Saturday, April 18, 2009

Seasonal Vegetables & Fruits

Spring is finally here! And with it come the new vegetables of the season. In India, we would get vegetables only seasonally, not year round. For example, sweet peas were available only in winter for a couple of months. The backyard guava trees would be laden with fruit in December and the markets would be flooded with mangoes in summer. Potatoes would be as cheap as Re 1.5 in winter and as costly as Rs 7 in peak summer. The taste of fruits and vegetables which are available seasonally far surpasses the ones which are here year round. So this time try buying according to seasons and be amazed at the superior taste ( at least a little, because hybrid varieties and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides affects the crop negatively. For best taste organic is the way to go ).
Given below is a list of fruits and vegetables which are in season now - SPRING!

Belgian Endives
Butter Lettuce
Chayote Squash
Collard Greens
Green Beans
Morrel mushrooms
Peas (garden, snap, snow etc.)
Sweet Onions (vidalia etc.)
The above are in season during spring. Depending on your location the start of availability might vary from early to late spring. The best idea would be to go to a farmer's market this weekend and buy the freshest produce on the stands. Lookup some new recipes online and taste the best of Spring. Now that would be yummy khushi!

pictures courtesy : No copyright infringement intended

Last show - Apr 14th

Here are some recipes and ideas given me by listeners for vegetables found here but not in India. I had requested them to come up with ideas on how they 'Indianise' such vegetables. And I'm sharing them here.


Brussel sprouts 1 pound
Curry leaves 1 Tbl Spoon
Mustard 1 tspspoon
Oil 5 tblspoons.

Grind to powder:
Channa dal 2 Tblspoon
Coriander seeds 4 Tblspoon
Urad dal 2 Tblspoon
Red chillies 4-5
Little salt to taste
1. Fry the above ingredients in a teaspoon of oil until golden and powder
2. Slit brussel sprouts and stuff the powder
3. Heat the oil in a pan and season with mustard and curry leaves
4. Add the stuffed brussel sprout and fry until crisp and tender.

recipe courtesy : Meera Rajgopal

Ingredients :
2-3 zucchini, chopped
2-3 green chillies
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp tamarind
Pinch turmeric
Salt as required

For seasoning:
1/4 tsp uraddal
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp hing(optional)
Few curry leaves
Coriander leaves, chopped

1. Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a pan and fry zucchini and green chillies.
2. After few minutes add turmeric, garlic, salt and cook on low flame for 5 - 10 minutes.
3. Grind the whole thing in blender.
4. Heat oil in a pan and add uraddal, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, when they splutter add curry leaves.
5. Remove from heat and add it to zucchini mixture and then add coriander leaves.

recipe courtesy : Meera Rajgopal

#3 Indian Zucchini bread ( Handvo )

Ingredients :
2 cups - handva flour (or cornmeal, as a second option)
1/2 cup - bottle gourd or zucchini, grated
3 tsp - shredded carrot
1/4 cup - fenugreek leaves
1/4 cup - spinach leaves (optional)
2 - green chillies, finely chopped
4 to 5 - garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp - ginger paste
3 cups - buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with water)
1 tsp - soda bi carb (fruit salt)increase it by 1/2 tsp if you don't feel its frothy enough
1 tsp - each urad and channa dal
salt to taste
1 tsp - lemon juice
1/2 tsp - sugar (optional)
For Tempering:
1 tsp - mustard seeds
2 tsp - sesame seeds
2 tbsp - oil

Method :
1.Take buttermilk in a large vessel.
2.Add salt, soda and flour and mix well.
3.As the mixture begins to froth, cover and set aside for 6-7 hours for fermentation.
4.Grate the bottle-gourd or zucchi and squeeze out all excess water.
5.Do this after the fermentation is done, as leaving bottle-gourd in air oxidizes it and makes it turn brown.
6.Now add all the vegetables, bottle-gourd, spices and green chillies to the flour mixture.
7.Heat oil in a pan, add urad & channa dals, and the mustard seeds.
8.Allow to splutter, then pour half of it into the batter and mix thoroughly.
9.Pour the mixture into a steel or aluminum container.
10.Place in a Steam Cooker and cook like idlis, for about 25-30 mins, then check to make sure it's cooked through.
11.Remove from flame and keep it covered for another 7-10 mins.
12.Once cooled, you can slice it into wedges

The above batter can also be used for making individual pancakes.
recipe courtesy:

Tip : One listener, Priya, uses Zucchini in all recipes calling for dudhi (lauki, opo squash) and Parval. She assures me that the recipes come out fine and taste very good too.
I'll be uploading other recipes from previous shows hopefully soon. So this is it for now. Happy Eating!

note: Pictures courtesy of google images. No copyright infringement intended.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fasting Recipes

Shivaratri feast
Maha Shivaratri has come and gone by. And finally I'm getting the opportunity to write the recipes of the dishes I made. Like I mentioned in my blog that day, food that can be eaten is generally saatvik in nature. This means limited use of spices, which results in the recipes being almost bland. But the true challenge lies in making those few ingredients taste delicious. Well, I was able to do just that with the following recipes. Though I was inspired by already available recipes it takes a couple of tries to get them right. And that's exactly what happened. So I give them here in the hope that you try them on the next major fasting day or otherwise.

