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Green tomato and onion bhajia/pakoras

There are very few things that I miss about home more than afternoon tea-time. Few things fill the spaces in our day better than this humble beverage. What was once an ideal way to break the monotony of a day job has become a symbol (to me, at least) of what it means to yearn for home. Ironic since it’s a ritual and trade left behind by our former white imperialist rulers (Hi Britain, I’m talking about you).

I have had many, many cups of tea since I move to Washington. I have tried to make it with ginger, cardamom and whatever they’ve said I need for chai. It hasn’t worked. In my home, we had milk tea minus the spices, so I never knew that masala flavour growing up. In Bombay, the men who made us tea for a humble or no fare had their own secret way of doing so. From “kickass chai” to “Francis chai”, these are all the tastes I seek when I’m offered the chance to drink tea. Sadly, no cup I make or buy seems to live up to expectations when I do it here in the US. I don’t know what that’s about but I think it has something to do with the camaraderie of sitting around the table or on a makeshift plank supported on two dodgy bamboo sticks on the side of the road. Or maybe it’s the water.

Few things go better with tea than bhajia, especially when it starts to rain or during Ramzan iftar. My dad, who grew up in Bombay, introduced us to this and many, many other street foods right from his kitchen in Goa. The lane where he and his 6 brothers and their parents lived took on a life of its own as most streets in Bombay do. Called St Francis Xavier Street, it has a church and two Catholic-run schools, about 5 or 6 residential buildings – a couple of them in the style of a chawl, a pay-to-join member-only club called The Goan Institute, and a grain miller. Walk out to the main road and you’ll find yourself standing on one of the many lifelines that make this city’s heart beat. Whether to choose to go left or right, you will run into people running businesses that make up sub-cultures from all parts of the country. It might sound exaggerated, but it’s not. Bombay street food is like nothing else. Every metropolis claims theirs is the best but I’m biased.

Obviously, the first person I called to ask for this recipe was my mother. She’s a good cook, who would rather do other things with her time. She is the parent who asks my questions to my daddy-o and repeats his answers back to me. I can hear what he says through the phone but she says it again, anyway. For as long as I can remember, my father has been the snack maker in our house. After living in Bombay for 6 years as an adult, I realise that maybe he’s trying to remember it all too. He was there for much longer than I was and while he can never live there again, the pace at which he moves is testament that the city never leaves you.

I can’t speak for my sisters but bhajia in the afternoon – after school and in between homework – was my favourite thing. I’ve watched my dad make it so many times and have never once had a chance to make it in the same kitchen as him. I will always be too young and he will always be too fast. My love for potatoes and deep-frying comes directly from this besan covered goodness I watched him make for tea in what seemed like a matter of minutes. My love for this human, also lies somewhere in between.

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This recipe was inspired by a majority of the tomatoes in the garden that aren’t going to ripen in time. Their firmness makes them a perfect candidate for this snack. You can coat most vegetable in this batter. Potatoes, onions and chillies are the most popular of this kind. Bread pakodas are also awesome (whole sandwich with a masala potato filling dipped in batter). In the US, “pakoras” is the word you’ll hear most commonly because North Indian food seems to be the restaurant thing to do. We call it bhajjas in Goa (DIVERSITY, FOLKS). Thank you, Sidharth for helping me clarify the words and their spellings. 

Chaat masala. What is that? It’s a sour, spicy, kind of sweet and salty spice mix. You can’t quite put your finger on it but when you’re eating it on something, the taste cannot be mistaken. I’ve used it in this raita recipe before and also on fruit, chaat and eggs (ok edlyn). Keep it in your spice cupboard for whenever you want to surprise yourself. Or wait until Bon Appetit writes a “MUST-HAVE” bs article and then you can buy it. Up to you. 

