Kadai Fish (or Chicken, Shrimp, or Paneer)

Whole spices – 1? piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 pods of green cardamom, a tiny piece of mace and 8-10 black pepper corns
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Oil – 3 tbsp
Dry bay leaf – 1-2
Red or green bell pepper – 1, de-seeded and cut into thick strips
Onions -1 large, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp (made from a 2? knob of ginger and 8-10 cloves of garlic)
Green chilies – 2-3, chopped
Tomato – 2 large ones, chopped
Fish – 1 lb, boneless and cut into chunks (any white fish will do)
Water – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Garam masala powder – a generous pinch
Fresh ginger – 1? piece, julienned, for garnish
Cilantro leaves – a few, for garnish

Dry roast the whole spices on low heat till they are fragrant, cool slightly and coarsely grind them in a mortar-pestle or spice grinder. Keep aside.

Dry roast the masala powders on low heat and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a kadai/wok and saute the bell peppers for a minute or two. They must be just cooked and not turn mushy. Remove and keep aside. We will add it to the curry only at the end so that they still retain their texture.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the onions and saute till lightly golden.Then add the ginger-garlic paste and green chilies and saute till the raw smell goes away.

Add the tomatoes and saute till they turn mushy. Now add the ground whole spices and the roasted masala powders and saute for another minute. Add a cup of water and bring the gravy to a boil.

Add the fish pieces and mix lightly to coat well in the gravy. Season with salt, cover and simmer to cook the fish, maybe 5-7 minutes.

Open the lid and simmer further to thicken the gravy to your liking. Mix in the previously sauteed bell peppers, sprinkle garam masala powder on top and remove from heat.
Serve hot, garnished with thin slices of ginger and some torn cilantro leaves.
Variations:

You can use prawns, chicken or lamb instead of fish, though chicken and lamb will require a longer cooking time.
Try paneer or tofu for a vegetarian version.

Green Bean Poriyal (with variations)

Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a few, roughly torn
Shallots – 2 tbsp, chopped (can also use red onions)
Whole dried red chilies – 3-4
Green beans – 1 lb, washed and diced into 1/4? pieces (very short!)
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste

Heat oil in a deep skillet or pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they start to sizzle and crackle, add the onions and red chilies. Saute till onions are lightly golden.

Then add the chopped green beans and stir fry for a minute or so. Sprinkle some water and salt, reduce heat to low, cook and cover till beans are just cooked.

Open the lid, fold in the shredded or grated coconut and saute for a few more seconds to make sure there is no residual water in the pan.

Remove from heat and serve hot along with rice and sambar or dal.

Notes:

You can add 1/2 tbsp of urad dal (or dehusked black lentils) along with the mustard seeds and fry them till they just begin to change color. You can also add a pinch of turmeric and coriander powders along with the salt, but we actually prefer to have thoran without it.

You can cook vegetables like carrots, beetroot, cabbage, long beans and gourds the same way. You can also try combinations like carrots-beans, cabbage-carrots-beans or asparagus-green peas. Try it for yourself and see!

Bhapa Doi (Bengali Baked Yogurt Pudding)

For the bhap doi (baked yogurt pudding):
Condensed milk – 1 cup
Greek yogurt – 1 1/2 cups
Cornstarch – 1 tsp (optional)
Milk – 1 tbsp (optional)

For the pomegranate coulis:
Pomegranate – 1, large
Water – 1/4 cup (or as needed)
Sugar – 2 tbsp (or as needed)
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Cornstarch – 1 tsp

To garnish:
Almonds and cashew nuts – a small handful, crushed
Dried rose petals – a few

Bhapa Doi (Baked Yogurt Pudding): Pre-heat the oven to 300 deg.F. Boil water in a kettle for the bain marie. Line a large baking pan with a folded kitchen towel and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and Greek yogurt. Mix the cornstarch in milk and add to the mixture. Mix well so that no lumps remain. (The cornstarch is totally optional, but it helps to ensure a well-set pudding).

Divide yogurt mixture among four large ramekins or 6-8 smaller ones. Place ramekins in the prepared baking pan and fill with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (The kitchen towel under the ramekins will keep them from sliding around in the hot water.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes or till yogurt is set, but slightly jiggly in the center.

Remove and cool down to room temperature. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Pomegranate coulis: Prepare pomegranate coulis when yogurt is in the oven. Dissolve cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and set side.

