Jan 28, 2013

Tuna Burger with Cilantro-Cumin Mayo

I talked about the perks of growing up in a coastal city, here. The disadvantage of a landlocked city? Its scarcity of great seafood, of course. Since I live near a really big lake, I do have unlimited access to freshwater fish. But, its just not the same....

When I first moved to Georgia, I remember searching for restaurants that specialized in seafood and visiting them. So, naturally, when I saw a great deal for canned albacore tuna at Costco, I figured I'll stockpile on these , so I can satisfy my seafood craving at anytime...

And I brought this 2 8-pack of albacore tuna cans home, eager to explain my plan to my husband. He took one look at the cans and declared "Cat Food!". Cue a balloon popping or a guitar string breaking....

I tried making some tuna salad just for me, but the brine taste was a little overpowering for me. Speaking of which, if you have some tips or a recipe on how to make tuna salad with no brine taste, leave a comment, please!

When life gives too-briny cans of tuna, what's a girl to do? Make Tuna Burgers, of course!
I referred to my collection of recipe pins for inspiration, and found one. I liked the idea of adding bell peppers to the burger. I did liberally adapt/ change the recipe to suit me, as you will see.
The original one called for 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs. It must be some mistake I made, but the patties didn't bind well with that little amount. So I ended up making a runny mix of flour and egg to dip all the patties in. That did the trick, for me.

Tuna Burger

For the patties:
  • tuna, packed in water - 5 cans, 1 lb
  • red bell pepper, cubed - 1 cup
  • dry red chili - 2
  • turmeric powder - a pinch
  • garam masala powder - a pinch
  • garlic paste - 1 tbsp
  • panko bread crumbs - 3/4 cup
  • lemon juice - 1 tbsp
  • salt, to taste
  • egg - 1 
For dipping:
  • all purpose flour - 1 tbsp
  • water - 1/2 cup
  • egg, lightly beaten - 1
For assembling, optional:
  • tomato, sliced thick - 1 large
  • onion, sliced thick - 1 large
  • lettuce - 1 leaf
  1. Chop the bell pepper, dry red chili and tuna in a food processor until everything is minced and mixed well.
  2. Add garlic paste, spice powders and egg. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Pour the lemon juice to the mix along with salt. Also add the bread crumbs.Stir again.
  4. Using your hands, make 8-10 patties. If the burgers are not firm, you can refrigerate these for around half an hour.
  5. In a wide bowl or a soup plate, make a runny mix of flour, water and egg. Add a little salt if desired.
  6. Spray Pam or brush oil to coat the surface of a skillet. Place it on medium-high heat and wait for the skillet to get evenly hot.
  7. Dip the patty/burger in the flour mix before placing it on the skillet. I was able to get 4 burgers on the skillet at one time, without overcrowding.
  8. Evenly brown the burgers on all sides (top, bottom and sides). Cook covered for 5-6 minutes before flipping the burgers. Brush some more oil and let cook for a couple minutes.
  9. Toast buns on the same skillet before assembling a burger sandwich. I used a Cilantro-Cumin Mayo adapted from the seaside baker's lemon-chive mayo.
Cilantro-Cumin Mayo:
  • mayo, low fat - 1/2 cup
  • yogurt, strained to remove liquid - 1/2 cup
  • cilantro, chopped super fine - 1/4 cup
  • cumin powder - 1 tsp
  • salt, to taste
The burger was juicy and the briny taste was absent. I guess the addition of spices and bell pepper were the main reasons for making the burger taste fresh. Wonder what my husband said when he saw the tuna burger? "Gourmet Cat Food"! That's just fine, I have no intention of sharing these burgers :)

Tuna Burger with Chips

Jan 27, 2013

FoodGawker Accepted My Photo!!!

Yesterday, FoodGawker accepted one of my submissions. You can see it here: #220270.
I hope this is not just beginner's luck. And the funny part? I thought that the lighting looked a little washed out and will be rejected. I personally prefer the lighting in the first photo in the same post.

My success ratio? A paltry 1:13. But, I surely learnt a lot from the 13 rejections.

