No Fuss Spicy Tomato Rasam

Tangy Tomato Rasam

Tangy Tomato Rasam

She lies squinting in the afternoon sun. Looking up at the blazing ball of fire, she defies the curly strand resolutely falling her way. She wonders if hell was right in the middle of the sun. Would she go? Go to hell, that is. Umm.. she has her chances. Spilling milk, tearing pages off a school book or rather any book and stuffing ones mouth with heapfull of sugar does make one go straight to hell. For sure, thought she.
But then like how it is with most six-year olds, her thoughts jump from dreary to the quixotic in no time, wondering if the sun is made of honey or lime or both. The dreamy spell is broken by shrill cries of mother. Lengths of the roof covered in leaps and bounds, spirals of stairs run in twos and threes, the little girl runs blind, her curls flying behind her like a short cape. Huffs and pants, she stands erect and stares straight. A little sentinel to attention.

Flavored with garlic

Flavored with garlic

Mother hid a smile. She knew she was being appeased. Propitiated for those tight hugs and extra kisses, and for those moments when the curls would be delicately touched and taken behind a ear only to fall right back into an eye. For those special moments mother was being assuaged. Mother knew it. And she knew she knew it.

Well today no matter what, lunch will be eaten in peace sans objections, sans tantrums and grimaces, clever mother put out a plate which would have been shunned on any other day. But not today. Not after a morning of mess and shenanigans. And the little sentinel ate silently. The one with the largest sweet tooth, the stuffer of anything saccharine, sugar stealer, ingenious chocolate hider. That one, battled her candied tongue and slurped spicy tangy tomato rasam that day. Quietly. Obediently. Fully unaware that her runny nose needed all that pepper and spice. I know now for sure, coz she is me.

Choose fat, ripe and juicy ones

Choose fat, ripe and juicy ones

Cut to present day. And I war with my seven-year old to stop slurping the tangy South Indian soup. It has pepper and garlic and red chiles and its hot and medicinal. I mean, she is supposed to dislike it. All kids do. But here is mine. Sprawled on the floor, demanding more ghee and more rasam in her bowl of soft white rice. It’s close to eight years now, and I still stare at my girl in disbelief. She is so unlike me. Gone on the father, I mutter. Both have an unbelievable palette for spicy tangy tart stuff.

white rice is the best

white rice is the best

Saccharine love has diminished over the years, and rasam which was once gulped like venin, is now savoured with abundant paraphernalia.

Rasam is a South Indian tangy drink usually served with rice and other interesting sides. And if you are ever caught nursing a bad cold or a sore throat then this peppery drink will surely be guzzled down your food pipe… hot 😉

Lentils, lemon, beets are used to make a variety of rasam. But the most common and easiest and popular one is the tomato rasam. The method I use is handed over to me by my brother in laws wife, and it has never been easier to make it since. One of my most favourite ways lately.

that very essential dollop of ghee!

that very essential dollop of ghee!

Make sure you have a potful of hot boiled rice, white or brown. Some ghee to serve. And I usually accompany the meal with some vegetable side like the one shown below. A cabbage carrot beans melange. Dry sauté with a tempering of curry leaves, green chilies and garnished with grated coconut and cilantro.

keep it light and simple

keep it light and simple

I have no idea about the science behind this, but I am making this statement – Food, especially, Indian Food tastes better when you eat with your hands. Its more intimate, more comforting. I can’t explain. It just is. So try it. Learning to use chopsticks was hard?! try scooping off watery rasam from a flat plate with your fingers. That’s art too.

Tastes better when you dip your fingers in the bowl

Tastes better when you dip your fingers in the bowl

The Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 5-6 red ripe tomatoes, washed and chopped.
  • 1/2 tbsp of ghee
  • 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaf
  • 1 whole dried red chili
  • 1 small onion or few baby onions/shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp red chili powder or as per your taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, grated – optional.
  • coriander leaves to garnish.

Method

In a thick bottomed pan, heat ghee. Splutter mustard seeds. sauté red chili, curry leaves and sliced onions till pink. Throw in chopped tomatoes along with salt, turmeric and red chili powder. cover and cook till the tomatoes become mushy and fat leaves the sides. Approx 10 minutes. Once that is done, add 1 glassful of water. Give it a boil. Grate garlic and sprinkle pepper powder – give it another boil. Switch the flame off, mix in juice of 1/2 a lime and garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve hot!

Life's good

Life’s good

Note: Quantity of water can be increased or decreased according to the consistency you prefer. I like mine thin and runny, so I usually add more than a glassful.

Note: Tamarind, boiled lentils, rasam powder are all variations. You can try different types by adding these accordingly.

Note: For those who do not like to use onion and garlic, you can skip both, and flavour the soup with a bit of asofoetida or hing.

Eat it hot!

Eat it hot!

