Leave a comment


Today is one of my favorite seasonal observances.  It marks the day in the solar calendar of the sun moving into Capricorn on its northward trajectory. In agricultural societies, it is also the culmination of the winter growing season and a time of harvest. So this day is a celebration all across the Indian subcontinent (Nepal and Bangladesh as well), a giving of thanks to the sun, the rain, and hardworking farm animals for a plentiful winter harvest. I love that this festival is named for a food!

Pongal’ (in Tamizh) literally translates to ‘spilling over’ as in a pot left untended on a fire that then boils over.  It is a symbolic celebration of a plentiful harvest and a wish for prosperity in the year to come.  Pongal is also the name of the porridge-like dish made on this day.  Suffused with celebration and hence a particularly sacred meaning, this dish is cooked in a special bronze pot adorned with fresh sugarcane, turmeric, and ginger just harvested.   It elevates everyday fare like porridge to a feast.  There are savory and sweet versions, both usually made on this day.

While today dawned rainy in my part of the world, Sweet Pongal is ready. The kitchen window is steamed up! Here is a simple recipe for this immensely satisfying dish!


For generous servings for 8 ~


1 1/2 cups short grain rice (I prefer any short-grain from India; Ponni is grown in the south of India and is available at Indian markets.)

1/2 heaping cup yellow mung daal (an easy to cook and easy to digest lentil, usually baby’s first food; used extensively in Ayurvedic cuisine as part of a pacifying and soothing diet; also available at Indian markets)

2 cups Indian Jaggery, broken into bits with a mallet or heavy rolling pin (a traditional rustic sweetener made from cane syrup without separation of molasses)

1 tablespoon green cardamom pods

1 tablespoon sugar

Ghee or coconut cream/oil; any nut milk will works as well.



  • Rinse the rice and daal separately.  If using a pressure cooker, the two may be cooked together with about 4 cups of water.  If cooking stove top, simmer and cook the rice in 3 cups of water and the daal in 2 cups of water separately, covered, adding water as desired until they’re both creamy and done. It is customary to overlook the rice for this porridge like dish. Mix the cooked rice and daal together.
  • Combine cardamom pods and sugar in a coffee mill and powder smooth.
  • Heat a cup of water in a pan and add the jaggery pieces.  Shut off heat and stir to dissolve.  Add the cardamom sugar and mix well.  Filter this sweetener with fine mesh sieve to take out the husks and grit from the cardamom and the jaggery itself.


  • Add this sweetener to the rice and daal mixture.  Heat thoroughly in a heavy bottom, adding ghee (clarified butter) or any nut milk to blend the dish into a smooth porridge.  At this point, it is tradition to let this pot boil over to mark this occasion! The cook yells out ‘Pongalo-pongal’ as a celebratory salud and everyone within earshot echoes this greeting!
  • Garnish with almonds and cashews that have been toasted in a little ghee.


Serve warm and enjoy! Pongalo-Pongal!!!!

Leave a comment

Food Musings


Sunny afternoon walk in Sodermalm, Stockholm


Avocado toast ~ Cafe Louie Louie. Sodermalm, Stockholm




Playtype ~ Danish brand and design agency e-Types’ type foundry in Vesterbro, CPH

One of my favorite authors Pico Iyer, says  of travel, “it has shown me a whole other way to live, without a steady prop, not hemmed in by familiarity.” A recent trip abroad showed me a whole other way, and a chance to interact with food without being hemmed in. The comforting props of daily habit and a familiar language were largely absent. Although smart phone apps made it easy to search and get to the right groceries or restaurants, once there, the shelves and menus posed some challenges.



Morning light – Gamla Stan, STHLM


Artipelag Museum, STHLM

Travel in a foreign country can be exciting and unsettling, forcing even the most thought-bound of us to live in the moment. Usually days are spent discovering and nights dropping into bed in a state of contented exhaustion mixed with anticipation of the unexplored. One is able to truly reflect upon the experience only after returning home.


A couple of weeks after my trip, what percolated up for me is the idea that there is a collective food consciousness. It is a palpable thing, a product of identity, history, tradition, and life in a particular time, topography and climate. It lives and breathes and sets the stage for the most essential of all human activity – producing and consuming food.


