Friday, December 28, 2012


As every mother does, I worry about what a picky eater my daughter is. Her list of don't likes is way too longer than the list of likes. And it bugs me when she looks at a dish and decides she doesn't like it by just the sight of it. Well. I can go on cribbing and most mothers would join me too. But in some ways I am not too concerned. After all I was one of the worst "picky eater" if there ever was such a title. You can count my likes with fingers in one hand. But what gives me hope is that some of the foods on my hate list have made it into my like list. Couple of vegetables, eggs cooked in specific ways and of course coconut. I used to hate coconut in any form - sweets, curry, gravy, chutney. All avataars of coconut was banned from my plate. But over-time this hate has mellowed and today I actually enjoy Kerala cuisine which is predominantly coconut based. Coconut sweets are still a no-no but I love the delicately flavored stews, and the fiery "Thengai Thuvayal" and of course the ubiquitous Aviyal is one of my favorites (as long as it is not made with veggies from my hate list!! Some things dont change :-)).

So judging by my changing tastes, I hope that Little A would grow to like chapathi, pasta, cauliflower, chutney, vatha kozhambu, pulao, biriyani ...phew. I only hope..

Today's recipe is Aviyal - a medley of vegetables in a delicate coconut and sour curd (yoghurt) base. In most homes, there would be one or two random vegetables lying around. There wouldnt be enough of it to make a full fledged poriyal or kootu. The best way to utilize them would be mix them up into an aviyal or a mixed vegetable kootu. Aviyal is super easy with minimum ingredients. Please do check the list of veggies that can be used for aviyal.

Aviyal Vegetables: Carrot, Potato, Raw Banana, Banana stem (vazhai thandu) Beans, Chow-Chow,      Bottle Gourd, Snake gourd, Drumstick, Avarakkai, Spinach stems, Pumpkin/Squash, , Raw Mango etc

Vegetables that should not be used: Okra, Spinach leaves and any other sticky vegetable



Mixed Vegetables - 1 cup (refer list above. I used potatoes, green beans, raw banana, carrots and peas)
Sour curd - 1/4 cup
Salt to taste

Grind to paste: 

Green Chilles - 3 to 4
Coconut - 1/2 cut into pieces or shredded
Cumin - 1t
Raw Rice - 1t (soaked). or Rice flour - 1r

For seasoning:

Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coconut oil - 1 t


1. Pressure cook the vegetables with little water and salt for 1 whistle. Alternatively you can boil them in water as well. Remember to use less water as all the nutrients are in the water and you dont want to throw the excess water out. If the water is more, then the aviyal will be runny.

2. Grind together the items given above with little water into a thick paste. You can increase of decrease the chillies according to your heat quotient.

3. Add the ground paste to the cooked vegetables and boil well.

4. Add the curd and mix well. Adjust salt if necessary.

5. In a small pan, heat some coconut oil and season with curry leaves. Add this to the aviyal.

6. Serve hot with rice, sambar and rasam or with Adai. Goes well with rotis too.

  • If the cooking times for vegetables you are using differ, then you can cook them separately and mix together for the aviyal.
  • If using raw mango, adjust sour curd accordingly as the mango will increase the sourness of the aviyal.
  • Traditionally coconut oil is added without heating. If you like the intense flavor it gives, then you can use it without heating. Add the curry leaves while the aviyal is boiling.
  • As you get experienced with making aviyal, you will be able to judge if a particular vegetable would suit the combination to make aviyal.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spicy Japanese Soba Noodles with Vegetables

One of my favorite hobbies is to look around supermarket aisles curious about the variety of food products that are out there. I make it a point to get something that is new to me - it may be a type of pasta or a bottle of exotic sauce or herbs. I normally buy new ones in smaller quantities as I run the risk of it being shunned by the husband and daughter resulting in me eating the entire thing. (which may or may not be a good deal depending on how the dish turns out!).

There are a lot of things (the good ones) that I have discovered recently which are now regulars in my pantry. For example Tomatoes - pureed and chopped in a can .I used to balk at that idea before. Why go for canned when you have fresh tomatoes ? But some recipes do require it and no amount of boiling and grinding may sometimes replace opening a can of tomato puree. Vietnamese Rice Paper - I know the name sounds a bit off. But trust me this is one keeper. (recipe coming soon!), Peanut butter, Nutella, dried parsley, pasta sauces. the list keeps getting longer with every supermarket visit. 

One such discovery is the Japanese Soba noodles. I have heard my SIL who lives there talk about it. So was eager to try it and when I found a small packet, I immediately got it home. I have no clue on what the brand name is as it is in Japanese.

Soba Noodles is one of the most popular noodles and staple foods in Japan. Its made of buckwheat (soba means buckwheat in Japanese) - a healthy grain. Soba noodles are served cold with just soy sauce or as a salad or hot in a bowl of soup.

We do not enjoy cold noodles at home so that was ruled out. I made it for lunch one day and used my usual vegetable noodles recipe for it.

The noodles by itself has a pleasant and wholesome taste and flavor. It would work out well for a cold salad as well. May be the next time I will make it into a salad.

This is a simple recipe and if you do not get Japanese soba noodles, substitute for normal noodles (not the instant variety) or egg noodles.



