Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Healing Soup (Healthy Vegetable Soup)

Healing Soup is based on the fact that the combination of carrots, celery, parsley and spinach is very healing and promotes vitality. It has all the nutrients one needs and is easily digestible. The creaminess of the dal and the grated veggies make for a soft and soothing soup. Although it will not be as nutritious, this soup is equally good without the dal/barley as well.


1/4 cup Barley
1 cup yellow Mung dal
4 sprigs fresh Thyme
1 sprig Sage
2 sprigs Marjoram
1 small stalk Celery, finely chopped
4 medium Carrots, grated
1 large bunch Parsley, chopped
1 bunch Spinach, chopped
1 large Potato, grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch Garlic Chives or green onions
2 coin sized slices of Ginger, minced
2 medium Zucchini, grated
1 cup Corn kernels, fresh/frozen
1 tsp Turmeric
1 clove Garlic, crushed
Sea Salt to taste
1 tsp Sambar Powder
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Lime/Lemon wedges to serve (optional)


Sort the dal and barley for any debris, wash and cook in water to cover until the dal is very soft and creamy; set aside. To speed up the cooking process, save time and conserve energy, the dal and barley can be pressure-cooked.

Wash all the veggies thoroughly.

Trim and peel the veggies as necessary and save all the clean trimmings and peels in a large pot to make broth (but not the dry skins of onions as they will make the broth a bit bitter). If the trimmings are not enough, a couple of whole veggies like carrots and/or a potato can be cut up and added to the stock pot to enrich the broth.

Strip the parsley leaves and save them for soup; add the stems to the broth pot.

Add the garlic clove, turmeric, 1 tsp salt, and 2 quarts of water to the broth pot and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let to cool a little. Pour the broth through a fine strainer and discard the solids; set aside the broth until needed.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and cook the onions gently with a pinch each of salt and turmeric until soft and slightly browned.

Stir in the herb sprigs and the ginger; cook for a minute or until herbs wilt.

Add the broth to the onions in the soup pot and bring to a boil.

Stir in the potato and celery, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Increase heat a little, add the rest of the vegetables, sambar powder and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer again for about 30 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Fish out the herb stems and discard.

Stir in the dal/barley mixture and bring to a boil; add a little broth/hot water if the soup is too thick.

Mix in the spinach, garlic chives and parsley and cook until the veggies wilt; turn off the heat and cover.

Allow the soup to rest for a few minutes.

Check the soup for seasonings and add a little more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.

Serve hot; pass the lime/lemon wedges to squeeze as desired.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kate D's Irish Soda Bread Al'Orange

You don't have to be Irish to enjoy Soda Bread :D! This is a delicious vegan version of the soda bread that Kate bakes for her family on St. Patrick's day. The original recipe called for eggs and buttermilk. I took the liberty of "vegan"-izing the recipe so even our vegan friends could enjoy it and on a whim added orange juice and zest. It is actually quite good and everyone (including non-vegan friends) loved it :D!

This is no dry, crumbly soda bread; the orange juice, zest, and the cranberries make Soda Bread quite moist and delicious. It may be served warm on its own, with Deepa's Strawberry Jam or other preserves, or as a dinner accompaniment for Irish Stoup (sic) - this is not a typo but a word to denote a combination of stew/soup.

Note: A microplane is a very handy tool for zesting the orange - hold the trough side of the microplane up to process and the zest will collect into the trough without falling everywhere and creating a mess.


3 cups Unbleached flour
2/3 cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 cup dried Cranberries/Raisins/Currants
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
Juice (1/2 cup) and grated zest (only the colored top layer) from 1 Orange
11/2 cups soy milk/rice milk
2 Tbsp Oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil a 9x13 inch cake-pan or coat it with cooking oil spray.

Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl; mix and make a hole in the middle.

Pour all the liquid ingredients into the hole in the flour mixture.

Mix just until combined; do not over mix.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan; do not be concerned if it is not perfectly even - the batter will spread and even out as it bakes.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden.

Cool slightly and cut and serve warm.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container; Soda bread is delicious at room temperature also.

Deepa's Quick Strawberry Jam

Deepa sent this recipe in her Thathi's memory; Thathi was always game to try new fruits or veggies and would have loved this beautiful jam. Strawberry jam is quick and easy to prepare - it is ready in minutes! Fresh strawberries are incomparable for exuding the essence of spring but if fresh strawberries are unavailable, use frozen. It is delicious as a topping for biscuits, muffins, scones, etc.


1 box of Fresh Strawberries (2 cups), diced
2 Tbsp Butter
3-4 Tbsp Sugar

  • Heat butter and sugar together in a small pan until melted.
  • Stir in the strawberries, mix well and cook covered over low heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot over pancakes or spread on toast. Enjoy! :D

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chili-Tomato Chutney With Garlic & Shallots

This delicious chili-tomato chutney just might replace ketchup and other condiments! You can use ready-made ground red pepper or grind up red chilies in the coffee/spice grinder to make fresh chili powder for this.

