October 9, 2015

My Version of Horiatiki (A Rustic Greek Salad)

was somewhere in my mid-teens when my parents, sister and I spent two days in Athens on a stop-over on our once-in-two-years vacation back home to India. In those days, my concerns about food largely revolved around eating when I was hungry and though I did have my particular likes and dislikes, I hadn’t developed an interest in food that I have today. What I now remember from that trip is the sheer grandeur of Acropolis and a beautifully embroidered Greek cotton dress that I loved and wore until it was almost in tatters!

In those days, living outside India meant that we visited India once every two years during the 2 months of our summer vacations and our trips in always meant that we had to make short stop-overs in various European countries because there weren’t any direct flights over that distance. These stop-overs mostly meant we spent two days or so as transit tourists in the country of whichever airlines we were flying. Our short transit stays were just enough time to catch a conducted tour to see the local sights, get a whiff of the local culture and pick up a few mementos to take back home.

We have a lot of interesting food related storied from those times because it wasn’t easy travelling anywhere abroad as a vegetarian. Most of the places we lived in or visited were meat and fish centric cultures where vegetarians like us were oddities. Yet people were always nice and anxious to accommodate our food choice but many were simply puzzled about what they could serve us.

I don’t seem to have any particular food memories from our trip to Athens which probably meant that we must have had plenty of vegetarian options. Now that I know a little more about Greek food I’m not surprised a lot of their native dishes are vegetarian, and many that aren’t can easily be adapted to vegetarianism. Like other Mediterranean cuisines, the Greeks use a lot of fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruit in their dishes.

Horiatiki is a rustic Greek salad (it seems the word Horiatiki means “in the manner of peasants”) that is naturally vegetarian. It’s typically made with roughly chopped onions, tomatoes, green bell peppers/ capsicum, cucumber and seasoned with Greek oregano, pepper and salt and topped off with some olives and a slab of Feta cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil and vinegar and you have a simple, fresh and hearty summer salad. 
This salad can be eaten as a meal in itself or be served on the side. Leave out the Feta and it becomes vegan. If serving the salad as a meal in itself, serve with crusty bread on the side, and use the bread to mop up the oil, vinegar and vegetable juices that pool at the bottom of the plate or bowl.

From what I understand, the above mentioned ingredients are what make a traditional (authentic) Greek salad and any other addition to it like yellow or red bell peppers (only green), lettuce, mint or other fresh herbs, etc. are personal preferences. Traditionally, the Feta is always placed on top of the salad in rectangular slab and never cut up into smaller pieces or crumbled, though that might be easier to eat.  

Horiatiki or Greek Salad is best prepared and served fresh so the vegetables can be chopped/ sliced ahead and refrigerated ahead of time if necessary but tossed and plated just before it’s eaten.

I’m a believer in authenticity in recipes to an extent because some recipes have stood the test of time and it is always that particular combination of ingredients that makes a particular dish what it is and sometimes all experimenting does is take away from it. That said, I’m also a firm believer in adjusting recipes to suit one’s own tastes if need be, because there’s not much point in making something is no one likes it and will not eat it! Then most importantly, one has to substitute as best possible if ingredients for a recipe are just not available locally.

So feel free to use whatever vinegar you have available or even substitute it with lime/ lemon juice. Use whatever olives you have (whole or sliced) or leave them out altogether. If you cannot find Feta, use a cheese like Paneer which also is better if you’re trying to avoid salt. If you make your own Paneer, perhaps add a little salt to it and use that instead. Try adding some chopped apple or pear which blasphemy to the salad, I know, but the hint of sweet sits delightfully well with the saltiness of the Feta.
Horiatiki (A Rustic Greek Salad)


5 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 small cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and chopped

1 large green bell pepper/ capsicum, sliced thinly

1 large onion, thinly sliced (the red kind)

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or white)

1/4 tsp dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

200gm Feta cheese cut into 4 slabs

Some olives, whole or sliced (Kalamata, if you have them)


You can cut the salad ingredients, either into chunks or slices. I personally prefer to have bite sized pieces of vegetables and fruit in my salads. Mix together the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion and salt in a large bowl. Be a little less generous with the salt as the Feta is quite salty.
If serving as a main dish then divide the vegetables equally between two salad bowls/ plates, otherwise transfer the vegetables to a largish but somewhat shallow salad bowl.  Scatter the olives and gently place the Feta slabs (2 for each plate or all four on the salad) and sprinkle the dried oregano on top.

