Most of my dinner ideas are born with what I have in my fridge/pantry. There are times when I don’t get to do grocery shopping and the day’s dinner is a product of my experimentation and imagination. Often times, the end product is not what I had imagined it to be - sometimes interesting, sometimes disastrous! Also, many a times, we come across a recipe, using a particular ingredient or a method which makes us think “Wow! What an idea!! Now why didn’t this cross my mind?”

In this section, I am going to itemize those recipes, that would make use of one ingredient/method in three recipes. It could be an appetizer or an entrée; soup or side dish. It may also be an old classic with a twist or an innovative one. This is a venture that I hope will add versatility to my cooking skills.

Money Bags Florentine

JFI - I have closely watched this event every month. The talent of the cooks, their ingenuity in using the ingredient in an exotic ooh-aah dish or in a simple and wholesome one has astonished me. So, the first thing I wanted to do after I started my own food blog was to participate in JFI.

I chose spinach for this month’s JFI – Going Green, and Money Bags Florentine is my entry. But why this name? Go on, read ahead.

Catherine de' Medici, the Queen of France, had her cooks prepare spinach in a particular way that she liked. Since these cooks were from Florence, Italy, her home town, any dish with spinach as the key ingredient was referred to as Florentine.

And, since the end product looks like a money bag that people used to carry in old days, I dubbed my recipe as “Money Bags Florentine” - served with lemon aioli.

Money Bags



Fresh spinach leaves – 1 cup
Red pepper, roasted and seeded – 1
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
Almonds, toasted and chopped – few
Phyllo pastry sheets
Bread crumbs (optional)


Pulse all of the above ingredients in a food processor. The spinach and the pepper should still be chunky. Add breadcrumbs if the mixture is watery.

Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, cut two 7 inch squares and two 2 inch squares. Brush one of the large piece with oil and place the other large piece at 900 angle to form a star shape. Place one of the smaller square in the center of the star shape and brush with oil. Follow with the second smaller piece. The smaller squares give the pocket a base to sit.


Top with a tsp of spinach + red pepper mixture. Bring the edge of the phyllo sheets together to form a purse. Twist and seal.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 3750 for 25 – 30 mins, until crisp and golden brown.

I have chosen not to add to cheese as I am serving them with creamy aioli. But if you want to serve them as such, by all means, add any soft cheese like ricotta, gorgonzola, cream cheese or mascarpone.

Garlic Aioli

Mayonnaise – ¼ cup
Garlic – 1 clove
Zest and juice of a lemon

Blend all of the above ingredients smoothly and transfer to a serving bowl.


Money bags florentine with garlic aioli.

Neem Flower Rasam

One of the reasons that I started this blog is to try and learn more traditional tamilian recipes. So when I learnt about this month’s RCI, I decided to jump in. Not to mention this is the first time I am participating in an online blogging event. My entry to this event is ‘Veppampoo rasam’ (Neem flower rasam).


Neem flowers are abundant in India during the month of April. The highlight of Tamil New Year’s day festival, which falls on the 14th or 15th of April, is Manga pachidi, a dish made with Mango, jaggery and neem flowers, and tastes sweet, sour and bitter. The dish signifies all facets of life, its ups and downs.

These fresh flowers are sun-dried and stored year round. It tastes good when fried in ghee and added to rasam or raita or even mixed with plain rice with a tsp of sesame oil. It tastes a tad bitter, but if you like the bitterness of bitter gourd, you may like neem flowers too. It is an acquired taste which I have grown to appreciate. After all, the medicinal value of neem are endless.


Dried neem flowers – 2 tbsp
Tamarind paste – 1 tbsp
Red chillies – 8
Toor dal – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves
Ghee - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp


Boil tamarind paste, toor dal, salt, curry leaves in 2 cups of water. Roast the red chillies in a tsp of oil add it to the tamarind mixture. Boil this mixture until the tamarind no longer smells raw. Heat ghee and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the neem leaves to the ghee and roast till it turns brown. Add this to the rasam with asafoetida.

Try this once and your tummy will thank you.

Neem flower rasam with cauliflower fry and karuvadam

Tomato Rice

Love Apples - Well that could be a mistranslation, but nevertheless I am in love with these apples. This fruit (actually a berry), raw or cooked has a sweet and acidic flavour and is available in all size, shapes and colours.

When I picked these vine-ripened beauties (actually, lots of ‘em) and after making sauce and soup, I decided to make pulao with the leftovers. There are umpteen number of recipes for tomato pulao/rice in the web; so why add another? Well, I think each cook has their own style of cooking, bringing their signature flavour to the dish with subtle changes. Though the ingredients list is long, it is the combination of these spices and the ease of preparation that appeals to me. Feel free to vary the combination of the spices.


