Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recipe : Vankaya Vepudu / Andhra Brinjal (Aubergine) Roast -Vegan

The other day, I wanted to cook Brinjal in a different way than I normally do and I've been longing to cook from Jigyasa & Pratibha's books FOREVER! So I quickly browsed through them and decided that Pedatha's recipe for Vankaya Vepudu - Andhra Brinjal Roast was ideal for what I had in mind.

I served it with rotis and African Chicken Peanut Butter Soup, but you can just serve it with dhal and rice and it tastes excellent.

I stuck to the original recipe, just cut the brinjals smaller (for faster cooking), made it spicier and reduced the oil.

Ingredients :
1/2 kg Brinjals (I used the small ones and chopped them into 12 pieces each - it would be better to not use the bharta variety, because each piece needs to have a bit of skin for texture)
2 tbsp red chilli powder (original recipe called for 1)
salt to taste

For Seasoning / Tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp urad dhal (split & husked black gram)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson)
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)
1/4 tsp turemeric powder
6-8 curry leaves

Method :
In a wok, heat oil for tempering.
Add urad dhal, when it turns golden, add the mustard.
Lower the flame and add the rest of the tempering ingredients
Add brinjal and allow it to roast on a low flame stirring occasionally.

When the brinjals turn light brown (8-10 minutes), add salt and chilli powder.
Continue to cook on a low flame, stirring in between, until well done.
If you like crisper vegetables, add more oil when cooking.

Vankaya Vepudu served with rotis and African Chicken Peanut Butter Soup

This recipe can also be used to make potatoes, bitter gourd or lady's finger (okra / bhindi)

For details and for more yummy recipes, I highly recommend buying the book "Cooking at Home with Pedatha" by Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain

Note : The Picture for the Brinjal recipe is from

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review : Cooking at Home with Pedatha

I had bought "Cooking at Home with Pedatha" in January 2011, shortly after winning "Sukham Ayu" in an online contest on facebook. The authors of these 2 books - Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain have become foodie friends since then and they are both complete sweethearts who have a wonderful zest for life as well as food.

However, I'm guilty of never cooking from either of these books for almost 3 years -  for the simple reason that they were "Vegetarian" cookbooks and Vegetables for me are just a side dish to be consumed to give the body adequate nutrition and not really something I enjoy cooking or eating.

As I age and travel around Gujarat, I realise that vegetables too can be main courses in a meal and I'm trying to cook more such food.

When I wanted a different way to cook brinjal, these were the first 2 books that I picked up and I wasn't disappointed.

"Cooking at Home with Pedatha" was awarded the Best Vegetarian cookbook in the world at the Gourmand World Cookbook awards 2006 and once you start reading it, its easy to see why.

The Pedatha (eldest aunt) in question is Mrs Subhadra Krishna Rau Parigi, daughter of India's former President - Dr. V V Giri. Jigyasa & Pratibha decided to document Pedatha's knowledge of Andhra food after relishing yet another meal at her house. The accuracy of her recipes, inspired them to turn a personal collection of recipes she shared with them, into a cookbook.

And having tried the brinjal recipe above I have to attest to the accuracy of recipes too. I often tweak recipes considerably, but in this case I just increased the chilli and decreased the oil and the end result was fantastic, for such a simple and easy recipe.

The sections are divided into Chutneys (Pachchadi), Powders (Podi), Rice (Annam), Vegetables (Koora), Dals (Pappu, Chaaru), Yogurt (Perugu), Sweets (Theepi), and Crispies (Vadiyalu).

The recipes are very simple and well written, so even a novice cook or someone completely new to Indian cuisine, can easily understand and master them. There's a beautiful visual glossary at the end, for someone who isn't familiar with the terms and ingredients in this book.

The pictures throughout the book are beautiful and illustrative. I'd highly recommend this book, to anyone interested in cooking Indian food for the first time, or looking to expand their repertoire of Vegetarian dishes or seeking a deeper knowledge of Andhra cuisine.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Note : The Picture for the Brinjal recipe is from

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recipe : Sweet Potato Tikkis / Shakarkhand - Vegan

We love Sweet Potatoes and the best way to have them is roasted on coals with tart and spicy flavours. But roasting on coals isn't an easy or fast option, so I had to settle for our second favourite way of eating them - FRIED!

My sister loves them batter fried, but we also love them as crisps, however to make them healthy, I pressure cooked them first and then pan fried them, rather than deep frying them.

