Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pistachio, chocolate, oat cookies

My 4 year old is a fussy eater. The only way she’ll eat oats is if it’s hidden in a cookie. I am always on the lookout for recipes in cookbooks or online to make something that my 4 year old will eat without a fuss.

When we lived in Belgium, the only English-language non-news channel to watch on TV was BBC1 and BBC 2. I loved the cooking programs on these channels and discovered some great UK chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Nigela Lawson, Rick Stein, James Martin, Gordon Ramsey, and of course, Madhur Jaffery. It was hard to get any English reading material, be it a book or a magazine in Brussels. There was one English bookstore in the city and one newsstand at the Brussels airport that had a limited section of English books and magazines. Whenever we traveled outside Brussels, we would hoard up on some UK magazines, such as, BBC GoodFood, Olive and Delicious. I would read every article in these magazines, articles on the use of fresh seasonal produce, nutrition, kitchen layout, recipes, etc.
Later, when we moved to the US, I obviously didn’t have to hunt for English-language magazines but I did struggle to find the UK magazines I loved, especially GoodFood. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble had them in the international magazine section but they cost a lot.

Then one day… I opened my mailbox and there it was – the latest issue of GoodFood. Huh! How did this happen? My darling hubby surprised me with a yearly subscription. Was I thrilled or what? I have every copy of the magazine. One section of my kitchen cupboard is devoted to this beautiful tried and tested team. Every so often, GoodFood would include a special supplement, such as one on cakes, another on pastas, etc. They are all just pure mind blowing recipes.

The following recipe is adapted from one of the bonuses that I got with my subscription.

  • 125g/4 ½ oz unsalted butter
  • 125g/4 ½ oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g/4 ½ oz porridge oats (old fashioned - not the instant ones)
  • 75g/2 ¾ oz plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 100g/4oz shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 125g/4 ½ oz chocolate cut into chunks or chocolate chips

Heat oven to 180C/fan160c/gas 4.
Lightly oil two baking sheets or use SILPAT.

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder and oats until well combined.

Stir in the pistachio nuts and chocolate chucks and mix well.

Divide the mixture into 16 and spoon, spaced well apart onto the baking sheets. Press down slightly with the back of a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden on the edges.

Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Asparagus upperi/thoran/side dish

Asparagus is definitely a new vegetable for us Indians. I had never seen this vegetable until I moved to the US where I had it in restaurants, stir-fried, steamed or grilled. There are not too many recipes that do justice to this vegetable. So I experimented and came up with this side-dish/upperi/thoran. It's made the same way as we make green beans or cabbage in Kerala. The dish comes out beautifully with the sweetness of the grated coconut meeting the mild mustardy and chili flavor from the tempering. It is a simple side-dish, as is typical of most dishes from Kerala. This is my entry to RCI - Kerala hosted by Jyothsna of Curry Bazaar.

When buying Asparagus look for stalks that are rounded, firm stems with deep green and purplish colored tips. The cut ends should not be too woody. Once trimmed and cooked, asparagus loses about half its total weight. While it is not necessary to peel asparagus, you should cut off the fibrous base before cooking. Wash it under cold water to remove any sand or soil residues.

Some facts about Asparagus are:

  • The asparagus plant is a member of the lily family, which also includes onions, leeks and garlic.
  • The larger the diameter, the better the quality!
  • Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food which is high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin.
  • Asparagus has No Fat, contains No Cholesterol and is low in Sodium.
(more info visit


  • 1 bunch of Asparagus, cleaned, chopped(woody base discarded)
  • ½ an onion chopped
  • 2-3 green chilies
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 dry red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh coconut or desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsps vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

In a pot, heat the oil, and splutter the mustard seeds, add the dried chilies and curry leaves. Add the chopped onion, chilies and the chopped asparagus. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the turmeric and salt. Cook the asparagus uncovered, until crisp-tender, around 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut and cook it for another minute or so. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Alf’s Shammi Kebabs