Its been one amazing year for Angie and her wonderful co hosts who throw this weekly visual potluck parties. So we are all celebrating! Thanks to the growing popularity and contribution to the event, the celebrations are extended for a two week program. Though I was unable to contribute to the last week’s appetiser and drink event, I make it up with another main course! So please run over to Angie’s First-Fiesta-Friday Anniversary and check out the various mouth watering link ups.

Buddha’s Feast

What Buddha would eat

What Buddha would eat?? Its all in a name

Someone and someone were debating. Vociferously. The avid listener in me yawned after 10 minutes of the bickering. The argument deviated from the original intent to a lesser one in no time. I was interested till the dispute inflamed my mind and made me think. But when it turned into a vegetarian-vs-non-vegetarian tone, I zoned out.

Brown rice feast

Brown rice feast

It started in innocence. What did God eat? Satvik someone piped. To become God, one has to feed the mind pure essential natural energy giving food, he reasoned. But Shiva ate meat, smoked the chillum and drank fermented nectar and he is God – another interjected. Sigh.

See, when you put religion, food and God, you’re bound to set some fireworks off. The main issue was never addressed and it all spiralled down to what-I-eat-is-better-than-what-you-eat.

Use fresh veggies for better flavour

Use fresh veggies for better flavour

So naturally, when I chance upon Buddha’s Feast on a menu card, I am left intrigued 🙂 The dish was as delightful and delicious as anyone would want their meal to be. So in lure of replicating it at home, I do what I always do. Google 😀

Well this is what I get – clean fresh pure vegetables in a simple slightly thick sauce, flavoured mildly with soy and chillies, ideally served with brown rice or whole grain noodles.

Add a protein

Add a protein

The Recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups of diced vegetables, like broccoli, bok choy, carrots, beans, mushrooms, baby corn water chestnuts etc
1/4 cup firm tofu or paneer, diced.
1/4 cup diced peppers
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 big onion, diced
1 cup Vegetable Stock
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chile paste
1 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste and pepper powder
Cooked brown rice, for serving

Method

Parboil broccoli, baby corn, beans and water chestnuts. Keep aside.
In a skillet, heat oil, sauté minced garlic and diced onions till they turn pink. Now add peppers, boo chou, carrot and mushrooms. Sprinkle a bit of salt. Saute till 3/4th done. Now add the parboiled vegetables and tofu. Toss.
In a small bowl, whisk together stock, soy sauce, cornstarch, mirin, and chile paste. Place 1/2 cup mixture in a small bowl.
Add this sauce to the sautéed veggies, cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper powder. Serve immediately.

Make a potful

Make a potful

Note: You can add marinated paneer or tofu is desired. Immerse the tofu in soy sauce and chili paste mixture for 30 minutes and then use as required.

Note: Add/Remove any vegetable of your choice.

Note: Adapted from here : http://www.marthastewart.com/316528/buddhas-feast-vegetable-stir-fry

For cold wintery nights

For cold wintery nights

A bowl full of this fresh stir fry vegetables and greens leaves you feeling calm, clean, light and satiated. So yea, I guess Buddha would eat this too 🙂 But what’s in a name anyway, make this to health and for that feel good factor.

Its been one amazing year for Angie and her wonderful co hosts who throw this weekly visual potluck parties. So we are all celebrating! Thanks to the growing popularity and contribution to the event, the celebrations are extended for a two week program. Though I was unable to contribute to the last week’s appetiser and drink event, I make it up with this main course! So please run over to Angie’s First-Fiesta-Friday Anniversary and check out the various mouth watering link ups.

Tricolored Baked Rice Casserole

Representing the Indian Flag

Representing the Indian Flag

“Are you ever going to post the tricolour rice or no?”, She seemed nettled.
“Er.. but it’s so late, I could tell you now, on the phone” I sputtered.
“No, no time! Put it up and I will catch it in between work’ And she bangs the phone.

My sister – younger, smarter and definitely more headstrong than I have ever been, always gets her work done, somehow! No one says no to her, she makes sure of that. She thinks its her tenacious personality that gets it done when in real we do what she says because we love her. But we let her think otherwise ;).

Indian Independence Day was on August 15th. And I am 12 days late. But like the sister exhorts – Tis better to be late than not post at all. So I put this up now. For one, because she badgered me for a detailed recipe. And for the fact that this one is worth posting!

Creamy healthy and totally delicious

Creamy healthy and totally delicious

So like how it happens every morning of 15th August, we were getting ready for our National Flag hoisting. The child was excited. More so, because she was going to sing a very patriotic song. She had been rehearsing for the past 10 days and had held captive any audience she could find to practise her crooning.

