Sep 24, 2014

The Tastiest Lentil Stew

I have finally found my tastiest lentil stew. Also the most versatile. Also adaptable to any cuisine. Also really quick to make, and totally slurp-worthy. Vegan to boot. As usual, such great discoveries happen by serendipity. For long, I had been drooling over the hearty bean chillis that many folks make. For long I’ve been toying with the idea of a chilli with an Indian flavour. For long, I’ve been dreaming of making a meal of a hearty soup-ish stew. For long, ....OK, I’ll stop now.

Dinner in a bowl

I had some leftovers to be used up. In a crazy moment of devil-may-care, I just poured some things into a pot and seasoned them with fragrant fried onion, a couple of green chillies to notch up the heat, and finished off with some aromatic chopped coriander.

You could make the same stew at least three ways. Use a seasoning of oregano, cumin powder, chipotle peppers, flat leaf parsley, and topped with Greek yoghurt. Or dress with Sriracha, chopped spring onions, and drizzle some sesame oil on top. Or you could go the Indian Garam Masala route seasoning with fennel seeds, a couple of green chillies if you like, top with fried onions, chopped coriander and if in a indulgent mood, some fresh cream or butter as well. Did I not tell you this is the most versatile?

Tasty Lentil Stew

These are the ingredients I used. You could change the ingredients if you wish, but the flavours and textures will differ accordingly.


  • Does NOT contain gluten, soya, peanuts, other nuts, corn, yeast, egg or dairy.
  • Suitable for gluten and lactose intolerant people.
  • Also suitable for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4 – 6 depending on whether it is your main meal or as an entree.


Cookware – 2-3 litre capacity Pressure cooker, mixer grinder, knife, cutting board, Small fry pan


  1. 1/2 cup Tuvar Dal
  2. 1/4 cup Chana Dal
  3. 1/4 cup Pearl Barley
  4. 2 heaped cups of chopped Lauki / Bottle Gourd
  5. 3 ripe large tomatoes
  6. 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  7. 2 cloves peeled garlic
  8. 1/2 inch piece ginger
  9. 3/4 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  11. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  12. 1/4 cup finely chopped Onion
  13. 3 green chillies (optional)
  14. 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
  15. 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds


  1. Rinse, peel bottle gourd, and chop into 1 cm squares. Rinse, peel and chop carrot similarly. Peel the ginger, garlic. Leave them whole.
  2. Place the Dals and the pearl barley inside your pressure cooker directly or in a vessel that fits inside the cooker. Rinse the dals once,drain the water, then add the chopped vegetables, peeled ginger and garlic, and the tomatoes. Top with water to cover the contents, (approx double volume of water) and pressure cook for 3 whistles. Set aside for pressure to release on its own.
  3. Once you open the pressure cooker, remove the vegetables from the top to a mixer jar, leaving the pulses inside. Discard only the ginger piece. Whizz the rest in a mixer grinder to a coarse-ish paste. Return the paste to the dals+barley.
  4. Add salt, and simmer over a very low flame for 10 minutes until the stew is thick, flavours blended well.
  5. In a separate small fry pan, add the oil, heat it up, add the mustard, cumin, let crackle, add chopped onions, green chillies if using. Sauté the onions until they are light brown, or for longer if you wish. Pour over the simmering stew, stir the seasonings in and cover immediately. Let the stew rest for half an hour to allow for flavours to mingle.

Serve warm just by itself, or with a corn muffin or with a salad with herb dressing. Else, you could also top it with some fried chips, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt, and enjoy.

Or serve the Indian way. Pour some stew into a bowl, drizzle with some green chutney and sweet chutney, top with finely chopped onions, scatter some fine ‘sev’ over and serve.

Whichever way you choose to indulge, this dish is extremely tasty, incorporates several grains, has loads of vegetables, makes a meal by itself or is a worthy accompaniment to any meal.

Healthy, filling Lentil Stew

Sep 20, 2014

Stir fried Bitter Gourd–Nothing Bitter About It

Is it really possible? Can bitter gourd turn sweet? Bitter gourd cannot become sweet, but with this recipe, you will convert the haters into lovers. If you are a lover of the vegetable already, then this recipe is sure to seal your love affair with it for life.

Stir Fried Bitter Gourd

The first step to a successful stir fry is selecting the best produce. If you are a hater, but are going to try this vegetable for the first time, then choose bitter gourd with light green skin. Alternatively, you can select the tiny bitter gourd also called ‘kantola’.