Once you pressure cook the sweet potatoes, you can refrigerate them (but layer a napkin or towel on top and bottom to absorb the condensation in the fridge) and slice up a few and fry as needed.

The quantities of spices to be used as completely on taste, so feel free to experiment.

Ingredients :
1 kilo sweet potatoes / shakarkhand - washed and all mud removed
fresh lime - to taste
salt - to taste
jeera / cumin powder - to taste
chilli powder - to taste
1/2 tsp oil to fry

Method :
Pressure cook the sweet potatoes / shakarkhand for 3 whistles. Don't overcook them, or they will turn mushy.
When cool, slice into 1/4" - 1/2" thick slices.
Heat oil in a pan, fry till crisp on both sides.
Turn off the heat.
Squeeze lemon and sprinkle salt, chilli powder and cumin powder to taste.
Eat as is for breakfast or a snack or eat it with rotis for a meal.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Recipe : Shan Masala Pork Chops

As you can see from the last few recipes, I've been busy, so I'm looking for fast cooking options. Pre-mixed masalas are of course a great way to help speed up the cooking process and the best thing with marinating meat is that once its all in the fridge, I just have to decide an hour before, what we want to eat and let it come to room temperature before I cook it.

I used the Shan Fried Chops/Steak masala for this dish. But although the recommended proportion was one packet mix to 2 kilos of meat, I used it all up on 1 kilo meat (it wasn't too spicy for us) and maybe next time, I would add some ginger and garlic paste to the marinade too. the vinegar wasn't part of the instructions, but more of a gut feel and I think it helped tenderise the meat and added flavour.

The taste is good and I think it will be great on fried fish too.

Ingredients :
1 kilo pork / lamb chops cleaned and dry
1 packet Shan Fried Chops/Steak masala
4 tbsps vinegar - I used Goan toddy vinegar
1/2 tsp oil

Method :
Marinate the chops in the masala mix and vinegar, at least overnight.
If you like thin chops, then pound and flatten them before marination.
Let them come to room temperature before cooking.

Warm the oil in a wide pan. Sear both the sides and then cooked either covered or uncovered until done depending on your preference for juicy or crispy chops.

These can also be cooked on a grill or a Barbecue.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Recipe : Sevvaiyan Payasam / Vermicelli Kheer

I've posted a recipe for Vermicelli Kheer before, actually around 3 years back. Much has changed since then, we have become a little more health conscious since then, cream and sugar are being minimised in our diet and we are trying to find lighter alternatives to heavier foods.

This is a really fast recipe, there's absolutely no chopping or anything required. simple ingredients, simply made.

1 packet vermicelli (roughly 175gms, little less is better than more)
1 litre milk
2 tsps sugar
1 tin milkmaid
100 gms cashewnuts
2 tsps ghee / semna / clarified butter (substitute with white butter if you need)
a pinch of powdered cardamom seeds (optional)

Method :
In a wide mouthed pan, heat the ghee.
Fry the cashewnuts in the ghee and when browned, take them out of the pan.
Now roast the vermicelli in the same ghee.
Once the vermicelli is browned, add the milk haltingly (so that it doesn't clump) and keep stirring.
When the vermicelli is half cooked, add the sugar and then the milkmaid and keep stirring and scraping the sides where the milk turns sticky.
When almost done, add the cashewnuts, give it a light boil and turn off the fire.
Sprinkle the powdered cardamom on top if you like.
Serve hot or chilled.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recipe : ITC "Kitchens of India" - Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

I love the food at most of ITC's restaurants, I have also tried their ready to eat Dal Bukhara which was quite good and the Mirch Ka Saalan which was ok.

So with the new range of pre mixes out, I picked up the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani mix.

What i really loved about this premix, was that there was absolutely no chopping to be done. The recipe was extremely simple.

Add the pre-mix to curd/yoghurt, add the meat. Marinate.

Cook separately, layer with cooked rice and serve.

The meat was marinated overnight and I was really excited. I'd used my hands to mix the masala, yoghurt and meat and the fragrance of spices on my fingers were extremely enticing and lasted long after I had washed my hands, done the dishes and had a bath. So I was really, really looking forward to the end result.

As usual, I skipped the layering and cooking separately and went my most comfortable way (less washing up, faster production) of semi cooking the met in the pressure cooker. Add rice and water, stir and cook for 3 whistles, letting the steam escape on its own.

However, the final biriyani, did not have half the taste, that the original masala promised. I'd added a couple of chillies, but the biryani still wasn't spicy enough. The flavour did not penetrate either the rice or the chicken.

