Oct 30, 2012

Banana payasam

I overheard a couple of women talking about Sarat Poornima, and decided I wanted to celebrate it with something sweet too. Since there were two bananas that were nearly ready to be consigned to the rubbish heap, the googled a couple of recipes. Midway through, the aroma reminded me of a dish I'd tasted only once before, so I modified the rest of the recipe to recreate that taste.


2 overripe bananas
1/2 cup jaggery crushed
1 litre milk
2 tbsp butter
1 inch piece ginger
4-5 cloves (but only if you think you will like it)

Mash the bananas to a fine paste. 

Melt butter in a kadhai, add bananas and cook on low heat till it gives out a lovely aroma (if you don't find the aroma lovely, you might as well give up at this point, because you are unlikely to like it). 
Add jaggery and stir till it dissolves. 
Add milk, bring to boil, and cook on low heat till volume decreases in half. 
While the milk is half evaporated, add juice of ginger and cloves. 
 Serve cold.

Oct 29, 2012

Eggless cake (with curds)

When I was talking to a baker friend about the banana cake I made, her first comment was, "time you shifted to other substitutes for eggs. You are going to get fed up of the taste of bananas soon enough." I wasn't sure if I was ready to take on the challenge of putting curds in a cake, but since I was assured that it would work, I did, and it didn't taste half bad.
But I will keep on the lookout for a "perfect" eggless cake recipe- this is definitely not that one.

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup curds (set, but not sour)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Stir together, curds, sugar and oil till well blended. Keep aside for a few minutes (till small bubbles start to rise)
Sieve maida, baking powder and cocoa powder till well mixed
Spoon in the dry mixture, stirring constantly
Pour into a greased bowl, and microwave as per recommended settings (5 minutes on high worked fine)
Check by pushing in a toothpick- if it comes out clean, it is done

[The batter was much looser than that made using eggs, so it will not work if you want to put in nuts or fruits. And it will definitely not work if you want to bake in layers.
Passed the taste test- perfect for when you want to whip something in a hurry]

Ragi dosa

I love the ragi dosas at Madras Cafe, and would actually made periodic pilgrimages to Matunga only so I could have it. Then decided I would try making it myself, and on the second or third attempt got it right.
The best thing about this is that you don't have to plan for it in advance. Just mix the flours, let it soak, and you are ready to start pouring!

1/2 cup Ragi flour/ Nachani ka atta
1/4 cup rice flour
1 onion chopped fine
1 green chilli chopped fine
1 tsp jeera powder
Salt to taste
Butter milk to make the batter - as much as needed

Mix ragi flour and rice flour. Add buttermilk and stir to make a batter with the consistency of dosa batter. Add onions, chilli and salt.
On a medium hot dosa pan, pour the batter and make dosas. Drizzle oil, and let it cook on both sides on a medium flame. 

Serve with plum chutney, because the flavours really compliment each other.

Tip- To get the dosa right, you have to ensure the temperature of the dosa pan is not too high. If it is, lower the temperature by sprinkling water.


One of the easiest recipes known, it can go horribly wrong if you do crazy stuff like replace the coconut oil with olive oil. And above all, DO NOT add a pinch of haldi- the beauty of the dish is in the pristine colour.


Boil the vegitables together till cooked (recommended veggies- drumstick, pumkin, carrots, beans, potato, but you can add any other you like).

Grind fine-
1/4 coconut grated
4 green chillis
1 tsp jeera
1 tsp rice flour

Mix the ground masala with 1 cup sour curds (it has to be really sour, or the taste will not come).
Add the curd-masala mixture to the vegetables. Add salt to taste, and give it a few boils.

Heat 3 tsp coconut oil. Dip a few sprigs of curry leaves in the hot oil and remove immediately (so colur doesn't change). Pour the coconut oil over the avial, close, and allow it to stand for a few minutes.

Oct 28, 2012

Eggless marble cake

In my quest for the prefect Eggless Cake recipe, there is yet another, not quite successful attempt. Someday, I will get that perfect recipe.

