Monday, January 21, 2013

Rasam powder

Rasam is a south indian dish that is prepared with tamarind pulp and tomato pureé as a base with powdered spices as seasoning. It is part of a traditional meal in most south indian homes and is of fluid consistency and helps aid in digestion (from what I've heard). Rasam powder is easy to prepare and stores well in an airtight container. Personally, I think recipes taste so much better when you use homemade spice blends compared to store-bought and they are economical too. 


1/2 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup tur dhal
1/4 cup black pepper powder
1/4 cup cumin seeds
8-10 dry red chillies (adjust to taste)


In a pan, dry roast the coriander seeds until you get an aroma from it. Set aside.

Dry roast tur dhal, black pepper powder, cumin seeds and dry red chillies for 3-4 mins. Allow the roasted ingredients to cool and grind to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container and use 2-3 tsp (makes it a bit spicy, so adjust to suit your taste) to make any rasam of your choice.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Curried Lentil and Kale Soup

Lentils come in various colors, sizes and several forms. They are a good source of protein. Some of these lentils work well in soups and brown lentils is one such variety. The lentils cook anywhere from 10-30 mins depending on the variety. Lentils can add nutrition to rice dishes or soups and make up for a very satisfying meal. Normally, I prepare a quick lentil soup with spinach but since I am still recovering from a bad cold (apparently, I was told that this is one of the worst cold & flu season, so try and stay well people), I wanted to add more veggies and savor on a nutritious bowl of soup.

Kale has been an addition in my kitchen, ever since, I tasted baked kale chips (by the way, they are addictive and much healthier than regular potato chips). Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K/C and rich in calcium. The stems of the kale leaves tend to be a bit fibrous, so it needs to be trimmed in order to be used. I added some crushed black pepper to the soup to soothe my throat but you can try different variations by using other spices  too.


1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 bay leaf (optional)
2-3 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh kale, destemmed, rinsed, chopped
3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed
4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
1 medium tomato, chopped (optional)
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
1 tsp dry parsley (or 2-3 tbsp fresh parsley)
2 tsp madras curry powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.


In a stock pot, on medium heat, add olive oil, bay leaf, onion and garlic. Sauté until the onions turn slightly brown. 

Add chopped celery and carrot and cook until they are slightly done. Add kale and fry for few mins until it slowly starts to wilt. 

Now, add the tomato (if you want thicker soup, add tomato paste/pureé), lentil, water, curry powder and parsley.

Reduce the flame and allow the soup to start boiling. Add salt and lemon juice and mix well. Cover with lid and boil for 20-25 mins until the lentils are tender. 

Add freshly ground black pepper and simmer for 4-5 mins. Serve hot as-is or with a dollop of vegan sour cream (optional).

Makes 4-5 servings.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Spelt Digestive Biscuits

Two of my absolute favorites - McVitie's Digestive Biscuits and Walkers Shortbread Fingers!! I guess its because both of them have a melt-in-the-mouth kinda texture. Recently, I started buying digestive biscuits (although not McVitie's) and was curious about the ingredients. When I checked the packaging, all it had was whole wheat flour, vegetable shortening, glucose/fructose syrup, baking soda and salt. Now, with an ingredient list as short as this, how difficult could it be to make them??

Before making the digestive biscuits, I wanted to make sure that McVitie's biscuits didn't have any special ingredients that I might miss out. Most of the ingredients were similar with the addition of skimmed milk to the list. Did you know that McVitie's was the first ever digestive biscuit made and also one of the most popular biscuits in Britain?? The traditional digestive biscuits uses a blend of wholemeal and wheat flour but I opted to use spelt flour instead. It tasted close to the original although a bit crispy. Of course, I enjoyed the regular digestive biscuits but adding chocolate to anything makes it more indulgent. I made 6 chocolate covered digestive and I must say that they tasted every bit like the chocolate covered digestives. The crunch from the biscuit with a layer of chocolate is irresistable....mhhh mhhhh good!!!


