Thursday, 3 August 2017

Pasta A La Pesto Genovese (Pasta With Basil Garlic Sauce)

Pesto originates from the town of Genoa, located in Liguria, Italy. It is popular because of its strong herbal flavours of basil and pine nuts, which is complemented by spicy garlic and salty parmesan cheese. In America, butter and cream is added to make it richer, but I myself recommend you stick to this version because it's lighter and more authentic. Have it with a crusty bread and a lemonade or Sprite...

1/2 cup penne
Water, salt and olive oil for boiling

1/2 cup basil leaves (fresh)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts- your choice (I generally use 60% walnuts & 40% pine nuts)
Salt to taste
1/2-1 tbsp parmesan cheese or any other hard cheese, e.g. pecorino or pecorino-romano (grated or powder- look for variety with vegetarian or microbial rennet, most parmesan contains animal rennet)
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Cherry tomatoes, split in half for garnish

1. Boil the pasta with water, salt and olive oil until al dente (firm and tender enough- NOT TOO SOFT AND NOT TOO HARD)
2. Heat a little olive oil and cook your garlic till fragrant and golden.
3. In a blender or mortar & pestle, pound garlic, basil, pine nuts & walnuts to an almost-fine paste.
4. Add parmesan cheese (I like to use the grated variety, but that is hard to find with microbial rennet)
5. Season with salt and pepper
6. Heat a little oil, add cooked pasta and sauce, and mix well. Toss in cherry tomatoes and cook for a few seconds till warm.
7. Serve warm or hot with crusty bread.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Bombay Nagari Vada Pav (Indian style potato burger)

Hey guys, this is yet another wonderful recipe to serve at Indian parties. Many people long for good vegetarian burgers. If you hate the meaty taste of the vegan barbeque burgers, then this one is for you. It is a spicy deep fried potato in burger buns with mint and tamarind chutney, topped with onion slices. This is enjoyed by the street folk in Mumbai.

Since it is so good, I also have included a special healthy version of this vada pav, and also a recipe for mint chutney. It is quite similar to Mcdonald's Aloo Tikki burger because it is grilled with breadcrumbs instead of deep fried, like a patty. This is better for heart patients or health conscious people.

Here's the video:
Part 1-

3 potatoes, boiled and mashed
1-2 tbsp oil
½ onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
Little asafoetida
5-6 curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp red chilli powder + extra for batter
½ cup chickpea flour
Water as required
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp baking soda

Grilled Vada Pav patty- (do not use ingredients in bold; instead add 1/2 cup beaten rice/poha to potato mixture and mix well. Shape the mixture into patties, flatten and coat with breadcrumbs. Grill with a little oil and serve as per below instructions)
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp red chilli flakes
Salt to taste

6-8 hamburger buns (mini), cut lengthwise (otherwise, use 2-3 normal size burger buns, and cut into quarters)
Butter for grilling buns
Mint chutney (see recipe for College Grilled Sandwich)  & sweet tamarind chutney for serving

Vada Pav
1. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida.
2. Add curry leaves and wait for the seeds to crackle. Add onions and cook till translucent.
3. Add ginger & garlic, and cook until fragrant and/or brown. You can add salt at this point to help cook faster.
4. Add green chilli and cook again for a few seconds, then add mashed-up potatoes, turmeric powder, roasted cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt. Add lemon juice. Mix well and keep aside.
5. Prepare batter for vada pav. Mix chickpea flour with salt and a little red chilli powder.
6. Gradually add water to the batter and beat until you get a lump-free batter with easy to pour consistency.
7. Prepare garlic chutney. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil, add garlic and cook till fragrant. Pound the mixture coarsely and then add salt and red chilli powder. Keep aside.
8. Shape the potato mixture into golf ball shapes & dip into batter. Deep fry until golden brown.
9. Grill the hamburger buns and butter. Place a potato vada in the centre and close.
10. Serve with your choice of chutney(s) and garnishes-see below.

1) Left over chickpea batter? Take little spoons full of batter and sprinkle all over a pan filled with hot oil.
Deep fry until crisp.

