Category Archives: Entrees

The Daring Cooks June Challenge: Mutton Meatballs With Apricots


Long long ago in mid May, the Daring Cooks posted there June Challenge on Meatballs from around the world. Meatballs being a family favorite,I wasted no time in making them. In fact I made 2 types of meatballs.

They were made and devoured the first weekend after the challenge was posted and amidst all other things never mentioned. Not on the Daring Cooks internal forum nor here when the “day” we can go public with our challenge.So, while it’s still June I must correct this oversight.

One of my friends mom had made these Turkey meatballs stuffed with apricot and light spiced gravy a few summers ago. They were really awesome. Juicy, flavorful with the sweetness from the hidden apricot. Spices from the northern state of Kashmir – cardamom, saffron and cinnamon. Or so, I recalled of that dinner.

When the challenge was posted, I decided to use spices common to the northern state of Kashmir and extend that to the flavors of Silk Route. Ingredients sourced and recipe built from a variety of sources – memory of that turkey meatball, lingering taste of kafta kebab and shammi kebab.

Here I had a recipe that was great on paper.When I actually made it, it turned out a bit dry and not so juicy. An egg or two should help with that problem. I was hasty and added the kebab to the gravy before they achieved their golden – brown color. Cooking them in gravy instead of adding at the last-minute to get the flavors to meld was another rookie mistake. Here is a modified recipe that I am sure would work. I just need another free weekend to re-try this.

Kafta kebab

Mutton Meatballs With Apricots Recipe

  •  10 – 15 dried apricots soaked in water for an hour, seed removed
  • 1 lb Mutton or Turkey mince ( use ground and mix of dark and light meat to make juicy meatballs)
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chili finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 3- 4 cardamom pods , shelled and seeds powdered
  • A pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoon oil for frying


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  2 inch  cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 Red Onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt
  • Salt to taste

Make Meatballs

1. Mix all the ingredients listed except the oil and mix well. Adjust seasonings per taste.

2. Form the meatballs, stuffing an apricot in the center of each. Set aside.

3.Heat oil and fry the meatballs on medium-low flame till golden brown. Set aside.

Make Gravy

1.Heat oil. Add spices once the oil is hot but not smoking. Add onions and fry till cooked through. Add yogurt and let onions cook in this yogurt base.

2. Crumble a meatball in the crazy and cook through so that the gravy thickens.

3. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve

1. Add the meatballs to the gravy and cook together for few minutes till heated through.

2. Serve warm with rice or rotis.


Pan Fried Tofu – A Quick Dinner Idea

Pan fried Tofu

Do you get in a salad rut? I know I do.

I get bored with eating it and look for ways to add some sizzle to them. In US, I used to buy baked savory tofu. I haven’t found it here. So instead of marinating and baking tofu, I pan-fried it.

And let me tell you it was a delicious accident. I wasn’t sure how this will turn out. But over salad, it was perfect. Crisp on the outside, flavorful and soft on the inside.

The tofu that I had on hand was firmer and drier than ‘extra firm’ kind in US. You may need to keep the tofu sandwiched between plates and with weights to take excess moisture out before marinating the tofu. While the tofu marinates, chop the salad. Add dressing of your choice ( simple lemon juice works too). Pan-fry the tofu slices and then serve over salad.

Gotta love quick and easy recipes! And serendipitous accidents!!

PF Tofu2

Pan Fried Tofu Recipe

  • 1 block Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 tablespoon Siracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Few mint leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and  freshly grated
  • 1 inch lemongrass stalk chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon oil

1. Remove the tofu from its package. Keep it pressed between 2 plates and weigh the plate with some canned beans or  books.  After 15 – 20 minutes, enough water will be removed from tofu that it can be sliced and marinated.

Slice it into large pieces.

2. Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the tofu. Set aside for 10 -15 minutes.

3. Heat oil in a pan. Fry tofu slices till golden brown.

Keep an eye out this chars quickly and no one likes charred tofu 😉

Slow Cooked Spring Lamb Stew

Cooking lamb and veggies

When we were Seattle, we were jet lagged most of the days. It was only after 4 days that I began to feel human and stay awake during normal day time. On Monday, when everyone went to work, Varun and I played, watched TV , went for a walk and generally had fun. And along side we made some lamb stew.