Jan 25, 2013

Curried Ridgegourd squash - Peerkankai Curry

Here's a really simple and sweet tasting curry that makes a satisfying side dish for rotis.

Curried Ridgegourd Squash

  • Ridge gourd - 2 big
  • onion - 1 small
  • tomato - 2 big, about 2 cups
  • turmeric - 1 tsp
  • green chillies, slit vertically - 2
  • cilantro, for garnishing
  • salt, to taste
  • mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • broken channa - 1 tbsp
  • curry leaves - 2 sprigs
  • oil, for sauteing
To grind:
  • coconut, shredded - 1 tbsp, optional
  • garlic, peeled - 4 cloves
  • cilantro - 5 sprigs
  1. Wash and peel the gourds. You can save the peels and make a chutney out of it. 
  2. Cut the gourds into 1 inch thick slices. Quarter these slices.
  3. Cut onions into 1 inch pieces. Chop tomatoes into one-eighths.
  4. In a small mixer jar, grind the ingredients listed under "to grind", with little or no water.
  5. In a heavy saute pan on medium high heat, add oil for sauteing. Before it starts smoking, add the ingredients listed under "Seasoning".
  6. When the mustard seeds start splattering, add the onions. Stir once or twice until the onions have turned translucent.
  7. Now add tomatoes, chillies and a little salt, to draw out moisture.
  8. When the tomatoes are cooked, but still hold their shape, add the ridge gourd pieces. Also add some turmeric.
  9. Taste and add salt at this stage.
  10. Cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until the gourd turns fork tender.
  11. Stir in the ground masala from step 4. 
  12. Check consistency and add a little water , if desired.
  13. Stir well to incorporate the flavors. Remove the lid and let this simmer for 5 minutes before removing from fire.
  14. Garnish with more cilantro before serving.
Ridgegourd Curry served with rotis

Linking with  Hema's Adugamane.

Jan 20, 2013

Simple Chicken Curry

This is the Simple Curry I talked about here. The same recipe can be adapted to make various curries. Its like the fried rice of curries. Depending on what vegetable / meat you use in it, it becomes that curry. I have made Chicken Curry, Egg Curry, bell pepper curry, cauliflower and paneer curry, Shrimp curry... the list goes on...

If there is going to be only one Indian recipe that you wish to learn, let it be this as you can cook several meals with this one dish.

Chicken Curry with Rice

  • Chicken, cut into 1 1/2 " cubes - 1 1/2 cup
  • onion, chopped fine - 1/2
  • onion - 1/2 big
  • tomato, chopped fine - 1/2
  • tomato - 1
  • salt, as per taste
For sauteing:
  • Bay leaf - 1
  • Cinnamon stick - 1" piece
  • Fennel seeds - 1 tbsp
  • mint leaves - 2-3 sprigs
  • coriander leaves, chopped fine - 5 sprigs
  • oil for sauteing - about 1-2 tbsp
  • turmeric powder - just a pinch
For curry paste:
  • dry red chili - 1
  • coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
  • ginger,  peeled - 1/2 " piece
  • garlic, peeled - 5 cloves
  • coconut, shredded or cashews - 1/4 cup
  • whole black pepper - 1 tsp
  • fennel seeds - 1 tsp
  • black cumin seeds - 1 tsp

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat, dry roast all the ingredients in the "for curry paste" list. This should take about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a blender jar.
  3. Chop half an onion and one tomato into one-eighths and add to the jar.
  4. Blend/ grind this until smooth.
  5. In the same pan, on medium high heat, heat oil for sauteing. When ready, add all the other ingredients listed under "for sauteing".
  6. When the spices start giving out a nice aroma, add the chopped onion. Stir once and let it soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Now add the chopped tomato with a little salt, to help the tomatoes soften.
  8. When the tomatoes are cooked, but still maintain their shape, add the curry paste to it.
  9. Stir often and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes. This step is important as raw curry paste is not very appetizing!
  10. Taste and add salt as required. Add the chicken and turmeric powder.
  11. Give it a stir and cook covered for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through.
  12. Add enough water to the curry to bring it to desired consistency. You might have to adjust salt after this step.
  13. Let it simmer once, to help bring all flavors together.
  14. Remove from fire and garnish with cilantro before serving.
Chicken Curry

Serve it on white rice, brown rice, with rotis or even idlis. There... now you have several menus, all using the same curry!

