Kale with Coconut and Garbanzo

Winter is here and the hardy kale is one of the staples of the season. Among all the leafy vegetables, it occupies a unique place, in terms of history as well as nutritional benefits. And it has an enduring role in almost all cuisines of the world. Being very versatile, it can be made into a variety of soups, pies, salads, sides… a wide choice indeed!


Kale is a member of the cabbage family, though the leaves do not form a head in the center. Other members of the family include broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts.

The commonly available varieties are curly kale and plain kale, in a dark green to gray green colour. There are also varieties that come in white and purple colour, though not commonly available in the market.

Kale is one of the earliest known vegetable, having been cultivated for over 2,000 years. There is evidence of its consumption in Greece in 4th century BC. It was the most common green vegetable in Europe during the Middle Ages, mainly due to its ability to withstand the harsh winter weather.


There are several indications of this leafy vegetable’s historical importance in current culture and usage. An example would be the prominence of the word ‘kale’ in Scottish phrases in use even today. A kaleyard or kailyard as it is spelt in Scottish, is a kitchen garden. And the phrase ‘off one’s kale’ actually means too ill to eat!

It is very easy to grow, being tolerant of extremes of weather. However, not all varieties of kale are edible as some are coarse and indigestible.

Kale is rich in vitamin C and K, and beta carotene, in addition to calcium. It is also known to possess anti-cancer and DNA repair properties, along with the ability to lower cholesterol.

The stems of the kale leaves are quite tough and need to be removed. Just cut along the two sides of the stem and to separate and discard it.


The leaf part can then be sliced to the size you want.


This dish is simplicity itself, yet tastes great, and is quick to make, with just a few ingredients.


I have used curly kale and cooked it without adding any extra liquids, which is the best way to cook leafy green vegetables.


You could easily substitute any other bean like cannellini or butter beans for the garbanzo beans. Best eaten with boiled or steamed rice.


Did you know that the ornamental kale in white, pink and purple that you see decorating many a front garden is edible as well?


Kale with Coconut and Garbanzo
Recipe type: Sides
  • 1 bunch curly kale leaves
  • 1 cup heaped, cooked garbanzo beans
  • ½ cup scraped coconut (can be fresh or frozen thawed)
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • A pinch red chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Remove the central stem of the kale leaves. Gather the leaves together into small bunches and slice thinly.
  2. Cut the onion into ¼ inch wedges.
  3. Crush the garlic.
  4. In a large pan, heat the cooking oil.
  5. Add the onion wedges and sauté till they are transparent.
  6. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  7. Add the kale leaves and stir. The leaves will start to wilt right away.
  8. When they are fully wilted, add the garbanzo beans.
  9. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix well.
  10. When all the liquid from the kale has evaporated, in two or three minutes, add the coconut (and the chili flakes, if using) and mix.
  11. Remove from heat and serve right away, as lunch or a side to dinner.


Easy Twice Baked Potatoes

Spuds, taters, tubers… whatever name you call them by, a potato is a potato is a potato. And to misquote Shakespeare, “a potato by any other name would taste as great”! (Actually, he said… “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but I think he should have made Juliet speak about the potato rather than the rose! 🙂

Think about the innumerable ways in which potatoes can be cooked… you can roast, fry, or boil them… bake, stuff or sauté them… They gel well with any meat or fish… or they can stand on their own. They are good spiced up or plain; they can be the main dish or a side. And whatever you do with them, they taste sooo awesomely good!

Can you tell I’m a major fan of the potato? Yes, I love, love, love them! Not only for their great taste, but for their versatility and adaptability to whatever I want to do with them… I can trust the potato not only to rise to the occasion in any dish, but shine like the brilliant star it is!

All kidding aside, I do find the potato my go-to food in a hunger emergency. Also, many of my comfort foods are potato based. And the addition of a potato or two can improve most dishes, I do believe. What is more, I am sure that most of the world would agree with me on this. After all, potatoes are the world’s fourth largest food crop!


A baked potato is one of the most basic form of potato that you can think of. But a twice baked potato can be simple or complex, as you desire. And that is its charm too.

The principle is simple… you bake the potato…


Cut off the tops and scoop out the flesh, leaving a thick skin all around.


And use various stuff to flavour the scooped out flesh. Here you can let your imagination run wild, as most of the spices we commonly use will go well with potatoes.


Pile up everything back into the potato skin and place in the oven for the second round of baking.


When almost done, sprinkle some cheese on top and brown again.


All done! A few scallions for decoration is all the finishing touch needed.


This can be served as a meal when paired with a hearty salad, or can be a side to a meat dish.





