Feasting for a good beginning - Urad Kokum Chi Dal

Growing up, very little was known to me about these tangy, purple berries called "Kokum" which are native to India and very widely used in Konkani cooking. It was only until, Manisha blogged about this 'tadpole-like' guessing game, I came to know there existed such a thing called Kokum.

Since then, my hands were itching to get hold of these tiny  beauties and finally I did. A little google search would enlist the numerous medicinal properties that this fruit has. :-)

Kokum can be added to our regular dals, vegetables or curries, as a healthy replacement to tamarind or lemon, due to its high antioxidant properties. It is also very colorful when added as strips to salads or any yogurt-based dish(es) and renders a little tangy flavour along with the reddish purple colour.

If you wish to know more about this fruit, you should read this fantastic post by Shilpa.

Kokum is now readily available in most of the Indian stores, here in US.

...and here is how it looks -

dried kokum phool

According to this article on epicurious, lentils are one of the lucky foods to be consumed for a good new year start -

"Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the new year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame." .. read more

So, Today's recipe features lentils (so that we too can have a lucky start for 2011) - "Urad Kokum Chi Dal" is adapted from the curry bible - 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This is a delicious accompaniment to both fluffy rotis & a bowl of hot rice. The creaminess of urad dal intermingled with tartness from kokum and a slight hint of chillies play very well. Our taste buds were very happy when I had this with brown rice on one of those chilly weeknights.

Urad Kokum Chi Dal

Adapted from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries

Ingredients -

1 cup urad dal (cream-colored, split black lentils)
4 pieces of dried black kokum pieces
1 tbsp ghee or oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 fresh green chillies (I used the Thai variety, stems removed & thinly sliced. add more if desired)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1/4 cup shredded coconut (I used frozen, thawed slightly and then MW for 20 secs. fluff with fork)
salt - to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric
fresh curry leaves - 10-12

Preparation -

1. Place the lentils in a medium sized sauce pan, rinse & drain them thoroughly until the water is relatively clear. Add 3 cups of water and  Bring it to a boil (uncovered) over medium heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Stir in turmeric and kokum pieces, cover the pan and cook on a medium-low heat for abotu 20 mins, until the lentils are a little tender.

2. Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a skillet, add cumin seeds, until they start to sizzle. (~ 10 seconds). Add in green chillies, garlic and saute until lightly browned. (~ 1 to 2 minutes). Mix in tomato pieces, shredded coconut, salt & curry leaves. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are completely mushy, but slightly chunky. (~ 3 to 4 minutes). Set aside the skillet.

3. Now, once the lentils are ready, add the sauce prepared in Step 2 and Stir. Pour 1 cup of water into the skillet to get those extra bits stuck at the bottom, ( I love those, they taste so yummy!) and pour the water back into the lentils. Cover the pan and simmer on medium heat until the sauce is thickened. (~ 10-12 minutes). 

4. Remove the kokum pieces and it is ready to serve with rotis or brown rice.

Check out how other blogger friends say about our *kokum* -

Nupur's Masoor Shengdana Amti (Lentil stew with Peanuts)
Musy's post on Kokum with links to many other ways to use Kokum
Red Chillies - Sol Kadi/Konkani style Kokum Kadi
Manasi's Kulith Pithla
Deesha's Kokum Tambli

Hope you are all ready for a fun New Year's Eve tomorrow. Don't forget to have one or more of these lucky foods on Jan 1st so that you can a good (read lucky) start to 2011.

[Update] - Sending this bowl of piping hot dal to Priya's MLLA 30 event, originally started by Susan of "The Well Seasoned Cook".

until next time,

My Life, in the Year 2010 (Part 2)

Here is the Part 1 of the 2010 (January to May)  year-end wrap up.


"Belief in karma ought to make the life pure, strong, serene, and glad. Only our own deeds can hinder us; only our own will can fetter us. Once let men recognize this truth, and the hour of their liberation has struck. Nature cannot enslave the soul that by wisdom has gained power and uses both in love."
 ~ Annie Besant

Some experiences have the power to bring a drastic change in the overall perspective of one's lives. My service at Karma Kitchen DC was one such sort. In a nutshell, adhering to its motto, "Growing in Generosity", the concept of KK is quite fascinating to me. In their own words -

"Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: "Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you."...

I owe all this to my dear blogger friend - Sala of Veggie Belly. It all started as a mere bloggers meet (before I left DC for good) and during our conversation, she said - "Lets meet up at KK". I immediately jumped at the opportunity and truly truly cherish it forever. There are many days where I wish, I knew about KK a lot earlier and spent many more Sundays like this volunteering there. Sigh!

Anybody can volunteer at Karma Kitchen and they are based in three locations- Berkely, Washington DC and Chicago. All you have to do is fill out this form.

Favorite recipes for the month of June - Orange Pecan Cookies and Paneer Schezwan Rice


I am Bay Area baby! Yippee. :-). After some looong, sad, a zillion adieus later, I finally said goodbye to my beloved DC and landed in San Francisco-Bay Area which is (acc to me), very different for east coast. People here are much more casual and informal both in-person & at work, me think. It is also definitely a playpen of many many countercultures.

Our first trip together as soon as I landed (and while the summer lasts) was to the beautiful, picturesque Half Moon Bay. OMG! everything about it is just perfect - the drive, the beach, the fresh fruits and vegetables, the people, the sunshine - everything. and the best part, it is so close to our area. just 12 miles and there we are, at Bay Area's one of the most beautiful places. ..above pic was taken at HMB. :-)

Favorite recipes for the month of July - Makhani Dal, Mashed Amaranth and these two raitas.


