Sunday, October 11, 2009

Banana Delight - Creamy Rice pudding sweetened with Bananas

I am not sure what is the first image this title will conjure up for anyone who reads it. A quick google search revealed that people have called a wide variety of things 'Banana Delight'. I got this title from the mater whose first reaction after tasting this was, its delightful! Why not call it 'B.. Delight'? So delighted at this reaction, I decided to go ahead with this title! :D

I had a bunch of very ripe bananas sitting on the counter. I am not a big banana fan, and I lose interest once they start giving out a strong smell, and the skin turns black. I wanted to make use of this in some disguised form, and also needed to make some kind of dessert for my company. After looking at some banana recipes on a bunch of websites, a sort of hodge podge formed in my brain and I finally came up with something simple and closer to home. In India, the rice kheer or rice payasam or pudding is more of a south Indian delicacy. In Maharashtra, and especially in our family, this dish is made only on certain sad occasions, like when someone passes away, or ceremonies related to people who have passed on. Queer though this may seem to some, it is true. Hence, I have never really seen this kind of kheer made much in my family. The few attempts I did make, the rice ended up being far more than the milk, or it mostly looked like a 'dudh bhat' or milk and rice.

Having learnt a few lessons, I decided to try a new proportion, and add a few other ingredients to enhance the creaminess. I also decided to use the banana here for sweetness and also for its own unique taste and flavour. The result turned out to be extremely creamy, sweet and flavourful. There are no artificial sweeteners or sugar in this, making this all natural and sugar free. Of course it has the sugar from the bananas, so please keep that in mind if you need to seriously watch your sugar levels. The banana literally dissolves but you get this intense flavour of the banana in each bite, making this so much more than a simple rice pudding. In fact, you can see neither the rice nor the banana, you just spoon a thick creamy mixture bursting with flavour. Without further ado, the recipe for my Banana Delight follows -


1.5 litre milk

2 Tbsp Rice grains

10-12 almonds

2-3 ripe bananas

3-4 strands saffron

nutmeg to taste

2-3 elaichi or cardammom

1 tsp butter or ghee

pistachios or nuts to garnish



1) Take a thick bottomed pan or wok and start heating the milk. I used full fat milk, but 2% can also be used. I will not recommend anything lower, since this is predominantly a recipe made from milk/cream and should be indulged in sparingly anyway

2) Melt the butter in a small pan and roast the rice grains till they are pinkish in colour. This will release their aroma. You can use basmati rice if you have it, or any other regular rice

3) Roughly chop or dice the bananas and fry them in the remaining butter. The bananas will caramelize. Check that they do not burn and keep stirring. Depending on the
ripeness, some or all the bananas will dissolve or disintegrate. This is OK since we are going to mash and mix it in the milk later anyway. This step will give a subtle caramel like flavour to the whole dish

4) Soak the almonds for some time and remove the skins. Roast them lightly.

5) Grind the rice grains and the almonds in a grinder to make an almost fine powder, between coarse and fine.

6) By this time, the milk should be boiling. Bring it to a simmer and add the rice and almond mixture. Keep stirring. After 10-15 minutes, it will thicken considerably as the rice cooks.

7) Soak some saffron strands in 2-3 tbsp of milk and add them to the rice and milk mixture. You can omit the saffron if you do not like it or do not have it on hand.

8) Mash any remaining bananas, so that most of it becomes puree like. Add this whole mixture to the milk. Keep stirring to avoid burning.

9) Add some grated nutmeg and 1 tsp of freshly ground or ready made elaichi powder or cardammom powder.

10) Also add some chopped pistachios, cashews etc. for crunch.

11) The dish is done once all the ingredients have mixed well and formed a thick pudding like consistency. This will thicken even more after it cools, so please factor that in.

