Tricolour tarts

Tricolor tart

Cooking up something one considers a 'difficult' recipe always gives that smug satisfaction. I'm no great shakes at baking, except that I follow the instructions diligently. That, combined with sensible substitutions, has always yielded me edible results. ie. no one has wanted to play bouncing ball with my muffins or use my cakes as a cheap alternative to dental extraction !!

I've baked muffins, cookies, breads, cakes but tarts are one thing I had never tried before- probably because the amount of butter that goes into making the tart shell has never been within my 'healthy' cooking boundaries. But what the hell- sometimes it's the pride of baking a beauty, that takes more priority than counting calories. As the same time as I was having those 'tarty' thoughts at the back of my mind- I came across Estelle's Basic Tart shell recipe- which seemed like a breeze. Ideas for the filling were dime a dozen, but I just decided to use stuff that needed to be used up from my refrigerator.

Armed with a couple of 4 inch tart shells and some fresh veggies and some creative juices to top it all- and the result was these two beauties,a little rustic looking though due to the not-so-perfect shape of the shells.

The twins emerging from the oven


1/2 recipe Easy Quiche Crust (Actually this was a little less than half-froze the remaining dough)
My substitutions were one cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup all purpose flour instead of
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
Half the quantity of butter suggested
1 tsp of thick yogurt instead of creme fraiche

The dough was then spread into two, four inch tins.

For filling-
1 red onion-sliced
1 green pepper-deseeded, sliced
1 ripe tomato-deseeded, sliced
Handful of sweet corn kernels
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 T dried Italian herb mix (Oregano, basil and thyme )
1 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp salt

2 T Mozarella cheese-grated
1 egg white for glaze / 1 T milk
1 tsp freshly chopped basil
1 tsp olive oil

Heat the oil in a non stick pan. Add the chopped garlic, saute for 1/2 min. Don't let it turn brown / golden.
Add the remaining ingredients except cheese, egg and basil.
Saute the veggies for 3-4 min on a medium flame. They should be soft yet maintain their shape.
Fill the stuffing into the tarts. Brush with egg while / milk.
Sprinkle 1 T of grated cheese on each tart. Place in oven at 200 C for 5 min or so, until cheese melts.
Garnish with freshly chopped basil.

The shell was not too crispy and flaky because I didn't use the quanity of suggested butter. The herbed veggies made an excellent filling along with the melted Mozarella.
Serve as a side with pasta or tomato-basil soup.
You could even make these as tartlets and serve them as party snacks / appetizers.

More the number of colours in your food, the richer it is in anti-oxidants. There's yellow, red and green here and that's good enough a reason for me to send this for Cate's ARF Tuesdays.

Beetroot Sambar - Beets and lentils

Sambhar is the staple food in any Tamilian household, and I’m sure many other South Indian households too. It’s a balance of protein from lentils, vitamins from the vegetables, calcium and potassium from tamarind. It is served with rice and a dry vegetable curry.
Many a people have this misconception that there is just one sambhar. However, a true blue Tamilian will beg to differ. There are sambhars that differ due to the kind of veggies used and due to the method of preparation. Vegetables that can be used in a Sambhar – Madras onions (most popular, carrots, okra, Pumpkin, Radish, Sweet Potato, Potato, Drumsticks)
Greens like spinach, fenugreek leaves, sprouted pulses

As a kid, I would love messing my hands with the peel when my grandmom used to be busy chopping beets up. I would also love the natural red blush-on effect when the peel was rubbed on the cheeks -was probably discovering organic make-up in those days by doing so- :D

I’m not too fond of the vague sweet taste, almost a metallic kind of taste in the beetroots that we get here. There are only two ways I can eat this vegetable, one is to grate some parts of it into a spicy curry-where it imparts a brilliant colour without imparting much of its taste, and the other is in a beetroot sambar.


¾ cup toor dal (yellow lentils)
2 medium sized beetroots pressure cooked yet firm and skins removed with a tug
1 ½ T sambhar powder
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 lemon sized ball tamarind-soaked in water –extract obtained / 1 T tamarind paste
1 pinch asafoetida

Beetroot sambhar in a traditional 'vengala chatti'


Pressure cook the dal with a pinch of turmeric and asafoetida after rinsing thoroughly.Chop the cooked beets into thick slices and then quarter them.
Heat some oil in a pot. Pop the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves.
Add the cooked chopped beets, sauté around for 3-4 minutes.
Put the cooked dal, and tamarind extract into the pot and let simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the sambhar powder, salt, and boil for 3 minutes.
Season with salt. Simmer for 2 minutes and take the pot off the heat

Serve with steamed rice dotted with ghee .

