Vegetarian Thai Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Papaya Salad

Raw Papaya Salad is a delicious dish available at all Thai restaurants and a favourite with most patrons. The mix of hot chillies with garlic, shrimps, tamarind paste and fish sauce makes for a riot of flavour, very pleasing to the palate. I have tried to make a vegetarian raw papaya salad that offers the taste without the shrimps and the fish sauce.


Raw papaya 1 small

Tomato 1 medium

Garlic 3 cloves

Chillies 6-7, really hot ones

Fresh cowpea (lobiya) 2-3, roughly broken into 2” pieces

Soy sauce 1 tsp

Olive oil 1 tsp

Rock salt to taste

Peanuts 1/2 cup, roasted

Cashew nuts 10, roasted

Tamarind pulp 1 tbsp

Lemon 1

Jaggery powder 2 tsps


Peel and slice the papaya into thin strips. I cut it the way the Thais do by scoring and slicing the papaya. You can follow this video to learn how to do it right

Soak the sliced papaya in iced water for 15 minutes. Drain. This will make the papaya crunchy.

Crush the garlic and rock salt in a wide mortar and pestle. Add the chillies to the mortar. I used the Indian Bird’s Eye chilli, known as Kanthari in Kerala. In Singapore, I used Cili Padi. The spiciness of the chilli gives the salad its special flavour and a kick.

Add the soy sauce and olive oil to the garlic and chilli in the mortar. Add the jaggery and the tamarind pulp. I soak a lump of tamarind the size of a small lemon in some water overnight and squeeze out the pulp and use it.

Add the drained papaya to the mortar and pound gently.

Cut the tomato into thick wedges. Add the cowpea and tomato to the mortar and pound gently to get out the juices of the vegetables.

Squeeze the lemon juice into the salad. Add the lemon skin too and pound gently. Toss well and then remove the lemon skin from the salad and throw it away.

Add the crushed peanuts and cashew nuts and toss well.

Serve with garlic bread or cheese toast.

Kerala Peanut Snack

Kerala Peanut Snack

The best place on earth to enjoy the monsoons is Kerala at the tip of the Indian peninsula. And there’s is no better snack during those rainy days than peanuts roasted with curry leaves and coconut oil. And I make it in the microwave making it an extremely healthy option as I use just 1 teaspoon of oil for a cup of peanuts.


(Serves 3)

Raw peanuts with skin 1 cup

Fresh curry leaves, a few sprigs

Coconut oil 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp


Wash the curry leaves and dry it with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a microwave safe dish.

Add the peanuts to the dish.

Add the oil and mix well.

Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 minute.

Add the red chilli powder and salt. Mix well. Use your fingers to crush the curry leaves, which will be crisp by now.

Cool and store in an airtight container.

Soy Bean and Tomato Curry

Soy Bean and Tomato Curry

This curry made of soy chunks and puréed tomatoes is not only extremely tasty, it is also a dish increasingly relevant in the current pandemic. One of the food groups that has become more important among the global population is protein. It is what you should have more of if you want to lose weight, of course. It will also help you regain your energy and strength if you have been unfortunate to contract Covid-19. And soy is a huge source of protein. Most important, it is delicious.


(Serves 4)

Soy chunks 1 cup

Tomatoes 3 large, puréed

Onion 1 large, sliced

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 4 cloves

Yoghurt 1 cup, whipped lightly with a fork

Cream 2 tbsps

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder 2 tsps

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Biryani masala 1/2 tsp

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Salt to taste


Soak the soy chunks in boiling water for 5 minutes and drain.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed wok and fry the onions till they become translucent.

Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle and add to the wok.

Fry till the raw smell of garlic disappears. It will take about 2 minutes.

Add the puréed tomatoes to the wok. Fry till oil leaves the sides of the wok.

Add the spice powders and salt. Add the yoghurt.

Add the soy chunks.

Add 1 cup of water and cook till the gravy thickens. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.

Serve with rice, chapatti, or naan.

Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

Fried Chinese Potatoes (Koorka)

The tuber known as koorka or Chinese potato in Kerala — botanical name Coleus rotundifolius — is a perennial herb native to Africa. I remember my mother making it occasionally and revelling in the delicious taste and firm texture of the dish. The Chinese potato is neither from China nor is it a potato. It belongs to the mint family.