Clockwise from cilantro: cilantro, cashews, bay leaf, star anise, cumin, urad dal, chana dal, fennel, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peas, onion, ginger, garlic


Basmati rice – 1 cup
Tomato – 3 big ones
Onion – ½ or 1 small
Peas – ½ cup
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Garlic – 3 cloves
Tomato paste – 2 tbsp (optional)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Cilantro or coriander leaves
Oil – 2 tbsp


Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Chana dal -1 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Black pepper – 8 to 10
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Fennel seeds– ¼ tsp
Star anise - 1
Cardamom - 1
Cloves - 2
Bay leaf - 1
Cinnamon – 1 inch
Cashews - few


Wash and soak the rice for 20 minutes and cook in 1¼ cups of water. Fluff the rice and allow it to cool.

In a kadai, add oil and splutter mustard seeds. Then add the other seasonings one by one. When the cashews turn golden brown, add onions, ginger, and garlic. Let onion cook for a minute and add tomatoes, peas, turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. I also add tomato paste to give it a deep tomato-ey flavour. When the tomatoes are done, mix the cooked rice thoroughly and garnish with cilantro. The rice develops flavour as it sits, so this is an ideal dish for potlucks.


Tomato rice and hard-boiled eggs

Banana Muffins

Banana muffins are my favourite fruit-based muffins. So when I craved for muffins at tea time today, and saw bananas which were ripe with black spots and a please-don’t-waste-me look, it was time to bake my favourite muffin. The recipe is quite simple, yet the muffins are crunchy on the top, soft and moist inside, just the way I like them.


All Purpose Flour – 1 cup
Sugar – scant ½ cup
Baking powder – ½ tsp
Salt – 1 pinch
Oil- ¼ cup
Low-fat milk – ¼ cup
Egg – 1
Banana – 1, medium sized, mashed
Walnuts – ¼ cup, toasted slightly


Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a muffin pan with liners.

Measure flour, baking powder, salt and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat milk, oil and egg. Mix sugar into the dry ingredients. Now add the milk mixture into the dry mixture and mix till all the ingredients are combined. Fold in banana and walnuts.

Fill the muffin pan equally and bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown.

Go ahead. Try them.


Simple muffins for a lazy afternoon.

Yield - 6 muffins

Potato Podimas

Lunch. Open the refrigerator and ponder over what to cook. Cabbage? Nah, Bland. Beans? Who has the patience to string and chop 'em. Cauliflower? Too much work. Potato? Yep, Potato, it is then.

Potato is the most forgiving vegetable (tuber, to be more accurate) a cook can lay hands on. You can chop, dice, mash or steam, deep fry or bake 'em. They succumb to any kind of cruelty and always yield good results. They can be seasoned heavily, like gravies or lightly, like today's recipe - Podimas.


Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Ginger - 1 inch, chopped finely
Green chillies - 3 (or less)
Curry leaves - few
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Potato - 3
Juice of 1 lemon (more, if you like it tangy)
Coconut - 1/4 cup
Oil - 1 tbsp


Boil and peel the potatoes. Cut 'em into big cubes.

In a skillet, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds. After it splutters, add urad and chana dal. When they are lightly browned, add ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Now, over low heat, add turmeric. Quickly mix it with other ingredients taking care not to burn it. Add the cubed potatoes and sauté with salt, until it is roasted to your desired level. Normally, podimas is not roasted much at all. But, hey, its our preference, right?

Once it is done, take the skillet off the heat. And, add lemon juice and shredded coconut.


Lunch is served. Potato podimas with mint thogayal (chutney).

Paal Kozhukkattai (Rice balls in Jaggery)


My first recipe is one of my favourite Indian sweets. I have fond memories of this dish. Every year during summer holidays, in my Granny’s house, my mom and her sisters would sit and make this the whole afternoon, while we cousins impatiently wait. It never felt tiresome making those tiny rice balls, sitting with the ‘Ladies’ of the house and hearing gossips, leg-pulling and other nonsensical chit-chat. It is always fun to cook with somebody around, than by yourself, Don’t you agree?

The traditional method for this recipe is tricky, while this, learnt from my MIL is an easy and fool-proof one.


Raw rice – 1 cup
Milk – 1 cup
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Salt – 1 pinch
Oil – 1 tsp


Soak rice overnight and grind it to a smooth batter (dosa or pancake batter consistency). Boil a cup of water with a pinch of salt and a tsp of oil. Lower the flame and add the rice batter to this and keep stirring until it becomes well cooked. The mixture will turn from bright white to dull white colour. After the mixture cools down, knead it well and make pea-sized balls.


This recipe can be prepared to this stage and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

When ready, mix milk with ½ cup of water and bring it to boil. Cook the rice balls made previously, in batches, by adding them to the milk + water mixture. The rice balls will float after they have been cooked. After all the rice balls have been cooked, set them aside. Add jaggery to the left-over milk + water mixture and allow it to dissolve.

Add the cooked rice balls back to the jaggery-milk mixture, and allow to boil for 5 minutes in low flame. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Do not boil after the coconut milk has been added. Finally, add ground elaichi.

New kid in the block

Can I? Can’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I? And, finally after few months of contemplation, I have decided to start my own blog. This will be my culinary diary of what I have achieved so far, and what I haven’t. This ‘Palette’ will offer a wide array of recipes, restaurant reviews, etc, not restricted by cuisine, but vegetarian/vegan-friendly. I hope you will have as much fun reading this blog & trying my recipes, as I had writing & testing the same.