I is for Imam Bayildi

Have you ever fainted from the sheer joy of eating something sooo delightful? Neither have I! However, today’s dish, Imam Bayildi, says that someone actually did just that. 

Imam bayildi literally means ‘imam (Muslim cleric) fainted’ in the Turkish language. Legend has it that the dish was so delicious and the imam lost his senses. However, there is another version of the story which says that the imam actually fainted at the thought of the amount of olive oil used in the dish and its cost. 

Though imam bayildi is recognized as of Turkish origin, variations of the dish are popular in many countries, mainly in the old Ottoman empire. 

This stuffed eggplant dish can be made with eggplants of any type, but the medium sized purple ones are the best. Though onions, tomatoes and garlic are the essentials of the stuffing, you can add other vegetables, finely chopped, to the mix.

I used bell peppers – red and green- and cauliflower in this version.

Eggplants tend to soak up oil; so, you can decide how much olive oil you want to brush on the eggplant halves. Goes without saying, the more oil, the more flavorful it is. 

On a side note, eggplants are delicious by themselves, in simple preparations. Cut into thick rounds and brushed liberally with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, roast them in the oven for 20 minutes and you have a lovely side dish ready. Or try roasting and mixing them with a chopped tomato and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar… yum!

Whether you believe the story or not, this vegetarian dish is actually very tasty. Imam bayildi can be served with cooked rice or flat bread.

I is for Imam Bayildi

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:2 servings



  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut each eggplant into two lengthwise. Brush with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Bake till the eggplant is soft, about 30 to 45 minutes based on the size of the eggplant.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a pan on medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan.
  5. Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook till they are transparent.
  6. Add the chopped bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, and cauliflower and continue cooking.
  7. When the vegetables, start to wilt, add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano. Mix well and continue to cook.
  9. When the mix is almost dry, turn off the heat.
  10. When the eggplants are cooked, make a depression in the middle of each piece with the back of a spoon. Pile up the cooked filling along the center of the eggplant.
  11. Top with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. Return to the hot oven and heat through for 10 minutes.
  12. Serve with cooked rice or flat bread.
Keywords:Dinner, Eggplant, Imam Bayildi, Turkish food, Vegetarian

H is for Habichuelas Guisadas

Habichuelas Guisadas (beans stew) is a staple of Puerto Rico. It is a very easy and simple preparation, but so flavorful that you will go back to the same recipe again and again.

Though traditionally a Puerto Rican dish, habichuelas guisadas is popular in other regions as well, especially in the Dominican Republic. 

The soul of habichuelas guisadas is the ‘sofrito’. The most common ingredients used for sofrito are pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro. That said, there are many many variations of the recipe based on regional and family traditions.

Sofrito has its origin in Spain, and travelled with the Spanish colonists to various Caribbean and south American regions. And looks like the moment it landed, sofrito took off on a journey of its own, leading to the existence of myriad versions today depending on where it landed.

More than a blend of ingredients, sofrito is a technique in cooking. The literal meaning of the Spanish word sofrito is ‘fry lightly’. And that is exactly how sofrito is commonly used today – fried lightly in oil to get the cooking process started, forming the flavor base for many dishes.

Sofrito is used to flavor all kinds of stews, beans and rice, including meat stews. 

As bell peppers are one of the main ingredients of sofrito, the color varies – green, red, orange, or yellow – based on the type of peppers being used. They can also be mild or spicy. 

Some versions use other spices like cumin and oregano in the mix. Culantro, also called recao/ sawtooth herb/ wild coriander, is used in a sofrito often either in place of, or in addition to cilantro.It has leaves like rabbit ears and smells surprisingly like cilantro and is a blessing to those who have a negative perception of the flavor of cilantro.

Sofrito is used in many other ways, besides as the base for recipes: added at the finishing stage of a dish to enhance flavors, as a topping for cooked items or even as a dip. In all its incarnations, it is just captivating, let me say.

Sofrito is lent a helpful hand by the ‘sazon’, a dry seasoning blend.This blend is common to the islands.

Habichuelas guisadas can be made with any variety of beans. White, red, pink, pinto… any of them will work well for habichuelas guisadas. Dried beans are soaked and cooked and used for the dish. If you want to make it on short notice, you can used canned beans as well. I used a can of pinto beans and a can of dark kidney beans for this recipe.

Habichuelas guisadas is usually served with cooked rice.

