What is Curry?

“Can you name some spices that are native to India?”, whenever I ask any class at school, Instantly a couple hands shoot up and I hear, “Curry.” I have heard it so many times  over the last seven years, that now….whenever I am  talking about food and spices from India, my opening line is, “Curry is not a spice!” Now lets talk about the real spices – Pepper, Tumeric, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Mace and so on……

Often, mention of Indian food always triggers an automatic response, ” I love curry.” And then I wonder.. which curry? Well!  growing up in India, curry to me was anything with a sauce. As I hopped from house to house in my neighborhood savoring different kinds of “curries”, not only did they vary in taste, they also varied in color, as they could be white, creamy, yellow, orange, brown or green. It was clear that, there was no one particular combination or spice-blend of making sauces. Every cook had their own unique way of combining spices and making their own sauces also known as curries….

Then there is curry leaf that has no connection with the sauce. It is just a leaf, that we called “Kari pata” used mostly in South Indian cooking for seasoning in hot oil with mustard seeds or in a coconut chutney or a complex spice blend.

Curry Leaves native to South India

I had never heard of that dreaded yellow concoction called the “curry powder.” I saw it for the first time at a Natural food store in South Carolina, I tried it, somehow could never warm up to it. It is often used in soup recipes or any recipe, that need that Indian touch! Perhaps, a western concept of the “Indian touch!”

Does anybody want it?

A yellow spice blend – Curry

Thankfully Wikipedia has it right – their definition of curry  – It is a dish originating in the cuisine of India. The common feature is the use of complex combinations of spices or herbs, usually including fresh or dried hot chillies. The use of the term is generally limited to dishes prepared in a sauce. Although the British coined “Curry”, the original word “Kari” in tamil has existed for 4500 years.

Cilantro – Coconut Chutney garnished with curry leaves

1/2 C of shredded coconut ( fresh or dried)
1 bunch cilantro
1 -3 jalapeno peppers ( depending on how hot you like it)
1 cup of milk/yoghurt or water

2 Tbsp Peanut Oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
4 – 5 curry leaves

  1. Put all ingredients in the blender, add some salt
  2. Water can make the chutney thin, so add 2 -3 Tbsp of roasted cashew/walnut/peanut into the blender
  3. Seasoning : Heat Peanut oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, let them sputter and 4 -5 curry leaves …. Add it to the chutney for that extra flavor
  4. Enjoy!!! it is a dip or spread ……

March 25th dinner for X Team Robotics

The food is prepared with mostly local & organic – fresh ingredients & homemade spice blends! Almost all the dishes are Gluten free except for Naan 

The March 25th menu is : –

Lemon Spinach Soup : Assorted organic veggies and spinach cooked in a light veggie broth and flavored with lemon juice served with a dollop of sticky purple rice

Mint-lemon Chicken Masala: Local chicken cubes simmered in an aromatic sauce comprising roasted shallots, mint, garlic, ginger and yoghurt spiced with ( Cayenne pepper,cloves, and cardamom)

Daal:  Organic Moong daal cooked with assorted veggies and flavored with a sauce comprising, roasted onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and other spices

Sweet Potato Sagoo :  Organic/local sweet potatoes, roasted seasoned  with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and shredded coconut in a blend of  yoghurt sauce

 Pulao : Basmati Rice with peas, seasoned with cumin, tumeric and lemon juice

 Naan : Local white flour bread (is used to scoop up the meat/veggies)

 Raita : Homemade Yoghurt blended with grated green apples and Garam masala ( can be added to meat/veggie dish to make it milder)

 Spicy hot  green tomato Chutney: A spicy blend of  roasted green tomatoes, jalapeno and spices and salt (to be added to the meat/veggie dish to make it more spicy or tangy)

 Drink – Chai Tea: Freshly made hot, creamy, fragrant with black tea, fresh cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and sugar

Dessert: Gulab Jamun ~ doughnut like balls soaked in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom and rose water…..

To make a Reservation contact Ish at Cookingwithish@gmail.com Dinner seating at 5:30 PM ,  cost $ 33

Dinner for X Team @ Creperie, Musketeers, Robotics & a recipe

What has food got to do with Robots? Well!  Dinners fund the passion for building Robots. So all our dinners have been fundraisers for our Robotics team – X Team. About 16 of them. Our very first dinner was for the earthquake victims in Nepal and the second one was for a soccer coach’s baby that needed an operation . After that, all our fundraisers have been for X Team Robotics. This Jan 27th,  X Team  dressed as Musketeers,  won the Montana State Championship, at the FTC ( Robotics competition) in Bozeman. Thanks to my world famous designer niece, Karishma @ http://www.KKristina.com, who designed these awesome costumes for our Musketeers. It was really an exciting moment for all of us to win the top award after four years of Robotics.

