Friday, May 18, 2018

Chettinad Masala

Chettinad masala is a fiery delicious blend of spices and a key ingredient in many dishes from the Chettinad Cuisine.
Chettinad Cuisine hails from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, India and is renowned for its spicy vibrant curries with complex yet perfectly balanced flavor. The fiery gravy that forms the base for these curries is made with a combination of a few fresh ingredients and several freshly ground local spices.
Chettinad masala is loaded with red chilies and coconut and earthy ingredients like cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon along with some local spices like star anise and Kalpasi flower. The distinct aroma of freshly ground spices that engulfs the air while making this blend is enough to make me drool.

I keep the spice level high in my curries. If your spice threshold is different then use a few less dry red chilies in the recipe. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or refrigerate. Use this masala to make chicken, fish, shrimp or lamb curry. Vegetarians and vegans can use it for vegetable stir-fries or veggie curry using tofu or potato or eggplant etc.

Chettinad masala
10 dry red chilies
5 tbsp (heaped) dry shredded coconut
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
4 green cardamoms
5-7 cloves
2-inch cinnamon
2 Star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp paprika for color
  1. Dry roast all the ingredients except paprika. I like to roast all these separately as each has a different roasting point. 
  2. Cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Place all the spices in a grinder and grind to form a coarse mixture. 
  4. Store in an airtight container for 10 days.

Friday, May 11, 2018

6 delicious ways to fancy up your Avocado toast

Smashed avocado on a perfectly toasted Multigrain Rye, sprinkled with salt and freshly cracked black pepper - pure bliss, our favorite Sunday Breakfast. Quick to prepare and rich in heart-healthy fats this classic avocado on toast makes for a healthy start to your day. If you love avocado toast then here are six delicious ways to make it even fancier. All these recipes are perfect for lunch/brunch, and taste just awesome.

Tips for a perfect Avocado toast
  1. Choose perfectly ripe avocados - Gently squeeze into the avocado and feel it give a little. This level of ripeness will mash and spread easily. For slicing, you can choose slightly less ripe ones.  
  2. Toast your bread to perfection - Toasting your bread properly is super important to a perfect avocado on toast. The contrasting texture of a crisply toasted slice to the silky rich avocado spread is a match made in heaven. Most wholegrain varieties take longer to reach the perfect crispness while the fruit and nut bread will toast rather quickly. Another technique that works really well is brushing a dense multigrain slice with a little oil and toasting it on a hot griddle until crisp. 
  3. Try selecting a bread that complements the toppings - A good dense bread will work best for all avocado toast recipes but there are some combinations that enhance the flavor quotient. Sourdough or rye work really well with avocado and tomato. If you’re topping it with smoked salmon, try seeded bread or bagels. A fruit and nut bread is super delish if you are topping with pear slices and feta. Multigrain works well for almost any topping.

Avocado on toast with sunny side up fried eggs and wilted spinach. An egg is essential to this lineup. 
  1. In a moderately hot skillet add a teaspoon of olive oil and a large handful of spinach leaves. Saute for a minute till spinach wilts a little. Keep aside.
  2. Fry a couple of eggs sunny side up, season with some spiced salt. 
  3. Spread mashed avocado on toast and top with the fried egg and a large spoonful of warm spinach. 

Avocado on toast with poached eggs and fresh seed sprouts. Unique onion flavor and texture with onion sprouts.
  1. Toasted bread spread with mashed avocado. Seeded bread/bagel works well here.
  2. A thin layer of onion sprouts.
  3. Topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with seasoned salt.
  4. Cherry tomatoes on the side.

Avocado on toast topped with herbaceous scrambled eggs and pico de gallo. A hint of Mexican flavor. 
  1. Scramble an egg and mix chopped fresh coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Keep aside.
  2. Mix finely chopped red onion, tomato, and fresh coriander. Season with some salt and pepper and some lime juice. Keep aside. 
  3. Toast bread until crisp and spread with mashed avocado. I recommend multigrain bread. 
  4. Top it with scrambled egg and a heaped tablespoon on Pico de gallo. 

Grilled cheese-n-tomatoes on toast topped with avocado slices & freshly cracked black pepper. When tomatoes are in season, this is a must make combo. A great vegetarian option.
  1. Rye or sourdough bread pairs well with grilled tomatoes. 
  2. Top toast with cheese of your choice and sliced tomato, grill till crisp and cheese had melted. 
  3. Top with avocado slices and season with freshly cracked black pepper. 
  4. I would recommend some red chili flakes on top as well. An evergreen combination perfect for brunch. A fave with my daughters. 

Avocado on toast with smoked salmon and fresh greens on the side. A feel-good combo.
  1. Mash avocado and season with salt and pepper. Add some finely chopped red onion and mix well.
  2.  Seeded bread or bagels pair well with smoked salmon. 
  3. Spread on a toasted slice of bread. Top with a couple shavings of smoked salmon.
  4. Serve with baby spinach and lemon slices. 

Avocado on toast topped with pear slices, walnut bits, and feta cheese. A dose of healthy fats!
  1. Choose firm but ripe pears. Slice thinly.
  2. In our family, we prefer feta cheese in this setup as the salty taste contrasts well with the slightly sweet pear slices. Choose your preferred cheese.
  3. I recommend choosing a fruit and seed bread such as raisin or cranberry and pumpkin seed variety. 
  4. Spread mashed avocado on a toasted slice of bread and top with a few thinly sliced pears and sprinkle with some chopped walnut pieces and crumbled feta cheese. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mutton fry

A delicious dry mutton fry dish that pairs beautifully with rice or roti.  This is one of the faves in our house. Mutton pieces are tossed in whole spices and chilies till moist tender. This dish has no gravy, only a thick spicy masala clings to the meat pieces. The spice level is high, as it has both red chilies and black peppercorns. If your spice threshold is less then adjust the amount of these two ingredients.
I usually cook the mutton in a pressure cooker prior to frying. You can also cook it in the pan by adding a little more water and cooking covered for 20-25 minutes.

The spices and aromatics in this dish will set your taste buds alight with a symphony of flavors.

