Chayote Sabzi / Chow Chow Sabzi

Chayote is a light green, pear-shaped tropical squash with coarse wrinkles and can be used in a variety of preparations. It is a good source of dietary fiber and has Vitamin C in it. Commonly known as chow chow, this ingredient works well in dry as well as gravy based curries. The mild flavour of chayote makes it perfect to take on the addition of spices which seep into it to give an enhanced taste. While peeling chayote, you can apply oil to your palms for ease. Make sure you peel it well, as the outer skin is rough. For those staying in Singapore, chayote is available in NTUC and the other supermarket stores.

Recipe Details :
Serves: 4 pax
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 600-700 gms (2 medium sized) chayote, peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 1 big onion, finely diced
  • 1-1.5 cups tomato puree (homemade or ready made)
  • 1-2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp Kitchen King masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder>
  • 0.5 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp oil

Chayote sabzi

Chayote sabzi / Chow Chow Sabzi


Method:

  • Place a pressure cooker over a medium-low flame and add 2 tbsp of oil to it.
  • Once the oil is warm, add the mustard seeds and let them crackle.
  • Add the onions and cook gently till they are soft, but not browned.
  • Once the onions are soft, add in the tomato puree and cook till the raw smell goes away.
  • Now add coriander, kitchen king and red chilli powders followed by salt and turmeric.
  • Cook covered, stirring occasionally till the mixture thickens and releases oil.
  • Add the chayote pieces and mix well till the pieces are fully coated with the tomato-spice mixture.
  • Add 1 – 2 cups of water (depending on how thick you want the final gravy) and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
  • Switch off the flame and let the cooker cool down.
  • Taste the chayote and gravy and adjust the seasoning.
  • Add garam masala and crushed dried fenugreek leaves.
  • Finally garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice or rotis.

Tips:

  • The amount of water you have to add depends on the chayote type you are using as the water content may vary.
  • Do not overcook the chayote as it will turn into mush.
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Spinach Corn Sabzi / Palak Corn Sabzi

Spinach is a vegetable that is very rich in iron. It is recommended to include spinach as a part of your diet on a regular basis. Spinach is used in gravy side dishes in Indian cooking. One of my favourite combinations is to use spinach with corn. The sweetness of corn brings some order to the fiery Indian spices used in this dish. Since it’s a gravy dish, you can also easily transform it into a Spinach Corn Rice that can be served with papads or wafers. It also works beautifully as a lunchbox recipe. Try it out and you will become a fan of this combination!

Recipe Details :
Serves: 4 pax
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 2 packets of spinach
  • 1.5 cups corn kernels
  • 3/4 can of tomato puree or 3-4 tomatoes blended in a mixer
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil

Spinach corn sabzi

Spinach corn sabzi


Method:

  • Wash the spinach leaves well (at least 3-4 times) and cut off the stems. Cut the leaves into big pieces.
  • Fill a vessel filled with water and heat it till it boils. When the water starts bubbling vigorously, add the cut spinach leaves and let them boil for 3-4 minutes. Switch off the flame. Now wash the leaves immediately in ice-cold water – this helps in preserving the green colour of spinach. This process is called blanching.
  • Meanwhile boil the corn kernels in salted hot water for at least 10 mins. Alternatively, you can pressure cook the corn kernels for 3-4 whistles depending on the rawness of the kernels. Frozen corn kernels take more time than fresh corn kernels.
  • In a blender / mixer, puree the blanched spinach leaves into a smooth paste. Keep it aside.
  • Take a pan, add oil and cumin seeds in it. Once the cumin seeds splutter, add the chopped onions. Saute till they turn light pink in colour.
  • Next, add the tomato puree and salt and mix well. Let this cook on low flame for 5 mins. The rawness of tomatoes should not be felt in the paste.
  • Once the tomato puree is cooked through, add in turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala powder and mix the spices well.
  • Add the spinach puree, cover the pan and let it cook for 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Finally, add the boiled corn kernels and cook for another 3 mins.
  • Switch off the flame and serve hot with rotis. Also goes great with steamed white rice.

Tips:

  • Make sure you have ice-cold water ready once you add the spinach leaves into the boiling water.
  • Do not overcook the spinach leaves. Once they become a rich, dark green, turn off the flame immediately.
  • Make sure the corn is tender when you add it in. There’s not much cooking time given for the corn in the final stage, and it may taste raw.

