Pav Bhaji Sandwich

Pav Bhaji Sandwich

This is one of my oldest and best experiments so far. Right from my college days, this was (and still is) my go to dish whenever there was turai or brinjal for lunch at home. White or whole wheat bread filled with vegetables filling flavored with pav bhaji masala makes these sandwiches a complete and quick meal without any guilt. My siblings and I have always relished these quick and flavorful sandwiches.

Pav Bhaji Sandwich

You can add finely chopped garlic along with onions if you like. You can also add vegetables like beans or sweetcorn. Do not overcook the veggies or they will lose the crunch. Cheese is optional. You can add a slice of cheese to the filling just before you grill it. I use olive oil to grill the sandwiches, you can use butter too. I grill my sandwiches on a tava; Sandwich maker should give the same results too.

You can prepare the filling in advance and grill the sandwiches just before eating. I pack these sandwiches for lunch sometimes and they taste good but I would still prefer them fresh and hot.

Pav Bhaji Sandwich

Ingredients

Makes 10-12 sandwiches (depending on the size of the bread)

  • ½ cup onions
  • 1 cup carrot
  • ½ cup capsicum
  • ¼ cup green peas
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp pav bhaji masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 20-22 slices of bread
  • Butter/olive oil as required

Recipe

Heat oil in a kadhai or non stick pan. Add onions and sauté for 1-2 minutes till they are translucent. Add capsicum and sauté for a minute. Add carrot and green peas and sauté for another minute. Add pav bhaji masala and salt. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes mixing in between. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool slightly. Fill between two slices of bread and grill on tava or a sandwich maker using butter or olive oil. You can add cheese slice to the sandwich before grilling. Serve hot with ketchup.

Rainbow Cupcakes

Rainbow Cupcakes

Cupcakes are my favorites when it comes to baking so when Hannah (my wonderful neighbor) offered me some cake flour and icing a day before Christmas, I already knew how I am going to use it. Unlike other parts of the world, Christmas is not cold and nice in Singapore. To add to my complain about bad weather, this year it was a super wet Christmas with the rain refusing to stop whole day. I wanted to add color to the cupcakes to make us feel happy and colorful in this gloomy weather.

I decided to make simple vanilla cupcakes with as many colors as I can to make them look even more prettier. You can also use sour Indian curd instead of the milk and vinegar mix. But this one needs less whisking than mixing the oil and curd.

You can add as many colors as you like and you can even layer different colors, give a marble effect or try any other creative ideas instead of baking single colored cupcakes. Make sure not to over fill the liners.

Rainbow cupcakes

After looking at these colorful cupcakes, icing was really not on my mind but thanks to Hannah again, I had a super delicious chocolate icing. Whipped cream, or cooked flour icing is ideal with these cupcakes. To add a festive touch, I tried icing couple of them with white icing and tried making Christmas trees with the icing too. These cupcakes can be enjoyed for up to 3 days when you store them in refrigerator. Remember to warm them up for not more than 10 seconds before eating.

Rainbow Cupcakes

Ingredients

Makes 24 mini cupcakes

  • 240 gms cake flour (you can use all purpose flour too but this helps to make the cake soft, and spongy)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 120 gms sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Different gel colors ( I used blue, orange, pink, yellow, green, purple, and red)

Recipe

Mix the milk and vinegar in a bowl big enough to add the wet ingredients and keep aside for couple of minutes (1-2 minutes is enough). Combine cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and sift it 1-2 times so that the ingredients get mixed properly. Put the sifted flour in a deep bowl. Add the sugar and mix well.

Add the oil and vanilla extract to the milk and vinegar mix and whisk well (atleast 2-3 minutes) till all the ingredients are mixed well. Add this liquid to the dry ingredients. You can make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients and mix it using a whisk. Do not over mix this batter. Just mix it enough so that there are no lumps.

Divide the batter into 7 bowls. Add few drops of color to each bowl and mix gently till the color is incorporated into the batter completely.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line the cupcake mould with cupcake liners and fill each mould with different color batter. Do not fill the liners more than 2/3rd with the batter. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes. The cupcakes are done when you put a toothpick in the center of the cupcake and the toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes completely and ice with the desired icing. I have used chocolate butter cream icing. The cooked flour frosting goes very well these cupcakes.

Fruit Trifle

Fruit Trifle

Trifle is an English dessert made of layers of fruits, jelly, cake, custard, and whipped cream. This one of my most asked for recipe by my family and friends. I tasted this dessert for the first time in London at my husband’s cousin’s place. It was love at first bite 🙂 . This recipe does not include the sponge cake. This looks difficult but with a little preparation it is a very easy dessert to prepare.

