Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grilled vegetable cheese sandwich with spinach avocado spread

Ohhh these sandwiches are good. So good that I can have these for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the same day. This is indeed a good sandwich for a hot summer day. All it needs is a few slices for tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and this heavenly spread and you are good to go. This sandwich is filling and healthy to boot. It can be a goto sandwich when you don't want to turn on the stove on a hot sweltering day.

I just love the combination of the spinach and avocado. The combo of fresh spinach and creamy avocado is just too hard to resist. The recipe for this spread is inspired from the spinach avocado pesto from joy the baker. I refuse to call this spread as pesto because, it does not have traditional ingredients that goes into making a pesto. I avoided the use of cheese for the fear of diminishing the shelf life. Dar has a humid climate and food stuffs with cheese tend to go bad despite the refrigeration. But, inspite all the changes, the dip/spread was as tasty as ever. So tasty, that this spread seems to boost the flavor of any dish that it is added to. No wonder. These sandwiches taste out of this world. Apart from sandwiches, I have tried incorporating this spread in pasta, on crackers and the taste was just awesome.

I have used white bread in these sandwiches. But you can use any bread that you like. I guess soft whole wheat bread would work great as well. As for the cheese, you can use either mozzarella, cheddar or even gouda. This sandwich is quite substantial and filling. Just pair this with a simple soup and rest assured your meal is bound to be a generous one

Grilled vegetable cheese sandwich with spinach avocado spread:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 15min
Makes- 2 sandwiches and 1-1/2cup of pesto

Ingredients for the pesto

Finely chopped Spinach- 250gms tightly packed
Avocado- 1 med sized
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper powder- 1 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Olive oil- 2tbsp+2tsp

  • Heat 2tsp of olive oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they turn brown, add the chopped spinach and fry for 2-3min till the spinach wilts a little.
  • Add salt and fry for two more minutes. Take off the heat and allow the spinach to cool completely
  • Chop the avocado into two halves, remove the seed and scoop out the flesh into a blender jar. 
  • Add the lemon juice, pepper powder and the cooled spinach mixture and pulse the mixture for 5-6 times. 
  • Add the remaining 2 tbsps of olive oil and blend the mixture till smooth.
  • Transfer the contents from the blender to a sterilized jar and refrigerate till further use.
Ingredients for the sandwich:

Bread- 4 slices
Avocado spinach spread- 2 tbsp or as required
Pickled chili peppers- 1tbsp or to taste
Salt- to taste
Tomato- 1, thinly sliced
Cucumber- 1 small, thinly sliced
Cheddar or mozzarella cheese- 2 slices
Butter or oil to shallow fry

  • Spread butter or oil on the outside of the bread slices and spread the spinach avocado spread on the inside of the bread.
  • Arrange cucumber slices on one slice of bread and place a slice of cheese on top. 
  • Place 3-4 pieces of picked chili peppers and top with tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste and finally top with another slice of bread, spread side in and press slightly.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and place the prepared sandwich on the hot skillet. 
  • Grill the sandwich till it is golden brown and the cheese has melted. About 1-2 mins per side and serve immediately.
This sandwich will be a part of Nancy's YBR event for the month of April

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Roasted Egg plant chutney

Sutta badanekayi chutney or roasted eggplant chutney is a simple yet hearty side dish with earthy and aromatic flavors.This recipe is a sattvik, fat free and vegan dish with fresh ingredients to boot. So I guess this is one dish where you can indulge.
According to ayurveda, the best way to consume egg plant is by roasting them on an open flame. Oh yes!! Roasted eggplants are supposedly very good for liver and spleen. It is said that consuming roasted eggplants with garlic helps in strengthening the spleen, which is often weakened during jaundice.
This chutney is extremely easy to put together. Roasting the egg plant on an open flame is the only time consuming part. But other wise, it hardly takes any time. The ingredients required for this dish is also something that is easily available. 

This chutney tastes great with just about everything. I have tried serving this with rice, rotis, even on my toast. Although I have to agree that spreading this chutney on my toast was taking this  a little too far, but I just can't deny how delicious my toast tasted. 