Easy Twice Baked Potatoes
Recipe type: Snack/ Lunch
  • 2 large potato
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup white cheddar cheese, separated
  • 1 scallion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree farenheit.
  2. Choose 2 large potatoes of same size.
  3. Scrub and wash them thoroughly.
  4. Dry the potatoes with a paper towel and prick them all over with a skewer.
  5. Smear vegetable oil all over the potatoes.
  6. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
  7. Check doneness by inserting a skewer into the centre of a poatato
  8. When done, take out of the oven and allow to cool.
  9. Cut off the top on the long side.
  10. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving a thick wall all around.
  11. Mix the scooped out poatato with ½ cup of sour cream and ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Fill the ixture in the potato skins.
  14. Place in the oven and bake till the top starts to brown, about 15 minutes.
  15. Sprikle the reamining ¼ cup of cheese over the top and return to the oven.
  16. When the cheese starts to brown, take out from the oven and cool on a rack.
  17. Sprinkle the top with thinly slices scallion.
  18. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Breadfruit… the Vegetable with a Past!

In the 18th century, the British were looking for cheap, but high energy food sources to sustain the empire’s slaves in the Caribbean. As early as 1769, they had recognized the qualities of breadfruit as a suitable crop for this purpose. Accordingly, in 1787, a British Naval expedition was sent to Tahiti on the ship HMS Bounty, to procure breadfruit saplings for planting in the Caribbean. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Bounty sailed from Tahiti after a stay of five months, with a thousand and fifteen breadfruit trees. Meanwhile, some of the crew members had got accustomed to the life in Tahiti and also had formed relationships with local women. They did not want to leave and mutinied. They imprisoned the captain and set him afloat in the ship’s launch, along with 18 of the crew members who were loyal to him. The mutineers sailed the Bounty back to Tahiti and further to Pitcairn Island where they remained, till many died and some were captured by the British Navy and prosecuted. The captain managed to navigate to Dutch East Indies, a trip that took 47 days, with only a quadrant and a pocket watch!
The incidents related to the Bounty’s expedition to procure breadfruit trees captured the world’s imagination in a big way. Several authors, including Lord Byron, Sir John Barrow, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and Orson Wells, have written about them. A number of movies have also been made based on these incidents. One of them, Mutiny on the Bounty made in 1935, won the Oscar for Best Picture that year. Even an episode of The Simpsons was based on the mutiny!
Interestingly, though the trees were planted successfully in the Caribbean, the slaves refused to eat the breadfruits!

I have always loved the breadfruit’s starchy potatoey consistency. And the smooth creaminess it attains when it is fully grown, but not ripened. So when I saw a plump specimen in the vegetable shop, it was an instant decision to grab it.

Then the question was what to do with it, especially as the breadfruit fares well in a number of preparations. I zeroed in on ‘thoran’, a coconut stir fry. This is a traditional dish of Kerala, the south western state of India.

The breadfruit is cut into thin pieces, and then julienned into matchstick thickness. And stir fried with a basic spice mix of red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.

This dish gets its awesome flavour from the coconut coarsely crushed with garlic, cumin and curry leaves. And it should just be heated through after being added to the vegetable. If you cook the coconut thoroughly, the taste of the dish changes.

This dish can be served with a rice dish on the side. Goes especially well with yogurt rice or lemon rice.

Also, you can make this dish with any vegetable that has a firm texture.



Breadfruit... the Vegetable with a Past!
Recipe type: Vegetarian
  • 1 breadfruit
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup scraped coconut
  • 6 small cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 stalks curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cut the breadfruit into four quarters and peel the outer green skin.
  2. Cut each quarter into thin slices and cut the slices into matchstick sized juliennes.
  3. Crush together the garlic, cumin, curry leaves and coconut using the pulse function of the blender.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan.
  5. When the oil is hot, drop the mustard seeds into the pan and cover with a splatter screen.
  6. After the mustard seeds have finished spluttering, add the breadfruit pieces, chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.
  7. Turn the heat down and cover and cook, adding a quarter cup of water if required.
  8. When done, add the crushed coconut mixture and quickly stir to combine.
  9. Immediately, remove from heat. Delicious breadfruit thoran is ready to server.

Moulded Green Chicken Salad

Has it ever happened to you that you decide you need to make some changes to your life style and buy stuff to support that decision? And a while later, end up with stuff you wonder what to do with? That is exactly what happened to me with the cans of chicken breast. I decided that I needed to eat more protein and a big pack of them. Soon, very soon I would have to admit, I got fed up with that plan. After all, how much chicken salad or stir fried chicken can you eat? I needed something new to try for that last one can of chicken, before it even got anywhere near the sell-by date.