When we lived in Mumbai, every Sunday evening, my father would take the whole family for an outing. All of us would look forward to the outing. My father would enjoy the cool evening breeze and just wind down from the chaos of the weekday. My mum would take a break from running the house. My brothers and I would look forward to eating at a restaurant or better still, chowing down some delicious street food. Popular choices in the Colaba area in Mumbai were Bade Miya for some yummy baida (egg) parathas, Kailash Parbat for some cold pani puri and Delhi Darbar for some awesome Indian Chinese or Mughalai food. Delhi Darbar was one of my favorite joints for Mughalai food.

The one thing I would always order was their Mutton Shammi Kabab.
It came with 2 big patties and was a starter on the menu, but it was a meal for a kid like me. It was a beautiful blend of whole spices and mincemeat, which was then dipped in egg batter and fried. The egg batter made it crispy on the outside, and the mincemeat was smooth and luxurious inside. I tried many different recipes to get something similar to the Shammi Kabab at DD. But nothing came close.

When I was in India about a year or so ago, Alf, an old friend, invited me over to her place for lunch and to catch up. She and I were in college together and many a time we would hang out at each other’s place and sometimes even have an impromptu cooking session. We would just go about putting spices and whatever ingredients were available to us at that time. Most of the time, we were delighted, or rather surprised, by the new invention. At lunch, in spite of her hectic schedule, there was Chicken Biryani and these fabulous Shammi kebabs. I was pretty sure that she bought these kebabs from some restaurant and asked her, “so where did you buy these kababs from?” She replied, “I made them.” My eyes popped, as these were home made and tasted just like the ones I had at DD. I had to get the recipe from her. It’s been almost 2 years since, and I have made these countless times. Each time I made them, I remember having the kebabs at DD and I can’t thank my friend enough for her delicious recipe. Thanks Alf, these are just too good…

Alf’s Shammi Kebabs

  • ½ kilo lamb mince meat
  • 2 tbsp Masoor dal
  • 2tbsp Chana dal
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 2 potatoes chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red chili powder (reduce the spice to your liking)
  • 1” cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • ¼ tsp peppercorns
  • ½ cup or more of fine semolina/rava
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Coriander chopped

Wash mince and let it drain in a colander. Wash the lentils.

In a pressure cooker, mix all the ingredients except the coriander, eggs and rava. Add ½ cup of water and salt and let it cook for 5-6 whistles on a high flame. Reduce the heat and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. Let it cool.

Open the cooker and check if there is any water, cook/bhuno till the water evaporates and the mixture becomes dry. Stir continuously. Empty it on a plate and spread the mixture to cool it. Add the chopped coriander. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or your clean hands (the best tools in the kitchen). There should be no lumps or trace of the potatoes and tomatoes. Now roll to the preferred size. Coat the kababs in semolina/rava and dip it in the beaten egg and shallow fry it till golden and crisp. Serve hot.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Otada(Malabar crepes)

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture after I rolled the Otada - Otada's just disappeared so quickly as I was making them! :-))

Otada, a thin, soft crepe, is a specialty of the Malabar coast of Northern Kerala. It's usually had for breakfast or served as a quick snack in the evening (especially, when you have an unexpected guest, which happens all the time in India). It is the easiest thing to make. We eat it with sugar and caramelized shallots sautéed in ghee. The hot ghee melting the sugar and the crispy shallots are delicious on the crepe. This recipe makes about 15 Otadas.
Otada batter

Ingredients for the batter.
  • 1-cup flour (maida)
  • 1-cup water
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • A pinch of salt.
Mix the above ingredients well with a balloon whisk. The batter should be of a thin consistency. Keep aside.

For the topping.
  • 2 shallots (or more if you like the caramelized onion flavor) chopped fine
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)/oil

Heat the ghee
in a small dish, when hot add the shallots and sauté it till they are brown. Keep aside.

To make the Otada.

