July 28, 2015

Chukku Kapi (A Herbal Coffee With Dry Ginger And Black Pepper from Kerala) & Winner of the Café Spice Cookbook Giveaway

t should have been raining quite heavily the past couple of months as we’re about half way through the monsoons/ rainy season here in the southern parts of India. Unfortunately, despite prediction by the local Meteorological department (which seem rarely accurate!), that we would have “normal” rainfall, the fact is that where I am the rainfall so far has been about 30% lower than it should have been. 

It has been raining rather with the monsoons tempting us with the promise of heavy rains but going back on the promise at the last minute leaving us with rather sunny days peppered with showers. However, it has been raining quite heavily and continuously the past three days suggesting that the monsoons are finally picking up a bit, though later than usual.

Every monsoon, the rains typically bring with them colds, coughs and fevers that are mostly a result of getting wet. For many of us Indians, the first line of treatment is recourse to traditional fail proof home remedies that we grew up with. In my home state of Kerala, our home remedies have their origins in Ayurvedic texts and prescriptions and some of them are still my go to solutions for simple maladies like colds, mouth ulcers, non-serious knife accidents in the kitchen and sore throats.

One traditional home remedy that is still very popularly used to makes short work of the monsoon sniffles, mild throat aches and coughs and is especially soothing to the throat is “Chukku Kapi “ which loosely translates as “Dry Ginger Coffee”.  A steaming hot cup of this coffee which is taken without milk, but spiced with goodness of dried ginger (Chukku), crushed black pepper (Kurumilagu), cumin (Jeerakam) and Indian/ Holy basil (Thulasi) was the ultimate comfort when feeling under the weather on a cold and wet rainy day.

Most home remedies including Chukke Kapi, used in Homes in Kerala have their origin in Ayurveda. While fresh ginger is known for its digestion friendly properties, in the dry form it helps in relief from colds and respiratory illnesses. Black pepper has an expectorant quality and provides relief from cold, coughs, sinusitis and nasal congestion. Cumin aids digestion and has anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting properties, while the Indian/ Holy basil has many medicinal qualities and is very effective for fever, coughs, bronchitis and other diseases of lungs.

This spicy drink is usually sweetened with palm jaggery (Karupetty) which is rich in iron. If you can’t find that then use regular cane jaggery. If you live in an area where jaggery is not easy to find then use other unrefined sugar like palm sugar, the Mexican piloncillo, panela, etc. Do not use refined sugar, but substitute with honey instead which is also good for a sore throat. If you cannot find Holy/ Indian basil leaves, just leave them out.

The recipe for Chukku Kapi that follows is the most basic version. Many homes have their own versions which could vary from this in terms of other spice additions. Some people would not consider it alright to add coffee to this mixture, whereas others would leave out the cumin. Another variation is the addition of coriander seeds. Cardamom is another spice that goes well in this beverage.

If coffee is not your thing and you prefer tea, you can use tea leaves instead. If you don’t drink either then just don’t bother with either and just drink it as an infusion. You don’t even have to wait for a rainy day or even a cold to enjoy this coffee. It’s a great thing to have anytime you feel the need for the warm comfort of a really hot drink.
Chukku Kapi (A Herbal Coffee With Dry Ginger And Black Pepper from Kerala)


2 cups water

1 tsp finely grated dried ginger (or well crushed 1/2" to 3/4” piece)

1/2 tsp freshly crushed black pepper

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

5 or 6 leaves holy/ Indian basil (Thulasi)

Powdered palm jaggery (Karuppatti) or regular jaggery to taste

1 tsp instant coffee powder


Put the water in a small pan and put all the ingredients into it, except the coffee powder. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the coffee powder, mix well and take the pan off the heat.

Strain the Chukku Kapi into two glasses or mugs and serve hot. This recipe serves 2.

As for the giveaway of Chef Hari Nayak’s latest cookbook, The Café Spice Cookbook sponsored by Tuttle Publishing, it was heartening to see a good response. As promised, Tuttle Publishing is giving away 2 copies of the cookbook in a worldwide giveaway, and I have randomly selected two winners.