1 packet Japanese Soba Noodles
1 Carrot,
1/2 Cabbage.
1 Capsicum
1/2 cup Bean Sprouts (optional)
2 - 3 Spring onions
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely shredded ginger
3 red chillies or 3 sliced green chillies
1 tsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Green chilli sauce (optional)
1 T sesame oil (or gingelly oil)
Salt to taste


1. Boil a big pot of water. Add salt and the raw noodles and cook until the noodles are soft. Drain, wash in cold water and spread on a large plate. You can mix some oil if you think the noodles might stick together.
2.Heat oil in a wok or a pan until high heat.
3. Add the chillis, ginger and garlic until the flavors are added to the oil.
4. Add the cabbage, carrots and capsicum along with the spring onion whites. Fry until the raw smell goes but the vegetables should remain crunchy. (The high heat helps with this). Add the bean sprouts and mix well.
5. Add the soy sauce and green chilli sauce (if using) and mix well. Add the salt. (Remember that the soy sauce is also salty. So add just a bit for the vegetables.)
6. Toss in the noodles and mix well. Garnish with spring onion greens.
7. Serve hot or cold.


  • If making with normal noodles, you can also add some vinegar and pepper while cooking the vegetables.
  • For the non-vegetarians, you can add shredded omlette or pre-cooked chicken finely shredded.
  • I had some leftover and I chilled it in the refrigerator for a cold salad next day.
  • Any excess cooked noodles can be used in any clear soups.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Whole Moong Dal Subzi

I call this my back-up recipe. Its for those days when you are tired and forgot to plan on what to make for dinner or when you have guests and you want to add another dish to the menu but don't want to slog for it or if you only have onions and tomatoes in your vegetable tray and don't want to make chutney. 

I was a bit apprehensive when I saw this recipe on Manisha's Indian Food Rocks. What? No soaking the moong beans overnight?? Doesn't this go against the law of the beans?? But that's the beauty of the dish. Simple, quick and yes - no soaking time.  The only thing you will need is a pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time. This recipe is a faithful representation of the original. The only difference is I used ginger-garlic paste instead of grated ginger and garlic and sometimes increase the red chilly powder or  add marathi moggu while seasoning. 

Whole Moong Dal Subzi

Recipe Source: Indian Food Rocks Blog
Serving Size - Serves 2


Whole Moong Dal (Pacha Payaru) - 1 cup
Onion - 1, chopped
Tomatoes - 2, chopped
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1t
Green Chillies - 2
Dried Red Chilly - 1, broken
Cinnamon - 1/2 stick
Cloves - 3
Bay Leaf (Briyani leaf)  - 1
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Cumin Seeds - 1t
Marathi Moggu (Dried Capers) - 1, optional
Red Chilly Powder - 1t
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 t
Ghee - 2 T
Coriander leaves - for garnish
Salt to taste


1. Heat ghee in a pressure cooker. Add bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, marathi moggu, broken red chilly,cumin and asafoetida.
2. Add chopped onions and fry well.
3. Add ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell goes.
4. Add tomatoes, green chillies and turmeric and fry well.
5. Add the washed and drained moong dal and mix well.
6. Add 4 cups of water and the red chilly powder and salt and mix well.
7. Close the lid and pressure cook for 4 whistles.
8. Switch off the stove and wait for the pressure cooker to use up all the pressure and the pressure valve indicates that its safe to open.
9. Open the cooker and check for salt and spice. Adjust salt or red chilly powder and heat the gravy till the raw smell (if you have added red chilly powder) goes.
10.Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rotis.


  • Using ghee instead of oil adds a lovely flavor to this dish. 
  • You can use soaked moong dal as well. But you dont have to pressure cook in that case.

P.S - As this dish was not planned ahead, I clicked the pics when I made it for dinner last night. Hence the poor lighting!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bruschetta - A piece of Italy

While the name sounds exotic and fancy, Bruschetta is basically lightly toasted bread slices topped with anything from chopped tomatoes and olive oil or mushrooms sauteed in butter and pepper. It can also be topped with meat or beans or cheese or just about anything else. The only constants being bread, garlic and oliveoil.

Bruschetta was the first step towards my foray into the world of Italian cuisine. I love to keep it simple with just chopped tomatoes, a bit of capsicum and finely chopped onions, green chillies, chilli flakes and garlic with a generous drizzle of olive oil. I usually make it with normal sandwich bread but if you are feeling fancy then do get a french loaf. Don't worry about dropping the tomato pieces as you bite into a delicious slice of heaven. Its totally worth it :-)

 La Dolce Vita!!



Tomatoes - 2, diced into small cubes
Capsicum - 1/2, diced into small cubes
Chopped Onion - 1 T, optional
Green Chilly - 1 or Chill Flakes - 1 t 
Garlic - 1 clove chopped + 1
Olive oil - 1/4 cup (I used light olive oil)
Parsley flakes - 1t (you can replace it with finely chopped fresh coriander)
Salt to taste
Sliced Bread - French loaf or whole wheat sandwich bread.


