Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Palak Tofu

Palak (Spinach), like any other green leafy vegetables, is rich in antioxidants. It is a great source of iron and calcium and is highly nutritious. According to a study, women who have higher intake of green leafy vegetables and fruits have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. For raw, leafy vegetables, you must consume 2 cups as it equals the 1 cup serving of non-leafy vegetables due to its weight. It is good to include a variety of vegetables in your diet, so you never get bored of veggies and can also gain all the nutrition from it. Be sure to include atleast 2 1/2 cups of veggies every day for a healthy lifestyle and get your kids to eat them too (it is a bit of a challenge but try disguising the veggies and keep trying)!!

Palak Paneer is one of the popular vegetarian dish in indian cuisine. It is a thick curry that is prepared with pureed spinach and indian cottage cheese. It is made rich by adding heavy cream to the curry. Growing up, I had spinach curries in different styles and my mom used to prepare simple and easy palak paneer with moong dhal. When I first started making palak paneer, I used to follow my mom's recipe (being a student and working on-campus, I couldn't find time to experiment in cooking) but over the years have tweaked it quite a bit and prefer making this version as it tastes better with the sole goodness of spinach. Moreover, adding kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is what makes this dish flavorful and tasty, so don't skip it!! Of course, the vegan version has tofu instead of paneer as they look and taste similar (not exactly, but atleast a close match).


2 bunches Spinach (Palak)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
7-8 oz medium-firm tofu, cut into cubes, shallow-fried
1 - 1 1/2 tsp kasoori methi
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (optional)
1/4 cup coconut milk creamer (optional)
2-3 cloves
2-3 medium-sized cinnamon sticks
2-3 cardamom
3 tbsp oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup water/ spinach juice (optional)
Salt, to taste


In a large stockpot or deep pan, heat water and bring to a rolling boil, add spinach (double/triple rinsed) and boil for 2-3 mins. Do not cover with lid (this helps retain the green color). Drain the spinach and reserve the water.Grind the spinach into a fine purée and set aside.

Rinse the tofu well and pat dry. Cut them into small cubes and shallow fry in 1 tsp oil until golden brown.

In a pan, heat oil and add cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Add cumin seeds, after it starts to splutter, garlic and green chillies. Fry for 2-3 mins and add onions and 1/2 tsp salt (helps cook the onion faster) and sauté onion until slightly brown. 

Add ginger-garlic paste and fry until raw smell is gone. Now, add the tomatoes and cook until it turns pulpy. 

Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and mix well. Add crushed fenugreek leaves (crush between hands to release the flavors).

Sauté until the raw smell fades away and add the spinach purée, salt and dry mango powder and cook for 6- 8 mins or so. If the curry starts to thicken, add spinach juice or water to dilute it. Add the shallow-fried/fresh tofu to the curry and cook for few mins. 

If you want to make your curry rich and creamier, add coconut milk creamer, mix well and cook for 2-3 mins. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Poha Ladoo

Poha (flattened/beaten rice) is dehusked rice that is flattened into dry flakes and can be found in thin or thick varieties. Poha is light and easily digestible but satisfying. In most indian homes, poha is consumed for breakfast/dinner but can be had as a healthy snack too. Not sure how, but I have been told that it is a great food for dieters to consume without any guilt. For a long time, I have been using white poha (mostly because thats the only one available at stores close to home) but recently came across red/brown poha made from red/brown rice and I wanted to try it out.. 

My first attempt with the red poha variety was breakfast/snack poha (recipe coming up soon), one of my childhood favorites, which was good but taste-wise I prefer the white over the red/brown poha. Lately, I have been thinking about few indian sweets to make and have quite a few to try out - one of the seemingly easiest ones on my list was poha ladoo. I was a bit skeptical about the outcome of the recipe, but what the heck....anything is worth a try!! I decided to use the thick red poha and gave it a shot. The preparation is what takes up some time and once you have the crumbly mixture, then the process of rolling them into balls is the fun part. The ladoos were an instant hit and has become one of our new favorites. 


1 cup red poha, thick variety
1/3 cup raw almonds, dry roasted and ground finely
1/3 cup roasted split dalia, dry roasted and ground finely
2/3 cup sugar, powdered (adjust to taste)
10-12 cashews, cut into small pieces
1/4- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder (adjust to taste)
Pinch of salt
5 tbsp + 1 tsp vegan butter, melted


For this recipe, I used thick red poha but white or brown poha variety (thick or thin) can be used as well. 

Dry roast the red poha for 4-5 mins until it emits an aroma and starts to slowly puff up.

Dry roast the roasted split dalia for 3-4 mins.


Dry roast the almonds for 4-5 mins.

In a pan, heat 1 tsp vegan butter and fry the cashew pieces until golden brown and set aside. 