1 1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda 
4-5 tbsp brown sugar (I used 5 tbsp, adjust to taste)
4 tbsp vegan butter (or vegetable shortening)
1 tbsp rolled oats (or quick cooking oats)
2 tbsp milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 tsp salt

For chocolate coating:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp oil


In a bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking soda (baking powder might work better), salt, quick cooking oats and brown sugar. Mix well.

To the dry ingredients, add the cold butter and mix well with a pastry blender or your fingers. Add milk and knead into a smooth and soft dough. Cover the dough in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-25 mins (or you can skip this step and bake them right away).

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Dust a work surface and roll the refrigerated dough into 1/4" thickness (although I rolled them out a bit thinner). Cut into circles using a cookie cutter. Re-roll the remaining dough until you use up the entire dough.

Place the biscuits on the cookie sheet (use a spatula if the biscuits are sticky, I had to use them for mine) about 1 inch apart (so that they don't stick together like mine) and prick the top with a fork.

Bake for 14-16 mins or until golden brown. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

For chocolate covered digestives:

In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 tsp oil and microwave at 20 sec intervals for 1 min. Mix well to form a smooth paste.

Spoon the melted chocolate on one side of the biscuit (I used the base) and repeat for the remaining biscuits (covers 6 biscuits). Set on wire rack and refrigerate for 15-20 mins until the chocolate layer hardens. Enjoy!!

Makes 16 digestive biscuits.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quinoa Upma

Upma is a south-indian dish that is made from dry roasted semolina (most popular), fine/cracked wheat or vermicelli (thinner type of spaghetti). Upma is usually cooked with seasonings/ vegetables (optional) and can be prepared in several ways.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a nutritious grain with edible seeds. It has a light and fluffy texture with a mild nutty flavor and resembles couscous (made from semolina). Quinoa is an excellent source of protein and is good option for vegetarian/vegans. Quinoa is very versatile and can be used as cereals, in soups/salads or as a substitute for rice. Apart from using it as a rice substitute, I frequently make schezuan quinoa (similar to schezuan rice) and quinoa upma. Its simple, healthy and a good way to get your veggies for the day !!


1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, cut lengthwise
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups water (use in the ratio of 1 : 2, i.e., for 1 cup quinoa, use 2 cups water)
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)

For tempering:

1 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp urad dhal
1 1/2 tsp channa dhal
2 tbsp light olive oil
Few curry leaves


In a pan, on medium heat, add oil (you can use 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp oil and add 1 tbsp water when frying the onions), add mustard seeds, urad dhal and channa dhal. When the mustard seeds starts to splutter and the urad/ channa dhal turn  slightly brown, add the onion, green chillies and curry leaves. Sauté until the onions turn slightly brown (add 1 tbsp water to fry them).

Add the mixed vegetables (if using fresh, cook the veggies until they are half done), turmeric powder, chilli powder and mix well. Cook the vegetables for 4-5 mins and until the raw smell of the chilli powder is gone. 

Add the quinoa and water and mix well. When the water starts to boil, add salt and lemon juice and cover with lid and simmer (on low flame) until the quinoa is cooked completely and the water is absorbed (takes about 13-15 mins). Add chopped cilantro and mix well. Serve hot with coconut chutney or your favorite pickle.

For variation, you can add different spices like garam masala/ curry / sambar powder instead of chilli powder.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Spicy Baked Plantain Chips

Plantains are a staple food in the tropical areas. Plantain fruits all year round and is considered to be a reliable all-season staple food, especially, in Africa. They are firmer than bananas and less sweeter too and are used either when green or overripe.

Back home, I have snacked on plantain chips but they were deep fried. Of course, I wasn't going to fry them and food tastes equally good when baked. The very first time I baked these chips, they were so addictive that they were gone in no time. It is essential that the plantain is still firm as the softer it gets, plantain tastes sweeter and the chips tend to burn easily. The key to crispy chips relies on how thin you cut the plantain slices. 

So, here's a spicy, crispy and an addictive snack.....


