Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Palak Paneer

One of the favourites on the restaurant menus, I have never really loved this one but we do have this occasionally i.e. whenever I feel that it has been a long time since we had Spinach. For me this is the best way to have Palak (Spinach).

Funnily enough, I have never really liked the taste of this dish in any of the restaurants. The home made version is the best! Specially so when most of the restaurants, here in London are Bangladeshi converts, where it appears in the guise of Sag Poneer alongside Motor Poneer! We were once 'compelled' to order this for home delivery and what we got was a container full of Spinach leaves blanched in salty water, with some Paneer (Cottage cheese) pieces thrown here & there. Thats it! No spices. Or may be there were some traces of Garam Masala. This episode hardened my resolve to

1) Avoiding getting Indian take away/home delivery unless we completely trusted the restaurant

2) Never order Palak Paneer even if we did get a Take away!

And how do I make it at home?

Serves 2


  • 200 gm Spinach
  • 2 cups Paneer cubes
  • 1 Medium sized onion, grated
  • 1 medium sized tomato, pureed
  • 1 tsp Garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsps Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Coriander powder
  • 1 tsp Red Chili powder
  • salt
  • 1 tblsp Oil


Blanch the spinach and allow to cool. The spinach is not to be boiled but just immersed in boiling water for 2 minutes or so and then removed and set to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, make a puree and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds. Fry the grated onion until the raw smell goes away or rather until you stop shedding tears in the kitchen! Notice how grating the onion makes you cry even more, both while grating it & then while frying it. You may switch on the exhaust, open the windows, but you cant avoid the tears :)

The next step is to add the ginger & Garlic paste and fry for some more time (2-3 min). Then add the tomato puree and cook till the oil separates out.

Next, add the Garam Masala, Coriander powder & red chili powder and mix well. Add the Spinach puree, Paneer cubes & salt and mix.

If you want the spinach gravy to be thinner, add milk instead of water. This results in a creamy gravy without any water separating out of it. Cover and cook for 5-7 min.

Picture 275

Serve hot with Chapatis/ Phulka/ Naan/Rotis and forget the wannabe Punjabi food serving, so called Indian restaurants (atleast for this one item)!

This is my entry for FIC-Green event at Tongue Ticklers.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tomato, Herb & Cheese Bread

For a long time I had not understood why you were supposed to 'say cheese' while getting your snap clicked. Then one day I realised the purpose and from then on I have always wondered, isn't it easier & more understandable to just ask the person to smile? Cheese! I mean :)

But the phrase has a totally different meaning in this post. If Siri asks us to Say Cheese we do so!


This is my second time with the Y thing - 'yeast', and the skepticism is fading away with each effort. Of course a lot has to do with the recipes I am following, first these delicious Pav from Jugalbandi and now a Tomato Herb & Cheese Bread from Mansi at Fun and Food blog.

I halved the recipe and made only one loaf but regretted that, the moment I tasted this bread. I really should have made more!

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This Herb Bread with a lot of Parmesan Cheese is off to Siri's Corner for this month's MBP - Say Cheese. Thanks Siri for hosting this event & thanks a lot Manasi for this fabulous recipe.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The round ones with the complicated name

They are called Gundpongalya. Here is the pronunciation guide...

Gund - pronounced just as in the Gunda(thug) without the aa sound

ponga - pronounced as in pongal

lya - pronounced as in Tendlya(the unofficial nickname for Sachin)

Now, if this is not complicated, what is?

This is a favourite of mine and so many others I know who have tasted it at my home. It used to be the rage whenever I carried it in my lunch box in school or college.

The only problem was to tell the others what it was called. The name is tough enough to pronounce even for some Kannada people I know (including D, my brother - he makes it sound like a completely alien dish). The first time I took it to school in Delhi, I received bewildered stares from all my north Indian friends when I announced that I had got Gundpongalya in my lunchbox. Inspite of the non-culinary sounding name to them, they loved it. So much so that I started getting demands from them to get it again & again. And they started referring to it as 'The round ones with the complicated name'!

Life became much easier when I discovered that they are also called 'Paddu'(rhyming with laddu). Although we still call it by the original name at home.

This is an ideal weekend breakfast for us. Sometimes even acting as lunch or dinner, if we want.


  • 1 cup Urad Dal (Split Black Gram)
  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 tblsp Pohe (Beaten rice )
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • Oil to cook


Soak the Urad Dal, Rice and fenugreek seeds for 6-8 hours. Soak the Pohe 10 minutes before preparing the batter.