I have a new priced possession this month - my 8 inch cast iron skillet. I love it soo much. :-). This is how my grandmom(s) used to cook, before the non-stick pans took over the world. there is still some rustic beauty attached to these and one skillet will last for ages. I have know people who get the iron pots & pans as their family inheritance. Read this post, some do's and don't about a cast iron skillet, if you wish to own one.

Favorite recipes for the month of August - Hotel style sambar and Skillet Banana Bread


Fall or Autumn is almost here and this which skies turn gray, leaves start to fall, people wake up late & mostly stay in-doors.

..one of the famous German poets - Rainer Maria Rilke, aptly describe 'FALL' in his famous poem - Herbsttag which translates to "Autumn Day"

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

this mood doesn't last long for me atleast, as I celebrate my birthday at the end of the month. Yey :-)

Favorite recipes for the month of September - Minty Peas Soup and Ma Choleyan Di Dal


No matter when you visit, Yosemite Valley has always something offer - to everybody, from hiking to camping to beautiful water falls.. Its grand majestic and breath taking views are to die for. But, the best time to visit here is definitely the springtime, that is when (as we came to know a tad bit late into our trip) the roaring waterfalls welcome you, coming from the snow melting on the High Sierra.

If you happen to be in or around Bay Area, I highly recommend to add a trip to Yosemite in your travel plans. Hey even Oprah & her best friend Gayle couldn't stop themselves from admiring this beautiful place.

Favorite recipes for the month of October - Wheat-free Chocolate chip cookies and Dahi Vada (Perugu Garelu)


photo taken by one my colleagues at work. (the Diwali and Halloween party)

It is November already and that means a holiday mood has started to set in in-and-around-me. The skies are getting darker by 4-5pm every day and the holiday gift season began, for me with that extra hour of sleep, thanks to the daylight savings ;-).

To celebrate the occasion of both Diwali & Halloween, we had a lovely party at work where there was lots of singing, dancing, loads of games and yummy potluck food.

..there could be no better way to set a good moods for the upcoming holiday season.

Favorite recipes for the month of November - Perfectly Baked Brown Rice and Eggless Blueberry Coffee Cake


Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! 

~ Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

My little blog has got a new name and a new avatar this month. After blogging in the name of "Siri's Corner" for 3 long years, I have got a new name and a new .com domain, finally!. From now on, it is - "Cooking with Siri". :-). (www.cookingwithsiri.com)

It is holiday time - so my kitchen is brimming with loads of cakes and cookies, with friends coming in, with gifts pouring in,  - it is definitely the best time of the year!!!!!.

Favorite recipes for the month of DecemberBarley Lentil Chunky Soup and  Brown Rice Bisibelebath

..it is hard to believe 2010 is almost over and am glad I survived it & as I say year after year  -

Another fresh year is here..
Another year to live..

To banish worry, doubt and fear..
To love, laugh and give.
This bright new year is given me

To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree, And sing more joyful songs!

~ Original quote by William Arthur Ward

Image Credit 

I know, I am a week early. but -

Wishing everybody a belated Christmas and a very very Happy and Prosperous 2011. Hope all your wishes come true in this coming year. :-)

Sending this Part 2 of my 2010 wrap up to Valli's Best of Year 2010 event.

until next time,

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Thank you and Happy Holidays!

My Life, in the Year 2010 (Part 1)

Life has its own way of rewarding us and one doesn't need to search for miracles happening in far off places. Miracles happen in you, with you and around you - very close to "home". It is the time of the year when everything & everyone around is in a holiday-mood, snow falling & settled over pine trees, everybody  draped in red and white fabrics, with bells jingling all-along , celebrating for surviving through one-more year and eagerly awaiting for the new year - to welcome and to be welcomed by 2011. I think it is a good thing to have a habit of looking back at each year’s end to see what all is left behind in the past 12 months.

So, as our beloved 2010 is coming to a close, here I am sitting on a wooden chair in my tiny bay area bedroom, with rain pouring outside, contemplating - 'How was this year for me?'. then it gave me an idea to highlight and share just a few things that happened in my life, each month. Immediately, I opened up a notepad, wrote all the months down and started scribbling. It was fun to do so, as I had to skim through all the photos taken, read the old blog posts and 'relive' the moments again. :-). Also linking back some favorites recipes that were posted then.

Alrighty then. lets re-visit the year of 2010 again, Shall we?


2010 didn't begin on a good note for me. I was suffering from a skin ailment right on my cheek and was showing no signs of reducing.  (after 2 more months of agony, I completely recovered. - God gracious.) 
Hey, but that didn't stop me from having fun. Ok! A big snowstorm had hit Washington DC- Virginia area  then with snow pouring down us for weeks together & it was the perfect time to make a SNOW MAN. :-). me and my roomate G had a blast making this cutie pie, though my other roomie R was not-a-tiny-bit interested in our fun task. Oh well! ;-). 
Also, this was the month where a bunch of us started the herculean task of posting a picture-a-day. Sadly, some of us (incl me) bailed out within the next 6-7 months, but these two ladies are doing an awesome job at it.

Favorite Recipes posted in Jan 2010 - Dal Pakwaan and Chilli Tofu


A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. ~ Hugh Down

...and Dennis is one such 'happy person'. His attitude towards life inspires you the most & he can make you brush off any thing in the most conflicting situations. His love for his wife after so many years is so immense that I nicknamed them - "Mr & Mrs Wonderful". I definitely miss those long chats of ours and  wish him a lots of happiness and hope both of them are having a wonderful retirement time. :-)

Favorite Recipes posted in Feb 2010 - Avocado Chimichurri Bruschetta and Fried Cauliflower


March was a month  filled with joy and butterflies-in-my-stomach excitement as I was getting married in less than a month!. I had to finish shopping from my never-ending list and there was a lot of decisions to be made right from what color of saree to wear to what food to be served for the guests to arrive. Luckily, the two superwomen in my life - my mom and my little sister (she is not little anymore, but she will be my little sister for life ;-)) took care of everything and made it a breeze. Thank you mom and Mincy for being there for me and making this whole process very memorable. Love you both and my dad too. He is the pillar of strength in my family and keeps us all *grounded* and close to reality. 