This recipe is rich in anti-oxidants and iron. This one goes for Kalyn's WHB and a delayed entry for Anthony's curry Mela if he will take it up this time that is !

Morning glory muffins

My morning glory muffins

I was just thinking to myself- what is the difference between a recipe I find in a blog and a recipe that I come across in some general food site? The answers were very clear. When I see it in a blog, I know for sure, there is someone just like me, who has tried and tested it and in case I face any problems with the recipe, there is always someone to fallback on. The great degree of interaction and support is what makes it so different from just another food website.

Each day I come across many inspiring recipes. Some I just admire from a distance, probably because I'm vegetarian and the recipe is not. Some, I wish I could make - but the ingredients' availability factor is a setback. Some I actually end up making (read that as quite a few ).

Two such recipes that I made last week (with a little modification ofcourse ) were inspired from two wonderful food blogs that I came across recently.

-Morning glory muffins from Kitchen culture by Zoubida in Canada
-Basic tart shell recipe from My French Cuisine by Estelle in Sunnyvale, CA

I loved both the blogs for their simplicity and clarity of instructions. 

basket of muffins

Morning glory Muffins- my version

1 cup whole wheat flour-sifted
1 cup all purpose flour-sifted
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup Splenda / Zero cook and bake
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 cups shredded carrots
1 large apple shredded
3 T raisins
½ cup grated coconut

2 eggs
2 very ripe mashed bananas
3 T vegetable oil
½ T vanilla extract


Preheat oven at 175 C
Mix ingredients one through coconut in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, vegetable oil and vanilla extract together till well blended.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry- and stir to combine well. Don’t stir too much though.

Pour mixture into lined / sprayed muffin tray. Bake for 25-30 min or until a tester comes out clean.

This is all the good stuff you would like to have in your breakfast- Wheat flour, veggies, fruits and eggs.

Makes 12 medium sized muffins. These freeze well too. So you could make a double batch, store in Ziploc, throw them into the freezer and microwave them for a minute when you want breakfast on the go or in a jiffy.

Recipe for Gujarati Handwo - Steamed lentil dish

Piled up wedges of 'handwo'

Handwo is a savory rice and lentil cake that is served as breakfast or a snack. This recipe hails from the state of Gujarat in Western India.

The rice and lentils are soaked, ground and fermented. The batter is then fortified with vegetables, spiced and steamed. The result is a beautiful savory cake, very high in protein and fibre, low in fat and absolutely divine to taste.

For all the plus points, this recipe does need a fair bit of preparation-which is best left to the weekends.
Let me run you through the ingredients- and don't let the long list bog you. I'm sure most of the ingredients can be found in the pantry of an Indian kitchen / or easily available in an Indian store.

1 cup rice ( I used Kolam)
1/4 cup chana dal
1/2 cup moong dal
1/2 cup tur dal
3 green chillies
1" piece fresh ginger root -finely grated
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup yogurt (preferably sour)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
Vegetables: 1 1/2 cups of grated carrots, grated cabbage, finely chopped spinach and shelled peas
For tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 T sesame seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds

Rinse the rice in water 2-3 times and soak in sufficient quantity of clean water.
Mix the three lentils together, rinse them in water similarly and soak.
The soaking process will take 5-6 hours. Now, grind the rice with the green chillies into a smooth paste. Remove into a big bowl. Grind all the lentils together into a smooth paste. Mix it with the rice paste thoroughly. Add the curd to this mixture, stir well.
Keep the bowl tightly covered and keep in a warm place overnight. The bowl has to be large enough, because the batter will rise due to fermentation.