Linking with Cook Like a Celebrity Chef event by Food Corner

Jan 18, 2013

Homemade cereal as First Food for Weaning Babies

Here's a recipe that is not exactly gourmet, but healthy nevertheless. I made some cereal as weaning food (as in, supplementing with solids) last week.
A note about home made baby food and disclaimer:
When to start solids and what to feed a baby are very important matters that you need to discuss with your child's pediatrician. Also, if you choose to make first foods at home, first follow what your family's tradition is. This is just an attempt to document  what is commonly followed in my community. I am not a pediatrician :)  . Please use extreme caution in matters of your baby's health.

Weaning Cereal

Here's the recipe, as dictated by mom over the phone:
  • Par boiled rice - 1/2 cup
  • Toor dal - 1 fistful
  • cumin seeds - 1 scant teaspoon
  • ajwain seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
  • asafetida - 1 pinch
  • dried ginger  (sukku) - 1/4inch piece

  1. Dry fry all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan on medium flame.
  2. When the ingredients are warm , remove from fire and let cool on the counter.
  3. In a small mixer jar, grind these to a fine powder.
  4. Sieve and store in an air tight container. This mix will keep for a month.

How to use:
  1. Take 1/4 cup of cold water in a small sauce pan.
  2. Bring it to a rolling boil.
  3. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of the mix with 1 tablespoon of cool water. This ensures that the cereal does not form lumps during cooking.
  4. In a steady stream, pour this cereal mixture in to the boiling water.
  5. Keep stirring on a low flame until the cereal is cooked. It will turn a pale white and will get to a liquid glue-like consistency.
  6. Remove from fire and cool well before feeding.

Why this is good as a first food:
  • While raw rice causes gas in babies, par boiled rice is easily digestable, has a low GI index and does not cause gas.
  • Toor dal is a powerhouse of protien.
  • Cumin seeds help in keeping the body cool.
  • Ajwain seeds and dried ginger aid in digestion.
  • Asafetida is good for the GI tract.
If you have a special weaning food recipe, leave a link in the comments.

Jan 16, 2013

Simple Mushroom Masala

The only time I would honestly use the words "cooking" and "passion" in the same line is when I say - "I hate cooking with a passion". That's right... my first blog ever is a food blog and I said that I hate cooking. So, sue me :)

While I like to try different cuisines and generally like food, I do not like to spend 30 minutes preparing something that will be consumed by me in less than 10 minutes. Particularly so, when I am pressed for time.

Because of this sentiment, boxed and frozen food are not taboo for the grown ups , at our home. If my husband goes shopping at the Indian Grocery Store, he is sure to bring home a box or two of these curries. And these have surely come in handy, when I am busy tending to sick kids or when I bring work home or when I am just plain lazy. To my credit, I always insist on fresh, homemade food for the kids.

This recipe is from one of those boxed curries. I liked the flavor and texture of the curry and so, tried to recreate it in my kitchen. I used everything from its ingredients list. Everything that wasn't named in its chemical form, that is. With that list, I set out to create a curry that resembled the form, texture and taste of the original curry. And I should say that I nailed it, after a few tweaks.
Mushroom Masala

So, without further ado, here's the recipe:

  • Mushrooms, washed and chopped - 1 cup
  • Onion, chopped fine - 1 big
  • Tomatoes, chopped fine - 1/2
  • salt, to taste
  • oil, for sauteing
  • fresh mint - 1 sprig