1.Slice one clove of garlic and dip it into a small spoon of olive oil and rub it on both sides of the sliced bread.
2. Lightly toast the bread in a pan

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning / spices /salt. Set it aside for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to meld.

4. Spoon the mixture onto the bread. Drizzle the juices from the mixed topping.

5. Garnish with cheese (if using).
6. Serve immediately.


  •  I had only cheese slices at home but if you have a bit of mozzarella, then pinch off a dollop and place it right on top before serving.
  • Using French loaf would prevent the bruschetta from becoming soggy. So if its for a party, then use a french loaf. If its for your 3 pm hunger pangs - any bread would do :-).
Topping Suggestions:
  • Instead of regular tomatoes you can use cherry tomatoes cut in half. A combination of red and yellow cherry tomatoes will make it photogenic too.
  • Basil adds a wonderful depth to the dish. Roll couple of leaves and slice thinly and mix into the topping.
  • Olives will also make an interesting addition. Slice and add to the ingredients.
  • Guacamole would also make an interesting twist. Mash up some avocado with the rest of the ingredients mentioned in the recipe. Add a dash of lemon juice and some finely chopped coriander.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Babycorn and Cauliflower Subzi

A side-dish that has been adapted from one of Tarla Dalal's popular low calorie recipes. We make this very rarely at home as the primary vegetables used here - cauliflower, babycorn and capsicum are on PK's hate list. Its easy to make and adds depth to a dinner menu by being a side to the breads as well as rice. I have made it semi-dry but you can easily make it into a full gravy by increasing the quantity of items that are ground to a paste. The same recipe can be used for green peas and potatoes or mushrooms. Refer notes for a low calorie version of the same dish.

Babycorn and Cauliflower Subzi
Adapted from Tarla Dalal: Low Calorie Recipes


Babycorn - 6-8, blanched* and sliced
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup - blanched and drained
Capsicum - 1 cut into strips
Garam Masala - 1t
Turmeric - 1t
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Tomato - 1, finely chopped
Cumin - 1t
Cloves - 1
Cinnamon - 1 small stick
Oil - 1T
Salt to taste

To Grind

Onion - 1 large
Grated Coconut - 2T
Green Chillies - 4
Garlic - 3 cloves
Ginger - 1" piece
Cumin - 1t
Dhania (Coriander seeds) - 1t
Coriander leaves - 1 small bunch


  1. Grind the items given under "to grind" into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin, cloves and cinnamon.
  3. Add the onion and fry till it turns pink
  4. Add the ground paste and fry well till the raw smell goes. If its too thick add half a cup of water.
  5. Add the turmeric, blanched babycorn and cauliflower and mix well.
  6. Add the tomatoes and mix well.
  7. Add the capsicum and garam masala and salt and fry till the vegetables are cooked.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves and lemon wedges.
  9. Serve hot with rotis or pulao.


  • To make it low calorie, Add onions and tomatoes to the blanched vegetables. Add some garam masala, salt and red chilly powder and mix the ground paste into this along with a teaspoon of oil. Mix well and allow to marinate for 15 minutes. In a saucepan, add the vegetable mixture and add 1 cup of water. Allow to cook and until the excess water drains out. Serve hot.
  • *Blanching refers to the process of dunking the vegetables in salted boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. The key is to get it slightly cooked without losing the natural crunch.
  • Increase or decrease the quantity of green chillies to adjust the heat quotient of the dish.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Urulai Roast - Pan Roasted Baby Potatoes

I was surprised to find a basket of small potatoes lying hidden at the vegetable vendor today. I picked up a small bag to make an all time favorite potato dish - spicy baby potatoes roasted to a golden hue and garnished with loads of coriander leaves. It makes for a beautiful appetizer for parties - just stick a couple of toothpicks in for visual impact or takes its place in a thali meal as well.

 Simple, fast and tasty.

Urulai Roast - Pan Roasted Baby Potatoes
Recipe Source - My own


Potatoes - 10 - 15
Red Chilly Powder - 1 T
Turmeric = 1/2 t
Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup finely chopped
Salt to taste

For Seasoning

Mustard Seed - 1t
Broken Urad Dal - 1t
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Oil - 1T


1. Pressure cook the baby potatoes for 1 whistle or boil them in water for 7 to 10 minutes. Peel and set aside. If using normal potatoes, peel and cut into big chunks.
2. In a mixing bowl, add the chilly powder, turmeric and salt and mix well.
3. Toss the boiled potatoes in the spice powder mix well. Using a form prick randomly if the potatoes are big.
4. Heat oil in a pan and add items for seasoning one by one. Toss in the potatoes along with remaining spice powder and mix well.
5. Allow the potatoes to roast well until it becomes golden brown.
6. Add the coriander leaves and mix well.
7. Remove from stove and serve hot.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Baingan Bhaja - Pan Roasted Brinjal

Brinjal is not an easy vegetable to love. You either love it or hate it totally. I came across this recipe while browsing through one of my favorite blogs.It sounded exotic but is actually a very simple recipe with minimum ingredients. This recipe takes its own variations in different cultures. There is a Gujarati version and a Bengali variation and also has its place in Andhra cuisine. Some claim that the dish originated in Uttar Pradesh. Couple of ingredients change in each state but the concept of dabbing brinjal slices and pan roasting them remains the same. 

