Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog


Dear family, friends, fellow bloggers and readers

Saying Goodbye to 2005 and Welcoming 2006 with Fireworks - Photo by Vijay Singari

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Saturday December 31, 2005 at 9:37 am- permalink)
Comments (17)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Food Favorites 2005

I was tagged by Lulu of Manhattan, who recently moved to London and with a new blog Lulu Loves London, VKN of My Dhaba and Kimbie of Chocolate-Chip to list my 10 favorite foods. Tough to narrow it down to only 10, when there are so many food groups and cuisines to choose from. So I am going to keep it short and simple and list 10 images of my absolute food favorites I blogged this year.

MangoFruit TartCashew BrittleJangiriRagi Malt

Mango + Fruit Tart + Cashew Sweet + Jangiri + Ragi Malt

Buggani - Puffed Rice UpmaStuffed Brinjal CurryDal Mixed with Rice on a Sabudana PapadOkra Sambhar and RiceLime Pickle

Buggani + Stuffed Brinjal Curry + Gongura Dal + Okra Sambhar + Lime Pickle

One more:
Pure Fire – Red Chilli Garlic Powder
Home Made Red Chilli Garlic Powder

Thanks Lulu, VKN and Kimbie, I had fun saying goodbye to 2005 through images of my favorites foods.

If you are interested, feel free to tag yourself and write about your favorite foods like Paul of KIPlog fame, judge for this year’s 2005 Food Blog Awards, did.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Friday December 30, 2005 at 2:24 pm- permalink)
Comments (5)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Bagara Baingan (Nune Vankaya Kura)

Do you remember my post about stuffed brinjal curry with peanuts and sesame seeds? In that post, I also mentioned different kinds of stuffing that I know. Here is another type of stuffed brinjal curry, I am calling it by Hindi name – ‘Bagara Baingan’ – This time with purple brinjals, stuffing made with dals and fresh coconut and cooked in a pan. The stuffing doesn’t taste very good when pressure-cooked. So for this kind, I make it in a pan, like how they do it back home.

Fresh Coconut, tamarind, purple brinjals, roasted dried red chillies, cashews and mix of chana dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin  - ingredients for Bagare Baingan

Small, fresh, young, blemish free brinjals – 8 to 12

Roasting for stuffing and gravy:

Chana dal and urad dal – quarter cup each
Black peppercorns and cloves – 4 to 6 each
Dried red chillies – 6 to 8
Cumin, coriander seeds & methi seeds – 1 teaspoon each
Roast them in an iron skillet till golden. Mix them with
Fresh or dried coconut – 1/2 cup
Tamarind juice and powdered jaggery – 1 tablespoon each
Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
My addition: One fistful of roasted cashews
Ginger garlic paste and roasted red onions can be added to this mix.

Make a smooth paste of all the above ingredients without adding any water. Divide it into two portions. One for stuffing the brinjals and the other portion is for making the gravy.
Purple brinjals stuffed with roasted dal- coconut-cashew paste

1. Wash to clean up the wax coating on brinjals. Neatly cut and remove the stem of each brinjal.
2. Starting at opposite side of stem, make a plus (+) shaped cut towards the stem side, but not all the way through. (See the photo above, to get an idea)
3. Gently separating the brinjal petals, fill the narrow gap with the prepared paste.


1. In a big, wide, flat pan – heat one tablespoon of peanut oil, do the popu or tadka (toasting one teaspoon each of mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves and minced garlic).
2. Arrange the brinjals – stuffing side up, neatly in rows. Cover and cook them in their own moisture for about 15 to 20 minutes on medium heat or until they soften. The younger the brinjals, the faster they cook.
3. Once you are sure that brinjals are tender and cooked, remove them carefully without disturbing shape onto a serving dish.
4. Pour the remaining paste that was kept aside to the pan. Mix it with half glass of water. Sprinkle in turmeric and adjust the salt, spice (red chilli), sour (tamarind) and sugar to your taste. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes on low medium heat, until the gravy thickens.
5. Now put the brinjals back into the thickened gravy. Cook for another couple of minutes.

