Steamed Savory Oats Patties with Yogurt Sauce (Oats Nucchina Unde)

Would you believe me if I told you that you guys are always on my mind? Really!! Summer was extremely busy and I just haven’t gotten back on track with a more diciplined routine yet. I must say though that I’ve lined up a ton of interesting recipes to share with you.  I’m always thinking of HolyKhao readers and all the posts I should have made but haven’t. I know the saying ‘Actions speak louder than words’, but in my case, I implore you to put that aside and apply “It’s the thought that counts‘ :)).

Lakshmi Puja in early September & last week’s Ganesha Chaturthi heralded the start of festival season for Hindus and more celebrations like Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas in the USA. Unfortunately, for me, this means the start of carb overload. After finally accepting that my husband and I can’t have diets like we did when we were younger, but being reluctant to give up taste, I’m working on tweaking traditional recipes to make them a little healthier. Of course, every time it’s a success, I’ll be sharing it here :))

Nuchina Unde

Nucchina Unde is a traditional Karnataka food that is made by steaming seasoned dal, and can be eaten plain, with chutney or a yogurt curry. My aunt had mentioned that her friend had made this version with oats, but I was skeptical. Since she swore that it was delicious, I figured I’d give it a try. Let me just say that I was not disappointed! The patties tasted almost like the authentic dal ones, and were easier to make as it requires no soaking. I’ve made it thrice for recipe testing, and it has been a great breakfast and tea time snack, and my 11-year old has wolfed down quite a few.  I grew up eating these plain with a generous dollop of homemade ghee, and it was only after I got married that I learnt that typically, nucchina unde is served with a yogurt & vegetable curry called Majjige Huli or Paladya. My version here is quick, no-cook, flavor-filled and small enough for this batch.

Nuchina Unde

Oats Nucchina Unde

Steamed Savory Oats Patties with Yogurt Sauce

(Makes 12-14)

  • 1 cup rolled oats (toast lightly & cool)
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour / maida
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2 – 1 cup finely chopped dill
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 4-5 red or green chillies (I like the taste of red, but it does make your mix darker in color)
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 tsp salt ( or to taste)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Coarsely pulse the oats in a blender / food processor jar. It should not be fine, and it’s okay to have some whole oat flakes.
  2. Add the maida & rice flour and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Blend the curry leaves, cilantro, chillies, ginger & coconut in a small blender jar, adding  just 2-3 Tbsp of water. (save jar for blending sauce ingredients.)
  4. Add the masala, dill, salt & lime juice to the oats and gently mix well.
  5. Set aside for 15 minutes to soak up the moisture and flavors.
  6. Take rounded tablespoons full of oats mixture and gently roll into 2-inch logs (Do not press too hard or the patties will be very dense).
  7. Place on a greased steamer plate / idli stand and steam for 13-15 minutes.
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature. (I have reheated them in the microwave with no loss of taste or texture.)

Nuchina Unde

Yogurt Sauce

(Makes about 1 cup)

  • 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 5-6 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp roasted channa dal (daliya) – this keeps the sauce from separating
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (sasive) – optional but it give the sauce a wonderful flavor
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yogurt (or around 1/2 – 2/3 cup buttermilk)
  1. Make a fine paste of the coconut, ginger, cilantro, chillies, channa, mustard seeds and a few teaspoons of yogurt in a small blender jar.
  2. Add the rest of the yogurt and give it a quick blend to incorporate everything.
  3. Remove to a serving bowl and add salt.

For Seasoning

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (this is necessary for seasoning)
  • pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  1. Heat a small pan on medium flame and add oil.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and cover till it stops sputtering.
  3. Add the hing & curry leaves and cover partially, shaking the pan to crisp the curry leaves.
  4. Remove from heat and pour over the sauce.

Naan Pizza

Naan Pizza recipes have been around for a while & I’m joining the bandwagon. If only I had known how easy this meal would be. I had dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, and it was really delicious!