Ingredients

  • 280 gms or 2 slightly heaping cups green tomatoes, sliced in 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 cup red onion, cut into thin slivers
  • 1 tsp chaat masala + more to sprinkle on top of fried bhajji
  • 1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2  tsp salt, to taste
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Mix the tomatoes and onions in a bowl with the chaat masala. Let it sit while you make the mixture for the batter.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the besan, chilli powder, turmeric and cilantro. Add the water to the bowl a little at a time and stir as you go, until the ingredients form a batter. It should be a loose-ish batter but have enough density to coat the tomato and onion slices. Add salt to taste. I have mentioned 1/2 tsp, but taste a little bit of the batter and add more or less as you prefer

This step is optional: Prepare a wire rack and place newspaper or paper towels underneath it to drain the bhajias. This will help keep them crispier.

Add enough oil in a kadai or heavy-bottomed pan (I used a cast iron skillet) to come up to a depth of 3-4 inches. Heat the oil on medium heat. To gauge if the oil is ready, drop a small bit of the batter into the pan. It should sizzle immediately (complete with the sound). Dredge the tomatoes and onions in the batter and gently drop them into the oil. Cook for about a minute or two on each side or until the bhajias turn a deep golden-brown. Remove from the hot oil and drain on the wire rack. Sprinkle with chaat masala or a mix of salt and chilli powder. Serve hot with green chutney (recipe below) or ketchup. As we say in the homeland, “SAUCE”.

Alternatively, you can drop the bhajias onto a plate with paper napkins and eat as soon as you can manage to sink your teeth into them without burning your tongue.

For the green chutney

  • 1 bunch or 2 loosely packed cups of cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 small Thai green chilli (also called bird chilli)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-4 tbsp water, to help grind the ingredients to a paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until it turns to a paste. Scrape the side of the processor occasionally and if required, add a tablespoon at a time of more water until it all comes together. Add salt to taste.

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Linguine and the cure for everything.

Food is a funny thing. I used Peruvian anchovies in an Italian style recipe made by an Indian with cooking skills strongly influenced by Indo-Portuguese traditions from the state of Goa. We are diverse, but there is something that ties us traditional coastal dwellers together. We eat fish – lots of it – and we shut shop for afternoon siesta. This isn’t an invitation to stereotype. Just observe. We love fresh, briny, vinegar-y things with spice. Sometimes all together, sometimes not. We all have a “person”, from whom we get the best fish and that will be our person for life. We sunbathe our seafood on the side of hot asphalt village roads and we pickle it in jars to eat all through the monsoon.  I’m going to make this my own someday but for now, here’s a close second of all those flavours that sit on my palate and hit all the right notes in my amygdala. It reminds me of my longing for the ocean and the balmy days I was close to it. One bite and I can’t help but cry.

Linguine with burst cherry tomatoes, anchovies, capers and their juices

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Notes:

If you’d like to attempt making your pasta at home, I have ingredient quantities here. I need to update that recipe with rolling pin instructions but if you’d like to beat me to it, a simple web search with the words “pasta with a rolling pin” will give you all the clues you need. There might even be a YouTube video for it. If you’re in Goa, my sister makes bomb homemade noodles and you can def buy some from her for this recipe. LUCKY.

Another note, I usually have about 10-15 cherry tomatoes uncooked and cut in half on the side so I can toss some fresh ones in with the cooked pasta. I like the mix of cooked and uncooked.

I added some fresh basil before serving but if you don’t want to do that, the rosemary scent/flavour does a great job of adding those herb notes to the dish.

Ingredients

Serves 4 or ravenous 2

  • 400 gms/1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic (about 1 tbsp), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 stalk of rosemary
  • 4 anchovy filets + 1 tbsp of the oil
  • 1 tbsp capers, 1 tbsp of the brine
  • 255 gms/9 oz linguine (I used this brand and they paid me zero money)
  • Plenty of Grana parmesan, shaved on top
  • Fresh basil, to top (optional)

Make this in the oven

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven or a deep baking dish, add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and rosemary. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. If using a deep baking dish, cover the top with foil.

While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare your anchovy-caper stir-ins. Chop the anchovy and capers to fine pieces and add to a small bowl. Toss in 1 tsp of oil and 1 tbsp of the caper brine and mix well.

