Thandai – Spiced Indian Nut Milk – Holi Special

Nut milk has gained popularity in the vegan movement globally. However, traditionally nut milk is very popular amongst the wrestling communities in India and is very popular as a cold beverage in Summer, starting from the day of Holi, the festival of colours, the start of spring.

Traditionally Thandai is made of soaked almonds, ground into paste with peppercorns and cardamom and then mixed with milk and sugar and rose water. For Holi, this same mixture is fortified with Bhang – Fresh green Marijuana. Its a celebration after all.

The more almonds in it, the better the flavour. There is a however a cheaper version of the same Thandai, one which uses melon seeds as they add enough nuttiness and are not as expensive as almonds. Some parts of the country also add fennel seeds and poppy seeds to the Thandai.

This holi I made mine with almonds, green pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, fennel, cardamom, driend rose petals, peppercorns and a dash of honey. No milk because I used too many nuts and that makes this Thandai a Vegan treat
Top Tip
There might be leftover thandai. Use that to son oats overnight and serve with fresh strawberries.

1 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup poppy seeds (white)
1 tbsp black pepper corn
2 tbsp fennel seeds
10 pods green cardamom
1 handful dried rose petals. You can skip this and just use good rose water)
50 ml rose water
6-8 tbsp raw cane sugar
6 cups milk/ water

1. Soak all the above in water overnight
2. I dd not bother taking the cardamom seeds out of the pods
3. I did however take the skin off of the almonds while merrily chatting over morning coffee
4. Grind everything into a very fine paste. Add the water and dilute. If the mixture is too grainy, sieve it through a cheese cloth. It can be equally enjoyed with a slightly grainy texture.
5. If you have bhang on hand, stir it into the ground nut paste and then sieve it. Enjoy.

Hero the Veg: Basic Single Vegetable Soups (Broccoli and Mushroom soups)


At a very recent dinner at a friends house on a cold winter day, I was served soup as appetiser and it was simple and delicious. Off late most of my soups are the broths I make for dunking noodles into to make some sort of Ramen out of them. But just the joy of a plain mushroom soup reminded me how delicious and easy it is to make soup out of literally every vegetable and how it is also very easy to pack a punch of flavour into it.

So the next whole week I ate at least one vegetable soup every meal and may be for two meals to finally understand and write about how to make soups out of single vegetables. Just one vegetable as hero. And what little things can be added to each of them to really up the flavour and deliciousness of the soups.

We are talking 2 basic soups here: Broccoli and Mushroom (button)
Broccoli Soup –
Ingredients: Makes 2 bowls

2 medium broccoli
1 tbsp ghee
1 sprig dill
750 ml water (and more if needed)
2-3 pinches pink salt
pepper to taste

1. Clean and chop the broccoli, stalks and stems and florets. if the broccoli is tender then chop them in the same size. Else chop the florets into larger pieces than the stalks. the stalks need to be pealed as the outer skin is tough and fibrous.
2. Add the ghee to the pan and add the broccoli. Stir and cook till tender.
3. Add the water and cook. Do not cover as that way you will loose the beautiful green colour.
4. Cook till the broccoli is almost mushy.
5. Use a hand blender to blend in the broccoli. Add a sprig of dil tied to a string and simmer till you achieve desired consistency. Once cooked remove the dill and add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls. When serving garnish with some fresh chopped dill. Serve with warm crusty bread with garlic and dill on top

