Kalachana Poha

Poha is what aval Upma is called in the west. And yes! The ingredients is a tad more sexy!

Onions, potatoes, fried groundnuts… topped with the evil aloo bhujia. Am thankful that this hasn’t fallen prey to the hands of melted-mozzeralization, like most of our chaats have turned out!( ­čśĆ)

Poha is actually very versatile. I try to make it in a lot of ways keeping just one thing in mind – I don’t fry it much. Poha is one of the  healthiest ways of consuming rice. 

Try this:

Soak 1 cup of Black Chana over night, drain water and pressure cook with a lot of water, turmeric, salt, one bayleaf, a couple of cloves and some ginger.

Open cooker and drain out the water. Save this water.

Take 2 cups of flat poha (aval) and soak it in just enough of the Chana water (above). Remember, too much water will turn it into a mush. So add water carefully. It can soak for an hour.

In a pan, add a table spoon of any oil, drop in a teaspoon full of mustard and half a teaspoon full of Jeera

After it splatters, add a couple of teaspoons fulls of chanadal and /or broken cashew. 

Once it is golden, drop in finely chopped onions (one large), fry till translucent. Then, drop in the cooked kalachana, some grated coconut, some turmeric, and one chopped green chilly.

After a toss, add the soaked poha and give it a mix. Switch off the stove, add another few teaspoons of ghee or oil, and squeeze half a lemon to it. 

You can add some coriander leaves or curry leaves to it if you like. And that’s it!


Cooking Chetan Bhagat style

… when south married north….

As always, this was yet another accidental success story.

I had organic chapati dough, a mix of wheat and jowar this time. I didn’t want to go over board with tubers as I had already made red-beet pulao. Aloo parathas would make it very fartsy-fartsy for all of us! (Yes, aparently all tubers, except carrot ginger and garlic are gassy! – or vayu veggies as we call them). 

The quintessential summer component of my kitchen – the cucumber salad has to be part of the day’s menu too. So what do I fit in this roti- was a question that bothered me more than usual this morning. It is weekend, stock of veggies running super low!

Eyeing me with a devilish smile sat this, the story of this is quite amusing!

Yes these are dry coconut shavings. My dad has a way of shaving them paper thin- don’t know if I will ever be able to stand close! He sent this to me – white. I sundried it outside in my yard. And this is how it turned out. Beautifully crisp and golden!

I gravitated towards this with my small blender, grabbed a handful, threw in a dry red chilly and some salt and whipped it to a fine powder.

The. I just stuffed the powder into the rotis and rolled them out into parathas!


It tastes really swell and goes very well with a lemony crunchy fresh salad. Try it!

‘Limited kitchen’ recipes

I am jusy going to list out the stuff that I made using just the gas stove ans microwave. No pressure cooker or rice cooker or blender or mixie..

Kootu with various veggies – 

Soak paruppu in hot water and close for half an hour. Cook veg in salt and turmeric water. Splatter mustard and cumin in oil switch off and add chopped chillies. Mix all three together and throw in grated coconut generously. A dash of lime would be great. And ofcourse coriander and curry leaves.

Masala sabji for rotis

Cook veggies in salt and turmeric water. Saute onion, ginger garlic chillies and tomatoes. Mix together and season with cumin. Throw in some corianger leaves. Dash of lime would be fantastic.

Coconut milk curry

Same as above. Add. Coconut cream/milk right in the end.


Can do tuvar or moong. For sabut moong soak in hot water previous night.

Bring the dal to boil with lots of water, salt and turmeric and close. Check if well cooked.

Saute onion garlic ginger and tomatoes. Season with cumin and add half a lime juice. Garnish with coriander or mint.


Either sprout beans of diff kinds or buy sprouts. 

Carrots cucumbers small onions tomatoes – raw

Potatoes beans cauliflower broccoli – steamed

Lemon, sesame oil, salt, cumin powder , garlic chopped…, chilly if you like.. or pepper powder.

Coriander leaves, mint leaves or parsley!

Any one of two ingredients in each of the above will make a good salad!

Cooking with one pot, one vessel and one ladle.

I am experiencing life in a studio apartment. Limited means. Microwave. Gas stove.

I have been going berserk with just these – lemon, ginger, garlic and chilli.

