Friday, January 27, 2017

Salsa verde

Salsa verde is a simple fresh tasting salsa made using green tomatoes or tomatillos. This earthy salsa is traditionally pounded to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle, but a food processor works just as well. Once you make this at home you will never want to go back to the store bought salsas. It's perfect for dipping with tortilla chips and can be used in other recipes such as enchiladas, burritos and wraps, etc.
Tomatillo salsa can be made in two ways. Raw or roasted. Both taste great. Choose your option based on prep time available as the roasted one involves some cooking time. I must say the cooked version has an earthy smoky flavor.

Salsa verde - two ways
1 lb tomatillos (husks removed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 hot chili peppers (serrano/jalapeƱos) use more/less based on your spice quotient
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, juice and zest
1⁄2 medium onion, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

Make raw salsa (salsa verde cruda)
  1. Roughly chop all the ingredients and place in a food processor. Start with one chili and add more as needed, depending on how spicy you want your salsa. 
  2. Blend until your salsa has reached a smooth consistency. 
  3. If you like it chunky then pulse a few times to obtain that consistency.
  4. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
Make cooked salsa (salsa verde cocida) 
  1. Place tomatoes, chilies and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil on high. 
  2. Turn them often. Cook till you see charring (blackened spots) and everything cooks through, takes about 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Chilies and garlic will be done before the tomatoes. Remove as each ingredient is done. Cool.  
  4. Place everything in a food processor and puree until smooth. 
  5. Small chunks are okay if you like your salsa a bit chunky. 
  6. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Corn and black bean salsa

This beautiful and delicious salsa is a crowd pleasing dish. Smoky cumin and tangy lime juice adds robust flavor to this simple yet nutritious salad. Filled with the goodness of black beans, corn and veggies it can be served with chips as a starter or as is for a light lunch or serve over rice or inside a tortilla. Be sure to let the salsa sit for 15-20 minutes before serving to let all the flavors blend in.

I usually make corn and black bean salsa during summer for BBQ parties. You can whip up a big batch in minutes. I use fresh corn on the cob, grill them and then shear off the corn kernels with a sharp knife from the husk. Adds a wonderful smoky flavor.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 red pepper
1 large tomato
1/2 large red onion
Few sprigs fresh coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin
1 Lime, juice and zest
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil
  1. Rinse and drain the black beans. Finely dice pepper, tomato, onion, jalapeno and coriander. Mix all in a big bowl. 
  2. Heat a tsp oil in a pan. Saute the frozen corn for a few minutes till slightly charred and heated through.
  3. Add the corn to the bean mix. Season with cumin, salt and lime juice and zest. Add more lime juice as desired.
  4. Let the salsa sit for 20 minutes before serving. 

Serving suggestions
  • Serve with corn chips as a starter
  • Serve wrapped up inside a warm tortilla with cheese as a wrap.
  • Serve over steamed lime cilantro rice with cheese, salsa verde and guacamole as a burrito bowl.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Root vegetable soup with chicken

Chunky root vegetables, slow cooked in flavorful broth and served with grilled chicken chunks on top. This simple cold weather soup is nutritious, filling and packed with flavor. Earthy red potatoes, sweet yams and sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks and parsnips all go in the broth. I also like to add eddos (although they are not technically root veggies). Eddos cook faster than the other vegetables, so add them midway in the cooking process. You can add parsnips, turnips, rutabaga and any other root vegetables you like. The robust flavor comes from garlic, onion, thyme and ginger. Make it vegetarian by omitting chicken. I love to serve this for Sunday brunch.

Root veggie soup (serves 5-6)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 inch ginger grated (optional)
6 cups chicken/vegetable broth
3 red potatoes
3-4 eddos
2 sweet potatoes
2 yams
1 parsnip
2-3 large carrots
1 stalk leek
2 tsp dry thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
Fresh coriander to serve
  1. Peel yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. 
  2. Dice all the veggies into large chunks. Chop leeks fine. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot at medium heat. Add minced garlic, onion and ginger. Saute for a few seconds till onion turns pink. 
  4. Add all other veggies (except eddos if using) and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. 
  5. Add stock and turn up the heat to high. Bring the soup to a rolling boil. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. 
  6. Stir the contents and add eddos. bring to a boil again and then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes till everything is cooked through. 
  7. Serve hot with/or without grilled chicken garnished with fresh coriander.
Grilled chicken

3 chicken breasts
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
Olive oil
  1. Mix garlic, thyme, pepper and salt together and use it to season the chicken. 
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and grill at 350 F for 20 minutes till cooked through. 
  3. Remove from oven and let rest covered for a few minutes before slicing into small chunks. 
  4. Serve over the soup.

