Sunday, November 27, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

K is for Kothimbir Vadi and Koshimbir.

I'm excited about the letter "K". The "K" of Marathi food is rich in foods that are used for day-to-day cooking: kanda (onion), kakdi (cucumber), kobi (cabbage) and karle (bitter gourd), which is about the only vegetable that I do not eat with gusto, although I will still manage to eat it. Kela (bananas) are the ubiquitous, affordable, nutritious fruit that I love. Another "K" word finds its way into almost every savory dish: kothimbir (cilantro), the one herb that I use a bunch of every week. Among prepared dishes, koshimbir (raita) is a side-dish that is served in some form at almost every meal (note how kothimbir and koshimbir sound very similar but are really two different things!). Some special "K"s (no pun intended) are kaju (cashews), kismis (raisins), kesar (saffron) and karanji (fried turnovers filled with a sweet coconut-poppy filling, containing kaju, kismis and kesar!). One "K" that is the universal Indian comfort food is khichdi-kadhi.
For "K", I chose two dishes that complement each other perfectly as part of a single meal. Kwords
{Foreground left: fried kothimbir vadi, Foreground right: koshimbir or raita}
The first is Kothimbir Vadi, a savory cilantro cake which is first steamed and then fried until crisp. This is a quintissential Marathi dish, and I so wanted to try making it myself! I am happy to report that is very easy to make and turns out very tasty indeed. Cilantro is my favorite herb and this dish really showcases cilantro instead of giving it the seemingly superfluous role of a garnish. Kothimbir vadi can be served as a snack with any chutney but I really love eating it as a side dish with dal and rice. I took this recipe from the Mumbai Masala site (it sounded quite authentic) and simplified it further. The one special equipment you need to make this dish is a steamer. If you own a pressure cooker, it was be used without the "weight" to steam this vadi. I chose to fashion a steamer from a pot of boiling water with a steel sieve fitted into it and the vessel placed on the sieve and covered (there is a picture below illustrating this contraption). If you own an *actual* steamer, well, you're lucky aren't you?
The steamed vadi is perfectly fine for eating on its own (a very tasty and healthy snack indeed). Of course it tastes even better when fried and crispy :) Alternatively, if you would like something in between, make a "tadka" of oil, mustard and cumin seeds and pour over slices of steamed vadi.

Kothimbir Vadi
(serves 4-6)
2 cups packed cilantro leaves, chopped fine
1 cup chickpea flour/besan
1 tbsp. rice flour
1/4 cup mixed flours (ragi or millet flour/ atta or wheat flour/ any other you have on hand)
4 green chillies, minced fine
1 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. poppy seeds
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. turmeric
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
salt to taste
Oil for frying
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, except for the oil.
2. Add enough water to make a thick batter and stir well to remove all lumps.
3. Grease a flat vessel. Pour the batter into the vessel.
4. Steam for about 30 minutes till a skewer inserted in the middle comes clean.
5. Let cool, unmold and cut into slices.
6. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet and fry the slices till crispy and golden.

Our next dish is koshimbir. This Marathi version of raita is distinguished by the presence of peanut powder, which just makes it so much tastier! The koshimbir can be made with yogurt or without (in which case you might like to add a dash of lemon juice for the tang).

Koshimbir (Raita)

(serves 4-6)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced fine
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 tomato, diced fine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
2 tbsp. roasted peanuts, powdered
1 tbsp. cilantro, minced
4 tbsp plain yogurt
few tbsp. milk
Method: Mix everything together in a bowl, using milk if necessary to thin down the consistency.

That was a very satisfying meal! We meet next week for the letter "L"...wonder if there are any suggestions for this one?

