Sunday, October 7, 2018

Bitter Gourd And Green Tomato Stir Fry / Pavacka Tomato Thoran

We Keralites use many vegetables in our diet.  We can make a stir-fry or a curry out of any vegetable.  This is an internal joke among Keralites, but it is true.  Bitter gourd is widely used in many preparations in Kerala.  The bitter gourd vines climbing on nearby bushes was a natural trellis of my grandparents' backyard garden.  My mom used to plant bitter gourd all the time in her garden.  I grew up eating this bitter vegetable, so I was okay handling the bitterness.  My grandma used to make stir fry with bitter gourd and she used to add green mango in the stir-fry to reduce the bitterness.  The green mango and the bitter gourd combo worked very well to balance the taste of the stir-fry.  My mom makes an alternative preparation of bitter gourd.  She mixes it with green tomatoes in the stir-fry when they are in abundance during summer.  I started making this for my kids and they started loving it too. 

Bitter gourd grows on climbing vines.  They have many health benefits. 
- They are excellent source of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, and manganese. 
- They have plenty of dietary fiber and are rich in iron and beta-carotene.
- They have a protein called polypeptide P that helps to control blood sugar and hence used by diabetic patients in their diets. 
- They act as blood purifiers and helps to lose weight.
- Bitter  gourd stimulates digestion

I started growing the bitter gourd in my backyard summer garden for the last few years.  The South Indian variety of bitter gourd is white in color, the North Indian version is darker green.  There are many different varieties available now in Asian markets.  The white bitter gourd is less bitter when compared to the green ones. 

Here are some pictures of bitter gourd, green chilies and tomatoes from my garden. 

When green tomatoes and bitter gourds are readily available in my garden during summer, I make this stir-fry.  The food made out of the freshly picked organic vegetables is really worth all the effort you put into your backyard garden.  Hope you will try this preparation of bitter gourd and let me know how it turns out for you.

2 - medium sized bitter gourd deseeded and chopped
2 - green tomatoes chopped (slightly lengthwise)
1 - medium size onion chopped
4 - green chilies chopped
2 cups - grated coconut fresh/frozen
1 clove - garlic
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - mustard seeds
1 - 2 tbsp - coconut oil
salt to taste
1 sprig curry leaves

  • Using a mortor and pestle to crush the garlic and process the coconut and turmeric to just mix well.  You could also use a food processor to mix them well.
  • Heat a pan with 2 tbsp of oil.  Add the mustard seeds and wait to splutter.  Add the chopped onions, chilies and salt and saute for a minute.
  • Once the onions are light golden brown, add the chopped green tomatoes to it and saute till the water evaporates.
  • Its time to add the chopped bitter gourd and mix well.  Adjust the salt now.  
  • Make a well in the mix of tomato and bitter gourd and add the processed coconut garlic mixture into the middle.  Cover the coconut with tomato, bitter gourd mix and lower the flame.  Cover the lid and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Open the lid and check if the vegetables are cooked well, if not, cook for another minute.  Make sure its not overcooked.
  • Add the curry leaves to the stir fry and saute till all the moisture is evaporated well.  Turn off the flame.
  • Enjoy the Bitter Gourd Tomato Stir fry with steamed rice, plain yogurt and some mango pickle.
  • Make sure to evaporate all the water from tomatoes before you add the bitter gourd.
  • Chopping the bitter gourd into very small pieces helps to cook it faster.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Month of September flew by so quickly.  I have been procrastinating to put this post from beginning of this month.  If you were a FlavzCorner reader, you would know that I attempt to post at least a birthday cake during this month.  Since many special occasions fall into this month, I make sure to bake at least one cake to celebrate all in one.

