Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chana Palak

The theme of the Blog Bites event is really good - taking inspiration from other blogs while giving them due acknowledgement. Great! There cannot be a better opportunity to write a few words about one of my favourite bloggers –Nupur She must be a great inspiration not only to fledgling bloggers like me, but also to many others who are united by a common interest - 'food'. And I am not saying this because she is the owner of this Blog Bites event. I guess Nupur must be immune to such appreciation by now. But, this is my little way of letting her know that I really admire her blog.

Today’s recipe, Palak Chana, is from One Hot Stove. This curry is subtle, very down to earth and hearty and a perfect side dish for roti. If the paste is made beforehand (to save valuable time during busy weekdays), the curry is a true breeze! My only changes to the recipe were that I added one boiled and mashed potato and one tsp of red chilli powder. And I made mine a little gravy when compared to Nupur's.

  • Black chana: 1 cup
  • Spinach: 1 bunchOnion (thinly sliced): ¾ cup
  • Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
  • Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
  • Chana masala: 1 tbsp
  • Jeera: 1 tsp (for tempering)
  • Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: to taste
  • Potato (boiled and mashed): 1
For the masala paste:
  • Oil: 1 Tbsp
  • Garlic: 2 – 3 cloves
  • Onions (coarsely chopped): one and a half cups
  • Tomatoes (medium)(coarsely chopped): 7 nos


  • Soak chana for eight hours or overnight and cook till tender. It takes about seven whistles in my pressure cooker.
  • Take one tbsp of oil in the kadai. Saute onions and garilic till brown. Then add in the tomatoe and toss for five minutes. Grind to make the masala paste. Keep aside.
  • In the kadai, heat oil and temper the jeera.
  • Add onions and sauté till brown.
  • Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, chana masala and sauté for a minute.
  • Add the chopped spinach, cooked chickpeas and masala paste.
  • Bring to a boil on medium flame and cook on simmer for another ten minutes.
  • Done, serve hot!

This gravy goes to Nupur’s ‘BB-6 – The Potluck Edition’ and to My Legume Love Affair : MLLA – 26 hosted by Bricole for the month of August and brainchild of Susan.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cabbage Payasam

Aparna’s blog - with her engaging narrations, awesome photos and yummy recipes is a great way to use up free time. When I learnt that Aparna’s blog would be the theme for this month’s ‘Tried and Tasted event’, I knew I would definitely contribute atleast one recipe since I had loads of them bookmarked. I zeroed in on this one – Cabbage Payasam, simply because it threw me off my chair the first time I read the title - “Cabbage Payasam”. I had an incomprehendable feeling. Aparna had rightly named it ‘wierd’. Then I collected myself and thought, if onion payasam can be a most-sought after dish at a leading restaurant in Chennai, why not a payasam with cabbage?

But yes, I should confess that I had my own doubts while making it. So, I quartered Aparna’s recipe and followed her instructions closely. My only addition was half a teaspoon of ‘MAS’ flavour powder to add some mild orange colour and flavour to the dessert. Verdict: A neat dessert – very doable, gets done comfortably on the backburner, just a little stirring in between other stuff, and most importantly, Very Delectable. Nobody having it would imagine it is a payasam out of a cabbage! Thank you aparna, for introducing us to this lesser known avatar of the humble hostel vegetable!

This bowl of payasam goes to Tried & Tasted event hosted by Srivalli for this month and originally conceived by Lakshmi. Since the recipe is inspired by another blog, it goes off to Nupur’s BB-6 Potluck Edition.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vegetable Idlis

This story goes to Of Chops and Chopsticks hosted this month by Desi Soccer Mom.

'I will make my children engineers'

“It is not a Friday, but, it is a Fry-day” mumbled Rajni as it was one of the most chaotic days she had in recent times. She felt everything - absolutely everything and everybody was conspiring against her. To start with, the maid was on leave. The baby-sitter did not turn up. So, she had to request her neighbours to take care of her naughty son for few hours. Thankfully they obliged! At college, she had a heated argument with her Head of the Department over promoting one II Yr student. Rajesh (husband) called up to say that he would be travelling over the weekend and that he would be heading directly to the airport from work. Plus there were internal assessment papers to be corrected, weekly grocery to be purchased, fancy-dress competition in her daughter’s primary school, friend’s son’s birthday party and so many endless things.....