I rarely cook it as it is difficult to clean and peel and leaves ugly black stains on the fingers. In Kerala, however, now you can get it delivered cleaned, peeled and sliced. So I cooked it and enjoyed both the cooking and the eating.


Koorka or Chinese potato 200 g, sliced

Garlic cloves 3, crushed

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Curry leaves, a few sprigs

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Chilli flakes 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp


Steam the koorka with salt and turmeric powder in 1/2 cup water in a pressure cooker for two whistles. Let the cooker cool naturally and open it. Continue to cook till the water evaporates.

Heat the coconut oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds.

When they stop sputtering, add the onions.

Add the garlic and curry leaves.

Add the cooked koorka and the chilli flakes.

Cook on low heat till the koorka is slightly crisp on the outside.

Serve with chapatis or rice.

Jackfruit Biryani

Jackfruit Biryani

It is jackfruit season in Kerala and the tree in my cousin’s backyard is laden with fruit. She gave me raw jackfruit and my original plan was to cook it the traditional way with coconut. But the smell of fresh raw jackfruit as it boiled was so tempting that I decided to try to make biryani with it. This is a recipe that I developed on the fly and the end result turned out delicious.


Raw jackfruit 300 g, cut into cubes

Turmeric 1 tsp

Salt 1tsp

Basmati rice 2 cups, soaked for 15 minutes and drained

Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Garlic cloves 5

Ginger 1” piece

Green chilli 1, chopped

Tomato 1 large, chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Oil 2 tbsps

Water as needed


Boil the raw jackfruit in two cups of water with salt and turmeric till all the liquid evaporates. By now the jackfruit should be tender but still succulent.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. You can use any vegetable oil.

Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds stop sputtering, add the onions. Sauté the onions till they turn golden brown.

Crush the garlic and ginger in a stone pestle and mortar. Add this to the onions. Sauté for a few minutes till the raw smell of garlic disappears. This should take only about 2-3 minutes. Add the curry leaves.

Add the cooked jackfruit to the pan and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and green chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the drained rice and mix well. Add the spices and add about 3 cups of water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the biryani and cook till the water evaporates. By now the rice will be cooked.

Switch off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad or mango salsa.

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo Parantha (Potato Pancakes)

Aloo paranthas or wheat pancakes stuffed with potatoes are a favourite with most people. I have found that my friends all enjoy hot potato paranthas, irrespective of race, nationality or gender.

This aloo parantha can be made even if you don’t have the traditional implements — chakla or marble rolling tile, belan or rolling pin, and tawa or concave griddle. The potato stuffing is mixed into a batter of whole wheat flour and water and then made into pancakes.


Potato 1 large, boiled, peeled and grated

Onion 1 medium, finely chopped

Green chilli 2, finely chopped

Red chilli powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves, a bunch, chopped

Atta or whole wheat flour 1 cup

Water for batter

Oil 1 tbsp


Mix the boiled potato with the onions, green chillies, salt, coriander leaves and red chilli powder and mix well. Add the oil and mash it all together.

Add water to the atta and make a smooth better. Add half a teaspoon of salt.

Add the potato mix to the batter and whisk well. Add more water if needed.

Heat a nonstick griddle and pour a ladle full of batter. Spread to make a thick pancake. Cook for a minute and flip it over. Apply some ghee and cook.

Transfer to a plate. Make similar pancakes with the rest of the batter.

Serve hot with a salad and plain yoghurt.

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Mutton Rogan Josh (healthier option)

Traditionally Mutton Rogan Josh, a delicacy from Kashmir, is made by cooking lamb in clarified butter or ghee. Of Persian origin, rogan means oil and josh means passion, just as it does in Hindi. The intense red colour of the curry comes from a herb called ratan jot or alkanet. I don’t use it in my recipe, however. Also, I have used a mix of vegetable oil and ghee instead of just ghee, which I find too rich. I use mutton or goat meat instead of lamb. This is leaner, has more minerals and less cholesterol. I use whole fennel seeds instead of the powder as I love the taste better. I also use a pinch of turmeric, something I use for all meat dishes because of its antiseptic quality.


