Vegetable Stew Appam-Style

Appams are a very delicious crêpe-type thingy made of rice batter and coconut milk, eaten in many parts of southern India and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, I can’t make them.

I can, however, make a mean vegetable stew of the kind usually served with appams. It’s ridiculously easy too!

vegetable stew appam-style

Get together:

  • 1 onion, small – thinly sliced
  • Button mushrooms, chopped – 50 gms
  • Carrots, chopped small – 50 gms
  • Green peas – 50 gms
  • Coconut milk – 2 to 3 tbsp
  • Big cardamom – 1 big pod
  • Cloves – 4
  • Cinnamon – 1 one-inch stick, broken into smaller bits
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp, scant
  • Salt – to taste
  • Water – as needed

Heat up a wok or other pot, and turn down the heat to a steady low. Add big cardamom pod, cloves and cinnamon bits. Toast for about 45 seconds, then add bay leaf. Toast for another minute. When you get a light whiff of the aroma of the spices, add onions. When onions start to brown a bit, add mushrooms and carrots. Cook for another couple minutes or so. Add enough water to just about cover the vegetables and bring to a gentle boil. Add peas and pepper, cover and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, till vegetables are done. Add salt and coconut milk. Mix well. Turn off heat when you see a gentle bubbling. Cover and let the stew sit for about 10 minutes before eating.

With some steamed rice, this amount of stew serves one very hungry person, such as me.

Twistea

My mum once had this tea-with-a-twist served to her on a train, and she came home and recreated it for us. I usually drink herbal infusions but when I want actual tea, this one is fun!

twistea

You need:

  • Drinking water – 1/2 l
  • Black tea leaves – 1/2 tsp, scant (Substitute with a scant tsp of green tea leaves or a heaped tsp of white tea leaves if you want. Use more for a stronger tea.)
  • Lemon juice – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Jaggery powder – 3 tsp (Sugar works too, just reduce the quantity a bit.)
  • Rock salt – 1/4 tsp, scant
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp, scant
  • Black pepper powder – 1/8 tsp (You can use white pepper powder.)

Bring the water to a gentle boil and turn off heat. Add tea leaves, cover and steep for at least 4 minutes, longer for a stronger tea. Stir in jaggery, both types of salt, pepper and lemon juice. Taste to check if you’d like to add more of anything. Strain.

This tea can be drunk hot or cold. I like it at room temperature too.

SuperHummus

I think I just gave my hummus superpowers by having a genetically modified spider… no, that doesn’t sound right. I should’ve gone with a Popeye reference, given that the catalyst to the transformation of my hummus was spinach!

Pop culture references aside, this superhummus is bursting with protein, calcium, iron and Vitamin C. Oh, and pure yumminess. Try it.

superhummus

To make regular hummus, I blend together:

  • Chickpeas, cooked – 150 gms
  • Cooking liquid from chickpeas – as needed
  • Garlic – 2 to 5 cloves, depending on size and taste
  • Sesame seeds, raw – 1 tbsp (Reduce for lower fat version and increase for a stronger sesame taste.)
  • Lemon juice – 2 to 3 tbsp, to taste
  • Paprika – 1 tsp
  • Salt – to taste

I soak dried chickpeas overnight, then rinse them and cook them with fresh water. I use a pressure cooker – it takes about 18 minutes on full pressure for the chickpeas to get nicely soft. I let the pressure release naturally and blend into hummus while still a bit warm.

To turn this into superhummus, just add some steamed spinach to the blender.

I microwaved the spinach with a tbsp of water, covered, for 3 minutes. It was about 50 gms when cooked. Once cool, I poured the spinach and liquid into the mixer and blended everything together till very smooth.

Coconut Lemon Dessert

I made a coconut lemon cheesecake mousse thingamajig. I haven’t yet figured out how to make it set like cheesecake, so this is more of an outline than a recipe. Do try it though – this is a refreshing dessert that’s rich and light at the same time. Very easy to make too, though it doesn’t look great or photograph well.

coconut lemon dessert

As a bonus, you get to drink the water of one green coconut. Choose a coconut with a good bit of thick pulp, not soft and thin but not hardened like a mature coconut either. Somewhere in between. Don’t forget to rinse the pulp once you’ve scooped it out, unless you want to feed your friends dessert with your spit in it. Gross.