Coffee break ~ Rist Coffee, Vesterbro, CPH


Kaffe, Sodermalm

A place exudes it and as an outsider looking in, you sense it everywhere you turn – from railway station kiosks to street vendors to hole-in-the wall mom and pops to fancy restaurants with stars behind their names. It is in the shop windows filled with daily baked bread, in the stands filled with fresh fruit in a busy bus stand, in the sign that beckons train weary passengers to pick up organic pasta at the railway co-op. It is in the manner food is prepared, the care over a freshly brewed cup started after you ordered it, in the time spent eating a meal, and the flowers gracing a sidewalk table.


Rooftop kitchen garden ~ Artipelag Museum


Bread ~ Urban Deli, Nytroget, STHLM


Tomatoes ~ Urban Deli, Nytroget


Everyone within the folds of this ethos contributes to it by their very act of choosing – from what to grow and how to grow, harvest and transport it; how to process and package; how to stock and sell; how to buy, store, cook, serve, and consume. As a people, we create this fabric and it in turn nurtures us, our environment, and ultimately future generations.


La Bomba ~ date nut rolls, garnished with flowers ~ Cafe Tradgard at Rosendals gardens, STHLM


Cafe Tradgard ~ Rosendals gardens, STHLM










In many countries, this consciousness is geared towards food that is produced with stewardship, with respect for the due process even if it takes time, with focus on purity of ingredients, and with minimal messing around – additives, and preservatives absent because shelf life of only a few days is a collective Ok.


Breakfast bowls ~ GROD, Norrebro, CPH

Of course fast food is ubiquitous and cheap, junk food is instantly recognizable in its gaudy packaging and advertising no matter the language, and modern day ailments are impartial to place and race. But the sense I got was of an ethos that is decidedly skewed toward human good and not human greed.


Tacos at Tavurnehalle, CPH

Our choices may most often be driven by monetary constraints. While that is inevitable, this concern is also universal. So, what is our collective food consciousness especially to an outsider? Right where we live, in our communities….is it worth our while to ponder that? Are we doing our best and how can we choose better?

We may be well served by recognizing it isn’t just about our food, yours or mine. Our actions create and sustain this living, breathing food soul if you will. After all, our collective body, mind, and heart depend upon it.


A cafe table in Gamla Stan, old city, STHLM


Leave a comment

A Spring Superbowl


Growing up, we ate with fingers, off plates.  Vegetables, condiments, and other sides were placed individually and apart from the bread or grain topped with lentils/sauce.

I still love a meal eaten this way; it is both comforting and very satiating!

But I also love the idea of a one-dish meal eaten out of a bowl. So even though the above picture is reminiscent of Thali-style of eating, all the ingredients went in willy-nilly for a delicious spring feast in a bowl!

Full of bright, crunchy greens and bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and very satisfying!

For 2 generous lunch portions ~

1 cup cooked brown rice or any whole grain of choice

1/2 of a Daikon radish, washed and grated

1 cup packed arugula; 1 small bunch cilantro washed and chopped fine

1/2 jicama, peeled and sliced, diced, or grated fine

For the massaged kale ~ one bunch of kale leaves, washed, dried and chopped fine; 1 teaspoon fresh, peeled and grated ginger; a dash of lemon juice and (optional) Braggs Aminos; a drizzle of EVOO.  Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and with clean washed hands, massage the kale with much love 🙂  Set aside for a few minutes.

For the dressing ~ In a bowl with some hot water to cover all the ingredients generously, soak the following for at least 30 minutes: 2 tablespoons of raw white sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons of raw walnuts, 1 tablespoon raw hemp seeds.  After about 30 minutes, add the soaked ingredients with the water, some lemon juice, 1 pod garlic, and salt to taste into a blender and blend smooth! This should keep in the fridge for a few days.

For the Bowl ~ Layer rice, massaged kale, fresh greens + herbs, Daikon, and Jicama. Drizzle the dressing as you wish.  Enjoy this season’s best!


Leave a comment

The Anatomy of a Pickle

In Indian cuisine, mind-bogglingly diverse as it is, a pickle is present at every meal, no matter how elaborate or frugal the circumstance. It may even take the place of sides, making the meal complete with just the addition of a grain like cooked rice or bread, some plain yogurt and not much else. While the intent is to up the ante of the meal in terms of flavor and heat thus rendering the food amenable to all palates at the table, a pickle can also be medicinal making the meal itself more digestible, maybe settling an upset or queasy tummy, or even adding a much needed immune boost.

