Fireplace Beauty


2nd Birthday Party!


Spiced Potato Chip
Jalapeno Poppers
Banana popsicles covered in almond and sprinkles

Main Course:
Jumbo Pasta shells with ricotta and tomato sauce
Raj Kachoris
Baked Egg with Potatoes

Butter cake with creme anglaise frosting and served with Lemon Curd and strawberries in the shape of a Rubber Ducky in a Bathtub

Party favors:
Barney and Ducky in white chocolate candy

I am totally exhausted cooking end to end last week, and this menu was great for lots of do ahead. Will post recipes soon. Cake & candy photographs at my cakeworks site.


Book Review: Dont Try this @ Home

Ever since I read Heat by Bill Buford and Kitchen confidential by Anthony Bourdain ( read my reviews here) Ive been interested in the cook as a professional and what it takes to be one. This book is a collection of essays by a whos who of professional chefs in North America. It is really really hilarious! Did you know that chefs in training in France have to choose between becoming a waiter or a chef?

Many many of the essays deal with "accidents" in the kitchen and the resulting wonderful product. Others deal with the question of management of a professional kitchen and how cooking and management are two sides of running a restaurant. Yet other essays paint a wonderful picture of the culinary profession in the decades past.

I would highly recommend this book for pulling back the curtain on the professional kitchen.


Happy Diwali 08!

A very happy diwali to everybody! Everybody has such delicious sweets up on their blogs. And what have I been upto since June end? Ive been busy playing interior decorator - painting my house, installing crown molding and making my own furniture! It was great fun designing my very own computer desk with a place for everything and everything in place. I got the wood from 84 lumber and it was great fun working with power tools, the jigsaw and router in specially. I should be back to regular blogging now on.

Heres a picture

I am signing off with happy diwali and a very happy new year to all my gujarati friends.


Moving...back August end

from apartment to house..at last!


MS 12#: Huevos rancheros with Rajas de chile Poblano

Summer- vacation time and mango time. I come from a really really hot part of India - Gujarat - so actually in summer it is too hot to go out of the house after 9 am. Average temperatures were around 48 degree centigrade or around 118 Fahrenheit. So most of the summer day was spent indoors, reading or just lounging around. The real fun began after 6 pm. The big maidan near my house would fill up with wannabe sachin tendulkars, my brother and I would play badminton. At 8 in the night, we would go to the big lake near my house and enjoy really strong and cool breezes and golas! My favorite is kala khatta:). Most of my neighbors would sleep on their terraces because night temperatures really dropped and the best part is this sort of communal sleeping meant that people would be up until two or three in the night playing antakshri or just chatting.

Sia of Monsoon spice is hosting this edition of WBB Summer, the weekend breakfast blogging event started by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This is my entry for this cool and healthy event.

Summer in the US seems much milder than my childhood summers, and yet , now - I escape to central AC at the merest hint of heat. Oh well, Ive always enjoyed summer more on my plate than in any other form.

My entry for WBB Summer is Huevos Rancheros. It is a Traditional Mexican breakfast with eggs and tortillas topped with beautiful roasted summer Poblano Peppers and onions ( the rajas part) and a spicy and tangy tomato sauce. The recipe may seem long but it is easy if you break it into its four components, the sauce ,the tortillas, the eggs and the Poblano Peppers. The sauce and peppers are do ahead and may be made the night before. You can "outsource" tortillas from your supermarket( or make your own), and the eggs are simple- just fry them up at serving time. If you donot have Poblano Peppers, you could try using green bell peppers or capsicums.

Ive always liked Nanditas emphasis on health and nutrition and this breakfast is very healthy too - it has eggs , tomatoes and a lot of veggies along with carbs from the tortillas. Traditionally , this dish is topped with a little queso or cheese. But its just a garnish so a little cheese is more than enough.

This recipe is from Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico. In her other book, Diana Kennedy also mentions a variation on this recipe, called Estate huevos rancheros which has fried tortilla and refried beans

Huevos Rancheros(Serves two hungry adults :)) :
2 cups Salsa Ranchera
Small frying pan
2 tb oil
4 small tortillas
4 eggs
Raja de chile Poblano

Simply assemble the Huevos Rancheros - heat the tortillas on a hot tava or pan briefly with a little oil- just to make the tortillas pliable. Top with eggs fried however you like. Top generously with Salsa Ranchera Sauce and a generous fistful of Rajas de chile poblano.