About 10-15 minutes before the tomatoes are ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on high heat. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente. If using dried pasta, cook according to package instructions. If using fresh, it should take 1-2 minutes for the pasta to cook. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Remove the pot from the oven and carefully open the lid. It will be steaming. Toss in the warm pasta and using a ladle, mix it well to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water if you want the pasta to be a little more saucy. Stir in the anchovy-caper mixture. Serve while still warm and top with Grana, uncooked cherry tomatoes (*see note 2, if using), and fresh basil.

Make this on the stove

Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat and add the garlic and rosemary to it. Stir to mix for about a minute. Add the tomatoes to the pot and toss them so they are coated with the oil. Cook the cherry tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until they blister, turn soft and are almost ready to burst, about 8-10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on high heat. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente. If using dried pasta, cook according to package instructions. If using fresh, it should take 1-2 minutes for the pasta to cook. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Toss the warm pasta into the pot with the tomatoes and using a ladle, mix it well to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water if you want the pasta to be saucier. Stir in the anchovy-caper mixture (see instructions above). Serve while still warm and top with Grana, uncooked cherry tomatoes (*see note 2, if using), and fresh basil.

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Something new + (Sort of) Shrikhand with granola, figs and honey

I started a newsletter about four weeks ago and never officially introduced it in my blog. I left it as a side note on a post or two ago and put in in the About section as well. I’ve been screaming my lungs out on Instagram and force adding my friends and family to the mailing list, in the hope that I won’t be shouting into an empty space, like writing for this blog makes me feel sometimes.

I’ve been doing this for more than a couple of years now and it’s only recently that I’ve noticed engagement – actual engagement with what I share. I’ve had a reader invite me to visit her in Victoria BC (Hi Ruth!) and I had a fellow RCRC volunteer ask me about a recipe. I knew of her but never officially spent volunteering time with her or introduced myself until this summer. It’s nice when people other than your mother read and share what you put out into the world.

These recipes I write are mere tools and inspiration to get people cooking because it really is so easy. I’m not an expert but when I find an interesting flavour or technique, I like to share it. I believe we all know the best way to feed ourselves and even if that’s a bag of chips or a bucket of fried chicken, that’s a choice you get to make as an adult. Do it for you.

As for the photos, I have begun to draw out how I want my photos to look before I make them. Most of them don’t follow the sketch but I notice I feel a lot calmer when I have an outline to work with. My inner critic is a lot quieter when I have a draft and I can do what I need to without putting myself down. It’s also taken a lot of confidence to share my simple style of cooking and I’m finally comfortable with my ideas. While they are easy to execute, there is a complex personality to them (ME) and I’m better at owning that. That is probably what is shining through. Is it weird to be proud of myself?

The newsletter is the best next step for me. I crave that connection when I write and as this blog evolves, I know I want to get to know my regular readers better. I am still trying to figure out how to set the newsletter apart from the .com. I’m hoping to cover more identity, food matters, entrepreneurship, literary topics and it would be awesome to have you along as contributors and readers. I’d love for you to read what I’ve put out so far and send me feedback or just say hi. If you’d like to discuss ideas, email me and we can set the ball rolling.

Here’s the link to the newsletter. I didn’t know whether to link it to “the link”, “Here’s” or “newsletter” so I did it for everything. To those who’ve voluntarily subscribed already, THANK YOU SO MUCH. You kill me, not literally.

Shrikhand

Strained yogurt, elaichi (cardamom) granola with pistachios, fresh figs and honey

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Notes

Any fresh fruit or ready-made granola or yogurt will work in this recipe. I’ve posted this recipe for those who’d like to try making granola on a stove. A majority of homes in India don’t have ovens and toast all their grains and spices on the stove. This felt natural.