Our X Team  – Musketeers in action at the state tournament in Bozeman

XTeam Musketeers – intense moments
All for one One for all, United we stand divided we fall
XTeam with their Robot 7208

So our Feb 11th fundraiser will help fund our trip  for Super- regionals Robotics tournament in Tacoma, Washington from March 9th – 12th.

The Feb  Indian dinner will be served by X Team at Creperie as usual


The food is prepared with mostly local & organic – fresh ingredients & homemade spice blends! Almost all the dishes are Gluten free except for Naan & Vegan except for the Chicken dish  & Raita and usually set up like this : – 


The Feb 11th menu is : –

Mulligwatany Soup : Organic Toor daal simmered with assorted veggies in a sauce comprising coconut, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and tamarind

Khus-Khus Chicken Masala: Local chicken cubes simmered in an aromatic sauce comprising roasted shallots, tomatoes, garlic, ginger spiced with (white poppy seeds, Cayenne pepper,cloves, and cardamom and )

Alu :  Local Yukon potatoes seasoned  with a blend of Spices( Tumeric, Coriander, Cumin, Garam Masala )

Cholle-Palak:  Organic garbanzo beans cooked with Spinach and flavored with a sauce comprising, garlic, ginger, tomato and other spices

 Pulao : Basmati Rice with peas, almonds and fresh pomegranate seasoned with garam masala

 Naan : Local white flour bread (is used to scoop up the meat/veggies)

 Raita : Homemade Yoghurt blended with grated Cucumber and Garam masala ( can be added to meat/veggie dish to make it milder)

 Spicy Black Chutney: A spicy blend of  Hot peppers, ginger, garlic and goda masala and salt (to be added to the meat/veggie dish to make it more spicy)

 Drink – Chai Tea: Freshly made hot, creamy, fragrant with black tea, fresh cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and sugar

Dessert: Gulab Jamun ~ doughnut like balls soaked in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom and rose water…..

To make a Reservation contact Ish at Cookingwithish@gmail.com Dinner seating at 5:30 PM ,  cost $ 33

Now Kichdi is also also known as a mish-mash; an assortment of different ingredients thrown together!!! And this blog post seems like a mish-mash of robotics, Feb 11th dinner menu and now a recipe.. mmm! A kichdi recipe fits in perfectly with the scheme of things… Also it  is a fast and a quick dish to prepare.



1 Cup rice
1/2 Cup daal (Red lentils or yellow Mung daal)
3 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of frozen peas and assort veggies


2-3T Avocado Oil/Ghee

1 Bay leaf
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
1 Cup Sliced onions
1 Cups chopped Roma Tomatoes


1/2t Tumeric
1/2t Cayenne pepper
1/2t salt
1-2 T Garam Masala
Salt to taste

Method for making Kichdi

Wash rice and daal in cold running water about 4 -5 times till water runs clean and soak for 15 – 20 mins


  1. Heat Oil/ghee in a  5 qt pan
  2. Add Bay leaf, garlic, ginger and saute for 2-3 mins
  3. Add onions and saute for 3  mins more
  4. Add peas and other veggies and Saute for 2 mins
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for 2 mins
  6. Cover and cook for 3-5 mins, till all the tomato is softened and blended well with the onion mixture
  7. Put washed  rice and ground daal  along with hot water in a pan
  8. Add Tumeric, Cayenne pepper and salt
  9. Let it come to a nice boil
  10. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until all water evaporates
  11. Let sit for 5 more minutes.
  12. Add Garam Masala

Enjoy with a dollop of ghee…

Plum Walnut cake

This lovely tree in my backyard is my inspiration for making this cake. I have been enjoying the sweet, juicy plums along with the squirrels…. but then there are so many more, so I tweaked a recipe of Fig Almond cake ( from NY times) & made it my own……



Very Simple, 4 steps is all it takes ….. Here are the ingredients ~

 1 1/3 C Walnuts,   1/3 C + 1 T Sugar, 1/4 C Whole wheat pastry flour,
1/2 t Baking Powder, 1/2 t Cinnamon,  1/2 C Coconut butter, 3 Eggs,  2 T Honey & 12 – 14 plums

Step 1

Put all the dry ingredients together in a food processor a dry grinder and pulse until well blended together

Step 2

Whisk the eggs, butter & honey together until well mixed, then add in the dry ingredients & blend well.. All I used was a wire whisk…

Step 3

Put the batter on a greased pie plate, top it off with sliced plums on top with a drizzle of 1 -2 Tbsp sugar on top

Step 4

Bake at 350 degree F for 30 – 40 minutes until done in the middle & Voila!

And the flavor… a nice mix of sweet, tangy and juicy… my boys loved it!!!

