Recipes Beyond Borders- sometimes Exotic, mostly Healthy, always Delicious

Course: side dish

Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal – Easy Indian Lentil and Gourd curry

Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal – Easy Indian Lentil and Gourd curry

My first foray into Goan Cuisine, and it turned out so well! I found a large variety of vegetarian recipes to try out, and wanted to use ingredients specific to the Goan and Konkani cuisines. The Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal that I finally came up with, tick marked all the boxes I set for the post: Tasty, nutritious, easy, authentic and it incorporated the two ingredients I had been set for this month’s Goan Theme challenge from the FB group I belong to, Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. More about this group, later on.

First, a little about some of the ingredients I used to make the Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal. The recipe I finally firmed up  after browsing the internet and the few cookbooks I could find, needed kokum as well as terphal, a species related to the Himalayan Sichuan Pepper (which seems to be variously known as teppal, tefla etc). I consulted my daughter Mridula as to what the ‘tefla’ in the recipe was (I thought it was a kind of fish!)  I could have tried sourcing the kokum and terphal in one of the many Mangalorean stores dotted around Bangalore, but then opted to buy them online from amazon as I was not sure I would be able to get the terphal spice elsewhere. The rest of the ingredients were ones I already had at home. Bitter gourd or karela is a favourite on my dining table. If you hesitate to take karela because of the bitterness, then do try it in this dish – the jaggery, the kokum and the spice all go to reduce the bitterness and in fact enhance the taste of the bitter gourd. And you know it is chock full of nutrition and health benefits, right?


Baingan Badi Sabzi – Curried Aubergine with Black Gram  Fritters

Baingan Badi Sabzi – Curried Aubergine with Black Gram Fritters

Exploring the cuisine of each State in India by turn, is such an enriching experience. This Baingan Badi Sabzi, a delicious eggplant and lentil fritters curry from the traditional Bhojpuri cuisine prevalent in the Indian states of Bihar and UttarPradesh, is interesting to make and has ingredient options that make it nutritious too. The main ingredient is the brinjal or eggplant/ aubergine. This is accompanied by small sun dried badis which seems to have many names – wadi, wadiyan, mangodi etc. The basic ingredient for making a badi is flour – though the flour and spices, herbs to be added differ across regions. I have made a simple Bihari  Urad dhal ki badi, with black gram lentils. The recipe is given in the instructions below.


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Oying Vegetable Stew From Arunachal Pradesh

Oying Vegetable Stew From Arunachal Pradesh

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This traditional stew from Arunachal Pradesh cuisine, Oying Vegetable Stew is simple, easy to make and delicious. There are just a handful of ingredients and no oil or spices are used. What makes the dish tasty is the freshness of the boiled vegetables and the flavours of the chilli and ginger. It healthy too, as well as vegan and gluten free.


Simple Fresh Lemon Mint Basil Hummus Dip

Simple Fresh Lemon Mint Basil Hummus Dip

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You just have to try this one! Homemade Pita bread (recipe coming up sooon!) with a finger lickin’ simple fresh Lemon Mint Basil Hummus Dip. Its easy to make once you have the chickpeas soaked and boiled, and if you can get hold of pre-cooked chickpeas in a can, then its easy peasy. Soaking and boiling the chickpeas takes time but is not difficult to do, so I would classify the recipe under ‘easy’. The timings given below for this recipe are for making hummus with pre-cooked or canned chickpeas.   (more…)

Festive Pineapple Rasam -How to make Pineapple Rasam

Festive Pineapple Rasam -How to make Pineapple Rasam

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This recipe has appeared first on the blog Tangy Tales when fellow Food Blogger Aparna Parinam asked if I would do a Guest Post on her blog. I had been experimenting with different rasams, all using my homemade rasam powder, and looking at the fresh sliced pineapples on sale at my local grocers, I thought it high time I made the Festive Pineapple Rasam.  (more…)

Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

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A childhood favourite, I loved the Paruppu Usili made by my Mom – she would make it with banana flower (vazhaipoo) or guar / cluster beans (kothavarangai). I had attempted to make the this curry once or twice but was not happy with the results. Now that my daughter Mridula wanted a recipe for an authentic paruppu usili, I decided to make it once more. This time I researched the various steps for making the curry. Meenakshi Ammal’s  Samaithu Par or Cook and See cookbook, Vol 1, has the recipe for the Plantain Flower Dhal Paste Curry, and for the Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry. I have modified the recipe quite a bit, following what I recollected of the process my mother used.

Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili_Paruppu Usili
Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili

The Paruppu Usili is a simple dry curry which goes well with a kuzhambu such as a vathal kuzhambu (which I prepared today for lunch) or with sambar, milagu kozhambu or mor kuzhambu. It tastes good with rasam too. In fact you can have this curry with just about any South Indian style gravy (kuzhambu or rasam) or with chappaties and dhal.

Slice the beans finely
Slice the beans finely

The Cook and See book suggests that the vegetable be cooked with water on the stove top. I prefer to steam the sliced vegetables. All you need is for the vegetables to be cooked well with a bite still remaining and not overcooked and soggy, and for the dhal paste to have the right consistency. Again, the cookbook does not suggest steaming the dhal paste, but I have seen my mother steaming it, and I preferred the dhal to be well cooked, so I have also steamed the dhal after grinding it to a paste.

Kitchen Tips for making Cluster beans Paruppu Usili:

  1. I saved time by steaming the cluster bean slices and the dhal paste in the steamer container in my pasta cooker. Both need about the same amount of time so this was convenient. You will need 10 minutes after the water begins to boil, for the vegetables to cook.
  2. An idli plate kept in the idli cooker/ pressure cooker, with adequate water for 10 minutes of steaming, and without the weight on the cooker lid, could be used. Alternatively, steam the paste and the vegetables on a plate fitted into a kadai or frying pan, again with sufficient water for steaming for about 10 minutes(from the time the water begins to boil).
  3. After steaming the dhal paste, allow it to cool and then crumble it with your hand, as it would have caked after steaming. Crumbling will help stir it nicely into the cooked vegetables and the tempering.
  4. This is a dry curry and moisture would impact the consistency and taste. Squeeze out any excess water from the cooked beans. Also,  grind the dhal -chilli paste without adding water to it.
  5. Select young tender cluster beans as more mature ones tend to be stringy, fibrous and bitter.

Health & Nutrition benefits of Cluster Beans:

  • The Cluster beans or Guar Beans are known to have various nutritional benefits: They contain potassium and folate and are said to be heart -healthy and improves cardio health; they are rich in water soluble dietary fibre which helps reduce blood cholesterol as well as improves digestion and reduces bowel complaints. They have a low glycemic index and hence are good to include in a diabetic diet.
  • Cluster Beans are rich in vitamins such a Vitamin K, minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and hence can help strengthen bone health and teeth, as well as a soluble form of iron which is easy for the body to absorb. They are said to help maintain blood pressure. Low in calorific content carbohydrates, the cluster beans are a good source of folic acid for pregnant women.
  • Cancer Fighting: Cluster beans have properties that attack and destroy free radicals in the body, and may be helpful in fighting Cancer.
  • The plantain flower paruppu usili is very tasty, but the process of removing the stamen from each little flower and then slicing the sticky blossoms is a little time consuming. Making paruppu usili with cluster beans, French beans, snake gourd, raw plantain (raw banana) cabbage or yam, is easier and faster.

Lunch today is something I  am looking forward to: kotavarangai paruppu usili, orange peel vathal kuzhambu (again my mother’s recipe) and  hot rice with potato chips!

The paruppu usili tastes real good. Im wondering whether I can make a quesadilla with some of it. With a yogurt dip as an accompaniment. Will let you know how that goes!