2) You can serve the vada pav with your fav garnishes: usually, I like to slice onion  and/or tomato and sprinkle some lemon juice, cumin powder, red chilli powder and black salt over it. I also like to serve green chilli and coriander leaves, both finely chopped.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Lunch Box Surprise: Spinach & Cottage Cheese Medley (Palak Paneer)

Palak paneer is a dish of spinach & cottage cheese (as above), blended with heaps of fragrant spices and finished off with a rich spoonful of butter and cream (at least in restaurants it is; not sure about the Punjabi dhabas or roadside cafes though 😉) This dish first originated in Punjab and the bordering regions, but has since then, spread all over the world. Now, when you ask anyone what their favourite Indian food is, one of the most popular choices will be this "palak paneer", even famous celebrities such as AR Rahman, music composer of Slumdog Millionaire fame and Kailash Kher, crooner behind hits such as "Teri Deewani", "Saiyaan" and "Allah Ke Bande".

This version is a bit different since I have kept the puree chunkier compared to the original very fine and creamy restaurant style palak paneer and I have used less oil, butter & cream. Here, I will also list down options in case you have a dietary restriction. 

Gluten Free Substitutions
1. Gluten free flatbreads to serve this with:
Makki di roti (corn flatbread)
Missi roti (lentil flatbread)
Bajra roti (finger millet flatbread)
Jowar roti (sorghum flatbread)
Or your fav rice

2. Dairy free/vegan options
Tofu instead of paneer: grill or deep fry before use
Cashew cream:…/how-to-make-cashew-cream-glute…/
Oil or plant based butter, margarine or ghee (vanaspati) for cooking

3. No onion or garlic- pls PM me or email me if you want to see this as the recipe is different. My email:

Here is the full text recipe for this
Cottage Cheese (Paneer)
750 ml full cream milk (whole milk, or any full fat cow's milk)- otherwise if vegan, purchase tofu from market equivalent to about 1/3 cup or slightly less
40 ml distilled white vinegar (a bit more than 2 tbsp) 
Salt to taste

Spinach Mixture
200g-250g spinach (see footnote on how to prepare spinach*)
1 tbsp oil 
Pinch of ground asafoetida (hing: Hindi) 
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) 
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp butter (10g)
1-2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (blend or chop very fine: 4-5 cloves garlic & 1/2-1 inch ginger)
1 small tomato, blanched and pureed
Water to thin out mixture
Salt to taste 
1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder (haldi powder: Hindi) 
1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (Kashmiri laal mirch powder: Hindi)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder 
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin (jeera powder: Hindi) 
1-2 tbsp whipping cream- you can add more if you wish

Cottage Cheese (Paneer)
1. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Remember to STIR OCCASIONALLY AND KEEP AN EYE ON IT, so that it does not get burnt. 
2. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, add the vinegar gradually and stir. The milk will curdle and the curds (solids) and whey (liquids) will separate. 
3. Strain the mixture into a cheesecloth and gather up only the solids. You may reuse the way to knead the dough for chapatis or breads etc, or you may drink it as well. Add salt to the solids and wrap it up. Place a heavy weight on top and leave for 1 hour or so till the shape of a flat cake-like object is formed. 
4.  Cut the paneer into your desired shape. 

While you are waiting for paneer to set, you may wish to prepare the spinach mixture

Spinach Mixture
1. Prepare the spinach according to the footnote below. Blend into a fine puree and keep aside. 
2. Heat oil, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. 
3. When seeds crackle, add onion and cook till golden brown. 
4. Heat 1 tsp of butter in the same pan, add ginger & garlic paste. Cook till garlic and ginger are golden brown. 
5. Add tomato and cook till oil separates on top. 
6. Add spinach puree and the rest of the butter and wait till butter melts. 
7. Add salt to taste, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and ground cumin. Mix well. Add water if you need to. Add half the amount of cream first and mix well.  
8. Cook for about 10-15 mins more on slow flame, with pot covered for best results. 
9. Serve into your desired dish with any Indian flatbread or rice. 