I have some veggies at my disposal – mushrooms, carrots, beans, tomatoes, small onions, potatoes, brinjal, sprouts… yup.. I am excited to say that can do it!

Salads have been a daily routine. Dals are easy to make. 

I tried something weird today though!

Brinjal-mushroom-coconut broth!!

I stir fried a tomato and a box of mushrooms with salt and turmeric powder. 

I slices some small onions, an inch of ginger and two fat garlic cloves. Sauteed them in oil after splattering some cumin, threw in a couple of green chillies. Once it caramelised, I added half a kilo of diced blue brinjals into it, poured some water and cooked in in some salt and turmeric. 

In the end, I put them both together, topped the wok with about 50 ml of coconut cream and flavoured it with the karuveppilai podi that my mother-in-law made for me!

Once it cooled a bit I squeezed half a lime into it. 

Creamy coconut broth with eggplant and mushrooms were ready! All I needed was a loaf of bread. Dinner done!

I then closed my eyes and counted the number of items back at home that I havent used here- pressure cooker, electric cooker, blender, electric stove, grinder, morter and pestle. Consumerism is overwhelming!

Parupu usili salad


Red and yellow bell peppers 3 each

1/2 a raw mango grated

Handful – siru paruppu, kadalai paruppu, thuvaram paruppu

2 small dry red chillies

A pinch of hing



Mustard and jeera seeds for seasoning


Soak the pulses in water for half an hour.

Chop peppers into small squares. Reserve the seeds.

In a blender, drop in the bell pepper seeds, chillies, hing salt and the soaked pulses and coase grind.

Smear oil in a wide bowl. Drop in the pulse mixture and steam for 15 mins.

In a wok, pour a few tsps of oil for seasoning mustard and cumin seeds. Switch off after mustard splatters. Add in the chopped peppers and grated mango and season with some salt.

Once pulse mixture is cooked, take it out and powder it with your hands.

Drop the powdered pulse mixture into the veggies and garnish with coriander and curry leaves.

This is a meal by itself!

Palm sugar discovery

There are a lot of hidden truths to palm sugar which I discovered only after using it.

Palm sugar could be either crystalised or palm jaggery powdered. Be careful what you ask for off the counter. 

Palm sugar (panam kalkandu) is a crystalised form of palm candy- the most processed output. And to crystalise it I am yet to find out if there can be a chemical free process.

Palm jaggery powder is the most dehydrated version of palm jaggery – pana vellam. The first stage is the block jaggery, the second is the jaggery powder which is dark brown (the same block made into powder), the third stage is the fine powder – this will be light brown in colour. It doesnt remail free flowing if kept for a long time, it will become hard and stick to the walls of your bottle. In each stage it is more and more dehydrated.

However, OFM selles this jaggery in all three stages and confirms that all these can be made naturally without chemical treatment. However, for the kalkandu they are yet to find a process of manufacturing which isnt compromised with chemical treatment.

Malli manga brinji rice

Mango coriander spiced rice

The tang and freshness of raw mango with the sweet flavour of coriander mixed with spices soaked up by softly cooked basmati rice…

Another lunch box try! Pretty simple…


1.5 cups of basmati rice.

2 handfuls of green coriander with stalk

Half a raw mango (kili mooku mangai)

1 onion chopped into thin 1 inch juliens

1 large potato

1 large green chilli

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 inch of ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Oil (I use coconut oil) and salt


Warm 2 table spoons of coconut oil in a deep wok. Add bay leaf and chopped onions and let them caramelise. Add chopped potatoes. ( I use only organic produce and so I dont peel potatoes in most cases).

Drop in the basmati rice and let it fry a bit. Now pour in 3cups of water and throw in some salt and turmeric powder. Close wok and let the rice cook.

Meanwhile, in a food processor add the rest of the ingredients- ginger, garlic, chilli, corinader, raw mango. Make a fine paste.

When the rice is just about to cook fully, add the paste and let the remaining water absorb flavours and induce them in the rice.

Top it up with ghee and that is it!! 

The motherhood paradox in mammels

Dastkar. Kalakshetra. Middle of september in Chennai. Sunday evening. An artsy, peaceful, colourful, soulful experience. 

