Stuffed Eggplants


Usually the eggplants are stuffed with dried powders (which I love !). This is a different version in which the eggplants are stuffed with a simple tomato-onion masala. Very quick and easy.

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Clean the eggplants. (When you shop for this recipe, get the smallest eggplants).

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Steam them over boiling water for 6-7 minutes. You can also pressure cook them for 1 whistle or just blanch them in boiling water. whichever way, try not to overcook.

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While the eggplants are getting steamed, prep the filling. Fry some mustard seeds, cumin and fennel and sauté chopped red onions.

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Sauté chopped tomatoes and crushed garlic.

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Add turmeric powder, salt, chilli powder, dhaniya powder or any of your favorite masalas….even sambar powder will do. Add very little water (less than 1/4 cup) and let everything blend and cook well.

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Let the water evaporate and the masala thicken. The filling is ready and by now your eggplants should be done too.

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This is the right texture, its cooked but not too soft.

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Make a horizontal and vertical slit , but keep the eggplant intact.

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Generously spoon the filling into the eggplants. Rub the leftover filling on them.

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Add very little oil to the pan, both the eggplants and the masala filling are already cooked, so the oil is only to crisp the skin…2 tsp of oil is plenty. Sear one side for 30 seconds.

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Sear the other side.
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When the sides are seared, prop them up to cook the bottom… 

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Serve with steamed rice. Goes very well with yoghurt rice.

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Besan puttu / scrambled chick peas flour


This is a  perfect rainy day snack without frying (ready in 5 mins). If you crave for bajji/pakora on a rainy evening, but double thinking it because of its deep frying, try this, same flavor, same taste sans the frying.
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Mix 5 tbsp. of besan (chick peas flour) + 2 tbsp. of rice flour + 1 tsp turmeric powder + 2 tsp chlli powder + salt to taste.
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Add water and make batter with the consistency of bajji/pakora batter.

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In a non-stick pan add a tbsp. of oil and fry mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and chopped green chillies.
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Sauté chopped red onions and coriander leaves. (You can add thinly sliced bell peppers also).
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Pour in the prepared batter and stir.Image
Keep stirring as the batter thickens.
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Try breaking the big chunks while stirring…
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This is just like scrambling an egg. If you don’t use a non-stick pan, you might have to use more oil.
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And its done… This is traditionally a side for rice, but I like it as a snack.
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Halwa


This decadent sweet that melts in your mouth ,filling your body and soul with sweetness is made slightly different in different parts of India. This recipe is a version of the famous southern “Tirunelveli Halwa”.

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All purpose flour – 1 cup
sugar – 1.5 cups
cashew nuts
ghee – I/2 cup
cardamom powder and food color

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Knead the flour to a dough by adding water.

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Soak the dough in 1/2 cup of water and set aside for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes squeeze the dough in water and a milk like liquid comes out. If you are wondering why we shouldn’t just mix the flour and water to the consistency of milk….there is a reason.

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When you filter the liquid from the previous step, you will be left with the solid shown in the purple bowl. Throw it away.  If we had just mixed the flour with water it wouldn’t be possible to separate this solid and it will make the halwa very gummy.
You can skip all the above steps by soaking the whole wheat in water,  grinding it and filtering to take the wheat milk out.

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Set the wheat milk aside for 7-8 hours. I usually leave it overnight. After 8 hours, there will be some water separation.

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The water that has separated can be used to make the sugar syrup.
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Mix the sugar in the water and heat. (preferably use a non-stick pan).

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Add the cardamom powder and food color (orange or yellow).

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We are looking for the 1 string consistency . But when you see the sugar syrup boiling and bubbling….its time. Pour in the flour milk.

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Keep stirring, things will progress very fast from here, so do not leave the scene .

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You will notice the liquid thickening into transparent lumps..

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When it starts sticking to the bottom add ghee..little at a time.

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Fry the cashews in 1 tsp ghee. Fold in the cashews.