I also squeezed our some time to meet two lovely ladies (whom I knew until then only through their blogs) - Arundathi and Nandita in Hyderabad. We had a fun time getting to know each other and I wished it lasted more than a just a couple of hours. :-). Thank you both for coming to my marriage, You both were looking fabulous!.

..there was also a bittersweet moment at the end of the month when R, my long-time roommate for 2 years was leaving for a new job in Chicago. She is one of the best things that happened to me during my stay in Washington DC and will always cherish the moments we spent together.

Favorite posts of March 2010 - Roti on an Egg & these two roundups.


"Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love still stands when all else has fallen.” 

~ Author Unknown

The *big day* had finally arrived and here I was tying the knot, with the love of my life. Words cease to exist to explain how happy I was (& still am). Thankfully, the event went smoothly without any major near-misses. Now that we are talking about S, I have to mention about the sweetest. warmest sister-in-law one can ever have and I am lucky to have one. - K, who blogs under the name of TastyTouch.
The most scary part for any newly-wed-bride is to survive through those first few initial days in her in-law's house. Fortunately, I felt no difference between my own and my in-law's house, largely due to the fact that K was there, to be the bridge between me & everybody in the house & to help me out whenever possible. Thank you K for everything and for just being there with me - at every step those initial 4 days!

This whole month I was busy gobbling up my mother's goodies back home, so nothing much cooked my kitchen . :-)


"May there always be work for your hands to do, may your purse always hold a coin or two. May the sun always shine on your windowpane, may a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. May the hand of a friend always be near you, may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you."

~ Irish Blessing

Life most of the times, sometimes has its way to throw some googlies at you and you would never, ever see it coming. That is what happened to us, this month. S, who was working to NC for past few years had to move to Bay Area. Yep, East coast to West coast, which is a big change for me, as I had to leave all my life, my friends back in DC, pack up my bags and move with him to CA.

But, even the gloomiest outlook contains some hopeful or consoling aspect and the silver lining here was - I got to meet my long-time blogger friend DK. Until then, for 3 long years we had seen through each in every joy & sorrow and now for the first time, we finally met each other. I couldn't be more happier than this very moment, when I have the two people who matter the most to me are right there along my side!

Favorite recipe for May 2010 - Anaheim Peppers with Besan (Chickpea flour) stuffing (made by S)


Phew! just 5 months and I am a bit tired already :-). I will take a break here and come back rested with my post from June to December, a little later.

[Update] - I am sending post to Valli's Best of Year 2010 event. I hope she wouldn't mind getting my 2010 wrap-up(s) in two parts. :-)

Until then, Have a wonderful week ahead folks.

Blue Agave Cake with Nuts, Ginger and Lemon

I have a little announcement to make, before I go ahead with my post today. Finally, after a lot going back & forth, I have got a domain name for myself and it took 3+ years for me to do that!. So, from now on, this little, tiny tot will be called as 'Cooking with Siri' - www.cookingwithsiri.com (instead of Siri's Corner, as it was formerly known).

Hope you all will be with me and read along my posts, just like you did before, from past few years!. :-)

"....food writing is a skill that must be practiced repeatedly. You must spend an extraordinary amount of time learning about food and writing, says O'Neill, just as you would spend years learning how to play the piano well. But persevere and most likely it will pay off in the end.."

~ this is an excerpt from Dianne Jacob's book (which I am totally in love with) - Will Write For Food.

The same holds good not only for *food writing* but for any new (ad)venture that we take upon. Isn't it. As somebody, who runs this blog all-alone (like many others out there) - from being a recipe developer to chef to food stylist to food photographer, it takes immense amount of time & effort to slowly master each one of the fields. And I think, taking good photographs is the key for running a successful blog. It is important to engage and entice the audience which would make them want to rush to their kitchens to whip up the dish for themselves.

I have to say - am taking baby steps towards becoming a good photographer and to enhance my skills and to get a new viewpoint about how to take good photographs, I recently attended a day-long Food Photography Workshop, here in San Francisco, organized by Digital Media Playground and Danielle Tsi. It is always fun to meet some fellow bloggers who share the same passion for food and its photography. Here is a flickr stream that Denise has put together from the photos taken at the workshop.

If you are interested, they have one more workshop coming up for January 8th 2011. Click here for more details about how to register.

that is me, trying to get a shot of some tortilla chips & guacamole. (Pic taken by Denise)

..and below are some shots taken by yours truly!

..Now let's see what is cooking in my kitchen tonight, Shall we?

It is sugarless, butterless cake made with whole wheat pastry flour, fresh ginger, nuts and dried fruit. To give some sweetness to the cake, I have used - for the first time, some Blue Agave Sweetener (can be easily substituted with honey as suggested in the original recipe).

According to wikipedia article - "Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a sweetener commercially produced in Mexico from several species of agave, including the Blue Agave (Agave tequilana), Salmiana Agave (Agave salmiana), Green Agave, Grey Agave, Thorny Agave, and Rainbow Agave.[1][2]  Agave nectar is sweeter than honey, though less viscous...."

Yes, I did feel this was bit sweeter and less syrupy than our regular honey. A lot has been said about this blue agave syrup in recent times. It is topic of debate - with some saying it is a healthy alternative because of it low glycemic index but some argue - the agave syrup available in markets right now has high amounts of corn syrup which doesn't make it any better than our regular sugar.

