Friday 30 March 2012


It was Rohit's birthday and he took us out for dinner. We chose Desi Flava meaning to have some South Indian fare. Indian Deli, our favourite haunt, was closed for renovation work. DF had been recommended to us for good food. The service, we had been warned, was a tad slow. We were in no hurry so we sauntered in with a relaxed mind. The Friday only added to our sense of leisure.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    While we hungry horses were eager to order the main course, Rohit insisted we have starters. Some hard, oily spring roll arrived. And we started doubting our choice of restaurant. Skepticism aside, we hopefully waited for the mains, trying hard not to look at the other tables and their plates! Our idli, dosa, sambhar & chutney were far less disappointing than the spring roll. Nothing to beat the taste of Indian Deli or Aha Dosa, though. The service was not just slow, it was indifferent.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         What finally added zing to the experience was the global verbiage. "Excuse me, can we get some chutney please?"" Sure sir. I'll get you the white coconut sauce!"
We looked at each other and smiled. I am reminded of this months-old episode as I write this post today. How do I make my international audience understand Kadhi with Vadi? Chickpea Flour Dumplings in Chickpea & Yogurt sauce is the best I can do. The description of the dish in the menu card would read, chickpea flour dumplings in a tantalizing creamy sauce to savour the taste of India :)
                                                                                                            Try the recipe. Thank Punjab for giving us the Punjabi Kadhi. Eat local, think global. That is today's mantra.
For Vadi
1. 3/4 cup besan(chickpea flour)
2. 1/5 cup water
3. 1/4 tsp ajwain
4. 1/8 tsp baking soda
5. Red chilli powder as preferred
6. 1/5 tsp turmeric
7. Salt to taste
8. 1/2 wok oil
For Kadhi
1. 1/2 cup besan
2. 1 cup sour curd
3. 1 medium onion- chopped
4. 2-3 pods garlic- chopped
5. 1/2 tsp paanch phoron
6. 2-3 dry red chillies
7. 1/4 tsp turmeric
8. Salt to taste
9. 1 tbsp oil 

1. Mix all the vadi ingredients and beat into a thick paste. Add the water gradually to keep the batter consistency in check.
2. Drop a small ball in water. If it floats, the vadi paste is ready to be fried. If not, beat some more.
3. In hot oil, drop small balls of the batter and deep fry the vadi.
4. Drop them in water and leave as you make the kadhi.

1. Crackle paanch phoron & dry red chillies in hot oil.
2. Add the salt, turmeric, chopped onion & garlic and fry on high flame till onion turns golden brown.
3. Whisk the besan & curd into a thin batter and pour this in the onion seasoning. Let the kadhi simmer on low-medium flame for at least 15 minutes.
4. Taste to check that the raw besan flavor has neutralised .
5. Take the vadi out of water, gently squeeze out excess water & add to the boiling kadhi. 
6. Let simmer for 5-7 minutes before removing from flame.

Kadhi goes best with plain rice. 
We are waiting for Rohit's next birthday. Why don't you try the yogurt sauce meanwhile!

Thursday 29 March 2012

Wah Wah Ram Ji

As an actor Ram Kapoor may have only wished to be this talked about. Those 17 minutes of steam in a daily soap gave his life a turn he may or may not have craved for. One, Indian television came of age. Much to the embarrassment of the family members. Two, the other Kapoor, Ekta, dished out something to the viewers that they will not forget in a hurry. While the female lead in the serial has been sidelined, the comments & quips surround Ram and his waistline. The intimate scene has taken a backseat. That bulging tummy is still inviting flak. Had the same scene, done by a fitter actor, been less in the limelight? One wonders. What is it that people are talking about? Is it the scene or is it how- can- a- fat- man- do- such- a- scene? My guess is, it's the latter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           In a nation obsessed with stereotypes, Ram is an anomaly. Only hunks bare their bodies, only pretty girls can be bahus, only the shrewd get successful. The list is endless. Try breaking the barrier, do something different. That's what Ekta Kapoor did. As the ultimate tribute to the pot-bellied Indian male, she glamorized him. She made her chubby protagonist do what happens in all homes and what is tabboo to talk about in public. She made the common man a sex symbol. Move away Salman, move away Stallone, Ram Kapoor is here to stay. And if the rest of India doesn't give up its fascination for junk food, Kapoor will have company. Lots of it.