Heartiest congratulations to Jacquie Astemborski and Manisha Bhadana. You both are the lucky winners of this giveaway, and please check your e-mail inboxes to see a detailed mail from me.

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July 24, 2015

We Knead To Bake #29 : Tingmos/ Ting Momos (Tibetan Steamed Buns) With Tomato Based Sepen ((Tibetan Hot Sauce/ Chutney)

e’re a bread baking group at the We Knead To Bake, and to my mind, if there’s yeast in the dough and it’s a bread of some sort, then the recipe qualifies for us to make. So we’re making a savoury Tibetan yeasted bread called Tingmos or Ting Momos (also called Te Momos by the Sherpas), which are not baked but steam cooked. If you’ve never heard of Tingmos before, they’re a steamed bread that is usually used by Tibetans to soak up everything from soup to curries and even spicy pickles/ sauces.

The Tingmo is a sort of a cousin to the Chinese steamed buns called Mantou and is also popular in the Indian state of Sikkim whch has a geographical border with Tibet. You can also generally find it on the menu at most Tibetan eateries all over India, along with Momos. Chinese steamed buns, Momos and Tingmos all probably have a common origin.

I should think the traditional version of this bread actually doesn’t use yeast but only baking powder as a leavening agent. However, I have seen a few Tingmo recipes using yeast as well, and that’s the version I picked for us to bake. This recipe is adapted from Rick Stein’s cookbook “India”, and while I’ve found Mr Stein’s recipes on his television series on Indian food are not always the most authentic, this one seemed doable.

Rick Stein describes Tingmos as “spongy, slightly gelatinous little steamed Tibetan buns, pleasingly savoury with ginger, garlic, coriander and tomato. Rather irritatingly more-ish on their own, they’re addictive when dunked into a rich curry or the very yummy Tibetan red chilli sauce”.

In Tibet, this little bun is apparently eaten usually at breakfast with a rice porridge called “Dreythuk”. They’re quite popular though with a very spicy red chilly dipping sauce called Sepen. They can also be served with soups or “curries”.

When made and cooked properly, Tingmos should be soft, fluffy and slightly chewy. There are two types of Tingmos, from what I been able to figure out – one that’s plain and one with a little filling. This video is a good insight into how Tingmos are made

This recipe is made with filling as I personally like these better than the plain ones. I’ve come across different ways of shaping Tingmos and they range from intricately fashioned rolls, through plainly rolled and tucked breads to rather shapeless lumpy looking steamed dough. I’ve chosen an easy method of shaping which involves rolling up the dough and slicing it pretty much in the fashion of making cinnamon rolls.

Tingmos, in most restaurants here, are served with a red and very hot/ spicy dipping sauce/ chutney called Sepen. Sepen is a Tibetan sauce/ chutney that is apparently served at almost every Tibetan meal. Sepen gets it's colour and heat from the main ingredient - dried red chillies. 

As as is the case with most recipes, you will find a good deal of variation in recipes for Sepen depending on who is making it, but the traditional Sepen is usually a fiery red, really spicy, thick and slightly chunky sauce/ chutney that screams "chillies". 
While searching for a good recipe, I discovered a non-traditional version of Sepen that is tomato based and somewhat like a really spicy Salsa. The 

I liked the sound of this better as the tomatoes would tone down the fire of the chillies, while adding a little acidity and sweetness to the Sepen. While picking out the tomatoes from the vegetable drawer in my fridge, I found a red bell pepper so I added half of that to the Sepen. 
While this does take away from the authenticity of the recipe, I felt it added to the flavour of the sauce/ chutney.
Tingmos/ Ting Momos

(Adapted from Rick Stein’s India)


For the dough:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp instant yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 to 1/2 cup warm water

For the filling:

1 1/2 tsp ginger paste or finely minced ginger

1 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1/4 cup finely chopped spring onion greens and whites

2 tbsp oil


To make the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, yeast and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add enough of the warm water (and flour if necessary) and knead to make a soft and smooth but not sticky dough.  
Knead for 1 to 2 minutes in the bowl and then cover and set aside for about 45 minutes to an hour until it rises to almost double in size. You can also make the dough by machine.

