Monday, June 15, 2020

Methi Theplas

Methi theplas served with ghee, raswala tamatar batata nu shaak, dahi and aam chunda 

Today we had a gujarati lunch of methi theplas served with various assortments as shown in the pic above. It is a yummy and healthy meal to relish and also a good change from our regular rotis. Theplas are a regular feature in my house  and I have been wanting to share this methi thepla recipe with you all for a long time now. The recipe is a keeper and comes from my mother-in-law who is born and brought up in Gujarat... So be assured that it is more or less an authentic gujarati recipe which you will cherish for the times to come.

Theplas are good travel food as they keep fresh for a long time and are really convenient to pack in dabbas or just a foil wrap for a memorable journey :) The recipe does not use water and uses curds/oil and the moisture from its ingredients to give it a good shelf life.


1 cup  whole wheat flour
1/3 rd cup besan
2 tbsp raagi flour (optional, I like to sneak in some millets whenever I get a chance)
1 cup finely chopped methi leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
2 to 3 tsp - powdered jaggery
1/2 cup curd, sour preferred or  1 tbsp lemon juice + 2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp or more - til or sesame seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp garlic-green chilly paste  
A generous pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Water to knead - if required


Mix all the above ingredients to a smooth dough. If you use curds, then additional oil is not required in this recipe. However, if you use lemon juice, add 1 to 2 tbsp of oil in here as this keeps the theplas soft for a long time. 

Roll it into as thin rotis as possible with a generous dusting of flour to prevent it from sticking to the chakala - belan (polpat latna). Keep the flame on a medium - high setting. Use a cooking brush to evenly apply oil/ghee on both sides of the theplas while roasting them on the tava. This again helps in keeping the theplas soft and also removes any dusting flour that settles on them while rolling.

Serve it hot with a curry of your choice, curds, pickle or chunda. 

Memoirs of our Trek to Everest Base Camp: Day 1-3: Lukla --> Phakding --> Namche Bazaar

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek is a 14-day to and fro trek from Kathmandu that does not require any major mountaineering skills or tools for the journey, but it just requires some sheer will to hike on for long hours in the oxygen-sparse air and freezing temperatures of the region. Doesn't seem difficult, right?

We were a lovely 4-member group who aspired to get to the base of the world's tallest mountain. A young woman from Germany, an experienced hiker from New Zealand and the two of us - the not so experienced hikers from India completed this group ;). We booked this trek with  Himalayan Social Journey (HSJ) through Luxury Escapes and ensured that we enjoyed a memorable and awe-inspiring two weeks of our lifetime!  A guide and a sherpa from HSJ accompanied us all along during the trek. We were allowed luggage of up to 12 kgs per person which was carried by our porters and we ourselves carried only some 3-4 kgs of essential supplies of clothes, food and water on our backs during the trek... Luxury at its best!

One has to fly into Lukla to start the trek and experience the amazing magnanimity of the Himalayas for the next two weeks! I still vividly remember the little details of our trek and here I am going to narrate my experiences till Namche Bazaar - the gateway to Himalayas. Come with me and catch a glimpse of my wonderful journey into this trek...

Day 1: Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding
Distance covered between Lukla to Phakding: 7.5 kms
Time taken: 4 hours
Elevation: 9100 ft to 8563 ft

Reaching Lukla from Kathmandu:

This is where we landed in Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the whole world! Yes, you heard it right. It is a narrow strip of an airport in a rugged landscape where one seems to fly right into the mountains. Unpredictable weather conditions which change by the minute and stories of previous fatal accidents on this route make this 30-minute ride all the more dangerous and exciting ;)

Lukla strip - almost in the clouds

A busy lane in Lukla

This is the Phaplu airport enroute Lukla in the pic below. Our pilot had to divert the flight here due to bad weather conditions at Lukla. We waited for close to 4 hours here before we could again take off to Lukla. The highlight of this halt was the ubiquitous Maggi that we relished at the only open shop of the airport (yellow structure).


Phaplu airport

Lodging @Phakding

It was raining in Lukla when we landed. It was already very late in the day due to all the delays and we had to hurry to Phakding before it turned dark. Hungry, cold and tired, we reached Phakding at around 8 pm. We ordered our food of dal-bhaat-tarkari and enjoyed a nice hot shower - one of the still available luxuries in the trek! We fell asleep as soon as we hit our beds. The next day was going to be a long day to Namche Bazaar with us climbing close to 3000 ft in altitude.