I wanted to bake something simple and easy for Nathan’s birthday.  I discussed few ideas with my daughter and she approved the coffee flavored cake as they started tasting the Starbucks Lattes lately.  My family loves Tiramisu and it is one of our favorite desserts we order when we eat out at Italian restaurants.  A make ahead ice cream cake was my preference, but then I realized I made an ice cream cake for his last birthday.  I searched for the easy Tiramisu I could whip up the day before the birthday and found the one from Laura in Kitchen.  The minimum number of ingredients and the ease to make this dessert spurted me to go forward with Tiramisu.

Tiramisu being one of the favorite dessert, I knew that one loaf pan sized Tiramisu will not be enough for us.  So I decided to go with two loafs.  My family gave me thumbs up for the Tiramisu.  I adjusted the recipe little bit to fit my family’s taste, but it was mostly adapted from Laura in kitchen.

8 oz – Mascarpone cheese, softened
1/3 cup – sugar
¾ cup – cold heavy cream
3 tbsp – powdered sugar
½ tsp – pure Vanilla extract
1 ½ cup – cold Expresso or any strong coffee
½ tsp – dark rum like Myers’s rum
14 -15 – Ladyfingers (I used the Delallo Savoiardi Lady Fingers)
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for topping

  • Cream together the softened Mascarpone cheese and 1/3 cup of sugar using a hand whisk in a big bowl.
  • Whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract using a stand mixture of hand held mixture to form soft peaks.
  • Gently fold in the whipped cream into the Mascarpone sugar mix in batches.  Make sure not to deflate the whipped cream.
  • Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap with enough over hang on four sides. 
  • Mix the rum into the cold coffee in a bowl.
  • Dip one lady finger at a time into the cold coffee and rum mix just to coat the top and bottom and place it horizontally into loaf pan.  Six to 7 of them should fit in one layer.  Now add half of the whipped cream and mascarpone mix on the lady fingers and level using a spatula.
  • Repeat step 5 with rest of the lady fingers and whipped cream mix.
  • Top the cream layer with chocolate shavings or dust cocoa powder on top of it.  Be creative to decorate the top.
  • Cover the loaf pan with the overhang of the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. 
  • Take the loaf out of the pan using the plastic wrap overhang, slice, top each piece as you desire, and enjoy.

  • Make sure you do not use the sponge version of lady fingers, they will not retain their shape when dipping in coffee.
  • Do not over soak the lady fingers in the coffee, as they will get soggy and break easily.  Just a quick dip would be enough.
  • Make sure the coffee is cold while dipping the lady fingers in it; otherwise the lady fingers will break.
  • You can adjust the sweetness of the cream filling as you wish. 
  • You can skip Rum in the recipe if you do not like it.  It still tastes good.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Pineapple Yogurt Popsicles

Lately my daughter is interested in cooking and she teams up her brothers and makes cookies, smoothies etc.  She was asking for their favorite orange creamsicles and I didn't have cream with me to make it.  Instead I just mixed up few ingredients I had handy and it turned out to be a batch of delicious and creamy popsicles.  This recipe is so easy that even you can have your kids make it.

Last few weeks were really hot and we hit the temperature in the 90's most of the day.  I always buy pineapple during summer as they taste better and sweeter during summer.  My only problem with pineapple is cutting it.  It sits on my kitchen counter for many days till it is overripen.  I feel too lazy to cut big fruits like pineapple, cantaloupe etc.  But this time, the weather was so hot and I had to make something easy to cool us down.  It’s a perfect treat for the sunny days.  My kids were inpatient and wanted to try the Popsicle the same day.  By evening my daughter sneaked into the freezer and ate one.  I would recommend freezing the popsicles overnight to have them set properly.

2 cups - Ripe pine apple cut into chunks
1 cup - Greek style or strained thick yogurt
sugar as needed

  • Blend Pineapple and yogurt.  Add sugar if necessary.
  • Pour into popsicle mold and insert the sticks.
  • Freeze it for minimum of 8 hrs or overnight.
  • Enjoy the delicious and creamy 3 ingredients pineapple popsicles.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Chicken 65

I am back again with the hope that I can blog frequently.  Our church was preparing for the last 3 to 4 months to put together our inaugural food festival and finally the event was conducted couple of weeks ago.  Being novice in that area we had to do lots of research and put some ground breaking efforts to project ourselves in the community.  The combined efforts put together by every individuals contributed to a stronger team which resulted in the miraculous success of the India Food Fair.  We are hoping to conduct the food festival annually after experiencing the success.