Take the fermented batter. Add the veggies, salt, turmeric, grated ginger. Give the batter a good stir. You can taste at this stage to check for salt and spices. If you want it spicier, you can add some red chilli powder.
Grease a microwave safe round pan. Pour the batter into it. Microwave at 80% power for 12 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Alternatively you could use a steamer for 15 minutes or so. I used the microwave and it was very fast and came out clean.
Once done, remove and cool for 5 min. Keep a plate to cover the pan, invert the pan so that the cake falls onto the plate.
Cut it into 8 wedges. Heat the oil, add the tempering ingredients. Once the sesame seeds turn golden, remove from flame. Garnish the handwo wedges with the tempering.

The veggies are optional- but they give it a great crunch and add a huge dose of vitamins and fibre.
Using just 1 tsp of oil, it's too good to be true. Frankly, you can eat it just like that but you could serve it with green coriander chutney.
Do take the effort to make this for breakfast sometime, and you can put your legs up and relax instead of making lunch. Because this is one hell of a filling breakfast!

I'd like to submit this recipe for Cate's ARF Tuesdays.

Recipe for Raw Mango Cardamom Chutney

Mango and Cardamom chutney brings together a most favourite fruit and a warming aromatic spice together in a jar. My favourite use for green cardamoms is in Masala Chai!

Green cardamom is a spice that mainly grows in India and Sri Lanka, and is widely used in Indian cuisine, in most traditional desserts. The black cardamom that is slightly bigger in size, is used to add fragrance to rice dishes like Pulao and to curries.

In South Indian cuisine, cardamom is used as a flavouring agent in Payasam, Kesari, Halwa, Ladoos and many more. However, it is not used in any savoury dishes, atleast not to my knowledge. 

mango cardamom chutney

Spicy Cardamom Mango chutney

2 medium sized firm raw mangoes- chopped into small pieces
4 medium sized pods green cardamom-peeled and roughly powdered
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 pod garlic-peeled and chopped
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
1 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
1/2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tbsp demerara sugar / jaggery
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water


Put the raw mango pieces, vinegar and water in a saucepan. Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes until mangoes are softened. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10-15 minutes with constant stirring until the mixture is syrupy. Let it cool and ladle into a glass jar.

This is tangy and spicy and the cardamom pods lend to this chutney a wonderful aroma that we don't generally associate with spicy pickles.

curd rice and chutney
Mango cardamom chutney served on chilled curd rice


Serve as an accompaniment with parathas / curd rice / plain chapathis. This is an oil-free pickle with healthful ingredients.

The original recipe from 'best ever curry cookbook' by Mridula Baljekar is a sweet chutney that uses 2/3rd cup of muscavado sugar. In case you like a sweet and sour chutney, by all means add the sugar!

This is my entry for The Spice is Right II–”Sweet or Savory?” @ Tigers and strawberries

Recipe adapted from Mridula Baljekar's best ever curry cookbook

How to store grated coconut | 12 Coconut Recipes

Because coconut has the tendency to spoil, grated fresh coconut is best stored in an airtight box in the freezer.  This gets problematic when I need a bit of the stuff and I have to struggle with the whole big lot- break off a little and thaw. Or end up bending knifes and spoons in the process of scraping out a small portion from a big frozen chunk. 

This is my kitchen tip for you on how to store a grated coconut, and use it very conveniently.

1. Break off the shell by hitting it hard around the central circumference on a big stone or a stony edge.

2. Usually, it will break off into two halves. You can keep a bowl beneath, while breaking to collect the sweet coconut water. In some occasions, the shell may break off leaving the whole coconut inside intact (the way it is in the picture). In the latter, you will have to cut open the whole nut into two halves-collecting the coconut water in a bowl.

3. Grate or scrape out the flesh using a coconut scraper.

4.Stuff the grated coconut into an ice tray as in the picture above. Leave overnight in the freezer.

5.Extract the coconut cubes and save them in a Ziploc bag in the deep freezer. Now you can have exactly as much fresh coconut as you want and yet save the rest.

6.Whenever you need some of this for a recipe, just remove the required number of cubes into a bowl and microwave them for 1 min in the defrost mode.

Some of my favourite coconut recipes on Saffron Trail

Thenga Thogayal to go with Upma Kozhakattai (spiced coconut chutney)
Poricha Kootu - South Indian mixed veg curry with lentils
Chow Chow Thogayal - Chow Chow chutney

Orange Rum Cake for the Monthly Mingle

Coming up next- is something I made for Meeta's Monthly Mingle . Well, there's nothing much happening in India on the football front with the exception of Kolkata -where the 3 chief interests are Phood, Phish and Phootball (meaning food, fish and football) Kindly note that Phood and Phish are listed separately.

