Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cranberry Pulav (Basmati Rice With Cranberries and Fragrant Spices)

Cranberry Pulav With Cabbage Kofte

Colorful Cranberry Rice is quite a versatile dish. It is delicious served with couscous or curries; it is particularly fabulous with Vegetable or Malai Kofte.

6 - 8 Servings


2 cups Basmati Rice
4 Tbsp Ghee/Butter
2 cups Cranberries
1 pinch whole Saffron
1/4 tsp Turmeric
3 Cardamom Pods
1 Tbsp freshly grated Ginger
1/3 to 1/2 cup Organic Sugar
11/2 tsp Sea Salt


Wash the rice and let it soak in fresh water for half an hour.

Pick over the cranberries, rinse and drain.

Drain the water from the rice.

Crush the seeds from the cardamom finely with the saffron and the salt.

Heat half the ghee in a large pot.

Place half the rice in the pot and sprinkle half of the cranberries over them.

Sprinkle half the spices and sugar over the rice.

Cover with the remaining rice and sprinkle the rest of the cranberries on top.

Carefully add 3 cups of water without disturbing the rice and berries.

Sprinkle the remaining spices and sugar over the rice; drizzle the rest of the ghee on top.

Bring to a boil without stirring, turn down heat, cover and let it cook on the lowest heat setting for 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Stir gently and serve hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Ishtu (Vegetable Stew In Coconut Milk)

Mixed Vegetable Ishtu
Here is a delicious variation on the wonderfully fragrant stew from Kerala. It is as flavorful a combination of veggies to please the palate as it is a colorful delight for the eyes! Feel free to experiment and find your own special combination of veggies according to the season or your family's preference. The corn on the cob is a very tasty addition when you have a chance to get them fresh.


1 medium Onion
4 - 8 slices Fresh Ginger
2 - 4 hot Green Chilies
1 medium Potato or a handful of tiny New Potatoes
1 fresh corn on the cob
2 Parsnips
2 Carrots
A handful of Green Beans
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
2 slender Zucchini
1 cup Peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 can Coconut Milk
3 Sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp Virgin Coconut Oil


Wash all the veggies and drain. Peel carrots, parsnips and potato; cut the potato into quarters; thinly slice all the veggies (if using new potatoes, cut in half). Cut the bell pepper into halves and discard stems, ribs and seeds; cut into quarters; slice crosswise into thin strips. Snap off the ends from the green beans and snap into bite size pieces. Cut the corn on the cob into chunks without removing the core.

Leave the green chilies whole (for easy removal) or cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes (you might want to wear gloves for this); slice thinly.

Mash the ginger into a paste using a mortar and pestle.

Place the onions in a large pot with the chilies, ginger, and the salt; add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.

Add all the veggies (except the zucchini and peas) and the coconut milk; bring to a boil again; reduce heat and simmer covered until almost tender - about 15 minutes.

Stir in the zucchini and peas and cook for about 5 minutes or until just tender.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle the black pepper, place the crushed curry leaves on top of the stew and drizzle the coconut oil over the curry leaves; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, roti or dosa, as you wish. Enjoy!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homegrown Greens: Taro Leaves (Colocasia esculenta)

Taro Plant - 2010
Taro has been grown for human consumption since antiquity - some estimates say that it was in cultivation in tropical India before 5000 B.C.E. Taro is grown and eaten in many countries around the world. It was a popular food in Europe during the Roman Empire and many ways of preparing them are found in the ancient Roman cookbook Apicius. These "tropical potatoes" are known as Chembu in Malayalam, Cheppankizhangu in Tamil, Arbi in Hindi, Satoimo in Japanese, dasheen/eddo/callalloo etc. in the Caribbean/Polynesian islands and other parts of the world.

Taro is more nutritious than the regular potato; comparatively taro contains more protein and higher amounts of calcium and phosphorous in addition to goodly amounts of Vitamins A, B6, C and E. It is easily digestible and so good for people with delicate digestive systems.

Although the corms (modified stems) are the most prized parts, the leaves and stems are also eaten. I grow taro for the leaves and stems as the they are not readily available in markets. The leaves are even more nutritious than the corms with a lot more protein. But as with the roots, all parts of taro must be cooked well in order to make them edible - they contain calcium oxalate crystals and other compounds which cause irritation and itching that are rendered harmless by cooking. For more information on taro click here.

The leaves and stems are cooked together or separately to make different dishes. In southern India, the leaves are wrapped around a lentil filling, steamed, and seasoned to make a delicious dish called Chembilai Palaharam or Patravade. People from western India make a similar dish called Patra. My grandmother used to make a delicious stew with the stems flavored with coconut and spices.

Here are a couple of recipes for a start: Taro Leaf and Red Lentil Stew; use taro leaves and stems in the following recipes instead of the radish leaves or Malabar spinach - Radish leaves Thoran, Malabar Spinach Stew.

Taro Root (Corms)
How to grow:

Choose firm, hairy, unwrinkled corms. They should feel heavy and not light. Place one or more of the taro corms in slightly damp (but not wet) soil with the wide end up in a sunny spot. The plants will grow after a few days. To speed up rooting, taro corms may be loosely wrapped in a plastic bag and kept in a dark cupboard; after a few days, you will notice them sprouting. Once they start growing, plant them in the ground or in a pot.