It did look and smell good, but the taste wasn't up to the normal ITC standard. This is not a product that I would buy again. Shaan Memoni Mutton biriyani mix is still firmly my favourite so far.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Recipe : Jazzed up Tagliatelle Aglio Olio (Vegan Option possible)

We had a lovely trip to Italy in September and the food there was outstanding. While most people visiting Italy shop for shoes and bags and clothes, I was in the market for cold meat, pastas and cheese. Peck in Milan is heaven on earth for someone who loves to cook. Their produce is so good and of such high quality and they do an amazing job of packing cheese in a way that it doesn't spoil when you carry it on a regular flight back to your home country.

This was a dish that I rustled up on a lazy Sunday, when I really didn't want to cook too much and it can be easily made using ingredients available in your own kitchen. I just added the meat, veggies and cheese into the same dish to make it a well balanced one pot meal.

By skipping the meat in my recipe, you can adapt this for vegetarians and to turn it vegan, just avoid the cheese (but remember to use vegan pasta) and try to cut all the ingredients to the same size for uniformity.

Ingredients :
500 gms pasta (I used tagliatelle, you can use any flat pasta, or even a fusili)
2 - 3 tsps olive oil
10 - 12 cloves garlic chopped (depending on your taste)
2 tsps chilli flakes
200 gms cold meat chopped in cubes (I used mortadella, but you can use any available cold meat that you have
200 gms mushrooms cubed
2 red peppers cubed
salt to taste (remember to adjust for the salt in the cold meat and cheese)
cheese to garnish (I used a lovely wine infused pecorino, but regular parmeggiano reggiano will do)

Method :
Boil the pasta in a pot to your required level of doneness.
In a wide pan, fry up your cold meat till done, remove and keep aside.
Fry the mushrooms until cooked and keep aside.

Take 2 tsp olive oil in the hot pan and brown the garlic in it, then add the chilli flakes.
Lightly saute the red peppers in this and then add the meat and mushrooms.
Stir well, adjust salt to taste and add the cooked pasta to the pot and mix well.
Serve hot, garnished with grated cheese.

If you want to add any additional herbs, add them in just before the chilli flakes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recipe : Maffe Tiga / Tiga Degae / African Chicken Peanut Butter Soup

I'd seen the recipe for African Chicken Peanut Butter Soup on Kadi's African Recipes, a couple of months ago and thought that it would be fun to make, so I'd bookmarked it.

Today, I was looking to make something "different" and remembered this recipe and since I had an open jar of peanut butter in my cupboard, our meal tonight had an African twist, which we quite enjoyed.

In her introduction, Kadi says "African peanut soup is enjoyed in many West African countries including Senegal, Guinea and Mali. The soup is also known as Maffe Tiga or Tiga Degae, there are a lot of varieties of peanut butter soup, it can be made with beef, fish, chicken or completely vegetarian."

While Kadi calls it a soup, it has the consistency of a curry / gravy and goes well with rotis and rice. Kadi also has a step by step video to make this dish uploaded on youtube. If African food interests you, do follow Kadi's Channel on youtube.

I have tweaked Kadi's recipe to adjust for our own tastes and to accommodate the ingredients that I had on hand.

Ingredients :
1kg chicken legs
2 tsp oil (and some leftover pork fat from some chops I fried the other day)
3 fresh tomatoes chopped
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 onions chopped
6 garlic cloves chopped
8 green chillies - 4 chopped & 4 split
1 tbsp black pepper coarsely pounded
1 bouillon/soup cube
4 tbsp creamy peanut butter (not chunky)
3 cups (750ml) water
salt to taste

Method : 
Warm a wide mouthed pan and heat the oil in it.

Brown the chicken on all sides in this oil (fry in batches if necessary, but don't overcrowd the pan) Be careful, the oil will splatter, when the chicken releases its juices.

Remove the browned chicken and in the same pan and oil, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, the 4 chopped green chillies, black pepper and soup cube.

Fry it for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes mushy.

Now, add the water and peanut butter and simmer on a low flame, stirring well until all the peanut butter is dissolved. Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes on a low flame, keep stirring to prevent the peanut butter from sticking and burning.

Add the 4 slit green chillies and salt to taste and simmer for another 5-10 minutes till it smells cooked.

Now add the fried chicken and simmer the mixture until the chicken is completely cooked, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with rice or rotis.

I loved the curry with plain rice, but my husband found it a little sweet with the rice, he preferred it with phulkas.


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