May today's Vegetable Stew be the starting point for a healthier you. Had by itself, with no roti chawal, it still serves as a complete, nutritious meal. Absolutely no-fuss and truly sumptuous, the Milky Veg Stew is on every Page 3's list. Will all the wannabe poster boys/ girls of GeNext please take a bow?
1. 2 cups mixed vegetables(see pic for variety)- cubed
2. 1/2 cup milk
3. 1/2 tsp ginger paste
4. 1 tsp whole garam masala(cardamom, cinnamon, clove)
5. 1-2 bay leaves
6. 2 tsp oil to saute
7. Salt to taste
8. 2-3 cups water
1. Allow bay leaf and garam masala to crackle in hot oil.
2. Add the grated ginger & chopped vegetables and saute for 4-5  minutes on medium flame.
3. Add salt & water and let vegetables cook till tender.
4. When vegetables are done, add milk, let stew simmer for a minute or two and remove from flame. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Serve hot as it is.

All you guys out there, who make fattening pasta or call in for pizza when it is your turn to cook, pick up the veggies, instead.
Healthy Eating!

Tuesday 27 March 2012

In Pursuit of Happyness

Before her marriage,Vijaya, her brother and Zorro lived together. They had a cook who also cooked for the pet. One day when Vijaya told the cook to make x chapattis for Zorro, she remarked, 'kitna khata hai!' That evening Zorro did not eat his dinner with his usual gusto. Such is the power of energy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           As a home-maker it is imperative that we only send positive vibes to the food we cook. Patience and passion. That is what sets apart ma ke haath ke khana from the food we eat anywhere else in the world. Rupali reiterated it today. A homemaker for the last 17 years, cooking had gradually become a routine for her. Till some inspiration rekindled her passion and her family is again bonding over food.
                                                                                                            It is a tough call for today's woman juggling a demanding career and catering to her family's needs. In all this medley, you sure don't want your family to fall in love with the cook! Pick up the laddle Lady, the keyboard can wait. Just make one dish for the family while your cook does the rest. And let yours be the better one!                                                                                                                                                                                 This Chana Dal Sago Payasam I'd eaten in Rita's house once upon a time. Her mom, Almeida Aunty, is one of the best cooks and the most affectionate hosts I've ever met. This one's for you, Aunty.
1. 1 cup chana dal(split Bengal gram)
2. 1/2 cup sago(sabudana/tapioca)
3. 3/4 cup sugarcane jaggery
4. 3/4 cup milk
5. 1 tbsp cashew nuts & raisins
6. 1 1/2 tsp dessicated coconut
7. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder( or 2-3 whole cardamoms)
8. 2 tsp ghee
1. Soak chana for over an hour and boil it to 2 whistles. Dal should remain whole. Take care not to overcook.
                                                                                                                                           2. Drain the excess water from the cooked dal & soak the jaggery in this dal water. (Nothing to be wasted!)
                                                                                                                                                3. Soak sago for at least 2 hours and boil till sago is tender.

4. Drain water from the sago and keep sago aside with the boiled dal.

 In 2 tsp ghee, toast the dry fruit & dessicated coconut. Add the boiled dal & sago, mix well and pour the jaggery water.

                                                                Tip: Use coconut milk instead of milk if you fancy.

                                                                        6. Let simmer till payasam is thick. Add milk and sprinkle cardamom powder two minutes before removing from flame.
7. If you are using whole cardamom, let it boil from the start for the aroma to blend in with the dish.

Serve warm or cold.                                                                                                                                                                             Rupali this is another one to keep Happy, happy :)

                                                                                                        I'd run out of dry fruits so you don't see the kaju kishmish here. But do use it for the added glamour. Especially, if you are making this for the first time. Happiness Always!                   