Now, I don’t normally make a lamb stew on a whim. But my friend’s house is so well stocked and it has an island with a Viking cooking range, that I wanted to cook something nice. Plus, I haven’t cooked with lamb, baby carrots and baby potatoes in a while. So, while Varun and I enjoyed together the lamb thawed. And it was cooked to a slow perfection with spring vegetables while he slept. The stew bubbled merrily as I enjoyed the afternoon catching up on the world of Barefoot Contessa, Rachel Ray and Giada! Not to mention the stacks of Better Home and Garden and Veranda magazines! What a blissful way to spend an afternoon!!


This truly is an entrée to surprise and impress. It takes minimal effort and with simple ingredients on hand can be made while doing something else – watching a movie, playing poker or simply catching up with friends. The vegetables make the stew colorful and refreshing. And not to mention hearty. And when you enter the home after cooking this stew, the aromas draw you in. You will want to sample this from  the pot.

Spring veggies

Spring vegetables

We ate it with crusty bread to mop up all the gravy but it should go well with some rice pilaf as well. The original recipe is from Whole Foods that my friend had cut out and stuck on her fridge. I made a few tweaks to bring out the flavors. Hope you enjoy it as much as well all did. Pairs perfectly with friends, white wine and cheesecake. Now all you need a spring weekend to enjoy this!

Ready to eat

Spring Lamb Stew Recipe

Serves 5

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 lbs – Lamb Stew meat cut into small chunks
  • 3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups baby potatoes halved ( mix of white, red and purple)
  • 2 cups baby carrots halved
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup spring onion diced for garnish

1. Mix the flour, pepper, paprika and salt and dredge the lamb in the mix.

2. Heat oil in a thick bottom flat pan and working in batches, brown the lamb on all sides.

3. Once all the lamb is browned, in the same pan, add the lamb, white wine and the spices ( rosemary and oregano). Mix well. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for an hour.

4. Add the potatoes and carrots. Mix and cook on low heat for another hour.

5. Add lemon juice and peas. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Cook on simmer for another 15 – 20 mins till peas are tender.

Ladle in bowls. Garnish with spring onions and serve warm immediately.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav


It seems unreal to write a recipe related post when the city is still reeling in the aftermath of the two bomb blasts that shook Hyderabad. Last night around 7:00 pm, during peak hour, there were two bomb blasts in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad. We didn’t know about it till messages started pouring on Facebook from concerned friends and family abroad. We watched live news, devastated about the blasts and in fear. Politicians and leaders made statements partly to cover their asses and party to blame others. It was a sad day worsened by politicians caring for their own benefit than the families in distress.

We were safe in our house and were relieved that our friends and family were safe as well. Today, life was like normal. Office, meetings, day care and even a Ship party. Guess, these things happen in India frequently enough that while you feel helpless and enraged you bounce back to normal quickly. In our safe cocoons of white-collar jobs, gated communities and elite day cares/schools, we don’t have to worry about the same things that a middle class Dilsukhnagar has to. Sad, but true.

So how do you tide over shocking news items like bomb blasts, horrific rape incidents and political apathy? You make friends and hold them close. Check on them and make sure that your little circle is safe. And be grateful that your little corner is safe this time from the general chaos. It helps even when life is less tumultuous. This is true regardless where you are.

One of our favorite recipes to go to when we had friends over in Redmond was Misal Pav – fiery dish from Kolhapur. Literally misal means a medley – a medley of sprouts, fiery kat sauce, crunchy farsan and assortment of toppings. We recently made it as its healthy, one-pot, vegetarian and can be customized a myriad of ways with multiple toppings. Its one of those dishes that taste better as they simmer longer and even better the next day as the flavors blend overnight. Its comforting, filling and nurturing. It can be made spicy or mild though fiery is its signature tone. Diced onions, tomatoes, lemons and crunchy farsan add to the drama of the dish and it can be easily tempered down with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.