Naan Pizza

I’m all for convenience and used store bought naan but you make it from scratch if you like. (You can try this Naan recipe here with over 1500 reviews!!) As for toppings, our pizzas show ground turkey but you can use any protein of your choice – tandoori / rotisserie chicken, shrimp, paneer, tofu or even just veggies like mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, etc. The recipe below is more of a guide and can be customized as you like.

My kids preferred a plain base, but you can start by spreading a spoon of pizza sauce, green chutney, etc before topping with meat, veggies and cheese.

Serve a fresh salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing to make an easy and tasty summer meal. Click here for recipe.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Naan Pizza

For meat / paneer topping:

  • 1 lb ground meat OR drained & crumbled paneer or tofu
  • 3 tbsp onion powder (or 1 medium onion, chopped)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
  • 1 tsp ginger powder (or 1 tsp ginger paste)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil

1) Heat oil in a wide pan on medium flame.

2) Add all the spice powders and quickly stir for a few seconds, allowing it to get frothy or ‘bloom’ (If using fresh onion, ginger & garlic – add them to the oil first and saute till just starting to brown. Then add the spice powders.)

3) Add the ground protein and mix well with the spices. Continue cooking on medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break up lumps and ensure even cooking.

4) Cook about 10 minutes and adjust salt. Top with lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the pizza:

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if you can lay hands on AMUL cheese at the Indian store, definitely use it.)
  • 4 fresh / frozen naans of your choice (I used frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 small red onion – finely sliced (optional)
  • green chili and mint / cilantro chutney (optional)
  • few sprigs of cilantro – finely chopped (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400*F

2) Lay naans on a baking sheet and top with 1 tsp of sauce or chutney of choice.

3) Spread a 1/4 of the topping mixture on the naan and spread evenly. Top with sliced onions if desired.

4) Now top with 1/4 cup cheese and place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes till cheese is melted.

5) If you want a crunchy crust (delicious!), remove the pizza from the baking sheet and gently slide directly onto the oven rack; cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6) Carefully slide onto serving plate and top with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

(My son enjoyed it with a drizzle of Maggi Hot & Sweet sauce.)

[Gas Grill Method: preheat grill on high for 10 minutes. Lightly brush each naan with oil and grill for about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a plate and reduce grill heat to medium-low. Top naan with your choice of ingredients and grill covered for another 5-6 minutes till cheese is melted.)

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley Signing up for a fitness challenge at Gold’s Gym and having a trainer has meant that I have started to watch what I eat – grudgingly, but I’m doing it. I don’t believe in starving or depriving myself, or in any of the no carb/ high protein/ gluten free/ paleo/ etc diets – I guess I just don’t have the discipline for them. I’ve realized that our (my family’s) food philosophy should be to eat like our parents & grandparents – seasonal, whole foods, variety, primarily plant based, occasional indulgences without guilt, and moderation. While I still sneak a bite of the PBJ sandwich, and enjoy an occasional cupcake, I have definitely incorporated a fruit and atleast one vegetable as the main source of each meal. With conscious eating, I am more appreciative of colors, flavors and texture now than ever before. I made this Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley during one of the snow day holidays when I had to make do with what I had at home.

With warm weather picnics & barbecues in the horizon, this is a make-ahead healthy side that is great on the taste buds as it is on the eyes. Pair with grilled meat, veggie burgers or even as an unusual but always much welcome option for an appetizer. My teenager had to be shooed away from eating these straight from the pan!! The recipe here, again, is just a guide – feel free to adjust the seasoning & quantity to suit your tastes.

I use this simple seasoning for many of my vegetable sides – brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, etc – and either pan roast or oven roast ( my preferred method). Just toss the raw cut veggies in olive oil, chilli flakes, minced garlic and salt. Transfer to a flat baking tray and bake at 425*F for 8-10 mins till they are cooked but still crunchy. My family never complains about eating their veggies this way.

NOTE: The recipe shows a lot of steps because I have explained in detail how to blanch the vegetables. This dish is very easy to put together.