Remove the pomegranate arils and blend them together. Add enough water to make at least a cup of juice. Strain this mixture and discard the seeds.

Take pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the cornstarch slurry and simmer for 4-5 minutes or till sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust sweetness accordingly.

Cool this down and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator till needed.

Serving bhapa doi: To serve the pudding, top each ramekin with some of the pomegranate coulis, some crushed nuts and rose petals. Enjoy!

NOTES:
1. Since Greek yogurt is naturally thick, it is best suited for this recipe and combines easily with the condensed milk. If you are using regular yogurt, make sure it is whole fat and drained of most of the liquid. You should have 1½ cups of thick, strained yogurt to start with.

2. You can flavor bhapa doi by adding cardamom powder or a little bit of saffron steeped in warm milk. You can also add some fruit pulp (mangoes work best) to make fruit flavored bhapa doi.

3. Instead of preparing a fruit coulis or sauce, you can top the pudding with chopped fresh fruits of choice. You can also top the pudding with just nuts and maybe even saffron.

Gulab Phirni (Rose Kheer)

Whole milk – 4 1/2 cups
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Basmati rice – 1/4 cup
Sugar – 6 tbsp
Rose syrup – 2 tbsp (can be replaced with 1 tsp rose water or 2 drops of pure rose essence)
Almonds – 2 tbsp, chopped (can also use pistachios)
Dried rose petals – a few, to garnish (optional)

Wash the basmati rice in water a couple of times and soak in water for half an hour. This will make the grinding part easier. using a blender, grind rice to a fairly smooth paste, adding a few tablespoons of milk. Set aside.

In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan, start heating the milk on medium-high heat. When the milk boils, add the rice paste and reduce heat to medium. Cook the rice, stirring often to avoid any lumps. In about 10-15 minutes, the rice will be cooked. Cook the pudding further till it reduces and thickens, maybe 10 more minutes.

Add sugar and rose syrup. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Taste and add more sugar or rose syrup, if needed.

Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes, but not more than that as the pudding will begin to set as it cools.

Transfer phirni to a big serving bowl or individual dessert bowls and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for a couple of hours so that phirni sets properly.

Serve cold phirni garnished with chopped nuts and dried rose petals.

NOTES:
1. It is important to use whole milk in this recipe to achieve the creamy texture. Doing so will ensure that you do not need to add any canned condensed milk or pother such products.

2. A shortcut method to make phirni is to use store-bought rice flour instead of making your own rice paste:

Milk: 2 cups.
Rice flour: 2 tbsp. You may use any, white or brown.
Sugar: 2 to 3 tbsp.
Cardamom powder: 1/4 tsp or a generous pinch
Saffron: 15-20 threads soaked in 1 tbsp milk
Pistachio slivers and Almond slivers: 1 tbsp each for topping the dessert.

Dissolve. Rice flour in 1/4 cup water avoiding lump formation. Use stirrer.

Boil the milk with cardamom powder, in a heavy bottom pan.

When milk boils, add the rice flour paste to the boiling milk.

Simmer the milk with rice paste for about 2 minutes on medium low flame. Keep stirring with a stirrer or manual egg beater.

Once the milk and rice mixture gets slightly thick, add dissolved saffron and sugar. Cook for 2 more minutes while stirring often to avoid burning of the milk at the bottom.

Take it off the flame. Pour it directly in your dessert bowls. Let it cool down to room temperature and then garnish with the nuts. Refrigerate for an hour or so and enjoy this silky and smooth rice pudding called Phirni.

Papaya-Mango Yellow Rice

Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Dried red chilies – 2
Curry leaves – 5-6
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Asafoetida – a pinch
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Green or unripe papaya – 1/2 cup, grated
Green or unripe mango – 1/2 cup, grated
Coconut – 2 tbsp, grated
Rice – 3 cups, cooked
Salt – to taste
Roasted peanuts – 1/4 cup

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to crackle, add ginger, asafoetida and turmeric powder. Saute for a few seconds on low flame to fry the ginger.

Add grated papaya and mango and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. When papaya and mango are soft, tip in the coconut and saute for a few more seconds.

Now add the cooked rice and gently fold in to combine. Season with salt. Add the roasted peanuts. Serve hot with a side of raita, pickle and pappads.

NOTES:
1. Though filled with nutritional goodness, unripe green papaya is somewhat bland, but still great at absorbing flavors. So green mango is added here to give the rice a tangy flavor.