Brinjal is a bland vegetable and with the correct combination of ingredients, it transforms into a tasty and wholesome dish.  This is one such recipe that makes the mushy brinjal look beautiful and adds an exotic touch to your everyday lunch. Its a simple recipe and definitely low calorie as it uses very less oil.

Baingan Bhaja
Recipe adapted from -


Brinjal / Aubergine - 1 (I have used the long Japanese ones. But any kind should be okay)
Red Chilly Powder - 1 T
Coriander Powder - 1 T
Garam Masala - 1/2 t
Salt to taste
Turmeric - 1/2 t
Lemon Juice - 1 t
Oil - 1 T


1. Slice the brinjal into thick discs and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
2. In a plate mix the chilly powder, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric and salt along with the lemon juice into a thick paste. Add water if required.
3. Pat each brinjal slice on the spice paste on both sides and stack separately one above the other.
4. Heat a cast iron tava or shallow fry pan. Add a drop of oil and place a brinjal slice on top. Arrange the rest of the slices similarly and after a minute turn the slices over and cook on both sides until done. The cooked slices should not be soggy or mushy but must be soft and chewy with a bright golden orange hue.
5. Serve hot with dal and rice.


  • This can be grilled in the oven though I haven't tried it. Its quite easy and fast on the stove top itself.
  • Must be served and eaten hot. Keeping it until the next meal would result in making it soggy. Leftovers can be made into raita and served for the next meal.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Crimson Spice - New Name, Same Soul

When I first started this blog in 2010, I chose the blog name - Spice Valley -  it was to represent my love for using spices in my kitchen.  However,today a simple Google search threw up more than a dozen blogs and restaurants with very similar names. This could lead to a lot of confusion and the entire essence of the blog can get diluted. Its just like a brand name and multiple products of different nature with similar brand names creates confusion for the end-users. So I had to go through the process of coming up with a unique blog name that is easy on the tongue, catchy and most importantly represents the essence of the blog and its author. While Spice Valley made sense when I started off, thinking about it today I felt that it does not embody the soul of this blog that has grown with the sensibilities of the author-cook (:-). After a lot of delibration and ofcourse web searches to ensure exclusivity, I decided on CRIMSON SPICE. 

Crimson - A shade of color that defines various shades of red - from rasberry to magenta, from ruby to purple. It is symbolic of strength, brightness  I love it as red is my favorite color. And I love the way it represents the primary element in any kitchen - fire. From fiery red chillies to the exotic saffron, the color Crimson holds sway amongst the spices. What better name to  a blog that represents all these elements. So Spice Valley shall henceforth be CRIMSON SPICE. 

I will be working on a new thumbnail and logo and meanwhile the posts will keep coming..

Do let me know on what you think of Crimson Spice? Is the name a progressive change from the old one? What does Crimson Spice evoke in your mind??

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mysore Rasam

Move away Nigellas and Jamie Oliver!

One of the first cookbooks that I had bought was Meenakshi Ammal's Samaithu Paar (Meenakshi Ammal's Cook and See). It is was first published in the year 1951 (wow!) and has been in circulation for more than 60 years. I have the Tamil edition though it is available in many languages.


The book had no glossy pictures. Infact its black and white and looks like a photocopy. I bought it for the primary reason that it covered the basics of cooking such as making rice, rough diagrams of cooking utensils etc. Yes. I was such a novice at cooking when I got married that I could not differentiate between dals and had to use the instruction manual that came with my pressure cooker. My disastrous experiences - with filter coffee powder mistaken as instant cofee, misjudged quantity of upma and pooris that were mistaken for papadams and chana dal misidentified as tuar dal and used for sambar - are stuff that will be retold in my house for ages to come. They will never let me live it down.

The book is written in a way that emulates how your grandmother / mother might instruct you. The dishes are vegetarian and what one would find in a typical South Indian household (with a touch of Iyer/Iyengar cuisine). 

Each recipe comes with easy instructions and multiple variations as well. Most of my daily cooking was and continues to be adapted from this book. A versatile book, one that I would recommend to be a part of every cook's library and a gift for every novice cook. It may not be a pretty coffee table book, but is an ideal   "ready reckon er. "

One of my favorite recipes from this book is Mysore Rasam. A delectable twist to the mundane rasam, it uses coconut along with the other usual inhabitants in rasam powder. 

Like all spice mixes, this rasam tastes awesome when the powder is ground fresh. But for the sake of conveniences, I have adapted the powder to stay in my fridge for a month. There is no mention of storage instructions in the book and I realized that its because the author would not have seen a refrigerator!!.

Recipe Source: Meenakshi Ammal Samaithu Paar cookbook


Tuar Dal - 1/4 cup, cooked and mashed
Tamarind - 1 gooseberry sized piece
Tomato - 1
Garlic - 2 pieces, smashed
Ghee - 1 t
Mustard Seeds - 1/4 t
Cumin - 1/4 t
Asafoetida - a pinch
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coriander Leaves - 1 sprig with the stem

Mysore Rasam Powder: 

Red Chilly - 6 or 7
Gram Dal - 1 1/2 t
Dhania (Coriander seeds) - 1 T
Black Pepper - 5 or 6
Grated Coconut - 1 T
Ghee - 1t


For the Rasam Powder

1. Roast all the ingredients except coconut under "Spice Mix" with a teaspoon of ghee. Just before switching off the stove, add the coconut and roast till brown.

