Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homemade Tandoori Masala (Indian Barbque Spice Mix)

I like to make homemade masalas so as to have them as fresh as possible as well as the proportions of spices best suited for our personal taste; also, some of the masalas have undesirable ingredients like food colors, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. The amount of ingredients may be adjusted to your preference.  Use this masala in any of the recipes that call for Tandoori Masala.

Note: Smoked paprika gives a nice smoky aroma to your dishes; if it is not available, no worries, the masala still is fabulous. Add a tablespoon or two of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) for incomparable taste; crush into a fine powder in the palm of your hands before addiding to marinade or at the end of cooking to finish the dish!


½ cup dried Kashmiri chillies, break into 2-3 pieces
¼ cup whole Coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole Cumin seeds
½ tbsp whole Black Pepper
½ tbsp whole Cloves
½ tbsp whole green Cardamom pods
1 black Cardamom
1 tsp whole Fenugreek seeds Or 1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi
3 pieces, 2 inch sticks of Cinnamon or Cassia bark, coarsely broken up
2 tsp dried ground Ginger
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp grated Nutmeg
½ tsp Mace
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
3 - 4 Tbsp Paprika 


Toast all the whole spices one by one, in a medium hot, heavy skillet or pan, for about 30-60 seconds or so until fragrant. Pour into a wide plate or baking dish and let cool completely.

Transfer to a powerful blender or spice grinder, process into a fine powder. You can use a sieve to remove any large pieces that are not ground well and process again. Add the remaining ground spices; add enough of the paprika to get the color just the you would like.

Processs to combine well. Transfer to a clean, airtight spice jar, seal and store in a cool dark place.

This recipe makes around 1 cup of tandoori masala.

Checca - Indian-style OR Italian-style (Chopped Tomato Salad)


Fresh Tomato Salad is irresistible whether they are prepared the Indian or Italian way; the basics are the same - only the choice of oil and some herbs are slightly different. Which way to go? - a tough choice since both are delicious!

Indian Tomato Salaad is a delicious chopped salad redolent with lemony cilantro and perky hot green chiles. It is often served with pulavs and biriyanis (fragrant rice dishes) or with everyday meals of rice/roti, parathas, and curries. Coconut oil is optional; but great when there are lots of green chiles, especially hot ones!

Italian Checca ("Kekka"), a wonderful chopped salad/sauce full of fragrant basil is delicious served in so many ways: over pasta, crostini (toasts), or as a side salad .... in short, any way you like!

Whichever type you make, refreshing and delicious Checca should be prepared with flavorful fresh ripe tomatoes; sweet flavorful cherry tomatoes are particularly suited for making checca.Optional ingredients listed under the Indian or Italian style salads may be added as desired. The salad may be spicy or mild.
Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha
I love using homegrown tomatoes, particularly the pear-shaped yellow ones; other types of cherry as well as regular tomatoes are good too.  

Note: Whether you choose Inidian or Italian style, do not refrigerate if possible and serve at room temperature for best flavor. Checca may be chopped finely to use as a sauce for pasta.


Basic Checca:
1 Pint ripe tomatoes (about 12 oz), diced
1 or 2 large Shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove Garlic, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

2-3 mild/hot Green Chiles, minced
1 Stem Curry Leaves, minced
1 small Lime/Lemon, juice
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp melted cool Coconut Oil (optional)
1-2 small slices, Lemon from  Lemon Pickles, very finely chopped (optional)
1 Handful, Brown or Tan Chana (optional)

1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Basil, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp hot Red Pepper flakes (optional)
1 Handful Olives, sliced (optional)
1-3 Pepperoncini, chopped (optional)
2 oz Vegan Mozzarella (optional)


Combine the tomatoes, shallots, and herbs in a bowl.

Decide whether to make Indian or Italian style; have your choice of ingredients ready. Add the other ingredients based on Indian or Italian, including any optional ones to the tomato bowl. One or more of the optional ingredients may be added.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, oil.

