Saturday, October 7, 2017


I am so excited to cook for my sister. She surprises me with a visit to New York. After spending two weeks in her hometown, I get to spoil her in mine! Lunch is a Korean extravaganza. Bulgogi, chap chae, bibimbop and dukbokki. The original spelling eludes me, and the phonetic one is used on many Korean food products, giving me license to do the same. Dukbokki comprises of cylindrical rice cakes. You can buy fresh as well as frozen ones. I use the latter. First sauteed in oil, they turn light brown and crispy. They are then bathed in a spicy gochujang sauce. This results in chewy, spicy, crispy nuggets of rice. Quite intriguing in texture and spice combination, these small bites are big on flavor.

Serves 4-6

1 package fresh or frozen mini Rice Sticks (see Notes)
3 tablespoons Gochujang paste
1 teaspoon Sriracha 
1 tablespoon Soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame Seeds
2-3 tablespoons Water
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
Toasted Sesame Seeds

Defrost rice sticks if you are using the frozen kind. 

Whisk gochujang, Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame seeds and enough water to make a pouring consistency sauce.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add rice sticks to oil and saute over a high flame. The rice stick will develop a crust as you saute. 

When they are flecked golden brown, pour sauce over sticks.

Stir fry for a few minutes. 

Pile sticks onto a plate.

Sprinkle more sesame seeds over rice sticks and serve them hot.


Mini rice cakes are available at any reputable Korean grocery store. in the New York, HMart is my go-to grocery.

Gochujang is a thick, spicy red pepper paste, a staple of Korean cuisine.

An Indian summer allows for al fresco lunching! Birdsong and bees make fun lunch buddies. The best company of course is the family that sits around the table.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bombay Potatoes

How can you go wrong with potatoes from Bombay? These small roundels aim to titillate and please the palate. I come across a recipe which seems to be a marriage of balti and South Indian cuisine. I go ahead with the wedding adding a flourish or two.

Boiled new potatoes are peeled and halved. Mustard and cumin seeds are spluttered in hot oil with curry leaves, dried red chiles and onions. Potatoes and a hefty dose of turmeric goes in. Turmeric is the  new superfood with restorative qualities. Quickly sauteed, and doused with fresh cilantro, this tasty side comes together in a Mumbai minute.

Serves 4

1 pound small New Potatoes
1 Onion
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
2 dried Red Chiles
10 Curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 Lime

Boil potatoes. Peel them. Halve large potatoes. Keep the small ones whole.

Cut onion into small dice.

Heat oil in a wok.

Break red chiles in half and add to hot oil.

Add curry leave and let them sizzle for a few seconds.

Cumin and mustard seeds and turmeric go in and splutter for  5-10 seconds.

Add chopped onions and saute till onions are light brown.

Add peeled potatoes and salt. Stir well. 

Saute over high heat for 5 minutes.

Scatter fresh cilantro over potatoes.

Squeeze juice of half a lime and serve as a side.

Marriages  abide or splutter. This one comes together in my sister's kitchen, will please for years to come. Even though she doesn't care for potatoes, Prassy gamely enjoys the fruits of my labors.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Onion Methi and Shrimp Fritters

Prassy's friend Radhika joins us for dinner. She leans towards a meatless meal so we plan a vegetarian table. Stuffed peppers, ghada, dahi vada, mango dal and some bhajias made with onion, methi or fenugreek leaves and shrimp. Mum would fry some for us as tea time snacks. I follow in her footsteps, making them often, especially on rainy days. There is something soul strengthening about chai and hot bhajias!! Prassy doesn't remember them! These golden brown, crisp mouthfuls of sweet onion, bitter methi leaves and briny shrimp are piquant.  Once made, I'm sure her memories will come flooding back.

A lot of onions are thinly sliced. Besan or chickpea flour is added to the onions. Use your hands to scrunch onions and besan. This allows the moisture from the onions to leach out, creating liquid to bind the onions. A smidgen of salt helps it along. After a short while, finely chopped methi leaves are mixed in. Finely minced green chiles give the fritters a spicy boost. At this point the fritters can be fried as a tasty vegetarian treat. Adding masala marinated shrimp allows the fritters to rise to another dimension. Small shrimp are marinated in turmeric, chile powder and salt for an hour before they are added to the batter. Prassy's suggests we add rice flour to the batter. Rice flour makes everything crispy. I love her idea. The batter should be wet but not runny. Do not add water. If you scrunch the onions enough, the liquid released should bind the batter. 

Get ready to deep fry these bhajias. Gather a teaspoon of batter in your hand. Smoosh the batter so it holds together. Drop that nugget into hot oil. The bhajias should float in the hot oil, turn brown and crisp up in a minute or two. Flip them so they cook on all sides. Drain on paper and eat them piping hot!

