Black-Eyed Beans (Lobhia) with Tomatoes


This recipe has universal appeal because it blends techniques and tastes that are popular across cuisines. The dish pairs as well with a crusty batard or flat bread as with steamed rice and because it uses so few ingredients, is a breeze to put together.

The only mildly challenging part is cooking the dried black-eyed beans, or lobhia as they are called in Hindi. You’ll have to soak the beans in water first and allow for some generous cooking time. Of course, you could always use canned black-eyed beans, in which case this will be ready in a jiffy.

The dish improves with keeping so it’s a perfect make-ahead if you’re planning to entertain.

You could serve it on its own with tortillas and french bread or you could add some cheese and pop it under a hot grill before bringing it to the table. Alternately, top the dish with some roasted bell peppers or lightly sautéed strips of capsicum.


Serves 2-3

  • 1 cup dried black eyed beans or two 410g (14 oz) cans of cooked beans
  • Onion – 2 medium, finely chopped
  • Tomato – 4 medium, skinned and finely chopped, or a can of peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Garlic – 4-5 cloves, finely minced
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Chilli powder or minced fresh green chillies (optional, to taste)
  • Garam masala – ½ tsp (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt as needed
  • Butter (optional)


  • Soak the beans in water for about four hours.
  • Rinse, cover with plenty of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and let the beans cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water so that there is always an inch of liquid above the beans. This could take about an hour and a half or slightly longer. Alternately, if you have a pressure cooker, cook the beans for about 10 minutes under pressure. Do not discard any excess water. If you are using canned beans, rinse thoroughly under running water and drain.
  • Mash a few cooked beans to thicken the gravy.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wok or pan and when hot add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a second or two.
  • Add the finely minced garlic cloves and fry for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion and fry on medium heat for about five minutes until they start to change color.
  • Add the fresh or canned chopped tomatoes and fry until the moisture evaporates and the mixture is homogenous.
  • Add the chilli powder and garam masala, if using, and fry for a few seconds.
  • Add the cooked beans, salt and some water if necessary, cook for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Add pats of butter and serve.


Lunchbox Series – Day Two – Mediterranean Salad with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Parsley Dressing


It’s been quite a busy few days so pardon the delays in the “daily posts”. For one I have restarted the 1-green-smoothie-a- day series again. This time for 21 days. I figured it’s February and probably a month where the zeal of New Year resolutions just starts to wane so why not try to keep the momentum alive. I have been smoothie-ing for the past year and a half and cannot tell you how beneficial it has been for me. There have been quite some requests to share the daily recipes so I just started to post them here and on the Facebook page, in case you’re interested in following along.

So get your green smoothie to start your day and continue to nourish with these protein packed lunches.

Day Two comprised of a Mediterranean Salad inspired from this popular salad chain in Singapore called Salad Stop. The perfect combination of carbs, protein, greens and veggies topped with a creamy Arabic spiced vinaigrette. Top this with a peanut chaat and some fruit and you have a wholesome lunchbox to last you through the 4pm sugar or caffeine rush.


  • Romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces – 2 cups
  • Red bell pepper, sliced thin, 1/2 cup
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup, boiled and drained
  • Boiled potato, 1 , cubed
  • Cucumber, 1/2 sliced thin
  • Cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup, halved
  • Falafels – 4-5. (Prepared ahead using this recipe. You may also use an organic falafel mix).

Layer all the above in that order in the lunchbox container.

Arabic Spiced Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cups Olive Oil
  • ¼ cups Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (can Substitute White Vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons Dried Mint
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-½ teaspoon Sugar
  • ¾ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • •¼ cups Loosely Packed Fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 Chopped cilantro

Blend all the above to a creamy mix.

Peanut Chaat:

  • 2 cups boiled peanuts
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies chopped fine
  • cilantro, 1/2 cup chopped
  • juice of half to one lemon squeezed.
  • salt to taste

Mix all the above and garnish with cilantro.