Drizzle the vinegar and then the olive oil over the salad. Serve immediately with crusty bread on the side. If not served right away the salad will become soggy. This serves 2 as a main meal or 4 to 6 as a side dish.
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October 5, 2015

Methi Thepla/ Methi Na Thepla (Spiced Whole Wheat & Chickpea Flour Flatbreads With Fenugreek Greens) & Announcing The Winner Of The Silk Road Vegetarian Cookbook Giveaway!

he cuisine of the Indian sub-continent consists of a wide variety of unleavened flatbreads and the Thepla is one of them. Theplas are thin flatbreads from the western Indian state of Gujarat which is famous for its vegetarian food. I have never been to Gujarat and it has long been a dream of mine to travel through Gujarat and sample the local fare!

Though I’ve not been to Gujarat I have eaten a lot of good home cooked Gujarati food in my time. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a very good friend when at University who is Gujarati. I used live in the student accommodation on campus and let’s just say I was lucky in two ways being a vegetarian in a predominantly non-vegetarian country where vegetarianism was something most people weren’t aware of. 
One was that my parents lived pretty close by and I used make it home most weekends. 
The other was that my friend’s father taught at the University and they lived in faculty accommodation on campus. That meant that her home was walking distance from my hostel and you would find me there often feasting on the Gujarati food cooked her mother made. She was an excellent cook, by the way.

Getting back to Theplas, this flatbread is one of my favourites. Gujrathis traditionally like to carry their food with them while setting out on journeys which is not a bad thing at all considering that a large percentage of them are pure vegetarians and some of them do not even eat onions or garlic. By carrying their food with them, they’re always prepared in a situation where food they eat is otherwise not available.

Traditionally, the Thepla is also an extremely popular travel food item and not just because it tastes so good, but because it keeps well for a couple of days easily. I have plenty of memories of travelling both by train and plane, and having fellow Gujarati travellers opening their bags at meal times, digging out a variety of food and being very generous at sharing it with their fellow passengers.

Theplas can be made plain or with flavour additions. Plain Theplas  or “Sada” Theplas are the most basic kind of Theplas and are usually made using only whole wheat flour, a little yogurt and flavoured with a little salt, turmeric powder, asafetida and chilli powder. The variations in Theplas come from the addition of spices like cumin or garam masala, or vegetables like bottle gourd (lauki) or grated carrot or Daikon radish (mooli), fenugreek greens (methi)  or coriander leaves (dhania), etc. Theplas are cooked on high heat with a little bit of oil, so they’re cooked quickly but remain soft without becoming crisp.

I personally love the taste of chickpea flour (known as “besan” in Hindi) and so tend to add a little bit of it to the wheat flour when I make my Theplas with it. Fresh fenugreek greens/ leaves are available in India aplenty so I make my Theplas with them more often than with any other vegetable. 
Hot Theplas, fresh off the griddle served wih Chundo/ Chunda (a spicy and sweet mango pickle), Kachumber (a simplesalad) and some yogurt makes for a simple, satisfying and complete meal. It’s such a versatile dish that on a regular day it can be served for breakfast, eaten as a snack or be packed for lunch with lentils and vegetables on the side.

Methi Thepla


2 cups finely chopped fresh fenugreek greens (leaves and tender stalks)*

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp carom seeds (Bishop’s weed)

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

A large pinch of powdered asafoetida

Salt to taste

1/4 cup thick yogurt

2 tbsp oil

 A little more oil to cook the Theplas


*In India, fenugreek greens are sold in largish bunches. Open up the bunches and wash well in running water. Shake the excess water off the leaves or pat them dry with a towel. Chop up the leaves and the tender part of the stalks.

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of your kneading machine/ processor and mix them well. Add the chopped fenugreek greens, yogurt, the oil and just enough water so that you can knead everything into a smooth dough that is neither too firm not too soft. Let the dough rest, covered loosely for about half an hour.