'Aao Bacho Tumhe Dikhaayen'

‘Aao Bacho Tumhe Dikhaayen’

In between adjusting a tricolour sash, combing her hair, sticking various tricolored pictures on her skirt, she spoke persistently and tirelessly. Of matters mundane and routine. And then suddenly she squealed in delight, turned to me and said.. why don’t you make some lunch which is tricolour. I will call Saancha and Sanjana and you can take pictures too for your blog. Now, the picture bit was her act of luring me to make something fancy.

Our lunch was patriotic indeed but in return I got her to get rid of all the gaudy stickers she piled on her skirt 😉

Yumm

Yumm

Rice enveloped in creamy white sauce, dotted with carrot and beans, topped with an orange tomato marinara and a spicy spinach coriander puree, and finished with soft cheese – whats not to like in this! It is creamy soft pillowy flavourful and a delight in every bite. Worth a try, anytime!

Enjoy it with some fresh baked bread

Enjoy it with some fresh baked bread

The recipe –

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice, boiled al dente. Brown Rice works beautifully, but I was going tricolour remember, so I chose to stick to white.
  • 1/2 cup minced carrot-beans and a few peas
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • green chill sauce – optional.
  • 4 tbsp grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • For the Orange Marinara: 3 medium-sized tomatoes, blanched whole in hot water. 5/6 pods of garlic, 3 whole red chilies or kashmiri red chilies, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp oregano. 1 tsp olive oil.

    For the Spinach Puree: 1 big bunch of spinach leaves, washed-blanched. 3 green chilies, a tiny piece of ginger, a pinch of sugar and salt.

    Method

    For the Rice:
    Heat butter in a wok, stir fry the vegetables till almost done. Add flour. Saute it as it coats the veggies. Pour milk, mix till the milk thickens. Add boiled rice, salt, pepper, green chill sauce if using. The white sauce will envelope the rice.This taste good as it is!

    For the Spinach Puree:
    Grind blanched spinach, along with salt, sugar, green chilies and ginger till smooth. You can adjust the quantity of the green chilies according to your taste. Keep aside.

    For the Orange Marinara:
    In a wok, heat oil, sauté garlic and red chilli. Add coarsely smashed blanched tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Cook covered on low heat till oil leaves sides. cool the mixture and grind to a fine orange paste. This marinara can be stored in the refrigerator for 3/4 days and is used as pizza toppings or in pastas/noodles or rice.

    Assembling:

    In a butter greased baking dish or casserole, make alternate layers of marinara, rice and spinach puree. Finally garnish with grated cheese. Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes or till the cheese melts and golden dots appear.

    Note: I didn’t do the traditional layering coz I wanted the tricolour pattern, I lay the rice and then poured the sauces to replicate the Indian National Flag.

    flavors all

    flavors all

    Ludicrous interpretation of the colours made me go wide-eyed with shock though amidst peals of incessant laughter. The girls all had appalling insight on this subject! The sublimity of the beautiful colours on our flag was then preached and lectured while their plates were licked clean!

    Courage, Peace and Prosperity

    Courage, Peace and Prosperity

    I am taking this to Angie’s 31st Friday Fiesta! Do pop over to see some delicious recipes!

    Thai Spiced Vegetable Brown Rice

    Thai Spiced Brown Rice with exotic vegetables

    Thai Spiced Brown Rice with exotic vegetables

    Its been quite sometime now since I started brown rice. And let me tell you the transfer has not been easy. Those who are used to eating soft white rice dotted with pure ghee will tell you why.

    Perfectly steamed gorgeously white rice is what it is because of what it is. Brown rice pales in front of it, literally. But I am girl on a mission. Mission to curb my growing waistline and lose some serious weight. So naturally I shun the shiny rice and ghee. Adopt the brown version and…my dal rice has never tasted the same again.

    I have to add paneer ;)

    I have to add paneer 😉

    I had to love what I embraced or I would be running back to my ex. So began my tryst with the healthier grain. Looking for ways to improvise it, I have tried innumerable options.
    Sautéing mushrooms and zucchini in some thai red curry paste and throwing in brown rice, seemed like a bit of an experiment. But what an attempt! That bowl was supposedly my lunch, but he and she took great big bites and kept asking for more. Now that’s a good way to rate my dishes, don’t you think?

    Something to drink with

    Something to drink with

    The recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup brown rice, cooked.
    • 1 medium sized onion, sliced thinly
    • 3 tbsp red curry paste
    • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
    • 1/2 tsp vinegar
    • 3/4 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced thinly
    • 1/4 cup zucchini, sliced thinly
    • 3 tbsp paneer small cubed
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 2 tsp olive oil or any oil you wish
    • basil leaves and coriander leaves to garnish

    Method

    In a large skillet, heat oil. Saute garlic and onions till pink. Mix in the red curry paste. Fry till oil leaves the sides. Throw in the mushrooms and zucchini. Cover and cook till almost done. Mix in the brown rice along with soy and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Garnish with cubed paneer, basil and cilantro leaves.

    Best with something cold to sip on.