Monday 26 March 2012

Sago Thalipeeth

When Bhai went on his GM diet we tried to dissuade him by saying now we were going to eat good food. He shrugged us off and went ahead with his firm resolve. The first dinner we had was the two minute noodles to counter his 'day 1- fruit only' plan. The second day was 'only vegetables' and it seemed wicked to tempt him with delicious food so we decided to have our dinner separately. Unlike new year resolutions, bro managed his 7- day- diet plan successfully and even shed 4 kgs. Just that he missed this delicious Thalipeeth along with the mouth-watering dhokla , Shyam's Arrabiatta and the chana dal sago payasam. Some other time, perhaps !
                                                                                                            I learnt Sabudana Thalipeeth in a bid to give my family more variety. The sheer joy of opening your tiffin and finding new dishes is such a thrilling experience. Ma did it for me when I started carrying my own food to work. As a homemaker I want to do the same to see that undiluted joy on the Gent's  face. Good food always makes for a happier home. He eats out of her hands is not just a phrase!
                                                                                        Sabudana(Sago/Tapioca) Thalipeeth is a Maharashtrian dish eaten during fasts. Makes for a great breakfast/snack too.
1. 1 cup sago[makes 5 thalipeeth]
2. 2 large boiled potatoes- mashed
3. 1/2 cup groundnut powder
4. 1 tsp cumin & green chilli paste(or whole cumin & chopped green chillies)
5. 1 1/2 tsp sugar
6. Salt to taste
7. Refined oil- to shallow fry 
 1. Wash sago and let it soak for atleast 2 hours.
                                                                                                                                                 2. When the sago is properly soaked, drain excess water. Add ingredients 2-6 in the sago and mix well.
                                                                                                                                                     3. Divide the mixture into equal portions. Keep one portion on a non-stick tawa and press it to give the flat shape. Use water in your hands to flatten the thalipeeth.
Make 5-6 holes(see pic) in the thalipeeth, drop oil through these and let thalipeeth shallow fry on medium heat.
                                                                                                                                                 4. Press down with a spatula for better frying. Remove from flame when both sides turn golden brown.
                                                                   Tip: Make two thalipeeths on two different girdles/tawas if want to serve it hot to the whole family. It takes a while to cook.


Serve hot with creamy curd and see the Thalipeeth disappear from the thali!

                                                                                                          It is DC's birthday today and although it is post 12am in India, I can always wake her and serve her Sabudana Thalipeeth. At best she'll be elated, worst case scenario she'll make an irritated, "Are you crazy?" remark. Having spent some beautiful hostel years with Dolonchanpa, I am used to both. 

Many Happy Returns of the Day, DC. Love you, too. Miss you too :) 


Sunday 25 March 2012

Chal Dhanno

"Nitin, please take over dinner tonight. I'm off colour."
"What do we have in the fridge? Nothing for pasta, I guess?"
"Not pasta again, phlueeze."
"Ok, lemme see. Otherwise we'll go to the gurudwara."
"Hey Dax, what do you cook when you want to cook nothing at all?"
"Do a takeaway or make potato or tomato or onion potato curry or veg rice." 
The reply came only this afternoon. When last night's Anda Curry is already digested. 
Pals, here's my recommendation. When you want to not cook, make Egg Curry. One can never go wrong with this one. 
1. 4 hard boiled eggs
2. 4- 6 medium sized boiled potatoes
3. 1 medium tomato
4. 1 medium onion
5. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
6. 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
7. 2-3 green chillies(or 1/2 tsp chilli powder)
8. 1 small cube ginger
9. 1 tsp chopped cilantro(or paste)
10. 1/4 tsp turmeric
11. Salt to taste
12. Oil to cook
13. 1 1/2 cup water
1. Grind ingredients 4-8 and fry till oil leaves the pan.

2. Add the tomato purĂ©e and fry with the onion paste.

3. Add the turmeric, saute for a minute and add the boiled potatoes to the masala. Fry for 2-3 minutes till masala coats the potatoes.
4. Add the boiled eggs, 1 1/2 cup water & salt and let curry simmer for 7-8 minutes on high flame.
5. Remove from heat when gravy is the consistency you want. 
With roti, a thicker gravy is preferred while rice calls for a thinner consistency.

Garnish with chopped coriander add serve with your staple food. I'd fried the coriander paste with the onion. The slight green tinge of the gravy makes it Anda Curry dhanno, err, dhania maar ke !