But, I believe Sugar at the end of the day is S.U.G.A.R. - whether we get that from honey or brown sugar or regular white sugar or this blue agave nectar, it doesn't matter. Enjoying it (in any form) in moderation is the key and you don't need worry about anything else!

Blue Agave Cake with Nuts, Ginger and Lemon

Honey was replaced in this cake with the Blue Agave Sweetener truly for experimental purposes and I loved it. I made two loaves - one for my dear husband & other for my  colleagues at work. All of them gave thumbs up to it and I am a happy girl at the end of the day! After all, it is holiday-time. Make this for this Christmas or New Year and spread some healthy holiday cheer around.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Adapted from Cookthink


1 3/4 cups of wholewheat pastry flour (or All purpose flour works too)
1 cup blue agave sweetener or use honey
1/4 cup chopped pecans or use any nuts that are available in your pantry
1/4 cup dried cranberries + dried blueberries
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
zest of 1 large lemon
2 eggs (replace with applesauce to make it egg-less)
1 tsp of finely chopped almonds (for the topping)

Other topping ideas - Sprinkle confectioner's sugar or toasted coconut or chocolate curls or chopped roasted nuts.


Step 1. Preheat oven to 350 F, rack in the middle. Grease a loaf pan or a cake pan with oil spray. Keep aside.

Step 2.

Dry ingredients: In a large bowl, mix in whole wheat pastry flour with baking powder, salt, cinnamon, fresh ginger and lemon zest.

Wet Ingredients: In a bowl, Whisk for atleast 3-4 mins, eggs and blue agave nectar or honey until they are slightly emulsified (well combined into a brownish liquid). Slowly, in a steady stream add warm milk. Add oil and vanilla extract. Mix well, one final time.

Step 3: Mix with a wooden spatula, the dry ingredients to the wet ones, little at-a-time. Don't worry, batter may be a little thin. Fold in chopped nuts and dried fruit. Mix once.

Step 4: Pour in the greased loaf or cake pa. If using chopped almonds (or any nuts) as topping, sprinkle them on the cake.Bake for 40-45 mins. (depending the size of your pan), until the cake is puffed and deep golden brown. Mine was done in 38 minutes.

Doneness test - A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake will come out either clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it.

Step 5: Cool for 10 minutes. If using confectioner sugar or toasted coconut or chocolate curls, sprinkle on the top of th cake. Serve.

If you have any feedback,  please use this updated form or email me at: blog[at]cookingwithsiri[dot]com.

and here is how my new FB page looks like - .

Hope you all have relaxing weekend ahead.

until next time,

Stuffed Eggplant (with Onion, Coconut and Chickpea Flour)

The book that I am currently reading on my Kindle is Dianne Jacob's "Will Write For Food" - a complete guide about how-to's to the art of food writing. The book has references and interviews with many renowned star chefs Molly O Neill (who compares making a soup to a road trip in a blizzard) to accomplished food editors like Ruth Reichl to NYT restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton and many others. Truly such personalities *show* food, not just *tell* about food by using an umpteen number of adjectives. They, through their evocative, vivid writing styles  - transport their readers to a faraway, believable neverland, just for a minute and titilate the senses by taking on a journey, with them.

As you read through the pages, one would realize how beautiful and sensual 'food writing' could be. It truly describes what are the essential ingredients required to be successful and/or passionate foodie writer and also talks about what distinguishes the great food writers from the rest. I could not  agree more when Dianne when she says, in the context of joy of food writing - "On days where you're so immersed in your work that the hours fly by, you know you've chosen a great profession".

This book is a must for all who have passion for food and who wants to write good food articles and who secretly wish to write magazine-worthy articles. :-)

..now coming to today's recipe. Eons ago, I posted a Stuffed Eggplant recipe, which takes a bit longer to make. Today's version is much simpler, without being heavy on spices and tastes equally good. The basic idea is from Raaga's recipe and I tweaked that a bit to suit our palate.

Stuffed Eggplant (with Onion, Coconut and Chickpea Flour)

This recipes calls for tender baby eggplants that are stuffed with a onion,coconut and chickpea flour mixture. The highlight of this recipe is the fried coconut, which gives a slightly sweet finish to the overall dish. Serve with plain rice and Urad dal with tomatoes for a complete, nutritious meal.

Adapted from Raaga's recipe


1. Heat 2 tsp of oil and add 2 cups of finely chopped onions. Saute on medium-low heat until a little brownish color. Add 3-4 tbsp of grated coconut. (I used frozen coconut, microwaved for 30 secs and fluffed with a fork). Fry until the mixture turns brown.

2. Add 1/2 tsp of ginger-garlic paste, little turmeric powder, red chilli powder (as per taste), 1/2 tsp of garam masala and salt to taste. Finally add 3 tbsp of chickpea flour (besan). Mix well and saute for 3-4 mins until the raw smell of the flour is gone. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile slit small baby eggplants (I used about 9-10 small ones) crosswise and stuff with this onion-coconut-besan mixture.

4. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and drop the stuffed eggplant carefully, one-by-one. Cover and cook on medium heat for 3-4 mins. Turn the eggplants on the other side and cook untill well done. Make sure they are just charred on each side and not burnt.

5. Serve with hot plain rice.

Happy Holidays everyone.

until next time,

[UPDATE] - Do you want to host Healing Foods event? Slots from April 2011 are available. and from January 2011 onwards, there is an Amazon giftcard to win from every Healing Food event. Click here for more details.

Enter your email address and get these delicious recipes and more, Straight to your Inbox. It's FREE!

