Chicken, Aubergine, Carrots

We ate this for dinner last night, and I had a completely different idea of how I wanted this dish to turn out. As it so happened, Indu wanted rotis with dinner and that didn’t really work for what I had in mind.

This dish has a thick, very delicious gravy, and the veggies within become quite soft and juicy. I love whole garlic, even though they don’t add a great deal of their flavour to the gravy or the dish as a whole.


  • Chicken, curry cut, 500gm
  • Brinjal, long, 1 medium-large, washed and cut
  • French beans, handful, washed and cut
  • Carrots, 1 large, washed and cut
  • Onions, 2 medium, peeled and sliced fine
  • Garlic, 40 cloves, whole
  • Garlic powder, 2 tsp
  • Chili powder, 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder, 1.5 tsp
  • Kalonji, 1/2 tsp
  • Star anise, 1 piece
  • Cinnamon, 1/2 inch piece
  • Black peppercorns, 1 tsp, ground from whole
  • Laung, 4 – 5 pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to cook


  1. Marinate chicken with salt, chilli powder and garlic powder for 30 minutes. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in a pan and on high heat, fry the chicken pieces until cooked on the outside. Remove and drain.
  3. In the same pan, on low-medium heat, add all the remaining spices.
  4. Add the onions and garlic; fry till the onions just begin to brown.
  5. Add the chicken, stir well, add the brinjal and carrots; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans, and continue to simmer, covered for another 10 minutes, stirring once.
  6. Mix well, so the little gravy there is, covers the chicken and everything else.
  7. Serve hot with rotis.


  • Increase the spices proportionately if you want more gravy.
  • I used mustard oil to cook
  • You can reduce the amount of garlic cloves if you wish by up to half. If you do, smash the garlic before adding.
  • This recipe results in very soft veggies. If you like them firmer/crisp, reduce cooking time, but remember to put the brinjal in first nonetheless.


No-Ghee Sweet Potato & Carrot Halwa

I’ve been trying to use sweet potatoes in ways other than my usual and this dish came together quite well. Not only was it quite nice as a regular halwa, but it also worked wonderfully as a stuffing for gujiyas and kachoris. We tried a few at home and they turned out quite well. In fact, we even did one in a mooncake mould and that turned out nice too.

This recipe was created for The Right Side of Life, a Safal community on Facebook. If you’re interested in eating healthier and involving food in different aspects of wellness, this is a group for you. We’re planning lots of activities and content for this group that I’m sure you’ll love!

This halwa works great as a stuffing too, if deep fried carbs are your thing.


  • Sweet potatoes, 2 medium, sliced in half length-ways, steamed
  • Carrots, 3 medium, peeled and grated
  • Sugar per your preferences
  • Cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp
  • Elaichi / Cardamom, 2 whole, peeled and powdered


  1. Mash the sweet potatoes. Incorporate the shredded carrots and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Using a non-stick pan pour the mixture, including any shed water, cook the mixture on low heat, until the carrots lose their raw taste – about 15 minutes. Add more water if you think it’s needed, but make sure the mixture is quite dry by the time you’re done.
  3. Adjust sweetness with powdered sugar or honey, as granulated sugar will not blend in easily at this stage.

The halwa is done at this point and can be served. If you find it a little dreary, a little ghee will go a long way in making it more appetising for some of us.

If you want to put it into kachoris or gujiyas, the dough we used was all purpose flour, 25% ghee (25gm in 100gm of flour), a large pinch of powdered sugar and just enough water to make it into a tight dough that was rested in the fridge for about 20 minutes prior to use.


  • Some sweet potatoes turn out quite fibrous. If so, blend the steamed sweet potato before mixing with the carrots.
  • We steam the sweet potatoes so it takes less time to dry out later. If you want you can boil them instead.
  • The halwa can be easily used to stuff parathas that’ll hold quite well.
  • When in the pan, you’ll find a silicone spatula quite useful instead of a wooden implement.

Vegetable and Dahi Stew

As a family, we like our food and we both love and hate our carbs. So we cooperate with any attempt to reduce their presence in our lives. Elimination, in case you’re wondering, is both impractical and not really healthy unless you know what you’re doing.

This stew is a mixture of a number of vegetables and one grain – bajra. I soaked the stuff for 3 whole days, trying to see if it would grow in size and when it would soft enough to eat by itself. The water was changed every 12 hours or so and it lay on the kitchen platform, it being cool enough these days to do so. It never grew in size, though it did get soft enough to eat by itself, though with a slight bite.


  • Lauki, 1 small-medium, diced
  • Radish, 2 medium, diced (root and leaves)
  • Carrots, 1 small, diced
  • Spinach, one bundle, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • Mushrooms, 1 packet, diced
  • Parval, 2 pieces, trimmed, cleaned and sliced (no seeds)
  • Bell peppers, 1, sliced
  • Bajra, 6 tbsp, pre-soaked
  • Dhaniya powder, 1 tbsp
  • Garam masala, 1.5 tbsp
  • Chilli Garlic chutney, 1 heaped tsp
  • Fresh ginger, 1 – 2 inches, finely diced
  • Dahi (yogurt), 250ml
  • Haldi powder, 1.5 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil


  1. Heat oil. Saute bajra for a few minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add all spices. It’s okay if there isn’t enough oil in there to drown them. Saute/stir for a minute on low heat.
  3. Add all vegetables, except spinach.
  4. Add chutney, ginger and dahi.
  5. Mix. Lower heat. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender or as you like them. Took me about 20 minutes.
  6. Add spinach, mix, wait for a minute for it to wilt.
  7. Serve.