Friday 23 March 2012


The story doesn't end there. Neetha gave me a sari to wear and took me to the Rajarajeshwari temple. Basu came looking for us after an hour. He was surprised that we were still in the serpentine queue and hadn't even entered the mandir parisar. He told Neetha she should've given him a call when we saw the crowd. He knew the secretary of the temple Trust, by now we would've finished puja twice! Neetha whispered to me, 'Basu is a dada. He knows everybody.' Basu looked the Robin Hood kind of a gentle soul. What he claimed was true. Our entry into the temple was expedited and in ten minutes we had completed our darshan and made our offering to the Deity.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                By evening I was supposed to return home but not even Meru agreed to send their cab on Ugadi. So I ended up staying over at Neetha's and we went to the temple again early morning next day. The early morning serenity almost made the mandir a different place. I remember all this today sitting 4988 miles away. I want to wish the couple Happy Ugadi. A female voice answers the call, the phone is immediately handed over to a male who talks to me in Kannada( I think), I ask, 'Can I talk to Neetha, Navaneetha? Hello! Hello!' There is a lot of vernacular I can hear but no Neetha. That's Basu protecting his wife from strange numbers I think. I call again. Resolutely. 'Hello, Navaneetha, please, I want to talk to Navaneetha.' I try to mask my manly voice and make it shrill, feminine. Basu will understand Neetha and Andy, if not anything else I say. 'Wrong number,' says the baffled voice and hangs up.

I don't speak/understand Kannada; Basu cares nothing for English or Hindi. We bonded because of this girl and because of festival and food. So today, as I serve Shrikhand to this wonderful couple, I offer it to you too. You fabulous people out there who believe that in dosti, nothing is lost in translation. 
                                                                                                       The simplest dessert to make is Shrikhand. 
                                                                                                           We need:
1. 1kg yogurt(curd)
2. 1cup sugar
3. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder 
4. 1-2 tsp chopped pistachios/almonds/both

How to:
1. Hang the curd for 2-3 hours. Allow all water to drain.
2. Grind the sugar to powder. 
Also, cardamom if you do not have powder. 

3. Gently fold in the castor(ground)sugar & cardamom powder in the hung curd.
4.Cover the vessel with a cling film and refrigerate Shrikhand for at least 3 hours.   


5. Garnish with chopped dry fruit and serve cold.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Click pretty pics with your Shrikhand or eat it when you want.  But learn some Kannada, people. For the love of your friends....  





Puran Poli

It is Ugadi today. The beginning of the new year for Karnataka  & Andhra Pradesh. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In 2010, three significant events happened in my life this day. One, I got my Sony Vaio. Two, I got my first ever Ugadi invite.Three, I met one of the bestest couples on planet Earth. Neetha and Basu. They were the ones to have invited me. No, that is not the only reason that makes them a best!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Neetha was under Basu's tutelage those early years of her marriage. While to my eye, she was the head chef, it was actually Basu pulling the strings. He'd had a hearty laugh when he saw his wife dictating to me the recipes of the Ugadi specialities.'One expert teaching another!' he remarked in Kannada. Neetha laughingly translated that for me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When we sat down for our Ugadi lunch, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Holige had to be eaten first. Being born with 32 sweet teeth, I lapped up the idea. Basu taught me how to relish the Holige with milk and swallow, not chew, the Raagi ball. The hospitable couple even packed Holige for me to take away. Thank you God for such loving friends.

Akin to Holige in Karnataka is Puran Poli in Maharashtra. Only, easier to make. And a couple of ingredients less. C'mon people, cook with Andy. It's Puran Poli today. Leela, this is for you. Vandu, see I'd to learn it when you refused to make it for me!
1. 1cup maida(all purpose/refined flour)
2. 1/2 cup aata(wheat flour)
3. 1 tbsp oil
4. Pinch of turmeric
5. 1/2 cup water
1. 1cup chana dal
2. 3/4 cup jaggery(or sugar)
3. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1. Soak chana dal for over two hours. Pressure cook with just enough water. 
2. As dal cooks, make the poli. Mix both the flours, oil and turmeric and mix well. Gradually add water to make soft dough. 
Cover with wet cloth and keep aside.
                                                      3. For the puran, heat the boiled chana dal(drain out excess water) with jaggery till jaggery dissolves . Add cardamom powder & stir till water dries. Mash the puran to a paste. Use a grinder if dal is hard. 
                                                                                                                                                     4. Make equal sized balls of the poli, flatten on your palm, put the puran, seal the mouth and roll out like any stuffed parantha.

5. Shallow fry with ghee/oil till both sides are golden brown. 

Serve hot with ghee or milk.

Happy Ugadi, friends! Miss you Neetha.