Tips and tricks
1. Broccoli cooks very quickly, so a little patience, cook on low flame and the colour is retained
2. Use a densely flavoured oil to first stir fry the broccoli before you add the water. Try a cold pressed sesame, coconut, extra virgin olive or mustard oil. Ghee it was for me.
3. Use smaller and more delicate broccoli’s, they are sweeter
4. Use the stem It adds body and depth of flavour. Just peal them.
5. Use a green herb to garnish. I used dill. They go well together.
Mushroom Soup
Ingredients: Makes 2 bowls
400 gms button mushrooms
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 inch cube. butter
1 pinch. nutmeg
1/2 cup milk/ almond milk/ coconut milk
1-2 cloves garlic
500 ml mushroom stock/ vegetable stock/ water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the mushrooms into 1 inch pieces. clean them thoroughly after chopping just to ensure absolutely no grit is left on them.
2. Add the oil in a pan. Choose a big pan because mushrooms don’t cook too well if crowded in a pan. They tend to sweat too much too soon.
3. Once the oil is heated, add the butter and diced/chopped/ minced garlic and bay leaves. Stir on low flame and do not let the garlic brown. After a minute or so add the chopped mushrooms and stir.
4. Slowly the mushrooms will sweat a bit and cook through. Once cooked let it cool for some time.
5. Remove the bay leaves and add the nutmeg. Blend it in a liquidiser jar with water till smooth.
6. To get the most creamy texture, run the blended mushroom puree through a fine sieve.
7. Bring the mixture back to a boil after adding the milk and water. Season to taste. serve with a wedge of lime.


Tips and tricks
1. Cook the mushrooms till they are perfectly tender.
2. Use a liquidiser for this soup. A hand held blender will not be the best
3. Garlic, bay leaf and nutmeg/ cinnamon and you are sorted. No need to scamper about for some thyme for this.
4. Just a dash of milk, no cream at all.

Dairy free, fuss free, one bowl carrot and orange cake

(dairy free if you can stop yourself from slathering dollops of butter or cheese)
I called up my vegetables and greens provider to ask him what carrots does he have. And he merrily told me all three. In india, the most popular ones are Black (deep maroon, darker than beetroot), the red ones and the usual yellow to orange ones. Colours galore in my kitchen and off course I told everyone I spoke to that day that am making carrot cake tomorrow. And strangely everyone told me ‘oh I love carrot cake’

This means that it is indeed a very popular cake. Come to think of it, most cafes and bakeries of any stature have this on their menu and mostly its a tower of cake with cream cheese layers. Not for me. I love carrot cake, but without all this fuss.

Without the walnuts and dry fruits seeped into it. Without all the extra cheese. Because a carrot cake is supposed to be simple. Carrot cake.

This recipe is a simple cake which can be mixed in a bowl. And baked . The end result is a loaf which can be used two ways. Like a stale bread, toasted and buttered. Or if you really want some cheese, then a mascarpone whipped with cream with a dash of orange zest and enough cointreau.
290 gms all-purpose flour
2 pinches table or fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
120 gms sunflower oil
145 gms dark brown sugar
3 l small organic eggs
235 ml strange juice fresh or otherwise
1 tsp vanilla extract
255 gms grated carrots

To make it better
1 slab good organic butter


200 ml full cream
200gms mascarpone cheese
30ml cointreau
1 tested orange
1 handful toasted walnuts for prettiness

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a loaf tin (9×5-inch loaf pan). Keep this ready.
2. Grate the carrots and set aside. This will be folded into the cake mix in the end.
3. Add the eggs one at a time to the oil and orange juice mixture. Use a balloon whisk.
4. Throw in every thing else into this liquid and ensure all flour is blended in. Fold in the carrot in the end
5. Pour into the ready loaf tin and bake for about an hour. Ensure the cake is cooked through before you take it out of the oven.
6. Allow to cool and stash it away for 24 hours
7. This cake tastes best 18-24 hours old.
8. Serve toasted with butter
9. Or whip the cream, mascarpone, orange zest and cointreau and pour over the loaf. Top with the walnuts and slice away.

Breakfast muffin

I am a double breakfast eater. There is no time of the day when I would say no to a great cake with a cup of black coffee. These cravings are at their helm in the mornings. I would however consider myself not much of a sweet breakfast eater, unless off course its winers.

There was a time when I was growing up and since I was raised egg-free vegetarian, I found it very hard to find cakes without eggs. Now however, we find that it is becoming rapidly popular to bake without eggs.