Makes 25-30 small fritters

1 1/2 cup thinly sliced Onions
4 heaped tablespoons Besan or Chickpea Flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup Methi or Fenugreek leaves
2-3 tablespoons minced Green Chiles
1/2 cup small Shrimp
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Rice Flour
Canola Oil

Put sliced onions and chickpea flour in a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lightly crush the onions and besan till it is well mixed. 

Keep bowl aside. Stir well with a spoon every 15 minutes or so, for an hour. This allows the liquid released to help bind flour and onions.

Cut shrimp into bite size pieces. The shrimp I used were very small so I left them whole.

Marinate shrimp in turmeric, chile powder and salt for an hour. 

When you are ready to fry the bhajias, heat 2 cups canola oil in small kadhai or wok. The oil should be 3 inches deep to give the fritters room to bob and brown.

Mince the methi leaves finely.

Add methi leaves, minced green chiles, marinated shrimp and rice flour to onions. Use your hands to mix the batter.  

If you like your fritters without shrimp, leave it out. The fritters taste delectable without the shrimp.

Test the oil with a droplet of batter. It should pop up to the top of the oil immediately.

Take a teaspoon of batter in your fingers. Make sure you have some onion, methi and shrimp in each portion. 

Drop the formed batter carefully into hot oil.  Repeat the process frying up to 4-5 bhajias at one time. It is best not to crowd them. This way they cook fast and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to fry the bhajias. Fry them fora few minutes till golden brown.

Drain bhajias on paper. 

Eat them piping hot.

Fritters are crowdpleasers. Radhika enjoys the bhajias. Prassy recollects our mother's version. Mine is not quite like hers, a slight variation of the original. As we nibble and reminisce, Prassy and I marvel at our Mum's culinary heritage that endures and inspires us everyday.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon and Dill

My sister makes soup and quiche for dinner. I think some pasta will complement the meal. So we forage in the fridge. A little smoked salmon beckons. 

Most of the slices are made into open faced sandwiches. Since there is a smidgen left, a simple pasta makes the most sense. The sauce comes together in the same pan used to boil the pasta. I hand shred smoked salmon into the sauce. Several sprigs of dill add freshness. Salted and peppered, the pasta arrives in time with the quiche. A caveat though..the pasta should be eaten  as soon as you make it, especially if you like your pasta saucy. The longer it sits, the dryer it gets, as the pasta absorbs most of the sauce. Optimally, cook it, grab a fork and eat. On the other hand, you could eat it as a cold salad anytime you want.

Serves 2-3

4 oz Spaghetti or Fetuccini 
1/2 cup Cream
1/2 cup Pasta Water
1/4 cup Smoked Salmon
1/4 cup Dill
A pinch of Kosher Salt
Several Grinds of Black Pepper
Dill sprigs 

Heat 5 cups of water in a deep saucepan.

Salt the boiling water.

Break spaghetti in half and add to water. Cook 8-9 minutes till done. 

Save 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Drain pasta and return to saucepan.

When you are ready to serve, place the saucepan over a low flame. 

Add cream and saved pasta water to pasta. Stir often till pasta and sauce are heated.

Break smoked salmon into small pieces using your hands. Add them to the heated pasta.

Add 1/4 cup of dill into the pasta as well. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the pasta well.

Scoop pasta onto a platter, garnish with dill sprigs and serve hot. Or serve it at room temperature as a salad.


Our meal is a pleasant change after all the delicious Indian food that has been paraded in front of me. What's better is the candlelight we eat inadvertent atmospheric interlude by way of a power failure!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


As I peruse through the bread section of Tartine Bread , a fascinating cookbook my son gives me, I fall in love with the recipes, even though they are so very convoluted and complicated. Having sampled the finished products at Tartine Manufactory and Bakery, I know my endeavors will fall way below their standards. So I settle for the food. 

Porchetta is intriguing. I like the idea of a slow roast. Pork loin is butterflied and stuffed with herbs and bread. The stuffing is a fresh green aromatic paste, made with parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel, garlic and sourdough bread. It is spread in a thick layer, while singing Scarborough Fair, onto the butterflied pork. Rolled and tied, the foil wrapped pork roasts for six hours on the grill. The pork needs to tied well.  Click the aforementioned link to do it the right way. I do not, and make a bit of a mess, but the strings hold. The original recipe calls for an overnight roast in the oven, but I'm too chicken to leave pork in the oven all night. The grill makes an adequate alternative. It's outside, so no heat permeates the house. The heavenly roasted pork aroma is now the gardener's and neighbors delight.

The cooked roast cools in the fridge for a few hours. Or overnight. The refrigeration lets me cut the pork easily into slices that hold together. Browned in olive oil till they are slightly crusty, the pork is ready for us to indulge.