To grind:
  • Tomatoes - 2 big
  • Dry Red Chilli - 1
  • Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
  • Ginger - 1inch piece
  • Garlic, peeled - 4 cloves
  • Cinnamon stick - 1 inch
  • fennel seeds - 1 tsp
  • cloves - 5 
  • Kasoor Methi - 1 tsp 
  1. Pat dry the chopped mushrooms and spread it on a kitchen towel.
  2. Load the blender jar with all the "to grind" ingredients, other than tomatoes.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Empty the jar and add tomatoes to the jar.
  5. Blend until the tomatoes are pureed.
  6. In a heavy bottomed pan on medium high heat, add oil for sauteing. Before it starts to smoke, add the mushrooms. Let these cook in oil until the mushrooms have shriveled. Add some salt at this stage.
  7. Also add the chopped onion and stir once. Let these cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  8. Now add the tomatoes along with a little salt.
  9. When the tomatoes have cooked but are still firm, add the blended masala and pureed tomatoes.
  10. Taste and add enough salt.
  11. Reduce the heat to medium and stir frequently until the oil floats to the top.
  12. If needed, add some water to make it to your desired consistency. Not more than 1/2 a cup, though.
  13. Bring it to a boil and remove from fire.
  14. Garnish with mint and serve with steaming hot rice or rotis.
Mushroom Masala

Try this at your home and let me know if you like it!

Linking with  Hema's Adugamane, Cook Like a Celebrity Chef event by Food Corner

Jan 15, 2013

Cabbage Rice

There are three kinds of leafy vegetables - the greens like spinach and fenugreek that taste heavenly when cooked. And then there are the greens like lettuce and arugula that make a salad interesting. And then, there is the poor cabbage that doesn't really taste interesting cooked or raw, unless of course if your mom cooked it.

Cabbage, when cooked, has to be had with something spicy to make it interesting. I wanted to include cabbage in our dinner the other night, but didn't want to cook the de facto kaara kuzhambu to go with it. So, I came up with this dish. I added chickpeas to give it a little textural and visual interest.

Cabbage Rice

Here's a different way to include cabbage in your diet.


  • Cabbage, chopped fine - 3/4th head
  • chickpeas - 1 cup raw or 3/4 cup canned
  • onion, chopped fine - 1
  • fennel seeds - 1/2 tbsp
  • cinnamon stick - 1 inch
  • green chillies - 3 big
  • ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
  • fennel powder - 1 1/2 tsp
  • coriander powder - 1/4 tbsp
  • oil, for sauteing
  • salt, to taste


  1. If using raw chickpeas, soak chickpeas in enough water for 6-8 hours and pressure cook.
  2. Chop cabbage and onion finely. I used a food processor to chop these.
  3. Start cooking the rice in a pressure cooker or rice cooker.
  4. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed saute pan, heat oil on medium high heat.
  5. When the oil is ready, add fennel seeds and cinnamon stick.
  6. When the spices start to give out a nice flavor, add green chillies and ginger-garlic paste.
  7. Stir this once or twice until the ginger and garlic is roasted well.
  8. Add the onions and a little salt. The onions will take around 5 minutes to turn translucent.
  9. Now add the chopped cabbage and enough salt.
  10. Cover and cook until cabbage has cooked. Do not over cook the cabbage. Since we have chopped the cabbage super fine, it will not be crunchy.
  11. Add fennel powder and coriander powder and stir well to incorporate the powders.
  12. Let it sit on fire for another 3 minutes before removing the pan.
  13. When the rice is done, empty the pot into a big wide mouthed mixing bowl.
  14. Add a little extra virgin olive oil or gingelly oil to the rice and fluff with a fork. This will help the rice to retain its shape.
  15. Now mix the prepared cabbage masala into the rice.
  16. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
  17. Garnish with cilantro and serve with a spicy curry.

This rice is slightly on the sweet side, as we do not use any chili powder or garam masala. So, serving it with a spicy curry balances the taste.

This rice is a sure winner in parties because of its unique taste. Try it and let me know if you think so too!

Also, this is the first time I have attempted to style my food.