Now make the filling. Heat the oil and add the ginger and garlic and sauté until the raw smell disappears. Keep aside to cool.   It is not necessary to do this and the ginger and garlic can be used as they are but I prefer to get rid of the raw small of garlic.

Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a rough rectangle (this makes rolling up easier) about 5mm thick. Brush half the ginger-garlic paste across the surface. Mix the salt with the spring onions and sprinkle half of it over this.

Roll up the dough fairly tightly, from the long side as you would a Swiss roll, then cut it into 6 or 7 slices about 3 to 4mm thick. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling.

Lightly oil a steamer and place the rolls upright in the steamer (so the cut sides face up/ down) leaving about 2 to 3 inches space in between as they will expand on steaming. Loosely cover and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, get the water in your steamer boiling. 
Steam the Tingmos over simmering water, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes  until they’re puffy, firm and cooked. Serve warm.

This recipe makes about 12 to 15 Tingmos. Double the recipe for a larger batch.


Tomato Based Sepen (Tibetan Hot Sauce/ Chutney)

(Adapted from YoWangdu)


1 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp finely minced garlic

1 large red onion, sliced

4 to 5 dried red chillies/ red chilli powder to taste*

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)

2 spring onions, white and greens chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Salt to taste


*The original recipe calls for 1 cup of dried red chillies! An authentic Sepen is meant to be very hot/ spicy.  I decided to use red chilli powder instead of chillies as it would be easier to adjust the heat to our taste. 
I’d suggest using as many chillies as required to tailor the dipping sauce to suit your preference. You can also use green chillies or red chilli powder instead of the dried red chillies.

Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic and the onion. Sauté until the onions are soft, then add the red chillies. Stir a couple of times and then add the tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the red bell pepper, spring onions and the coriander. Cook for 2 minutes and take it off the heat. Add salt to taste, mix it in and let it cool a bit.

Then blend it till smooth. The finished sauce should be as thick as ketchup, so thin it down with a little water while blending, if necessary. Garnish with a little fresh chopped coriander and spring onions if you like. Serve as a dipping sauce with the Tingmos.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of Sepen.
This sauce/ chutney is best made and consumed fresh but will keep refrigerated for a day.

Links to this month's We Knead To Bake group breads:
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July 20, 2015

A Birthday Cake - Lime Cake with Mango Curd and Lime Buttercream

haven’t gone anywhere, not even on a holiday. I’m very much here though I’ve been missing from the blog for over two weeks. I was just busy with some other stuff and blogging had to take a temporary back seat because I didn’t have the time to spare. However, I’m back and thought I’d share a cake I’d baked early this month.

I don’t make frosted cakes a lot because there aren’t too many occasions these days that call for them especially as our daughter who loves them is away at college most of the year. I’m not particularly fond of buttercream or icing of any kind other than whipped cream and ganache. My husband loves most things sweet but then all that stuff isn’t really what we should be eating, so like I said, frosted cakes are an occasional treat in our home.

 I have however created a tradition for myself of making a home-made birthday cake for all our birthdays. It was our daughter’s birthday early this month and she’s lucky that her summer break from college is such that she’s at home to celebrate it. The occasion called for a buttercream frosted cake, and I thought I’d make one that wasn’t in the usual chocolate or vanilla flavours.

I’m generally restricted to simple cakes when it comes to making festive cakes because of my lack of expert piping skills and a non-availability of decorative ingredients (like fancy sprinkles and all that stuff) in the stores here. You can see what I mean if you look at my earlier birthday cakes like the Alcohol-free Tiramisu Cake, an Easy Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Frosting, Chocolate Cake With Vanilla Buttercream or the Marbled Chocolate Cakewith Chocolate Buttercream.

The fanciest I ever got was with the Cookies & Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream that I baked last year for her eighteenth birthday. You will notice that there's a common chocolate/ vanilla flavour dominating the cakes I've mentioned so far and that's because those are the birthday girl's favourites! 

