Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thank you!

I want to thank you all - my dear family members, friends, and colleagues. Although I don't name each of you individually, you know who you are. I appreciate every smile, kind gesture and wise word. I am grateful to all my subscribers and audience since you too have thought it worth your while to look at my writings and recipes - that is very friendly :-}.

Happy Friendship Month Everyone, even though this comes a little late for Valentine's Day. I offer an ever fresh bouquet of blossoms to each and every one of you including friends yet to come. I took these pictures at the Lake Shrine gardens in November '09. Enjoy!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pakoda (Vegetable Fritters)

Pakodas with Sugar snap Peas

Pakoda are delicious crunchy veggie fritters often prepared for afternoon tea time; they also make fabulous appetizers or starters for parties. These are also known as "killu pakoda" (literally pinched pakoda) to differentiate them from the "ribbon pakoda" a crisp chip-like snack. A friend used to make pakodas at a moment's notice whenever I visited her in the afternoons as an after-school treat. They are quick to make and ever so much quicker to disappear! If you do end up with leftovers, not to worry - they may be eaten at room temperature or added to yogurt or tomato based sauces to make a wonderful curry.

The following is a basic recipe for pakodas. Other chopped veggies such as bell peppers, cabbage, green beans, zucchini, etc. may be added; sometimes I use green onions instead of the regular. When you add extra veggies, you may have to adjust salt and the cayenne. Coarsely crushed peanuts may be used instead of the cashews. The nuts add a lovely rich dimension to the pakodas; your taste buds get a delicious surprise when you come upon the occasional nut hiding in them.

4 - 6 Servings


1 cup Rice Flour
1 cups Besan (Garbanzo or Gram flour)
1 pinch Asafoetida (Hing)
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, minced
1 or 2 hot green chilies, minced
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 stem Curry Leaves
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder (cayenne)
1/4 cup raw Cashew pieces
Oil for deep frying


Mix the flours, salt, asafetida, chili powder and the veggies in a large bowl. Add just enough water to make a stiff and crumbly dough; this is essential to get crispy, crunchy pakodas. If the dough is soft, the pakodas will be soft also.

Heat the oil until very hot but not smoking; if the oil is too hot, the pakodas will brown too quickly and burn.

Pinch off small teaspoonfuls of the dough and slip gently into the hot oil; don't roll the dough into smooth balls - the irregular jagged edges are what gives them crispness and character. Cook as many pakodas as will comfortably fit in the oil; crowding will produce uneven cooking and will take longer.

Cook, turning until all sides are red gold; it should take about 4 or 5 minutes per batch. You may have to adjust the heat as required so that the pakodas cook through.

Remove the pakoda from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

If the dough gets soft from the moisture in the veggies, just add a little more of the flours with seasonings and mix well.

Serve hot with Green & Sweet Chutneys. Enjoy!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Black Beans Salad With Lime Dressing

The zest from the limes adds a lovely zing to this salad. Serve this colorful salad in lettuce cups, hollowed out tomatoes, or roasted sweet bell peppers, etc as an appetizer or as part of a meal. Great for picnics and pot-lucks too. Delicious and healthy!

Epazote is a Mexican herb used to aid the digestibility of dried beans while imparting a wonderful flavor also.

6 Servings


11/2 cups Black Beans
1 Each Dried whole Red Chili and Serrano Chili
1/2 tsp Salt
1 or 2 sprigs Epazote (optional)
A handful of Fennel Bulb or Celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Basil or Mint, finely sliced (optional)
Freshly ground Black Pepper


1-2 Limes, zest from one and juice as needed
1 Jalapeno/Serrano chili, seeded and minced finely
1 clove Garlic, finely minced
1 Shallot, finely minced
2 - 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cayenne (Ground Red Chili)


Sort, soak and cook the beans with the salt, chilies and epazote sprigs until tender but not mushy; for directions on how to cook dried beans, click here.

Drain the beans well while still quite warm. Save the broth for soup if you like and discard the herbs and chilies. Alternately, use 2 regular cans of beans drained and rinsed thoroughly.

Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well.

Add the dressing to the warm beans and mix well - the beans absorb all the flavors much better while still warm.

Stir in the veggies (thaw the corn kernels if frozen) and serve at room temperature.

If prepared ahead of time, chill until ready to serve and allow to warm up to room temperature. The salad is fresh up to two days. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Handwa (Eggless Corn Muffins with Vegetables and Indian Spices)

Here is a gluten free recipe for corn muffins/bread with Indian spices and veggies. It was a serendipitous invention a few years ago when I had extra veggies from other recipes and cornbread batter. I combined the two and although it is not identical to the traditional handwa, it is very close and pretty delicious!