H is for Habichuelas Guisadas

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan on low heat.
  2. Add the sofrito to the oil and fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomato and sazon to the pan. Stir and cook till tomato starts to wilt.
  4. Add the beans and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil.
  6. Cover and cook on simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro springs and serve with cooked rice.
  8. Sofrito

  9. Put together 1 red pepper, cut into pieces, 3 ají dulce (or any sweet peppers like cubanelle), chopped, 8 garlic cloves, 1 yellow onion, chopped, 6 fresh culantro leaves, chopped, 6 stems of cilantro, leaves and stems chopped.
  10. In a food processor, blend the peppers and garlic. Add the chopped onion and blend. Add the culantro and cilantro and blend. You can blend this to a smooth or coarse paste. Frozen in containers, stays fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  11. Sazon

  12. Mix together 1 tbsp each coriander powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, onion powder, anatto (achiote) powder, dried oregano, dried cilantro, black pepper, and salt. Store in an airtight bottle for up to two months.
Keywords:Beans stew, Puerto Rico

A is for Avial


Avial comes from Kerala, the state located on the western coastline of India, historically known as the Malabar coast. A vegetarian dish, it is made of a mixture of vegetables with coconut, green chilies and yogurt. It is an essential part of ‘Sadya’ ( the traditional feast served for festivals and celebrations.

Origin stories variously credit mythological characters Bhima or Ganesha for coming up with the dish. 

What I like most about avial is that it is so versatile; it can be made out of any mix of vegetables as long as they are not too soft or wilty. Root vegetables – potatoes, yams, taro – work well in the mix. So do some of the gourds like ash gourd and snake gourd. Though traditionally not included in the mix, carrots and red peppers add color to the mix.

Some versions even add bitter gourd, which of course gives the whole avial a slight bitter flavor liked by many. 

Vegetables are cut into uniform sized long pieces and added to the pot based on their cooking time. For example, if you have included any of the yams or taros in your mix, they should be allowed to cook half way through before the rest of the vegetables are added. 

Curry leaves are the signature ingredient that gives avial its unique flavor. 

Crushed along with freshly grated coconut, green chilies and cumin, the spice blend is so fragrant.

And the final touch is a spoonful of coconut oil drizzled over the dish.

Though the traditional Avial is made with a mix of vegetables, you can try this dish with a single vegetable. A favorite one to try will be potato avial. Also, egg avial, made with boiled eggs, can be so yummy!

A is for Avial



  1. Cook the vegetables in a largish pot, adding them to the pot in batches based on the time they will take to be done. Add the turmeric powder, if using.
  2. Coarsely crush the coconut, green chilies, cumin and curry leaves.
  3. When the vegetables are almost done, add half cup of yogurt and salt to taste. Mix well.
    Continue to cook.
  4. Mix the remaining yogurt with the crushed coconut blend.
  5. When the excess water is cooked off and the vegetables are almost dry, add the yogurt-coconut blend. Gently mix together taking care not to break up the vegetables too much.
  6. Turn off the heat and drizzle the coconut oil over the top.
    Serve with cooked rice.
Keywords:Avial, Kerala, south indian, Vegetarian

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.


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.



Red Beans and Green Pumpkin Soup

October is a time of change…
Most noticeably, the trees change. What was green till yesterday starts turning into yellows and oranges and bright reds…
Temperature goes from warm to cool…
Sweaters and scarves begin to emerge from storage…
Dawn and dusk move towards each other making days shorter…
Early birds start on their migrations south; squirrels get real busy gathering the last of the nuts…
Winds pick up… trying to shake loose the leaves from the trees, getting them ready for the coming winter…
Beaches get deserted; movies and malls get crowded…
Thermostats go from Cool to Heat…
That reminds me of a funny story. Once I was travelling by train to Canada, in the middle of summer. Inside the train, it was freeeezing! Considering the season, all that I had packed were summer clothes. Not a single sweater or jacket in sight! Finally, I approach the conductor and request that the thermostat be turned up a bit. And she goes… “This train has only two settings; heat or cool. Now it is on Cool. And you know what will happen if I turn it to Heat. Do you want me to get beaten up by the other passengers?” Of course, with a smile. The question that came to the tip of my tongue was, “So you think I can’t beat you up?” but considering that I had to spend a few more hours on the train, I pushed that question right back down. And went back to my seat to look at the warm outside world passing by my window, shivering all the time… Did not made that mistake again; Canada always finds me arriving with a jacket, even at the height of summer!
But I digress… we were talking about changes…
Octoberfest and pumpkin ale reign supreme before making way for robust red wines…
And the produce… oh boy, what an abundance of pumpkins and squashes… In all shapes and sizes and colours. The market is so full of them. And they make such wonderful displays. And so many ways of cooking them!
Before the ripe, orange pumpkins in their varieties get to the market, there is a small window of time when, if you are lucky, you will come across the green ones, likely in a farmers’ market. They are nothing like their later selfs; these are more akin to potatoes in their mealy texture. Though you can cook pretty much anything with them, they excel in soups and stews.
This soup is a quick and easy one. Starting with a base of Mirepoix, you build the soup by simply throwing things into the pot.
I have used a banana pepper as well, just for the reason that it was sitting lonely in the refrigerator and I did not have any other use planned for it. That is precisely how my recipes grow most often. 🙂
Among the spice mix, I’ve added a bit of chilli powder which is totally optional. Also, you can either soak dried red beans and boil them or get them out of a can. Tastes equally good either way.
Once you have sautéed the chopped stuff, you will have to move it to a large pot, or start with a pot in which you can do the sautéing as well.
A hunk of crusty bread is all you need to make a great meal!