Use fresh fruits whenever possible but the tinned fruits work well too.  I like to use apple, pear, and peach for the bottom layer and cherries, raspberries, and strawberries for the top layer.

You can choose any flavor of jelly but I like raspberry or strawberry jelly with this dessert. Jelly can be set at room temperature. But if you are in a hurry, you can refrigerate the Trifle to set the jelly faster. Make sure the jelly is set before adding the next layer.

Preparing thick, creamy, and lump free custard can be the only tricky part in this recipe. You need to add or reduce the custard powder based on the quality of custard powder you use. I use vanilla flavored custard powder for this dessert. Once you take the custard off from the gas, and it has cooled down a bit, you can blend the custard using a blender to make it smooth and lump free (be careful while blending as the custard might be hot still). Cover the custard with a cling film to avoid getting a dry layer on top of the custard while cooling it.

Whipping cream in India, especially during summers is hoping for magic. After trying innumerable times and failing almost every time, I rely on the ready to whip cream powder or the ready to serve whipped cream for the final layer. When using the ready to serve whipped cream, add it just before you serve the Trifle.

This dessert tastes best when served/eaten chilled. You can set the layers in individual serving sized ramekins and add whipped cream and top it with fruits just before serving.

Fruit Trifle

Ingredients

Makes one 9” bowl of Trifle

Layer 1

  • 250 gms/ 1 cup chopped Fruits (peach, pear, pineapple, cherry, apple)

Layer 2

  • Jelly 40gms/ 2 ½ tbsp
  • 200 ml water

Layer 3

  • Custard vanilla flavor
  • 235 ml/1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar

Layer 4

  • Fresh cream (as much as you like)
  • Strawberries/Raspberries/Cherries

Recipe

Mix the custard powder in 2 tbsp milk. Bring milk to boil in a non stick pan. Add sugar and mix well. Add the custard powder and milk paste. Mix well. Keep mixing to make sure that the custard does not stick. Once the custard thickens, switch off the gas and take the pan off the gas. Keep aside to cool. Cover the custard with a cling film to avoid getting a dry layer on top.

Arrange the fruits in a glass bowl. This is the bowl in which you will be adding all the layers.

Take jelly in a dry bowl. Pour boiling water over the jelly crystals and mix well. Once this mixture is slightly cooler, pour this over the fruits and keep it aside to set. Jelly can be set at room temperature too. It takes 20-25 minutes to set.

Once the jelly is set, pour the prepared and cooled custard and spread it evenly. Keep it in the fridge for 40-60 minutes to set.

Whip the cream with sugar as per taste. You can also use the ready whipped cream or ready to whip cream powder.

Add a layer of cream and chill for 2-3 hours. If you are using the ready to use whipped cream, add it just before serving. Top the final layer with fresh berries of your choice. To serve, cut through the layers just like you would cut a cake. Top it with fresh fruits or more whipped cream if you like.

 

Idli

Idli

Idli is my most favorite food. I can have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This popular and healthy breakfast from south India is a sour dough preparation made with urad dal and rice. Dal and rice are soaked, ground and fermented overnight. The batter is then steamed in special idli moulds to get soft and fluffy idlis. This recipe is my mom’s recipe using urad dal and idli rava. These are the idlis you get in Hyderabad and for me these are the best idlis in the world. You can get idli in Hyderabad 24×7. There are famous road side joints which have people queuing up at even 2 am for soft melt in the mouth idlis.

Idli recipe looks very simple but getting soft and fluffy idli takes lot of effort and experience. It depends on the quality of urad dal and idli rava. If the rava is not washed properly, the idlis will turn out yellow. Adding fenugreek seeds to the urad dal will help the batter ferment well. If the dal is less, idlis will be hard. Some people add poha to the urad dal. But adding excess poha will make the idlis flat.  Adding bottled or cold water while grinding the batter also helps to make the idlis softer.

The consistency of idli batter should be like whipped cream. It should fall of from spoon easily. Do not over fill the mould. Leave some space for idlis to expand. Idlis can be enjoyed with different chutneys and sambhar. The most common combination for idli is coconut chutney and sambhar. I like it with karam podi.

Idlis make one of the healthiest breakfasts. Top the idlis with ghee or butter if you like.

Idli

Ingredients

Makes 20-30 idlis depending on the size of Idli mould

  • 500 gms (2 cups) Idli rava
  • 200 gms (3/4 cup) urad dal
  • 10 grams (2 tbsp) fenugreek seeds

Chutney

  • ½ cup coconut
  • 3 green chillies
  • ½ cup yellow roasted chick peas
  • ¼ cup ground nuts roasted
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • Salt to taste

For chutney

Grind all the ingredients for chutney to a smooth paste using little water.