You need:

  • Thick coconut pulp – from 1 green coconut
  • Lemon juice – 4 to 5 tsp (Increase if you like your lemon desserts extra lemony, like me.)
  • Deseeded dates – 7 to 10, to taste
  • Vanilla powder – 1/16 tsp
  • Salt – 1/16 tsp, scant

Soak dates in as small a quantity of hot water as possible while submerging them fully. When soft, add to blender/ other mixing contraption (I used the wet grinding jar of mine) along with other ingredients. Break up the coconut pulp into smaller pieces before adding.

Blend till very very smooth, turning off the motor in between to give it rest. The amount of time needed depends on the power of your blender/ mixer/ food processor’s motor. Taste to make sure mixture isn’t grainy and adjust any flavours you want to (more dates/ lemon juice/ vanilla/ salt to make the flavours pop).

Pour into glasses/ bowls and refrigerate for a few hours before eating. Enjoy!

Lemongrass Ginger Noodle Soup

lemongrass ginger noodle soup

A hot pot of soup on a hot sunny day. Yes, I’m weird. This soup, though? Not weird at all.

Get together:

  • Broccoli – 1 small, cut into small florets
  • Sweet corn – 100 gms
  • Spinach, chopped – 150 gms
  • Tofu, firm, cubed – 100 gms
  • Rice noodles/ vermicelli, dry – 50 gms
  • Lemongrass, dried – 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp (Double if using fresh – I haven’t tried.)
  • Ginger, finely diced/ minced – 2/3 tsp, or more to taste
  • Black pepper – 1/3 tsp or to taste
  • Salt – to taste

While you prep the vegetables and tofu, bring a cup of water to a gentle boil, turn off heat and steep lemongrass in it for about 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the infusion, but don’t throw away the leaves yet. Repeat to get another round of infusion from the same leaves.

To a heated pot, add the ginger and stir. If it sticks, throw in a tiny splash of water and stir for a minute. Pour in the lemongrass infusion, add tofu cubes and sweet corn and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down heat. Grab a bunch of rice noodles and stick them in the pot, pressing down and mixing them in as they soften. This will take a couple minutes. Cover and let simmer gently. After 3 to 4 minutes, add broccoli, and continue to simmer for 2 more minutes.

Mix in chopped spinach, pepper and salt. Cover and simmer till spinach wilts. Turn off heat and let soup sit for about 5 minutes before eating.

I’ve tried several variations of this – replacing ginger with garlic, substituting baby corm for sweet corn, adding mushrooms, omitting tofu – and I like this one the best.

Dal Paalak

This is one of my favourite dal recipes – it’s simple, tasty and comes together very quickly.

The list of ingredients is quite short:

  • Split skinned red lentils – a couple handfuls
  • Spinach, chopped – 150 gms
  • Garlic, minced – 1 tsp, heaped (Reduce for a less garlicky taste.)
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/3 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 to 1/2 tsp, depending on how yellow you want the dal to turn out.
  • Salt – to taste

Soak lentils for 15 to 30 minutes. Cook them with turmeric powder and a bit of salt till soft and breaking apart. I used a pressure cooker – I turned off the heat when the cooker came to full pressure and let the pressure release naturally.

Heat a kadhai (or wok or other pot), turn down heat and put in the garlic. When it starts to stick, add a small splash of water. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the spinach and when it wilts, mix in cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and garam masala. Cook covered for 5 minutes.

Pour in the lentils, add a dash of salt and mix very well. Let it simmer for a minute, while mashing the lentils. The final dal should have a bit of a creamy texture, like so:

dal paalak

Pineapple Curry

Once upon a time when I was a teenager who couldn’t cook at all, I saw someone make a pineapple curry on a cooking show. I scrambled to get some pen and paper to note down the recipe, and barely managed to get the key ingredients down. I don’t know if I got it right but that doesn’t matter because this tastes really good!

pineapple curry

You need:

  • Pineapple chunks (I used one small fresh pineapple)
  • Coconut milk – 8 to 10 tbsp
  • Ginger, finely chopped or minced – 1/3 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 10
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp, level
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp, level
  • Green cardamom pod – 1, big
  • Red chilli powder – 1/8 tsp, or more to taste
  • Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp
  • Salt – to taste

Heat up a wok (or other pan), turn down heat and toast mustard seeds till they start popping vigourously. Throw in the cardamom pod and toast for a few seconds. Add cumin seeds and toast for about 10 more seconds. Then the curry leaves go in and when they begin to dry out, it’s time to put in the ginger. When the ginger starts to stick, add a splash of water, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Stir and cook for about a minute.

