Z for Zucchini

What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? A fruit develops from the flower of a plant and a vegetable is any other part of the plant that is edible such as stems, roots and leaves. Thus, most of the common vegetables we eat today are technically fruits. 

Zucchinis are summer squashes that are harvested when immature, while the rind is still soft and edible. And as the name indicates, they are naturally available during the hot months of the summer. 

Zucchinis are part of the gourd family, and they are native to Central America and Mexico. It is one of the many varieties of squashes that used to be grown by Native Americans, along with acorn squashes, pumpkins and gourds, for about 4,500 years.

Like most summer squashes, zucchini grows as a bush, unlike the vines of many winter squashes. Gourds have been cultivated. since more than 7,000 years ago. Zucchinis are dioecious plants, having distinctive male and female flowers.

Native to Central America, they were introduced to Europe by the explorers who came to the America’s following Columbus’s voyage in 1492. Other produce that came from Central America include corn, beans, squash, cocoa, vanilla, potatoes, tomatoes, and bell and chili peppers.

Zucchini appeared in the North America in the 1920s, most likely brought back by Italian immigrants. Today, zucchinis are grown throughout the United States during the warm season.

Zucchini, the Italian name for the squash that was adopted in the US, has zucca meaning gourd (marrow, pumpkin or squash) as its root, with the added ‘ini’ meaning ‘little’. There are several variations to the name in Italy, like zucchino (masculine singular) zucchina (feminine singular), zucchini (masculine plural) and zucchine (feminine plural). In the UK, they are called courgettes, which name is borrowed from the French. 

Zucchinis can be any shade of green, while the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange.

Low in calorie count, it provides folates, Vitamin A and potassium. 

Zucchinis are very well traveled, being present in all parts of the world. And well known dishes zucchini fritte and ratatouille come from different cuisines.

Extremely versatile, zucchini lends itself to many interpretations. Not having a strong flavor by itself, it can be made part of any dish, adding to the nutrition without adding calories.

Zucchinis can be eaten raw in salads or cooked (sautéed, steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked, fried), for breakfast or dinner, and savory or sweet. Zucchini bread is a popular way to use it up while spiralized zucchini has been quite trending for a while now.

Zucchini flowers are edible and considered a delicacy, and can be stuffed, battered and deep fried.

The recipe featured here is for a soup that is simple to make and nutritious, and also very tasty.

Zucchini Soup 


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cut off some paper thin slices of zucchini, season with salt and a few drops of lemon juice and set aside. Dice the rest of the zucchini into half inch pieces.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a largish soup pot and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the zucchini and stir for about a minute, until the garlic smells fragrant. 
  • Add the curry powder, stir together, and add the stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and add more salt if required.
  • Using an immersion blender, purée the soup 
  • Return to the pot and heat through.
  • Add pepper and cayenne to taste and stir in the lemon juice. 
  • Serve, garnishing each bowl with the reserved slices of zucchini.

Y for Yogurt

It is believed that milk products were incorporated into the human diet around 10 000 to 5000 BC, with the domestication of milk-producing animals like cows, sheep, and goats, as well as yaks, horses, buffalo, and camels.

Yogurt has been a part of the human diet for several millennia and goes by many names throughout the world. 

References to the health-promoting properties of yogurt date back to 6000 BC in Indian Ayurvedic scripts and yogurt was well known in the Greek and Roman empires. Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, is reputed to have fed his army yogurt, a staple of the Mongolian diet, based on the belief that it instilled bravery in his warriors. In 1542, King Francoise I of France introduced it to Western Europe after being offered yogurt as a treatment by the country’s Turkish allies digestive problems.

However, it was not until the 20th century that the benefits were attributed to lactic acid bacteria.

Yogurt has its origins in Turkey and the word ‘yogurt’ is believed to have come from the Turkish word ‘yoğurmak’ meaning to thicken, coagulate, or curdle. As milk spoils easily, it was difficult to preserve it for use. It is believed that herdsmen who carried milk in bags made of intestinal gut, discovered that contact with intestinal juices caused the milk to curdle and sour, thickening and preserving it. Today, most yogurt is fermented milk that is acidified with bacteria.

