Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Season's Greetings

Here's wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May 2014 bring a lot of joy, laughter, love, hope and great food to all of you!

I am going on a two week break for the holiday season and will be back in 2014 with bigger and better ideas!

Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!

Monday, 23 December 2013

One Food Experience: Royce' Chocolates

Royce' is a Japanese brand of chocolates with international presence in the US, India, Russia, and South East Asian countries such as . Their only store in India is at the High Street Phoenix Mall in Mumbai.

I recently came across their Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate (Nama means fresh in Japanese) and was simply stumped! The experience of buying (as heard from the friend's stories) and eating (as felt from my own experience) are one-of-a-kind and are totally worth having.

Royce' Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate

When you go to buy this chocolate, they give it to you with a frozen cooling gel pack in the bag and seal it up so that it maintains the temperature required by the chocolate till you get home and can store it in the refrigerator. And apparently, the gel didn't completely melt off till the next day despite Mumbai temperatures and being out for about 2 hours at least during the afternoon. This in itself shows how seriously they take their chocolate!

Now, let me come to the experience of having this chocolate. The chocolate is cut up into 20 bite-sized pieces on which there is a sprinkling of cocoa powder. The chocolate has a rich cocoa smell, laced with hints of cool - frozen, fresh cool and not minty cool. You pick up a cool piece of the chocolate (yes, it is best eaten straight out of the refrigerator, you do not need to bring it to room temperature unlike other chocolates) and you immediately notice that it still has a soft texture with silkiness from the cocoa powder.

Royce' Nama Ghana Bitter Chocolate Up Close

Then we come to the actual eating part. I ate a couple of pieces of it and I enjoyed it better when I popped the whole  piece into my mouth. The texture despite being cold was not frozen. It had a lovely creamy yet solid softness that melts slowly on your tongue. As it melts, it releases a dense, not-to-sweet cocoa flavour, which unlike the name of the chocolate is not bitter. The only thing that was marred the experience a bit was the feel of the cocoa powder in the mouth. It was kind of dry that took away from the moistness and freshness of the rest of the experience of the chocolate.

With the coolness of the temperature and the fresh, softness of the rich cocoa flavour, it is quite an experience! I can keep describing it and using more adjectives, but it is an experience best had rather than heard of.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

Not all first attempts are always successful - but they do make for  good learning and great stories. My first attempt at this kofta curry has such a story behind it. I followed the instructions I had gotten for this recipe to the 't'. And when I was about to turn off the gas I tasted a bit of it as usual, and it tasted, well, not so good!

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

So I was wondering what was it that I had missed? The first thing I adjusted was my usual - the salt - which I always end up putting too less of in a dish. And in adjusting it I got overexcited and put a bit too much of it. But thanks to plain parathas and rice, it was okay at the end. The second thing I learnt about this dish which is very important to this dish was not frying the koftas till they become crispy. This is because by the time you put them in the curry to cook they will go too dry and harden.

For those who are not aware of this dish, kofta curry is a delicious main course dish from North India, specifically Punjab. It is made of fried balls of vegetables such as bottle gourd, cabbage, carrots etc with gram flour, or minced meat balls served in a rich onion-tomato gravy cooked with spices.With these in mind, here is the recipe for this beautiful, rich dish.

Mixed Vegetable Kofta Curry

Mixed Vegetables Kofta Curry

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 4


For the Koftas

1/2 cup grated cabbage (patta gobhi)
1/2 cup grated bottle gourd (lauki/ ghia)
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsps garam masala
1 cup gram flour (besan)
2 tbps water for binding
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

For the Gravy

2 tsps oil
2 tsps ginger-garlic paste
3 medium sized onions pureed in a mixer
3 medium sized tomatoes pureed in a mixer
1 tsp turmeric
3 tsps red chilly powder
4 tsps garam masala powder
1 cup water
Salt to taste

For Garnishing

Fresh corriander leaves/ stalks




Put the oil in a deep pan for heating to ready it for deep frying.

Mix together the grated vegetables. Sprinkle all the dried powder spices - turmeric, red chilly powder, garam masala and a little salt on these and mix it evenly with the vegetables with your fingers.

In a couple of minutes, the vegetables will start releasing their water. Now add the gram flour (besan) and using the water released bind the flour together. Add a little water if necessary. The flour should be moist enough to be able to be binded together into balls.

Make about 12 balls of 1-11/2 inch diameter from this mixture.