So the next question is then what is the egg substitute to be used for the rise of the cake.

One of the (now) most common egg substitutes it flax seed and water. Great to taste as it adds an additional nuttiness plus protein. This recipe was tested on the demand of a reader, after I posted a banana bread recipe on the blog. She is allergic to eggs. So here it is finally. I replied the butter with coconut oil to make it vegan.

Tip – The one thing I did was that I forgot to add the chocolate chunks in the batter, I topped the muffins with it. If you are doing the same thing as me, then sink the chocolate chunks deep into the batter. If it lies on top it can dry up or burn, specially the ones near the heat of the oven.

Vegan banana and cinnamon muffin
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
6 tbsp warm water
180 gms light all-purpose/ gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder, aluminium free
¼ tsp fine sea salt
90 gms palm sugar
100 gms coconut oil
2 very ripe bananas (total of 1 cup smashed)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup vegan- chocolate chunks

1. Mix the flax seed and water and let it sit for 15 minutes.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients. Wen backing without egg, it is important to incorporate as much as air as possible to get a lighter cake.
3. Heat the coconut oil till it just melts. Add the mashed bananas and the vanilla extract.
4. Add the flax seed and water mixture and fold the rest of the dry ingredients.
5. In the end add the chocolate chunks and stir.
6. Use an ice-cream scoop to add the batter onto lined muffin trays.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes at 160 degrees in a preheated oven. Watch the muffins closely because they can be done quickly if there is low humidity or the bananas are fresh, etc.
I have never been able to wait for them to cool before I can eat. The warmer, the better. the fluffier. Enjoy with a cuppa.

Woesar and cake, cake and cardamom, Cardamom Cake

This piece is from the archives, when I started writing, scribbling actually. This was the piece I shared with some people, some encouraging feedback and some not very. Also back then I wanted to write a book about how food and memory are interlinked, a book that explored how so much in our lives is a food memory. But that was then, and today I am sharing the story, abridged with current pictures and a recipe to boot. Reinventing the old in the new year are we?

On a cold September morning in Mcleodganj I was looking around for a bakery called Woesar. And after resisting the temptation of steamed potato momos and other cafés serving breakfast goodies, I sweated a bit, walked up and down the same street, asked everyone I could and then finally found it. And good that I did.

Most of the reviews of the place write about the famous carrot cake, but when I walked inside the door I could smell only one thing. Cardamom.

Fresh out of the oven, on the cooling rack, a cake. The bakery is owned by a lady and the bakery is named after her daughter. Woesar means the ‘rising sun’ in Tibetan. We exchanged greetings and I asked for the carrot cake, well the carrot was being grated before my eyes and would take a few hours to be on the plate. The bake of the morning was a cardamom cake.

I asked for a slice of the same and a cup of freshly pressed coffee.

I had my doubts. I probably associated cardamom to Indian desserts alone. The smell reminding me of the aate ka halwa challenges at home most winter, the turns we took to to churn out the perfect halwa with the humble aata, sugar, ghee and cardamom. The obvious winner each time being my father. The effort of roasting besan for ladoo which gets it’s finishing touches when ghee and cardamom come together with the pink roasted besan and sugar, painted a picture of my mother and her two daughters sitting with a big plate (parat) , three sets of palms churning out ladoos like halwais. The centre of a raj bhog, cardamom seeds, a little bit of semi-evaporated milk (khoya) as center of a giant rasgulla, my sisters favourite sweet and the many attempts she had made as a child to gobble them up at social does. The final sprinkle on a creamy kheer cooled by the full moon of Kartik Poornima, the seeds that added texture and flavour to a cold home churned kulfi, all memories that that smell of cardamom had evoked.

I have always felt memory over a period of time gets condensed into recollection by a colour or that melody which you recognise without any strain, more often than not it’s also by a smell.

To my utter surprise, the cake was just the right sweet and incredibly flavoured.