Adapted from Tartine Bread 
Serves 4-6

1 2-3 pound boneless Pork Loin
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 cup Parsley, stems and leaves
1 tablespoon Rosemary 
3 tablespoons Thyme leaves
6 Sage leaves
2 slices of Sourdough bread
1/2 cup Fennel fronds
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Chile flakes
6 Garlic cloves
4 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil

Pat pork loin dry. 

Butterfly pork by making a vertical cut about an inch away from one long end of the roast. Keep slicing downwards till you can open the flap. Turn the knife carefully, slicing through the pork till you have one flat piece of pork. OR you can have a butcher do this task. Or watch a video.

Cover the pork with a piece of plastic wrap. Use a tenderizing tool to flatten the pork. The flat pork should be one inch thick. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Place parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel fronds, fennel seed, garlic, chile flakes, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse a few times.

Cut sourdough into small pieces and add to parsley.

Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil in to the bowl and pulse several times till you have a rough paste.

Smear the paste over the pork.

Roll the pork tightly. 

Use twine to tie the pork. Tie the twine both lengthwise and breadthwise tightly. I made five vertical ties. I then threaded the a long piece of twine through the vertical ties pulling hard as I looped them. 

Place the pork on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Cover pork with foil.

Heat a gas grill to 300F using indirect heat. Or heat your oven to 300F.

Place the tightly wrapped pork on a baking sheet. 

Put the sheet onto the grill or in the oven.

Roast for 6 hours.

Take pork off the heat. Cool the pork and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Discard the foil and place pork on a cutting board.

Cut and discard the twine.

Slice pork into 3/4 inch slices.

Heat olive oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Lay slices flat in the pan. Saute till golden brown and crusty, three to five minutes.

Serve hot with pan roasted potatoes.

The porchetta is a meat lovers delight. That translates as all are pleased at my table. I am truly happy with this roast..a lot of effort with a huge reward.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Corn and Methi Bhaji

A month of holy Mondays begins and I make the requisite thali dinners. Today's thali is a simple one. The sweet component is keroli or plantains stuffed with coconut and raisins. Zucchini bhaji or fritters, varan bhaat or dal and rice, cauliflower curry, peas and cauliflower (yes we do love cruciferous veggies) and fresh corn with methi leaves.

Fresh corn is a summer staple, found at farmers markets, local grocery stores and even at garden centers. I scrape off the kernels with a sharp knife. Cleaning methi leaves or fresh fenugreek is another story. Methi is usually grown in sandy soil. This batch comes with its own bag of soil! Once it's thoroughly washed, I give it a rough chop. If you cannot find fresh fenugreek leaves , use baby spinach. Oil goes into a hot pan. Mustard and cumin seeds are spluttered till they hiss and pop. Minced green chiles add zing. In go the corn kernels for a quick saute. Chopped methi leaves sit atop the corn, wilting with the high heat. A short steam later the vegetable is ready for the thali.

Serves 4

2-3 Corn cobs
2 small bunches of Methi leaves or baby Spinach leaves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 green Chiles
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon Sugar

Remove husk and silk from corn cobs. Hold the corn upright in a flat dish. Use a sharp knife to cut the kernels, going in a downward motion. The dish should catch most of the kernels. You should have a little more than 2 cups of kernels.

Pick off the leaves from methi stems. Discard stems. Wash the leaves thoroughly to remove all sandy grit. Roughly chop leaves.

Mince green chiles finely.

Heat canola oil in saucepan over high heat.

Splutter mustard and cumin seeds. Let them turn brown and pop.

Add green chiles to hot oil. Wait a few seconds.

Then add corn kernels. Let corn saute over high heat for a few minutes.

Scatter methi leaves and turmeric powder over corn. 

Season with salt and sugar.

Cover the saucepan and lower heat. 

Cook the vegetables for 8-10 minutes. 

Uncover pan, stir the veggies and serve the bhaji hot.

This is a simple side. It pairs with rice or any Indian bread. The blessed thali is presented to the youngest family member...who does full justice to the meal.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tandoori Chicken Salad

I have a whole lot of tandoori chicken. Some of it will go to into an oft requested makhanwala and the rest goes into a cool salad. Thighs cooked in the oven remain soft and moist. I cut them into small bites. Slivered red onion, garden tomatoes and cilantro dress the salad. Sliced chicken is arranged atop sliced romaine lettuce. Followed by onion, tomato and cilantro. A quick dressing made olive oil, lemon juice salt, pepper and a healthy dose of chaat masala is drizzled over the salad. 

Serve 4

6 boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
2 tablespoons Tandoori Masala paste or powder
1/2 cup whole milk Yogurt
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 Lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
3 cups chopped Romaine Lettuce 
1 small red Onion
1 Tomato
1/2 cup Cilantro
1/4 cup Olive Oil 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
fresh cracked Pepper
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala 

Trim chicken thighs.

Whisk yogurt, tandoori masala, garlic and ginger paste, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a bowl. 