Check if the oil is hot enough for frying by putting in a little bit of the gram flour-vegetable mixture. If it rises immediately, the oil is hot enough.

Lower the heat and fry the balls in the oil on low heat till they turn a little reddish brown. Do not increase the heat or make them too golden and crispy as they will harden.

Kofta Curry with the Gravy

Mixed Vegetable Koftas in the Gravy

In a deep frying pan, heat the 2 tbsps oil. Add in the ginger-garlic paste and fry for about 30-40 seconds.

Add in the pureed onions, lower the heat to a medium high and fry them for about 8-10 minutes till the onions lose their raw smell and turn pinkish-red. They will also start releasing their oil when they start to cook. Don't keep the heat too high, it will not speeden the process, just lead to uneven cooking of the onion puree, with parts staying raw and parts almost burning.

To the cooked onions add the pureed tomatoes. Fry them on the medium high flame for about 4-5 minutes. The tomatoes need to cook through well otherwise they will leave a raw sour flavour in the dish that will just taste weird. So cook it for a couple of minutes longer if you have any doubts- you can't overcook them but you can definitely undercook them!

Add the dried spices - turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala powder and cook on a medium high flame till the mixture starts releasing the oil. I have often heard this being called 'masale khilna' (blooming of the spices) or 'masale khulna' (opening up of the spices) in Hindi. This will take about 5 minutes on the medium high flame.

Add  the water to adjust the consistency of the gravy.

Lower the flame to a simmer, add in the koftas and mix well till the koftas are covered with the gravy. cover the pan and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add salt to taste (and not too much like me!).

Garnish with fresh corriander and serve with your favourite parathas, naans, steamed rice or jeera rice.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

And I have reached my 100th post!

It has been quite a journey writing about food the last one-and-a-half years. I have indulged in creating as well as learning new recipes, food memories from the different home kitchens that I love, one food experiences at my favourite restaurants and some learning and fun in food thoughts and food creativity. This blog was always meant to combine my two loves: food and writing... and it has helped me bring them together with a lot of fun and learning adventures!

For my 100th blog post I was planning to create a new recipe. I was wondering what the theme should be when I realised that the holiday season that the entire world celebrates - Christmas and New Years' Eve - are just around the corner. It brings with it some really great parties and holiday food. I am part of a lot of food-related groups on Facebook and I follow a lot of food blogs (not surprising, really) and I see the Christmas trends of bakes and cakes in full swing. I am not a baker, so the best way I can contribute to this party season is through some savoury party food.

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

These Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés are a quick preparation making them a perfect party food. They are cruchy yet cheesy, non-spicy, cheesy, creamy and dotted with sweet corn and have been liked by fussy kids and adults alike.

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés 

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapé

Cheesy Sweet Corn Canapés

Preparation Time: 15 mins (to steam the corn)
Cooking Time: 10 mins

Makes 25 canapés


5 tbsps butter
5 tbsps refined flour (maida)
2 cups milk
1 tbsp grated cheese
1 cup sweet corn steamed
½ tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste

For serving:

25 basket puris/ tart shells


In a pan heat the butter till it melts. Lower the flame, add in the refined flour (maida) and keep stirring and roast till the flour releases a roasted aroma. This takes about 4-5 minutes.

Keep the flame low and while stirring the roasted refined flour and add in the milk, ensuring that there are no lumps.

When the sauce starts to thicken to a thick soup-like consistency, add in the grated cheese, the salt, the black pepper powder. Mix well so that the cheese melts into the entire sauce and flavours it.

Finally, add in the steamed corn and mix it in well in the white sauce.

Fill about a tablespoon of the prepared mixture into the basket puri/ tart shells and serve immediately.


Using a whisk while stirring can ensure that there are no lumps in the sauce.

Make sure the white sauce doesn’t get too thick on the flame, as even after the heat is turned off, the sauce will thicken in the residual heat. This will make the filling mixture very dense.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Pav Bhaji

Pav bhaji is probably the most famous street food of Mumbai. At every nook and corner you will see numerous stalls, carts and restaurants serving this dish. Typically these places have a huge cast iron tawa (girdle) with a mashed vegetable mixture ready around its edges and a place in the middle to prepare the dish on order.

This dish is made up of two components served together. The bhaji is a mixture of mashed vegetables cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes and specific spices for a long, long time in a kadhai or the thick iron tawa The best flavour of Pav bhaji is achieved by letting the pav bhaji simmer for a very long time so that the spices blend well with the vegetables and their aromas bloom. So though it is a street food, it is by no means a fast food. Pav, which is a special bread, is roasted on a girdle to golden brown perfection with a big dollop of butter just before serving, so that when you pick it up the butter just drips from it.

