Dolphia’s Bengali Garlic Spinach Sauté


“Eating healthy is important but so is eating well too. A hearty meal with family is the most important part of leading a meaningful and healthy lifestyle (my personal thoughts)“. For some reason though, we have forgotten to understand that health is not merely in wealth, it also lies in the wealth of real happiness than perceived ideas of joy. Don’t you think?

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For ages joint families dwelled under one roof living a symbiotic life. The house was full of laughter and happiness. The happiness that today we could only imagine. Everything was real and pure. The chores were assigned. Men practiced profession and earned bread while women nurtured the tasks of the family and home in general. The division was clear and unquestioned.

People had no issues with teeth and hair. Their health was perfect. The could walk miles and consume all the ghee and nuts they ate. Their skin was glowing and their life was not about capturing every minute on a gadget.

People were content in little that they earned and shared amongst community. The barter was healthy. Men and women walked distances to achieve their targets. They did not hence need a psychiatrist or a gym. The health was part of their lifestyle and they lived it.

Industrialization came in and men moved out of their nuclear families came about. Urbanization further distanced us from the roots of true concepts of health. Stress, pollution, independence and self-entitlement now govern our lives. We have become the slaves of gadgets and gizmos. My mind is buzzed off sometimes with all the overwhelming technology. Yes, it has enriched our lives but has made it a mechanical engine too. I know it’s debatable.

I notice the change in myself in last one year. This has been the most that I used social networking as a medium of leading life (for lack of better words). I have a reason to curb. But,do we really want to pause and retrospect? No,we (including me) want to get off our struggles and stress through social networks. The question is do we have the healthiest lifestyle and health status? So many amongst us nearing 30’s have health issues and yet they are gymming on regular basis.

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My father was my hero,the epitome of health,strength,wisdom and knowledge.He shall always be! My mind is contemplating what am I going to be an epitome of to my son? Definitely not a hero.

The point I m trying to convey is how important it is to value spending actual time with family laughing, sharing and crying after a whole day of struggles in the outside world. Hence dinner is very important meal of the day to me! I like to make a balanced meal that all of us could enjoy without any gadget interruptions!

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Aspiring to make the meal interesting and likeable I need new recipes to try on. Now everyday cannot be “Eureka” but something new (healthy) could make a difference. So, when I don’t innovate in the kitchen factory my fellow bloggers inspire me with their rustic recipes. I mentioned to Dolphia of my love for Bengali food. However, though Bengalis are known for their exquisite mithai (sweets) and fish of course, their vegetarian platters are equally delicious so requested her to share few traditional recipes.

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The sweet girl that she (Dolphia) is, she took all the trouble of making a variety of these and matched them with perfectly shot picturesque trip to Bengal! Thank-you is too little a word to say, for I have a warm hug for my Bengali sister transported all the way to the east coast! I promise to make each one of those and share pics 🙂 And yes I will dedicate that “Wada Bhaat” recipe to you soon!Please refer her recipe hereJ. The recipe is a simple Spinach-Garlic sauté with practically zero oil and extremely nutritious. My pre-schooler loved it and kept asking for more servings of “palak bhaji” (spinach side-dish).

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I haven’t tweaked much in Dolphia’s recipe much (Yeah, but I said not much:P). I added a kick of freshly crushed “rai” or mustard seeds for the lack of owning a bottle of mustard oil. Back home in Bombay, our Bengali neighbor Krishna aunty added a hint of crushed mustard seeds and cooked in mustard oil always. Dolphia, I hope you don’t mind J. Trust me the recipe overall came together beautifully and your instructions were just perfect. Especially about the quantity of salt, they directions were spot on!

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The combination of fresh greens with garlic and red chilis always is vibrant visually and tantalizes taste buds. We gobbled a power meal of 3 bunches of spinach at one go! So, good job-check J.

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For the love of good life a cure so simple as to having a meal together is really priceless, don’t you think? How many of you like to have meals with no gadgets around (Just “US” kind of thing) ?

I do definitely! ❤

Steamed Banana Semolina Cake & Post A quote Challenge!