If you use soy milk or other alternatives, it can be dairy free also. If you decide to use soy, rice or a nut milk, the juice from half a lime or lemon would be nice to give the muffins a little touch of tartness of the buttermilk. These are especially delicious served as appetizers or starters or as a meal with roasted corn chowder, mung dal soup, etc.

These muffins freeze well. Just thaw slightly, heat, and serve.

12 muffins


1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Cornstarch/Ground Flax Seeds plus 3 Tbsp Water
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp Oil


1 small Zucchini OR 1/4 small Lauki (Bottle gourd), grated
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup Green Beans, finely sliced crosswise
1/4 tsp ground Turmeric
1 pinch of Sea Salt


1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Urad Dal
1 pinch Asafoetida
2 tsp Fresh Ginger, finely minced
1 JalapeƱo Chili, finely minced
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced into a chiffonade


Preheat the oven to 400 F and coat the muffin pan with cooking oil spray.

Make the thalippu: Heat the oil (in a pan large enough to cook the veggies) and add mustard seeds and dal. When the popping of the mustard slows, add the asafoetida, ginger, chili, and the curry leaves in that order. Add the green beans with a pinch of salt, stir to mix well, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the grated veggies and heat through. Remove from heat, let cool.

Place the flours, baking soda and powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

Combine the next 3 ingredients (cornstarch/flax seeds + water, buttermilk, and melted butter) and quickly add to the dry ingredients, stirring just to mix.

Fold the cooled vegetable mixture into the batter to combine.

Put the batter into a prepared muffin tins.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Serve hot with any type of chutneys such as the Coconut, Green Cilantro/Mint, or Green Chili chutney. Enjoy!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tom Kha (Thai Soup With Coconut Milk)

A delicious soup bursting with citrus flavors to chase away wintertime blahs and blues, it is one of our favorites. It is adapted from various recipes of Tom Kha, which apparently means "boiled galangal". Fresh lime juice is an absolute must but if it is unavailable, use lemon juice and more of it. And the important thing to remember about lime juice is that it should be stirred in just before serving so as not to lose its piquancy and fresh flavor. Served with a spoonful or two of brown rice, it makes a wonderful light meal.

The quick broth is exactly that - very fast, easy and worth making as it adds to the complex flavor.

Makes about 1 quart: 2 Servings


1 stalk Lemongrass
4 slices fresh Ginger
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 Scallions, white part only, chopped
6-8 slices Galangal
4-5 Thai Bird's eye Chilies
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2-3 Lime leaves (Kaffir Lime if possible), torn
1/2 tsp sugar
1 can regular strength coconut milk
6 oz Tofu
1 Carrot
1 cup Napa or regular Cabbage
A handful of bean sprouts
4 Green Onions
6 Fresh white Mushrooms, thickly sliced
Sprigs of fresh Coriander/Cilantro for garnish
2 Tbsp fresh Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Coconut Cream (optional)
Cooked Brown or white rice, to serve (optional)
Thai Chili Sauce to serve (optional)
Vinegar Chili to serve (optional) See below


Crush the lemongrass a little by pounding on it with a rolling pin, a mallet, or the flat part of a knife and chop coarsely.

Make the broth: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Turn down the heat and add the lemongrass, peppercorns, scallions, a couple of the chilies, and ginger with a pinch of salt and simmer gently for 10 minutes; let steep while you prepare the other ingredients for the soup.

Cut the chilies lengthwise into two so you can easily fish them out before serving the soup; accidentally chewing on one of the chilies might not be a pleasant surprise for most.

Cut the tofu into large cubes, cabbage into large pieces, slice the carrots thinly on the diagonal, and the mushrooms into thick slices.

Decant the lemongrass scented broth into a bowl and discard the solid stuff.

Bring the lemongrass broth to a simmer with the salt, sugar, galangal and chilies. Crush the lime leaves in your hands to bruise them and add to the soup.

Add the tofu and gently simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Stir in the carrots and cabbage and heat until very hot, almost to a boil - about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and fish out the chilies and discard; you might like to fish out the galangal and the lime leaves also.

Add the mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions, and lime juice to taste. Stir in the coconut cream to enrich.

Serve hot immediately in warmed bowls garnished with cilantro.

Serve the Chili sauce and vinegar chilies in small bowls at the table so that each diner can add them to their soup if they wish. Enjoy!!

Vinegar Chili

Vinegar marinated chili is best eaten freshly made within a few hours after it is made; so only make as much as you think you are going to use.

6 Serrano or Thai chilies, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 tsp Soy Sauce

Combine the chilies with soy and vinegar and allow to marinate for about 15 minutes or up to a few hours. Serve at room temperature.