Just half a spoon of Haldi (Turmeric)

“Half a spoon ( about 1 teaspoon) is enough!”, my mother would say. The first thing I learned about cooking veggies was “add some haldi ( turmeric)”  after about two – three minutes of sauteing, be it potatoes,  peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, they all needed that little bit of haldi, followed by a dash of salt. Cook on low heat for about 20 – 25 minutes until done, finish with a sprinkle of garam masala. Simple, easy & delicious!


Namak Daani ( Traditional spice box)

My mom’s spices were all freshly ground and stored in this Namak Daani ( spice box) a standard feature at many North Indian homes. She could whip up 5 – 6 dishes for a crowd coming over for dinner in a couple hours. Be it 15 people or 50 people, her estimate on how much to make was always perfect. And the food always delicious!!! She  kept it simple, by using Haldi and Garam masala as her primary spice agents. To get that touch of tanginess in Cholle ( garbanzo bean masala) she would add freshly crushed Anardana (dry Pomegranate seeds), or raw green chillies to spice up the saag( steamed greens) or raw chopped red onions on the side to add that crunch to the daal.

Quick Cabbage Stir Fry



4 C chopped Cabbage
1 Banana Pepper
1 t tumeric
1 t Garam Masala
2 T oil


  1. Put the chopped cabbage and banana pepper on a non stick skillet
  2. Saute for 2 minutes
  3. Add Tumeric and Salt and blend well for 2 more minutes till it is soft and slightly cooked
  4. Drizzle oil and blend for another 2 minutes on high heat
  5. Sprinkle Garam Masala
  6. Enjoy it with some Roti/Pita or flat bread…….

Dry turmeric  would always be spread out in the sun before being taken to the mill to be ground into a fine powder. After I moved away from home,  I always got to bring a jar back, each time I visited them, for the next 20 years. My father dutifully made packets for me to take along, even though I had plenty of stock. So, I could share fresh turmeric powder with my friends as well – the abundance of it all.


Now, I look at the few jars I have left  and wonder if I should leave them as keepsakes, as this tradition of drying and grinding turmeric at our home in India has come to an end….









Squash Blossom – Dolmas

I made Squash Blossom – Dolmas today! Thanks to my friend who plucked 50 blossoms from her garden and a suggestion by Ronit Penso of Tasty Eats. They were super delicious and easy to make. It reminded me of the time, we soccer moms stood around the  kitchen counter making samosas for a fundraiser!  Dolmas would be fun to make in a group, they would be healthier and quicker to make too… maybe next time.

All I did was, wash the blossoms, fill them with the rice filling, fold them, arrange them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and bake them at 400 F for about 20 minutes till the edges turned crisp.  As for the filling, I added chopped Parsely & Mint ( 4 – 6 tbsp), Lemon juice ( 3 – 4 Tbsp), Red pepper flakes ( 2 Tbsp) and Sesame oil ( 2 Tbsp) to about 2 cups of cooked Basmati rice.


I baked some of the Blossoms plain, and they were good too, nice and crisp. Either way, a good Appetizer….






Squash Blossoms: Dosa (Crepe) & Salad

My friend, Stephanie gave me Squash blossoms from her garden today. I have never cooked with them before.

What does one do with Squash blossoms?  Well I ask Google and find many recipes that urge me to “Fill them up with cheese and then deep fry.”  While other recipes call for putting them in Omelets, Frittata, Quesdillas or use them as a Pizza topping.

So now what am I going to do with them? I eat one raw, it is delicious!  Then I chop some of the Squash blossoms, put them in an existing Dosa ( crepe) batter. And I make some Dosas for lunch! Delicious!!!

I stir fry the remaining Squash blossoms  on a medium-hot sauce pan for about 4 – 5 minutes, then add them to shredded to Red Cabbage -Cucumber salad with a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkle of crushed pepper on the top.

Yummy! Next time, I will stir fry the Squash blossoms with some rice, peas ….and cumin………….



Steamed rotis – Auntie Trejavathi’s Kitchen

Soft, moist and yummy is how I remember Bilavalege – a steamed roti of sorts with tomato gojju, a spicy, tangy, sweet sauce.  It was one of my favorites at Auntie’s kitchen. Even after 25 years, the warmth and her immaculate kitchen remain unchanged! She was really happy to show me how she made them.


To a steel tumbler (cup) of hot water, she added another tumbler of flour and let it cook on low heat for 2 minutes in a beautiful brass pot. Then blended it well with a wooden ladle before shaping handfuls of the dough into balls and flattening it into little discs.

Then she proceeded to roll out the dough disc on a plastic sheet, as the dough is sticky, before cooking it on a hot griddle

It used to be Mamatha’s house for me. Back then, Mamatha and me would take turns visiting each other’s houses to just chat or study together. Visiting also entailed a warm welcome and warm homemade food at both the houses. That was the beauty of going to a friend’s house, especially of a different culture, you got to eat something really different and delicious!!! Besides, every kitchen in India has a flavor of its own, own spice blends and flavorings that have been passed down in the family from one generation to another.