We had food vendors on our event who were mainly restaurants selling Indian food and snacks.  Chicken 65 was a popular dish in the event.  So I thought I will post Chicken 65 as my come back dish.  I seldom make this chicken dish as it involves deep frying. But it tastes so amazing that you are bound to make it more often once tried.  This is served as an appetizer in restaurants, but my kids love this with fried rice. 

There are many stories tied to the name of this dish which you can find on internet, so I am not going to go over it.  No matter what the story is, I can assure you that this is a very delicious chicken snack that is prepared by deep frying well marinated chicken and then coating it with a Chili sauce made out of Kashmiri Chilies to impart the nice red color.  You can skip the sauce if needed to reduce the spice level, but the fried Chicken tossed in the roasted curry leaves and Chili garlic sauce takes this dish to another level.  I usually lower down the spice level to medium for my kids and I use the homemade roasted Chili garlic sauce to bring up a nice roasted garlic flavor to the dish.  Do adjust the spice level to fit your palate.  Hope you will try this and let me know the outcome.

2 lbs - chicken breast
1 tsp - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - pepper powder
1/2 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - cumin powder
1/2 tsp - garam masala
1 tsp - ginger garlic paste
2 tsp - corn starch
1 tsp - rice flour
2 tbsp - strained thick yogurt like Greek yogurt
1 tsp - lemon juice
salt to taste
Oil to fry

1 - 3 tsp - Chili garlic sauce (refer notes)
1/4 tsp - kashmiri chili powder
1/4 tsp - cumin powder
3 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
2 - green chili splits
1 tbsp - oil
1/4 cup - water
1/4 cup - Cilantro leaves to garnish

  • Cut the chicken breast into bite size pieces and soak it in 2 tbsp of  buttermilk, 1 tsp of salt and 2 cups of water for 30 minutes.
  • Wash off the chicken and drain into a bowl.
  • Mix all the powders and salt together and check for your spice level; adjust if needed.  Add this mix plus 2 tbsp of yogurt and 1 tsp of lemon juice to the drained chicken and mix well.  
  • Keep the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for 1 hr or overnite.
  • Heat a wok or non-stick pan with oil and fry the chicken on medium heat in batches till the chicken is cooked inside and crisp outside.  Drain the chicken on paper towel to remove excess oil.
  • Heat a non stick pan and add 1 tbsp of oil.  Fry the curry leaves and green chili splits first, then add the chili powder and cumin powder and cook on low flame for 30 seconds.  Now add the Chili garlic sauce and mix well.  Add the water and let the mix cook for 1 minute on low flame.  The sauce will be thick.
  • Add the fried chicken pieces and toss it in the sauce.
  • Garnish with cilantro and onion rings if preferred.  Serve them hot with cumin rice or simply as an appetizer.
  • Soaking the chicken in buttermilk water will help to tenderize the chicken, so that it will remain soft inside when fried.
  • I make my own Chili garlic sauce which I feel tastes better than the store bought.  
  • Restaurants use red color in this dish to give the extra red color, but I am not using it in my recipe.  You can add it to the chicken when marinating it.
  • The rice flour used in this recipe will give the extra crunch to the chicken.
  • You can add regular chili sauce to this recipe, but the Chili garlic sauce gives a better flavor to this dish.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Vanilla Yogurt With Berry Compote Topping

I have been asked several times by now, "Did you quit blogging?”  I am sure you may have wondered too.  No, I didn't quit blogging.  Lot of things happened in 2017 and I couldn't cope up with other priorities and blogging at the same time.  I surely missed blogging.  I was cooking and experimenting even though I was not posting anything. 