Egg plant chutney recipe
Preparation time: 10min+ broiling time
Cooking time- 5min
Makes- 1-1/2 cups

Egg plant- 1 large
Freshly grated coconut- 1/2 cup
Tamarind- 1 small lime sized
Salt to taste
JAggery- 1 tsp
Kashmiri Red chilies- 2-3
For the tempering:
Oil-  2tspn
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Urad dal or black lentils- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- 8-10
Hing- a pinch
Coriander leaves- 1 tbsp to garnish

  • Grease the egg plant with a little oil and cook over an open flame till it is completely black and soft.
  • Cool the egg plant completely and  peel the skin and keep aside
  • Heat quarter tsp of oil I a pan and fry there'd chilies for a min and set aside.
  • Extract the tamarind pulp by adding two tbsp of water to the tamarind.
  • Assemble the cooked eggplant, coconut, tamarind pulp, red chilies, salt and jaggery in a blender jar and blend till smooth.
  • For the tempering, heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle  add the urad dal and fry till they are brown.
  • Add the curry leaves and hing and fry till the curry leaves turn crisp.
  • Add the tempering to the ground chutney, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with hot steamed rice or rotis and a dollop of ghee.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lobia masaledar- Curried cow peas or black eyed peas

Legumes and lentils are an integral part of our everyday menu. Not a day goes by where we do not consume a lentil in some form or the other. If not any other legume, Toor dal or pigeon peas is sure to be consumed almost everyday either in the form of Sambar or rasam. There is something about legumes that makes a meal hearty. All you need is a simple dal and a bowl of rice and the meal is bound to become wholesome and nourishing. Perhaps that is the reason, I am always finding new ways to fit more legumes and lentils into my diet. And this dish is one such attempt.

The best part about living in Tanzania is that one gets to eat fruits and vegetables that are free from pesticides. Legumes like kidney beans and cow peas or black eyed peas are often available fresh at my door step. All through my six year stay in Tanzania, never once have I purchased dried legumes. So when my vegetable vendor got these fresh and shelled cow peas at my door step, I could not help but buy some. I normally use cow peas in sambar, but this time I decided to use this legume in the onion and tomato gravy instead. 

Lobia masala is a healthy variation to the regular dal fry or dal makhani. The cow peas are pressure cooked and simmered in onion and tomato gravy that is flavoured with spices. This curry is rich in a subdued earthy way. This aromatic stew is best served with tikona (triangular) parathas or just plain rice. But if you want a to make your meal a little more richer and substantial, then I suggest serving Lobia masala with ghee rice. I assure you it will take the flavors to a whole new level.

Lobia Masaledar recipe
Preparation time- 20min
Cooking time: 15min
Serves- 4

Fresh Lobia or cowpeas- 250 gms
Onion- 1 med, finely chopped
Tomatoes- two large, finely chopped
Ginger garlic paste- 1tsp
Green chili- 1, slit
Oil- 2tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Bay leaf- 1
Cinnamon- 1"piece
Cloves- 3
Turmeric- 1/2tsp
Red chili powder- 1/2tsp
Cumin seed powder- 1/2tsp
Coriander seed powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- A pinch
Salt to taste
Sugar- 1/2tsp
Butter- 1tbsp (optional)
Coriander leaves to garnish


  • Pressure cook the cow peas  with 1-1/2 cups of water for 4-5 whistles or till tender and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in thick bottmed pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they sputter, add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves and fry for a min.
  • Add the chopped onion, and green chili and fry till the onion turns pink. Stir in the ginger-garlic paste and fry for two more mins so that the raw smell is removed.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for a min. Add the turmeric, salt, sugar, red chili powder, coriander, cumin seed powders and fry for 5min till the mixture is mushy and the oil separates.
  • Stir in the cooked cow peas and garam masala and mix well. Allow the mixture to simmer for five more min. If using butter, then add at this stage and mix.
  • Take off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or rotis.