A perfect companion to this is a crusty bread or a soft dinner roll to soak up all the gravy. Try it when you need comforting – from man-made or nature’s calamities: snow, storm or hurricane. You will feel better after having made it for your loved ones. After all its a dish that tastes better when its made with love.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav Recipe

  • 2 cups sprouts (moong, moth or matki, green peas, lentils, black-eyed peas etc)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Dash of asafoetida or hing
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste

For garnish

  •  Farsan, sev
  • Coriander leaves chopped
  • Onions finely chopped ( optional)
  • Tomatoes finely chopped ( optional)
  • Lemons quartered
  • Yogurt
  • Kat ( recipe below )

For Kat or Spicy Sauce

Depending on how spicy you want kat,

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of chili powder , cumin powder, garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add cumin, hing, curry leaves and let it sizzle for about 10 – 15 seconds. Then add the onions and let them cook for about  5 – 7 minutes till soft. Add tomatoes, chili powder and garam masala. Mix well and let cook till soft and well mixed.

2. Take about 2 -3 tablespoons of this mix and set aside to make kat or a spicy sauce.

3. Add the sprouts. Season with salt. Add a cup of water and let this simmer on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes till the sprouts are well cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

4. For Kat : Take the onion- tomato mix in a separate sauce pan and sauté this in oil. Add water, chili powder, salt and garam masala. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.

Serve the misal piping hot along  the kat and garnish platter. Top misal with kat, lemon juice and farsan with a side of pav for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Paneer in Tender Coconut Gravy

Ready to eat paneer in tender coconut

We had a fantastic weekend – the kind that makes you want to rewind to Friday night all over again. Sure, even on a mundane Monday I want to rewind to Friday night so I can make weekend special and different and not so routine. But today, after a weekend with friends and family, get-togethers, clinks of wine glasses, laughter and teasing, I want to savor it even more.

Friday night started with Varun’s favorite kaka and mavshi joining us for dinner. He was so over-joyed that he didn’t sleep till past midnight. On Saturday, after dinner and paan,  he went over to Sushil- Athika’s house with Krish bhaiyaa and Bhavya didi to sleep but came back after 15 mins as he missed his mama! Same story on Sunday night where post dinner with friends, he wanted to go home with Aarvin and told me to stay at home while he goes out. Made my heart skip a beat. He is growing fast!

Anyways, back to Saturday night dinner. Inspired by our Kolkata trip, I wanted to make something Bengali for Sushil- Athika. An accomplished cook and baker, Athika loves food. We love what she makes. Her recipes are so detailed that her husband, a novice, followed them to the T and came up with finger licking curries for her baby shower. Single handedly for 30 odd people on first attempt. Impressive!

Paneer in Tender coconut

I decided to make a vegetarian version of Daab Chingri or prawns in tender coconut shell. Soft paneer and red bell pepper for the color and crunch. Cooked with tender coconut meat and then steamed to a delicate perfection in the shell. Traditionally the curry is cooked in the shell in a water bath for an hour or so. But I decided to fake it and made the curry in the pan and then steamed it in water bath to let the subtle tender coconut taste seep through.

Paneer and tender coconut gravy

The subtle flavor of tender coconut is very refreshing. The texture and the aroma is a change from the typical Indian curries that are heavy with either cream or spices. Its smooth and almost sweet – a perfect base for fresh paneer , tofu and any other vegetables that you choose.

The presentation in green shell adds to the drama and makes an amateur fake a professional finish! If you really want to impress someone with least amount of effort this is THE perfect recipe. Try it for a special night or to for a dinner party or just to perk up a wintry weekend into a tropical delight! I am dying to make this again with prawns!

Paneer in Tender coconut shells being simmered in water bath

Paneer in Tender Coconut Gravy

  • 2 green tender coconuts – water ( 1 1/2 cups water) and flesh ( 1/4 cup) removed
  • 2 tablespoon mustard oil + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil ( for sautéing red bell pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 large bayleaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 -7 green cardamoms
  • 1 green chilli finely sliced
  • 3- 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger root , peeled and then minced.
  • 3 small onions finely chopped
  • 300 – 400 grams paneer  or tofu
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

For the water bath

  • A large pot to hold both the coconut shells
  • 4 cups water

1. Carefully carve the top of tender coconut with a large enough opening so that you can fill the gravy back in. Also try to carve in a single piece and retain the head piece so it can be used as a lid while the gravy simmers.

Save the water in a bowl and then scoop out the meat with a spoon. Keep the water and the meat aside.

2. Heat both oils together ( vegetable oils cuts the bitterness of mustard oil). Once heated, add the mustard seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon stick , garlic and chopped green chilies. Let them sizzle and then add the onions. Fry the onions for a few minutes with the rest of the spice mixture till they are well cooked but not browned.