So, as I was saying, I decided to go with a Lime Cake and Lime Buttercream (lemons are rare in India) this time as that’s a flavour she has come to love. As far as decorating this cake went, all it needed was the cake, the buttercream and a teaspoon!

In India, it’s not easy to find lemons but you can get limes aplenty all the year round. Limes are much sourer than limes so if you’re making this cake with lemons then please adjust the amount of juice you use accordingly. I made mango curd because we get the best mangoes ever during this time of the year. Even if it wasn’t the season for mangoes, I’d still make my own mango curd because it’s easy enough to make, and it’s also not available in the stores here.
Lime Cake with Mango Curd and Lime Buttercream


For the Mango-Lime Curd:

3 cups fresh mango purée

1/2 cup sugar (more if your mango needs it)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk (or water, if you prefer)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

For the Cake:

1 1/4 cups sugar

100gm butter, soft at room temperature

2 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2  tbsp finely grated lime/ lemon rind

1 cup buttermilk

1tbsp fresh lime juice

For the Lime Buttercream:

175gm butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp lemon extract


First make the mango curd. This is ideally done the previous day or much ahead of time and refrigerated till required.

Whisk together the mango purée, sugar and the salt in a pan, and place it on the stove top over medium heat. Let it heat up until it is bubbling, while stirring constantly. I use the whisk throughout to keep the curd smooth.

In the meanwhile, mix the corn-starch in the milk till it dissolves. Turn the heat down, and add the corn-starch and milk mixture slowly, while whisking constantly to mix it in without curdling or forming lumps. Add the lime juice also, and keep whisking the mango curd until it is thick and smooth.
Take it off the heat, cool completely and refrigerate.

Now make the cake. You can make this as two 8” cakes or a single8” cake and then cut it into two layers. I baked it as a single cake because I have only one 8” cake tin. If you’re baking it as a single cake it will need more time in the oven.

Put the butter and the sugar in a large bowl and beat at medium speed, with a hand held mixer, until well blended and quite fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well to blend after each addition.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to blend well. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in two lots ending with the flour mixture, beating them in well till smooth. Add the lime juice and zest and mix till blended. Do not overbeat the cake batter.

Pour the mixture into a lined (at the bottom only), greased and floured 8” cake tin (or divide the batter equally between two 8” tins) and tap the tins lightly to remove air bubbles in the batter. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 40 to 50 minutes (about 25 to 30 minutes if the batter is in two tins) until the cake is cooked and a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean.
Cool the cake/ cakes in the tin/ tins for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then carefully unmould the cake/ cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the buttercream while the cake is baking. Beat the butter and the lime juice at high speed with a hand held beater until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between. Then beat in 2 cups of icing sugar till well blended and very fluffy. 

Add the remaining sugar also, if you think you need it. Blend in the lime zest and the extracts. If the buttercream seems too soft, refrigerate for a little while before frosting the cake.

To frost the cake, remove the lining from the bottom of the cake (or cakes). If you made just one cake, first level the top of the cake slightly if your cake needs it. Then carefully slice it horizontally into two equal layers. My cakes were moist enough and I didn’t want them too sweet so I didn’t bother with a sugar syrup.

What I did was to place the bottom layer on the cake plate and then  crumb coated/covered the top of it with a thin layer of butter cream. Then I spread an almost half inch thick layer of mango curd over this. Then I crumb coated the bottom side of the other layer of cake and placed this crumb coated side down, on the mango curd layer.

Next, crumb coat the sides and the top of the cake with buttercream. Then frost and decorate the cake with buttercream as you like. The amount of buttercream in this recipe is just enough to cover this cake. If you would like to do more detailed decoration you might need to make more.

I decorated my cake using a teaspoon. To do as I did, cover the top and side of the cake with a thick and uniform layer of buttercream. Then draw up the back of a teaspoon along the sides of the cake, pressing a little (not too much) from top to bottom and close together to create a striated/ striped pattern. 
For the top press the teaspoon lightly into the smooth buttercream and lightly make half-twists in a random manner to create a pattern. Top with silver/ gold sugar dragees.

This cake serves 8 to 10 people.