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Over-ripe Bananas sitting on the platter, what to do? Any ideas? I refer my Aji’s potli (Grandma’s bag of magic) full of simple recipes. And, make it time saving, economic, steamed, eggless and meatless too! Sounds a trip to heaven, doesn’t it? Believe me I cannot take the smell of meat and eggs on my dishes and gadgets! I just have to sanitize everything perfectly well until there is no trace of the foul smell. Monica Gellar I can beat you with my freakiness! Any other OCD’s for company??:P

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So without much commotion, I m going to share a detailed recipe of this healthy cake J

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Ingredients:

  • 1-2 ripe bananas (read over ripe in my case!!)
  • 1 cup. fine Semolina (Rava or Sooji)
  • 1 cup. finely chopped Jaggery (You can substitute with less than or equal amount of sugar).
  • 2 tsps. Cardamom powder
  • 3-4 strands of Saffron.
  • Chopped pistachios (You can add as many or as less. It’s an optional ingredient).
  • 1-2 tsps. Clarified butter (Ghee. It’s optional too. One could use olive oil too).
  • 1 big tbsp. Yoghurt/ Curd.

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Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients well until no lumps remain (not the nuts) and set aside for 5 minutes.The consistency of this batter is pretty thick (and sticky too) and not anything like the usual cake batter. So don’t get scared when you don’t see any folds of batter on tapping the spatula.Featured image
  • Add the chopped nuts.
  • Oil spray a steel container or the usual cake pan. I did not use any greasing and added a butter paper underneath into the pan.

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  • Spoon the batter into the cake pan.
  • Add water into the pressure cooker or steamer and set the cake pan inside it.Just cover the whistle hole with a bowl or just Al foil.
  • Allow it to steam cook for 8-15 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

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  • Garnish with nuts and clarified butter!

I looked forward to summer vacations at my Aji’s place in Bombay. She would make this cake. What made it surreal was she made it with so much care. And truth be told, it was absolutely real. We did not have cameras and camera phones back then. I ponder if having them then could have helped me treasure the essence of my childhood for future. Reality is that memories may fade but the essence remains within the soul.But then I look at myself and see how she has passed on her looks to me 🙂

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My Aji stays across the globe. Every trip to the motherland my heart sinks another inch to see her grow older and frailer.

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Chanakya rightly said, he who lives in our mind is near though he may actually be far away; but he who is not in our heart is far though he might really be near by”.

I feel it better than ever before. Having lost so many dear ones in less than two years in my immediate family, the feeling of seeing incomplete houses is setting in. But, life goes on, doesn’t it?

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I have trained my brain to be thankful to the bag of goodies life has given me so far. And, having a family like mine in itself is a boon.

A toast of healthy emotional balance to all!

BTW,This is my First entry to the Post A quote Challenge By Sumana 🙂 Thanks again for the opportunity. I wanted to begin my quotes with my aji’s recipe who shares her name with you 🙂

Coffee-Cinnamon Ice Cream: As Good As It Gets!


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I ❤ Bombay and honestly don’t need a reason to miss it! I miss it the most during hot & dry summers here. (Really, you miss perspiring? Unbelievable must you think J. I can see eyes balls rolling already :D!). One has got to be born there to feel the empathy and love of hot-humid weathers!

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Summers were long and fun. I longed to eat Aai’s homemade Coffee ice cream & Mango ice cream. She made often during the summer holidays thanks to my tonsillitis (that made cold foods a taboo through the rest of the year as I would quickly fall sick). But thanks to her, I could enjoy homemade preservative free Ice Creams.

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So here’s a recipe of a hassle-free, no techno-gadget friendly recipe of my Aai’s (mother’s) Coffee ice cream with a twist of Cinnamon added by me!

 Ingredients: (10-12 servings)

  • 5 litres 1% organic milk (approximately 0.39 gallons. Separate 1/4th cup milk from it and set aside).

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  • In a saucepan, bring the milk to boil.
  • While it boils, add the ¼ cup milk in a cup and stir in all dry ingredients. Microwave for upto 1 minute or until the milk is lukewarm.
  • Add vanilla extract to the lukewarm milk in the cup and mix well until frothy.
  • Pour the liquid into the boiling milk.
  • Keep stirring the mixture in the saucepan (over medium heat).
  • Reduce the mixture until it begins to thicken (due to the custard powder).
  • Set the pan off the flame (Switch the burner off :P, add the bourbon now and stir quickly if making alcoholic version).
  • Pour into suitable cups or bowls and allow it to cool down.
  • Place them in freezer uncovered.
  • Fork them after 20 minutes and cover the bowls. (So, we don’t ice the cream totally and make it crunchy.)
  • Few hours later, heaven on earth has just landed into your tummy! Top it with crisp cornflakes! Gives a good crunch to every bite.