2 lbs mutton
2 cloves of garlic
A small piece of ginger
⅓ tsp salt
⅓ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chili powder (optional)
  1. Marinating mutton - Season the mutton pieces with salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Crush ginger and garlic and mix it in. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. 
  2. Cooking mutton - Place the marinated mutton with a ¼ cup water in a pressure cooker. Cook till the steam starts to escape. Simmer for 5 minutes and then take off the heat and allow the steam to release on its own. 
Dry spice mix
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
4-5 cloves
1 black cardamom
2-3 green cardamoms
½ inch cinnamon stick
8-10 black peppercorns (as per your spice quotient)
2-3 dried red chilies (as per your spice quotient)
  1. In a skillet dry roast all the whole spices written under dry spice mix till fragrant. Cool and then grind coarsely. Keep aside.
Other ingredients
2-3 tbsp oil
2 onions
2-3 cloves garlic
A small piece of ginger
½ cup plain yogurt whisked
Salt to taste
Garam masala powder (optional)
Fresh coriander to garnish
Red onion rings and naan as accompaniments
  1. Dice the onions very finely (or grate) and crush ginger and garlic. 
  2. In a skillet heat the oil and add onions. Saute on medium high stirring for a minute and then add the ginger and garlic. Continue cooking on medium till golden brown. Stir frequently to avoid burning. 
  3. Add yogurt and cook on high till the oil separates from the sides. 
  4. Now gently add the cooked mutton from above including any liquid in the mixture. 
  5. Season with salt as required. Keep in mind that the cooked mutton is already salted. 
  6. Cook on high till all liquid evaporates and you see oil separating from the sides.
  7. Mix garam masala and sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve hot. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Mishti Doi

Mishti Doi literally means 'sweet yogurt'. This easy to make dessert is a Bangla delicacy; a festive dish prepared during Durga Puja and other auspicious occasions. Sweetened (with caramelized sugar/jaggery) thickened milk is flavored with a hint of cardamom and saffron, mixed with a small amount of active starter growth culture and at the right temperature allowed to set into a thick creamy yogurt. Caramelized sugar/jaggery adds a unique flavor and a lovely hue to the final dish. The cardamom and saffron are completely optional but I find they definitely enhance the taste. Traditionally, this was done in rustic and beautiful earthen pots. Mishti Doi is an absolute delight during those hot summer days.

I have been sampling this delicacy for several years now, courtesy our Bong friend Luna. I finally got down to making it myself a few days ago. I used the quick recipe with superb results. The little mishti bowls came out like a dream, delicately fragrant and awesomely delicious. If you are a stickler for making things from scratch, try the traditional recipe. It will take some time but will be well worth the effort. 
Here are two versions - the traditional and the quick. 

Traditional recipe
Ingredients: (serves 6)
4 cup whole milk
⅓ cup plain yogurt
 ½ cup sugar 
4-5 green cardamoms
2-3 pinches saffron
2 tbsp pistachios
  1. Reduce the milk - Bring the whole milk to boil. Simmer and keep stirring till it reduces to half its quantity. Reserve 2 tbsp sugar, add the rest to the milk and mix well. Keep aside to cool. Crush the cardamoms to a fine powder. When the milk cools, add the cardamom powder and a few strands of saffron to the milk mixture and stir to combine.
  2. Caramelize the sugar - Heat the reserved sugar in a pan over low heat till it starts to caramelize to a nice golden color. Remove from heat, add a tbsp of water and stir. Mix this into the milk mixture. 
  3. Set the yogurt - Preheat the oven to 175°F and then switch off the oven. This step is necessary for a climate like Toronto and creates a perfect environment for the active starter culture to do its magic. When the milk mixture cools down to just warm (little more than lukewarm), add the plain yogurt. Mix well, pour into small ramekins and place them on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Let it sit in the warm oven, undisturbed overnight to set. In the morning, refrigerate for a few hours. Garnish with some chopped pistachios and a couple strands of saffron before serving.
Quick recipe
Ingredients: (serves 6)
1½ cups evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
½ cup condensed milk
⅓ cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp sugar 
4-5 green cardamoms
2-3 pinches saffron
2 tbsp pistachios
  1. Bring the whole milk to boil. Remove from heat.
  2. Add evaporated milk and condensed milk and mix to combine.  
  3. Heat the sugar in a pan over low heat till it starts to caramelize to a nice golden color. Remove from heat, add a tbsp of water and stir. Pour this into the milk mixture. 
  4. Crush the cardamoms to a fine powder. Add this powder and a few strands of saffron to the milk mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Preheat the oven to 175°F and then switch off the oven. This step is necessary for a climate like Toronto and creates a perfect environment for the active starter culture to do its magic.
  6. When the milk mixture cools down to just warm (little more than lukewarm), add the plain yogurt. Mix well, pour into small ramekins and place them on a baking sheet and cover with foil. 
  7. Let it sit in the warm oven, undisturbed overnight to set. In the morning, refrigerate for a few hours. 
  8. Garnish with some chopped pistachios and a couple strands of saffron before serving.

Friday, April 20, 2018

8 healthy khichdi recipes

Feeling under the weather? There is nothing better than khichri to nourish your body and warm your heart. This Indian comfort food is a preparation of rice and lentils. For me, this one-pot dish is a wholesome and healthy complete meal. I always make it with a plethora of vegetables depending on my mood. Many variations exist and each household has its own beloved concoction and blend of flavors. Some are rich with a texture like biryani/pulao, while some are soupy textured and smooth kind of like risotto. The concept of the British dish kedgeree came from this. Besides being a one-pot, easy to make, wholesome dish, khichri is a cost-effective way to feed a number of mouths while cleaning up your pantry of all the left-overs. There are no rules and you can add anything you have at hand. Using a pressure cooker I can literally have a meal on the table from start to finish in 20 minutes.

I love all the different combinations of flavors and textures that khichri has to offer. The pulao style panchdal khichri, the softer bisi bele bhaat and Pongal, or the textured sabutdana and bajra khichri - they are all delish and wholesome. But my fave has always been the split urad dal khichri with leafy greens (especially spinach and methi). There is something super gratifying about this combo and with a dollop of ghee and red chili pickle, I am literally in heaven.
In Kumaon, split urad dal khichri is the (must make) dish for Makar Sankranti. This festival is celebrated to mark the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn (according to the sidereal calendar) marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. Can you imagine anything better than a bowl full of hot delicious khichri loaded with ghee in the middle of winter?