Now, grind the roasted ingredients separately (poha, roasted split dalia and almonds) into a fine powder.

In a large bowl, add the poha, dalia and almond powder, roasted cashews, sugar, cardamom powder, salt and mix well. 

Add 4 tbsp melted butter and sprinkle (about 1 tsp or so) water and mix until it forms a crumbly mixture (got a bit too engrossed in making ladoos and skipped a photo of the crumbly mixture :)). Form balls with the crumbly mixture. If the balls are still crumbly, can add the remaining 1 tbsp to the crumbly mixture and then form the balls. Sorry about the bad lighting on some of the photos (will upload better pics soon).

For a variation, you can use 2-3 tbsp of coconut oil/cocoa butter with some shredded coconut instead of vegan butter. Alternatively, you can use maple syrup/date syrup and reduce the quantity of sugar or prepare a sugar syrup to form the crumbly mixture. 

Store in airtight container and enjoy!!

Makes 20 - 22 ladoos. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Szechuan Baby Corn

Sichuan(or Szechuan) is a style of chinese cuisine that originated in Sichuan province of southwestern China. It is known for its bold and spicy flavors which come from the generous use of garlic, chilli pepper and sichuan pepper (aka chinese or flower pepper). Several different seasonings are used in szechuan cuisine with broad bean chilli paste being one of the staples. Peanuts, sesame paste and ginger are common ingredients in this cuisine. Some of the most popular szechuan dishes are Kung Pao Chicken/Tofu, Mapo Tofu, Dan dan noodles and Bon bon chicken. Szechuan cuisine has been altered over the years to cater to people from different countries and is in a milder form in American chinese cuisine although Indo-chinese version still tends to be on a medium to intense spice level. This recipe is fairly simple and tastes good as an accompaniment for fried rice or noodles.


3 cups fresh cut baby corn (each cut into 3 chunks)
Oil, for frying

For marinade:

2 - 2 1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt, to taste
1 tsp white or black pepper powder (preferably white pepper powder)
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp dark or light soy sauce

For batter (baby corn coating):

2 tbsp cornstarch
2-3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 cup+  water

For sauce:

4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
2-3 medium onions, diced
2/3 cup spring onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp chilli sauce (or chilli paste - adjust to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp tomato sauce (or tomato ketchup)
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 - 2 tsp black or white pepper powder (adjust to taste)
2 tbsp oil
Salt, to taste
1-2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup water


Rinse the fresh cut baby corn and drain excess water. In a large bowl, add the ginger-garlic paste, pepper powder, salt, vinegar and soy sauce and mix well. 

Add the baby corn and coat well with the marinade. Set aside for 30-45 minutes.

For baby corn fry:

In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and all purpose flour. Mix with water and whisk well to form a medium thin consistency. Keep aside.

In a deep pan, heat oil. Dip the marinated baby corn pieces in the batter and fry the baby corn until golden brown. Drain the excess oil from the baby corn using a paper towel. 

For sauce:

In a deep pan, heat oil, add onions, garlic and green chillies and sauté for few minutes until onions turn slightly brown. Add chilli sauce, tomato sauce, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well and allow the sauce to cook for few minutes. Add the cornstarch and water and whisk until all ingredients blend together. Add vinegar and 1/4 cup spring onions and mix well, adjust seasoning, if required.

Add the fried baby corn to the szechuan sauce and toss until coated well. 

Add the remaining spring onions and mix again.

Serve hot with noodles or fried rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Vegetable Hakka Noodles

Hakka cuisine is the cooking style of the people who originated from the southeastern chinese provinces. Vegetable hakka noodles is a popular Indo-chinese dish that was created by Hakka immigrants in Kolkata, India.  Hakka noodles, also known as chow mein, is usually stir fried in high heat with veggies or meat in a generous helping of sesame oil with minimal seasoning. Most indian stores carry Veg Hakka noodles that you can use in this recipe or you can use any kind of oriental noodles from asian markets that would work too. Here's one more dish to add to your oriental recipes....


Vegetarian hakka noodles, 2 packets
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup cabbage, finely shredded
1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup green beans, cut into thin strips
1 medium carrot,cut into thin strips
1/2 cup scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp green chilli sauce (adjust to taste)
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp dark or light soy sauce (adjust to taste)
2 tsp white or black pepper powder (preferably, white pepper - adjust to taste)
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp white vinegar (optional)
Salt, to taste
4-5 tbsp oil


Cook the hakka noodles al-dente according to package instructions (add little salt and 1 tsp oil, so that the noodles don't stick to each other). Drain water from the noodles, spread on a large plate (optional), add little oil and toss slightly with a fork until the oil coats well and allow it to cool. Set aside.

In a wok or deep pan, heat oil, add onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add cabbage, green beans, and carrot. Fry for 3-4 mins and then add the green pepper. Sauté the vegetables for 2-3 min.