Grind together urad dal, fenugreek, rice & pohe just like the Dosa batter but the final batter should be coarser than the Dosa batter.

Let the batter ferment overnight. The 'Paddu' turn out light & fluffy on the inside if the batter is fermented well.

Put an Appam pan to heat. Add salt and chopped onions to the batter and mix well.

Add about 1/4 tsp oil in each of the sections of the pan. Spoon out the batter into these sections. Cover and cook for 3-4 min. Remove cover and turn them over and again cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove once they are thoroughly cooked, having a crisp outside but soft & fluffy inside.

Picture 227

The temperature at which the cooking is done, is very important. If the flame is too low, the Paddu will take a long time to cook and the result will not be the desired one. But if the flame is too high, the outer cover will get crisp & brown very fast and the insides will not be properly cooked. Gauge the optimum temperature while cooking the first batch and then adjust accordingly.

Picture 232

Serve hot with coconut chutney and/or Sambhar.

PS: Add chopped green chilies, curry leaves and ginger to the batter for a spicier version of Paddu!

Friday, 19 September 2008

I am singing again.....

Cooking had never been a chore for me until about a year ago. Things changed a bit, rather a lot, when I came back to London from India, with 3 months old S. Looking after her became the priority naturally and even when I was not tending to her, I had so much to do that I forgot for a while how I used to enjoy cooking new dishes. Earlier, any one entering the kitchen would find me either humming a tune while I was chopping the vegetables or talking to myself (yeah, it may sound crazy!) about what all was needed to be done for a particular dish.

Now cooking was confined to the basic - Chapati, Bhaji & sometimes Rice items. Even dishing out the simple & quick ones started sounding like a Herculean task. S has always been very active right from the moment she was born. As she is getting older its getting more & more difficult to manage her (read control her running around!). So the whole day was spent in making one meal (just chapati & bhaji), working in shifts whenever S fell asleep.  If I got some time to myself in the kitchen when GM was looking after her, my mind would be full of thoughts about what all was still to be done before I could manage to sleep in the night (not before12 anyway!) - nappies, baby food, washing clothes & utensils, planning for the next day meal etc dominated my thoughts. With so much going through in my mind, the cooking process became very automated, I did not even pay attention to what I was doing.

But things  changed again when I started this blog. I started making an effort to take time out so that I could pay attention to this passion of mine - cooking! I started looking out for new recipes again, started talking to myself about what I was going to do next in the course of making a dish. And most important of all - I started singing again! I am glad that I am back to enjoying my time in the kitchen by the time that I am writing this 50th post on this blog!

Last week when I was getting things ready to make this 'Upma'. I realised that I was actually humming! I dont even remember which song it was but I was enjoying what I was doing. I am really glad that I started blogging, not just writing but reading other blogs as well.

Coming to the recipe, Upma called Uppittu in kannada, is not really a favourite. I never liked it and would avoid eating it whenever I could and whenever I did consent to eating, it had to be steaming hot. I only liked it that way. Since GM doesnt like it too, we rarely make it if ever. This time it was made for lack of quick breakfast option on a weekend (of course after we had already made the Pohe on Saturday!).

Vegetable Upma

Serves 2


  • 1 cup Rawa (Semolina)
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetables (I used peas, beans & carrot)
  • 2 Green Chillies, chopped
  • 1 tblsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Urad dal (Split Black gram)
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • salt
  • Lime juice


Roast the rawa in a pan/kadai till it lets out an aroma and starts turning slightly brown. The roasting can be dry or in 1 tsp of oil. Keep this aside.

Heat 1 tblsp of oil in a kadai. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the curry leaves and the Urad Dal.

Once the dal browns slightly, add the green chili & onion. Saute for sometime. Add a little more than 2 cups of water. The quantity of water can be increased a little if you want the Upma to be very mushy but decreasing the quantity will result in very dry Upma. The thumb rule is that the amount of water should be double than that of the rawa.

When the water starts to boil, add salt and mix. Now add the roasted Rawa in small quantities while stirring continuously to avoid the formation of lumps. Mix well and then cover & cook till all the water is absorbed.

Add the sugar and a dash of lime juice, mix and serve hot. It pairs very well with Baarik (thin) Sev or any other farsan. Chutney powder such as this one or pickle is also sometimes served with Upma.