2. Cool and Grind to a slightly coarse powder. This can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge.

For the Rasam

1. Add water to the tamarind and extract the paste. I zap it in the microwave along with the water for a minute and then extract the paste. Its easier that way.
2. Take the tamarind extract in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of water to it.
3. Add the cut tomatoes and smashed garlic and add the chilly powder and salt. You can also add a bit of your regular rasam powder but that's optional.
4. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the tuar dal and mix well.
5. Add a teaspoon of water to 1 to 2 tablespoon of the ground spice powder and add to the rasam. Bring to a boil.
6. In a small pan heat some ghee and add the mustard, cumin, asafoetida. Once it crackles, add it to the boiling rasam.
7. Garnish with coriander leaves and remove from fire.


1. Unlike the regular rasam, the mysore rasam contains coconut and hence cannot be left outside overnight.
2. Making the tadka (final seasoning) with ghee enhances the flavor of the rasam.
3. Just before placing the saucepan on the stove, taste the rasam and adjust spice or salt.

Note: This is not a paid review. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2 months and Growing

I cannot believe that its been two months since I "resurrected" this blog. Happy that I am posting on a regular basis even though I would love to post more.  I appreciate all the support and positive feedback I have receieved from my growing circle of friends. Thank you and looking forward to your suggestions and feedback on the food.

I am happy to share with you that Spice Valley has been joined  Foodie Blogroll and is now part of their bloglist. The Foodie Blogroll is a great platform to interact and share with fellow bloggers and I am looking forward to making new friends.

Watch out for more food posts coming your way!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tandoori Baby Corn

For those who are not native to Chennai, no trip to my hometown is complete without the "visit to the beach". After all Chennai boasts of the second longest beach in the world. The Marina. Forget that some portions of the beach are better left to imagination. But for most parts, it reflects the culture, the food and the lifestyle of the people of the city. TLC can make an entire series with just that beach.  Even the beach has its class divide. The common man's Marina with its push cart eateries, merry-go-rounds and of course the bajji stalls and the slightly posh Elliots with cafes and bistros lined near it and of course the weekend getaways along the East Coast Road with private beaches. It is still a statement amongst teens to say you are going to Elliots even though you secretly want to fly those kites near the lighthouse at Marina.

Coming to food, its an amalgamation of cuisines at Marina. Antony Bourdain would have a field day here (and probably be clutching his entrails the next)!. You have the "akka" who deftly drops an assortment of coated veggies into huge cauldrons of boiling oil (of questionable age) to bring up super hot bajjis. Of course who cares about the carcinogens when you have a steaming plate of chilli bajjis with chutneys that can make gun powder look like salt. And the essence of Marina can be seen in the little boys who run around with stainless steel buckets thoughtfully covered with a paper containing fresh "sundal" - boiled lentils with a seasoning of coconut, mangoes, chilies and salt.

 When I was a child I used to be fascinated by the vendor who sells Corn on the cob.She has a pushcart which looks like a bunker made of corns and in the middle is the coal stove. She deftly opens up a corn from its husk but folds it down like a handle. Then places it on the stove and then the fireworks begin. Sparks jump out in a rainbow as she keeps turning the corn. Once it has the sufficient black specks and is roasted, she takes it out, dips half a lemon into a bowl of salt and chilly powder and slathers it on the corn with a slight squeeze of the lemon. then refolds the husk as a container for the roasted corn and hands it to you. Eco-Friendly!!. These were the days before the advent of the stylish cup corn with multiple toppings or the exotic baby corn.  

These days we hardly go to the Marina. Its crowded, too much traffic and parking is a big problem. I remember the days as a small child, when we went there on Saturday evenings with my parents on a scooter. After running on the beach, we used to sit in the sand and share a corn between us. I was too small to bite the corn deftly so my mom had to take out the kernels one by one and give them to me. No crowd, no traffic  to worry about, no TV programmes to miss and of course no digital cameras to capture and post. Just memories...

Today's recipe is from the exotic cousin of the corn - baby corn. Simple to make and looks delightful at a dinner party or to a hungry child from school

Tandoori Baby Corn


Baby Corn - 10-12
Capsicum - 1 small, cut into squares
Onion - 1, cut into squares
Thick curd - 3 T
Red Chili powder - 1T
Coriander powder - 1T
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1T
Tandoori Masala powder - 1T (Optional but recommended. I used the Everest brand)
Salt to taste
Lemon juice - 1/2 t


1. Blanch the baby corn in hot water for 3 minutes and set aside.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients except the oil into a thick marinade. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients to your liking.
3. Marinate the baby corn in this marinade for at least 2 hour in the fridge.
4. Heat a cast iron tava and spray some oil. When the oil is smoking, place couple of pieces of baby corn, capsicum and onion.
5. Turn it around in 1 minute.
6.After another minute remove from the tava . Prepare the rest of the pieces the same way.
7. Serve hot with mint chutney, lemon wedges and salad.