12) Refrigerate and serve chilled garnished with a few chopped nuts

This is a very simple and economical dessert that can be made from stuff in your pantry. The whole process will take 45-60 mins, but you can also be cooking something else while you stir the milk. I hope you try this simple sugcar free treat and let me know how you liked it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hara Bhara Kabab Masala ( Spinach cheese balls in a creamy tomato sauce) - Favourite appetizer goes mainstream

This recipe is an adaptation or enhancement of something that I learned years ago - the Hara Bhara Kabab, when it was not common to see this kind of a 'kabab' on restaurant menu cards. They served a version of it at our club. Very different from now, when almost every small joint that opens up in our Pune neighbourhood has things like Hariyali kabab, Hara Kabab etc. So one fine summer many moons ago, when we kids were being especially troublesome, some family elder heard about a cooking class and dispatched self and cousin there, hoping to keep us busy for at least a few hours. The 'class' turned out to be much better than expected, and I am pretty sure it lent a hand in developing some of my culinary instincts. Some things I learned there are even now coming into vogue, and I really admire the lady who taught us and wonder how she was sort of advanced for the time. There used to be 2-3 things made everyday and we could take some home, so by the time we got home, there used to be a bunch of rowdy kids - cousins and siblings - waiting on the doorstep, ready to sample the exotic fare we had 'cooked' that day.

We were taught this Hara Bhara ( Green) Kabab recipe in the 'Appetizers' section and it has been the star of several cocktail parties at our home. The basic ingredient is spinach, and to balance it there is potato and paneer and a bare min of spices. Since I did not have much else, and needed something for dinner, I decided to make a sort of kofta curry out of this and serve it with rice to make a complete meal. The initial part - the Kabas - can also be eaten by themselves with some dipping sauce - yogurt and mint will go well with this. I have made an additional Makhni type gravy or a tomato cream sauce to accompany these balls/croquettes/koftas.
I used the Appe Patra or Ableskiever pan to 'fry' the kababs, instead of shallow or deep frying them. This is one gadget which is certainly NOT overrated. My only peeve is that it did not reduce the smoke generated, as compared to using a frying pan.
The recipe is as follows -

For the Kabab -
1 cup frozen/blanched spinach tightly packed
1 cup boiled and mashed potato
1 cup Paneer shredded ( Can use tofu or farmers cheese or Queso Blanco)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

For the Sauce -
1 cup crushed tomato
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup half and half or cream ( low fat or fat free)
1 tbsp crushed Kasoori methi
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

1) Mix and knead all the ingredients of the Kabab given above. Make sure that all the water is drained off from the spinach. This should make a thick mixture.
2) Adjust pepper such that the mixture tastes strongly of pepper. Pepper is the dominant flavour here, like in a vegetable cutlet
3) Make small balls with it, roughly the size of a ping pong ball
4) Heat the Appe pan on the stove top and add one drop oil to each mould. Place one ball or kabab in each mould and keep turning with the skewer until all sides are uniformly crisp and brown. Drain these on a paper towel.
5) Now for the sauce - Puree the crushed tomatoes and cashews in a blender until smooth. Alternately you can add cashew paste to the crushed tomatoes.
6) Heat the tomato cashew mixture till it bubbles. Add all the spices like garam masala, salt and honey.
7) Add the half and half. I use low fat or fat free versions. This is optional and we are adding a little just to lighten the colour and get a 'creamy' look. The creamy taste is obtained from the cashews and they will lend a richness to the sauce. So although there is some fat content added through the nuts, it is of the healthy kind and not dairy fat.
8) Crush some kasuri methi and add it to the sauce. Simmer for five minutes and take off the stove.
9) While serving, place 2-3 kababs in an individual serving bowl and ladle some sauce on top. DO NOT add the kababs to the sauce in advance, as they will very likely dissolve or soften and crumble.
10) Serve with Hot Parathas/naan or steamed rice

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schezwan Scrambled Tofu - a few nothces above your everyday scramble

There were some things lying in my fridge for a long time that needed to be used up pronto. There was a package of tofu, some aging red peppers and mushrooms, wiliting celery, you get the picture. I also had an un-opened bottle of Ching's secret schezwan sauce lying around that I hadn't sampled yet. The need of the hour was a 15 minute lunch leveraging what was in the fridge, and the taste buds demanded something tangy and spicy, maaybe Indo-Chinese.