sabudana khichdi - tapioca pearls cooked with spices
Sabudana (Sago/tapioca pearls) - 1 cup
Onion - 1 (medium size)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Mustard seeds (rai) - 1/2 tsp
Black gram dal (urad) - 1/2 tsp
Oil for seasoning
Salt to taste
Hing - a pinch
Haldi - a pinch
Peanut powder - 1tbsp or according to taste (recipe follows)

Soak sabudana for 3-4 hrs. After it has soaked, prepare the seasonings. Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a thick bottomed pan. Once hot, add the rai, urad dal and curry leaves. Once these sputter, add some hing and turmeric. Now lower the heat, add the chopped onions and let them cook till translucent. In the meanwhile drain the sabudana, rinse and spread in single layer on a paper towel. Make sure that the pearls are just moist before you add them to the onions in the pan (any excess water will result in the khichdi turning to one gooey lump) . After you put the pearls in, add salt to taste and mix thoroughly. It takes just 3-4 minutes for the pearls to get cooked. A minute before switching off the heat add the peanut powder quintessential to this khichdi. Garnish with some fresh coriander leaves and you have a delicious and filling fast food on your plate.

Peanuts - 2tbsp
Urad dal- 1tbsp
Chana dal - 1 tbsp
Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp (optional)
Jeera(cumin seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Whole red chillies - 2 ( more if you prefer )
Dry Roast ( implies roasting without any oil) all the listed ingredients, seperately. Then let them cool and pulse in a food processor to make a coarse powder. Use as required and then store in air-tight container. Stays fresh for couple of weeks. It can be used after that but starts to lose its color, flavor and taste.

Moong daal (pesara pappu) - 1 cup
Water - 3cups
Salt to taste
For the Seasoning:
Rai - 1tsp
Jeera - 1/2 tsp
curry leaves - a sprig
Whole red chillies - 1
Hing - a pinch.
Wash the daal and put in a thick bottom saucepan with the water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it starts boiling, remove the cover. Stir and lower heat to medium. Let it cook till the daal is al dente. We check for doneness just the way you do for pasta. Take a little bit in a spoon and press the daal. If it gets mashed with just a tiny hard kernel inside, that's the end point. Remove from heat, add salt to taste and cover. Just before serving you have to add the seasoning. Heat a couple teaspoons of oil, add rai and wait till it sputters and dances around. Then add jeera, whole red chillies, hing and curry leaves in that order, take off of heat and add to the daal immediately. Stir the daal once and put the lid back on. This allows for all the flavors to marry before we actually eat it.
pesara kattu - a simple soupy daal
This is more like a watery daal soup because of the 3 to 1 ratio of water. And goes well served over hot rice with a smidgen of ghee and a side of aaloo fry. MMMM YUM!!!
Need to run now to bring Princess back so maybe I'll post the other recipes later. And I hope that this post reminds you that observing a fast makes you and your God happy whilst fasting food will definitely make your tummy quite happy.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Happy happy Saturday!!! And really happy because I took a trip down memory lane. Let me begin at.... well, the beginning. (heh heh,sheepish grin). Today was Princess' blood work and I was really worried. We didn't tell her beforehand for fear of her tears. I thought maybe once we're there we'd prepare her slowly. Unfortunately, we walked in to another child's hysterical sobbing. He was compltetely inconsolable. And I was very apprehensive that now she too would become scared. Thankfully there was no waiting, they took us in immediately. The highlight was that there was not even a flinch from Princess !! Yes ! She was just amazing and that brought more tears to me. I must say I feel so very proud of her.
Then we went to Oak Tree Road for lunch. For those who are new to this Road all I can say is that it's all Indian out there. You'll find a plethora of Indian restaurants, sweet shops, Kirana shops (kirana = groceries), clothing stores and all and sundry items' stores. But no no, this is not my trip down mem lane. Be patient.
We went to eat in Desi Galaxy as both me and VC are partial to it. The interior is a bit cramped and the food stalls are lined up railway carriage style. But the food (from all 7 stalls) is very good. We started off with our favorite - the Cut Mirchi. And we recently added another usual to our list - delicious Boiled Egg Kheema ( no meat yay!). Princess wanted Puri-Sabzi from the Gujarati stall. And while waiting for that order, I was unexpectedly shoved down that happy memory lane. A lady walks up and asks for an order of ' Daal-Baati' and is served pronto. I was amazed, simply because I never expected to see that particular item on any menu outside of Rajasthan or a Maarwaadi restaurant. My excitement at hearing those words from somebody else's mouth, after so many years, was paramount. I just had to have it and I did. YUMMY! God bless the lady in that kitchen who made it.
Panchmel Daal with Baati - Traditional Rajasthani food

The 'Daal-Baati ' was really tasty and aunthentic. Though I kept wondering where they had a ' choolha ' (a U-shaped open air clay stove that uses wood fire for cooking). The traditional way to cook 'Baati' is to place the dough balls on the embers left over once the fire has died, and to keep turning them ocassionally to cook evenly on all sides. The outside is nice and charred. The inside is fully cooked albeit a little heavy because it is a lump of dough. To be truthful, it's an acquired taste. But it grows on you after a while and the authentic version is really tasty. And the real reason for that is - the 'Baati' is supposed to be dunked in Ghee ( clarified butter) and the Daal also has a layer of Ghee on it while being served. Can't get much better than that, eh?
But 'Daal and Baati' is not the end of the story. The traditional Rajasthani Thali (literally - a plate, that holds all the items on the menu) will have all of the following items :
Gatte ki Subzi
Lahsun ki Chutney