Yogurt is an excellent source of highly bioavailable protein and an excellent source of calcium as well as a source of probiotics in addition to several essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and B12. And many people with lactose intolerance are able to consume yogurt without any side effects as the bacteria in yogurt help with digesting lactose.

Yogurt was commercialized in 1919, when jam was added to it.Yogurt was later mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as cinnamon, honey, fruits, and sweets, and was used as a dessert to make it attractive to the public. Initially yogurt was sold at pharmacies. 

Yogurt gained fame when Elie Metchnikoff gave a lecture in 1904 at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, suggesting that longevity among Bulgarians could be attributed to the beneficial lactobacilli bacteria in yogurt. The popularity of yogurt spread to North America. 

Patterns of yogurt consumption vary greatly from country to country. In the United States only 6% of the population consume yogurt on a daily basis. 

Today, we have a great variety of yogurt flavors available in the grocery stores. 

Today we are featuring a chilled yogurt soup, which is easy to make but is a filling and nutritious meal. And an added advantage is that as it is chilled, it can be prepared ahead of serving and stored in the refrigerator.

Yogurt Soup, Chilled


  • 1 bunch spinach, stemmed and washed, or 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 3 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Steam the spinach until just wilted, about two minutes. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water and chop. Set aside.
  • Crush the garlic with salt and mash to a paste. Stir into the yogurt, along with 1 cup of cold water. Mix well.
  • Add the cumin seeds, spinach and chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the lemon juice and chill for several hours.
  • Serve with the red chili flakes, if using, sprinkled on top.

W for Watercress

Full of vitamins and minerals… believed to be an aphrodisiac… a supposed cure for hangover… Sounds like a magic ingredient? That is what is said about Watercress!

Watercress is a semi-aquatic perennial plant that is a member of the Brassica family along with cabbage, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnips, and radishes. It has a spicy scent and a peppery, and tangy flavor when fresh. When cooked, the peppery flavor will slightly diminish. In addition to the leaves, the small clusters of fragrant white flowers and small pods with seeds are also edible.

Watercress has a long and storied history, with evidence of its use dating back 3000 years to the Persians, Greeks and Romans. 

Served to the Roman and Persian army, many believed watercress would help increase stamina, freshen breath, and prevent scurvy. The Persians had observed that soldiers were healthier when watercress was part of their daily diet. Roman emperors ate watercress to help them make ‘bold decisions’.

The Greeks were aware of the health benefits of watercress. When Hippocrates founded the first hospital on the Island of Kos around 400 BC, he grew wild watercress in the natural springs and used it to treat blood disorders.

The herbalist John Gerard celebrated watercress as a remedy for scurvy as early as 1636. And, according to the book James Cook and the Conquest of Scurvy 1, Captain James Cook was able to circumnavigate the globe three times, due in part to his use of watercress in the diet of his sailors.

It is an integral part of Mediterranean diets.

The U.S. Army planted watercress in the gardens of forts along the western trails, as food for their soldiers. It has been used as a breath freshener and palate cleanser, as well as for medicinal purposes. 

Watercress is one of the oldest known consumed leaf vegetables and is still one of the most widely used greens in the world today. It is available year-round, with a peak season in the spring through early summer.

Naturalized in pools and streams, watercress is easily found growing in the wild and is also commercially grown hydroponically. 

Watercress is an excellent source of vitamin K and contains vitamins A, C, and E, iron, magnesium, nitrate, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, and calcium.

Valued for its peppery flavor, Watercress is very versatile and is eaten both fresh and cooked. The leaves and stems can be used fresh as a garnish, mixed into salads, tossed into pasta, cooked into omelets, ground into pesto, or blended into juices and smoothies. They can also be used in wraps and sandwiches or sprinkled on top of pizza, casseroles, and mixed into sauces. 