Do you have any words of wisdom for me? Or rotten tomatoes? :)

Linking with Preeti's Kitchen LifeZesty South Indian KitchenCook's JoyHema's Adugamane, Cook Like a Celebrity Chef event by Food Corner

Jan 12, 2013

Curried Garbanzo beans

Kadalai Paruppu Curry Kuzhambu - Curried Garbanzo bean stew

When you prepare this stew, it will be hard to convince others that you are cooking a vegetarian dish. The curry flavor is so distinctive in this dish that it is a good substitute for meat stew during the winter months.
 You can use whole or split garbanzo beans in this recipe. The bean and potato dish is an interesting combination of protein and starch.

  • Potatoes, cut into eighths - 1 pound
  • beans, Garbanzo or split - 1 1/2 cup, soaked
  • tamarind water - from a key lime sized piece of tamarind
  • ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
  • onion, minced fine - 1 big
  • tomatoes, chopped - 1 big
  • chilli powder - 3/4 tbsp
  • turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • coconut, shredded - 1 tbsp, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • bay leaf - 1
  • fennel seeds - 1 tbsp
  • oil for sauteing
  • cilantro, chopped - 5 sprigs.
  1. Peel and cut potatoes into one-eighths.
  2. Soak the beans for about 6 hours and steam cook them in very little water. When they are done, the beans should be cooked, but firm enough to hold their shape.
  3. In a heavy bottomed pan, add oil on medium-high heat.
  4. When the oil is hot, add fennel seeds and bay leaf. Take care to not burn the spices.
  5. Now reduce the heat to medium and add the ginger-garlic paste and stir until the raw smell of ginger has dissipated.
  6. Add onion an potatoes. Stir to coat with the oil.
  7. When the potatoes are glistening and the onions have turned translucent, add the tomatoes and a little salt. The salt helps in breaking down the tomatoes, by drawing out moisture.
  8. When the tomatoes have disintegrated, add chilli powder and turmeric powder. Add enough water to make a medium-thin stew. 
  9. Cover the pan and continue cooking on high heat, about 10 minutes.
  10. When the stew comes to a boil, add the cooked beans and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
  11. Optionally, you can add shredded coconut, at this stage.
  12. Remove from fire and garnish with cilantro.
Linking up to  at Sumee's Culinary BitesZesty South Indian Kitchengayathriscookspot, Cook's Joy , Preeti's Kitchen Life.
Sending to Dish it out – Lentils and Garlic and Vardhini’s page

Jan 9, 2013

Urundai Kozhambu (Chickpeas Dumplings)

Beans and legumes are powerhouses of protein. But, unlike animal protein, these need to be consumed with a carbohydrate, to be absorbed optimally by our bodies.
It is for this reason, that several south Indian dishes are designed as a combination of carbohydrate and protein. Easy examples of this combination are idli, pongal and paruppu sadham (rice with lentils).

Urundai kuzhambu (literally dumpling stew) is both protein rich and healthy as the dumplings are poached in the stew directly, as opposed to being deep fried.

Needless to say, this recipe comes from my little white book of recipes.

For the dumplings:
  • Kadalai paruppu (broken chickpeas) - 1.5 cups
  • garlic - 10 cloves
  • green chillies - 3
  • salt, to taste
For the stew:
  • tamarind water - made from a key lime sized tamarind
  • chilli powder - 1 tbsp
  • turmeric - 1 tsp
  • garlic - 2 cloves
  • onion, minced - 1 big
  • tomatoes, chopped - 2 big
  • asafotida - 1 tsp
  • coconut paste - 1/4 cup 
  • cilantro, chopped - 5 sprigs
  • salt, to taste
for thalippu/ sauteing:
  • mustard seeds - 2 tsp
  • fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
  • cumin - 1 tsp
  • curry leaves - 10-15
  •  oil
  1. Soak the broken chickpeas in enough water to cover it, for 4 hours.
  2. Grind this with all other dumpling ingredients, until coarse. Take care to add little to no water, so the batter remains at cookie dough consistency.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the tamarind water, turmeric and chilli powder.
  4. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil on medium high heat. When the oil is ready, add the sauteing ingredients. When mustard spatters, add onion and whole garlic to it.
  5. Stir occasionally until onions have turned translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes and little salt to quicken the cooking process.
  7. When everything looks mashed and well cooked, add in the mix from step 3.
  8. Add enough water to make a thin stew. Bring this to a boil.
  9. When the stew comes to a rolling boil, drop pinched-off lime-sized portions of the batter. 
  10. Take care to drop these dumplings around the outer edge of the pan. As the dumplings get cooked, these will move to the center of the pan and will float up. 
  11. With a skimmer, remove the dumplings to a plate.
  12. Wait until the stew has reached a rolling boil again and drop in more dumplings. 
  13. Repeat steps 11 and 12 until the batter is used up. If the stew has thickened between batches, add a little more water to maintain it at a thin consistency.
  14. Now add the coconut paste and bring to a simmer.
  15. Remove from fire and add back the dumplings.
  16. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Jan 5, 2013