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Now some would be curious to know why I chose to use Nescafe when there are other sophisticated (dark-medium) coffee beans and powders available in the American market?

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Aai always uses it and to my mind that’s the way it should be! There are recipes that are branded and then there are those that are Aai made (made by my mother). So apart from the addition of cinnamon (which was to elevate the coffee flavor and It did) nothing has been modified in the original recipe of my Aai.

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I sincerely hope (& pray) that the coffee ice cream brings the love and affection of our nuclear families. The love that exists but we fail to express. And the reason for us to stay up is the late night chatter and never ending conversations with loved ones. Dinners I feel get the family together and desserts bond them! Do you agree? 🙂

I came across this beautiful quote by an unknown writer, “Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee” or so we hope (I must add).

May conscience be with all of us, active and alert as it ever could be!

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Let it be clear and clutter free so we can reach out to the extent of mankind to heal, nurture, endure and love. Stay awake with a compassionate conscience and bowl of Coffee-Cinnamon Ice cream. And indulge guilt free with a clear conscience! The whole idea behind sharing the quote was pure Gluttony :P!

Déjà-Vu?

Chickpea Crusted Eggplant hearts on a Platter


Do you believe in the logic behind ”What’s in the name?” I absolutely do.

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In my defense of POV, I’d say nothing is in the name, the soul lies in the identity of the object (living or not. BTW, food is a living creation for me J)

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On that note of having people confused, let me further say that the recipe I am presenting today is my personal version of its traditional and famous counterparts made with passion, love as well as finesse across India. And needless to say that such a commonly made delicacy has no universal name or taste, but a common emotion! Oh yes, food has emotions and human mind associates food with memories.

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I would stay over at my grandmother’s house every Friday since every Saturday was early morning school day unlike the other days when school started at 10 am. My Aji (my mother’s mother up and bouncing at 89) would make Vangyache Kaap” very often during my sleepovers at their place. The prime reason being I simply adored them! My granny called it the “Brahmin’s fish” (Brahmins, do not eat non-vegetarian traditionally,I m an exception :P)!

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Sounds extremely odd to most mothers, isn’t it? I had surrendered to my mother’s strict discipline about eating all vegetables early on and eventually learnt to like them. So, I fell for eggplant/brinjal too!

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However I renamed my version of the traditional Marathi Vangyache kaap” as “Chickpea Crusted Eggplant Hearts on a Platter”. Sliced eggplant dipped in chickpea flour and minimal spices, elegantly cooked on a flat pan! Isn’t that such a hearty sight? Hence the name! Don’t mind the re-naming please!

And now without any more of blabber or Bakar (local word used for chatter in Bombay) I detail the ingredients and method for this delicacy!

Ingredients: (approx. 10 slices-3 persons)

  • 1 medium sized eggplant/brinjal (sliced about 10mm thick, washed and soaked in water)
  • 4 tbsps. Chickpea flour/besan.
  • 2-3 tsps. Ajwain/Carom seeds.
  • Salt to taste.
  • 2 tsps. Asafoetida.
  • 2 tsps. Turmeric powder.
  • 2 tsps. Garam masala /all spices powder.
  • 1-2 tsps. Red chili powder.
  • Olive oil Spray.

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Note: The carom seeds, asafetida and turmeric help balance the heaviness of eggplant. The eggplant is heavy on tummy or gives gases but its very subjective. To make it lighter on tummy and ease out any trouble later, the addition of these three ingredients plays a vital role.

