Showing posts with label Brunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brunch. Show all posts

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Curried grits- Indianizing a Southern staple!

Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I first “invented” this dish.

We were driving back from Niagara- Toronto last summer with extended family. Tired, cranky, bickering children and 7h in a closed car were enough for us adults to throw in the hatchet. Unable to find any decent places to stay a night, A resorted to calling a close friend in Connecticut. Gracious host that he was, he welcomed us with open arms despite no prior notice. We arrived late that night, and went straight to bed.

The next morning, I woke up to find this friend in his kitchen, reading labels off a box and frantically talking on his phone. As I walked in, he quickly bid goodbye, and grinned at me sheepishly.

“I was talking to my wife- seems like I bought the wrong stuff. She’d said she’d tell me how to make upma for breakfast, but now you will have to eat buttered toast instead”. He stared morosely at the box in his hand.

“What’s that?, I asked. He quietly handed me a box of Quaker quick grits.

“She asked me to buy Sooji. I went to store, and described what I wanted. The guy showed me this box, so I bought it. I am so tired of eating butter-toast”

Turned out that his wife was visiting family in India for a few weeks, when A invited himself over. And this friend forgot to mention this fact when we called. His wife didn’t want her uninvited guests to not feel welcome in her absence, so she was trying to be a long-distance hostess through her husband. And now, we had a long-distance couples’ quibble on hand!


I ended up making upma out of grits – much to our friend's happiness, and his wife’s enormous relief when I texted her a picture of it, thanking her for her hospitality! The recipe below is a simpler adaptation. Those of you who are familiar with upma can try your own variation. For the rest, this is my everyday curried grits.

Curried Grits



Quaker Quik Grits - 2 individual packs
Frozen peas and carrots - 1/2 cup (soaked in water to thaw)
Onion chopped - 1/2 of a small onion
Spices to taste - salt, red chilli powder and a hint of turmeric
Water - 1 cup
Oil - 1Tbsp
Cumin seeds - a small pinch
A dash of lemon and some cilantro to garnish at the end.


  1. Heat oil in a wide pan, and splutter cumin seeds. 
  2. Add the onion, saute till translucent and golden.
  3. Drain and add the frozen peas and carrots. Cover and cook for 4-5 min till they soften.
  4. Mix in the grits. Dry roast on low flame with the vegetables for 1-2 min.
  5. Add the spices and water. Keep stirring to avoid clumps.
  6. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook until the water is absorbed. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom. Quik grits do not take more than 4-5 min to cook. I let them sit covered for a couple of minutes before serving.
My two cents: I had never heard of grits before, forget about eating them. When I opened the box, the powder sure looked like our sooji, which would explain why the store lady guided our friend to it. Turns out, that grits is a coarse meal made out of corn. Call it corn-rava, if you want. Takes up the flavors just like our regular rava upma and tastes great! 

Highly recommend it for a quick, healthy, filling and gluten-free breakfast fix!









Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Warm Comforts - Savory Oats Upma

About a year ago, while I was still working at the University, a new student joined our group. After a long time, Having a fellow-Indian to talk to at work place meant that lunch-time conversations often meandered towards reminiscing about food in India. A month or so later, her husband went to visit his parents in Southern India, and when he returned, she came bearing some gifts for me. One of which were packets of the very popular, "Maggi" brand instant oats breakfast. Apparently, that product had recently been launched in India, and she really liked the convenience of it for breakfast. You essentially had to pour out the ingredients into a bowl, put in some water, zap it for a couple of minutes in the microwave and you had a warm bowl of Indian breakfast.

"I never eat Maggi"; I informed her, referring to the widely popular instant noodles available in India. "I hate the smell of it."

"This one isn't the same", she said. "This is made of oats and tastes like Upma. You do like Upma, don't you?" 

That is how I ended up with 3 packs of this Maggi Oats Upma product. 