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July 4, 2015

New York Style Deli Rye Bread

ome time back, fellow blogger and friend Samruddhi got me some rye flour from abroad and I’ve since been looking for a good bread recipe to put the flour to good use with. We don’t get rye flour in India unless it’s imported and sold through specialty gourmet stores at insensibly expensive prices.

After a rather unsuccessful couple of attempts at baking rye bread from a recipe I found online, I asked a couple of friends for tried and tested recipes, and one of them actually translated a recipe from German for me! A close friend who is also an awesome bread baker gave me her recipe but it just didn’t turn out right for some reason. I’m no expert bread baker but I can turn out a reasonably decent bread yet I have been defeated again and again by something as simple as a rye bread! Or maybe making a rye bread isn’t so simple a process because I don’t doubt my friend Finla’s baking skills or her recipe.

By now, I had just half the bag of rye flour left and I was determined to make at least one good rye bread before I ran out of flour! I came across Rose Levy Berenbaum’s recipe for a New York Style Deli Rye Bread in her Bread Bible and it seems to also come highly recommended by quite a few food bloggers. So I decided I would give the recipe a try out, in the hope that this was “the” recipe that would work for me, and I’m happy to report that it did!

For most of us in India, rye is something we haven’t heard about or seen.  However, rye is a bread grain that is almost as popular as wheat in many European countries including Germany, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and France. 
Rye flour is usually used in combination with wheat flour, in varying proportions depending upon the recipe, to make bread. The higher the percentage of rye in the loaf, the denser it will be in texture.
I understand that a properly made rye bread should have a firm yet light texture. Rye bread can be baked plain though it is usual to add toasted nuts, caraway or flax seeds, dried fruits, etc in small amounts to add flavour.

My research tells me that New York rye bread is a type of rye bread baked and made famous by the city’s Jewish community who migrated from Europe and settled there. The New York Style Deli Rye Bread uses a higher proportion of wheat flour to rye flour making it lighter in texture, just the kind of bread I thought I might have success with and might be welcomed by my family since we’re not used to the strong flavour of rye flour.  
Berenbaum’s recipe uses bread flour rather and no whole wheat flour at all, so it makes for an even lighter texture.

This bread is easy enough to make, but it does take most of a day to do it since there is a 3 to 4 hour wait for the sponge to activate, and then two separate rises before the loaf is shaped for the final rise and then is then baked. It took me even longer, but just after the first rise I had to step out unexpectedly. So I stuck the dough into the fridge where the second rise happened and it was late evening before I baked the bread which I had started on at 7.30 in the morning!

All considered, the bread turned out quite well, though you can see from my photographs that I have a long way to go to perfect my dough slashing. I personally like the taste of caraway seeds in bread and I feel it makes this bread taste better, but feel free to leave it out if you don’t like it.

I’m guessing a rye bread should be more about the rye than anything else, but the reason I liked Rose Levy Berenbaum’s recipe for the Jewish New York Deli Rye Bread was that the flavour of rye was subtle and of course, that it baked well for me! This recipe makes a nice largish loaf of bread that can be used to make sandwiches or toast.

The Bread Bible also lists ingredients by weight so if that’s the way you bake do check the original recipe. I find it easier to measure by volume and this works for me in most cases, as in my experience most traditional recipes work by proportion and there are always adjsutments made where one goes by feel of the dough.

New York Style Deli Rye Bread


For the Sponge:

3/4 cup bread flour

3/4 cup rye flour

1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/2 tbsp honey

1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

Remaining Ingredients for the Dough:

2 1/4 cups bread flour (a little more or less if required)

3/4 tsp instant yeast

1 1/2 to 2 tbsp caraway seeds

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp oil


First make the sponge. Combine all the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl and whisk until a smooth and thick batter results. The idea is to incorporate air in the batter. Keep aside. If you’re using a mixer or a processor to knead your dough, you can do this in the bowl of the machine you’ll have one bowl less to wash up.

In another bowl, lightly whisk together the remaining dry ingredients except the oil and the gently sprinkle all of it over the sponge such that the sponge is completely covered by the flour mixture. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave this to ferment at room temperature for between one and four hours (I let it sit for 3 hours). You will find that the sponge would have bubbled up through the flour mixture in places.