Rajasthani food is spicy (as in hot!!!) and relies heavily on lentils-pulses and milk products (like buttermilk, butter and of course Ghee). This is attributed to the fact that Rajasthan is India's Desert State and as such, has limited water supply and few green vegetables.
malai-ghevar: a sweet delicacy from Rajasthan

There are other regional specialities as well which are not as well-known as the above, but very popular locally. Malai Ghevar, Rabdi, Mawa Kachori, Malpuas are just some in that list. But that is not all. What the home cooks prepare for daily meals are probably the best kept secrets. And growing up in Rajasthan, I had the fortune of tasting such local preparations in my friends' homes. The two that clearly stand out in my memory - Papad ki Sabzi and Amrood ki Sabzi. Maybe one day, I'll try making them and then post the recipes, but not today. I have other recipes waiting in the drafts that want to be posted :-) Hope you liked this glimpse of food from Rajasthan and maybe I've piqued your interest to go out and try this lesser known but delicious cuisine. Whether you make it or get it, Rajasthani food will make you very Happy, I assure you.
pictures courtesy of google images(love2eathate2cook blog etc.). No copyright infringement intended.

Monday, February 23, 2009


This is a continuation from my previous Italian cuisine post. I have given here some of the recipes I featured on my last radio show. And the sources are listed below each recipe.
1) Struffoli are small fritters glued together with honey and decorated with sprinkles. It is a Neapolitan dish made of deep fried balls of dough about the size of marbles. They are crunchy on the outside, light inside and are traditionally served with honey, bits of orange rind and chopped nuts. They grace the table at Christmas and Easter and are perfect when served warm.

6 eggs
6 tbsp. cooking oil
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry
Shortening or oil for deep frying

Mix first 6 ingredients. Add enough flour to make a consistency to roll. Dough should be somewhat sticky. Shape into small balls, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Deep fry in oil or shortening until golden brown.
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups honey
1 tbsp. orange zest
Mix all ingredients on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Dip each roll into mixture and remove. or you could make the glaze in a wide-mouthed pot and put the fritters into it. Stir to coat all of them and transfer them to serving dishes before decorating with sprinkles.
recipe courtesy:

2) Frico - It is simply fried cheese, mainly Montasio cheese. Being a simple dish it has been around for a long time. And being made of cheese, this is one recipe that I might never try on my own. Both me and VC run away from cheese:-D heh heh heh But I hope to visit Italy some day and while there, I hope to taste this too. Can't get much fresher than that.


10 ounces (250 g) fresh or moderately aged Montasio cheese, grated
scant pound (400 g) potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1/4 cup unsalted butter or olive oil

Heat the fat in a skillet and sauté the potatoes for a few minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown, then add the cheese and continue cooking, shaking the pan every now and then so the cheese gets to the bottom of the potato mixture; once the bottom of the mixture has begun to brown carefully slide it out onto a plate using a spatula (you don't want to break the frico), then invert the frico back into the pan so you end up with the browned side up (as you would while flipping a frittata). Continue cooking the frico for a few minutes more, until the underside is also brown; it should have a crunchy skin and a soft inside. The total cooking time of the cheese will be about 12-15 minutes.
Note: If you cannot find Montasio, use young Grana Padano cheese.
Hope somebody out there who's not afraid of cheese will try this and like it. Afterall cheese is one of the best comfort foods and thus brings warmth to your tummy and grins to your face.
recipe courtesy:
photo courtesy: google images.
No copyright infringement intended.


Today is Maha Shivaratri. Literal meaning - " The Great Night of Shiva". It is one of the most important days for Shiva devotees. The day is decided based on the lunar calendar followed by most Indians. It is considered to be a very auspicious day and majority of the devotees observe Vrata (fasting) and Jaagaran (sleepless vigil through the night). Married women fast for the long life and health of their spouses. Unmarried girls observe the fast on this day as it is believed this will bring them a husband like Shiva himself ( Shiva is considered to be the ideal husband ). Staunch ritual followers go without even a drop of water, but most of the people observe a milk, liquids and fruits diet. To make it easier for all the family(including children and the elderly) to participate in the fasting, different regions have come up with fasting food recipes. It allows for a number of grains, vegetables and some spices to be used on this day. Mostly, I think that any Saatvik food ( fresh, less spicey) may pass as a fasting food.
About sixteen years ago I heard of a very popular fasting food for this day - Sabudana Khichdi. And to be very honest, I started fasting from that year onwards to be able to make and eat this yummy khichdi. The religious and spiritual aspect caught up with me a little later ( thankfully!!) but I lost touch with the khichdi. Probably because I never had a recipe all those years ago and the two times I made it, I could not get it out of the karahi nor could I get the ladle out of the lump. :-D ha ha ha.
Fast forward to 2008 and thanks to Google sher, I got the recipe. And it really is yummy!!! I made it a few times already and turns out perfect everytime. So that's what is on the menu today.
Sabudana Khichdi (a dish made of tapioca pearls )
Aaloo sabzi (Potato curry, very mild)
Pesara kattu ( a simple daal using Moong Dal)
Semia payasam
Of course I'll have to post the recipes after I make them. And in the meantime, I hope to fast keeping in mind what I'm fasting for ( VC, Princess and all my friends and family), not just the food. In short all the blessings in my life given me by Shiva since the first time I observed fast on Maha Shivaratri. And most of all I am going to fast and give thanks for the ability to see and remember the Happiness of Life and Living.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Let me begin by saying that I believe Indian Cuisine is the best. That was how I started yesterday's show and I know it to be true. Indian vegetarian cuisine is best, both in taste as well as nutritionally. But that does not mean we should restrict ourselves to just Indian food all the time. We as in foodies and Indians in general, should explore other cuisines as well. And here in the good ole' USofA we have the oppurtunity to do just that.
So my choice of cuisine for the show was - Italian. One thing I would like to mention here is that restaurant food is not exactly the aunthentic fare that one might experience in the country itself. But even if you visit Italy (r any other country for that matter) these days, most restaurants sport generalised menus that cater to the tastes of tourists. So to taste aunthentic food, you might have to walk off the beaten tourist path. Try going into the hidden alleys and out of the way taverns. That is where one will find a piece of authenticity waiting to be savored by the truly hungry foodie. Some of the recipes I mention here are ones you will not find in any Olive Garden or Johnny Carino's. Hope you try them and like 'em too.