Chili-Tomato Chutney is delicious served with bajjis, sandwiches, roasted vegetables, vegetable cutlets, corn cakes, etc. Keeshu loves a dollop of it on his fried rice!


1 Tbsp Oil
3 Shallots, minced
3 large cloves Garlic, minced fine
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1 Tbsp Red Chile Powder
3 fresh Tomatoes, pureed


Heat the oil in a small pan over low/medium heat and cook the garlic and shallots with a pinch of salt gently until they are lightly colored but not really browned.

Mix in the chili powder and cook for just a few seconds.

Add the tomato puree, stir well, and simmer over low heat until sauce thickens for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and serve hot, cool or cold. Keep any leftovers in a clean jar in the fridge. Enjoy!

Baked Upma (Indian Polenta)

Upma can be baked instead of the traditional stove-top method! The procedure is the same as in preparing the traditional Upma up to cooking the veggies; then just put everything in a casserole and bake! You can use the hands-free time to attend to other duties in the kitchen.

For a delicious change of pace or a gluten-free treat, upma can be made with polenta instead of the traditional cream of wheat. Polenta (coarse corn meal) is usually available in most markets; cream of wheat, Chana Dal, Urad dal, asafoetida, curry leaves and mustard seeds, etc are readily available in Indian markets. Carrots, corn kernels, bell peppers, peas, green beans, potatoes, zucchini, etc will work well.

4 Servings


2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Ghee (clarified butter) OR Earth Balance (butter substitute)
1/4 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Chana dal
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 pinch Asafetida (Hing)
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, 2 or 3 coin sized slices
1 or 2 green Chilies (Serrano or Jalapeno)
1 small Onion, any kind
1 sprig of fresh Curry leaves
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
2 to 3 cups fresh/frozen mixed vegetables
2 to 4 cups Water
1 cup Cream of Wheat or Polenta
4 Tbsp chopped Cilantro leaves
4 Tbsp toasted Cashew pieces or other nuts or seeds (Optional)
Lime Wedges to serve


  • Prepare the veggies: remove the seeds and membranes from the green chilies and finely mince; finely chop the ginger, onion and curry leaves. Dice your choice of fresh veggies into small cubes; thaw the veggies slightly if they are frozen.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot or a Kadai (Indian wok).
  • Add mustard seeds, Chana and Urad dals when the oil is hot and cover with a lid to keep the mustard seeds from escaping while they pop; be careful to watch that they do not burn though. This will only take a few seconds; the dals should become just pinkish golden.
  • As the mustard seeds finish popping, lower the heat to prevent burning and add the asafetida quickly.
  • Stir in the ginger, green chili, onions, curry leaves and the salt; cook stirring constantly over medium heat until onions are and softened and beginning to turn slightly golden.
  • Stir in the rest of the vegetables and mix well.
  • Oil a lidded casserole dish  (2 to 3 quart size) and add boiling water (2 cups for cream of wheat and 4 for polenta) and the cream of wheat or polenta; mix well. Place the lid on.
  • Bake the corn meal  mixture for 1 hour; cream of wheat does not require long baking. Bake cream of wheat mixture for a total of 30 minutes only.
  • Stir in the prepared veggie mixture thoroughly; add a tablespoon or two of water if upma looks dry; bake for 30 minutes more if using corn meal.
  • Remove from the oven, stir in the Ghee/Earth Balance, cover and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the cilantro leaves or sprinkle on top just before serving.
  • Serve hot garnished with the nuts/seeds.
  • Serve with the lime wedges to squeeze over the upma.
  • Upma is delicious on its own but can be served with your favorite accompaniments of chutneys, pickles, curries, etc. A few curries we especially like are Aviyal, Mor Kootu, or Ripe Mango Pulisseri. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Simple Tomato Pachadi (Tomato Chutney)

Tomato Pachadi is easy to prepare; it takes just minutes. It adds sparkle to a simple meal especially if the dishes are mild flavored. Tomato pachadi is delicious with sandwiches, upma, dosa, yogurt rice, all types of dals, molagutal, poricha kuzhambu, etc. I used hot Serrano chilies; you can use other chilies - even milder ones or make it hotter by adding more hot chilies.


4 ripe Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 hot green chilies, cut into thick slices
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
a few curry leaves, chopped

1 tsp oil
1 pinch brown mustard seeds
1 small pinch fenugreek seeds
1 tiny pinch asafetida


Heat the oil in a stainless steel pan. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds.

When the seeds pop and become fragrant, quickly add asafoetida and then the green chilies and stir. Be careful when adding green chilies as the moisture in them might sizzle and splatter when they come in contact with the hot oil.

Stir in the tomatoes and the salt, stir well, cover and cook stirring occasionally until tomatoes are soft and saucy.

Serve hot, warm or cold. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poricha Kuzhambu (Lentil and Vegetable Stew With Coconut)

Poricha Kuzhambu is a comforting classic stew served over steamed plain rice. This nutritious and delicious everyday fare can also be served with other grains such as Quinoa, couscous, soft polenta, Bulgar, etc or chapatis. Poricha Kuzhambu is somewhat similar to Molakootal, another classic stew we loved while growing up.