  1. Serve as is, or with rice, roti etc. We ate it in bowls as a chunky soup, without any accompaniments.
  2. Pre-cook the bajra in a pressure cooker if you don’t want to pre-soak for 3 days.
  3. A bit of ghee on top would taste quite nice.
  4. Keeping the bajra a little hard helps reduce post meal fridge visits because the mouth has yet chewed enough.
  5. Add any more or less vegetables you like.
Doesn’t look that great, but definitely tasted quite nice.

Rice Bowl #1: A Surprise Visit

Cherie had a friend coming over and I so like feeding people in addition to trying to expose kids to flavours they may not have tasted before. This was Holi and we were confined to our quarters all day; a good opportunity to cook, not that I really need one.

Given how much I adore bowl meals, and how great they taste, and how great they look … I went with making a rice bowl for our early dinner.

These bowls have different components and can be as simple or complex as you want them to be. At it’s simplest, your rice bowl could be just rice, broth and one topping. Me? I like ’em grand.

One point of caution: the more the toppings, the bigger the bowl.

As with quite a few, perhaps most of my food, concepts keep forming and are continually considered, discarded and adopted, until the final picture makes complete sense.

The first thing I needed was rice, which Indu took over. I suck at cooking rice. I asked her to please make it sticky. The next ingredient was broth. Now that’s usually tricky, since broths need to taste really good. Something like with Dal-Roti, the dal needs to be delicious or the whole meal is a goner.

Whenever I buy pork, I save the skin for stocks, soups and broths. It’s full of gelatin and is a great use for pork skin, which many tend to discard. So, into the pot of water it went, followed by Tibetan chilli paste, whole onions (with skin, chopped in half), tomatoes (whole, chopped in half), garlic (whole pod, chopped in half), dried basil, aniseed (saunf), peppercorns, green chillies (whole), fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. It cooked on low heat for about 3 hours, was then strained and further reduced until the consistency and intensity of flavours were how I wanted them.

I take quite a bit of pride in being able to rustle up a variety of dishes using only what’s in my kitchen at that point, and this day was no exception. Rummaging through the freezer, vegetable basket and other locations was a fruitful exercise and threw up stuff enough to complete the meal.

A few shrimp turned up in the freezer, which I blanched and tossed with sliced cucumber, sliced carrots, pork bits (trimmed from the pork skin) in a room temperature mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil, sugar and sesame seeds.

This combination is great by itself and maybe some noodles for a delicious cold salad

On one hand there are meals we can literally eat without looking at our plates. That’s one of the reasons we overeat – there’s virtually no interaction with the food. Then there are meals like these that demand interaction and simply cannot be eaten without paying attention to what’s on our plates. I try to make most of my food such.

Cherie took over making Ramen eggs, which have solid whites and liquid yolks. If you like your fried eggs sunny side up and dislike solid, dry, cooked-through, boring yolks as we do, you’ll love Ramen eggs. The rule of thumb is room temperature eggs, perhaps soaked for a bit in warm water to raise their temperature so they don’t crack, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water and then placed in an ice bath for 3 minutes. The initial 6 minutes cooks the whites and the ice bath stops the cooking process so the yolks remain liquid. Given we don’t really have eggs graded by size in India, you may need to experiment. I find this timing works best with brown eggs that have thicker shells than white broiler eggs. The yolks have vivid orange/yellow hues too and look lovely. They taste better as well.

See how the two eggs on top are squished against each other? That’s because the yolks are liquid inside. This is how you can tell you’ve done a good job without cutting them open.

I found these beautiful soup bowls in Majnu ka Tila (Delhi) that are larger than average, which we usually use for bowl meals. You also want to think about how the food will be eaten. If with chopsticks or forks, ,then the ingredients need to be somewhat chunky so they can be picked up easily and the rice should be sticky or clumpy. If spoons are preferred, then the ingredients must be chopped smaller.

A bottle on the window sill turned up some raw peanuts that were then pan roasted with oil and salt. Cucumber and carrots were cut into sticks and drizzled with sugary vinegar. Spring onion greens were chopped.

For meals to be interactive, the diner must be rewarded for paying attention to the food. Different combinations of flavours and textures are what we need to do so. Think of crisp, crunchy, soft, sour, sweet, chilli and so on that the diner can combine in different ways so as to deliver different experiences with every bite.

Finally, I found a bottle gourd and some kohlrabi greens. The bottle gourd was finely sliced, steamed and soaked in soy sauce. The greens were trimmed, blanched, squeezed (really hard) into a ball, chopped finely (or into bite sized pieces) and then mixed with finely sliced raw garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Finally, our meal was ready. What remained was how to plate it. Sure, it’ll be mostly mixed together when eating, but it must still look pleasing at first glance. For example, if the rice were placed on the side with the rest of the ingredients on the other side then the broth would drown half the ingredients and they wouldn’t be seen. After considering a couple of scenarios, I went with rice at the bottom, the toppings on the side and the broth poured into the middle, allowing the broth to be unseen, in favour of the rest being visible.

This meal tasted wonderful, was satisfying to cook and to eat. This format is great for enjoying food and conversation together and makes for a lively table. I hope you cook and like it. :)