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:

Tea Withering:

Tea Rolling

Tea Fermentation

Tea Drying

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:

 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:

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:

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:

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:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Pan Seared Aubergines with a Yoghurt Dip

Aubergines or brinjals are one of my favourite vegetables but no one at my home likes them really so they rarely come home. I have adapted and tried this dish from a recipe I read a few days back. It is a pretty simple dish with lovely complexities of flavours. I am now hoping that others at home like it too so that I can make aubergines more often at home! This will make for a great party dish too. It's simple, quick to cook and easy to eat!

Pan Seared Aubergines with a Yoghurt Dip

Pan Seared Aubergines with a Yoghurt Dip


For the Pan Seared Aubergines

1 large aubergine or brinjal
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

For the Dip

3 tbsps yoghurt
1 garlic clove crushed
10 fresh corriander leaves finely chopped
5 fresh mint leaves finely chopped
Salt to taste


Pan Seared Aubergines

Pan Seared Aubergines

Cut the aubergines into half inch rounders.

Aubergine rounders

Rub each slice with olive oil and season with the salt. Heat a pan and cook these slices on both sides. 

Cooking the aubergine slices on the pan

The best way to know that these are cooked is to see the skin colour. If the aubergines are done, the skin will turn brownish throughout the width of the slice. If the middle is still purplish, let it cook for a bit more.

Yoghurt Dip

Yoghurt Dip

The yoghurt needs to be thick and creamy for this dip. You can either hang it for half an hour or use the trick I have recently learned that I used. Put the yoghurt on your everyday chhalni with a bowl under for the water to drip into.

Yoghurt-chhalni trick

Leave the yoghurt like this for about 15 minutes and voila! I collected about half a bowl of water from 3 tbsps of yoghurt using this trick. 

The water collected from the yoghurt

Whisk in the crushed garlic clove, the fresh herbs and salt till it becomes a nice creamy dip. 

Adding the garlic and fresh herbs to the yoghurt

There are two serving options. You can serve the aubergines with the dip on the side.

Pan Seared Aubergines with the Yoghurt Dip on the Side

You can also serve a dollop of the dip on each aubergine slice.

Pan Seared Aubergine with the Yoghurt Dip on the Top

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mag ni Dal na Dhokla

Can I just say one thing about them?

Mag ni Dal na Dhokla

Yes, just look at those beauties!

Despite being a Gujju, I am not a dhokla person.  I do not like the flavours of the ever popular 'khaata dhokla' which are the white ones made from fermented rice batter or 'khaman dhokla'  which are the yellow ones made from besan. To me, these humble and not-so-popular dhoklas win hands down! 

Mag ni Dal na Dhokla


1 cup green moong dal (with skins)
1/2 inch ginger roughly sliced
1-2 green chillies cut into 4/5 pieces each
Salt to taste
Oil to cook


Soak the moong dal overnight or for at least 6 hours. Remove excess water and grind with the green chillies, ginger and salt to make a thick batter that has the consistency of a dosa batter. This is the same batter as used to make Mag ni Dal na Pudla

To steam the dhoklas, take a deep thick large pan and put about 2 cups of water in the bottom and start heating it.  Grease a deep steel dish or thaali and pour the batter evenly in it till it is about 3 cms lower than the edge of the thali. Use a steel ring or an upturned steel bowl as a stand in it to put the thaali on. 

The deep pan for steaming with the steel ring as a stand
Place the dish with the batter on the ring as shown below.

The batter filled thali in the steaming pan

Cover with an upturned dish and let the batter steam and cook on a high flame for about 7 minutes and then on a lowered flame for 3 minutes.

Steaming the Dhoklas

The best way to check the doneness of dhoklas is to put a knife edge into it. If it comes out clean, then your dhoklas are ready to eat. Cut into squares of about 2 inches and serve hot with your favourite chutney or ketchup.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Fifteen Minute Tomato Soup

Yes, I made this in fifteen minutes flat. It doesn't have oil, it isn't too spicy. No, it isn't bland. It made a perfect lunch for a work-at-home day like today where I was too lazy to cook but had to make something tasty to fill those hunger pangs! Ready? Here is the quick recipe!

The Fifteen Minute Tomato Soup


4 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 cup water
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
Salt to taste


Cut the tomatoes and onions into quarters. In a pressure cooker, put in the tomatoes, onion, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and the water. Cook till one whistle is done. This will take about 8 minutes. Lower the flame and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Tomatoes and onions pressure cook fast!

Remove from the cooker, fish out the whole spices. Blend the vegetables together to form the soup. Strain to remove the tomato skins and seeds. Add some water if you wish to adjust the consistency to your liking.

Season with salt and pepper and voila!Your fifteen minute, no oil spicy soup is ready to slurp!

Simple Fifteen Minute Tomato Soup

Friday, 11 October 2013

Pakodewaali Kadhi

Kadhi from different regions of India is as diverse as the different types of dals in different regions. Gujarati kadhi is a sweet and sour mixture, whereas Marwaris love their kadhi just sour. Pakodewaali kadhi is normal kadhi for Punjabis.

The logic of this dish is very simple. Everyone loves pakodas. Everyone loves kadhi. Put them together and you have a heavenly dish!

Pakodewaali Kadhi... kya idea hai!

