Monday, March 28, 2011

Oat Cookies

Several years back, before we were even married, my husband bought one of those ready-made cone ice-creams and was eating it.  Some of these ice-creams have some chocolate hidden at the bottom of the cone which is crunchy.  So he was coming towards the end of the cone and had this nice crunchy feel when he reached the end of the cone and realized his ice cream was vanilla and they usually never have this chocolate at the end.  So he looked at it closer and found that it was a frozen cockroach.  This is when his phobia with cone ice creams started.  He can never eat a cone ice cream without looking at it continually, especially when it reaches the biscuit part.

So yesterday was one of those beautiful spring evenings where we went for a walk in the city and on the way bought our first ice cream cones of the season.  There were a couple of new flavours this season, but I opted for my favourite – pistachio.  My husband chose his favourite which is yoghurt with berries and of course was conscious of what he eating because of the episode mentioned above.  My son selected all flavours with the word “chocolate” in them and my daughter went for strawberry.  I am not sure whether she opted for the flavour or for the fact that it was the only pink ice cream.  Then of the way back we counterbalanced the cold with some warm fries – a perfect Belgian spring weekend.

I had some Oat Germ in the cupboard and wanted to include in the below recipe.  So instead of 75 grams of oats, I took only 50 grams and substituted 25 grams of oat germ in the recipe.  The cookies had more of a texture with this and the children loved it.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 24 cookies


50 grams honey
125 grams unsalted butter
100 grams castor sugar
75 grams oats
50 grams desiccated coconut
100 grams flour
2 teaspoons soda bicarbonate


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl except the sugar.  
  2. Melt the honey and butter together in a small pan.  Cool slightly and then add to the dry ingredients and mix well.  
  3. Add sugar to this now and mix.  
  4. Form ½” diameter balls and place on a dry greased tray and flatten a bit before baking.  
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees C for 15 minutes.  
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving or storing in air tight containers.

Tip:  When melting the honey and butter mixture, do not allow the liquid to become very hot.  If this is added to the dry ingredients when it is hot, the biscuits may not spread when they are being baked and may be rather tough.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ridge Gourd Fritters


The beginning of spring is always a busy time in our household – re-starting the lawn mower after months of non-activity, cleaning and preparing the barbecue machine for another busy spring and summer when its full potential is brought into use and of course changing the wardrobes and shoes – to accommodate lighter and brighter clothes and shoes.  It is also a time when the garden furniture is washed and polished and ready to be used, plants and herbs potted and a general cleaning of the inside and outside to herald spring.  No wonder you have the term “spring cleaning”. 

Personally my favourite is to see the barbecue spring back into action.  Getting all the condiments ready for the barbecue, preparing the salads and the vegetables to suit the barbecue and of course the whole family really outside waiting for the meal to be ready, including the dog.  And then the smells of wafting meats and fishes from neighbours who have barbecues as well – all just pure joy to the senses.

Ridge gourds are not readily available in super markets here in Belgium.  I get mine from an Asian shop in Brussels who sells all other Indian vegetables and fruits as well.  Ridge gourd fritters are a good served either warm or cold and especially as a aperitif before you start your meals.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Serves 2


1 Ridge Gourd
1 cup Gram flour (besan)
½ cup Rice flour
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon carom seeds (Ajwain)
1 green chilli
2 tablespoon coriander leaves
2 tablespoons corn oil
Corn Oil for frying


  1. Select a big ridge gourd to get broad slices.  Peel and slice 1/8” thickness.  
  2. Mix gram and rice flour together.   
  3. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil and pour over the flour mixture.  Mix well.  
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil for frying, and make a thick batter with water of coating consistency. 
  5. In a thick bottomed pan heat some oil.  
  6. When the oil is hot, dip each gourd slice in the batter and deep fry till brown and crisp.  Serve hot or cold with ketchup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mashed & curried Eggplants {Baigan Bharta}

These past few days I have been exhausted – not because of work but because I have been fasting.  Abstaining from food and water from sunrise to sunset – but that is not the difficult part.  Believe it or not, the difficult part is when you can eat at sunset.  Many always ask me, “So you have a really huge dinner then when you break the fast?”  To which I reply, “On the contrary…even a small fruit can fill you up so easily and you have no desire to eat more”.  But why do people fast?  Why do people abstain from food and drink?  Is it healthy?  These are questions that also come up when people know I am fasting.

First of all my religion asks of me to fast every year from the 02nd to the 20th of March.  Fasting has been common in most religions.  It is a time to pray and meditate and connect to my inner spirituality.  Considering all this, I spent my time preparing simple dishes and keeping it light every night.