The packs languished in my pantry for a few months. Then one night, I found myself alone, hungry and craving something warm without having to go through the pain of cooking or cleaning after. Rummaging through, I found these packs again. With no other alternative in sight, I decided to go for it. 5 minutes later, with a warm bowl in hand and a Hallmark movie on demand for company; I decided that I actually liked what I was eating. It was a tad too spicy for my taste, and still had that artificial flavor after-taste; but it was comforting and hearty.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chawal ka Paratha- Reliving Childhood.


I have been told that kids should learn to eat everything. And that offering them with a choice is spoiling them for life. But believe me, if catering to foodie likes and dislikes is spoiling, then I was a thoroughly spoilt brat as a kid! And I changed when I grew up (not all, but quite a bit!)….

For many of my growing up years, I refused to eat roti. Eaten the traditional way, it got my hands dirty, food got under my fingernails, and I complained about smelly food fingers after lunch at school. I’d only eat whatever I could with a spoon. That pretty much made rice or sandwiches the only option for school. I wasn’t ready to even consider anything else. Then one day, my mom packed my school lunch with stuffed parathas, filled with rice – with the reasoning that she was still giving me rice - and I got a new food to love for life!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vegetable patties- Anytime Snack.

Another one of those forgotten foods from our times in India.

Patties were a staple in all Delhi University South Campus college canteens. Our post-lunch, mid afternoon chai time would not be complete without a few orders of these delicious, mouthwatering accompaniment. Between the ten of us classmates, a few plates of patties vanished before they appeared on the table.

Living here, I didn't see them for a very long time. And with time, memories dimmed. Then, on one of my visits to a friend in New York (the one who taught me the badam halwa), I had a chance to taste them again. My friend's neighbor had made them, and I remember being so awed at her ability to be able to recreate that magic. Another few years later, at a picnic potluck, another friend offered to bring patties.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gobhi ka Paratha- Cozy Comfort of a Cold Morning.


The humble cauliflower; and the mighty peas –possibly, two of my dad’s favorite things.

Sometime in November, the sabzi-wala bhaiya would come all excited and call out for my dad, announcing that he had procured the first cauliflower and peas of the season. My dad would hurry on downstairs. Then, they would engage in at least a half-hour haggle on prices; the bhaiya, unrelentingly adamant that his prices were reasonable, and my dad, equally strong-willed about making a good bargain. Finally, they always came to an agreement on “wholesale prices”, and my dad came back laden with 5kgs of fresh peas and 5kgs of cauliflower. The next half hour- my mom hemming and hawing about shelling all those peas and my dad trying to calm her down by saying that he’d help- which of course was the biggest lie ever!

Then I remember those afternoons when I came home from school to find my mom sitting on the balcony in the winter sun, elbow-deep in shelling peas. She not only seperated the sweet pea seeds, but also skinned the tender shells of new peas to make another one of my dad’s favorite – “matar ke chilke ki sabzi” (more on that, later some day….). Sometimes, I helped her. More often than not, the peas went straight in my mouth!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekend Morning Brunch with Samosa

We grew up in a time when schools and offices in India dictated a 6-day work-week rule. To re-affirm Sunday as his day off from work, my dad did all the things that he normally wouldn’t on a week-day. He was always an early riser, but on Sundays, he made tea for mom and himself.   He also let her sleep that extra half-hour - a big concession since he was a stickler for time and schedule. My dad was also a foodie, as well as overtly conscious of hygiene. He loved eating spicy chaat and “gourmet" food; but then insisted that his digestion-related issues were because of the unhygienic conditions of the roadside stalls rather than his over-eating. In his mind, the perfect solution was to start a Sunday Brunch tradition where he insisted that we break free of the dal-roti-sabzi routine and cook something “special". My mom wasn’t too keen initially; but he promised her he would help her with getting the brunch started. And he kept his promise as far back as I can remember….