    Simple and delicious

    Simple and delicious

    Note: Use any vegetable you like, carrots, broccoli, beans ..

    Note: Instead of paneer, boiled soy Nutrela nuggets taste great.

    Note: Adjust the quantity of red curry paste according to the heat you can take.

    Note: Boiling brown rice has been a continuous trial and error process with me. One of the recent methods and almost close to getting perfectly cooked rice is to soak the rice well for at least 2 hours, and then cook in a large pot of salted boiling water. Once the rice is cooked, strain the excess water and use.

    High on heat

    High on heat

    If you have any more ideas to deal with brown rice, please holler. I am listening.

    This is my entry to Angie’s Friday Fiesta #25. Sneak in to see some gorgeous recipes here. You will thank me for sure.

    Thai Green Curry

    Thai Green Curry on a bed of white rice

    Thai Green Curry on a bed of white rice

    I was going away on a holiday. Produce in the refrigerator waited to be used or trashed. Buying all the good stuff a couple of days before I go away is plain stupid of me.
    See, but this is what happens. I go grocery shopping thinking I will just pick up the most essential things, but then the colorful fresh vegetables gleam and glare and I end up losing myself and my money. I had very little time to use them all up. Phew!

    Well, to cut a long story short. A box full of broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, baby corn and carrots needed to used – asap. Grilled vegetable salad were a passe. I craved for a spicy broth with them. So what better than a spicy curry laced with coconut milk and lemon grass. Yes, to finish off the vegetables I had to go buy some coconut milk and lemon grass 🙂 Thai Curry was on the cards.

    Fragrant Green curry

    Fragrant Green curry

    I made a green paste with easily available ingredients. Skipped galangal, used Indian green chilies, omitted the fish and shrimp sauces. And yes, it still tastes simply marvelous!
    Now, lemon grass and lemon rind are essential ingredients. You cannot go thai without them.

    Ingredients for the paste

    Ingredients for the paste

    Lemon grass is fragrant and is used as an addition to tea, and in preparations such as kadha, which is a traditional herbal ‘soup’ given in coughs, colds, etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. Helps in relieving cough and nasal congestion.

    Thai Green Curry Paste:

    Thai Green Curry Paste

    Thai Green Curry Paste

    Ingredients

    • 5-6 finely chopped lemon grass stem
    • 1 cup chopped coriander leaves
    • 1/4 cup chopped onions
    • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
    • 10 green chillies , roughly chopped
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
    • a small piece of ginger
    • salt to taste
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 1/4 tsp grated lemon rind

    Method

    Combine all the ingredients and blend in a mixer to a fine paste, using just enough water. Keep aside.

    Thai Green Curry with Vegetables

    Loaded with vegetables

    Loaded with vegetables

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup green curry paste
    • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 10-12 paneer/cottage cheese cubes
    • 1 and 1/2 cups of diced assorted vegetables – broccoli, baby corn, mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots
    • 1 onion, diced
    • a pinch of sugar
    • 8/10 leaves of basil, torn or chopped
    • salt to taste

    Method

    Heat the oil in a pot, add onions and the green curry paste and sauté on a medium flame for 1 minute. Add all the vegetables except paneer, sprinkle salt. Cover and let it cook till 3/4th done. Add the coconut milk, mix well and cook on a medium flame for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle sugar and salt, mix well and cook on a medium flame a minute or two. Mix in the diced paneer cubes. Top with torn basil leaves.

    Serve hot. You could serve the curry with rice or noodles or slurp it up like a spicy soup too.

    Note: Basil imparts a lovely flavor and fragrance to the curry. I didn’t have nay that day but top it on your curry and see the difference! Magical is the word.

    Spicy, yet mildly soothing

    Spicy, yet mildly soothing

    Serve on a bed of hot steaming white rice or some boiled noodles –

    A bowl of happiness

    A bowl of happiness

    Appams and Vegetable Stew

    My eyes widened with surprise. ‘They have an english name?! Really? Oh wow’.
    Hoppers, he said.
    ‘Hoppers? So funny’, I was skeptical. He didn’t bother to elaborate and I googled an hour later 🙂

    Lacy Hoppers is the anglicized name given to these lacy soft delicious pancakes made with rice and coconut milk. A speciality of a state tucked away in the south west corner of India. Kerala.

    Vegetable Stew and Appams, a Kerala Speciality

    Vegetable Stew and Appams, a Kerala Speciality

    Kerala, commonly referred to as ‘God’s own Country’ is dotted with majestic hills, serene backwaters and palm fringed beaches. Along with its incredible beauty, highest literacy in a state, the place boasts of many gastronomical surprises. Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry and red meat. Since coconuts grow in abundance, the keralites use them in and on everything. Literally.