Thai Style Chili-Garlic Sauce (Nam Prik)

Isn't it amazing to see chili sauces in every cuisine? Since Paji gallantly rises to the occasion to test (taste) them all, I experiment with them to my heart's content :}! Thai Style Chili-Garlic Sauce is wonderful to have on hand to spice up Chinese, Thai and other dishes besides being a fabulous table condiment. Apparently some people enjoy spreading this chili sauce on toasts!

Although one can easily buy Nam Prik at stores, I like to make my own since I can make sure it has healthy ingredients. Also, the salt, sugar, and tamarind can be adjusted to your taste. It lasts a long time if kept in sterilized jars in the fridge. Tamarind paste and palm sugar are available at Indian and Asian markets.


8 - 12 Fresh or Dry hot Red Chilies, stemmed
5 cloves Fresh Garlic, peeled
5 Fresh Shallots, peeled
2 tsp instant Tamarind Paste
2 tsp Palm or Brown sugar
2 tsp Sea Salt
4 Tbsp Vegetable Oil


Finely mince the garlic, shallots, (and chilies if fresh); a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade may be used. If using dry chilies, grind them coarsely in a spice grinder.

Heat the oil in a small pan and add the minced ingredients with salt and cook over low to medium heat until garlic and shallots are golden.

Add the sugar and tamarind and cook for a few minutes until thickened.

Spoon into a sterile jar and use as needed. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bhel Puri (Salad Snack: Puffed Rice With Veggies)

Starting in the center, then clockwise from the top: Bhel Puri mix, cooked dried peas,
cooked Mung beans,red onions,potato, cilantro, carrots, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber

Bhel Puri is an easy and delicious snack hawked by street vendors all over India. It is easy to make especially since one can buy various snack mixes in Indian markets; some of them come with a chutney packet. I add whatever vegetables are handy or seasonal with an eye for color. Lots of crunchy veggies amp up the nutritive value and make it into more of a meal - the more the merrier and tastier too :D. Bhel Puri is delightful as it offers a wide range of textures and flavors - soft to crunchy and salty, sour, hot and sweet.

The recipe given below is merely an example; you don't have to add all of the ingredients; feel free to experiment and find your own favorites. Bhel Puri can be quite simple too; the basic ingredients you need are rice crispies/puffed rice, or packaged Bhel Puri mix and a little lime juice and/or chutneys. Add a bit of chopped onions and cilantro and you will have a dainty dish to set before a king!

Indian puffed rice is a must in making Bhel Puri; it is also a simple but wonderful snack all on its own. If it is not fresh and crisp, place in a baking pan and refresh by baking in a warm oven (350 F) for a few minutes.

Bhel Puri mix, puffed rice (also called pori or murmura in Tamil and Hindi respectively), and other ingredients are available in Indian markets.

4 - 6 Servings


2 cups Indian Puffed Rice/Rice Crispies
1/2 cup Sev noodles
1/4 cup each Green & Sweet Chutneys
1 cup cooked Chickpeas, Mung beans or Dried Peas
1 small boiled Potato, diced
1 Tomato, seeded and diced
1 Carrot, shredded
1 small Cucumber, diced
1 small Red Onion, finely diced
A few leaves Romaine, sliced into a chiffonade
1 small bunch Cilantro, sliced
A handful of fresh Mint/Basil, sliced into a chiffonade (optional)
1 Lime


The charm of Bhel Puri is in its freshness. Mix all the veggies and add chutneys and lime juice to taste just before eating.

Mix in the Bhel Puri mix, serve and eat immediately. Enjoy!!

Bread-Free "Bruschetta" ( Veggies Filled With White Bean Salad)

Bread-free Bruschetta

Bread-free Bruschetta is a great lean way to serve delicious bean salads. These are perfect as appetizers or starters and won't fill you up to spoil the dinner. Black eyed peas, cannellini or Lima beans etc. may be served in a similar fashion.

Fresh or roasted vegetables form the base instead of the traditional bread or crostini (crostini = 'little toasts' in Italian). Small romaine or butter lettuce leaves, Belgian endive, red, yellow, or orange bell pepper boats, hollowed out tomatoes, cukes or zucchini, all work beautifully as delicious edible containers for hearty bean salads. Try one, try them all :P!

8 to 10 appetizer servings


1 cup dry Great Northern beans, cooked
1-2 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Red Onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp Garlic Chives, finely sliced
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, minced
Assorted Vegetables, suitable for holding the salad
a little Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


Sort, soak and cook the beans until tender but not mushy. Click here for directions on how to cook beans. Alternately, use canned plain cannellini or other beans.

Mash the garlic and salt together using a mortar and pestle.

Combine garlic paste with the oil, lemon juice, pepper, red onion, and the herbs in a bowl and mix well.

Add the beans and toss together and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. If made ahead, chill until needed. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Check for seasoning and add more lemon, or salt/pepper as needed.

Spoon into the vegetables you are using, drizzle with a few drops of the oil, and serve. Enjoy!!