Aloo Paratha

For the dough:
Atta or whole wheat flour – 2 cups
Salt – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Warm water – as needed
For the filling,
Potatoes – 2, medium-large
Oil – 2 tsp
Onions – 1/4 cup, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Aamchur powder or lime juice – 1 tsp
Cilantro leaves – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
For making and serving aloo parathas,
Ghee or oil – to cook parathas
Butter
Thick yogurt
Red onions, sliced
Ketchup or other sauces

Take atta in a large mixing bowl. Add salt and oil and mix with your fingers. Add warm water, a little at a time, and knead till the dough comes together. The dough must be soft and supple, so add as much water as needed. Knead dough for a few minutes till smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Boil, peel and smoothly mash the potatoes. Set this aside in a bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and saute till translucent. Add turmeric, cumin and garam masala powders.

Add the mashed potatoes and mix well. Season with salt. Add aamchur powder or lime juice for tanginess. Sprinkle cilantro leaves and give it a final mix.

Allow the potato mixture to cool down before filling the parathas. The mixture should be smooth and fairly dry as well.
Divide both dough and potato mixture into 8 balls.

Flour your work surface lightly. Roll a dough ball into a 3″ circle. Place a portion of potato filling in the middle and gather and pinch the dough at the sides to make a sort of pouch.

Roll this stuffed dough pouch carefully and evenly till fairly thin. Sprinkle a bit of flour if you find it too hard to roll.
Meanwhile, heat a griddle till almost smoking hot. Rub a bit of oil or ghee on the griddle and place the rolled paratha on top. Cook on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add a few drops of oil or ghee on top of the paratha and flip. Cook the other side for a minute or so. Both sides must be fully cooked with some browning. Press down with your spatula at the sides to help with the cooking.

Once done, remove aloo paratha to a bread basket or casserole dish to keep warm.

Repeat till you make all the parathas. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to simultaneously roll and cook the parathas!

Serve parathas warm with a generous dollop of butter on top. Serve along with thick yogurt, achar, or sliced red onions!

If not serving immediately, store parathas in a covered container with a clean kitchen towel so that they do not sweat and become soggy.

Parathas can be refrigerated for a day and re-heated on a hot griddle or in the microwave.

NOTES:
1. Atta is a kind of fine-milled whole wheat flour used to make Indian flatbreads like chapatis, rotis and parathas. Easily found in Indian or specialty grocery stores.

Paneer (or Egg) Jalfrezi and Jeera Rice

For Paneer Jalfrezi:
Oil – 1 1/2 tbsp, divided
Paneer – 8 oz or 350 gm, cut into cubes or strips
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Onion – 1 medium-sized, thinly sliced
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Tomatoes – 2 large, sliced
Tomato paste – 2 tbsp (can use ketchup in a pinch)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 2 tsp (or less, if you do not want it spicy)
Coriander powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Green bell pepper – 1 sliced
Salt – to taste
Kasuri methi – 1 tsp, crushed (see Notes)
Cilantro leaves – 2 tbsp, chopped

For Jeera Rice:
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Cinnamon – 1″ stick
Cloves – 3
Green cardamom pods – 3
Star anise – a small piece
Black pepper corns – 6, lightly crushed
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Basmati rice – 1 cup, rinsed
Water – 2 cups
Lime juice – 2 tsp
Salt – to taste

Paneer Jalfrezi: Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a large skillet with slightly raised sides. Fry paneer slices lightly on all sides, Drain and remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Heat rest of the oil in the skillet. Add cumin seeds and allow it to crackle.

Add onions and saute till translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is gone.

Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and cook till tomatoes are mushy and you see the oil separating at the sides, around 4-5 minutes.

Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder and stir to combine.

Add green bell peppers and salt to taste. Cover and cook for a few minutes till peppers are tender-crisp. You do not need any water really, but sprinkle some water if you think it is too dry.

Finally, fold in the fried paneer pieces and heat through. Do not cook for a long time after adding the paneer or they will toughen and turn chewy.

Sprinkle crushed kauri methi and cilantro leaves. Serve hot with jeera rice.

Jeera Rice: Rinse the rice a couple of times under cold water. Soak in cold water for 20 minutes, if possible.

Heat ghee in a pan. Add whole spices (as listed above, from cinnamon through black peppercorns) and allow them to sputter and turn fragrant.