With rice or roti, this curry is a party favorite and a crowd pleaser.
 Stuffed Brinjal Curry (Bagare baingan, Nune vankaya Kura) with rice

Bagara Baingan with Rice ~ Our dinner today.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Cashews,Chana Dal,Coconut (Fresh),Urad Dal (Washed),Vankaya (Brinjal) (Thursday December 29, 2005 at 9:56 pm- permalink)
Comments (35)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Tindora Fry (Dondakaya Kura)

Donda kaya, Tindora, Ivy gourd

Until I was married to Vijay, I never tried the donda kaya (Tindora in Hindi). My mother never cooked this vegetable, I don’t know why; lack of availability is not a reason, that’s for sure. One seed, it spreads like wild fire, climbing and occupying every inch of the garden and produces the fruits like there’s no tomorrow. Almost in all seasons, tindora is there to buy. Common and cheap, that’s how we regarded it, back in Nandyala, I never saw anyone get excited or salivated over tindora back then.

They look cute though. This small greenish vegetable with white lines is so pretty, when freshly picked, you just want to bite it. But don’t do that, raw food item it isn’t. It has a very thick skin and insides are white flesh filled with small seeds. Red flesh means it is overripe and not fit for consumption. I heard hearsay of people going brain-dead who ate over-ripe tindoras.:) Well I never tried the over-ripe ones, so I am not sure of its veracity.:) When comes to cooking, some people cook it to the death, but I prefer little bit of crunch, so most often I make a shallow fry of the vegetable.

Tindora fry at the beginning on stove Tindora fry all done, ready to eat


If you have regular Indian cooking stuff in your pantry, then making the curry is as easy as saying 1, 2 and 3.

1. Cut each tindora into half lengthwise, then make another lengthwise cut in each half – you will end up with 4 long thin pieces. To make curry for two, for one decent serving, you have to cut at least 15 to 20 tindoras.

2. In a pan, heat one teaspoon of peanut oil, do the popu or tadka (toasting mustard seeds, cumin, minced garlic and curry leaves).

3. Add the cut tindoras, sprinkle turmeric, salt and red pepper flakes to your taste. (Sometimes I also add dry coconut powder.) Mix them once, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, then sauté openly for another 5 minutes or until the veggie reaches the crunchy consistency you desire.

Serve hot with chapatis or with rice and dal.

Tindora Fry and rice with dal ~ Our meal

Tindora fry and fenugreek dal mixed with rice on the background.
Dondakaya kura mariyu menthi kura pappannam muddalu.

Tindora is available fresh or frozen in almost all of Indian grocery shops here in US. Fresh ones are most preferable.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Dondakaya(Tindora) (Wednesday December 28, 2005 at 10:02 am- permalink)
Comments (42)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Methi/Fenugreek Dal (Menthi Kura Pappu)

Fresh Fenugreek, Menthi Kura, Methi

First thing one notices about fresh fenugreek is how beautiful and delicate the leaves are. Then the smell, aromatherapy in truest sense, when pressure cooked with toor dal or sautéed with potatoes, any other vegetable, the leaves release wonderful fragrance. ‘Johnson and Johnson-A family company’, who makes money by beguiling the families with air fresheners and scented oils, if they get the whiff of fresh fenugreek, you bet, you’d see an ayurvedic or eastern themed fenugreek scented oil on shop shelves for sure.

Fenugreek is one of those green leafy veggies, looks innocently innocuous but when cooked, dazzles & grabs your attention by its wonderful aroma and makes you try and like it. For a dal-rice addict like me, nothing beats the taste of rice and dal made of fresh fenugreek leaves. Very tasty and nutrititous, it’s one of my favorite foods. Fenugreek and toor dal combination is a true and tested recipe, very popular in our Raayala seema region of Andhra, again one of those I learned from my mother.