    Creamy coconut gravy

    Creamy coconut gravy

    A thin vegetable stew simmered in coconut milk, flavored with whole spices like cinnamon and bay leaf and garnished with a tempering of curry leaves. Sounds good? Yes, even better with soft lacy pancakes. I used to make them so often earlier. And then in between I just stopped. I don’t know why. Maybe we got bored and then I simply forgot about them. Well, the husband reminded me and out came the aching desire to eat these hoppers with a runny stew.

    Appams are bowl-shaped thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour. They take their shape from the small Appachatti in which they are cooked. They are fairly neutral in taste and mostly served with some spicy condiment or curry. These hoppers are made from a batter using rice, yeast, salt and a little sugar. After the mixture has stood for a couple of hours, it can be fried in the appachatti with a little oil. It is mostly served with Kadala (Chickpea) curry, mutton or vegetable stew or egg roast.

    PLAIN HOPPERS/AAPPAMS

    In an appam chatti

    In an appa chatti

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup uncooked rice, soaked. I used normal kolam rice.
    • 1 cup cooked rice
    • 1/4 cup fresh coconut pieces
    • coconut water to grind, optional.
    • salt to taste
    • 1/4 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • little oil to make the appams.

    Method

    Soak the rice for at least 3/4 hours. Grind the soaked rice, cooked rice and coconut using coconut water to a smooth paste. Add salt and sugar. Let it stand for at least 6 hours.

    Before using the batter, add baking soda. Mix well. Now heat an appa chatti or a you can use any non stick small wok. Add just nne drop of oil to ensure that the batter doesn’t stick. Now drop a ladlefull of batter. Pick up the appa chatti in your hands, twirl it, so that the batter forms a lace around the middle portion. Place back on flame, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or till the sides start to leave the pan.

    Serve with any curry, or stew or any non vegetarian curry of your choice.

    Note: The batter though fermented is not one bit sour. Maybe because of the natural mild sweetness from the coconuts and the addition of 1/4 tsp of sugar.

    Thin soft delicious

    Soft Lacy Delicious

    VEGETABLE STEW

    Simple flavorful curry

    Simple flavorful curry

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup assorted vegetables, I used carrots, beans, cauliflower, potatoes, peas and capsicum – chopped.
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 tsp ginger garlic, minced
    • 3/4 green chilies, minced – optional
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1 big bay leaf
    • 2 cardamoms
    • 4-5 pods of black pepper
    • 1 stick cinnamon
    • 2 cloves
    • 2 cups coconut milk, I used store brought.
    • Tempering: 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and few sprigs of curry leaves.

    Method

    In a pot, heat coconut oil. Saute the whole spices till fragrant. Now add the ginger garlic, green chilies and onions. Saute till they just turn pink. Add all the chopped vegetables, along with salt. Pour half the coconut milk along with 1/4 cup water. Mix, cover and let it simmer till the vegetables are almost done.

    Now stir in the rest of the coconut milk and let it boil for a minute or two. Make a tempering of oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour over the stew.

    Serve hot with appams or plain rice or dosas.

    Note: Since coconut milk is used generously, the stew needs to be spiced in order to be enjoyed with lacy appams. So I would suggest up the heat from the green chilies and peppers according to your taste.

    Add any vegetable of your choice

    Add any vegetable of your choice

    Vegetarian Chili

    It was a cloudy cold evening, the sun ready to bid us adieu. Outside the breeze was crisp and biting. The White Plains country side offered such majestic views that I for once sat awestruck and tongue tied throughout the drive. It was my first visit in the US. You know how it is with the firsts. We always remember those moments vividly. What is it about them that makes it so special… is it the visuals? Or maybe the setting sun or those beautiful stone imperial houses which carry a sense of mystery around them. The triggers are many. But for me, one thing that remains etched in my memory is the aroma. The divine cumin flavored fragrance which was so intriguing that it haunts me even now.

    Vegetarian Chili with brown rice

    Vegetarian Chili with brown rice

    We were invited by his boss for dinner. I was to meet them for the first time. And I was anxious, not to forget vegetarian and exotic in my cuisine, 10 years back, included just chinese and pizza-burgers. I ate a bit before we left fearing that what would a firangi feed? Maybe canned food or some frozen pizza.

    Well, we reach his august house, set in the outskirts of White Plains, NY. Dreading an anxious evening ahead, I was at my reserved best. I had decided to speak little, smile more and hardly eat.
    Ah! well, preconceived notions about a culture or a country can be so misleading! It isn’t really what Hollywood or those silly sitcoms show you – realized it pretty soon.