After finishing all her lectures, she drove home hurriedly. As she was entering she heard the land phone ring. It was her tailor, Shabana, saying she would be a little late, however, she would definitely deliver the embroidered salwar kameez today. Rajni was happy that atleast something was working in her favour. As she picked up her deeply-asleep son from her neighbour’s house, she realised she had some time for herself. Treating herself to a hot cup of tea, Rajni limply dumped herself into a chair.

Her mind, in the name of relaxation was sauntering aimlessly. Of all the things she was thinking, one of them was Shabana. She always nurtured a soft spot for her in her heart. Shabana, a typical burqa-clad young woman from old Hyderabad was Rajni’s tailor. Shabana always carried with her an infectious enthusiasm and a noticeable twinkle in her eyes, which unknowingly camouflaged the daily hardships she underwent. Her hands had the dexterity to metamorphose even the most morbid looking scraps of cloth into the most beautiful salwars and embroidered sarees. She was truly talented, but however not lucky enough to make big money. Her husband, who had gone to Saudi Arabia in search of a job was missing for almost six years. Married at an age of fourteen and with two children to support, she was struggling all by herself to raise them respectably. She lived with her aged mother, who was again dependent on her. Shabana would passionately say, ‘One day I will make my children engineers’. She used to give the whereabouts of her husband to each relative visiting Saudi Arabia hoping for some news about him. But, none of them ever gave her any answer. Shabana was very positive that her husband would return someday and take care of all of them. She used to call Rajni ‘didi’ (elder sister), and Rajni really liked being called that way rather than the perfunctory ‘madam’.

A loud wail from her son suddenly brought her to the real world. Leaving the unfinished cup of tea on the table, she ran to pick him up. Also it was four and was time for her daughter to come home from school. The day dragged on with its usual monotonous synonymity. Suddenly it was eight and dinner was yet to be made. She remembered the potful of idli batter chilling in the fridge. While the idli batter had to be undoubtedly exhausted, the reality was that children would stage a mass exodus from the house whenever they saw those white balls of steamed batter. They despised the mere look of greased idli plates as they knew what lay ahead. They would frown, make a fuss and succeed in inveigling bowlfuls of maggi noodles from Rajni.

She groped for dinner ideas and suddenly a brilliant one struck her. She thought of chopping some vegetables and adding it to the batter, introducing some colour and hopefully some more taste. Before the children got ravaneously hungry, the idea had to be implemented. If she succeeded in this, she would be able to trick the children into eating those vegetables which they would otherwise willingly tolerate only on their 'fruits and vegetables' picture book.

"Children, please play outside the kitchen, mummy is working with fire and heat" begged Rajni as she was tossing the tempering in the heated kadai. Her son loved the sound of mustard seeds splutter, the hiss of the cooker and the roar of the mixie. He would drop anything he would be doing and run into the kitchen whenever he heard the "Shhhhhhhh" sound the vegetables made when added to the hot kadai. Amidst all this, Rajni set the cooker on the stovetop remembering to take off the cooker weight and waited in anticipation, both for the idlis and for Shabana, who was supposed to deliver her new embroidered salwar kameez.

Shabana appeared that very minute. She handed over the salwar kameez. There was something very unusual about her. The characteristic twinkle in her eyes was missing. She looked worn out. Rajni enquired if she was not feeling well. Shabana asked Rajni for a glass of water and broke down completely. She was sobbing inconsolably. Rajni quickly got her some juice. Just as Rajni had expected, the news was about Shabana’s husband. One of her relatives, who had just returned from Saudi Arabia brought with him the news that her husband quietly married someone else and had settled there. Shabana’s dreams had been shattered. She felt lost and hurt. Her future was blank. After uncontrollable weeping, she gathered herself back and said with renewed vengeance, “I will still make my children engineers”. Rajni hugged her and muttered, “whenever you need anything, let me know”.

Just as Shabana began to leave, it occurred to Rajni to ask her if she had her dinner. When she replied in the negative, Rajni gave her a quick dinner of vegetable idlis and some chutney. In all her confusions, Shabana commented, 'didi, your idlis are lovely. If you had not offered, I would have slept hungry since I was not in the mood to eat'. She quickly washed her plate. Rajni packed a few idlis for Shabana's children. Shabana took the idli packet and a few more salwars for stitching and left.