Lunchbox Series – A Week of Protein Packed Lunches – Day One – Rainbow Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I just realized that this is my first post for the new year. A wee bit late but what better way to start than with some healthy lunchbox recipes. It’s always heartening to see the whole family get on a healthy streak versus a lone crusader (that would be me) experimenting with single serve “healthy” menus which has been the case for some time now. I’d still try to cook and pack healthy food for Nikhil but I have never wanted to force “dairy free” or “gluten free” or “grain free” menus on anyone, even on myself. Those have purely been weekly experiments to see the effect of elimination of some of these highly talked about diets, on my own body. And I have realized that some things that work for me may not work for everyone. To each his own. I have, for example, tried to eliminate milk, caffeine, white flour, white rice, white sugar etc. from my diet, I try to be gluten free once a month if I can, have introduced fermented foods like kefir and kombucha on a regular basis and have noticed quite drastic effects on my energy levels, skin, vision and even my outlook in general. I keep trying something new every month and it’s amazing to see the direct effects of food on the body and mind.

But I’m also not wont to spending hours catering to every diet need at home so this project meant that either everyone get on the healthy bandwagon or I jump off and “be normal”:) Save my green smoothies of course, which I have stuck on to – possibly for life:)

So it came as a pleasant surprise when last week G announced that he wanted to try packing lunches to work. And make it a rice-free but protein laden week. Like I said I have enjoyed packing lunches for Nikhil, something I would never have imagined I had in me, but I also love a good challenge. One of my favorite pastimes on weekends (call me strange) is creating healthy menus for the week ahead and it has been a blessing to have a planned food calendar for everyone in the house – removes the stress out of crazed weekday mornings, eradicates the eternal and annoying “what’s for lunch or dinner” questions and makes shopping easier.

And so we were on. Vegetarian, protein laden menus for the week, minus rice, pasta and heavy carbs. Here’s what it looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 9.03.33 PM

I have been posting the daily lunchboxes on the Facebook and Twitter pages but do need to record the recipes somewhere for posterity and of course to share with those interested. So here goes…a daily recap of the #proteinweek #lunchbox.

Day One:


Rainbow Salad with Boiled Egg and Lemon Vinaigrette:

Ingredients: (for one lunchbox)

  • Romaine Lettuce – 2 cups
  • Grapes – 1 cup, sliced
  • Red apples – 1 cup, chopped
  • Red Bell pepper- 1/2 cup sliced thin
  • Carrot – 1/2, grated
  • Red cabbage- 1/4 grated
  • Sunflower seeds – 1/4 cup
  • Boiled egg – 1, sliced (you may replace with tofu or tempeh or quinoa if you don’t eat eggs for other protein alternatives; even paneer or haloumi cheese if you don’t mind dairy)
  • Kidney beans, 1/2 cup, boiled

Lemon Vinaigrette: ( recipe)

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, mustard, and fine sea salt, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the oil , whisking constantly until the dressing is well blended. Season with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The vinaigrette can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

Chickpea or Kabuli Chana Chaat:

  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, boiled and drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cherry tomato, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp Jiralu powder or chaat masala (available at Indian stores)
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • a small bunch of cilantro, chopped.

Take the chickpeas in a bowl and mix the first 5 ingredients. Add the lemon juice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Thai Vegetarian – Steamed tofu in garlicky lemon sauce (Tao Huu Neung Manao)

This is one of those unforgettable dishes that stays etched in your memory months, no, years after you savor it for the first time. It was a serendipitous visit to a restaurant called Sabai Thai at a bustling Orchard Road mall, during one of our first visits to Singapore (before we officially moved here).Unbeknownst to us we had hit a gold mine in a Thai restaurant that had a unique all vegetarian menu

Snappy Salads – Lemony Kale Salad

This catchy title from MindBodyGreen caught my eye recently. “A Salad That Makes Even The Skeptics Fall In Love With Kale”:). So there it was. My next salad inspiration. I took this for lunch last week and am not being cliched when I say “I licked this salad clean.” Yes. This is the best kale salad I have tried. And in making it I also discovered how the natural flavors of kale can be accentuated.