Methi leaves, onion, tomato, green chillies, toor dal and tamarind - ingredients for methi dal


One bunch of fresh fenugreek – washed and leaves plucked
4 fistfuls of Toor dal
1 medium sized onion and tomato – chopped
1o green chillies – finely chopped
Small lime sized tamarind
1/4 tsp of turmeric
Salt to taste

For popu or tadka :

1 tsp each of oil or ghee, mustard seeds, cumin and urad dal
1 garlic clove – finely chopped
Few curry leaves and few pieces of dry red chillies

Cook dal: In a pressure cooker, take toor dal, fenugreek leaves, onion, tomato, green chillies, tamarind and turmeric – add one glass of water and pressure cook them till 3 whistles. When the valve pressure is all released, remove the lid, add half teaspoon of salt and mash the dal using a wood masher to smooth paste.

Do the popu: In a deep bottomed vessel, heat one teaspoon of oil, add the remaining popu or tadka ingredients. Saute till the seeds start crackling, garlic turns red. Pour the cooked and mashed dal, stir well and cover. Tastes great with rice and chapati.

Methi dal (Fenugreek Dal, Menthi Kura Pappu) with Rice and Ghee

Fenugreek dal (Methi Dal or Menthi Kura Pappu) and rice with ghee.

Recipe Source: amma
Fenugreek is available both fresh and frozen in most of Indian grocery shops here in US

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Menthi Kura(Fenugreek),Toor Dal (Tuesday December 27, 2005 at 9:54 am- permalink)
Comments (38)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Walnut Burfi (Akhrot Laddu)

Vijay got a good grade in this semester. He is studying for his master’s degree in software engineering, part time at Carnegie Mellon University. And the walnut burfi is for celebration. The combination of walnuts and milk-sugar is a classic. The resulting walnut burfi or laddu is a rare indulgence for us.

Milk, Sugar and Toasted Walnuts

(makes about 6 medium sized laddus)

2 cups of walnuts (Akhrots)
2 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup of sugar

Lightly roast walnuts in an iron skillet and let them cool down. Keep one fistful of nuts aside and grind the remaining walnuts into powder.

Boil milk and sugar until they come together into very thick mass almost like the final stages of pala kova. It takes about 30 minutes. At this stage, stir in powdered walnuts. Mix thoroughly and keep stirring until, the walnut-kova mixture leaves the sides of the pan and comes together into one big lump. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle the whole walnuts and mix once and remove the mixture into a pan. Allow it to cool and make small laddus with it or press the whole mixture evenly and tightly in a greased pan to cut squares.

Walnut Burfi (Akhrot Laddu)
Walnut burfi (Akhrot laddu) – Old fashioned

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Sweets 101,Milk,Mitai,Sugar,Walnuts (Monday December 26, 2005 at 1:07 am- permalink)
Comments (12)

The New Home of Mahanandi:


All last week, we were in Toronto. This was our first visit to this Canadian city and we also found that it is very tourist friendly. We stayed at a hotel in downtown. One of the things we liked about the city is its public transport system. Trams and subway system were excellent and we never had to use our car, it just sat in the hotel garage.

In addition to regular tourist attractions, we also visited India Bazaar on Gerrard street. Dined at a south Indian vegetarian restaurant on Gerrard Street called Udipi Palace. We enjoyed having hot masala Dosa, Idli and Vada. There is also a new grocery shop, Sabji Mandi, opened in Brampton. They had an outrageous opening sale going and I went nuts. Bought about 150 dollars worth of groceries there. The prices for items like rice, dals and vegetables were unbelievable. Two 10 pound Basmathi rice bags for $8.99, 8 pound dal bag $2.99! I think with the purchases I did, I am set for this winter.