When ready to knead the dough, add the oil and knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic. If the dough seems quite sticky stop the machine in between and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes. Then start kneading again, adding a little flour (not too much) if required. When the dough is of the correct consistency, if pressed with a fingertip, the dough should be springy and “jump” back. If it feels sticky, turn it out onto your counter and knead in a little extra flour.

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, turning it well to coat with oil. Cover it and let it rise until double in volume. This should take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When done, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it down gently.  Fold it and shape it into square-ish  shaped ball (this is an easier shape) and put it back into the bowl after re-oiling, this time for about 45 minutes. (I ended up doing this rise in the fridge for almost 3 hours because I had to step out unexpectedly!)

When this is done, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and gently deflate the dough. Then shape it into a round or oblong ball and place it on a sheet lined with parchment or dusted with cornmeal or semolina. Loosely cover and let it rise until almost double in volume. This should take about an hour or so. When you gently press the dough with a fingertip, the depression should fill out slowly. If it springs back quickly, let it rise for a little longer and check again.

If you have a bread stone place it to preheat in the oven, otherwise use a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 230C (450F).

Using a sharp knife, blade or lame make three or four 1/4” or 1/2” deep slashes
Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, score 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Spray the top of the dough with a fine mist of water and quickly but gently place the dough on the baking sheet/ stone in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 200C (400F) for another 30 minutes or so, until the bread is done, golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let the bread cool down completely before slicing.

This recipe makes 1 large round loaf New York Style Deli Rye Bread .
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June 30, 2015

The Café Spice Cookbook : A Review, A Worldwide Giveaway (Closed) And A Recipe For Lentil & Sprout Relish (Dal Aur Phooti Mung Ka Salad)

eople who know me well know I like to read, and a cosy comfortable corner, a good book, a steaming hot cup of tea (even better if it’s masala chai) is one of my ideas of heaven. Thrown in some rains outside and some crisp, savoury eats and I couldn’t really ask for more. By extension, I also really like good cookbooks. So I naturally said yes to a request from Tuttle Publishers asking if I would be interested in reviewing a couple of their latest cookbooks.

They sent me a copy of one of Indian born American chef Hari Nayak’s “Café Spice Cookbook” which is a collection of 84 quick and easy Indian recipes for everyday meals. The book, written for an American audience, aims at introducing them to easily cooked and light, fresh and healthy Indian food using ingredients that are easily available at the supermarket.

The Café Spice Cookbook gets its name from Hari Nayak’s collaboration with Cafe Spice, the quick-serve restaurant chain and line of "Meals to Go" for which he is Culinary Director. This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from different parts of India and while they have a distinct Indian identity, quite a few of them have been adapted to suit the American palate. While this is not an exclusively vegetarian cookbook, many of the recipes in it are suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those who follow a gluten-free diet.

The recipes are quite simple to cook with ingredients that are easy enough to procure, with concise and easy to follow directions and don’t take a lot of time either. Most of the recipes can be cooked in an hour or less. All the recipes are accompanied with good photographs and the recipe for Potato & Pea Samosas comes with pictorial instructions on how to shape a samosa.  

The book starts off with the Café Spice story, and then moves on to some techniques, kitchen tools and tips to making Indian cooking easier. There’s a detailed chapter that’s an introduction to ingredients used in Indian cooking followed by recipes for basic spice mixes used in the recipes in the book.

The recipes are grouped under Chutneys & Accompaniments, Starters & Salads, Soups & Dals, Vegetables & Cheese, Fish & Seafood, Poultyr & Meat, Breads Rice & Grains, and Desserts & Drinks. The book has a recipe index as expected and also a list of sources in the U.S (online as well) for ingredients.