One of the first recipes I remember him bringing home is that of a Samosa. He had it on a piece of a greasy, lined notebook sheet, with step-by-step diagrams for my mom to follow. He said he’d given 10 rupees to his favorite roadside-samose-waale-panditji for the recipe. Mommy was so miffed, that she refused to make it for him. So him and I sat down with a bowl full of all-purpose flour and emptied a big jug of water to make the pastry dough. And then, we were stuck- for the recipe said to break the dough into balls while we had a river of white gooey stuff in our bowl…nowhere near a dough that you could break balls out of….The samose-waale-panditji, in all his wisdom, hadn’t bargained for complete novices trying to replicate his recipe. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Craisin Scones

This past Thanksgiving, the kids were hankering for a meal like they had read about at school. Baby P actually came home with a written down menu that was a "vegetable..rian". We were to have corn and potatoes and beans :-) So I humored her. We had creamed corn soup, mashed potatoes, pickled beets (beets and beans sound the same…so I chose to mis-hear her since I just had beets in the fridge!!), oven roasted sweet potatoes….and this easy cranberry scone recipe for bread.  Went fairly well with the rich soup, even though I didn't add enough milk, and so the scones came out a bit crumbly….

Monday, November 11, 2013

A blast from the past: Kalmi Vada

My MIL claims not to be much of a cook herself. But the truth is, her discomfiture in the kitchen makes her one of the better home cooks I know of. She measures and tastes and strives for perfection when most people, including yours truly, get side-tracked by their own confidence into serving without tasting first.  One of the first things I remember from her kitchen was this delicacy she called Kalmi vada.  I had been married barely about a month,  when she made these for the Holi festival over a decade ago.  I remember she'd sounded surprised when I said that I'd never eaten those before. Apparently,  Kalmi vada is a Rajasthani snack....never saw it made in my Rajasthani side of the family though.....

Friday, August 9, 2013

Teej Greetings- with Malpua/ Indian Pancake

Today, I learnt this morning, is Shravani Teej.....the festival of swings and mehendi.

For many many years in my growing up years, the first rains of monsoon would begin an impatient wait for Teej. More often than not, I knew it was around the corner when some strange messenger rang our doorbell with a box-ful of goodies for my mom - saree, red and green bangles, bindi-kajal-sindoor, toe rings, mehendi and mouth watering sweets made especially for my mom by her mom.....The D-day I'd see my mom deck up in all her finery, and dream of looking as beautiful as she did then; someday.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bhature - A Punjabi Flat Bread

I just came back from a 10-day vacation. My plan, apart from doing everything else you do while on vacation, was to catch up with blogging. In anticipation, I loaded up a few pictures, and saved a couple of draft versions of posts.  While I was doing that, I realized that this space of mine has become therapeutic to me. Writing relaxes me; but I have also become addicted to all the lovely comments that you all leave me. The last 10 days, I actually had severe withdrawl symptoms.

The one day I remember, is while visiting some family in Sweden. She made Chole-bhature for dinner. But somehow, her dough for Bhature got too sticky. They were hard to roll, and wouldn't puff up. I asked her her recipe, and realized it was quite a bit different from mine. So I figured, I'd share how I make this quintessential Punjabi flat bread. This may not be an authentic recipe, but this is how my mom told me I could make a fairly sticky dough manageable...and it works quite well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Seyal Bread- or Bread Upma

The very first childhood friend I can recall was a very pretty little girl who lived two doors down from us. She was a year older than me. We met when we hadn't even started school, and remained friends till her marriage right after graduation. Those early years, we were inseparable. She was Sindhi, and I loved her mom's food. Around 4pm, her mom would stand on the balcony and call me- that was her tea time, and she always made a warm "tiffin" to go with it, which I devoured.

Those early years, all our dolls married each other....until that last time......