Rajma – How to make the best Rajma Masala Curry

Rajma – How to make the best Rajma Masala Curry

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It is late January and the weather is shifting from chill to pleasant. Cloudy most days, its just right for hot tasty meals. Time for Nimona or Tehari from my Eastern Uttar Pradesh recipes, both with fresh green peas, or spicy Biriyani, Aloo mutter, Chole or of course, the all time favourite, Rajma. On weekends its nice to make a pot of Rajma Masala Curry and have it with rice maybe for lunch and chapatis at dinner. It is also a perfect dish on festive occasions or when there are guests to cater to, as you can serve a great meal with just rajma and rice or roti with a  simple salad of onion and tomato slices with lemon wedges.


Nutritious tasty Rajma Masala Curry -spiced red kidney beans in tomato onion gravy in a yellow bowl with a black and white checked border
Rajama Masala Curry

My recipe for Rajma Masala Curry recipe is one I have been following for decades, and the taste always comes out exactly the same. There are a few criteria to making a really tasty Rajma:

  1. Pre soak the Rajma overnight
  2. Cook the Rajma till soft
  3. Use the best available and fresh Garam Masala powder
  4. Be generous in the volume of onion and tomatoes used (in  my recipe, equal volumes of rajma, onion and tomato are suggested)
  5. Stir the Rajma well with heavy ladle while sautéing. The more you ‘bhunav’ the masala and the rajma, the better it tastes.
  6. Ensure the masala does not catch at the bottom of the pan.

Just as in making the Hummus of the right flavour and texture, every step in making Rajma Masala is significant – the soaking, the cooking, making the gravy and sautéing the Rajma, the garnish. I have tried to share with you all the little things that go to make this curry flavourful, nutritious and easy on the stomach. As the red kidney bean is hard and difficult to digest, soaking and cooking till the beans are really soft and fall apart at the touch, is essential. It is definitely possible to soak the beans for just a few hours in hot water, instead of soaking them overnight, but this fast track method does not give the total softness that you will find after soaking them overnight. It is interesting to note that even when cooked very well, the bean still gives texture to the curry and you don’t land up with a mushy dish.

Strain and Discard the water in which the Beans are soaked:

Straining and discarding the water in which the bean is soaked is an important step. After straining, throughly rinse the soaked beans in fresh water before cooking them. This is a practice I have always followed (without any logical reasoning) though I have had some doubts as to whether nutrition is lost when the water in which the beans are soaked, is discarded.  An item I recently came across in Wikipedia gives insights into why this practice is followed, and validates the cooking process laid down in the recipe below:

“Raw kidney beans contain relatively high amounts of phytohemagglutinin, and thus are more toxic than most other bean varieties if not pre-soaked and subsequently heated to the boiling point for at least 10 minutes. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends boiling for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature long enough to completely destroy the toxin. Cooking at the lower temperature of 80 °C (176 °F), such as in a slow cooker, can increase this danger and raise the toxin concentration up to fivefold.”

Pramod taught me how to make Rajma Masala Curry, and it is a family favourite. Though some of the steps I have followed in this tested and tried recipe may differ from that  of popular recipes online, just try making it this way and see how delicious it is.

Rajma Masala

Note: Plan sufficient time for making the Rajma Masala Curry, as, apart from soaking the beans overnight, you may need to pressure cook it twice if it doesn’t cook well the first time around. I have observed that rajma from different sources that I purchase from, have different cooking times.

The cooking process below is easy, but it needs patience as there are various steps to be followed.

The quantity of garam masala depends on its potency and freshness. Too much of it can spoil the taste. I use a strong garam masala (bought from a speciality store which has maintained the same standards of taste and quality for the last 15 years), so 1 teaspoon is more than sufficient.

Serving suggestions:

Serve with hot rice and a salad. Goes well with roti and phulka too. Or even with a lightly toasted focaccia or bread. Thick rajma without its liquid is a nice filling for a wrap or quesadilla.

