Oct 21, 2014

Ragi Chocolate Laddu

Deepawali, the festival of lights, eagerly anticipated and celebrated throughout India, is here. There is so much excitement, happiness, festivities in the air. It is also fun to run around shopping for new clothes, gifts, fire crackers.

As with most festivals, the stories behind celebrating this festival too are several. Sri Krishna killed Narakasura on this Chaturdashi day. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after His exile after killing Ravana and freeing Sita from his evil clutch.

Whatever be the legend, the common theme is the victory of good over evil. The assurance from Divinity that evil, cruelty, jealousy and hatred do not last long. That truth, goodness and virtuous living always triumphs. A very heartening reminder in a world where the opposite seems to be true. An assurance for those who believe. A great reason to celebrate. To meet up with family, close or extended. To renew friendships, to form new ones, to look forward with hope.

So here is wishing you happiness, good health, joy in your lives!

In continuation with my efforts at finding and documenting healthy recipes, I am very happy to share with you this new attempt of mine. The nutty aroma of roasted ragi combined with seductive cocoa, taken a notch festive with fragrant ghee all come together delightfully in this healthy dessert.

Rich, fragrant Ragi Laddus

Millets are quite the rage in the diet of every health conscious person and rightly so. They are packed with several nutrients, richer in calcium, fibre and other vitamins than grains like rice or wheat. Ragi, or Finger Millet forms the staple grain of a large part of rural India. Here is my shot at making a festive dish with this humble grain. A successful undertaking, even if I say so myself. This Diwali, when you dig into this dark, mysterious confection, you can feel a tad less guilty at indulging knowing that there is this super healthy millet at its base.

Dark, handsome laddus ready!


  • Does NOT contain gluten, lactose, egg, soya, peanuts, any nuts.
  • Suitable for people with gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, nut allergy.

EDITED – A reader expressed concern about using butter or ghee in this recipe for lactose intolerance. Usually ghee is digested even by people with lactose intolerance, since it is ‘fully clarified butter’, but if you are intolerant to ghee as well, do use margarine warmed in the same proportions. I have not used margarine myself, and am only suggesting it as an alternative.

Preparation time – 30 minutes, Cooking time – 5 minutes, Makes – 12 laddus


Cookware – Thick bottomed fry pan, Mixer grinder, Metal spatula, Small Saucepan.


  1. 1 heaped cup Ragi flour (I used store bought)
  2. 1 scant cup powdered sugar
  3. 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hersheys)
  4. 1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
  5. 1/4 cup ghee (Can use melted butter too)


  1. Set a thick bottomed fry pan/ skillet on fire. Dry roast the ragi flour on medium heat stirring briskly all the time. This step removes the raw flavour of the flour and gives it a good nutty tone. 2-3 minutes later, you should sense a change in aroma. The flour is then ready.
  2. Switch off flame, add in cocoa powder, mix well with ladle. Also add the powdered sugar,  and vanilla essence, and mix in thoroughly. You could use a wire whisk to mix well too.
  3. Heat up the ghee over a low flame in a different small sauce pan. If using butter, heat a similar quantity of butter for such time until you find the butter slowly changing hue to a pale gold.
  4. Drizzle this hot ghee over the ragi-sugar mixture. Mix again with ladle, and when it is of bearable heat, grab a fistful and compress using fingers to a round ball shape. The laddu can be set aside to rest when it keeps its shape. It will harden on cooling. Finish off making laddus with the rest of the mixture. Halfway through, if you find the mixture cooling and the laddu does not shape well, then warm the flour mixture gently again to help shaping the laddus.
  5. Your delicious, laddu redolent of cocoa with a hint of vanilla is ready!

DSC_3959Happy Deepawali


Oct 16, 2014

Awadhi Food Festival @ Feast, Sheraton Bangalore

What’s in an Awadhi food festival for a vegetarian like me? This was my query when I was asked to review the Awadhi Food Festival running currently at Sheraton, Bangalore. After being assured that I would not suffer for lack of choices, I agreed, with residual misgivings though.

