Sunday, April 24, 2016

Aam Panna or Raw Mango & Mint Mocktail

Raise your hand if, like me, you too look for a healthy thirst quencher (apart from water) in the scorching summers! Juicing the watermelon, preparing fresh nimbu pani is something we do over and over to keep us hydrated in the hot summer months.

Who doesn't love to return home to a chilled healthy mocktail prepared with fresh and seasonal fruits? Growing up I would so look forward to reaching home after school to drink up my glass of mango milkshake, Roohafza water or rose-flavoured milk. Even today I love treating myself to glass of something fruity, fresh and chilled.

I often find myself thinking of different mocktails to prepare, apart from the regular ones such as shikanji (spiced lemon water). Lucky to have born in India, I can never run out of ideas to expand my everyday kitchen menu. Check out some more healthy options to make a chilled drink for the kids or for guests this summer here. Indian food is just so varied.
My father always says - just like the language changes, at every 100 kms you move away from Delhi,  similarly changes the food, ingredients and flavours.

 And I guess food is one of the many things that binds all us Indians together. Being a proud North Indian, I admire the delicacies from the South and North-East alike.

Aam Panna is a delicious sweet and sour drink mostly prepared before the onset of summers when the mangoes are beginning to ripen and green raw mangoes are in abundance. It is a squash made by pulping kachchi ambi or raw mango and can be prepared in so many ways.

Some like it spicy and like to add rock salt and roasted cumin powder, while some like to keep it tangy retaining the sour taste of the raw mangoes and add very little sugar, and others sweeten it with jaggery or sugar. In this version I have added mint leaves to make this sweet and sour summer cooler.

Kachchi Ambi or raw mango is loaded with Vitamin C, niacin and Vitamin B. It is just so good to keep yourself from getting dehydrated when the mercury soars.

The mint leaves lend a refreshing and cooling taste. Weight watchers can do away with the sugar and instead of using raw green mangoes choose the riper ones as those are naturally sweet. Another healthy way to sweeten this drink is by using jaggery. Just cook jaggery with some water in order to make a thick sweet liquid and add it to the squash. Jaggery is rich in iron.

This is a simple recipe and hardly takes 20 min to get done with and yields 10-12 glasses of Aam Panna. Just get a couple of green raw mangoes (3-4), wash and pressure cook them. Upon cooling peel the mangoes and scrape out the mushy pulp off the mango seed. Now using a blender or a mixer, blend together a cup of mint leaves along with the mango pulp and 4-5 spoons water, 4-5 tbsp sugar. Now add roasted cumin powder and your Aam Panna swquash is ready. Store in an air tight jar in the refrigerator for a week.

To prepare a serving of Aam Panna, in a glass add 3-4 tbsp of the squash, add chilled water, ice cubes and 1/2 tsp rock salt. Mix and serve chilled.

Have you tried this Indian drink?
How do you like to make your Aam Panna?
How did you find this recipe to make the Aam Panna squash?
Tell me all, I'd love to know what you think!

Thanks for reading! :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Baingan Bhadta or Roasted Eggplant

Punjabi cooking
is interesting as a number of methods are used in cooking different kinds of food. From deep-frying in huge woks to roasting a flat round chapatti in a tandoor (clay oven), unique methods used in North Indian cooking make the process intriguing and leave the dish tasting authentic and unique.

There is no other way Punjabis would have their brinjals than making a bhadta out of them! Baingan ka Bhadta is prepared by slow roasting the oval dark purple large varieties of brinjals on an open stove and then mashing up its roasted pulp to mix it with a tadka of tomatoes and onions.

Known in India as Brinjal, this smooth skinned, shiny deep purple vegetable is rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Alternatively called aubergine or eggplant, this is healthy enough for weight watchers as it is low in calories and has no cholesterol or fat. Buy the long oval shaped deep purple ones. The ones with lesser seeds in them will have a smooth shiny skin and will be long and light-weight.

Baingan Ka Bhadta is cooked every week at any North Indian house, and all at home can take in the fragrance of stove-top roasted brinjals. The roasted brinjals smell just so awesome! It is a spicy, dry main course eaten mostly with chapatti or paratha (griddle-fried flat bread) for lunch accompanied by raita (yoghurt-based side dish generally made with boondi or chopped/grated veggies like cucumber, onion, tomato etc). Baingan Bhadta is made in two ways. My late grandma used to make a salad dish version by mixing roasted and mashed brinjal with freshly chopped onion and tomatoes, green chili with only salt and red chili powder in it. We called it kachcha or raw bhadta and used to relish it with phulkas or chapatti or just like that with a sprinkle of lemon. Sadly that dish is no more made these days. I will try and share the full recipe for it!

