C is for Caldereta

Caldereta is a delicious meat stew from Philippines, with a medley of vegetables slow cooked to perfection. The dish got its name from the word ‘cauldron’ (caldero in Spanish), the pot in which the dish was cooked. Cooked on special occasions and holidays, it will add color to any table.

I used a mix of peppers for this dish, in addition to the potatoes and carrots. The balance of the flavors of meat, root vegetables and the peppers was perfect. Now I’m tempted to try other vegetable combinations in this recipe. Cauliflower and peas are definitely worth a try. 

Originated in the Castile and León region of Spain, caldereta used to be cooked with meat from sheep, common to the area. Later, due to the Spanish influences on Filipino cuisine, it came to be popular in Philippines, but with goat meat instead of sheep. Modern versions are made with beef or pork. 

The addition of olives along with tomato paste gives the dish a tangy twist while the peanut butter adds to the creaminess. The cheddar brings it all together but can be omitted if you prefer it simpler. 

Traditionally, caldereta was thickened with liver pate (paste) but many modern versions avoid liver due to the gamy flavor. You can add it to the dish if you like it.

You can also try adding cooked garbanzo beans or white beans to this dish for variety.

Caldereta is generally served with cooked white rice. 

C is for Caldereta

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings



  1. Heat the oil in a largish pot, over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook till lightly brown. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Add chopped onions and carrots to the pot. Season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Cook till onions are transparent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  4. Add the beef pieces to the pot and cook, turning to brown them evenly.
  5. When the meat is browned, add the tomato paste and cook for two minutes, stirring the tomato paste well into the oil.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and chillies. Stir together and cook.
  7. When the liquid starts to dry up, add 1 and 1/2 cups of water.
  8. Cover the pot and lower the heat. Continue to cook till the beef is tender, about 90 minutes.
  9. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required.
  10. When the beef is done, add the potatoes to the pot. Add more water if required.
  11. When the potatoes are fully cooked, add the bell peppers and olives to the pot. Continue to cook for three minutes.
  12. Stir in the cheese evenly and allow it to melt.
  13. Check seasoning and serve hot with cooked white rice.


  • If you are using liver pate, add it to the pot just before the cheese and blend well.
Keywords:Stew, Meat, Meat stew, Peppers, Olives

B is for Bouillabaisse

Fish soup, anyone? Likely, you may not get many responses to that. Change the name to Bouillabaisse and it becomes an inviting dish with all the allure of French cuisine! So much for the power of words!

For that is what bouillabaisse is. A basic broth with vegetables and seafood. 

The name is composed of two words meaning ‘to boil’ and ‘to simmer’, supposed to describe how the dish is made. 

Bouillabaisse has its recorded origin in Marseille, being made by local fishermen using the bony fish which could not be sold to customers. The types of fish considered essential were rascasse, sea robin, and European conger. These are fearsome looking fish indeed, as seen from pictures on the net. 

An article in the New Yorker magazine ‘The Soul of Bouillabaisse Town’, by A. J. Liebling and published in 1962, talks about the importance of rascasse for a bouillabaisse and the search for it in the US. A very interesting read indeed. 

By and by there were so many versions of bouillabaisse in Marseille alone that in 1980 a Bouillabaisse Charter was drawn up by a number of prominent Marseille restaurateurs, defining the ingredients and method of preparation of this dish.

The identifying flavors of a bouillabaisse today are fennel and saffron. 

All ingredients except for the seafood are cooked in stock to form a delicious broth, which gets its beautiful color and enticing aroma from the saffron.

The vegetables are chopped small so that they blend well into the broth.

You can make your own stock. Any combination of fish bones and shrimp/ lobster shells will work for the stock. Just boil them up for about 30 minutes, in sufficient water with some garlic, celery, onions, black pepper – whatever you have on hand. Cool, strain and freeze, and there it is ready anytime you need it. I find using shrimp shells for the stock the easiest.

When making a bouillabaisse, I totally take advantage of the versatility of bouillabaisse and use pretty much any combination of white fleshed fish and shellfish. And any variety of scallops. Yum!

