Monthly Archives: January 2010

Fun In The Sun

It was a beautiful winter morning – warm sun and a clear blue sky. As the three of us walked back today at noon from the dance studio after Noor’s class, I asked them on impulse if they’d like to play in the park for a while and they of course agreed most happily.

So I sat on a bench and soaked in the warmth of the sun while they played marelle and ate their clementines.

Here’s looking forward to more such blissful mornings and afternoons. The next time I might even join their game of marelle; I don’t remember what we called this game when I was in school but I do remember that I played it all the time, much as Indira and her friends seem to do, so it was very nostalgic to see the two of them play it today.


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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

The paste I wrote about here earlier today would also make a great spread, to serve with bread as an aperitif.

It would be nice as a relish too, with oven-baked potatoes, say, or grilled chicken.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads, Versatile Accompaniments

Pasta Salad with Broccoli,Red Bell Pepper and Feta Cheese

I remember that the Italian husband of one of Shri’s colleagues brought a delicious pasta salad, that had feta cheese in it, to a barbeque last summer.

So when I made pasta salad for lunch today, I made it like that one, which had no sauce. The girls were  therefore not too excited when they saw their plates at lunch especially since I had added broccoli to the salad ; some “Pesto Rosso” (a Barilla sauce they adore) would have helped make that vegetable more appealing, I guess.

But despite the broccoli – which, to be fair, they have been eating more easily recently – they ate without fuss or too much comment and I really appreciated that. And hopefully the Feta cheese made it a little better at least for Indira.

I did think that the dressing of olive oil, lime juice and dried basil flakes left the salad somewhat bland. So I added chilli-infused oil to my portion and that certainly gave it a nice kick and flavor. So I would probably add chilli flakes to the dressing if I make this salad again. I think it would bring alive both the Feta cheese and the broccoli.

150-200 grams of pasta

200 grams of broccoli florets, cut in to smaller portions

1 small can of sweet corn, drained

200 grams of feta cheese, cut in to little squares

olive oil

lime juice

1 red bell pepper, sliced fine

salt, dried basil flakes and chilli flakes to taste

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Filed under Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Salads

Sun-dried Tomato,Rosemary and Lemon Zest Marinade

At Carrefour they used to sell an excellent “sauce provencale“, a marinade for fish that was made with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs steeped or sauteed in oil.

The girls loved to eat white fish baked with that sauce and since it  is not available any more, I decided a few days ago to have a go at making a similar marinade myself, with some of those ingredients.

I was glad I tried because the fish I baked with this marinade that night was a big hit with both of them, even though the marinade I ended up with looked rather different from the one I used to buy !

Sun-dried Tomato, Rosemary and Lemon Zest Marinade

120-140 grams of sun dried tomatoes (drained weight i.e. after removing them from the oil they’ve been soaked in)

zest of 1 lemon

leaves from 3-4 sprigs of rosemary

2 pods of garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1 onion, peeled and chopped very fine

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil

Warm the oil in a shallow pan, then add the garlic. When it starts to turn a golden color, add the onions and sautee for some time they are quite soft, without letting them brown. Now add the lemon zest, rosemary and tomatoes and cook everything together for just a few minutes.

When the mixture has cooled, blend it to a paste.

This will make enough marinade for about 700-800 grams of fish fillets.

To bake the fish- season the fillets lightly with salt, apply the marinade, wrap each fillet in silver foil and bake till done at 220 degrees C.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads

A Very Simple Masoor Daal

Like varan, this is such a convenient and quick way to cook daal.

I had always made red lentils with onions and tomatoes fried in a tadka of either cumin seeds or paanchphoran.  But ever since I watched Radhesh make this daal a few months ago, when she tempered it very simply with only cumin seeds, curry leaves and whole red chilli, I have made it like that more than once. Cooked this way, it has a simple, delicious and wholesome flavor.

Masoor Daal

1 cup of masoor daal (red lentils), washed and soaked for an hour or two

1 and a1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric

7-8 curry leaves

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 (or half of one) whole, dried red chilli broken in two

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or ghee

Pressure cook the daal in 3 cups of water, with the salt added in, till it is quite soft.

When the cooker can be opened, add the turmeric and blend the grains well with a hand-churner.

Heat the oil in a small pan, then add the cumin seeds and the red chilli. When the cumin seeds start to crackle, add the curry leaves. After a few seconds, add this tempering to the daal, mix in some boiled water if the daal seems too thick and simmer everything together for 5-6 minutes.