Pour the Otada batter on a hot non-stick pan. And move your ladle along the batter clockwise (like when you make dosa).
Within a few minutes, the edges of the Otada starts to cook and separate from the pan.

Flipped Otada

Flip the Otada over and cook for a minute or so, it will have small specs of brown color on the flipped side, remove from the pan.

Now to assemble the Otada - Spread a spoon of the caramelized onion and ghee
(clarified butter) on the flipped side of the Otada. Sprinkle 1-2 tsp of sugar and roll them or you could also fold them. Serve hot.

Note: Just like a dosa, you HAVE to eat it hot...once it cools down the sugar, ghee and the maida will all stick together and won't taste as good.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sukhi Aloo matter Kheema


  • 1lb beef mince meat
  • 1 big potato quartered
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 big onion chopped fine
  • 3-4 green chilies slit vertically
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2, 1” piece cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp peppercorns
  • 1” ginger crushed
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 can of chopped tomato/3-4 tomatoes
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1-2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste


In a pot, heat the oil, add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaf. Within a few minutes the cardamom and bay leaf will start turning brown.

Add the potatoes, sauté till the potatoes begin to have brown specs on them and till they are ½ cooked. Add the chopped onion and green chilies. When the onions start to brown, add the mincemeat. Keep stirring constantly and break any lumps that form - it is important that you break the lumps.

When the meat starts to brown and the oil begins to separate, add the coriander, chili and turmeric powders. Sauté for a bit and add the can of chopped tomato, salt, lemon juice and tomato paste (if using). Sauté till the water from the tomato evaporates and the meat starts to become dry. Adjust seasoning and turn off the heat. Add the frozen peas and close the lid of the pot. The steam will cook the peas and retain the bright green color of the peas. Serve hot with parathas, roti’s or as I prefer, pav (indian bread)

Almond pistachio shortbread cookie

These cookies remind me of the biscuits that we get in the local bakery back home. They are great with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

  • 75g/ ½ cup shelled pistachios toasted
  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 160g/1 cup confectioners (icing) sugar
  • 225g/1 ½ cup plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour
  • 90g/ ¾ cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 55g/ 1/3-cup confectioners (icing) sugar


Pre-heat oven to 150C/300F.

Chop 50g / 1/3 cup of the pistachios, leave the remaining pistachios whole.

Beat butter and
sugar in medium bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Stir in sifted flours, almond meal and chopped nuts.

Shape level tablespoons of mixture into mounds. Place mounds about 3 cm apart on greased oven trays or SILPAT, press a whole pistachio on each. Bake for about 25 minutes or until firm. Lift cookies onto wire racks; when cool brush with orange juice, stand for 5 minutes. Dust cookies with extra sugar.

Spaghetti con gamberetti e rucola (spaghetti with prawns and rocket)

Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite UK chefs. I like his food because his recipes are simple (most of the time), he uses fresh ingredients and his presentation is very rustic. I got this recipe from his book, Jamie’s Italy, and it is one of our favorite pasta meals at home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any rocket leaves at home, so the photo is not as appealing.


  • 455g/1lb-dried spaghetti
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 dried red chilies, crumbled
  • 400g/14 oz peeled raw prawns
  • 1 small wineglass of white wine
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes blitzed in a blender
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 handful of rocket, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of oil in a frying pan and toss the garlic and chili. As the garlic begins to color, add the prawns and sauté them for a minute. Add the white wine and tomato puree and simmer for a couple of minutes. When the pasta is ready, drain in a colander, reserving a little cooking water. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, add half of the rocket, adding a little of the reserved water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, correct the seasoning. Divide between 4 plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the rocket leaves.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Coconut dal okra curry

My husband is the kind who says that he likes simple food. The reality is that it's very hard to please him, as he is a real fusspot. He is more of a vegetarian than a non-vegetarian; he doesn’t like Indian non-vegetarian food, as we tend to boil the meat. But he loves a big piece of steak – medium rare (now, isn’t he weird for an Indian).