As with any cuisine, Italian was influenced by cultural, political as well as geographical influences. Even though Italy seems to be a small country, it has twenty different regions, each with its own distinct food - dishes and cooking techniques. More significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World. Italian cuisine as we know it today, was much influenced by the introduction of items like potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize. These are an important part of the cuisine today, but weren't widely used till the 18th century. Ingredients and dishes vary by region and some regional dishes have become national. Many dishes have regional variations across the country. Cheese and wine play an important role in Italian cuisine, as does Coffee, and more specifically Espresso.

Meals in Italy will have at least 3-4 courses. In many Italian homes today, the traditional menu is reserved for special occasions and daily meals are limited to 2 courses, a side dish and coffee. Traditionally the menu would look like this:

Apertivo - Aperitifs enjoyed as appetizers before a heavy meal. These include Campari, Prosecco, Spritz, Vermouth etc.

Antipasto - It means 'before the meal' and consists of hot and/or cold appetizers.

Primo - The first course, usually a hot, filling dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi or soup.

Secondo - The second course, consisting of meat or fish.

Contorno - Means ' side dish' and is salad or cooked vegetables.

Formaggio e Frutta - 'Cheese and Fruits' which is the first dessert. Local cheese makes an appearance here in addition to Antipasto or the side dish.

Dolce - Of course 'Dessert', like cakes and cookies.


Digestivo/Ammazzacaffe - Liquors/liqeurs like Amaro, Limoncello, Sambuca which are sometimes referred to as Ammazzacaffe meaning Coffee killer.

Italians consider meals as a time to spend with family anf friends. As such the lunch or dinner may be longer than in most Western cultures. And it is as it should be. Hard earned food should be savored with much loved family. (Sigh!) I wish that all of us were granted with that bit of happiness. Well tomorrow is Saturday so I can aim for the happiness of making and eating some Italian food with my family. So come back day-after and I promise to post those recipes by then. Ciao and Xin Fu to you !

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I am going to continue with the glossary list today. And as the cute picture above suggests, its going to be about veggies. Ummm, yumm!! The important note - H in braces means name in Hindi, Te means name in Telugu ( one of the major South Indian languages).

Root Vegetables:
  1. Potato - Aaloo (H), Bangaladumpa (Te)
  2. Onion - Pyaz (H), Ulli paya (Te)
  3. Garlic - Lahsun/Lassan (H), Velulli paya (Te)
  4. Ginger - Adrak (H), Allam (Te)
  5. Colocasia - Arvi/Arbi (H), Chemadumpa/Chemagadda (Te)
  6. Carrot - Gaajar (H), carrot (Te)
  7. Turnip - Shalgam (H),
  8. Sweet Potato - Shakarkand (H), Chilakada dumpa (Te)
  9. Beetroot - Chukunder (H),
  10. Yam (elephant yam ) - Jami kand or Ratalu or Suran (H), Kanda (Te)
  11. Radish / Daikon - Mooli (H), Mullangi (Te)
  12. Tapioca root/ Cassava/ Yucca - Simla Aaloo (H), Pendalam (Te)
  13. Celery - Ajmud/ Ajmoda (H), Vaamaaku (Te)


