Thursday 30 July 2009

Chinese Style Vegetable Stir fry

We always knew it, but the weighing scale brought us out of our optimistic thinking that the weight gain was temporary. On Sunday we realised that it was for real, was here to stay and in fact threatened to increase with time. It was high time we did something about it. And obviously food was the prime suspect. There were others like complete inactivity during the weekends, an almost wasted gym membership etc, but it was easy & convenient for us to put the blame on the food we consume & so we decided to change it, at least one meal of the day.

Now, we are not doing anything drastic not even following any particular diet. Although I have to say, inspired by Sig, I did a lot of reading up on the South Beach diet and other Low carb ones. I even tried to follow the SBD for some time but could not keep up with it. I find it a bit difficult to completely follow such diets being a vegetarian. There are a lot of Carb less options for the Non Vegetarians but for me it was very tough thinking up low carb meals without using Meat, Sea food, Eggs & even Mushrooms (I have an allergy!).

So currently we are replacing our usual dinner meal for something more healthy, low fat & low carb and combining this with a mandatory 30 min workout everyday. We are also limiting the consumption of bread for breakfast and fried items & sweets are prohibited unless absolutely necessary on days when there has to be a Naivedya. Believe me its an uphill task to start a diet in the month of Shravan!

I don't think I will be able to write daily about this ‘diet’, but will try to update with the dinners we had, as frequently as possible. And success, if any, will be conveyed with bold letters!

Chinese style Vegetable stir fry

Picture 306


  • 2 Carrots
  • 5-6 Baby Corns
  • 1 Green pepper, sliced
  • 1 Cup small florets of Cauliflower
  • 1 cup Peas
  • 1.5 Cups of Paneer Cubes
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 Green Chilli, slit lengthwise
  • 1 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp White Vinegar
  • 1 tblsp Tomato Ketchup (Optional)
  • Salt & Pepper

Method: Peel and cut the carrots into medium sized pieces. Cut the baby corns into equal sized discs. Boil these along with the cauliflower florets for about 3-4 min. The veggies should have a crunch to them but be cooked.

Put a Wok on to heat. When hot, add the paneer cubes and stir fry on high flame till the sides are browned. Remove and keep aside.

Add the oil or use an oil spray.

Put in the garlic, ginger and the green chilli & sauté for a min. Add the boiled veggies and sauté on high flame for about 3-4 min till the edges start browning.

Next, add in the sliced pepper and continue to stir fry. Add the peas, soy sauce, vinegar, salt & pepper and sauté on high flame.

Add the ketchup if using and mix. Lastly add in the paneer and mix till well coated. If at this point you fell that the veggies are dying up, add 1-2 tblsp of water and keep cooking on high flame for another min or so.

Picture 312

We both had a bowl each of this delicious stir fry and actually enjoyed the fact that we are on a diet! If diet food can taste like this then I am all game for it!

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Misal Pav – My way

I often sit & wonder how certain food items must have been ‘invented’.Actually I would really like to know the history of all the food items. I wonder why someone thought of collecting the wheat grains and making a powder (flour) out of it, adding water to make a dough and then rolling out Rotis and then baking them on the Tawa (griddle). What must have prompted the earliest human being to make curd/yogurt from the milk, how they might have stumbled upon it. How they discovered that certain things were edible & tasty when made in a particular way. Who thought of boiling /steaming the rice and how did they come across so many varieties of it. It must have been a massive trial & error session as regards to the rice, I am sure.

More than the complex recipes it is the simple and basic things that intrigue me. The complex ones, if you ask me, are easy to build on when you know the basics. Similar to spelling out large words when you are thorough with the ABC’s. It might take some time to learn but you know you will get it.

These thoughts were triggered as I sat there thinking how to introduce the dish in question here – Misal Pav. The first thing that came to mind was that people must have started with the basic Usal, which is made with sprouts or dried beans. So someone must have added some farsan to the Usal just for that extra crunch & liked it so much that ‘Misal’ was invented. So there you are, Misal is nothing but basic Usal mixed with Farsan (Namkeen/Mixture), topped with garnishes such as chopped onion, chopped coriander etc.

But while Usal can be with a bit of gravy as well as dry, the one made specifically for Misal should have a lot of liquid to compliment the addition of Farsan which tends to soak up some of the gravy. The correct or the traditional way of making Misal is to make two separate things namely the usal, which is made dry and the Kaat which is the one with the gravy. But I have been making Misal by combining the two steps together to save a bit of time.

This is my version of the Misal.


