Vegetarian Recipes

Easy Dal Tadka

Anjali Venugopal June 22, 2020 NO COMMENTS

Every household has its own recipe for a good and hearty dal. This is mine. I believe for the perfect dal, less is more. I do not like spices and other other unnecessary ingredients to overpower the simplicity of the dish. I keep it simple and fuss free and a 100% hearty.

Things you will need:

(Serves 2-3)

  • Masoor Dal- 1 cup
  • Toor Dal- ½ cup
  • Water- 5 cups
  • Tomato- 1 medium sized, chopped
  • Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  • Kashmiri Red Chilli powder- ½ teaspoon
  • Cooking oil/ghee- 2 tablespoons
  • Mustard seeds- ½ teaspoon
  • Cumin seeds- ½ teaspoon
  • Dried red chilli- 3-4
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander for garnish

How to go about it:

  1. In a pressure cooker, add the Masoor dal, Toor dal, chopped tomato, water, turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. On a medium to high heat, cook the contents for 4 whistles. Allow the pressure to release on its own before opening. (In case you prefer to cook your dal in a regular pot, you may do so. Soaking the lentils for 20-30 minutes will help with the cooking time. Allow the contents to boil and cook well, with the pot uncovered, until the dal can be easily mashed with the back of your spoon. If you’re using the pot method, you may need to keep adding water in case you feel the contents are getting too dry.)
  2. Once the dal has been cooked, mash it all up using a whisk or the back of your spoon. If you feel the dal is too thick, add a bit more water, mix well and bring to a boil, keeping the pot or the pressure cooker uncovered. If you feel the dal is too watery, place it back on the stove, bring to a boil and allow the water to evaporate till you reach the desired consistency. Keep aside.
  3. In a small pan heat the ghee or cooking oil. Allow the mustard, cumin seeds and dried red chillies to splutter. Empty the contents into the cooked and mashed dal and mix it all up well. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Instant Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Anjali Venugopal May 19, 2020 NO COMMENTS

I love pickles. They have the power to make even the laziest of meals more appetizing. This one is made with carrots and ginger. It’s hot, sour and sweet all at the same time and it is a favourite.

Things you will need:

  • Carrots- 3 medium to large sized, cut into two inch long wedges. See picture above.
  • Ginger- 2 inch piece, julienned. Even slightly thicker bits work if you like the bite of nice fresh ginger. Works very well in this pickle. See picture above.
  • Fresh green chillies- 6-7 finely chopped
  • Kashmiri red chilli powder- 3 heaped tablespoons
  • White vinegar- a little less than 1/3 cup
  • Black mustard seeds- 1.5 teaspoons
  • Fenugreek seeds- ½ teaspoon
  • Dried red chillies- 3-4
  • Water- ½ cup
  • Salt- to taste
  • Sugar- 1-1.5 teaspoons
  • Cooking oil- ¼ cup (Gingelly oil is your best bet. Canola works too, I used Canola)

How to go about it

  1. In a pan, heat the cooking oil. Medium heat. Once hot, add the mustard, fenugreek and dried red chillies. Allow the seeds to spultter.
  2. Next, add the ginger and the green chillies. Saute well for 1.5- 2 minutes. This will ensure that the flavours are released well into the oil.
  3. Now take the pan off the heat and add the chilli powder. Move the chilli powder around for 30 seconds while it is off the heat to ensure it doesn’t burn. Place the pan back on LOW heat. Fry the chilli powder for another 30 seconds. It will get darker in colour but make sure it does not burn!
  4. Add half the vinegar and mix well. Keep mixing for another 15-20 seconds.Next, add the remaining vinegar and water. Mix well. Add the salt too (you may want to add a little extra salt as this is a pickle. Helps to preserve the carrots and also tastes great with all the chilli, vinegar and sugar).
  5. Add the carrot wedges and mix it all up well. If you feel you’d like a bit more sauce in the pickle, add more water. Mix very well and keep the pan closed for about two minutes (on medium heat) and allow the carrots to cook ever so lightly. The carrots must be crisp even at the end.
  6. Add the sugar (add 1 tsp and see if you need more to reach the right balance), mix well again, check salt and add more if required. Pickling is a skill you acquire with time. So, if you’re a newbie, keep tasting at every step to get to the right balance that works on your palate.
  7. Allow the pickle to come to room temperature before storing away in clean and dry glass bottles. Keeps well for months in the fridge. Just make sure you use a clean and dry spoon every time you serve the pickle.