Baingan Bhadta is worth all the mess it creates and the time it takes to prepare it. We need to roast the brinjal well till the purple skin chars well changing to a flaky black and the skin starts curling. My golden rule to check if the brinjal is roasted perfectly or not is by inserting a knife into roasting brinjal, if it comes out clean and without any effort its done.

Prepping Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 30 min
Difficulty: Medium
Messy: Yes

Tip: To reduce the mess I like to line my stove top with foil paper.


2 medium brinjals (600gm)
4-5 onions, finely chopped
3-4 tomatoes, finely chopped
4-5 green chilies, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp Cooking Oil
1 tsp red chili powder
salt, to taste


1) Roast over an open flame for 10-15 min or until the brinjal turns black, while turning occasionally.

 2) Keep aside to cool.

 3) Heat cooking oil in a wok and add chopped onions.

4) Until onions brown, chop the stem and discard. Now peel the skin pinching it off the brinjals and mash the brinjals. Keep aside.

5)  Keep on checking the onions and stir fry until golden brown like this.

5) Now add chopped tomatoes, green chilies and stir.

6) When tomatoes are mushy, and turned into a paste-like consistency, add red chili powder and salt. 

7) Mix and stir fry for 2 min and when you spot oil has separated from the tadka....

....add the mashed brinjal. Mash and mix properly with the kadchchi or large spoon.

Serve with hot phulkas (chapatti) or make these yummy parathas (griddle-fried flat bread) like I did!

Have you ever tried this wonderful dish?

How do you like to eat it? At home with a fluffy phulka or dhaba-style with lots of green chilies? 

Tell me how do you make your brinjal recipes? I'd love to know you cook this wonderful vegetable!

Thanks for reading! :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tomato Soup

The weather in the UAE has been surprising us unfailingly every weekend. Seems like the sun after being on full-time duty throughout the week plans to take a break and chill out behind a blanket of clouds at the weekend; giving way to white fluffy cotton balls in the sky, gust of wind and sometimes a little shower of rain to please us residents!

Isn't it amazing that we are headed towards the end of April but the evenings are still cool with wind sweeping the trees and being the perfect reason to stretch our daily park outing time. I can't help but say yes to Little M when he urges 'can we stay a little bit more please'; whenever I call out to my little one going up and down the slide.

As predicted, the crazy windy weather got me down last weekend leaving me with a cold, and an itchy throat. Whenever someone at the house is struck with the cold/flu, I help calm it down with a bowl of comforting warm soup full of nutrition, veggie goodness and a slight scent of whole spices (such as cumin, cloves, black peppercorns and bay leaves) to do their magic. The addition of these whole spices is a must when I am looking to treat and calm down any cold/flu or ward off seasonal infections/allergies.

Soups, I can safely say, are something that delight me albeit their simplicity. I love that warm thick liquid entering my throat and slowly calming me down. The autumn/winter season calls for a simmering pot of soup brewing away in the kitchen to warm up the evenings and fill up the house with its bubbling aroma. Its just too comforting to not have a bowl full of warm rich goodness when I am not feeling well. I normally make chicken soup with lots of fresh herbs and ginger-garlic to fight back any cold/flu and keep allergies at bay. But the last weekend I was craving to cosy up with some tomato soup-bread sticks combo so I whipped this up straight away!

Taking in the aroma of freshly boiled pulpy tomatoes is a must for me! Simple, dense and sweet the fragrance just takes me back to my childhood.

Tomato soup happens whenever I have a bulk of tomatoes sitting in my pantry and mostly during the autumn/winter season. This version is simple and the recipe I have kind of ingrained in me after having seen my mom and my grandma prepare it by whistling the tomatoes in a pressure cooker and then peeling off the skin and mashing up the pulp.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 30 min


6-7 tomatoes
1 apple, sliced, skin and seeds removed
2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
3-4 cloves
6-8 peppercorns
3-4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cooking oil
2-3 tbsp fresh cream
1 tsp roasted cumin
a pinch of sugar
2 tbsp corn flour dissolved in equal quantity of water


1) Pressure cook tomatoes and apple in 3-4 cups water for 2-3 whistles. When the steam escapes, remove the lid and take out the tomatoes in a dish. Let them cool a bit and then by hand pinch away the skin to peel it completely.