All the typical things that come to mind like schezwan tofu/paneer, manchurian, paneer/tofu chilli etc. required time, effort and Oil. I was missing the simplicity of the 'bhurji days' when all you had to do was fry some onions and tomatoes and crack a few eggs in it.

I decided to combine all these myraid elements into making a simple tofu scramble using the ready made schezwan paste/sauce. The results cleared my sinuses and burnt my tongue, mostly due to my over zealous use of the paste/sauce and my greed !! This recipe uses a few vegetables, but you can pretty much use anything you have and want. I would probably prefer to have a home made sauce so that I can control the heat, but then it would not fall under the almost instant category. The recipe follows -

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red/greeen pepper
2 TBSP Shezwan sauce ( more as needed)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of firm or extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp Oil

1) Chop or slice all vegetables in a similar form and size
2) Drain and wash tofu and set aside
3) In a wok or heavy pan, heat the oil and fry the onion till it softens. Add the celery and peppers and then add mushrooms.
4) Once the vegetables soften a little, add the sauce and fry for 2-3 minutes
5) Crumble the tofu into the wok and keep stirring/sauteeing until any water from the tofu evaporates and the tofu is well mashed into the sauce
6) Adjust seasonings according to taste
Serving Suggestions: Serve hot with roti or paratha, USe as a spread for subs/hoagies and eat with lots of crunchy fresh veggies, steamed rice, or fry rice into this mixture for a bhurji fried rice

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Orange Couscous Salad - for summer evenings

With the summer at its peak, its the same story almost everywhere. We want to stay away from hot and heavy stuff and just enjoy something light and refreshing. What could be more refreshing than the tart bite of something citrus? I like to use lemons, limes and oranges a lot in almost all my food, especially in a salad. Dressings made of lemon or orange are more appealing to me than heavy oil or mayo based ones. I also had a big pack of couscous from the local mediterranean shop ( which you must surely visit once if you live in the area. Although its more popular amongst the Asian population for the
halal meat that it sells, it has a small but eclectic grocery section, and also a huge section of carryout kind of food. The hummus and baba ghanjouj are great and fresh tasting, they have a variety of fatayars(pies), sweets like baklava, grape leaves et al. They carry a lot of spices and spice mixes at really economical prices. Also the couscous, bulgur, coffees, tahini etc.etc. One tasty find I have made here is a kind of pepper spread that will be on another post, since it deserves its own. We also stumbled on their stock of pita bread which is something you will not find in a super market. You have pitas in several sizes, ranging from your small one to
12 inch or 14 inch ones, white, wheat, fresh and economical.

OK, coming back to the point ( yes, there is one) after this long detour, I generally make something warm out of couscous, more like upama or pulao and also eat it hot. But keeping the minimum cooking criteria in mind, I decided to try and make a salad. With the mediterranean theme fresh in my mind, the ingredients kind of suggested themselves - cucumbers, olives, red peppers, onion, chick peas for some substance, some orange element and a simple dressing with orange juice and a touch of cumin. The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -
1 cup dry couscous any variety

1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed, or 1 cup chickpeas boiled at home

1 cup finely chopped red onion

1 cup chopped cucumber

1/2 cup chopped spanish olives

1/2 cup chopped red pepper ( or any colour pepper)

1 cup mandarin oranges

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2-3 tbspn fresh lemon juice

1 tsp orange zest

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

salt and sugar to taste

2 tbspn pinoli or almonds ( optional)

1 tbspn olive oil (optional)

Method -
1) Boil the couscous according to package directions and set aside. This can be done in advance. Make sure the couscous is not very soggy now since the dressing will moisten it again later

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine all the vegetables - onions, cucumber, pepper, olives, mandarin oranges. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas to make sure all the gooey liquid is gone. Add the chickpeas to the bowl.