Again, like varan, this is just wonderful to eat on a cold winter evening like tonight.

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Filed under Daals, Quick Meal Ideas

The “Avatar” experience

Shri, Shefali and I saw this film at the Les Arcades theater in Cannes yesterday (while Vishal baby-sat the 4 kids, very gamely, since he’d seen the film already).

As I had expected – the mixed reviews I had seen before-hand indicated a thin plot  – I came away somewhat underwhelmed.

For, a compelling or engaging story this was not, notwithstanding the visual spectacle that the film is.  The special effects and visuals- especially of Pandoran fauna – were beautiful, mostly, but I could not connect with the plot, except the one scene where the hero – an ex-marine who is confined to a wheelchair having lost the use of his legs – discovers that his avtar is able to feel his feet and can actually run. That, for me, was the one poignant moment in the film.

I found myself impatient with the many stereotypes in the film, such as the all-too predictable love story and the shamanist rituals of the native Na’vi people on Pandora. Why does the idea that the natives – again, predictably less evolved than the human race – are spiritual or that they hold sacred certain things in their culture and environment need all that primitive sort of group-chanting and ceremony to prove the point?

This may well become the biggest movie of all time, but what stayed with me the rest of the evening was a headache, thanks to those 3-D glasses!

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

“What Could You Live Without?”

Some one wise who I know well, once said – “be grateful that you have enough to give”.  I was reminded of that this morning by this article

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

Green Chutney with Kairi(raw mango)

This is essentially the same chutney as the one  here, except that Ma would often use chunks of aam ki kairi or raw mango (without the skin) instead of lime juice and that adds a delightfully tangy flavor and taste.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads

Til Bhaat

I made this last winter when we had some friends over, then only once again after that.

This is such an unusual, interesting rice dish and I love the crunchiness that comes from all those sesame seeds.


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Filed under Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Coconut Chutney

They all love this, with dosas or vadas or upma.

I skip tempering it – a garnish of curry leaves, mustard seeds and urad daal fried in a little oil – since I worry already about all the natural oil in coconut. And it tastes good enough without.

Coconut Chutney

9 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut

5 tablespoons of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils)

2 teaspoons of sunflower oil

125  grams of yogurt

1/4 cup, or a little more, of water

salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon of asofetida

Heat the oil, then lightly roast the chana daal in the oil till it is golden brown. Add the asofetida towards the end and stir it in well. Take the daal out in to a bowl or plate and let it cool.

Grind the coconut, till it has a much finer texture, with some water and some of the yogurt.

Add the rest of the yogurt, the daal and the salt and blend everything together till the chutney has the texture/consistency you like. Don’t grind it too long though as otherwise it will acquire a pasty taste. It tastes better if there are still very tiny bits of daal which make for a nice crunch.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads

Clear-out-the-vegetable-basket Soup

I had a small chunk of pumpkin, two carrots, half a red bell pepper, a leek and five and a half tomatoes left over in the fridge from last week’s shopping at Carrefour.

So I have made soup for tonight’s dinner with all of that (and there will be enough left over for tomorrow as well, with these quantities) ,with the addition of fresh basil leaves that I went out and got this morning from the “Primeur de Fruits” in Tournamy.

The method  is the same as for the tomato and basil soup.

Pizza and soup with basil, anyone? That’ll be two “Oh Yay !!!”s for sure.

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Filed under Soups

Thingummyjig for turning tikkis/serving fish

I am not sure what this little turner – a miniature version of a serving spoon for rice (the latter is often called a “haath” i.e hand) – is called in Hindi.

It is so handy for turning over tikkis as you fry them. Larger-sized turners can be awkward to wield in the limited space there is between the five or six tikkis that one typically cooks at one go.

I saw it first in Ayesha’s kitchen a couple of years ago. When I described it to Ma on the phone, she appeared to know exactly what I meant and brought me a couple of these on her trip here last April.

It takes all the pain out of making tikkis.

What’s more, I use it now to lift portions of steamed/baked fish off the skin before serving it on to plates, another quite tricky – for me – task made easy by this spoon.

Thank you Ayesha, thank you Ma !

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

Egg Curry

Maria, our neighbor from the first floor and the mother of Katia who is in CP in the girls’ school, came over this Tuesday afternoon for a “how-to-cook-a-curry” demo.