Dal Makhani – The True Queen of Dals

Anjali Venugopal May 15, 2020 NO COMMENTS

I love my meat. But there are a few vegetarian dishes that truly get me to overeat. One is this royal Dal Makhani. Serve it with some hot jeera rice and it’s a meal in itself. It’s rich and absolutely flavorful and one of my most favourite things to eat any day. But you must remember that the Dal Makhani is not something you can decide to cook when you are already hungry. It takes time, patience and love. Give this dish the love it needs and you’ll see magic.

Things you will need:

(serves 3-4)

  • Whole black urad dal- 3⁄4 cup
  • Red kidney beans (Rajma)- 1⁄4 cup
  • Water- 3.5 cups (to pressure cook)
  • Butter- 2 tablespoons or two 2 inch cubes
  • Red onion- 1 medium sized, chopped finely (chop well!)
  • Green chilies- 3 chopped finely
  • Ginger garlic paste- 2 teaspoons (grind a 1 inch stick of ginger along with 5-6 cloves of garlic)
  • Tomatoes- 2 large, pureed with skin on
  • Cumin seeds- 1⁄2 teaspoon
  • Cloves- 3
  • Green cardamom- 3 pods
  • Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  • Indian bay leaf- 1
  • Kashmiri red chili powder- 2 teaspoons
  • Cream- ¼ cup
  • Kasuri Methi crushed- ½ teaspoon (optional)
  • Salt- to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves (optional)

How to go about it:

  1. Soak the black dal and the red kidney beans together, overnight in enough water for a minimum of 9-10 hours. Once that is done, drain the water and rinse the lentils well. Keep it aside.
  2. Add the 3.5 cups (the same cup you used to measure the dal) of water and pressure-cook the lentils for at 20 whistles on high heat. Don’t add salt now. Check after 20 whistles to see if the lentils are cooked well and can be mashed with the back of a spoon. If not, add another cup of water and let it cook for another 2-3 whistles. The point here is to make sure the lentils are cooked thoroughly and that the black dal melts in your mouth.
  3. Once the dal is cooked, keep it aside.
  4. Next, in a heavy bottomed dish, heat 2 tablespoons of butter. Medium heat. Don’t let the butter burn though. Add the whole spices (cumin, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf). Saute for 30 seconds or until the spices release the flavour into the melted butter.
  5. Add the finely chopped onions and saute till they turn golden brown. Next, add the ginger garlic paste and green chillies and saute for 20 seconds.
  6. Next, add the pureed tomatoes, salt to taste and chilli powder and keep sauteing till most of the water content from the tomatoes evaporates and the fat starts to release from the sides. The mixture will now be slightly darker.
  7. Add the cooked dal with the stock and a cup of water and mix very well. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it stay on the stove on a low heat for a minimum of 40 minutes uncovered. Make sure you keep stirring the pot frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The longer you let it simmer, the tastier it gets. So, 40 minutes is a minimum. Stay patient.
  8. If you feel the dal is getting too cakey or dry, keep adding half cups of water and mix well. I keep tasting the dal every now and then and you’ll actually feel the flavours deepen and come together to form a balance like never before. You can also ensure the salt it just right.
  9. Once the dal has simmered for a while and is nice and thick, add the cream. Take off the stove immediately and mix well. The Dal Makhani is not a watery dal. It’s rich and luscious.
  10. Add the kasuri methi (optional) and give it a good mix. Garnish with a small swirl of cream and chopped coriander leaves for an enhanced flavour.
  11. Serve warm with Naan or Jeera Rice or Rotis. Tastes even better the next day!