To serve, you can remove the seafood from the broth after it is cooked and serve them separately on a platter. I prefer to keep them in the broth to be ladled out into the soup bowls.

Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with thick slices of bread and a rouille made of olive oil, garlic, saffron, and red peppers. Cayenne can also be added to the mix to add an extra kick.

B is for Bouillabaisse

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:4 servings



  1. Soak saffron in a spoonful of stock or water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a largish pot or deep skillet on the stove top.
  3. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, potato, and fennel to the hot oil.
  4. When the onion starts to turn transparent, add the stock, tomatoes and saffron (with the soaking liquid) to the pot.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  7. Add the fish to the pot and cook for two minutes.
  8. Add the shrimps and continue cooking for another two minutes.
  9. Add the clams/ mussels and cook till they open, about three to four minutes.
  10. Add the scallops and immediately turn off the heat.
  11. Serve hot along with slices of bread and the rouille.
Keywords:Bouillabaisse, Dinner, Fish, French, Soup, Seafood

Kare Kare… a Meat Stew Perfect for the Winter!

Last week was real cold… and breezy to boot. Perfect weather for a meaty stew. I had been planning to make a Kare Kare for a few days and last week, I finally got around to it. And man, am I glad! It looked good, tasted good, and was healthy as well!


The vibrant orange colour of the dish is achieved by the use of achiote seeds, something new for me.

Achiote seeds are commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines to add colour and flavour to food. I had seen them used by one of my friends from Puerto Rico and I was charmed. And I bought a bottle of the seeds from a Hispanic store. So the Kare Kare was the perfect opportunity to try it out!


The seeds are not used directly in the food; at least that is what my friend told me. You soak it in some water and use that water for adding colour to food. Or you can fry it in some oil and use the oil for colour. Achiote is also available in powder form, which actually is the extracted colour mixed with corn flour.


To use achiote with oil, heat the oil and add a teaspoon of the seeds. Keep stirring on a low heat. When the seeds turn dark, take off the heat and discard the seeds. You can use the oil like any other oil for cooking, and it will add a brilliant yellow-orange colour to whatever you cook.


See how the drained seeds (to be discarded) have stained the paper towel!

The achiote trees are a warm weather species, growing around the world.

In addition to the seeds, the pericarp covering of the seeds are also used for colour extraction. Since ancient times, achiote has been used to add colour to cheeses and other dairy products and processed foods.


Traditionally, the meat used for Kare Kare is oxtails. You can also add pork hocks or different cuts of beef. I used a combination of oxtails and short ribs with perfect results.


The meats are first cooked in a broth. As the oxtails are quite fatty, it is a good idea to remove most of the pure fat from the broth. I usually cook the meat the previous day and pop it in the refrigerator overnight so that the fat can be easily and completely removed.


The health aspect of this dish is that it hits a perfect balance of meat and vegetables. Yard long beans (sitaw), bok choy, and eggplant are the most commonly used vegetables. I added a red pepper as well, for the colour.

This all around great dish has its origin in Philippines, where it is commonly served on festive occasions.