Watercress soup has been popular in Britain sine the 17th century.

Watercress Soup


  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts sliced
  • 1½ quarts vegetable stock
  • Herb bouquet of two or three herbs like parsley, sage, thyme etc
  • 2 bunches watercress
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • Juice of ½ lemon (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Separate the leaves and tender stems of the watercress from any hardy stems and discard the hardy stems. Set aside some of the leaves for garnish.
  • In a largish pot, add the vegetable stock, along with the potatoes, leeks and herb bouquet. Cook till the potatoes are tender, for about 30 minutes.
  • Add the watercress to the soup and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes.
  • Remove and discard the herb bouquet. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture to the desired consistency.
  • Add the yogurt and lemon juice to taste and mix well. Adjust the seasoning.
  • Serve the soup sprinkled with watercress leaves and lemon slices on the sides.

V for Vermicelli

October 25th is World Pasta Day! World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. The World Pasta Congress uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.

Vermicelli, a long very thin pasta, is one of the oldest forms of pasta and originated in the Campania region of south western Italy, sometime in the 13th century. In olden time, Neapolitan pasta makers were called ‘vermicellari’. (Naples is the regional capital of Campania.). Initially, like all pastas, this pasta was made by hand and was shorter and not so straight. Hence the name ‘Vermicelli’, which Italian word translates to ‘little worms’ in English.

The first mention of a vermicelli recipe is in De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e maccaroni siciliani (The Art of Cooking Sicilian Macaroni and Vermicelli), compiled by Maestro Martino da Como, in the 15th century. In the book there are several recipes for vermicelli, which is supposed to last two or three years when dried in the sun.

Vermicelli in Italy is thicker than spaghetti, while in USA they are thinner. In the United States, the National Pasta Association defines lists vermicelli as a thinner type of spaghetti. The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America defines vermicelli as of diameter less than 0.06 inches and spaghetti of diameter between 0.06 and 0.11 inches.

Collectively, the U.S. consumes 5.95 billion pounds of pasta per year, the average American consumes approximately 20 lbs. of pasta annually. This makes it the 6th highest food per capita in the country.

There are two main types of vermicelli: Italian type which is made with durum wheat flour and the Asian type made with rice flour. The Italian vermicelli can be used like any other thin pasta like spaghetti, spaghettini, or angel hair as the only difference is the degree of thinness. The Asian vermicelli are called by varying names depending on the country and cuisine. Well known dishes like pad thai, pho, chow mein, and stir fries use rice vermicelli.

The extra-thin vermicelli is quick-cooking and good with so many flavors, and they are used all around the world in meals from breakfast to dessert. Today we are featuring a dessert soup with vermicelli which can be made as much or as little sweet as you want.

Sweet Vermicelli Soup


  • 2 tablespoon butter 
  • 1 cup pieces of vermicelli, broken into roughly 2 inch pieces
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 tablespoon nuts like cashews, pecans and hazel nuts


  • Heat a flat pan on medium heat and add 1 tbsp of butter.
  • Toast the vermicelli till it starts to change color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Add 4 cups of water to the milk and boil on medium heat.
  • Add the vermicelli to the milk and cook on low heat till the vermicelli is fully cooked, about 10 minutes.
  • Taste for sweetness and add as much of the condensed milk as you desire. Mix well and take off the heat.
  • Toast the raisins and nuts in the remaining butter and add to the soup. Serve warm or chilled.

Q for Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not an actual cereal, but a pseudo-cereal, a seed that belongs to the family Amaranthaceae, the same family as the amaranth, Swiss chard and spinach.

Quinoa is a plant which originated in the area surrounding Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, in the Andes Mountains of South America. Quinoa was cultivated and used by pre-Columbian civilizations and was replaced by other cereals on the arrival of the Spanish, despite being a local staple food at the time.

