Tag Archives: gluten-free

[Sibling Rivalry or Taste Preferences?]: Spicy Lentils Soup aka Masoor Aamti

I love lentils. I should clarify. I love lentils now. My sister S adores lentils – masoor aamti along with (as she would say it), “hot hot” rice. One of our favorite family story is when she was 6 years old she woke up in the middle of the night crying. Apparently she forgot to eat masoor aamti with rice! Since then whenever my mom cooked masoor aamti she made sure S ate it with rice to her heart’s content!

I, on the other hand, loved sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry). It deserves a separate post since it is a popular regional speciality. Tedious prep work but still my favorite! S hated it.

Around the same time (I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade) I stopped eating masoor aamti. I can’t seem to remember the exact reason besides the fact that we each had our favorites.

Few years later I finally gave in and went for a cup of masoor aamti. The tomatoey-spicy concoction has a meaty and rich flavor that was and still remains memorable. I couldn’t believe it — I stayed away from it for years!

Now that I’m a genetic counselor by profession I am intrigued how genetics plays a role in our taste preferences. I came across an interesting article on the Smithsonian website called, “The Genetics of Taste”, that concludes genetics, nature and of course nurture play pivotal roles in what we enjoy and avoid!

My favorite the sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry) I have to say has a mild bitter taste. Our tongue carries a receptor called TAS2R, some people carry a ‘sensitive’ form of this receptor and are able to taste bitter chemicals. The TAS2R gene might explain whether we enjoy certain veggies with open arms or  move them to the side of our plate. A version of the gene in turn can play a role in our sweet preferences!

My masoor aamti dilemma though was not resolved. If we have “bitter genes” and “sweet genes” I’m sure we have “sibling rivalry” one as well!!

Masoor aamti is a perfect weekday recipe! Any kind of lentils need some time to soak in water to speed up the cooking process — doesn’t have to be too long. To work smarter I typically soak it in the morning before I head out to work and cook them in a pressure cooker (2-3 whistles) or use slow-cooker in the evening. The cooked lentils then get mixed with the spiced onion-tomato mixture I describe in detail below.

The recipe I’m sharing uses a slow-cooker (crockpot) – the thought of lentils simmering in the spices is comforting and perfect as a soup for the wintery months ahead!

Origami Kandil (Lantern) for Diwali by my sister S!
Rangoli (art using powdered colors) for Diwali by my talented & artistic sister S!

To learn more about genetics and taste check out:

  1. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-genetics-of-taste-88797110/?no-ist
  2. http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060918/full/news060918-1.html
  3. http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/sweet_genes
We both have paternally inherited “travel genes”
“Not all those who wander are lost” JRR Tolkien – birthday cake for S from Love, Sugar, Dough bakery in Mumbai!

Adapted from: myMom’s recipe

[recipe title=”Masoor Aamti” servings=”2″ cooking time=”2 hrs (slow cooker recipe)/30 mins (pressure cooker) Prep ~2 hrs (soak) + 20 mins” difficulty=”easy”]


  • 1.5 cups whole lentils (whole masoor daal)
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • cilantro (finely chopped for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Water


  • Rinse and soak the lentils in water for minimum 2 hours.
  • In a medium-size slow cooker — add the pre-soaked lentils + 3 cups water + turmeric powder. Set on high for ~ 1 hour.
  • In the meantime, heat a pan, add olive oil followed by asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to splatter add curry leaves, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Stir well and add onions.
  • Cook for few 5-8 minutes until the onions are nice golden brown.
  • Add the tomatoes, stir and add all the spice powders.
  • Stir until the tomatoes soften and you can see oil coming out from the sides (~5-8 minutes). Turn off the heat.
  • Once the lentils are cooked in the slow cooker for an hour — add the spiced onion-tomato mixture. Stir well and set the slow cooker on high for another hour.
  • Check if the lentils are cooked. Add salt, adjust spices, garnish with cilantro.
  • Enjoy warm-hearty masoor aamti as soup or with “hot hot” basmati rice. [/recipe]

[Halloween Special] Rustic meal: Bajri Roti and Spicy Lasun Chutney

After all the summer craziness and travels I’m enjoying the relaxing Fall season. I love the crisp cool air and all combinations of red-orange-yellow colors around. The weather inspired me to make my mother in law’s mini-meal bajra roti and lasun chutney. Bajra is perfect for cooler weather since it is considered “heat-y” and the spiciness of the chutney ties in well with it’s nutty flavor. V grew up eating it for breakfast during not-so hot months in Mumbai (aka winter) but it is a great combo on a weeknight. This meal can be planned ahead – doesn’t need a lot of prep time and includes ingredients that you either already have in your pantry or have a longer-shelf life (such as flour or frozen grated coconut).