3. Take this onion spice mixture and remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Blend it smooth with coconut meat and ginger root along with a cup of coconut water.

4. Add oil in the same pan and sauté the red bell pepper till they are partially cooked. Add the paneer and sauté it for about half a minute. Then add the pureed coconut mix to the pan. Add salt, a bit of black pepper and cinnamon stick and bay leaf that was removed before pureeing. Let simmer for couple of minutes. If its too thick add some more coconut water to thin it out. Taste for seasonings and adjust per taste.

5. Put the water bath on low heat. Take the gravy and fill it in the empty coconut shells carefully. Place the shells in the pot. Cover with lid and let it cook for about an hour.

The gravy stays warm in the coconut shells even after you take it off the heat. Serve with warm rice or pilaf.

Faux Phở

Steaming bowl of Pho

Vegetarian Phở ( pronounced as Fuh) may be a better title for this post but I guess Phở purists would roll their eyes just like Biryani lovers don’t think anything but mutton Biryani is the real deal.

Prep the veggies

Introduced to me one cold winter evening by the Seattle gang, as we huddled in a small restaurant that specialized in this Vietnamese noodle soup, I have missed Phở in India. Piping hot bowls of lemony broth served over rice noodles, topped with a generous heap of bean sprouts, sliced onions, Thai basil and huge wedges of lemons. We almost always asked for Sriracha and more lemons.

Broth simmering

This was my staple whenever I visited Vipul’s campus for lunch or on Thursdays when I turn into a vegetarian. The Phở vendor on our campus used to add broccoli, carrots and Tofu to their vegetarian broth. So, last night for dinner, I decided to make us some Phở. Recreate taste that I remember from almost over a year ago in a relatively short time. I didn’t have hours to simmer the broth. Nor did I have all the ingredients on hand. So I improvised with what we had. Tofu, broccoli, beans and carrots. Simple lemony vegetable broth. Dash of fish sauce and soy sauce. Generous helping of mint. Simultaneously I cooked whole wheat spaghetti. Once everything was ready, we layered the veggies over the noodles and topped it with broth.

Bowls of noodle being prepared

Prepping the Soup bowls

Served with mint, spring onions, lemons and a side of Asian grilled chicken, this was a nourishing, meal. Warming yet light. Lemony and minty. The little bowls of toppings added to a festive fair on a mundane Monday.

It wasn’t a ‘true-blue’ broth flavored by marrow from the beef bones, Thai basil or crunch added by mung bean sprouts. But the ‘on hand’ alternatives proved just as good. Crunch of beans and broccoli, color from carrots, fragrance by mint and lemons and a bit of heat by Siracha. Topped with tofu and grilled chicken it was a complete meal. So delicious that we even had second helpings. Luckily its all veggies so it was all good. And so warming that we have to wait for another cold spell before we can make it again.

Note: The pictures in this post are all from my  brand new Windows Phone 8. Had to try it. I am not so thrilled with the results but I will blame the poor lighting in my kitchen. Hopefully day time photos will be better. Else I will stick to my usual camera.

Faux Phở Recipe

Vegetables and Noodles

  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 /2 cup carrots julienned
  • 1/2 cup French beans julienned
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra firm tofu diced
  • 2 servings Rice noodles cooked to package directions and set aside.

For the broth

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 3 inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 1/4 cup spring onions (white parts) diced
  • 3 inch ginger root – crushed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup diced mushrooms
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth

For garnish

  • Mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Spring onions
  • Lemon wedges
  • Mung bean sprouts (optional)
  • Siracha

1. Prepare the rice noodles and set aside. If using spaghetti, set a pot of water to boil to cook the spaghetti. Scoop out the cooked noodles and set aside.

2. In the hot water pot used for cooking noodles, cook the veggies one by one till al-dente. Set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, heat oil. Reduce the heat to low, add the raw spices ( bay leaves, black cardamom, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and star anise) and let the spices flavor the oil without burning them.

4. After about 30 seconds, add spring onions and sauté till they are cooked through. Then add the crushed ginger and mushrooms and sauté. Add salt, pepper and mint and let this cook for about a minute. Then add water or broth and let this simmer while you focus on the vegetables.

5. Take the serving bowls and start layering the vegetables over the noodles. Ladle the broth over the noodles and vegetables.

6. Garnish and serve hot.

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