Day 2 & 3: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Distance covered between Phakding to Namche Bazaar: 9 kms
Time taken: > 6  hours
Elevation: 8563 ft to 11290 ft

View of Namche Bazaar from an altitude

After a hot and sumptous breakfast of bread, potato curry and eggs, we started our trek from Phakding at around 8 am. It was drizzling when we left Phakding and the cool mist had pervaded the morning air. 

Our destination for the day was Namche Bazaar, popularly also known as the Gateway to the Himalayas. Namche is the most prosperous and bustling town of the Khumbu valley which holds a weekly bazaar to display its goods from the foothills as well as from across the border( from Tibet). It is the world's highest functioning bazaar today. 

The trek is relatively difficult as we had to ascend close to 3000 ft in a single day. The initial walk of around 3 hours or so seemed a bit easy as we walked mostly on Nepalese flats (The term is used for a somewhat flat terrain). We crossed numerous hanging bridges over the Khumbu river which made the walk a bit more exciting. Here is a pic of us on the Hillary bridge below, one of the highest suspension bridges across the Khumbu river. 

Hillary bridge - One of the  highest suspension bridges across Khumba river enroute Namche. Our porter is seen on the bridge...

Our guide and sherpa on one of the numerous suspension bridges (from L --> R)

This cute kid was waving at us enroute our trek to Namche 

Soon the elevation kicked in which left us gasping for breath. Our lungs were screaming for oxygen as we kept on ascending steeply. To add to this, as we neared our destination, there were scores of mules and yaks carrying heavy goods on their backs, chugging effortlessly along narrow paths. A little push from these strong creatures meant a sure death by falling into the deep ravines below. Slowly but surely, we trodded along admiring the raw strength of these animals of transport who carried heavy loads on their backs in these mountainous terrains. Choppers and planes can get grounded due to bad weather and these animals are the only reliable source of transport in these regions where necessities considered basic by us urban dwellers are a luxury to these mountain folks. They carry food, water, cooking gas cylinders, goods, firewood and keep this entire tourism circuit up and running.

Yak - A reliable means of transport @ Namche Bazaar

We slowly our made our way to Yeti Mountain Home, our hotel for the next two days in Namche. The last 30-40 minutes of our trek were a torture for us as we were literally pushing ourselves to walk towards our hotel. A masseuse came to our rescue at the hotel and really helped us recover sooner with his expert hand & foot massages! We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel lounging in the game room. An unlimited supply of hot tea, popcorn and a nourishing Tibetan dinner of Thukpa helped us get ready for the next morning acclimatization trek.

Not surprisingly, Namche was our first acclimatization stop to Everest Base Camp. An extra day at that altitude helped our body to adjust to the elevation and low oxygen levels without the need of any blood thinners and medications. We were told that drinking lots of water and consuming copious amounts of garlic is the key to overcoming altitude sickness. However, we chose to follow only the earlier advice and kept on sipping liquids to keep ourselves hydrated :) 

Day 3:  An acclimatization trek was planned the next morning at 8 am combined with a visit to the nearby Sagarmatha National Park Museum. It was a morning well spent gazing at breathtaking vistas all around us. 

@ Namche Bazaar Acclimatization trek: The wind speed was so intense that it was difficult for me to stand and pose for a pic

On the Namche acclimatization trek: Our group

Our afternoon of day 3 was spent in trying out pizzas and desserts from the popular German Bakery in town. We also spent some time renting some really thick, hooded jackets that we would need later in the trek. The day ended rather soon for us and we wished for some more cheery sunlight to explore the town before the night descended on us. One can easily spend a couple of days exploring this charming little exotic place tucked away in the lap of the mountains.

More coming up soon...till we reach the Base Camp!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Khamang Kaakdi (Cucumber salad)

Summers in Pune are really scorching hot and what's better than a cucumber salad to cool your senses and perk up your taste buds at the same time! Today, I am going to share with you a simple recipe of Khamang Kaakdi that barely requires 5 minutes to assemble. You don't want to spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen, right? Also, this is another dish from the culinary repertoire of my childhood memories...

Khamang Kaakdi is typically a Maharashtrian koshimbir recipe almost always served on auspicious occasions. I had eaten it as a kid many times in some or the other Marathi household or in a pangat in some function. It used to be served in small portions on the left side of the plate along with salt, lemon and chatni.  I had to keep asking the caterers/servers for more and more till my satiety was reached :)

Khamang is a Marathi word which cannot be translated into English. It is somewhat like Umami when all the flavours of food, especially a tadka, overpower your senses :) I am sure every Indian language would have such words which are difficult to translate or explain to anyone else unless of course, they experience it! 

