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

Tag: vegan

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.


Tomato Peanut Orange Peel Chutney Andhra Style- with Turmeric

Tomato Peanut Orange Peel Chutney Andhra Style- with Turmeric

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You are going to love this chutney! Everyone at home did! Tomato Peanut Orange Peel Chutney Andhra Style – you can imagine the flavours and texture from each of the ingredients! Large yellow and red tomatoes from Lakshmi’s vegetable plot, bright fragrant orange peel, peanuts, chillies and spices and turmeric coming together with an incredible taste. Make sure you use juicy tomatoes for the chutney so that you do not need to add water during the process and dilute the flavours.  (more…)

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Patty Pan Squash Mint Soup with Orange and Hyacinth

Patty Pan Squash Mint Soup with Orange and Hyacinth

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I fell in foodie love with these pretty pale green Patty Pan Squash when I visited the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City last week.  I paired them with green capsicum in a Patty Pan Squash Mint Soup, and added mint and fresh orange juice for flavour and cumin and pepper powder for a touch of spice. Lovely purple edible hyacinth flowers again from the Greenmarket made a colourful garnish.   (more…)

Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

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Rice based salads make a great summer’s day lunch: easy to put together, refreshing and and nutritious. And not just summer, its warming on a chill winter evening and just right when its pouring with rain. The Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus that I made last week was delicious and everyone at home loved it. It is a versatile salad and you could make it with vegetables of your choice.  (more…)

Mango Rice – How to make Raw Mango Rice or Mangai Sadam

Mango Rice – How to make Raw Mango Rice or Mangai Sadam

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Though the heat of the summer has been blistering, making it difficult to enter the kitchen, yet the season has its compensations. Bright green raw mangoes can be turned into so many tasty recipes, each being quick and easy to make. Raw Mango Rice or Mangai Sadam is a favourite with its sharp and tangy flavours.  (more…)

Panakam -Traditional Indian Summer Cooler of Jaggery and Dry Ginger

Panakam -Traditional Indian Summer Cooler of Jaggery and Dry Ginger

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It is Sri Rama Navami today and as I sat with my mother yesterday, I asked her for the recipes for the traditional dishes she always made for this festival. The Hindu festival of Rama Navami is in April when summer is just beginning (though this year summer has shown its force since February) and the festive feast seems to be tailor made for the hot weather. Every item is cooling and refreshing. Panakam or Panagam is a traditional item in the food prepared on this day, and is easy to make.

Panakam or Panagam: Traditional chilled drink of Jaggery water with dry ginger -specially made for Sri Rama Navami festival - easy, refreshing and healthy

A glass (or two) of chilled panakam is great for quenching thirst. With the flavours of cardamom, dry ginger (sukku) in the jaggery water, it is tempting to drink this throughout the day, and then to make it again and again on these hot and humid days. You might like to read this interesting article I came across, in The Hindu on the health benefits of this ‘cool energy drink’.

I have made the Panakam just according to my mother’s recipe, however as an option, lemon juice could be added – about 1 tablespoon for 1.5 cups of panakam. Pepper corns may be powdered and added to, to give its distinctive flavours – about 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for 1.5 cups of the panakam. A pinch of edible camphor would enhance the flavours, but take care to use just a little as the taste can be overpowering.

Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Sri Ram, the 7th avatar of the God Vishnu. When we were growing up, at Kharagpur in West Bengal, it was an occasion for all of my parents friends to gather together and cook and enjoy the grand lunch. The thirst quenchers were the panakam and the neer mor (spiced buttermilk), and another cooling salad was the one with cucumber and moong dhal, with green chilli and coriander leaves. There would be a kheer or payasam, a sambar and tasty vegetables, rasam of course, by the gallon, and fried papads. My father and Ravikumar’s father, Manian uncle would make their famous Badam Kheer instead of a standard payasam. All in all the food that day was a feast for the Gods, though it was we mortals who tucked into it with gusto.

The house would have been scrubbed and cleaned all over the previous day. Mango leaves would be strung across the main entrance, and early in the morning, my mother would wash the area outside the front door and lay out wonderful designs called kolam or moggu  with rice powder. I would do my small bit, adding dots wherever they were required. The house would be fragrant with the scent of flowers and incense and all the aromas from the kitchen.

Panakam or Panagam: Traditional chilled drink of Jaggery water with dry ginger -specially made for Sri Rama Navami festival - easy, refreshing and healthy

Here is my recipe then for the easy to make panakam. I hope you enjoy making and having it!




Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal with Pirandai Bone Setter for a New Mom

Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal with Pirandai Bone Setter for a New Mom

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One more recipe in my series on Cooking for the New Mom. This one is a simple Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal or chutney, with ingredients suitable for  a healthy balanced diet (pathiya samayal) during the 40 days immediately after delivery. In a traditional Tamil style Peerkangai Thogayal or Turai/ Ridge Gourd Peel chutney, red chillies and tuvar dhal would be added. However as both these are not advisable for a new mother, peppercorns and moong dhal (passi paruppu) are substituted. When properly made, the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal is both tasty and nutritious.