Add cumin seeds and saute till they are lightly browned, but not burnt. Then add the drained rice and lightly roast in the ghee for 30 seconds. All the rice should get coated in the ghee.

Add water, lime juice and enough salt (water must be salty) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook till rice is done. Fluff rice gently with a fork before serving.

NOTES:
1. Kasuri methi are dried fenugreek leaves. These are crushed and added to some dishes to enhance the aroma and flavor. It is easily found in Indian/Asian stores or online. You can leave it out if you cannot find it.

2. You can also make jalfrezi with other vegetables like sliced carrots, beans, fresh peas, baby corn, etc. Another easy recipe is to replace paneer with sliced boiled eggs to make egg jalfrezi. You can also make chicken jalfrezi with boneless chicken strips, but the cooking time must be adjusted accordingly.

3. This jeera or cumin rice recipe is super simple and uses only a handful of aromatic spices for flavor. If you wish to, you can also caramelize some onions and ginger first before cooking the rice.

4. Check the rice once in between to see if it’s done. Sprinkle more hot water as needed.

5. You can also use a rice cooker to cook the rice. Do the initial steps of sautéing the spices and rice in ghee, then transfer it along with water, lime juice and salt to a rice cooker and cook as per the settings for white rice.

6. Start the rice first and while it is cooking, make the jalfrezi. Both dishes then get done simultaneously if you have just half an hour! The cooking time shown here reflects this, while each recipe made on its own may also take the same time.

Semiya Pasayam (Vermicelli Pudding)

Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cashew nuts and raisins – 8-10 each
Vermicelli/Semiya – 1/2 cup, heaped
Water – 1 cup
Whole Milk – 2 cups
Condensed milk – ½ cup
Saffron – a small pinch, steeped in a tablespoon of warm milk
Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
Salt – a small pinch

Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Fry the cashew nuts and raisins till golden, drain and keep aside.

In the same pan, roast the vermicelli till it turns golden brown in color. Take care not to burn it.

Add water and milk and bring to a boil. Add vermicelli, reduce the heat and simmer till verrmicelli softens and the milk reduces and thickens. Keep stirring every now and then.

Once the milk is reduced, add condensed milk, saffron, cardamom powder and salt. Stir well and remove from heat. Remember that the payasam will thicken as it cools. So take it off the heat just short of your desired consistency.

Garnish with fried cashew nuts and raisins. Serve warm or cold.

NOTES:
1. You can buy the pre-roasted variety of vermicelli, specifically packaged for making kheer. This should eliminate the roasting process, but I still do a quick roasting just to flavor the vermicelli with ghee.

2. Sweetened condensed milk helps in giving the payasam a thick, creamy consistency. You can replace it with 1/2 cup of white sugar instead.

3. If you need to serve the payasam later and it has thickened considerably, thin it out with some boiling hot milk or water.

Pineapple Pachadi

To grind to a paste:
Coconut – 1/2 cup, grated
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Green chilies – 2-3

For pineapple pachadi:
Pineapple – 2 cups, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Water – 1/2 cup
Yogurt – 1/2 cup, whisked

For tempering (tadka):
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 3-4
Curry leaves – a sprig
Whole dried red chilies – 3
Shallots – 2 tbsp, thinly sliced

Grind coconut, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and green chilies to a paste with very little water. Set aside.

Take pineapple, turmeric powder, red chili powder, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and water in a pan. Cook pineapple on medium heat till the pieces are soft.

Add prepared coconut paste and boil for a few minutes till coconut is cooked and the curry is fragrant and thick.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt, check seasoning and add salt to taste.

Heat coconut oil in a small pan. Add the rest of the tempering (tadka) ingredients and allow the mustard seeds to crackle and the shallots to brown slightly. Pour hot tadka over pachadi. Stir well and keep covered until serving time.

Leftover pachadi can be refrigerated. Bring pachadi to room temperature before serving. Do not boil pachadi in which yogurt has been added, to prevent curdling.

NOTES:
Pachadi should not be boiled after yogurt is added, otherwise the curry may curdle or split. If you are confident enough, you can add yogurt while the pachadi is still on the stove, whisk vigorously and remove it promptly before it starts to boil again. Otherwise, follow the method in my recipe here. Remove the pachadi from stove-top and add yogurt after it has rested for a couple of minutes.

