Sunday, October 11, 2009


This is one of the more traditional Diwali snacks. It is also known as Maida biscuit in Andhra. The original recipe is slightly sweet, but this can also be made savory by eliminating the sugar from the recipe and adding ajwain, jeera, pepper or kasoori methi depending on preference. This is a really simple recipe which appeals to both kids and adults. Though it is mostly shaped into small diamonds, if you have the patience and imagination, it can be cut into any shape and varied sized. My daughter wanted to make star shaped ones and my son wanted tiny squares.


All purpose flour (Maida), 2 cups

Rawa ¼ cup

Milk, ¾ to 1 cup, warmed

Butter, 8 tbsp

Sugar, 4 tbsp mixed into the warm milk

Cardamom powder, ¼ tsp

Baking powder, a pinch (optional)

Salt, a pinch

Oil for frying

Mix together maida, rawa, cardamom powder, baking powder, salt and butter till the mixture resembles wet sand.

Slowly add the sweetened, warm milk and mix into a soft dough. Milk can be substituted by water. Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Heat oil for frying on medium high.

Divide the dough into 4 portions. When working on one portion, keep the rest covered. Roll out the dough into a large 1 cm thick circle. Cut into desired shapes.

Fry these in oil turning continuously on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Store in an air tight container up to 4 weeks.


I set out to make chekkalu (nippattu/thattai, depends on which part of the south you are from) deep fried, crunchy, small, flat and round snacks for Diwali. As I put the first batch into the oil for frying, I experienced a major setback! The fried gram dal in the chekkalu started to separate from the dough and started to float around in the oil. Not a good thing.So now, I had to immediately change plans and with a little added effort, there emerged cheedai. I had to painfully pick out each one of the ¾ cup of friend gram dal from the dough before I proceeded to do anything else. The change of plans turned out to be better in another way too as they were quicker to make and a lot more could be fried at a time, which helped me finish up way before I would have been done frying all the thattais. So here is my improvised version of cheedai.


2 cups of rice flour

4 tbsp butter, softened

½ an onion finely chopped

½ tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp cumin powder

Salt to taste

Hing (asafoetida), a pinch

Oil for deep frying

Mix all of the above ingredients well till the mixture looks like wet sand. Add warm water and make into a dough, Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat oil for deep frying. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Roll each into a log, 2 cms in diameter. Cut the log into 1 cm pieces.

Roll each of these into little balls. Deep fry on medium low heat for 8-10 minutes turning them over occasionally. When they turn light brown in color, remove and drain on paper towels. Store in an air tight container when completely cooled.

Friday, October 2, 2009


My sister who will be visiting us end of this year has already sent a request list of foods that she would like to eat when she gets here. Pongal with tomato pulusu tops her list. This simple, classic combination is a favorite of most South Indians. It is generally eaten for breakfast, but also makes for great brunch when paired with udad vadas, or it can also be a wholesome meal in itself. Pongal can be made to be a healthy fulfilling meal or can be transformed into a rich and sinful delicacy as the occasion demands.
Pongal can be eaten just by itself, or with sambar, or chutneys, the most common one being coconut chutney. But, the most favored accompaniment is the tomato gojju or pulusu.

1 cup rice
1 cup moong dal
1 tbsp of cashew pieces
1 tsp black pepper, crushed into large pieces
1 tsp jeera, pounded lightly
½ tsp of finely chopped ginger
5-6 curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
4 tbsps ghee
1 tbsp oil

Dry roast the rice and the moong dal for 5 minutes on medium heat. Place the roasted daal and rice into a pressure cooker, add 4 ½ cups of water and pressure cook till soft. Set aside. In a large saucepan heat oil and 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the cashew pieces, asafoetida, pepper, jeera, ginger and the curry leaves. Add the cooked daal and rice mixture, salt and mix well on low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the ghee and mix well. Pongal can be thinned with water if required.

6 ripe tomatoes chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
½ tsp of chopped ginger
3 green chillies, slit
Whole garam masala (1 cardamom, 2 cloves, ½ inch cinnamon)
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp udad dal
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
1 tbsp oil
Cilantro and mint for garnish
Heat oil in a saucepan and add whole spices and udad dal. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and cook till the onions turn transparent. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, spice powders, cover and cook till the tomatoes soften. Add salt, a cup of water and cook on low heat for 5 more minutes. Mash the tomatoes with the back of a ladle.