My uncle brought me a life-sized baby doll that could walk, talk and blink her eyes from some far-away land. The day after I showed off my "Rosie" to my friend, she fished out an old moth-eaten bean-bag doll and declared that we should have a massive wedding for them. All aflutter, I agreed. we set up a roof-top tent on a warm summer evening. My mom stitched up a red dress for Rosie, while my friends' doll got boys' clothes and a turban. The menu included those little sweet Sindhi rotis that I think were called Loli; and my mom's chole-chawal. We were happy enough to invite our younger siblings to the wedding, and serve food in my "real" China dinner set- again a gift from my sailor uncle from some mysterious land.  Our brothers provided music by beating out-of-sync on their drums, while my friends' younger sister was the designated gypsy dancer. All went smoothly.  My bride arrived in my brother's prized, battery-operated car. We sang, danced and had a very fun wedding. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sujjige - Sooji-Ka-Halwa (but Not)...

Sooji-ka-Halwa had got to be the most common dessert that I knew of, growing up. My mom made it the drop of the hat, for any occasion (or not), celebration or an unexpected guest that stayed on for dinner.  And the only way I knew of making it is as I have told you about here. But it was always served as an end of the meal sweet-taste. Then I got married, and my MIL made a version of cream of wheat porridge, using Sooji , for breakfast. It always reminded me of baby food, which is why I made a lot of that for Baby P when she was a toddler.  I could never really eat it myself though.

One time,  my sister-in-law, who has developed quite a taste for our version of Sooji-ka-Halwa, mentioned that in Goa, they make a similar dish but using milk and egg mixture for moisture rather than water. That sounded interesting, but fairly out of reach because of the egg. I often wondered if I could just use milk instead of water for my version of Halwa.....as usual, never tried. Recently, I came across a recipe for Sujjige, a Kannada recipe that reminded me of my SIL's Goan dish, but without the eggs. It also reminded me of my MIL's semolina-milk breakfast, minus the baby-food consistency! So yesterday, for the day of Ashtami, instead of my regular Sooji-ka-halwa, I tried out the Sujjige recipe...followed the recipe to a T this time...[except for the cashews and raisins....baby P doesn't like any texture in her sticky sweet :-(  ]. Follow the link, and see the beautiful recipe and pictures at Radhika's site... In essence, the difference is using a mix of water and milk instead of water alone for cooking the Sooji.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Corn muffins: Weekend Brunch

I had never had a savory-ish muffin ever in my life. Then came A's friend- who went to a culinary school in New York while her husband was sent far away on a consulting assignment. Not only did she go to this school, but she actually got interested enough to stay on for a whole 9 months and graduate.  So when she came to visit us loaded with a tray-ful of goodies she'd baked herself, my jaw literally dropped to the floor. Not only did she bring melt-in-the-mouth cakes and muffins, but also awesome chocolate creations and a few of the savory corn and jalapeƱo muffins, that she said were leftover from their morning breakfast.  The first thought that went through my mind when I tasted her creations- her husband's never going to accept any more consulting offers ever again :-))

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A cuppa chai.....

Nothing's as comforting; or as nostalgia-evoking; as a cup of Chai....

My parents began their mornings; and ended their work day; with some alone time together.  Just the two of themselves, and their cups. My mom's without sugar; my dad's with honey. They planned all things important at this time- their monthly budget, holidays, celebrations, our future and theirs. As I grew older, I learned to leave them alone with their thoughts in the mornings. With their Chai in the evenings, we talked about our day at school and my dad's day at the court. My mom listened to all three of us, and said very little. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sooji ka Uttapam- veggie no-egg frittata

When I think signature dishes, the ones that instantly come to my mind are my MIL's recipes. Probably because these were the ones that I encountered as 'new' in my adult life, and got to associate with especially her.  One of the first of these that I tasted from her was a Holi special (but we'll leave that for later). The other one is her favorite snack recipe. I've known her to make this up at any of those times when you're feeling hungry for no apparent reason, and meal time is hours away.  She's also been known to substitute this for an early dinner sometimes.  As for me,  I can eat her 'Sooji-ka Uttapam' anytime, anywhere and in humongous quantities - that's how good it is.  Despite my liking for this, I hadn't really tried to make this my own. This was something that was predominantly "mummy' domain- I demonstrated by appreciation by eating it, but leave the actual making of it to her. Although to be truthful, I've tried it a couple of times...and then left it for the experts like her!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tried and conquered! Besan ka Dhokla