Paneer Dahi Pulao

To marinate:
Paneer – 250gm, cut into small cubes
Yogurt – 1/4 cup
Ginger and garlic paste – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp

For Pulao:
Basmati rice – 1 cup
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cinnamon – 2″ stick
Cloves – 2
Cardamom – 3 pods
Bay leaves – 2, dried
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Red onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tsp
Tomato paste – 1 tsp
Water – 1 1/2 cups
Salt – to taste
Cilantro leaves – 1 tbsp, chopped

For garnish:
Ghee or oil – 2 tbsp
Cashew nuts – 5-6
Golden raisins – 8-10
Onion – 1/4 cup, thinly sliced

Marinating paneer: In a small bowl, mix together paneer and other marinade ingredients. Set aside while you prep the pulao.

Making pulao: Wash and soak rice in water for 15-20 minutes.
In a large pan or pressure cooker, heat ghee. Add whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cumin seeds) and allow them to sputter.

Now add onions and saute till lightly golden. Then add ginger-garlic paste and saute till raw smell goes away.

Add tomato paste, if using, and saute for a few more seconds.
Now add the paneer cubes, shaking off excess marinade and mix well.

Add drained rice and mix well to coat with the spices.
Add water to the bowl with leftover marinade and mix well. Add 1½ cups of liquid to the pan along with salt and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook covered till rice is done. This takes around 20 minutes for a covered pan. If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium-high heat for 2 whistles and allow steam to be released naturally before opening the lid.
Open the lid and gently fluff the pulao.

Garnish: In a small pan, heat ghee. Add cashews and raisins and fry till golden. Drain and set aside. Then add onions to the ghee and fry them a dark brown color.

Garnish prepared pulao with fried cashews, raisins and onions just before serving. Serve with raita or curry of choice.

Sabudana Kheer / Javarisi Payasam (Sago Pearl Kheer)

Sabudana (javvarisi or sago pearls) – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Whole milk – 2 cups, warm
Sugar – 1/3 – 1/2 cup (as per taste)
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Rose water – 1/4 tsp
Saffron – a small pinch
Pistachios or almonds – 8-10, chopped
Dried rose petals – for garnish (optional)

Wash the sabudana or sago pearls in water 3-4 times or until the water runs relatively clear. Soak sabudana in 2 cups of water for at least 20 minutes.

Take sabudana and water in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until they begin to turn translucent.

Add warm milk and continue cooking until all the sabudana are cooked and soft. The sago pearls will rise to the surface once cooked. Keep stirring often to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add sugar and cardamom powder and simmer until the kheer thickens slightly, not more than 25-30 minutes of overall cooking time. Stir the kheer once in a while.

When almost done, stir in rose-water and saffron. Remove kheer from heat and serve immediately or cool it slightly before serving. Garnish with chopped nuts and dried rose petals, if desired.

Store leftover kheer in the refrigerator. If kheer has thickened too much, warm it with a few spoons of milk before serving.

Trio of Chutneys (Coconut, Tomato, and Green)

For Coconut Chutney:
Shredded coconut (fresh) – 1 cup
Green chili – 1-2
Ginger – 1″ piece
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Roasted gram dal – 1 tbsp
Tamarind – a dime-sized ball (or use ½ tsp tamarind paste)
Salt – to taste

For Tomato Chutney:
Oil – 2 tbsp
Red onions – 1 small, roughly chopped
Tomato – 2 large, roughly chopped
Garlic – 1 clove
Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
Red chili powder – 1-2 tsp
Sugar – a pinch
Salt – to taste

For Green Chutney:
Shredded coconut (fresh) – 1 cup
Green chili – 1-2
Ginger – 1″ piece
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Roasted gram dal – 1 tbsp
Tamarind – a dime-sized ball (or use ½ tsp tamarind paste)
Coriander leaves – 1/2 cup, packed
Mint leaves – 8-10
Salt – to taste

For tadka seasoning:
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1½ tbsp
Roasted gram dal – 2 tbsp
Dried red chilies – 6
Curry leaves – 1 sprig (optional)
Shallots – 2 tbsp, thinly sliced (optional)

Coconut chutney: Grind all the ingredients together adding very little water as needed. If required, you can thin the chutney after grinding with more water. Do not add a lot of water at the beginning or you will not be able to grind the ingredients properly. Remove chutney to a bowl.

Tomato chutney: Heat oil in a skillet. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilies. Saute until onions are soft. Then add the tomatoes and red chili powder, and cook until tomatoes are soft and mushy.

Cool this mixture slightly and blend with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Remove to a bowl.