As for the yogurt, if you’ve not heard of shrikhand, this is an introduction to it. Whenever I ate it, I could only manage a spoonful. It was too sweet for me and never sour enough. What I loved was the creamy, spreadable consistency – something you get by separating the curds from the whey. Shrikhand is traditionally flavoured with cardamom and sugar. To make it fancier, crushed almonds or pistachios and saffron may be added. It’s sometimes served with mango (amrakhand) and hot puri. In case you were wondering, it’s a dessert popular in the west Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

I used figs because no lie – my favourite flavour of Natural (ice cream of Juhu Scheme!) ice-cream is anjeer (fig)

Ingredients

For the strained vanilla yogurt

  • 1 tub (680 gms/24 oz) plain full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 whole vanilla beans or 1 tsp real vanilla extract

Line a fine mesh strainer or colander with a double layer of muslin/cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Make sure the bottom of the strainer stays separate from the bottom of the bowl so the curds and whey don’t touch. You can also tie the cheesecloth into a bundle and hang it from a ladle over a bowl. The pressure will help it drain better.

Let it sit in the fridge overnight until most of the whey has drained out from the yogurt and collected in the bowl below. Lightly squeeze the cheesecloth to get rid of the last bits of whey. Add the yogurt to another bowl. Save the whey for a curry/soup or discard.

Using a pairing knife, split the vanilla bean in half length-wise and use the back of the knife to scrape the vanilla seeds into the yogurt. Stir to combine and set aside.

If using vanilla extract instead of whole beans, add it to the drained yogurt and stir to combine.

For the stovetop cardamom granola

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Heat a skillet on medium heat and add the oats, nuts and seeds to it. Toast them, stirring frequently until the oats turn light brown and the seeds start to crackle. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

Take the skillet off the heat and add the coconut oil, sugar and salt. Toss well to coat the oats. Put the skillet back on the stove and continue to stir, allowing the mixture to turn a deeper golden colour. Do this for 4-5 minutes. It goes from warm to burnt quite fast so keep an eye on it.

Pour the granola on a baking sheet and let it cool completely. You can add in coconut or any dried fruit at this point.

To assemble

  • 1/2 pint figs
  • Granola
  • Honey
  • Fresh thyme (optional)

Layer a small mug with chilled yogurt, fresh figs (or fruit of your choice), granola, and honey. Garnish with fresh thyme before serving

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Backyard peach sweet tea

These late summer evenings pull at my heart strings in ways I’m unprepared for. As it gets darker earlier each day, I find myself walking out into the golden light to listen to chirping birds and traffic that sounds like the ocean. Just as the light begins to recede, it colours the tops of the trees in fiery hues of yellow and ocre mixed in with the darkest leaf greens. The ground is parched (I refuse to water the lawn) and the sky is blue. The temperature starts to drop after a day of heat and this natural A/C fills the rooms – that were stifling just a few hours earlier – through the backdoor and cracked-open windows. I am floating.

I’m trying to think of the most poetic way to explain how sad I am that summer is almost ending. I want to grill food outside forever and drink iced beverages sitting off the edge of the deck. In the same vein, I am ready to slow down a little. To me, that’s what shorter days mean. While I’m not really looking forward to the cold, I’ll find joy in it somehow. Slow, deep soulful tunes, warm beverages on tap, soups on tap and a heap of blankets on the couch. Until then, I’ll have plenty more summer in my glass, please. Meet me in the backyard.


This recipe is part of the Drink The Summer virtual party some food bloggers are in on all day today. Millions of cocktails will clog your eyeballs all day and you may or may not curse at us but really, you should find one you love and make it your own. You can find the whole list right here or on With Food and Love, Sherrie’s wonderful blog.

Boozy
Regular fruity beverages
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This recipe was born out of a story my A. Kim told me about how she makes sun tea in the Arizona summer time. It doesn’t get as hot here in Washington but it was hot enough last week for me to make my own sun tea. That plus I have so many herbs growing like crazy in this heat. Maybe where you are in the world, you might also get a chance soon (hello, Southern Hemisphere)? If not, I have old school stove-top instructions/suggestions too. 

Notes:

I have just one note and that is to make this drink with as little or as much of everything. Some people like more alcohol than other and some don’t like it at all. In that case, simply substitute the alcohol with more tea and sparkling water.