1/4 cup maida
2 tbsp coco powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup cooking oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Mix the maida and baking powder and sieve them to ensure even mixing.Keep aside.
Mix water,sugar,salt and make sure the sugar gets dissolved and then add vineger, oil and vanilla essence and mix well.
Add the sifted flour and mix well.
Keep aside half the mixture, and mix the cocoa powder with the rest.
On a greased baking pan, put blobs of vanilla batter, and intersperse with blobs of chocolate batter. Place vanilla batter over chocolate, and chocolate over vanilla. Draw patterns with a knife (I made more chocolate batter, so it didn't come out looking too good).
Bake in microwave for 4 minutes.

Oct 24, 2012

Alphabet Soup

This was a particular favourite of mine when I was a kid, and long after I had grown up and moved out, my mother always made it for me at least once when I visited. I think it is based on a Gujarathi dal, but my mother called it "alphabet soup" because that was something Dennis the Menace would have (and anything he did, I had to do too), and the name's stuck.
Luckily, the kids have inherited my love for this dish, so I can indulge without feeling too guilty.

3/4 cup tur dal
1/2 tsp haldi powder

1/2 tsp methi seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
Pressure cook together till soft.

Add salt (little less than normal), 3 small tomatos chopped, lots of dhania patta (I add an entire bunch- destemed), 1 tsp amchur powder, 1 tst jeera powder, and water, and boil for 5 minutes. Ensure that the dal is very watery, because it will thicken a lot later.

While the dal is cooking, make dough with atta, salt, jeera powder and 1 cup chopped methi leaves. Roll into rotis (about as thick as a naan), and cut into diamond shaped pieces.
Drop the roti pieces into the dal, and cook for 15 minutes.

Temper with with red chilli and jeera, cover and let the tastes soak in for about 5 minutes.

Garnish with fried onion slices and butter, and serve.

Oct 23, 2012

Corn shundal

Technically, I supposed a shundal is a salad, but they are served as snacks during Navratri. Traditionally, you are supposed to make a different one every day, and I am not sure if corn was ever one of them. But as long as the kids eat it, I'm not complaining. This, incidentally, was the only shundal I made during Navratri. Maybe I will rectify it next year- maybe not.

Steam corn till soft (I steam it in a pressure cooker without water/ the whistle for 10 mins)
In 1 tsp cooking oil, temper 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 green chilli, couple of curry leaves. Throw in the corn, stir for a minute or two. Garnish with grated coconut. And yes, add salt to taste- I forgot, and only found out when I served myself.

Coconut-jaggery ladoo

I have been craving Ragi payasam for a couple of days, and decided to make it for Navami. Since I knew exactly which grocer stocks ragi atta, I collected all the other ingredients before calling for the atta. Unfortunately, there was no ragi atta available, and I ended up making these coconut ladoos using the rest of the ingredients that I had.

1/2 medium coconut, grated
100 gms jaggery
1 litre milk
ghee and cashew, optional

Heat milk in a thick bottomed kadhai, and allow it to thicken till volume reduced by half. 

Pour the grated coconut, and jaggery, and reduce till all the water evaporates. 
Allow to cool, and roll into balls.

Oct 22, 2012

Spiced Apple Salad

This is a perfect post-workout snack, specially when you are warding off a cold.

1 apple

2 tbsp unsweetened orange juice
an inch piece ginger
5-6 whole peppers
5-6 cloves
rock salt to taste

Crush the ginger. Mix the ginger, and the spices with the orange juice.

Cut apples into small pieces, marinate overnight with the spiced orange juice.
Remove the peppercorns and cloves before eating.

Oct 21, 2012

Spicy cucumber-dill weeds salad

I love salads the way I love few things- they have the capacity to fill you up, without leaving you too full, and they sure pack a nutritional punch. Some are easy, some are less so- this is one of the former.

Chop one cucumber, half an onion and a tablespoon of dill-weeds. Sprinkle chilli flakes, salt and unsweetened orange juice. Toss together, allow it to stand for about an hour so the flavours seep in.
Can be had as a stand alone snack, or as a side dish during a meal.

To add a bit of crunch, you can throw in a few crushed roasted peanuts. Green chilli works when you don't have chilli flakes.

Oct 16, 2012


In traditional Brahmin households in Tamil Nadu, no cereals are consumed on Ekadashi Day, and adai is a  staple dinner item. It is normally made on a thick iron tawa, and is famous for the amount of oil it consumes.  Some of my earliest "cooking" memories are of me making adai for my grandfather while my parents were at a musical concert, and he challenging me to make it with much less oil, than it requires. Had he been around now, I could have made him adai with practically no oil- non-stick pans are a boon, even if the colour does suffer somewhat.