Friday, November 25, 2005

IMBB and SHF: Holiday Cookie Swap

Two themed foodies events I look forward to every month are "Is My Blog Burning" (IMBB) and the dessert event "Sugar High Friday" (SHF) and this month, they have been consolidated into one HUGE Holiday Virtual Cookie Swap, hosted by Jennifer, the creator of SHF and Alberto , the creator of IMBB. They challenge us to come up with our favorite cookie recipes and share them, so we each will have a stash of tried-and-tested recipes to turn to.
All regular readers of this blog know that I am not much of a baker. My cookie-baking experience is rather limited, and I have definite problems:
1. The cookie recipes I use that use eggs end up tasting rather eggy. That is what happened when I tried making biscotti.
2. My cookies always burn at the bottom, while the top remains undone. What's up with that? Anyway, I decided to plunge right ahead and give cookies another shot.
Almost every culture has their favorite cookies, and some of my favorites are the Italian biscotti, American gingersnaps and the East European rugelach. What about India? Well, cookies (or biscuits as they are called in the British tradition) are very popular in India. Numerous varieties are sold and consumed in vast quantities with "chai" (tea). But these are store-bought cookies...the ones made in huge factories and packaged for sale. Cookies are rarely made at home. The reason? Very few Indian kitchens own an oven! Indian cooking is all stove-top and may involve clay ovens like the tandoor. But a conventional oven like the one you find in US kitchens? It certainly does not come as part of a kitchen unit. If you want an oven in India, you have to go out and buy a little one that can sit on the counter-top.
Having said that, in all Indian cities, there exist a few beloved bakeries. Bread loaves, cakes and yes, cookies are sold at these places. These foods are western-influenced recipes uniquely adapted to the Indian palate. For instance, you will get "veggie puffs", puff pastry parcels stuffed with a spicy vegetable mixture, and "masala toasts", little crunchy toasts spread with a dry chutney mixture. Here too, you will find the one truly Indian cookie, called "nankhatai". I have no idea what the origin of nankhatai is, but these are little shortbread cookies, rich and tasty. They come in a variety of flavors...spiced with cardamom, studded with of my favorite varieties is coated in cornflakes.
For my version of nankhatai (a first attempt at making these), I chose the classic combo of kesar-pista or saffron-pistachios. Kesar-pista ice cream is as popular in India as say, strawberry ice cream in the US. The color combination is also that of the Indian flag! As my friend SR reminded me, nankhatai also comes in savory forms, flavored with salt and cumin seeds. I looked up many nankhatai recipes from the internet, and came up with my own variation, given below. A shortbread cookie is ALL about the fat, and I never use margarine, so I used a combination of butter and ghee. I think it worked rather well. [Recipe edited on 11/30/05: After making the cookies once more, I realized that shortbread-style cookies HAVE to be made with cold butter cut into the flour instead of softened butter as I used before. The cold butter gave the cookies much better texture the second time around and I modified the recipe to reflect that]

Kesar-Pista Nankhatai

(makes 18 cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup powdered pistachios
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp saffron
pinch of salt
For decoration:
Pistachio slices
strands of saffron
Method: "Cut" the butter into the flour using two blunt knives or a pastry blender till the mixture is sandy. Mix other ingredients into the dough. Knead very gently to form a dough, using a little water as necessary. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes if it is too sticky. Form 18 balls with the dough. Flatten each ball to form a fat disc. Decorate with some pistachio slices and 2-3 strands of saffron. Here are the cookies before they went into the oven:
Place on ungreased parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes till the bottom of the cookie is just browning. Turn off the oven and let the cookies stay inside the warm oven till the top is slightly golden. Cool completely on a rack.