Ingredients

Makes 2 drinks

  • 4 cups of water
  • 8 tbsp of loose leaf peach blossom white tea, or your favourite (iced) tea blend
  • 3 fl oz tequila (about a 1/2 cup)
  • 1 fl oz / 2 tbsp Triple Sec
  • 1 fl oz simple lemon syrup (recipe below)
  • Sparkling water, to top
  • A mix of fresh herbs like mint, thyme, basil and pineapple sage
  • 1 peach, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish

Add the water and loose leaf tea to a tall glass jar and let it sit in the sunniest spot outside for a whole day. Strain the tea leaves and refrigerate until ready to use.

If you’re going to make the tea on the stove, try to make sure your water isn’t over 185 degrees F while steeping else the tea could turn bitter. Bring water to a boil and pour the water over the tea leaves in the jar. Cover and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Strain the tea leaves and let it cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Add a little more than a 1/2 cup of the tea (4 fl oz), tequila, Triple Sec, lemon syrup, a mix of herbs to a tall glass jar or a cocktail shaker. Shake the mixture with ice and pour into 2 glasses. Top with sparkling water. Add 3 peach wedges to each glass and garnish with a wedge of lemon or a peach.

For the simple lemon syrup

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cups water

Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve. Let it boil for 1 minute without stirring and then take it off the heat. Let it cool. Pour in a clean bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

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How to be the best.

Here’s what I have to tell you as a blogger who loves food enough to make photos of it and write down a recipe for a post exactly like the one you’re reading right now. Ready? Okay. You don’t need props or the latest wooden utensils. You don’t need to learn Snap Chat. Really. I tried it for a week this year and a week last year and while I had a blast using all the filters (mostly being SIA), I think it’s okay to have a one or zero-dimensional social media presence.

Lately, I’ve been feeling incredibly rushed by food media. As a result of my clicking habits on facebook, I get an abundance of food posts on my feed (the irony). I scroll past these lush scenes of glamorised consumption and it sends a message to my brain that this is the right way to be, to eat, to shop. I know it’s not so I’ve trained (forced) myself to say “this is bullshit” and move past it. Not everyone has that same power.

Last year when Tasty became a thing, it seemed like this would be the next sensible step in bolstering the dusty old blog. Those videos with the perfect time-suck formula made us all believe that yes, it actually is so easy to cook when in reality it always has been. The videos are quick, no more than 60 seconds and the mise-en-place is always impeccable and in a style that is so far removed from how I cook. I have been told I should make videos too out of genuine concern for where this blog is going. As a confident woman in progress, I have recently started making peace with how my voice sounds in recordings. But this is not why I’m canning this option. Trust me, I am fully capable of making videos. What I’m not okay with is doing something just because everybody else is doing it. It doesn’t feel right to me. I’ll be late to the party but I will be coming as myself every single time. Just so we get this straight, I’m not calling other people frauds. I would never do that. I’m trying to show you that there are alternatives to everything.

I just recently figured out the perfect spot to take food photos. My setup (if you can call it that) consists of a nice camera and a shelf that we unmounted from the wall after buying this house, which serves as my table. It is literally (and typing “literally” is literally necessary) a foot wide. I am not making videos. Sorry. Not my thing. I will compromise and occasionally give myself a moustache in Instagram stories. This blog isn’t lost.

This blog post is more for the people like me – anxious, worried, busy (in a day job way) women who are just trying to get by. They want to start blogs but opt not to because it’s unrealistic to keep up with this circus. I hardly do much and I still need discipline to make this work. I enjoy photographing food and writing out my vulnerabilities. They don’t run my life but I want to show you that they are still there and I can function despite them. There will always be something precious about the time I started this blog and had just one expectation from it – to be funny. If you’ve read some other blogs and feel like you aren’t able “be like them”, I urge you to go look at more of my archives (noooooooo). I could be embarrassed about it but I taught myself so much in these past 4 years and met so many cool people too. There is nothing embarrassing about showing up and doing the work no matter what the template might appear to look like.

I do this all for myself first, but I also do it for my friends and family who have unknowingly moved mountains to help me to get to this place. My friends in Bombay who bought me my Diana F+ that taught me so much about photography when I moved to the US. I had no idea what ISO was before that. My other friend Lisa M whom I met through the Lomography group in Seattle because of my camera, went on to introduce me to Rain City Rock Camp for Girls. It let me practice my photography in a real world sense, which gave me the confidence to keep trying. Mandy at camp was the first person to tell me I could take good photos. These are all people I thought were too cool for me to even talk to at various points of my life but instead, they ended up being pillars for me to find out more about this person I was becoming. This could not made possible by social media or a new plate or a puppy dog filter (though those are SO CUTE). Maybe facilitated in some basic capacity, but the choices were mine to make.