Kaakdi stands for cucumber and koshimbir means a salad. Pangat as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, refers to a seating arrangement in rows where the caterers serve food to the guests as per the traditions.


2 Cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp of pomegranate pearls (optional - I like pomegranate in my salads)
4 tsp of peanut powder 
1 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp sugar/sugar powder
Salt to taste

For tadka:
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped
A pinch of hing
7/8 curry leaves


Check the cucumbers for any bitter taste before you use them. Mix all the ingredients together except salt and allow it to marinate for 5 minutes so that the sugar melts. Prepare the tadka and add it to the salad. Now finally, add salt and mix well.

Khamang kaakdi is ready!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Methamba (Instant Sweet & Spicy Raw Mango Preserve)

The sweet and tangy - Methamba

Summer is at its peak and I have got lots of kairis (raw mangoes) hanging down the tree in our backyard. These are the totapairi variety of kairis, really good for making pickles and preserves.  Last week, I made some panha using these kairis and kept aside one big one to make methamba. Although nowadays, we get kairis all throughout the year ( I seriously wonder how!), I try and consume them only seasonally. I am slowly and surely becoming a firm believer in eating seasonally!

My husband loves methamba made from these kairis. I too just love the contrast of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours in this dish along with the richness of its colour. I first saw this methamba being prepared by MiL and got this easy recipe from her.  It is a quick recipe with a few ingredients which can be made in no time.


Kairi - 1 big raw mango chopped into big pieces (try and go for the totapairi variety if you can)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Methi seeds - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Hing - a pinch
Salt- to taste

Tip: Do not peel the kairi and do cut it into big pieces. 


Start by tempering the oil with mustard seeds, methi seeds and hing. Once the mustard splutters, add the mango pieces and turmeric, and cover the vessel with a lid. Allow the mango pieces to get soft and cooked for a few minutes.
To this, add the chilli powder, jaggery pieces and salt, and again cook it covered for 2-3 minutes till the jaggery melts. Check the taste and adjust the sweetness and spiciness to your liking.

Methamba stays good in the fridge for more than a week, provided you do not lick it all at once :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Banana Sheera (Sooji ka halwa)


Banana sheera or simply sheera is a much loved Indian dessert found in various avatars across our land. Different states and regions imparts a unique subtlety to this dish which gives us umpteen recipe options to try out from.

I have grown up eating this dessert known as sheera, in Maharashtra. Some flavour it with bananas, some with just nuts and saffron and sometimes its flavour is just out of this world when it is served as Satynarayanacha prasad. The Satyanarayan pooja prasad, which is basically this sheera, requires a strict proportion to be followed for it to be qualified as a prasad. :)
Years later, when I moved to Bengaluru, I tried this dessert known in that part of the land as Rava Kesari. I never made Rava Kesari at home but always relished it in the numerous breakfast joints of Bengaluru. A bright orange coloured rawa pudding glistening in ghee and served along with the savoury upma (the combo is known as Khara Bhaat) became my son's favourite dish too!

Sheera or rawa kesari or call it sooji ka halwa - whatever be the name of the preparation - the basic ingredients remain the same: Rawa/Sooji, Sugar, Ghee, Milk, Cardamom and lots of Love :) Getting the ratios of these ingredients right is the key to the success of this dish.

This is how I prepare it at home :)

Roasted Regular Rawa: 1 cup (Do not use the chiroti rawa or the very fine kind of rawa)
Sugar: 3/4 cup
Bananas: Two, peeled and chopped roughly (optional). (The riper the bananas, the better they taste)
Ghee: 3/4 cup (in its usual semi-solid state)
Ghee-Fried or Roasted Nuts: Cashews, Raisins and sometimes a spoon or two of Almond powder (optional)
Warm Milk- 2 cups if one wants to make a soft sheera or 1.5 cups otherwise
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp
Saffron - a few stands soaked in 2 tbsp of warm milk (optional)

Melt the ghee in a kadhai and add the rawa to it. Fry it for a couple of minutes till the ghee coats all the grains. To this, add the sugar and mix it well. Allow the sugar to melt in the kadhai with good stirring in between. Now add the chopped bananas to the kadhai. Mash it with the back of the spoon and blend it well in the rawa-sugar-ghee mixture.

Once the aroma of this preparation wafts through your kitchen - this will take around 4 to 5 minutes with stirring on a medium flame- add the fried or roasted nuts to it. Then add the warm milk, stir it well and cover the kadhai with a lid. If you are adding saffron, then add it along with milk in this step. Mix it well again after a couple of minutes and allow the rawa to get cooked and fluffy. This will take another 3 to 4 minutes.