In his house, there was (rather still is) always a big pot of Sambar especially for him. If I serve my husband Sambar 365 days a year, he will be the happiest person in this world. After we got married, we continued this 'tradition' of having Sambar every day. Needless to say, it wasn't long - two days - before I was sick of having Sambar. It took a little work, but I've weened him off Sambar. Now, especially on weekends, I try to cook something different, although vegetarian. The base of the curries that I cook on weekends are usually experiments with different kinds of dal (lentils).

Today, I came across this Okra curry recipe from Flavours of the spice coast by Mrs K.M. Mattew. Okra is one of my favorite vegetables. I love it as a suki (dry) sabji with chapatti (an Indian bread). I also love it fried till it’s crispy. The original recipe by Mrs K.M. Mattew is Okra in coconut milk gravy; the only change I made to the recipe was I added Toor dal to it. The dal gives the curry some texture and thickness, which is great on a mountain of rice.

  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp pepper powder
  • ¼ tsp aniseed powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cups okra (washed, dried with a paper towel, cut the top and bottom)
  • ¼ cup onions sliced
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 3-4 green chilies
  • 1 ½ cups thin coconut milk
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Lime juice
  • ½ cup cooked Toor dal
  • Few curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
Heat oil in a vessel and sauté the okra, till you see small bits of brown color on
them. Keep aside.

In the same vessel sauté the onions, ginger, chilies and curry leaves. Add the spices and sauté till the spices are well incorporated. Pour in the thin coconut milk and bring to a boil.

Add the cooked dal, okra, salt, and lime juice. When the gravy thickens add the thick coconut milk. You might need to add a bit of water if the gravy thickens too much.
Serve hot with rice.

Tomato rasam

There are probably thousands of recipes for tomato rasam online. Some recipes are with crushed tomatoes, some with dal water, with or without coriander seeds, etc. My tomato rasam has a few teaspoons of tomato paste. It gives the rasam a beautiful red color, thickens it a bit and adds to the sour flavor. This is a wonderful spicy/sour/peppery drink that will clear your sinuses for sure!


  • A small lime size piece of tamarind
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 dry red chili
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 button onions or a small piece of onion
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch of fenugreek
  • Few curry leaves
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Few sprigs of coriander
  • 1 ½ tsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp Oil

Dissolve the tamarind in water. In a mortar and pestle or a grinder, crush chili, garlic, onions, peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds.

Heat oil; add asafoetida and the mustard seeds, when the mustard seeds splutter, add the fenugreek seeds. Add the crushed spices and fry a little. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook a little. Pour the tamarind juice, tomato paste and salt. Bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat; puree it with a hand blender till the tomatoes are crushed and soupy (optional). Garnish it with fresh coriander.

Friday, January 4, 2008


2007 went by so quickly. I was in my third trimester in the beginning of the year, awaiting the arrival of this little person inside me. In March, the little one was born just a day before my birthday; what a nice birthday gift! Then life became so hectic…I was recovering from giving birth (I just made it to the hospital to give birth – so didn’t get any EPIDURAL!!!), my parents were visiting to help me out with my new one and my then three and a half year old daughter.

Soon after my parents left, my in-laws came to see the new one along with my sister-in-law and her family. The whole summer went by very quickly. After my in-laws left, I hit reality - here I am alone with two kids, a house to take care of, and a husband who is constantly traveling. It took me few months to get to into a routine with the two kids and household work. Some days were tough but you learn to simplify your life. So cooking elaborate meals or entertaining took a back seat. I looked forward to quick fix recipes and simple dal (lentil) chawal (rice) kind of comfort food.

Now that my new born is 9 months and is mobile, discovering new things each day, hopefully I will get more time to post new recipes (or will I???), and also will be able to continue some art work – which was how I started to blog in the first place.

2007 went by with so many good memories; I hope 2008 will be as good, if not better than 2007.