So what is special about this recipe? It can be put together with minimum ingredients. Tastes like a star dish on the table. You can earn brownie points for feeding your family as healthy a vegetable as bitter gourd. Would you like to try it out too? Read on to find how we make it.

Allergy Information

  • Does not contain eggs, soya, dairy, corn, peanuts, any nut.
  • Suitable for gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant people.
  • Suitable for people with nut allergy also.

Preparation time – 20 minutes, Cooking time – 20 minutes, Serves –4-5.

You Need

Cookware – Knife, Cutting board, Deep fry Pan with tight fitting lid


  1. 3/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  2. 1 cup finely chopped vine tomatoes
  3. 1 cup finely chopped bitter gourd
  4. 1/2  tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 heaped tsp salt
  6. 2 tbsp jaggery powder (optional)
  7. 1 heaped tsp of the most fragrant sambar powder you can find
  8. 2 tsp oil
  9. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  10. 1 tsp Urad dal
  11. few curry leaves


  1. Chop all vegetables.
  2. Heat a fry pan, pour oil in. Add mustard seeds, Urad Dal, and curry leaves in that order.
  3. When mustard seeds sizzle, add chopped onions, stir well over high flame. When the onions turn light brown, add tomatoes and fry till mushy.
  4. Crank up the heat, and toss in the bitter gourd, stir real quick over high flame. After 2 minutes of action on high heat, add turmeric powder, salt, jaggery powder (if using) and half of the sambar powder.
  5. Mix in the seasonings well, and cover with a tight lid. Lower the heat, and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  6. You can sprinkle a few teaspoons of water once, if the contents become too dry. Stir a couple of times in between the cook.
  7. The stir fry is done when it tastes soft but not mushy. Add the other half of the sambar powder and mix in well.
  8. You could finish it off with some chopped coriander leaves too.
  9. Do remember to scrape off the delicious burnt bits from the bottom of the pan, add them to your serving bowl. Those caramelised onions and tomatoes take the stir fry to blissful levels.
  10. Enjoy with a bowl of hot steamed rice or just by itself too.

Nothing bitter about it

Come pick me up and enjoy.

Sep 15, 2014

The Quickest Kathi Roll

The original Kathi roll is a street food from Kolkata. This legendary dish has taken on many avatars since and has evolved into a versatile snack popular all over India. Kathi rolls are a great way to jazz up boring meals. The best part is there are no rules. While street food dishes out less healthier options, (read fat drenched, artery clogging, refined flour) we need not fret at all. We can easily make these at our homes using much healthier alternatives too.

Home made kathi rolls on a platter

To begin with, I always use organic whole wheat flour for the rotis. I normally have a stock of home made skim milk paneer in the freezer as well. This 5 minute 3 pepper paneer curry is my go-to recipe when hard pressed for time. Throw in a few salad vegetables and some fresh lettuce, and a wholesome meal / snack / appetiser is ready. Cremica’s Korma Sandwich Mayo came in handy this time around. This was part of our goodie bags at the IFBM.

Now, I am no friend to convenience foods or ready to eat products. While I am all for economic growth, feeding on chemicals which get added to foods to increase shelf life or flavour or taste, is really not up my alley. In this recipe, I have used the Cremica sandwich spread. It is definitely handy and does zing up the roll. However, you can choose to omit or replace with a different home made spread too.

You could hop over to these blogs to view their favourite kathi roll recipes as well.

Vegetable Platter’s Alu Gobhi wrap here, and Hamaree Rasoi’s Paneer Kathi Rolls here.

Here is how I assembled my kathi roll last week. Helped to satiate the hunger pangs of the teen and the tween. Ticked all boxes - flavour, crunch, health, easy assembling . Need I say more?

Kathi Rolls with elegant companions

Allergy Information

  • Contains wheat and dairy.
  • NOT suitable for gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant people.
  • Can be made dairy free by substituting paneer with tofu.
  • Does NOT contain egg, corn, soya or nuts.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 3-4.