Sweet Corn Chicken Soup

This is the quintessential Indo-Chinese dish. It is a fair balance between the relatively bland Chicken soup with its overpowering chicken flavor and the spicy chicken corn chili. The addition of the sweet corn adds a certain je ne sais quois to the humble chicken broth and makes it a kid-magnet. This is a comfort food at my home and we prefer to have it during the fall and winter months.
Sweet Corn Chicken Soup with Vegetables

For homemade chicken stock:

  • Chicken breast with rib bones - 1
  • onion - 1
  • carrot, cut in half - 1
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cinnamon - 1 stick
  • ginger - 1 inch piece
  • fennel seeds - 1 tbsp
  • black peppercorn - 1 tbsp
  • coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
For soup:
  • carrot, match stick cut - 1/2 a cup
  • green beans, sliced thin - 1/2 a cup
  • green onion sliced thin - 1/2 a cup
  • sweet corn kernels - 1/2 cup
  • milk - 1/2 cup
  • corn starch - 2 tbsp
  • oil for sauteing
  • salt and pepper, to taste


If you wish to use homemade chicken stock/broth. prepare it now. You could make it on stovetop or in your slow cooker. This is my preferred way:

  1. In a 5 liter pressure cooker, add the frozen or fresh chicken breast, 15 cups of fresh water, and all the other broth ingredients. 
  2. Cover and cook for 4 whistles. 
  3. The broth is now ready.  When it has sufficiently cooled, pour it through a strainer. Save the meat and discard everything else that's left in the strainer.
  4. Shred the meat into bite sized pieces. The thumb rule is to cut the meat so it would fit the silverware that will be used for consuming it (Soup spoon, in this case).

  1. In a small saute pan on medium flame, bring the milk to a boil.
  2. Add the corn kernels to this. Cover and cook until the corn has softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat source and with an immersion blender, blend the corn a little. This should give you about a cup of creamed corn.
  4. In a 3 quart sauce pan on medium high heat, add the oil.
  5. Before the oil starts to smoke, add the carrot, beans and cook covered until the vegetables are done done but still have a crunch.
  6. Add the creamed corn to this. 
  7. After 5 minutes, add the chicken stock and chicken. Let it simmer for around 10 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl, prepare a corn starch slurry by whisking 2 tbsp corn starch in about 1/4 cup of cold water. In a steady stream, pour this slurry in the sauce pan, while continuously stirring the soup. This helps to thicken the soup and also adds a silky sheen to it.
  9. Homemade sweet corn chicken soup is now ready. If you wish, you can add 1 egg white to it, in egg drop soup style.
  10.  Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with green onions before serving warm in individual bowls.
If you try this Chinese inspired Indian dish, let me know!

Jan 4, 2013

Carrot and Beet Panna Cotta

I was out for lunch with my team during the Holiday season. As part of the private menu, there were two dessert choices - Tiramisu and Panna Cotta.

I was slightly disappointed to note that 13 out of 15 people had chosen Tiramisu for dessert. Only a hapless colleague and I had chosen Panna Cotta. And I received comments to the tune of "Why didn't you order Tiramisu?", "Of course, we chose the best choice", "What IS Panna Cotta?"...