We walk back to the car park and there we see him. The size of my palm. Pale. Petrified. Shivering. His heart racing. Uncertainly hovering around the security gaurd. Powdered marie biscuit lay next to the chair of the two big burly men in blue uniforms. Sarang has a natural way of attracting animal attention. He comforted him almost instantly. Kedar followed suit. 

“Please take it ma! It has come last night and it is refusing to eat the biscuit. I dont know what to do with it…” blurted the gaurd, helpless.

I look outside the gate. The clouds seem to suddenly descend and the pleasant evening turned to a scary dark. Vehicles seem to scream throwing their mighty headlights at each other as if they were in a war zone. The transition between daylight to dark seemed to have happened in a flash. 

The big decision weighed on me as I stared at my kids’ loving eyes and pleading voices, leaving me with no choice but to bring this little fellow back home. He was already clinging on to sarang for dear life. It was kids’ happiness and the kittens safety vs my inexperience and hectic schedule- the former won the battle!

I have never had a pet at home before. I told myself it is a matter of a day or two until we give him away. He clung on to sarang through out the drive back home. 

I had my first sleepless night with a child in my arms after almost 7 years! He woke me up every couple of hours for a feed. He isn’t well as he is passing blood everytime he eats. Fingers crossed am taking him to the doctor, after promising my son that he would be there when he returned home from school. 

It is strange how ‘mothers’ among other mammals are protective alright, but only for her healthy kids – those that can survive. Others are left out of the pack! She lets her kids learn the hard way at the same time is a rock to them!

Food for thought! 

Paradox is here- we humans claim we are evolved mammals. We pay too much attention to our children and protect them too much. When we raise animals too, am afraid, we spoil them just as much! If we let our children fight it out like the other mammal mothers do, they should theoretically be much better fighters right?

I might say all this but I am spoiling my kitten silly alright!! Wink wink..

Olives and red beet savoury pancakes

Ok! That was hard – making parathas sound mastercheffy!

My kids love red beet parathas. Today I thought of trying to add a tangy ingredient to the recipe as I did not have aamchur powder with me.

Olives is something both my kids love. I know bottled olives are no where close to organic and has a lot of preservatives, but I do keep stock of green and black olives at home for those cheat days.

Today, the ‘pinggg’ happened in my head when I thought – why not add olives in parathas and see how it tastes.

I added these to the 3 cups of wheat flour for the dough.

1/2 a tsp of fennel seeds,

A pinch of caraway seeds,

6-7 bird-eye green chilies finely chopped,

5 small red beets washes peeled and grated

5 small potatoes, boiled and peeled

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1/4 tsp of red chilly powder

1/2 tbsp of sesame oil

2 tbsps full of chopped preserved olives (washed)

Washing the olives removes some brine from them, helps get rid of the ‘preserved’ taste.

Turmeric – This I always add to anything that I add chilly or chilly powder to because it negates the cancerous content of chillies.

I kneeded all this into soft dough. Water wasn’t required at all. Divided them into balls and rolled them out into soft parathas..

The taste of tangy olives with bite of  sweet fennel seeds was a refreshing taste that all of us relished. We had this with honey. You can even have it with achaar or jams.






Organic corn can be a bit of a challenge!

My kids love soups. Sweet corn and mushroom soups are their favourite.

However, I dont like to buy frozen corn packets or processed cornflour. 

This time in OFM I found fresh corn cobs with golden orange corn inside! I grabbed it and dreamed of corn soup.

I dont know why but organic corn cobs are always tough to work with. Kernals are always hard, no matter how much we cook it, it never turns soft.

This time I decided to work it no matter what. 


Two carrots

Ten bush beans

One onion

One medium potato

Four cloves of garlic

All these diced fine.

Olive oil to glaze the wok

One bayleaf

Three small corn cobs

Salt, pepper powder

One tsp oregano flakes

Handful of coriander stalk and leaves.

Half a lemon juice


Glaze hot wok with oil and add the diced veggies and the bayleaf. Throw in some salt and water and let the veggies cook in boiling water.  

Steam the corn on cob and remove kernals. Beat them in a food processor with some water. Strain it and add the corn milk to the soup.

Grind coriander leaves and strain the juice into the soup. Once it comes to a boil, switch it off and add the oregano leaves, lemon juice and pepper powder and adjust the salt.

Lovely sweet corn soup is ready!

But what happens to this now?

Dont discard it just yet. Wait till the next post!