Mumbai Pav Bhaji

For those who are not aware of the origins of it, we owe the invention of pav bhaji to the American Civil War! During the American Civil War, America and Europe had a shortage of cotton, a commodity traded by Gujarati merchants on Dalal Street. Seeing an opportunity, Gujarati merchants started trading late into the night by taking orders at European and American hours. When they were hungry this late at night, street stalls flourished that would serve mashed vegetables (that day's leftovers) in a tomato gravy with buttery loaves: and thus was born pav bhaji.

Here is my recipe of this buttery, tomato-ey, spicy goodness.

Pav Bhaji


3 tbsps oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 medium sized onions finely chopped
1 green capsicum finely chopped
3 medium sized tomatoes pureed
4 medium sized potatoes boiled and mashed
50 gms cauliflower boiled and mashed
30 gms green peas boiled
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilly powder
2 tbsps pav bhaji masala
1 tbsp ghee
8-10 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 green chilly cut into 5-6 pieces
15-20 fresh corriander leaves finely chopped
Salt to taste

6 pavs
3 tbsps salted butter

Corriander leaves, butter, wedge of lemon for serving



In a kadhai, heat 2 tbsps oil and add in cumin seeds. When they splutter, lower the flame to medium high and add in the onions and fry till they start releasing the oil. Add the chopped green capsicum and fry till they also release the oil.

To this mixture, add the pureed tomatoes and keep stirring. Add in the turmeric powder, the chilly powder and the pav bhaji masala. Keep stirring and let it cook on a medium high flame till the tomatoes release the oil. Lower the flame to a simmer and let it keep cooking for another 8-10 minutes.

Keep the flame to a medium high and add the boiled and mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Use a pav bhaji masher to blend the tomato mixture and the vegetables together.

Once the mixture blends together, lower the flame and cover and cook on simmer for 10 mins. You can add water to adjust consistency of the mixture as you simmer it. When this is done, ad in the boiled peas and salt to taste.

In another small non-stick pan or tadka vessel, heat 1 tbsp oil and the ghee together. Add in the chopped garlic, the green chilly and the corriander leaves and fry for 30 seconds till the garlic releases its aroma. Pour this over the cooked vegetable mixture and stir it in.

Lower the flame and let the pav bhaji simmer for another 5 mins till the aromas of the second tadka seeps through the mixture.

The bhaji with butter melting on top of it

Serve with pavs roasted in the butter, a wedge of lemon and butter.

This dish is best enjoyed with your fingers - use both your hands to tear a bite-sized piece of the pav, scoop up some bhaji with it, gobble it up and then lick the rest of the bhaji and butter from the pav off your fingers. Every bite is this fun to eat!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Shopping at Crawford Market Mumbai

I am a non-traditional shopper. When it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery etc, my standard operating rule is "Like, Fit, Price, Pay, Leave." But when it comes to food and books, I savour the experience. At food markets I linger over every shelf, enjoy the display, discover new ingredients, pick them up, smell them, touch them and read about them in detail, I jump with joy when I find the right thing at the right price or sigh softly when I can't find what I need.

My most favourite experiences for shopping for food has always been that of shopping at Crawford Market in Mumbai. Crawford Market, or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai as it officially goes, is a 144 year old building located close to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station in Mumbai. You can find ANYTHING food-related here, including the most unheard of ingredients, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and chocolates at prices that will make you not only jump, but dance with joy.

Everything at one place: Crawford Market Mumbai

For me and my friend who loves cooking too, shopping at Crawford is like our version of 'making a day of it'. Going to Crawford market to shop is like a picnic for us. We mark an entire day for going to Crawford, not only because of the travel time (as we live in the suburbs), but also because of the time we'll take to browse, linger, and shop. We'll carry at least 3 to 4 huge (and by huge I mean HUGE) bags to carry back whatever we 'plan' to shop for. Of course, every time the number of bags end up being more than what we have carried as you simply cannot stick to lists here if you love food.

My first experience of shopping at Crawford felt like an interesting irony of all the ingredients I need in ways I didn't think it could be available. It is like shopping for high-end, rare ingredients at an everyday bazaar. Where else will you find Thai Bird Chilly, Galangal, Kaffir Lime, Italian Basil, and curled Parsley next to your everyday curry leaves and dhania patti at a traditional sabziwaala stall? Where  else can you find Parmesan, Gouda and Edam sharing shelf space with Amul and Britannia? And in which bazaar will you find Earl Grey and Lady Grey nestled next to your Girnar and Society Tea?