Rajni's kids ate their idlis without any fuss. They were yet to realise that this was one of mummy's newly found tricks to make them eat! Rajni kissed the children good night. With Rajesh travelling very often (which has become the case lately), she lay all alone on her bed. Images of Shabana’s crying haunted her again and again. Rajni felt truly sorry for her. She was angry with Shabana’s husband for letting down the innocent girl so cold-bloodedly. Rajni mentally thanked God for all that He had given her – an extremely affectionate husband, two cute and intelligent children, a good job, a great house among all other things. Rajni felt that her trivial troubles paled in comparison to Shabana’s hardships. She mentally resolved never to crib for small things again. However she knew internally that she would fume and fret the next time the baby sitter did not turn up or the maid wanted a holiday. Rajni sincerely prayed that Shabana’s children, just as their mother wishes would become engineers one day and do well in life. Just as she was thinking all this, Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. She fell asleep like a baby. She had had a tough day too.
Vegetable Idlis

Coming back to the recipe for vegetable idlis, these are are nothing but a healthy twist to our routine idlis. This recipe makes about 12 idlis.

  • Idli Batter : 2 cups
  • Vegetables (carrots, potatoes, capsicum, onions, peas, etc) – very finely chopped: 1 cup
  • Salt: to taste
  • Corriander (optional): 1 tbsp
  • Oil: 1 – 2 tbsp

For the tempering:

  • Mustard: 1/2 tsp
  • Chana dhall: 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dhall: 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera: 1/2 tsp
  • Green chillis (finely chopped): 1
  • Broken cashews: 2 tbsp
  • Curry leaves: few


  • Take a kadai and heat oil.
  • Add the tempering.
  • Add onions first. Let them brown slightly.
  • Add all other vegetables.
  • Half cook them on the kadai adding no water.
  • Adjust salt keeping in mind that idli batter also has salt in it.
  • Finish.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves if desired.
  • Once slightly cool, mix it along with the idli batter. Mix well.
  • It is very important not to let the batter sit for too long. Immediately pour into greased idli plates and steam for 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Serve with chutney of your choice.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cheers to a great friend!

I have been doing things mechanically. I have been acting strange. All my mind is elsewhere. I am in the grip of some kind of a feverish excitement – the thrill of having gotten in touch with a friend, whom I have known almost two-thirds of my life.

Just to take myself on a little reminiscing journey, there were a lot of commons – which was what hooked us to each other. Our birthdays were apart just by a week, we studied in the same class, same section, lived in the same colony and so many things.. This is all i can think of right now. I was her pillion rider in her black bicycle – while she negotiated the maddening traffic, my job was to mind the school bags and the lunch baskets. :)

While we were good friends, the giant leap from good to great friends came one day. It was just another normal day in school except for the fact that I had one of the worst running noses I ever had. I was sniffing, puffing and sneezing all day and my hanky was wet from all the discharge. I can distinctly remember. It was a short break post-lunch. The language class would begin in a while (we took different languages. Mine was Sanskrit while hers was Tamil. I had gone to my Sanskrit class). Shortly after the class started I realised I had kept my hanky in the classroom. I was struggling with my leaky nose. Just as I was struggling, I saw my friend excuse herself, enter the classroom, walk straight to me and say – ‘here, have your hanky. You would need it’. I blankly stared at her barely mumbling a thank you. I could never thank her enough for actually picking up the wet hanky and bringing it all the way knowing my dire need. That day the love and respect I had for her multiplied manifold. I am not sure if she even remembers this incident. However, this is my side of the story!

After that academic year, when we moved to a different city, we saw each other very rarely, probably once in two or three years. Letters were our primary mode of communication for a long time before the internet took over. We missed each other’s late teens and early twenties. We missed each other’s weddings. I was not even among the first few callers to greet her when she had her two lovely children. In fact, till I told her today, she was not aware that I even had a little darling who would turn two this October!