Kare Kare... a Meat Stew Perfect for the Winter!
Recipe type: Entree
Kare Kare is ideally cooked over two days - cook the meat in the stock the first day and finish the dish the second day. This way, you can get rid of the excess fat content from the oxtails easily.
  • 4 pieces of oxtail, 2 inch thick
  • 2 lbs of beef; bone-in cuts like short ribs work best
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • A small bunch yard long beans (sitaw)
  • 1 large bok choy or a bunch of baby bok choy
  • 1 purple eggplant
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 tbsp all-natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp achiote seeds
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice and shrimp paste to serve
  1. One day one, cut the beef into large pieces.
  2. Place the oxtail pieces and the beef pieces in a large pot.
  3. Cut one onion into big wedges and add to the meat.
  4. Crush 4 of the garlic cloves with their skin on and add to the meat.
  5. Add the whole peppercorns and cloves to the pot as well.
  6. Pour cold water up to two inches above the meat and bring to a boil.
  7. Simmer on low heat till the meat is very tender (usually takes 2 to 2 ½ hours), stirring once in a while.
  8. Add more water to the pot as required, to maintain the level. At the end you should have seven to eight cups of stock.
  9. When the meat is cooked well, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  10. Keep in the refrigerator overnight or for at least three hours.
  11. When ready to continue, bring the pot out of the refrigerator and carefully remove and discard the sheet of fat on the top.
  12. Carefully remove the meat pieces onto a platter.
  13. Sieve the stock and discard the solids.
  14. Cut the remaining onion into smallish wedges.
  15. Skin and thinly slice the remaining 4 garlic cloves.
  16. Cut the vegetables into two-inch long narrow pieces.
  17. In a large pan, heat the oil on medium heat.
  18. Add the achiote seeds, reduce the heat to low and keep stirring.
  19. When the achiote seeds get dark, remove from the heat and separate and discard the seeds.
  20. Return the pan with the oil to the stove and add the onions.
  21. When they start to brown around the edges, add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  22. Add the peanut butter, fish sauce and the stock.
  23. Stir together and bring to boil.
  24. Add the cooked meat and cut vegetables to the pot.
  25. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  26. Cook till the vegetables are done yet crisp.
  27. Remove from heat and serve with cooked rice and sautéed shrimp paste (bagoong) on the side. Yum!




A Potato Casserole for a Cold Rainy Day!

Yesterday was one of those reluctant days… when you are reluctant to step out of the house, go to work, and sit glued to the computer looking out at an ominous sky hunkering down with dark clouds and this unending drizzle-drizzle-drizzle of cold clammy rain. In fact, reluctant even to get out of bed. Though winter is not yet here, it was like we were being given an early taste of what is to come; it was that bad with temperatures plunging into the low 50s! Not that I did not consider working from home, but a scheduled meeting that I needed to attend personally, prevented that. So off I went, reluctantly!


By the time I got back home, again stepping through that icy freezing rain, I was seriously craving some comfort food. Something piping hot and full of the gooey goodness of cheese! And fast…
The first thought that came into my mind was mac & cheese. Alas, no suitably shaped macaroni in the house. What then? Potatoes! Have I ever mentioned my love of anything potatoes? I believe I have! 🙂 So a quick potato casserole with a crispy top… the perfect food for a cold wintry day!
This is something I have done many times, each time with minor variations. Here I had to go with the quickest possible version.
Main ingredients… potatoes, breadcrumbs and cheese. In the 10 minutes that it took the potatoes to boil, I got everything else prepped.
Did not have time to chop much; my hunger was getting to me. So it had to be just onions. Sauté them with butter and some whole grain mustard, to be added to the breadcrumbs for a crispy top.
When all that is mixed together, with some chopped parsley, the breadcrumb top is ready. If you want the top to be not too crumbly, you can use equal quantities of bread crumbs and all-purpose flour.
Once the potatoes are boiled, all you have to do is, mash them with some butter and milk and fold in some shaved cheddar cheese.
It doesn’t have to be cheddar, you can use any soft melting cheese like Monterey Jack or Asiago.
First set the mashed potato mix at the bottom of the casserole.
Then, spread the crispy top mix evenly on top, pushing down a bit. For a minute, I thought of some bacon on top, but then decided it will be too much.
20 minutes of baking and you are ready to eat. My friend, the Good Witch Galora, stopped by and we enjoyed it thoroughly with some lovely red sangria. For something that was whipped up in less than an hour, it was awesome!
Does the photo above remind you of an insect? If so, here’s the disclaimer: Any resemblance to real insects, living or dead, is purely coincidental. 🙂