Barley Lentil Chunky Soup

Barley Lentil Chunky Soup

Fall is all around us and during these cold, rainy, gloomy days - we need something that provides some warmth to our sullen bodies and pep us up. Hence this Barley Lentil Chunky soup which is in-short a 'store-house' of all essential nutrients. I made this soup for the first time for dinner in the beginning of the week and served it yesterday for lunch again along with toasted 3-seed Sourdough bread. I have gotten some rave reviews from my other-half. Give this a try and just like me, your loyalty to it forever is guaranteed!

Note: The soup keeps up to 7 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer, which makes it a wholesome make-ahead meal ready to be served on those busy weeknights. 

Adapted from here.


1. Rinse and Drain 1/2 cup of green or brown lentils. (I used green).

2. Chop up 1/2 cup of onion, 1 cup of cubed carrots and 1 cup of (fresh or frozen) spinach. Mince 1 clove of garlic.

3. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a big sauce pan, saute chopped onion for 3-4 mins. Add in carrots and cook for 5-6 mins, until a bit soft. Add garlic, mix and saute for 2 mins. Season with salt  and add washed lentils1/2 cup of pearl barley, 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp of cumin powder, 2 cups of vegetable broth and  2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for atleast 25-30 mins or until tender.

Note: If you are using instant pearl barley, then adjust the time accordingly.

4. Finally add spinach and cook for 5- 6 mins. Season with salt (if needed) & pepper and 1 tbsp vinegar.

5. Garnish with cilantro and/or serve with a dollop of yogurt as topping. Yum!

P.S - Don't worry about the proportions. Just keep tasting as you-go. this recipe is very wholesome and very forgiving with measurements. :-)


1. Add some fresh lemon juice, instead of vinegar for some tangyness.
2. Dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil work very well too.
3. Lentils can be easily substituted with any kind of legumes.

Sending this piping hot soup to My Legume Love Affair # 30, guest hosted this month by Priya, originally conceptualized by Susan of 'The Well Seasoned Cook'.

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend ahead.

until next time,

Brown Rice Bisibelebath

There are some recipes which sound just flawless, like this luscious, creamy lentil dish. When best of the two worlds meet and make love, this is what we get (to eat): (Brown Rice + Bisibelebath). I recommend to make this ultra simple bisibelebath powder at home instead of getting some store-bought brand. Go for the latter, only if you fall short of time. I have tried to make this recipe with both and the difference is very evident. Replace the *white glucose coated rice* with such healthy whole-grains as much as you can. Trust me, you will do better, you will feel better & you will automatically eat just right!

The Making of Brown Rice Bisibelebath 

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite bloggers - Madhuram of Eggless Cooking. In my quest to find wholesome recipes using brown rice, I found this and loved it. The rice and dal proportions are just perfect and once fully cooked, there is no so chewy, gummy texture to the brown rice. All we taste is how smooth and silky the cooked dal coats the rice & with 4 full servings of veggies, this is a one-pot meal in itself.

creamy, delicious, silky textured bisibelebath..

Serves 4 -6


Wash and Soak 1.5 cup of brown rice with 1 cup of toor dal in 7 cups of warm water for atleast 20 minutes. Tranfer the same into a pressure cooker , on medium heat and cook until 5 whistles. Take off from burner and set aside until pressure completely dies down.

Bisibelebath powder: Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat 2 teaspoon of ghee, and roast one-by-one : 2 tbsp of chana dal, 1 tbsp of urad dal, 2 tbsp of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 4 to 5 cloves, 2 inch broken cinnamon stick, 4 red chillies and 2 tbsp of grated coconut. Cool a bit and grind into a fine powder. We will not use all-of-it for this recipe. I had to use about half of it and saved the rest in a air tight container.

In a wide pan, heat 2 tsp of oil, add 2 tsp of mustard seeds, until they start to crackle. Then drop curry leaves, 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 medium onion, thinly sliced. Saute for 4-5 mins until they become a bit translucent and then add all the veggies you want. - I used carrots, green beans, drumsticks, tomatoes, yam, cucumber, snake gourd and mango pieces, about 4 cups. Cook for 5-6 mins.

Then add 3 tbsp of tamarind juice (or more depending on your tanginess you want). Cook for couple of minutes more. Add about 3-4 tbsp of bisibelebath masala powder. (recipe above). Mix well and add 1 cup of water if desired. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Finally add the rice & dal mixture and season with salt. Add 1 tsp of sugar (optional). On low flame, let it simmer for 3-4 mins more (make sure the bottom is not burnt). Serve as-is or with yogurt and/or appadams on the side, like we did.

Notes: Make the bisibelebath powder, in advance and store it in a air tight container in fridge, for it to stay fresh. 

Hope you have a fun-filled week ahead.

[Update] - sending this the event I am guest hosting "WWC: Brown Rice" originally conceptualized by Sanjeeta .

until next time,

Chickpea Sundal

Chickpea Sundal

Typically made on Navarathi days as 'neivedyam', Sundal prepared with any kind of legumes is a very healthy and highly nutritious snack cum side dish. It is interesting how you make a dish all-the-time but never care to blog about it. :-). Well, that happens to me all the time. Blame my laziness or the hectic life-style juggling between work & home. This is one such simple dish and Enjoy!


1. Open up 1 can of chickpeas. Drain the liquid and wash with water couple of times. Keep aside. (or soak overnight and pressure cook until 4-5 whistles).

2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet and add 1 tsp of mustard seeds & asafoetida. Add minced ginger and finely chopped green chillies. (optionally curry leaves and red chillies can be added)

3. After a minute, mix in chickpeas. Season with salt and little amchur powder (raw mango powder). Cook for 5-6 minutes. Finally sprinkle 2 tbsp of shredded coconut. Cook for couple of more minutes. Serve warm as-is or as a side dish.

the same was also blogged by -


Before I say bubye, here is a song I heard recently and instantly loved it.