I have grown to be a little more tolerant to this easy & 'quick to make' breakfast item and so it has started making an occasional appearance in our kitchen nowadays.



Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Methi Matar Malai

I consider myself very lucky because I get almost all the Indian supplies in this part of London where I live. I have some friends staying in other areas who are actually envious of me because of this. Grocery items such as the wheat flour, spices and some special items like Pohe (beaten rice), Rawa (Semolina), Murmura (Puffed rice), tamarind, Jaggery - you name it & I get it here at the local Tesco store.

For those who don't have easy access to these things, it is possible to hunt for these items & store them for a long time, say a month or until they again go to that particular store. What makes the real difference is getting the vegetables such as Drumstick, curry leaves, Gawar (cluster beans), Methi (Fenugreek), small brinjals, Kairi (raw mangoes), Dudhi (bottlegourd), Bittergourds etc.

Even though I get these veggies easily here, there are times when you don't see a particular vegetable in the shops for a long time. For this reason, whenever I do get them I stock up on them as if we are never going to get it again :) But even while I am paying for them at the store, the only thought running through the mind is how to utilise them before they get spoilt & wasted, especially the green leafy vegetables, which have a short life span in the refrigerator.

Picture 002

Last week when I saw these very fresh looking Methi (Fenugreek) bunches, I immediately picked up a couple of big ones. One was used to make these Thepla style Paranthas. The other was awaiting its turn in the refrigerator all plucked & cleaned up when it struck me that it had been a really long time since we had had Methi Matar Malai, a rich creamy preparation of Fenugreek & Peas.

Serves 2-3


  • 3 cups chopped Methi (Fenugreek)
  • 1 cup Green Peas
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tblsp oil
  • 2 tsps Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk

To be ground into a paste

  • 1 onion
  • 2 Green Chillies
  • 1" piece of Ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tblsp Cashew
  • 2 tsp khus khus (Poppy seeds)

For the dry masala powder

  • 2" Cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 3-4 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds


Heat 1/2 tblsp oil in a pan and add 1 tsp cumin seeds. When they crackle add the chopped Methi leaves and saute for 3-4 minutes. Remove from fire and reserve. The original recipe actually called for the methi leaves to be mixed with 1-2 tsp salt & kept for 15 minutes, the leaves are then to be squeezed to get rid of the water. This is done to reduce the bitterness of the Methi leaves. I always skip this part because I like the slight bitter taste and also since the methi leaves available here are not that bitter anyway!

Blanch the tomatoes, peel, puree and keep aside.

Dry roast all the ingredients for the dry Masala and grind them to get a powder. Alternatively you can crush them in a mortar but the result will not be a fine powder.

To make the wet paste of onion & other ingredients, first dry grind the cashew and then add the other items and a bit of water if required, to get a smooth paste.

Heat the remaining 1/2 tblsp oil. Add the chopped onion & fry till they turn golden brown. Add the onion-cashew paste and fry for some more time. Add the dry masala and the tomato puree and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the peas, methi, milk, sugar and salt, mix and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Add the cream and turn off the flame. Mix well.

Picture 179

Serve hot with Roti, Phulkas, chapatis or Naans.

This is one of the few sweet tasting (very slightly!) curry/bhaji that we like, otherwise sweet gravies are a strict no-no for us. The combination of sweet & spicy is the main flavour of this dish.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Methi Parantha

Thanks to Dee's Herb Mania, I now know that Methi (Fenugreek) is a herb and not just a green vegetable! Although I use Kasuri Methi extensively to flavour a lot of dishes, it never struck me that fresh Methi could be a herb. But now I know :)

One of the main reasons for this ignorance could be that, in India we rarely use Methi as a herb. Most of the times it is the main ingredient in the particular dish, for example this Aloo Methi. For me, a herb is something which is used to flavour the dish. In that sense I could never imagine Methi to be a herb.

Another such example is Dill, Shepu in Marathi & Sabbasge in kannada. This is considered to be a herb but prepared as a complete bhaji at home.

The methi paranthas that I make are somewhere in between the actual parantha & a methi thepla. They are not really paranthas because I dont stuff the methi in the dough like some people do but mix the methi leaves while preparing the dough itself as in a thepla. But they are not theplas as well because I dont use any besan (Chickpea flour) in the dough which is a part of a traditional thepla. And the usage of oil is considerably less than that in a thepla.