Mutton (goat meat) 1/2 kg

Onion 1 large, sliced

Ginger 1” piece

Garlic 5 cloves

Bay leaf 1

Garam masala 2 tsps

Red chilli powder 3 tsps

Fennel seeds 1 tbsp

Ginger powder 1 tbsp

Turmeric 1/4 tsp

Yoghurt 1/2 cup, whisked

Saffron a few strands

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Ghee 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves for garnish


Add the oil and ghee to the pressure cooker and add the onions. Cook on low heat till the onions turn golden brown and caramelise. This will take 10-15 minutes. Do not hurry this process. Stir often.

Make a paste of the red chilli powder, fennel seeds and ginger powder with a little water.

Crush the ginger and garlic in a pestle to make a rough paste.

When the onions are done, increase the heat and add the ginger-garlic paste as well as the bay leaf. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add the mutton pieces and fry for a few minutes. Add the chilli paste and mix well. Add the turmeric powder.

Add the saffron to the whisked yoghurt and add to the mutton. Add salt and mix well.

Cook till the oil begins to leave the sides of the pressure cooker.

Add 1 tsp of garam masala powder. You can either make it yourself from the whole spices or buy it from any Indian store.

Add about 1/2 cup water and close the lid. Cook on high heat for six whistles. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the steam release gradually.

Open the pressure cooker, add 1 tsp of garam masala and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

By now the mutton should be tender and almost falling off the bone. Test with a fork and if needed, cook a few minutes longer.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or roti or naan.

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cottage Cheese)

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cottage Cheese)

The best palak paneer I have had is from a restaurant called Moti Mahal, not far from where we grew up in Delhi. I had to try a few times before I developed this version that is quite close to the taste I remember from my childhood.


Spinach leaves 1/2 kg, washed, steamed and puréed

Onion 1 medium, sliced fine

Garlic 6 cloves, sliced in half

Ginger 1” piece, julienned

Tomato 1 medium, sliced fine

Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

Coriander powder 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Water 3 cups

Paneer or cottage cheese 200 g, cut into cubes

Oil 4 tbsp


Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the paneer cubes till they turn a light crispy brown. Take them out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Add onion slices to the same oil and fry till they turn golden and translucent. Scrape the paneer bits as you fry the onions.

Add the puréed spinach and stir well.

Add the water, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder.

Add the garlic. Use the smaller Indian garlic instead of the plumper Chinese ones. They have more flavour.

Add the tomato slices.

Reduce the heat and cook covered for 20 minutes.

Add the fried paneer cubes and continue to cook till the gravy thickens.

Garnish with the julienned ginger and serve hot with rice, naan, puris or paranthas.

Atta Biscuits (Whole wheat flour biscuits)

Atta Biscuits (Whole wheat flour biscuits)

These biscuits are very similar to those that I had as a child. My dad would take ghee or clarified butter, atta or whole wheat flour, and sugar to the local bakery and they would turn the ingredients into the most delicious biscuits. Through these biscuits nostalgia meets taste.


Atta or whole wheat flour 1 cup

Ghee or clarified butter 1/2 cup

Sugar 1/2 cup

Milk 3 tbsps


Mix the atta, ghee and sugar till they resemble bread crumbs.

Add the milk a tablespoon at a time and make a soft dough.

Flatten it using the heel of your palm to a 1/4” thickness disc and using a cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits. I used a cake scraper to make a light pattern on the biscuits.

Arrange them on a greased baking tray. Bake in a 170 degree C oven for 20 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight jar.

Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta

Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta

This dish with garlicky cream sauce with peperoncino flakes and aged cheddar cheese is delicious and healthy. You can use any pasta though I have used macaroni. The broccoli and capsicum give it a lovely fresh green colour.


Macaroni pasta 2 cups, cooked al dente

Broccoli florets 1 cup

Capsicum 1 medium, sliced

Mushrooms 200 g, sliced

Garlic 10 cloves, minced

All-purpose flour 1 tbsp

Milk 1 cup

Fresh cream 1 cup

Salt to taste

Pepper powder 1 tsp

Peperoncino flakes 1 tbsp

Cheddar cheese 1 cup, grated

Olive oil 2 tbsps

Butter 30 g


Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan.

Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Take care not to burn the garlic.

Add the mushrooms and fry till all the moisture evaporates. When the mushrooms turn brown, add the broccoli and capsicum. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the flour and fry for a minute. Add the milk and stir till it thickens. Add the salt and pepper powder.

Add the cream and mix well.

Add the pasta and fold it into the sauce. See that the pasta is completely covered by the sauce.

Garnish with cheese, peperoncino flakes and coriander sprigs.