The ‘pickle’ could be a fruit, vegetable, or a combination thereof, or even smallish fish or other animal-sourced components. These could then be used raw or cooked, marinated in salt and spice, most significantly cayenne pepper, cured with an acid medium like vinegar or lemon juice if the main ingredients lack it, and preserved in oil. A pickle commonly has a telltale color – shades of orange to red from the cayenne! And although there are a myriad versions depending on region and season, one can recognize a jar of pickle on the table pretty easily. I say usually because pickles need not use cayenne, instead relying on heat from ginger, fresh green chilies, or fresh peppercorns and hence not have the striking red color.   There are pickles that are shelf stable for years, curing and becoming tastier as they age; and then there are some meant to be consumed in days, needing refrigeration.

Cauliflower-Turnip-Carrot winter pickle

The anatomy of a pickle? Main ingredients + Salt & Spices + Optionally ~ Acidic medium and Oil


Nothing says winter on an Indian plate like a seasonal pickle and this one is a personal favorite. It showcases three of early winter’s fresh vegetables and by curing and preserving them one is able to enjoy them as the season deepens. There are many recipes to be found online – I condensed several into a version I used for mine. One key substitution is lemon juice instead of white vinegar – it may have altered the shelf life but I don’t eat vinegar and honestly, I don’t think this batch will last long 🙂


2 cups of white turnip batons and 2 cups carrot batons  (3-4 medium sized turnips, and 8-10 medium sized carrots, washed, trimmed, peeled and sliced into batons; I love the bag of multi-colored carrots that are now available at my local grocer; I avoided using the yellow carrots because I find they discolor easily upon peeling).

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets and washed well


4 heaping tablespoons crushed dry mustard (I just ran yellow mustard seeds through a coffee mill)IMG_5036

Powdered cayenne pepper and sea salt to taste

1 heaping tablespoon powdered turmeric

6 tablespoons of raw coconut palm sugar

½ – 1 cup lemon juice

1 cup of virgin expeller pressed sesame oil to coat and cover the veggies in the jar


Heat water in a large pasta pot to a rolling boil and shut off heat; add all vegetables and blanch for 1 minute; drain well; spread several kitchen towels on a counter or tabletop. Pour the veggies onto the towels, spreading them out into a single layer to blot and air dry for the next several hours, even up to a day to make sure there is no moisture at all.  It is customary to let the veggies dry in the winter sun outdoors.

Heat the oil in a pan and add in all the spices; toast for minute or two; shut off heat. IMG_5042

Take the fully dried vegetables in a large clean, dry bowl. Add the seasoned oil to the vegetables along with the lemon juice, salt, and sweetener. Toss well with a clean spoon to coat.

Cover and keep on the counter for a few hours, tossing often.

Remove into sterile glass jars.

Store in the fridge and allow the pickle to cure for a couple of days, tossing the jar whenever you open the fridge.

Use sterile utensils to spoon out the pickle – to avoid spoilage, it is best to pour out some into an everyday jar and refresh as it empties. Enjoy as an accompaniment to any meal!

Leave a comment

Sesame Coconut Energy Bites


Sesame is a valuable addition to the winter pantry.  This seed is a powerhouse of nutrients and is extensively used in Ayurveda to nourish and fortify the body’s tissues against the cooling and drying effect of Vata (the Dosha governing winter).  Sesame is used internally and topically to rejuvenate skin, hair, teeth, and bone; it is also used in tonics for nourishing a woman’s reproductive system and cycle.

One of my favorite ways to get this food into my diet is this sweet snack – a few of these is like an energy bar! These snack bites are easy to make and quite lovely with an afternoon cup of warming Chai.

If one tends to be Pitta (warm~hot) in nature, it is best to reduce or avoid this seed especially in the summer.


1 cup sesame seeds – I like to use a mix of black and white sesame (Black is richer in nutrients with a IMG_5012stronger flavor.  White sesame seeds are just hulled black sesame.)

1 cup fresh, grated coconut loosely packed

Coconut palm sugar to taste – I used about 2/3 cup


Heat a skillet on medium flame and toast the sesame seeds for a few minutes till they crackle and pop.  Do not leave them untended since they burn easily;  when toasted remove into a plate and let cool.