Makes 6-8 Paranthas


  • 2 cups chopped Methi (Fenugreek) Leaves
  • 2 cups Wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp Haldi (Turmeric Powder)
  • 2 tsp Red Chili powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • Salt
  • Oil for cooking


Mix all the ingredients except oil and make a pliable dough using water. The dough should not be too soft as the Methi will let out water and it will turn soggier after sometime. Leave to rest for about 15-20 min so that the flavour of Methi gets assimilated in the dough.

Divide the dough into 6-8 equal portions. Shape them into balls and then roll out into round paranthas using a little flour to prevent sticking. The parantha should not be too thin & not too thick either.

Heat a Tawa (Griddle) and place the rolled out Parantha. Cook 1-2 min and then turn. Cook again for a minute and then drizzle some oil on the sides and also on the surface of the parantha. Turn it again and repeat.

Cook well till the parantha is properly cooked & looks crisp on both the sides.

Picture 005

Serve with Chhunda, pickle or plain old Tomato ketchup.

This goes to this month's Herb Mania, being hosted by Red Chillies.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Bisibele Bhaat

Picture this: Its 9 at night (or 2 in the afternoon) & you haven't yet decided what to cook for dinner (or lunch). You are in the mood for something special but don't know what. And now its too late to prepare for an elaborate meal anyway. And since you started to think about the dinner (or lunch) with something very special, you don't feel like settling for a Khichdi, Amthi Bhaat or any such 'ready in a jiffy' dish.

My solution to this situation is 'Bisibele Bhaat'. This is nothing but a combination of Toor Dal (pigeon pea) and rice cooked with some vegetables (sometimes none) and spices. Bele means Dal (Lentil) and Bhaat means Rice in kannada. Bisi, which means hot, could be either to describe the spicyness of this dish or to stress that this is supposed to be had piping hot to truly enjoy it.

In other words, instead of serving rice & Amthi (Sambhar to be precise) separately, you mix them up and serve it as a special dish :) I have always wondered why it tastes so different from the normal Sambhar rice, when you are using exactly the same ingredients!

Serves 2


  • 1 cup Rice
  • 1 cup Toor Dal (pigeon pea)
  • 1/2 cup vegetables (onion, tomato, brinjal, pumpkin or any combination, I sometimes use only onions)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10-12 Curry Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp Haldi (Turmeric Powder)
  • 1/4 cup Peanuts
  • 3-4 tsps Sambhar Powder (I make this powder at home but any store bought Sambhar Masala such as MTR, Everest etc can be used)
  • 2-3 tsps Red Chili Powder
  • 3 tblsp Tamarind pulp
  • 2 tblsp grated Jaggery (Optional - this can be skipped if you don't want a sweet tinge to the Bhaat)
  • 2 tblsp Oil
  • Salt


Cook the rice & the Toor dal in a pressure cooker and keep aside. It is very important for the quantity of the Dal to be same (or even more than) as that of rice.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they start spluttering, add the curry leaves, Hing, Haldi and the peanuts.

When the peanuts are a little roasted/fried add the chopped vegetables and saute. Add the cooked rice & Dal and 1/2 cup water and mix.

Add the tamarind, spices, jaggery & salt and mix thoroughly.

Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the cover and cook on sim until the water evaporates. But the Bhaat should not be very dry. This Bhaat has a paste like consistency just the way it will be if Sambhar is mixed in cooked rice!

Add a generous amount of Toop/Tuppa/Ghee (Clarified Butter) and serve hot with Papad & pickle.

5Aug08 087

If we leave out the time taken to cook the rice & Dal, this dish is ready in about 15 minutes and is very easy to plan and make. Its funny how delicacies are born out of conveniences!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Naivedya Series: Haygreev

Food is the most important aspect of life. Its no surprise therefore, that it plays a major role in our celebrations as well. Thanksgiving is unthinkable without the Turkey. Christmas Pie is so named because its a must during Christmas. In India also, all the festivals and occasions are marked by specific food items that are absolutely necessary for these celebrations to be complete. Modak for Ganpati, Puran Poli for Devi and so on. On a lighter note, we made sure that we went to the Sai Baba Temple near our house in Delhi every Thursday for the prasad - Poori, Halwa & Kala Chana :)

The point is that food plays such a major role in the worship of God, that I decided to dedicate a whole series to food items particularly meant for the 'Naivedya'.