Green chutney: Grind all the ingredients together adding very little water as needed. If required, you can thin the chutney after grinding with more water. Do not add a lot of water at the beginning or you will not be able to grind the ingredients properly. Remove chutney to a bowl.

Tadka/Seasoning: Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add tadka ingredients and fry until the mustard seeds pop, the urad dal becomes reddish brown, and the shallots are golden brown. Divide the prepared tadka and pour over the three prepared chutneys before serving. Serve chutneys with idlis, dosa, upma, and other breakfast/tiffin dishes.

Store leftover chutneys covered in the fridge for 1-2 days, though the tomato chutney may keep for a couple more days.

Tiffin Sambar

For the sambar masala,

Whole dried red chilis – 2-4 (as per heat level desired)
Chana dal – 1 tbsp, heaped
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp

For the sambar,

Toovar/Toor dal – 1/2 cup, heaped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 8-10
Asafoetida (hing) – 1/8 tsp
Small Indian shallots – 8-10, peeled and roots cut off (or 1/4 cup chopped red onion)
Tomato – 1 large, chopped
Green chilis – 1-2, chopped
Fresh tamarind – a small lime-sized ball (or use 2 tsp of concentrated tamarind paste)
Cilantro leaves – a few, roughly torn
Water – 3 cups (or more, as needed)
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp

How to:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and dry roast the sambar masala ingredients. Cool down and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder or mortar-pestle. Keep aside.

Wash the dal in cold water a couple of times. Pressure cook it in a pressure cooker adding enough water and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder for 2-3 whistles or till soft. If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook dal in a large covered pot. Once done, mash the lentils and keep aside.

Soak the fresh tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water. Once they soften, squeeze all the pulp by kneading the tamarind ball well with your fingers. Strain this and keep aside. If you are using tamarind paste, simply dissolve in 1/2 cup of warm water.
Heat oil in a large, deep pan and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they begin to crackle, add the asafoetida and whole shallots (or chopped onions) and saute till translucent and aromatic. Next add tomatoes and green chilis and saute till tomatoes are soft.

Add the prepared tamarind pulp and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the sambar masala and mix thoroughly to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes till nicely fragrant and it begins to thicken slightly. Then add 2-2 1/2 cups of water and cilantro leaves and boil for a few minutes.

Now add the mashed dal and season with salt. Add more water if it seems too thick. Bring the sambar to a rolling boil and finish by adding sugar and ghee.

Keep covered for at least half an hour before serving. Enjoy hot sambar with dosas, idlis or steamed rice.

Notes:

In a pinch, you can replace the coriander seeds and cumin seeds needed for the masala with the respective powders. Take care not to burn them while roasting. But do not skimp or omit the chana dal and fenugreek seeds, they are what sets this masala apart from other Indian spice blends.

Indian shallots are smaller with a deep purple-red color and a unique taste. You can replace it with regular shallots or even chopped red onions.

Usually breakfast sambar may not be served with vegetables added, but you can use this basic recipe and add boiled vegetables to it. Add the cooked vegetables along with the dal and adjust water to required consistency. Traditionally, vegetables like potatoes, yam, green plantain, okra, brinjal/eggplant, etc are used.

Smear some ghee over the idlis for the little ones and feed them these fluffy pillows for a very filling and healthy meal. I added a generous amount of shredded carrots and the little bunny here gobbled them all up with no fuss. Win-win, right?!

Rava Idli

Oil or ghee – 2 tsp
Cashew nuts – 4-5, broken
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Rava/sooji/semolina – 1 1/2 cups
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely grated or chopped
Green chili – 1, finely chopped
Curry leaves – 6-8, cut into thin ribbons
Cilantro leaves – 2 tbsp, chopped
Carrot – 1 medium-sized, shredded (optional)
Yogurt – 3/4 cup
Water – as needed
Salt – 1 tsp
Baking soda – 1/4 tsp

Heat oil (or ghee) in a large skillet. Fry the cashews, drain and keep aside.

Then add the mustard seeds and urad dal. Fry till the seeds crackle and the urad dal turns light golden.

Then add the rava/semolina and roast for a couple of minutes on medium heat, stirring all the while.

Remove this mixture to a large mixing bowl and cool slightly. Then add the fried cashews, ginger, green chili, curry leaves, cilantro and carrots. Sir to combine and add yogurt. Mix well till it the mixture is uniformly moistened. Add a little water to make a smooth, but thick batter. The batter should be thicker than a regular pancake or dosa batter. Cover the bowl and rest for half an hour.