I need not have worried. The entire F&B team at Feast along with Visiting Chef M Rehman, had plenty in store for all – vegetarians and the non-vegetarians alike.

The Dal–Dalchini Shorba set a good expectation of what was to come. Delicately flavoured as a good shorba should be, with just that edge of cinnamon to whet the appetite. Starters followed soon enough. One with paneer and another with potato as main ingredients, finished to doneness in the tandoor. Good but not spectacular. However, the Veg Seekh Kabab was extremely well done. Fragrant, flaky, evocative of Nawabi cuisine. The Badam Doodh was refreshing, with ground almonds and notes of honey.

A basket of the amazingly fragrant Sheermal Roti and Awadhi Naan arrived. Hot, flaky, fragrant, they were delicious. It seemed a sacrilege to combine the roti with any other main dish. The Sheermal begged to be enjoyed as is.

Of the mains, I cannot talk enough about the merits of the Nawabi Baingan Bharta. While the greenish golden hue piqued my visual sensors, the sublime flavours had to be savoured to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Are you surprised that I mention elegant, sophisticated and brinjal in the same breath? Then you must try this Nawabi Baingan Bharta and you would not be! The Dal Makhani only shared its name with the famous Punjabi version. The texture, aroma were quite unique. Quite unlike any I’ve tasted so far. Another dal made with whole white urad was creamy and interesting too. The Paneer Begum Bahaar looked elegant but did not appeal to my palate. The Subz Dum Biryani was refined as well. Deft layering ensured it delivered wonderfully on flavours.

Chef RehmanNawabi Baingan Bharta

The Awadhi RepastSweet endings

Shahi Tukda and Anjeer Halwa were among the other Awadhi special desserts of the day. At the risk of sounding redundant, I have to mention that the Shahi Tukda was distinctive.

The Awadhi Food Festival is on till the 19th of October at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore. #sheratonbangalore This food festival runs along with the restaurant’s standard buffet. Coupled with the exemplary hospitality offered by staff of Sheraton, this royal feast will pamper all your senses. Be warned that all your weight loss plans will go for a royal toss. There is nothing in it for the calorie conscious. However, if you are in a mood for celebration or indulgence, would like to feel like a Nawab, do visit for this gustatory experience fit for the kings.

The Awadhi spread

Cheerful Ambience @ Feast

Oct 4, 2014

Sprouted Mung Bean Sagu

A sensible diet does not mean fasting for most part of the day. Rather it means eating smart, deriving maximum nutrition for every bite, making the right food choices. For vegetarians, a healthy diet also means an intelligent blend of cereals and proteins. You may ask why?

Egg is called a complete protein source because it contains all the 20 amino acids needed by the body.

Does that mean you lose out on the proteins if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet? NO!!

Nature has provided so much variety that we can easily make every meal a complete protein meal simply by smart pairing of a cereal and a legume. This is because, cereals and legumes have complementary amino acid profiles. In simple speak, cereals will supply the amino acids found missing in legumes and vice versa. By consuming both at the same meal, every time, we can compensate for the amino acids missing in each of these grains and make the meal a nourishing and strengthening one.

Power Breakfast - Idlis and Sprouts Sagu

Enter - a favourite South Indian breakfast. Rava Idlis are made with wheat semolina unlike usual idlis which are made from a rice based batter. Rava Idlis are always paired with Potato Sagu in homes and restaurants in Bangalore. In Tamil Nadu or other Southern states, the dish is usually paired with a mixed vegetable ‘kurma’, or chutney. All these dishes are great spicy accompaniments to the bland, soft rava idli.

However, I wanted to take this meal a notch up in the nutrition ladder. Looking for a protein ingredient to accompany the ‘rava’, I felt the best one would be mung bean sprouts. Several reasons for this – mung beans are a pantry staple in most homes, they sprout with little effort, are quick cooking, and lend character to any meal. Still, with great trepidation, I waited to see the reaction on my family’s faces when I served this up for breakfast. One look at them all, and I was satisfied we have a winner at hand.