Khichri taste great on its own and even better with accompaniments like - plain yogurt, ghee, pickles (mango, chili, ginger, lemon), mint chutney and papad. Here are some of the combinations I like to make and enjoy. Most of them are pressure cooker recipes.
  1. Urad (black gram split) and mixed leafy greens
  2. Chana dal (Bengal gram split) and spinach
  3. Cauliflower, potato, mung (green gram split) dal khichri
  4. Bisi bele bhaat
  5. Panchdal (5 lentils) khichri 
  6. Millet (bajra) khichri
  7. Pongal
  8. Sabutdana (sago) khichri
Urad (black gram split) and leafy greens Khichri
By far my favorite khichri. Drizzled with a teaspoon or two of melted ghee and red/green chili pickle on the side. Both spinach and methi (fenugreek) greens together add a rustic earthy touch besides making it super healthy. I always add chopped green chilies and ginger to up the flavor quotient.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cups rice
1 cup urad chilka (black gram split)
2-3 tbsp oil
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cups packed spinach (chopped)
3 cups packed methi(chopped)
2-3 green chilies, chopped
1-inch ginger, julienne
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coriander powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash and drain rice and dal.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat some oil. Sizzle hing and cumin seeds for a few seconds. Add all the chopped greens and stir well. 
  3. Now add rice, dal, green chilies, ginger and all the spices. Add 3 ½ to 4 cups of water. I prefer my khichri to have a texture like pulao so I add less. If you like it little softer and runny then add 4 or more cups of water.
  4. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  5. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let the steam escape by itself before opening the lid.  
  7. Gently stir as all the greens tend to settle on top. Serve hot with ghee and red chili pickle.  
Spinach chana dal khichri
This is a very simple lunch idea but is a complete meal on its own. Serve with plain yogurt for a refreshing and wholesome combo.

Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
1 cup rice washed and drained
½ cup chana dal soaked for 2 hours, drained
1 bunch fresh spinach washed and roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch ginger
1 tbsp oil
¼ tsp cumin seeds
Salt and red chili powder to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
2 carrots grated
1 tsp mixed whole spices coarsely pounded (cloves, cinnamon, green and black cardamom, black peppercorns)
  1. Put spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften it.
  2. Grind together cooked spinach, ginger, and garlic with a little water to form a smooth paste.
  3. In a large pan heat oil and add cumin seeds and mixed whole spices. Cook for 3-5 seconds. Add rice and chana dal and mix to incorporate the spices.
  4. To the spinach, paste add water to make 3 cups. Add this to the rice, add the rest of the spices and stir well. 
  5. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 7-10 minutes till rice is cooked through.
  6. Serve topped with grated carrots.
Cauliflower and mung dal Khichri
Split green gram and large chunks of cauliflower cooked together with rice and spices, makes for a wonderful dish. Cauliflower is a great substitute for potato and tastes awesome with split mung dal. Don't skip the ghee and for this one and I would recommend sweet and sour lime pickle.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cups rice
1 cup moong chilka (Split green gram)
2-3 tbsp oil
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole cloves
1 small cauliflower head
2-3 green chilies, chopped (optional)
1-inch ginger, julienne
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coriander powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash and drain rice and dal.
  2. Wash the cauliflower head and cut into small florets. 
  3. In a pressure cooker heat some oil. Sizzle hing and cumin seeds for a few seconds. Add the whole cloves and cauliflower florets. Stir well. 
  4. Now add rice, dal, green chilies, ginger and all the spices. Add 4 cups of water. 
  5. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  6. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook. 
  7. Remove from heat immediately and put the cooker under cold running water to let the steam escape. This is necessary to avoid the cauliflower getting too mushy.   
  8. Fluff gently and serve hot.  
Panchdal Khichri
Panchdal khichri is rice is cooked with 5 pulses. To make it more special you can add 5 veggies to it too. Preferably select the pulses that have similar cooking times - I use chana dal (skinned split Bengal gram), moong chilka (split green gram), toor (pigeon peas), moong dhuli (skinned dehusked mung), malka (pink lentils). Makes for a healthy and nutritious treat for the whole family. Serve with cold plain yogurt, papad, and mint chutney.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
1 ½ cup rice
1 cup of assorted dals, a fifth cup each of all dals mentioned above
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 small green pepper, chopped
Handful green beans, chopped
1 medium carrot, cubed
Handful frozen peas
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2-3 cloves
2 dry red chili
1 bay leaf
Pinch of hing (asafetida)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 green chilies, chopped
Few curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
4 cups water
  1. Wash all the dals and rice. Soak chana dal in hot boiling water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes drain the water and keep it aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add hing, cumin and mustard seeds, bay leaf, cloves and dry red chilies. Let roast for a few seconds.
  3. Now add chopped green chilies, garlic, and curry leaves. saute for a few seconds and then add chopped onions. Fry till light brown before adding the tomatoes. Saute until soft and mushy. 
  4. Add all the spices, rice and dals. Saute for few seconds. 
  5. Add 4 cups of water and mix well. Pressure cook until the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape, simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to release on its own. Open the lid and mix gently.
  7. Serve hot with all the accompaniments. 

Bisi bele bhaat
Bisi bele bhaat is dal and rice cooked with tamarind and spices. This traditional Karnataka recipe tastes best served hot drizzled with ghee. I usually cook the rice and dal together till they become slightly mushy and soft. If you prefer to have the rice grainy and dal mushy, then you can cook them separately. The flavor comes from a combination of spices - you can make your own or use a store bought masala(bisi bele bhaat powder). Tempering of peanuts, cashews and whole red chilies taste awesome.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
1 cup Rice
½ cup toor dal
½ cup peas
½ cup chopped green beans
½ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped green pepper
1 tbsp oil
Pinch asafoetida
¼ tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
Salt to taste
¼ tsp turmeric
2-3 tbsp bisi bele bhaat masala
Small lemon sized tamarind ball
1 tsp jaggery (optional)
1 tbsp ghee
2 large dry red chili
1 tbsp peanuts/cashews
  1. Soak the tamarind in ¼ cup hot water for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the pulp and keep aside. 
  2. Wash and drain dal and rice. 
  3. In a pressure cooker, heat oil and add mustard seeds and hing. Let them roast for a few seconds. Add curry leaves followed by rice, dal and all the veggies. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder and 4-5 cups of water. Mix well.
  4.  Pressure cook until the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape, simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to release on its own. Open the lid and mix gently.
  6. Adjust the consistency. Add the tamarind pulp, bisi bele vhaat masala and jaggery (if using). Bring to boil and simmer. The right consistency of bisibelebath is when the rice reaches a thick consistency. Do not overcook or it will become too lumpy.
  7. Tempering - Heat ghee in a pan. Add cashews/peanuts and red chili. Let them roast for a few seconds. Pour this over the cooked khichri. 

Pearl millet (Bajra) khichri
This recipe is popular both in Rajasthan and Haryana. Very rustic and earthy, this protein-rich khichri tastes awesome with ghee and kadhi. A must try for all.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
1 cup bajra (pearl millet)
¾ cup split moong dal
6 cups water
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
Pinch hing (asafoetida)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1-inch ginger, grated
2 green chilies, chopped
Salt to taste
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash the millet and dal several times till the water runs clear. 
  2. In the pressure cooker heat oil and ghee. Add cumin seeds and hing, let them roast for a few seconds. Now add green chilies, ginger, and all the dry spices. Fry for a few seconds.
  3. Add water, dal, and millet. Stir to combine. Close the lid. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles and remove from heat. Let rest and open the lid only when steam is released itself.
  4. If you want to cook it in a pan instead of the pressure cooker, add water to the tempering and bring to boil. Add millet and dal, cover and simmer. Cook till everything is soft and mushy. It takes around 30 minutes to reach that consistency. Keep stirring occasionally. 
  5. Serve with curd or kadhi. 
Ven Pongal is a delicious rice and moong dal khichri often served for breakfast in Sri Lanka and parts of southern India. Cooked till soft with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and a side of plain yogurt this is comfort food personified.