 Method:

  • Mix all the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Lightly dap the moisture from the sliced eggplant with a tissue.
  • Coat the eggplant slices with the dry mixture.
  • Heat the flat pan on a medium flame. Spray the olive oil spray on it evenly. Use a brush if required to coat the pan.
  • Lay the slices on the pan.
  • Spray the topside with oil and turn.
  • Allow it to cook for up to 1.5 minutes on each side and spray while flipping to the side not facing the pan.
  • The eggplant would change colour to a beautiful golden from the white and the sides would turn darker.
  • Push a knife or edge of the spatula to check if the eggplant has cooked well.If the fork moves in easily, its done!

 It could be an appetizer or a sidekick with rice or bread! But,frankly it could be whatever you want it to be 🙂

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Good food needs no words, it’s a language by itself. So, relax and relish. Enjoying food and creating aromatic memories is more important. Have it with wine or Sol-kadhi (Maharashtrian Mangosteen Soup) as long as it delights you, nothing else matters!

What say? J

The Infinity Award Nomination!


“For the celebration I got champagne flutes, even though I’m not musical. That night I felt like Mozart. He was a drunk, right?” Jarod Kintz “This Book is Not For Sale”.

In the same spirit and virtual state of being drunk, I am happy to re-announce that my fellow blogger Sandhya has nominated me for the Infinity Award. Thanks Sandhya for the honour and again excuse me for the delay in responding! The news really made me feel so proud that a shot or two helped me appreciate the value of such a nomination. I truly needed to introspect if it was deserved or not :P! Yes, I am always this analytical J.Featured image

Awards and nominations come with a great sense of responsibility and expectation from the critiques (for glory or depreciation) to be able to keep up to the quality of content.

Sandhya wanted me to nominate 7 other promising incredible bloggers and share my dreams/desires along with some introduction about myself! Sandhya, that’s going to be toughest part for me J. But, I will give it a try!

 A heart without a desire is like a fire without warmth,

A lady without a dream is like a bird without wings,

A mind without a simplified hope is like a body without a soul,

I am a lady that defies the norm yet manages to be normal!

 A lady full of thoughts in a sealed envelope is like the storm after the quiet,

A lady that rebels and submits is like the dawn after the dusk,

A lady that dares and dreams is like the lost tide that gushes into the ocean with defeat,

I m a lady that defies the norm yet manages to be normal!

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So, I write J (or have been pretending to do so since 2006). But, this totally defines me as a person. For years that I lost my voice to rebel, this blog is a perfect vent. It’s complicated I know!

Apart from writing I am an arts lover. I enjoy music, pottery, photography and painting. It’s been a while but reading Jefferry Archer is my solace. Though my blogs brag about my mother’s food and goodness (and one might be lead to be fooled), I am totally Baba’s daughter (daddy’s daughter). And yes, my love of Sarees is not an unknown now or is it? :P.

Cooking has been a stress buster for all the years that I could not practice my vocation after migrating to US. It has helped me dig deep into the science behind every recipe and enjoy individual ingredients that go into my system.

I hail from Bombay. One could take me out of there but Bombay shall always stay inside me! Always. (Btw,that reminds me to share a newsAaswad Restaurant in Bombay made us proud by bagging the award for their signature misal pav for the “tastiest vegetarian dish in the world” award in London). My recipe would soon be published-loads of backlog!

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I am a classically trained Architect and hold masters in Construction Project Management.

I am still awaiting for my big break and foray into a meaningful career in the US. But I am very hopeful!

“There is more to me than words could refine,

More words could ruin the context of me,

If the words count,

Then count me not,

For there is more to me than words could define!”

But, if I had to (have to as per the guidelines of the awards) enlist few dreams and desires that keep me up and bouncing, here’s a real cutthroat list!

  •  To never stop aspiring..

I need to breathe dreams and believe in them. If I stop to do so they would never get the best of me. I frankly feel the best has yet to come; the better has yet to overcome!

  • To never stop learning..

I am basically extremely bad at being idle. My mind has to be busy with something. Thankfully my father and I shared this gene pool so following his footsteps learning new things always keeps me motivated. I m a great admirer of the processes than the actual product, so learning process fascinates me!

  • To be a little heartless..

Yeah, that’s right. I have always had issues from being exceedingly involved and invested in people. I have been bruised and hurt a million times. My compassionate heart fails my brain and its power to hold control over emotions. So, sometimes I truly hope to be a little heartless! 😛

  • To Simplify life..

