Indian Spiced Millet And Black Bean Timbale

Its no secret that even an ordinary dish can look extra ordinary with proper plating. You don’t have to go to great heights to achieve restaurant-like perfection. With a little creativity and attention to detail, this can be a snap.

Like I did with this timbale. Creamy millet imitating mashed potatoes, black beans dressed with Indian spices instead of the usual Mexican flavour, and a little raw vegetable for crunch and colour are stacked, rather than being scooped onto a plate. It may look fancy, but is really simple. Of course, this is just an idea, rather than a recipe. You can change the grain, bean and the vegetables per your liking. The medley of different flavours and textures was gratifying. All-in-all, this recipe is definitely a keeper. “It tastes like pongal” G said, after the first bite. I took that as a compliment, knowing how much he loves pongal.

Creamy Millet and Black Bean Timbale
(serves 2)


Millet Layer

Oil – 1 tsp
Onion – ½ cup, fine dice
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Green chilli – 1, slit
Millet – 2/3 cup
Water – 2 cups
Yogurt – ½ cup
Water – ½ - 1 cup, or as needed
Cilantro – 1 tbsp, chopped finely

Bean Layer

Black beans – 2 cups, cooked and slightly mashed
Zest and juice of half a lime
Ground coriander – 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes – a pinch

Tomato and/or red bell pepper – 2 cups, small dice
Scallions, cilantro or green garlic – 2 stalks, sliced thin


In a thick bottomed pan, heat oil, toast cumin seeds, followed by onion, garlic, and green chilli. Once the onion starts to soften, add millet, water and salt. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes. Alternately, pressure cook for three whistles. The grain should be soft and mushy. Let cool slightly, add yogurt and ½ cup of water. The mixture should have the consistency of pudding. Add more water, if necessary. In another bowl, toss all the ingredients listed under bean layer and set aside.

To assemble, oil the insides of a mold ring, or an empty can with both the top and bottom off. Fill half the mold with millet. With wet finger tips, slightly push the mixture to form a solid layer. Top with tomato/bell pepper mixture. Finally scoop the black beans. Gently remove the mold, garnish with a herb of your choice.

If you don’t have a ring mold or an empty can, use a ramekin, build the layers backwards, unmold and serve. If layering is not your thing, don’t worry. Fill any bowl of your choice with the millet mixture in, unmold onto a serving plate, scoop beans and vegetables on top and enjoy. Your kitchen, your rules!

Timbale sprinkled with green garlic; enjoyed with tangerine soda

This is my entry to My Legume Love Affair, eighth helping. After visiting other blogs, this event is back at home this month.

‘Shrooms In My Pizza

Pizza – a good canvas for.. whatever. Anything goes on a pizza, as long as you figure out what flavours go well with each other. Pizza base is a crucial factor for a good pizza. Although I have tried various pizza dough recipes, I always, always come back to Slash Food’s recipe. This dough makes for a mean pizza margherita. But it does equally well with other toppings too. Be it a vegan pizza , or a pizzette served on the side with soup/salad, this recipe has withstood all my tests. This is, by far, my favourite pizza dough ever.

I spotted some gorgeous mushrooms in store last week. I bagged some (gosh, the organic ones are very pricey) with wild-mushroom lasagna on mind. After a sumptuous hunter’s omelet, I ditched lasagna and decided on pizza. I am so glad I did. It was The Best pizza we have ever had. The flavors were harmonious and the pizza was just divine.

After so many failures, I have discovered a good way of getting restaurant style sautéed mushrooms. As a rule, I always sauté mushrooms in a dab of butter. I let the skillet get screaming hot, melt a little butter, swirl the pan to coat the fat evenly, lay out mushrooms in a single layer and do not disturb for 2-3 minutes. When it has caramelized on one side, toss and brown the other side. Add salt just before removing from the skillet. I’ve had consistent results with this method and this is the only way I cook mushrooms.

Coming to the pizza, there is not much of recipe, but here’s what I did. Sauté mushrooms (any kind would do) as said above. Roll out the dough thinly, top with sautéed mushrooms, sliced red onions, thinly sliced garlic, thyme, pepper jack cheese and red pepper flakes. Slide into a 500F oven, and bake for 10-12 minutes. If your oven can go to higher temps, bake for lesser time. When browned around the edges, pull the pizza out, top with shredded parmesan and serve hot.