I urge all of you to try this out too. Enjoy it for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. And let me know your thoughts. Here is how I made our weekend breakfast.


  • Contains gluten from rava. NOT suitable for celiacs, or people with gluten sensitivity.
  • Contains buttermilk. Usually suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
  • Does NOT contain egg, corn, soya, nuts. Suitable for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 30 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4-6.


Cookware – Idli steamer, Pressure Cooker, Mixer Grinder, Sauce Pan


For the Rava Idlis – I used an Instant Mix of Soulfull Rava Idli Mix. This was part of the goodies we received at the IFBM. Quite fresh and convenient. Mix the contents of the packet with enough sour buttermilk to make a thick pouring batter. Grease idli moulds, pour in batter and steam in a pressure cooker/idli steamer for 10-12 minutes until done.

Spongy soft Rava Idlis

For the Mung Bean Sprout Sagu

  1. 1 heaped cup Mung Bean Sprouts
  2. 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions
  3. 1/2 cup diced Tomatoes
  4. 1 tsp Ginger garlic Paste OR make a paste of a thumb size ginger piece and 2 cloves garlic
  5. 2-4 green chillies depending on your heat preference
  6. 1 tbsp khus khus (poppy seeds) soaked in hot water for half an hour
  7. 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  8. 1/4 cup roughly chopped green coriander leaves with stem
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  11. 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
  12. 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds

To Assemble

  1. Set the khus khus to soak in 1/4 cup very hot water.
  2. Rinse the sprouts, place in bowl, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
  3. Rinse, dice, prepare all vegetables as mentioned in ingredient list.
  4. Grind these ingredients into a smooth paste – khus, fresh coconut, green chillies, fresh coriander leaves, ginger and garlic. You can add some water to help grind too.
  5. Set a sauce pan over heat, add oil, tip in mustard and cumin to season.
  6. When they crackle, add the onions, fry till soft, then add tomatoes. Add salt, fry till tomatoes are pulpy.
  7. Pour in the cooked sprouts, add the ground paste, mix well, and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not boil on high heat. Add 1/2cup water to thin down if needed. We want a liquid dipping consistency. Check for salt. When the sagu is well blended, remove to serving bowl and enjoy with hot steaming rava idlis.

Enjoy hot breakfast with a view

Bowl of fragrant sagu

Sep 24, 2014

The Tastiest Lentil Stew

I have finally found my tastiest lentil stew. Also the most versatile. Also adaptable to any cuisine. Also really quick to make, and totally slurp-worthy. Vegan to boot. As usual, such great discoveries happen by serendipity. For long, I had been drooling over the hearty bean chillis that many folks make. For long I’ve been toying with the idea of a chilli with an Indian flavour. For long, I’ve been dreaming of making a meal of a hearty soup-ish stew. For long, ....OK, I’ll stop now.

Dinner in a bowl

I had some leftovers to be used up. In a crazy moment of devil-may-care, I just poured some things into a pot and seasoned them with fragrant fried onion, a couple of green chillies to notch up the heat, and finished off with some aromatic chopped coriander.

You could make the same stew at least three ways. Use a seasoning of oregano, cumin powder, chipotle peppers, flat leaf parsley, and topped with Greek yoghurt. Or dress with Sriracha, chopped spring onions, and drizzle some sesame oil on top. Or you could go the Indian Garam Masala route seasoning with fennel seeds, a couple of green chillies if you like, top with fried onions, chopped coriander and if in a indulgent mood, some fresh cream or butter as well. Did I not tell you this is the most versatile?

Tasty Lentil Stew

These are the ingredients I used. You could change the ingredients if you wish, but the flavours and textures will differ accordingly.


  • Does NOT contain gluten, soya, peanuts, other nuts, corn, yeast, egg or dairy.
  • Suitable for gluten and lactose intolerant people.
  • Also suitable for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4 – 6 depending on whether it is your main meal or as an entree.


