Indian Spices

Paneer Shashlik - Vegetarian


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The Washington Post food editor Joe Yonan has turned a Vegetarian. So here is a recipe dedicated to Joe and to all my vegetarian friends. This is a very simple recipe which can be made quickly and easily. 

Ingredients                                             Serves - 4 - 6

1.5 lbs of Paneer - cut into 1" cubes*
1 large onion
1 large tomato or 12 whole grape tomatoes
1 green pepper
21/2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp Veg. Oil
2 Tbsp Ginger/Garlic paste or ginger and garlic powder
1/4 tsp - Red Chili powder
1/4 tsp.Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Amchur powder*
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
4 Tbsp plain hung yogurt *
1 Tbsp - Kasoori Methi
1 tsp - Salt


1. Cut Paneer into 1" cubes

2. Cut green pepper, onions and whole tomatoes into 1" squares. Alternatively you can substitute whole grape tomato or cherry tomato instead of cutting whole tomatoes. 

3. In a medium size mixing bowl, make a marinade with all the ingredients from lemon juice to salt. 

4. Soak the cut cubes of Paneer, pepper,onions and tomatoes in the marinade for about half an hour.

4. Soak bamboo skewers in water for a few minutes. Then, thread the cubes of paneer, onions, tomatoes and green pepper on to bamboo skewer.

5. Cook on a flat top grill for a few minutes on each side till it gets a nice golden brown color

6. Serve with chutney of your choice.

* Hung yogurt - Plain yogurt which is hung in a muslin cloth so as to remove some excess whey from the yogurt. Alternatively some sour cream can be incorporated to the plain yogurt to make it thick.  

 * "Paneer"- is home made cheese. It is readily available in Indian grocery stores. How to make Paneer at    home will be a future post.

* Amchur Powder  - available in Indian grocery stores - Usually made from dried unripe green mangoes.



Shreekandh brûlée

A Healthy Contemporary take on a Classic

Almost every other restaurant in town serves a Creme brûlée on its menu, which essentially consists of egg yoks, cream, and sugar. At Indique Heights  in Chevy Chase, MD, we have been serving a much healthier version called shreekandh brûlée, which is made of low fat yogurt, sugar, cardamom, saffron and nuts. I have been getting constant requests for this recipe. So as promised here is the recipe... Make this during the holiday season. Happy Holidays!   



     Photo above: Greg Powers Photography

Cardamom (2)


                                                                  Shreekandh  brûlée

                         Low fat yogurt - 2 lbs (32 ounces)

                         Sugar – 3 tablespoons

                        Cardamom powder – a pinch

                        Saffron – a pinch

                        Pistachio (chopped) 1 tablespoon

                        Almonds (chopped) 1 tablespoon

                        Raw brown sugar – 4 oz. (for torching)


1.      Strain yogurt in a colander over a muslin cloth. When some of the water has been drained out, tie it and hang inside the refrigerator overnight. Remember to have several layers of muslin cloth or else all the yogurt is going to pass through the muslin :-)


2.      Transfer the strained yogurt into a mixing bowl and add sugar,

Cardamom powder, a pinch of saffron, chopped pistachio and almonds.


3.      Mix well. Divide it into about four portions and spread evenly on to a crème brûlée dish / ramekin.

4.      Sprinkle with raw brown sugar evenly on top of each of these dishes and with a blow torch evenly caramelize the sugar and get a golden brown crust. Keep the flame to a medium high and rotate the dish evenly.



                 Photo : Andrew Harnik


                 P.S: I personally prefer to grind whole cardamom in a spice grinder.                                     

           (a coffee grinder kept exclusively for spices). I throw in whole pods of cardamom with the skin and grind to a fine powder.                                               

            If you do not have a torch - you can serve them in a Martini glass or any ice cream cup piping them on top of diced fruits - any seasonal fruits - mango, pears,honeydew, cantaloupes - can be used. You get the point....      

   Shreekandhc        Photo : K.N.Vinod

      Variations :

You can add mango puree or diced mango and make it into a mango shreekandh, omit the cardamom, add some orange rinds and a few drops of any orange liqueur and serve it as an orange shreekandh; go a step further and serve it in an orange shell. There are no hard and fast rules, so go ahead and use your imagination and have fun.

       I look forward to hearing from you about your innovations and ideas.