3) Add the couscous to the bowl. Make sure its cool by now since we want the veggies to remain crispy and fresh. Adding hot or warm couscous will slightly cook the vegetables which we do not want here. Lightly mix everything once.

4) Now for the dressing. In a seperate bowl or cup, mix the fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh lemon juice. Make an effort to use fresh juices only. This will make a big difference in the taste. Add the paprika, cumin, orange zest, salt to taste, and little dash of sugar or honey to balance the sourness.

5) Add the olive oil. Use Extra virgin oil for a better flavour. Now you can use as much oil as you want here. You can keep streaming oil food tv style( no offense to any great chefs) until you get a thick emulsion, or you can just use maybe a tbspn as I do to get the flavour from the oil, but not enough to affect any other metrics. Beat together all the ingredients till they are combined together and add this to the bowl.

6) Add the dressing in two or three batches, depending on how dry or soft you like your couscous. I kept it slightly on the soggy side earlier, but it was all absorbed by the next day. I forgot to mention above -- this salad gets better over time. The flavours concentrate more and more, so remember that while adding your spices.

7) Add some of the chopped cilantro, keeping some for garnish. Now you can thoroughly mix everything together, ensuring that the dressing goes through the salad.

8) You can add a few almonds or pine nuts. I did not add them this time.

9) Refrigerate for a few hours, if you are not already salivating.

We ate this salad by itself as a meal, and ate leftovers as a filling for pitas with some lettuce and tomatoes. This was a very satisfying meal, and the taste intensified the next day. The crunch and freshness of the cucumber, the saltiness of the olives, the slight spice of the onion, and the juicy orange wedges intermingling, this orange based summer couscous salad is a perfect treat that can be made in a short time. The fresh citrus dressing gives this a clean flavour and
keeps things light.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweet and Sour KaDhi ( Savoury Buttermilk stew)

KaDhi is a traditional Indian dish made across various parts of India. Each region has its own way of making it - Gujarathi, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Maharashtrian - we have all had and savoured various versions. KaDHi is supposed to be the quintessential 'brahmin' dish in Maharashtra. It is supposed that those learned men of yore ate KaDhi with rice everyday, and many a brahmin kid (self included) has been at the butt of 'KaDhi' jokes. The Kadhi in Maharashtra is supposed to be of a thin and watery consistency as opposed to that in other parts such as Madhya Pradesh etc.

In our family, Kadhi is traditionally made from sour buttermilk, the one that is left over after churning butter. I remember many a lazy afternoon when a pot of kadhi would be bubbling away on a stove on rainy afternoons, inviting one and all with its typical aroma. With the times changing, I no longer heat a pot of milk everyday, so I don't skim off the cream to save it in a jar, so there is no homemade butter across the Atlantic, hence no fresh buttermilk. Not that its impossible, but with our hectic schedules, it is just something that we have stopped doing. So coming to the point, since we always have Dahi or curd available in a jar from the supermarket, this is the best go to dish you can have when you are in a hurry, too tired to cook and long for something that reminds you of home.

Every region has a peculiar recipe. The Gujarathi kadhi is usually thick and sweet. The rajasthani kadhi has a lot of unusual spices such as cloves and pepper and ber ( a kind of gooseberry). The punjabi kadhi is very spicy with almost equal amounts of dahi and besan. The version I have today is my own concoction. It takes a little bit from the different
things I like in various different recipes. The result is spicy, tangy, sweet and extremely slurrrrpy. I generally try to use the desi dahi brand you get in Indian stores since that has a sour taste. If not available, any fat free yogurt is a good option. I have found that for any super market brand, be it Dannon or Stonyfield or Kroger etc., the fat free yogurt is always more sour compared to the full fat or low fat version. I have no idea of the mechanics behind this.