  1. Ash Gourd - Petha kaddu (H), Budida Gummadi kaya (Te)
  2. Amaranth leaves - Chauli/ Chowli patte (H), Thotakoora
  3. Aubergine/ Brinjal - Baingan (H), Vankaya (Te)
  4. Artichoke - Hathi chak (H),
  5. Asparagus - Shatwar/ Halyan (H),
  6. Avocado - Makhan phal (H),
  7. Broad/ Fava beans - Papdi lilva (H), Chikkudu kaya (Te)
  8. Bitter gourd - Karela (H), Kakara kaya (te)
  9. Bell Peppers/ Capsicum - Simla Mirch (H), Bangalore Mirchi (Te)
  10. Bottle gourd/ Opo squash - Lauki/ Ghia (H), Anapa kaya/ Sora kaya (Te)
  11. Cabbage - Bandh/Patta Gobhi (H), cabbage (Te)
  12. Cauliflower - Phool Gobhi (H), cauliflower (Te)
  13. Cluster Beans - Guar/ Guwar Phalli (H), Goruchikkudu kaya (te)
  14. Corn - Makka/Makai (h), corn
  15. Cucumber - Kheera (H), Dosakai (Te)
  16. Chow-Chow/ Chayote squash - (h), Bangalore Katrikaya (Te)
  17. Drumstick - Saijam/ Shinga Phalli (h), Mullakkada/ Munnakai (te)
  18. Eggplant - see aubergine
  19. Green Peas - Matar (H), Pachi Batani (te)
  20. Fresh/ Frech beans - Pharas beans (H), beans
  21. Ivy gourd/ Gherkin - Tindora/ Tindli (H), Dondakaya (te)
  22. Jack fruit - Kathal (H), Panasa kaya (Te)
  23. Lady's fingers/ Okra - Bhindi (H), Benda kaya (Te)
  24. Mushrooms - Kukkur mutta/ Khumbi (H), Kukka(Putta) Godugulu (te)
  25. Olives - Zetoon/ Jaitun (H),
  26. Pumpkin - Kaddu (h), Gummadi kaya (te)
  27. Ribbed/ Ridge gourd or Courgette - Turai or Tori (H), Beerakaya (TE)
  28. Snake gourd - Chichinda or Chirchira (H), Potlakaya (te)
  29. Spring onions - Hara Pyaz (H), Ulli kada (te)
  30. Tomatoes - Tamatar (H), Tamata (te)

And those are some veggie translations for you. Of course, the list is in no way compelete, yet. In further postings I hope to put up names of fruits and dry fruits as well. And some indigenous vegetables have been left out just because I have never seen them in US markets. And looking at this list I understand for the first time - Indian vegetarian diet is truly the healthy way to live. With ample use of different pulses, legumes and beans, each meal provides a complete profile nutrition-wise. There is just so much variety of vegetables grown and each part of India has developed such distinctive cuisine based on it, that we don't miss meat. So let's make sure we eat these veggies to achieve better health. As the old adage goes " Health is Wealth". But more importantly, I say, "Health is Happiness".

pictures from google images. No copyright infringement intended.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Long time no write. Yes, this time it's been a very long gap before I could write here. I have so many things to write but I'll continue with my last thought based on my last blog entry. And that is a Glossary of items required in your pantry for Indian cooking. I have categorized them as basic and advanced depending on your interests and skills.

Basic Spices and Ingredients:
  1. Jeera - Cumin seeds
  2. Rai - Mustard seeds
  3. Haldi - Turmeric powder
  4. Hing - Asafoetida powder
  5. Lahsun/Lassan - Garlic
  6. Adrak - Ginger
  7. Mirchi pd - Chilli/Cayenne pepper powder
  8. Dhania - Coriander (cilantro) seeds
  9. Hara Dhania - Cilantro (coriander) leaves, fresh
  10. Pudina - Mint leaves
  11. Kari patta/ Meetha neem - Curry leaves ( small leaves used sparingly for seasoning food)

Advanced Spices and Ingredients:

  1. Elaichi - green Cardamom pods
  2. Badi Elaichi - brown Cardamom pods (larger in size than green. Badi = Big)
  3. Dalchini/ Dalcheeni - Cinnamon bark
  4. Tej Patta - Bay Leaf
  5. Khus-khus - Poppy seeds (tiny white seeds)
  6. Sonf/Saunf - Fennel seeds/ Aniseeds
  7. Shah/Sha Jeera - Caraway seeds
  8. Ajwain - Carom seeds
  9. Methi seeds - Fenugreek seeds
  10. Kali Mirch - Black Pepper
  11. Lal Mirch - Red Chilli peppers (whole, dried )
  12. Hari Mirch - Green chilli peppers (whole, fresh)
  13. Javitri/Japatri - Mace
  14. Jaiphal - Nutmeg (both the above spices come from same tree but have distinct flavor)
  15. Kalonji - Onion seeds/Nigella seeds
  16. Laung/Lavang - Cloves
  17. Chironji seeds - Cudpahnut seeds
  18. Sonth/Saunth - Ginger (dry)
  19. Gud - Jaggery
  20. Til seeds - Sesame seeds

And those are the spices and common ingredients found in the average Indian kitchen. But this is not the end of the list. There is so much more to the Indian pantry and refrigerator that I am going to put up another list in a different post. And hope that it will be helpful for everybody who loves Indian food and want to make it. So keep coming back and find what you need right here. Hope that the link to penzeys spices will be an interesting browse.

picture courtesy No copyright infringement intended.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A Happy morning to all of you. Here are the rest of the tips from various listeners for uses of tofu in Indian cuisine (and otherwise too). The tip regarding using tofu in kadhi was given by Sujatha. The next really good idea was given to me by a loyal listener who calls himself just 'Singh'. His tips are for a variation of the regular Kofta curry. I shall write the basic gravy following the kofta variations.

1) Peel and grate a medium lauki (opo squash/ doodhi/ sorakaya)
2) Sprinkle with a little salt and keep aside for about 30 mins.
3) Squeeze and drain all the water given off by the lauki.
4) Now add 1/2 inch piece ginger(grated), 1tsp chilli powder, 1tsp dhana-jeera, 1/4 tsp haldi and salt to taste. Mix well.
5) Add about 2 tbsp besan, just enough to bind the lauki mixture together so it holds its shape when we fry it.
6)Heat oil in a deep fryer or kadai. Make small balls of the lauki mixture. When the oil heats up to 350 F drop the lauki balls in and fry till golden brown.
7)Drain on paper towels and add to the simmering gravy. Let simmer in there for 10 mins.
8) Serve with paranthas, rotis or any other indian bread of your choice.