After half an hour, add salt and baking soda to the batter and mix well. Adjust with a bit of water if batter seems to have thickened further.

Meanwhile, heat water in a steamer vessel. Grease and set aside the idli plates.

Pour batter in the idli plates and steam in the steamer vessel for 8-10 minutes or till idlis are cooked (check with a toothpick to see if it comes clean).

Remove from steamer, rest for 5 minutes and remove the idlis from the idli plates using a spoon.

Serve idlis immediately with hot sambar and spicy chutney powder. Store leftovers in a hot-pot or casserole. These can be re-heated in the microwave or lightly steamed again.

Idli, Dosa, and Uttapam Batter

For the batter,
Idli rice – 2 cups
Urad dal – 1 cup
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Cooked rice or rice flakes (called aval/poha) – 1/2 cup (do not use both)
Salt – 2 tsp (or to taste)
Water – as needed

For idlis,
Batter – as required
Oil – for lightly greasing the molds

For dosas,
Batter – as required
Ghee or oil – as required

Batter: Wash the rice, dal and fenugreek seeds in cool water a few times. Soak them in a generous amount of water in a large bowl for at least 4-6 hours. If you are unable to grind the batter that day, you can refrigerate the rice and dal and use the next day.

When you are ready to grind the batter, wash and soak the aval/poha in water for 5 minutes, just enough to soften it. Skip this step if you are using cooked rice. You only need either of these ingredients, not both.

Fill the blender only half-full with the drained rice and dal. Add water to just come up to the level of rice and dal; do not add a lot of water. Grind to a smooth consistency (a fine sand-line gritty texture is also fine). Do this in batches if needed.

Pour the batter into a large container. Make sure to fill the container only halfway, to allow room for the batter to rise during fermentation.

Mix the batter well with your clean, bare hands. Cover the container lightly and rest in a warm place (on the countertop or in a toasty oven) overnight.

Once the batter is risen (it will also smell fermented), add salt and mix gently to combine.

Make idlis and dosas with this batter. Refrigerate the batter if not using immediately to prevent further fermentation and souring of the batter.

Idlis: Fill the steamer vessel with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lightly grease the idli molds with a few drops of oil. Pour the batter to fill the molds. Slightly under-fill the molds so that the idlis have room to rise.

Place the molds in the steamer vessel, cover with the lid, and cook for 8-9 minutes. You can check if the idlis are done with a toothpick (it should come clean). If you overcook, the idlis can become dense and hard.

Remove the hot idli molds from the vessel, let cool for a few minutes, then gently remove the idlis with the help of a spoon. It should come away easily since you greased the molds.

Dosas: Place the well-seasoned dosa pan on medium heat.

Sprinkle a few drops of water, if it sizzles, the pan is ready. Add a few drops of sesame oil to the pan and gently wipe with a wad of paper towel.

Pour a ladle-full (around ¼ cup) of batter in the center of the dosa pan. Starting at the center, quickly make concentric circles of increasing diameter with the rounded cup of the ladle. This will form the dosa shape. Pour a few drops of ghee or oil on the dosa and around the edges. Cook for a couple of minutes till the bottom is golden brown, then flip with a wide spatula and cook the other side for a few seconds. If you have spread the batter thin enough, you may not even need to flip the dosa. Remove the dosa to a plate and serve immediately or keep it warm while you finish making more dosas.

Serve idlis and dosas hot along with sambar, coconut chutney, tomato chutney, chutney podi, etc.

Uthappam: Use the regular dosa batter to make thick, pancake-like dosas. Top the dosa with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, green chilies, cilantro and pinch of red chili powder before turning it over and cooking the other side. You can also add grated carrots and other vegetables like fresh peas. This is a great option for using up leftover dosa batter that has become too sour.

NOTES:
1. If the blender motor becomes hot while grinding, turn it off and wait for some time before starting it again.

2. If your dosa pan becomes too hot, use a lightly moistened towel to wipe the surface.Then add a few drops of oil, wipe with a paper towel, and make the rest of the dosas.

3. Dosas can also be made like a thick pancake without spreading the batter thinly. In this case, you will definitely need to flip and cook the other side too. Such thick dosas are called spot dosas or set dosas.

