Friday, November 30, 2012

Ridge Gourd Chutney, Deconstructed

Everything I learned about "ridge gourds", I learned online. This might sound like an exaggeration, but it is very close to the truth. Ridge gourd, which is called 'doDake' or 'shiraLe' in Marathi, and 'turai' in Hindi is a vegetable that I wasn't familiar with while growing up. While it is quite commonly used in most regions of India, I don't recall eating it much, if at all, and I know for sure I never ever watched anyone cooking it either at my home or anyone else's.

Like many other vegetables that I had never tried before, I began to see loads of beautiful gourds in the Asian stalls at the local farmers market, and was tempted to try it out. I started looking for recipes to use it, and found plenty of ideas online. But I was clueless right from selecting the gourds. Are the smaller ones better or the larger? Slim better or hefty? I had to even search online for instructions on how to peel and prepare them before using in a recipe. After reading and searching about it, I felt I was finally ready to cook with it.

Turai with dumplings

The first thing I ever cooked was this 'Ridge Gourd with dumplings' sabjee, about five years ago. I used oat flour instead of jowar, and made the dumplings bite sized, about the same size that I chopped the gourds into. It was such a hit that I made it repeatedly. Soon after that, I started looking for more recipes to expand my repertoire, and tried this 'Stuffed Ridge Gourd' which was an instant hit too. I realized that I enjoyed the slightly earthy taste and texture of of this vegetable, unlike some of my other family members, because of which the vegetable must have never made an appearance in our house.

Then one day, when there wasn't enough time to make the dumplings, or the stuffing, I wanted to make some kind of a quick saute bhaaji (chop, sizzle, and stir) and that was when I deconstructed Mint's 'Ridge Gourd chutney' to make a bhaaji, and it has become a huge favorite ever since.Here it is, adapted and translated with her permission.

Turai Bhaaji


2-3 ridge gourds (depending on their size)

4 cloves of garlic
4 green chilies

1-2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
a few curry leaves (optional)

3-4 tablespoons crushed peanuts
1-2 Tablespoons dried shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
about 4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro


Cut off the ends of the ridge gourds. Scrape off the bumpy ridges with a vegetable peeler. Cut each into half lengthwise, and then slice crosswise into half moons. Add the pieces to a bowl of cold water with a teaspoon of salt, for about 10-15 minutes, and drain in a colander before using.

In the meanwhile, prepare the other things. Peel the garlic. Remove the stems of the green chilies and wash them. In a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic and chilies together until they barely hold their shapes. Do not smash into a paste, but you need them to release all their flavor.

Heat the oil in a wide pan or wok. Add the mustard seeds, and when they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves, smashed garlic and chilies, and stir for a few seconds or until the garlic starts to change color slightly.

Add the chopped ridge gourd, and saute just until coated with the seasoned oil. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionaly, until the ridge gourd is almost done. The gourds usually release a fair amount of water, so I do not cover them while cooking.

In the meanwhile, roast the coconut in a small dry skillet until it turns slightly golden brown. When it is cool enough to handle, crush it coarsely with fingers, or a rolling pin, or a pestle.

Add salt to taste, and the crushed peanuts and coconut to the vegetable in the last couple of minutes before turning the heat off, and stir everything around. Add the cilantro just before serving, and serve warm, with polis or rice and dal.

Turai Bhaaji served

Dodkyachi Bhaaji served with Polis

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pink Panha

When I made Rhubarb Chutney not too long ago, I kept aside a stalk for an experiment that I had in mind. It turned out so wildly successful, that I had to post about it.

I had always heard of making rhubarb syrup and then diluting it with regular or sparkling water to make a refreshing drink, and wanted to try it out. So I did, and swooned over the pretty color, but I wasn't prepared for what it would taste like. As soon as I had a sip, my first reaction was to exclaim how much it tastes like 'Panha', the classic Maharashtrian drink made with tart raw mangoes, and I was beyond thrilled!

A week later, I bought more rhubarb specifically for making a pink 'Panha', and this time I enhanced it with the flavor of cardamom, which I associate with the traditional taste of 'Panha'. I also measured out the quantities rather than adding sugar and water by andaaz. The tartness of rhubarb varies with the batch, so you would have to use your judgement of quantities based on how sweet and tart you want the end result to be. I have provided my measurements as a guideline.

The elusive taste of 'Panha' and the gorgeous pink color of Rhubarb is sure to be a crowd pleaser.


Rhubarb Syrup Drink / Panha

Makes 4-5 servings


2 large stalks rhubarb (about 5 oz, or 1-1/2 cups when chopped)
1/2 cup (+ 1-2 Tablespoons sugar if needed)
1-1/2 cups water
2 pods of cardamom
4-5 cups water or sparkling water
Salt to taste
lemon juice (if needed)


Clean the stalks of rhubarb. If they have dry ends, trim them off. Chop the stalks into roughly 1 inch pieces and add them to a stainless steel pan. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1-1/2 cups water. Heat the pan, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat, and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and can be mashed with the back of a spoon. If it gets too thick during the process, add some water as needed.

In the meanwhile, peel the cardamom pods, and powder the seeds in a mortar and pestle. Stir the powder into the cooked mixture.

When the liquid has cooled, you can mash the rhubarb with a masher or fork, or run the mixture in a blender. Strain the syrup in a sieve to remove any tough fibres.

Add a pinch of salt, and taste the syrup. Add extra sugar if you want it sweeter, and some lemon juice for more tartness. When ready to serve, mix the syrup with about 4-5 cups of water, and pour into glasses with ice. You can also use sparkling water, but the classic Panha is made with regular water.