1) Soak firm tofu with punjabi badiyan for 8hrs (overnight). You could substitute Nutella Soya bits for the tofu here.
2) Use just enough water for soaking, so they don't become too runny.
3) The next morning make koftas just like in the steps above.

1) Grate equal parts tofu and lauki. Proceed with lauki as in recipe #1. After draining liquid from lauki, add the tofu. Continue like you did with the regular kofta.
2)Add to gravy. (recipe follows)

1) Grind together the following to make a thick paste:
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 3-4 cloves garlic

2) Grind the following into a dry powder:
- 3-4 cloves(laung)
- 1tsp khus-khus seeds
- 1 pod green cardamom (just the seeds)
- 1 inch piece cinnamon

3)Heat some oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan. When hot, add 1 tsp of cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Then add 2 bay leaves, the wet masala grind and cook it on low heat till it leaves oil on the side. Now add 1/4 tsp haldi and the dry powder masala to this and bhunao (cook on low heat ) till the dry rub gives out a pleasant smell. Now add 1- 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, lower heat to low, add the fried koftas and let simmer for 10 mins. The koftas will soak some of the juice from the gravy. Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve hot with paranthas or puris. Mmmmmm!! :-D

That's yummy and happiness in your tummy.

TIP: You can use the above kofta recipes and substitute them in your favorite meatball and marinara recipes. Sneaky as well as healthy.
picture courtesy of No copyright infringement intended

Saturday, January 17, 2009


You know that feeling you get once in a while where you just want to curl up under a blanket with a good book and not do anything else? Well, I get that feeling almost everyday. Hence, a late entry today for my Tuesday's show. But I've brought all the information with relevant pictures now. Yay me! :-D (That is a telltale sign that I watch Disney channel) But back to topic - Soya, in all its glory.

The humble and previously ignored soyabean is emerging into the limelight, now that we are becoming more health conscious. For vegetarians and vegans all over the world, the biggest problem is to obtain all the essential nutrients and especially protein, from their diet. In that respect, soyabean and soy products are the solution. They are very rich in protein and contain all the essential amino acids. Soy is also a good source of vitamin E and lecithin.
In moderation, soy products are very good for vegetarians and vegans alike. I shall refrain from writing why it is very good or why it might be not so good if you overdo it. Why? Because every coin has two sides and for me every food too, has two sides. Therefore soy must have a flip side which will be brought to light maybe in the future. What I read on couple of websites confirms my belief that everything must be done in moderation. Google "Soy products benefits" and you can form your own opinion.
As of now, we are going forward with soy recipes that you can include in your menu once or twice a week.

It's not a recipe at all! :-D In the Japanese cuisine, immature soybeans are boiled/blanched whole in their pod and served with a little salt. That is a pow-wow power snack all by itself. For beginners, I would think that if you get rid of the pod, it might taste better. You get beans like in the picture above. Then proceed with the boiling.
For the really cuisine challenged (my way of saying people with a limited taste palette), I have written a basic dressing recipe below which will be good with the boiled soybeans.

1 part lemon juice
1 1/2 parts olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Stream the oil into the lemon juice while whisking briskly. That will give you the thick dressing. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy your soybeans.

At this point what you have eaten is the direct bean also called the Edamame. It has been proclaimed as the ideal snack alternative by health and fitness magazines. Edamame is sold in the frozen vegetable section at some grocery stores and in Asian delis.

Again, this is more of a tip than a recipe. And very common amongst Indian families who make their own bread (rotis, chapathis, phulkas & paranthas). You can crumble some soft or firm tofu into the wheat flour before kneading it. The tofu blends well with the flour and results in soft and fluffy bread. And since the tofu is bland, this might be a good way of sneaking in some healthy food into your picky eater's diet.

Fruity Shake
3 bananas
1 cup chilled soy milk
1 cup chilled low fat milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
sugar or honey to taste
1)Peel and blend the bananas with the sugar or honey.
2)Now add the milks and cinnamon and blend again.
3)Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Soya provides anti-oxidants, milk gives calcium and fruit keeps you full. A tasty snack to make in a jiffy. You can substitute any fruits of your liking.

Note - Soy milk doesn't seem to heat well. When used in coffee and heated, it tends to give off an oily smell. So keep to the cooler drinks when using soy milk.

You may substitute or use tofu with regular curds in preparation of 'kadhi'. One of my listeners told me that she has been doing it for quite sometime now. The tofu blends well with yogurt, stands heat ok and doesn't contribute any overwhelming/weird taste.

For north-indian style kadhi - Blend equal parts of yogurt with soft tofu and proceed with the recipe as usual.

For south -indian style kadhi - Put equal parts of coconut with tofu, green chillies, soaked chana dal and dhania (coriander ) seeds in a mixer and grind to a coarse paste. Now proceed with the recipe as usual.