3 green plantains
3 tbsp light olive oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika powder
3/4 tsp salt
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)


Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Peel the skin of the plantain and cut into thin slices (the key to crispy chips) using a mandoline or the best trusted tool - your hands!!

In a bowl, add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp paprika powder, 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of asafoetida (proportion for each plantain) and mix well. Toss the plantain slices in the oil mix and spread them in a single layer on the cookie sheet (makes 2-3 batches depending on the size of your cookie sheet).

Bake for 20-23 mins until golden and crispy, flipping the slices halfway through. Keep watching the chips to make sure they don't turn burn quickly. Remove from the oven and snack away!!

For a variation, you can use different spices like cumin powder, chilli powder or black pepper powder.

Makes about 2-3 cups.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Apple Cranberry Crumble

A crumble is a dish that originates from Britain which can be prepared as a sweet or savory version. The sweet variety is made with any fruit and topped with a crumble mixture that contains butter, flour and sugar. This dish is baked in an oven and the topping gets crispy which is the highlight of the dish. It is best served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The combination of warm apple crumble with ice cream is delish!! 

The very first time I tried apple crumble was in my teens and I have made it several times, especially when I have plenty of apples that need to be used up soon. Normally, I make the apple crumble by adding lemon juice to the apple slices to retain the color. I wanted to switch things up a bit and add some cranberries to the apple crumble. What better ingredient to compliment cranberries than oranges?? The result was warm and refreshing apple cranberry crumble.


For the filling:

3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 1/2 tbsp organic cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
2 tbsp whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tsp grated orange zest
3-4 tbsp dried cranberries (use as-is or soak in orange juice for 5-10 mins before using)
1/8 tsp of salt

For crumble topping:

1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
1/3 cup quick cooking or rolled oats 
3/4 tsp cinnamon powder
4 tbsp light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
3 tbsp cold vegan butter (like earth balance)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a baking dish with butter (or cooking spray) and set aside.

Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4 inch slices. In a large mixing bowl, add apples, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, flour, salt, cinnamon and dried cranberries and toss well.  Pour the filling into the baking dish and spread out evenly.

In another bowl, add the flour, oats, cinnamon powder, brown sugar, salt, chopped pecans and mix well. Using your fingers (or you can use an electric mixer if you don't want to get your hands messy), add the cold butter and gently mix until the mixture is crumbly and pea-sized lumps are formed.

Spread the crumble mixture evenly over the apple filling and bake for 40-45 mins until the apples are bubbly and the topping is brown. 

Serve warm as-is or with whipped coconut cream or vanilla ice cream (optional). For a variation, you can combine apples and pears or any berries.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2013!!  New Year, new beginnings!! Hope this year is off to a good start for everyone.  New Year means making resolutions. Almost every year, I  make some resolutions (mostly to stay healthy and of course, control my temper) only to be broken a few weeks later. I haven't really heard of anyone who has been able to keep up their resolution for the entire year. Anyway, life is full of surprises and its more interesting when you take things as they come. 

Our new year started out peacefully, nothing eventful, just another quiet day (partly, it doesn't stay quiet for too long with a 6 month old). I am hoping that I can blog more this year and keep it interesting.

Its nice to begin the year on a sweet note and hoping it stays that way for the rest of the year for everyone. Here's a simple no bake recipe for you to relish....

Adapted from Food Network


1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats (or rolled oats)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
9 tbsp powdered raw sugar
Pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 cup vegan butter (I used earth balance)
6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder


In a pan, add the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk. On medium heat, allow the ingredients to melt well and boil for few mins. Now, remove from heat and let it cool for 1-2 mins. Add the vanilla extract, salt, peanut butter and coffee powder and whisk well. Add the quick cooking oats and mix all the ingredients until they blend well together.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and spoon the dough using a cookie scoop (I flattened the cookies, not sure what I was thinking??). Cool the cookies for 30 mins to an hour until it hardens. Enjoy!!

For a variation, try using butter scotch chips or chocolate chips and add 1-2 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste).

Makes 20 cookies.