Here is the recipe that I have adapted a little from my neighbour's recipe of it.

Pakodewaali Kadhi


For the Pakodas

2 medium onions
1 cup besan
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps red chilly powder
2 tsps dhania jeera powder
Salt to taste
Oil to fry
2-3 tbsps water

For the Kadhi

2 cups yoghurt
3/4 cup besan
4 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps red chilly powder
2 tsps dhania jeera powder
2 tsps garam masala powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp amchur powder (dried raw mango)
2 tbps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 whole dried Kashmiri red chilly
10 curry leaves


The Pakodas

Pakodas for the pakodewaali kadhi

Slice the onions thinly. Mix in the besan, the salt, turmeric powder, red chilly powder and dhania jeera powder with your fingers till they are evenly mixed. Add in a little water to form a smooth thick batter. Make small balls and deep fry in heated oil.

Frying the Pakodas

The Kadhi

Kadhi for the pakodewaali kadhi

Blend together the yoghurt, besan, salt, turmeric, red chilly powder, dhania jeera powder, garam masala powder and the yoghurt to make the mixture for kadhi. Ensure that there are no lumps in it.

Heat oil in a pan and temper with mustard seeds, curry leaves and the dried red chilly. Add in the yoghurt mixture and bring to a boil. Lower the flame,add in the amchur powder and let the mixture cook till it thickens to a soup-like consistency and you don't feel the raw taste of the besan.

Add in the pakodas and let them soak the kadhi. Serve hot with steamed rice or parathas of your choice.

Pakodewaali Kadhi is ready to eat!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


Khandvi is one of those rare traditional Gujarati dishes that I enjoy eating. Its simple flavours and silky texture are a delight to have in your mouth. Pair that with the fact that khandvi is not fried, and you have all the reasons why I love this snack. I finally learnt how to make khandvi  this Sunday and one thing is for sure: making khandvi can be a real fun project!

My first attempt at Khandvi in all its glory!


For the Khandvi rolls

1 cup gram flour (besan)
1 cup yoghurt (a little sour)
1 cup water
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
Salt to taste

For tempering

2 tsps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

A few corriander leaves for garnishing


Grease the back of a large plate. Keep this ready as it will help speeden up the spreading process later that really needs to be fast.

Combine yoghurt and water to make buttermilk. If you do not have sour yoghurt, put in 1 tsp of lemon juice. Whisk in the gram flour, the salt, the turmeric powder and the asafoetida to from a really smooth mixture. You can use your fingers to check and break down any powdery lumps. You need to make sure there are no lumps in this.

The gram flour and yoghurt mixture

Pour this mixture into a pan, turn on the flame and start stirring. After a couple of minutes when the pan has heated well, lower the flame and keep stirring. Keep stirring to ensure there are no lumps.

Heating the gram flour and yoghurt mixture

I realised after the first minute that this mixture lumps up fast. So I used a trick: I used a potato masher placed vertically such that its base touched the bottom of the pan and turned it round and round to stir it. There wasn't one single lump after that! 

Use a potato masher to ensure there are no lumps!

Keep stirring and cooking the mixture on the low flame till it achieves a thick paste-like consistency. This takes about 8-10 minutes. When I was spreading it out, I realised my mixture was a little too thick and could have done with a minute less on the flame. So, turn off the gas before it becomes of the below thick consistency.

Paste that is a tad too thick

Keep the pan on the gas even though it is turned off so that the mixture doesn't cool off too quickly. Using your spatula or a large serving spoon, quickly spread the hot paste on the back of the greased plate into a really thin layer. Speed is very important here. You need to spread out all the mixture before it cools down and becomes difficult to spread.

Spreading the mixture on the back of the dish

If it is your first time, it is okay if the layer gets thick (it will taste just as nice!). I have heard it improves with practice and as you get the hang of making it.

Let this spread mixture cool for 3-4 minutes. Cut long vertical strips of it about 2 inches in width and roll them up  (as seen in the picture above).

Heat oil and temper with the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds. Pour the tempering on the rolls. 

Garnish with corriander leaves and serve as a side dish or as a snack just by itself.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Corriander Mint Chutney

My best memory of this green goodness is from about five years back. A friend had come home to help me with Maths for an entrance exam. After we were done, in true Indian hospitality spirit, I had prepared hot fresh theplas for him to eat and I had served this chutney with it. He eats a bite of the theplas dipped in this chutney and goes, "The chutney is great!" And I was thinking, I just put in effort to make hot theplas for you and all you can think of is the chutney? That was a real wow moment for me!

And it has happened many times with me when people have specifically enjoyed the chutney and given it a special mention! Here's the recipe of this attention stealing chutney!

The attention stealing chutney


1 bunch corriander leaves
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1 tbsp daliya
2 green chillies
1/2 tsp sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Salt to taste


Wash and clean the corriander and the mint leaves and separate them from their stems.

My favourite greens with all their possibilities

Roast the daliya on a low flame for about two-three minutes till they release a dry earthy roasted aroma.

Daliya being roasted

Put in the greens, the daliya, the slit chillies, the lemon juice, the sugar and the salt into a mixer bowl with a little water and blend well to form a smooth paste.

Blending the chutney
Serve as a dip for your favourite savoury snack.