I haven't decided which team to cheer. So, it's easier to just take sides with the team that wins in the end and I shall be celebrating, with the Orange Rum Cake.

This is Tarla Dalal's recipe and i have tinkered with it a little!


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter (recipe says low fat butter- but I haven't come across low fat butter in our grocery stores)
1/2 cup sugar or splenda (recipe uses 8 sacets of sugar substitute)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup buttermilk (made from 2 1/2 tsp low fat curd )
1 tsp orange rind
3 tbsp rum


Pre heat the oven at 400 F/ 200C. Grease a 5" baking tin and keep aside.
Sieve the wheat flour and baking powder together and keep aside
Cream the butter and sugar / sugar substitute together in a bowl (mix them together until soft)
Add the orange juice, buttermik, rind, rum and what flour mixture. Mix well.
Pour batter into greased tin.
Bake for 20-25 min at 400 F / 250 C until a tester comes out clean.
Cut into 6 wedges.

Serve as a dessert with a shot of rum.

Note: You can skip the rum if you wish and add 3 tbsp of milk instead.

Visit the official FIFA world cup site

Also, check out the SHF#18- Candy is Dandy but Liquor is quicker

Recipe for Green omelette

Eggs, olive oil, herbs, onions, spinach, pepper, foccasia bread, and not to forget, a ripe juicy papaya...these were the ingredients of our Sunday morning breakfast today. I love fritattas- the way they look like a pizza when they come out of the oven- all topped with cheesy goodness. Also because one can eat them either hot or cold, and at any time of the day.

Since I have a small sized oven into which my regular saucepans can't fit, I can only make a stuffed omlette-kinda, non-baked version of the fritatta.

Ingredients for the Green Omlette:
3 eggs
1/3 cup-chopped spinach
1 medium sized onion-sliced
5-6 green pitted olives

1 jalapeno / green chilli - sliced(if you like the spicy kick)
1 tsp mixed dried herbs ( I used oregano and basil )
3-4 Fresh basil leaves-torn
3 cloves garlic-finely chopped (you can use fresh green garlic leaves instead)
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp milk
salt to taste
1 tbsp Olive oil

Heat the oil on a non-stick pan. Add the garlic, onions, spinach with a pinch of salt. Saute for 2 min, until spinach wilts and onions soften. Remove onto a plate and cool.

In a bowl, crack 3 eggs. Add milk, salt, herbs, freshly ground black pepper, jalapeno, olives. Beat well. To this, add the sauted spinach-onions. Beat some more.

Keep a 9" non-stick pan on medium flame. Coat the pan with some olive oil. Pour the beaten egg mixture to the pan. Slightly move around the mixture, so that the liquidy part fills the gaps. Keep doing this until the omlette starts solidifying. Reduce the flame, and cover with a lid for 30 seconds. The omlette will fluff up considerably and the lower side would have turned golden.

Flip it over carefully and cook the other side until golden brown too. Once done, remove onto a plate immediately. Serve warm with toasted bread and fruit.

You can use any of the bell peppers, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pepper in this recipe. 

Minty cucumber raita

I love the fragrance of mint, especially fresh mint leaves. And there's nothing like having a small potted plant of mint in your kitchen garden. The evening breeze brings a lovely waft of that wonderfully fresh fragrance. The Jasmine does put up some fierce competition to that though!

I keep looking for opportunities to use mint in my daily cooking, despite the rumours of 'you know what' that surround it! On the other hand, mint has been a part of age old remedies for relieving bad breath, stomach cramps, flatulence, nausea and many more.

Mint tea, mint rice, mint parathas, mint on salads, mint in gravies- I just love it in everything.

Here's a quick cucumber raita flavoured with fresh mint leaves.

Raita is a yogurt accompaniment to rice or is eaten as a salad. This one has cucumbers, fresh mint leaves and the garnish is a delicate sprinkling of fresh grated coconut.

