Sambar and rice in a bowl is my favourite comfort food, among other kinds. Everybody likes their sambar different – sour, spicy or even sweet sometimes. I like mine a tad sour and loaded with veggies. However you may like your sambar, one thing has to be consistent – your sambar powder. Like many people, I would buy mine too. MTR, Everest and other companies do have some really good spice mixes for sambar, rasam and other south Indian favourites. But I’ve always wanted to make my own powder to see how different it would taste and if it was something I could sustain doing regularly. Again, most households have their own version of sambar powder. Turns out, I can.I looked up a few recipes, asked a few people, read a few pointers and tweaked it accordingly. And now I’m wondering why didn’t I do this sooner!
This beetroot salad is yet another ‘makeover for leftovers’ meal. Leftovers are paneer from the night before and the other ingredients like beetroot had to be used before it went bad. I added a pear to it and made a quick dressing to go with the salad. I like beets roasted or cooked. The only way I can have them raw is when they’re in a juice. Coming back to this salad, I roasted beetroot slices in the oven for just 15 mins, sliced up a pear, crumbled paneer on top and drenched it all with the dressing. Easy peasy!
This khichdi is my go to weeknight dinner when I’m lazy or when I don’t feel like cooking an elaborate meal. It can be cooked under 20 mins and you don’t even have to be around in the kitchen for longer than half the time. I use mixed dal here because I get a little of everything – green, masoor, tur, among others. At most big supermarket you’ll find large tubs of mixed dal sold by weight. I usually get heaps from there whenever I can. To this rather plain Jane khichdi I add a tempering of mustard oil and curry leaves. Mustard oil gives it the kick it needs and curry leaves, well I just love me some crispy curry leaves!
Many people ask what they can do with paneer besides dunking it in lots of gravy. I’m not a fan of it but I picked up a packet from the shop on a whim. All I did was cut it into thick strips, roll it around some spice mix and roast them on a hot greased pan while the khichdi was cooling off in the pressure cooker. Voila! You have a side dish to go with your khichdi without it being deep fried or heavily salty.
Yield: 2 servings
Cooking time: 20 mins
Mixed dal/dal of your choice – 1/2 cup washed and drained
Rice – 3/4 cup rice washed and drained
Turmeric – 2 tsp
Mustard oil – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – from 2 sprigs at least
Salt to taste
For roast paneer:
Paneer – 100 gm (or as much as you need) sliced or cubed
Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Bring 3 and 1/2 cups of water to boil and tip the dal and rice in it.
Add turmeric and salt.
Cover and let it cook on high heat till the first whistle is let out.
Now lower the heat and let it cook for 10 minutes.
After 10 mins, take it off the heat and let the pressure drop on its own. In the meanwhile make the paneer dish.
Heat oil/ghee in a nonstick pan.
Toss the paneer pieces in the spice mix and place in the hot oil to roast.
Let it get nice and toasty, say for around a min on each side. Keep aside.
Heat mustard oil and throw in the curry leaves. Let them splutter and crackle before you turn the heat off.
Tumble this tempering on the khichdi and you’re done!
I absolutely love any form of dry cakes and breads with fruit in them. I’ve made banana bread more times than I can remember for this reason. This time it was the pumpkin’s turn. I used to hate pumpkin growing up but after I made my roasted pumpkin soup, it all changed. I now wanted to try this bread that I’d only heard of or watched it being made on cooking shows. I looked up the recipe and as always found way too many. Some called for butter in the recipe and others had too many ingredients. I finally stumbled on a recipe from my favourite Sally’s Baking Addiction. This one did ask for chocolate chips to be added. I omitted it all together.
This loaf turned out to be so much better than what I expected. It was incredibly moist and utterly delicious. I could taste the sweetness of the pumpkin and the warmth of all the spices. I roasted the pumpkin first to bring out this sweetness instead of simply boiling. There’s also no butter in this recipe, yet the bread is rich in taste. The only thing I’d change is not to halve the quantity of ingredients. I did it so I don’t end up with too much batter. As it turns out, I could’ve used more batter to get a bigger loaf.
