Sago fritters (Sabudana vada)
It was a cold, rainy weekend afternoon, and tea time. I was already fighting hard to resist the temptation for a warm, crispy snack, and there came my husband, asking if I could make some vada (fritters). I hadn't soaked anything or prepared to make vada, but I had potatoes at home and instant sago that soaks quickly. So, there goes my answer. But my husband hates any dish made with sago - or so he claims. Well, after 4 years of marriage, I'm now well aware of his pre-conceived notions and baseless dislike of every other ingredient. The good thing is that he doesn't always recognize them! In the case of this vada, he only noticed the potatoes in them and he found the snack absolutely heavenly. When I mentioned the sago in it, it was already too late for him to retract!


Ingredients

sago (sabudana) - 1 cup
potato - 1
roasted peanut - 1/2 cup (coarsely ground)
green chillies - 3 (chopped fine)
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or ginger - 1 inch piece - peeled and chopped fine)
red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
salt - 1 1/4 tsp
curry leaves - a few (chopped fine)
lemon juice - 1 tbsp
pakoda masala - 1 tsp (optional)

Method

Soak sago until soft. Drain and wash. Dry on kitchen tissue for. Cut the potato into 8 pieces of approximately 2 inches each and microwave for 4 minutes. Cool, peel and mash potatoes. Add sago and all the other remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and make a soft but firm dough. Roll out into lemon-sized balls, flatten out into disks and deep fry in hot oil. Serve with chutney or sauce.

Notes:
1. Soaking time will vary depending on the sago - if it is instant sago, just wash and drain. If it is the hard sago, it needs to be soaked for a few hours, preferably in warm water so that it soaks faster.
2. Roll out the vadas into thin disks if you like it to be very crispy.
Pasta salad
This pasta salad is one of my frequent week-day dinner recipes. Simple, healthy and easy to prepare, it perfectly fits the bill!


Ingredients:

whole grain spiral pasta - 1 cup
zucchini - 1
yellow squash - 1
grated carrot - 1/2 cup
spinach leaves - 1/2 cup
chick peas (soaked overnight in salt water) - 5 tbsp
juice of half a lemon
olive oil - 1 tbsp
ground pepper - 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
salt to taste
yogurt or any salad dressing (optional)

Method:

Boil pasta in plenty of water with a little salt. When cooked, drain and keep aside. Fry zucchini, squash and carrot with a little salt. When half-cooked, add chick peas and fry for a minute. Add cooked pasta. Add spinach, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well and toss in the olive oil. Serve with yogurt or any dressing of your choice.
Bhel Puri
A delectable, anytime snack, with the goodness of veggies and the crunch of savories, blended to perfection - I can never have enough of it! If I have visitors at teatime, this is the snack I usually serve them, and they invariably love it!


Ingredients:

tomato+cucumber+onion(chopped fine) - 1/2 cup
spicy bhel mix - 3/4 cup
tamarind chutney - 1 tbsp
chaat masala - 1/2 tsp
sev - a little (for topping)
coriander leaves - a little (chopped fine - for topping)

Method:

Mix vegetables, tamarind chutney and bhel mix in a large bowl in a rotating motion. (If bhel mix does not contain salt and spice, add a pinch of salt and red chilli powder. You can also add a tablespoon of yogurt if you like it as dahi bhel puri). Place heaped on a plate and top with sev, coriander leaves and chaat masala. Serve fresh.
Spinach stew (Dal Palak)
A simple, healthy side-dish that goes great with rice or flat-breads....also makes a great combination with tamarind-based gravies.


Ingredients: (serves 3)

spinach leaves - 250 grams (chopped)
tomatoes - 2 (chopped)
split yellow mung beans - 1/2 cup
red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
ghee - 1 tbsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
asafoetida - a pinch
salt to taste

Method:

Pressure cook beans with turmeric powder.
Heat ghee. Add cumin seeds and asafoetida. Fry for a minute. Add tomatoes and cook till soft. Then add the spinach, salt, cumin powder and red chilli powder and boil for 5 minutes. Mix in the beans and cook covered for a couple of minutes.
Sweetened rice dumpling (Modak / Kozhukattai)
This is made during the Hindu festival of Vinayaka Chathurthi, as an offering to Lord Ganesha, the god who removes obstacles. I love this yummy dessert, but I'm not a great fan of coconut. So my recipe substitutes half the coconut in the filling with milk solids (khoa) and it tastes great!


Ingredients:

rice flour - 1 cup
grated coconut - 1/2 cup
khoa (unsweetened) - 1/2 cup (can be replaced with grated coconut as well)
jaggery - 3/4 cup
oil/ghee - 1 tsp

Method:

For the filling:
Wet the jaggery with a little water and melt it in a frying pan. Add coconut and khoa. Cook until thick, with a few drops of ghee. Allow it to cool for a few minutes. When it is still warm, make small, dime-sized balls and set aside.

For the covering:
Heat a cup of water. When it starts to boil, add oil and rice flour. Stir and mix well. Sprinkle some more hot water as required to make a soft dough. Allow to cool until it is just warm enough to handle. Take a gooseberry-sized ball of dough and shape it like a cup with oiled fingers. Place the filling in it, cover it and shape the top like a little beak. Repeat the process for the remaining flour / filling until all the modaks are shaped. Steam-cook for about 15 minutes until the modak's outer covering looks slightly transparent.
Sambar powder
After trying out a variety of store-brands, I decided to make my own sambar powder. Taking inputs from a variety of sources and trying out a few permutation-combinations, finally figured the below formula which works great for me. I don't think I'll ever buy sambar powder again...


Ingredients:

coriander seeds - 1 cup
dried red chillies - 2 cups
bengal gram (chana dal) - 1/4 cup
black gram (urad dal) - 1/4 cup
fenugreek seeds - 1/4 cup

Method:

Dry roast all the ingredients separately until they give a nice aroma. The gram should just start turning light brown. Allow to cool and dry grind everything together.  Store in an air tight container and it lasts a while (even for a few months).
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