A Potato Casserole for a Cold Rainy Day!
Recipe type: Casserole
  • 2 large mealy potatoes
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • ½ cup shaved cheddar or similar cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • A few sprigs parsley
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degree farenheit.
  2. Peel, and cut the potatoes into large pieces.
  3. Boil the potato pieces.
  4. When boiled, drain the potato pieces and mash them along with 2 tablespoon of butter and milk.
  5. Fold in the shaved cheese.
  6. Season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Evenly spread the potato mix in the bottom of a casserole dish.
  8. Chop the onion into large pieces.
  9. Crush the garlic roughly.
  10. In a pan over medium heat, melt the 4 tablespoon of butter.
  11. Add the onion, garlic and mustard to the melted butter and cook till brown around the edges.
  12. Remove from heat and keep aside.
  13. In a bowl, mix together, the breadcrumbs, flour, minced parsley and the sautéed onion mix.
  14. Season with salt and black pepper.
  15. Mix together with your fingertips thoroughly.
  16. Spread the mix evenly, over the potato mash in the casserole, and press down.
  17. Place in the heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  18. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  19. Cut into wedges and serve with chilli sauce. A simple green salad will go very well with this casserole.



A Symbol of Fall… Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

This is a wonderful time of year for locavores. The farmers’ markets are loaded with tomatoes, green beans and Brussels sprouts… kale, fennel and leeks… carrots, parsnips and rhubarb… turnips, pumpkins and squashes… though some of them like tomatoes and green beans will disappear pretty soon. They are all looking so fresh and lovely! Especially the winter squashes… they are new in the season and are at the height of their glory.

I had walked to the local market to pick up some long beans, mini/baby radishes and sweet peppers for a sinigang, a Filipino stew. But I couldn’t leave without a beautiful acorn squash perfectly shaped and a deep green in colour.

Acorn squash is a member of the squash family, belonging to the botanical genus Cucurbita, meaning ‘gourd’ in Latin.
The squashes have their origin in the Andean valleys and Central America. They were growing in those areas when the Europeans first conquered them. These squash varieties were carried to Europe after the discovery of ‘the new world’ and subsequently spread across the world.

Cultivation of the squashes as a plant species started over 5,000–6,500 years ago. It was domesticated before maize or beans, the three staples of Latin American agriculture.
Squashes come in two varieties… summer and winter squash. The summer squash are smaller, thin-skinned and are eaten before they are fully ripened. Zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck squashes belong to this category.
The winter squash grow late in the season and are harvested close to the frost setting in. They have hard rinds and keep for a long time, making them a reliable food source during the cold winter months. Acorn, spaghetti, and butternut squashes are of the winter squash variety.
The word ‘squash’ comes from the native American word ‘askutasquash’ in the Narragansett language, meaning ‘green thing eaten raw or uncooked’. Contrary to the origin of the name, squashes are invariably cooked in modern times.
The squashes are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, niacin, folic acid, and iron. They do not contain any fat and cholesterol, thus making them an ideal addition to any diet. The early settlers depended a lot on squashes to sustain them during the cold hard winters in America.

The acorn squash got its name due to its acorn-like shape. It is also called pepper squash or Des Moines squash; don’t know why. Though the original acorn squash is a deep green in colour, new varieties are available in golden and white colours.

Preparing the stuffing is quite easy, just like any other.

Acorn squashes generally small in size and that makes them the best for baking. A great selection of fillings can be used to stuff it before baking. In this instance, I have used spinach, carrots, cooked rice, and sausage meat as the filling for the squash.

To add to the tastiness of the squash, rub the insides and cut edge of the squash with salt. Also, drop small pieces of butter inside the squash halves before filling them. This will keep the stuffing moist.

Be careful to fill the squash lightly, without pushing down. Using a spoon, you can pile up the stuffing, again without pressing it down.

And use aluminum foil to loosely cover the squashes till the last 10 minutes of the baking. This will prevent the stuffing drying out in the baking process.

Vegetarians can easily replace the sausage meat with cubed-small potatoes or any kind of beans.

And it was so delicious, the flesh of the squash just melting in the mouth. One of the best things about it is that it freezes very well, heating up well in the oven.