Add the soy sauce, green chilli sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper powder. Add the noodles. Toss the noodles and veggies (preferably, using 2 wooden ladles to toss the ingredients lightly) and stir fry for 4-5 mins, adjust seasoning, if required.

Add the scallions/spring onions and toss again. 

Serve hot with some side accompaniment.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Corn Vada/Fritters

Sweet corn is a maize variety and one of the most popular vegetables that is enjoyed by all. The corn kernels are used either fresh or frozen or as creamed corn. Sweet corn is known to have several health benefits like cancer prevention, memory enhancement and vision protection. Although, sweet corn has a slightly higher sugar content than other corn varieties, it has moderate calories when compared to other vegetables. Sweet corn is a gluten-free cereal and can be used in cooking/baking accordingly. 

The other day, I was picking out some vegetables when I came across some fresh corn kernels and  I couldn't resist it as it happens to be one of my favorite veggies (not that I have many to begin with). Most of the times, I pick an ingredient and then think of a recipe to use it in... not this time!! 

I suddenly remembered the corn fritters/vada (south indian food that is prepared using a dough made from lentils and is deep fried in oil) I tried at an indian buffet couple years ago. The thought of the corn vadas brought back a faint memory of what other ingredients were in the vadas....all I could recollect was that it was plain (more like sweet corn cake) but addictive. So, I decided to give it a try and the result was crispy and tasty corn vadas/fritters that was enjoyed by everyone. Give it a try!!


2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, ground coarsely
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 -3 green chillies, finely chopped
Few curry leaves
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
1 tsp garam masala powder
2-3 tbsp rice flour
5 tbsp roasted split dalia powder (pound dalia until finely powdered)
2/3 cup Oil, for frying


Wash and rinse the fresh corn kernels and grind to a slightly coarse paste (if it is too coarse, you will not be able to form small round discs, so it should be in between coarse to medium fine consistency). The corn dough might seem a bit wet as it starts to let out the corn milk when ground...that's ok!!

In a mixing bowl, add the ground corn, fresh corn kernels (skip it if you don't like whole corn kernels in the fritters), onion, green chillies, curry leaves and cilantro leaves. Mix well.

Now, add the garam masala powder, salt,roasted split dalia powder and rice flour. Mix all the ingredients to form a soft dough.

Using the dough, form small round discs and deep fry in oil until both sides are golden brown.  Drain the excess oil on a paper towel and serve hot with some ketchup or spicy chilli sauce. 

Enjoy the corn fritters/vada with your favorite cup of hot beverage!!!

Makes 24 fritters/vadas.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bread Halwa

Bread is a staple food and also one of the oldest foods known to man.  In history and modern culture, there are several adages which refer to bread and the most commonly used is 'bread winner' (the main person who earns in a household). One of the ingredients that is an absolute must in my kitchen is bread (not so much for hubby more so for me). Not sure why but I have noticed that women have a weakness for bread (why wouldn't we? we love our carbs, right??). Did you know that the crust is considered to be healthier than the rest as it contains more fiber and antioxidants!!

Mostly, bread is widely used for sandwiches or we use them to make fresh bread crumbs or bread upma like some of us. Couple years ago, I had bread halwa which tasted divine (don't even bother asking me about the amount of calories and fat it involved) and have ever since wanted to try making it. Well, I am sure the original recipe must have used a lot of clarified butter and sugar, but I have tried to tone it down a bit without compromising on the taste. Here's a simple recipe that I learnt from my mom which is quick and tasty, not overly sweet but can satisfy any sweet tooth!!


12 slices white bread, crusts trimmed, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup water
Cardamom powder, adjust to taste
1/2 cup  vegan butter + 2 tbsp (if required, optional)
2-3 tbsp chopped almonds
Few saffron strands (optional)
1 tbsp mixed nuts - almonds + pistachio, finely chopped/slivered


In a pan, heat 2 tsp vegan butter and fry the chopped almonds and keep aside.

In the same pan, shallow fry the bread (I have used white bread but you can try using wheat bread for a healthier option)  in 3-4 tbsp vegan butter (or oil) till it turns golden brown and slightly crispy.

Cool the bread and grind the bread pieces until it becomes a crumbly texture.

In a pan, prepare the sugar syrup by adding sugar and water. Add the saffron strands and allow it to boil till the sugar melts away and continue to boil for another 4-5 mins until it reaches a three string consistency (slightly thicker than two string consistency).

Add the bread crumbs to the sugar syrup and mix well. Add the cardamom powder and the rest of the butter (4 tbsp, if it starts to dry out add the remaining 2 tbsp else omit it) and stir well until most of the butter is absorbed. Add the chopped almonds and mix well.

Garnish with almonds and pistachio slivers and serve.

Makes 3-4 servings.