Remove from heat, add the chopped cilantro and mint and serve along with Pongal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I had some extra cooked kheema (curried minced chicken) on hand and wanted to use it in a new recipe. A huge fan of finger foods that I am, I wondered how kheema with Indian spices would taste when married with Italian basil (from my garden) and made into a quiche. The result was surprisingly pleasing to the eye and palate.

Quiche is savory custard pie made with eggs, milk or cream and baked in a pastry shell. Different meats, vegetables, cheeses can be added to the custard. The fillings can be varied depending on one’s imagination and taste.


1 readymade pie crust

1 ½ cups of cooked chicken kheema (you can use any available kheema)


4 tbsp grated cheese

½ cup milk (or cream)

1 tsp for fresh chopped basil (substitue with cilantro or a herb or your choice)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Mix in the basil and cheese.

Fill the pie crust with the kheema and pour in the prepared custard.

Bake for 25-28 minutes or until set. Around 15 minutes or so into baking place strips of foil on the pie edge to prevent it from burning. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 18, 2009


To all my friends who celebrate Ramadan Eid, wishing you and your families a wonderful Eid and may the coming days be filled with everlasting happiness. Eid Mubarak!!!

I remember sharing the wonderful sevvaiyan, the delectable bagare baingan and the mouth watering biryanis with Rafi uncle and his family each year, through out my childhood. Miss those wonderful spreads! This is my quick and simple representation of those delicious biryanis.

This recipe was very well received by many when it was initially posted years ago on one of the popular Indian food sites.

6 Eggs boiled a peeled
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups of Basmati rice, rinsed and set aside
1 large onion sliced
4 green chillies slit
Whole garam masala (3 cloves, 3 cardamom, 1 bay leaf, 2 inch cinnamon)
¾ tsp shah Jeera (caraway seeds) or cumin
2 tsp ginger and garlic paste
2 tsp of Biryani/Pulao masala (or ¾ tsp of garam masala powder)
2 tbsps oil
½ cup of chopped Cilantro for garnish

In a heavy bottomed pan (or pressure cooker) heat oil and add the whole garam masala and shah jeera, add ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute. Add the onions and green chillies and fry the till translucent. Stir in the beaten eggs and scramble.
Season with a little saltAdd the rinsed basmati rice and gently stir and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the biryani masala and 3 cups of water. Season with additional salt.

Place the eggs and half of the cilantro on the rice। Cover with a tight lid and cook over medium high heat for 18-20 minutes or till the rice is done. Remove from heat and place aside for 5 minutes or more.

Remove the eggs and gently toss the rice well till well mixed with the other spices (masala). Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with eggs and cilantro and serve hot with cucumber tomato raita.

Monday, September 14, 2009


My family loves seafood, especially fish and shrimps. Given the health benefits of fish, I try to include different varieties as a staple in our diet. Of all the various seafood dishes, this one is a favorite amongst my family and friends.
This fish fry recipe is real easy and super yummy. I remember tasting this for the first time, years ago, in a Mangalorean friend’s house and have adopted the recipe since with very little modifications. In Mangalore they use whole fish and follow the similar method. The fish can also be deep fried.

It tastes best when it’s paired with rice and rasam or daal, or little bite sized pieces make great appetizers. Any type of fish – mackerel, Spanish mackerel, pomfret, catfish, tilapia, salmon etc. will do perfectly well in this recipe. I made this one with Spanish mackerel steaks.

2 lbs fish cut into ½ inch thick steaks
¾ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp methi powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
¼ tsp coriander powder
2 tsp lemon juice
¾ cups rava (semolina)
1 tbsp rice flour
4 tbsps oil

Coat the fish with chilli powder, turmeric, ginger garlic paste, methi powder, coriander powder, salt, and lemon juice. Marinate for at least 20 mnts. Mix the rava and the rice flour in a large plate and keep aside. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Roll each piece of fish into the rava mixture and place into frying pan. After 4 minutes turn the fish over and fry for an additional 4 mnts. Remove and drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I hate to say it out loud, but I am not a fan of pasta! Especially those heavy tomato based sauces don’t do much for me. And then one of my playgroup moms passed on this recipe over to me and it did not have a ‘sauce’ in the traditional sense and was made with things that you normally have on hand. How wonderful! The original recipe calls for shrimp, but can be substituted with bite-sized pieces of boneless chicken.