4. Leftover idlis can be stored in the fridge overnight. Re-heat them gently in the microwave or in a steamer vessel. Dosas on the other hand, are best served fresh.

Gobi Paratha

Dough
2 1/2 cups chapati flour (or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee, melted (or oil)
2/3 cups warm water

Cauliflower filling
2 cups shredded cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ginger, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Dough
Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Drizzle in melted ghee and rub with fingertips until mixture has consistency of course breadcrumbs. Add the warm water, bit by bit, to form a dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Place dough into a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Dough should rest here for at least 15 minutes.

Filling
Mix grated cauliflower and salt in a bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Squeeze out as much water as you can and put handfuls into another bowl. (This is important to do because dough will not cook properly if there is too much moisture from cauliflower.) Mix strained cauliflower with rest of filling ingredients.

Assembly
Divide dough into 10 even pieces and roll into balls. Flatten a ball and dip into dusting flour. Roll out to 3 inch diameter. Place one tablespoon of filling in the center. Wrap the edges up and pinch closed at top like a dumpling. Make sure the top is sealed and smooth out the crease. Repeat for all ten dough pieces.

Turn on skillet to medium heat.

Sprinkle your rolling surface and the top of the filled dough ball with some flour and roll out to 6 inch diameter. Make sure to roll out with sealed side on top.

When the skillet is hot (you can check with a drop of water – when it sizzles the skillet is hot), place a paratha on it. When bubbles start to form, turn the paratha over. Cook for 10 seconds and spread 1 teaspoon of ghee or oil over the top surface of the paratha. Flip over and spread a bit of ghee or oil over the top of this side of the paratha. Press the puffed areas with a spatula lightly. Flip again and press with the spatula making sure the dough is cooked and the paratha is golden-brown with spots on both sides.

Chapati

Chapati
Ingredients (makes 6 rotis)
1 cup of flour
~1/2 cup lukewarm water
extra flour for rolling
Method
Sift the flour into a bowl and slowly add water while kneading until you get to a dough that is soft, smooth and pliable. The longer you knead the dough the better but 5 minutes of heavy kneading will do.

Take the dough ball and cover with a damp cloth for a minimum of 30 minutes (you can also make the dough and put in your fridge for making another day).

Divide the dough into 6 dough balls or loee and roll them in flour.

Flatten each each dough ball with your palm and roll out to a 6 inch diameter, using extra flour so it does not stick.

Heat an iron skillet on medium heat. When it is hot (water drops should sizzle immediately), place roti on.

Let it cook and when you start to see bubbles form in many places, flip it over and cook until the other side does the same.

Over a medium flame, with flat tongs or chimta place the roti until it blows up or browns on both sides. (If you are cooking on an electric stove, you can press the roti in different places with a cloth to make it blow up a bit right on the skillet)

With the tongs, hit the roti against a surface to shake off any excess flour.

Butter one side with ghee and place in an airtight container lined with paper towel.

South Indian Vegetable Curry

Ingredients
1 tablespoon oil
pinch of hing or asafetida (optional)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch squares
1 bunch broccoli, broken into florets
1 yellow zucchini, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 package of baked tofu, cubed
juice of 1/2 lime
cilantro, handful chopped
salt to taste

Heat oil under medium-low heat. Throw in a pinch of hing and shake up a bit. Throw in onions, leeks and carrot and fry until onions are translucent. Add in ginger and garlic and mix well. Throw in the spices and mix well, frying for a minute or so. Next throw in the rest of the vegetables and make sure to coat them in the spices. Mix in the brown sugar and salt. Pour in coconut milk and bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Mix in the tofu until heated and turn off stove. Mix in the lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Serve with rice and hot Indian pickle.

South Indian Dal

3 tbsp. ghee (or vegetable oil and you’ll keep the whole thing vegan)
2 small red onions or 1 large one, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of ground cardamon
3 dried red chilies, chopped into 1/4? pieces
1 tsp. salt
A few dashes of pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch nub ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups masoor dahl (orange lentils)
4 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
Juice from 1 lime
For garnish: Lime, cilantro, toasted cashews

Heat ghee on medium heat and add spices and onion, stirring continuously for about five minutes.

Add garlic and ginger and cook for another one or two minutes.

Then, add lentils, tomatoes and liquids. Crank up the heat to medium-high and stir continuously, until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, naan or a crusty roll. Garnish with toasted cashews and cilantro, and extra lime wedges for squeezing on top, as well as extra salt and pepper.