Just before switching off the flame, add the cardamom powder; mix it well and keep the kadhai covered for a couple of minutes to allow the aromas to seep in.

Voila, sheera is ready to be served! It is best eaten hot :)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Kairichi chatni (Raw mango chutney)

The season of India's favourite fruit has arrived, and one can spot abundant blossoms swaying merrily on mango trees these days. Tiny, raw mangoes hanging around in bunches waiting to ripen into succulent mangoes is a happy sight in my backyard as well. Amidst the gloomy lockdown, these blossoms re-instil the earnest hope in my heart that this too shall pass :)

Under the Mango Tree...

There is a proverbial saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".  Now that raw mangoes are galore in the markets - what are you waiting for? Lay your hands on those raw mangoes and make chutney - its delicious, tangy and healthy too!

Rich in vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, etc. etc. it is the fruit to be savoured till the rain gods arrive. So here is a simple, quick-fix chutney recipe for your palate which is slightly sour (of course), slightly sweet and just

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 servings):
Raw mango: 1 medium size
Coconut (fresh or dessicated), grated or cut into small pieces: 5 tbsp
Coriander leaves, chopped: 3 to 4 tbsp
Green chillies: 2,  roughly chopped
Jeera powder: 1 tbsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste
Little water: to help grind

Just put the above ingredients in a chutney jar with very little water (around 2 tbsp) and grind it into a fine paste. Feel free to adjust the flavours as per your liking by adding more or less sugar or chillies or coconut :)

The fresh tanginess of the preparation is sure to perk up any meal ...bon appetit.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Idli-Dosa Podi-aka Karappu

Steaming idlis dipped in sambar served with a spoonful of ghee- tastes heavenly, right? Masala dosas served with an assortment of coconut, tomato and coriander chutneys takes the entire culinary experience to a different level, doesn't it? Well, the options of serving idli-dosas with are endless but have you tried these dishes with the podi yet? Idli-dosas tastes so good with this podi that inspite of making sambars, chutneys etc, this spicy  podi needs to make its appearance on my table every time I whip up either idlis or dosas.

Well, I am talking about the red, slightly coarse, spicy podi (dry chutney) known as milagai podi, gunpowder, simply idli-dosa podi or Karappu as we call it in our house. Karappu stands for Khara = spicy and Uppu = Salt (tikhat-meeth or namak-mirch as we say in Marathi and Hindi respectively). If you are still wondering about the combustible gun powder I mentioned above then let me clarify that it is named so for the fiery punch it packs in a small spoonful of serving.

My house always has a stock of this home-made karappu which usually lasts me for more than a month. It comes in handy for those lazy times when I am not in a mood to cook something elaborate as a sambar or even something simple like a coconut chutney to go along with idli/dosas. At such times, this Karappu is the one which comes to my rescue. Be it the early 7 am breakfast I whip up for my school-going kid or my no-leak tiffin of idli-karappu to be packed and taken on an early morning outing; it is a time-saving delicious spice mix to be had as an accompaniment.

It is to be had with a dash of sesame oil, mixed well into a thick slurry to be eaten as a chutney. Do not try to skimp on this sesame oil served on the podi - firstly, because you will end up ruining the taste  of the podi as to how it is to be eaten and secondly, you will miss on the goodness of this healthy oil.

I fell in love with the Sakthi brand of idli-dosa podi when we were in Bengaluru so much so that I had stopped making karappu at home. However, now that I am in Pune, I have resorted to the home-made version which tastes as good as the store-bought one. Not convinced? Try my recipe out to the 'T' and let me know...

Every South-Indian household has its own recipe of this podi. Some add garlic, some add peanuts; there are umpteen versions of this flavourful spice mix and here is mine, as usual - the no garlic-sattvik version as is common of my household recipes:


1 cup udid dal
0.5 cup chana dal
0.5 cup til
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs (optional)
Tamarind - 1/2 an inch flat piece (optional)
10-12 Red chillies or Chilli powder - as per the spice levels required. (Kashmiri chilli powder gives a nice deep red colour to the podi)
2 tsp Oil - to shallow fry
Salt-to taste

Shallow fry these ingredients, except tamarind, in a little bit of oil separately on a low-medium flame. Allow it to cool and grind it into a almost fine powder. If you are using chilli powder, add it towards the end to the ground podi and mix it well.  Some like this podi a bit coarse but the little fellow in my house prefers it fine :)

Hope you make this soon and enjoy it lots!