Divide the dough into about 12 portions. Roll each one into a ball and flatten slightly. Lightly dust with wheat flour and roll them out thin with a rolling pin, into rounds about 5” to 6” in diameter.

Place a griddle or a slightly heavy tava on the stove. When it is quite hot, cook the rounds of dough, one at a time, over medium to high heat. 
First let each Thepla cook on one side. Then turn it over to cook on the other side and brush a little oil on the cooked side. Now turn it over again and brush a little oil on this side too. Now cook the Thepla on both sides until they’re done and brown spots appear on both sides. Do not let them burn.

When they’re done stack them in a bread basket or other suitable container and serve warm or at room temperature with something on the side depending on the meal and according to your preference. This recipe makes about 12 Theplas.

Announcing The Winner Of The Silk Road Vegetarian Cookbook Giveaway -

I must apologize for the delay in announcing the results of the Silk Road Vegetarian - Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free Recipes for the Mindful Cook by Dahlia Abraham-Klein. The best laid plans can come apart by things unplanned and that's just what happened with me, though the unplanned events were good ones. It only meant that I had very little time to spare for the internet and this blog but that's done now.

First of all let me thank all of you who entered the GIveaway. As I had mentioned in my Giveaway announcement post, Tuttle Publishing would be giving away 2 copies of the Silk Road Vegetarian Cookbook and ship them worldwide to two randomly chosen comments on that post.

So congratulations Rafeeda A. Raheem and Jayne, as you are the two lucky winners of a copy of the cookbook. Lookout for an e-mail from in your inbox.
Should either one of the winners not respond within a week, I will choose someone else to receive the cookbook.

Do keep watching this space for more cookbook giveaways through October and November.
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September 30, 2015

We Knead To Bake #31 : Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread

id you know that the Philippines has a folktale that tells of the origin of the banana plant? There are many versions of the tale and the names of the people involved in the story but it basically has to do with the very beautiful daughter of a husband and wife. They were very protective of their daughter but that didn’t prevent her from falling in love with a handsome man who some say was actually a benevolent spirit.

One version of the story say they got married, had a child but eventually he had leave the earth because he was a spirit so he told his young wife he had to return to his world. He left behind a bleeding heart which she planted and took care of until it grew into a banana plant with golden fruit. Her husband promised her that if she took care of the plant the leaves would provide her with shelter, the fruit with food and that she would always be taken care of.

Another version tells that the beautiful girl’s parents discovered her meeting the handsome young man on the sly and her father cut off the young man’s arm. The young girl apparently buried his arm but the next day it grew into a banana plant and eventually produced fruit that resembled a human hand with fingers!

I love bananas and I’m always up for a good recipe with bananas whether it’s these Cardamom Scented No Knead Banana Bread Rolls or a Banana Bread Pudding. Banana bread as we know it is usually a moist, sweet, cake-like quick bread, that is a bread that is leavened with baking powder.  Much as I like those, I’m always partial to a Banana Bread that has risen with yeast.

This particular recipe is not your average Banana Bread but a mildly sweet Sandwich Bread with just a hint of banana in it. Of course, how strong the banana flavour in your bread is would depend on the variety of banana you use and more importantly, how ripe it is. Usually, the riper the banana, the stronger the flavour and the sweeter it is.

It also happens to be a very simple recipe where you throw all the ingredients into one bowl (even better since it is a processor bowl, in my case), knead everything into a smooth elastic dough and then let the yeast do its thing. Deflate the dough, roll it into a loaf, let it rise some more, bake and you have excellent bread; which worked very well for me as September has been a really busy month. 
I was supposed to have posted this We Knead To Bake bread more than a week ago so that gives you an idea of how off-the-track I’ve been all month.

This bread makes excellent peanut butter sandwiches. Also try making French toast with it and you won’t regret it, I promise. You can also make savoury sandwiches with this Banana Bread or serve it on the side with curries or soup.

While this Sandwich Bread is best the way it is (I think so anyways) you could experiment with one or two of the following mentioned ingredients that usually pair well with banana.

Fruit - Apricot, Blueberry, Cherry, Date, Fig, Guava, Kiwi, Kumquat, Lime, Mango, Orange, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raspberry and Strawberry.

Spices - Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger and Tea.