1. You can grill it in the oven or microwave instead of the stove. The cooking time would depend on the appliance.
2. The same recipe can be used for paneer, mushroom and chicken. Do not blanch these.\

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali Sweets : Maa Laadu

Wishing you all a very happy Diwali. May the light fill your homes with love and warmth.

Here is a quick and easy sweet recipe. One of my childhood favorites. Does not require major preparations and requires just 30 minutes to make (and if you still haven't started on the Diwali sweets, then this is the one for you) and keeps fresh for at least 10 days.

Maa Laadu

Maa Laadu
Recipe Source: Amma
Makes 10 - 15 laddoos


Roasted Gram Dhal - 2 cups, powdered finely (udaitha kadalai and not kadala paruppu)
Sugar - 1 and 3/4th cup, powdered finely
Cashew - 10, broken to small bits
Ghee - 1/2 cup and 1 T
Cardomom pods/ Cardomom powder - 1/2 t


1.Sieve or mix with hand the powdered gram dhal and sugar in a big mixing bowl.
2.Add the cardomom powder and mix well.
3. Heat 1T of ghee and fry the broken cashews till golden. Add to the mixing bowl.
4. Warm the 1/2 cup of ghee on the stove or microwave.
5. Add the ghee a little at a time to the powdered dhal and roll into laddoos of desired size. Add little at a time and use pressure to bind it into a laddoo. Will take a bit of practice to get perfect rounds.
6. Keep making laddoos till all the dhal is used up. The ghee may not be utilized completly so use a separate ladle to pour.
7. If the laddoo looks a bit wet, then roll it well in the powdered dhal.
8. Store in airtight containers. Do not refrigerate.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gobhi 65

One of the first things I noticed on landing in Malaysia is that most restaurants consider vegetarians as a minority. Walk into any Mcdonalds and ask for a vegetarian burger (after reiterating that you do not what chicken, beef or fish in your vegetarian burger), you will either get a blank look or if you are lucky then you get the burger bun with some coleslaw in it. The only other option is the ubiquitous "fries" which is definitely vegetarian even if its fried in the meat fryer. But after couple of times, the sight of fries will terrorize you.

 Reminds me of good ole Chennai where vegetarians were the market drivers. Where else in the world can you find McAloo Tikki burgers and Paneer Burgers.

True to Chennai tradition, any popular non-vegetarian dish would have its vegetarian sibling. The preferred substitute being gobhi (cauliflower) or baby corn or paneer. Most food chains are aware that you cannot survive the Chennai market without recognizing the vegetarians. Its not just fast food and no it is definitely not a recent phenomenon either.  One of the most popular starters in South Indian restaurants is the Chicken 65. Succulent pieces of chicken marinated and deep fried to a beautiful golden hue and garnished with curry leaves, this dish is so famous, it has its own wiki entry. Walk into any restaurant and you will notice that for every chicken 65 ordered, there would be equal numbers ordering Gobhi 65 or aloo 65 or babycorn 65.

Gobhi 65 is a quick dish and for those with an OCD about eating cauliflower in restaurants, its easy to make and enjoy at home. Unlike the cutlets and samosas that require wrapping and rolling, this appetizer is relatively simple - just dip and drop.

Gobhi 65


Cauliflower florets - 1 cup
Oil to fry


3 T Corn flour
1 T Red chilli powder / paprika
a pinch of Turmeric
1 T ginger garlic paste
1/2 Eno fruit salt or Baking soda (optional but recommended)
Salt to taste


1. Soak the cauliflowers in hot water along with a tablespoon of salt. Remove in 10 minutes to retain the crunch.
2. Mix the cornflour, chilli powder, turmeric, ginger garlic paste along with water to consistency that is thinner than dosa batter.
3. Add the baking soda just before frying.
4.Heat Oil in a kadai. Dip the florets and fry in hot oil in batches.
5. Drain and serve hot with ketchup.


  • The dish has to be served hot. It will turn soggy if allowed to stay. You can make the batter in advance and fry it just before serving.
  • The same batter can be used for baby corn or capsicum.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple mango pickle

There are pickles and then there are more pickles. Every state, every street and every house in India have their own tried and tested pickle recipes. There are elaborate ones which require 3 or 4 paatis* to sit around on a summer afternoon chopping and mixing the ingredients. Then there are simple ones that take about 5 minutes to make and even lesser time to finish eating it.

I love raw mangoes. Even more than the reknown banganapallis, rhumanis and neelams. I was always envious of people who had mango trees at home and would look wistfully at those laden trees enroute to school and wonder why we have the boring coconut trees at home instead of the interesting mango. You can't climb them, you can't make pickles from coconut, and you don't wait in anticpation of summer  - they are laden throught the year. You see the point! but anyways nobody listened to my logic and we still have those boring coconut trees. And no I am not going to experiment on a coconut pickle.

So As a child, every summer I eagerly look forward to the bounty of mangoes sent in from various neighbours who were blessed with mango trees. And every day, I would search various corners in the kitchen and pantry for the mangoes hidden from my eyes so that I wouldnt eat all of them at once. (Maybe thats why they never approved of growing mango trees at home. Would have been tough to hide a tree).