Carrot salad -which was the other thing I showed her to make, since she and her husband liked it very much at a PTA lunch in December- and jeera pulav on the side made for a nice dinner that evening. The girls love this curry as much as they do rajma or chicken curry and they were quite pleased to find three of their favorite things on the table.

The quantity here was enough for the four of us, Maria’s family and there was some left over as well.

Egg Curry
8 eggs –  hard boiled, shelled and sliced in half

5 large potatoes, peeled and cut in to 3 or 4 chunks across the length

4-5 large onions, peeled and chopped quite fine

8 tablespoons of tomato puree (made from canned tomatoes)

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated

a 1 and a 1/2  inch square chunk of peeled ginger, grated

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

3/4th or 1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1/2 or 3/4th teaspoon of garam masala

1 teaspoon of kashmiri/deghi chilli powder

1 teaspoon of ajwain seeds (optional)

1/2 a teaspoon of cumin seeds

3 pods of black cardamom

2-3 small sticks of cinnamon

salt to taste

6 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Warm the oil in a pressure cooker, add the black cardamom and cinnamon, then when their aroma is released add the ajwain seeds and the cumin seeds. When these begin to brown, add the onions and fry at a medium hot temperature till they are golden brown in color. Now add the potatoes and fry these with the onions till the potatoes start to acquire a crisp, golden color and the onions turn quite brown. Add the ginger and garlic halfway through this process. Add the tomato puree next and cook till the oil starts to appear on the sides.  Add the dry spices now and cook everything together or another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, put about 3-4 cups of boiled water and pressure cook for as many whistles as are needed for the potatoes to be soft enough (2-4 whistles are usually enough  because the potatoes tend to be half-way there by this point anyway).

When the cooker can be opened, add the boiled and sliced egg halves to the curry and simmer for 7-8 minutes or till the curry is the consistency/thickness you want, stirring once in a while.

Chopped, fresh green coriander makes a great garnish.

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Filed under Curries

A disaster far away

When I got back a while ago from a meeting in connection with the walkathon in March, I was quickly, mentally reviewing the list of chores/things to do at home and during the day and re-started the computer in order to check and reply to any e-mails before I go to school in a while for the session at the library with Indira’s class.

The online accounts, in various news sources, of the earthquake in Haiti this Tuesday and it’s terrible effects made me pause though.

And I find myself thinking that while life must and does go on, there is something unreal and somehow not right about this, that the devastation of a country and it’s people has not really registered on my mind in any significant way, so that I continue about my affairs blithely…

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

A Fantastic Herb Chopper

This is just the coolest kitchen tool, one that’s always such a pleasure to use.

As Bou di says, there is something almost elegant about it.

I got this one from IKEA and it works like a beauty.

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

Butter Churner

This kitchen tool is not exactly a favorite.

But it deserves its own post here to record the memory of this evening, when the story of “The Three Little Pigs” led us to attempt making butter by hand…

One of my not-favorite memories of my Ma’s kitchen is of all the times I was roped in to help make the butter. It required working, with one of these hand-operated churners, the large quantities of cream she collected ( this was done over several days by removing the layer of cream formed on top of each day’s supply of milk- delivered fresh every day by the neighrborhood doodhvala –  after it had been boiled, and adding it to the previous days’ collection which was stored in a large pot or box in the fridge) . The process always seemed never-ending and very tiring.  So, much as I enjoyed helping her in the kitchen, I simply dreaded being around when Ma took the cream out with the intention of making butter with it !

But these churners do have other uses, such as to make daal more smooth, if the grains do not appear as well-blended as they should be, so I do have one in my kitchen too, though until today I had never thought I’d ever use it to make butter.

Then, some days ago, Noor wanted to know what a butter-churn is. The version of  “The Three Little Pigs”  we were reading that night says that the third pig hid himself inside a butter churn to escape the wolf and I found myself suggesting that we could try and make butter ourselves, with the kind of churner I have, to understand how this works.

The girls of course jumped at the idea since they love any such experiments.

Which is how Shri and I found ourselves bent this evening over a bowl of creme entiere, churning away, as we all watched the news after dinner.