You can make a large batch of the syrup and keep it in the fridge for several days, and add water and ice as needed to dilute.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Mint Chutney

On 'Evolving Notes', I have written about various fruit chutneys that I have made, mostly inspired by the recipes from 'My Bombay Kitchen'. While all of them were delicious, the best of them all was the Rhubarb Chutney.

Earlier this spring, Mints wrote a post about that Rhubarb Chutney which reminded me to make it once again. I was also reminded of her crowd-pleasing Strawberry Mint lemonade, which I like a lot as well. All of these favorite flavors then easily came together in another chutney, and a new winner was created.

Taking a cue from Niloufer Ichaporia, I followed the principle of making sure that the chutney was emphatically sweet, hot, and tart.

Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Mint Chutney

Strawberry Rhubarb Mint Chutney


About 2 stalks of rhubarb (about 4 oz)
1 pint strawberries
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon red chili powder (cayenne)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
30-40 mint leaves
optional lemon juice if needed


Hull the strawberries. If the rhubarb has dry ends, trim them off. Chop the rhubarb and strawberries into 1/2 inch sized pieces and add them to a stainless steel pan. Add everything except the mint leaves and cook on medium high heat, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes or until it is jammy and soft. You can check by mashing the pieces of strawberries and rhubard with the back of the cooking spoon.

When cool, add coarsely chopped or torn mint leaves. Use an immersion blender or a food processor and pulse a few times until the mint leaves are finely chopped. Either way, remember to pulse.

Taste, taste, taste. Adjust the salt, heat with chili powder, and tartness with lemon juice if needed.

Serving fruit chutneys

I usually serve these chutneys just like most other chutneys and pickles in Indian cuisine. I place them on the table, for everyone to help themselves. Over the last couple of years, I have been enjoying various cheese courses while eating out, and I have started creating them at home as well. When I have a sweet and spicy chutney on hand, I buy an interesting cheese, some hearty fresh bread or crackers, and arrange it on a platter to savor with a glass of wine or other drinks.

Strawberry Rhubarb Chutney with Brie

Cheese and chutney

Other Chutneys

A note on other chutneys I have made, and a recipe for Pear Ginger Chutney.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rava Cake

I truly vanished from the blogging scene. If one can say that I was ever on the scene at all. The reason for not posting much wasn't any kind of a conscious decision. Those few who read Evolving Notes know that the kitchen is still buzzing with action, even though I have gotten busier and busier over the months. I am packing lunches, trying to squeeze in quick healthy dinners every weekday, and trying out new things or baking on the weekends. What I do not have any more time for is taking pictures, whether good, bad, or ugly. I hardly ever have the few seconds between preparing a meal and sitting down to eat it, as right away I need to continue meetings with the other half of the world that comes in to work by then. That is just how my life has been, thanks to work, commute, and travel.

Several weeks ago, I was driving in the dark, after just another busy day, when I thought about the "rawa cake" that my sitter used to make as an afternoon snack. To this day, I count her among the best cooks whose food I have had the pleasure of eating. On most afternoons she would make some kind of snacks for everyone who was around. Her ghavans were legendary, her chaklis are still the best, and thanks to her weekly upwas, she instilled in me a lifelong fondness for sabudana khichadi.

It is inexplicable why I thought of her rava cake though. It wasn't among my most favorite things back then, but suddenly the memory of the taste had gripped me, and I wanted to make it as soon as I could. I asked a few trusted friends, and they gave me their family recipes, but since it was a specific taste that I was going after, I had to go to the source and call up the lady whom I have always called Aatya. She said she used equal parts of rava, dahi (plain yogurt), and sugar by volume, and some LoNi (home made butter), adding that they do like things on the sweet side. "What about ghee or oil?", I asked. "Ghee is fine, but not oil". (See later how I flouted her rules anyway). I asked her if she added anything else for flavor, like cardamom. "I don't add anything else, but why would that taste bad. You can add anything you like".

I made the cake right away, reducing the sugar a little. The simplicity of the taste was astounding, and the best news was that it tasted just like Aatya's!

Later, I got creative and made other versions of the cake, adding cardamom and saffron, lemon zest and lemon, and even a vegan version with soy yogurt, oil, and orange zest, and they were all good. Within the last couple of months, I have made this cake five times.

It holds a special place for me, and I wanted to share it with others. It also meets my blogging criteria of posting something that I have made multiple times and would want to make again and again.

Rava Cake / Semolina Cake

Semolina cake / Rava Cake / Ravyacha Cake


1 cup unroasted medium coarse or fine rava (can also use semolina or farina)
1 cup yogurt (regular or soy yogurt)
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons softened butter, ghee, or oil
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Optional : 2 cardamom pods powdered fine, and a small pinch of saffron


In a large bowl, mix the rava, yogurt, sugar, and butter, and mix everything with a large spoon, until all the ingredients are mixed well and a batter is formed. Let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour. Add the baking soda, and flavoring ingredients of choice, and stir everything again until completely mixed.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 X 8 inch square or 9 inch round glass or ceramic baking pan, and pour the batter evenly into it, using a spatula.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is just golden brown and springy to touch. Let it cool completely before turning it out of the pan.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Until today, I did not know her name. I read her posts with interest, and she always had warm, thoughtful and positive things to say on my posts. That was the extent of our relationship. Yet when I heard today that she had passed away, my eyes welled up, and the mind has continued to grow restless since. Everything I knew about her was through her blog. She wrote about her love of baking, and the goodies she made, her fondness for Bombay, where she grew up, and marathi food. How can I forget her wonderful post of her stroll through the streets of Delhi? She had connected with me through her words. What I did not know though was that she was ailing.

I now think of her six year old daughter, and the rest of her family who are bereft without her. Raji, you were taken away from us way way too soon.
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