1 measure rice (preferably par-boiled rice)
2 measures moong dal (I prefer the ones with skin)
1 measure urad dal
1 measure chana dal
1 tbsp methi seeds
4-5 red chilli (as per taste, I normally use only 2)
5-6 curry leaves (I leave it out)
1 inch piece of ginger
cooking oil

Soak the dals and rice overnight (soak in the same container).
Grind soaked dals and rice, with methi seeds, red chilli, ginger (I chop it) and curry leaves, with sufficient water till it reaches a 'dosa like' consistency.
Add salt and mix well.
Spread the batter on a tawa like you would for dosas (after bringing the temperature down by sprinkling water, put cooking oil along the edge and the middle, and allow it to cook on low heat till the edges are well done. Flip over and let the other side get cooked.
Ideally had with jaggery and butter.

Plum chutney

I fell in love with this recipe when I saw it on RunnerGirlintheKitchen's blog, and it was one of the first ever dishes that I tried out. I loved the combination of sweet and tart, and the second time I made it, I modified the proportions to suit my taste.
Waiting for plums to come back in the market, so I can make some more of this.

250 gms plums
5 tbsp jaggary grated
1 red chilli
1 tsp chilli powder
5 cloves
8-10 black peppers
salt to taste

De-seed the plums
Take 1/4 cup water, and bring to boil. Add red chilli, cloves, pepper and plums, and keep stirring till the plums go mushy.
Add chilli powder, jaggary and salt, and cook till the chutney reaches desired consistency.
Take off fire, and allow to cool.
Can be stored for upto 3 months (maybe longer, but never tried it).

Oct 14, 2012

Mint cucumber dip

I experimented a lot with recipes for mint sauce, and mint salsa, before hitting upon this combination that works for me.

1 medium cucumber
8-10 sprigs mint
1 green chilli
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste, water

Grate the cucumber, and squeeze out the water
Pound the mint leaves and green chilli till reasonably smooth
Dissolve sugar in 1 tsp hot water, add vinegar, pour over crushed mint and green chilli
Add grated cucumber, salt to taste and mix well
Allow it to stand for at least an hour, before eating
Best had cold.
Tastes awesome with plain chicken sausages.


My grandfather was so fond of this, my grandmother actually kept bananas aside to get mushy, so she could make it for him. I am not as fussy as she was, and bananas often reach their "eat by" date- this is what I make if I manage to catch it a few hours before.


Overripe bananas
Cardamon powder
Dates/ raisins for ganishing
Peel and mash overripe bananas. 
Mix grated jaggery (depends on taste- 1 tbsp per banana works for me). 
Stir in a few pieces of dates and/ or raisins. 
Add powdered cardamon. 
Serve chilled.

Oct 12, 2012

Bloody Joseph- tomato-cucumber smoothie

I went for a long run today, and returned partially dehydrated. Craved for a Bloody Mary, but that wouldn't have been prudent, so made what I call a Bloody Joseph instead! 


Chop one large tomato, 1 medium cucumber (I didn't peel it), and one green chilli, and blend in a mixer with salt to taste, the juice of 1/2 lemon and half a glass of water till smooth. Pour into a glass and slurpppp!

You can see seeds floating around. I like them, but if you don't you can always stain the smoothie before drinking it.


When Pritha Sen first gave me this recipe, I made something fit for the disaster album. But though it looked horrible, it tasted good, and I had to make it again. Learnt my lessons, and the second time, it came out really well, and I have made it several times since.

Cut about 250 gms small brinjals into halves, fry and keep aside (you can use larger brinjals too, and cut it accordingly)
Fry 2 to 3 tbsp onion paste and whole garam masals (if you don't have onion paste, you can use onion sli
ces, but this is better).
Mix together 1/2 cup curds, ginger paste, chilli powder, salt and sugar to taste (I used the paste of an inch long piece of ginger).
Add to the onion paste, and cook on low heat till oil rises (this is the trickiest part, because if you don't do it right, the curd could curdle).
Add water and fried brinjal, cook. Add garam masala and green chillies and take off the heat.

Oct 11, 2012

Chow-chow chutney

This is a "Madhava" dish which is very popular in Bangalore. Like many other dishes in the Madhava cruisine, the chutney is multipurpose- you can have it with rice (and ghee) or with rotis. My mother has it with dosas, and I think it tastes best with curds.