Despite all this, I guess our friendship has withstood the test of time – and has done so very gracefully. The moment I heard her hello, I knew it was my very old friend – the connection was instantaneous. She really did have me at hello! (The famous line from Jerry Maguire). We discussed everything from neighbours to teachers to classmates to everything. Nothing had actually changed except the brief interruptions that our little children caused to our lovely hour+ long conversation.

While I am not sure if my friend would ever be reading this, this post is to just say – “Cheers to the good times, dear!”

Meet you soon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green Peas Coracles

This snack instantly reminded me of these small round boats that are used for short distances in canals and rivers in Andhra Pradesh, India. I have been in one of them for a short ride. Back home there must be a photograph somewhere of me, my brother and my mother on such a little boat –(that petrified look on my mother’s face – Priceless!!). I was looking for a good name for this snack. When I googled to find out what they are actually called, I learnt they are called ‘coracles’ in England and ‘basket boats’ in Vietnam.

Back to this recipe, these cute little round vegetable filled coracles are a perfect companion to a hot cup of tea on any given evening. A bit of tomato ketchup on the side certainly amplifies the taste. I made a filling using green peas. But, the options are truly endless.


For the filling:
  • Green Peas (cooked): 1 cup
  • Onions: ½ cup
  • Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Dhaniya powder: ½ tsp
  • Red chilli powder: ½ tsp
  • Garam masala: ½ tsp
  • Turmeric: pinch
  • Jeera- ½ tsp (for tempering)

For the dough:

  • Maida or APF: 1 cup
  • Salt: 2 pinches
  • Butter: 2 tbsp


  • For the dough, mix maida, salt and butter first and then add water and make a smooth dough, just like normal chapati dough.
  • For the filling, heat a pan, temper with jeera, add onions – sauté, then add the cooked peas.
  • Add all the masalas and salt.
  • Let the flavours combine and let it become a totally dry curry – Done!
  • Now, take a large portion of the dough.
  • Roll out a large fairly thin chapati (as large as you can) on a clean kitchen counter, dusting with some maida (as and when needed).
  • Using a steel tumbler or any other device, make small discs.
  • Carefully remove the discs and place them in a dry tray or paper.
  • Pick up the remaining pieces from the kitchen counter. Knead and roll out again.
  • Keep kneading, rolling and making discs till you get the needed number of discs.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Now place these discs, one in each hollow of the muffin tray.
  • Spoon out the filling into each disc.
  • Place the muffin tray in a preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes or till the edges get mildly brown.
  • Serve hot with ketchup!

Since this dish is inspired by Arundati of My Food Blog, this goes to Nupur’s ‘BB6 – The Potluck Edition’

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eggless Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie

Recently I was suddenly possessed by an almost instantaneous urge to bake cookies. I went through my bookmarks and I decided which one to make since I had all the ingredients handy. I had bookmarked it long back since this recipe not only does not include egg, but also does not call for any form of egg replacers. I halved the recipe and it yielded forty medium sized slightly chewy eggless oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.. Yummmmmm!

  • Butter : ½ cup or 1 stick
  • Brown sugar (packed): ½ cup
  • Vanilla extract: ½ tsp
  • Maida / APF: ¾ cup + (I also had another 1/2 cup ready since I read in the reviews that Imay need some extra flour towards the end)
  • Salt: 1/4 tsp
  • Baking soda: ½ tsp
  • Boiling water: 1/8 cup
  • Quick cooking oats (Quaker): 1 cup
  • Raisins: 1/3 cup
  • Semisweet chocolate chips: ¾ cup


  • Sift together the flour and salt. Keep aside.
  • Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt, mix well.
  • Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and add to mixture. Stir in rolled oats, raisins and chocolate chips.
  • Wrap the cookie dough in a plastic cover and chill it in the fridge for about 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F or 175 C.
  • Make small roundels and gently pat them down on a lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Take care not to overbake.
  • Take off the cookie sheet immediately. Let it cool for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomato thokku

Enter the pickle season an average Indian family would get very busy. Women would toss the men several times to the bazaar to get all the needed ingredients. Women would keep daily cooking to the minimum to focus all their energies on making pickles. Younger children or grandchildren would be entrusted with the task of shooing away unwanted visitors like crows, sparrows and pigeons.