* How to Prepare Spinach
1) Wash spinach well to get rid off dirt/pesticides. 
2) Boil the spinach for about 2-3 mins only (no baking soda needed)
3) Run it under iced water for a few seconds until cool enough to blend. 

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Medley (Palak Paneer) with assorted Indian flatbread (rotis)

Monday, 8 May 2017

Vegan Series.... Friends, Not Food! Recipe #1- Vegan Banana Walnut Muffins

Friends, Not Food is a special name I like to give these series. Though I am not vegan, I prefer to open up my mind to trying this at least once a week. Besides, it makes me feel good. Vegan does not automatically mean raw or tasteless. It can still be delicious & perfect if we add the right flavours...

This first recipe is a vegan banana walnut muffin (no eggs, no dairy). But it still contains wheat and nuts, so you might want to replace those if you are allergic. These can make a perfect tea time snack and they are great because they use less sugar. I first made these for a group of friends and they absolutely loved it.

I will be posting tips because vegan cooking differs from vegetarian slightly, so pls stay tuned to those as well :-)


Almond Milk: makes about 100 ml which is what you need for this recipe
50g almonds, soaked overnight and peeled
50-60 ml water
Bit more than 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

3 bananas, peeled and mashed (preferably overripe)
2 tbsp coconut oil (30 ml)
Less than 1/3 cup (50 ml) normal cooking oil- I used rice bran; you may use your choice of cooking oil or margarine
More than 1/3 cup or less than 1/2 cup (90-100 ml) maple syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
100 ml or so almond milk- see above recipe

1 cup (250g) all purpose flour
5 tbsp (75g) whole-wheat flour (atta: Hindi)
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
About 1/4 cup (60g) walnuts, chopped

a. Preheat oven (normal ovens don't have fans, otherwise I have indicated fan)
- Normal Celsius: 180 deg C
- Normal Fahrenheit: 350 deg C
- Gas Mark 4
- Normal Fan Celsius: 140-160 deg C
- Normal Fan Fahrenheit: 284-320 deg F

b. Grease your muffin tins and line with cupcake cases

2) Blend almonds & water together into liquid. Add vanilla essence and set aside.

3) Mix bananas, almond milk, oils, syrup and sugar. Cream until well-incorporated. It will not be as fluffy as butter sugar mixture, but the mixture should be well mixed only. Don't worry about bananas being a bit lumpy, it makes muffins chunkier! :-)

4) Sift all purpose & whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda & cinnamon. Add salt and mix well. You can just do this directly into the bowl, but for best results, you should mix the flours etc separately from the liquid. 

5)  Fold in walnuts and mix gently with a spatula. Scoop batter into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Keep an eye on it and test with toothpick to make sure they are done.

6) Let your muffins cool and enjoy with tea or coffee :-P

- This recipe is tried & tested. Picture will soon follow...

Gluten free- if you want, you may replace both types of flour with your choice of gluten free flour

Nut allergies- you may replace with dried fruit like raisins or cranberries, otherwise oatmeal or chocolate chips are good too.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Vegetarian Cakes Available in Singapore-Nurture Cakes- Gourmet Cakes with Egg & Eggless Cakes

I first came across this lady when we were ordering a cake last year for my twenty-first birthday. We ordered a chocolate cake with chocolate crunch ball topping & a chocolate ganache icing. The cake was so wonderful, that we never hesitated with what to order for my brother's birthday. Yes, it was the same cake.

What surprised me was that both times, the cakes were not only flavoured well, but also very moist, which are very difficult to achieve with eggless cakes. I, myself, have baked eggless cakes, and it is very hard to get them to rise and to be moist at the same time. When we bake eggless cakes, we need to know which replacement for egg is best for which type, e.g. when we desire a soft cake, then we need something which will give the cake a lift and a moistness, like baking soda and lemon juice. If it is a brownie, then maybe we might need to try something like yoghurt which is more just for binding.