A Symbol of Fall… Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash
Recipe type: Dinner
  • 1 acorn squash, medium sized
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 2 hot Italian sausage links
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • ½ cup spinach, frozen, completely thawed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop the onion, celery ribs and carrots into small pieces and keep aside.
  2. Chop the thawed spinach.
  3. In a large pan, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil.
  4. Remove the casing from the sausage links and crumble into the hot oil.
  5. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, till the meat is dry.
  6. Drain the meat and keep aside.
  7. Add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
  8. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots and cook over medium heat, till they start to turn brown around the edges.
  9. Add the wine and keep stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol content.
  10. Add the sausage meat, cooked rice and spinach. Stir to mix thoroughly.
  11. Add the oregano and salt and black pepper to taste.
  12. Remove from the heat when fully dry and heated through.
  13. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees farenheit.
  14. Cut the acorn squash into two and remove the seeds and roughage from the inside.
  15. Cut small pieces off the ends to make the halves sit well.
  16. Rub salt inside the squash halves along the cut edges.
  17. Cut the butter into two pieces and drop into the squash halves.
  18. Fill the squash halves with the stuffing till heaped full, without pressing down.
  19. Fashion a loose tent over the squash, using aluminum foil.
  20. Place the filled, tented squash halves on a baking tray lined with parchment.
  21. Place in the oven and bake for an hour.
  22. Ten minutes before the hour is up, remove the aluminum foil and continue baking.
  23. When ready, remove from the oven and serve hot.



Baked Pasta Surprise

Do you like pasta? Do you like baked stuff? Do you like surprises? Yay! Then this is for you!


And the best thing is, you can select your own surprise, sort of customizing the dish to your personal preferences. Who wants to follow some standard recipe, where you have to strictly follow what is written down, right? I’m all about flexibility in cooking, and I expect my readers would be too.


Conceptually, the dish is very simple. You prepare a set of ramekins…


You choose a pasta – you can pick your shape, as long as it is not too big. My choice was a simple spaghetti. Drench the cooked pasta in a creamy béchamel sauce.


Now comes the surprise… a filling, something that contrasts with the creaminess of the béchamel sauce. Something spicy or tomatoey will do very well. Chopped turkey cooked in a thickened tomato sauce with onion, ginger and garlic is what I used here. You can even do a vegetarian filling.


Put down a layer of the pasta in the ramekins, a layer of your chosen filling, and another layer of pasta to wrap up.


If you want, you can enhance the flavours with the addition of cheese at different layers. I added some pecorino at the bottom of the ramekin and a bit of shaved cheddar over the filling.


For best results, you need to bake this in a water bath, with the water level coming up to half the height of the ramekins.


Make sure to wipe down the rims of the ramekins so that you don’t get burnt crusts along the top.


When done, just inverse the ramekins onto a plate and dig in!


Though this dish is a bit time consuming, it is well worth the effort. And all you need is a plain green salad to go with it.




Baked Pasta Surprise
Recipe type: Main meal
  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ lb chopped lean turkey
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • ¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shaved into thin slices
  1. Chop the onion into small, thin slices.
  2. Slice the ginger and garlic thinly.
  3. In a largish pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil.
  4. Add the onions and fry.
  5. When the onions are half done, add the ginger and garlic and continue frying.
  6. When the onions start to caramelise, that is they begin to brown, add the cumin and chilli powders.
  7. After a quick stir, promptly add the chopped turkey and stir to mix.
  8. Add enough salt and cover and cook, adding a little water if required.
  9. When all the water has evaporated and the meat mix is dry, remove from the heat.
  10. In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta till it is just tender.
  11. Drain and rinse under cold water and keep aside.
  12. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pan,
  13. Add the flour and mix together, stirring continuously.
  14. Continue cooking for two minutes.
  15. Add the milk in one stream, stirring continuously.
  16. Mix thoroughly and reduce the heat.
  17. Add the nutmeg powder and the oregano to the sauce, along with enough salt.
  18. Bring to a slow boil, continuously stirring, and remove from heat.
  19. Add the boiled pasta to the sauce and mix well.
  20. Take 4 oz ramekins and brush their insides with butter.
  21. Sprinkle them liberally with breadcrumbs and shake off any excess.
  22. Pre-heat the oven to 420 degree farenheit.
  23. To assemble, sprinkle half a spoon of pecorino cheese in each ramekin.
  24. Fill one third of each ramekin with the pasta mix.
  25. Add the meat filling till two thirds of each ramekin.
  26. Add a few thin slices of cheddar cheese.
  27. Finally add enough pasta as the third layer till it is a little below the rim.
  28. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with water till the water level comes up to half the height of the ramekins.
  29. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  30. Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the center of a ramekin. If the skewer comes clean, the dish is ready.
  31. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  32. Carefully invert each ramekin onto a plate, and serve hot with a green salad on the side.