The above are some of the good tips I came across while doing my Soya show. I will be writing the remaining tips in my next blog. So keep checking the page in the next couple of days.
And I shall sign off now hoping that I have shared something useful with you. Something that brings you good health or much resolved weight-loss or more variety in your cuisine. Something that brings you smiles and happiness.
pictures courtesy medifast website and from google images. No copyright infringement intended.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vegetable Stew

Wednesday was wet and clammy. By evening I was in serious need of comfort food. My comfort food is 'Mirchi bajji', unfortunately no 'mirchis' in the fridge. And somewhere in the back of my mind was a small pin prick nagging me restlessly. It happened to be my 'Health Conscience' (not to be confused with my 'Conscience Conscience' !). It kept reminding me that I had indulged enough during the holidays and that the absence of the chillies in my fridge was a Sign. So I heeded to my HC and looked around and saw another alternative for my comfort food fixation- Vegetable stew with Dumplings. I realized I always wanted to try it so now was a good time. I "Googled" recipes and groan groan! I did not have any canned beans or potatoes. Very disappointing, hmph!!

Then I decided to take things into my own hands. I thought it over and had a brilliant idea. I would substitute lentils for beans and radishes for potatoes. And give it a new name - Mediterranean Lentil Stew with Italian dumplings. The parmesan cheese in the dumplings made them Italian :-D Well let me get to it then.
Serves 4
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8-10 red radishes
8-10 baby carrots
1 medium green bell pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup lentils (masoor dal)
1 stick celery (or 1/4 tsp celery seeds)
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp dried italian seasonings(marjoram, rosemary etc.)
2 tbsp AP flour (mixed thoroughly with 1/3 cup water)
Salt and Pepper to taste.
2tbsp Oil or butter
Cut all veggies into bite size pieces. Heat a saucepan and put the oil/butter in it. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low. Let the onions sweat a bit, then add the garlic. Once the garlic starts giving out a fragrant aroma, add all the root vegetables(you may put whatever else you have in hand). Let them saute for 4-5 mins. Then add the dry seasonings and lentils, and give it a stir. Let that saute for another 4-5 mins. In the meantime, bring to boil about 2 cups of water in a seperate saucepan. Now add the bell pepper,and pepper to the stew. Stir and saute for 2 mins and add the hot water to it. Cover and simmer for about 1 hr (on medium heat) while stirring ocassionally. Once the lentils have softened then add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cover and cook again till everything (esp. the lentils) start getting a little mushy. Now add the flour water mixture, stir and cook till the raw flour smell is gone (about 7 mins.). Taste and adjust seasonings according to your pallete. For added taste and color I put some saffron strands in there (but what with saffron being so costly, I put just a li'l. So little that I might as well have omitted it entirely- i couldn't taste it there:-D)
serves 6-8 (depending on how many you eat!)
1 cup bisquick pancake mix
1/4 cup chopped, steamed spinach (optional)
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk

Mix all the ingredients together. You'll get a sticky dough. For traditional dumplings, this batter would be dropped by teaspoonfuls into the stew during the last 10-15 mins and cook in there. I think that it mostly is an acquired taste. I did that and I felt like I was eating mush. I almost gagged.
Fortunately, I did not trust the dumpling to begin with so I made my own version. I feel that for the Indian palette at least, this will taste way better. I heated a frying pan with about 1 tbsp of oil and dropped teaspoonfuls of the above batter in it. Lower the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 3-4 mins. Then flip the pan fry dumplings and let cook for another 3 mins or till you feel its done. The dumplings made this way were a sure hit with both VC and Princess ( and me too :-P)

On the whole I did get my comfort food (after I scraped away the tradumpling from my stew) and all of us were happy in the tummy.


' A picture is worth a thousand words.'

I really believe that it is true. Why? Imagine a beautiful sunset . Now imagine how many words it would take to describe it's beauty. At least a thousand, if not more. But it takes only one painting to convey the description. Now don't take me wrong here. I am not talking in terms of effort. Most probably the effort that goes into both the writing as well as the painting is comparable. Personally I believe that the effort that goes into painting is more ( after the inspiration, to be specific). Imagine if one had to paint all the relevant verses of the 'Mahabharata' or 'Illiad' !!! These are just some of the random thoughts I was having today.
The crux of the matter is that I wish I could paint all that I wanted to. And as well as I wanted to paint. But it takes a lot of inspiration to start a painting and then a lot of work to finish it to your satisfaction. Painting is one of those things that bring me joy :-) There was a time when I used to paint. I had taken all possible classes - in watercolor, oils, fabrics etc. Each summer vacation I would attend some class or the other and spend hours painting pictures. I had a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm. But I am empty handed now, because paintings and painters are considered worthless in India. The family decided that I should be doing something more worthwhile with my time. And all my paintings were sold to the "kabaadiwala" because to get them framed would be a waste of hard earned money. Probably, it was right.
Maybe I should paint now and get them framed. Only now I don't have any inspiration.
I am not writing all of this to gain sympathy. The only reason I write this is to implore that if you have anybody in your life that paints or maybe writes or sketches, hang on to every scrap that comes your way. He might not be tomorrow's Picassa or Monet. The scraps may well be worthless monetarily but you'll be saving a piece of his soul within. A moment of his happiness captured by that finished piece of painting.
Enough of the lecture for today :-D I wanted to share with you some of the beautiful pictures that I came across today. Hope you like them and experience the same happiness that the painters did when they painted these.