Salsa Ranchera
5 tomatoes
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 Clove garlic Peeled

1 Onion

Broil the tomatoes in an oven( or take a tava on a flame, and keep rolling the tomatoes around until they turn brown all over) , add chopped Jalapeno pepper and Garlic. Blend. Chop the onions , saute. Pour the blended tomato sauce and cook for about five minutes until it thickens a little.

Rajas de chile poblano:
Chile poblano strips

5 chiles poblanos, charred and peeled( see here for how to char and peel poblanos)
A frying pan
6 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt

Remove the stems, seeds and veins from the chilies and cut the flesh into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and cook gently without browning for about three minutes. Add the chili strips and salt, and cook stirring from time to time, for about 8 minutes.


GYO: Mulai keerai / Amaranth Kootu

Grow Your Own is an event started and usually hosted by Andrea of Andreas Recipes. This fortnight, GYO is being hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi. This is my entry for this edition of GYO.

I finally managed to out my kutti inner green thumb. My little amaranth is all growed up. Growing a food plant for the first time was interesting- it played into my little fantasy where all urbanites are forced to grow their own food in little pots on their window sill- driven by high costs of food transportation. Being a locavore(someone who eats food grown within a 100 miles) may be trendy now, but will soon become a necessity. When I first realised my grape tomatoes came all the way from the DOMINICAN republic and my Okra from CHINA, boy was I mad. Everybody is only now sitting down to calculate the true costs of flying your food in from all around the world.

My plants did not really look like any of the amaranths Ive seen at Indiras Mahanandi - perhaps it is a different sub species. So for my first experiment with Mulaikeerai or Amaranth - I decided to play it safe and made Mulaikeerai/ Amaranth Kootu( Amaranth leaf lentil curry).

I served this traditional Iyengar rendition of Kootu with crisp Brinjal Podi Karamad( Brinjal Dry vegetable curry with ground spices) , Carrot Kosumalli( Carrot salad) and yoghurt. It was finger licking delicious!!

For the Kootu Spice Powder:
2 tbsp Urad dal
1 tsp Black Pepper
3 Red Chillies or to taste

Saute in a heavy bottomed pan until the urad dal turn golden brown and you can smell the roasted urad. Grind. This will keep for ever and is enough to make Kootu twice.

For the Kootu:
Take two cups of fresh amaranth greens or any other greens you have with about 3/4 cup yellow moong dal, and pressure cook for about two whistles. Add a tablespoon of the Kootu spice powder, salt to taste and boil briefly until the Kootu bubbles.

At this point the Kootu is basically done. You could temper the Kootu wih mustard, curry leaves and perhaps a tomato. Tomatoes in my grandmothers times were expensive, so she used them but rarely. Today it is a question of taste.

The Kootu does need an acid , sometimes I use a tomato - sometimes I just go with a Kosumalli. Kootu is as difficult to photograph as soup - the result just looks like yellow goo. This kootu speaks of home and simple pleasures and is infinitely customizable and has too many variations to keep track of.


Vegetable Carving: Radish Flowers

Roma of Roma's space is holding a unique vegetable carving event this July. These are my entries. I made the flowers above from Red Radish. The second is a more elaborate fruit bouquet that I made for my daughters first birthday. I used a fruit baller, knives and cookie cutters for both these.


Book Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

During my grad school days in the US I travelled via bus to and from my University. On the bus, I was struck by how many poor people, who could not even afford their own car- were huge, overweight and obese. I was puzzled. In India being fat and obese is a mark of prosperity and wealth. If you think about the poor in the US, the reasons are clearer - Coke 1.89 litre is cheaper than water. Fast food burgers are the cheapest food and the most fattening. It is a very disturbing that it takes a lot more money and effort to buy vegetables, or meat and make healthy meals at home. It takes a lot more money to afford a gym. Being thin , slim in the US therefore, is a sign of being well off.

In 'In Defense of Food', Michael Pollan calls this phenomenon, "being overfed and undernourished". Why is this happening and what can we do about it? These are the primary questions raised and answered by Michael Pollan in 'In defense of food'. I am a longtime fan of Michael Pollan, and his many articles on food in the New York Times and via his books - two of my favorite works are Botany of Desire and Second Nature.

Michael Pollan begins with outlining the rise of "Industrial Agriculture" in the US, and its devilish spawn- the processed food industry. He is very entertaining and lucid as he reveals the true extent of their lobbying and marketing power. The extent of their manipulation of government and media is frankly frightening.

These might sound like big words, but everyday we, you and me; hear & see & read news reports saying that X ingredient is good for your health and then within six months we read that no, no actually X ingredient is bad for your health. In short, the scientists really donot know.