While Tiramisu is the universally known picker upper dessert from Italy, I have always been partial to its lesser known country cousin, Panna Cotta. Its fresh taste and minimal processing have been some of its selling points for me.

The Panna Cotta I had that day was made from ricotta cheese which was a pleasant surprise for me as I am used to panna cottas made from condensed milk or heavy cream.

Today, I wanted to try my hand at ricotta cheese panna cotta. Also, after a month-long indulgence in diabetic-inducing desserts during the holiday season, I have tried to incorporate some veggies in this dessert in an attempt to add fiber and to silence my conscience.

Wherever a food setting agent is needed, I prefer to use china grass (agar agar) over gelatin for two reasons:
1. I avoid beef, pork and its by products in my diet
2. Gelatin based food depends on refrigeration for it setting while agar agar could set at room temperature. This is an advantage during the cold months as you can still enjoy your favorite desserts :)

Carrot Panna Cotta with sweetened cream


  • Carrots - 2 long
  • Beetroots - 1 small
  • ricotta cheese - 1 tub
  • sugar - 1 cup
  • agar agar flakes- 3 tbsp
  • water - 1/4 cup
  • low fat milk - 1 1/2 cups, divided

  1. Soak agar agar in water for 10 minutes.
  2. Peel and quarter the carrot and beetroot .
  3. Pressure cook the carrot and beet separately, each with 1/2 cup of milk. This helps remove the earthy smell from these vegetables.
  4. When cool, mash the cooked veggies and if needed, pass these through a sieve.
  5. In a heavy bottomed pan, bring 1/2 cup of milk to a boil. Add in ricotta cheese and sugar. With a wooden spoon, break the cheese and keep stirring until incorporated. Let this simmer on very low heat.
  6. Strain and add the agar agar water to the cheese mixture.
  7. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring. This step is very important. If you stop before the agar has full dissolved, the dish will never set.
  8. Divide this mixture into 3. Add the mashed carrots to 1 portion and the mashed beetroot to 1 portion. Add vanilla essence to the remaining portion.
  9. Now depending on how you like it, either mold these as individual  servings, as layer 'em on.
  10. Let set at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
  11. Unmold to a plate and serve.
I tried different presentation techniques with this. I molded the carrot flavored panna cotta and scooped the beet flavored one. Which one do you prefer?
Beet Panna Cotta

Sending this to  Agar Agar Recipe contest sponsored by Marine Chemicals , Kochi. www.indiaagar.com hosted at Food Corner’


Simple Veggie Fries

Some recipes are so involved that they have entire web pages devoted to the cause of explaining the process and nuances of it. And then there are the simple ones, the ones that do not even fill up a post-it note, but are still very tasty, versatile and eye-catching. The Simple Veggie Fries is one such thing.
My mom taught me two real-quick recipes - the simple Veggie Fries and the Simple Curry. According to her, you just can't go wrong with these two recipes.
The beauty of these recipes is that they are both very versatile. Keeping the basic recipe the same, you can just use different veggies and they all turn out good - all the time!

Okra - Simple Fry

Here's the recipe:

  • any vegetable - 1 pound
  • chilli powder - 1/2 tbsp
  • turmeri - 1 tsp
  • corriander powder - 1 tbsp
  • oil - enough or shallow frying - about 3 tbsp.
  • salt, to taste
  1. If you are using carrots, beetroots or potatoes, peel and slice them into thick fingers, like for french fries. If you are using naturally slender vegetables like beans or okra, snip the ends and cut them in to 3 inch pieces.
  2. In a large wok, heat oil for shallow frying.
  3. When the oil has warmed, add chilli powder, turmeric and salt.
  4.  Add the cleaned and prepared vegetables, taking care not to crowd the wok.
  5. Stir fry until the vegetables have browned crsip on the outside. 
  6. Add corriander powder and stir to coat the vegetables.
  7. Let it cook for 3 minutes and then turn the vegetables, so the other side can cook.
  8. Remove from fire after 2 minutes.
I'll post more pictures when I use this recipe with other vegetables.

If you reduce the chilli powder, this recipe is very kid friendly.

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