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend ahead.

until next time,

How to Cook Brown Rice Perfectly Every Time [In Oven]

"It is always during a passing state of mind that we make lasting resolutions"

~ Marcel Proust

Who said 'resolutions' can be made only at the beginning of the year??. (or more precisely on January 1st). I made one last Sunday. - to consume white rice just once a week or less. It is my humble start for a healthy living. That means my plain-old-white-rice will be replaced by all kinds of whole grains.

First in such series of posts is - to cook a perfectly cooked, fluffy, tasty 'Brown Rice'. Look no further, below is one such recipe which is absolutely 100% fool-proof and the variations that can be made out of it are countless.

Here are some ideas, just to get you started:

- Instead of olive oil, add butter like the original recipe suggested & replace brown rice with a medley of brown rice and wild rice.
- Use Vegetable broth instead of water for more dense flavor.
- Add any kind of veggies , fresh garlic, tomato paste, flavored oils and/or herbs such as dill, parsley etc to give the dish a whole new twist.

...the flavor possibilities are practically endless!!!.

Baked Brown Rice

It is a known fact that brown rice is much healthier than plain-white-rice. To create white rice, both the germ and the inner husk (bran) of the grain are removed, it is then polished, usually using glucose or talc. Therefore the loss of good nutrients and fiber is substantial. So, that has to make us wonder - "Whats the point of eating such a thing?". Isn't it? Majority of us refrain from using brown rice because - We just don't know how to cook a bowl of brown rice perfectly. Now, you donot have that excuse anymore. This simple recipe takes only 5 minutes to prep and baked in the oven for 1 hour (unattended) should get you started onto making one.. It definitely did for me. :-)

perfectly baked brown rice topped with cilantro, just out of the oven

Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe

Preparation -

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Place 1.5 cups of brown rice (I used basmati variety, but short or medium grain can be used) in a baking dish.

3. In a covered sauce pan, bring 3 cups of water, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of salt to a rolling boil. Pour it over the rice, add some chopped cilantro leaves and stir to combine. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake it (in the middle rack) for exactly 1 hour.

 4. After 1 hour, remove foil, fluff the rice with a fork and it is ready to Serve with almost anything.

brown rice served with a bowl of mango dal

..now no more half cooked or burnt or crunchy brown rice for dinner. Follow this simple recipe for a bowl of perfectly cooked brown rice. Replace this with wherever/whenever you crave for white rice, like I do for that extra ounce of fiber that you need to get going all-day!.

[Update] - sending this the event I am guest hosting "WWC: Brown Rice" originally conceptualized by Sanjeeta .

until next time,

Parmesan Cheese Sticks

Growing up, for me and my sister, one of our favorite evening brunches was - to devour on munchies usually made up of 'puff pastry'. Back then, making all these goodies at home was a distant dream and were something we could get only in a bakery shop. Each puff (veggie or egg) used to cost Rs 2 each and I used to save up all my pocket money to splurge on these yummy, buttery goodies, every now and then.

Fast forward 10 years, here I am in USA where store-bought pastry sheets are readily available, as easy as a pound of fresh vegetables or a stick of butter. I was as delighted when I discovered (few years ago), I could bake all of them & much more, in a matter of minutes. :)

...it is cold, rainy and depressing here on west coast ( thanks to the untimely storm). So, I thought this is best time to warm up the house with some puff pastry goodies. these are some of them and there are more coming as I have one more pastry sheet, still in my freezer. Enjoy!

Gobhi Paratha, with Pickle Raita

A 'Paratha' is basically a pan-fried Indian flatbread. With innumerable number of options as stuffing, this dish is very popularly made in the northern part of India. This is my first, successful attempt to make 'Gobhi Paratha', with the stuffing properly tucked in between the layers (and not oozing out, like it did in past times). This is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and for almost anytime & any day. Enjoy.

Gobhi Paratha


Cut cauliflower into florets and grate. We need 2 cups of shredded cauliflower.

In a mixing bowl, add 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 tsp of salt. Add water (about 1/2 cup) little by little to form a nice, soft dough. Apply little oil on the surface, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Rest it for about 10-15 minutes.

In another bowl, mix - shredded cauliflower with 1 tsp of salt, chopped cilantro, finely minced green chillies (depending on your spice level), 1/2 tsp of Ajwain (carom seeds) and 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds.
Thoroughly mix them all and rest for 10-15 minutes as it leaves excess water.. Squeeze out the water out of the cauliflower mixture. This step of resting and squeezing out the excess water is very important to avoid watery-stuffing.

Knead the dough a little bit more and make 6 small, lemon-sized balls out of it. Roll each one into about a 3 inch diameter roti, place about 1 tbsp of stuffing in the middle and close it, like you do for a dumpling. Do the same for the rest of them too.

Now that the first stuffed ball has rested for couple of minutes, with a rolling pin slowly roll them out into parathas, making sure the stuffing doesn't come out. (even it does, trust me it taste fabulous). But for a perfect one, the stuffing must be between the two flaky layers of the paratha. With enough practice we will get that too. :-)

On a hot griddle, place one paratha at-a-time, on medium heat , Cook on one side (with some bubbles popping up) and then to the other side. Once done, spear some desi ghee or some oil. Serve.

Pickle Raita

If you are very very hungry or have short time on hand - then pickle raita is the best accompaniment for almost anything, especially for such parathas.

All you have to do is beat the yogurt for couple of minutes and mix some of your favorite pickle (I added tomato) into it. - less or more, depending on how spicy you want. The coolness from the yogurt works so well with the heat from the pickle. this is definitely my all-time favorite quickie side-dish.