Others - Caramel, Coconut, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, Honey, Macadamia, Maple, Oatmeal, Pecan, Walnuts and White Chocolate.
Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)


3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm milk

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tbsp vital wheat gluten*(optional)

25gm butter, soft at room temperature

2 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey

2 medium sized bananas chopped up (about 1 1/2 cups more or less)**


*If you can find bread flour, use that instead of all-purpose flour. Otherwise use vital wheat gluten with all-purpose flour for a more “chewy” textured bread. You can leave out the gluten if you don’t have it and use just all-purpose flour as well.

**This measurement is not critical, though too much or too little banana will affect the softness of your dough and texture of your bread.

Put all the ingredients except the milk, in a large bowl or the bowl of your machine. Add 3/4 cup of milk and knead until you have a shaggy dough. Add more milk if you think your dough needs it to get this consistency.

Knead further by hand until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that’s not sticky. Shape it into a ball and place it in a n oiled bowl and let it rise for about 2 hours (mine took almost 3 hours) till about double in volume.

Gently deflate the dough and shape the dough into a loaf that will fit into a lightly greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf tin. Loosely cover the loaf tin and let it rise for about an hour (again, mine took 1 1/2 hours)until it is rounded and almost at the edges of your loaf tin.

Brush with a little milk and top with some oats if you like, otherwise leave it plain. Bake at 180F (350F) for about 40 to 50 minutes or till the bread is done, a nice brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped.

Let it cool completely before slicing it. This recipe makes one medium sized loaf.

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September 18, 2015

A Bay With A View – A Review Of The New Menu At Bay 15, Goa

iving where we do, we are spoiled for choice of a view of the water given that we’re rarely more than 10 or 15 minutes away anywhere in town from the water whether it’s a beach or the river. Yet watching the waves coming in and washing up on the shore while the coconut palms sway gently in the cool breeze is something that never gets old. Add a five course fine dining experience to this list along with a ring side seat to the drama of a slowly approaching curtain of rain across the ocean and it’s something worth writing home about.

Bay 15, a Justa Hotels and Resorts managed property which is situated at the Odxel Beach, Panjim (Goa) is just off the Dona Paula University highway. The Executive Chef Mir Hafizur Raheman, recently back from the Maldives, has created a new fine dining degustation menu with an aim to introducing food from a fresh perspective. To quote him, " (he likes) pushing his culinary boundaries to creat a melange of flavours and let the food speak the language of the world".

We were invited to experience this new menu by Bay 15, and I must confess to being a bit hesitant to accept the invite. From past experience, we have found that a lot of places in Goa can be limiting with their menus for vegetarians. My husband and I are vegetarians and teetotalers, but I was assured that this wasn’t a problem as their menu had a good number of vegetarian dishes.

Bay 15 offers its diners the option of dining by the seaside seated close to the water, on the upper deck of the main building or inside. As the skies seemed serious about a promise of rain (and it did rain eventually) we chose to lunch on upper deck where we could enjoy the view and the breeze without the risk of getting wet.

We were offered the choice of deciding what we wanted to eat from their menu, but we chose to let Chef Raheman surprise us with a menu of his choice.  We started off a rather lazy lunch with mocktails. Apparently they were made especially for us as they don’t normally serve mocktails thought they offer a good variety of drinks for those who are fine with alcohol.

Our first course was a nice blend of sweet and salty flavours in the form of an amuse bouche of a Minty Watermelon Shooter with a bite sized round of watermelon topped with a little of Feta cheese on the side.

The second course was a simple Greek Salad with diced cucumber, bell peppers, black olives, Greek cheese and oregano. 
The salad was missing the sweetness of tomatoes which I understand was an omission on that particular day. It seems they usually add cherry tomatoes to the salad which, I’m told, they couldn’t source on that particular day.

The third course was a Porcini Espresso, which is a rich and creamy mushroom soup topped with a lemongrass foam. 
It was served with a crisp Pesto Crouton, Mushroom Rissois and Muhamarra Dip. The flavour of the lemongrass didn’t quite come through for me but the mushroom soup was so, so very good, and for me it was the star of the whole meal.