Red Beans and Green Pumpkin Soup
Recipe type: Soup
  • 2 lb green unripe pumpkin, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked red beans
  • 2 red onions, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
  • 1 carrot, slit lengthwise and sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (coriander leaves), minced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, heat the cooking oil and sauté the onion for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add celery, garlic and carrot and continue sautéing for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the red beans, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cumin and chilli powder, if using. Stir together.
  4. Add 5 cups of water to the mix and bring to boil.
  5. Add the pumpkin pieces and chopped tomato.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Adjust seasoning and add the minced cilantro.
  9. Remove from heat and serve hot with crusty bread.

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.

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.

Asparagus Potato Chowder for a Mid-summer Dinner

A friend of mine is planning a trip to New England over the July 4th weekend, and asked me for some pointers, as I had been there three years back, during the same weekend. While talking to him, one memory that kept coming up again and again was of the awesome clam chowder I had at Bailey Island! It was not at all thick – in fact, quite watery! – but the flavour in it! Each spoonful served only to increase the greed for more… and wiping up a huge bowl was a few minutes’ job. Since, I have experimented with various combinations of milk and cream, and by now I believe I have the perfect recipe for a thin yet flavourful chowder.


And what is best, this chowder tastes equally good when made as a vegetarian option. I’m not even sure which version I prefer… the veggie version or the original clam one.

The only condition for a good chowder is that you should not mention the words ‘corn starch’ or ‘corn flour’ at all. Let alone say the words, you should not even think of them. Or any other thickening agent. The consistency has to be managed with milk, cream and cheese. And it is not difficult at all.


Feelings run strong among the fans of the different varieties of chowder. The original stuff known as New England chowder has potatoes and onions and clam, fish or corn as the main ingredients. Whereas the Manhattan chowder, its nearest rival has tomatoes in it! The true aficionados view this version with horror. In fact, in 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal! 🙂
Also, there are varieties locally popularised in the names of most of the north eat states like Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware. And in San Francisco, it is common practice to serve chowders in a sour dough bread bowl.
So yesterday, I decided make an asparagus potato chowder. And it turned out sooo good! Isn’t it true that mascarpone cheese and heavy cream can do wonders to a dish? And I also mash some of the potato pieces to give the dish a bit of thickness without any stickiness.


And I use the bottom woody part of the asparagus to make a broth that adds to the lovely flavours of the dish.


Though traditionally chowders are served with oyster crackers, I prefer to pair it with some fresh bread as it serves as the main meal for me.


Next time I make a chowder, I’m going to be a bit more experimental, adding some celery and green peas and carrots to the mix. Though not a big fan of cooked carrots, I think the added colour could be good. Maybe just a little bit…




Asparagus Potato Chowder for a Mid-summer Dinner
Recipe type: Lunch
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 large potato
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 oz mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. To make the broth, cut one onion into thick wedges.
  2. Break off the woody hard bottom part of the asparagus and place in a pan along with the onion wedges.
  3. Pour six cups of water in the pan, and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes. Pass the broth through a fine sieve and keep aside.
  5. Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces.
  6. Peel and cut the potato into ½ inch cubes.
  7. Chop the remaining onion into small pieces.
  8. Mince the garlic.
  9. Heat a saucepan and add the butter.
  10. Add the chopped onion and fry till the ends begin to brown.
  11. Add the garlic and mustard and fry for a minute.
  12. Add the white wine and stir till most of it has evaporated.
  13. Pour the broth into the saucepan. Drop in the potato cubes.
  14. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  15. Bring to a boil and simmer to cook covered.
  16. When the potato is cooked, mix in the mascarpone cheese.
  17. Mash some of the potato pieces into the broth.
  18. Add the heavy cream and remove from the fire.
  19. Garnish with dill fronds and serve hot with fresh baked bread.

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.