Monday, December 30, 2013

Under 15 minutes hakka noodles

There are days when there is very little left over from lunch and I am either too lazy or too caught up with other things to whip up the whole roti + dal/vegetables and raita dinner. On one such days, the husband asks me, why don't you ever make hakka noodles? Well, maybe because I have never made it before, maybe because the sight of the over oily hakka noodles at the restaurants got to me and I was plain not interested in making it. But seemed like it was something that he liked. So the next supermarket visit involved picking up a packet of Chings hakka noodles and a bottle of soy and green chilli sauce each.

When I went through the procedure, I was in for a nice surprise. There was hardly anything to the recipe. And now I make it often, on my lazy days and we happily follow it up with some curd rice and complete the meal. So here is how I make Hakka Noodles in less than 15 minutes. It will take you lesser time if you don't skimp on pots and pans. I do all the cooking in the same pan which doesn't let me do parallel processing.

I make it with very little oil. You may call me a killjoy, but I like it this way. Eaten hot, you won't notice the difference.


1 cup of veg - carrots, beans, spring onions, cabbage, capsicum, chopped lengthwise
1 packet of hakka noodles
salt and pepper powder to taste
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of green chilli sauce
2 tbsp of oil


Clean and chop the vegetables lengthwise. I microwave vegetables like carrot and beans for a minute since I don't like them too raw in the noodles.

Next, in a pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add to it the onion (i used the onion from the spring onion) and capsicum. You can add minced garlic to this if you want. On high flame, saute this well. Add to this the microwaved vegetables and stir.

In the end, sprinkle the chopped spring onion shoot from the top. To this, add the soy sauce and green chilli sauce. Mix really well. All of this is done on really high flame. Turn off the gas and remove the vegetables in a bowl.

In the same pan, heat sufficient amount of water and cook the noodles as per pack instructions. I add some oil to the water itself to prevent the noodles from sticking. Cook on high flame. It takes less than 2 minutes for them to cook. Turn off the gas when they start frothing up.

Strain it in a colander, run under some cold water to stop the cooking process and add another tsp of oil on it and mix well with your hands to prevent it from sticking. Now, in the same pan, take your prepared vegetables.

Add the strained noodles to this and toss well on high flame. Season with some salt ( the soy sauce already has enough salt and we cooked the noodles also with some salt, so go easy on it) and white pepper powder. Serve hot!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quick Snack - Pav Bhaji

If there is one thing that I cannot do these days, it is spending time in the kitchen for too long. The weather in Mumbai simply does not let you do it.But that certainly does not mean saying no to making snacks for the evening. When you have a pav bhaji craving and know that you can down more than a plate of pav bhaji with extra pav thrown in, then you use your common sense and figure out that it is better to make it at home. Does this mean you slave away in your kitchen to make it? Hell no! You take all the short cuts possible and make a really quick pav bhaji in less than half hour.

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves : 4


2 cups of assorted chopped vegetables
2 big Tomatoes
2 small onions
1 capsicum
2 green chillies slit
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp jeera
1 pinch hing
1 inch ginger grated
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp pav bhaji masala
1/2 tsp jeera powder
1/2 tsp dhania powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
salt to taste

To serve:
Toasted pav or bun
1 small onion chopped
lemon wedges
coriander leaves


Quickly chop up veggies to get you two cups of assorted vegetables - carrots, beans, peas, potato, beets. I like chopping so i chopped them up. You could use your food processor instead to speed up this process. I also added two tomatoes in the mix.
Pressure cook this for 3-4 whistles.
Now chop up two small onions and a capsicum.
In a pan, heat up some oil and throw in a tsp of cumin seeds. Add a generous pinch of hing to this. You certainly don't wanna skip that cause it is proven to be beneficial to nullify the effect of the gassy veggies that go into the bhaji. Once the flavor of the cumin starts rising, add the chopped onions and saute for two minutes. Follow it up with the capsicum and two green chilies and grated ginger. Add a generous pinch of turmeric to it and fry.

Saute for two minutes. To this add the boiled vegetables. Adjust the salt for the entire bhaji.

 Now to this add 1/2 tsp of cumin and coriander powder each. Add half a tsp of red chilli powder and a tbsp of pav bhaji masala. And top it with a generous dollop of butter.Now using a potato masher, mash the bhaji such that it becomes a homogeneous paste like mixture.
Once it is all mixed in, add half a cup of water if you need to adjust the consistency and simmer for five minutes. Adjust the salt. Maybe add some sugar if you need a tinge of sweetness.