The secret to making the perfect kale salad is this – Massage that kale. Use your bare hands. I think what makes kale salads so gratifying is that you literally use your senses to make it. No tongs, no fancy equipment, just roll those sleeves and use your fingers to press the kale leaves and rub them together. With or without the dressing.The process of massaging apparently breaks down the cellulose in the kale leaves and makes them soft and pliable, so when you douse them with dressing and any other flavors they take to them easily. I already have a kale “fetish” thanks to the oodles of green smoothies I have been consuming but this just took my kale love to new heights.

Note: The pictures don’t do enough justice to how delectable this salad is, and the fact that I didn’t slice the onions didn’t help to make it look as appetizing as well but this is one time I will guarantee it is worth the try. You will begin to LOVE kale:). Oh and did I mention this goes very well with Indian dishes too.

Enough gushing I suppose, here’s the recipe.

Serves 2 to 3 people
Prep Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 bunches Lacinato kale (also called “Tuscan” or “Dinosaur” kale)
  • 1-2 lemons, squeezed
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Half cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thin. I used red onion and chopped it fine and it was equally good so depends on how strong you like your onion flavors.
  • Olive Oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  • Thinly slice the onion.
  • Take the crushed garlic into a bowl, and combine with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Add the sliced onions to the mix, douse with a healthy amount of olive oil and balsamic, mix well and set aside to marinate.


  • Take the kale and strip the leaves off the stem. (You can check this video from Marin Mama Cooks on how to prep the kale). Break the leaves into bite sized pieces into a salad bowl.


  • Squeeze one lemon directly onto the kale. Now begin to massage the kale, rubbing them together or using whatever technique you like, but ensure that the leaves get coated well. The kale will reduce in size and become smooth. You may taste the leaves here. If you still find them to be bitter, then add more lemon and keep massaging till the taste gets all lemony.


  • Now heat a skillet and add the pumpkin seeds. You may add some coconut oil to the skillet to roast the seeds or just roast them dry. Once the seeds turn golden, remove the pan from the heat and let cool.


  • Now add the marinated onions into the kale bowl, and throw in the cooled pumpkin seeds. You can massage the leaves again to ensure the leaves are coated well with the dressing. You may also add more salt, pepper, oil, or lemon until you find that perfect flavor.


I had saved some leftovers at home but the salad was gone before I could try it again for dinner. The original recipe says that this salad only gets batter with age so keeping it in the refrigerator and eating the next day will enhance the flavors of the citrus and kale even more.Sadly we didn’t have any left to try this but that’s a good problem to have I suppose:).

Snappy Salads – Cucumber, Tomato and Feta, a Watercress Slaw , Home Made Dressings and more

After a week of binge desserts, festival food and family gatherings for Diwali post a whirlwind trip to India, I needed to quickly get back on the real food wagon. Oodles of sweets and savories, jaggery laden manoharams, murrukkus, gulab jamuns- top these with food coma induced naps countered with jet lag and a crazy road trip, and I was back to needing another vacation.

It’s amazing how your body begins to tell you (more like when you listen to it:) when you fall off the wagon and what it needs to get back on track. For the 10 days that I was filling my body with whatever was in front of me, it showed in my energy levels and my skin. I returned with breakouts, allergies, sinus headaches and all that I thought I had left behind months ago. Not that I wasn’t eating sweets and such in general – I‘m a big believer of eating everything in moderation, but a healthy balance of exercise and greens was doing the trick so far for me. It has now taken a full 10 days to get my schedule and energy back with my favorite green smoothies, juices, and greens.