Cookware – 2-3 litre capacity Pressure cooker, mixer grinder, knife, cutting board, Small fry pan


  1. 1/2 cup Tuvar Dal
  2. 1/4 cup Chana Dal
  3. 1/4 cup Pearl Barley
  4. 2 heaped cups of chopped Lauki / Bottle Gourd
  5. 3 ripe large tomatoes
  6. 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  7. 2 cloves peeled garlic
  8. 1/2 inch piece ginger
  9. 3/4 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  11. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  12. 1/4 cup finely chopped Onion
  13. 3 green chillies (optional)
  14. 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
  15. 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds


  1. Rinse, peel bottle gourd, and chop into 1 cm squares. Rinse, peel and chop carrot similarly. Peel the ginger, garlic. Leave them whole.
  2. Place the Dals and the pearl barley inside your pressure cooker directly or in a vessel that fits inside the cooker. Rinse the dals once,drain the water, then add the chopped vegetables, peeled ginger and garlic, and the tomatoes. Top with water to cover the contents, (approx double volume of water) and pressure cook for 3 whistles. Set aside for pressure to release on its own.
  3. Once you open the pressure cooker, remove the vegetables from the top to a mixer jar, leaving the pulses inside. Discard only the ginger piece. Whizz the rest in a mixer grinder to a coarse-ish paste. Return the paste to the dals+barley.
  4. Add salt, and simmer over a very low flame for 10 minutes until the stew is thick, flavours blended well.
  5. In a separate small fry pan, add the oil, heat it up, add the mustard, cumin, let crackle, add chopped onions, green chillies if using. Sauté the onions until they are light brown, or for longer if you wish. Pour over the simmering stew, stir the seasonings in and cover immediately. Let the stew rest for half an hour to allow for flavours to mingle.

Serve warm just by itself, or with a corn muffin or with a salad with herb dressing. Else, you could also top it with some fried chips, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt, and enjoy.

Or serve the Indian way. Pour some stew into a bowl, drizzle with some green chutney and sweet chutney, top with finely chopped onions, scatter some fine ‘sev’ over and serve.

Whichever way you choose to indulge, this dish is extremely tasty, incorporates several grains, has loads of vegetables, makes a meal by itself or is a worthy accompaniment to any meal.

Healthy, filling Lentil Stew

Sep 20, 2014

Stir fried Bitter Gourd–Nothing Bitter About It

Is it really possible? Can bitter gourd turn sweet? Bitter gourd cannot become sweet, but with this recipe, you will convert the haters into lovers. If you are a lover of the vegetable already, then this recipe is sure to seal your love affair with it for life.

Stir Fried Bitter Gourd

The first step to a successful stir fry is selecting the best produce. If you are a hater, but are going to try this vegetable for the first time, then choose bitter gourd with light green skin. Alternatively, you can select the tiny bitter gourd also called ‘kantola’.

So what is special about this recipe? It can be put together with minimum ingredients. Tastes like a star dish on the table. You can earn brownie points for feeding your family as healthy a vegetable as bitter gourd. Would you like to try it out too? Read on to find how we make it.

Allergy Information

  • Does not contain eggs, soya, dairy, corn, peanuts, any nut.
  • Suitable for gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant people.
  • Suitable for people with nut allergy also.

Preparation time – 20 minutes, Cooking time – 20 minutes, Serves –4-5.

You Need

Cookware – Knife, Cutting board, Deep fry Pan with tight fitting lid


  1. 3/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  2. 1 cup finely chopped vine tomatoes
  3. 1 cup finely chopped bitter gourd
  4. 1/2  tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 heaped tsp salt
  6. 2 tbsp jaggery powder (optional)
  7. 1 heaped tsp of the most fragrant sambar powder you can find
  8. 2 tsp oil
  9. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  10. 1 tsp Urad dal
  11. few curry leaves