    The Spens family turned to be the most gracious hosts, ever! They greet us like they have known us all their lives, the man’s formidable appearance gets shadowed by his bear hug, the lovely delicate wife’s soft warm hands envelope mine in simple affection. The kids are so well mannered and amiable that I vowed to trash all my prized albeit deceitful DVDs. The house inside is warm, cosy and so inviting, a contrast to the august exteriors. The genial ambience made me chatty and smiley more than what I had planned! 🙂

    Protein Packed

    Protein Packed

    Inside on the stove, sat a simmering pot. A pot which emanated such amazing whiffs of cumin and spices and tomatoes and garlic. The entire house radiated with its essences. Apparently Mr Spens is the cook in the family. And that night, he made us a bubbling pot of Mexican Chili, a vegetarian version of the famous Chili Con Carne. Chili is a spicy stew consisting of meat, spices, tomatoes and cheese. But te vegetarian version replaces the meat with a meat analogue, such as textured vegetable protein or tofu, or a starchy vegetable, such as potatoes. These chilis nearly always include beans.

    Goes great with rice

    Goes great with rice

    The Recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans or rajma
    • 1 cup assorted vegetables, zucchini, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, chopped
    • 1/2 cup tofu – optional
    • 1/4 cup, mixed bell peppers, chopped
    • 1 big onion, chopped
    • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3-4 green chilies, minced – optional
    • 2 tomatoes, red and ripe, chopped
    • 1 cup tomato puree
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp paprika or red chily powder
    • 1 tsp cumin powder
    • 1 tsp oregano powder
    • red chili flakes, optional
    • salt to taste
    • Cheese to garnish
    • Coriander leaves to garnish

    Method

    In a deep thick bottomed pot, heat oil. Saute onions, garlic and green chilies. Once slightly pink, then add the peppers. After a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes, along with some salt. Cover and cook till almost done. This will take about 10 minutes. At this stage add the chopped vegetables and pre cooked beans. Give it a mix. Add the tomato puree, along with paprika. Mix well and let the entire thing smolder for at least 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring in between to avoid burning.

    Season with cumin and oregano. Just before serving, garnish with cheese and chopped coriander leaves.

    Serve hot with rice or enjoy as it is.

    Rajma with vegetables

    Rajma with vegetables

    “Simmer… simmer as long as you can.. thats what brings out the flavors of the spices..”, he advices. He served the delicacy with basmati rice and some red wine. Needless to say, our dinner was divine.

    Memories

    Memories

    No matter how long I bubble, the spices I add or the beans I cook, I somehow fail to replicate the taste of the that night. Is it because it was my first, I wonder.

    Spicy Sesame Orange Vegetables, Chinese Style

    It’s the middle of a busy week. Middle of yet another usual routine day and it is unusually quiet. Lethargy reigns the room. She sits beside me doing her homework, while I struggle to stay alert to answer her random queries which usually require superlative performance by my lackadaisical intellect. Then all of a sudden I just wanna let go. I shut the books, my abstractive answers and my mind and simply let go. I fall asleep.

    The 20 minute power nap did it. It nudged my languorous senses and my long forgotten inactive taste buds to work. A little bit of sweet, a little bit of tang, a whole lot of spice and a slight crunch of vegetables… mmmm. Oh God! Have I started dreaming of food now?!
    Now, that I will never be able to really tell, the only thing huge and apparent was my sudden irresistible urge to eat Chinese. Sigh…

    With a wonderful recipe tucked away, patiently waiting to be tried and tested, I decided to satiate my scrumptious cravings. Vegetables coated in a spicy sweet tangy sesame orange sauce along with some burnt garlic fried rice was on the cards.

    Spicy Sesame Orange Vegetables, made Chinese Style

    Spicy Sesame Orange Vegetables, made Chinese Style

    Burnt garlic fried rice is a fool proof dish that has never failed me till date. You can add any minced veggies of your choice, but a whole lot of garlic is mandatory. Since I like pretty lookin food, along with onion greens I decided to throw in minced red peppers. So the red and green beautifully compliment the white, and tiny minuscule dust of pepper powder adds the finishing touch!

    Simple, flavorful and so light!

    Simple, flavorful and so light!

    Dinner that night –

    Perfect meal

    Perfect meal

    The surprise ingredient: An orange. Its milder and sweeter than a lemon, which adds such amazing depth to the sauce, you will be stunned.

    Sweet and sour

    Sweet and sour

    The recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 cup vegetables, like broccoli, babycorn, colored peppers, mushrooms.. whatever you fancy
    • 1 big onion, diced
    • 2 tsp minced garlic
    • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
    • 2 tbsp warm water
    • 2 tsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp rice vinegar
    • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
    • 1 tsp red chili flakes or as desired
    • 1+ Tbsp Chings Schezuan Chutney or Asian Hot Chili paste or 2 tsp of Sriracha
    • Zest of 1 small orange
    • Juice of 1 orange (1/3+ cup)
    • salt to taste
    • 1 tbsp chopped spring onion greens to garnish.

    Method

    In a bowl, add cornstarch, water, soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, red chili flakes, sriracha and orange juice and zest. Whisk everything. Keep aside.