The painting on top of the post(sunset in rorutunga) and the landscape( a swiss village) are by a painter named Roland Lee. The painting 'yellow hibiscus' is by the painter Bob Ross. He has a show called 'The Joy of Painting' which is aired on local PBS stations. And the Tulips painting is by Marlies Merk Najaka. The websites are given below. Please check them out for more lovely paintings (on sale) as well as step-by-step painting lessons. And let me know if you have any other such lovely sites on your list :-D
for Roland Lee -
for Bob Ross -
Go put up a piece of beauty and happiness on all the walls around you. And my thanks to these excellent painters and the innumerous others out there for bringing us such Happiness.

note: no copyright infringement or plagiarism intended.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Boston Trip

The Chinese ( mandarin ) word for happiness is Xing Fu. And most of us are always looking for this feeling. The thing to remember is that this feeling is indescribable. You can describe what brought you the happiness but not the moment when you were experiencing it. That is because in that moment you transcend the ego and are one with the supreme being experiencing bliss. Well, I did not experience that kind of Xing Fu but I still had a very happy vacation. We drove to Boston which was a 3-1/2 hr drive extended to 7 hrs because of inclement weather and Christmas eve traffic :-D One of my dear friends, Madhu, lives there with her husband. We reached there on Christmas eve and had a very laid-back relaxing Christmas with them. She had told me that she'd decorated a small Tree and that we could keep all our presents under it just like a regular tree. But turned out that some of our presents were bigger than the "small tree". Here, you take a look. But as always, her spirit more than made up for the tree's height :-D. And our family had a very lovely Christmas day. Xing Fu for VC was seeing a telugu movie on Siva's 46" Sony Bravia tv. The movie being Superstar Rajnikanth's recent movie 'Shivaji'. I've rarely seen him laugh so much ( no offense meant against the superstar). We also saw a Jackie Chan - Jet Li movie called 'Forbidden Kingdom'. It was one of those martial arts movies with very simple storyline but the locales were beautiful and the 46" TV did justice to it. On the whole a very nice day.
The next day, we woke up, had a leisurely lunch and hit the nearby Wrentham Outlet Mall. About a mile away from the mall we got stuck in the after Christmas rush- traffic and it took us a good 45 mins. to cover the last mile and get into the mall. But it was worth it - haven't seen Sony, Banana Republic and couple other outlet stores since we moved from MI. And most of them had good deals.
After the mall, we went to the Frog Pond Skating Rink in downtown Boston. Despite the temperature being below freezing, the rink was packed and we had a 40 min wait in line before it was our turn on the ice. Take a look, the rink is located in a beautiful surrounding made even better by the season.

The pictures we took in night mode were all really hazy :-D So I'm adjusting with the above shots. The upper one shows the frog sitting and fishing beside the pond, which probably at this point is the skating rink itself. A good first time on the ice.
On Saturday, we were able to meet another good friend and his lovely wife on the eve of their first marriage anniversary. Kudos, Vik and Ani. And thanks too, for the lovely pink kitchen set for the Princess. She loves it and makes hot soup for us all the time. When asked for the recipe she says that " It has hot chocolate, Veggies and Miso in it." :-O!!! Boy! Am I glad that the kitchen is make believe and so is the soup in our cups! Hot chocolate and Miso ? I think Princess has all the makings of an Iron Chef :-D
Oh! I almost forgot the highlight of Princess' vacation. The Disney on Ice Show - Mickey and Minnie's magical journey. We were an hour late for the 2 hr show ;-) But it was just spectacular. Princess would have preferred to see more of Mickey, Minnie and friends. But she didn't mind seeing Tinker Bell and Michael (Wendy's bro) that much ( she has a classmate called Michael). Thanks to M&S for getting us the tickets. Take another look, and go see it if it comes to your town.

And that was our lovely Boston trip. We had the opportunity to eat at two nice restaurants - Minerva (local) and PF Chang's (chain). Both were good but nothing compared to M's home made dishes. Thanks again M&S.
And that's another thing we do in search of happiness - travel. Travel in the hope that a place, a face or some new taste may bring us that which we seek relentlessly. Xing Fu.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


A new year has dawned. May the New Year bring in Peace, Joy and Contentment to your lives. And may the rising sun give you Hope for tomorrow.
This picture was taken at Kanyakumari ( Cape Commorin ) at the meeting of the three seas - Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Its the southern most point of India and very famous because of Vivekananda's Rock. But my reason for picking this particular picture is different. For me it holds a completely different significance. It is related to a TV series called ' Nai Subah' ( translates to New Morning) which was aired sometime in the early '90s. It was a show about drug abuse amongst college students and their rehabilitation. On the whole it was a very sad show, but the last episode held something very meaningful.
The main protagonist was cured of his drug abuse and completely rehabilitated. But he faces problems when he tries to pick up the threads of his life. Friends and family shun him and he becomes despondent. In that dismal mood he collects what little money he has and gets on a bus without a destination in mind. From Bombay, he keeps going till he reaches Kanyakumari. The driver asks him to get down as it's the last stop and the bus will go no further. He then gets down and encounters a painter on the beach. Their conversation runs as given below:

Painter: " why the long face?"

Hero :"this is it. This is the end of land. What's the beauty here for you to paint?"

P: " It depends on where you are standing. You have your back turned that way, but from where I stand, I can see the whole country laid out before me. This is the beginning."

And that's what it is all about. It's all how you look at it. And Kanyakumari sunrise does it for me - give vision and hope.

So may this New Year bring us the best and some of that elusive elixir - Happiness.