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

(Serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 – 1 lb thin green beans (washed & drained) – {I use the Costco haricot vert or French green beans which are smaller and more tender than regular green string beans; if using regular beans, use the tenderest ones you can find}
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 large onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 large red pepper (seeded and sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • salt to blanch the beans, plus extra to taste

1) Bring about 8-10 cups of water to boil in a large pan.

2) Meanwhile, add ice to another large bowl with water and set close to the stove.

3) When the water boils in the first pan on the stovetop, add about 1-2 tablespoon of salt and the beans (salt generously – this will keep the color of the beans vibrant, yet will not be absorbed heavily by the vegetables). Continue cooking  for another 3-4 minutes on high flame.

4) Taste test a bean to see if it is slightly tender and lightly salty. It should still be crunchy. At this point, quickly use a strainer or tongs to remove the beans and transfer immediately into the ice water.

Depending on the size of your pots and the amount of beans being used, you may have to work in small batches.

5) Let the beans cool completely in the ice water – this will stop the cooking process and retain the color. Touch after a few minutes to make sure they are no longer warm.

6) Drain completely – do not allow the beans to sit in the cold water for a long time or they will become soggy – and spread on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.

7) Heat the same large pot on medium-high flame, and add 1/2 – 1 tablespoon oil to it.

8) Add the garlic and saute few seconds till lightly golden. Toss in the chilli flakes and stir.

9) Now add the sliced onions and saute on medium-high flame till translucent.

10) Add the sliced red pepper and saute for about 2-3 minutes till slightly tender.

11) Add the drained green beans and salt to taste and saute on a high flame till all the vegetables are starting to slightly brown, but are still crisp and crunchy.

12) Remove to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

As promised – here is the next easy appetizer idea. Most Indians will be familiar with some version of this carrot salad. You can add in seeded & finely chopped tomatoes, or sprouted mung beans. I have just added a small twist to how it’s served. Cocktail Papadums (mini papads) are available at most Indian grocery stores. If not, you can use tortilla chips / scoops.

These papads and the salad can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Hope this helps make your entertaining easier :)).

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

(serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 packet cocktail papadums (fried and drained)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled & grated)
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 medium tomato (seeded & finely diced) – optional
  • 1/2 cup sprouted mung beans – optional

This recipe is more a guide than an actual measurement:

1) Fry cocktail papadums and drain on paper towels. Store in a paper towel lined air tight container for up to 2 days. (If you cannot find mini papadums/papads,  I suppose you could get away with tortilla chips/scoops.)

2) In a bowl, mix together the grated carrots, onion, green chillies and mung beans (if using). Refrigerate till ready to serve.

3) Just before serving, add the salt, lemon juice & tomato and gently mix with a fork. (Remember that tomatoes will release moisture and make the carrot mix soggy after a while. I generally avoid it if I expect the mix to sit for a while.)

4) Serve in a bowl on a plate with the papads. Guests can fix their own bite size snack.

Cocktail Papadums

Growing up, this was something we occasionally had as Sunday breakfast to give my mom a break from cooking. We slathered our bread with ghee and toasted it on the griddle till it was golden and crunchy, and topped it with this spicy carrot salad. I still enjoy this salad, but without the bread!

Vegan Zucchini & Corn Cutlets

Vegan Zucchini Corn Cutlets

Is everybody getting ready for the holiday madness? For many years, I felt like I was short changing my kids and family if our holidays didn’t involve hand made stuff, decorating, cleaning and cooking like a maniac, and entertaining over the 6+ weeks starting mid-November. It’s so easy to get caught up in the picture perfect version of the holidays that is sold to us by retailers and media, that we forget it took a large paid team of people to come up with what we see in ads. 2 years ago, I decided that I would not do anything that my kids didn’t really care about. Surprisingly, they were fine with not putting up a tree (second time in 15 years; the first was when we lived overseas for a year)!! That December, we travelled to Jamaica for a gloriously relaxing vacation, took naps, read books, watched movies and played Scrabble. Not a single wreath/christmas decoration came out of the box. We did do some casual entertaining (as in easy meals, or order in Chinese or pizza) with small groups, and were actually able to sit down and enjoy company. It was an eye-opener for me. I wasn’t a yelling nagging lunatic with a whisk in one hand and a dusting rag in the other!! (Atleast, I think I wasn’t one. My family may differ 🙂 but they have to agree that I toned it down a couple notches.) We did put up our tree last year, and baked, entertained, shopped, etc. but I didn’t stress about how perfect everything had to be. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m trying to walk down the same path again this year.