If you are not a fan of coconut the bajra roti can be a good substitute for breads/wheat rotis and can be enjoyed with any curry or vegetable. Bajra is considered very nutritional, gluten-free and if you skip the ghee the recipe is dairy-free as well.

Are you wondering about my non-traditional Halloween post? The roti’s natural dark grey/black color and the chutney’s orange color remind me of Fall and Halloween. That’s not it — the number of dried red chillies and the spiciness is for the brave-hearted only! Scary ha? Just kidding — enjoy!



Something to warm you up this Fall. And spiciness that sounds scary. Trust me you need it after all the candy-consumption!

[recipe title=”Rustic meal: Bajra Roti and Lasun Chutney” servings=”2″ time=”45 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate/difficult”]


    • 2 cups bajra flour (black/pearl millet flour)*
    • 1 cup warm water + 1/2 cups for sprinkling
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt to taste
    • Extra flour for rolling
    • 2 tbsp Ghee (optional)*
    • 6-8 garlic cloves
    • 8-12 dried red chillies*
    • 1 tbsp tamarind paste*
    • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (or thawed frozen coconut)*
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • pinch of asafoetida*
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Salt to taste
  • *ingredients available at an Indian grocery store


  • In a bowl (or kitchen aid with dough hook attachment) mix bajra flour, salt, olive oil and warm water. Knead into soft dough. mytip: Add water gradually, starting with only 1/2 cup first and the rest as needed.
  • Let the dough rest for 10-15 mins.
  • In the meantime let’s make the chutney, in a pan add olive oil, asafoetida, roughly chopped garlic cloves and dried red chillies. Roast for few minutes. Once you get a nice aroma of garlic and the chillies add in the grated coconut. Roast for additional 2-3 minutes. mytip: Certain red chillies can be really spicy so please use caution and use according to your spice level. I used the byagdi variety from South India that is spicy and imparts a nice orange color to the chutney.
  • In a blender grind – roasted coconut, garlic, red chillies, salt, tamarind paste and water to make a fine paste. Roasted garlic chutney is ready!
  • Back to the bajra dough — the consistency of the dough should be soft. If it is sticky it will be difficult to roll and if it gets too firm it will be easy to roll but the final product might be too hard to eat! Add flour or water and adjust the dough.
  • Make ~8 small balls and flatten them like a crab cake.
  • Individually roll into a flat bread either with a rolling pin or with your finger tips. This is the most tricky part — you will need some practice and some patience but use flour generously or roll mini-ones.
  • Bajra flour is gluten-free so can break easily. Handle the flatbread with delicate hand if it sticks use a flat spoon to remove the sticky parts.
  •  Place the roti on a hot non-stick pan, sprinkle some water on the top no oil is required.
  • Once both sides are cooked remove on a plate. Smear some ghee while still hot (totally optionally but certainly enhances the flavor). If you do not apply the ghee this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.
  • Serve hot with the chutney!


Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs

vegetable seekh kebabs
vegetable seekh kebabs

I love kebabs – I associate them with delicate yet bold flavors, marination being the key and the chicken/lamb or seafood is really the star. There is no curry to complicate the flavors and rice or couscous are just sides. Today’s challenge was to make vegetables the star of the evening!

Let me back up a little bit. My husband, V prefers vegetarian food (as predominantly eaten in India – lacto vegetarian with no eggs, seafood or meat).  Secondly, his friends are mainly vegetarian so when they invited us over for a BBQ night  I really wanted to try out something that is vegetarian, in the category of kebabs and of course delicious!


The good part is you can use any vegetables you prefer but potatoes are the key since they help with binding and of course the flavor. The first step is to boil and mash the potatoes. I cooked some veggies in a little olive oil – finely chopped french beans, carrots, cabbage and green chillies for the spice. Added in boiled corn kernels, green peas, ginger-garlic paste and roughly chopped cashew nuts. While the veggies cook down you can add in some spices such as cumin powder and chaat masala for some tanginess. The recipe I reviewed also calls for few tablespoons of roasted besan (gram flour) which adds an additional layer to hold the kebabs on the skewer.