Our fourth course was Bay 15’s signature Honey-Ginger-Beetroot Risotto with Ratatouille and Spicy Black Lentils. Another excellent dish with well-balanced and really good flavours. I prefer my main courses savoury and so found the risotto a bit on the sweeter side but my husband could find nothing to complain about and loved it.

The fifth and final course was the dessert course, and a lovely way to end the meal. Chef Raheman went all out and served us three desserts – the Bay 15 Lemongrass and Mango Pannacotta (it’s vegetarian and made with agar agar), a Chocolate Chilli Baked Yogurt and a Goan dessert called Serradura. The desserts were light, not too sweet, a visual delight and very good.

If there was something that could be improved on, it would perhaps be to reduce the time between serving the courses. We ended up having to wait a lot more than one would consider reasonable between the arrival of one course and the next.

If you’re looking for a peaceful place, far away from the madding crowd so to speak, good food, courteous service and a great view then Bay 15 might be your destination. They have a wide selection of Meditteranean, Indian and Goan dishes on their menu.

Address: Odxel Beach Dona Paula, Panjim, Goa

Please note: The information in this post was current at the time of writing it, and may have changed since.

Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from Bay 15. Due judgement has been applied and I have done my best to remain objective and unbiased while writing this review. This review is my personal opinion so please exercise your own discretion.
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September 15, 2015

My Favourite Crunchy Tomato Sandwich

here are days when I’m just not in the mood for cooking anything. Even more so on days when my husband away on work and cooking for one is too much of an effort. On those days I take a break from the kitchen but the dog and I still have to eat! I cook him his usual fare though I suspect he’d be much happier with my meal on the days mine involve bread.

One of the things I make sometimes is sandwiches. In the part of the world I come from, down in the south of India, traditionally (and even now sometimes) bread has always been seen as something one eats when one is unwell – as in bread and milk with sugar maybe. 
So bread is not something one commonly finds in our homes, and sandwiches are the stuff that goes into school snack boxes. As far as I know, people in India do not consider sandwiches of any kind to be a full meal on its own. You just eat them in between meals or to keep hunger pangs temporarily at bay.

I, on the other hand, like bread so much that I could definitely eat it every day, and a filling sandwich would be a very welcome lunch for me. One of my personal favourite sandwiches is a tomato sandwich. It could be just slices of juicy and sweet tomatoes between two slices of bread (I don’t even need butter or a spread of any sort on the bread), or with cucumbers and maybe a slice of cheese. Grill that sandwich until the cheese melts and I like it even better.

One of the many nice things about living in India is that we get tomatoes at the market all year round, and it’s the rare day that there are no tomatoes in my refrigerator. I usually also have some sort of bread in kitchen most days, and here’s my recipe for a simple tomato sandwich.

It doesn’t take rocket science to make a sandwich and if anyone with two slices of bread can make one, so you might wonder what the deal is about making a sandwich, especially a tomato sandwich!  You’re right, one doesn’t need a recipe to make something as simple as a sandwich, but this is a sandwich that I like a lot and thought I’d share it.

I’ve added a little bit of crunch by adding some potato crisps to the sandwich, but I rarely eat my sandwiches with crisps. I usually get my crunch from cucumbers. You can put your own spin on this but this basic sandwich really needs only ripe, red firm, juicy and sweet tomato slices and maybe a sprinkling of some herbs and something to wash it down with. 
An Easy Crunchy Tomato Sandwich Recipe


1 or 2 large ripe but firm tomato Butter or plain white cheese spread (optional)

2 thick slices of crusty country style bread (or any bread of your choice)

Some salted butter or cheese spread

1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs (I like Herbs de Provence)

Salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste

A handful of potato crisps (plain slated/ or flavoured)


Spread the butter or cheese spread as thick as you like it (I’d say less is more) on one side of each slice of bread. Slice the tomatoes into not too thin slices and layer them (two or 3 layers) on one slice of buttered bread. Sprinkle the herbs, the pepper and salt over this.

Be judicious with the salt if using potato crisps as they are salty too. Top with the potato crisps and cover with the other slice of buttered bread. Press down lightly.

Cut into half to make the sandwich more manageable to eat. Bite into the deliciousness that is is your sandwich. Keep a napkin handy. Enjoy!

This recipe serves one so go ahead and double or triple it to make as many sandwiches as you need.
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