Potatoes in a Spicy Pan-roasted Sauce

Today was a cloudy, clammy day. It just threatened to rain throughout the day; didn’t actually rain, which would have been better, by the way. But it didn’t rain. And the humidity hit the ceiling. Such days do have a depressing effect on most people, including me. So I wanted to make a dinner that would be a definite ‘pick-me-up’. Something spicy and fairly hot, and made up of my ultimate comfort food… you guessed it… potatoes!


At the same time, I did not want to spend much time experimenting either. It had to be something tried and trusted. And there it was, among my trusted recipes – potatoes in a spicy pan-roasted sauce.


The roasting actually happens twice: first you roast the ingredients for the sauce…


And then you roast the sauce itself.


While selecting the ingredients for the sauce, do not select large onions or tomatoes. Smaller sizes work best with the roasting. And it is important to get them fairly well charred.


I have prepared this dish with fresh or dried herbs and don’t think the difference is discernible. Today, I did not have any thyme or oregano growing at home, and was too lazy to go get them. So I used the dried variety.


This dish calls for vegetable or chicken stock. However, if you do not have stock handy, water will work as well.


This will keep in the refrigerator very well. In fact, it might even taste better on the second day!


Boiled or steamed rice or flat breads are good combinations with this dish.


Potatoes in a Spicy Pan-roasted Sauce
Recipe type: Main meal
  • 1 ½ lb small potatoes
  • 1 zucchini
  • 5 small tomatoes
  • 2 smallish onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup stock; can be vegetable or chicken
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. If the potatoes are bigger than bite size, cut them into bite sized pieces.
  2. Cut the onions lengthwise into two.
  3. Cut the zucchini into bite sized pieces.
  4. Finely chop the cilantro leaves.
  5. Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water, until almost done. Do not overcook.
  6. When done, drain and keep aside.
  7. Crush the cumin carefully.
  8. Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic and jalapeno on a hot thick-bottomed pan, without any oil.
  9. Roast them, turning them around so that char marks appear all over them. Keep aside to cool.
  10. When cool, peel and chop the veggies. Grind them in a blender till a smooth consistency is achieved.
  11. Add the thyme, oregano and crushed cumin and blend again.
  12. In a large pan, heat the olive oil.
  13. When the oil is very hot, add the sauce from the blender and keep frying for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly.
  14. When the sauce has thickened, add the boiled potatoes and zucchini, along with half of the chopped cilantro.
  15. Add the stock and cover and cook till the vegetables are done.
  16. Check and adjust salt, if required.
  17. Serve with the rest of the chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

Grilled Korean Spiced Pork with Water Chestnut Salad

With August steadily advancing into September, and the specter of cold also getting nearer, the days of the grill are numbered. So when a lovely weekend came around, we made the best of a sunny Sunday by opting for a grilled pork meal.


The pork was marinated with a kochujoung paste, which is a hot pepper paste commonly used in Korean cuisine. The usual ingredients for the kochujoung paste are red chili powder, powdered glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt.

This dark red paste adds layers of flavour to the meat and gives it enough of a kick to make it interesting.


In place of kochujoung paste, you could use samchang paste, which is another hot pepper sauce of Korean origin.

In addition to the water chestnuts, the salad has cucumbers, red and orange peppers, scallions, and cilantro.


The assortment of vegetables adds colour appeal to the salad.