This recipe makes two pizza dough. For the second one, I used leftover eggplant stacks. I scraped off the tomato sauce, brushed the dough, laid the eggplant slices, and topped with feta cheese. I was surprised how delicious and versatile these eggplants were. A keeper, definitely!

Edited to add: This is my entry to Click-Cheese.

Goodness Stacked – Easy Eggplant Bake

G and I love a good eggplant dish at any meal, any day of the week. I can’t remember a single grocery trip that we spotted, but skipped buying Indian eggplants. If its in the store, its in our shopping cart. We have some favourite eggplant recipes, and eggplant-parmesan is way up the list. There is a restaurant that serves it just the way we like it. But after I happened to know how much calories it packed, I always make it at home. One time, I accidentally (ahem, lazily) made up an easy method, with fantastic results. Now I make this much often.

These stacks are baked in a ramekin and are done in just 20 minutes. Not to mention, they make for an elegant presentation. Or you can bake them in a casserole for family style meal. Just remember to bake longer.

Easy Eggplant Bake
(serves 2 as main course, 4 as side dish)


Large eggplants – 2, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
Juice of a lemon

Parmesan cheese - optional for vegan version


Tomato puree – 1 28 oz can
Red onion/shallot – ¼ cup
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
Fresh herb (thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley or cilantro) – 1-2 tbsp, chopped
Oil – a splash


Preheat oven at 375F. Heat a large skillet, lightly coat the bottom with oil. Toast eggplant slices in batches, laying them in a single layer on the pan. When you take the slices off the pan, hit with a quick squirt of lemon juice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a sauce pan, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add tomato puree, red pepper flakes, salt and ½ cup of water. Boil for 12-15 minutes the sauce comes together. Stir in herbs and take off the heat.

Lightly coat 6 ramekins (or a casserole) with oil. Spoon a tbsp of sauce in the bottom. Divide eggplant slices among the ramekins. If needed, apply a little pressure to fit. Spoon remaining sauce, transfer ramekins onto a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, flip the stack onto a plate and serve with shredded parmesan cheese, if desired. Boil some whole wheat noodles and serve as a main dish. Or load up your plate with eggplants and a couple of crusty toasts.

For making this a vegan delight, loose the cheese and enjoy with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The eggplants soak up the tomato juices, and the tomato itself condenses leaving an intense flavor explosion in your mouth. We totally loved it.

This is my entry to Vaishali’s new event It’s A Vegan World. Each month features a world cuisine and this month, its Italian.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

My yoga master once said that we all go through energy blocks twice a year. Once around the beginning of the year and once around your birthday. You either feel sluggish, lacking energy, or downright fall sick. Surprisingly, I have noticed this to be true during more than one instance (or that my mind is playing tricks on me). Last year this time, I felt the same energy slump; 'Burn out’ as one of my blogger friends put it. I was uninspired for the better part of last month, and I am slowly reeling out of it. A clear day with plentiful sunshine and a shopping spree for new props was just the motivation I needed. I hope this vim continues for rest of the year.

To break free from the monotonous mood, I set to make ‘pillows of heaven’. No, not idly, its gnocchi this time. I have been wanting to try making it with sweet potato, rather than the usual potato. I had no recipe in mind, just mixing a little of this and that. And as the dough came together, so did the clouds. ‘Oh snap’, I thought, ‘there goes the photo shoot’. A little upset, I proceeded with the rest of the procedure. As I sat down by the French window making gnocchi, sheets of rain had started pouring down, tapping the glass door. That moment was so therapeutic that I forgot about the passing time. There is something mesmerizing about rainfall; bringing time to stand still.

But a meal had to be served, and I hastened to the kitchen. Once the dumplings are shaped, the rest is a breeze. Cook ‘em in pot of boiling water and serve with pesto or vinaigrette. The gnocchi was delicious. The texture was just right, neither too soft nor tough. I served mine with a pecan salad inspired from this recipe. I also managed to click few shots bent in awkward positions.

I made a double batch and froze the rest, but I could barely resist using them within a week. This time I pan fried the cooked gnocchi in a little butter and sage, and tossed them with a generous helping of roasted winter vegetables. Funny that my mind associated sweet potato gnocchi with rain even this time.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
(serves 4)


Sweet Potato – 4, small, yielding about 3 cups of pulp
Flour – about 2¼ cups, plus more for dusting
Egg – 1


Microwave or steam the sweet potatoes. Peel and mash the pulp in a bowl. Add egg, salt, pepper and 2 cups of flour and start mixing lightly with a fork. Add more flour if needed. When finished the dough will be slightly sticky, but workable. Avoid over-working the dough, else you will end up with tough dumplings.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured working surface. Divide the dough into 4, and roll them into long ropes, about ½ inch thick. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, clear the working area.