2) Using a blender grind the tomatoes and apple to make a thick pulp. Keep aside.

3) Warm 3-4 tbsp butter in a pan with a tbsp cooking oil. Add bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves and saute until a rich aroma comes. Now add in chopped garlic. Saute until the raw smell disappears.

3) Now add onions and saute until translucent.

4) Add the tomato and apple pulp with 1-2 cup stock that was used to pressure cook the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Sprinkle roasted cumin powder. Stir.

5) Now add corn flour-water mixture. Stir and bring to a boil again.

 Serve hot with a drizzle of fresh cream and some bread sticks to be munched along.

How do you make your tomato soup?
Share your soup stories with me. I'd love to hear them all!

Thanks for reading. :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ashtami prashad - Kaale Chhole, Poori & Atte Ka Halwa

Happy Durga Ashtami everyone! I am bringing to you the typical halwa, poori-chhole that is cooked early morning for the Ashtami pooja at my home and most other North Indian households. After nine days of Navratri and following a strict no non-vegetarian, no onion-garlic diet we conclude it on the eighth day called Ashtami by offering this prasad to Maa Durga the Goddess first and later feasting on this yummy authentic North Indian food for the rest of the day.

We try out the poori or fluffy deep-fried bread in so many ways in the same day. First we eat the hot, bubbling and fluffy poori straight out of the wok with spicy dry kaale chhole or black-brown chickpeas. Then hot and velvety atte ka halwa or wholewheat sweet pudding is slathered on top of the soft poori and devoured slowly taking in the taste of halwa and poori in every bite.

We eat such a packed breakfast of poori, chhole and halwa that lunch is skipped and then by 4 pm when the hunger again strikes, we go looking for some leftover pooris from the morning in the roti ka dabba or hot case and then eat them with aam ka achaar or raw mango pickle, washing it down with a cup of kadak chai.

So now you know what is on the menu in every North Indian house when it is Ashtami or Navmi! Nothing else is cooked afterwards as this dish is repeated in several combinations throughout the day. Dinner is mostly the leftover chhole with steamed rice or fresh phulkas or chapatti.

Kaale Chhole

The Kaale Chhole or  Sookhe Kaale Chane or Black Chickpeas (Dry) is a recipe from Punjab. These are super easy and since it is onion-garlic free it requires less chopping of veggies and if the chhole is pressure cooked in advance the tadka or tempering for this recipe can be prepared in under 30 minSince this is prasad for Ashtami pooja so no onion, no garlic is added. But still its yummy. :-) See the step-by-step recipe for Kaale Chhole here. 


Learn how to make fluffy poori from the step-by-step recipe provided here. For poori, I always prepare the dough well in advance. If I have to make it early in the morning I prepare the dough in the night and store it in fridge. I find it easier to handle the dough which has take its time to rest.


Being a sweet dish, halwa is made on special occasions or festivals in most Indian households using different kinds of flour like suji (semolina) or atta (wholewheat flour) or mixing the two. When the bride comes to her new home after marriage, she is expected to make a signature halwa dish and that is the way she makes it into the hearts of her in-laws. :-)

It is fairly easy but still you need to be careful and keep stirring while roasting the flour in the ghee so that no lumps are formed. For the Atte Ka Halwa recipe click here!

Hope you all had a divine Ashtami. Happy Ashtami/Kanjak/Vishu to all those celebrating! :-)

Atte Ka Halwa

Being a sweet dish, halwa is made on special occasions or festivals in most Indian households using different kinds of flour like suji (semolina) or atta (wholewheat flour) or mixing the two. When a new bride comes to her new home after marriage, she is expected to make a signature halwa dish and that is the way she makes it into the hearts of her in-laws. :-) 

It is fairly easy but still you need to be careful and keep stirring while roasting the flour in the ghee so that no lumps are formed.

Being a rich desert, it is eaten by topping it with chopped dry fruits or even by adding slightly roasted chopped dry fruits such as almonds, raisin, cashew while cooking. It is scooped in spoons and mostly eaten as it is. The better-half loves the epic puri-halwa combo wherein hot and velvety atte ka halwa or wholewheat sweet pudding is slathered on top of the soft poori and devoured slowly taking in the taste of halwa and poori in every bite. See the recipe to make hot and fluffy poori here.