The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -

Sour Curd (plain yogurt) - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups
Besan or chick pea flour - 2 Tbsp
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 green chilli - 3 or 4 pieces
3-4 cloves
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oil or ghee
4-5 fresh curry leaves
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro or dhania
Asfoetida/turmeric - pinch for tempering
salt and sugar to taste

Method -

In a sauce pan, mix together the curd/yogurt, water and chick pea flour and whisk to form a smooth mixture. Make sure that there are no lumps. Add the grated ginger and the green chilli. Bring this mixture to a boil and then simmer for 12-15 minutes till it thickens. There should be no floury taste remaining. Add salt and sugar to taste to get the desired sweetness and desired balance of sweet and sour. This will vary according to individual tastes. In a small kadai or vessel, heat the oil or ghee ( traditional), and add cumin seeds, cloves, curry leaves, a pinch of turmeric and hing or Asfoetida. Add this to the mixture in the pan. Mix together and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes for the flavours to blend or until ready to eat.

This can be served hot with steamed rice, or just slurped away on its own. A healthy, nutritious and low cal delicacy, ready in the time your rice cooks. I hope you enjoy this simple Indian dish that is a household favourite.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nimona - a fresh twist on Alu matar

Independence Day is here and there is a lot of green and orange around with people portraying their patriotic spirit. I decided to do my bit and try something green. I love the colour green, especially in food - yes I really like all kinds of greens like palak, methi, sarson, etc. and the other quintessential green ingrdient - Peas.

In days bygone, peas usually came out of a pod, mostly in the winter, and I had a swell time shelling the peas and eating half of them raw. There are a lot of childhood pea recipes that I will reserve for another time, but I came across this one only after transponding to the 'green peas come from a bag in the freezer' days.

Although I am calling it Alu Matar with a twist, this dish is way more exotic. You have to taste it to believe it. It is very simple in execution, and has very few ingredients. Its also great on a budget and for stretching a dime, as you can extend this dish even using very little raw material. I was first treated to this by a dear friend during the good old school days, when the purse was tight and there were always countless mouths to feed - anyone who has ever lived on or near a college campus can attest to the unpredictable number of people who always turned up for the pleasure of your company ;).

This dish is called Nimona, and is from North India - mostly Uttar Pradesh. The only time I have heard the word Nimona is when I heard my friend mention this, and make this. For us lesser mortals, it was always A's special matar dish!!
The star ingredient here is green peas and a lot of dhania or cilantro. Since Cilantro is another green I cannot have enough of, I use it abundantly. You can use as little or as much according to your taste, but I personally think that it is the combination of green peas, cilantro and Saunf ( yup, one more green) that gives this its unique flavour. Potato is added to the gravy and you can add as much as you want. This is where the crowd friendly aspect comes in. You can thin out the gravy as much as you want, and increase the bulk by adding more potatoes to feed more hungry mouths.

Note: One thing you have to be careful of is to curb all instincts to add turmeric or haldi, and also red chilli powder. This will spoil its colour.
So without further ado, and any more use of the 'g' word, here is the recipe -

3 cups frozen peas (1 small frozen bag)
1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro
1 inch piece of ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
1/2 jalapeno or any green pepper
1 small onion
1-2 tspsns black pepper
1 tspn dhania jeera powder
2 tspns saunf( fennel seeds)
2 medium potatoes
oil, salt and sugar to taste
1 tbsp ghee optional

Grind together peas, cilantro, ginger garlic, onion, chilli and 1 tsp saunf or fennel seeds to get a thick paste. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok or non stick pan and add the fennel seeds till they pop/splutter. Add the green puree to the oil and begin stirring immediately to avoid sticking. Keep stirring till the paste appears to be well cooked. Keep adding a little water to avoid sticking/burning. The water will be easily absorbed. Meanwhile peel and dice potatoes in medium pieces. Add water to the paste, enough to get the desired sauce thickness. Add more water than desired since the gravy will thicken and also the potatoes will add some thickness when cooked. Add diced potatoes. Add pepper, cumin and coriander powder ( or any masala of your choice - just a dash - not to overwhelm the natural taste of the pea/cilantro
combination), salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and let this simmer till the potatoes are cooked. The gravy will thicken a bit by the time the potatoes cook.