Add chicken thighs to bowl and marinate for 4-6 hours or overnight for best results.

Heat oven to 375F. 

Line a baking sheet with foil. 

Spray foil with nonstick spray.

Arrange chicken on foil and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Take chicken out of the oven and chop into bite size pieces while warm.

Heap chopped romaine on a platter.

Halve and thinly slice red onion.

Cut tomato into segments.

Pour olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and chaat masala into a small bottle. Close the top and shake vigorously to mix.

Scatter 2 cups of chicken over romaine. Use the remaining chicken in a curry or as a filling for wraps.

Top with red onion, tomato and cilantro.

Drizzle dressing over salad  and serve.

Crisp, crunchy, zingy and slightly sour...amazing flavors from a simple melange. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fiery Thai Broth with Sausage and Lemongrass

I call it broth but it is really a soup. It is light, simple and full of Asian flavors. Not quite a traditional soup, the broth picks up its brightness from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and an abundance of dried chiles. Galangal and fish sauce add more character. 

Sauteing onions, garlic and sausage is the hardest part. Water, not stock, is key. It's allow the ingredients to shine, adapting those tastes. Lemon grass stalks, fresh kaffir lime leaves, galangal are Thai spices that enhance the broth. Dried lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves could easily be substituted. If these are hard to acquire, use the skin of limes and lemons. Use ginger if you do not have galangal. Whole dried chiles add subtle heat. Use chile flakes if you must. It will increase the heat level. I did not have fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves so I improvise with the dried versions. If you do plan to use dried spices, it might be a good idea to make a bouquet garni of sorts. Use cheesecloth or a tea strainer with the spices in them to infuse the broth. This way you will not get mouthfuls of dried stuff as you slurp! This idea came from my sister Prassy after the fact!! 

Serves 4

3 hot Italian Sausages 
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 Red Onion
3 Garlic cloves
5 cups Water
2 Lemongrass stalks
5-6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 Galangal slices
4 dried Red Chiles
1 small Tomato
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce 
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar or Palm Sugar or Jaggery
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Cilantro leaves
Lime Juice

Cut sausage into small chunks. Remove casing if desired.

Thinly slice onion and garlic cloves.

Heat oil in a deep saucepan.

Drop onion and garlic in the oil and saute till light brown.

Add sausage to pan. Use the spoon to break up the meat till you are left with small pieces. Saute sausage till browned.

Pour water into sausage.

Trim and cut lemongrass into 2 inch stalks. Lightly pound stalks.

Chop tomato into small chunks.

Add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, red chiles, tomato, fish sauce, sugar and salt to broth.

Bring to boil, lower flame to medium and simmer broth for 15 minutes.

Add cilantro and a squirt of lime juice to broth and serve piping hot.


If you cannot find fresh lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, use dried ones as I did. Use a bouquet garni, that is, use the spices wrapped in cheesecloth or in a tea strainer. Both can be removed before serving. 

If dried spices are a problem to find, add the skin of limes and lemons. Use a peeler to get thin shavings and add 2-3 tablespoons to the broth along with the fish sauce.

We love this light, spicy restorative broth. It's easy on the palate, the stomach and leaves us with plenty of room for kimchi dumplings!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Smoky Eggplant Dip with Chaat Spices


A bowl of smoky pureed grill-charred eggplant awaits preparation.  In this steamy weather, a cool dip might be just the thing. The cooked eggplant pulp is whisked with a host of cool items. Some thick yogurt and lots of mint and coriander. A little chopped garlic, chile powder, chaat masala add oomph to the smoky flavors. It's best to let the dip sit in the fridge for an hour or so to develop optimum taste. If you are pressed for time, just dive into it with pita chips or crackers.

Serves 4-6

1 cup roasted Eggplant puree (see notes)
1 Garlic clove
2 tablespoons finely chopped Mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped Cilantro 
2 heaping tablespoons Yogurt (preferably Greek Yogurt)
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
3/4 teaspoon Chaat Masala
1/3 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon Olive Oil 
Pita Chips, Crackers or Cherry Tomatoes 

Mix all ingredients except pitas, crackers or tomatoes, in a bowl. Whisk well so everything is blended.

Chill eggplant for an hour or so. 

Serve cold with pita chips, crackers or cherry tomatoes.


Make the eggplant puree by either roasting roasting eggplant over an open flame or grilling it over a gas or charcoal grill. Make sure to turn the eggplant often so all sides are roasted. It should take 15-20 minutes. Or cut eggplant in half lengthwise and bake in a 425F oven for 30 minutes. Cool eggplant. When cool, peel off skin and scrape the pulp into a container. Use pulp as needed. It can be refrigerated up to a week.

Each scoop is a contrasting crunch of pita chips and cool smoky eggplant.... a rather well matched pair.