Sprinkle some coriander leaves generously on this. Top the bhaji with some chopped onions. Serve hot with butter toasted buns or pav and a wedge of lime on the side. It gets done real fast and you can eat not one, but two or even three servings while catching your favorite tv show with a cup of tea on the side.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to make Pizza Sauce | Home Made Pizza Sauce

I somehow cannot get myself to call in for pizza delivery on a lazy day. One, those pizzas are loaded with cheese, somehow, eating them leaves you really stuffed and heavy, they come nowhere as close in satisfaction levels as home made pizza and most importantly, why on earth do they charge a bomb for something that doesnt cost so much to put together!
So I mostly make the pizza at home and it turns out real good! I was resorting to store bought pizza sauces for quite some time now until i realised how easy it is to whip up a really tasty pizza sauce. You can make it in bulk and store it up for a week's use, using it for your pizza and pasta. Or make a small batch and use it up the same day! Complete satisfaction from knowing whats in the sauce and totally free from preservatives!

Preparation Time: 10 Mins
Cooking Time: 10 Mins
Difficulty: Easy!
Serves: Two medium pizzas

3 Large Ripe tomatoes
4-5 pods of garlic, sliced
2 tbs Olive oil
Salt to taste
1.2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp herb seasoning- oregano, basil, thyme and onion flakes


In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the galic flakes and fry them till they brown.

Puree the tomatoes in a mixer. I don't go about straining them. It simply reduces quantity of the sauce. 

Add the tomato puree to the fried garlic. Allow it to simmer and cook.

 Cover and cook for about ten minutes until the quantity is halved. At this point, add the spices and saute it for a minute or two until all the spices come together. Check the seasoning and adjust as per your taste.

I had a sterilized bottle ready to put this gorgeous red sauce in and wanted to admire it in the fridge. But there was just enough sauce to make two medium pizzas that i used up immediately!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pumpkin Palak Soup | Pumpkin and Spinach Soup

There has been an overdose of fall pictures and gorgeous looking pumpkin recipes on the internet in the past few days. After ogling at them on pinterest for some time, yours truly ordered pumpkin from bigbasket in the week's grocery, with an intention of making some muffins with them. They got stowed into the back of the fridge and lay forgotten there for a while.
One fine evening, when it was pouring as usual and i felt the need for a warm soup and rummaged through my vegetable box, i found the pumpkin and some spinach side by side. The spinach had to be used up and i was tired of making greens stir fry or dal for three days in a row. And so it was decided that the greens would go into a soup and it would be pumpkin and spinach soup for the night.
There is a mild sweetness that comes from the pumpkin in this soup which is balanced by adding some chilli flakes or red chilli powder. To enhance the flavors, i have used some jeera powder.
I have used a pressure cooker to speed up the process- saute the ingredients in it, pressure cook and dunk the hand blender into the same cooker and puree- it is as simple as it can get!

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 2 Level: Easy


1 onion sliced
1" ginger sliced
1 cup of chopped pumkin
1 cup of chopped spinach
salt to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp of mixed herbs (thyme, rosemary and oregano)
a dollop of butter or some cream for topping


Wash and chop the vegetables that are going into the soup.
 In a pressure cooker, add some butter and saute the onion and ginger in it.

Now add the pumpkin and fry for a few minutes after which you add in the spinach.
Season with salt and chilli powder. Fry until the vegetables are evenly coated in the spices.
Add a cup of water to the cooker and cook for 2-3 whistles on low flame.

Once the mixture cools down, blend it well. I do not strain the mixture. I like to get small bits of veggies in the soup. Now thin it down a little if you want it watery. Add the cumin powder. Adjust the salt. Bring the soup to a boil.
Top it with some butter or cream and season with mixed herbs.
Mix well. Pour into your soup bowls. Serve warm with some toasted bread or roasted papad.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Detox Water

It happens way too often to me that i pick up a box of snacks, just to have a little something while reading a book, and i end up eating it up whole! What follows is a heavy queasy stomach and a lot of regret at having eaten so much junk!
This time around, when the same thing happened after an overdose of snacking at home, Amma told me about this particular detox drink. I googled it and found that a lot of people do something like this for cleansing and weight loss. So out came the saved up Snapple bottles and we set out to put together our detox drink.
What i really loved about it is that it is extremely refreshing, zero on calories, so easy to put together and so good on the stomach.