Here’s the result of over half an hour of our hard work  –

I do look forward to eating this with a parantha tomorrow 🙂

Sometimes, when in Ma’s kitchen we happened to make the butter in time for breakfast – she planned it this way when possible –  a pat of the freshly made butter on a hot aloo ka parantha made the effort suddenly worthwhile

The girls could not stop exclaiming about the effort this task involved as Shri and I worked at it. Well, I certainly hope they’ll remember this particular experiment !

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

Chickpeas Salad aka Chickpeas Sundal

This is one more Indian recipe that is easily passed off as a salad.

I love how the chickpeas work here equally well with a variety of fruits – I sometimes add mango, or peach when it is in season, and tonight I added finely chopped orange segments.

We had this sundal for dinner tonight with tomato-pumpkin-broccoli soup and some nice multi cereal bread from the boulangerie.

Chickpeas Salad or Chickpeas Sundal

1 can of chickpeas, drained well

3-4 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut

1 mandarin orange, peeled and divided in to its’ segments(or 1 peach, peeled and diced fine, or an equivalent amount of diced mango)

1 large sprig of curry leaves

1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

salt to taste

Indira thought tonight, at first glance, that the fruit in the salad was pineapple. Which has given me the idea to try it with that fruit the next time.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Salads, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Medu Vadas

I got a small kick out of making these vadas, a couple of days ago, because they are the kind that my Ma would always make i.e the sort with the little hole in the center. That little detail has always been tricky for me to get right but this time I made the batter in my small electric blender, instead of in the blender of my food processor. So I managed to grind the lentils just the right thickness to be able to form the required shape (though I realized I am quite out of practice, as I made these !) .

Why the fuss about the shape, though, when the alternative – vadas that are a smooth round shape – would do just as well and certainly taste exactly the same?And I do in fact make the latter kind whenever I make these vadas in larger quantities, on occasions such as the children’s birthday parties .

Well, just because it is one of those little traditional touches that I somehow feel need to be preserved, even if through infrequent use, rather than forgotten completely …

We had these with sambhar and green coconut chutney. Noor loves them, as does Shri, though Indira would much rather eat them in their dahi vada avtaar.

Medu Vada

1 cup of dhuli urad daal (skinless black gram lentils)

1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds

1/2  teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

1/4 teaspoon of asofetida

1 teaspoon (or a little more) of freshly roasted cumin seeds

salt to taste

8-10 curry leaves, chopped fine

Wash the lentils thoroughly, add the fenugreek seeds and soak for at least 6 hours.

Drain the water completely. Grind the daal – taking about a half or a third of it at a time – in a blender/grinder, using as little water as possible , in to a thick paste. Mix in the salt, curry leaves, asofetida, cumin seeds and ginger and stir these in well with clean hands (this make for really soft vadas, according to experienced cooks like my Ma and Chanchal Aunty).

Fry the vadas now in medium hot oil till they are golden brown in color,forming each in to the required shape by hand.  To do this, either a) wet your palms well with a little water (keep a bowl filled with water handy for this as you’ll need to repeat the process after every couple of vadas), take 1 large spoonful of batter in to your left palm, flatten it a little, make a hole in the center and then turn the vada on to your right hand before sliding it in to the oil OR b) lift little portions – about 1 tablespoon – of the batter by hand and roughly forming them in to round shapes drop these in to the oil.

Serve these and eat these hot, when they are wonderfully crunchy on the outside.

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Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks


“Fait-tout” is French for “do everything” and this large saucepan/pot in my kitchen, called a “Fait-Tout”, really does do everything.

Whether I need a thick bottomed pan for making paneer, kheer, coconut laddoos or carrot halwa; a large sized pot for cooking sphaghetti or making a large batch of soup which involves sauteing and then simmering a lot of vegetables for a long time; a pan that is large enough to accommodate as many gulabjamuns as one packet of the Gits mixture produces (at least 30-40) without squashing/smashing any of them – this pot is the perfect answer.

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

Coconut Grater

Could anything be simpler or quicker for the purpose?

I am eternally grateful to my sister in law Vasanti for introducing me to this cool little implement. Shri has now mastered the art of using it too, and makes quick work of grating both halves of a fresh coconut as he watches television or talks to the girls.

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

An Ancient Chopper

I have yet to find an equivalent machine here for making the peanut koot that goes in to a great carrot salad, in khamang kakdi and in peanut raita.

Other grinders I have tried to use for this make too fine a powder out of the peanuts, not the almost even-sized little pieces I like my koot to be made up of, that retain a bite.