Ms. Manjari Jain has been baking cakes for over 5 years now. Her mission is, "Eggless cakes don't have to be a compromise," She does both cakes with egg and eggless cakes. If you specify certain products that you are unable to consume, she will take that into consideration as well, e.g. gelatine. She will then ensure that she uses something that meets that criteria, e.g. for a photo cake, she can use both edible photo paper with gelatine or vegetarian.

This year, I will be having her vanilla cake, and with that, there will be pictures of the cake to follow.
Meanwhile, I will post up pictures of the other cakes that she has made in the past, eggless and vegetarian.

Also adding Ms. Manjari's contact details:

Nurture Cakes
130 Tanjong Rhu Road
Pebble Bay

Tel (mobile): +8161 4940

Thank you, Ms. Manjari, for all the wonderful cakes! :P <3

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Lunch Box Surprise- Vegetarian Nasi Briyani (Indian Malaysian Style Fried Rice with Mock Mutton): In Loving Memory of our Former President, Mr. S.R. Nathan (1924-2016)

A miracle occurred on 3rd July 1924, in the birth of one of our national heroes, our Former President, Mr. Sellapan Ramanathan, known for short as Mr. SR Nathan. All of us who have known of him must probably be aware that his life was never that easy in the start. But, he picked up the pieces and never gave up.

Mr. Nathan, like many other leaders of Singapore, always put "country before self". Singapore was his first love before his lovely wife, Mrs. Urmila (Umi) Nandey Nathan. With her, he had two children, a daughter, Ms. Juthika Ramanathan Cheong & a son, Mr. Osith Ramanathan, and in due course, he was blessed with 3 grandchildren, a girl (Monisha Cheong) & 2 boys (Kiron & Kheshin Cheong).

Mr. Nathan was a hero to many of us. Those who know of the Laju incident, probably are aware that he risked his life for the hostages on board. He loved art and he loved people, often stopping to meet different people from various walks of life. I myself had the pleasure of hearing a story from my father.

My father once witnessed a boy who had fallen off his scooter and started crying. Many people stopped to see what happened. As soon as the boy's father helped him up, President Nathan himself walked up to the little boy and dusted his pant legs off the dust and sand that had collected. He did not worry whether he would get his hands dirty. After that, my respect, admiration and love for the man has not and will never be the same again.

Mr. Nathan was a foodie according to all his friends and family. His favourite was nasi briyani and he preferred simple local dishes like mee goreng (fried noodles), char kway teow (flat rice noodles with soy sauce) and nasi lemak (mixed rice).

Mr. Nathan passed away on 22nd August 2016 at Singapore General Hospital following a stroke at the age of 92.

In this episode of Lunch Box Surprise, I chose to do a vegetarian nasi briyani (Indian Malaysian rice with curried meat) in his memory. I opted to do a low fat version of this, as Mr. Nathan was like a grandfather to the youth and so, I chose to dedicate this healthier version also to our senior citizens, who are health conscious.

Here is the recipe for your viewing pleasure:

Nasi Minyak (Rice)
1/2 cup Basmati or any other Indian long grain rice, washed, soaked for 1/2 an hour and either parboiled or cooked
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp Indian clarified butter (desi ghee)
1 small stick cinnamon (daalchini: Hindi, kayu manis: Malay)
4-5 pcs green cardamom (elaichi: Hindi, photo: Sindhi, buah pelaga: Malay)
3 pcs cloves (laung: Hindi, cengkih: Malay)
4-5 pcs black peppercorns (kaali mirch ka daana: Hindi, biji lada hitam: Indonesian)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 small onion, blended or chopped finely
1/4 tsp saffron, mixed in 1 tbsp hot milk (optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder (dhania: Hindi, dhaana: Sindhi, serbuk ketumbar: Indonesian/Malay)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi: Hindi, serbuk kunyit: Indonesian/Malay)
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp (or 1 small drop) kewra essence* or rose essence
1/4 tsp (or 1 small drop) pandan essence (screwpine essence)