    Now heat oil in a wok, saute garlic and onions till the onions turn pink. Now add peppers and veggies along with salt. Stir fry till 3/4th done. You want a bit of crunch in your vegetables not a soggy mass. To this vegetable mix, stir in your sauce. Keep mixing till you get a boil and the sauce turns translucent and glossy. Stir in more water or orange juice if very thick. Check the seasoning. Add extra honey or salt if required. Garnish with spring onion greens and toasted sesame seeds.

    Best when served warm.

    Maple syrup and orange juice add so much flavor and texture

    Maple syrup and orange juice add so much flavor and texture

    Note: Sesame oil produces the best results, but you can make this with regular oil too.

    Note: the original recipe calls for asian hot sauce or sriracha sauce, since I did not have any I used Chings Schezwan chutney(easily available in super markets). It worked very well.

    Tempting Bite

    Tempting Bite

    Note: This sauce works very well with only tofu or paneer or mushrooms.

    Note: Simple plain sticky white rice and this aromatic vegetable seals your dinner deal. 🙂

    My favorite food

    My favorite food

    Well.. here I wake up dreaming of food in the middle of day and incorrigible hunger does nothing but fire my will to satisfy my random food fancies. Now does it happen to you too?

    Mexican Red Rice and a Burrito

    Mexican Red Bean and Corn Rice

    Mexican Red Bean and Corn Rice

    Mexican Rice is basically white rice simmered in a tangy tomato gravy – I lectured to my rapt mother. It’s a different feeling when you are educating someone who has actually tutored you all their life. The scene was no different from my 6-year-old playing teacher-teacher with me. Well.

    ‘Ah! Tomato bhaath’, mom said. I took a deep breath, ‘yes, tomato bhaath made a little differently’. Mom likes to relate anything she eats for the first time to something that she is familiar with. She does that a lot! For instance, Mexican chili is nothing but rajma rice with lot of vegetables for her or all our fancy dips are chutneys or Thai green curry is Kerala stew! But my almost 60 year old mum is game to new cuisines with such an infectious zest that she usually leaves you smiling and wondering what else could she come up with. 🙂
    Sweet mother of mine!

    I used corn and beans in my rice, topped with jalapeno and cheese.. umm yum! Wait, there is more. Layering with guacamole, fresh veggie salsa and loads of rice on soft tortillas – the lunch was a massive crowd pleaser and for once mother found nothing to compare it with. Yay!

    Mexican Red Rice Burrito

    Mexican Red Rice Burrito

    Mexican Red Corn Bean Rice

    Simmered in tangy skewed tomatoes

    Simmered in tangy skewed tomatoes

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup rice, washed and soaked for 30 minutes. I used white, can use brown rice too.
    • 1/2 cup boiled red kidney beans/rajma beans or any beans of your choice.
    • 1/4 cup corn kernels
    • 3-4 tomatoes, washed
    • 1-2 tsp olive oil, or any oil
    • 4-5 pods of garlic, minced
    • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp red chili powder/paprika
    • 1 tsp oregano powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • Garnish: chopped jalapenos, corinader leaves and grated cheese

    Method

    In a pot of hot boiling water, make half way incisions on whole tomatoes, drop them in boiling water. After a couple of minutes. Remove the tomatoes, peel the skin, liquidize in a blender to get about a cup of tomato sauce.
    Now, in another pot, heat oil. Fry garlic and onions till they turn translucent. Then add corn and beans, along with the soaked rice(no water). Saute the rice, corn and beans for a couple of minutes. Now add tomato sauce, sprinkle cumin powder, salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Simmer for another minute or so. To this add another 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook till the rice is almost done. If required, add more water. Once done, cover and keep for some time, say 10 minutes. The covering makes the rice fluffy and soft.
    Garnish with cheese, chopped jalapenos and coriander leaves.

    Melted Cheese, Jalapenos add magic

    Melted Cheese, Jalapenos add magic

    Mexican Rice Burrito

    This burrito is healthy, filling and so tasty! I made it with whole wheat chappathis/Indian flatbread, you could use corn tortillas too.

    Corn for a bite, beans for the texture

    Corn for a bite, beans for the texture

    To make 2 burrito:

    Ingredients

    • 2 tortillas, any kind. Corn, Maida/Flour tortillas can be used. I made mine with chappathis.
    • 4-6 tbsp of mexican rice, or as much as you want.
    • 2 tbsp of guacamole
    • 2 tbsp of tomato salsa OR 2 tbsp of freshly thinly sliced veggies like carrots, onions, cabbage, peppers – all mixed with salt and lemon juice.
    • 2 tbsp of jalapenos, minced
    • 2 tbsp grated cheese
    • sprinkling of mexican spice mix – I used a mixture of dried herbs like oregano and some chaat masala. Feel free to add any flavor you like.