Existing historical evidence indicates that its domestication by the peoples of America may have occurred between 3,000 and 5,000 years BCE. Before its domestication, the leaves and seeds of wild quinoa were used as food. The plants have been represented on early pottery from the region.

The quinoa plant is a very pretty plant with broad-leafed and grows to be 3 to 9 feet tall. IThe seed heads have beautiful colors ranging from red to purple, orange, green, black or yellow. The quinoa plant prefers cooler temperatures and short days and can handle mild frost. However, it is not very picky being able to grow in poor soil without fertilizer or irrigation. 

Qunioa was a sacred crop to the Incas who called it the mother of all grains or chisaya mama. According to the legends, it was a custom for the Incan emperor to ceremoniously plant the first quinoa seeds every year. 

A 400-year decline in the production of quinoa began with the Spanish conquest in the 1500s. While the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians,’ they also felt threatened by this nutrition source, as Inca armies used a mixture of quinoa and fat, known as ‘war balls’ while they marched for many days. The Spanish destroyed quinoa fields in an attempt to weaken and conquer the population.

In more recent times, the ruling class told indigenous people that quinoa was not good for human consumption and should only be used as animal feed. The irony is that quinoa had literally gone underground and almost disappeared as malnutrition and poverty soared among the indigenous population in this region.

However, quinoa has been rediscovered. In the United States, it was first introduced commercially in 1982 and since then its popularity has grown. And it is noteworthy that the descendants of the Inca are now growling and selling quinoa while also consuming. South America, the cultural home of quinoa, contributes over 80% of the world’s supply. 

Quinoa is a complete protein. While rich in antioxidants, it also contains folate, iron, thiamine, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Most importantly, quinoa is a gluten-free option for people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Once considered an alternative crop or a niche food, quinoa is now becoming increasingly common in North America. 

Quinoa comes in three colors: white, red and black. For today’s recipe of Quinoa and White Bean Soup, I have used a tri-color mix.

Quinoa and White Bean Soup


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions or one large, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely diced
  • 1 can (14½ ounces) cannellini or other white beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Tomatoes of any kind, to make up two cups when chopped
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • ⅓ cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, rosemary or thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat oil in a largish saucepan over medium heat. 
  • Add onions, carrots and celery, and sauté until tender. 
  • Add beans and garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in chopped tomatoes and their juices, and vegetable stock. Simmer until tomatoes are cooked and well mixed.
  • Add quinoa, parsley and rosemary. Cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked, 12 to 15 minutes. 
  • Adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and rosemary.

P for Peas

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

English nursery rhyme and a popular singing game.

Peas, in their infinite variety, have been consumed by humans since antiquity, the first archaeological discovery of peas dating back to around 5000 BC in the Nile delta area of Egypt. From there they spread across Europe and into Asia, over time. Romans were cultivating peas about 500 BC. During the middle ages, they became one of the staples everywhere.

Peas were originally grown by humans for the seeds, which could be dried and preserved for hard seasons when not much was available in nature. The main advantage was that they could be kept for a long time. 

Dried peas needed to be cooked for a long time and it was difficult to them to a specific doneness, as they turned mushy with the prolonged cooking. So they were mostly used for stews or soups.

They could be cooked with so many things to add to their flavor, most often ham bones, salt pork or bacon.

Though dried peas have been popular for a long time, it was only in the 17th century that it became fashionable to eat young green peas, freshly shelled, before they matured into hard seeds. Thomas Jefferson discovered them on a trip to France and brought multiple varieties back to America and planted them on his estate.

Another trend in modern days is to add fresh tender pea shoots to salads, adding a fresh flavor, crunch and nutrition to them.

Tom Thumb, Little Marvel, Tall Telephone and Mr. Big… these are names of varieties of peas.

Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus. They are also rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre and low in fat.

Today peas are commonly used in our daily cooking, one of their advantages being that you can always grab a can or a frozen bag, regardless of the season.