Shopping at Crawford can be best described an assault on your senses. Though it is an indoor market that is poorly lit, you cannot miss the bright colours of the products at display.There are a variety of smells:  fishy, spicy, cheesy and chocolaty sweet that mingle and permeate through the market. And the symphony of sounds of calling out to customers, persuading, questioning, bargaining and haggling are a tribute to Indian bazaars.

The range of products available at Crawford does not end at rare ingredients and people also go there to shop for cheap and good quality clothes, footwear, beauty products from around the world, crockery and serveware, bakeware, party items, jewellery-making stuff and even alcohol. The range is wide indeed.

Till date, I have never been disappointed by a trip to Crawford. I've always found whatever I have needed at very reasonable prices. It is a must-go for all Mumbai food lovers. A word of caution though for first time shoppers, go with someone experienced with the maze of Crawford Market and its bylanes or you'll be spending hours there with not much fruitful outcomes. Whatever it is, I can assure you you'll still enjoy the experience. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Dhaniya Kadhi

Every once in a while I watch food shows on T.V. (especially the travel and food kind) and find some or the other recipe giving me great ideas. This is especially true when the recipe is simple and yet I can imagine how well the flavours will go with each other. However, I am one of those who cannot stick to the recipe to the 't' and I will always bring my own take to the recipe.

Dhaniya Kadhi

I saw this recipe on a T.V. show where the chef added simple corriander paste to Gujarati kadhi. I've taken this idea and made my own version of Corriander Kadhi. I got great feedback for the recipe from my family and neighbours, so I am sharing it.

Dhaniya Kadhi

Dhaniya Kadhi


2 cups yoghurt
4 tbsps gram flour
3 cups water
2 tbsps oil
1 1/2 tsps mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
2 tsps ginger garlic paste
20-30 fresh corriander stalks
1 green chilly
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
2 tsps garam masala powder
1 tsp amchur powder
Salt to taste


Whisk the yoghurt and gram flour together ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture. Add the water and mix well.

 In a grinder grind together the corriander stalks, the cumin powder and the green chilly with about 2 tsps of water till they form a smooth puree.

Heat oil in a kadhai and temper with mustard and cumin seeds. Fry in the ginger garlic paste for about 20 seconds. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and stir.

Add in the corriander paste, the garam masala and the amchur powder. Keep stirring till the kadhi comes to a boil. Lower the flame and let the kadhi cook for another 3 minutes.

Serve with paratha, steamed rice or a rice preparation of your choice.

P.S. You can also add pakoras to this kadhi like in Punjabi pakodewaali kadhi.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Veg Hakka Noodles

We Indians have our own version of Chinese cuisine. You'll find this spicy version of Chinese on roadsides as well as in fancy restaurants. Hot spicy Manchow soup with fried noodles, crispy Manchurian balls, salty and tangy Hakka Noodles, punjent Schezwan Rice, sweet and sour American Chopsuey are names that will make any Indian salivate. We love this version of Chinese and are pulled to it again and again. I know of many people living abroad who have access to great Chinese food but miss the Indian version of Chinese food.

Veg Hakka Noodles

One of my personal favourites are Veg Hakka Noodles. The best part about these noodles is that they do not have much seasoning and just a couple of sauces. So a lot of the flavour of the dish comes from the vegetables. For a vegetable lover like me that's just perfect! Today, after a long time I made these Veg Hakka Noodles and they turned out as good as I remember them to ever be. So here's the recipe for them.

VEg Hakka Noodles - Indian Style

Veg Hakka Noodles


1 packet hakka noodles
2 tbsps peanut/ sesame oil
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 medium onion thinly sliced
30 gms carrot julienned
30 gms cabbage julienned
30 gms green bell pepper julienned
2 tsps dark soy sauce
2 tsps white vinegar
2 tsps red chilly sauce
Salt to taste


Cook the noodles as per the packet instructions.

Heat a pan on a high flame till it gets very hot. Put in the oil and heat it till it smokes.

Add the ginger garlic paste to the heated oil. Now, add the onions and fry them till they turn translucent.

Next come all the vegetables. Put them in the pan and fry them for about 40-50 seconds till they start to sweat.