For Idli

Wash the idli rava 3-4 times under running water. Soak in water and keep aside 6-7 hours.  Wash the urad dal and fenugreek seeds 3-4 times under running water.  Soak in water and keep aside for 6-7 hours. Drain water from urad dal and grind it to a smooth paste adding little water. Drain the water from idli rava and add the urad dal paste to it. Add salt and cover and keep aside over night to ferment. Remember to leave enough space in the utensil for the batter to rise as it ferments. If the temperature outside is cold, keep the batter in a microwave or oven (do not switch them on) or any warm place.

Once the batter is fermented, mix it lightly. Pour the batter in greased idli mould and steam for 8-10 minutes. Check the idli and steam again for few minutes if required. Serve hot idlis with chutney and sambar.

 

Vegetarian Lasagna

Vegetarian Lasagna

Lasagna or Lasagne as it is known in Italy is one of the oldest Pastas. This flat sheet of pasta is cooked in alternate layers of pasta, sauce, and cheese. This is not a quick or easy dish to make but the taste and flavours make up for all the hard work. I learnt this vegetarian version while studying in the UK and improvised on it over time. This is my kind of Friday night dinner when friends come over and the dinner continues almost till Saturday morning.

The most common vegetarian lasagne I have seen is the one with spinach and white sauce. I use both white and red sauces. For the red sauce you can also include vegetables like zucchini or squash. You can grill the vegetables and chop them if you want to add a smokey flavour to the red sauce.

I like to keep the white sauce very simple. No cream, No butter, and No cheese. My idea is to get the flavour and taste from herbs. I use lots of fresh basil leaves.

Even with the layers of cheese, you can choose to just sprinkle the cheese instead of adding full layer every time. I use ricotta, cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack cheese. The grated cheese packets available in supermarkets can save a lot of time and money. They come in variety of cheese mixes like Italian pasta and Mexican flavours.

Choose a rectangle dish to bake pasta and cut the pasta sheets if required. You can make lasagne in advance and heat it up when required. Just like pav bhaji, pasta also tastes better the next day. Lasagna is a meal in itself and can be enjoyed as lunch or dinner.

Vegetarian Lasagna

Ingredients

Serves 5-6

  • 10 lasagna sheets
  • Cheese (cheddar, ricotta or cottage, mozzarella) as per taste

Red Sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 ½ tbsp. chopped garlic
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped mixed bell peppers
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup broccoli florets steamed for 2 minutes
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • Salt as per taste

White Sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour (maida)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tsp black pepper powder
  • Salt as per taste

Recipe

For the Red Sauce

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add chopped garlic and oregano. Cook for 1 minute. Add chopped onions and chilli flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes or till the onions are translucent. Add carrots and bell peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato puree and salt and cook for 8-10 minutes mixing the sauce occasionally. Add broccoli and cook for 1 more minute and switch off the heat. Keep aside.

For White Sauce

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the all-purpose flour and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the flour get brown. Add milk and mix well ensuring there are no lumps. One way is to switch off the heat, cool the sauce a little and blend it smooth using a hand blender. Put the sauce back on gas and add salt, pepper, and basil. Cook till the sauce thickens (approximately 2-3 minutes). Cover and keep aside.

Boil the lasagne sheets as per the instructions on the pack.

To Assemble the Lasagna

Take an oven proof dish. Spread a layer of red sauce. Cover it with lasagna sheets. Spread a layer of white sauce. Sprinkle some cheese or add a layer of cheese if you like cheese. Add a layer of lasagna sheets followed by layers of red sauce, lasagna sheets, white sauce, and cheese. Finish with a final layer of lasagna, red sauce, white sauce and cheese on the top.

Cover with an aluminium foil. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 12-15 minutes or till the cheese is crusty and brown on the sides. Let it rest for 5-6 minutes before serving.

Pita Pockets with Stir-fried Vegetables

Pita Pockets with Stir-fried Vegetables

Pita pockets filled with stir fried veggies. This is one of my experiments gone right and my favourite food for make ahead meals. This healthy meals is an excellent combo of multi grain pita pockets filled with fresh stir fried vegetables with a hint of pesto. These pita pockets are quite filling and can be had as a meal itself.

I put all my favourite veggies in this one. You can choose the ones you like. It helps to steam the carrots, beans, and broccoli ahead. Cook the filling on high heat throughout and it will be a good mix of crunchy bell peppers and soft steamed veggies. You can also experiment with the sauce. I like the pesto flavour for this one but the Chinese flavour (chilli, soya, and vinegar) works great too. This filling works well with a wrap or bread too.