The golden rule that I have learned and ingrained in my head for making Halwa as told by my wise mother is to always keep the ratio of flour:water as 1:4. For example, you are using 2 cups of flour, the water required to make it will be 8 cups.

Difficulty: Easy
Cooking Time: 20-25 min
Servings: 4-5


1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup ghee
Sugar 6-7 tbsp
4 cups water


1) In a wok, add flour and ghee. On a low flame, keep stirring until a roasted fragrance of flour can be sensed.
2) Once the flour looks roasted and brown (but not burnt), slowly add water while stirring continuously with the other hand to make sure no lumps are formed. Keep stirring and bring to a boil.
3) Add sugar and stir. Turn of the gas once the halwa has thickened to a semi-fluid smooth consistency. Garnish with chopped almonds or roasted dry fruits of your choice. Serve hot.

How do you make your Halwa? Please share your recipes with me. I'd love to know how you make it.

Thanks for reading! :-)


Poori is the perfect comfort food, eaten hot and fluffy just out of a wok bubbling with hot cooking oil. Since it is a deep-fried bread, it is prepared only on special occasions. One such occasion is the Durga Ashtami or the eighth day of Navratri, the north Indian festival of fasting for nine days to cleanse and purify the soul and pray to the Goddess Durga.

Poori, mostly accompanied with aloo ki sabzi (spicy potato curry cooked in tomato sauce) or with white or brown chickpea (mostly dry with very less amount of gravy) is something that can easily delight any person. See the recipe for making Kaale Chhole (brown chickpea) here.

Perfect food to takeaway for picnics, long journeys or for packing into dabbas for the school or office, pooris are delicious both when hot or even when not. Eating them with aam ka achaar or raw mango pickle and washing it down with a cup of kadak chai, is a cherished memory from several trips taken by road and train with my family. :-)

Poori, just like any other bread, is versatile enough to be eaten in so many ways. Eat the hot, bubbling and fluffy poori straight out of the wok with spicy dry kaale chhole or black-brown chickpeas or aloo ki sabzi. If you have a sweet tooth, go for the epic puri-halwa combo wherein hot and velvety atte ka halwa or wholewheat sweet pudding is slathered on top of the soft poori and devoured slowly taking in the taste of halwa and poori in every bite. Here is a super simple recipe to make yummy Atte Ka Halwa.

For poori, I always prepare the dough well in advance. If I have to make it early in the morning, I prepare the dough in the night and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge. I find it easier to handle the dough which has take its time to rest.

Preparing the Dough for Poori

Time: 10 min


3 cups wholewheat flour
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp salt

Kneading the dough

In a flat bottomed container. Add in the flour, salt, ghee and mix. Now using your hands start kneading the dough adding little water every now and then.

The dough for the poori needs to be tight and not very soft and thus requires very little water. So add water in parts and only when required. We need a dough that is hard and easier to handle. Refrigerate for atleast an hour.

Flattening the dough

Make small peda or balls with dough and using a little oil flatten it with a belan or a rolling pin. Make the number of round flat pooris as required.

Frying the flat pooris

In a wok, heat enough refined oil and once its really hot start adding the pooris one by one, frying on both sides until golden brown. Take out with a big kadchhi or spatula on a napkin. Serve hot with chana or halwa.

How do you like to make your poori? Do you add ajwain or carom seeds?

Tell me all your tales about poori, I'd love to read them.

Thanks for reading! :-)

Kaale Chhole (dry)

Kaale Chhole or Sookhe Kaale Chane or Black Chickpeas (Dry) is a recipe from Punjab. These are super easy and since it is onion-garlic free it requires less chopping of veggies and if the chhole is pressure cooked in advance the tadka or tempering for this recipe can be prepared in under 30 min.
During my school days, I remember trotting down to the gurudwara near my home every Saturday just to experience a melt in the mouth spicy tangy taste of kaale chhole. Kaale chhole ka prasad was distributed and I hope still is, in most gurudwaras on a Saturday. It is an out of the world experience to be the lucky one to get your hands on this yummy prasad.

Here is a recipe just how my mom makes it on early mornings each Ashtami or the eighth day of Navratri, the north Indian festival of fasting for nine days to cleanse and purify the soul and pray to the Goddess Durga. It is mostly eaten with hot and fluffy poori (deep-fried bread) or scooped with soft and fresh phulkas or chapatti.