(Pressure Cooker recipe)
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 cup rice
1 cup moong dal
6-7 cups water
2-3 tbsp oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
A few pieces of cashews
Salt to taste
  1. Wash rice and dal well till the water runs clear. 
  2. Place them in the pressure cooker along with 6-7 cups of water and salt to taste. 
  3. Give the contents a good stir and close the lid.
  4. Cook on high till the first whistle or till the steam starts to escape. Simmer and continue to cook for 7-10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and let the steam escape by itself before opening the lid.  
  6. Adjust the consistency of the khichri now. If you need it runnier, then add some boiling water.
  7. In another pan heat oil and add mustard seeds curry leaves, let them roast for a few seconds. 
  8. Add the cashews and roast until golden.
  9. Add this tempering to the cooked pongal.
  10. Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander and plain yogurt on the side.
Sago (sabutdana) khichri
This one has no rice and no dal. Sago khichri is popularly made during the fasting season. Soaked sago pearls are cooked with potatoes and peanuts and flavored with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Every variety of sago pearls need different soaking times. Just experiment and make sure they don't become soggy.

1 cup sabutdana (sago)
1 small potato, boiled
2-3 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tbsp peanuts
1-inch ginger, julienne
2-3 green chilies, chopped
Salt to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Red chili powder to taste
  1. Wash the sago 2-3 times and soak in enough cold water to immerse fully. Soak for 2-3 hours. The grains should not mush up but should be moist and separate. Drain out all the water, fluff with a fork and keep aside.
  2. Peel and chop the potato into small pieces. Keep aside. 
  3. In another pan heat oil and add mustard seeds, let them roast for a few seconds. 
  4. Add the curry leaves, potatoes, peanuts, green chilies and ginger and roast till peanuts are golden. 
  5. Add the sabutdana, salt, and chili powder. Stir well to combine till all the flavors get incorporated into them. Remove from heat and sprinkle lime juice and zest. Mix.
  6. Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Tandoori fish tacos

As a child, I grew up in India eating mostly Indian food at home. Everywhere around me, my neighborhood, at school and later at university, it was Indian food. Yes, there were the occasional Chinese dine outs or those burgers or pizza lunch dates with the gals. But on the whole, it was roti and dal, curried veggies and rice, tandoori chicken and paneer. 

Needless to say, I understand Indian cuisine and its basics. I can cook in my sleep and get the flavors and textures correct. 

When I cook dishes from other cuisines I love to make every dish in its authenticity. I try to keep true to the flavors and textures to get the max experience out of that meal. But every now and then I get the urge to add a cross-cultural twist and I always seek inspiration from my cooking roots. 

So sometimes tacos aren't exclusively a Mexican affair in our house, they get an Indian twist. Tandoori fish tacos with radish, tomatoes, green chilies and vinegar onions drizzled with cucumber raita. The flavors all blend in beautifully leaving everyone happy. This fusion recipe is sure to spice up your next taco night. It’s a few easy steps to make the fish and raita, then it’s just chopping a few things and heating up everything else.  Easy Peasy with very little cleanup. 

Ingredients: (serves 4)
8 small pieces of Tandoori fish (recipe here)
8 small tortillas, 6-inch diameter
1 large red onion
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 medium tomatoes
A few green chilies
1 lemon
Red radish
Fresh coriander, a handful
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cucumber
Salt to taste
¼ tsp roasted cumin powder
  1. Prepare the tandoori fish as per the recipe. While it is cooking, prep the other things.
  2. Vinegar Onions - Slice the onions into thin rings. Add vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix well, cover and keep aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Cucumber raita - Gently whisk the yogurt. Grate the cucumber and add to the yogurt along with salt to taste and cumin powder. Mix well and keep aside.
  4. Veggies - Slice radish into thin slices, chop tomato, green chilies, coriander, and lettuce fine.
  5. Assemble - Warm the tortillas gently on a skillet. Place the fish in the center. Top with other fixins and just before serving, add lashings of raita (or serve on the side as a dipping sauce). 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Italian fish meatballs

Polpette di pesce, are crispy and aromatic fishballs, the size of a plump walnut, prepared with cod and flecked with thyme and parsley.  Whether fried, baked or stewed with tomato, these tiny beauties are easy and fun to make and super delish. A dish that everyone likes.

Bite-sized polpette di pesce is super versatile. Here are some ways to serve them.
  • Serve with lime wedges as a starter.
  • Serve with a crisp green salad for lunch, drizzled with some pesto sauce.
  • Make a fish meatball sub. Place a few of the fishballs stewed in tomato sauce inside a kaiser bun topped with some cheese. Grill till cheese just melts.
  • Serve over spaghetti drenched with tomato sauce and grated parmesan. Polpette di pesce is not traditionally served with pasta but hey, how does that matter. Tastes awesome. 
If you want a lighter version, you can bake the meatballs. Once prepped, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with a little oil and bake in a preheated oven at 425 ° F for 12-15 minutes.

Polpette di pesce al sugo or fishballs stewed with tomatoes make for an even tastier meatball. Fry the prepared fishballs in hot oil for a couple minutes per side. Then immerse them in the pan of tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes till plump.

Italian fish meatballs 
Ingredients: (Makes 24)
2 lbs skinless fish fillets (I used cod)
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed well
1 small red onion, chopped fine
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp lime zest
4 tbsp parmesan, grated
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Steam the fish until it flakes easily,, about 10 minutes. Allow it to cool slightly, then flake with a fork.
  2. In a bowl combine the fish, mashed potato, chopped onion, egg, cilantro, Italian seasoning, parmesan, lime zest, garlic, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Combine the mixture well. 
  3. Take handfuls of the mixture and shape into small balls. Roll over bread crumbs and set aside.
  4. Place the prepared fish balls in the fridge, covered for about half an hour. (see note below)
  5. Heat the oil in a  deep pan to medium high heat (till breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden when dropped). Deep fry the fish cakes in batches, turning around until golden and crispy on all sides.
  6. Drain on paper towel and serve hot with lime wedges.