  • If using dry cow peas, then it would have to be soaked for 5-6 hrs or overnight before proceeding to make the curry.
  • The use of butter is optional. You can omit using butter if you want to make this dish vegan.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Black and white Wednesday#80- Cauliflower

The above picture of rice is my entry to Black and white wednesday#80. A  culinary photo event that was created by Susan of the well seasoned cook, now organized by Cinzia of Cindystar, which is now hosted by Anusha of Tomato blues

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ugadi wishes and Ambode recipe

Happy Ugadi to all my Dear friends. Hope you have a prosperous and a fun filled year ahead.
Festivals always bring with them a frenzy of activities in every house hold. And mine is no different. The day starts very early. After the ritual oil bath, and prayers, I enter kitchen to start cooking for the festive feast. A festive occasion always calls for a bhaksha (something like holige, kadubu, laddu), Payasa or kheer, chitra anna (savory rice dish), one or two varieties of curries, one or two varieties of salads, a deep fried dish, A side dish like sambar, kootu or tovve to go with plain rice. And yes, the rasam is almost always there. Apart from all these things, there should also be a deep fried dish. This my friends is the menu for a typical brahmin festive feast. 

When ever there is a festival, I make it a point to make most of the dishes. Although I limit the curries and the salads to just one variety. But otherwise, the rest of the dishes are almost always there. For today's festive feast, apart from the traditional "bevu bella" (neem and jaggery concoction) I had made lapsi kheer, holige, green beans stir fry, Huli tovve, rasam, Lentil salad and cucumber salad and ambode or masala vada. 
Since there is so much of cooking happening, I hardly find anytime to photograph the dishes. And even if I do find some spare time, Purvi is usually there to take it. But today, I some how managed to photograph these wholesome fritters with the little light that was available from the setting sun.

Ambode or masala vada is one of the staple dishes on festive occasions. It is also one dish that can be made and served in a number ways. I personally like ambode with vegetables in it. Apart from imparting a distict flavor, they also make these vadas sattvik. But you can omit the vegetables completely if you wish. You can also add a medium sized onion, instead of the veggies. The vadas may taste different but it would taste delicious none the less.

Ambode or masala vada recipe:
Preparation time: 15min+soaking time
Cooking time: 15min
Makes about 1-1/2 dozen masala vadas

Chana dal or bengal gram- 180gm or 1 cup, soaked in enough water for 2 hours
Carrot- 1 small, peeled and grated (optional)
Grated Cabbage- 1/4cup (optional)
Rice flour- 2tbsp
Salt to taste
Green chili- 2, finely chopped
Curry leaves- 8-10, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Grated fresh coconut- 2tbsp
Hing- A big pinch
Oil to deep fry.


  • Drain the soaked lentils and pulse in a blender for five to six times. The lentils should not be ground to a fine paste. It is ok if the some portion of the lentil is left whole.
  • Transfer the coarsely ground chana dal to a large bowl and add the grated carrot, cabbage, rice flour, salt, coconut, green chili, coriander leaves, curry leaves and hing and mix well.
  • Heat oil in a wok. To check if the oil is hot enough for frying, drop a small portion of the lentil mixture into the oil. If it rises to the surface immediately, then the oil is ready for frying.
  • Pinch a small lemon sized portion from the lentil mixture, shape them into balls and flatten them slightly in your hands and gently slip it into the oil.
  • Deep fry the vadas on medium high heat till they are brown on both sides. 
  • Remove the fritters from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on an absorbent paper and serve immediately. 
  • Repeat the same procedure with the rest of the lentil mixture.
  • The use of rice flour is optional. But I feel that rice flour apart from absorbing excess moisture also makes the fritters crisp.
  • You can also substitute, the coriander leaves with mint leaves or the cabbage with onion or corn. Trust me the this is one dish which has endless variations.
  • You can also add a little more zing to these fritters by sprinkling some chaat masala on the fritters before serving.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Maharashtrian masala bhat

Masala bhat or masale bhat is a maharashtrian delicacy. A maharashtrian wedding is never complete without the masala bhat on the wedding menu. Masala bhat literally means spicy rice. This is a unique dish where the rice is cooked with a medley of vegetables and spices.

This aromatic one pot rice can either me made using more than one vegetable, or just one vegetable like eggplants, or ivy gourds. Traditionally, the goda masala is added to spice up this rice. But since i did not have the goda masala on hand, I made the home made spice mix. I have also made this rice in a sattvik way. That is, I have not used any onion or garlic in the recipe.

Since Ugadi is round the corner, I thought this rice dish would be perfect for the festivities. Although this rice tastes great as is, just try having this rice with an extra dollop of clarified butter. The flavour of the rice will go a few notches up!!