1 medium chow-chow, deseeded, peeled and chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds/ rai
2 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp urad dal
1-2 red chillies (according to taste)
1 marble sized ball tamarind soaked in a little warm water
1 tsp oil
salt to taste

Heat oil in a kadhai, add mustard seeds. When the spluttering dies down, add red chillies and the dals, and fry on low heat till well browned.
Add chopped vegetables, and fry on low heat for 2 - 3 minutes.
Add tamarind juice, sprinkle water, cover the kadhai and let it cook in its own steam till soft.
Remove from flame and let it cool.
Pour into a mixer, add salt to taste, and grind till all the vegetables are pureed and the dals are coarsely ground.
Tastes best when cold (unless you are having it with rice).

- the recipe calls for 2 red chilies, but put more or less according to taste, and the relative hotness of the chilli
- tamarind can be replaced with lemon juice and/ or vinegar, but considering most of the taste comes from the roasted dal, the chillis and the tamarind, think before replacing
- some people also add coriander to the chutney before grinding- it is not a part of the original recipe, and I do not do it
- some people temper the chutney with mustard seeds, curry leaves and channa dal- I personally prefer it otherwise

Oct 9, 2012

Chutney podi Andhra/ Madhava style

I always thought I loved my mother's gunpowder, but when I tasted the Andhra/ Madhava version, it was love at first bite. This recipe is from my mother's friend (handed down to her from her mother in law), and unlike the Tamil version, this is often had by mixing it with rice. Don't tell anyone, but I often take a bit of this, add ghee and like that Horlicks kid of yesteryears, "emni emni kori khai".

1 cup chana dal
1/2 cup urad dal
1 cup grated copra
23 red chillies (she likes her food very hot, so I might tune it down a bit)
1/4 cup powdered jaggery
1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
1 tsp salt

Fry chana dal, urad dal and red chillies separately in a kadhai using very little oil each time. Allow all to cool.
Lightly fry the copra. Allow to cool.
Tear tamarind into small pieces and roast lightly
Dry grind copra and tamarind together, with salt and jaggery- mixture should not be too fine.

Heat 5 tsp oil, and season mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. Remove from the fire.
Add the ground dals and chillis and mix well.
Though this can be stored for several months, since it has coconut, I prefer to store in the refrigerator.

At the risk of being branded an outcast by my community, once you have tasted this, the Tamil gunpowder doesn't seem nearly as good.

Oct 8, 2012

Milagai podi/ gunpowder

Literally translated to "chillie powder", no Tamil kitchen is complete without the milagai podi made in bulk and stored in bottles or jars. Recipes vary from family to family- but most are variations of this basic recipe.

1 measure chana dal
1 measure urad dal
2 measures red chilli (I do not remove the stalks)
1/2 tsp hing/ perungayam
Salt to taste

Dry roast the channa dal and urad dal separately in a heavy bottomed kadhai on medium heat till well browned. This is the critical step- the dals should we well roasted, but not burnt. Keep aside to cool
Take some oil in the same kadhai, and on a low flame, fry the red chillies till they start to change colour (you typically end up coughing at this stage). Add hing, and heat for a minute or two. Take off the fire, and allow it to cool.
When cool, grind the red chillies till fine. Add the dals gradually, and grind till they form a coarse powder.
Add salt to taste, and mix well.

Store milagai podi in a airtight container, and serve after making a paste with either oil or ghee. Goes well with idlis, dosas and uttapams.

Milagai podi can last for several months without refrigeration as long as you ensure that it remains in a dry environment.

Low fat option for Karanji

I hesitate to call this "healthy", because my definition of healthy is not "less fat", but the use of ingredients that are good for health.
But if you do have a desi sweet tooth, and want to indulge without having to do a 60 minute run as penance, this option works. Not quite the real thing, but given the fact that it packs a couple of hundred calories less per karanji, a compromise that is well worth it.

Roti ka atta (yes, I used the atta that had been kneaded for my rotis)
1 measure grated coconut (I used 1/2 cup)
1/2 measure sugar (more or less to taste)
1/4 measure water
small amount of cooking oil

Put water to boil, and when it starts boiling, reduce flame, and add the sugar. Stir till all the sugar dissolves, and some of the water evaporates (should NOT attain one string consistency).
Turn off the fire, add grated coconut, and stir so you get an even mixture.