The verdict: These were delicious! Duh, you mix flour, tons of butter and sugar and it better be good. All the same, they were a bit more crunchy than "real" nankhatai should be, so I will keep working on this recipe. The best way to enjoy these rich sinful cookies is to share them, so you don't wolf 'em down all at once. I sent a box off with V to his workplace, and everyone there seemed to like them very much. Thanks, Jennifer and Alberto for hosting! This event was really fun!
12/9/05: I just found out that these cookies made it to the top ten of the virtual cookie swap! Thank you, all you lovely folks who voted for my little cookies!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A "Fall Flavors" Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving last night. It is my favorite American holiday, centered around food and friends/family. Every year, I make an effort to make dinner for a few friends (all far from home and with no family around) and last night was no different. Unlike celebrations of previous years, when I made "nice food" without it being traditional Thanksgiving fare, this year I wanted to make all seasonal fare, although we pardoned a turkey and made it a meatless celebration! The best part was that my darling friend Laureen and I cooked together to put the meal together, it was really a team effort. The tally:
# of people who ate dinner: 11 (plus 3 friends who showed up to share dessert)
# of dishes cooked: ~12
# of desserts: 5
# of hours spent eating: ~6
# of hours the oven was on: ~6
# of sticks of butter used: 9
# of things I am thankful for: too many to count
Here are some highlights of the meal...
Soup: roasted butternut squash soup using Lindy's recipe. What a flavorful soup...I took a picture before I started roasting the ingredients
The finished soup disappeared before I had a chance to take pictures! I served it with a garnish of cream and spiced pumpkin seeds. Thanks Lindy for sharing a wonderful recipe.
The appetizer table:
cran-relishesJPG consisted of a crackers-and-cheese tray, a wonderful cranberry tea bread (made by Laureen), two cranberry relishes: one with cranberries macerated in Grand Marnier and mixed with toasted pecans, and another cranberry-orange chutney; both were also made by Laureen. Here is a closer look at the delicious cranberry tea-bread.
cran-tea bread
I also made mushroom gratinate based on Lidia's recipe that I got from Mika's post.
V made a delicious champagne cocktail to go with the appetizers, using an idea from a Jacques Pepin show:
Fruit juices (orange, mango, cranberry-grape) were frozen in ice-cube trays. The fruit cubes were added to a glass (one can choose any combo of flavors) and topped with champagne. The taste changes as the cubes melt. It was delicious!
The entree was egg pilaf, my nod to my Indian traditions, and I made a side-dish of mashed potatoes based on Elise's recipe, I only modified it to include roasted garlic. As Elise promises, they turned out perfect! The second side-dish was a really unusual one: Laureen made quinoa with caramelized onions, a recipe she got from the NYTimes.
The sweet onions were perfectly complemented by the nutty quinoa.
I also tried making stuffing for the first time. It is so interesting to make something that you have never eaten before and have no clue what it should taste like! I used Rachel Ray's recipe and modified it to include soy sausages to make it even more like the real thang.
In addition, we had a mixed greens salad and dinner rolls.
And for dessert...
Laureen made traditional pumpkin pie (!) using the recipe at the back of "Libby's canned pumpkin" but she tweaked the recipe according to her Mom's instructions. Look how beautiful the pie is!
pumpkin pie
Our French-Italian friend BG showed up with this wonderful Italian Christmas bread called Pantenone (he can always be relied upon to bring the most amazing desserts!):
Laureen and I also made apple clafoutis using Amy's recipe, and Amy, this recipe is a keeper! I wish I could have served it piping hot, but it was fine even after it cooled down.
I also made walnut-fig kulfi, plus our friend OA brought wonderful chocolate chip cookies...I will put up the picture later today.
What do you think of this feast? Excessive enough for ya? :) I want to thank all the bloggers with their wonderful ideas and recipes for helping me put together this meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
Note: I ALMOST forgot to add this wonderful link...Sub Rosa does a unique take on thanksgiving. Going back to the time when Columbus discovered America accidentally while looking for India and its spices, they have put together a wonderful East Indian Thanksgiving Dinner, do take a look!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BBM3: A Holiday Package from Sima!