Yield: 1 loaf (small)
Prep time: approximately 30 mins
Baking time: 90 mins
Flour – 110 gm (a little less than 1 cup)
Brown sugar – 1/2 cup (if you don’t have brown sugar, simply powder 1/4 cup jaggery + 1/4 cup white sugar)
Pumpkin – 500 gm cut into small cubes
Egg – 1
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Oil – 1/4 cup
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp
Chinese all spices – 1 tsp (optional)
Nutmeg – 1/2 tsp
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C and roast the pumpkin cubes (drizzle a tbsp of olive oil so they don’t dry out) for 40 mins. Or till they’re soft. Bring them out, puree and keep aside for later. You should have almost 3/4 cup of the puree.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
Whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, egg, oil and lemon juice together.
Add the dry ingredients and fold through till well incorporated.
Pour it into a loaf tin lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 50 mins.
Note: I sprinkled some flaxseeds on the loaf before it went into the oven for some crunch.
This hot and sweet curry noodle bowl is the result of yet another “makeover for leftovers”. Leftovers are great to work with because most of the work has already been done. In this case, I already had cooked chicken and the chilli honey paste in my fridge. All I had to do was cook some noodles (which takes just about 5-7 mins), make a curry style broth and assemble it all together.
This one turned out to be a lot more delicious than it looks, trust me. It truly validates my faith in simple cooking. And don’t worry about what you have or don’t have. If you don’t have noodles, make this with rice. If you don’t have chicken use leftover cooked veggies or even just a potato will do.
Yield: 2 servings
Prep + cooking time: 15-20 mins
Leftover cooked chicken (or meat or veggies) – 1 cup shredded
Cooked noodles – enough for 2 portions (I had Ching’s hakka noodles in the pantry and used one packet of it)
Garlic – 3-4 cloves crushed
Chilli honey paste – 1 tbsp or more (recipe here)
Any herbs like basil or lemongrass – handful crushed/torn
Chicken/veggie stock cube – 1 (omit it if you don’t have it or don’t like it, but it adds a lot of flavour to the broth)
Oil – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves – handful chopped
Fried egg – 1 for each bowl
Water – 3 cups
Heat oil in a pan and add garlic with the chilli honey paste and cook till it turns aromatic.
Add chicken and saute for a minute. Now add water along with the stock cube, herbs, some salt and let it come to a simmer.
Turn of the heat and keep it aside.
Place noodles in the bowl and pour the broth over. Top with fried egg and lots of coriander leaves.
A lemon tart is a lemon tart. It can’t get more straightforward than that. The filling for this one is pretty delicious – tart, sweet and creamy. I initially wanted to do a lemon curd based filling, but ditched the idea of cooking it out before filling it. Seemed like a lengthier process. I’ll try that another time. The tart shell for this I’ve tried before with my chocolate tart and it is quite a reliable. The only problem I had was a result of my mistake. I rolled out the pastry too thick and the filling wasn’t proportionate with it. Please learn from my mistake and roll out your pastry as thin as you can.
I’ve come to realize that making pastry takes a bit of practice. You might have the best recipe in the world, but you will need at least 3-4 times practice (or more, if you’re like me) to get it working for you. Once it does, you’ll never need to look up a pastry recipe any more.
Recipe adaptation: Greg’s tangy lemony tart
I tweaked the recipe a little since the quantity of cream given seemed quite less to me and the eggs seemed a bit more.
Yield: 8 slices
Prep time: 30
Cook time: 35-40 mins
Pastry recipe: Here
Ingredients for the filling:
Lemon juice – 1/2 cup (from around 2-3 lemons)
Fresh cream – 220 ml or about 1 full cup
Eggs – 4 small or medium ones (3, if large)
Prepare and bake your pastry shell. You could use my recipe or use the one from the recipe I adapted the filling from.
While the pastry shell is cooling, make your filling.
Whisk all ingredients together and pour into the shell.
Bake at 180 degrees C for 35-40 mins, depending on your oven. Check after 30 mins if the top looks set. Stick a toothpick in to see if the centre is too wet. If it is, bake for 5-7 mins more.