Note: Chilling the meatballs helps to set the shape and makes it easier to fry. It is a great make ahead tip for when you are serving fish balls for a party. Prep the fish balls till this stage and refrigerate the day before. Just fry before serving.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Scotch eggs

Scotch egg needs no introduction. A picnic fave with English origins, although it may have been inspired by the Mughlai dish - nargisi kofta.  A well made scotch egg is a perfectly soft boiled egg encased in sausage meat flavored with herbs, breaded and deep fried to a crisp golden perfection. The best part is cutting into that soft-boiled yolk - one of life's simple pleasures. Makes for a perfect and convenient picnic food and this year it is my Easter Egg recipe.

This dish requires just a few ingredients, eggs, meat and the breading stuff.
Soft yolk or?
Egg is the important part of the recipe and so is the debate of how much to cook the eggs. I love our scotch eggs a little soft in the center but if you prefer them more robust then use hard boiled eggs instead. Truth be told, soft center eggs are a little delicate to handle through the breading and frying process. Each time I make them I find myself holding my breath till the task is done. But the reward is quite gratifying.
The mince
The sausage meat requires no special flavors, just a dash of nutmeg with some herbs of your choice. Some recipes call for addition of garlic or other veggies, I personally don't think it makes much of a flavor boost. So I keep it simple.
Crispy coating
The breading process is super important for a crunchy output; and so I like to use the Panko bread crumbs. Don't skip any part of the breading process. This sequence is important since breadcrumbs won't stick without the egg wash, and egg wash won't stick without the flour dusting.
Fry or bake?
And finally, deep frying at medium hot temperature cooks the meat through properly without affecting the softness of the egg yolk. Some recipes call for baking, but I like them fried.

These crisp golden beauties taste awesome hot from the frying pan and we love them with vinegar onions on the side. So get breading and frying.

Ingredients: (Makes 5)
6 eggs
1 lb pork (or turkey) sausages with casings removed
Pinch nutmeg
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (my choice chives, parsley, and thyme)
Panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, to fry
  1. Boiling Eggs - In a deep pan bring some water to boil. Place egg in a spoon and gently lower it into the boiling water, so as not to crack it. Repeat for 4 more eggs. Meanwhile, keep ready a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes. 
  2. Boil eggs for 4½ minutes. I like my Scotch eggs a little runny in the middle, but if you prefer a hard-boiled center, boil the eggs for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, drain out the water and plunge the 5 boiled eggs in the prepared ice bath for a few minutes. This will stop any further cooking of the yolk and will also prevent them from turning grey. 
  3. Prepping the Meat - Mix together sausage meat, nutmeg, and herbs in a bowl and divide them into five portions.
  4. Carefully peel the eggs. Prepare an assembly line for breading the eggs. Put seasoned flour in the first bowl. Beat the remaining 1 raw egg in a second bowl with a splash of milk and tip the breadcrumbs into a third bowl. 
  5. Breading - Take one portion of the sausage meat and flatten it in your palm. Place a peeled boiled egg in the center and encase in the meat by smoothing it into an egg shape. Important to keep an even coating of sausage all around, and not too thick. 
  6. If doing this by hand is difficult for you, use the cling film trick. Place a square of clingfilm on the work surface, and oil lightly. Put one of the meatballs in the center, and put another square of oiled cling film on top. Roll out the meat until large enough to encase an egg and remove the top sheet of clingfilm. Place a boiled peeled egg in the center, bring up the sides of the film to encase it, and smooth it with your hands.
  7. Give each prepared egg a light dusting of flour, dip in the egg wash and then roll onto the breadcrumbs. This sequence is important since breadcrumbs won't stick without the egg wash, and egg wash won't stick without the flour dusting. 
  8. Frying - Fill a deep pan half with oil and heat to 340°F /170°C (till breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden when dropped). Fry the eggs for 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and serve hot with vinegar onions. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Raw Mango Chutney

No matter how long the Winter, Spring is sure to follow. And Spring brings with it, transformation. Cold to warmth, grey to color, dry branches to bursts of new leaves, beautiful flowers, and delicious fruits.
Thinking of spring, a vision of succulent, fresh, zingy mangoes pops up in my head. Mangoes are the golden glories of an Indian Spring. From Panna (a cooling summer drink) to mango kulfi (frozen mango dessert), chutney to curried fish, there are several local recipes that use mango as their star ingredient.
Kacha aamer chutney is a sweet and spicy, slightly zingy chutney from the Bengali kitchen and is often included in the lunch thali. A typical Bengali meal consists of 5-6 courses and includes all type of flavors, from bitter to sweet. This raw mango (aamer) chutney or chatni (literally meaning to lick)  is served as a palate cleanser just before serving dessert. It is eaten as a course of lunch/dinner to accent the meal and never used as a dip or relish. The tartness comes from raw mangoes and sweetness by adding jaggery or sugar. Addition of dry roasted cumin powder on top gives a beautiful smoky flavor.
Serve it with lunch/dinner, or spread on toast or dunk it with a bite of paratha. Or enjoy it like I do, all by itself.

Chutney is a versatile spread/condiment that is usually associated with Indian cuisine. Chutney could be sweet, spicy, tangy depending on its main ingredient and could be made of herbs, fruits, veggies, dry fruits or a combination of one or more of these. Most chutneys have similar ingredients, fruits or veggies, sugar, salt, spices and vinegar/acid and these all balance out to adds flavor to whatever it is served with.

Kacha Aamer Chutney (sweet and spicy raw mango chutney)
Ingredients: (yields about a cup)
1 raw mango
2 tsp oil
½ tsp panch phoron
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
1 dry red chili
½ tsp dry ginger powder (you can reduce the quantity as per your taste)
2 tsp lemon juice (more or less based on the acidity of the mango)
½ cup brown sugar (or jaggery)
½ tsp roasted cumin seed powder
  1. Peel the skin off the mango and slice it into small pieces. Add salt, red chili powder and toss to mix. Keep aside. 
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, break the whole red chili into a few pieces and add to the oil. Allow it to sizzle for a few seconds before adding the panch phoron. 
  3. Sizzle for a few more seconds. Now add the mango pieces followed by ginger powder and lemon juice. Stir well to mix it all. Simmer, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. 
  4. As it cooks the mango will release some water. Uncover and cook on medium flame till mango pulp is tender. 
  5. Now add sugar. If you are using jaggery, add a splash of water to help dissolve it. As the sugar/jaggery melts there will be an increase in the liquid content. Continue cooking at low heat and keep stirring to avoid burning. 
  6. Cook till mangoes are a little bit more than fork tender. As the chutney cools, it will thicken. So keep that in mind as you cook down the liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Sprinkle the roasted cumin powder on top and mix to combine. 
  7. When it cools completely, transfer the chutney to a glass jar and refrigerate. Keeps well for a couple of weeks.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tomato Chutney

Sweet and savory tangy and spicy - this tomato chutney comes from the Bengali kitchen. A perfect condiment to make when tomatoes are in abundance.
I like to use cranberries instead of raisins as I love their tanginess and beautiful hue. Feel free to use anything you like. To make the chutney spicy you can use dry red chili flakes instead of green chilies, gives a lovely smoky flavor.
Tomato chutney is almost always served with the main meal lunch or dinner. But it tastes just as awesome with papad in the beginning, or as a dip or spread on toast.