Add in the noodles, the soy sauce, the vinegar, the chilly sauce and the salt. Toss well till they mix in with the noodles.

Serve hot with your favourite Chinese gravy dish or as is.

Veg Hakka Noodles - Another angle

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fresh Toor Kachori

Toor dal or yellow pigeon peas is our staple dal. The dal we make everyday at home as a part of our thaali is made from toor dal. Fresh toor,  however, is available only in the winter months from November to January. Gujarati food during winter months is a celebration of the availability of fresh toor. These green pearls are the basis of many a dish, especially undhiyu, the most famous winter dish that comes from Gujarati kitchens.

Fresh toor (Fresh pigeon peas)

One of the kitchen favourites at my place is the very Gujju sweet, sour, savoury and crispy kachori made from fresh toor. This recipe is straight from my maasi's kitchen who makes the best toor kachoris ever! Oh, and if you can't find toor you can always make them with green peas.

Fresh Toor Kachoris

Fresh Toor Kachori


For the filling

250 gms fresh toor green pigeon peas
1/2 inch ginger 
2 green chillies
2 tbsps oil
2 tsps white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp corriander-cumin powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps sugar
Salt to taste

For the cover

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbps oil
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying


Grind the deskinned fresh toor in a mixer-grinder with the ginger and chillies till they form a fine mince.

Knead a firm dough of the whole wheat flour with the oil, salt and water. Cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Temper with the sesame seeds and asafoetida powder. 

Lower the flame to medium high and add in the toor minced mixture. Cook it with the tempering for 2 minutes and keep stirring so it doesn't stick.  Cover the pan with a lid and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes on a low simmer flame. The toor will cook fast as it is ground finely. 

Open the lid and add in the turmeric powder, the corriander-cumin powder, the lemon juice, the sugar and the salt. Keep stirring till the sugar melts and is blended well. Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool.

To make the kachoris, make a ball of the dough about 1/2 inch in diameter and roll out a poori of 3 inches in diameter.  Take a tablespoon of the stuffing and place it in the center.

The poori with the stuffing for the kachori

Bring together all the sides of the poori to cover the stuffing and press gently with your fingers to make a potli.

The potli stage

Take the potli in the center of your palms and press gently till it flattens out on the top.

The final kachori
Heat oil in a deep pan. Deep fry the prepared kachoris till they're golden brown on both sides. Enjoy hot with some chutney or ketchup.

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew

And I am back after a long 'break' for my exams! I have quite some free time on my hands now till classes start again, so here comes some cooking fun! 

The first time I came across Kerala style vegetable stew was in a food autobiography called Monsoon Diary: A Memoir by Shoba Narayan. I found this recipe very interesting and bookmarked it to make some day. That some day has actually come today, around 3 years later because I had some coconut milk in my refrigerator and did not have the ingredients for the Thai red chilli paste. When I went back to the book, I realised that I did not have all the ingredients for it either. I went to 'Google' for some adjustment ideas and added a bit of my own touch. It turned out quite nice so here I am sharing this recipe.

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew with Steamed Rice

Kerala Style Vegetable Stew


1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ginger paste
15 curry leaves
2 inch cinnamon stick
5 whole black peppercorns
2 green chillies slit lengthwise
2 medium onions finely chopped
50 gms carrot diced into 1/4 inch cubes
50 gms cauliflower, florets separated
50 gms potato diced into 1/4 inch cubes
50 gms red pumpkin diced into 1/4 inch cubes
250 ml coconut milk
Salt to taste
250 ml water


In a deep pan bring the water to a boil for parboiling the vegetables. Lower the flame and add the potatoes and carrots first. After a couple of minutes add the cauliflower and the red pumpkin. Cook with the flame on for about 3 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the vegetables be in the hot water for another 3 minutes. Drain and pour cold water on them. 

In a pan, heat oil. Add the ginger paste, the green chillies, and the curry leaves. When the leaves start to splutter, lower the flame to simmer. Add in the cinnamon stick and the peppercorns and fry in the oil on the low flame for about a 45 seconds to a minute. Keep stirring so that the tempering doesn't burn.

Put the flame back on high and add the chopped onions. Fry till the onions sweat and start turning pinkish. Add in the vegetables and fry them in the pan for about 2 minutes. Cover the pan and cook the vegetables on a low flame for about 2 minutes.

Lastly, lower the flame and pour in the coconut milk and add salt to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes on the low flame till the spices blend in with the coconut milk.