Pathiya peerkangai thogayal (thurai or ridge gourd chutney) with pirandai Bone setter stem for the new mom
Pathiya peerkangai thogayal (thurai or ridge gourd chutney) with pirandai Bone setter stem for the new mom

Do check my post for Menu Ideas and for what goes into a Balanced Meal for the first 40 days after child birth, as well as Recipes for this diet in Cooking for the New Mom or Pathiya Samayal, my way.   Cooking without adding onions, chillies, coconut etc and from only a small selection of vegetables considered healthy for this diet, is not easy, so I have tried to capture my experience in cooking for my daughters, in that post.

Check here for the recipe for a Peerkangai Thogayal or Thurai Chutney for a normal diet.

In this recipe for Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal, I have included a plant that is not commonly known in modern cooking though it was a traditional staple in many parts of India and has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times. This is the Bone setter Plant or Pirandai (Tamil), also called the Adamant creeper or Devil’s Back Bone in English, and as Hadjot in Hindi, Mangaravalli in Kannada. From what I can see online, the Bone setter plant is nor generally seen in urban markets, but is found in vegetable shops as well as in kitchen gardens in rural Tamilnadu as well as in some places in Chennai and other cities. It should be available in other parts of the country too, as the plant is very sturdy and tenuous, does not require much maintenance.

I had known about the plant and its properties, specially its use since ancient times for healing fractures and injuries of the bone, much earlier and had forgotten all about it, until my cousin Srimathi (Seetha Anandam Vaidyam) gave me a cutting to plant at home at Hyderabad, saying it would be good to add to my daughter’s diet after her delivery. The simplest use of the plant is to snap off a piece of the tender stem and add it to the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal that I am describing in this post. Do you see this cactusy looking plant to the right in the pic below? Thats the pirandai, curtsey Seetha, merrily growing in Mridula’s balcony at Hyderabad.

Pirandai Bone setter
Pirandai Bone setter Plant

The Pirandai plant has numerous health benefits, however it is a medicinal plant and hence its consumption should be in moderation and should and with due information as to the effects of adding this plant to the diet.

The recipe below also explains how the stem is to be prepared for the thogayal. It is well worth the extra efforts to add the bone setter or pirandai stem to the recipe, because of its great medicinal benefits. I came across some a lot of information on this plant that you could check if interested, on the website called Wild Turmeric

Kitchen Hints for preparing Pirandai in Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal:

  1. Select only the new tender growth of stem. The stem grows at nodes, and the first two such digits are the most tender. The rest of the stem is more mature and can cause itchiness during handling.  Sesame oil applied to the hands before plucking and while preparing it for the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal, would help avoid any itching. I have not personally faced this problem but as several articles online mention this, it is best to take this precaution.
  2. If using some of the older and tougher parts of the stem, wash the stems and peel away the sharp edges from top down.
  3. Add curry leaves and turmeric to the stem slices while sautéing, as in the recipe below, to get the best out of the stem and to avoid any possible itching.

As the Perandai plant is not readily accessible in most places, the addition of the stem to this recipe is optional. The proportions of the remaining ingredients need not change if you are omitting the bonesetter from the recipe. As I could not lay hands on it in Bangalore, I have made the version in the pictures below, without the perandai stem.




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!


Easy Tomato Basil Sauce For Pasta or Pizza

Easy Tomato Basil Sauce For Pasta or Pizza

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This easy, 6 ingredient (counting salt, pepper and oil, each as ingredients) Tomato Basil Sauce for Pasta or Pizza is a very basic and simple sauce. I make it about once a month and then freeze it in separate small portions so that there is always a little packet of sauce ready whenever I want to make pasta or pizza.

You need ripe red tomatoes for a good flavourful tomato basil sauce. I use the zero pesticide San Marzano tomatoes supplied by First Agro Farms, and they give me sauce of just the consistency that I need.

Tomato for Tomato basil pasta
Tomato for Tomato basil pasta sauce

The ingredients below give the quantities of fresh basil to be added for the tomato basil sauce, however if dry basil is to be used, please reduce the quantity by half.

There is very little seasoning in the sauce, so depending on what pasta and other ingredients or which pizza you are going to make, the seasoning can be adjusted at that time. Similarly, sliced olives or sliced sautéed mushrooms or zucchini can be added to the basic tomato basil sauce before mixing it with pasta.

The taste and flavours of the tomato basil sauce depend on the quality of the tomatoes and olive oil used, as well as the slow cooking of the sauce. When you use fresh juicy tomatoes and cook the sauce down as in the instructions, making sure you stir it frequently and watch it so it does not catch or brown, you don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a tasty sauce. In fact, less is more in this case.

Pasta in Tomato Basil Pasta
Pasta in Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce

Once the tomato sauce is all ready, either freshly prepared or in the fridge, dinner takes just 15 minutes – cook the pasta, and meanwhile sauté simple sliced zucchini or mushroom, add the tomato basil sauce and warm it up gently. Toss the pasta into the sauce and grate a little cheese on it – and there you are! Dinner fit for a king, with very little effort and with all the goodness of a homemade sauce.


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.