        Cheers! Happy Holidays.                   


Going Bananas : Flower thoran for the people

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Bananaflower with leaves


Banana Tree (though technically not a tree)  is one of the most versatile plants that I can think of. Every part of a banana tree is  utilized in one way or the other. It is one of the most eco friendly, biodegradable and sustainable plant.

Why? You may ask.  The banana tree consists of :

1. The shoot which grows from underground and becomes the trunk of the tree.

2.The Trunk of the Tree - Inner part of the tree trunk is used as a vegetable ( recipe in a future post)

3. Banana flower - Makes a very good vegetable, rich in fiber. Photograph and recipe below. It can also be made into a tasty snack ( look for a future post)

4. Bananas - I am sure each of you have your favorites.

5.Banana leaves - As a medium of wrapping and steaming or baking.

I remember back home in India, after serving food on the banana leaves, we used to just toss them in our backyard and cows would come and eat them! (talk about environmentally friendly!)

Here in the Washington DC metropolitan area banana flowers are available in Indian grocery stores, Korean Markets, and other Asian bazaars.

 Banana tree trunks being transported. - chennai India  - photo : K.N.Vinod


Banana leaves ready to be shipped. Below : Different types of Bananas


Carrying bananas





The banana flower is sliced and chopped .( My version) Photos : K.N.Vinod

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Photos : K.N.Vinod

This is another way to chop the banana flower. This needs experience, so please do not try it. That is my mom, Pushpavathy who grew up in Kerala, India and she has done this all her life. so please, please do nor try it...


Photos : K.N.Vinod

Ingredients :

Banana flower - 1 no. ( roughly chopped)

Onions ( chopped) - 2 tablespoons

Chopped garlic - 1 tsp

Chopped ginger - 1 tsp

Whole Red chili - 3 -4

Grated coconut - 2 tablespoon *

salt - to taste

red chili pdr - 1 tsp

turmeric - 1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Curry leaves - a sprig

Vegetable oil - 2 table spoons


1. Wash and rinse the banana flower in cold running water. Detach the first one or two layers of the banana flower (banana boat) and set aside for presenting the prepared dish in it.

2. Chop the banana flower as shown in the picture. 

3. Heat oil, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds begin to crackle, add whole red chilly, chopped garlic and ginger. When the garlic and ginger starts getting a golden color, add chopped onions and saute till the onions are translucent and slightly golden in color.

4. Add red chilly powder, turmeric, stir for a minute and add grated coconut and saute for another minute. Now add the chopped banana flower, salt and stir on a slow fire till the banana flower turns dark in color and is cooked ( 7-10 minutes)

5. Dish on to the banana flower boat and serve hot. 

* Grated coconut : Available in most Indian grocery stores ( frozen) , if you do not want to use fresh.

VARIATION : You can cook some green peas along wit it.


Have fun going bananas ! trunk, fruit or the flower ? Your Choice ! Bon Appetit !



I am delighted that my Lemon Chili pickle recipe was featured in "Cooking for one - A Craving for condiments" The article was written by Joe Yonan of the Washington Post. I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I have enjoyed taking them. 

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Chili-Lemon Pickle

The Washington Post, February 3, 2010

Cooking for One

  • Cuisine: Asian
  • Course: Condiment
  • Features: Make-Ahead Recipes


The spicier counterpart to Moroccan preserved lemons, this pickle can be made in just a day and used immediately, unlike some traditional recipes that call for a 30-day-or-longer curing period.

Nonetheless, it will deepen in flavor as it ages. Use it on rice, as a table accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, or even mixed with cream cheese on a bagel or in a sandwich.

The recipe calls for asafetida, an oniony spice that is available at Indian markets, where the curry leaves and dried sanaam chili peppers also can be found.

MAKE AHEAD: The lemons need to marinate for 1 or 2 days. The pickle can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups


  • 4 medium (about 1 pound) lemons
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 4 to 5 dried chili peppers, preferably an Indian variety such as sanaam (see headnote)
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida (see headnote)
  • 6 to 7 curry leaves (see headnote)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


Wash and dry the lemons. Cut each one in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 16 equal pieces. Place in a medium bowl and add the salt and vinegar. Cover; marinate at room temperature for 1 or 2 days, stirring occasionally.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds; once they start to crackle, add the dried chili peppers, asafetida, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds, stirring to combine, then add the marinated lemon pieces and their marinating liquid along with the chili powder, garlic powder, turmeric and ginger. Mix well and bring to a boil; cook for a few minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the lemon pieces start to become tender.