Mixed Vegetable Soup with Udon Noodles

One of the best ways to use summer vegetables is to make a quick soup. If you want to add some bite to the medley of vegetables, noodles lend perfect balance to the dish. Ever since I visited Japan, I’ve wanted to try a dish at home using Udon noodles. They are thick wheat flour noodles which are best served in soups or broths. They are soft and sturdy at the same time which make them perfect ingredients for a wholesome meal. They leave you feeling full but not stuffed and veggies provide the required nourishment. For a Thai twist, we add kaffir lime leaves to provide so much flavour to this dish that you would not mind just sipping the warm soup.

Recipe Details :
Serves: 2-3 pax
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 10-12 baby corn, cut into small rounds
  • 1 broccoli (around 250 gms), cut in florets
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 bell pepper / capsicum cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 12-15 French beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 – 2 cups of veg stock / water
  • Udon noodles
  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Mixed veg with udon

Mixed veg with udon noodles


Method:

  • Cook the Udon noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Do not cook them all the way – take them out when they are slightly underdone.
  • Soak the lime leaves in some hot water. If you’re using veg stock, supplement it with this liquid.
  • Place a pan over a medium-high flame. Add oil and wait till it just starts to shimmer.
  • Add the onions and saute them till they turn translucent.
  • Add the beans, corn, and carrot and saute them for ~30 seconds.
  • Once you see a little colour on the veggies, add in the broccoli and bell peppers. Toss to combine.
  • When the veggies are par-cooked, add in 1 cup of water / veg stock and the water from the soaked lime leaves. Cover and cook till the vegetables are just tender.
  • Turn off the flame, add the udon noodles and let the soup steep for a few minutes.
  • Mixed veg soup with udon noodles

    Mixed veg soup with udon noodles

  • Serve immediately!

Tips:

  • Do not overcook the noodles. If you are worried about overcooking them, put them in an ice bath once they are cooked.
  • You can change the veggies used to suit your taste. Add the veggies that take longer to cook first. Do not overcook them.
  • For a hit of spice, add some chili oil on the top.

Zucchini and Capsicum Salad

Crunchy salads add a great contrasting texture to the dal or curries that we cook on a regular basis. At this point, you do not want a salad that has requires a lot of cutting and prep. A swish of oil, some easy-to-cook-vegetables and and a dash of lemon make this ‘Zucchini and Capsicum Salad’ a great choice. Having eaten Maharashtrian food quite a few times, I tossed in the peanuts to give it a koshimbir effect and the gamble paid off. This salad goes extremely well as a side with rotis. If you like cold salads, refrigerate and eat it the next day for breakfast as a topping on bruschetta!

Recipe Details :
Serves: 4 pax
Time: 20 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 capsicum, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, skin removed
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup coriander, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp lime/lemon juice (optional)

Zucchini and capsicum salad

Zucchini and capsicum salad


Method:

  • Take oil in a pan and heat it on medium flame. Add mustard seeds to it and wait till they splutter.
  • Reduce the flame, add in the peanuts and saute for around a minute.
  • Then add in the chopped onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until the onion turns translucent.
  • Next add in the zucchini and green chilli and mix well. Cook it for 5 mins without a lid.
  • Add the diced capsicum and salt and mix well. Let the capsicum cook for another 2 mins. Their crunch should be retained, so do not make them too soft.
  • Switch off the flame. Sprinkle the salad with lime juice and garnish with coriander. Serve hot with rotis as a side. If you make it in more quantity, this can substitute a sabzi too.

Tips:

  • If you don’t like large pieces of peanut in the salad, toast them separately and then break them up in a mortar and pestle / grinder. Sprinkle them on top of the salad before serving.
  • Don’t overcook the vegetables. You want them to have a crunch.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Soups are one of the best ways to cut back on calories without losing out on taste. After having cauliflower soup quite a few times in 3-course meals at restaurants, I decided to make it at home. This dish needs some low and slow cooking, but is worth it for the end result of a creamy and full-flavored soup. Cauliflower lends a velvety texture and is easy to prep as the florets just have to be separated. The addition of turmeric powder gives a beautiful yellow colour. The spices add a touch of heat and contrast to the soup base. This is a filling and heavy soup, so you are literally one bowl away from trying out a healthy recipe!