I am one lucky girl...just a few days after getting a lovely book from Alice, a huge package arrived today from Sima! A few weeks ago, Cathy of My Little Kitchen proposed a theme of "Home for the Holidays" for the Blogging-by-Mail #3, a swap where bloggers make up gift packages and mail them to each other. The idea was to share our own holiday traditions, recipes and goodies!
Here is what Sima sent me:
Sima comes from an amazingly multi-cultural heritage and her package was bulging with goodies that reflected all her family traditions...Korean: a package of Korean pancake mix, which will be tried this Saturday for a lovely breakfast, green tea, which I know I will love, and seaweed sheets, which I plan to roll into sushi-style rolls!
and Persian: a package of dried favorite herb and sumac the spice which I have heard so much about and am very excited to use! The amazing thing is that all these foods are rather new to me, so you will be hearing reviews as I sample them :)
As if this were not enough, Sima sent a home-made Buttermilk Pound Cake which I have started gobbling up already, and I can tell you that it is very tasty indeed! Sima also included grocery flyers from her local store, the recipe for the pound cake (will be used often, I can tell you) and a lovely letter telling me about her Thanksgiving holiday traditions.
Thank you so much, Sima, for the generous and thoughtful package! I love it all!
Check out the BBM#3 round-up here and take a look at all the goodies flying around the world. Cathy is such an amazing hostess to keep track of so many packages! I must also remember to thank Nic for creating this fun event.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Indian Kitchen: Meet the Mandoline

Today marks the debut of another great blogging event called the "Indian Kitchen", a brain-child of Indira. In this event, Indira suggests that we focus on the tools of the trade for making Indian cuisine, as well as unique ingredients that we use. What a great idea!
Just yesterday, I made meshed potato chips so for this episode, I decided to show off the little mandoline that helped me make them:
I have to confess that I don't even know the Indian word for "mandoline", I think they are just called "slicers". On my last visit to India, my mom and I went shopping and ended up in a kitchen supply store. I love these stores...filled from floor to ceiling with pots and pans and so many interesting kitchen tools. This is one thing we bought at the time, for the princely sum of Rs.65 (about US $1.50). I love this mandoline and use it very often. There are two blades on it, one straight and one crinkled. Made of metal, I think this sturdy mandoline should serve me for quite a few years.
The two most common uses of a mandoline in the Indian kitchen are:
1) To cut potatoes into plain, crinkled or meshed slices, dry them in the summer sun and store the dried slices for use throughout the year. VKN of "My Dhaba" has written a very informative post about this.
2) To cut cucumbers, radishes and beets into slices that are arranged decoratively on a platter to serve as a salad.
Thanks Indira, for thinking of this event, and I know I will be an eager participant!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

J is for Jaali Chips.

After a one-week break (last weekend being too hectic for me!), this series continues with the letter "J". My favorite "J" word is a tropical fruit called jambool (jamun in hindi and java plum in english). This little one-seeded berry is deep purple in color and as a kid, the best thing about eating jambool was the bright purple tongue I could sport for hours later! Later, getting my Bachelors degree, we had to learn to make wine in Biotechnology class (no,really!) and I remember making tons of amazing jambool wine. Now there was an experiment with a happy ending!
Another great J is jardaloo or dried apricot. The dried apricot is tasty to eat by itself, but the best part is the tiny kernel hidden inside. You eat the outside and end up with a hard seed. Then you go into your grandmom's kitchen and root around for something heavy, like a pestle, then crack the seed to get the *tiny* kernel out and eat it. A lot of work but so worth it!
Two other very important J's are both spices: jaiphal or nutmeg and jeera or cumin. Cumin is one of my favorite spices, bringing a warmth to every dish. Cumin is being investigated for its anti-cancer properties and by all accounts, this is one spice you should eat a lot of!
The sweet delight of J is jalebi. In my home town of Kolhapur, jalebi is associated with patriotism! On two days of the day, 26th January ( Indian republic day) and 15th August (Indian Independence day), little jalebi stalls sprout all over town on every street corner. We would gorge on jalebis on these two days. The other occasion associated with jalebis is weddings...the traditional Marathi wedding lunch would be incomplete without a serving of this sweet at the end of the meal. These wedding jalebis are served with a type of lassi or spiced buttermilk called "mattha". Recently, I got to "virtually" enjoy some amazing jalebis made by Bilbo and Shammi.
But the dish I made for J is none of these...I am making jaali chips translated as "mesh chips". These are potato chips cut into pretty meshed slices. During summer, my mom would make slice kilos and kilos of potatoes into these chips and dry them on the rooftop under the blazing sun. Once these are completely dry, they can be stored indefinitely and many times during the year, small amounts would be fried to a crisp and eaten as snacks. These pretty chips were a favorite for me and I decided to make them from scratch. This being November in the Atlantic north-east, there is barely any sun around at all, let alone the blazing sun required to dry these babies. So I simply cut the chips and cooked them, to eat as a one-time snack. Taking a cue from Nic and her discovery of microwaved chips, I nuked them instead of frying them! You do need a mandoline for this one though. Mandolines can be very expensive in US stores, but my Indian one costs less than 2$. Such a great tool to have on hand!
Jaali Chips