My hope is that I always have the kind of blog that makes me happy to be read by people whom I care about the most. I want that group to grow too but I also want us to never be strangers as it does. My blog is me. In my opinion you just need one thing to make your work the best and it’s already beating inside of you


I recently started a Tiny Letter newsletter the reason for which I have explained in my first one that came out last week. If you’d like to be a subscriber, click here, enter your email and get in queue for the shiny new welcome edition. You email will stay safe and all you’ll get from me is insider food blogger scoop, inspiration, valuable topics we need to debate more and top secret recipes. The best feature in my opinion is that you can hit reply to any of my newsletters and write to me directly if you have any ideas or feedback you’d like to share.

Eggplant koftas with a poblano sauce

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Koftas are one of the foods that has become part of Indian cuisine over years of invasions and assimilation during the reign of the Mughal empire in the 12th century. It is of Persian origin and you can eat similar versions of it all over West, Central and South Asia. It’s most commonly seen in Indian restaurants as part of a vegetarian dish called malai kofta (“malai” meaning cream) – which was my favourite thing to order when the first “Indian restaurant” opened in our neighbourhood in Goa. In a malai kofta, the koftas are usually made with potatoes, cashew nuts, raisins and spices and served in a creamy gravy. I switched it up by adding eggplant, almonds, chickpeas and spices and no gravy because my dream is to make everything snackable.

This recipe brings the best of late summer goodness together in one delicious meal. You will need to turn on your oven on for this one but not for longer than 30 minutes. I’m trying to say that it’s worth it. Those little flowers you see in the salad were part of an onion blossom I pulled apart. They are so Dr Seuss. The things you learn when you grow things…

Notes:

I usually make extra koftas so I can use them as snacks or to add to rice bowls, curries or salads. Same goes with the sauce or any sauce for that matter. This would be the perfect amount to last the whole week. You can do a fry party and cook them all on one day. Refrigerate them and eat them all within a week.

The poblano sauce can be made a day or 2 ahead of time and will stay good in the fridge for up to a week. You can make it with other mixes of peppers if you want to change the flavour of the sauce.

Ingredients

For the eggplant koftas

  • 1/2 kilo or 1 lb eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and then half along the breadth
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp almonds, hand-chopped into small pieces
  • 4 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1 cup (or 12 tbsp) chickpea flour
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and place them on the foil, skin side up. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skin is slightly wrinkled and the flesh is soft. Let the eggplant cool and then scrape the flesh into a colander or strainer and let the excess water drain for 5 minutes. Toss it back and forth to speed up the process.

Add the drained eggplant (you should have a heaping cup) to a food processor. Toss in the ingredients upto the lemon juice in the list above. Mix on low for 15 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix again until the ingredients come together as a smooth paste.

Add the eggplant mixture to a large bowl and mix in the onions. Add about half the chickpea flour mixture and stir it in until no spots of flour are left. Repeat with the rest of the flour and place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the mixture firm up a bit. You can also skip this firming up part if you’d like to fry it directly.

Cover about 1/4 inch of a deep heavy-bottomed skillet with vegetable oil and place on medium heat. Let the oil heat up and then form the eggplant mixture into bite-size patties (about an inch in diameter)  using your fingers or 2 teaspoons. I scooped some of the mixture into a spoon and the passed it back and forth a couple of times until it was somewhat round. As you shape the mixture, gently drop the koftas in the hot oil. Fry them until they brown on all sides. Soak the excess oil on a paper towel and serve with the poblano sauce.

For the poblano sauce

  • 1 poblano
  • 1 small jalapeno
  • 2 tbsp red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup each of dill and cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt, to taste

Set the oven to broil (about 530 degrees F) and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Place the poblano and jalapeno on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-8 minutes. Turn the peppers at 2 minute intervals to ensure that it gets charred on all sides. The peppers are ready when they are blistered and dark on most of the skin.