This rich coconut-y piquant stew is best enjoyed with appams, idiyappams, neer dosa or steamed rice. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kulhad Masala Chai

Hot, minty, spicy, and sweet chai that reminds me winters are just around the corner! Pour in a mitti ka kulhad and you can add another level of fun to it's experience!

Kulhad Masala Chai with all the Spices

Kulhad Masala Chai

1/2 cup water
1 tbsp black tea leaves
10 fresh mint leaves
1/4 inch ginger piece crushed
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2-3 green cardamoms opened but with shells
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar


Heat water with the tea leaves, mint leaves, ginger and the spices till it comes to a boil. Lower the flame, cover the utensil and let it simmer for 5 mins at least. The longer you brew it, the tastier your tea will be.

Add in the milk and put on high flame till the milk comes to a boil. Add in the sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves. Lower the flame again and simmer till the desired colour is achieved. I like my tea strong so I brew it for another 7 to 8 minutes. It requires some time and patience, but the end results are totally worth the wait!

Pour into a kulhad and sip hot!

Kulhad Masala Chai

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Asian Style Salad

I am in my salad phase. With exams around the corner and having to study for them, I do not have much time to go to the kitchen and cook elaborate meals. So I prefer making dishes that are quick and filling. And salads are a no-brainer for that. This Asian Style Salad has a balance of flavours of tangy, sweet, salty and punjent. For all tea lovers, it goes really well with lightly brewed green jasmine tea.

Asian Style Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Asian Style Salad


For the Salad

100 grams cabbage
50 grams carrot
2 spring onions
10-15 fresh corriander leaves

For the Dressing

1 1/2 tsps sesame oil
1 1/2 tsps soya sauce
1 1/2 tsps white vinegar
1 tsp chilly flakes/ finely chopped fresh red chilly
1 tsp honey
Salt to taste

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)


Finely shred the cabbage. Julienne the carrots. Finely slice the spring onions. Mix them together in a bowl with the corriander leaves.

To make the dressing stir in the soya sauce, honey and vinegar into the sesame oil. Add the chillies and salt to taste. Pour over the salad, mix well with your hands.

Serve fresh and crunchy as is or topped with the toasted sesame seeds.

Asian Style Salad

Friday, 1 November 2013

Cheat's Kimchi Salad

I have a confession... this is not the original kimchi salad recipe nor does it claim to be authentic. The original Kimchi salad is had with every meal in Korean households. Korean kimchi salad is traditionally made of cabbage, raddish or cucumbers with ingredients such as chilly sauce, fish sauce etc. It is a fermented salad that is usually fermented for 2 or 3 days and can be sometimes fermented for months. I neither ferment it nor use fish sauce or other such condiments as I have never really tasted them and am weary of their flavours.

Then why do I call it a kimchi salad? It is simply because of the way it tastes vis-a-vis the ones I have had at good restaurants in India. Of course, as we all know, all restaurant recipes are guarded as diligently as national secrets. So the best I could do is to try and construct it back based on what I can taste commonly across these recipes. Also, I have used shortcut ingredients, because they have a good flavour and just work great at times.

This salad  has the crunch and freshness of the cabbage, piquancy and tangy flavour of the sauces and a slight nutty flavour from the toasted sesame seeds on top. With its spiciness and tanginess it is a family favourite at our household!

Piquant and Tangy Cheat's Kimchi Salad

Cheat's Kimchi Salad


1 small cabbage cut into 1 inch square slices
1 tbsp Schezwan sauce/ chutney
2 tbsps tomato ketchup
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Salt to taste


Take the cabbage slices in a large bowl. Add in the schezwan sauce/ chutney (I prefer the chutney), the salt and the tomato ketchup and toss them well. The sauces should evenly coat the cabbage slices throughout. Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes so that the flavours seep into the cabbage well.

Toast the sesame seeds on a low flame for about 2 minutes till they release a nutty aroma. Cool for another 5 minutes. Garnish the salad with the toasted sesame seeds and serve!

Cheat's Kimchi Salad Up Close!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Clear Vegetable Soup

Winter is almost in the air and no other food best suits winter than a warm, comforting bowl of soup. This clear vegetable soup is an easy-to-make, light and flavourful accompaniment  for your winter evenings. 

Hot Clear Vegetable Soup
Clear Vegetable Soup


1 tbsp oil
6-8 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 green chillies finely chopped
6-7 leaves of cabbage sliced into 1 inch squares
6-7 leaves of spinach sliced into 1 inch squares
1 medium sized carrot sliced into thin round slices
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste

How to cut the vegetables


In a deep pan heat the oil. Add in the finely chopped garlic and fry till it turns golden brown.