I vividly remember one season, when a grand aunt of mine prepared the authentic avakkai pickle at home. Each mango washed and dried by hand, cut into the right size with a little bit of the kernel stuck on it (to stop it from spoiling soon), careful measurements of pickle powders mixed into it and pouring ladle full of oil and allowing the mixture "to rest". What she actually forgot was to put the "jadi"** away from me. Like crows that crowd around vathals in the sun - I happily picked away at the pieces every time I walked past the room with the jadi. (I did walk past quite a number of times. Busy me). By the time she realized it, well what shall we say -  a jadi half full is better than one thats empty.

The reason for the story is to highlight my impatience when it comes to making pickles. So why take elaborate efforts at avakkai and vadumangai pickles, if its going to be eaten during the making itself. 

This simple and almost instant pickle recipe below is one that is served in most South Indian wedding meals. An instant pickle of diced mangoes in chilli powder,salt and oil mix. I have also added pickle powder to give it a zing but that is totally optional though I would recommend it. It may not have the longevity of the traditional pickles, but is a delight on a plate. It normally goes well with curd rice. But I eat it with everything. (I eat it as a snack too.)

** Ceramic jars used to store pickles, salt and tamarind.

Recipe Source: Own


Raw Green Mangor - 1 cup, diced
Red Chilli Powder - 1T
Turmeric - 1t
Salt - 1T (or to taste)
Gingelly Oil (Indian Sesame seed oil) - 1/4 cup

Pickle Powder (Optional but recommended):

Mustard - 1t
Fenugreek - 1/2t
Cumin - 1t


Mustard - 1t
Asafoetida - 1pinch


Dry roast the pickle powder ingredients separately and grind into a fine powder.

Wash and dry the mango thoroughly and dice it. (You can leave the skin on if you prefer it. I havent.)
Mix the chilli powder, turmeric and salt with the diced mango and set aside. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the mustard seeds and add asafoetida.
If using pickle powder, add half a teaspoon of it to the oil and immediately switch off the stove.
Pour the oil mixture onto the mango pieces. Taste and adjust the spices.
 Mix well and allow it to rest for half an hour. 

Serve with curd rice.


This pickle will last for a day in room temperature and in the fridge for 2 days depending on the quality of the mango. I havent tested this as there is nothing left at the end of the day.
The remaining pickle powder can be stored in the fridge for later use but the flavor is reduced. So would recommend grinding only required quantity.
  • You can add finely chopped garlic if you like the taste.
  • The salt and chilli powder can be adjusted according to your taste.
  • You can totally omit the pickle powder and still make it with just chilli powder and salt along with the rest of the ingredients. It would still taste awesome.
  • The pickle powder is quite pungent. So add a little at a time to arrive at your preferrred taste.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quick Capsicum Fry

This recipe is a keeper for those days when I am too tired to do elaborate side dishes. It requires minimal prep and can be a side for rice based dishes at lunch or for rotis at dinner time. Total time required is under 10 minutes including chopping.



Capsicum - 1 large, sliced
Mustard seeds - 1t
Urad dal - 1t
Cumin - 1t
Red chilly powder - 1t
Fenugreek powder (methi) - 1t (refer notes)
Turmeric - 1/2t
Salt to taste
Oil - 1T


Heat oil in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal and cumin.
Add the capsicum and fry well.
Add the turmeric, chilly powder and salt and fry until the capsicum is cooked.
Add the fenugreek powder and mix well. Leave it on stove for about 2 minutes. Switch off and serve.


Fenugreek powder is made by dry roasting methi(fenugreek)) seeds until they turn a bit dark and grinding them into a powder. With its health benefits, methi powder can be used in many dishes and can also be added while making buttermilk. Adding this powder to sambar gives a lovely aroma. Just a pinch of it is sufficient as too much of it can make the dish bitter.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Broccoli Usili

For all its fame of being a powerhouse of nutrients, the Broccoli is definitely an acquired taste. Whether you have acquired it or not will be evident from the presence or absence of various bits of the vegetable pushed around your plate.

Glamorous as it sounds "Oh I'm making broccoli soup today!, I make sure that I have broccoli on my plate everyday", I am yet to acquire the taste. To me, eating broccoli makes me feel like a cow chewing its cuds.  Dont get me wrong. A lot of people love broccoli. It is a healthy vegetable and I am plagued by guilt everytime I walk past the broccoli basket in the market - mocking at me for not feeding healthy vegetables to my family. So invariably it finds its way into my fridge and looks at me every day as it moves through its lifecycle hoping that my sleepy face would take it out that day.

Well today is a lucky day for that broccoli in my fridge. (or it would have been its last day). At our house, we make usili with everything that is in a terminal stage. The addition of the lentils adds protein (and masks the flavor and texture - remember the cow!), brings the dish alive (pun intended)  and makes me happy that not only did I save the vegetable from the dustbin, but I actually made it even more healthier. Wow.

Combined with a simple rasam, this makes for a complete meal. And makes me acquire the taste for broccoli.

