Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bhatura from frozen dinner rolls

I have been debating about posting this on my blog.  I won't call it a recipe, but it is a brilliant short cut I learned from a friend.  My kids love it!  There are a few people (and I mean one or two) who think this is not good enough to be called bhatura, but most folks who have tasted it, not only have loved it, but have also tried it at their homes!

It is great for small parties and though they may not be authentic, come pretty close.

I would not recommend this if you don’t have a tortilla / poori press.  Rolling them out with a belan/rolling pin defeats the purpose of a quick and easy short cut.

I use Rhodes dinner rolls.  If this brand is not available in your area, you should be able find an alternative in your grocer’s freezer section

Here is what you need:

  • Rhodes dinner rolls (in the frozen section)
  • Non-stick spray
  • Oil for deep-frying

Here is how I made it:

Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.

Set out the dinner rolls (as many as you need) about 2 - 3 inches apart.

Spray the rolls with non-stick spray, cover with saran wrap, and let it thaw at room temperature for about 1 ½  - 2 hours.  Please don’t let it haw for more time because then the rolls rise too much and you may not be able to get good bhatura

Heat oil for deep frying

Using a tortilla press (mine is electric), press out each dinner roll, taking care not to press too hard.

Deep fry in hot oil until it turns golden brown on both sides and is puffed up.

Serve with chole.

Note:  If you don’t have 2 hours to thaw the rolls, heat up your oven/toaster oven.  Turn the oven off. Put the rolls (without the plastic wrap) into the warm oven.  The rolls should thaw in about 20 mintutes.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Vegetable Biryani

You know how there are some recipes you don't try, because you have tasted the ultimate version and can never hope to get even close to that level of flavor and taste?   Am I the only one who feels this way?  I rarely attempt to make sambar/rasam powder or dosai milagai podi at home unless I am desperate, mainly because I can never get it be as great as my mom makes it.  Each year I go back home, I vow to watch her make it so that I can learn her technique, but invariably I end up just asking her to make enough for me until next time.

Well, this post is about one such dish.  Biryani.  I have tasted several biryanis – several that others rave about, but nothing can come close to the one Shabana’s mom makes. 

When we were in high school, every time we went for a party to Shabana’s house – especially for her birthday, auntie would make vegetable biryani.  She used to say that it is more time consuming than mutton or chicken biryani – because of the prep work for the veggies, but she would make it just for those of us who didn’t eat meat.

We would devour it – relishing the perfectly cooked rice and vegetables, with just the right blend of onions, tomatoes, and spices.  She would also pack tiffin boxes of leftover biryani so that our families could also get a taste.  My dad, who normally would not eat anything with garlic or “masalas”, would ask – “did Shabana’s mom send biryani?”

This year, long before my trip with my friends to Cambodia, and eventually to Chennai, I told Shabana that I was craving auntie’s biryani.  Could her mom please make it for us while we were in Chennai?   And auntie did.  Anu and I went to Shabana’s work.  She brought steaming hot cases filled with flavorful biryani.  We closed the door and ate like pigs.  I think the office smelled of biryani for the rest of Shabana’s trip – making anyone who entered her room salivate because of the tantalizing aromas!

I have tried in vain to get the recipe for this biryani from Auntie.  Shabana, on one of her visits to Colorado, did call her mom to get the recipe for me, but true to Shabana’s style, she wrote down only half the recipe, and what she wrote down, even she could not decipher later!

Anyway, thanks to my friend Leelu, and some improvising, I have a recipe for vegetable biryani, which while not in the same league as Shabana's mom's, comes out well enough to fool people who haven't tasted the original!

I make biryani only occasionally, because I feel like I keep falling short, but hey, sometimes, second best will have to do :)

It is a bit time consuming, but totally worth it.  I had such a difficult time taking pictures today - so don't make up your mind by looking at the pictures.

There are three distinct steps to making the biryani (four – if you are making your own spice blend).  Don’t attempt to make this on a day when you are rushed for time!

Biryani Masala:

I make my own masala – really easy to do, if you have all the ingredients.


Here is what you need:

  • 2” piece cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. black pepper corns
  • 7 – 8 green cardamom
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 2 spears mace
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 2 tsp. poppy seeds (khus-khus)

Dry roast all the masala ingredients for a couple of minutes.  Let it cool.  Grind in a spice grinder to a fine powder.


  • 4 cups basmati rice
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • salt to taste
  • juice of half lemon

Wash and soak 4 cups of basmati rice for about 20 minutes.  Drain.
Bring 12 cups of water to boil in a pot.  Add oil, salt and lemon juice.  Add rice. Stir
Bring the water to a boil again.  Reduce heat and cook until rice is about 70% done.
You will know that the rice is ready if it is not crunchy, but not squishy either.  It will have a slightly chewy texture.  Do not overcook the rice!
Drain the water – saving about ½ cup for later use.
Spread the rice out gently on a large plate/tray and let it cool completely


Update: My friend Shabana says that her mom adds 1/2 kg of onions and 1/2 kg. of tomatoes for 1 kg. of rice.  She also adds 2 cups of yogurt. 
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots, cut into diagonal slices
  • 10 – 12 green beans, cut into 1” length
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (additional)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 – 3 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 – 3 green chilies, minced (I had chilies that packed a punch - you may need to add more)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 – 3 tsp. red chili powder
  • ½ cup chopped mint leaves
  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • juice of ½ lemon

Heat oil in a saucepan.  Add potatoes and fry on medium heat till the turn golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon.
In the same oil, fry carrots, beans, and cauliflower separately, each for a few minutes, removing with a slotted spoon.  Set aside.
Add the remaining oil.  Add onions and fry till they turn golden.
Add minced ginger and garlic.  Mix well.  Add tomatoes and green chilies.
 Sauté on medium hear for about 10 minutes or so, until oil starts separating from the side.  Add mint, coriander, biryani malasa powder, salt and chili powder.  Mix well
Let this cook for a couple of more minutes, taking care not to let the mixture burn on the bottom.
Turn off the heat and add the Greek yogurt.  Mix well.
Add the cooked vegetables to this mixture.  Add lemon juice.  Toss with a fork so that the vegetables are coated. 
Let this marinate for about 20 – 30 minutes.