Cool completely in the saucepan, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

Recipe Source:

Adapted from K.N. Vinod, chef-restaurateur of Indique, Indique Heights and Bombay Bistro.

Tested by Joe Yonan for The Washington Post.
E-mail the Food Section with recipe questions.

Made This Recipe? Write a Review

(Michael Temchine for The Washington Post)

Serving size: Per tablespoon serving
Calories: 52
% Daily Values*
Total Fat: 6g9
Saturated Fat: 1g5
Cholesterol: n/a0
Sodium: 162mg7
Total Carbohydrates: 2g1
Dietary Fiber: 1g4
Sugar: n/a
Protein: n/a
*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Total Fat:Less than65g
Saturated Fat:Less than20g
Cholesterol:Less than300mg
Sodium:Less than2,400mg
Total Carbohydrates:300g
Dietary Fiber:25g

Read more:Cooking for One: A craving for condiments


Kerala Shrimp Curry

Kerala "God's Own Country"


Kerala located on the south west of India with the Arabian Sea in the west, and the eastern Ghats in the east and networked by 44 rivers, Kerala enjoys unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world.  A long shoreline with serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations and exotic wildlife. . Sprawling plantations and paddy fields. Ayurvedic health holidays.  Magical festivals and above all exotic cuisine...  

Source : Kerala Tourism 

Photos : K.N.Vinod


Having my roots from Kerala we grew up eating a lot of seafood. Here is a recipe for a simple Kerala Shrimp Curry. Every household in Kerala lays claim to its own recipe for shrimp curry. At my house we make shrimp curry with  "Tamarind" ,  "Kodampuli," with raw green mangoes,with tomatoes and so on....Since Mangoes are in season these days, thought of making a shrimp curry with raw green mangoes. My elder sister Saroja is visiting me from India and told her to help me with this - so that I could handle the camera ...

 It is typical in Kerala to cook shrimp or fish curry in earthenware pots. I have one with me which my mom had gotten with her during one of her trips.  If you don't have one - and I guess most of you won't - do not worry too much about it. Use any cooking utensil of your choicee.

  • Shrimp (small - 1 1/2 lbs
  • Red Chilly powder - 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon 
  • Coriander powder - 2 table spoon
  • Ginger and garlic paste -1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped ginger - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Whole green chilly - ( split into two ) - 2-3
  • Curry leaves - a small sprig
  • Raw green Mango ( med size) - 1 no diced.
  • Coconut Milk - 1 cup
  • Water - 1 1/2 cups
  • Salt - to taste
  • Shallot - 4 nos. finely sliced
  • Oil * - to fry the sliced shallots

 * In Kerala - coconut oil is used to fry the shallots. You can use any oil - vegetable oil, olive oil, or any oil of your choice.

  1. In the earthenware container, marinate shrimps with red chilly powder, coriander powder, turmeric, ginger- garlic paste, chopped ginger, curry leaves, slit green chilly and a few drops of coconut or vegetable oil. Set aside for 15 - 20 minutes.
  2. Add raw diced mango, add water and cook for a few minutes till the mango pieces and the shrimp are almost done.
  3. Add coconut milk and stir well and simmer for a few minutes.
  4. In a separate frying pan or a small karahi/wok - heat oil and fry the shallots to a golden brown color along with a few curry leaves and pour it over the shrimp curry - cover with a lid. Serve hot with plain rice.  

Caution  : Do not overcook the shrimps. As an alternate way - you can add the shrimps once the green mangoes are half done.


Photo below : Kodampuli / Kudampuli - 

Botanical name - GARCINIA GUMMI- GUTTA 


Kodampuli when it ripens turns yellow. The seed is removed and  are salted and dried in the sun where they turn black in color. They can be stored for a very long time. 

The dried black Kodampuli is usually soaked in warm water and used in order to wash away all the impurities during the drying process and also to make it soft before adding it to curries. If you are not able to get "Kodampuli" you can substitute it with Kokum available in Indian grocery stores. 

See below dried " Kodampuli"