The Fast is over and spring is in the air.  The scene at the markets have changed and you see a dwindling in the seasonal winter vegetables and fruits.  Luckily aubergine or brinjal or egg plant as you call it is an all season versatile vegetable.  The word 'Bharta' (pronounced BHURR-taah) refers to dishes in which the ingredients are roughly mashed either before or after the dish is prepared. Bhartas are largely North Indian in origin and made from all sorts of vegetables.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4


½ kg purple eggplants or brinjals
2 medium sized red onions
2 medium  tomatoes
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
A sprig of curry leaves
1 teaspoon garlic paste
½ cup coriander leaves
1 teaspoon jaggery
3 tablespoons corn oil


  1. Steam and mash whole brinjals and keep them aside.  
  2. Chop onions and tomatoes. 
  3. Heat oil and add garlic paste.  Fry for a minute.  
  4. Add chopped onions and fry for a further couple of minutes.  
  5. Now add the tomatoes, jaggery, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and turmeric powder.  Allow to cool.  
  6. Add mashed brinjals.  Cook till oil floats on top.   
  7. Serve hot as a side dish with chappatis.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato Pudding

Old Friends – the nostalgia that overcomes me when I meet or hear from old friends.  Friends I might know through school or college or work or just come across some place.  But meeting them after years always brings about a sense of as if I found something I had lost – the times spent together, the things we did together, the chats we had – just everything takes me back in time.  Social Network sites have been quite instrumental in helping me connect to old friends.  With some friends it is so easy to continue from where we left off.  With others it is still difficult – they changed, I changed, times changed.  But nonetheless, it is always nice to meet friends. 

A couple of years back I came across a dear friend I knew from childhood.  We used to play a lot together during the summers and were good buddies.  Then suddenly we all went different ways and I lost track of where he was or what he was doing.  Of course on my part I did not make any effort to keep in touch and as time went by, it was more difficult to reignite a friendship that was dead for so many years.  Finally we were able to track each other again and now keep in touch.  The first time we chatted, we spent a good hour getting updated on our personal and work life.  Now I make it a point to chat or write to him at least once every couple of months.  I do not want to lose a friend again.  Life is too short to lose friends.  Not too short though to make new friends.  So in honour of all my old friends and all those new friends I am going to make in the span of my life…here’s to you…baked sweet potato pudding – my favourite.

Preparation Time: 75 minutes
Serves: 6


3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup melted butter
9 eggs
1 ½ cups orange juice
3 tablespoons rum (optional)
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon nuts, chopped
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder


  1. Separate the egg yolk and whites.  Keep 6 egg whites separately as they would be used later in the pudding.  
  2.  Put the mashed sweet potato, butter, sugar, egg yolks, orange juice, raisins, rum, nuts, cinnamon and lemon rind in a large bowl.  Mix and beat well together.   
  3. Whip 3 egg whites till stiff and fold into the mixture.  
  4. Grease a baking tin and pour the mixture.  Bake at 180 degrees C for 1 hour.  Allow the pudding to cool.  
  5. Beat the remaining egg whites till stiff and pour over the pudding and bake for another 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grilled Baby Potatoes with garlic

Disasters – natural disasters, man-made disasters – how do we deal with them?  If I switch on the television or radio today, all I can hear is about pain and suffering – tsunamis, wars, earthquakes and the like.  But in all these stories, a small glimpse of hope – of light is also seen.  Survivors stranded on roof tops and being found after several days, people helping and looking out for each other, people taking in others and caring for them, providing for them.  No human being is born a bad person.  Circumstances and situations change us – but innately we are all noble beings. 

I have realized that adversity and prosperity both do not last with us forever.  However, in adverse conditions sometimes we bring the best out in ourselves as human beings.  On the contrary, when we are prosperous many of us would hardly think of those less fortunate than ourselves.  But it is good to remind ourselves that none of these would last and would come to pass.  Make the most with the things you have.  It is just like cooking – for example if you want to prepare a cake, but realize that you have some ingredients missing – you would not give up making the cake.  You look for alternatives – replacing the butter with oil, replacing the chocolate chips with nuts.  You make do with what you have and perhaps share the cake with those who did not a house to even cook a cake. 

The recipe below is an accompaniment to most grills or barbecues at home.  For one it is simple and tasty and easy to make and I love grilled garlic on almost anything. 
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4


250 grams baby potatoes
8 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
10 flakes garlic
Salt to taste


  1. Clean and boil the potatoes till they are cooked, but not mushy.   
  2. Spread them on a greased baking tray and using a potato masher or fork, gently press on them once vertically and then horizontally.   
  3. Finely chop the garlic.  Sprinkle the garlic bits on the potatoes followed by the chilli powder and salt.   
  4. Generously drip the olive oil on the potatoes.   
  5. Heat oven to 180 degrees C and put the potatoes in for 15 minutes.  Serve hot with grilled meat, fish or chicken.