What I want to say here is that while we may not be able to completely give up everything, the holidays are about appreciating our loved ones and making the time to connect with them. If you can effortlessly whip up a 7 course meal and still smile, hats off to you. But most of us need a stash of easy and quick tricks in our bag to tide the next few weeks. In the coming days, my plan is to post recipes of what I am making in my own home. I assure you that they will be easy, healthy (somewhat :)), elegant, and mostly make-ahead. After all, the hosts need to enjoy the party too.

The recipe below is just a guide for making these cutlets. Since zucchini has a neutral taste, you can add any seasoning of choice: green chillies & chopped mint; sriracha & fish sauce; chopped dill & feta cheese; etc. I have used basil & oregano as I wanted to empty them out. It is crucial to squeeze out the water from the zucchini, and to add a binding agent to hold the mix together. (I might try adding mashed black beans instead of the potato next time.) The flour & starch / bread crumbs aid in absorbing any left over moisture, and may not be necessary if you have had enough time to drain the vegetable.

I have made these cutlets a day or two before my party and heated in a toaster oven, and they tasted just as good as fresh. If you plan on reheating, place them on a rack after cooking so they cool without sitting in steam. Cool completely and store in a paper towel lined air tight box in the refrigerator. I sometimes make these and serve as after-school snacks and my 10-year old will eat 4-5 without complaint.

Vegan Zucchini – Corn Cutlets

(Makes about 24)

  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 1 cup roasted corn ( I buy the frozen bag but you can roast at home if you like)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic (paste or minced or powder)
  • 1 Tbsp dry red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp dry basil (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 Tbsp dry oregano (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 medium boiled, peeled & mashed potato [or] 1 egg**
  • 1 cup bread crumbs [or] 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for griddle

1) Set a colander in a plate or bowl,and grate zucchini into it using the fine side of the grater.

2) Toss with 1 tsp salt and set aside for 15 minutes. This will make the vegetable release a lot of moisture and drain into the lining plate/bowl.

3) Meanwhile, in another large bowl, mix the corn, garlic, chili flakes, basil, oregano & potato.

4) After 15 minutes, squeeze out the grated zucchini and add to the corn mixture. Adjust salt and spices, and chill for another 15 minutes (optional – this will help to set the mixture and make for easier shaping. Also, this will release any additional water in the zucchini, and you can control the amount of bread crumbs added).

5) Alternately, you may skip the chilling, and add the bread crumbs (or all-purpose flour & cornstarch) and mix well.

6) Heat a griddle on medium and add 2 Tbsp oil to it.

7) Shape 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture into balls and flatten into patties. Cook the patties on medium-high for about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

8) Serve with dipping sauce of your choice – ketchup, ranch, sriracha, cilantro-mint-green chili chutney, etc.

*** Vegans might want to try flax egg as a binding agent. Please let me know how it turns out if you do.

Sapota Phirni & Sabudana Cutlets = Perfect snack for a cool fall evening

Sapota Phirni

Fall!!! My favorite season of the year. Everything around is fresh and crisp and clean. I love the cool breeze, the vibrant colors on the trees, hot chai, the holidays around the corner (that brings with it it’s own madness, but in my mind’s eye, everything is perfect & organized :)). As the weather starts to cool down, I have had hankerings for fried, starchy, savory snacks for the last few days. Not to mention that everywhere I turn (maybe I should say, click), I see Navratri recipes, with sabudana vada being the most posted. A friend of mine makes the best ones that stay crisp even after they cool – stay tuned for her recipe here soon. In the meantime, I wanted to make a quick and lighter version. Incidentally, a bag of frozen sapota that I had bought on an impulse kept staring at me for the last few weeks, and I figured Sapota Phirni would be an interesting accompaniment to the vadas. I figured that my Almond Phirni method would work here too. While I did have reservations about how it would taste, let me just say that they both turned out well.