My Grandmum’s Perfect Ghee Rice

Anjali Venugopal May 2, 2020 1 COMMENTS

Let’s face it, cooking rice perfectly is an art. Fine, long grained Basmati which holds its shape, does not get mushy and when you serve the meal, the rice grains have to fall perfectly on to the plate. It looks like my grandma cracked the code for perfectly cooked rice a long, long time ago. And this is her recipe for perfect and beautifully flavoured rice. I’d say it’s a little like a dessert recipe where you have to follow every instruction to the T to get the right results. Sure, it’s a tad time consuming but the end result is a 100% worth it if you, like me, are not a fan of mushy goo instead of perfect rice every single time. But I must warn you, this isn’t the easiest recipe. So, here goes.

Things you will need:

(Serves 3-4)

  • Long grained Basmati rice- 2 cups (I recommend you use a reasonably good quality brand of rice. As for the cup, I use the 1 cup measurement that I use while baking. But that doesn’t matter. Pick any cup/glass that you regularly use for measuring rice and use it as the measure for the entire recipe.)
  • Water- 4.5 cups (Now listen up, this is math. The ratio of rice to water for this recipe is 2 : 4.5. For every 2 cups of rice, you use 4.5 cups (the same cup!) of water. Use your calculator and work your way up if you’re cooking more rice. Just make sure you do NOT add more water than the specified amount. A little less works perfectly well. For instance the specified amount for 3 cups rice is 6.75 cups of water. DO NOT add any more than 6.75 cups, instead I would add just 6.5ish cups to be safe. Too much water is what gets the rice mushy and weird. This rule holds for good quality Basmati. If you’re using regular Basmati, water exactly double the quantity of rice is enough. So, for 2 cups rice, use 4 cups water.)
  • Ghee- 2 tablespoons (and a little extra for the last bits)
  • Cardamom- 4
  • Cloves- 4
  • Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  • Bay leaf- 1
  • Star anise- 1 small
  • Salt to taste
  • Caramelized onions- 1 medium sized onion’s worth
  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • Cashews- 8-10
  • A fork

How to go about it:

  1. First, wash the rice thoroughly twice in running water. Next, soak the rice in water and keep aside for 15 minutes. Keep the right quantity of water in a pot or kettle in the meantime.
  2. Once the soaking time is up, drain the rice rice well using a strainer. Keep aside for another 10 minutes or until the rice is nice and dry.
  3. Now, it’s time to cook. Keep a pot big enough to cook the rice on medium heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee is hot, add the whole spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and anise). Saute for about 30 seconds or until the flavours release into the hot ghee.
  4. Keep the water to boil separately. Important to have boiling water for this recipe.
  5. While the water boils, you add the soaked and strained rice (yes, the raw rice) to the ghee. Then you must saute the rice lightly. Make sure all grains are coated with the ghee and keep sauteing the rice till the rice grains begin to feel a little crunchy to the touch. Make sure you do this sauteing bit without using too much power because it is important not to break the grains of rice in the process. Do it lightly.
  6. Next, add the boiling water to the pot, salt to taste, mix it up to make sure there are no rice clumps in between. Increase the heat a slight bit more and cook the rice (with the pot uncovered) until the rice is al dente (just about 80% cooked), there is still a bit of moisture left in the pot (meaning all the water has not completely evaporated). At this point, take the pot off the heat, drizzle a couple of TEASPOONS of melted ghee to the rice and lightly stir it all up with a fork. Next, keep the pot closed with the lid and place something heavy on top of the lid. I usually put my mortar and pestle on top as weight. The rice has to sit completely undisturbed this way for 20 minutes.
  7. So, while the rice sits for the 20 minutes, you can caramelize your onion. Keep aside. Lightly fry the coriander leaves in a tablespoon of cooking oil or ghee and keep aside. Fry the cashews in ghee or oil and keep aside.
  8. Once the 20 minutes is up, stir up the rice grains (lightly again) using a fork making sure you don’t break up the grains too much. Top with the caramelized onions, cashews and coriander. Serve warm with a meat curry or vegetable curry and raita. This recipe gets easier with practice, I promise 🙂

Easy Sweet and Savoury Granola- healthy and delicious

Anjali Venugopal February 20, 2020 NO COMMENTS

Not going to waste your time with my storytelling. If you like the stories, check me out on Instagram @mydigitalverandah 😛 Let’s get down to business.