For a plateful of chips, you need
1 large baking potato, scrubbed clean
salt and pepper to taste
oil spray
1. Using the wavy (crinkle) side of a mandoline, slice the potato once, then turn the potato 90 degrees horizontally and cut again. This criss-cross way of cutting results in hatched (meshed) slices.
2. Place the slices on a microwave-safe plate sprayed with oil spray, in a single layer.
3. Microwave for several minutes (6-8 minutes) till chips are lightly browned and crispy.
4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

An easy and yummy snack!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Spicy Holiday Blog Party!

It is time for yet another Blog party, the monthly "do" where food bloggers gather together for a virtual party of tasty bites and drinks. This time around, in keeping with the holiday spirit that is being kindled everywhere, our hostess Stephanie has chosen this as the "Holiday edition". Personally I am still in Diwali mode, and decided to make a couple of Indian-themed snacks to take to the party.
Nuts are integral to any party! This is a favorite Indian snack that makes the round at every party. Traditionally, these masala peanuts are fried, but here is a more convenient microwave version that saves on oil without skimping on taste.
Masala Peanuts

1 cup peanuts
1 tbsp. chickpea flour/besan
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red chilli powder
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. oil
Method: Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle some water and mix well so that all the peanuts get a light coating of the spices and besan. Spread them on a microwave safe plate in a single layer. Microwave on high for 9 minutes (not all at once, 3 minutes three times, stirring in between). Your microwave may need a different cooking time, so keep a close eye on it. Let the peanuts cool down completely before you eat them!

Another party favorite is papads, served just by themselves or with a chutney dip. I adapted these into little bite-size canapes.
Papad Canapes

2 urad papads (I used "lijjat" brand cumin-spiced ones)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
2 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1. Using kitchen scissors, cut the raw papads into little triangles. Each circular papad can give about 8 triangles.
2. Place the pieces on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for about a minute till papads are roasted.
3. In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Place a small amount of the filling on each little papad canape and serve right away.

This was tasty, if a tad too "oniony" and next time I may use more herbs and less onion. But its easy to make and really fun to eat.
This spicy duo needs a drink with it. Mango Lassi is the perfect choice for a sweet refreshing beverage. I always stock the pantry with some cans of mango puree, once you have the puree on hand, mango lassi is a few seconds away. Canned mango puree is sweetened so you don't need to add sugar to the lassi.
Mango Lassi

1/2 cup canned mango puree
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk/soymilk
1/2 cup water
Method: Blend all ingredients together. It's that easy! Serve over ice for a refreshing drink.

I can't wait to see the rest of the eats and drinks at the Holiday Party. Thanks for hosting, Stephanie!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hugs to Clare and Kiri

Clare is one of the most beloved bloggers out there, and recently she and her kitty Kiri were hurt after a traumatic encounter with a nasty dog. On behalf of his species, Dale wants to say "Sorry, Clare" and send his love and hugs. Get better soon!
Check out all the other pups, hanging out this weekend at Dispensing Happiness. And don't forget to visit Masak-Masak, where Boo is collecting many e-wishes for Clare and Kiri.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Street Food: Ragda Patties

Today I made yet another chaat dish, one of those tasty treats from the family of Indian street foods.

This is what it is: A fried potato patty topped with a tasty peas curry and garnished with tangy sauces. It is yet another snack that makes an easy transition to a one-dish meal. Piping hot and layered with several flavors, it is also a cold-weather favorite for me.

