda and Potato masala

For the uninitiated, Tinda or the Indian round-gourd/apple-gourd is a green, squash like vegetable shaped very like an apple. Quite a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins, tinda is more common in North Indian cuisine.
Tinda (indian round-gourd/apple gourd) - 4
Potatoes - 2 medium sized
Onions - 2
Ginger - 1" piece
Garlic - 4 cloves
Curry leaves - 4 sprigs
Red chilli powder (cayeene pepper) - 1 teaspoon (5gms)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin (jeera)- 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Steam or pressure cook the potatoes with skins. Grind the garlic and ginger to paste. Chop the onions and tinda into small cubes.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet. Crackle the cumin and fry the curry leaves. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the mixture gives out a good aroma. Add the onions and tinda and saute for a minute. Pour half a cup of water and cook with lid on. Add the chilli powder and turmeric powder and fry. Cube the boiled potatoes keeping the skin on. Add and saute till the flavours mix. Add salt to taste.
Yummy with lemon rice (the recipe is on its way) and chappathis.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Express channa masala

Kadala (chickpeas/channa) is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. The keralite way of preparing kadala curry is quite a long process but well worth the effort. We will be talking about that in the days to come. But for now, here is a quick, yummy recipe to the very Indian channa masala. I owe this tasty treat to my neighbour 'akka' during my 'spinster' days at Chennai. I and an aunt of my mother shared an apartment at Shenoy Nagar, in Chennai. Our neighbour was a shy lady who took great pains to cook newer and newer recipes for her kids and husband. Somehow her placid nature seemed to find an interesting companion in my exhuberant temperament. The result...occasional yummy treats that found their way to my dining table ;-)

Chick peas (channa/vella kadala) - 100gms
Onions - 2 big ones
Tomatoes - 2 big ones
Garlic - 4 cloves
Ginger - 1" piece
Cinnamon stick - 1"piece
Cloves - 2 Nos
Cardamom - 2 Nos
Fennel - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder (cayenne pepper) - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander leaves (cilantro) - 5 stalks
Salt to taste
Lemon juice for garnish
Soak the chick peas overnight and pressure cook for 5 whistles. Roughly chop the onions and tomatoes, peel garlic and ginger. Put all ingredients except boiled chickpeas into a mixer bowl and grind to make a thick masala.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a skillet, add the masala and saute till the raw smell of onions and garlic goes and a flavorful aroma emanates. Add the cooked chickpeas and saute till the masala becomes a thick gravy coating for the chickpeas. Add salt to taste. Add a dash of lemon juice before serving.
Lovely accompaniment to appams (see label 'Appam' for recipe),chappathis, and pooris.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Spicy Kerala Fish Curry

For most Keralites ( a little state at the southern most corner of India) fish is an indispensible part of everyday meal. There are a zillion different ways to making the ubiquitous Kerala fish curry. Each town in the little state seems to have its own regional take on it! Here I give you one of the oldest ways to the traditional, spicy red fish curry. It's ranks well on the health count with its preference for omega - 3 fatty acid rich fish varieties and minimal oil requirement.
Fresh Mackerel or sardines - 1/2 kg
Small onions (shallots/scallions) - 10-12 nos (sliced into two)
Green chillies - 3-4 (slit)
Ginger - 1 medium sized piece (julienned)
Garlic - 4 big cloves (minced)
Kudampuli (Gambooge/malabar tamarind)- 3 pieces
Curry leaves - 6-8 sprigs
Red chilli powder (cayenne pepper) - 3 teaspoons
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Coconut oil - 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Clean and cut the fish into medium sized pieces (if you are using small sardines, just snip off the head, clean the insides and use them whole).In an earthern vessal (cooking pot) or an ordinary skillet if you dont have its earthern counterpart, layer the curry leaf sprigs so that they form the base for the rest of the ingredients. Soak the kudampuli in water for about 5 minutes and add it into the pot along with all the other ingredients except coconut oil and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and let simmer on slow fire with the lid on. When the fish appears almost cooked add the salt. When cooked , remove from fire, take off lid add a dash of coconut oil and a few more curry leaves and replace lid. let stand for an hour before serving.
Serve with cooked rice or tapioca (cassava/kappa).
PS: This gravy tastes even more better on the next day. It doesn't spoil if not refridgerated.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sweet and savoury nutty mixture

This recipe was shared by my neighbour and friend, Mrs.Sumangala, at Muscat. Indians are no strangers to 'mixture'. As the name suggests 'mixture' is a sweet or savory, or sometimes both, mix of an assortment of deep fried items.They are favourite tea time snacks.
All purpose flour - 200gms

Assorted nuts (cashews, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts) - 200gms

Beaten rice flakes (aval) - 200gms

Fresh Curry leaves - 100 gms

Sugar - 15 gms

Red chilli powder (cayenne pepper) - 5 gms

Asafoetida (perumkayam) - 1/2 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Add sugar to the all purpose flour and knead it into a dough (as you would for chappathis/tortillas).Shape balls out of the mixture and roll them out into thin chappathis (tortillas). With a sharp knife make criss cross lines both lengthwise and widthwise on each of chappathi, so that you get tiny diamond shapped patterns that can be guaged out. Deep fry these diamond cuts and place on kitchen tissue to drain the extra oil.
In the same oil, fry the assorted nuts. Remove and drain. Add the beaten rice flakes and repeat the process. Be careful with the rice flakes since they burn easily.
Fry the curry leaves in oil and drain.
In a deep pan mix all the ingredients together, add the chilli powder , salt, and asafoetida and toss. Store in airtight containers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nutmeg (jadikka) pickle

Nutmeg (the yellow outer flesh that covers the seed) - 200 gms
Red chilli powder ( cayenne pepper) - 50 gms
Turmeric powder - 5 gms
Fenugreek seeds ( uluva/vendayam) - 5 gms
Bird's eye chilli (kanthari mulaku) - 50 gms
Mustard seeds - 10 gms
Asafoetida (perunkayam) - 5 gms
Sesame oil (Nallenna) - 100ml

Clean and cut Nutmeg (Jadika) into strips.Heat a few teaspoons of sesame oil and crackle mustard seeds. Stir fry a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds. Add 50 gms of chilli powder and 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in. Follow with the Nutmeg (jadika) pieces and the bird's eye chilli (kanthari mulaku). Follow up with the asafoetida (perunkayam). Add salt to taste. Cool and place in a dry bottle. Top with the rest of the sesame oil. Close with an airtight lid and let stay for 2-3 days before use.
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