Sunday, 28 December 2014

Palak ki Chaat

Today I am at a loss for words. It is not the writer's block that I am going through, rather a personal conflict is making me hold back. The cold is intensifying, both outside and inside. And it doesn't help that the fire is dying. Perhaps, a little kindling of the fire is in order to warm things up.

If the kindling is taking time, the best way to cope up with the cold is to embrace it and all that it brings with it. Because every season holds something good, like winters in India are loaded with fresh, crisp greens. I wouldn't be overstating if I said many of us await winters for the green goodness it brings along. However, unless you know how to use these greens, you will be only cursing the harsh winters, much like in life when you fail to acknowledge the good in it only because you are busy fiddling with all that went wrong.

Today's recipe is an assembly of winter fresh spinach leaves that are crisp and golden, which takes a detour from the usual gravies and salads. Topped with smooth sweetened curds, and tangy tamarind and date sauce, this Palak ki Chaat is the perfect recipe for a quick evening snack or a prepare ahead party snack. 

I like the way it's sheer ease and simplicity give it the much deserved elegance and attraction. When served on a platter, the ensemble speaks to the eyes that behold it with as much force as the dripping decadence speaks to the palette. 

The cold is a matter of time and it will pass away, but so will the greens if you choose to let them be swayed away in the winds. Hold on to the good and cherish it while it lasts.

Enjoy the recipe.


Gram flour- 1 cup
Water- 1 and a half cup
Salt to taste
Fresh spinach leaves- 400 gm
Sweetened curd- 1 cup
Tamarind sauce- 1/4 cup
Salt and red chilly powder to taste
Oil for deep frying


Wash spinach leaves thoroughly and remove stems, leaves a about 2 inches of stalk to hold. Avoid using small leaves.

In a bowl, make a slurry of gram floor with water, adding salt to taste. The slurry should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Heat oil for deep frying.

Dip spinach leaves one by one in gram flour slurry and put in hot oil. Don't crowd the oil. Fry only about 4-5 leaves at one time. Deep fry till leaves turn a dark shade of green.

Let cool down.

For assembling:

Take 3-5 leaves in a bowl and top with sweetened curd. Drizzle some tamarind sauce. 

Sprinkle some salt and red chilly powder if desired.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

One-Pot Broccoli & Peas Pasta

Here's a wave to all pasta lovers, so I am waving at myself too. I am waving in glee with this super awesome One-pot Broccoli and Peas Pasta that I just treated myself with. It's creamy, it's tasty and it's so easy to make that it's almost disheartening to miss.

One-pot pastas are a rage over the internet and I would be surprised if they weren't because these recipes take cooking of pastas to a level of surreal ease that must only be met with gratitude. And I am merely a humble lover of pasta who chose to display her gratitude with this easy recipe that is a result of ogling at various pasta recipes in various brilliant food blogs.

I am given to understand that most people stay away from broccoli and I don't understand why. It is a perfectly fine vegetable, pretty and green and everything and they say it's healthy too. I didn't have broccoli until after school when I moved to a city for college. I remember a few of us girls had gone to this restaurant called Moksha in Nagpur and I was elated to find something new in my food. I ate all the broccoli while my friends decided to disregard it and one of my friends painted her nails very coolly ignoring the whole yes and no broccoli chatter on the table and waited for her order.

O.K. That's enough reminiscing.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Leaves of Radish- A Rustic Stir Fry

Snowy white, fresh radishes are in season and the vegetable markets are full of them. Set in piles, these radishes resemble little white mountains from the front. Go around the back of these mountains and you will see little green mountains made of lush, crisp radish leaves.

I find myself a bit different from most people I know, in terms of a taste palette. A good kind of different. I grew up in a household where kids weren't allowed the privilege of moody meals. Not that I made a fuss, it wouldn't have made a difference if I did, except when sick. And today I am thankful that I didn't grow up to be a picky eater; I dread the scenario where I would have missed many brilliant flavors.

My region of India is known for its production of rice. We are big time rice eaters, as is apparent from my love for rice. But what many people do not know about Chhattisgarh is that it is also home to numerous varieties of green leafy vegetables. I know most of them and yet come across many new leaves that I haven't heard of before and don't know how to cook. The ones I know about is because I come from an old line of dwellers of the state and have spent my entire life being fed humble, rustic editions of these green delights that are the recipes of my grandma, now 90.

Living in a town or state doesn't mean that one will know all about its cultures and traditions and secret recipes. But I pity those who don't try to learn and remain ignorant. I used to be very surprised when I was young that many of my friends didn't know about most of the recipes I so fondly adored. I learned later it was because their moms had come from different cultures and so they didn't know the magic of those recipes. But then, my mom came from an altogether different lifestyle too, and I am glad that she adapted to her new surroundings. She learned all that my grandmother taught her in the kitchen and also mixed her own style to it. It is so endearing to watch my mom ask my grandmother for instructions for some old recipe even today. My upbringing matters to me. I do not want any part of my culture, however small, to slip into oblivion. I may not be able to help every cause, but I will do what I can and this recipe here is one such effort.