Back home I tried to recreate the cake. Failed the first time, simply because I got the amount of cardamom wrong, it was too less. Take your favourite vanilla cake recipe, and simply replace the vanilla with cardamom. The quantity of cardamom should be generous as the high heat of baking takes a lot of flavour away. Also the quality of cardamom.

I enjoyed every morsel of that slice of cake with my sugarless coffee. It was right after that I left Mcleodganj but that memory and the many others that were linked to that one fragrance stayed.
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda / sodium bicarbonate
1 tin (395g) sweetened condensed milk
100g unsalted butter, melted
175ml milk/water (I used 175ml full fat milk)
2 tsp Cardamom Powder

1. Pass all he dry ingredients through a sieve. This traps some air and makes the cake lighter.
2. Whisk together all the wet ingredients with a hand blender. Fold in all the dry ingredients in the wet mixture. Do not over mix as the cake will then become flat.
3. Pour the mixture in a greased and 20 cm lined cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven for 40-50 minutes. The time required in the oven can vary greatly with the amount of water/ milk added to the batter.
4 Once called, sprinkle with icing sugar and cardamom powder.

Netflix – Madam Secretary –
Movie – Lady Bird –

Listen –
Prince – When Doves Cry –
The Cranberries – Linger –
Josh Groban – You Raise Me Up –

Blog/ Webpage:
Book: Men Without Women – Hakuri Murakami

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám


‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

Taco for party

I started writing this as a set of individual posts of all the elements of a taco party, then I thought it should all be in one place. In one ready to reference post. It is also time for Diwali parties and while you do the tikkas and the kebabs, a Taco Party is more fun, it is a welcome change to greasy Indian takeaway food used for parties and it somehow brings people to a table, which is what parties are for.

So if I have to entertain people at home, then I have an inclination towards tacos as party food. And I think its fresh. A lot can be made ahead, and very freezer friendly too. The leftovers are again freezer friendly . Think Guacamole on toast with a fried egg for breakfast.

So this post is about getting ready to set up a taco party. From scratch. Yes.

Another reason I like them is that they leave scope for a seasonal twist. So when it is the season of mangoes and I had to had to make a mango salsa. A combination off sweet and sour mangos, with a dash of chillies and salt and cilantro. Thats it. A surprise to the taste buds.

So from the salsa to the guacamole to the tortilla itself. All are customisable.

For the tortilla:
1/2 cup maize meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup (approximately) lukewarm water
2-3 tbsp oil/ ghee/ butter
1. Take a bowl and mix all the dry ingredients.
2. Slow add the warm water and knead. The warm water helps in the binding and rolling of the tortillas. Once the dough is smooth, divide into approximately 6-8 balls.
3. Heat a flat bottomed pan, and grease it with oil/ ghee/ butter.
4. Roll out the dough into chapatti like discs. If you are not good at that, don’t fret, just use a roti maker or tortilla maker.
5. Place a rolled tortilla on the pan and cook both sides. Cover with a cheese cloth to keep it soft. For freezing, let it cool and freeze with butter paper in between each tortilla.
For the Tomato Salsa:
1/2 kg ripe red tomatoes
1 onion minced
1 handful cilantro/ coriander leaves chopped
2-3 green chilies minced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
To taste salt

1. Roast the tomatoes on an open flame. Instead of boiling them to remove the skin I like to roast the tomatoes. It just imparts a smoky flavour to the salsa.
2. Cool and peal the tomatoes. Mince the tomatoes by hand or roughly in a mortar and pestle the idea is to leave it slightly chunky
3. Mix all the rest of the ingredients and the salsa is ready.
For the Guacamole:
2-3 ripe avocados
1 onion minced
1 tomato minced
1 handful cilantro/ coriander leaves chopped
2-3 green chilies minced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 lemons juiced

1. Split just ripe avocados into two. Use a spoon to carve the pulp out of the avocados and use a fork to mush/pulp the avocados. Avocados discolour very easily so squirt the lemon juice and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients.
2. Store in the fridge till it is time to serve,
3. One more tip. Avocados are bland and sometimes require adjustment of the lemon juice and salt. So taste and adjust.
For the Yogurt Dip (a great replacement of sour cream)
1/2 kg Yogurt
2-3 cloves Garlic
Salt to taste

1. Take a cheese cloth and hang the yogurt for about 3-4 hours.
2. The hung yogurt is creamier. Use a balloon whisk and grated garlic and salt to taste.