The ingredients required for this are:

1 large onion, sliced thin

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh basil, julienned

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 pk (8oz) any thin long pasta- spaghetti, angel hair

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound frozen spinach

1 stick butter

½ cup parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the pasta according to directions on pack. Drain, stir a few drops of olive oil, cover and set aside.
Melt butter and add the red chili flakes, garlic and basil. Add the onion and cook on medium high till translucent.
Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes till the shrimp turn pink. Reduce heat, layer the frozen spinach, season with salt and pepper, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove cover, stir.
Place pasta in serving platter and ladle the spinach and shrimp over the pasta. Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Ganesha Chaturthi celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the Lord of success, education, knowledge, wisdom, wealth and destroyer of evils and obstacles. The festival is celebrated in the Hindu month of Badrapadh (mid-August thru September) for ten days. It is celebrated with great show and pomp in Maharashtra and is an important festival in most parts of India.

Lord Vinayaka (Ganesha) loved food, especially a sweet called modakam, also known as kudumulu, kadubu, kozhakottai. To appease Ganesha, modakams are prepared on this day as Prasadam (offering). This dumpling like, steamed pastry can be filled with a variety of fillings like poornam (lentil paste), sesame filling, peanut filling or the most traditional of all, coconut filling.

I made these recently for the festival. Even though these were not the most perfect of modakams I decided to share it with you. All that matters is that they taste good, right???


• 2 cups rice flour

• ½ tsp oil

• A pinch of salt

• 1 ½ cups grated coconut (fresh or frozen)

• ¾ cup crushed jaggery

• 3-4 cardamoms crushed

In a microwave safe bowl melt the jaggery with a tsp of water for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. Add the cardamom powder and coconut and mix well. Microwave for another minute, remove and cool.

Bring 2 ¼ cups of water to a boil and add the salt and oil. Reduce the heat to low and dump the rice flour into it and cover it with a tight lid. Remove from heat. After 3-4 minutes, mix the mixture well with a wooden spoon to form a dough ball. Oil your palms and make 1 inch balls and set aside covering it with a damp cloth.

On a surfaced smeared with a little oil roll out the dough into 4 inch rounds. It will be a little tricky since the dough can be sticky to work with.

Lift it gently and hold it in your palm. Add a tsp of the filling in the centre. Gently gather the sides over the filling and pinch it together. Dip finger in water and gently smooth over any crack that form in the process. Gently mold it into the classic modak shape- like a Hershey’s kiss. Cover the prepared modaks with a damp cloth till all are done.

Steam these for 8-10 minutes in greased pans. Make sure they do not touch each other while they are steamed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spicy Treats- Mirchi Bajjis

My 4 yr old’s teacher grew an abundance of yummy banana peppers in her backyard this summer. Being the wonderful lady that she is, she sent some over for our family to enjoy. The only thing that popped to my mind the minute I saw them was of course- Mirchi bajjis.

I immediately set out preparing these delicious fritters. Mirchi bajjis in India are way spicier than the ones I made today and there are different variations. They are mostly sold on busy street corners. Mom used to make these especially on rainy evenings with chai.

I made the milder version with these mild, delicate yet flavorful banana peppers. Even the kids loved them. Thanks Ms.K for making my day!

And what a way to start my blog - with a ‘spicy’ treat sold in busy gallis (alleys)… Get it??? Spice…Alley??? Lame I know! never mind, here’s the recipe.

1. 10 Banana Peppers

2. 1 cup Besan (gram flour)

3. 2 heaping tsp rice flour

4. 1 tsp ajwain or crushed cumin

5. ½ tsp turmeric

6. ¼ tsp chili powder

7. Salt to taste

8. A pinch of asafoetida (optional)

9. 2 tbsp of hot oil

10. Oil for frying

Heat oil. Mix ingredients 2 through 9 in a bowl.

Add water to make a smooth thick batter.

Dip each pepper into the batter and make sure to coat it well.

Gently drop it into the hot oil and fry till golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.

Drain on paper towels. Spicy mirchi bajjis are ready! Enjoy with a cup of tea!