You Need

Skillet, Rolling Pin, Shallow steel mixing bowl, Plates to assemble


  1. 2 cups Whole wheat flour + extra for dusting
  2. 1/2 tsp Salt 
  3. 3/4 cup Water (more or less depending on flour)
  4. 1 tsp Oil
  5. 1 recipe 5 minute 3 Pepper Paneer Curry
  6. 10-15 leaves of leafy lettuce or Romaine Lettuce
  7. 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into semi circles
  8. About 6 tsp of Mrs. Bector’s Cremica Korma Sandwich Mayo


  1. Take a shallow steel mixing bowl. Place the flour and salt in the bowl. Mix the salt and whole wheat flour with finger tips. Drizzle water slowly and knead into a smooth dough. You may need more or less water depending on type of flour. I used 24 Mantra Organic whole wheat flour. Once dough is smooth, gather into a ball. Press the top of the ball with thumb. The dough should spring back. If not, knead again for a minute or more and check again. Grease the dough all around with 1/2 tsp oil, cover and leave to rest in a cool place for half an hour.
  2. Pinch or cut out equal portions of the dough. 2 cups of flour can make 8-10 balls depending on the size you cut.
  3. Roll out each ball into thin flat round.
  4. Heat a flat iron griddle / skillet. Place the roti on the skillet. Turn around when brown spots appear on one side. Cook both sides of roti well taking care to adjust flame and not burn, smear with a few drops of oil if you wish. Remove to a platter. Repeat with all the balls of dough. Set the rotis aside.
  5. Rinse the lettuce well and drop in chilled ice water.
  6. Follow the recipe for the 5 minute 3 pepper paneer curry. Set aside.
  7. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds if any and slice into thin semi circles.
  8. Assemble the kathi roll just before eating.
  9. Smear the sandwich mayo around the roll leaving a cm around the sides free.
  10. Place the paneer curry, cucumber slices as shown in picture.Just wrap up and chomp away
  11. Drain the lettuce, shake well, tear up and add them along to the roti too.
  12. Wrap the roti inward from both sides, secure with toothpick if needed, and enjoy!

While the individual components of this roll can be made ahead, the roll is best assembled just before consuming. It does get soggy in half an hour. So it may not work well in a packed school lunch box. It does make a great after school snack. You could also prepare and pack the different components of the rolls separately and assemble at a picnic.

Dear friends, How do you like your rolls / wrap / frankie / meals on the go? Would you make it any other way? I would love to hear from all. Please do write in at my facebook page here or in the comments section below.

Till next time, eat healthy, stay happy.

Sep 4, 2014

Happy Onam with Nendra Pazham Nurukku

Traditional Onam Flower Carpet Decoration
Wishing all Keralites across the globe a very happy Onam. The very mention of the festival sends happy shivers down the spine. The excitement of meeting relatives, the rustle of new clothes, the joy of decorating the house with flowers, fills everyone with gleeful anticipation. Cooking the special Onam Sadya, the house smelling festive with the heady combination of curry leaves, coconut milk, simmering vegetables, with the inviting aroma of Payasam, with the fragrance of Nendra Pazham that lovingly follows you to every nook of the house.
That brings me to my much loved fruit – Nendra Pazham. A variety of banana grown extensively in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it is longer than the usual Robusta or Dole variety and has a different unique flavour. It takes pride of place in Malayalee cuisine.
Ask any one from Kerala, and Nendra Pazham will count as one of their favourite fruits. Ask anyone from outside Kerala, the answer may not be the same. it could take some time to get used to. Fortunately, everyone in my family likes this special banana.
At our home, we wait patiently for it to ripen just so. It could then get plonked into the microwave for a quick steam bath, or into the sauna of a fry pan with jaggery to sweeten the deal, or if in a ‘lavish mood’ get batter fried for that crisp outside, soft, sweet, melting inside Pazham Pori. Each of these methods of enjoying the Nendra Pazham merits its own post. For now, I’ll confine my gushing to the jaggery sweetened, gooey, syrupy golden blobs called Nendra Pazham Nurukku. This is often served as part of the festive Onam breakfast menu.
Whether you celebrate Onam or not, this is a good chance to indulge in this simple sublime dessert. It fits the bill for a quick healthy snack, a solution for any time hunger pangs as much as part of an elaborate festive meal or as dessert after a spicy meal.
Don't they look smashing?
Here is how I go about making it.
Allergy Information
  • Does NOT contain gluten, egg, soya, corn, peanuts, tree nuts.
  • Suitable for gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant people.
Preparation Time – 10 minutes, Cooking Time – 15 minutes, Serves – 5-6
You Need
Knife, Kadai / Frying pan.
  1. 1 kg (usually 4-5 bananas) Just ripe Nendran banana
  2. 1/2 cup Jaggery OR Brown Sugar. Can take 3/4 cup if you prefer more sweetness.
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1/2 tsp ghee (clarified butter) – optional
  1. Rinse the bananas, peel and slice into 2 inch chunks.
  2. Combine the bananas, jaggery and water together in a kadai and set it over flame.
  3. Keep stirring once it comes to a boil. Lower flame if you find the corners browning.
  4. The bananas are done when they get a glaze and look translucent. This should come about in 7-10 minutes depending on flame and quantity cooked.
  5. Top with 1/2 tsp ghee if using, mix well and remove from fire.
  6. Serve when warm.
Golden chunks of Pazham Nurukku