For the Kidney Beans
1 cup kidney beans
2-3 large Tomatoes
2-3 large Onions
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (use the one whose heat you like)
1-2 cups water
2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro/ coriander leaves
2-3 tbsp oil/ ghee
Salt to taste

1. Soak the kidney beans overnight. Cook the kidney beans till tender. You can use a pressure cooker to expedite the process.
2. Add the oil in pan. Once the oil is heated, then add the chopped diced onions and sauté. Remember to keep the heat on low. Once the onions start to cook add the chopped diced tomatoes and cook. Its better to cover and cook to ensure that you onions and tomatoes sweat well. Add salt at this stage to hasten the cooking process.
3. Once the onion and tomatoes are pasty add the spices and water and bring it to boil. Then add the cooked kidney beans and cook till the means are coated in the paste. Add the cilantro/ coriander leaves and they are ready.

Add a Salad:
250 gms cherry tomatoes
2 cucumber
1 carrot
1/2 lemon juice
1-2 tbsp olive oil

1. Slice the cherry tomatoes and julienne the carrot and cucumber.
2. Add the lemon juice and olive oil
3. This easy salad is a great way to add a fresh crunch tot he tacos. You can vary it as per your liking and seasonal vegetables

Assembling the taco:

Cheese of choice

1. Take out all the best bowls for the guacamole, salsa and the yogurt dip and the salad and the beans. I like to use colourful bowls and mix an match them
2. Grate some Jack Cheese and Cheddar Cheese
3. Use a microwavable platter for tacos, so that you can reheat them.
4. Your work is done. Now allow your guests to stuff their face with tacos that they make for themselves as per their taste.

Netflix – Riverdale – Mystery, drama –
Movie – Ordinary People –

Listen –
Koop – Koop Island Blues –
Radiohead – Creep –
Jem – Keep on Walking –

Blog/ Webpage:
Book: Old Man and the Sea – Earnest Hemingway –



The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the late western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.
– David Whyte

Thank you very much. We were hacked but we are up again

Charnamrita inspired breakfast bowl

I vividly remember two occasions when I have had a Panchamrita/ Charnamrita. One was when my aunt had taken us two sisters for attending some Puja in an old haveli in Lucknow. I remember asking for a second helping of the 1-2 tablespoon serving that we were given. And the other time when a dear friend’s mother had summoned me to help mash bananas in a big pot of cold milk and yogurt mixture. I was then made aware that this has to be done by hand only.

Panchamrita/ Charnamrita is the offering to the Divine and then consumed also by those making the offering. Yogurt, milk, ghee, honey, sugar, Indian Basil. Dry fruits, and bananas are added by others.

Because it is so tasty I thought about using the same ingredients with the addition of roasted Amarnath and Foxnut, which is very popular food during this fasting time and making a breakfast bowl.
1 cup Yogurt
2 cup Milk/ Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Honey (you could use a combination of sugar and honey)
1/4 cup Ghee
2 Bananas
1/2 cup Dry Fruits of your choice
1 cup Roasted Foxnut
1 cup Roasted Amarnath seeds
2-3 sprigs Indian Basil

1. Soak the torn Indian Basil leaves in the milk for a few hours.
2. Peel and mash the bananas in the yogurt. I did it by hand, just for the memory. It is fun. You can try it.
3. Mix the milk, ghee and honey into the banana yogurt mixture. Once every thing is assimilated add the dry fruits, roasted foxnut and roasted amarnath seeds.
4. Divide into bowls and serve.
5. Its another great bowl of food post a morning yoga flow.