I get mixed reviews from my friends and family about the blog.  One of our family friends once told me “I don't really have the time to read all the stories (of course joking), I just need to see the recipe. “ A bunch of my friends were there and we told him, "Oh yeah, there is something called scrolling using a mouse, you can scroll down to the recipe if you don't want to see the rant".  We just teased him that day.  But I know who has the time to read when you are busy.  I always encourage people who are just looking for recipes to just go right to the recipe.  But don't stop visiting my page.... you are my motivation to try something new, take pictures and present it for you.  If you have some leisure time, just go through my ranting.  Hope I made it fair enough for all kind of visitors.  I do visit blogs to just read the stories rather than the recipes.  Some authors are so good to keep the connection with their readers.  They make the stories connect to yours and make you visit their blog again and again.  I always love reading stories connected to food.

Today's recipe is a simple yogurt dessert cup.  I still remember how yogurt was made at my grandparents' house.  We used to stay at our grandparents house during vacation.  My grandparents owned cows.  Big batches of yogurt were made and stored in earthen pot to be used in many dishes.  The traditional way of churning the butter out of the buttermilk needed some skills.  The buttermilk filled earthen pot was placed on a jute ring to keep it steady.  On top goes a wooden lid with a hole in the center with a wooden paddle going down into the butter milk.  The handle of the wooden paddle is then coiled with a jute rope for easy to and fro movement.  The churning of butter is usually done by sitting on step stool to adjust the height.  The pot is secured between the legs and the whisk/churn action with paddle technically happens when the person pulls the coiled rope around the paddle handle back and forth.  Me and my brother gets excited about the whole process and always wanted to try.  My brother was always curious to see if the butter was ready after couple of pulls.  We used to lift up the lid and check inside the pot.  The ladies in the kitchen were extra cautious and used to hold the pot tightly, because they knew that if left unattended we will spill all that pot of goodness.  It takes good amount of time and needed lot of muscles power to make a good amount of butter.  I guess that was the way of a good upper body work out those days.  We used to give up easily and leave the pot in the kitchen and run away.  Those were all fun filled days when we get to do all mischief and get away with it.

This simple vanilla flavored mildly sweet yogurt is best when prepared with whole milk and topped with the the berry compote and some fresh fruits.  I make a batch every week and kids love them as an after school snack or a dessert after dinner.  Please do try this recipe and let me know.
Yields - 4 dessert cups
2 cups - whole milk 
4 tsp - cane sugar
1/3 tsp - pure vanilla extract
4 tsp - plain yogurt

Berry Compote
1/2 cup - fresh or frozen blueberry & strawberry puree
1 - 2 tsp - cane sugar as per your taste
Berries of your choice

  • Combine berry puree and sugar and bring it a boil in a sauce pan.  Adjust the sugar per taste and turn off the flame.  Set it aside to cool.  Keep it refrigerated once its cold till the yogurt is ready.
  • Boil milk on low to medium heat; turn off the flame and let it cool down to luke warm temperature.
  • Add 4 tsp of sugar, 4 tsp of plain yogurt and 1/3 tsp of vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Pour into small dessert cups of 1/2 cup size.
  • Warm the oven to 180 ° F and turn it off.
  • Place the prepared cups on a baking sheet and keep it in the oven for 4 to 5 hrs with the oven door closed or keep the cups in a dark warm place.
  • The yogurt should be set after 4 - 5 hours.  Take it out and cover the tops with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hr.
  • Before serving, top the chilled yogurt with berry compote and fruits of your choice.
  • While boiling milk, make sure you use a low to medium flame and stay next to it.  If unattended, it will rise up and spill.
  • The texture of the yogurt comes out good if you use whole milk.  
  • The longer you keep the yogurt outside, the more sour it can turn into.  So make sure you take it out after 4-5 hours or as soon as it sets.

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