What you will need:

1 1/2 cups fresh yogurt ( should be fairly thick-use homemade or Greek yogurt for more flavour)

2 medium sized cucumbers- peeled and grated
1 T chiffonade mint leaves ( proud to say that these were from my little balcony garden )
Some freshly ground black pepper
Rock salt (regular salt if you don't have rock salt)
1 big green chilli-finely chopped
Whole mint leaves-for garnish
1 T fresh grated coconut-for garnish


Beat the yogurt with the salt into a smooth consistency. Add the grated cucumbers.
Mix in the mint leaves, green chillies, salt and ground pepper.
Garnish with the whole mint leaves and coconut.
That is all there is to it.

Serve chilled.


This recipe will serve 2-3 people.

If you use hung curd for this recipe, you can very well use this, as a dip for crudites or a spread for sandwiches.

Serve it as a side with biryani / pulao

This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging.

Ginger Sesame Hakka Noodles and the love for Indian-Chinese

We all love Chinese food don't we? Especially when it is Indo-chinese, which means spicier than authentic chinese, and nothing like authentic chinese.
This is was one of the flavours I missed the most when I was in the US. The problem could be easily solved by making the trip to the local Indian store and buying bottles of Ching's Secret Dark Soy Sauce and Green Chilli Sauce. Some green chillies, red chillies, fresh ginger, fat garlic cloves and an Indo-Chinese meal was just an arm's length away!
However in Bombay, one doesn't even need to take that much effort. Every Udipi, every college canteen and every road side food vendor is familiar with "Chinese" and will dish out "Chinese" at some speed !
For those of you who aren't in India- I must update you on the Indo-Chinese fusion foods availables at our friendly-neighbourhood Udipi:

Idli Chilly Fry: Stale Idlis cut into wedges, deep fried till crunchy and rolled in Chinese soysauce gravy

Gobi Manchurian ( You must pronounce this as GoPi Manchurian- this almost seems like the name of a propah South Indian boy with a surname that rhymes with Subramanian )

Chinese Bhel- Substitute the puffed rice with fried noodles, the green and sweet chutney with soy and chilli sauce, the potatoes-onions-tomatoes by shredded carrots-cabbage-spring onions and voila you have Chinese Bhel

Spring Dosa- Our very own Sada dosa smothered with Chinese sauces- filled with cabbage, carrots, onions, coriander, coconut (yes, you heard me right), rolled up, and cut into bite sized pieces. This can fit into a bite only if you open your jaws as wide as you've opened for the root canal of your farthest molar tooth ! This Spring dosa is served with sambhar and coconut chutney alright!

Want to know more about the Indianization of a Chinese Meal? Look at the menu card below esp. the spellings- after all laughter is the best medicine !

Though all the above tastes good and all of that, I'm never too sure of the quality of ingredients, esp. the oils and vegetables used. I love to prepare Chinese food on a weeknight, as its fast to cook and good to eat ( Sorry 'bout the borrowed line ! ). Besides I love the robust flavours of ginger-garlic and sesame seeds. This when mixed with loads of vegetables and delicate noodles, is sure a meal that will make each one, a member of the Clean Plate Club !

Ginger-sesame Hakka Noodles


1 Packet Hakka noodles-cooked to instructions- and removed onto a plate ( I used Ching's Secret brand)2 cups of mixed vegetables cut into thin strips (Carrots, Cabbage, Babycorn, Onions)
1 T Fresh ginger root cut into thin sticks
1 T sesame seeds
½ T sliced garlic
2 green chillies-julienned
2 red chillies-crushed
1 ½ T dark soy sauce ( I used Ching’s secret)1 T vinegar
Salt to taste (adjust according to saltiness of soysauce )
1 T sesame oil / vegetable oil
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder (Optional )
1 T finely chopped fresh coriander

Put a clean, big wok on high flame. Heat the oil in the wok. Once heated, add the sesame seeds, ginger, garlic and chillies. Saute for 30 seconds.

Add the vegetables and salt- stir around on high flame for 3-4 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, 5-spice powder, cooked noodles, toss with a light hand.

Once thoroughly mixed, remove into a big bowl and garnish with chopped coriander.

Make a pot of jasmine tea and you are all set to enjoy an aromatic experience !

You may choose peppers, mushrooms, sweet peas for this recipe. This recipe will serve 2 people with BIG appetites or 3 with medium ones. We were in the former category !

Check these other dishes to make an Indo-Chinese Menu


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