So I figured I would get started with updating my salad repository or rather actually trying the many salad recipes I have stored in my Evernote files. I’ve been an avid user of Evernote of late, on my desktop and phone. I find it extremely useful when I’m browsing through my various news feeds and find anything that catches my eye, and this could be a list of books, articles, quotes, anything that tickles my funny bone and my palate. The best part – I can sync my notes with my tablet and phone and access my notes anywhere. So I have collected over 450 notes so far, more than half of which are recipes of course. I find this very handy when I’m planning my weekly lunch and dinner menus to pick from the various folders that I have saved recipes into- it’s a virtual cookbook that I can access from anywhere :)

This week, we had watercress and carrot slaw with home-made orange vinaigrette, and vegetable soup (with sandwich for those who wanted some extra heavy carbs) for dinner on Monday night. Today I toted along a cucumber tomato feta salad for lunch. You can use the second salad as an accompaniment to an Indian meal if you leave out the feta.

I used a useful gadget called the Salad Zinger to make the orange vinaigrette and it was amazing. Recommend the buy if you’re a gadget freak like me;) though you can still make it in your good old blender.


Here are the recipes.

Watercress, green apple and carrot salad/slaw (Serves 2)

  • Watercress – a big bunch, chopped
  • Red cabbage – 1 /4 , grated
  • Carrots – 2, grated
  • Cherry tomatoes – 6-7, halved
  • Green apple – 1, grated

Orange vinaigrette dressing:

  • Navel oranges – 1, deseeded and quartered
  • Red onion, a small slice
  • Parsley, a small bunch about 1/8 cup
  • Garlic pod – 1
  • Olive oil – ¼ cup
  • Red wine vinegar – 2 tbsp
  • Honey – 1 tbsp

For making the vinaigrette in the Salad Zinger, you will need to fill the first 4 dry ingredients in the bottom half of the gadget and screw the blades and bottom back on. Fill the top part with the liquid ingredients, shake the contraption and let the juices from the orange, onion mixture seep into the olive vinegar mixture. Let it sit for at least a half hour before adding to the slaw.


Alternatively you can coarsely chop the first 4 ingredients in a blender, add it to a bottle and fill the bottle with the wet ingredients. Let steep for a half hour before serving.

Take the grated veggies in a bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

Cucumber, tomato and feta salad


  • 3 cups of cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 7-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Mint leaves, 2-3 tbsp, chopped
  • Scallions, 2, chopped with the leaves
  • Green olives, ¼ cup
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled


  • Lemon juice, 1 tbsp
  • Olive oil, 2 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Mix the cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, mint in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt as feta is salty by itself. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss and sprinkle the crumbled feta before you serve.


Eating in the Raw — Rasam week – Pachi Pulusu (Raw Spiced Tamarind broth)


In keeping with Rasam week, I wanted to try something I had been meaning to try for ages, since I tasted it for the first time in my friend Harini’s home almost 10 years ago. This is a typical Telangana dish that Harini made for us for dinner one evening and the dish was so flavorful it stuck. Simple to make yet I somehow never got to really try it in my own kitchen until this week. This pulusu or broth is fully raw and needs no heating or boiling. It’s the tadka or popu or tempering that gives it its unique kick and flavor. The tartness of the tamarind and spice of the red chili with garlic along with a hint of jaggery and a secret ingredient to finish is what makes this dish different from any rasam/pulusu you may have tasted . Eat it with hot rice, ghee and mudda pappu or thick spiced tuvar dal and it is a combination that will live on your taste buds for a long long time.Like it did for me for over a decade:). This recipe is Harini’s contribution to Roz Ka Khana and though I’m sure it doesn’t come close to the way she or her in laws make it in their home, it hopefully is a decent first attempt. .

Ingredients for Pachi Pulusu:

Serves 4. Prep time : 15 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes

  • Tamarind – 1 small lemon sized ball, soaked in warm water.
  • Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
  • Fore tempering:
  • Mustard seeds- 2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tsp
  • Dry red chilies – 3-4
  • Green chili – 3-4 sliced thin
  • Red onion, chopped fine – 1/4
  • Garlic, crushed or chopped fine – 3 small or 2 big
  • Curry leaves – a sprig
  • Roasted sesame seed powder – 1 tsp
  • Cilantro, chopped – 1 bunch
  • Cream or whole milk – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Oil- 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste


  1. Squeeze the juice from the soaked tamarind and add enough water to it to make about 2 cups. Add salt to taste and the jaggery and mix well.
  2. Heat oil in a small pan, when hot add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the jeera, red chilies and curry leaves. Add garlic, green chilies. Saute for 1 minute.
  3. Pour the tempering over the tamarind water. Add chopped onions and cilantro for garnish.
  4. Add the roasted sesame powder.
  5. As a final touch, add 1 tsp of cream or whole milk and give it a quick mix before you serve. (The cream compensates for the tartness of the tamarind. You can avoid this step if you don’t like the idea of adding milk to the pulusu or are vegan).