Most people want the food they cooked to be polished off that very meal. But I love it when that doesn’t happen so I have leftovers to work with. Like when I made the chicken and chickpea stew with foxtail millet. The leftovers – chickpeas and foxtail millet – were turned into a bowl of salad for dinner the next night. I also threw in some cherry tomatoes, basil, coriander and even shredded coconut. With a quick dressing with balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon and mustard, dinner was ready in minutes.
1 bowl of salad
10 mins at leisure
Cooked chickpeas – 1 cup
Cooked foxtail millet – 1/2 cup
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Basil, coriander leaves – handful chopped
Cherry tomatoes – 4-5 halved
Cucumber – 1/2 cup chopped
Balsamic vinegar – 2 tbsp
Honey – 1 tsp
Lemon juice – 1/2 lemon
Mustard paste/sauce – 1 tsp
Whisk all the ingredients of the dressing and keep aside.
Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl and pour dressing over it.
Tweak this any way you want. The idea is to use up leftovers along with any scraps from the fridge to make a meal. You could replace the millet with brown rice or any other cooked grains. Or even omit it. You can also add cooked chicken to this salad, and more greens if you have.
On a lazy Sunday all I want to do is throw some ingredients into a pot and let it cook itself for lunch. This Sunday was something like that for me. I didn’t want to grind any masala or cook things in batches or even use the oven. So I cooked chicken in a spicy broth with tomatoes and a few spices, threw in some cooked chickpeas and let it all come to a simmer. Easy peasy. I also made some foxtail millet instead of rice and quite liked it. I guess I’m lazy to even write this post now.
Yield: 3 – 4 portions
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Boneless chicken – 500 gm
Cooked chickpeas – 1 cup
Cherry tomatoes – handful, quartered
Regular tomatoes – 2 pureed roughly
Onion – 1 chopped
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Chilli powder – 2 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves for freshness
Salt to taste
Water and oil to cook
Heat oil in a pan and saute onions in it. Add the cumin and ginger garlic paste.
Cook onions turn soft.
Add the chicken pieces and let them brown on one side.
Now add the tomato puree, cherry tomatoes and chilli powder along with salt and a cup of water.
You could also add a chicken stock cube at this point to enhance the flavour.
Cover and cook on medium flame for 15 mins or till chicken is cooked.
Toss the chickpeas in and mix well.
Top with lots of coriander leaves.
Foxtail millet is a grain that looks very similar to khus khus (white poppy seeds). It’s called Navane is Kannada and Kangni in Hindi. I don’t know if it is easily available at your local grocers, but it sure is at any supermarket. Even better that it’s readily available online as well. It’s a great substitute for white polished rice in your diet.
I first soaked a cup of the millet in warm water for about an hour before cooking it. I used a pressure cooker. 1 cup millets require 1.5 cups of water. Let it cook in the pressure cooker till two whistles are let out and immediately take it off the heat. Let the pressure drop on its own and take the lid off. Wait for 2-3 mins and then using a fork fluff it so the grains separate. There!
The first time I saw something like this was on Food Network’s Snapchat feed. I’ve tried using the same base for multiple healthy breakfast options. But this time around I stuck to keeping it really simple and with just two ingredients. And you could top it with whatever you want to – muesli, honey, fruits, nuts, etc. I only had muesli, nuts and desiccated coconut in my kitchen.
Yield: 1 portion
Time: If bananas are already frozen, then 5 mins to make it
Banana – 2 per portion (cut into small pieces and put in a box to freeze overnight)
Cocoa – 2 tbsp
Toppings of your choice
Blitz the bananas and cocoa till smooth. This could take 4-5 mins.
Serve in a bowl topped with fruits, nuts, muesli, coconut, anything at all!
A sweet Sunday began on a savoury note. Just on my plate, though. It’d been a while since we had bacon for breakfast. And bacon goes best with carbs and fat – bread and cheese! I just turned a sweet French toast into a savoury one by adding oodles of cheese to it and lots of thyme. I’d forgotten about some fresh thyme in the fridge and I’m glad I did. It dried out a little and smelled even better that what it would fresh.