Carefully seal the peppers in the aluminium foil and let them sit for 10 minutes to steam. It doesn’t have to be perfectly sealed. Open the foil packet and peel the skin off the peppers. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.

Place half* of the jalapeno and the whole poblano in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Process the ingredients until they become a creamy sauce. Scoop the sauce into a jar and refrigerate or serve immediately along with the koftas.

*Save the other half of the jalapeno for a salad or if you feel daring, add it to the sauce.

For the accompanying salad

Cherry tomatoes, peppery greens, fresh herbs (I used mint, dill and basil), slivers of red onion, lemon juice and olive oil all tossed together with a pinch of salt. Add as much or as little of all the ingredients. It’s not really a recipe. It’s merely food that goes well together.

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A very belated birthday

Right before I could share photos from my birthday trip to Shelton, WA, I got new that my uncle had passed away in Goa. As sad as it was, I felt silly writing about how wonderful a time I had walking around Matt’s second cousin’s bathtub garden in front of their home. She done a great job with it. It was the peak of spring and everything looked so new, so full of promise. I liked that.

We got similar sad news from Matt’s side of the family and considering the circumstances, it has been even more painful. I had one of my most life-affirming moments with his Aunt Agnes in the most ordinary of times. I don’t know how to describe what might seem like the most trivial thing. It wiped my anxiety slate clean and it keeps doing so when I need it the most. I’ll tell that story when the time comes. For now, here is a healing part of our world. I will miss her so.

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Stay

The coming week will mark the birthdays of two of my favourite grandparents, who made a huge impact on my life growing up and still do to this very day. They are no longer alive but I see a little bit of them in everything I do. I remember that joy for life I had and that they nurtured every time we visited them. They let us make-believe till lunch and then make-believe some more till it was time to wash away the dirt. That was true freedom. That’s what I will always carry with me.

I don’t think I grieved for their deaths when it was all still raw. I tried but I was too  young for my grandfather’s death and my grandma’s passing was very surreal. Like the type of thing that wasn’t supposed to happen to people you knew. Except it does. When I find myself sitting in the quiet spaces of this life I am sometimes overcome with nostalgia and yearning for that feeling of joy we got by mixing mud with water. I miss that careless abandon. It’s the same life we pieced together by digging into my grandma’s cupboards and trying on all her clothes and jewellery, deliberately making her open her trunks so we could take some home with us. She always let us.

I don’t know for certain how grief is supposed to feel but there never was any template to begin with. All I know is that I’m a different person because of them. They gave my sisters and I love when we didn’t even know we needed it. They also were the first to show me this fear of losing someone I loved. They weren’t perfect but they gave us the perfect mother. I wish they were here.

Smoky beets with marinated chickpeas

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Notes:

  • The chickpeas in this recipe can be made a day ahead. Same with the beets. Just keep them separate and toss them together right before serving.
  • Most important note: Have fun. There is no other way.

Ingredients

Inspired by Bon Appetit 

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp pearl onions, sliced into thin rounds or diced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 4) of beets, greens removed + 2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp kosher salt + 1 tsp pepper
  • Half an orange
  • More basil and thyme, to serve
  • Feta (optional)

Toss the chickpeas, herbs, pepper flakes, garlic, onions, lemon juice and olive oil in a medium-sized bowl. Let in sit in the fridge.

Heat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Toss the beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper and place on the hot grill for 30 minutes. Cove the grill. Turn the beets every 10 minutes to char evenly on all sides. At the last 15 minutes of cooking, place the halved orange on the grill. The beets are ready when a pairing knife runs through them without resistance. The orange is ready when it’s charred and fragrant. 

Let the beets cool and then peel the skins off them using either your hands or the back of a pairing knife. Cut the beets into wedges or cubes depending on how big they are. Place them on a serving platter.

Toss the chickpeas into the mix and squeeze the charred orange juice over it all. Add more fresh herbs and top with feta, if using. If not, just sprinkle more salt, if required.

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