Serve with rice, ghee and pappu (yellow tuvar dal tempered with mustard seeds, jeera and curry leaves). It’s called “mudda pappu” as it is meant to be thick when mixed with rice so the pulusu is a runny and tangy accompaniment. According to Harini, spinach dal (paalak pappu) and moong dal spiced are also great accompaniments for pachi pulusu. Will try that next and let you know:)

Coming up next for Rasam week is Inji (Ginger) Rasam.


A Week of Rasams – Recipes for Garlic Rasam and Lemon Rasam

After a bustling festive season it’s “Rasam Week” at our home. As I’ve mentioned here in my very first post, Rasam is one of our ultimate comfort foods. It’s the dish we turn to when we crave a home cooked meal, the dish we make when we want to “detox” and the one we cook as an accompaniment for a traditional South Indian occasion. Rasam is quite the ubiquitous and well loved South Indian dish. Typically a clear broth spiced with different flavors, rasam is another word for juice or shall we say the essence of all South Indian food:)

It was Girish’s turn to plan the weekly menu since he is home for a full week after ages. And here’s what his menu looked like.

South Indian style oatmeal for breakfast and Rasam for dinner. Every. Single. Day. :)

Yes I am married to someone who can eat the same thing for days – thank heavens. As long as it’s one of his favorite dishes.
Makes it easy for planning and cooking so let’s be immensely grateful for that shall we?:) Here’s to someone who is fuss free when it comes to meal planning. I repeat, as long as it’s one of his choice dishes. He is still quite the food critic so let me just say it’s safest to stick with the requested menu:)

So I thought I would chronicle the types of rasams while I was at it. The garlic rasam is a house favorite and is exactly the way my mother in law (the queen of rasams in the family) makes it. Also one of Nikhil’s favorite dishes and a common request from him when he craves Indian comfort food.

The lemon rasam recipe is adapted from Chandra Padmanabhan’s cookbook “Dakshin“. I have tried making lemon rasam many times before but I found this method to be the best. I suppose the garnish of crushed black pepper and cumin topped with lemon is what adds to this rasam’s burst of flavor. Whatever the type of rasam, it’s best enjoyed with some hot (white or brown) rice, a dollop of fresh ghee and some cooked dry vegetable as a side. We love urulai roast (roasted potato), the way Amma makes it though you could try this one (Chettinad urulai roast) and the cauliflower fry as a yum side too.

Recipe for Garlic Rasam:


Ingredients: (for 4)

  • Garlic cloves – 3 big or 4-5 small
  • Cilantro – a small bunch plus 1/4 cup chopped leaves
  • Black pepper – 3/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Tamarind – a small line sized ballGarlic rasam powder (store bought) – 1 tsp (you may also use regular rasam powder)

For tempering:

  • Ghee – 2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – a sprig
  • Dry red Arbol chili – 1
  • Garlic – 1 chopped fine.

1. Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 5 minutes till it softens. Make a pulp of the tamarind, strain out any fibres or seeds and add enough water to make about 1 1/4 cups of tamarind pulp. (more than what you see in the picture.)


2. Take the garlic pods, the cilantro bunch, black pepper and cumin seeds in a blender, with a tbsp of water and grind to a fine paste.

3. Take the tamarind water in a heavy vessel (I use a special vessel called Iyya Chombu - made of an alloy of metals- used to make rasams traditionally.)