Mix well and let rest at room temperature for a few minutes to develop flavors.

Stir well and serve.  Enjoy!!

Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beet Thepla (Spiced Beet Chapati OR Flatbread)

These bright red theplas or spicy flat breads (rotis) are as beautiful as they are delicious! Theplas are traditionally served with Kichdi (a rice and lentil risotto quite popular all over India), a vegetable curry with potatoes, a raitas or fresh plain yogurt, papadams, and pickles; they make a very filling and nutritious meal. But they can be served as part of a simpler meal with pickles, sliced veggies and plain yogurt. We love theplas with Hot Lemon or Mango pickles and a cup of Chai as a simple meal or snack.

Although fresh Methi (Fenugreek) Theplas are the most popular, they may be made with other herbs and veggies too; but the veggie ones are not as long lasting. Refrigerate any extras and freeze for longer storage.

Although the Indian whole wheat flour ground specifically for making flat breads (known as atta) is the best for making thepla as well as other types of roti, any whole wheat flour may be used.

Makes 12 Theplas


2 tsp Oil
2 cups fresh coarsely shredded Beets
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp or more ground hot red pepper (Cayenne)
1 pinch Asafetida
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp white Sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Cilantro
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon/Lime Juice

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (Atta) +1/2 cup, for dusting while rolling out
About 2 Tbsp Oil for cooking


Heat a pan with the oil; add the cumin seeds. When they begin to pop, add ajwain seeds, sesame seeds and asafetida; stir quickly to mix well but do not let them burn.

Immediately stir in the beets with the turmeric, cayenne, salt and optional brown sugar. Cover and cook stirring often for about 10 minutes or until the beets are just tender. Open the cover and let cool completely. Stir in lenon/lime and cilantro.

Combine the flour with the cooked beet mixture and stir well.

Add water a teaspoon at a time if needed to make a firm dough; it should still be pliable enough to roll out into circles. Knead well until smooth and satiny.

Divide the dough into 12 smooth balls/discs; roll them out into moderately thin circles dusting with flour as necessary, about 7 inches in diameter.

Cook each thepla on a griddle/skillet; cook one side until the top changes color. Flip over to cook the other side a little, until a few pale brown spots appear.

Brush lightly with a little oil and flip over; press down gently but firmly especially on the edges to allow the bread to puff up a bit and cook until brownish spots appear. Brush the unoiled side with a little oil and cook a few seconds more.

Make sure that the theplas are not overcooked to dryness; they should stay soft but speckled with just a few brown spots.

As you cook, stack the theplas in a towel or napkin lined basket or container; cover them loosely with another napkin until all are done.

Serve the theplas hot/warm with Kichdi, raita, pickles, etc. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Falafel With Fixings (Crisp Chickpea Balls, Crunchy Salad, & Tahini Sauce)

We love having fresh falafel! Making falafel from scratch can seem intimidating; but not if the stepwise directions are followed. When you have all the prep done ahead, all that remains on the day you want to eat is cooking the Falafels! Planning your prep really pays off when making Falafel.

Prepare Tahini Sauce and chop the Salad ingredients but keep them unseasoned and unsalted until ready to serve.

Falafel makes a great starter or snack in smaller quantities.

About 6-8 Servings



2 cups Dry Chick Peas, soaked 
2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chile (Serrano or Jalapeno), or to taste
1 small bunch Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground Cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground Cardamom seeds
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3 T Besan (chickpea flour)
Oil for Deep-frying (neutral tasting oil)

6-8 Pita Bread to serve

Tahini Sauce:

1/2 cup Tahini
1/4 cup fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
3/4 cup Fresh Parsley
3/4 cup Fresh Cilantro
1-2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chiles, or to taste
2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Fenugreek Seeds
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Cayenne


1 small or 1/2 Each Green and Purple Cabbage, finely shredded
1 small or 1/2 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup EACH Cilantro, Spear Mint, Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 Persian Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved Or 2 regular Tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Sugar (optional)


Tahini Sauce:
Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender, and blitz until smooth. Add water as needed and to make a nice smooth pourable creamy sauce. The sauce thickens a bit upon standing; add water a teaspoon at a time to get desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Prep all the veggies and herbs; do not add the salt or sugar if making ahead. When ready, combine, toss to mix well and serve.