'Naivedya', in sanskrit means the offering made to God. And this offering is very special, not anything would do. There are some rules to be followed, some specific dishes to be served and a format to be taken care of. Any 'pooja' is not complete without the 'Naivedya'.

The Naivedya consists of the complete thali containing everything right from Chutney, Koshimbir, Sambhar/Saaru, Bhaaji, Kheer, Poori, Bhaat, Masale Bhaat/Chitranna, Papad/Kurdai/Bhaji etc. But as mentioned earlier, all these items have to be made with special care. Garlic & Onions are not allowed. Any vegetable will not do. Some, like Brinjal, Okra etc are not allowed. And depending on the pooja, some specific dishes have to be included.

Naivedya can take on various forms depending upon the type of Pooja, timing of pooja and even the Gods/Goddesses it is offered to. In this series I will try to cover all these items, specifically those prepared in our household.

I am starting off with a 'Sweet', a must, when it comes to Naivedya.

Generally while worshipping the 'Devi' the Naivedya should include Hoorna (kannada) or Puran(Marathi) made of Chana Dal (Split chickpea) and Jaggery. Now, this can take on various forms such as the very famous Puran Poli, the not so known Kadabu and Haygreev,  which is almost like Kheer. Of these, Haygreev is the easiest and quickest to make.

Serves 2


  • 1 cup Chana Dal
  • 1 cup grated Jaggery
  • 2 tsps Khus Khus (Poppy seeds)
  • 2 tblsp grated dry coconut
  • 1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder


Pressure Cook the Dal till it is properly cooked but not completely mashed. For Puran Poli, we require the Dal to be cooked till it mashes but not so for Haygreev.

The water in which the Dal is boiled along with some Dal is usually reserved. This is used to prepare Kattina Saaru/Katachi Amthi, recipe to follow in a later post.

Once the Dal is cooked, transfer it to a pan and put on heat. Add the Jaggery and other ingredients and mix properly.

Cook on medium flame till the water reduces and it achieves paste like consistency with some bits of Dal in it. The Dal is never to be mashed.

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This is almost always had with Tuppa/Toop/Ghee (Clarified Butter), which anyway is a must for the Naivedya.

Variations can include the addition of dry fruits such as Cashew Nuts, Almonds, raisins etc. Around 1 tsp of Nutmeg powder can also be added for extra flavour.

Having said so much about the pooja & Naivedya, I would also like to add that these food items are never restricted to be made on these days only and can be made any day to turn the daily meal into a special one!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Kanda Bhaji (Onion Pakoras/Fritters)

It was raining heavily in India (Bombay & Pune) when I started to write this post. As regards to London, its always raining or rather drizzling throughout the year. Much has been said about the British weather and believe me its not enough. You have to really experience it to know the seriousness. The only certain part is the cold. It will be definitely cold in Nov-Dec-Jan-Feb. For the other months you never know. For the first timer, specially from Bombay it may seem that it is cold throughout the year but there is supposed to be a 'Summer' here too, July & August are the official Summer months.

One of my friends, who has recently shifted to London from India keeps asking me when the weather is going to be nice enough and I keep telling her that it already is very good (temp around 20 deg, cloudy most of the times, windy, sunny & clear once in a while)! A few more days and the cold will start setting in.

Anyway, coming back to the post, whenever it is raining, we crave for something fried. Of course we cant have fried things every time it rains in London, that would sometimes mean 5 days in a week! But we do indulge ourselves sometimes. On one such occasion, we made the very famous Kanda Bhaji (Onion Pakoras/Fritters).

Makes about 12-14 small Bhajis


  • 1 medium sized onion, very thinly sliced
  • Approx 5-6 tblsp Besan (Chickpea flour)
  • 1-2 tsps red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Haldi (Turmeric powder)
  • Salt
  • Oil for Frying


The onion slices should be as thin as possible. separate the slices by hand to get single strands.

Add the besan, red chili powder, haldi and salt & make a batter by adding a little water. Adjust the quantity of besan as you prepare the mix. The batter should barely coat the onion slices. The onion slices should be partially visible once the batter is ready.

It shouldn't happen that the batter is heavy & the slices are only visible here & there, the main item should be the onion slices. The batter should be such that it just holds the slices together.

Heat oil in a kadai. Once heated drop small lumps of the prepared batter and fry till crisp.

Picture 198

Serve with Ketchup or chutney. Can be served as starters or as an accompaniment to a simple Rice meal or had as an evening snack with Tea. Ideal to have when it is raining :)