4. Add the rasam powder, half of the cilantro and let the mixture come to a slow boil on a medium flame. This will take about 5-7 minutes, till the raw smell of the tamarind and the rasam powder goes away.

5. Now add the garlic pepper cumin paste to the tamarind water. You may add another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water here. Add salt. I usually taste at this stage to check for salt/sourness etc. Adjust with water, salt accordingly.

6. Let the mixture boil for about 5-7 minutes till the raw garlic smell goes away.

7. Add chopped cilantro, and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

8. Heat about 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter or brown butter) in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds when ghee is hot. After they splutter add the cumin seeds, red chili and curry leaves. Add the chopped garlic. Saute for a minute, and then add the tempering to the rasam. Cover the rasam with a lid until you are ready to serve, This keeps the flavors of the tempering (tadka/popu/talithaal/chonk/bagar) intact and lets them infuse in the rasam.

Enjoy with hot rice, a dollop of ghee and the vegetable side dish of your choice. Divine.


Recipe for Lemon Rasam (didn’t click the pictures in time for this one but will add them eventually;)

Ingredients :

  • 1/4 cup toor dal cooked
  • 3/4 cup vine ripe cherry tomatoes chopped (I find cherry tomatoes give the best flavor though you can use vine ripe regular tomatoes as well)
  • Juice of 1 big lemon
  • a small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ” piece ginger grated
  • 4 green chilies
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3/4 tsp rasam powder

For tempering:

  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida
  • 1 dry red arbol chile
  • a sprig of curry leaves


  1. Take the ginger and green chilies in a small blender and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Powder the cumin seeds and black peppercorn in a coffee grinder or mortal pestle. I prefer this to be a smooth powder too though you may grind it to a coarse powder if you like the texture in the rasam.
  3. Take the cooked dal in the iyya chombu, add about 1 1/2 cups of water, salt, turmeric powder. You may add more water depending on the taste. Adjust salt accrodingly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the ginger chile paste to the mixture. I also add the rasam powder at this time. Sprinkle some chopped cilantro. Let the mixture come to a slow boil, until the raw smell of the rasam powder and tomatoes are boiled away. (Rasam powder is optional, I add  a small amount just for the flavor, but you can get by without it).
  5. Now heat the ghee in a separate pan, add all the ingredients for the tempering. Add 1 tsp of the powdered cumin-black pepper powder to the ghee and then turn off the heat. Add the tempering to the rasam.
  6. Add the lemon juice to the rasam and mix. Garnish with more chopped cilantro.


Easy Tomato Gothsu (Tomato Stew) – without onion or garlic

It’s the season of Navaratri (festival of Nine Nights) and besides the daily offerings of jaggery laden sweets and protein packed sundals (savory dish made with legumes) to the Goddess, I have to get creative with the daily menu. As with most temple offerings the food cooked during these 9 days is meant to be “saatwik” or strong in the sattwa guna or purity, leading to clarity and equanimity of the mind.

It can be debated as to how the list even originated as it dates back to Ayurveda and food that ancient Yogis consumed. The list we know of includes fresh leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains, legumes, interestingly diary (raw milk from happy cows:), ghee (clarified butter), raw honey etc. Meat and its by products, some pungent vegetables including onion and garlic were avoided as they were meant to stimulate the tamasik qualities leading to dullness of the mind and body. For the Yogis this was meant to be detrimental to their spiritual aspirations.

As I mentioned before I didn’t really fully understand (and still have some q’s) why some vegetables scientifically considered  healthy (like onion and garlic) were excluded from this diet. I do get the meat exclusion to some extent as it follows the doctrine of “you are what you eat” and the relationship between food and the mind. I suppose you could use the same logic to the other foods too?

Oh well. As for me, I tend to consider these 9 days as an excuse to undergo a detox of the body and mind. If you look at that explanation scientifically too Navaratri falls at the juncture of two seasons, when the fall season recedes and and winter season sets in (in the Northern hemisphere). There is a shift in pattern with nature too, the plants shed their leaves, fruits fall and go into a non productive mode, grains are being harvested and so on. The body (and mind) needs to undergo a periodic cleanse to get stronger for sustaining the bleak winter months. Hence the detox during this season which conveniently aligns with the festival too. Traditionally Navaratri is meant to be a time to fast and/or eat sparingly to allow the body to detox.