This dish is called ragda patties where I come from, ragda being the spicy curry ("ragda" comes from the word for "churned" reflecting the way you vigorously stir the curry to blend the flavors). The word "patties" means, well, the potato patties but the word is pronounced "pattice" (rhyming with "lattice") for some strange reason! Versions of this dish are popular all over India, and the North Indian version is called aloo tikki chaat.

In the kitchen, this is one dish that is a snap to make. It is actually one of the very first dishes I ever tried to make as a teenager in my aunt's kitchen in the Western suburbs of Bombay.

It is also one of the few street foods that I have actually eaten on the street. Most Bombay street vendors are not exactly winning awards for hygienic food prep, and many Indian parents will warn their kids to NEVER eat at street stalls, no matter how tempting the food. The fear did keep me in line for the most part, so much of the street food I have eaten was in fact enjoyed in small "proper" restaurants. But a block away from my college is a row of street food vendors who have been there for so long that the stalls are coverted to semi-storefronts. Well, based on that little technicality, a friend and I would troop over once in a while and enjoy the ragda-patties, a steal at Rs. 10 a plate (US $0.25 or so). Our argument was also that this dish is well cooked and fried thus making killing whatever may be lurking in there. Safer or not, I lived to tell the tale and dish the dish :) Still, don't go telling my mom!

My version of ragda patties is very easy to make together as an almost-one-dish meal. In the patty-curry combination, one can make a spicy patty and serve it with a less-spicy curry or the other way around. Or one can make both components spicy to make it a really fiery dish. I usually make the patties very plain and the curry quite spicy. This is a good dish to make if you have a bunch of eaters with differing tolerance for spice. The patties can be eaten just by themselves or dipped into tamarind chutney. Kids also devour these little patties, I remember my friends' twin girls loved them the last time I made these.

I add some bread to the patty mixture to help hold it together better. This is optional. For me, it is one way to use up odd bits of bread. I stick them in the freezer and thaw them out when I am making patties.

As for the tamarind chutney that is used as a topping, it can be home-made or store-bought. A bottle of store-bought tamarind chutney is a condiment that is always found in my fridge, but if anyone would like a recipe, just ask!

Ragda Patties
(serves 3-4 as a main dish)


For Patties
4 large or 6 medium potatoes, boiled
2 slices bread
salt to taste
oil for shallow frying

For Ragda
1 cup white vatana (dried whole yellow peas)
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
12 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. red chilli powder
12 tsp. cumin powder
12 tsp. coriander powder
1 tbsp. jaggery
1 tbsp. tamarind paste
salt to taste
1 tbsp. oil

For Garnish
Tamarind chutney
Minced onion
Minced cilantro
Whipped yogurt


  1. Soak the peas overnight, then cook them on the stove-top or pressure cooker till fully cooked.
  2. To make the ragda, heat oil and saute the onion for a few minutes till transluscent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute more. Add salt, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and saute for a few seconds till spices are aromatic. Then add the cooked peas, 2 cups water, tamarind and jaggery. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash some of the peas to make the curry thicker if needed. Taste the curry and adjust the balance of sweet/sour/salty. Set ragda aside.
  3. To make patties, dip the bread slices in warm water, then squeeze out excess water and place in a bowl. Add boiled potatoes and salt, then knead everything together to mix well. Form patties with the potato mixture. Then shallow fry the patties in a small amount of oil and drain on paper towels. 
  4. To assemble, place 2 patties on a plate. Top with a ladleful of peas curry. Then garnish with dollops of tamarind chutney, minced onion, cilantro and sev and yogurt if desired.