Friday, January 6, 2017


“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself ……...” – Oscar Wilde

This tempting platter here is an assortment of fried pakodas (chick pea fritters). Small pieces of veggies are encased in a thick coating of chick pea flour batter, then deep fried till crisp. Known by many names pakoda, pakora, pakode this street food is served all across India. The vendors keep them half cooked ready to be crisped in hot oil and serve them in minutes with generous lashings of chutney.

Its one of those guilty pleasures that lifts up your spirit on a dull, cold, foggy or rainy day. As kids this was a fave dinner for us during monsoon season rolled inside slices of bread. Crisp, hot tangy and delish accompanied with a hot cup of tea or coffee (whichever is your forte) is pure pleasure.

By far my favorite is the mirchi pakoda and usually 1-2 are enough to satisfy my taste buds. You can use almost anything you fancy to make pakodas - eggplant slices, cauliflower florets, slice of potato and onion, cubed paneer, chopped spinach or even a combination all of these chopped fine. Bread pakoda is another variation where you can dip small triangles of bread in besan and make pakodas. An elaborate variation of this is the stuffed bread pakoda. Encase spiced and cooked mashed potatoes between two slices of bread and then dip in batter to make pakoda.

Whatever variation of pakodas you choose it is sure to delight your taste buds. Serve these as starters for your next party with one or more of mint chutney, mango mint chutney, garlic chili chutey and tamarind chutney.

Basic procedure for all types of pakodas
Veggies of your choice
Oil for deep frying
For the batter
1 cup gram flour/ chickpea flour/ besan
½ tsp turmeric powder
1/4  tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
½ tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (optional)
Salt to taste
3-4 cloves of garlic, grated fine
1 inch ginger, grated fine

  1. In a mixing bowl add the gram flour along with all other ingredients. Add water and whisk to make a smooth batter. You’re aiming for a thick batter, pancake batter sort of consistency to coat the veggies well.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or a deep pan for frying to medium high. Dip the sliced or diced veggies in the gram flour batter to coat and deep fry until golden brown and crisp all over. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot with a chutney of your choice.

Here are some of the common vegetables used for making pakodas. You can choose others according to your taste. Some other ideas are paneer, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. 

Green chili (Mirchi) pakoda 
Long green chilies
Besan batter same as above

Procedure is the same as above. Just make sure to use green chilies that you can bite into comfortably. If the chilies are very hot then give it a slit and remove all the seeds. Sometimes I use small hot green chilies and usually one is enough to get the waterworks going. Use large green chilies, stuff them with mashed potato and then coat them with a thick batter and deep fry. Tastes awesome.

Eggplant (Baigan) pakoda
1 large eggplant cut in slices
Besan batter same as above

Baigan pakoda is one of the faves. The meaty texture of eggplant gives this one a wonderful bite. Use big eggplants for this and cut into even slices, about a quarter of an inch thick. Do not peel. Procedure same as above.

Onion (Pyaaz) pakoda
2-3 potatoes
Besan batter same as above

Peel and slice onion into thin slices. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will lightly cook the onion.

Spinach (Palak) pakoda
1 bunch fresh spinach chopped fine
1 small green chili chopped fine
Besan batter same as above

Proceed with the basic recipe for making the batter. Add chopped fresh spinach and green chili to the besan batter. Drop small spoonfuls into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden.
As a variation you can add finely chopped onions, methi (fenugreek) and potato along with spinach and make mixed veg pakodas.

Cauliflower (Gobi) pakoda
1/2 head cauliflower
Besan batter same as above

Cut cauliflower into bite sized florets. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into oil at medium high heat and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will cook the cauliflower florets tender crisp.

Potato (Aloo) pakoda
2-3 potatoes
Besan batter same as above

Peel and slice potato into thin slices. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will cook the potato. Thinner the slices, faster they will be cooked through.

Bread pakoda
Boiled potatoes
Bread slices
Besan batter same as above

Mash boiled potatoes and stir fry them in a little oil with cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, chili powder and dry mango powder. Place the sliced bread on a plate and spread the spiced potato mix on it. Top with another slice to make a sandwich. Cut the sandwich diagonally criss cross to get 4 small trianles. Follow the basic procedure as mentioned above. Dip these triangles in batter and fry till golden and crisp.