Photos of Toronto in December winter weather:

Lake Ontario, on a very cloudy, wintry day
Lake Ontario- view from the top of CN Tower

CN Tower, Toronto
CN Tower, Toronto

Financial District, Downtown, Toronto
Financial District, Downtown-Toronto

For this week in Indian Kitchen:

Indian Sugar Purchased at Subji Mandi, Toronto
Indian Sugar (Large Crystal Type) Purchased at Subji Mandi, Toronto

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Sunday December 25, 2005 at 10:53 am- permalink)
Comments (10)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Happy Holidays

A Plate Full of Indian Sweets for the Holidays

I’m taking few days off from blogging for the holidays. See you all after Christmas.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Friday December 16, 2005 at 2:13 pm- permalink)
Comments (2)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Menu for Hope

sand sculpture depicting trauma caused by the recent South Asian earthquake

Image from National Geographic News

Food bloggers and fans from all over the world are participating in a fundraising event hosted by lovely Pim for a good cause – helping the earthquake victims of Kashmir area.

You can feel good about yourself and goodbye this year proudly by giving money to this cause. Offer a prize for raffle or participate to win a raffle prize or directly give out money – these are the choices. I chose the last option.

The site Pim set up seems to be very secure and reputable, accepts both Visa and Master Card and I am confident that the money we donate goes to this cause only. Check it out and donate if you feel like it.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Wednesday December 14, 2005 at 2:07 pm- permalink)
Comments (2)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Chestnut-Almond Cookies

For Indian recipes, I can’t and won’t break the tradition and I will always follow the elder’s footsteps in preparing food. I believe the ingredients they use for a particular recipe have been chosen for a reason, and the steps they followed to make a recipe work are methodic, implicitly giving a perfect taste and nutritional boost.

But when it comes to western food, since I ‘m not used to making these traditionally, I feel very free to experiment. Also I believe most of ‘traditional’ recipes that I see in magazines and TV shows are the stuff that they makeup as they go, to promote some food ingredients or products following the corporate orders. When food ingredients have their own associations and mega budgets to promote and influence peoples opinion in their favor with advertisement blitzes, I am not sure how traditional most of these recipes are, though they proclaim otherwise.

Chestnut cookies first posted by Mine of Teatime then submitted to cookie swap event by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein, captivated me mainly because they sounded real authentic, traditional and old world. When I saw the beautiful photographs, I so wanted to try these cookies. I changed few things here and there, going all the way to make them rustic pure. Use of molasses in place of powdered sugar, turned the cookies golden brown instead of creamy white. I tried decorating cookies differently, but it didn’t come out as I expected. Except for that one gaffe, the cookies turned out to be mouthfuls of wholesome goodness. Thanks Mine and Ulrike for sharing this wonderful, traditional recipe.

Molasses, All purpose flour, Almonds, Roasted Chestnuts, Clove, Cardamom, Cinnamon


2 cups of almonds, soaked in water overnight, then skins removed
15 chestnuts, roasted, then shells removed
1 cup of all purpose flour
11/2 cups of molasses
(Molasses is an acquired taste, difficult to like. Sugar/honey works fine too)
2 egg whites
1 inch cinnamon, 1 clove, and seeds from 1 cardamom pod – finely powdered together

Powdering Almonds and Chestnuts in a Food Processor Almond-Chestnut cookies all ready to go into oven
Powdering Almonds and Chestnuts in a Food Processor…Almond-Chestnut cookie dough, ready to be baked


Powder the almonds and roasted chestnuts in a food processor to a smooth powder. Make it easy on the motor and do it in batches. In a vessel, take egg whites and beat them until they turn to foamy white. To these egg whites, add molasses and cardamom-cinnamon-clove powder. Mix and stir in all purpose flour and almond-chestnut powder. Mix them thoroughly. Shape the dough into a log, wrap it in a wax paper and store it in the freezer, until the cookie dough firms up. I had to keep it overnight in the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Remove the hardened cookie dough from the freezer, cut it into 1 to 2 inch rounds crosswise. Place them neatly in rows on a greased or parchment paper lined baking tray. I egg washed the tops and sprinkled some brown sugar on top of each cookie, my idea of decoration, not so successful, I have to say.:) Place the baking tray in preheated oven and bake them at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