  1. Chop all vegetables.
  2. Heat a fry pan, pour oil in. Add mustard seeds, Urad Dal, and curry leaves in that order.
  3. When mustard seeds sizzle, add chopped onions, stir well over high flame. When the onions turn light brown, add tomatoes and fry till mushy.
  4. Crank up the heat, and toss in the bitter gourd, stir real quick over high flame. After 2 minutes of action on high heat, add turmeric powder, salt, jaggery powder (if using) and half of the sambar powder.
  5. Mix in the seasonings well, and cover with a tight lid. Lower the heat, and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  6. You can sprinkle a few teaspoons of water once, if the contents become too dry. Stir a couple of times in between the cook.
  7. The stir fry is done when it tastes soft but not mushy. Add the other half of the sambar powder and mix in well.
  8. You could finish it off with some chopped coriander leaves too.
  9. Do remember to scrape off the delicious burnt bits from the bottom of the pan, add them to your serving bowl. Those caramelised onions and tomatoes take the stir fry to blissful levels.
  10. Enjoy with a bowl of hot steamed rice or just by itself too.

Nothing bitter about it

Come pick me up and enjoy.

Sep 15, 2014

The Quickest Kathi Roll

The original Kathi roll is a street food from Kolkata. This legendary dish has taken on many avatars since and has evolved into a versatile snack popular all over India. Kathi rolls are a great way to jazz up boring meals. The best part is there are no rules. While street food dishes out less healthier options, (read fat drenched, artery clogging, refined flour) we need not fret at all. We can easily make these at our homes using much healthier alternatives too.

Home made kathi rolls on a platter

To begin with, I always use organic whole wheat flour for the rotis. I normally have a stock of home made skim milk paneer in the freezer as well. This 5 minute 3 pepper paneer curry is my go-to recipe when hard pressed for time. Throw in a few salad vegetables and some fresh lettuce, and a wholesome meal / snack / appetiser is ready. Cremica’s Korma Sandwich Mayo came in handy this time around. This was part of our goodie bags at the IFBM.

Now, I am no friend to convenience foods or ready to eat products. While I am all for economic growth, feeding on chemicals which get added to foods to increase shelf life or flavour or taste, is really not up my alley. In this recipe, I have used the Cremica sandwich spread. It is definitely handy and does zing up the roll. However, you can choose to omit or replace with a different home made spread too.

You could hop over to these blogs to view their favourite kathi roll recipes as well.

Vegetable Platter’s Alu Gobhi wrap here, and Hamaree Rasoi’s Paneer Kathi Rolls here.

Here is how I assembled my kathi roll last week. Helped to satiate the hunger pangs of the teen and the tween. Ticked all boxes - flavour, crunch, health, easy assembling . Need I say more?

Kathi Rolls with elegant companions

Allergy Information

  • Contains wheat and dairy.
  • NOT suitable for gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant people.
  • Can be made dairy free by substituting paneer with tofu.
  • Does NOT contain egg, corn, soya or nuts.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 3-4.

You Need

Skillet, Rolling Pin, Shallow steel mixing bowl, Plates to assemble


  1. 2 cups Whole wheat flour + extra for dusting
  2. 1/2 tsp Salt 
  3. 3/4 cup Water (more or less depending on flour)
  4. 1 tsp Oil
  5. 1 recipe 5 minute 3 Pepper Paneer Curry
  6. 10-15 leaves of leafy lettuce or Romaine Lettuce
  7. 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into semi circles
  8. About 6 tsp of Mrs. Bector’s Cremica Korma Sandwich Mayo


  1. Take a shallow steel mixing bowl. Place the flour and salt in the bowl. Mix the salt and whole wheat flour with finger tips. Drizzle water slowly and knead into a smooth dough. You may need more or less water depending on type of flour. I used 24 Mantra Organic whole wheat flour. Once dough is smooth, gather into a ball. Press the top of the ball with thumb. The dough should spring back. If not, knead again for a minute or more and check again. Grease the dough all around with 1/2 tsp oil, cover and leave to rest in a cool place for half an hour.
  2. Pinch or cut out equal portions of the dough. 2 cups of flour can make 8-10 balls depending on the size you cut.
  3. Roll out each ball into thin flat round.
  4. Heat a flat iron griddle / skillet. Place the roti on the skillet. Turn around when brown spots appear on one side. Cook both sides of roti well taking care to adjust flame and not burn, smear with a few drops of oil if you wish. Remove to a platter. Repeat with all the balls of dough. Set the rotis aside.
  5. Rinse the lettuce well and drop in chilled ice water.
  6. Follow the recipe for the 5 minute 3 pepper paneer curry. Set aside.
  7. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds if any and slice into thin semi circles.
  8. Assemble the kathi roll just before eating.
  9. Smear the sandwich mayo around the roll leaving a cm around the sides free.
  10. Place the paneer curry, cucumber slices as shown in picture.Just wrap up and chomp away
  11. Drain the lettuce, shake well, tear up and add them along to the roti too.
  12. Wrap the roti inward from both sides, secure with toothpick if needed, and enjoy!