I picked the leaves of radish for this post today for two main reasons. One, radish is in season, and two, it is available everywhere in India and elsewhere so you cannot nag me about availability. It is rather a very humble recipe but since radish leaves are usually thrown away, the fact that it is a recipe dedicated to the leaves makes it interesting and different.

The flavor profile of radish leaves isn't much different from that of the radish itself, sharp and tangy, slightly bitter too. The leaves are coarse and cannot be used in in a salad or in a sandwich as such. I do however hope that this recipe will multi task as a stuffing for parathas and sandwiches. I enjoyed it today with my staple diet, chapati and dal and of course rice. Every time I have something like this, it gets me in a similar mood as today and I feel proud of my rustic-chic palette that I acquired from my home and from living in different cities in the country. But most of all I think it was possible only because I am open to various flavors without bias and prejudice. Everything I can eat, I will eat and I will remember.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Eggless Vanilla Cake with Christmas Special Icing

There's a chill in the breeze and Christmas prep everywhere. Christmas really rings the holiday bells and reminds me of the time when I was a kid in school and eagerly waited for the winter holidays; not much has changed in that regard. It is still the best time of the year and one cannot help but be enveloped in the much awaited joy that spills all around Christmas time.

With less than 10 days to go, the homes, the streets, the shops are all decorated in the familiar red and green, white and gold. Meanwhile the blogosphere too is abuzz with Christmas greetings, holiday ideas, Diys and my favorite of all Christmas special recipes. There is a whole lot of awesome Christmas special recipes being posted by food bloggers all over the world and I wanted to be a part of it, too.

Traditional Christmas recipes are numerous and fabulous, however, sometimes a simple idea can give your year round favorite recipe a Christmas flavor. This post today is in that spirit. For my Christmas celebrations, I decided to go for my easy, simple, fail proof vanilla sponge cake recipe and dressed it up for Christmas in white, red and green.I didn't really have to make much effort but the beauty I had in the end was remarkable. For a while I didn't even want to slice my cake, but what needs to be done needs to be done, right?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Microwave Carrot Rice

It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to go without posting a rice recipe in a whole week. It is as if the more I love rice and show it by 'monging" it, the more it loves me back by presenting itself to me in new ways and today it is a Carrot Rice, the microwave way.

I don't cook rice in microwave much. This recipe was told to me by my aunt and it was so simple, so elegant, so flavorful that I almost squeezed her in delight. (Yeah! I squeeze people!) It is probably the most austere of all rice recipes I know..umm.. may be it's a close competitor of my Clove Rice in that respect. You should check it out too if you like this one. 

It is carrot season and when it is carrot season you've got to use carrots. Makes sense, right? A carrot rice is possibly the most that could be done with carrots after carrot halwa, soups and salads. But knowing me, you'd probably not object if I kept Carrot Rice at the top of the list. 

Colorful rice recipes are always a winner when it comes to a get together or even for a special Sunday meal. Most of the times color to rice is imparted by use of various vegetables like bell peppers, peas, corns etc. and carrots too, like in this Colorful Bell Peppers Veg Fried Rice, but all that can become a bit a demanding especially if you are short of ingredients in your pantry. That's when comes to rescue this one ingredient that does all the work that goes into making a colorful rice. And the best part is that it actually releases its colour in the water in which it is cooked, thus giving the dish a beautiful hue without an ounce of effort.

I think this is the beginning of my microwave love for cooking rice. It is so simple and easy and light. I am going to try more simple flavors like this one. What color should I go for next? Green??

Friday, 5 December 2014

Thick and Creamy Tomato Soup

A winter eve, a tomato soup and a good book.

This morning I woke up begrudgingly, not wanting to come out of the warm cocoon my quilt had turned into during the night. This, and me having overslept, confirmed the onset of winters.

Last week I attended a family wedding and ate all the fat and carbohydrate rich food that are an important part of Indian weddings. So I have been taking a break and trying to compensate by opting for healthier options, mostly fruits and vegetables and milk. Add to it a crazy busy schedule and then it becomes easier for me tell you that I haven't been cooking much. 

But today was different. It was cold, I wanted something warm and healthy and I had the time for it. I couldn't think of anything other than a tomato soup, a thick and creamy tomato soup. It was easy simultaneously work and cook this because of the cooking intervals. And honestly, it doesn't even require too much work. A little chopping, a little sautéing and a little boiling. That's all it takes.

I had a version of a tomato soup at the wedding, which I could only call tomato water. I am one who doesn't mind whether my soup is thin, thick or creamy. But I am picky about the flavors. I don't have to tell you where that tomato water went. 

This tomato soup that I made today is of a moderate consistency and can be easily thinned down or thickened by adjusting the quantity of the vegetable stock used. I didn't use any thickener. I didn't need to. It was perfect the first time I checked it for seasoning, to my absolute delight.