You can add more or less potatoes according the number of people - or as people show up :) Add a little ghee at the end. This is totally optional, and will just give a richness to the dish.
Serve hot with rotis or steamed rice. The gravy can be thinner if serving with rice.
Leftovers are great as a sandwich spread, for wraps, or even as a pesto tossed with pasta.
And as I am sure some enterprising minds out there must be thinking, you could add Paneer or Tofu instead of the potato for a new kind of twist !

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sarson Ka Saag ( mustard greens)

If you are a Hindi movie fan like I am, or even watch the occasional odd one, especially a Yash Chopra film, you have surely heard of 'makki ki Roti and sarson ka saag'. Its a cult classic, just like the gajar Halwa, Mooli ke parathe et al. I especially remember Amrish Puri exclaiming nostalgically and dancing around in DDLJ ( famous Hindi Movie),just by the thought of getting to eat his favourite sarson ka saag.

Although I cannot claim to have the earth's bounty around me as you would in rural Punjab, nor the sprawling yellow mustard blooms that one can run amock in, I did lay my eyes on some fresh bunches of mustard leaves or Sarson that beckoned to me in the local grocery store. Even though we have seen the occasional swallow or two, and the temperatures have tempted us showing the 70s now and then, they do still seem to fall back into the 50s and 60s. Its as if winter just does not want to go away this year. So presented with a chilly evening, some welcome spare time and lots of fresh mustard and spinach greens, I decided to try my hand at this classic Punjabi dish. My only introduction to this was a couple of times I had it at a friend's place, but I learnt from the experts, I must say!

Mustard greens are slightly bitter in taste and they need to be balanced with something, in this case an equal quantity of spinach. Indeed, even when i prepare a simple stir fry with any frozen mustard greens, i always combine it with an equal amount of spinach.After carefully cleaning the spinach mustard leaves, cut off any thick stems and pressure cook the leaves for 1-2 whistles. Meanwhile, you can prepare the curry paste or the sauce. Sautee two medium onions and all the spices in 1 tsp oil till its light brown. Drain all the water from the cooked greens and blend all the greens and the onions and spices to a smooth paste. All you need now is to simmer this a little and viola, your saag ( greens) is ready !

The detailed recipe is as follows -

1 bunch of spinach and mustard greens

2 medium onions roughly chopped

2 cloves

2 cardammoms

2 inch cinnamon stick

2 tsp peppercorns

1 small bayleaf

1 tbsp ghee or butter optional

2 tbsp thick cream or half/half

Pressure cook the greens as given above and drain all the water. Sautee the onions and spices on low heat till they are roasted and aromatic. Blend all the greens and onions/spices in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Transfer to a pot and simmer on low. Add water as needed. This dish is generally of a stew consistency so that it can be easily soaked into the corn/ makai roti that it is eaten with. After simmering the greens for 10-15 minutes, they should change colour and turn slightly dark. Add salt to taste and some cream or half and half. This will lend the dish some richness and also balance any remaining bitterness. You can also add butter/ghee if you want to splurge.Serve piping hot, preferably with Makai Roti ( Corn meal roti)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

Hello Readers and wish you a very Happy New Year! This must be the only blog that slumped down before it ever took off.. And I have yours truly to blame for that. I was travelling extensively the past two months and blogging took a backseat. But I am back with good intentions and greater resolutions to not go on a hiatus anytime soon.

Lettuce wraps have always seemed magical to me. I first came across them at PF Changs where they seemed something exotic at first glance. They are a dieters' delight, promising to satisfy almost any criteria like low carb, meat only, vegetarian, salad centric etc etc. The restaurant rarely served a veggie version, although lately both Changs and the local Peking deigned to provide us a meat free one. So maybe its based on their mood, or they are thinking 'healthy', or they just pull straws to decide what to do. Either ways, I decided the time had finally come to take the mystery out of it and finally try this seemingly simple but scrumptious dish at home.