An interesting dish of peas is the pie floater from Australia, consisting of a traditional meat pie, placed upside down, sometimes submerged in a bowl of thick pea soup.

Today we are making a simple yet flavorful peas soup, green and refreshing. So suitable for spring!

Lemony Peas Soup


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1½ cups)
  • ¼ cup vermouth or white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 fresh shelled peas (or frozen peas)
  • ¼ roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ wedge of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream, parsley and lemon zest for serving


  • In a largish pot, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  • Add the wine and garlic, and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Add the peas and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender, about 3 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat, and add the parsley.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the consistency you like.
  • Squeeze a dash of lemon juice and adjust seasoning.
  • Ladle into bowls, and serve right away topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with parsley and lemon zest.

Note: If you are using frozen peas, make sure that they have not been sitting in the freezer for a long time. Freezer burn can destroy the flavor and texture of this soup.


Peas have made a great contribution to genetic sciences! Johann Gregor Mendel, known as the Father of Genetics, discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance after studying pea plants for a period of eight years. Mendel’s Laws of Heredity, published in 1865, was the first time gene structure and their dominant and recessive nature were defined and understood.

G for Greens

This time of year, Farmers’ Markets have plenty of ramps, dandelions, nettles and other wild greens. Wouldn’t it be fun to look for them on your walks and pick some? Only to be attempted if you definitely know what to pick.

Spring has definitely arrived, and green things are sprouting up everywhere. Along the path by the river, by the side of the lake, in the park. Even by the sidewalks. Have you ever wondered whether any of that is edible? Fact is, most of them are. But only if one knows which to pick. 

Foraging for wild food is how humankind survived in its early days. However, as settled and started cultivating food, the foraging skills were no longer needed for survival. In recent times individuals and small communities have recognized that it is something that can be beneficial to people as well as the environment. 

Collecting any greens that grow in wild unattended places for food is actually foraging. These could be in our own areas or where we travel to for the purpose. 

One of the advantages of eating wild greens is that they contain phytonutrients not found in cultivated foods.

However, one has to be extremely careful to identify plants correctly before consuming them as some of the plants could be poisonous, even causing death. In addition to plant identification, there are factors you should be mindful of, like pick them from areas where dust from the traffic or other pollutants haven’t settled. Also where dogs haven’t peed on them. 🙂

And be careful not to harm the plant and only take just what you need, so that it can come back and provide goodies for a long time to come. Once you become familiar with the greens available in your local area, you can count on them coming up year after year. I know three wonderful mulberry trees in my neighborhood who have provided many a basketful of lovely ripe fruit year after year.

Living in an urban area, personally I do not have access to too many species of edible wild greens. Dandelion, nettles and purslane are things that I have confidently collected. And I normally cook them along with other store bought greens. 

All these leaves should be picked when they are still tender and only the delicate shoots should be picked. Dandelion buds are supposed to be good for brewing tea but never tried it.

Wild Greens Soup


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 cups chopped greens (leaves only), such as Swiss chard, dandelion greens, beet and carrot greens
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Slices of toasted bread, to serve
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)


  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat, and add the leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic and cook stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  • Add the greens, and stir until they begin to wilt. 
  • Add 6 cups and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the greens are very tender. 
  • Add pepper to taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl. Making sure that the soup is not boiling, whisk a ladle of it into the beaten eggs. Take the soup off the heat, and stir in the tempered eggs. 
  • Place one or two slices of bread in each bowl. Ladle in the soup, sprinkle some Parmesan if desired and serve.

W is for Welsh Rarebit

A slice of hearty bread topped with a spicy cheese sauce and grilled… that is Welsh rarebit, a comfort food if any dish can be called that. Served hot, it is one step (or many steps) above the grilled cheese sandwich of our daily lives.