At Auntie Trejavathi’s kitchen, I was introduced to so many different kinds of food & different flavors. So going to her house was always a treat. The kitchen was always spic and span with everything beautifully organized and arranged. We would sit on the marble kitchen floor, while she served the food to us and everyone else, before eating herself.

The gojjus, saarus ( lentil based sauce) and the rice dishes (eggplant, peppers, mango) were super delicious and super spicy, even though she would tone down the spice level for me. I enjoyed her green pepper rice, Obbatu( jaggery stuffed wraps), Mulangi Sambhar (radish & dal), Mango rice and bilavalege – steamed roti.

As usual, I couldn’t leave without eating, so I got to eat the  Bilavalege -steamed roti that I had watched her make with a side of French bean- coconut, seasoned with black mustard seeds and Obbatu as well! It was a nice visit, as we talked a lot – she about Mamatha and her grand daughters and me about my sons as we pulled up pictures on the phones & ipad. Back then, it used to be about classes, exams & grades.


As I was leaving, I said “Barteene Auntie” ( I will be back)……. another way of saying goodbye!!!

1 Cup Wheat/Rice Flour
1 Cup Water
1/2 tsp Salt

 1 tsp Oil

1. Boil the water in a saucepan or pot, add salt.
2. Place a wooden spoon in the pot and then add the wheat/rice flour.
3. Do not stir.
4. Reduce heat to low and let it cook for 1 – 2 minutes.
5. Turn off heat and stir quickly using the wooden spoon to make a lump free soft dough.
6. Knead the dough while its hot.
7. Apply a little oil to your hands, as the dough is sticky
8. Take a handful of dough and shape it into round ball then flatten it into a disc
7. Roll the round disc (on a plastic sheet/parchment paper) till they are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter
9. Cook the round disc (roti) on both sides ( about a 75 – 90 seconds on each side) – Medium heat 
10. You can have it with a dip/roasted veggies of your choice


Cooking Class party for Myrna Loy @ Creperie

These ladies had fun making Dosas, Chutney, Raita, Alu & Masala Chai

Tamara Blank and her friends won my cooking class at the Myrna Loy Auction. They wanted a gluten free class, what could be better than a dosa ( Indian crepe)? It was a fun group and I had met some of them before. Anyways, one can’t go too far in Helena without bumping into someone you know:)

This time I experimented with setting up stations for the different items and it seems like it worked out just fine….The Cucumber Raita(blended yoghurt) went well as a dip with crackers and so did the Cilantro-Coconut chutney…. The Alu ( Boiled potatoes) had just the right flavor with all the spices and a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro on the top. The Chai had a strong flavor of black cardamom. And Jeff’s Crepe griddles are the best for making dosas.

Everyone experimented making dosas of varying shapes and thickness, they all tasted good. I think!

Jeff was in the background prepping food for the next day, I saw him blending some delicious looking strawberries and blueberries for his crepes. I can’t wait to have them tomorrow…. yum!



Spiritual India – Dinner for 12 @ Creperie

Beautiful Altar & Table set up with steel Thaali & tumblers by VJ, Jeff Spurlin & Taylor – We are ready for our guests

Jeff & VJ friends for 30+ years…
Our guests all in white ready for their journey to Spiritual India
Naan with Tomato- Date Chutney & Masala Chai  – Appetizers-

And ….I forgot to take pictures of the food, as we got busy serving…… I got so taken in by the ambience and the lighting. VJ did an excellent job of setting up the Altar with pictures and idol of lord Ganesha with flowers, tea candles & lighting around them. It was nice of Taylor to help us, besides, he can tie a turban so well, after watching it being tied once. Jeff brought out his beautiful table clothes and Napkins.

When the guest arrived, all dressed in white ( as a part of the spiritual theme), I got busy making Naan. While VJ did a little ceremony and Taylor served tea. I was the only one not wearing white, while VJ wore a white saree. I just wasn’t thinking when I was getting ready….

All I did was make the food. It was the usual Langar ( community kitchen) kind of vegetarian food with Rajma Dal ( Kidney beans & Black lentils in a creamy sauce), Alu Gobi ( Caulifower & potatoes), Matar- Paneer Pulao( Rice dish with peas, nuts & homemade cheese), Raita & Halwa ( Semolina pudding with cashews & raisins) and of course Naan made right there on Jeff’s special griddles….All organic & made extra special with Ghee and coconut butter.

And everybody got to take a banana home as prasadam ( religous offering)

It was a TCEF fundraiser – “Indian dinner for 12 with a theme”-