Preparation Time: 5 Mins
Calories: Zero


1 liter water
A sprig of mint
Half an english cucumber
An inch of cinnamon
Half a lemon


Clean the cucumber, mint and lemon. Cut one half of the lemon into quarters. Chop the cucumber with its peel into long slices.
Now simply drop all the ingredients into a one liter bottle. I wanted to increase the good looks quotient of the drink and used two snapple bottles to make the drink.
 Add water to the bottle and put it in the fridge and leave it overnight.
Remove it from the fridge the next morning. You could let it return to room temperature if you do not prefer to drink it up cold.
There is no need to strain. Simply pour yourself a glass. Keep sipping it through the day. It helps cleanse your system. The drink is packed with the freshness of the cucumber and mint and the tang from the lemon. The cinnamon adds a nice woodsy flavor to it.
Do not throw the cucumbers. You can eat them up once you pour out the water. So also use the remaining juice from the lime.
So next time you binge, try this to reduce the after effects!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cold Coffee with Ice Cream

I have not been so much of a cold coffee/ heavy chilled drinks person.It is maybe the chai effect that i never got around to making coffee in any form.  The last week we had cold coffee at a cafe, all i was thinking was that this is such a simple thing to make. And that it can be easily whipped up, sans all that overdose of ice. Some people prefer all of that ice. But i feel that so much ice dilutes the milky effect of the drink.
I had some vanilla ice cream in the freezer and with the sun looking up, it seemed like the perfect time for a cold drink. Like i said, i did not add the ice to the cold coffee. I chilled the milk enough for the drink to be cold, but not to the extent of numbing the palette and inducing a brain freeze.
It takes just five minutes to put together the drink if you have all the ingredients at hand. Here is how i made it.
Cooking Time: 10 Mins
Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
Serves: 2


2 cups Milk
3 scoops of vanilla ice cream
3 tsp of sugar
2 tsp instant coffee powder
half cup of water
1/2 inch cinnamon
1 tsp of cocoa powder

The ice cream is mostly filled with air. So it does not really add to the quantity of the drink much. I used two tall glasses that i picked up from hypercity. They come with different colored stripes and are currently trending on the dining table.

My measuring cup with milk fills the glass upto 3/4th its brim. The rest is taken care of by the ice cream and the decoction.


Boil the milk. Add the sugar to it and stir well.

Once it slightly cools down, put the milk in the fridge to chill. Put the glasses that you are going to use into the freezer. This might take about half hour to an hour depending on the cooling settings of your fridge.
Just about five minutes before you want to serve the drink, boil half a cup of water and add the coffee powder to it to make the decoction.

 Now take out your blender jar, and simply dunk in your chilled milk, the decoction, three scoops of vanilla ice cream and give it a whizz.

Take out your glasses from the freezer.

Pour and top it with some cinnamon powder and cocoa powder. Serve!

Today's evening snack was cold coffee with zucchini-spinach fritters. The sweet-bitter-savory combo is a fab thing! Even if you do not have anything savory, serve the cold coffee with some cookies. It is really simple to make. Now your neighborhood cafe does not need to be your stop for cold coffee!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Those smells and scents that i miss!

It has been close to three months since i moved to Mumbai. Setting up a new home, familiarizing myself with the surroundings, taking in the sights and smells of the place, and of course, battling with the incessant rains has taken up almost all of that time. I am not against the rains, but not when it pours bucket fulls, day in and out ; not like how it is back home - a bout of rain doesn't last longer than an hour. And what you get after that are the beautiful rain washed roads of Mysore, the smell of mud and a really cool breeze! How I miss that now!
In stark contrast, it gets all gloomy here, no sign of the sun and there is no escaping the feeling of the dampness in the air. So much, that i have resorted to boiling used limes with cinnamon and letting the vapors waft around the house.
And using potpourri and scented candles and aroma oils and what not!

Had it been back home, Amma would have opened up the windows, not given a damn about the neighbors and burnt a good amount of sambrani to get rid of any damp odors. And would have proceeded to make hot rice with vatha kozhambu to be served with a big dollop of ghee. While the roti-sabji-dal-curd rice drill is something that i am used to now, i really miss those days when i could smell the tangy gravy simmering away in the kitchen, or the jeera-pepper tadka on the rasam, promising a hot filling meal after which ek small nap toh banta hi hai! I miss secretly opening the fridge to eat the chakkai varetti ( jackfruit jam) made by my grandmother and invariably getting caught because of the strong smell of the fruit lingering near the fridge! 