Sapota Phirni

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups sapota puree (fresh or frozen) – I used a bag of the frozen fruit
  • pinch of cardamom powder
  • pinch of saffron strands (optional)
  • roasted nuts & raisins (optional)

1) In a small bowl, stir together the rice flour and 1/2 cup milk, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and sugar on medium till it comes to a boil.

3) Reduce the heat, and slowly pour in the rice flour mixture, stirring vigorously to make sure that no lumps form.

4) Add the cardamom powder and saffron, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.

5) Stir in the sapota puree and simmer 1 minute.

6) Remove from heat and cool  to room temperature, or chill.

7) Top with roasted and chopped nuts and raisins before serving (optional).

Sabudana Cutlets

Sabudana Cutlets

(Makes about 15-17)

  • 1 cup sabudana
  • 2 large potatoes (boiled, peeled & mashed)
  • 3-4 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera) seeds
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for pan frying

1) Rinse and soak the sabudana in water for 4-5 hours or overnight (each batch varies in how quickly it softens; when ready to use, the sabudana must be easily squished between your fingers).

2) Drain the sabudana well in a colander, and make sure it does not have excess water.

3) Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. Shape into small balls, about golf ball size.

4) Heat a griddle on medium heat and spread a teaspoon of oil on it.

5) Flatten the potato balls on your palms and shape into a disc. Place on the hot griddle and cook both sides on medium heat till golden brown.

Cashew Nut Pakodas

Cashew Nut Pakodas

Here’s a slight twist on a classic Indian appetizer. Usually, pakodas (also called pakoras) are spiced chickpea-batter dipped pieces of vegetables or meat; a denser version of tempura. This recipe is an attempt to recreate one of the items sold at the sweets store in Bangalore that my mom frequents. Unlike the traditional pakodas,  these stay crisp for a few days in an air tight container and can be made a day or two ahead of your party.

Cashew Nut Pakoda

Cashew Nut Pakodas

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups cashew nuts – roasted
  • 1 cup besan (chickpea/gram flour)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
  • 1 large onion – chopped fine
  • 2 green chillies – chopped fine
  • 1 sprig curry leaves – chopped fine
  • Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp ghee / Crisco** – (optional) – melted & warm
  • Oil for frying

1) In a medium bowl, mix all the above ingredients (EXCEPT cashews and ghee) with your hands, pressing on the onions with your fingers. The dough will be sticky and dry, but that’s okay. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, if using unroasted cashews, use a heavy bottom wide pan, and dry roast the nuts on a medium flame, stirring frequently. This should take about 5-7 minutes. The nuts should be lightly roasted – a bite test will show that they are just beginning to get a snap to them.  Remember that will be get crispier as they cool.

3) Alternately, preheat the oven to 350* F and roast the nuts on a large tray for about 7-10 minutes, stirring them every few minutes. Allow the nuts to cool completely. If you are using roasted cashews, skip steps 2/3 and move directly to step 4.

4) When the nuts are completely cooled, remix the batter with your hands. The onions would have released moisture and made the batter softer and easier to handle. Add the nuts and ghee** and mix well. If you must, sprinkle a few drops of water as necessary and mix. DO NOT ADD EXTRA MOISTURE AS THIS WILL MAKE THE PAKODAS & NUTS SOGGY.

4) Heat oil in a pan on medium, and drop little clumps of the cashew nut batter. Fry, stirring occasionally, till it is golden. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain oil completely. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an air tight container for a couple of days.

5) To reheat, spread on a cookie sheet and warm in a 325*F oven for a few minutes.

** NOTE: Adding  melted ghee or Crisco is said to make the fried food crispier. You may omit it if you don’t want to use it.