2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water 
A small piece of ginger
2 green chilies, chopped
1 tsp oil
¼ tsp panch phoron
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
  1. Heat oil in a pan and add panch phoron seeds. Let then crackle for a few seconds before adding tomatoes.
  2. Add all other ingredients except sugar and cook over medium heat. Stir for 2-3 minutes till tomatoes cook a bit and become soft and pulpy. If the concoction becomes too thick, add a small amount of water.
  3. Now add sugar and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes till thick and shiny. 
  4. Taste the salt and sugar and adjust them both as per your taste buds. 
  5. Enjoy.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Cheddar Garlic drop Biscuits

Birthday celebration dinner, relaxed chitchat, and shrimp cocktails. Clam chowders and a bread basket all covered with white linens at our table. It opens to reveal these delicious looking biscuits, hot and soft and buttery and all resolve breaks at the sight of these savory delicacies. We all loved them so much that I had to re-create these beauties at home.
A type of quick bread, these savory biscuits are easy and quick to make. Just scoop the batter onto a baking sheet and bake them till they are crispy and golden on the outside and soft inside. Cheese and herbs add a whole lot of flavor making then delicious and addicting. 

These beauties are very versatile and can be served at any time of day. 
  • The perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup or stew.
  • Awesome served with a main dish salad.
  • Delicious alongside your choice of eggs in the morning.
  • Fabulous for high tea with sandwiches and cake.  

Ingredients: (12-15)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
2/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheese
Fresh parsley (or chives, or thyme, or rosemary)
Brushing on top
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp paprika
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and soda, garlic powder, herbs, salt, and sugar. 
  3. In another bowl melt the butter and cool it slightly. Add buttermilk and stir until butter forms small clumps. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just incorporated. 
  4. Using a greased ¼ cup measuring scoop, drop a level amount of batter onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with paprika. Brush with melted butter.
  5. Bake until top is golden brown and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Serve hot with soup or stew. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Broccoli Au Gratin

Cheese and broccoli, they just go so well together. In my family, we all like this green flowering head. Raw, steamed, stir-fried, we love it in all forms. This combination, however, is everyone's fave. If you are not a great fan of broccoli, this recipe will certainly make you rethink this cruciferous vegetable.

This rich and delicious side dish is an excellent choice for a potluck and makes for a great side to any festive entree. Creamy b├ęchamel sauce is drizzled over tender-crisp broccoli and topped with shredded cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs to create the ultimate broccoli side dish.
As a variation you can make this recipe with a combination of broccoli and cauliflower, just tastes divine and really satisfying, especially during winter. A great way to incorporate vegetables into your meal.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 large bunch of broccoli florets
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt to taste
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cups grated Cheese (Gruyere or Sharp cheddar or Parmesan)
1/4 cup panko + 1 tbsp melted butter
  1. Steam the broccoli florets in a large pot of boiling water fitted with a steamer basket for 3 minutes, until florets are tender-crisp. Rinse them in cold water, drain well. We like our broccoli a little crunchy. If you prefer it a little soft then steam for 5 minutes.
  2. Arrange them in a single layer in an oven-safe dish.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually add the milk – 1/3 cup at a time. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt, thyme, and nutmeg. Please grate the nutmeg yourself, it makes a huge difference in flavor.
  4. Pour 2 cups of the B├ęchamel sauce over the steamed broccoli and gently toss the florets to make sure they are thoroughly coated with the sauce.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450°F. 
  6. Bake the gratin, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir together the grated Gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle them over the gratin. Bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the gratin is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned. Sprinkle the surface of the baked gratin with the ground pepper and serve hot.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Indian Paratha

The Indian paratha

Sunday morning, Star Trek playing on TV, slight moist chill in the air and a buttery fried smell drifting through the house. My childhood memories of Sunday brunch when my mother had a day off from work and she made hot stuffed parathas with a different filling each week. We looked forward to them, my brother and I, gorging down these 'garma garam' delicious beauties dripping with butter, and a side of 'mirchi ka achaar' and a small bowl of plain yogurt.

The Indian paratha, an unleavened bread cooked all across Indian households is a breakfast favorite and a lunchbox favorite for almost all kids. There are numerous recipes for parathas with variations of fillings and dough. Most vegetables can be used for stuffing, but my faves are potato (aloo paratha) and radish (mooli paratha). It's a good way to use any left overs, just stuff-em in a paratha.

Crisp edged, flaky and spicy, freshly made, piping hot parathas straight out of the tava, topped with butter, dunked in tangy spicy pickle and a cooling spoonful of yogurt, small moments of childhood bliss.

I have broadly categorized the stuffed parathas into three categories.
  1. The dough method - Add the chopped veggies to the flour and knead into a soft dough. Roll and fry. Some examples of this type of  parathas are methi (fenugreek), onion, spinach, green onion.
  2. The stuff in method -  Roll the dough into a small disc, place a small amount of filling in the middle, Pull the edges together and seal. Flatten, roll and fry. This is the most common method, and almost any cooked dry vegetable can be used to make a paratha using this method. Some common examples are potato, urad dal, chana dal, paneer, peas, aloo methi sabji, sugar/khoya.
  3. The two roti method - When the stuffing is too chunky or too moist to use method-2, try using the two roti method. Roll two rotis, spread the filling evenly on one, place the second roti on top and press the edges to seal them. Then fry gently. A little tricky but practice makes perfect. Works well for grated radish(mooli), cauliflower (gobhi), cabbage, cheese, egg, mince meat -chicken or mutton (keema).

Here are some accompaniments that make these parathas even more special. You may want to try one or more with your next paratha meal.
  1. White butter and/or ghee
  2. Stuffed or chopped red chili pickle
  3. Lime or lemon pickle
  4. Raw mango pickle in oil
  5. Plain yogurt

Methi Paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 15)
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
4 cups packed chopped methi
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 green chilies, chopped fine
1-inch ginger, grated
Salt and red chili powder to taste
Oil/ghee for shallow frying
  1. Combine the first eight ingredients in a bowl and knead a soft dough with cool water. 
  2. Knead well for 3-5 minutes until smooth.
  3. Cover and keep aside to rest the dough for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Heat a flat griddle pan (tava) or frying pan.
  5. Divide the dough into equal portions. Flatten the dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 6 inch circle. 
  6. Dust off the excess flour from the paratha and place it on the hot pan.
  7. Cook for a few seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted butter or oil using the back of a spoon. 
  8. Turn over and repeat the process of buttering the top while the base cooks. Now turn over to cook the other side until there are brown speckles on the base as well. 
  9. Serve warm with yogurt and your choice of some pickle.