I watch Daniel Tiger’s “world of make belief” with my son. Every time we watch it, I hope honestly to believe that life would be as simple as to “use your/one’s words” to explain or express and resolve issues. In the real world, we are too busy hiding our true emotions and creating a faux façade for the world.

Perhaps “to simplify life” I would have to become a cartoon character and pray Walt (Walter Disney) to make me the Minnie he designed on his desk (not the one we see today)! But, I still desire to simplify life in my own little way. No manipulation and no politics. Speak up for the righteous is my motto! But, my real desire is to get myself out of the tamed social context to be able to practice right of speech better :P.

  • To finally get a job on merit!

That’s quite a bit. I cannot think of more that what I could achieve in a while now!

And now the seven nominations for the Infinity Awards are:

Congratulations to the lovely Bloggers for the nomination! I’d like all of you to share more about yourself,your desires and nominate 7 more awesome bloggers!

 And Sandhya, thanks again for the opportunity and nomination!

Butterless Spaghetti Makhanwala with Shammi Kabab Meatballs


I love the concept of classic New York style Spaghetti with Meatballs. But it’s rare to find meatballs in Chicken or fish, isn’t it? Here’s how I began to believe otherwise J.

One of my son’s classmates Zo often got Spaghetti with Meatballs in her lunch box. And my son would find ways to convince me to make it. I thought and searched but could not think about a decent scramble for a chicken oriented meatball recipe. We don’t eat red meat so I don’t cook it either. I don’t have an issue if my son decided to eat red meat when he grows up but at the present if he ate and asked me to recreate a dish it would be very difficult. So, it’s more of convenience to opt for Chicken J.

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Through a food group I was introduced to a very talented culinary mind Ritu Shrivastava who shared her recipe for Shammi Kabab once. And my adventurous mind began to fuse an East meets the West recipe! Ritu, thanks for that recipe, it was very generous of you to share your delicious recipe and help me structure the fancies of my boy J. This is to you!

Here is a totally Indian take on the classic. Mine is called Butterless Spaghetti Makhanwala (low calorie tomato based sauce used for Indian delicacies like Butter Chicken etc) with Shammi Kabab meatballs (Indian Chicken mini patties infused with herbs).

Sharing this recipe for my boy of origin who loved it!

Spaghetti Makhanwala (Butterless Spaghetti in Tomato based Sauce)

Makhanwala (literally means loaded with butter and cream) gravy is rich, creamy and extremely flavorful. However, I wanted to make a lighter version of the parent sauce. Here is my version.

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Btw, I always make non-meat stuff first to avoid any cross contamination of uncooked meat and other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized tomatoes.
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  • 3 tsps. Cardamom powder.
  • 1 tsp. Garam masala (all spices powder).
  • Salt to taste.
  • 1 tsp. kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves to be added as garnish).
  • 2 tbsps. Yoghurt.
  • 3-4 black peppercorns.
  • 5 tbsps. Cashew powdered. (I did not use these. But they would add to the richness of the sauce).
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.

Method:

  • Blend all the ingredients using very little or no water at all into a smooth sauce.
  • Cook the sauce and bring it to a boil. To enhance richness of taste reduce it to a thick sauce.
  • Set aside.

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For Spaghetti:

  • Drop the Spaghetti into boiling water and follow the instructions on the carton for cooking through. Drain the water, dust salt and drizzle some olive oil.
  • Mix the spaghetti with sauce just before you have to serve. The starch in the pasta thickens up the sauce too soon. So, ideally drop the pasta into the water (simultaneously) when your Shammi kababs are been shallow fried.

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Ritu’s Shammi Kabab (Ground chicken meatballs)

  • 8-10 Organic chicken tenders (skinless).
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 cup of Cilantro.
  • ¼ cup of Mint leaves.
  • 2 tbsps. Ginger paste.
  • Green chilis (optional)- I added Tandoori Masala and Garam Masala (all spices powder).
  • Salt to taste.
  • Italian Bread Crumbs (my addition).
  • 2-3 tbsps. Italian Basil leaves (optional, my addition)
  • A good grinder.
  • Oil for shallow frying (about 4 tbsp.).