This is a direct result of Food Companies "sponsoring" research in food. Yesterday Oat bran was in fashion, today it is Omega 3. I guess they will put Omega 3 in your french fries too tomorrow- does that actually make your french fries healthier?

He names this manner of studying food, one ingredient at a time, nutritionism.He points out that this food fashion buisness does not really lead to any benefits in the long run and then goes on to suggest some really practical rules for all eaters leading to a healthy life and happy stomach.

Personally, i think this book is a MUST read for every foodie who wants the best for their family. Unless we realise how we are being manipulated by the food industry, in every meal and every snack - we cannot resist or more importantly - fight back.


MS #11: Plum Salsa with homemade Pineapple vinegar

Mexican Series #11: Plum salsa mexicana with home made Pineapple Vinegar

Back home, I once took a summer of salsa(the dance) lessons with my friend S. as a lark. It turned out to be the most fun thing we did in Bangalore. Only through reruns of Seinfeld( remember the double dip?:)) did I stumble upon the fierce chip and dip American culture. After we started hitting the gym this summer, we had to bid a teary farewell to all our deep fried friends and welcome low fat low calorie salsa into our bowls and over our enchiladas :)

The most common salsa is salsa mexicana. Jugalbandi's perfect Tomato Salsa s really a perfect version and their Papaya Green Apple salsa is a colorful fruity version.

While I was going through Diana Kennedy's From my Mexican Kitchen, I came upon an interesting and totally simple recipe for Pineapple Vinegar( All it involves is keeping some pineapple(I used one whole peeled pineapple) and brown sugar in water in a closed bottle in a warm dry place for about a month). Mexican cooking uses mild fruit based vinegars for salsa and pickles of all sorts- the other favorite being Banana Vinegar. When you look at a picture of the pineapple vinegar in progress it looks fairly gross,

DONT WORRY!! This thick glutinous layer is called the 'mother' and it indicates that the vinegar is now ready for use.

I will sign off with the

Plum Salsa Mexicana Recipe :
3 Ripe Plums
1 Peach / Nectarine
1 Small Red Onion
1 Jalapeno( or according to taste)
2 tbsp pineapple vinegar or 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
cilantro leaves
salt to taste

Chop in to fairly small pieces, mix all ingredients an hour before use - to let the flavors blend. Serve with tortilla chips or heavily spiced mexican dishes like enchiladas.



JFI Tamarind: Panaka

Why oh why is June coming to an end? When almost all the blogs i know and love have an event submission deadline? :) This post has been in the works ever since JFI Tamarind was announced by Sig of Live to Eat.( JFI was started by Indira of Mahanandi - youve got to love the focus on uniquely indian ingredients).

Anyhoo, what began as a comic strip on the crazy adventures of our intrepid heroine imli aka Tamarind has mutated into a mini history slideshow on a beloved Indian Ingredient. But wait there's more( this is what happens when you watch one too many Kaboom adverts - wish I could go on a TV diet :))

There is also a recipe. Ha i knew you did not see that coming. That recipe however is thankfully a one liner, mix fruit juices with tamarind juice honey and water , attach ancient sanskrit name, panaka or panchamrutha sell for 500 rupees to unsuspecting foreigners as rejunuvating sanskrit waters.

But seriously, As a south Indian - tamarind is ubiquitous in almost all the foods I make. It also seems to be the "in" word for Indian Restaurant names in the US. Tamarind is the next India Garden( Every US city ive been to has an India garden - go figure). For Grandma backed authentic certified south indian food, always add Tamarind. The blacker the better - My grandma actually used to mail us tamarind from her village ( and in the Indian postal system it matured from brown youth to black old age). And then we used to play board games with the tamarind seeds, Dayakattai.

And now flashback over, quick summation - Tamarind has been around in Indian cuisine for what seems like forever- so much that even it has plenty of Indi in its official name, tamarindus indica. Wikipedia will tell you that it tamar al hind means Indian date, but did you know that Marco Polo was the first to write that down 800 yrs ago?

In vedic times, tamarind was also called chincha or amlika. It was commonly used in beverages and preserving meats. The seeds surprisingly were used to make a drink with whey.

So before you OD on tamarindus indica, heres wishing you khatta meeta imli times!

Note on the drawings: I sketched these with a black oil crayon and photoshopped the rest.