Things you will need:
(For about 12-14 half cup servings)
Whole grain, old fashioned oats- 4 cups
Nuts (I used cashews for this batch but feel free to mix it all up with pecans, almonds, walnuts, whatever catches your fancy)- 1 cup
Sea salt flakes- 1 tsp (switch with regular salt but make it 1/2 tsp)
Honey- 1/2 cup
Extra virgin olive oil- 1/2 cup
Dried fruits- 3/4 cup (I used raisins and dried apricots for this batch but feel free to use whatever you prefer)
Cinnamon powder- 1 tsp

How to go about it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Line a half sheet pan with baking paper and keep aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the oats, the salt, the nuts and cinnamon powder and mix well. The salt is what brings out the beauty of the granola. Keep the dried fruits aside.
  3. Now add the olive oil and honey and mix well to make sure everything is coated nice and well.
  4. Empty contents into the tray and bake for 20-22 minutes. Make sure you take it out half way to give it a quick stir.
  5. When done, the granola will be a nice golden brown but may not look completely crispy but it gets firmer as it cools down. Once out of the oven, leave it to cool down completely at least for an hour without stirring it all up. Once cool, top with the dried fruits, break up the granola with your hands and store away in air tight containers.
  6. Stays put for a good 2-3 weeks and can be had for breakfast with milk or vegan milk options or yogurt or just as it is.

Spicy One Pot Vegetable Pilaf

Anjali Venugopal December 9, 2018 NO COMMENTS


Hello hello!

Here I am, sitting in the warmth of my little apartment in Vienna alone, on a cold, dreary Sunday with my mug of oatmeal and almond milk; my staple breakfast ever since I moved to Europe and figured dairy and I could no longer remain friends. I have a long list of things to do and errands to run before I head back home to Kerala, which I jotted down on a flimsy bit of paper staring right back at me almost as if to remind me that I need to buck up. Our yearly trip back home is something I look forward to, all year. People all around keep asking me if I miss living in India and honestly, the answer to that is no. However, what I do miss is the familiarity of the surroundings in my hometown Trivandrum; the joys of living in a home where your mum runs the kitchen; the fact that you can let the child inside you run free for a few, short, glorious days; no responsibilities, no “adulting.”

Anyway, let me get to the point. One question that I get almost on a daily basis is how I manage to “stay fit” in spite of loving food with a passion like no other. Today, given the fact that quite a number of us have health and weight issues  or even gastroenteritis issues at very young ages, I am going to let you into one of the basic rules in my mum’s kitchen; a rule that has travelled with me to my own kitchen; a rule I would love for each of your kitchens to embrace; and a rule that I give almost all the credit to for “staying fit”. It is simple. “You can eat whatever you like, as long as it is cooked at home.” Sounds tedious? It honestly isn’t, just hear me out.

All through my childhood, every celebration or festival, every birthday or anniversary in the house would invariably hear my mother utter this one question. “What would you like to eat?” All our meals, sweets, cakes, desserts, snacks, everything was homemade, every single time. Eating out was a feat that we as a family resorted to only maybe once in a year or maybe even two.  I admit there must have a time or two when I felt a tad jealous of my friends at school who would innocently brag about their weekly (and sometimes daily) family outing for dinner or the Chinese take out that would more often than not have a place in their lunch boxes the next day. At the same time my lunch box would have a humble but fresh meal cooked by my mum’s soft hands early in the morning and almost always boiled rice, some stir fried vegetables and a small cup of yoghurt. The little lunch box wrapped with a frayed lunch towel and generously doused in love I can still feel tugging at my heart so many years later.