Believe it or not, they tasted like, do you know the South Indian sweet “Ariselu“, exactly like that. Roasted chestnuts and molasses gave a special and characteristic taste to these cookies, a first for us and we liked them very much.

chestnut cookies
Chestnut-Almond Cookies

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in All-Purpose Flour(Maida),Almonds,Chestnuts (Marrons),Molasses (Tuesday December 13, 2005 at 7:16 pm- permalink)
Comments (12)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Roasted Chestnuts

My first experience of roasted chestnuts was at a local winter fair. Team of two, wearing funny costumes in addition to roasting the chestnuts, were doing juggling, whistling holiday tunes. And they were handing out free samples; all to attract the customers. We tried the free sample… surprise, it was not like any nut I tasted until then.
Chestnuts (Marrons)
The first word that came out of my mouth was ‘sweet potato’. Roasted chestnut tasted more like a roasted sweet potato, than a nut. When opened from the shell, they were warm to touch, had a starchy, crumbly texture, a unique sweet smell and buttery sweet taste. We were sold and we bought both roasted chestnuts for the ride home and raw ones to tryout at our home. They also gave us a pamphlet about how to roast chestnuts, different methods and some tips and recipes etc.,

From then on, every winter, we look forward to chestnuts. These winter holiday treats are not that expensive compared to other nuts. 2 dollars something for a pound and few roasted chestnuts fill you good. I am going to leave the cultural significance and nutritional value of roasted chestnuts to the storytellers and experts. I am sure you are going to see many more posts/paeans about chestnuts in future weeks from food blogosphere.:)

Roasting Chestnuts in an Iron Skillet on Stovetop (Almost done)

How we do the roasting: First we make a cut in the shell of chestnut, with a sharp knife. This is to release the steam from inside, which builds up during the roasting process. Otherwise, each one will explode just like pressure cooker whose valve is blocked. So take time and make a cut or a hole in each shell.

Turning them once in a while, roast them in an iron skillet. It’s better to use the skillet that you don’t normally use for regular cooking. Roasting process is not good for the vessel. I accumulated several iron skillets in my quest to find the right one. The brand new one, with no patina, I use it to for roasting not only for chestnuts also for peanuts.

Do the roasting, on medium high heat, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the shells are all black and cracked. When done to perfection, you can easily open the shell, the chestnut inside is gold in colour and piece of chestnut has rosy hue and sweet to taste.

Roasted Chestnuts (Marrons)
Pure, simple and satisfying – roasted chestnuts on a snowy winter day.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Chestnuts (Marrons) (Monday December 12, 2005 at 9:11 am- permalink)
Comments (34)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Weekend Reading

“Slurp.. slurp and burp..burp.
The simple pleasure of having dinner sitting on the floor
– I totally agree.

yum.. my kind of food – “Avocado Parathas“.

Very useful tips on food photography from Food Blog School.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Saturday December 10, 2005 at 10:43 pm- permalink)
Comments (3)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Masala Chai (Spicy Tea)

With winter storm dumping the snow, my brain needed some masala tea. Vijay, my dear husband, makes the best tea and he changes tea flavoring with seasons. For the past week, he is making tea with Indian cinnamon and cardamom.

Cardamom brings the sweet aroma. Whereas cinnamon takes it to another notch and gives the tea a peppery, earthy, bright yet slightly woodsy taste. Heady feeling is what I get from masala chai and I like it.

Tea Leaves, Indian Cinnamon Bark and Cardamom

Masala Chai:
(for two)

1 big glass of water
1 teaspoon of Tea powder
(Preferably, Premium Assam tea, available in most of the Indian grocery shops)
1/2 inch cinnamon bark and one cardamom pod seeds –powdered using pestle&mortar
Milk and sugar or honey to your taste

Pour water into a small pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the tea leaves. Wait for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the cardamom-cinnamon powder and tiny amount (one tablespoon is plenty) of milk. Mix with a spoon. On medium heat, simmer it away until the color changes from milky white to light brown/tan colour for another five to ten minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, and pour the masala tea into cups, using a tea strainer to discard the tea leaves etc., Stir in sugar or honey to your liking. Enjoy the hot masala chai.