Foodie Nerd: Maps & ideas

What is the one dream you want to achieve desperately? For me it is making a Trip to Paris- THE foodie mecca. I am going to try to learn some french, it sounds so musical right? Oui Oui! I want to stay there for atleast a month, take in the sights and the sounds all while stuffing myself merrily. Meanwhile inspired by this beautiful article on Chow on various foodie maps, Ive started in a very small way to map the sights and patisseries I want to take in when I do get to Paris. I will share the map here at Sometime Foodie when it is somewhat complete.

On other news for food nerds, Ive started inputting my blog recipes into a database at blist which is a free web based MS Access style database. I just thought its a cool way to look at various ingredients and regional styles.


CLICK Yellow for Bri: Turmeric Ravine

This month’s CLICK is linked to a BREAST CANCER FUNDRAISER organised by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi for Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

Turmeric is an auspicious ingredient marking all good beginnings in Indian Culture. I hope that this fund raiser is a good beginning for you Bri. I wish you all the luck and good will and hope that you feel better soon.

Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri

Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.

You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.


Mooli ka kheema

I love vegetables and Indian food is unmatched in its sheer variety and ingenuity in vegetable preparations. I usually use Mooli in Sambhar or simply dressed with a Mustard seed vaghar. This recipe has an enticingly unsual combination of Mooli and peanuts with onions. Be warned that it is really really spicy and would go well with a cooling sort of dinner say Kadhi/Yoghurt and rice.

Recipe: ( from the Spice box by Manju Shivraj Singh)

2 tbsp ghee or oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 medium onions grated
2 cups grated Mooli / radish / daikon
2 dried red chillies, crushed
6 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste
a few chopped green coriander leaves
½ cup roasted peanuts
2 tsp mango powder
2 tsp garam masala

In a pan, heat the ghee and fry the cumin seeds, then add the onions and fry until light brown. Add the Mooli ,chillies, garlic, salt and coriander leaves. Cook for about 20 min, until the horseradish is done. Add the peanuts, mango powder and garam masala. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

I actually reduced the garlic to about 2 cloves because garlic available here is so fat. I also reduced the chillies. I used oil but I really recommend using ghee because it balances out the strong flavors of this vegetable dish.



Blog Goondaism: Support Inji Pennu

Hi ,
Im sure by now you are familiar with Inji Pennus fight against Kerals.com. Kerals.com reacted to Inji Pennu's request to remove plagiarised content with threats and cyber stalking. They are behaving like thugs of the first order, trying to set up fake websites and email addresses under Inji Pennus name, even to the extent of making up a member called Inji Pennu in one of their Porn sites.

It is high time to show our solidarity with Inji Pennus cause by publicising this thievery and goondaism and plagiarism. I support Inji Pennu and join the protest against Kerals.com.


Thank you Thali #3

A big thank you to Medhaa, Trupti, Prema and Mona for making my thali these last two weeks. Some recipes you try just for the novelty factor but these have ended up becoming household staples.

1. Sai bhaji from Medhaa of Cook with Love
2. Panchratan Korma from Trupti of the Spice who Loved me.
3. Tindora fry from Prema Sundars My Cookbook
4. Gobi Jalfrezie from Mona of Zaiqa

Medhaa I also tried your Gatte ki Kadi, Loved it, but I donot have any pictures of it. Thanks to you and your mom!


Mexican Series #10: Panuchos

Before I tell you about Panuchos, the easiest vegetarian Mexican Breakfast you can every make, a big thank you to Jayashree of My experiments with food for passing on the Yum blog award to me. Wow Thanks!

A Panucho is basically a corn paratha/roti stuffed with delicious black bean paste and hard boiled eggs thrown together with some toppings. I am really and truly lazy so i did not bother stuffing the corn tortilla but instead layered all the ingredients on top of each other and it tastes so delicious. You can find the more traditional( and pretty!) version here.

According to The art of Mexican cooking by Diana Kennedy, this is a Yucatan( Hey I did not know WHERE the Yucatan in Mexico was- hence the link) evening snack specialty. Mexican food is like a palette of tastes, and you can easily customize it according to your tastes. If you donot have the cabbage or onion - you can surely skip them.

To make 4 Panuchos you need:
1. 1 cup Finely sliced cabbage in 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp oil and salt
2.Corn tortillas from the supermarket or make your own
3. 1 can of Refried black beans ( Amy's Organic Refried Black Beans recommended)
4. 1 can of Red Enchilada Sauce or my red enchilada sauce
5. 1 can Red Tomato Salsa or Green Tomatillo Salsa
6. Four eggs Sunny side up, yolk cooked as well as you want.
7. 1 cup Onions in 1 tbsp Vinegar, 1 tbsp oil and salt.

Layer the ingredients from 1 to 7 on a plate one on top of another. Presto! Breakfast is ready!