I miss the fragrance of the Champa and Sugandraj flowers that would adorn the gods for the puja. I really miss the floral-girlie-happy fragrance that comes from having three ladies in the household, especially the sister, whose doesn't just spray but drowns herself in deodorant.
While i was at home, i remember being vehemently against the overdose of the jasmine fragrance - in the agarbatti, the soap, the perfume and not to forget in the floor cleaner that the maid would be ever so generous with. Now it is that same fragrance that i crave for the most. Cause Amma smells of jasmine. I crave for that hug and sleeping on her lap and her lovingly applying that strong smelling brahmi oil, much to my olfactory revulsion. Cause my hair is not what it used to be under her TLC. Now that i am away, i long for all those smells that i had taken for granted-  the elaichi in the sweets, the flowers in the urli, Amma's freshly starched sarees that we would fold up together, the smell of the blooms on the terrace, the smell of sunshine, the smell of the place that is home. I may have moved but the fragrances and the memories still linger in my mind!

P.S. This post is written for the Smelly to Smiley contest run by AmbiPurIndia about the memories associated with the smells at home. As an afterthought, i think that AmbiPur might just be what i need to freshen up the home until the sun starts looking up nice and bright!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ginger tea

My day begins with a cup of this goodness. Another dose mid-morning. And then of course, the evening cuppa. Sometimes i feel that all those posters that say - keep calm and drink tea are overrated. But there are those days when i know that the cup has really uplifted my mood.
I cannot remember the last time when i made my tea plain. For days when i am lazy, i have the pre-mixed tea masala. But i really prefer the kick that i get from fresh ingredients.
So every morning, before the pressure cooker goes up for the day's cooking, a pot of water goes on the stove. Many people get their tea ready in a jiffy. But i like to let mine boil on really low flame, so much that it takes a good ten minutes for it to get done- enough time to call out the husband three times to wake up.
Depending on what i am feeling like, i throw in different things into the tea - mint leaves, pepper corns or elaichi. The way it rains here, the tea needs all the fortification from the spices to keep that irritating throat and the cold at bay.The latest addiction is lemongrass. I get fresh lemongrass in the vegetable market here. I wash it and cut it into bits and store it in a box - a bunch lasting me a week. It has become an absolute necessity in my weekly grocery.
Making tea does not really need so much storytelling, or a post even, you may say. I say that it is my fuel. And i love tea.  And tea drinking with the newspaper and biscuits on the side is a ritual at home. Its the calm before all the running around for the day begins. Now i shall stop and give you the recipe for my one cup of tea. While this tastes great, i always get better tea when i make it for two :)

Cooking Time : 10 Minutes


1 tsp Tea leaves
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
Half a cup of water
Half a cup of milk
an inch of ginger
a few bits of lemongrass

After a lot of experimentation, i have come to the conclusion that Society tea leaves give me the strongest tea. A spoon suffices for a cup.
I am also really loving my latest acquisition of the small hand grater. I stopped chopping ginger and use ginger shavings from this instead. It really gets out the juice from the ginger.

It also works great for grating cinnamon and nutmeg into the bakes. Anyways, coming back to the tea.


Bring half a cup of water to boil. Once it does, add the grated ginger and lemongrass to it.

Let them boil together for a few more minutes, until the fragrance of the lemongrass and ginger starts wafting through the air. Add the sugar and tea leaves at this point. Let it boil until you get a rich reddish brown decoction.

Add the milk. If you like your tea black, replace milk with half a cup of water. I like my tea milky. So i add half a cup of milk and a little more to make up for all the water that evaporates.

Allow it to boil and come together. Once the tea starts boiling over, turn off the gas, and let it rest for a few seconds. Strain and press down the tea leaves in the strainer with a spoon, to ensure that you squeeze out all the juices.