The colour of the garlic when done

Now the chopped green chillies go in and are fried for about 30 seconds. Add in the vegetable stock, cover and cook with a lid on simmer for about 10-15 minutes so that the flavours of the garlic and chillies seep through the stock really well.  

Flavours of garlic and chillies seeping into the vegetable stock

Remove the lid and add in the vegetables in this order:

First the carrots because they take some time to cook...

Carrots go in first

After about a minute, the cabbage leaves

Next, the cabbage goes in

At the end, add in the spinach leaves, season with salt and pepper and let the spinach leaves cook for about 30 seconds only. 

The Clear Vegetable Soup

Serve smoking hot right from the pot!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tea Week 3: Types of Tea

The story of the journey of the tea impacts its colour and flavour. As I promised in my last post, here are the types of teas based on the steps in the production process.

The Journey and the Type of Tea

Here is a quick infographic on the production process of each of the three types of tea commonly found in India.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Tea Week 2: Tea Production

Having spoken of the Legends about the Discovery of Tea, I will finally come back to what my original topic was for the first post of the Tea Week: Tea Production. How is it that the fresh tea leaf is transformed into the fragrant ones stored in our homes? What gives green tea a unique flavour from black tea or white tea? All of these answers lie in the way these teas are processed. The process of tea production has the following steps:

1. Plucking 

Tea Plucking
Tea plucking happens twice a year during early spring and late spring or early summer. There can be autumn plucking as seen in Darjeeling teas from some estates as the climate permits it. During quality periods like First Flush or Second Flush, a terminal bud and two leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) are plucked whereas during other periods even three to four leaves can be plucked. Plucking can be done by machines but is preferably done by hand when good quality tea is being processed.

2. Withering

Withering the Tea Leaves
The tea leaves begin to wilt as soon as they're plucked. Don't worry it is a desirable thing! It is the beginning to the oxidation process that is going to give tea its flavour. Withering can be done in many ways. Tea leaves can be put under the sun to dry and wither. Another popularly used method is use 'withering troughs' which are about 6 inches deep. Fans are installed to pass air over the green leaf while it withers. This process can take 18-24 hours. This process removes the moisture content of the leaf so that it can withstand the pressure of rolling.

3. Rolling

Rolling the Tea Leaves
Rolling is the process by which the withered tea leaves are shaped into strips either by hand or by a machine with light pressure. This breaks the cells of the tea leaf causing sap and juices to ooze out and add flavour to the tea. The type of rolling depends on the type of tea, for example in oolong tea, the rolled strips of tea are rolled further into spheres or half spheres.

4. Fermentation/ Oxidation

Fermentation of Tea Leaves
Fermentation is the process that allows the leaves to darken to a desired colour. The rolled tea leaves are stored in climate controlled conditions that are carefully controlled. This process causes the enzymes to break down and releases the tannins giving tea its characteristic flavour. This fermentation process can take up to 3 to 4 hours depending on the type of the tea again.

5.  Drying 

Drying to Produce the Final Tea
Drying produces the final tea that is ready for consumption and sale. This process can also be known as firing based on the particular technique used. Generally, the tea leaves are dried using baking. In green tea, drying is the most important step of adding flavour to the tea leaves.

There are many additional steps in the production of tea that are unique to the type of tea produced. These steps give the tea their characteristic colour or flavour. While producing yellow tea sweltering is used to turn the leaves yellow from green whereas some teas are aged further after drying to give them more flavours. Stay tuned for more details on these on my blog post tomorrow which will be about the 'Types of Teas'!






Tea plucking: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/Northeast/Sikkim/Ravangla/photo1088946.htm

Tea Withering: http://www.bigelowteablog.com/tag/tea-plantation/

Tea Rolling http://www.natureproducts.net/Puer_Tea/Banzang.html

Tea Fermentation http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/5497827

Tea Drying http://www.flickr.com/photos/myragoodrich/294337502/

Monday, 21 October 2013

Tea Week 1: Legends About the Discovery of Tea

I can't believe it has been so many months since I have been blogging, but I have not come around to writing much about tea. Tea is my go-to  beverage for anything and everything. Teas can be soothing and calming and at the same time refreshing and rejuvenating. Coffee has a good buzz and I occasionally drink it when I need a buzz, like on Monday mornings. But my preferred cuppa is always a cup of tea. Since, I have not written much about my preferred cuppa till date, I am dedicating a whole week on my blog to tea.