Book Review: Short history of the American stomach

Always a sucker for an attractive title, I picked up this new book at my local library recently. I am a history buff, but my knowledge of American history is limited to its urban history.

The parts I loved about the book, the parts that were smooth, informative and hilariously funny - about half the book, had a good comparison going on between past and present in way that made food history accessible to the layman. The very first chapter compares the cookbook craze of this era with that of a century ago. The very first chapter also has a hilarious comparison between Food network camera work and the shot angles of porn movies. Yes you read that right, the author gets a porn star to review food network and its video, which then segues into a short story on the frustrations of being a food network star. All very amusing and clever- but I did not get the slightest hint of any historical angle to this brief insight into food media.

I feel better that todays' twin sins of dieting and then desperate self starvation are very old ideas, and the author does do a good job of descibing the excesses of over and deliberate starvation centuries ago. The oldest reference in history that I can think of , of a people, a class - deliberately doing this to themselves are the Romans with their Bacchanalia. They used to eat ginormous quantities of food and then tickle the back of their throat to vomit the whole thing, and start the whole feasting process again. Whew - an orgy sounds more like work than pleasure to me today.

Some of the best ideas of the book however are underdeveloped and orphaned early. For example later in his book , the author Frederick Kaufman explores the relation between Food, its purity and spirituality. He goes on to explore how even the act of declaring a food pure enough to eat by a particular religion has become a big business.

The other good idea he has is the outsourced stomach. In these days of outsourced everything, why not the stomach? But this is where he focuses on minuteae and forgets the big picture. He focuses of a particular type of genetically reengineered Asian oyster which he laments is replacing all the native oyster species. I just do not get it, exactly which meal of his is completely american? My own garlic comes from China, my tomatoes from Italy, my Okra from China and India. Focusing on native / invasive species debate misses the wood for the trees.

My recommendation: Skip this book unless you have a good grounding in American History.


The Healthiest Chappati

Disclaimer: I am not a nutrition expert. My only qualifications are my frequent dieter miles! Do let me know about errors logical or factual.

My entry for Srivalli's roti mela.

Srivallis Roti Mela has brought my inner mad scientist to life. Here are the results of my experiments to find the holy grail of all chappati flours, the very healthiest one to make the very healthiest phulka ( a chappati that puffs up into two layers).

In the tradition of long ago hot afternoons spent in my high school chemistry laboratory we begin with a

HYPOTHESIS: There exists the perfect chappati flour, which will puff up perfectly as a phulka- with low carbohydrates, high protein and loads and loads of vitamins and good stuff. This automatically eliminates all the mixed flour rotis like thalipeeth or thepla or parathas, which while perfectly healthy donot puff up into two layers.

What I did was try and mix different flours, soy, amaranth, even moong dal flour; with atta(durum whole wheat flour)in different proportions and make phulkas. Healthy stuff + healthy stuff must equal healthy stuff right? All the combinations had 1/4 cup of yoghurt and salt to taste. If you are looking for instructions to make phulkas from normal durum whole wheat check out Nupurs beautiful puffed up chappatis.


Wheat gluten is the protein part of wheat. It is commonly sold as vital wheat gluten from Hudson Mills. Iam not sure if it is available in India. My mother takes her soy beans to the local atta chakki and he makes it into flour for her. So people looking to source Amaranth flour or soy flour in India could try that idea.

METHODOLOGY / Different types of Chappati flour combinations tested:

Calorie information above is for the entire 11/2 cups of total flour. Each combination yielded 8 to 10 rotis. The proportion of all non wheat flours was limited to 33%( 1/2 cup of soy flour to every 1 cup of whole wheat) of the total. It says right on the back of the Amaranth and soy flour bags from arrowhead mills that you can substitute wheat flour with amaranth or soy upto 30% successfully.


Taste: All the chapattis fluffed up beautifully. The tastiest was the Amaranth Wheat flour combination- per my chief taster my husband H.It had a slightly sweet, characteristic nutty sort of flavor. All the soy combinations had a slight bitterness if you had the chappati straight. With sabzi or dal this was not noticeable. The revelation was the soy wheat gluten combination - i had almost no hopes of anything tasty emerging - it was virtually the same as the wheat and soy roti and fluffed up nicely. The wheat gluten holds the roti together and helps it puff up like a normal roti.

I am sure you could add sugar to modify the taste of the soy rotis, but that would kind of miss the whole point of this experiment.

What does this experiment mean ? One thing is obvious, there is no real calorie advantage in these different rotis. The main advantage as I see it is increasing the quantity and type of protein you get from your roti.