Add pineapple chunks, mix well and let them heat through. Pour in the coconut milk and a few splashes of water as needed. Cover and let it come to a gentle simmer. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in salt. Let the curry sit for 10 to 15 minutes before you dig in!

I’ve only tried this with plain steamed rice, but I bet it would taste great with biryani, pulao or fried rice.

The world’s quickest chocolate – peanut butter fix

Everybody hurts

Everybody cries

Sometimes

Everybody needs a chocolate – peanut butter fix!

chocolate peanut butter quick fix

This, arguably, is the quickest one you can get.

To a small bowl, add:

  • Peanut butter, creamy – 3 tsp (I used organic, without any added oils.)
  • Cocoa powder – 1/2 to 2/3 tsp (Depends on how much chocolate you need!)
  • Brown sugar – to taste (Another sweetener would do fine too.)
  • Warm water – a few tsp, as needed

Whisk together with a spoon till smooth and eat. Song to idea to making to shooting to eating took me about 5 minutes. Of course you could eat slower. Or make another one, like I’m off to do 🙂

Pumpkin pie smoothie

I’ve never actually tasted pumpkin pie. As a kid, I didn’t like the pumpkin dish our cook so often turned out. Called kaddu in Hindi, my brother and I used to rechristen it paddu, which is similar to the Hindi word that means.. never mind. All I’ll say is that it is a stinky word that ought not to be used for food :-p

But when I tried cooking paddu pumpkin, I liked it. Recently I got one that was too sweet for a savoury dish. Here was my chance to find out what all the fuss around pumpkin pie and pumpkin flavoured things was about. So I roasted it and made it into a smoothie. Now I get what all the fuss is about!

pumpkin pie smoothie

If you have access to pumpkin’s sweeter, less stringy cousins like cushaw, I recommend using them instead.

To roast the pumpkin, quarter it and scoop out the seeds and strings. Roast the quarters in an oven heated to 200 degrees celsius till cooked through (about 40 minutes). When cool, scoop out the pulp.

For the smoothie, you need:

  • Roasted pumpkin pulp – 3/4 cup
  • Non-dairy milk – 3/4 cup (If you don’t have non-dairy milk, just soak 6 to 8 cashews or almonds in hot water for a few minutes. Throw into the blender with all the other ingredients and some water.)
  • Brown sugar – to taste (You can replace this with another sweetener.)
  • Fresh ginger – 1 cm piece
  • Cinnamon powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Nutmeg powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Clove powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla powder – 1/4 tsp, scant
  • Salt – 1/8 tsp, scant

Blend everything together till very smooth and mmmmm.. sorry what was I saying?

Stir fry in tangy peanut sauce

Stir fries are one of my favourite things to eat. The abundance of vegetables, the ease of putting them together, and of course, the many many ways to dress them up – what’s not to like?

stir fry with tangy peanut sauce

I came up with this one a few months ago and it’s become my go to stir fry sauce right after the classic soy sauce-salt-pepper combo.

Zucchini, bell peppers, baby corn (pre-steamed) and spring onion (greens included) are my choice of vegetables, seasoned with garlic. I usually make this with red, brown or white rice; I’m sure another medium to large grain would work too. Sometimes, I add cooked chickpeas. Tofu would be fantastic here, methinks.

For the sauce, you need:

  • Peanut butter, creamy – 3 to 4 tsp (I use one with no added oils or preservatives, just organic peanuts and salt.)
  • Lemon juice – 1 to 2 tsp
  • Hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco) – 1/2 tsp
  • Rock salt – to taste (I used pink.)
  • Warm water – as needed

In a small bowl, add the rest of the ingredients to the peanut butter a little at a time and blend well with a spoon. Use warm water to get the consistency you like.

How to put the stir fry together:

stir fry with tangy peanut sauce

Brown zucchini in a hot pan. I use a frying pan made of hard anodized aluminium – with careful heat control, it doesn’t need any oil at all! Depending on what kind of pan you’re using, you might need a bit of oil.

Add bell peppers and finely chopped garlic and toss around for a couple minutes. Add baby corn (pre-steamed) and chickpeas if using. When these get hot, add the spring onions, mix them in real quick and turn off the flame. Add hot cooked rice/ grain of choice. Pour sauce, toss well and eat!