As the name signifies, it has its origin in Wales, among the peasants who often substituted cheese for meat as meat was too expensive. An earlier version named ‘caws pobi’ (meaning toasted cheese) can be traced back to medieval and Tudor times, at least since the 1500s. Before the name Welsh rarebit caught on towards the end of the 18th century, there was a period of time when the dish was called ‘Welsh rabbit’ as seen in a cookbook from the year 1725. Some historians are of the opinion that it was perpetrated as a joke. Anyone remember the Boaty McBoatface episode of a funny name?

Anyways, the dish is popular in many parts of Britain and the rest of the world. It has a place of honor in the Welsh cuisine as one of the earliest traditional dishes of the region, with September 3rd celebrated as the Welsh Rarebit Day.

Though there can be variations in the recipe with more/ less mustard or the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce or cayenne, beer and cheese are the constants. The best cheese for the dish is a sharp cheddar. This is a very easy dish to make, with just a few ingredients and steps to follow. 

If an egg is served on top of the toasted bread and cheese sauce, it is called a buck rarebit.

Interesting fact: There is no existing word ‘rarebit’ except in relation to the dish; no noun, no verb, no word at all.

W is for Welsh Rarebit

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and stir to combine.
  2. Continue to cook, stirring, till the flour starts to get brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cayenne to the pan. Give it a quick stir. Take care; cayenne burns very quickly.
  4. Whisk in the beer using a silicone whisk.
  5. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to whisk till the mixture has thickened.
  6. Turn heat to low, and add the cheese, stirring well until you get a smooth mixture.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove from heat and pour into a flat container to set. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a day.
  9. When ready to prepare the dish, set the rack on the top slot of the oven and pre-heat the oven to broil.
  10. Lightly toast the bread slices and spread the sauce thickly on the bread slices.
  11. Place under the pre-heated broiler until the cheese is bubbly and the toast starts to brown.
  12. Serve hot immediately.
Keywords:Bread with cheese, Cheese, Welsh
Vada Pav

V is for Vada Pav

Vada Pav is the quintessential street food of Mumbai, the city previously called Bombay. The name literally means ‘fritter’ and ‘bread’… it is exactly that, a potato fritter coated in batter and fried, placed in a piece of bread and served with dry garlic chutney. 

The dish as it is, is not very old. In the 1960s, there was an effort to develop local businesses in the food industry and experimentation with new combinations resulted in vada pav, which was an instant hit. 

Vadas of various types have been a part of the Indian cuisine for centuries. The pav was introduced to India by the Portuguese, initially in the territory of Goa which they started to rule in the 16th century. A bit of interesting history: the port of Bombay was given to the British as part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II of England, in 1661.

The word pav comes from the Portuguese word ‘pão’ meaning bread. 

Today vada pav is considered a symbol of Mumbai street food, though it is popular in many parts of India, especially in the state of Maharashtra where Mumbai is situated.

As can be expected of a dish so popular, there are many versions of the recipe, with minor differences. I have used onions in the recipe here but many versions do not include them. Similarly, sometimes several chutneys – green chutney, tamarind chutney, garlic chutney etc – are added to the dish. I have used only dry garlic chutney here. You can find recipes for more chutneys or buy them in Indian grocery stores, if you would like to try the dish with them.

The Vadas are fried in hot oil. You can use a deep fryer or fry them in a small pan of heated oil, taking extreme care with the hot oil to prevent fires or burning.

Pav is a bit softer and sweeter than regular bread and is available in most Indian grocery stores. If you can get them, use them, as they make a difference to the end product. If not, dinner roles can be used.

This is one of those dishes that taste better outside than indoors. And they travel well too. So try them on your next picnic!