Oct 5, 2012

Coconut chutney (the way my mother makes it)

There are many, many ways of making coconut chutney, but this is the way my mother (and her mother before her) made it, and I am sticking to it. Normally, I skip the tempering, but I did it this time because I wanted a more authentic picture.

You need
One medium coconut grated
3 green chillies (more or less, according to taste- I normally use 2, but you might be better off with 3)
one ball of tamarind (about the size of a marble- be careful, because if you put too much, the colour will be a muddy brown)
[there are variations with added ginger (no tamarind), and roasted chana dal, but I haven't made either]
salt to taste

For seasoning
1/4 tsp mustard seeds/ rai/ sarson/ kaduhu
1 red chilli (to add flavour and colour only)
4-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp chana dal or urad dal

Grind together grated coconut, green chillies and tamarind, with a small quantity of water. My cue for knowing when to stop grinding is to check if the green chilles are well ground and mixed. Take out into a bowl, and add salt as per taste.
In one teaspoon of oil, make the tempering with the mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilli and dal. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, pour it over the chutney and mix well.

Cheat sheet-
Since nobody in my family is particularly fond of the tempering, I normally skip that step completely.
Grating coconut is a pain (unless I can get my kids to do it), so I normally cut the coconut into inch long pieces, and wet grind them with water, tamarind and green chillies- it takes a bit longer to grind, and you might find a few slivers here and there, but it is much easier and faster that way.

Fruit yogurt

The quest started when a friend told me you cannot get decent fruit yogurt in India. How difficult can it be to make your own, I wondered. Many, many tries later, I admit that it is hard to get the texture right, but fruit yogurt can be made.

1 cup milk, slightly warmer than at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp starter curd/ yogurt
2-3 tbsp pureed fruit

Mix the pureed fruit with the starter curd, till homogenous. Mix that into the milk. Keep overnight in a warm place (I normally use a plastic basket lined with paper for setting curds). Once set (should take about 6-8 hours, depending on the temperature), chill before eating.

Oct 1, 2012

French toast

This might well be the first thing I learnt to cook, and is still one of my favourite things to eat. I have a savoury version which I often make for lunch, but on the Monday after a weekend with two sick kids, it is this that I crave for.

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk
vanilla essencce
1 tsp sugar
1 tulsi leaf slightly crushed
2 slices of bread

Beat the eggs with about 2 tablespoons of milk till nice and froathy. Add a few drops vanilla essence, 1 teaspoon sugar and one tulsi leaf and beat till the sugar partially dissolves (make sure the sugar doesn't disappear completely, because you want some of it to caramelize).
Remove the tulsi leaf and discard. Cut two slices of bread into triangles, dip in the mix, and shallow fry on a frying pan (I use butter, obviously). When both sides are done, pour the left-over egg mix, making sure to spread the sugar evenly, turn over and let it cook for about 30 seconds.

French toast and a glass of warm milk! Enough to fortify you to take on the world.

Bread bombs

My mother used to make this for me when I returned home from school ravenous. Then she started working longer hours, and I forgot all about this, till all that talk of beetroot cutlets and veg chops reminded me of this. Recipe my own, because my mother seems to have forgotten all about it, but it tasted exactly like I remembered, so must be somewhat close to "authentic".

Steam assor ted veggies# till soft (I used 2 medium beetroots, 3 small carrots, and a handful of beans, but you can also add peas and cauliflowers).
Boil 2 medium potatoes*
Mash the potatoes and the veggies separately, and mix them together. Fry 1/2 onion chopped and peanuts (optional), till onion turns translucent. Add to the mashed vegetables. Add salt to taste and 1 tsp pav bhaji masala (garam masala would work too- I used pav bhaji masala so it would taste similar to something the kids are used to).
Roll into balls (size of a ping-pong ball), and keep aside.
Cut off the crusts from a slice of bread, moisten one side, press down on palm, place the ball inside and cover, moulding to form desired shape. Drop into the oil and deep fry.
Tastes best with mustard sauce and nostalgia!

* time saving tip- cut the potatoes into 1/8ths, and cook in pressure cooker, along with the veggies (in separate containers)- both take roughly the same amount of time
# destring the beans before steaming, but peeling beets and carrots is much easier after they are cooked