When the plants have a few leaves, the outer leaves can be harvested while still young and green; carefully cut the stem at the base without injuring the inner stalks or leaves. I like to leave a couple of leaves so that the plants can keep growing. Taro also makes a beautiful container plant with its elephant ear shaped leaves - in fact it is called "elephant ears" when grown as an ornamental plant!

 Taro plants Then and Now

Taro in 2013
I had planted about 5 or 6 corms of taro (arbi) in 2010 and have left them in the pot - only harvesting the leaves and stems.  Every year I add compost and soil - that is it.  Water and abundant sunshine helps them grow!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sago Payasam (Tapioca {"Bubble"} Pudding)

Sago Payasam on a plate of uncooked sago pearls
Sago Payasam is really the familiar tapioca pudding made slightly different with the added cardamom, saffron, nuts and raisins. It is delicious served hot, warm or cold. A homey dessert made for informal occasions in our home, children adore this lovely pudding full of the cooked sago "bubbles"!

Sago is also known as Sabudana (Hindi) or Jawwarisi (Tamil) and is made from the starch of sago palms, Metroxylon sagu. Tapioca pearls are made from the starch of yuca or cassava root (Manihot esculenta). Since both sago and tapioca are composed of predominantly odorless and colorless pure starch, they can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for one or the other - I have used both types with good results.


Fat-free option: roast the cashews and sago/tapioca in a dry skillet; the raisins don't need toasting. Proceed with the recipe.

This is naturally gluten-free; dairy-free when dairy ingredients are omitted.

Sago, saffron, cardamom, and raw cashews are available in Indian markets; tapioca is available in most grocery stores as well as Latino markets.


1/2 cup Sago or Tapioca Pearls
1 Tbsp Ghee or unsalted butter (optional)
1/4 cup raw Cashews, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Raisins

1 quart (1 liter) milk, any type
1/2 cup sugar
5 Cardamom pods
1 tiny pinch Saffron (optional)
A couple of pinches Sugar


Bring the milk and sugar to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer gently stirring occasionally.

Heat the ghee if using, in a large, heavy bottomed, pot and saute the cashews until golden. Stir in the raisins and cook until puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pot add the sago pearls to the remaining ghee and cook until pale gold. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Stir in the toasted sago/tapioca into the simmering milk and cook stirring often until cooked through - the individual pearls will become transparent when cooked completely. Remove from heat and keep covered.

Crush the cardamom pods slightly and extract the seeds. Combine cardamom seeds and saffron with a pinch or two of sugar in a mortar and grind finely; sugar crystals help to grind the spices finely.

Stir in the spice mixture into the payasam and mix well.

Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Serve warm or chilled garnished with the sauteed nuts and raisins. Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fresh Apple Ginger Cake (Vegan)

Fresh Apple Ginger Cake

Wholesome Fresh Apple Ginger Cake is very easy to make - simply combine all the ingredients and bake! You don't even peel the apples, they just disappear into this moist and delicious cake. At first glance the amount of ginger given in the recipe might seem too much; but it is essential and not overpowering at all. This amazingly aromatic cake is perfect for a chilly autumn day with a mug of steaming spiced cider or chai.


2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup regular dry Oatmeal
11/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup oil OR applesauce
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup milk, any type
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3 medium apples
3 Tbsp finely grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

1/2 cup Walnut pieces
2 Tbsp dry Oatmeal
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Raisin sauce, Plain yogurt, Whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream to serve


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil or coat with oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Wash well and remove the cores from the apples. Do not peel. Chop coarsely.

Combine the apples with all the other cake ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle the nuts, oats and sugar on top.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until done.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with one (or more) of the optional toppings. Enjoy!

Jam Bars (Buttery Cookie Bars With Fruity Filling)

Jam Bar With Persimmon Preserves

Jam Bars are quick and easy to make especially if you use a food processor. Although you can use any jam, a bit tart one such as raspberry tastes best. If you do use very sweet jams, then I would reduce the sugar a little so that there will be a nice contrast between the crust and the filling - very sweet filling + very sweet crust = cloyingly sweet bar. You can vary the citrus zests - orange, lemon, tangerine, etc. - depending on the jams you use.

I used the homemade Persimmon-Apple Preserves (the only one I had) and added orange zest which complimented the persimmon preserves quite well. On another occasion I used lemon zest with the persimmon-apples preserves and again it turned out to be a perfectly delectable dessert! For a super-rich dessert, I am planning to serve it next time with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream and fresh berries. So go forth and try it any way you like :D.

24 bars


2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar, loosely packed
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
Zest from 1 Orange Or Lemon
1 1/2 cups Oats (old fashioned; not quick)
1 1/2 to 2 cups - your favorite Jam


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Butter or coat with an oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with rim.

Place flour, sugar, salt and soda in the food processor container fitted with the metal blade.

Pulse once quickly to mix the ingredients; add butter cut in chunks and process until well mixed.

Add the zest and oats and pulse 2 or 3 times quickly just to combine.

Pour about 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.

Spread the jam evenly over the flour mixture in the pan.

Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over the jam.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool before cutting.

Serve warm or cool.

Store in airtight container after the bars have completely cooled. Delicious!