    Method

    On a tortilla, spread 1 tbsp guacamole. Line your salsa or veggies in the center of the tortilla. Place 2 tbsp of mexican rice on the bed of veggie-guacamole. Now, top with jalapenos, cheese and mexican spice mix. Try to make a tight roll. Place a toothpick to hold it in place if required. Serve immediately.

    Note: The original recipe called for tomato salsa, I didn’t have any, so I substituted with mixed thinly sliced vegetables.

    Note: Mexican Spice Mix is readily available in stores, but since I had none, oregano and chat masala came to my rescue.

    Note: Serve the burrito with sour cream by side – divine!

    Note: The husband likes things crisp and extra roasted. So I roasted the filled burrito on a hot flat griddle again, with the help of little olive oil. You can serve the burrito as it is too.

    Makes a beautiful burrito

    Makes a beautiful burrito

    Kheer/Rice Pudding and a book review

    ‘Every sentient being has a mind whose fundamental nature is essentially pure…’
    The Dalai Lama

    My faith and belief in this sublime thought is compounded by my beautiful life and the various people that I meet.
    This post brings to you a traditional Indian recipe of the classic North Indian Kheer/Rice pudding and an unbiased review of a fabulous book.

    Some time back I was invited for coffee. The invite was spontaneous, genuine and exhorted such positive vibes that I could not say no. My hosts were a very lovely mother daughter duo who read, write and lead such simple unpretentious lives, that you cannot help but be inspired.

    Rice Pudding

    Rice Pudding

    Sometimes it was books that we spoke about, and at other times the conversation reeled towards spirituality or parenting. The ambience warm and endearing. The talk intelligent, honest and the coffee. Perfect. What more could I ask for?

    A book. A great book.

    We exchange, suggest and review books unofficially for each other. So when I rose to take their leave, the very lovely daughter hands me a book and says “I took this out especially for you”. What a way to bid adieu. I beamed.

    Subtle flavor of cardamom

    Subtle flavor of cardamom

    The Dalai Lama’s Cat is a stunner. To say it is unassumingly preachy, supremely intelligent and endearingly funny, would not be a fabrication.
    The Dalai Lama’s Cat is David Michie’s novel account of life with the Dalai Lama from the perspective of a cat. How Interesting!
    This book offers a sneak peak into a Buddhists life, their simple elevated thoughts and a fresh take on “happiness”. That elusive word, which every human being strives and fights for.

    Can Happiness be conquered? What does it take to become “Wisely Selfish”. David Michie gives a Buddhist’s take on Life and Happiness in such a seamless effortless way, that you learn from the book without being nagged and preached. Buddhist mantra of Love and Compassion to all is beautifully etched in the various rendezvous of His Holiness’s Cat.

    Cashews, saffron in warm milk

    Cashews, saffron in warm milk

    Kheer, a very traditional Indian rice pudding is also known as payasam(in kannada, tamil, telugu and malyalam) or Payesh(in Bengali).
    Typically, rice is boiled in milk, infused with flavors of cardamom, lightly colored by saffron and loaded with assorted nuts. The variations are plenty and the taste, inexplicable. This exquisite sweet dish is usually made on special occasions like on festive days or for poojas.

    Supreme Saffron

    Supreme Saffron

    I love the fragrance and flavor of saffron/Kesar/Zaffran. The inclusiveness of saffron is optional but the slightest addition elevates the dish and takes it to another supreme level. So I would say it is integral to my recipe of kheer.

    Loaded with assorted nuts

    Loaded with assorted nuts

    The Recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 1 litre milk, whole or toned, as you please
    • 1.5 tbsp of raw rice, washed and soaked for 10 minutes
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
    • 1 pinch of saffron, soaked in a tbsp of warm milk
    • 1/2 cup of assorted nuts, I used almonds, cashews, pistachios and raisins, preferably soaked in little milk
    • 3 tbsp of sugar, change as per your desired level of sweetness

    Method

    In a thick bottomed pan, heat milk. Once it boils, add the raw rice and mix. Keep simmering and stirring all the while till the milk reduces to almost half the quantity. The milk will thicken and gradually stick to the sides. Keep scraping the sides and let the entire mix form into one cohesive thick stew. Add cardamom, saffron(rubbed in warm milk), assorted nuts and sugar towards the end. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

    If you like the consistency thin, do not reduce the milk to half, add the sugar-cardamom-saffron-nuts mix earlier and get done with it. We like kheer thick and pudding like, almost that of ‘rabdi’ consistency.

    If you notice I have added very less sugar, the natural sweetness and flavor of milk and dry fruits, along with little bit of sweetner is enough to satiate those saccharine cravings. So, to get maximum flavors and taste, keep the sugar minimum and see the difference.

    We chill the kheer and top it with pistachios and saffron. Each bite is like an almost set rice pudding, loaded with nuts and enhanced by cardamom.
    Heaven, dear readers, Heaven!

    We like it - Chilled

    We like it – Chilled

    The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?
    -Buddha