To the same skillet, add coconut and toast until it is light brown and fragrant; if using dry coconut flakes, this step can be avoided.  Allow coconut to cool on a plate as well.  (If you add the hot ingredients to a bowl, water may condense in the bowl as they cool.  This would tend to make the food moldy if kept unrefrigerated! So it is best to keep everything dry.)

Pulse sesame seeds, coconut, and palm sugar in a dry high-speed blender jar until the oil is released and the mixture starts to ball up.  One can add crushed cardamom seeds , a few strands of saffron and/or a few drops of vanilla for added flavor.

IMG_5014 Remove from blender and using fingertips, roll out the dough into small bite-sized morsels.  Alternately, press onto an oiled plate and cut into bites.  Enjoy!

Since this recipe has fresh coconut, it is best to store this in the fridge – it should keep up to 2 weeks.



Leave a comment

Another anytime meal….Akki roti

IMG_4847Akki Rotis are a popular gluten-free bread option in the south of India; Akki meaning rice.  Rice has enough gluten to hold these puppies together.  My friend Anpu has her own version – she throw some rolled oats, a handful of rice flour, and a handful of millet flour into a mixing bowl.  Then some fresh grated ginger and garlic.  To this basic dough starter, she adds any veggies she has on hand – grated carrots, zucchini, corn, edamame, peas (the latter three preferably blanched) and chopped herbs.

As you start to mix this together with some sea salt, the veggies start to release water and make the flours moist;  then add enough water to pull this altogether to make a dough the consistency of pizza dough.  Separate this into balls about the size of tennis balls, pat them out as flat as you can get them on wet paper towels.

IMG_4844Flipping them onto a hot griddle is easy – pick up the paper towel placing the roti face-up on the palm of your hand.  Then flipping the wrist over, place the roti wet side down onto the griddle and peel back the paper towel gently to keep the roti whole.  Allow a few minutes each side to brown and cook;  drizzle some virgin expeller pressed coconut or sesame oil onto each side to give the roti a nice crunch!

Serve with any relish or chutney if they make it to a serving dish!IMG_4845


Leave a comment


IMG_4454 This is one of those dishes …could be a meal, could be a side, could be anything and that is what I love about it!

Ingredients: Washed and Prepped

Ripe Avocado

Ripe, juicy lime or lemon, juiced, pips discarded

Fresh bunch of basil

Green chiles (optional)

Sea Salt




Blend all the ingredients with some extra virgin olive oil and warm water.  This dressing without the avocado will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  Basil blended with nothing but olive oil can be poured into ice cube trays and saved for winter soups and stews.

Leave a comment

Best of Fall Soup

IMG_4284Ingredients ~ Makes about 4 servings

1 cup dry navy beans soaked overnight

4 cups assorted seasonal vegetables, prepped and diced ~ butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots

1 bunch any Kale, washed, hard stems removed and leaves torn to small pieces

Ginger and garlic – fresh, grated, 1 tablespoon each; 2 medium sweet onions diced fine

2-3 heaping tbsp of cumin-corainder-turmeric powder; salt and black pepper to taste

Method ~

1.  Rinse the soaked beans and set them in a heavy bottom pot to cook with enough water to cover the beans and then some; add a dash of turmeric to the cook water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour until beans are soft and done.

2.  In another stock pot, add a couple of tablespoons of ghee and the dry spices; let them sizzle for a minute or so.  Then add ginger, garlic and diced onions.

3.  Saute till the onions are soft and translucent.

4.  Add diced vegetables and stir to coat everything fully.  Add a cup or two of water, cover and allow veggies to steam till almost done.

5.  Transfer the cooked beans into the veggie pot along with the chopped greens; salt as desired and heat thoroughly making sure everything comes together as soup!

6.  When serving, add crushed black pepper add a drizzle of ghee to the bowl! Enjoy!



Leave a comment

A Gram is a Gram is a Gram…or is it?!

(Gram: English-as-in-the-other-side-of-the-pond for Lentils/Pulses)

This week, in a moment of rushed preparation, I made a rookie mistake ~ took one lentil to be another.