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Method:

  • Ground all the ingredients except oil and crumbs in a grinder. (Ritu had marinated the ground chicken with ginger and garlic paste along with onions. But, I skipped the marinating part and addition of onions. Also I did not add any oil in the ground chicken mixture as she suggested.)
  • Make small patties and roll them into bread crumbs. (Now you can make balls and choose to deep fry them but I am on a healthy diet plus a busy mom, so not going to commit the sin :P).

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  • Heat the oil on a flat pan and shallow fry the patties until crisp (about 7 minutes on each side). But, you can still cut it and find out if they are cooked through or not. I always follow the actual test than follow my gut here. No chances with raw meat!

Serve together!

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This is a healthier and extremely delicious Indian version of the American Classic! This is going in my special heirloom recipe book to be passed on to the next generation!

Besanwali Bhindi ( Stuffed Okra with Chickpea flour)


And then there was a ladyfinger. (Stir fry and Ladyfingers, thinking right?)

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Yes, the Indian Ladyfinger is America’s very own Okra! A beautiful green colored long vegetable just like a lady’s fingers.

However, after migrating to the US (post marriage) I was amused to learn that ladyfingers are a kind of biscuit (low density, egg based and sweet sponge like) used as a dessert ingredient and not a vegetable. Ironical isn’t it? :P!

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Besanwali Bhindi (Bharwa Bhindi/Bharleli Bhendi/ Stuffed Okra with Chickpea flour) is one of my favourite stir-fries! Getting fresh bhindi here is a rarity. At least I have not come across a single store that carries a nice sharp stock of it with it’s tails intact (those of you who have shared same pains of selecting amongst broken tailed okras,my heartfelt empathies!)

In childhood, my Aai (my mother) used to be so upset when I used to gobble down all the okra even before the lunchtime. Loved munching on these.

They obviously taste great when the oil dollop is bigger (or so I thought!)

Believe me there are so many people like me who believed that fat, bacon and ice-cream are mandatory sins of the culinary world! The humungous addition of these ingredients alone would make a dish taste out of the world! But, this version of “besanwali bhindi” will change it for all thinkers.

It’s light, time effective and delicious! What more other than a detailed recipe would one ask for?

Voilà!

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Ingredients: (for 2 persons)

  • 20 okras/ladyfingers washed, towel dried and slit lengthwise.(select smaller ones, they are perfectly tender.)
  • 3-4 tbsps. Besan or Chickpea flour.
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder.
  • Salt to taste.
  • 1 tbsp. jaggery or palm sugar.
  • 2 tsps. cilantro powder.
  • 2 tsps. cumin powder.
  • 1 tsp. roasted dried garlic powder.
  • 1 tsp. carom seeds.
  • Oil spray.
  • Oil for tempering.
  • 1 tsp. asafetida.
  • 1 tsp. turmeric.
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  • 2 tbsps. Garam masala (all spices powder).

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  • Mix the besan, chili powder, cilantro powder, garam masala, cumin powder, salt, jiggery, garlic powder, carom seeds and turmeric along with little salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Hold the slit okra is a hand and stuff the besan mixture in it. Gently coat the okra into the bowl of mixture after that. This seals the okra and the stuffing well and does not allow the filling to come out while cooking. (Even if it comes out, it still tastes great J). Repeat the same for all the ladyfingers.
  • Heat 2-3 tsps. Olive oil (or any of your choice) in a pan and make the tempering. Add the cumin seeds and asafetida in hot oil and allow it to crackle.
  • Add the stuffed okra in the pan.
  • Oil spray the okra and sauté.
  • The colour of okra changes to a brighter green, that’s when it is cooked well.
  • But, we need the okra to be crisp and crunchy so allow it to crisp on a medium-slow flame. If you fear the okra to burn in the deep pan, add a flat pan (tawa) beneath it until it crisps.
  • And it’s ready!

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I understand that it takes a while stuffing each okra and then crisping it up, but the results are worth the trouble! I have seen a couple of my friends broil it in the oven to crisp it up, you can try doing that and share how! One word of advice though, while cooking okra do not cover the pan with a lid, the gel like saps within comes off and is sticky. It’s not very appetizing to the eyes L.

Serve besanwali bhindi with your choice of bread or eat it JLT! I have had this as an appetizer for many gatherings and it’s a crowd pleaser!!