I always make a sprouts Usal and most of the times it is Matki (sprouted Moth Beans). To get the sprouts, soak the Moth Beans overnight and then drain them well and cover and leave them at a warm place. It takes 1-2 days for the sprouting, so you have to plan ahead.




  • 2 tblsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • A pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp Red Chilli powder
  • 1.5 tsp Goda Masala
  • 2 Cups Sprouts (I used Matki i.e. sprouted Moth Beans)
  • 1 Medium Potato cut into small cubes
  • Salt

To serve

  • A pair of  Pav buns (or white rolls)
  • Farsan (Namkeen/Mixture)
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped fresh Coriander
  • A Wedge of Lime
  • Thin Sev (Optional)


Heat the oil in a deep vessel and add the mustard seeds. As they start spluttering add the Curry leaves and Asafoetida.

Add the crushed garlic & fry until the garlic just starts browning. Put in the chopped onions and fry till the raw smell goes away and onions turn translucent.

Next, add the chopped tomato and cook till the tomatoes are all mashed up. Add the salt, red chilli powder and the goda masala and keep frying till the oil separates.

Add the chopped potatoes and cook for 5 min with the cover on. Add the sprouts and mix well.

Add about 3 cups of water, enough for the potatoes & sprouts to cook and also to be left with some gravy. Bring this to a boil and then simmer until cooked.

To serve, take a bowl and fill a little more than half of it with the Farsan. Pour over the Usal, adding gravy enough to immerse the Farsan. Top this up with chopped onions and Coriander and the thin sev. Serve this with the wedge of lemon and the Pav.

My notes: If you don't find the right Pav or white rolls, substitute with bread.


This is my entry for Sunday Snacks – Spill the Beans being hosted by Priya of Akshaypatram.

Monday 6 July 2009

Varan/Tavvi – Simple lentils

This forms one half of the ultimate (for me atleast!) comfort food – Varan Bhaat. The other half is simply boiled/steamed rice. Varan for me is something which I had always taken for granted, simple sounding & simple tasting, surely it must be very simple to make. Although it is very easy to make, I initially struggled to get the exact taste & consistency of the Varan that Mom used to make.

Varan can actually have 2 forms, one where the lentils are simply boiled and then salt and a bit of turmeric powder are added and mixed well. This is the version served in festive meals & weddings, on the mound of rice along with Tuppa (Ghee) and Sambhar.

The other version involves tempering the cooked lentils and this is what this post is about. There are no Masala powders (Spice Mix) involved. The procedure is very simple and the ingredients are all routine ones.

As for my struggle to get the right taste & balance, it all started because I had always felt that Mom used a lot of ‘unnecessary’ stuff while making Varan. In those days, according to me, Curry leaves & Coriander were something that came in the way of enjoying something tasty. I always picked out these two from any food item and would complain about it. If we had to take them out later on, why add them to the dish in the first place? Same was the case with the Varan, so naturally when I tried to replicate it, I skipped both of them and ended up with a very bland tasting Dal.

And so it happened every time, I would either skip the curry leaves or the coriander and look for an excuse to explain the difference in the taste. All this even while I remembered that Mom always said that those were the things that imparted the taste to the Varan. But now I am ‘older & wiser ‘, so I know that these are a must. In fact both these are a mandatory part of almost everything I cook nowadays.

So here it is, the comforting & delicious Varan. Although the list of ingredients might look very non-glamorous, don't skip any of them as that will definitely alter the end result.

Varan / Tavvi – Simple Lentils


Serves 2


  • 2 cups of cooked Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Pea) – I cook this in the pressure cooker, the consistency should be such that the Dal should give in easily when mashed with the back of a spoon.
  • 1 tblsp Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 8-10 Curry Leaves
  • 1/4 tsp Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2 Green Chillies, slit lenghtwise
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tblsp Chopped fresh coriander
  • Lime juice


Heat oil in a deep pan. Once hot enough add the mustard seeds. As they beging to splutter, add the curry leaves and Hing.

Add in the tuermic powder and the slit chillies and stir.

Roughly mash the cooked dal and add it to the tempering along with half a cup of water.

Add salt and sugar and mix well. Bring this to boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes.

Next, add in the chopped coriander, mix and let it cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Switch off the flame, wait for a minute or two and add the lime juice and combine.

Serve hot with Rice. It also makes for a great accompaniment with Chapati-Bhaji.


This comforting bowl of lentils is going to Sunshinemom at Tongue Ticklers, who is hosting the current edition of My Legume Love Affair-13, an event originally started by Susan (The Well Seasoned Cook).