Mock Meat
100g mock mutton (vegetarian), defrosted and cut into chunks
Pinch of meat tenderiser or a little bit of raw papaya juice
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp Indian clarified butter (desi ghee)
1 small stick cinnamon (daalchini: Hindi, kayu manis: Malay)
2-3 pcs green cardamom (elaichi: Hindi, photo: Sindhi, buah pelaga: Malay)
3 pcs cloves (laung: Hindi, cengkih: Malay)
2-3 pcs black peppercorns (kaali mirch ka daana: Hindi, biji lada hitam: Indonesian)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 small onion, blended or chopped finely
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder (dhania: Hindi, dhaana: Sindhi, serbuk ketumbar: Indonesian/Malay)
2 tsp biryani masala (can be found prepackaged at any Indian supermarket)
Little lemon juice

2 tbsp coriander leaves (dhania patta: Hindi, kotmir: Sindhi, daun ketumbar: Indonesian/Malay), finely chopped
2 tbsp cashew nuts, roasted
12 slices onion, air fried or sautéed

1. Prepare your mock meat first. In a bowl, mix mutton, tenderiser, ginger and garlic paste, as well as lemon juice. Stir well and let it sit for at least 1/2 an hour, to soak up the flavours.

Nasi Minyak (Rice)
1. Heat oil and ghee, add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns. Add ginger, garlic and onion. Stir till onion is golden brown.
2. Add very little water, chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt. Cover and cook for a little while. The water is only required so that the onions do not burn.
3.  Add artificial flavourings and rice; stir well. For best results, you can also add saffron milk as mentioned above.
4. Cook till water vanishes. Keep rice aside.

Mock Meat
1. Heat ghee, add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns.
2. Add ginger, garlic and onion. Mix well and add meat.
3. Add spices, salt and a little water. Mix well, and cover and cook for a little while, so that all the flavours are absorbed.
4. Add lemon juice and biryani masala, mix well and cover for a little while more.

1. Put some nasi minyak on one side of the plate.
2. Put some meat on the other side of the plate.
3. Garnish this with coriander, air fried onion and cashew nuts.
4. Serve and enjoy however you like. I served with curried potato, pickles (achar) and fresh homemade yoghurt.

Vegetarian Nasi Briyani
As prepared by myself (lilpanda108)
Our Former President of Singapore
Mr. Sellapan Ramanathan (SR Nathan)

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Recipe of The Week: Apple Spiced Crumble

Especially during these cold rainy days in tropical Singapore, what can be better than a hot and simple apple crumble? This dish can be looked upon as a British-Irish invention, grown to be loved by lots of people. This apple crumble is an original recipe, inspired by a friend, made of caramelised apples with a spicy flavour of ginger and cinnamon, with a sweet and crunchy topping, served with a creamy custard sauce to top it all ! Sounds really delicious, but as my beloved guru says, "If you are hungry, just sitting there is not going to satisfy you. You have actually got to gather all the ingredients and go about creating the dish you want." So, I am going to shut up now and give you the ACTUAL recipe:


1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 small packet, cornflakes
4 T walnuts

1 T butter
1 Granny Smith's green apple, peeled and chopped (not too small)
1 inch ginger, peeled
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T honey or maple syrup
Pinch of allspice to taste
Cornstarch and water to thicken (optional)
Small twist of lemon

Custard Sauce
3 T custard powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cap full vanilla essence
2 T sugar

Maraschino (red) cherry, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 4).


1. To make the coating, mix the brown sugar and butter. Keep aside.
2. Place the cornflakes in a plastic bag and grind it with a rolling pin.
3. Pound the walnuts in a grinder, and mix both walnuts and cornflakes into the flour.
4. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and knead until it forms breadcrumbs. Keep aside.

1. Heat 1 tbsp butter.
2. Add apple, ginger, cinnamon etc. into pan and stir well till apples are slightly brown. Add water and boil till little soft.
3. Grease and line a baking dish with baking parchment, and add in the apple mixture. Top with the coating.
4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
5. Meanwhile, make the custard sauce (see below)
6. When cooled, garnish with maraschino cherry.

1. Heat the cream and custard powder together, to a low simmer. Keep stirring to prevent milk from curdling.
2. Add a little nestle cream or cornflour with water to thicken.
3. Add sugar and vanilla essence to taste and serve with crumble.