While tomato pickling can start as early as February depending on the harvest, the typical vadu maanga, lemon and other stuff would have to wait till end March or early April. Neighbours, close family and friends would always get their share of the home creation. If living far away, their quota would be dutifully packed and despatched with the first visitor (a.k.a ‘bakra’) to/from that land. I am sure many of us would have lovely memories of their grandmothers or mothers meticulously making the pickles with all the care and diligence for their loved ones. I can vividly remember the tall porcelain offwhite-brown coloured jars my grandmother used to store these lovely stuff!

Pulling myself back to this recipe, this tomato thokku calls for pickling of tomatoes on the stove – basically cooking them for a long time so that they lose a lot of their moisture, thus obtaining the characteristic flavour of pickles. This close pickle cousin is fairly versatile – goes well with roti, rice, idli, dosa or even as a breadspread. It stays in the fridge for about two weeks. It is a nice thing to make on a lazy Sunday evening and run the entire week with. The only thing about this thokku is that, it takes in a frighteningly large quantity of tomatoes to yield a disproportionately small measure of the end product. However, for me, it is certainly worth all the effort since it is K’s all time favourite dish!

  • Tomatoes : 1 kg (local Indian tomatoes are better since they are tangier)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Chilli powder – 1 tsp or more or less to taste
  • Dhaniya powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • LG / Hing: ½ tsp or more if you prefer it more LG-ier
  • Sesame oil: 4 – 5 tbsp
  • For the tempering:
  • Mustard: 1 tsp
  • Chana dhall – 1 tsp
  • Urad dhall – 1 tsp
  • Jeera – ½ tsp
  • Red chillies (broken): 2 No
  • Curry leaves: Few


  • Chop tomatoes finely
  • Take a kadai. Heat oil and finish off with the tempering.
  • Add the tomatoes. Initially, it is fine to cook on a high flame since water would rapidly evaporate.

  • At later stages of cooking, it is better to maintain a low temperature to prevent sticking and scraping. Also, an occasional stir is enough in the initial phase, while towards the end more vigorous tossing is needed.
  • Add all the powders – salt, red chilli powder, dhaniya powder, LG and turmeric powder; and keep cooking.
  • There would be a stage when the oil separates (like a pickle). This would be very visible. Do take care not to overcook. Finish!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eggless Blueberry Loaf

I have been sincerely insincere to my blog. Not only have I neglected my poor blog, but also let my first blog anniversary pass without a single post! My poor blog turned one on the 1st of July! Too bad. I, in all earnestness want to atone for my bad karma :)

I would like to dedicate this post to my blog’s first anniversary. This may be a simple eggless blueberry loaf, but it is my first successful attempt at making a loaf after around six or seven humiliating fiascos. Each time I tried, I would follow instructions to the last letter, but, would still end up with a sorry-looking gluey mess. Parita’s recipe for a blueberry muffin gave me my first taste of success in baking. Thanks parita! You helped me restore and re-build the largely-lost confidence and enthusiasm of an amateur baker. I made as few changes as possible and stuck to the original recipe. This recipe yields one loaf.


· All Purpose Flour or Maida: 2 cups
· Salt: ½ tsp
· Baking powder: 2 tsp
· Baking soda: ½ tsp
· Sugar: ¾ cup
· Milk: ½ cup
· Butter (softened): 1/3 cup
· Vanilla essence: 2 tsp
· Fresh blueberries: 1 cup


· Preheat the oven to 200 deg Celcius (390 F) and keep a greased loaf tin ready.
· Wash and wipe the blueberries with a clean cloth. Coat with one tbsp of flour and toss gently so that the blueberries are completely coated.
· Sieve all dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) a couple of times and keep it in a large bowl.
· Mix all wet ingredients together (butter, milk, vanilla essence and sugar).
· Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredient bowl.
· Pour the wet ingredient mixture into it slowly.
· Mix gently.
· While you are in the middle of mixing, add in the blueberries.
· Parita suggests NOT to overmix. So, I ensured the ingredients came together. And left it right there.
· Once done, pour the batter into the greased loaf tin.
· Bake at 390 F for 40 – 45 minutes. Insert a greased knife in the middle and test if it is done.
· Slice and enjoy with tea, coffee, milk or as it is.


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