Health and Nutrition:

Kidney Beans are rich in protein. They are also high in fibre including insoluble fibres called alpha-galactosides, which can sometimes cause diarrhoea and flatulence. The fermentation of these fibres also results in the formation of short-chain fatty acids are considered to improve colon health and to reduce the risk of colon cancer

The Beans have a high carbohydrate content, predominantly made up of starch, and are often advised for controlling high sugar in diabetics. This starch is a slow-release carbohydrate, hence it takes longer to be digested than most foods and the resultant rise in blood sugar is gradual and does not cause large blood sugar spikes. Kidney beans have a low glycemic index (the measure of how each food affects the rise in blood sugar after it is consumed).

Kidney beans are a good source of various vitamins and minerals including vitamin K1, iron, molybdenum, folate or B9, copper, manganese, potassium,  and phosphorus.

Studies have suggested that bean consumption may give lower risk of overweight and obesity.

Raw or inadequately cooked kidney beans are not advisable as they give risk of toxicity. Use fresh spices to get the best flavours from the Rajma Masala Curry.






Pathiya Milagu Kuzhambu for the New Mom

Pathiya Milagu Kuzhambu for the New Mom

Cooking for my daughter after the birth of my little granddaughter, has taxed my culinary ingenuity to the core. The cooking is not the problem, each dish I make is easy and takes very little time, as I use vegetables and lentils which cook fast. The condiments I can use are limited too so the recipes are straightforward. The challenge is to make nutritious food that will perk up the appetite, and at the same time not contain chillies or anything hot, spices, coconut, onion or any vegetables that can form gas affecting the mother and the baby, and anything difficult to digest.  And of course vary the tastes and flavours so that it is not repetitive. Add to this the fact that my daughter does not like milk or curd, and you will see why this milagu kuzhambu is such a life saver.

Milagu Kuzhambu

The milagu kuzhambu that I have described here, is from the traditional recipes for making the kuzhambu, tweaked to suit the pathiya samayal or balanced diet given to new mothers after delivery. milagu kuzhambu or pepper sambar (if I can call it sambar when there are no lentils, tamarind extract or sambar powder) is basically a paste of sautéed pepper and curry leaves as well as fenugreek seeds, cooked in water and tempered with mustard seeds in ghee (clarified butter). Taken with rice, it is high on flavour and taste.

Every ingredient in this milagu kuzhambu contributes to the new mothers well being. Pepper, turmeric, curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and ghee – the whole forming a nutrition power house just right at this stage. The milagu kuzhambu I made two days after the delivery did not have tamarind, but after that I added a small piece of tamarind while grinding the paste for the milagu kuzhambu.

The flavour of the pepper comes through strongly in the  milagu Kuzhambu, though the potency and freshness of the pepper used would determine the strength of the flavour.

I enjoy making recipes like this one which follow traditional practices that contribute to the health and well being of the new mother, and at the same time are both easy to make, quick to prepare, and oh so delicious!

As the milagu kuzhambu is for the new mother, the ingredients do not include red chillies, tamarind extract, chilli powder or towar dhal (pigeon pea lentils). Garlic may be added to the paste if desired. Or as this is given frequently during the 40 days after delivery, you could vary the recipe by adding garlic or not. Initially I sautéed the ingredients for the  paste with ghee, and then after a few days switched over to sesame (gingelly oil) and continued to temper the mustard seeds in ghee.

Paste for Milagu Kuzhambu
Paste for Milagu Kuzhambu

Sesame oil suits these traditional Tamil recipes the best. However if you don’t have or don’t use sesame oil, use sunflower oil instead.

Check my post on ‘Cooking for the New Mom’ for Diet Plan/Menu for the period immediately after Delivery, and for recipes to various items in the menus. Post partum food can be very tasty and need not be bland!

Link to the Post:

Olive Rosemary Focaccia

Olive Rosemary Focaccia

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Wikipedia says, “In Ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked on the hearth. The word is derived from the Latin focus meaning “hearth’, a place for baking. The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine. ” Well, I would like to thank the Etruscans or ancient Greeks or Ligurians, or whichever of the ancients introduced this amazing bread to the world. Just make and taste this Olive Rosemary Focaccia Bread, and you will see what I mean!