Broccoli Usili
Recipe Souce: Own


Broccoli - 1, cut into small florets
Chilli Powder - 1T (I use Sambar Powder)
Oil - 1/2 t
Salt to taste

For the Usili

Tuar Dal - 1/4 cup
Channa Dal - 1/4 cup
Dried Red Chillies - 4-5
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Turmeric - 1/2t
Mustard seeds - 1 t
Urad dal - 1t
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Oil to grease the plate



Soak the dals for 2 - 3 hours and grind it coarsley along with the chillies, asafoetida and turmeric.
Using an idli plate (or any steamer plate or a microwave steamer), place the ground usili like idlies (dumplings) and steam them for 15 minutes.
Remove and crumble the required quanitiy of the usili idli on a plate. The rest of the usili idlies can be removed and stored in ziploc bags/containers in the freezer for later use.
Heat one teaspoon of oil in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves. Add the crumbled usili and fry well. Remove onto a plate.
In the same pan, add 1/2 teaspoon of oil and fry the broccoli florets. The color will turn dark green. Do not allow it to wilt. Add chilli powder and salt and fry until they are cooked but still crunchy. Add the usili and fry until the broccoli is mixed well. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and rasam.

  •  The same recipe can be used for various vegetables like beans, karamani and even spinach.
  • While using the frozen usilis, defrost them by leaving it in room temperature for about an hour or in the microwave by sprinkling a bit of water and reheating it in a closed container for 2-3 minutes.
  • The dals and spice levels can be adjusted to each one's preferences. It is a very forgiving recipe.
  • Any excess usili can also be made into pakoras by adding chopped onion and chillies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kuzhi Paniyaram

For a long time, the traditional paniyaram was relegated to the kitchens of chettinad households. Invented by diligent home chefs who were keen on not wasting food especially idli/dosa batter that was painstakingly hand ground. So the batter took on various avataars - idli on day 1, dosa on day 2, uthappam on day 3 and finally it became the delectable paniyaram. Spongy and soft with just the hint of onion, chillies and spices, the humble kuzhi paniyaram has come a long way.

The traditional kuzhi paniyaram pan has 7 or 11 holes/indents. The pan itself can be of aluminium/hindolium, cast iron or non-stick. The latter required minimum conditioning while the first two need to be seasoned and conditioned well.

This dish will take a bit of oil and even if you are a serious health freak, it is hard to say no to a plate of steaming paniyarams with spicy coconut chutney.There are so many variations to the paniyaram. It can be sweet, or made with grated veggies or if you are adventurous , then with stuffings as well.

The recipe below is for the basic paniyaram made with an onion and green chilly seasoning.

It goes well with any type of chutney, but the best match is coconut chutney or peanut chutney.

Recipe Source: My Mother in Law
Makes 21 paniyarams


Dosa Batter - 3 cups (refer notes)
Onions -2, finely chopped
Green Chillies - 4, finely chopped
Mustard seeds - 1t
Broken urad dal - 1t
Channa dal - 1/2t
Curry leaf - 1 sprig finely chopped
Coriander leaf - 1 sprig finely chopped
Ginger - 1 inch, minced finely
Oil - 1T + 1/2 cup
Grated carrot - 1/4 cup, optional


Heat oil in a kadai. Splutter mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, ginger and curry leaves. Add green chillies and onion and fry till onion turns pink.

Mix the seasoned onions and coriander leaves and grated carrot with the dosa batter and allow it to rest for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, heat the paniyaram pan. Add about 1/2 spoon of oil in each of the holes. (I used a nonstick paniyaram pan. Cast iron/aluminium pans would require more oil.)

Mix the batter and pour a small ladle full of batter into each of the holes. Close with the lid and wait for 3 mins. Open the lid and using a skewer or the stick that comes with the pan, turn each paniyaram gently without making any obvious damage to the paniyaram. Cook without the lid for another 3 mins. When both sides are evenly browned, remove them using the skewers. (To check if the paniyaram is done on the inside - a skewer inserted should come out clean).

Repeat the steps till you finish the batter. Any leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours.

Serve hot with spicy coconut chutney.

  • Use sour dosa batter for the best results. I normally use batter that is atleast 5 days old.
  • Batter should be in the same consistency as used for dosa.
  • Grated veggies like carrots, beetroot, zucchini add color, flavor and nutrition.
  • You can also use Ebelskiver or poffertjes pan if you cannot get a paniyaram pan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


While the Lord took 3 days, it has taken almost 2 years for me to get back to blogging. A cross country move, an even more overwhelming move from a career woman to being a stay at home mom.  And some minor road bumps like a laptop in terminal stages, a changing school schedule, and a broken camera all worked in tandem to put my blogging in the back burner.

But Spice Valley was never far in my mind. Every recipe that I tried, every food photo that I oggled at, and every pretty plate that I fixed would keep reminding me of the blog that was to be.

I'm finally back in the game again :-). A new camera (I promise to redeem those lousy mobile phone shots on couple of old posts), an additional 3 hours of time in a day (Ad now goes for full day school yay!) and the hours spent on all my favorite food blogs has now motivated me to get back to what I love doing (apart from the eating bit).

So here.'s to a new (and hopefully sustainable) blogging...

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