Isn’t it ironical that detoxes are becoming so popular in today’s times and when you really “peel the onion” (no pun intended;) they are manifestations of what the ancient Sutras and Ayurveda dictated eons ago? Suddenly Yogic practices, Ayurveda are becoming fashionable, a fad and fasting and detox diets once originally done for spiritual reasons are becoming a sought after lifestyle. We have come a full circle and the goal interestingly is the same. To be healthy and strong in body and mind.

So the many offerings to the Goddesses are made as saatwik as possible and for the same spiritual and possibly convenient reasons it trickles down into the daily menu as well.

Today’s prasadam (offering) was Venn Pongal, a traditional South Indian porridge made during festivals but also a filling breakfast or lunch dish. Made with rice and yellow mung beans, it packs enough fibre and protein to balance out the carbs. And garnished with dollops of ghee (clarified butter), another nutritious good fat packed with Vitamins A, D and K.

As an accompaniment for the Venn Pongal I made a Thakkali Gothsu or Spicy Tomato Stew. Super easy to make and quite a tasty accompaniment to the venn pongal, this is a recipe I learned from Amma (my mom). This dish can be made with onions too but for today I made it without them for all the reasons mentioned above:)



Medium sized tomatoes on the vine – 4, finely chopped

Green chilies – 4-5, slit

Curry leaves – a sprig

Jeera or cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Asafetida – a pinch

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Sambar powder – 2 -3 tsp (depending on spice level)

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Cinatro – 1 small bunch chopped

Oil – 1 tsp

Salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a pan. When hot add the mustard seeds. After they begin to splutter add the jeera and asafetida.

2. Add the slit green chilies and curry leaves.


3. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder. Mix well and sauté for 2 minutes.


4. Add the sambar powder, mix, add let cook for about 2-3 minutes.


5. Add about 1/4 cup of warm water and cook again for 5-7 minutes till it all begins to come together in a thin chutney like consistency.


6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Note: If you’re adding onions, add one medium sliced onion finely chopped, and add it right after the step where you sauté the green chilies and curry leaves. Sauté well till they turn translucent before you add the tomatoes.


Quick Snack – Spicy Sprouts chaat on Toast

This is for one of those muggy and rainy days when you crave something spicy with a hot cup of chai or green tea:).
It can also double as a breakfast dish if you prep ahead and have sprouts ready to go by day 2 (soak the mung beans in water overnight, drain the water the next day and transfer the beans to a moist cloth. Keep it covered for a day till see you begin to see the sprouting happen).


  • Sprouted mung beans – 1 cup
    Whole wheat or multigrain or gluten fee bread – 2 slices
    Olive oil – 1 tsp
    Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
    Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
    Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
    Chat masala powder – 1/2 tsp
    Salt to taste
  • Small red onion – 1/2 finely chopped
  • Green chilly – 1-2 finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Curry leaves -6-8
    Chopped cilantro – 1/4 cup
  • Home made green chutney (recipe here). You may also use store bought.


1. Mix the chopped onions, green chilly and cilantro in a bowl. Add the chat masala and lemon juice to this mixture. Keep this aside while you prep the moong sprouts.

2. Heat about 1 tsp olive oil or rice bran oil in a pan. When the oil is hot add the cumin seeds.
3. After the seeds sizzle add the curry leaves and the moong sprouts and sauté for about two minutes till the spices get well mixed and the sprouts are slightly cooked.



4. Take 2 bread slices and lightly toast them on a skillet. I prefer this method of toasting to the toaster as it keeps the toast soft while still browning it.


5. Spread some homemade green chutney (recipe here) over a slice of toast. Add the moong sprout mixture on top and garnish with more cilantro. You may also add some nylon sev (available in Indian stores) as garnish for a crunchy bite.





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