Dec 29, 2014

Hot Chocolate – the gift of the Gods.

If there is one thing a cold winter evening is synonymous with, it has to be a steaming mug of hot chocolate. All of us have our special ways to enjoy hot chocolate, be it sprinkled with salt, some cinnamon powder, topped with cream, marshmallows, or many, many more combinations.

Or, you can enjoy hot chocolate with minimal ingredients. Let the pure notes of cocoa hit like a wave, wash your palate and soul with its soothing aromas and lull you into soporific contentment. Add to this a heart warming book, and a crackling fireplace, and the picture is complete.

It does help to know that cocoa has been shown to have multiple health benefits. The flavanols present in cocoa are responsible for initiating a complex set of chemical reactions. This lends several protective effects to the body, such as, improvement in endothelial function, (useful in keeping arteries healthy) improvement in platelet health and also exerts beneficial influence on blood pressure, blood lipids as well as insulin resistance. Research findings also point to the type of cocoa that has the maximum benefits. It is the dark chocolate which is most useful followed by cocoa powder.

Any wonder then, that liquid cocoa was called ‘Theo broma’ – the drink of the Gods? So, this winter, let’s raise a toast to this dark, alluring,  liquid which is a gift from the Gods themselves. Who are we to decline their Blessings!

Milk chocolate or white chocolate do not create any of these desired chemical changes in the body. So to derive the best advantage that cocoa has to offer, be sure to indulge in a small piece of the darkest chocolate you can find. Hey wait, does that mean you can eat chocolate daily? Yes and no. Yes to the darkest chocolate bar you can find. Best would be one with 70% or 80% cocoa. Yes to eating a small piece of this daily. How small? Well, about a thumb size piece is fine. No to eating uncontrolled amounts. No to a sugar overload from eating sweet chocolate. Cocoa does not have sugar, but chocolate has.  Remember this, while indulging.

If finding such a chocolate bar is not possible, despair not. Cocoa powder offers some of the advantages of dark chocolate. So go ahead and make yourself a mug of steaming hot cocoa to drink up.

At our home, we like hot chocolate made with just natural unsweetened cocoa powder. Some steamed milk to carry it off and sugar to sweeten the deal for the children. A teeny-weeny drop of vanilla extract to elevate the drink to heavens. Call me a purist, but any cream added seems to take away from delivering that punch. Any other added flavour a deterrent to enjoying pure cocoa bliss. This is how we nurse our favourite winter beverage.

How do you down yours? I would love to hear from all of you. Do write in with your favourite recipes of hot chocolate.

Care to share a mug of hot chocolate with me?


  • Contains lactose from milk. People with lactose intolerance can substitute almond or soya milk instead of dairy milk in this recipe.
  • Does NOT contain gluten. I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder. This product does not have gluten. Check labels if you are using any other cocoa powder or drinking chocolate.

Preparation Time – 2 minutes, Cooking Time – 5 minutes, Serves – 2.

You Need

Cookware – 2 Small saucepans, spoon, 2 mugs to serve


  1. 2 cups skim milk
  2. 3-4 tsp Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  3. 1-2 tsp sugar. Use as per taste.
  4. 2 drops vanilla extract

Steamy, foamy hot chocolate


  1. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. In a different pan, add the cocoa powder and sugar. Stir to remove lumps. Tip in the vanilla extract.
  3. Pour in the boiling milk into the saucepan with cocoa+sugar mixture. Stir well with a spoon. If you want some theatrical action, you can mix the beverage by pouring the milk back and forth between the two saucepans as rapidly as you can. Without spilling, of course.
  4. Pour into 2 mugs, put your feet up and relax. Enjoy the steaming mug of hot ‘Theo-broma’.

Winter evenings and hot chocolate go together..

Dec 22, 2014

Potato and Sorakayi Kurma

An unusual combination of vegetables. Brought about by necessity. That and the early morning rush. I found just a few vegetables in the fridge and had to create some packed lunch out of these in 30 minutes. So here is how I managed to pull it off.

In case I need to ‘repeat this accidental success’, I may need a recipe the second time. So I am documenting it here. Also thought of sharing it with my friends: harried moms who have to churn out delicious food, in school lunch boxes every morning, that too in record time.

Aromatic Potato and Sorakayi Kurma


  • Does NOT contain lactose, gluten, nuts, soya, eggs.