To align the flavours of the salad with the grilled meat, I used a dressing with mirin, tamari, fish sauce, and lime zest.


This worked very well with the crispy vegetables, giving them a lovely coating of tang and freshness.


For a coolish evening, after a sunny day, this meal was just right; fully balanced in flavours and nutrition. A well chilled fruity white wine was the perfect companion for this meal.


And a major plus, the leftover grilled pork makes great sandwiches for next day’s lunch!


Grilled Korean Spiced Pork with Water Chestnut Salad
Recipe type: Dinner
  • 6 pieces thin cut pork loin
  • 1 tbsp kochujoung paste; can be replaced with samchang paste
  • One 8 oz can of water chestnuts
  • 1 cucumber
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 each red and orange sweet pepper
  • 10 sprigs of cilantro
  • ½ green chili
  • ¼ inch ginger
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • ½ tsp tamari
  • ¼ tsp fish sauce
  • Salt to taste
  1. Apply the kochujoung paste and salt on the pork and let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Thinly slice all the vegetables for the salad (can be done in a food processor) and set aside.
  3. Thinly slice the green chili for the dressing.
  4. Finely mince the ginger.
  5. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing, in a small bowl and keep aside.
  6. Cook the pork on an outdoor grill (about 3 minutes per side). You can also use a grill pan indoors, if you prefer.
  7. Toss all the salad vegetables together.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Dress the salad with the prepared dressing and serve.

A Simple Curry with a Miracle Ingredient… Drumstick Leaves Elissery

The other day, I was reading about some exotic chocolates with the essence of moringa oleifera, which apparently has a heap of health benefits. The name ‘moringa’ seemed to ring a bell and wondered where I had heard the name… and of course, one of my best friends, Wikipedia, was right there with the answers. Moringa oleifera is nothing other than our good old drumstick tree!

The drumstick tree gets its name from the stick like shape of its fruits. The leaves, flowers and fruits of the tree are edible… nah, they are delicious. I have enjoyed all of them, routinely cooked in a myriad ways, from early childhood. And yet I didn’t know a thing about the extent of its worth as a miracle food!

The drumstick tree, moringa oleifera, has been called the ‘miracle tree’ due to its innumerable health benefits to humans. According to NIH (National Institutes of Health) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, it has the ability to treat over 300 diseases.

The leaves of this tree can provide all of the amino acids required by the human body, some of them enzymatically active amino acid sequences that do not exist in the food chain anywhere else. It contains 36 natural anti-inflammatory agents and 46 different antioxidants. The leaves also contain 7 times the vitamin C found in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, 2 times the protein of yogurt, 25 times the iron in spinach, and 3 times the potassium in bananas.

In addition, the drumstick tree has the ability to enhance the immune system function in human beings. What is more, this tree has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and antibiotic qualities as well! Last but not least, the drumstick tree acts as a detoxifying agent.

That is a glimpse into the benefits the tree provides for the humans. Talking about the tree itself, it has the ability to retain high concentrations of electrolyte minerals, and stay internally hydrated in the driest of conditions. The tree is prevalent in Asia, Africa and South America.

The drumstick tree was recognized by the National Institutes of Health as the Botanical of the Year for 2007, and praised again in 2011 and 2012.

I am not sure how far I believe the paean of praise bestowed on moringa oleifera, aka the drumstick tree. But one thing I can say, any dish prepared out of the leaves, flowers or fruits of this tree is delicious!

Elissery is a common dish prepared in Kerala, the tiny little state on the south western coast of India. It is very versatile in the sense that you can prepare it with a wide variety of vegetables. The dish here has been made with the leaves of the drumstick tree, but you can make the same with either the flowers or fruits.

While getting the leaves ready, you have to be careful to pluck only the leaves, eliminating even the smallest stems, as the stems taste slightly bitter when cooked. Also, be careful not to overcook them. The leaves are quick cooking, being done in about five minutes.