So though the lid of the bowl has a crack now and a piece of the jar has broken off the base somewhere along the way in the 12 years since I bought it, I hang on to it…

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Filed under KITCHEN EQUIPMENT - My Favorite Things

Vegetable Khichdi

This was tonight’s dinner, with yogurt and avocado slices in lieu of salad.

As I said to one of the school mums some time ago, converting the girls’ to avocado – we are not there yet with Shri though- has been one of the big culinary victories of the last year. They love it the way it is enjoyed best IMO –  au nature, or with a dressing of a little lime juice and sometimes dried basil flakes.

So that “salad” helped add interest to the meal tonight because  khichdi is not one of their prefered foods.

Vegetable Khichdi

3/4 cup of rice

2/3 or 3/4 cup of dhuli masoor daal (red lentils)

200 grams of diced pumpkin

5-6 tablespoons of frozen peas

1/2 tespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 medium sized onion, chopped fine

1 medium sized tomato, chopped fine

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon of melted ghee

1/4 teaspoon each of the five paanchphoran spices (a little more of the fennel seeds)

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of coriander powder (optional)

1 and a half tablespoons of fresh green coriander leaves, chopped

Wash and soak the rice and daal separately for 2-3 hours.

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and the ghee and then add the paanchphoran spices in the order suggested here.

Add the onion and fry till it starts to turn a golden color. Now add the pumpkin, and fry both together for a few minutes till the onion starts to turn golden brown and the pumpkin starts to soften and break up.  Now add the ginger, fry for half a minute, then add the tomato and fry the mixture till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Now add the dry spices and the peas and fry for a few minutes. Add the rice and daal after draining them of the water in which they were soaked, season with salt, pour in 4 cups of water, mix everything well  and cook for as long as required for most of the water to be absorbed and for the rice and daal to cook well (with my pressure cooker, this requires about 5-6 whistles).

Once the cooker has cooled enough for the lid to be lifted off easily, stir everything together once and garnish with fresh green coriander if possible.

Add more ghee to individual servings if you like.

Though I absolutely love the much simpler moong daal khichdi which is a staple of Gujarati thalis everywhere, I quite like this one too and it is such a convenient and quick one-pot-cooking type recipe.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Pitlai Podi

Indira loves to hang around the kitchen when I make a batch of this podi, because its’ preparation involves one of her favorite culinary processes – the roasting and grinding of coriander seeds.

The quantities mentioned here will make enough podi to fill a little pot or jar and which will keep well for a couple of months in the refrigerator.

Pitlai Podi

6 tablespoons of coriander seeds

2 tablespoons of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils)

4 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut

1/4 teaspoon of asofetida

1 large dry red chilli (optional)

In a frying pan, roast the coriander seeds at a medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently so that the seeds don’t go too brown or burn.

Take the seeds out in to a bowl and in the same pan, roast the red chilli and daal (till the latter turns a light brown) in a teaspoon of sunflower oil.

Remove the lentils in to the same bowl as the seeds.  Now roast the coconut in the same frying pan till it turns a golden brown color.

When they have cooled, grind all the ingredients together in to a powder – it  doesn’t have to have too fine a texture – and store in an air-tight bottle or jar.

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Filed under Masalas

Baked Parsnip Chips

The first time I came across this vegetable was at a Christmas PTA lunch two years ago at the home of one of Indira’s classmates. The hostess provided these chips as one of the starters and I really loved their sweetness and almost herby flavor.

But then I overheard some of the French teachers at the lunch say to the lady jokingly that in France this vegetable is considered good only for horses 🙂 Since then, I have also heard people say it is “pig food”  though in England and some other countries it is in fact a common “people food ” as they eat it steamed/boiled/fried/baked or added to soups.

The very distinctive taste of those chips has stayed with me so when I spotted parsnips (panais in French) for the first time in Carrefour recently, I bought some.

This is what we are having  for dinner tonight, with a vegetable soup and garlic bread.

To see what parsnips look like(imagine a large, cream/beige carrot) check here

Baked Parsnip Chips

Two large parsnips (about 500 grams), peeled and cut in to slices, hard core removed

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Put the parsnip slices in a large mixing bowl, season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil and toss everything together well.

Spread the slices on a baking tray in a single layer and bake until done (at least 25 minutes) at the top of the oven, at 200 degrees C.