I guess if you are on a diet or into heavy exercising the Soy Wheat gluten roti might be perfect for you, because this roti is really high in protein. triple a normal roti.It is also very high in iron, always good for anemic people.

If you are looking for a complete protein and heart benefits , the Amaranth Roti might be for you. Amaranth is also said to be easier to digest.

As a vegetarian, I am always looking for ways to integrate soy protien into my diet. At the end of this experiment I am glad that at the very least I can now make all my rotis into soy wheat flour rotis without sacrificing an iota of the look and feel of the traditional roti. Yippee!


Thank you Thali #2

A big thank you to Suganya ,Archana Nandita and Tee for making my thali this week! I loved the Eggplant Pumpkin Curry from Suganya of Tasty Palettes not only for its unusual combination but for its great flavors. Gujarati Dal is familiar to me, but I loved the Gujarati Dal from Archana of Archanas Kitchen with its delicate cinnamon flavoring.

I also made Pumpkin Dhansaak from Nandita of Saffron trail and Bharli Vangi (Stuffed Eggplants) from Bhatukli. Unfortunately I donot have any pictures of these two. I loved both these recipes too. The pumpkin dhansaak defintely was tastier the second day around, I would add more pumpkin next time around.

I apologise that my pictures of your dishes donot do justice to them, but I wanted to serve them hot at dinner. I usually do my blog photography at lunch so that H. my husband does not have to suffer cold food.


Mexican Series #9: Chiles Rellenos:Stuffed Ancho & Poblano

My entry for Dhivyas A.W.E.D Mexican.

My Gujju heart says that Chiles Rellenos is only Bharela Marcha by a different name, localized with Mexican Ingredients. Bharela Marcha is a stuffed chile( either the mild long one or the Capsicum) that is sometimes fried as a fritter or Bhajiya. Big picture settled, the details are very very important. Mexican cuisine is all about the marcha or the chile. They have n number of chile varieties, which when they combine with n number of fillings leads to billions of variations and that spins my head round and round and round......

uh coming back to Chiles Rellenos, it is, then, a classic Mexican dish of stuffed, battered and deep fried Poblano , Ancho or even Jalapenos or Habaneros in different regions of Mexico. In a way, Jalapeno Poppers, that cheese creamy hot goodness is a Chiles Relleno.

Do check out my other vegetarian Mexican recipes here.

Donot get intimidated by the long list of ingredients or the equally long method, this dish is worth the work. This recipe does not deep fry the chiles for a healthier chiles Rellenos. It is a main course dish and you can eat it by itself.

The two most common Chiles Rellenos, have to be the stuffed Poblano and Ancho. Poblano is a deep green, fresh, long and mild pepper while the Ancho is a deep red dried Pepper. Both are easily available in local Mexican or farmers markets.Images from Happynews.com and Wikimedia

Check out Asha at Foodies Hope who has a detailed post on the stuffed Poblano Chiles Rellenos. I guess the only things I could add to her detailed instructions is you could also char the poblanos on a gas stove top, cover it for ten minutes and then peel it. Remember that you should char the poblanos only until they are black and blistered. Too much and you wont be able to peel them. Also, try not to wash them under water because that dilutes the flavor. Dont worry about little bits of skin, they taste damn good!

Stuffing Anchos Chiles is a slightly different procedure, you have to first rehydrate the chiles. This recipe is from a book called Rosa's Mexican Table which I liked for its beautiful pictures and slightly unconventional stuffing.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers & Ancho Peppers in a thin tomato sauce:
Chiles anchos rellenos de puntitas de res:

To rehydrate the Anchos:
2/3 cup Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup piloncillo or jaggery or 3 tbsp brown sugar + 2 tbsp molasses
8 Large Ancho chiles, dry but pliable

For the filling
1/3 cup of soft goat cheese
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1.5 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin ( I substituted with TVP made from Soy. You could also use Rice- Brown or white - Works out to about 2 cups-cooked)
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems removed chopped
1 large white onion finely chopped
2 medium jalapenos, chopped finely
11/2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2.5 tsp dried oregano crumbled
salt to taste
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

6 medium tomatoes roasted in an oven at 400 degree F for 10 minutes( if you find yellow tomatoes use them for a beautiful color contrast)
1 habanero chile
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (11/3cups)small white onion finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Blend all the sauce ingredients except the onion. Take some oil in a saucepan and heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the blended sauce and cook the blended sauce until it thickens. The Author recommends 40 minutes, I did not have the patience and I used a thinner tomato sauce, tasted just great.