V is for Vada Pav

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings


    Garlic chutney

  • For the batter

  • For the filling

  • To assemble


  1. Dry roast the peanuts on low heat till they start getting brown spots. When they are cooled, remove the skins and set aside.
  2. Using a food processor or a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, coconut, peanuts, cayenne and enough salt to form a rough mixture.
  3. To make the batter, mix together all the ingredients, with enough water to bring it to the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a largish pan, over medium heat.
  5. Add the mustard seeds to the hot oil. They will splutter and tend to jump out of the pan. So be sure to use a splatter screen.
  6. When the mustard seeds have finished spluttering, add the asafetida, if using. Immediately, add the onions, green chilies, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves if using, to the pan. Stir and cook till the onions start getting brown.
  7. Meanwhile, roughly mash the potatoes. Don’t overwork the potatoes into a dough.
  8. When the onions are golden brown, add the mashed potatoes and enough salt to the pan. Mix well.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the chopped cilantro leaves and mix well. Set aside till cooled.
  10. When cooled, form into uniform sized ball shapes.
  11. Coat each ball of filling in the batter, and deep fry in hot oil till crisp.
  12. Slit each of the pav down the center and toast on a buttered pan for a minute.
  13. Place a few salad leaves, some garlic chutney and a vada, slightly flattened, in each pav. Serve with additional chutney on the side.
Keywords:Aloo Vada, Batata Vada, Bombay Street Food, Mumbai Street Food

J is for Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is a spicy aromatic rice preparation popular in many parts of West Africa. The dish takes its name from the Jolof empire that ruled around the Senegal region, in the 14th century. 

From West Africa, its fame has spread everywhere. Jollof food festivals have been held in cities like Washington DC and Toronto. 22 August is World Jollof Day, celebrated since 2015, evidenced by the huge number of posts on social media.

Though there are versions of Jollof rice popular in almost all countries in West Africa, they differ considerably from each other. The versions in Ghana and Nigeria, prominent Jollof rice consumers, use a different type of rice to start with. While the Ghanaian version uses the fragrant basmati rice, the Nigerians use long grain rice. Also, while eastern spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon are used in Ghana, the Nigerian version relies on tomato paste, habanero and red peppers, and thyme for flavor. I personally cannot imagine using basmati rice, which has a flavor of its own, for such a flavorful dish, and prefer long grain rice for Jollof rice. Oh my, with that have I joined the Jollof Wars? I’m not kidding… there is a Jollof war going on (#jollofwars) between Ghana and Nigeria fought all over social media, which has been joined by celebrities on both sides. Seemingly, it was started in 2014 when a Twitter user used the hashtag to compare the versions prepared by his mother and girlfriend. Read all about the fun controversy here on BBC – Jollof Wars: Who does West Africa’s iconic rice dish best?

The main flavor base of the Nigerian Jollof rice is the obe ata (pepper sauce), with the signature ingredient habanero (also called scotch bonnet) pepper. I’ve discovered that this is a handy sauce to flavor many other vegetables or meat as well.

The bright orange color of the Jollof rice comes from the red palm oil, made from the fruit of the African oil palm, commonly used in West Africa. 

Traditionally, Jollof rice is cooked on the stove top; this version (adapted from NY Times Cooking) finishes the cooking in the oven for a perfectly cooked non-sticky rice. 

Jollof rice is usually served with a side of meat or fish and fried plantains. You can also serve it by itself, accompanied by a salad and potato chips.

J is for Jollof Rice

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings


    For Obe Ata

  • For Jollof Rice


  1. Grind together all the ingredients for the obe ata (if required, in batches), except the cooking oil.
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the ground spices to the pan.
  3. Cook over medium heat till the sauce has thickened and reduced to almost half, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a large oven proof pot, heat the cooking oil.
  6. Add half of the thinly sliced onions to the pot and fry till golden. Drain and set aside.
  7. Add the remaining onions to the pot and sauté till transparent.
  8. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté for a minute.
  9. Add the tomato paste, turmeric and paprika and continue to cook.
  10. Add the drained rice to the pot and stir to coat, for a minute or two.
  11. Add the obe ata, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Pour in the stock and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
  13. Cover with a lid and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Cook for 35 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Open the pot and fluff the rice with a fork.
  15. Serve with a side dish of meat or fish and fried plantains. Or just with a salad.
Keywords:Jollof Rice, Obe Ata, Rice, Spicy