  • few strands of saffron
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 2 – 3 tsp. ghee
  • chopped mint and coriander leaves for garnish
  • caramelized onions

Soak saffron strands in warm milk.
Preheat oven to 300°F
Take a heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot with an oven-safe lid.  Grease the bottom with oil. 
Layer the bottom with the marinated vegetables.
Spread the rice evenly on top. 
Melt ghee. Pour this on top of the rice
Pour the saved water (this helps keep the rice moist without drying out)
Pour the saffron milk
Sprinkle the caramelized onions, mint and coriander leaves
Cover this pot with aluminum foil.  Place the lid on top.
Put this in the oven and let it bake for about 15 minutes.
Let it sit covered for 10 more minutes.

To serve:

Gently fluff the biryani with a fork so that the vegetables and rice get mixed well – taking care not to mash the rice or the veggies.

Serve with raita of your choice

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tomato Rice with left over rice and sprouted masoor dal

We’ve been really busy, with beginning of school year, soccer tryouts, new schedules, and finishing up minor projects that we started over summer.

I had my back-to-school night on Janmashtami.  I rushed home from school and painted little Krishna feet in my house, but had to rush back to meet the parents of my students this year.  I did not get home till around 8:30 p.m.  So my family decided to do a take-out from the local Indian restaurant.

Tajmahal, the closest Indian restaurant to our house, is also one of our favorites.  While the fare is similar to so many other north Indian restaurants everywhere, Ali knows us well and customizes our order to suit our palate.  This makes the food seem more homemade.  He also gives my husband a bottle of Indian beer on the house, every time.  I am told that he does this with all his regulars.

Anyway, each entrée comes with basmati rice.  He always gives us too much rice and this sits in our fridge for about a week or so, before we realize it is there.  This time, I remembered that we had about 3 cups of cooked rice and used it to make tomato rice.


Here is what you need:

  • 2 – 3 cups cooked rice (leftovers work really well)
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium red onion, slivered
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 green chili, diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup masoor dal, sprouted
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • salt to taste
 Note:  You may use 2 tsp. rasam powder instead of the cumin and coriander powder 


Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a pan.  Add cumin seeds. 
  2. When the cumin seeds change color, add garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, till the garlic gets golden brown.  Add curry leaves, onions, and green chilies.
  3. Fry onions on medium heat for a couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes.
  4. Cover and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes get pulpy.  Add sprouted masoor dal.
  5. Cover and cook on low heat till the dal is cooked (about 8 minutes).  Add all the spice powders and salt.  Mix well.
  6. Add the rice, making sure that the grains are separate.  Mix well.
  7. Heat on low flame till for a few minutes till the rice is mixed well and heated through.

Serve with raita and salad

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Red Bell Pepper Chutney

I first tasted this chutney 17 years ago in Philadelphia.  My friend, Harini, had made it and I loved it!  We traveled to the east coast when my youngest was about 3 – 4 months old and my older son, 4 years old.  My husband had some work in Boston and we tagged along and made it a family trip.  We visited several friends and also squeezed in a trip to New York and Washington D.C.

It was tough traveling with young kids, but since we did not have an agenda or a checklist of things to see and do, it was not too stressful.

The highlight of this trip was meeting friends and family – Harini, Venkat, and Vinay; Anand and Latha (Samyukt was born a few weeks after our trip); Vara and Roopa; and Krithika

We went to Harini and Venkat’s place for dinner.  She had made an amazing vegetable pulao and this red bell pepper chutney.  I don’t know if she still makes this, but it is definitely my go-to recipe for entertaining.

I made this recently for a party.  My menu: medhu vadai, coconut chutney, red bell pepper chutney, regular idlis, kancheepuram idlis, sambar, coconut sevai, lemon sevai, black-eyed peas curry,  lauki kootu, parathas, yogurt rice, and ras malai

My friends brought 4 types of potato curry (my husband was in heaven), carrot salad, raitha, and watermelon

We had all done a tough hike that morning and so no one felt guilty about gorging on all the food at the party.


Here is what you need:

  • 2 – 3 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 4 – 5 dry red chilies
  • 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. split urad dal
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • salt to taste
  • 2 – 3 green chilies
  • 2 tsp. tamarind pulp
  • ½ cup cilantro


Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds.  When they sputter, add hing, and after a few seconds, the dried red chilies
  2. When the chilies start getting brown, add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and urad dal.
  3. Fry on medium flame till the urad dal starts turning reddish brown.  Add the red bell pepper strips.
  4. Cook covered on low flame for about 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times, till the red bell pepper is soft.  Let it cool.
  5. In a blender, add the red bell pepper mixture and all the other ingredients and grind to a slightly coarse paste.

Serve chutney with pakodas, vadais, idli, dosai, pongal, rotis, puri – or rice.

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