Enjoy the explosion of flavors!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday Soup

'tis the season for soup, although here in NYC, the weather is amazingly mild for November...famous last words, right? I want to share my all-time favorite soup recipe with you. My mom calls this tuesday soup although I can assure you that you are allowed to make it any old day of the week. Tuesday soup is very easy to make and calls for very basic ingredients, making it a good choice for a busy weeknight supper.
Tuesday Soup

Makes 3-4 servings
For croutons:
3 slices day-old bread
1 tbsp olive oil
For soup:
1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large tomatoes, cut into chunks OR 1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnishes:
shredded cheese (swiss/cheddar/your favorite)
light cream
1. Make croutons: Cut bread into small even cubes. Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry the bread cubes on low heat, stirring occasionally, til bread is golden and crispy. Set aside.
2. Combine veggies in a pot, add just enough water to cover the veggies. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then simmer till veggies are tender. This step can also be done in double-quick time in a pressure cooker if you own one.
3. Puree the veggies using a blender. Return to pot. You may need to add some water depending on whether you like your soup thin or brothy. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt and pepper to soup and reheat.
4. Serve the soup garnished with a swirl of cream, shredded cheese and a few croutons.

Enjoy the soup and stay warm!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

I is for Imperial Cocktail.

I is really a hard Marathi food letter. The only authentic recipe is a fried jalebi-like sweet called imarati. I confess that I have never eaten it and don't have a recipe either, so this is something I need to taste on my next visit to India. Other "I" foods names exist in Hindi, like imli or tamarind and ilaichi or cardamom but the Marathi terms for these foods are different: "chinch" and "velchi" respectively, not "I" words at all. So I settled on a dessert that has a cult following in my home-town of Kolhapur: Imperial cocktail.This is not a drink as you may think, but a colorful and exotic ice cream sundae. I think the "cocktail" may be an actual reference to a colorful rooster tail. The name "imperial" probably comes from this Kolhapuri love for royalty: one of the hallmarks of Kolhapur is that it was ruled by a royal family for centuries, and even in the era after Indian independence, Kolhapur's royal family is well-beloved and much respected.
Ice cream is not a traditional Indian dessert, so how did a small town like Kolhapur become famous for its ice cream. The answer comes from the days of British rule in India, and how an enterprising businessman obtained a soda machine to provide refreshments to foreign soldiers. This article tells the interesting story of this ice cream store.
My memories of this ice cream go back many many years...a visit from out-of-town guests would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Imperial for the "special cocktail". Imperial is a tiny unassuming store-front in the heart of the city near the Mahalaxmi temple, and walking in through the doors transports you to another age, of slowly rotating ceiling fans and a rickety wooden staircase that takes you to a tiny upstairs seating area. The menu has plenty of variety, with sodas and single scoops being the most inexpensive choices and the cocktail sundaes, the most pricey ones. For some strange reason, the regular cocktail came with a layer of sponge cake, and the special cocktail came without. We always chose the special because I remember that the cake would often be none too fresh. The ice cream came in a tall glass, layers and layers of fruits like chikoo and apple, bits of candied fruit called tutti-frutti, small cubes of multi-colored jelly, hand-churned ice cream in flavors like rose and vanilla, and the whole stuff drowned in a yummy mango milkshake and topped with nuts. A special cocktail is a meal in itself and the trip to Imperial would keep me happy for weeks! So in a tribute to that wonderful creative sundae, I tried to make it myself:
Imperial Special Cocktail

Makes 4 servings
1 cup chopped mixed fruits (apples, pears, oranges, grapes)
1/2 cup canned mango puree
1 and half cup milk or soymilk
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 scoops other flavor ice cream (rose/strawberry/raspberry/chocolate)
4 tbsp chopped cashewnuts
4 wafer cookies, cut diagonally into triangles
1. Mix canned mango puree and milk to make a mango milkshake.
2. In a tall glass, layer 1/4 cup of fruits. Top with a scoop each of vanilla and other ice cream. Pour on 1/2 cup mango milkshake. Top with 1 tbsp cashewnuts and a wafer cookie triangle.

The verdict: This is a poor imitation of the real thing, so if you get a chance, go to Kolhapur and try it for yourself! But its a tasty sundae all the same, and very easy to put together. Give it a try, and meet me next week for a look at the letter "J". See you then!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Spooky Cookies!

My friend Laureen made my halloween realllly scary (and special!) by bringing me this plate of dismembered fingers!
They tasted, not of bone and gristle, luckily, but of wonderful almonds! How cute are they?