Falafel Dough:
Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water at least 8 hours or upto 24 hours; if the weather is hot, keep the chickpeas in the fridge. Discard the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Place the galic and chiles in the bowl of a food processor and process until chopped; add the drained chickpeas and the herbs and process by pulsing until very coarsely ground. You want to retain some texture for crisp falafel. Add the remaining ingredients except the chickpea flour; pulse to mix and scoop into a large bowl. Add just enough of the chickpea flour and mix well; the mixture should hold together when you squeeze the dough into a ball. If needed, add a little more chickpea flour. Chill until ready for frying.

Frying Falafel:
Heat a oil for deep-frying 3-4 inches on medium heat. Form heaping soupspoons of dough into small round or oval balls or patties about  1" in diameter, not more. When a pinch of the dough sizzles upon dropping into the oil, it is ready. Slip the balls/patties carefully into the hot oil without crowding and cook until golden-brown turning as needed. It should take about 5-6 minutes total for the falafels to cook. Remove from oil and drian briefly on paper towels before serving. Continue with the rest of the dough. Serve hot.

Have the salad, tahini, and falafel ready and let everyone help themselves. Allow about 4-6 falafels per serving. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kaalan (Kerala Non-Dairy "Yogurt" Coconut Curry - Onam Special)

Kaalan is a classic Kerala stew similar to Mor Kuzhambu. It is a must for the elaborate banquets during Onam celebrations; since there are a whole smorgasbord or dishes, usually a small amout of each is served as part of the banquet called "sadya". I have made it vegan so no-one has to miss having it for Onam or any other time that one has a hankering for it. The addition of tofu gives it the traditional look and mouth feel of regular yogurt.

Kaalan tastes better after having time to meld all the flavors.  It will last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. So I make a large pot since leftover Kaalan lasts for days and is also delicious served with Dosa, Idli, Upma, etc.

Traditional Kaalan vegetables are the original Indian Yam called Chenai and green, unripe plantains. It may be prepared with green mango, Taro root, winter melon (ash gourd), Indian drumsticks (moringa pods) etc also; when made with many veggies, it is called Rasa Kaalan or tasty Kaalan.

If you like to avoid soy, omit the tofu and increase the amount of coconut to 1 cup plus add 1 cup of Coconut Milk.

About 8-10 Servings


1 large Firm Green Plantain And/Or 2 cups Indian True Yam (Chenai)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Stem Curry leaves
1-2 Lemons/Limes

Grind Together:
1 block (14 oz) Tofu
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Black pepper
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 stem Curry Leaves, including the stem
1 or 2 Hot Green Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Red Chile
1 tsp uncooked rice


1-2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies, broken into two
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, minced


Choose your favorite vegetables from the suggestions above.

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut the plantain into half or quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into large chunks. Cut chenai into 1" chunks.

Place the prepared vegetables in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1/2 cup of water, curry leaves, the salt, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.

While the veggies are cooking, tip the drained tofu into the blender carafe along with the coconut, pepper, cumin, chiles, curry leaves, and rice; process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (up to 1/2 cup).

Tip the coconut puree into the cooked veggies; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add just enough water to get a pretty thick stew; Kaalan should be thick but not solid.

Simmer gently without covering, for about 15-20 minutes; it should thicken and slightly reduce in volume. Remove from heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and do the thalippu: add mustard and the red chilies. When the seeds start to pop, add fenugreek seeds, then the curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Kaalan. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Kaalan should be tangy but not too sour.

Serve hot/warm or at room temperature with rice. Enjoy!!