That may bring you to a couple of questions. Why make the effort if you can just takeout? Why bother to cook a meal in these days when one has no time even to catch a decent shut eye? It’s food at the end of the day, does it matter if it’s cooked at home or in the restaurant?

Let me explain.

The thing about a home cooked meal is that you know every single ingredient that goes into the dish and in turn into your body. You will know for certain the meat is fresh, the vegetables washed and clean; you even get to choose the oil that works for you and you will for certain know that it’s not refried oil (a major carrier of carcinogens research says) that you are putting into your body. Anyone who has ever deep fried stuff at home knows the sheer quantity of oil that goes to waste later. Do you honestly think the restaurants throw out the oil every single time to make way for fresh oil for every dish they serve? I might think not.

Next, let me address the time constraint. One thing my mum always tells me is this. Every soul on earth gets not a minute more than 24 hours a day. What you want to do with those 24 long hours is solely up to you and I do not mean to coax you to whip up a storm every single day. But how about starting with something as simple as stir fried veggies or grilled chicken or some simple dal with or without rice or anything else that you may fancy? Scramble a few eggs with onions and green chilies maybe? A one pot rice vegetables and meat? We live in a time when you have the world at your fingertips. There is never a dearth of easy, ten minute recipes on the internet, correct? So how about keeping aside half an hour for a home cooked meal? Everyday meals DO NOT have to be fancy and instagrammable, they just need to fill you with goodness. I understand that cooking does not come naturally to all of us but it really is a life skill just for survival and your own health’s sake.

Long story short, at the wake of a new year when we are all looking for resolutions to take up, how about deciding to keep aside a tiny portion of your day for a warm, home cooked meal? This does not mean that you do not stay away from the restaurants in toto; let’s just resolve to not let it be the norm. Please don’t forget to come back and thank me when you see the inches on your waist falling and your tummy less rumbly. This year, let’s resolve to make home cooked meals fashionable again 🙂

On that note, here is a recipe for an easy Spicy One Pot Vegetable Pilaf.


Things you will need:

(Serves 4)

  • Basmati Rice- 2 cups (washed and drained)
  • Onion- 1 large chopped finely
  • Tomato- 1 large chopped
  • Ginger- 1 tablespoon julienned
  • Potato- 1 large cubed
  • Carrots- 1 large cut into semi circles
  • (Add whatever vegetables you may like. Broccoli, cauliflower etc)
  • Whole Coriander seeds- 1 teaspoon
  • Whole black peppercorns- 1 teaspoon
  • Cinammon- a 2 inch stick
  • Cumin/jeera seeds- ½ teaspoon
  • Cloves- 4
  • Green cardamom- 3
  • Bay leaves- 2
  • Green chilies- 2 slit
  • Kashmiri chili powder- 1.5 teaspoon
  • Turmeric- ½ teaspoon
  • Corinader powder- 2-3 teaspoon
  • Garam masala powder- 1 teaspoon
  • Boiling Water- a little more than double the quantity of rice
  • Cooking oil
  • Ghee- optional
  • Salt


How to go about it:

  1. In a large heavy bottomed wok, heat three tablespoons of cooking oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon and bay leaves. Sauté for about 20 seconds.
  2. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it gets nice and golden brown (important). Next goes in the ginger. Sauté for half a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and the green chilies, mix well and keep the wok closed for two minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.
  3. Add the spice powders and salt to taste and keep sautéing until the mixture looks homogeneous and the oil starts to separate. Add the vegetables and turn it all around in the wok. Keep the wok closed for about 30 seconds.
  4. Next, add the washed and drained rice. Mix well but be careful so as to not break the grains of rice and keep sautéing for about two minutes.
  5. Add the boiling water, mix well and keep the wok closed until the water is almost drained. Take off from the heat, drizzle some ghee and keep the wok closed for about 20 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve warm with raita, pickle and pappad.