When you think Chinese ( at least Indo chinese), you automatically think of certain vegetables like cabbage, carrots, french beans, capsicum etc. But this was a day when I was running short on fresh veggies, and there was also a big half-used bag of Asian stir fry in the freezer that I had to use soon. That gave rise to an idea and also the base of my vegetarian filling. The sauce, we decided should be inspired by Chang's. If you have ever been to this place, they have a trademark method where the server comes and creates the signature sauce for you. Basically, they just have mustard, vinegar and chilli oil on the table and explain how mixing these in varying proportions will either burn your tongue or clear your sinuses ;). The filling in the restaurant is very dry and smoky and you have to add the sauce on top. I wanted to shorten the journey from plate to mouth and reduce the steps in between, so I decided to make a jumbo superset of a filling.
I slightly thawed the stir fry veggies and put them in the food processor. A few pulses and it yielded 3-4 cups of very finely chopped veggies. I used TVP or Nutrela to add some protein component. I actually used Nutrela granules but you can also use any TVP you get in the bulk bins, I suppose. Crumbled tofu would also be a good option here. I just used what I had on hand.

So we start with a tbsp of optional oil - optional as you will not taste this at all, and not using it will make no difference. Add about 2 tbsp of chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to this oil. Once that changes colour a bit, add the chopped veggie mixture and the soy granules ( soaked in hot water for a few minutes till they soften) and fry for a few minutes. Keep frying till the veggies are half cooked. Now this is a point where you can decide how far you want to go according to your personal taste. Since I was using frozen veggies, they were soft anyway, but if you are using fresh crunchy ones, you can just saute them for a few minutes on high heat and keep them crunchy. I also added a few chopped scallions to the veggies.

The sauce - I think the sauce is important in this dish and makes this dish very versatile. You can vary the taste every time by changing the sauce. I mixed some dijon mustard, some sriracha hot sauce, some ketchup and some soy sauce, and as weird as it may sound, this gave a really lip smacking taste to the whole thing. The ketchup added a hint of tomato and some sweetness. I also added some fresh lime juice. The crunch came from toasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds and chooped scallions that I liberally garnsihed the dish with.

Now lets talk about the wrap aspect of this dish. I think iceberg lettuce is the best for this, but you may try other kinds if you want. They key is to freeze the lettuce leaves a bit so that they are cold and crispy. Also, the veggie mixture should be really hot and steaming. I am sure we all know how to proceed next, but in case of doubts, let me explain. You peel away one or two layers from the iceberg and make a sort of shallow dish of it on your palm. Then you spoon the steaming mixture in it and add any hot sauce etc. you want. Then close the two ends like a soft taco or wrap and Dig In !!

You can now proceed to gorge on this spicy treat w/o any guilt whatsoever ! I hope you try this simple dish and enjoy it at home. It's a crowd pleaser too, and needs about the same effort whether you make it for 4 people or 8. The recipe is as follows. Photos are coming soon, as soon as I get rid of some upload error I am getting.


  • 4 cups finely chopped vegetables

  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions or green onions ( both white and green part)

  • 2 tblsp chopped garlic fresh

  • Iceberg lettuce - 1 head or as needed

  • 1 cup soaked TVP or Nutrela granules

  • Crushed red pepper


  • Dijon or chinese mustard - 1 tbsp or to taste

  • Soy sauce - 1 tbsp

  • Hot sauce - 1 tsp acc to taste

  • Vinegar - 1 tsp


  • Toasted peanuts - 2-3 tbsp

  • Toasted sesame seeds - 2-3 tbsp

  • Scallions

  • Chopped cilantro

  • Lime or lemon wedges


  1. Pulse Veggies in the food processor. You may also chop them finely by hand if desired.

  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the wok and add chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute for half a minute and add all the vegetables. Saute till vegetables soften slightly.

  3. Add the TVP/soya granules. Saute some more and add all the sauce ingredients. Mix it well till it is heated through.

  4. Garnish with peanuts, sesame, scallions etc.

Serve piping hot with chilled lettuce leaves.