Masala bhat recipe:
Preparation time: 20mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
Serves- 4

Basmati rice- 1-1/2 cup
Carrot- 1peeled And chopped into 1" long pieces
Green beans- 7-8 chopped into 1" long pieces
Peas- 1/3 cup
Potato- 1 med sized, cubed
Turmeric- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves-1 sprig
Ghee or oil- 2 tbsp+1tsp
Cashew nuts- 10-12
Asafoetida- a pinch
For the spice mix:
Dry coconut (grated)-1/3 cup
Cinnamon- 1" piece
Cloves- 3
Bay leaf- 1
Cumin seeds- 2 tspn
Coriander seeds- 3 tbsp
Sesame seeds- 1 tsp
Kashmiri red chillies- 4
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbspns of Grated fresh coconut and 2tbsp of coriander leaves to garnish

  • Wash the rice twice in water. Drain and set aside.
  • For the spice mix, Heat a thick bottomed pan and dry roast the spices and seeds and red chillies till brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and keep aside
  • In the same pan, add the grated dry coconut and warm slightly and take off the heat.
  • In a blender jar, grind the roasted spices and seed mixture to a coarse powder first. Then add the toasted coconut and grind till the powder is fine and set aside.
  • Heat 2tbsp of oil or ghee in a thick bottomed pan, when hot, add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the curry leaves and asafoetida and fry for a few secs add the chopped vegetables and fry for 5-6 mins till tender.
  • Add the salt,and turmeric and sauté for 4-5min more. Stir in the rice and the ground spice mix and sauté for a min more.
  • Add 3cups of water and cook covered till the rice is done and take off the heat.
  • Heat a tspn of oil or ghee in a pan and fry the cashew nuts till brown. Take off the heat and add the fried cashew nuts to the masale bhat.
  • Garnish with grated fresh coconut, coriander leaves and lime juice, mix well and serve hot with raita or yogurt dip of your choice.

The above picture of rice is my entry to Black and white wednesday#78. A  culinary photo event that was created by Susan of the well seasoned cook, now organized by Cinzia of Cindystar, which is now hosted by Aparna of My diverse Kitchen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Zanzibar- a photo tour

Jambo my friends!! I am back with a post filled with photographs from my short trip to Zanzibar. For those who are not aware, we had to Zanzibar during the last weekend. It was one of the most relaxing and fun filled trips ever. I just couldn't  seem to get enough of the ocean, the waves and the white sands. Zanzibar was all of that and more.
This short trip was supposed to be all about spice tours, and on location photography. But thanks to the rains. I managed to nothing of that sort. It rained so heavily, that we were forced stay put in the resort. It was disappointing at first, but since I am one of those restless people, I just picked up my camera and decided to go on a photo walk around the resort. And believe me, the walk was one of the best things that happend during the trip. For I saw some things that I would never have seen other wise.
Apart from the photo walk, we also walked bare foot on the beach, watched the sunset from the jetty, saw the dhows sail by, collected shells along with Purvi, took a boat ride to the middle of the ocean in a small boat. This trip though unplanned was still great. We just took the day as it came. It was  relaxed and filled with laughter.
Apart from our stay in Zanzibar, the return journey was great as well. Since we were travelling In a small eighteen seat aircraft, we flew at a Very low altitude. This helped us get some of the best birds eye view of the Indian Ocean. It was nothing like we had ever seen before. Seeing the turquoise ocean from above is a different experience altogether.
Maybe I did not do a lot of things that I had hoped I would do. Maybe, I did not return with spices and curios as I had imagined I would do. But yes. I returned with a stubborn tan and. A memories that's am sure will last a lifetime.

Our onward journey was in a ferry!!

The resort was called La Gemma dell'Est

Another view in the resort

The view from our room

And it rained!!!


This place had some gorgeous sunsets

My feeble attempt at creating an HDR 

Macro shot of the mushrooms in the hollow of a tree trunk

Loved that red canoe

I had never seen an ocean bed that was so clear

Yes. The fish actually flew over the surface!!

An eel with a fish!!

The view from the jetty

Divers on a dhow

The jetty at night!!

Our wild ride in ocean which was in full spate!!

Our return journey

View of Zanzibar from above

The indian ocean

Touch down Dar es Salaam!!

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