As it turned out, Indira did not take to these tonight, just as she did not like the sweet potato chips too much. But the rest of us polished off the lot 🙂

The herb-like taste and aroma that I felt I noticed may be because this vegetable apparently belongs to the Umbelliferae family, whose other members include carrots, coriander, parsley, fennel, cumin, dill etc.


Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

My Favorite Daal – Chana Daal with Lauki(Bottle Gourd) or Courgette

I tend to eat this daal (yellow split peas) from a bowl like one would eat soup, with a touch of  lime juice though it very nice with phulkas or paranthas too. It has a really  hearty taste and is quite filling.  My Ma usually tempers it with paanchphoran, which somehow suits this daal, IMO.

She often cooks it with bottle gourd (lauki) added to it, which I substitute with courgette since that Indian vegetable is not easy to find here.

And though I made it yesterday with the skin of the courgette peeled off, since the girls eat it more easily that way, it is probably better to retain the skin since that likely has a lot of nutrients.

I also usually make more of this daal than we need for one meal because the leftover portion, mixed with whole wheat flour, makes the dough for really soft and full-of-taste phulkas/paranthas the next day.

Chana Daal with Lauki or Courgette

1 cup of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils)

1 large or two small onions, chopped fine

1 medium sized or two small tomatoes, chopped fine

1/2  a teaspoon of grated ginger or ginger paste

1/2 a teaspoon (and perhaps a pinch more) of turmeric powder

1 courgette (300-400 grams), washed, peeled or preferably with the skin and diced in to chunks (neither too large nor too small)

salt (2 teaspoons or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Also, ideally, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves

Soak the lentils for a couple of hours, then drain the water in which they were soaked and pressure cook with another three cups of water and salt till quite soft. This will probably need 6 to 8 whistles (if the pressure cooker is the Indian variety).

Remove the cooker off the hob and when all the steam has been released from the cooker, open the lid, stir the daal with a large spoon or ladle to break up the grains, then add the courgette and cook the mixture again -another couple of whistles should do it.

When the cooker is ready to be opened again add the turmeric and stir everything together gently so as not to smash the courgette pieces.

In the meanwhile, in a smaller frying pan, prepare the tadka. Heat the oil, then add paanchphoron.

As all the five spices of  paanchphoron begin to crackle, add the onions and fry till they are golden brown. Add the ginger paste/grated ginger next and fry for another 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and fry till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Now add the chopped coriander and mix everything well before adding this tadka to the daal in the cooker.

If the daal seems too thick then add a little boiled water (and salt, if needed). To finish, simmer the daal for a few minutes so that the tadka blends in well.


Filed under Daals, Quick Meal Ideas, Soups

Palak ka Saag,Curried Spinach or Palak Masala

The first of those names is what this dish was called in my parents’ home; but since saag is not a term a lot of people seem to know readily, I thought I’d like to call it the other two as well, since the base for this dish does come from the fairly standard onion-tomato-garlic-ginger-dry spices masala which is common to many curries.

I remember the first time Indira exclaimed  “I really like palak !” though both she and Noor have always eaten it without any fuss.

It was the day I had added, as I always saw my mother do, a teaspoon of ghee near the end of the cooking process.  The result is a quite delicious, special taste 🙂

Especially if one uses frozen spinach, this can be a quick and easy subzi to make.

This is what we’ll eat for dinner tonight, with varan, phulkas and some chicken curry for the girls – it is their first day back in school after the holidays so it is very likely they won’t have been pleased with whatever was on offer in the cantine for lunch 🙂

Palak Ka Saag

Well I am back a day later to add the recipe to this post. Before that though, I want to record that  I needn’t have worried about the girls’ school lunch yesterday at all !  It turned out there was steak hache and pasta on the menu so a very good meal was had by all prompting the girls to say

” Mama I missed you but I would not have wanted to come home today fro lunch because then I would have missed the steak !! ”

But they did justice to the chicken curry and spinach anyway, so I guess that’s okay 🙂
On to the “curried spinach” –

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

400 grams of frozen spinach leaves

2 medium sized onions, chopped fine

2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped fine or 4-5 tablespoons of canned tomatoes pulp

1 or 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons each of ginger paste and garlic paste (or equivalent amounts of freshly grated ginger and garlic)

1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder

3 pods of green cardamom, cracked slightly

salt (about 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons, or to taste)