Finally I added the veggie mixture to the potatoes and made medium size balls. One skewer at a time I individually pressed in the one or two balls along the skewers (until they looked like in the photo above). This step does require some patience – if the mixture does not hold on to the skewer feel free to add in some bread crumbs.


Once all the skewers were ready they went in the oven (400 deg F) for 25-35 minutes with one or two oil/butter basting(s) and the kebabs were ready! The day I made them I pre-cooked them for 15-20 minutes  in the oven and then finished them on the grill just before serving.

Garnish with some thinly sliced onions, sprinkle with some chaat masala and lemon juice. Yum!

mythoughts: Vegetable Seekh kebabs are healthy but time/labor intensive compared to non-vegetarian kebabs. Definitely crowd pleasers if you have multiple vegetarian friends or family members at a party. If you skip the bread crumbs (which I did) they are gluten-free.


Adapted from http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com

[recipe title=”Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs” servings=”4″ time=”60 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate”]


  • 2-3 medium size potatoes (boiled and mashed)
  • 1 1/2 cups french beans (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup spinach (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cup cabbage (shredded)
  • 2-3 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2-3 tbsp gram flour (besan)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • 1/4 cup cashewnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (for basting – optional)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2-3 drops green food coloring (optional)
  • 10-12 bamboo skewers


  • Pre-heat the over at 400 F.
  • Heat a pan, add olive oil followed by green chillies, ginger-garlic paste, gram flour, veggies (all except potatoes), chopped cashews and spices.
  • Cook for few 5-8 minutes.
  • Add the cooked veggies to mashed potatoes and mix well. Add salt to taste. Adding green color is an option. Make medium-size balls.
  • One skewer at a time individually pressed in the one or two balls along the skewers (until they looked like in the photo above). This step does require some patience – if the mixture does not hold on to the skewer feel free to add in some bread crumbs or a small boiled potato.
  • Once all the skewers are ready arrange in an oven-proof dish and place in the oven (400 deg F) for 25-35 minutes with one or two oil/butter basting(s) and the kebabs were ready!
  • Sprinkle chaat masala and lemon juice and serve with slice onions. [/recipe]

Perfecting grilled asparagus!

I had never cooked asparagus. I loved it when I ate it at restaurants – however not something I grew up eating neither is it native to Indian cuisine. Well with my husband and I moving towards including more and more veggies in our diet I finally gave in and purchased a bunch at Whole Foods.


The timing worked out since a  co-worker (non-Indian) was coming over for dinner – I had planned an Indian food feast (menu: chicken tikka masala, pav bhaji, cumin cashew nut brown rice) but thought of grilling asparagus as a side dish. Or more so as a back-up so she has some familiar ingredients/flavors. I did my research and asparagus was definitely a safe bet. Easy to cook – definitely as compared to everything else I was planning on cooking. I realized I did not need to monitor the asparagus while it is in the oven.

mytip: When planning the menu for a party or dinner with friends plan at least one or two dishes that are not as time, labor, or ingredients intensive.

I turned on the oven to pre-heat (400 deg F) – rinsed the asparagus in cold running water and was ready to take it on. I looked at my co-worker now what? She smiled and said to cut out the hard ends (about 1-2 inches, the knife should easily cut through). Done. Placed them in an oven proof dish – seasoned with some sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, added sliced garlic and drizzled some olive oil. Off it went in the oven (400 deg F) for 20-30 minutes.


Is it ready? Well just check if they are “fork tender” – i.e. just check if a fork pierces through and comes out easily. Yay! It is ready – finally before serving I sprinkled some lemon juice and grated parmesan cheese.

mythoughts: Loved the simplicity – was intrigued that it had taken me so long to try it at home – easily doable on a weeknight – perfection at first attempt!


[recipe title=”Grilled Asparagus with Garlic and Parmesan Cheese” servings=”4″ time=”22-32 mins Prep 2 mins Oven 20-30 mins” difficulty=”easy”]


  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • lemon juice to taste


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 deg F.
  • Rinse the asparagus and cut off about 1-2 inch(es) at the bottom of the stalks.
  • Place the asparagus in an oven proof dish.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and give it a quick toss.
  • Thinly slice garlic cloves and add them to the asparagus.
  • Place the dish in the oven and set the timer for 20-30 mins.
  • Check if the asparagus is “fork tender”.
  • Before serving sprinkle some lemon juice and parmesan cheese.