I meant to use Green Gram (Mung) for this dish and ended up using Black Gram instead – two very different creatures! Don’t tell my mom 🙂

This post is my attempt to turn this into a teaching moment for myself and my readers 🙂

IMG_4079-2 Green Gram, also called Mung is used essentially in Indian cooking as one of the main sources of vegetable protein; babies are usually started on first solid meals of rice and Mung. Picture on left: the top row, L-R, is whole Mung, the missing cracked Mung with skin on that I meant to use and didn’t have, and Mung without the green hull.

Black Gram (Gram ~ English for Lentil) is also called Urad and used extensively in Indian cooking for its property to bind and act as a good pre-biotic for fermented foods. The bottom row, L-R: Whole Urad, Cracked Urad that I mistook for the Green, and hulled Urad.

If you were to make this dish, best start with cracked green mung with hull on! All else works just the same!

Ingredients: Lentils best soaked overnight


  • 1 cup cracked Green Mung, soaked in several cups of warm water, overnight or 4-6 hours until the lentil is bite-able and soaked all the way through; next morning, rinse out the lentils, add to a blender and add in the next few ingredients
  • Green chiles and fresh (peeled) ginger to taste;  the tan powder is Asafoetida (or Hing, available in Indian groceries) which helps in digesting the lentil and adding the wonderful ‘Umami’ flavor; add salt as desired!

With just enough water to make a smooth and stiff batter that coats a spoon, blend everything together.

Best to make batter in the morning; When steaming this batter, it is ideal to allow batter to sit on the counter for several hours to start natural fermentation.   Ready for lunch or supper!

To Steam:


IMG_4073A metal steamer or a stainless steel plate with a lip; I used the latter.

Coat the surface of your steamer with some oil; pour in the batter and even out with a spoon; you can go about 1/2-1 inch thick depending on the steamer.

To steam: I use a large wok, some hot water in the wok, place the plate inside, cover with a well-fitting lid, and allow this to steam for 8-10 minutes until done.  Donen-ess is a toothpick inserted in the middle of this cake and coming out clean.




This cake can be sliced and served with any relish or vegetables on the side – my dinner happened to be late-summer zucchini and fenugreek greens sauteed in olive oil with cumin-coriander-turmeric.

Phew! Salvaged a batter! But more importantly a fun culinary experiment!


Side Note:

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, peanuts, peas, and beans. 

Lentils are the seeds of a specific species of legume, Lens Culinaris – Brown, Green, French or Puy, Beluga etc.

Beans, according to United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, should include only species of Phaseolus: Aduki, Lima, Black, Pinto, Kidney etc.  It commonly also includes Castor, Soy, and Chickpeas.

When training your gut to eat vegetable proteins like lentils and beans. it is important to start by preparing them well.  These proteins are rich in fiber and act as good pre-biotic foods.  Ideally, they should be pre-soaked for several hours, then rinsed and further cooked stove-top or pressure cooked with appropriate spices ~ fresh ginger, roasted and powdered cumin-coriander seeds and turmeric go a long way towards helping one digest the protein without discomfort ~ a side of gas and bloating anyone? :-).  Another common prep is to pre-soak for several hours, rinse, and then grind them into a batter along with a grain like rice.  This batter is most commonly allowed to ferment for several hours, turning it into a naturally rich pro-biotic food.  Depending on region, there are many versions of this process, using many different lentils and grains.  This makes for a versatile repertoire of dishes, everything from steamed dumplings to many different crepe or pancake like foods, both sweet and savory!

Leave a comment

Weekend brunch…or weekday supper..?

IMG_3839 Chickpea flour is a versatile, gluten-free addition to the pantry.  It makes a nice pancake with very little prep time.

For the veggies ~ any vegetable or greens, finely chopped or grated.  I had a small zucchini, one small carrot, some spring onions, and a little left-over arugula in my fridge today.  To this add fresh grated ginger, and any herbs you desire – cilantro works really well.





For the batter, and to make about 6-8 medium sized pancakes, start with 2 cups chickpea flour;  add in sea salt, some cayenne or crushed black pepper, and my favorite,  some cumin-corainder-powder-with-turmeric blend.  Add enough water to make a stiff batter like you would for pancakes or latkes.

Mix in the grated veggies and herbs.  Allow batter to sit for 5 minutes.



IMG_3840IMG_3844Pour onto a hot griddle; roast each side until golden brown with a little ghee.  I enjoyed mine with a pat of salted, organic butter!