Today, I was going to write about origins of tea: a basic history and the journey of tea from the green leaf of the plant to our kitchens ready to be brewed. As I was reading up on the legends, I realised that there are so many fascinating legends surrounding tea, its discovery and history. It is difficult to choose one and go with it, so I have changed my post today to just talk about these legends.

1. Indian Legends

Firstly, let me talk about what the history of tea has been in our country. The documented evidence regarding tea drinking in India has been recorded in the Ramayana and dates back to B.C. 750.

Ramayana: Earliest Documented Evidence of Tea Drinking in India
Image courtesy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/features/2003/04/ramnavmi_02.shtml

 In Ayurveda, there is a tradition of using dried herbs such as pudina, mulethi etc for medicinal purposes. The Indian preparation of tea, 'chai' with its milky, sweet taste served as a perfect disguise for these punjent and bitter tasting herbs. This evidence trail however went cold for about a thousand years afterwards.

The legends re-emerged with Buddhist legends. They say that a Buddhist monk, who has been called Dharma Boddhisatva or Bodhidharma, decided to spend seven years without sleeping to contemplate about the teachings of Buddha and about life. In the fifth year of his penance, he almost fell asleep. So, he took some leaves from a nearby plant and chewed on them. The leaves, which were the leaves of a wild tea plant, helped rejuvenate him and thus, tea was discovered.

Legend of Bodhidharma's Meditation and the Discovery of Tea
Image courtesy: http://greenteadoodles.wordpress.com/tag/bodhidharma/

2. Chinese Legends

In Chinese legends, Shen Nong (an emperor, a herbalist, and also called the father of agriculture and herbal medicine) has definitely been credited with the discovery of tea around B.C. 2700. However, things get a little misty from here. There are various stories of how he actually discovered tea.

One story in the ancient Chinese medical book, called The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic, has it that he would taste about 100 types of plants each day to discover which were edible, medicinal or poisonous. Moreover, legend also has it that he had a transparent belly that would allow him to observed the effects of these plants (not that I believe this part much). When he had tea leaves, he found that these passed through his stomach and intestines, checking for poisons and clearing them out of his system. He called these leaves "Cha" which meant "checking for poisons" and thus tea was discovered. This seems to be an unbelievable legend, especially because of the transparent stomach bit. So, I searched some more and found two more believable stories about Shen Nong and the discovery of tea.

Shen Nong, the falling leaves, and the discovery of tea
Image courtesy: http://www.china.org.cn/learning_chinese/Chinese_tea/2011-07/15/content_22999489.htm

One story has it that Emperor Shen Nong insisted on drinking boiled water for hygiene purposes. Once when he was on a trip to distant regions of his empire, his party halted to rest. As per his preference, his servants started boiling water for his consumption when a few leaves carried by the wind, fell into the boiling water. They went unnoticed and the water was drunk by Shen Nong who found the beverage rejuvenating. This is the legend of discovery of tea by Shen Nong. In another version of this story, it is said that Shen Nong took a rest under a tree after a long walk and lit a fire to boil water. Some leaves of a tea plant fell into this water and rejuvenated him after having tasted 100 plants the day before. Shen Nong believed that he had discovered a medicinal plant that can help a person think quicker, sleep less, move lighter, and see clearer.

These versions are quite Newtonian, I must say!

3. Japanese Legend 

The Japanese legend about the discovery of tea talks of the same Buddhist monk Bodhidharma as the Indian legend. However, this version is a little more gruesome. According to this legend, Bodhidharma who had taken the vow to meditate and not sleep for seven years (some versions say nine years, either ways it is a long time!) ended up actually falling asleep. He woke up and was disgusted and angry at himself for falling asleep. This led to him chopping his eyelids off. These fell to the ground and the first tea plant grew there!

Bodhidharma of the Japanese Legend about the Discovery of Tea
Image Courtesy: http://jp-planet.blogspot.in/2012/12/zen-gets-serious-bodhidharma.html

4. Korean Legend

According to the Korean legend, King Suro was one of the six princes born of an egg that descended from the sky. He married an Indian princess Heo Hwang-ok who brought with her a boatful of dowry. One of the gifts she got was tea seeds. And thus, tea came to Korea., from India.

King Suro and Queen Heo Hwang-ok
Image courtesy: http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/index.php?/topic/9807-koreas-indian-queen/