You Need


Knife, chopping board, pressure cooker, saucepan


  1. 1 large potato
  2. 1 heaped cup diced lauki/sorakayi/bottle Gourd
  3. 1/4 cup diced carrot (optional)
  4. 1/4 cup fresh/frozen green peas
  5. 1 small onion
  6. 2 tomatoes OR 2 tsp tomato paste
  7. 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  8. 1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder
  9. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  10. 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
  11. 1/2 tsp salt or more if needed
  12. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  13. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  14. 1 tsp cooking oil


  1. Rinse, peel skin and chop/dice vegetables(from 1 to 3) to similar size. Place along with peas directly in a small pressure cooker or in a suitable container inside a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 cup water, and cook for 2 whistles. Let cool on its own.
  2. While the veggies are cooking, set a sauce pan over flame. Heat oil, season with cumin and mustard seeds. (if using)
  3. Add finely chop onion. When it begins to brown, in a couple of minutes, add the garlic paste, let sizzle for minute. Keep stirring, lest it burns.
  4. Add in the tomato paste, the powders. Sprinkle a few tbsp of water. Stir and simmer for 4-5 minutes for all flavours to blend well.
  5. Combine the cooked vegetables (along with cooking water) and the simmering gravy. Check for salt and other seasonings. Mash the potato chunks roughly with the back of a ladle.
  6. When you have simmered this mixture for a couple of minutes, the kurma is ready. Can be packed along with rotis, bread or steamed rice for school lunch.
  7. TIP – If you find the gravy too salty or spicy, add quarter cup water, some chopped coriander leaves and squeeze half a lemon into it too. Hopefully you can retrieve it this way. Another way to salvage, is by adding another boiled potato to this gravy. But yes, you need time to boil another potato if you don’t have one handy.

Phulkas with Kurma for lunch

Lauki and peas doing a happy tango  

Dec 2, 2014

Peanut and Potato Salad

It is the season of peanut harvest in and around Bangalore. There is an interesting story around peanut harvest in our city.
Legend has it that a bull would roam over the fields every full moon night destroying the peanut crops. Flustered farmers offered their first harvest at the Bull temple and the roaming of the bull ceased!Local farmers offer their first crop to Nandi, the bull devotee of Lord Shiva at the Bull temple in Bangalore to this day. The temple vicinity wears a festive look during these two days. A village fair unfolds in the middle of the city. This annual fair is known as ‘Kadalekai Parishe’.
I love the earthy aroma of freshly dug up peanuts here. Call me biased, but the aroma and incredible, sweet, nutty flavours of peanuts that I buy from this fair every year beats all other. I cook the peanuts in their shells in salted water. All of us then gather around the steaming hot bowl of boiled peanuts, shell them and gobble them before some one else grabs it! Warm bonding  during chilly evenings over hot boiled peanuts!
Mostly I have no peanuts left over to include in any dish. However, I managed to make this peanut-potato salad from some that survived the onslaught. Even if the salad was made up from simple, readily available ingredients, it was bowl-scraping, finger-licking, slurp-worthy good. Ok, I’ll stop now.
I am documenting this recipe as much for myself as for sharing with all of you. Fresh seasonal ingredients. A good mix of crunch, soft, and crisp textures. A tongue tickling interplay of flavours. No fried ingredients. Healthy carbs and protein with a giant dose of fibre and vitamins. Do you need any more reasons? Just try it once. I am sure you’ll be hooked.
Peanut Potato salad served with baguette
  • Does NOT contain gluten, lactose, corn, soya, eggs.
  • Suitable for lactose or gluten intolerant people
  • Contains peanuts.
  • NOT SUITABLE for people with nut allergy.
Preparation time – 30 minutes + 30 minutes optional chilling time, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 3-4.
You Need
Cookware - Pressure Cooker with 2 containers that fit into it, Metal/Glass Bowl, Colander/Salad spinner, Knife, Chopping Board
  1. 2 cups peanuts in their shells
  2. 2 medium potatoes, chopped with skin into quarters. 
  3. 3 heaped cups Iceberg/Romaine Lettuce
  4. 1 big Tomato
  5. 2 tsp salt
  6. 2-3 cups fresh water
  7. a big bowl of ice water
For Salad Dressing
  1. 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  2. 1/2 a red onion
  3. 8-9 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO)
  4. 2 generous pinches crushed black pepper
  5. 1/4 tsp salt
To Assemble
  1. Dunk the peanuts in shells into a huge bowl of water. Let it sit for a few minutes. Rub the shells vigorously with both hands to loosen the dirt on them. Drain the water and repeat with 2 more changes of water. You can omit this step if using shelled peanuts. Just rinse peanuts once in water is enough.
  2. Now place in a container, pour enough water to cover all the peanuts,  scatter 2 tsp salt over it. Place the rinsed and chopped potatoes also in another container. Place both containers in pressure cooker and pressure cook for 3 whistles.
  3. Rinse the lettuce first under tap water, then place in ice water.
  4. Peel and dice/slice the red onion. Place in a bowl, add 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to it and let steep.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining vinegar, EVOO, salt and crushed pepper into an emulsion.
  6. Shell the peanuts and peel the potatoes. You can dice the potatoes into smaller size if you wish. Chop the tomato finely. Place all these together in a bowl.
  7. Drain the lettuce, use a salad spinner if you have one. Else just drain in a colander and shake it well. Tear up the large leaves into bite size ones by hand. Add to the other vegetables.
  8. Combine the onion and dressing from step 4 and 5. Drizzle over the salad vegetables. Mix well.
Combine the dressing with salad ingredients
The salad tastes best if allowed to chill for half an hour before serving. But, if you are in a hurry, just dig in and enjoy! We coupled it with 2 slices of warm toasted baguette for an after school snack.
A complete meal -warm toast and chilled salad