While the individual components of this roll can be made ahead, the roll is best assembled just before consuming. It does get soggy in half an hour. So it may not work well in a packed school lunch box. It does make a great after school snack. You could also prepare and pack the different components of the rolls separately and assemble at a picnic.

Dear friends, How do you like your rolls / wrap / frankie / meals on the go? Would you make it any other way? I would love to hear from all. Please do write in at my facebook page here or in the comments section below.

Till next time, eat healthy, stay happy.

Sep 4, 2014

Happy Onam with Nendra Pazham Nurukku

Traditional Onam Flower Carpet Decoration

Wishing all Keralites across the globe a very happy Onam. The very mention of the festival sends happy shivers down the spine. The excitement of meeting relatives, the rustle of new clothes, the joy of decorating the house with flowers, fills everyone with gleeful anticipation. Cooking the special Onam Sadya, the house smelling festive with the heady combination of curry leaves, coconut milk, simmering vegetables, with the inviting aroma of Payasam, with the fragrance of Nendra Pazham that lovingly follows you to every nook of the house.

That brings me to my much loved fruit – Nendra Pazham. A variety of banana grown extensively in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it is longer than the usual Robusta or Dole variety and has a different unique flavour. It takes pride of place in Malayalee cuisine.

Ask any one from Kerala, and Nendra Pazham will count as one of their favourite fruits. Ask anyone from outside Kerala, the answer may not be the same. it could take some time to get used to. Fortunately, everyone in my family likes this special banana.

At our home, we wait patiently for it to ripen just so. It could then get plonked into the microwave for a quick steam bath, or into the sauna of a fry pan with jaggery to sweeten the deal, or if in a ‘lavish mood’ get batter fried for that crisp outside, soft, sweet, melting inside Pazham Pori. Each of these methods of enjoying the Nendra Pazham merits its own post. For now, I’ll confine my gushing to the jaggery sweetened, gooey, syrupy golden blobs called Nendra Pazham Nurukku. This is often served as part of the festive Onam breakfast menu.

Whether you celebrate Onam or not, this is a good chance to indulge in this simple sublime dessert. It fits the bill for a quick healthy snack, a solution for any time hunger pangs as much as part of an elaborate festive meal or as dessert after a spicy meal.

Don't they look smashing?

Here is how I go about making it.

Allergy Information

  • Does NOT contain gluten, egg, soya, corn, peanuts, tree nuts.
  • Suitable for gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant people.

Preparation Time – 10 minutes, Cooking Time – 15 minutes, Serves – 5-6

You Need

Knife, Kadai / Frying pan.


  1. 1 kg (usually 4-5 bananas) Just ripe Nendran banana
  2. 1/2 cup Jaggery OR Brown Sugar. Can take 3/4 cup if you prefer more sweetness.
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1/2 tsp ghee (clarified butter) – optional


  1. Rinse the bananas, peel and slice into 2 inch chunks.
  2. Combine the bananas, jaggery and water together in a kadai and set it over flame.
  3. Keep stirring once it comes to a boil. Lower flame if you find the corners browning.
  4. The bananas are done when they get a glaze and look translucent. This should come about in 7-10 minutes depending on flame and quantity cooked.
  5. Top with 1/2 tsp ghee if using, mix well and remove from fire.
  6. Serve when warm.

Golden chunks of Pazham Nurukku