Potato (Aloo) Paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 12)
For the dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
For the filling
6 large potatoes, boiled, peeled
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 green chilies, chopped fine
1-inch ginger, grated
Fresh coriander, chopped fine
2 tsp anardana/ dried pomegranate powder
Salt and red chili powder to taste
Oil/ghee for shallow frying
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour and add 2 teaspoons of oil and enough water to form a soft dough.
  2. Rest the dough while you make the filling. Wrap it in cling film or cover with a damp cloth and keep aside. 
  3. Place the peeled and boiled potatoes in a large bowl and mash them well using a potato masher.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to the mashed potato and mix well. 
  5. Heat a flat tava (griddle) or a frying pan to medium.
  6. Divide the dough and stuffing into equal portions. Flatten the dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured pastry board to a 3 inch disc. Add the filling to the disc, pull the edges together, seal well and flatten.
  7. Roll out the encased dough into a 6 inch circle on a lightly floured pastry board. Dust off the excess flour from the paratha and place it on the hot tava. 
  8. Cook for 10-15 seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted ghee or oil using the back of a spoon. Turn over again to cook the other side and add some more butter on the top side. Turn one more time and cook for a few seconds till lightly crisp.
  9. Serve hot with yogurt and your choice of pickle.

Cauliflower (Gobi) paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 8)

For the dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
For the filling
½ large cauliflower, grated fine
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 Green Chilies, chopped
1-inch ginger, grated
Fresh coriander, chopped fine
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
Oil/ghee  for shallow frying
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour and add 2 teaspoons of oil and enough water to form a soft dough.
  2. Rest the dough while you make the filling. Wrap it in cling film or cover with a damp cloth and keep aside. 
  3. Mix all the ingredients under filling except salt. Salt will leech out moisture of the vegetable, making the stuffing moist. Add salt just before you start rolling the paratha. 
  4. Heat a flat tava (griddle) or a frying pan to medium.
  5. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. 2 of the dough balls will become one paratha. 
  6. Flatten a dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured pastry board to a 4 inch circle. Keep it aside while you roll out another dough ball.  Spread a generous amount of filling all over the circle, place the other rolled out circle on top and using your fingers lightly press to seal the edges. 
  7. Now roll it gently into a 6 inch circle. Carefully place it on the hot tava. 
  8. Cook for 10-15 seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted ghee or oil using the back of a spoon. Turn over again to cook the other side and add some more butter on the top side. Turn one more time and cook for a few seconds till lightly crisp.
  9. Serve hot with yogurt and your choice of pickle.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sausage potato Skillet

A simple, homey, "I wanna be in my sweats all day" kinda meal. With just four main ingredients, this inexpensive recipe is perfect for those busy or lazy nights when cooking is not on the top of my mind. Most of these ingredients are usually always in my pantry. And I can customize the flavors by using any herbs I have at hand. My first preference is always thyme. And garlic, lots of garlic. I use Turkey kielbasa for this dish, but pork or beef sausage works just well.

When I first made this dish, I used one pan and realized pretty early on that it was a mistake. Cooking potatoes in a separate skillet keep them crisp and dry. The other ingredients can be cooked together without the fear of overcooking. I mix the two just before serving.

Make it Vegan by substituting tofu for sausage.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 package turkey kielbasa, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
4 small potatoes, diced
olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper
red chili flakes (optional)
  1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and fry until golden brown and cooked through, around 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure even browning.
  2. In a separate pan, brown the sliced kielbasa for around 2-3 minutes in a little olive oil over medium-high heat.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  
  3. In the same pan add a little more oil followed by garlic and dry thyme. Let cook for a few seconds before adding the peppers and onions. Cook for 7-10 minutes on high, until slightly charred at the edges, stirring occasionally. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  
  4. Add the cooked potatoes and kielbasa to the onions and peppers and mix everything together.  Serve hot and crisp with a chilled beer or frozen margarita (whichever you fancy).

Friday, February 2, 2018

Blueberry Cobbler

Truth be told, I am no fan of fruit pies. The goopy and gluey fruit sogging up the bottom crust doesn't do anything for my sweet tooth. But all that's good about the idea of a pie, the hot juicy melting fruit, tender buttery crust and fragrant aromas can be savored in a crisp or a cobbler. In addition to being so much easier than pie crust to make, the crisp or cobbler topping is, frankly, also way more delicious.

Cobbler consists of a sweet or savory filling baked with a biscuit type dough topping. Pie, cobbler, crisps, and crumbles are all in the same family of sweet desserts, often having similar fruit fillings but each with its own distinctive topping. As opposed to a crisp or a crumble, the cobbler dough is a thick dense pastry and more cake-like in nature. Regional variations exist, with some mimicking a pie crust and others more like a dumpling than a pastry.

Most popular cobblers are fruit based, peach, blueberry, blackberry, often served with a scoop of ice cream. This combination of hot and cold, crisp and soft creates a party in the mouth. Some of the savory versions include mutton or beef cobbler.

My favorite cobbler by far is the blueberry one. The best thing about this recipe is that you can enjoy it all year round using frozen blueberries. When fresh berries come in season, it becomes even more of a treat. As a general rule, use 4-6 cups of fruit, fresh or frozen. A little sugar and cornstarch added to the fruit creates a shiny luscious sauce from the fruit's juices. The biscuit topping bakes up crisp on top and fluffy underneath for an ideal contrast to the soft fruit. 

Ingredients: (6-8 servings)
Fruit filling
4 cups blueberries
¼ cup sugar
2-3 tbsp cornstarch (based on fresh or frozen berries)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
Cobbler topping
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter
½ cup milk
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
    2. Prep the berries - In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients listed under fruit filling. Pour into a pie dish/baking dish. It should fill the dish halfway to three quarters leaving enough space for the cobbler topping.
    3. Prep the topping - In another mixing bowl combine flour,  salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Now add milk to moisten the dough. It should be sticky and quite wet. 
    4. Spread the dough evenly on top of berry mixture with your hand and press it down lightly. Or drop spoonfuls of dough all over the fruit. 
    5. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden brown.
    6. Serve hot with a blob of vanilla ice cream or as is.  
    7. Note - If you are using frozen berries instead of fresh, place the berries on top of a paper towel till they reach room temperature. This will allow any ice crystals to melt off before baking and not wind up making the cobbler too liquidy. Add more cornstarch. 
    8. Leftovers can be stored for up to 2 days in the fridge. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ragda Patties

I love bringing the flavors of traditional Indian comfort food to my table. I have always been a fan of the vast array of culinary offerings of street food. From Puchka to Jhal Muri, momos to vada pav, I love it all.