First, Rehydrate the Anchos: Take six Dried Anchos in a Large bowl. Combine 4 cups water with the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, Stirring until the piloncillo is dissolved. Add the water to the Anchos. Put a heavy weight on top of the Anchos so that they are submerged. Soak for about an hour until they are soft. Drain. Carefully make a slit on one side and remove most of the seeds. Make sure the stem does not fall off and try not to tear the chile.

Prepare the filling: In a pan with add the oil, add the cumin, onions, rice or tvp, jalapenos, garlic, oregano, salt and mushrooms and saute until the onions are cooked and the mushrooms are lightly browned and all the water from the mushrooms have evaporated.

When cooked add the goat cheese and cilantro.

Stuff each chile carefully. This mixture should fill around 6 Anchos. The extra anchos are in case any chile tears or does not become soft.

Place the chiles in a baking dish, add the tomato sauce to upto half way up the chiles. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degree F.

From Recipes from Regional cooks of Mexico Diana Kennedy
1. Chiles Rellenos con Calabacitas Chiles stuffed with Zucchini
2. Chiles Rellenos de Elote con Crema Chiles tuffed with corn and cream
From The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
3. Chiles stuffed with Cheese
4. Ancho Chiles stuffed with Potato and Chorizo
From Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless
5. Pan fried Chiles Rellenos with sauce and without
6. Black Bean Chiles Rellenos
From Cocina dela Familia by Marilyn Tausend
7. Chiles en Nogada Stuffed Chiles wih Walnut Sauce
8. Chile Rellenos de Fiesta Unstuffed Stuffed Chiles
From Elise of Simply Recipes
9. Chiles En Nogada
10. Chile Relleno Casserole


Growing Amaranth/Mulaikeerai

Two pictures of my baby kutti Amaranths grown from Organic Rajgira seeds

Now, plants hate me because I usually approach them with love and affection but eventually kill them off! It is not neglect, I take care of them, but they still die on me. Whats a girl to do? I have been eyeing the lovely Amaranth recipes Indira has at Mahanandi for a while now. We donot get Amaranth leaves in our local farmers market.So finally I decided to grow these in a pot on my windowsill.

My mother in law sent me a copy of the English edition of the famous Tamil cookbook Samaithu paar, which had an, "Amaranth kootu/ Mulaikeerai recipe"- This is when I realised that Mulaikeerai is an Amaranth. My mom grew up having Molakeerai or Araikeerai Kootu everyday of the week - Both of which turned out to be Amaranths. Yay! Growing Amaranth myself now brought me closer to my moms roots too- an unexpected bonus.

Did you know that amaranth is over 4000 years old? Or that it was found at a Harappan site(Surkotada, Kutch: Gujarat)? I did not!

KT Achaya's Indian Food, a Historical Companion is the first book that my husband H. bought me from the Oxford University Press. It is not a work you read from cover to cover because of its serious academic tone, but whenever I dip into it - I come away with fascinating historical insights into Indian food.

Some other fascinating tidbits about amaranth from this book:
Amaranth is a genus with many different species. The most common amaranth grain variety in India is A. hybridus. It is also called ramdhana, chua, bathua , pungikeerai or thotakura in India. Rajgeera itself comes from the variant A. hybridus subsp. cruentus whose leaves are eaten as chaulai, mathbhaji or pungikeerai.

The third species A. caudatus is an ornamental garden plant also called love lies bleedng, and it was originally brought in from South America. The Picture on the left is of Love lies Bleeding and is from Britannica. I seem to remember this plant lurking in the gardens of my childhood.

Three other Amaranthus species are found in India, with Sanskrit names and probably of Indian origin.
A. Spinosus, in Sanskrit Alpamarisha, in Hindi Kantachaula and in Tamil Mulaikeerai.
A. Tricolor, in Sanskrit Marisha, makanada or tanduliya, Hindi Chaulai and Tamil Araikerai or thandukeerai.
A. Viridis , in Sanskrit tanduliya or vishnaga and in Tamil kuppukeerai or sinnakeerai.

These three are also called Malabar Spinach, Chinese Spinach & Tampala ( Generic Sri Lankan Name)respectively in the Western World.

Amaranths are also very nutritious, more about that in another post. Also Recipes for amaranth coming up in future posts. I cannot wait for my little, kutti plants to grow up - when I can finally try out the Amaranth recipes Indira has!