Enjoy your tea in your favorite mug with some biscuits or a piece of cake or something savory on the side. Hearty, flavorful and warm, for that perfect start of the day!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Healthy Snacking | Lunch Box Series

My parents leave home at regular government office timings. Living in a not-so-crowded place like Mysore, they can afford to dwell on the newspaper with a cup of tea and biscuits, then have a leisurely breakfast everyday. Yours truly is rushed most of the time, having to leave early to work. Does not mean i skip breakfast. I wonder how people sustain without it! There are so many people i know who do not eat a full breakfast. A cup of tea, a piece of cake, some fruit are some of the replies i get when i ask them what they normally eat before getting to work. I would feel really giddy and tired if i was in their place. Maybe my body is conditioned like that.
But the problem with eating an early breakfast is that at around 10 o clock, the stomach starts rumbling. In keeping with eating 6 small meals a day, it certainly is a good habit to feed the stomach something filling and healthy at that time, to sustain until lunch.
I normally carry cut fruits or some salad to munch on as a morning snack. It is loaded with fiber, is filling and loaded with nutrients! Here are some healthy snacking ideas. It will take you about ten minutes in the morning to put it together. Just make it a habit to soak pulses twice a week- green gram, channa, horse gram- anything that you like! Or else, buy lots of vegetables during the weekly grocery that are high in water content. It's that simple!

Diced english cucumber, red bell peppers, boiled sweet corn, coriander leaves with a lime juice +olive oil+salt+chili flakes dressing.

Go the South Indian way. Tadka of mustard, curry leaves, green chili and hing. Simply add pressure cooked sprouts with salt. Toss and carry. High on protein and great to taste!

Want to eat sprouts in a more healthy way? Have them raw. Make the salad interesting with cucumber, tomato, pomegranate, salt and pepper. Add a dash of lime to finish it off.
So you see, it is really simple to make something to carry along for that odd time hunger pang. Next time you feel like reaching out for that biscuit packet at the supermarket to carry as snack, stop yourself and try making something like this. Sure to save you some calories for the day! ;)


Adding salt does make the veggies leave out water. So go slightly easy on the salt when carrying these for the box.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mint Pasta | Lunch Box Series

So like i have written before, since pasta is simple to make and is packed with vegetables, good fat and flavors, it makes a weekly appearance in the lunch box. It is a one pot meal that i can never tire of. Each week it is a different shape and a different sauce.
This week, there was mint in the fridge, left over after making mint chutney. There was the spiralli pasta and some assorted vegetables.
Short of other ideas for the dabba, it was decided that the next day would be the "pasta day". I have never really put too much thought at the measures of ingredients that go into the pasta. It was a learning by trial and error and i continue to cook the same way. I tried to keep a track of what all goes in and in how much quantity in order to write out the recipe. Difficulty level is medium. Anybody who is quick with the knife and can taste and adjust flavors can make decent pasta! And trust me you, once you start making it by yourself, you would never shell out that crazy amount in the restaurants for a single serving of pasta!

Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
Cooking Time: 20 Minutes


1 1/2 cups Pasta of your choice
Water to boil the pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 capsicum, finely chopped
5-6 baby corns, sliced into rounds
1 large carrot, cubed
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp cheese spread
1 tsp Pasta Seasoning/ Oregano

For the sauce:

3 large tomatoes
1/2 cup of mint leaves
5-6 pods of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring a pot with sufficient water to boil. Add a tsp of salt and a tsp of oil to it. Into the boiling water, add the pasta. Cover, and cook.
On the side, chop and microwave the vegetables that need cooking- the carrot and baby corn here with some water and salt for two mins.

While they are cooking, place the ingredients for the sauce in a mixer and grind well.

Stir the pasta in between and keep checking to see if done. It should be cooked al dente. Takes about 10-15 minutes depending on the brand. Check the instructions on the pack to get a better idea.
Strain it through a colander. Save about half cup of pasta water. Now run cold water on the colander.

In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the chopped capsicum. Fry. By then, the vegetables should be done in the microwave. Add the veggies to the capsicum and stir.

Now add the prepared sauce into the vegetables. Cover and cook for a minute or two. Add the cream and the cheese. I used the Britania Mexican Chilly spread here. While adding salt in any step, be mindful of the salt in the cheese. You can add more cheese if you want a richer, creamier pasta.
Stir in the pasta into it and gently toss, without breaking the pasta.
Add the pasta water to get some more sauce into the pasta. You could add some skimmed milk too. Toss well.
Top with some oregano or the seasoning that comes along with the pizzas, in case you have any.
Serve hot, or pack it for the dabba. I like it both hot and cold!