Traditionally Poricha Kuzhambu is prepared in two basic ways: with or without tamarind; but then there are many variations - with Toor/Mung dal or a combo of the two, with Sambar Powder, with raw or roasted spices, with/without fresh or toasted coconut, thick/thin, with fewer vegetables or a mixture etc, etc. Whoa, that's a lot to think about! Whichever of the endless variations you are inclined to make, the basic ingredients needed are: dal and a few veggies.

The traditional favorites for making poricha kuzhambu without tamarind are: all types of mild flavored veggies such as summer squashes, moringa pods, carrots, green beans, green bananas, sprouted beans/peas, carrots, Opo/Bottle Gourd, and peas etc. Poricha Kuzhambu with tamarind utilize all the ones mentioned before plus brown chick peas, val beans (Dolichos lablab), eggplants and peppers. Spinach and other greens also can be utilized to make either type of poricha kuzhambu but are not combined with other veggies - greens stand gloriously alone!

You can make it thick or thinner too depending on how you plan to serve it; I make it a bit soupy to go with rice and a little less so to serve with chapatis. Poricha kuzhambu definitely belongs in the comfort food category of the South Indian culinary repertoire.

Here is a sample of one of my favorite variations with freshly roasted spices:

Serves 4


1/2 cup Toor or Mung dal (or a combo of the two)
1 small Chayote Squash (aka Bangalore Kathirikai, chow-chow, Buddha's Hand, Mirliton, etc)
1 medium Carrot
1 small Green banana/Potato
1 medium Parsnip
a Handful of green beans
1 cup sprouted beans or fresh/frozen Corn Kernels or peas
1 medium Zucchini/Cucumber
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste

Masala: 1 Tbsp Urad dal
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1 or 2 dry Red Peppers (to taste)
1/2 cup fresh coconut (1/3 cup dry unsweetened)
1 tsp uncooked rice

Tadka/Thalippu: 1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Urad dal
1 dry red pepper
1 or 2 sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves, stripped off the stems and chopped


1. Sort the dal for stones or debris. Wash well and cook the dal in fresh water to cover until very soft.

2. Make the masala while dal is cooking: roast the dal, black and red peppers in a tsp of oil until toasted and fragrant; take care not to brown the dal too much. Cool and grind together with the coconut and rice in a blender using as little of water as needed to make blending feasible.

3. Prepare the veggies: Wash and dry them. Peel lightly the chayote and parsnips. Potatoes and carrots should be thoroughly scrubbed but need not be peeled. Peel the green banana with a potato peeler - only the top green layer of the skin need be peeled. Remove stem and blossom ends of zucchini, cucumber and beans and trim both ends of bananas, carrots, and parsnips. Cut all the veggies into 1/2" cubes; they should all be approximately of the same size so that they all cook evenly.

4. Place all the veggies in about 1 cup of water with the salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Simmer until veggies are tender.

5. Turn up the heat and stir in the coconut masala into the veggies - rinse the blender container with a few tablespoons of water to extract all of the masala and pour into the veggies. bring to a boil.

6. Stir in the cooked dal; this is the time to check the consistency of the kuzhambu and add hot water as necessary. Make it thick or thin according to your preference. Bring to a good rolling boil and turn off the heat.

7. Prepare tadka: heat the oil in a small pan and add all the tadka ingredients; remove from heat when the mustard seeds pop and the dal turns pink. Place the curry leaves on top of the kuzhambu and pour the hot tadka over the curry leaves.

8. Stir gently but thoroughly, cover and let rest for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle.

9. Serve hot or warm over freshly cooked grains or with roti or other flatbreads; tangy pickles and chutneys work great as sides. Enjoy!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baked Peperonata (Bell Pepper With Onions and Tomatoes)

Peppers and Onions ready for roasting

Peperonata is simple but versatile as a filling, topping, or sauce for which you will find many uses. It is delicious as an appetizer on toasted breads and as a sauce for pasta, pizza, polenta, etc. I also make a tomato-less version especially suited for making sandwiches (less juicy = no sogginess). Peperonata is particularly beautiful when prepared with colorful peppers - red, yellow, orange and green; I typically use red, orange and yellow.


8 Assorted colors of Bell Peppers (Capsicums)
2 Red Onions, slivered
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1 clove Fresh Garlic, minced
2 small sprigs Fresh Marjoram, chopped
a handful of Fresh Basil, torn
1/4 cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
4 large Tomatoes


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and dry the peppers; remove seeds, stems, and pale colored ribs inside. Slice into strips lengthwise.

Pour the oil in a 9x13 inch baking pan and swirl to coat the bottom.

Place peppers and onions in the pan with salt and the red pepper flakes and stir well.

Bake the veggies until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, prepare the tomatoes: remove the stem ends, scoop out the seeds into a strainer placed over a bowl to catch the juices and slice the fleshy parts. Press the seeds to extract all of the juices and discard the seeds.

Stir in the garlic and tomatoes with the juices and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, stir in the marjoram and parsley, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Serve hot or warm as desired sprinkled with the basil. Enjoy!