Day 2 At IFBM

A month later, IFBM still weaves its magic. Read on for events of Day 2.

Even as the realities of navigating the city’s famous weekend rush hour traffic tried to dampen spirits, I refused to get bogged down. I was eagerly waiting for the events of Day 2 to unfold.

Ashish Verma, Digital Strategist for Ogilvy, got down to business with us soon enough. What is SEO?  How to optimise content for SEO? How to use plug-ins to advantage? How does Google Analytics help? What type of title or keyword should be used? Being a newbie to the technical details that runs the web, some of these, well, OK, most of these were unknown to me. Suffice to say, I have resolved to learn more of the workings of the web. Ashish, thank you so much for opening up a new vista of information for me.

Ashish Verma in action 

Good Food Writing, by Rushina Ghildiyal. Boy, was I waiting for this one. Veteran food blogger, successful cook book author, food writer, owner of cooking studio in Mumbai, Rushina wears so many titles with panache. Above all, superlatively helpful, gracious, Rushina is a role model person for all to emulate. How to structure your article, how to write a recipe, how to be your own ‘harsh editor’, how to write reviews, and the list went on. So generous was she in sharing her knowledge and information, that I want to fly right away to Mumbai and sign up for her classes. God, and the Universe, please make this happen soon.

Tea break again was an excuse for the Aloft folks to pamper us silly.

How to self publish your book – Aparna Jain from Patridge Publishing gave us the low down on the lucrative (that is not) aspects of book and e–book publishing. It was very good to get down to the brass tacks of the publishing business. I’ve stored away all information she shared generously to be used when I am ready to publish my book. Wish me luck, folks!

A panel discussion by six great food bloggers followed. This was stimulating. Sanjeeta of Lite Bites shared her experiences of working on food styling assignments, while Harini Of Tongue Ticklers spoke about her photography. Rushina shared candidly her ups and downs of launching her cooking studio. Kalyan Karmakar of Finely Chopped spoke about his famous food walks in Mumbai. Ruchira and Ranjini, the tadka girls spoke about their successful launching of 2 e-books. There was a lively group discussion on how to move beyond blogging. We also discussed how to explore new territory, how to price your work in unchartered domains, how to delineate free content from charged services. All of us benefitted from their collective wisdom.

I have an idea. Why don’t we have online webinars or Google hangout panel discussions similarly instead of waiting for a whole year for another meet?

Experts sharing their experiences in the panel discussion 

Lunch was again an extravagant affair. Laid out at Nook, Aloft Cessna Park’s 24 hour restaurant, the place is very cosy, cheerful, open and inviting. I love the green chairs as well as the bright cutlery.

Chef Sameer Luthra paid great attention to the choice of menu and quality of food put up. The buffet is vast. A wide selection of salads, starters, and a bit of International as well as regional Indian cuisine in the mains. Vegetarian Phad Thai was very welcome as was Vankaya Igguru. Toning down the oil in the Indian curries would be well appreciated too! After the sumptuous meal, the desserts were fighting for attention and demanded complete justice. Gulab jamun was a heavenly mouthful. The tiramisu and mango mousse were likeable too. I am planning to spend a leisurely Sunday at Aloft Cessna, lunching with my family.



Post lunch, we were eagerly waiting for Chef Sameer Luthra. A product of Le Cordon Bleu, France, he blew us away with his loving treatment of ingredients and whipped up potato rosti and another dish with fish.