It isn't easy for me to tell you this. Actually, the confession downright hurts. The recipe that you are going to read about here; is as basic as it gets. However, it has taken me years to get it to work. The fact of the matter is that I am not very kitchen savvy (here is your cue to humor me and insist that I am.....)! What I am, is tenacious. Sometimes I can make things work - like the dhokla below- and then I get to show you a pretty picture and gloat about it through your words. Often times, things don't go as expected, and I just hush  the matter up and you go on thinking that I'm a genius at work.Which I totally am. I insist you to go on believing that and reaffirming it to me. But let's come back to this later. First the dhokla story.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend Chronicles- with Bread Pakora


Quite an eventful week it turned out to be. 

First came the earth-shaking excitement of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in the middle of the work week. Nobody could figure out what was responsible for our jiggling PowerPoint, shaking building and electricity blink during our weekly meeting. Of the various explanations put forth, the first one was that a plane had crashed into our building; afraid of a WTC repeat, most people prepared to jump out the windows (thank goodness everyone in the group is scared of heights- even if it is just the 4th floor).  Then we moved on to an equally outrageous subway explosion (the lines do run under our building) and a relatively sensible truck-crash with our building's loading dock (that happens to sit right below the conference room). The truck story also assumed explosive proportions by speculating that it might be a gas-tank truck: the one which brings huge cylinders of oxygen, nitogen and other medical gases to us. It was a breathless-with-fear South American colleague that mentioned an earthquake. The excitement that followed was astronomical!  The rest of the meeting, we brainstormed whether we sat on  dynamic earth plates, if End of the World Prediction included August 2011 and   whether to evacuate or not!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Brunch with Bread and Vegetable Rolls

Growing up, I looked forward to weekends not only because the school was closed, but also because our day started with skipping beakfast (that is, the regular milk and cereal) in favor of a special Sunday brunch. Plus, we could eat together in front of the TV- watching epics like Ramayan or Mahabharat, not to forget Star Trek, Superman, Mickey Mouse and Tom & Jerry. All together, we're talking at least 2h of unrestricted TV and food time every Sunday morning. I especially remember the years that Ramayan and Mahabharat were being aired. My mom would actually bring her cooking supplies- everything except the stove that is- into the TV room. And dad and I would help her with the prep work while watching our program. So she rolled the flour while we filled the pastries for samosa or stuffed pooris, or dad and I made cutlets while she prepped the herbs for chutney. Then she ran back to the kitchen and cooked everything up in the 15 min. commercial break, and we'd eat together when the episode resumed to air. Even after TV ceased its hold over us in our teenage age years, we kept up with the Sunday brunch tradition.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Encore! Tadka Idli.


 The weather has certainly cleared up quite a bit. Grass looks a lot perkier, and little shoots of daffodils are breaking ground in my flower beds. Looking at the bright sunshine and temperatures in mid 50s, we thought  last weekend that we'd go to a park and initiate the picnic season. Before we could settle on a  menu, our plans got washed away; literally. Heavy rains Thursday night into Friday left all the surrounding creeks and rivulets overflowing, with flash flood warnings. All our favorite picnic places turned into mini swamps. Rather than lose the opportunity to get together, our friend R suggested we come to her place.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Golden Sunshine: Makkai ka Zucchini Paratha

Unexpectedly, it is a beautiful, warm and sunny day today. A taste of spring to come . After months of cold and snow, it is nice to see the sun come out bold and bright. I may sound cliche, but seeing the sun come out and light up everything did ease my gloominess - part of which was as a result of my recent health problems. The snow has really started to melt and I can see bald patches in my lawn, where grass will spring up...soon, I hope. The trees look like they're ready to sprout and I can't wait to start thinking about a vegetable patch again this year. I've spent the past couple of hours sitting outside, and just soaking up the beauty of this day. And reminiscing....