A mouthful of coconut (energy balls to the world, laddoos to Indians)

Rituals in India include coconut in many ways. It is considered auspicious and is a staple across the vast coastline of India. It is now that the world has woken up to the possibilities of coconut and its dense nutritional value is fast gaining dominance in cooking, the world over.

During any festivities, yogic or ritualistic fasts, coconut and preparation from coconut is very common. So are coconut laddoos. Traditionally the coconut is cooked in milk, which I have replaced with coconut milk to become a completely plant based dessert.

The other thing done is that if coconut sugar is used the flavour is stronger and makes the laddoos more vegan friendly.

These are great post work out treats for me.
100 gms Desiccated coconut, plus some extra for rolling the laddoos in
50 gms Raw/ unrefined/ coconut sugar
1 tbsp Coconut oil
200 ml Coconut milk

1. Heat a heavy bottomed wok or pan. Ensure it remains on low heat all the time. The temptation to turn up the heat and expedite the process of cooking is very high. We are conscious cooking these days, so just enjoy the fragrance wafting in the house while preparing this. Also this will ensure that these coconut laddoos remain as white even when cooked
2. Add the coconut oil to the pan and the desiccated coconut and gently stir. Continue stirring till the decimated coconut is still white, but slightly toasted through and before it changes colour. Add the coconut milk and the sugar and continue stirring. Stir over low flame for about 8-10 minutes
3. Once the mixture is no longer loose and starts to leave the sides and comes together, turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. I like my laddoos to be very soft and hence I almost have a wobbly structure to my laddoos. But if you like a little more bite, cook the mixture a little more, till it is as dense as you like.
4. Once cooled, add some oil to your palms and form balls laddoos. Roll the balls/ laddoos in desiccated coconut and allow to cool. You can store it in the fridge as well, but they will fast disappear where ever you try to hide them.

Potato Pancakes (Potato Chilla)

The way of life in India and Yoga, is the current inspiration to the Western World. Especially the food we eat. We are traditionally whole grain and coarse grain and plant based eaters, with a vast variety of methods of cooking and a multitude of spices and thats probably why once Liz Hurley had once said that its easy to be vegetarian if you are eating Indian.

But twice a year at least, we give up grains as well. Once such time of the year started yesterday, the start of the Hindu month of Kartik, the end of Shradha (Autumn). This is the weather transition period and characterised by special food for the next nine days. The food is special because the focus is on a complete plant based diet, minimal to no spice and no table salt or sugar. Unrefined sugar and jaggery are allowed. And salt if at all required is Himalayan or Rock salt.

I am a vegetarian and I usually eat quite mindfully and since I travel a lot, sicking to 100 percent plant based diet for all meals can be tough. But this time around I am not travelling, so I decided to not eat grain for the next nine days. Its a tough challenge at hand and since I feel that some fun recipes can help kill the monotony of the food that you all are having at this time of the year.

The quantity below makes 2 pancakes and serves one person. Multiply the portions as per the number of people.
1 boiled potato grated
2 tbsp water chestnut flour
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 green chilli chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp ghee
2 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp mint chutney (just blend 1 green chilli, 1/2 cup mint leaves and 1/2 cup raw mango, 1 pinch rock salt, splash of water)
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

1. Heat thoroughly a non stick pan. Add some ghee on the pan and spread with a brush.
2. In a bowl add the grated potato, water chestnut flour, green chilli, dill and water. Whip through till well mixed. The batter should not be too thick of thin. It should coat the back of a spoon.
3. Pour half the mixture on the non stick pan and spread evenly using the back of a spoon. Do not make the pancake too thin.
4. Now its time for patience. Do not touch the pancake till the edges have started to brown, else it will be difficult to turn and might break. Once the edges are browned, flip it over and gook on the other side as well. Repeat this activity with the rest of the batter.
5. Serve with yogurt, mint chutney and pomegranate seeds.