Chef Sameer Luthra in actionChef Sameer Luthra - Aloft Bengaluru. Pic Courtesy-Jayashree Mudaliar and Team IFBMTeam Aloft with Team IFBM. Pic courtesy - Sarah SamuelBloggers in a happy frame at Chef's cook demo. Pic courtesy - Sarah Samuel

I had to leave mid way and missed out on the rest of the evening proceedings. I heard the rest of the folks had a fantastic tea to revive their spirits, set by the poolside.

Did I mention that we were virtually flooded with goodie bags too? It would take an entire blog post to do justice to the goodie bags. For now,

Time to say good bye to IFBM2014. Eagerly waiting for IFBM2015! What do you say, folks?

Sep 2, 2014

Which Salad Is Really Good For You?


Have we not heard this enough times? Eat your vegetables. Have a big bowl of salad for lunch. Feast only on salads at the buffet table. Eat salads, stay healthy, live long. Have a salad daily, a salad for a meal and so on. But are all salads good? Also, are salads always good for you?

In this article, let me attempt answering the first question for you.

Yes, eating enough vegetables is vital to good health. The Food Pyramids of USDA and NIN amply bring home that for us.

Food Pyramid - National Institue of Nutrition

Yes, eating salads are a great way to increase variety in routine meals. Salads are low in calories, add colour, zest, fibre, anti oxidants and every other good thing you may find in diet and nutrition books.

Which salad gives you all of this?

Pic Courtesy-

A salad that is made from fresh produce, not old.

A  freshly harvested fruit or vegetable is still living and breathing. If harvested when fully formed, the vegetable has the maximum nutrient content. With each passing day after harvest, fruits and vegetables lose moisture and valuable nutrients through surface. Losses can range from 5% for Vitamin B to even 70% for Vitamin C depending on harvest procedure, type of post harvest handling, effective cold storage (or not). Fat soluble vitamins are lost if the produce is exposed to heat / light.

Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits work best in a salad both in terms of flavour and nutrition. If you have ever dug into a salad which had one rotten tomato, you will understand this easily. The reasons we include salads in a meal are the vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytonutrients and anti oxidants that fresh produce has to offer. The real purpose of a salad is defeated if we use shrivelled, nearly dying vegetables.

A salad that is NOT drenched in sugary, creamy, high fat dressings.

Pic Courtesy-

Again, if you are stuffing yourself with a salad slathered in gooey, creamy, cheesy dressings, you have just added a few hundreds of calories from sugar and fat, thousands of mg of sodium and thwarted all attempts to ‘eat healthy’. Choose dressings with good fats such as olive oil, skim milk yoghurt or low fat Greek yoghurt. Include dressings such as those with herbs, lemon juice, honey mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, fresh pesto.  Avoid dressings which have ingredients such as sour cream, any type of cheese, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup.

High fat salad dressings you will be happy to avoid. Pic Courtesy-

A salad that does not have deep fried foods as part of it’s ingredients.

Crunchy but not fried-Sweet Corn and pomegranante salad

Fried chicken salad, lettuce salad topped with deep fried croutons, crispy noodles, deep fried potatoes, potato straws, fried pork or any other deep fried ingredients to add crunch or taste to salad are harming your health and waistline.

Want crunch in your salad without the guilt of excess fat or sodium or calories? Add grilled vegetables or baked croutons. Add healthy nuts and seeds such as toasted walnuts, almonds, toasted melon seeds or pumpkin seeds to add nutty crunch.*

Also, a salad that is assembled in hygienic conditions and stored safely before consumption.

Cauliflower Koshimbir - Simple home made salad

Every single vegetable or fruit used in a salad, (especially raw salads) has to be thoroughly rinsed before peeling/chopping. Rinsing after peeling or chopping increases chances of contamination and nutrient losses. After rinsing, the ingredients have to be drained clean of the wash water too.

Bagged salad, pre cut greens, are all potential sources of bacterial contamination.

No salad ingredient should come in contact with raw meat.

Use clean cutting boards, knives and utensils while assembling salads.

Take care to store the salad as well as the dressings in a cool dark place, preferably covered in the fridge. If dressing is store bought, store as per instructions. Sniff, taste a wee bit before using each time to make sure it is still usable.

Assembling a simple home made salad is often easier than shopping for necessary ingredients and dressings. Enjoy fresh home made salads any time!

Happy, healthy eating.

*Nuts in salads – People who are allergic to tree nuts or all nuts should avoid them in salads too.