Masala Tea and in the background, our lunch -Puris with Potato Curry
Hot Masala Tea and Pooris with Potato Curry – Warming up on a stormy, snowy day.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Caffeine,Chicory & Cocoa,Tea (Friday December 9, 2005 at 3:42 pm- permalink)
Comments (19)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Thank You!

Ma'amouls - Date and Pistachio filled middle eastern cookies - Voted as one of the favorite cookie of Cookie Swap eventThank you all, who took time to vote Ma’amoul as one of your favorite cookies. I really appreciate your interest. If I could, I would love to send you all a sample cookie. 🙂

Thanks to Chanit for introducing me to this wonderful cookie and thanks to Jennifer and Alberto for sponsoring this event and prizes. Also congrats to Nupur, my blog friend and to all others, who scored a cookie book.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Friday December 9, 2005 at 2:27 pm- permalink)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Brussels Sprouts Curry

“Brussels sprouts taste almost like cabbage and they have a pronounced and sweet nutty flavor”, said Martha, in one of the episodes on Martha Stewart Living daily show, back in the days. That’s all I needed to know before trying out this winter vegetable.

As a new immigrant to this country, unfamiliar with most of the vegetables available here, no friends or relatives to learn from, Martha is like a mother figure to me. Calm, collected, intelligent and informative, it seemed she actually knew, what she was talking about unlike the current crop of food TV stars. No bam bam.. No unnecessary giggles and no artificial mile-length smiles. What she has is dignity and love of her craft and it reflected on her shows. Back then, I watched her show almost daily and learned so many things too.

I wish she would go back to the old format, because her new shows these days are not like the shows two, three years ago. Don’t they already have enough talk shows to promote movies and TV sitcoms?

Brussels Sprouts

I prepare brussels sprouts just like cabbage curry: sliced thin, sautéed with onion and seasoned with green chillis and coconut. I also add some sort of beans, pre soaked in water, like kala chana, chickpeas or dried green peas. If you have not already tried this vegetable, try it this way. I am sure, you are going to like it very much and thank me with a Christmas gift for this wonderful recipe. 🙂


12 to 15 fresh brussels sprouts
1 big onion, sliced thin lengthwise
2 fistfuls of kala chana(black chickpeas), soaked in water overnight
(Dried green peas, chickpeas work too)
4 green chillies and 1 tablespoon of coconut – made into paste
Salt to taste and pinch of turmeric
1 tsp of cumin and mustard seeds, curry leaves etc., for tadka or popu

Brussels Sprouts sliced then, Kala Chana, Onions and Green Chilli-Coconut Paste


Wash and Remove outer leaves and trim the bases of brussels sprouts. Check atleast two layers of leaves and remove them too if you find any black spots etc., . Cut each one into half and slice them thin lengthwise.

In a big pan, heat one teaspoon of peanut oil, do the popu or tadka (toasting mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves). Add and stir fry the onions and kala chana for few minutes. Stir in the brussels sprouts. Add all the seasoning (green chilli-coconut paste, salt, turmeric), mix them together. Cover and cook on low medium heat for about 10 minutes. Leave it like that, don’t open the lid and allow them to cook in their own steam. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, stir them once and add salt if necessary. By now, the sprouts will be tender and done. Switch off the heat and serve immediately.

Brussels sprouts prepared in this way, taste great with chapatis and naans.

Brussels Sprouts Curry with Chapatis
Brussels Sprouts Curry and Chapatis ~ Our lunch today.

Recipe source: My own creation

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Brussels Sprouts,Chickpeas-Black (Thursday December 8, 2005 at 3:00 pm- permalink)
Comments (45)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Previous Page »