That is when idea struck. I had always liked the look of the moulded salads. Moulded as in ‘prepared in a mould’… not attacked by that green-black stuff that grows on the walls of abandoned houses. What better time to attempt that looking-good-don’t-know-how-it-tastes dish with a can of chicken that I don’t care much about! So two stones, one bird… two birds, one stone… whatever… here I was making a cool moulded chicken salad on a hot summer day.


Of all the pictures I had seen of moulded chicken salads, the ones I like best were green ones. Don’t know why. Maybe because the words ‘green’ and ‘chicken’ are irrevocably associated in my mind. When we were kids, one of our neighbours used to keep chickens. And my little bro used to spot one of the chickens and call it green chicken! At that point, I had no idea that the kid is colour blind! Fortunately, he is in a field of work where there is not much danger of confusing red with green; as a CEO, all the green he cares about doesn’t come in red at all! 🙂


And a pale green very well represents the idea of cool too. Problem right there… I’m totally against using artificial colours for food. What ingredient will give me a pretty green? Spinach, what else! So I blended a few spinach leaves with water and sieved the liquid through a muslin cloth. Tada… instant natural green colouring!


With that problem solved, it was easy to zero in on the rest of the ingredients. Of course, celery… what is a chicken salad without celery? And scallions for that extra shade of green… pickled jalapenos to add a bit of spice. A few artichoke hearts, from a jar, for a hint of tanginess. And as I didn’t want to go too strong on the chicken, a few boiled eggs to add body. A bit of mayo to give it creaminess and gelatine to keep it all together. It’s all done!


Once you have finalized the ingredient list, it’s quite simple… Just prepare the base by mixing the gelatine with the juice and mayo. And add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly, but gently.


Pour the mix into a mould and keep in the refrigerator, covered with cling wrap, at least for three hours. And there you go… slice and serve with toasted baguette slices. A perfect Sunday lunch!


I have to say… this dish turned as a total surprise! It had that cool look and a taste to match. Very refreshing and extremely tasty!





Moulded Green Chicken Salad
Recipe type: Salad
  • 12 oz canned chicken breast
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 celery ribs
  • 1 bunch (at least 4 in a bunch) scallions
  • 4 artichoke hearts, pickled in oil
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos
  • ½ cup fresh spinach leaves
  • ¾ cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 3 ¼ oz envelopes unflavoured gelatine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Boil the eggs till firm, around three minutes. Peel and chop them into bite size pieces and keep aside.
  2. Chop the celery ribs into small pieces.
  3. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts.
  4. Mince the jalapenos roughly.
  5. Blend the spinach leaves with one cups of water. When thoroughly ground, sieve the liquid through a fine meshed sieve overlaid with a muslin cloth. Add enough water to make up to two cups of green juice.
  6. Sprinkle the gelatine over the green juice. Let stay unstirred for five minutes.
  7. Beat the gelatine into the green juice till well mixed and no grains of gelatine remain.
  8. Add the mayonnaise to the green juice and mix well.
  9. Add the remaining ingredients one by one, to the green mix and stir gently after each addition.
  10. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as required.
  11. Mix well and pour into a five cup mould.
  12. Cover the mould with cling wrap.
  13. Place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
  14. When it time to serve, unmould the salad by placing the mould in warm water up to to the brim.
  15. Place a plate on top of the mould and turn upside down. The salad will slide onto the plate.
  16. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Perfect for lunch on a hot summer day!

Potato Salad – the Taste of Summer!

Finally… summer is officially here! Today is Memorial Day… the starting of beach days and spaghetti tops and sangrias and salads! A season embodied by that Nat King Cole song I love… ‘Those lazy crazy hazy days of summer… of soda and pretzels and beer…’. And of course disagree with the last line, ‘You wish that summer will always be here…’ I’m sure no one would give summer a second thought if it was always here! Okay, okay, I digress, that is topic for another post. 🙂

So talking about summers and salads, what would you consider the most basic salad? For me, it is potato salad. I can never get tired of it, especially as it can be prepared in many many variations. In fact, I’m sure each person will have their own favourite version of it.

Generally, I do not like mayo in my salads as it feels a bit heavy. So for potato salads, I prefer a mix of sour cream and lime juice. And a spot of melted butter to give it a bit more creaminess. Of course, the butter can be totally omitted without any noticeable impact, and most often I do so.

As a rule, I use red potatoes for making a salad. Even though the potatoes are peeled, I like to leave one or two unpeeled so that you get a glimpse of the red skin here and there. Looks pretty!