Take the dough ropes from the fridge, and cut 1 inch pieces with a floured knife. Gnocchi is good to go just like this. If you want ridges, coat a fork lightly with flour, and press against the little dough pieces, like the ones here. But if you want the classic rolled, ridged shape, take the fork and lightly coat with flour. Take one piece and press and stretch the dough against the fork using your fingers, like the letter ‘C’. Now, roll the backside of the flour slightly toward the end of the fork. With practice, the backside of gnocchi will lift as you press and stretch the front end. Gently lift the dough from the fork and transfer to a large plate or a baking sheet liberally sprinkled with flour. Make sure the gnocchi is well coated with flour, as they tend to stick together.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently shake excess flour off the dumplings and add to the pot of water. They are cooked when they float to the top. Drain, and serve immediately.

Serve tossed in your favourite cream sauce, pesto, vinaigrette or with roasted vegetables.

Pecan salad

Pecan – 1 cup, lightly roasted
Salad greens – about 4 cups (more if you like)


Lemon juice – ¼ cup
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Parsley or cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped
Olive oil – 2 to 4 tbsp
Red pepper flakes – a pinch


Whisk all of the ingredients to make the vinaigrette. The hot gnocchi instantly absorbs the flavours of the dressing. Toss with pecans, salad greens, and gnocchi, and serve with a crack of black pepper.

Even if you are cooking for one or two, go ahead and make the whole deal. Gnocchi is time consuming and requires patience. And, if you are going to dirty a bunch of dishes, you might as well double the batch, right? Cook and clean once, but enjoy twice. Cook as much gnocchi as you want. Spread the uncooked gnocchi on a floured plate or sheet and slide into the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, transfer them to a freezer safe bag and store. When ready, directly transfer the gnocchi from the freezer to the pot of boiling water.

This goes to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, who is hosting Food In Color – Orange.

Vallarai Milagu Kuzhambhu – Pennywort Pepper Gravy

I jumped with joy when I discovered pennywort at a local Asian grocery. They have been carrying it all along, but only now do they have their English names on them. Good for me. I grabbed a pack, rushed home and called my mom for my favourite recipe that I enjoyed growing up.

Indian pennywort is one of those remarkable herbs with amazing medicinal values. In Ayurvedha, it is referred to as ‘the brain tonic’. Amidst others properties, it is believed to enhance brain function in terms of memory and concentration.

Our keera kaara amma would bring pennywort during summer, just before our annual examinations. ‘Good for their memory’, ‘They will get good scores’, she used to say. Even with its near-magical properties, you cannot become an Einstein by eating pennywort few days before your exams. Try telling that to her :).

It brings a smile just thinking about that old lady; loud and boisterous on the outside, but kind and gentle on the inside. There was a personal touch, even though she was just getting her business done. Hard to find these days.

Vallarai Milagu Kuzhambhu
(yields about 1 cup)


Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Toor dal – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1½ tbsp
Pennywort – 2 packed cups, leaves only
Curry leaves – ½ cup, divided
Pepper – 1 tsp
Dried red chillies – 2

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Gingelly/Sesame oil – 3 tsp, divided


Heat 2 tsp of oil over medium flame, and add the first seven ingredients in the order mentioned, reserving about 10 curry leaves. Sauté till pennywort has wilted and lost its raw smell. Cool and grind to a smooth paste.

Heat remaining oil, splutter mustard seeds, and add rest of the curry leaves, asafoetida, tamarind paste, the ground mixture, salt and 1 cup of water. Whisk everything together and let it boil for at least 10 minutes. The gravy should be nice and thick. Enjoy with warm rice and more gingelly/sesame oil. Refrigerate the leftovers in a well sealed container for about a week.

Be warned if you are new to this green; it has a strong taste and aroma. Cooking with freshly ground spices and tamarind mellows it down quite a bit. You will hardly notice that you are enjoying a medicinal herb. This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. The team at The Daily Tiffin is hosting this week.

Other pennywort recipes

Bloody Toast, Sin City Style

Click - Red, judging has begun.