Hope you are having a fun Thanksgiving week.

until next time,

Bombay French Toast, spicy ish-tyle

Breakfast is like one of the most important meals of the day and if you are like me, who loves to start off on a delicious savoury note, then this dish is for you. Not only for breakfast, it can be made as a lazy brunch or just snack off if you wish to. Interestingly, I made this today - for dinner. See, it is that versatile, quick & easy. Tastes best when served warm.


Whisk together in a bowl - 2 tbsp of milk, salt, 1 tsp hot sauce or less (or finely chopped green chilli/cayenne/red chilli flakes - for some heat), 1 egg and a pinch of turmeric. Add 1/4th cup finely chopped onion, 1 clove of minced garlic and cilantro. Mix well.

Heat a pan with 1/2 tsp of oil on medium-heat.

Meanwhile, cut each bread (white or wheat) into 2 triangles. Dip the bread in the egg mixture for a 30-45 seconds.

Gently transfer the egg-soaked-bread onto the pan. Spoon some onion mixture on the top if you want to.

Cook until golden brown on both side.

Serve with some ketchup or just as-is and sip hot black tea on-side..contemplating about how good the day will be for you and for people around you. :-)

Isn't it the best way to start your day!

Hope you all have a great weekend ahead.

until next time,

Potato-Bell pepper Korma, with some *essential ingredients*

There are some times when you start reading a book, you are transported to a different world altogether and once it is done you sigh with utmost satisfaction and at the same time wish the story would continue for ever and ever. The School Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister is one such delicious read. It is a story about a chef, a restaurenter, Lillian who teaches cooking classes every Monday, each month. A disparate group of people assemble together for one such cooking class (for various different reasons) and they are all connected by one common thing - their immense Love for Food. Each chapter tracks back and forth into each of their lives, their circumstances, their happiness, their sadness, their loss. As you read more & more eventually, you become one of them, you feel for them. Your taste buds dance and  tickle every time Lillian describes why & how a recipe is made. The adjectives with which each smell, each feeling, each gesture is described is just spell-bounding. .You will see the world and the food you make in whole new way after reading this book.

Have you read such a book that you wish to share about? please leave a comment and I would love to know about all of them. :-)

..now talking about today's recipe -

One of most popular posts (as per Blogger Stats) here on my blog is - my Mama's Vegetable Biryani and Aloo Korma (from way back in 2008). Today, I am posting a modified version of the same recipe which I made for the Diwali and Halloween potluck party at work, along with the Eggless Blueberry Coffee Cake.


Potato Bellpepper Korma

A rich, dense, nutty gravy is what is needed as a base for a 'Korma", though I used it very loosely in this case as, as per wikipedia, it can be made with yogurt, cream, nut and seed pastes or coconut milk . From vegetables to eggs to even meat, anything & everything can be added to it. This korma recipe is from my mom who still cooks this up in the most delicious way. Don't be surprised when you see that the recipe asks for only 2 tablespoons of peanuts or 1 tbsp of poppy seeds. Everything get adds up and it serves atleast 3-4 servings. Tastes best when served with my mama's Vegetable Biryani.

Preparation -

Peel and cut 2 potatoes into cubes and boil them, until a bit firm.

Dry roast the following separately:

2 tbsp peanuts
2 tbsp cashew nuts
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup coconut (frozen or dry flakes)

Grind all of the above with 2 tbsp of tamarind pulp and 1/2 cup of water.

Heat oil (about 1 teaspoon) and saute 1 chopped onion, until golden brown. Add 1 chopped tomato pieces. Cook until mush. Cool down a bit and grind with little water. Keep aside.

Heat about 2-3 teaspoons of oil, add chopped bell peppers with little salt. Cook them for about 6-7 mins. then add onion paste and masala paste from Step 1. Cook on medium low flame, until oil starts to separate.

Season with salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and garama masala, as per taste. Add the boiled potato pieces. Cook for 2-3 mins.

Finally add 1/3 cup of beaten yogurt. Mix well and cook for 4-5 mins.

Variation: Any veggie can be substituted with bell peppers and potato. I made the same with boiled eggs and it tasted equally yummy. 

Serve hot with rice or rotis.

until next time,

Eggless Blueberry Coffee Cake

Some *recipes* are just P.E.R.F.E.C.T, in every sense - simple, everyday ingredients, no fancy equipment needed, just mix them all together as if you are making a pot of coffee and Whoopee, there you have a perfectly baked cake. My best pal DK of ChefInYou made one such cake and I was eagerly waiting for a perfect occassion to make it, myself.

Yesterday we had a potluck for Halloween cum Diwali party at work and I made Aloo-Bell pepper Korma (recipe coming soon) and a fruity cake. As it was an auspicious festival of Diwal, one of my colleague insisted the cake must be egg-less. Sure enough, I had the perfectly recipe to make - the Eggless Blueberry Coffee Cake. Everybody enjoyed it thoroughly and it was all gone, as expected.

DK used normal sugar in her recipe and I replaced that with some light brown sugar as it gives a lovely brown color and adds an extra hint of moisture to the cake.

Below is the recipe, if you wish to bake it yourself. Trust me, it is child's play, if I can do it, you can too. :)

Eggless Blueberry Coffee Cake

Adapted from my best friend's recipe


Dry Ingredients -

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Others -
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (no sugar added to it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 cup frozen blueberries, don't thaw

For Topping

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp light brown sugar


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F. (at least for 10-15 minutes)

Step 2: In a bowl, mix all the 'Dry ingredients' listed.

Step 3: Cream the sugar and butter, together until smooth. then add applesauce and vanilla extract. Blend for couple of more minutes.