Pita pockets are a part of Lebanese food but they are very versatile and can be enjoyed with variety of fillings. I prefer the multigrain pita pockets but you can go for the whole wheat or plain pita pockets too. You can toast the pita bread ahead and warm them up just before eating.

This is one of my best bets for healthy make ahead meals and can be had as dinner combined with a dip and may be some hot soup.

Pita Pockets with Stir-fried Vegetables

Ingredients

Makes 10 Pita Pockets

  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger finely chopped
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp basil chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic chopped
  • ¼ cup onion cut lengthwise
  • 1 cup bell peppers julienned
  • 2/3 cup broccoli steamed
  • ½ cup green beans cut lengthwise and steamed
  • ½ cup carrots cut lengthwise and steamed
  • ½ tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 ½ – 2 slices of cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 pita breads

Recipe

Grind the basil and garlic coarsely with 1 tsp olive oil. Keep it aside. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add oregano, chilli flakes, and onions and sauté. Add bell peppers and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add green beans, carrots, and broccoli and sauté. Add the salt, pepper, and the basil garlic paste. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cheese slices and switch off the gas. Once the cheese melts, mix the filling well and keep aside.

Heat a tava or griddle and lightly toast the pita breads on both sides. Once the bread is lightly toasted from both sides, cut the pita bread into two. You should have two pita pockets now. Divide the filling into 10 portions. Fill one portion in each pita pocket and serve warm. You can serve it with tomato ketchup or a honey mustard dip too.

Pasta with Red Sauce

Pasta with Red Sauce

Pasta for me is undoubtedly one of the best foods on earth. This particular recipe is the first pasta recipe I learnt (I have modified it a little). My friend Deepak’s mom taught me to make this and I am so thankful that she introduced me to this wonderful and versatile food. Pasta can be mixed with various sauces vegetables. Arrabbiata or the spicy red sauce is the most common sauce that we vegetarians especially Indian prefer. This sauce is slightly different version of the simple arrabbiata sauce.

There are different shapes of pasta available but Penne pasta goes well with the red sauce and especially Penne Rigate holds up the tomato based sauces well. Spaghetti is another pasta that goes well with the red sauce. Choose the whole wheat pasta if you want a healthier version. Things to keep in mind while boiling the pasta are; always cook the pasta aldente (that is till it is just done). Over cooking will take away the taste and texture both. Secondly, you do not always need to add oil while boiling the pasta. Just add plenty of water and your pasta will never stick.  

Being a vegetarian does not mean adding just cheese to you pasta sauce. You can make it tastier and healthier by adding the vegetables of your choice. You can experiment with the sauce and add vegetables like carrot, broccoli etc and toppings like corn, olives etc. Traditionally pasta doesn’t have red chilli powder but I add it keeping in mind the taste of people I am cooking it for.

Try to mix the sauce just before serving. Pasta tends to absorb the sauce. If you want to prepare it in advance, save some extra sauce and add it just before serving the pasta. You can prepare the sauce in advance and just boil and toss the pasta in the sauce just before serving. You can sprinkle some cheese on top of the pasta or if you are a cheese lover, just add a layer of cheese on top of pasta and bake till the cheese melts.

Pasta is best enjoyed as a main course. Serve it with warm garlic bread.

Pasta with Red Sauce

Ingredients

Serves 2 (or 1 if you are a pasta lover like me)

  • 250 gms or 2 cups of penne pasta (choose whole-wheat if you want a healthier version)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ¼ cup onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • ½ cup finely chopped mixed bell peppers
  • ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh cream
  • Cheese to taste and liking (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Recipe

Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet. You can use the following method if you want to cook it al dente (literally means to the tooth)

In a thick bottomed vessel, heat 2 ½ litres of water. Add 15gms salt to it. Once the water starts boiling add the pasta and cook on medium flame for 11-12 minutes. When you chew the pasta, there should be slight resistance at the centre. Drain the pasta and keep aside. At this time, you can add a little olive oil to the pasta and toss them well so that they do not stick once they are cold.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add oregano and garlic. Sauté for a minute and add onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes or till the onions are translucent. Add mixed bell peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes mixing the sauce in between. Add the tomato puree, red chilli powder, and pepper powder. Mix well and cook on slow flame till you see oil on top (approximately 5-6 minutes). Keep stirring the sauce in between. Add the fresh cream and switch of the gas. Add the boiled pasta and toss well. If you are not comfortable tossing the pasta, you can use a wooden spatula to very lightly mix the pasta with the sauce making sure you do not break the pasta.

Adding cheese is optional. You can sprinkle parmesan cheese on hot pasta just before serving or if you love cheese with pasta, arrange pasta in a baking dish and cover it with grated cheddar cheese. Bake till the cheese melts and serve hot.