Kaale Chhole

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prepping Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 1 hour


1.5 cup black chana or chickpea (soaked overnight in water)
3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
4-5 green chilies, finely chopped
1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp chana masala
1 tsp coriander powder


1) Pressure cook chana for 30 min in 4-5 cups water.
2) Till the time the chana is done, in a wok heat cooking oil. Add jeera and let it crackle. Now put in chopped tomatoes and green chili and let it soften and form into a paste-like consistency. Stir in between.
3) When the oil has separated from the tomatoes, add in the red chili powder, chana masala, coriander powder and salt to taste. Stir.
4) Once the steam has evaporated from the pressure cooker. Open and check if the chana is soft and cooked.
5) Now add the chana to the tomato tadka prepared and let it simmer on low heat for 15 min. Serve hot with poori or chapatti.

Note:  At step 4, if the chana is still not cooked close the lid and let it whistle away for 15 min after adding the tadka to it.

How do you make your chana?

Do share with me your secret recipe!

Thanks for reading! :-)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Veg Pulao (No Onion-Garlic)

Navratri or the nine nights festivity comes twice a year, once before the onset of summers and then again just before winters. During the nine nights of navratri, the nine forms of mother goddess Durga are worshiped.

Many people in North and west India fast during the nine days of navratri. It is considered to be an auspicious time to start new ventures, plans and it is a time to get spiritual and worship and pray to Goddess Durga and purify the mind, body and soul of all the impurities and negativity.

Nine days of fasting include avoiding non-vegetarian and onion, garlic among a whole list of foods. For people who are fasting, the food is consumed only once or twice a day. Mostly fruits, milk or other dairy products, potatoes and selected veggies, and some forms of flour like kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour), singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour), swaang ka atta (barnyard millet flour), swaang ke chawal (barnyard millet rice), sabudana (tapioca pearls), among others are consumed.

We oblige happily as this fasting time is more of a feast as a variety of dishes such as puri, pakoras, halwa, aloo tikki and stuffed flat bread are prepared at home using the flour specified above. Swaang ke chawal are used to make pulao (rice stirfry), dalia (porridge) and kheer (rice pudding). The vrat food or the food consumed when fasting is a whole different form of cuisine altogether.

Even for people who are not fasting, it is required to go vegetarian and onion-garlic free for the entire navratri period. We abstain from the same and here I am sharing Vegetable Pulao, stir fry rice made with freshly chopped veggies that contain no onion and no garlic at all.

Pulao is one-pot Indian dish, which can be made quickly and consists of rice and veggies. Pulao is either served as a side dish with a curry or eaten as it is with yoghurt when you have no time to cook anything else. :-)

This Veg Pulao is simple and quick and is full of goodness of veggies. Since it doesn't have any garlic or spices, the original taste of vegetables is retained in the dish. One can very well taste the natural sweet taste of the corn, peas and carrot.

I do not have pictures to complement the procedure as I made these rice in the morning in a hurry. But I will try and explain the process step by step and it is very simple and easy to follow.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prepping time: 10 min
Cooking time: 15-20 min


1 cup Basmati rice (washed and soaked in water for at least 15 min)
1 small potato, cubed
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup sweet corn
1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp red chili powder
salt, to taste


1) In a wok, heat ghee and add cumin seeds. Let them flutter and golden and then add finely chopped green chili and tomato.
2) When tomatoes have a paste-like consistency and once the ghee has separated, add chopped carrots, potatoes, peas and sweet corn. Stir. Add a pinch of salt.
3) Add 1/4 cup water and close the lid and on low flame let the veggies soften in steam.
4) Open the lid and check if carrots, potatoes and peas are soft but not mushy. If the veggies are stiff, cover and cook for 2-4 min more.
5) When the veggies seem soft, add red chili powder, salt to taste and 2 cups water. Bring to boil and add rice. Bring it to boil again and cover and let the rice cook on low flame for 10 min.
6) Turn off the flame. Leave the wok covered for 5-10 min and then serve hot with pickle or yoghurt.

It is a surely a delicious lunch recipe and can be eaten with aam aur hari mirch ka achaar (raw mango and green chili pickle) or can be even had with any raita (yoghurt-based side dish generally made with boondi or chopped veggies like cucumber, onion etc) of your choice.

This colourful Veg Pulao made it into the lunch boxes for the husband and Little M. I would recommend everyone to try this pulao.

Wishing a happy Navratri to all the celebrating fellow Indians!

Please note that this recipe is apt for people who are not observing the fast but this is not a vrat food and cannot be eaten by those fasting.

Thanks for reading! :-)