Recipe Details :
Serves: 3-4 pax
Time: 40 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 1 large cauliflower, chopped in florets (roughly the same size)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Ground black pepper (for garnish)
  • Salt to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Cauliflower soup

Cauliflower soup


Method:

  • In a soup pot, heat the oil on a low flame and put in the bay leaf. Add the coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red pepper flakes along with onions. Sweat the onions till they turn translucent. This will take around 4-5 mins. Then add the finely chopped garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add in the cauliflower florets and vegetable stock to the soup pot. Stir to combine, and ensure that all florets are immersed in the stock.
  • Cauliflower soup prep

    Cauliflower soup prep

  • Cover, and let the florets cook for 15 mins on low flame till they become tender.
  • Switch off the flame and let the liquid cool for 15 mins. Remove the bay leaf at this stage.
  • Then transfer this cooled mixture into a blender and blend on high till the mixture is silky and smooth.
  • Serve hot, with a sprinkle of ground black pepper on top. I served a quinoa bread along with the soup.

Tips:

  • Stir the florets from time to time to ensure even cooking.
  • You can also garish with coriander leaves or red chili flakes.
  • For those staying in Singapore, I paired this soup with lightly toasted ‘Spelt, Quinoa and Purple Wheat Loaf’ by Gardenia from NTUC.

Beetroot and Carrot Stir Fry / Beetroot and Carrot Sabzi

Easy and healthy cooking is a combination that can be achieved by using nutritious vegetables that cook quickly. Beetroot and carrot are vegetables that are good for health and fast to cook when grated. I made a quick stir fry with these ingredients and used South Indian spices for a hit of heat. These veggies can be steam-cooked, and require almost no oil. This is a quick, healthy, and delicious dish that can be made even at the last moment.

Recipe Details :
Serves: 3-4 pax
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 1 beetroot, grated
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp sambar powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp urad dal
  • Salt to taste

Beetroot and carrot stir fry

Beetroot and carrot stir fry


Method:

  • Peel off the skin and grate the beetroot and carrot on the largest grooves of the grater.
  • Beetroot and carrot grated

    Beetroot and carrot grated

  • Finely chop the onions.
  • Take a pan and heat a little oil on low flame. Add the mustard seeds and wait till they splutter. Then add the urad dal and curry leaves.
  • Once the urad dal turns golden brown, add the onions and cook them till they turn translucent.
  • Add salt, turmeric powder and sambar powder.
  • Once the spices are cooked, add the grated beetroot and carrot and mix well to combine. Sprinkle a little water on them and cook for 8-10 mins. Stir in between for uniform cooking.
  • Beetroot and carrot cooking process

    Beetroot and carrot cooking process

  • Switch off the flame and serve with rotis or rice.

Tips:

  • Don’t add too much water – you don’t want the vegetables to turn mushy.
  • If you don’t have sambar powder, use a combination of coriander powder, red chili powder, and garam masala to spice the dish.

Puy Lentils Stew with Za’atar

There are days when you just yearn for a comforting meal. At these times, I experiment with lentils since they work brilliantly in soups and stews. During a grocery shopping spree, I had picked up green puy lentils with the intention of trying to cook some Middle Eastern dishes. Puy lentils have a smooth texture and do not require to be soaked overnight. They absorb seasoning very well and can be paired with different spices. They are little marvels that provide you with a sustaining and comforting meal. Add some veggies, and you get a great stew / soup that pairs well with shortbread or buns. For seasoning, I chose Za’atar (a spice mixture) as it is uniquely Middle Eastern in usage. This was my first time working with this spice and it elevated the stew to another level. To say that the dish was enjoyed would be an understatement!

Recipe Details :
Serves: 2-3 pax
Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients :

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • 1/2 cup puy lentils
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 – 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste

Puy lentils with za'tar

Puy lentils with za’tar


Method:

  • Rinse the puy lentils in warm water 2-3 times and set it aside.
  • In a pot, take olive oil and sauté the onions, zucchini and carrots with a pinch of salt for around 8 mins.
  • Add the finely chopped garlic and sauté it further for another 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the Za’atar and mix well. Within a minute, you will smell the amazing fragrance from the spice.
  • Now add the rinsed puy lentils and add in the water. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer for another 10 mins. The lentils should be tender and should not turn mushy.
  • Now add 2 tsp of salt and mix well. Let it simmer for another 10 mins. Switch off the flame.
  • Puy lentils stew with ciabatta bread

    Puy lentils stew with ciabatta bread

  • Serve this delicious stew with ciabatta bread. I grilled the bread with mozzarella cheese.

Tips:

  • Make sure you sauté the vegetables well – but do not let them burn.
  • You may need to check on the stew occasionally to add some water. It will take between 3 – 5 cups to cook the lentils.
  • For those staying in Singapore, I bought the puy lentils from Mustafa. I picked up the Ciabatta bread and fresh Mozzarella cheese from Providore Cafe counter at Mandarin Orchard. They have a really good cheese counter with a lot of variety.