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When the halwa rolls like a ball easily without sticking to the bottom or sides ..you know its done.

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Transfer it to a greased dish. (Notice the ghee in the bottle. I started with the full bottle and have used about 1/3 rd of it. )

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The halwa should be easily transferrable. If it sticks too much then its not done yet. If it happens, all you have to do is, heat it for another 3-4 minutes as needed. It seems like a lot of steps, but its quite easy. Hope you try this.

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Sodhi – Vegetable stew


This is a popular stew in the Nellai region(very south of Tamilnadu, India), infact in some communities the grandeur of a wedding is determined by the presence of this stew in the lunch menu. It comes very close in taste to Thai coconut milk soup….I just like the fresh flavors….very tropical, very refreshing..
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A couple of options here. The best option is to go fresh all the way. Grate one coconut, roughly about 3 cups of coconut gratings.

  • If you are using the frozen grated coconut, use about half the pack.
  • If you use coconut milk cans, you will need about 2 – 8 oz cans.
  • Do not use coconut milk powder or desiccated coconut for this.

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Grind the coconut with 1.5 cups of water and take the milk out. This is the first coconut milk. This should be thick and creamy. (the consistency of heavy cream). If you are using cans, reserve about 1 cup of the milk without adding any water.

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Return the coconut to the blender and grind with 1.5 cups of water, squeeze the milk out. This will be the second milk (with the consistency of 2% milk). If you are using cans, mix 3/4 cups of coconut milk with 3/4 cups of water.

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Repeat the same process. This is the third milk. This time the milk should will be much thinner (the consistency of fat free milk).  If you are using cans, mix 1/2 cup of milk with 1 cup of water.

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Grind green chillies + ginger to a paste. This will be the only source of heat for the stew, so take accordingly.

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Cook 1/4 cup of moong dhal (split green grams)  thoroughly and mash it.  (This is an optional ingredient, the purpose is to thicken the stew. )

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These are the veggies : pearl onions, garlic cloves, cabbage, carrots, green beans and potatoes. All the prep is done…and the rest is quite easy.

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Add 2 tsp of oil to the pan and sauté the onions and garlic.

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Add the veggies and sauté for a couple of minutes.

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Add the “third” coconut milk (the thinnest milk).

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Add a pinch of salt,, it is very easy to oversalt this stew, so add only a pinch at a time. Cover and cook. When the potatoes and carrots are 3/4 ths done, add the chillie ginger paste.

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Stir in the cooked dhal..

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Add the “second” coconut milk and also a pinch of salt. cook until the vegetables are cooked well and the stew will thicken because of the dhal.

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Reduce the heat to “low” and add the “first” coconut milk (the thick and creamy one). after you’ve added the thick coconut milk, do not bring the stew to boil. Just simmer it for five minutes.

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Fry the mustard seeds and curry leaves in a spoon of oil and add it to the stew. Turn off the heat.  After 10 minutes, add the juice of 1/4 lime and mix well and its done.

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This stew goes well with everything : idli, dosa, appam, idiappam, poori, roti, rice or you can just drink it like a soup… simple ingredients, fresh flavors and a great tasting stew.

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Peppered mushrooms


A quick and healthy side for the busy weekday..
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white / button mushrooms
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red onions, coriander leaves (cilantro), ginger, green chillies and garlic..all minced. You can add ginger garlic paste too, but I think the flavors work better when minced.
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Sauté the chillies, garlic and ginger in a tsp of oil.
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Sauté the onions and cilantro.
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Add the mushrooms. Sprinkle salt and cover and cook for 1 minute.
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Mushrooms will sweat and they give out a lot of water.Add 2 tsp of turmeric powder (optional).
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Add loads of freshly ground black pepper.
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Cook until all the water evaporates.
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If needed add a tsp of oil to crisp the mushrooms slightly.
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And its done. While it makes a great side for rice, I have also used it as filling for wraps, quesadillas and sandwiches. The whole thing will be done in 10 mins, unless you really take your time to chop  🙂
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