Ghau na fada ne Dudhi na Muthia

Muthias are a much blogged about Gujarati snack / light meal. I am a gujju @ heart so I love Muthias- they are steamed , they have a good proportion of veggies to carbs, they are tasty!In this version, my mom uses Ghau na fada or cracked wheat, which is different from other recipes in the blogosphere. Cracked wheat is less processed than flour and provides some bite,texture and fibre to this recipe.

The only thing you have to be careful in this recipe is the proportion of Cracked wheat to veggies. Too much and your muthias will be very very hard.

2 cups grated dudhi or bottlegourd
1 cups cracked wheat or ghau na fada
1/2 cup Besan or Kadala maavu
3 cloves of garlic(large)
1 green chilli

For the seasoning:
1 tsp mustard
pinch asofoetida
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
Coriander Leaves
Grate the Bottlegourd. Add a tsp of salt and leave it alone for ten to fifteen minutes. Water will leech out of the Dudhi. Now add the Besan, Ghau na fada or cracked wheat, Garlic, Green chilli and salt if needed. Now shape into a log and steam for fifteen minutes as shown in the picture.

Open the steamer vessel and let the Muthias cool down for another fifteen minutes. If you try to cut them while hot ,they will break.

Add oil to a wide and shallow vessel. When hot, add the mustard. After the mustard pops, add the sesame seeds, muthia, red chilli powder and turmeric in that order. Saute for two to three minutes or until the turmeric does not smell raw.

Turn off the heat and add the salt, sugar, lemon juice and coriander leaves.

You could also try a Muthia Recipe from other Blogs:
1. Jugalbandis Mystery Veggie Muthia
2. Kajals Dudhi na Muthia
3. Mansi's Palak and Dudhi Muthia
4. Meeras Microwave Muthia
5. Coffee Mixed Vegetable Muthias


Mexican Series #8: Quesadilla Education

Quesadillas are everywhere simply because they are comfort food like grilled cheese sandwiches. But they have several names- quesadillas, empanadas, molotes, tlacoyos etc according to Rick Bayless. What do quesadillas and empanadas have in common? I decided to do some digging.

The two authors I ran into in my exploration of Mexican food via books were Diana Kennedy- an older, pioneer woman in the documenting of Mexican cuisine and Rick Bayless - a contemporary chef who runs the Frontera grill in Chicago.

Diana Kennedy is strict about what a quesadilla is, " a corn masa turnover doubled over a filling of oaxaca cheese, a strip of poblano chile and some epazote leaves". Wait a minute CORN MASA ? Not even a cooked tortilla? If you make a quesadilla according to Diana Kennedy, as I did, it looks something like the picture below.

The more common quesadilla Ive seen so far is like the one below, two tortillas sandwiched over some filling. This is more accurately called a quesadilla synchonizada- so called because of the two synchronized tortillas on top of each other.

What are empanadas then? Rick Bayless suggests that an empanada is a wheat flour turnover / samosa with typically meat fillings. I will be posting empanada recipes soon.

To sum up,
For the quesadilla, roll out some corn masa like in the picture, keep some stuffing in the middle , fold and cut in a half moon shape. Deep fry or fry on a non stick skillet. The crisp exterior gives way to soft and melty corn dough and then to melty cheese. Yumm!

How to mix corn masa/ Lime processed corn flour? Refer to my previous post on corn tortillas

For the Quesadilla synchronizada, Place a tortilla - either corn or flour, on top of your skillet on medium heat. Top with about a tablespoon of filling - smooth out. Add as much cheese as you like - Domestic Sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, Muenster or if you have access to Mexican cheeses, Oaxaca string cheese and chihuahua . Top with another tortilla and toast on both sides until crisp and the cheese is completely melted.

You can also optionally grill the quesadilla synchronizadas. One good tip is to top the quesadillas with some sal limon, that is lemon salt with paprika just before you take the quesadilla off the skillet. Easily available in mexican markets it gives a tangy sour patch type of finish which kids are sure to love.

For the filling you could use simple and delicious cheese or my recipes from previous posts on Mexican Stewed Mushrooms ( Hongos Guisados) or Mexican Swiss chard and Potatoes(Acelgas Guisadas).

Another filling for quesadillas/ empanadas/ Burritos that Ive come up with is

Makes enough for four quesadillas
2 roasted Red peppers( beautiful post from jugalbandi on how to roast red peppers)
1/2 a medium onion
1 chipotle pepper or to taste in adobo sauce
1 tsp mexican oregano
salt to taste

Saute onions until soft and translucent, add the rest of the ingredients and saute for a minute more until the flavors are blended. Cool and use as filling. This is really delicious even if I say it myself!