1 teaspoon of melted ghee

Defrost the spinach leaves. When they are at room temperature chop them fine  in a food processor.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the cardamom pods. When their aroma starts to be released, add the onions and fry till they start to go from a golden brown to a darker brown – but not longer than that. Add the ginger and garlic pastes, fry for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes (or pulp). Fry this mixture till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Add all the dry spices next and fry for a minute. Add the spinach now, season with salt, and cook, covered, till the leaves are soft enough. A minute before you take the pan off the fire, add the aforementioned teaspoon of ghee, and mix it in thoroughly for a sublime taste 🙂

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Everyday Subzis

Carrot and Green Bell Pepper Pulao

One day I will cook a “pilaf”, just to be able to post about it so I get to use the word pilaf, which I love  because it has such an exotic ring about it !

In the meanwhile – this is the recipe for the pulao I wrote about last summer but which I haven’t made since, until this past weekend. I have adapted it from the original recipe which is in Viji Varadrajan’s “Samayal”, a cookbook about the cuisine of the Tanjore and Palghat regions of southern India.

In the summer last year it was Noor who said she loved this pulao. Then on Sunday it was Indira who wanted to know if there’s be enough left over for Monday. I guess that means we can put it in the Favorites Foods column.  Or at least for now, for they may change their minds in some weeks in their sometimes fickle way 🙂

(An update to that from 15 Sep 2010 – Indira said again, when we had this for dinner last night, that she loves this pulav)

The use of the podi is what gives it it’s distinctive, delicious taste.

Carrot and Green Bell Pepper Pulao

Basmati rice – 1 cup

1 large green bell pepper, sliced fine

3 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced in to thin half-moons

1 tablespoon of Pitlai podi

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

lime juice, to taste (but at least 1 tablespoon)

3/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds

8-10 curry leaves

salt, to taste (or say about 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons for the rice and 1/2 a teaspoon to be added while cooking the vegetables)
Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 20-30 minutes, then cook it with a little less than twice the amount of water (I use an electric rice cooker and therefore add 2 and a half cups of water) with salt added in.

Let the rice cool before you start to cook the vegetables so that you are able to separate the grains of rice gently, by hand or with a flat spoon, without breaking the grains.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. When these begin to crackle, add the carrots and fry them on a medium high heat till they are soft enough without being mushy (i.e. they should retain a bite).  A few minutes before you think the carrots will be done, add the bell pepper slices and fry everything together till the latter are cooked (I prefer that these should retain a bite too) as well.

Add the salt, the turmeric powder and Pitlai podi and fry everything for another couple of minutes.

Now add the rice, mix it with the vegetables, then put the lime juice and  toss everything together gently but quite well over 4-5 minutes.

This makes a very nice meal with varan and salad, or just a raita in the summer.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Carrot Cake: a third recipe

2010 got off to a very pleasant start with the open house this afternoon at the home of Rick and Angela, the parents of Indira’s friend Nicola.

I took along a carrot cake which Indira liked very much, as did some of the parents.

This particular recipe (from “The Little Book of Baking Recipes”) – which makes for a large cake – has cinnamon, which seems typical for carrot cakes, but also powdered green cardamom and this latter adds a very special flavor.

This recipe is  heavy on the butter though, so I suppose it is one that’s best kept for special occasions.

Carrot Cake

2 eggs

180 grams of softened/melted butter

225 grams of flour

180 grams of  brown sugar

225 grams of grated carrots

1/4 teaspoon of freshly powdered green cardamom

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

90 grams of raisins

60 grams of chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons of honey

1 teaspoon of baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar thoroughly. Now crack the eggs in to the mixture and blend everything well. Then mix in the flour (with the spices and baking powder mixed in). Add the carrots next , as well as the raisins, the walnuts and the honey. Mix everything well and turn the batter in to a non-stick cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour  at 180degrees C. Check towards the end by inserting a knife to test if the mixture has set well. Take the pan out and leave the cake to cool completely before turning it out on to a cake tray.

The cake is rich enough already but it would be just perfect with some ice cream on the side, I think 🙂 Or, for an healthier option, a little Greek yogurt would be quite nice as well.

Maybe that’s why the original recipe suggests dredging the cake with icing sugar before serving?  Either way, it’s delicious.

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Filed under Cakes and Muffins, Desserts, RECIPES