Lemon Thyme Rasam

Lemon Thyme Rasam

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A recent visit (my first) to First Agro Farms at Talakkad near Mysore, was a day well spent walking through fields of greens and vegetables all grown without the use of pesticides. It was an enriching experience – but more about that, coming up, in My Diary. This post is about the fresh thyme we saw at the farm and the recipe for Lemon Thyme Rasam that I promised to post, for Priya, who was one of the other visitors that day.

Rasam is a regular part of the meal at any South Indian household, served with rice and usually a dry curry and appalams. It is gaining popularity in other parts of India as a form of Soup, rather than with rice and curry. There are many versions/ varieties of Rasam, all of them tasty. The addition of fresh herbs such as coriander and curry leaves to this Lemon Thyme Rasam enhances the taste and adds to the health quotient.

Here is the link on this blog for my recipe for a traditional homemade rasam powder from a Tamil brahmin kitchen,  and a recipe for tomato rasam using the rasam powder of the earlier recipe.

Homemade Rasam
Home made Rasam Powder

This one though, is a twist on the regular rasam – a  LemonThyme Rasam. Purists may find the idea unappealing, so I will just say, don’t knock it till you have tried it! Apart from the flavour added by the thyme, the added nutrients and disease fighting properties are worth looking into. Thyme has many uses in medicine, eg as a diuretic, a stimulant for the appetite, to bring down stress, as a germ killer in mouthwashes, etc.

You may want to reduce the quantity of thyme added to the Lemon Thyme rasam – I have suggested 1 tablespoon for 3 cups of water, however you could first try with half a tablespoon and then add more depending on how strong you want the thyme flavours to be.

An easy to make Spicy Tomato Rasam

Thyme is a herb with several properties which aid in good health. Thyme contains flavonoid phenolic antioxidants like zea-xanthin, lutein, pigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin and the fresh leaves have high antioxidant levels. Packed with minerals and vitamins thyme leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium, as well as a rich source of vitamins such as B-complex, beta carotene, vitamin-A, vitamin-K, vitamin-E, vitamin-C, and folic acid. Thyme also has  vitamin B-6 or pyridoxine; pyridoxine keeps up GABA (beneficial neurotransmitter in the brain) levels in the brain which has a role as stress buster.

Thyme, like most herbs, has been in use since ancient times. The Romans treated melancholy with thyme, while it was popular with the Greeks in incense as well as being a symbol of elegance and courage. With origins in the Mediterranean area, the cultivation of thyme has spread across the world and was brought to North America by the first colonists and used both as a food preservative and as a medicinal herb. Thyme was also grown in European monasteries in the Middle Ages, for use in cough medicines and as a digestive aid.

Though the herb is said to have no known side effects, like any other food, thyme should be consumed in  moderation, specially during pregnancy. Which means, during pregnancy it is better to use it as as seasoning, sprinkle it in soups and stews and on meat, but not steeped in teas etc.

The Lemon Thyme Rasam from this recipe uses fresh thyme (zero pesticide of course, you all know that I am lucky enough to buy all my fresh produce from First Agro Farms). The thyme leaves should be stripped from the tough stems. They tend to scatter, so I always keep a clean large bowl to catch the leaves as I remove them from the stems. However dry thyme can be substituted if fresh is not available, though the quantity should be reduced to 1/2 a tablespoon instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh leaves.

Thyme on my visit to First Agro
Thyme cultivated at First Agro Farms

Thyme has a strong, pleasant aroma. Just making the Lemon Thyme rasam gives me a feeling of euphoria and well being. An unusual ingredient to add in a traditional item such as rasam, but the thyme does take it to another level. Being good for alleviating coughs and sore throats, it may be added to the pepper (millagu) rasam which a favourite when one is feeling under the weather. A dash of lemon juice at the end, and this quick and easy dish is ready!

You may like to try these other Rasam Recipes on the blog:

Festive Pineapple Rasam

Festive Pineapple Rasam
Festive Pineapple Rasam

Easy Tomato Rasam

Spicy Tomato Rasam
Spicy Tomato Rasam