Step 4: Now, slowly alternate between the dry ingredients and sour cream, add little by little & Blend every thing together. Fold in the blueberries & gently mix with a spatula. (without crushing the berries).

Step 5: Grease a fluted cake tin with butter and evenly spread the batter. Finally sprinkle (cinnamon + sugar) mixture on the top.

Step 6: Bake for 40-45 mins, until a toothpick, when inserted comes out clean (or with very little specks of cake attached).

This is how it looks, fresh out of the oven -

..flip it over , and you get this.....

Step 7: Cool for 10-15 min in the cake tin and then transfer on to a plate. Serve & Enjoy!

Hope you all had a fun Diwali yesterday and have your tummies full with yummy treats.

[UPDATE]: Sending this to T&T: ChefInYou event guest hosting this month is Priya and organizer is Lakshmi.

until next time,

Dahi Vada (Perugu Garelu)

There are some dishes which just swirl me back to the memory lane and remind me of all-the-good-old-care-free days, when every minute of my life was magic, when I was endlessly being pampered by my mother & her yummy treats. then, at that point of time, I was too young to realize how precious those days were. ...now, when I am a married woman and have a responsibility to take care of the family, I just wish atleast for a day there was a a time-machine which would transport me back in time, to those lovely days.

In short, my mother's cooking fascinated me the most. Every Sunday, we used to eagerly wait for the Sunday issue of our favorite newpaper (it still is), especially for the dishes featured in the Ruchi Abhiruchi section. My mother had cooked countless number of recipes from there (because, we seriously didn't know about formal cookbooks in 1990's.). This was basically our Sunday ritual, for many many years. My mother never transferred any of the culinary duties to me or my sister, which means all we had to do was devour over all her dishes. But, once I moved to US, the first and foremost thing I missed was - those moments I spent with my family, which I understood will never ever come back. That is when, I took the matter in my own hands,  started to cook by myself , taking careful instructions from my mom in the beginning and later venturing out on my own - from starting this blog to try to get inspired and cook new dishes in the limited amount of time I have in hand.

....taking you on to the memory lane, today I share the recipe of Dahi Vada a.k.a Perugu Garelu (in Telugu). Make this dish to your loved ones for coming Diwali or as a lazy weekend brunch. Trust me, you all will love it. :)

Dahi Vada [Perugu Garelu] (Lentil Fritters in Yogurt Sauce)

'Dahi' in Hindi means yogurt and 'Vada' is a fried lentil fritter. Just imagine what would happen if some creamy, delicious, fluffy lentil fritters are dunked in a unbelievably simple (not more than 30-45 seconds to put together) yet yummy yogurt sauce - pure heaven. This dish is made in almost every Indian household and is eaten as a guilt-free brunch/snack item, anytime of the day & especially during major Indian festivals. 

Recipe Source: the world's best cook, my mom.


For Fritters (Vada) -

1 cup urad dal (skinned split black lentils, cream colored)
2-3 green chillies
salt - to taste
canola oil - for frying
hot water, in a medium-sized bowl

For Yogurt sauce (Dahi) -

1 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon grated ginger
salt - to taste
2 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder (or chaat masala, for that extra tang)
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (add more, as per taste)
fresh coriander/cilantro - for garnish


Step 1: Wash urad dal thoroughly 3-4 times, until the water remains relatively clear. Fill the bowl halfway (preferably) with warm water and soak overnight. (or if you are running short on time, atleast for 4 hours)

Step 2: Drain the lentils, put them in a blender with about 3/4 cup of water and chillies. Grind until its smooth paste-like batter. Season with little salt. (Remember, there will be salt in the yogurt sauce too, so add just a little or else the overall dish will be too salty).

Step 3: Whisk the ingredients listed under 'yogurt sauce' in a medium-size bowl. Place it in the refrigerator, until the fritters are ready.

Step 4: Pour oil in a wok or medium-size saucepan. Heat over medium-heat. A good test whether the oil is heat enough is to drop a pearl-like batter into the oil. If it puffs up to the surface, then it is ready.

Step 5: Fill a medium-size bowl with hot water and place it just beside the stove-top. Now, carefully add 1 spoonful of batter into the hot oil, without over-crowding. After a minute or two, turn the fritter onto the other side, fry until golden brown and immediately drop into the hot water. Repeat this process for all the fritters. Note: Donot leave the fritters in the water for more than 3-4 minutes. The water-soaking will remove all the excess fat, making this dish almost guilt-free.

Step 6: Lightly press each vada, between your palms, squeeze out the water. Make sure not to press too hard. Drop them into the yogurt sauce, dunking and coating evenly.

 Step 7: Sprinkle some extra chaat masala or cumin-coriander powder over the top. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve chilled.

Hope you all have a fabulous week ahead.

until next time,

YRTML: Punjabi Chole

Flowers in the farmer's market, today

Looking at any beautiful flower reminds me of Rabindranath Tagore's poem - 'Flower'.

Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of pain from thy hand and pluck it.
I fear lest the day end before I am aware, and the time of offering go by.

Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time.

I am not sure whats the inner meaning of this poem and for me, it just tells - Time is ticking away, enjoy the life, the most in this moment, while there is time. Not Past, Not Future, but live in Present. :)

So,as I had some free time on hand this weekend, I thought why not make Anita's ever-famous, ever-controversial - Punjabi Chole, which requires to ground one's own masala. Let me tell you one thing about the bhunao masala - it is lovely, fragrant and adds a nice color & authenticity to the dish. Take my advice, grind a bit more than required. I added a tbsp of it to eggplant and S just loved it. I am sure it will go well with almost any vegetable like potato, okra etc.

Click here for the recipe and Serve with some rice or roti.


Hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

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