Some of the vegetarian recipes in the book include Green Pea Relish, Veggie Sloppy Joe (a take on Pav Bhaji), Cauliflower and Curry Soup, South Indian Lentils and Vegetables, Fresh Pineapple Curry, Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potato, Okra Masala, Paneer with Creamed Spinach (Paalak Paneer), Brown Basmati Rice, Tomato and Curry Leaf Quinoa, Naan Bread, Milk Dumplings in Saffron Syrup (Gulaab Jamun), and Steamed Yogurt Pudding.

If you like Indian cooking and would like to explore it better, especially everyday Indian home style cooking which is light and healthy, unlike the very highly spiced and rich food which is usually served in most Indian restaurants then this cookbook is worth adding to your cookbook shelf.

About the Author:

Hari Nayak is one of a new generation of American chefs whose inspiration comes from his Indian heritage. His food today is rooted in his heritage but influenced by other cultures and cuisines that he has experienced in traveling the globe.
Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Hari has worked in the food industry for more than 15 years—including stints at renowned New York restaurants like Aquavit and Daniel. His other cookbooks include Modern Indian Cooking and My Indian Kitchen.

The photography in Hari Nayak’s book has been done by Jack Turkel, a professional photographer with more than thirty-five years’ experience.


Being Indian, there were a lot of recipes in the book that were very familiar to me, and even though some of them were not exactly the same as how I do cook them, I decided to try my hand at something that I hadn’t made before.

Now a salad might not be a great choice to pick while reviewing a cookbook for some, but I liked the sound of this one. It also helped that I was planning to make a salad the day I chose the recipe from the book and I also had all the ingredients on hand so the Lentil & Sprout Relish (Dal Aur Phooti Mung Ka Salad) it was.

This recipe is classified as a relish in the book and can be found under the chapter on Chutneys & Relishes but the Indian name spells it out as a salad. To my mind, a relish is something that is cooked whereas this dish is raw but with the addition of tempering. 
But as Shakespeare wrote, “"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." So relish or salad, this is a dish that’s good, healthy, light and filling.

Hari Nayak says in the introduction that accompanies this recipe in his book, “This recipe uses green gram (mung beans) which is always the best option. This is a favourite among weight watchers. You can add a few more ingredients to convert it into a wholesome salad by adding dried fruits, walnuts, apples, carrots or even spinach leaves”. 

I took his advice and added some apple and almonds to my salad and a little bit of honey too. On the spur of the moment I decided to add the almonds (they were sitting in my freezer when I opened it) just before serving, and since this was a little after I had photographed the salad the almonds are missing from the photograph!

Please scroll down below the recipe for the giveaway.
Lentil & Sprout Relish (Dal Aur Phooti Mung Ka Salad)

(Reproduced from the Café Spice Cookbook, with permission)


1/2 cup sprouted green gram (moong dal)

1/2 cup split yellow peas (chana dal) soaked overnight and boiled till tender

2 cucumbers (about 250gm), peeled, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 fresh green chilli, seeded and finely chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp oil

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp plain yogurt


Mix together the sprouted green gram, split yellow peas, cucumber, fresh coriander leaves, lemon juice and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, take the pan off the heat and stir in the yogurt. Add the mixture to the salad and toss well. 

Serve immediately. This serves 4.

And the Worldwide Giveaway!

Tuttle Publishers have also very generously offered to giveaway TWO copies of Hari Nayak’s Café Spice Cookbook
They have also been kind enough to ship the books WORLDWIDE, which means anyone all over the world is welcome (non-bloggers too) to enter this giveaway.

If you would like to take a chance at winning one of the two copies of The Café Spice Cookbook, then here’s what you have to do. Please leave a comment at this post telling me the name of one of your favourite vegetarian everyday dishes that you cook at home, and why you like it so much.
Please also leave an e-mail id or some way I can write to you if you win.

This giveaway is open till the midnight of the 15th July, 2015, after which I will pick TWO random comments whose owners will be the lucky winners of this giveaway.

As always, it would also be greatly appreciated if you follow me on my blog and photography pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest though this is not mandatory for the giveaway.

My Diverse Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate advertising program designed to allow sites to earn a small commission through advertising and linking to amazon.com. Please see this blog’s disclosure policy for details. I will only link to products that I can personally attest to and that I have had experience using.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Please see this post for details about the winners.
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