And I do have a secret ingredient which gives the potato salad a very nice tingly bite… celery seeds! Just a pinch is sufficient to give the salad that added taste of freshness. And of course, if you want to give it some additional kick, you can always go with finely minced pickled jalapenos!

Potato salad looks very pretty served on lettuce leaves. My favourite for this purpose is iceberg lettuce. The leaves sure add a delicious crunch to the salad. And don’t forget that lemony sangria to complete the lovely summer feeling!




Potato Salad – the Taste of Summer!
  • 8 red potatoes
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp butter, optional
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp celery seeds
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1 orange and 1 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Peel 6 of the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into ½ inch cubes, two of them with skin on.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water, till done. Drain and keep aside.
  3. Thinly slice the spring onions, white and green parts,
  4. Finely chop the celery.
  5. Cut the bell peppers into very small cubes.
  6. Mix together the boiled potato pieces, spring onions, lime juice, butter (if using), dill, sugar and celery seeds. Cover and keep aside till time to serve.
  7. To serve, add the celery, bell peppers and sour cream to the potato mixture and mix well.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Ready to serve!

Houmous – A guilt-free pleasure


Creamy houmous drizzled generously with olive oil is more or less a permanent dish featured in a Middle Eastern meal. Consisting mainly of chickpeas, houmous can be eaten as a dip with crudités, pita chips etc and as a spread with pita bread. Sometimes I do enjoy houmous on its own, and with no guilt as the chickpea is a legume that’s high in protein and fibre with a low glycemic index making it a good choice for weight control as it gives you the feeling of being full with fewer calories.

Though houmous is easy to make, neither super skill nor fancy ingredients are required, Anthony Rose, a Toronto restaurateur, is serving houmous at a $ 175 -a -ticket culinary fundraiser where 21 of Canada’s best chefs are participating.

The first time I came across houmous was when I started exploring cuisines from different corners of the world. When I heard about houmous and how it was made, I couldn’t fathom how a ‘chickpea paste’ could be so tasty. I first got to try it when one of my students, a Lebanese girl, brought it for an end of year party at school where I worked. A bowl of houmous, that too from a Lebanese kitchen, did taste heavenly and I became an ardent fan of houmous and its variations.


As I tend to make most dishes from scratch whenever possible, I’ve used dry chickpeas and homemade tahini. Dry chickpeas have to be soaked in water overnight and cooked well with a little salt. It’s important to remember that dry chickpeas expand:  1 cup of dried chickpeas will give you 2 ½ cups after soaking.


Tahini and tahini sauce are extensively used in Middle Eastern cooking and it is just a fine paste of dry roasted white sesame seeds. If you are like me and enjoy the flavor of sesame you can add 1-2 teaspoons of pure sesame oil at the time of grinding. Although I prefer using dry chickpeas and making my own tahini, canned chickpeas and store bought tahini will still give the same result.

P4 houmous

In my basic houmous, I add cumin powder and some chilli flakes besides chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lime juice and salt.

P6 houmous


Try these variations to make it more interesting.


Add some chopped caper berries to the houmous. The tangy bits of capers give it an interesting  texture.


Soak some sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and grind it along with the rest of ingredients.

P8 humous

Grind some kalamata olives coarsely and add to the basic houmous. Little black specks of olives change the appearance and add a very nice flavour.

My recipe for original houmous calls for 6 tablespoons of lemon juice but be a little shy of adding that much to any of these three variations as all three ingredients are sour.


Though houmous tastes best when it’s freshly made, it can be refrigerated for a week and can be frozen up to a month.
















Houmous – A guilt-free pleasure
  • Chickpeas 1cup dry chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked with a little
  • salt 2 ½ cups canned or soaked chickpeas
  • Chickpea liquid as required
  • Tahini ½ cup
  • Garlic 3 cloves
  • Lemon juice 6 tablespoons
  • Cumin powder 2 teaspoons
  • Chilli flakes 1 teaspoon or according to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive Oil ¼ cup
  • To make Tahini
  • White sesame seeds1/3 cup
  • Pure sesame oil 1 teaspoon
  1. Soak dry chickpeas in enough water overnight or till it becomes soft to bite.
  2. Cook the soaked chickpeas. Do not throw away the water in which it’s cooked.
  3. To make tahini, dry roast the sesame seeds till light brown and grind to a paste with 1 -2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
  4. Make a puree of cooked chickpeas, garlic and salt with some chickpea liquid using a food processor.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse more till smooth.
  6. Test for seasoning. Transfer to a container and pour the olive oil on top.