If you are a chaat lover then this recipe is for you. Ragda Patties - A lip smacking and finger licking Mumbai/Gujarat street food. Ragda patties are what Tikki Choley is to North Indian chaat lovers. The concept is the same, only flavors are more in tune with Maharashtrian cuisine. There are two main parts to this dish, the Crisp hot patties (potato Tikkis) that are served over a ladleful of hot dry yellow peas curry (Ragda) cooked with an array of spices, topped with green and red chutneys, onions and crisp Sev.
An attractive dish with flavors bursting in every spoonful. Serve it as a starter or as a mini meal for brunch/lunch.

A few points to keep in mind:
  • White peas need to be soaked overnight. If that is not possible then a minimum of 6 hours is definitely required. 
  • I always pressure cook the soaked peas. I recommend pressure cooking peas as its the quickest way to cook them properly. 
  • Potato patties can be both shallow fried or deep fried. 
  • An array of toppings really adds to the whole flavour quotient of this dish. So make sure to try a few of them.

Ingredients (serves 4)
For Ragda:
1 cup dry yellow peas, soaked overnight
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, crushed
½ tsp ginger garlic paste
Ragda dry masala
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
For patties:
4 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
½ tsp grated ginger
Chopped fresh coriander
½ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp mango powder (amchoor)
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs (or as needed)
Oil for frying
Other ingredients for serving:
Mint chutney
Tamarind chutney
½ Red onion, finely chopped
1 Tomato, finely chopped (optional)
Sev, as required
Fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Generous pinch red chili powder (optional)
Pinch cumin powder (optional)
  1. Make Ragda - Take the soaked white peas with 2 cups of water along with turmeric, chili powder, salt, and pressure cook till the first whistle, simmer for 2-3 minutes and take off the heat. I like the peas to hold their shape and not mush up too much. If you want you can cook a bit more for a more blended curry.
  2. Once the pressure releases, open the lid. Keep aside.
  3. In a pan heat oil. Add chopped onion and fry till pink. Add ginger garlic paste and cook for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and cook till you see oil at the side of the pan. 
  4. Add the cooked peas and the dry radga masala. Crush a few peas using the back of the ladle to make the curry more smooth. Add some water if the peas become too dry. Continue to cook until all the flavors blend in together. Adjust seasoning. 
  5. Make Patties- Mash boiled potatoes. Add all the ingredients listed under patties. Combine well and shape into eight small cutlets.
  6. Shallow fry the patties until golden brown and crisp.
  7. Serve - In a plate spoon some prepared ragada and place patties on top.
  8. Top it with green chutney and tamarind chutney.
  9. Add some chopped onions, tomato, sev and coriander leaves.
  10. Sprinkle chili powder and cumin powder (optional).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Chicken Avocado salad


A multi-colored rainbow salad that is as beautiful as its delicious. It has fruit, some crunchy nuts and it has the whole rainbow of colorful veggies. To top it off there is the perfect sweet and tangy homemade honey mustard dressing.

Here is a standard formula for assembling a main course salad.
Always start a salad with mixed greens. Top it with several different ingredients both crisp and smooth. Think red, orange, yellow and green veggies. Put in some fresh fruit, citrus or sweet. Add some crunch with nuts (walnuts, almonds, seeds) and dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, raisins, figs). To make it filling throw in some grilled protein - chicken, fish, tofu or even beans taste wonderful. I use the salad dressing as a marinade for the chicken. Drizzle with a dressing of your choice and serve. You can customize almost anything here. Whatever you have at hand usually works well.

Superdelicious. Works for both lunch or dinner.

Chicken avocado salad 
Grilled chicken
Roasted corn
Red pepper
Red onion
Mixed lettuce greens
Walnuts and cranberries
Honey mustard poppyseed dressing 
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp poppy seeds

Friday, January 12, 2018


An easy and fun entertaining idea that comes together rather quickly and requires no cooking, just assembling. Antipasto is the traditional first course of an Italian meal. An assembly of small bites of finger foods served with wine before dinner to stimulate the appetite and may contain an assortment of fresh cheeses, cured cold cuts, a variety of olives and other pickled veggies, fruits, nuts, crackers, and breadsticks. Most of the ingredients can be store bought, but you can add your own touch to a few things to give a flavor boost. For a relaxed and delicious start to any dinner party or cocktail party serve up this beautiful plate of goodness.

Choose from this list of possible candidates. 
  1. Olives - serve a variety of different olives. You get excellent marinated olives in the olive bars of grocery stores these days. You can also customize your own by flavoring them with herbs and spices. Nothing better than this briny goodness with a glass of cabernet. 
  2. Cheese cubes - serve both aged and fresh kinds of cheese and try to incorporate sharp and mild ones to suit every palate. Pecorino Romano, bocconcini, Havarti, Parmigiano Reggiano, provolone, brie, gouda, provolone. You can marinate bocconcini or cubed feta in olive oil flavored with red chili flakes and fresh or dried herbs.  
  3. Cured cold cuts - salami, prosciutto, ham, sardines, pepperoni, turkey breast. 
  4. Vegetables - Add a burst of color and freshness, choose from an assortment of jarred marinated artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, pearl onions, roasted red peppers, capers, garlic. Or cut up some fresh carrots, radish. 
  5. Fresh and dried fruit - Bright and colorful array of fresh and dried fruit will add an oomph to the antipasti. Choose from fresh figs, grapes, cantaloupe, dried apricots, grape tomatoes, berries.  
  6. Nuts - walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, roasted almonds.
  7. Breads and flatbreads - Garlic bread, crackers, breadsticks, rustic white, focaccia with rosemary.
  8. Dips - marinara sauce, pesto sauce, hummus, tapenade.  
Just a few commonsense Antipasto Rules.
  • Keep it simple and rustic so as not to overpower the main course, unless this is an appetizer and cocktails only party.  
  • Antipasto should always complement the main meal that you plan to serve later. 
  • To make interesting and eye-pleasing antipasti make sure to blend flavors, colors, and textures. Give your guests a choice of sweet, savory, spicy, sharp, crisp and crunchy. 

The antipasti above consists of three varieties of olives, pickled pearl onions, pepperoncini, sweet pickled bud peppers, 2 types of cheese one sharp and one mild , cured meats - ham and salami, fresh figs, sundried apricots, walnuts, breadsticks and Caprese salad bites (mini bocconcini, grape tomato and fresh basil leaf on a stick sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and drizzled with balsamic reduction).