Note: Spell check suggested that I change ‘elissery’ to ‘emissary’… All I could say was, what do you know about the excellence of elissery? 😉




A Simple Curry with a Miracle Ingredient... Drumstick Leaves Elissery
Recipe type: Main meal
  • 3 cups drumstick leaves, picked free of stems
  • ¾ tuvar dal
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup scraped coconut (can be fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw to room temperature)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies, broken into pieces
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Boil the tuvar dal with enough water, till tender. If you use a pressure cooker, the dal will get cooked faster.
  2. Using a blender, coarsely grind the scraped coconut and cumin seeds, adding ladlefuls of water as required.
  3. When the dal is done, add the drumstick leaves, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste to the cooked dal.
  4. Stir well and cook covered, for five minutes.
  5. Add the ground coconut mixture to the dal-drumstick leaves mix and stir to combine.
  6. Remove from heat before the curry comes to a boil.
  7. In a small pan, heat the oil.
  8. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Keep a splatter screen handy, or you will have oil all over your stovetop.
  9. When they have finished spluttering, add the chili pieces and curry leaves.
  10. When the chili is fried, add the mustard-chili mix to the curry, along with the oil.
  11. Stir well and serve with boiled or steamed rice.

Potato Soufflé

There are certain dishes that form sets and are always prepared together. Like the traditional dishes ‘egg lace’ and ‘marbled egg’. Stuffed potato skins is also a dish that is part of a set, but the good thing is, there are several dishes that you can choose from to form the second part of the set. For example, you can use the potato flesh that is scooped out of the skins to make home fries, a potato salad, potato vadas, or a potato soufflé.


Generally, the word soufflé induces a sort of fear in many people, even those who are confident cooks otherwise. After all, collapsing soufflés, are a regular source of mirth in sitcoms and cartoons. Believe me, it is a fear that can be overcome with the first attempt at a not-so-complex soufflé. And this potato soufflé is the perfect one for that attempt. It is simple enough without too many steps to follow, has very few ingredients, and no fancy ingredients either. So if you haven’t made a soufflé yet, now is the time! 🙂


A soufflé mix basically has two parts… the base and the egg white beaten into soft peaks. The word ‘soufflé’, originally from French, means ‘to blow up’ or ‘puff up’. That is exactly what a soufflé does. It sort of puffs itself up, with the help of the airy egg whites incorporated into the mix.


Of course, you have to take care to beat the eggs in an absolutely dry bowl. Also, not get even a trace of the egg yolks into the whites. I have been told (don’t remember when or by whom) that the folding in of the beaten egg whites should be done with a wooden spatula. Don’t know the logic behind that or whether a silicon spatula would not work as well or better… I still follow that advice and use a wooden spatula! 🙂


This was designed to be not at all spicy, to focus on the flavor of the potatoes. Celery, carrots and black olives, and a pinch of nutmeg. That’s all. Of course, you can make it quite spicy by adding some minced jalapenos and onions and a pinch of curry powder.


This can be made in a soufflé dish or ramekins. Remember that the bread crumb coating on the inside of the baking dish has to be rather thick. This is what is going to give the soufflé something to adhere to, as it is rising.


So go ahead and start with this simple soufflé. We will make much more complex ones later!




Potato Soufflé
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: French
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • 10 black olives
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bake the potatoes in their skins. When cooled, scoop out the flesh.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degree farenheit.
  3. Shred the carrot.
  4. Finely chop the celery and olives.
  5. Separate the eggs and keep the whites aside in the medium bowl that is perfectly dry.
  6. Mix together the potato flesh, shredded carrot, chopped celery and black olives.
  7. Add the nutmeg powder, cream and egg yolks and mix well.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Liberally coat the insides of the baking dish with butter.
  10. Thickly cover the butter with breadcrumbs.
  11. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites till they stand up in soft peaks.
  12. Using a flat wooden spatula, gently blend in the beaten egg whites into the potato mix.
  13. Transfer the mix into the baking dish.
  14. Sprinkle any leftover breadcrumbs on top.
  15. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Do not open the oven door till the soufflé is well-risen and the baking time is up.
  16. Take out of the oven and serve hot.