October 2022 COTM: THALI by Maunika Gowardhan + the author's website

To me, this recipe is interesting because that’s how we make ‘everyday’ cabbage karamadhu (sabzi) in South India, only we use mustard seeds instead if cumin and most often omit the turmeric. This prep is poriyal-adjacent with fewer ingredients. Can see the regional change going from South to North.

I am happy to see this simple, fresh, home cooking type dish getting some love, over and above the richer special dishes.


TADKA DAL - p. 145

While Valadelphia reported on the tadka dal on the Web site upthread, I am posting this as a different recipe because it is a completely different version than the Web one. This one uses chana dal. It’s cooked for a long time with some turmeric. I cooked my dal in a clay La Chamba pot, and while the author says to cook uncovered, I covered the pot with its loose-fitting lid. As is her way, the author doesn’t mention seasoning with salt until the end. I added salt to the pot from the get-go, as is MY way. I uncovered my pot near the end of cooking to allow some water to evaporate to thicken the dal to the degree I wanted. When the dal is about done, you make the tadka. In this case, it consists of cumin, onion, garlic, fennel seed, Kashmiri chile, coriander seed, tomato, and ginger. The tadka is stirred into the beans near the end of cooking, and the dal is garnished with fresh coriander. The picture in the book irritates me, because it shows the tadka sitting on top, and I think pictures like this make people want to serve their dal that way (it’s way to common to see this presentation in photos). And I get it… it’s more photogenic. But sometimes the desire for instagram-worthy pictures leads to misleading pictures. Anyway, in this recipe, after you add the tadka, you are supposed to thin the beans with hot water as needed (I didn’t do this, because I cooked them covered most of the time), and then continue to simmer, and finally season to taste (with salt, I presume, since salt isn’t mentioned anywhere). So obviously the tadka gets mixed into the dal and it won’t like the picture in the book when you serve it.

OK, getting to the important part… did we like it? Yes. A resounding yes, this was an excellent version. I really liked the fennel in this. Of course, looking at the Web version with its asafoetida, curry leaves, and lemon finish, I’m pretty sure I’d like that one just as well. A dal for every mood!


Boy, that looks fantastic.

I had about 5 chayotes in my fridge that needed to be used, and while this recipe is intended for hard winter squashes, the flavors work very well together. I enjoyed more and more each day, starting with eating just 3-4 pieces along with my lunch to eventually upping to this dish being the star of my plate. The only downside is that I doubt it would freeze well and I still have a fair amount left a week after cooking it; I hope I don’t have to throw any away.
Mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and fennel seeds are coarse ground with a mortar and pestle. They are then fried with a little asafoetida and chopped ginger. Squash is stirred in, as well as chile powder and a little turmeric. Water is added and the dish is covered until the squash cooks through. Finish with a little jaggery/sugar and a lot of dried mango powder.
My mango powder isn’t the freshest, but it still has a strong aroma. This didn’t come through much in the dish, though; at no point did it taste remotely sour or pickled to me. That said, I ate it for lunch in my classroom on Friday, and the first students who walked in said, “it smells like pickles in here.”
The first day this dish was very, very fennel forward. It’s changed a little bit every day though, so I’d recommend making it days in advance if you’re planning a big meal.


I’ve seen and tasted many variations on saffron-and-yogurt chicken, but this one is by far the best. On the first day or two the saffron is almost too strong, but it mellows and the texture of the thick gravy (that seems the most appropriate word for it) is so thick and rich I can eat it by the spoonful.
The base of the texture is cashews and white poppy seeds that are soaked and then pureed. Combine this with pureed onion, garlic, and ginger and also yogurt, chile powder, ground coriander, and lots of saffron. This is your marinade. I only had time to marinate for an hour or two, and it gave plenty of flavor.
Next you scrape off most of the marinade and “fry” the chicken pieces just to start them cooking (which wasn’t easy, but I managed to keep them from burning). Now you add the rest of the marinade to the pot, over, and cook on low until the chicken is cooked through. Finally, stir in a spice blend you’ve made of mace, green cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon and cook a bit more for the flavors to blend.
This is a rich dish, so one recipe has lasted us several days.



This was a favorite weekend breakfast (and occasional weeknight dinner) when I was growing up.

The barely-cooked flavors of the vegetables are part of the flavor equation (like salsa fresca vs cooked salsa @Amandarama — but also doesn’t taste raw in the end product because it’s been gently cooked).

I use serrano or thai chilli for the green chilli and skip the red chilli powder (muddies the chilli flavor) and turmeric (because: yolks are already yellow and gratuitous turmeric flavor is undesirable to me).

We sometimes add mint in addition to cilantro, which makes it a Parsi omelette. Black pepper always, though she doesn’t. Some like cheese in the mix, cheddar is good.

We usually eat this with buttered toast, though it’s an easy kati roll in a tortilla, chapati, or paratha (also kind of like jian bing).

Makes a great travel meal when sandwiched into soft bread — and that’s how I ate it yesterday: a masala omelette sandwich for the flight, and the second one toasted when I got home for a late dinner. Ketchup on the side.

One other thing about the way the recipe is written vs actually making it — I make the vegetable mixture together but only beat one egg at a time, mixing in a proportional amount, because I’m not so good at measuring out one egg portions from a bunch of beaten eggs, but it’s not hard to eyeball the vegetable mix.


MARATHI KOLAMBI BHAAT - Prawns cooked with chiles, garlic and basmati rice

This has been on my list to make for a while and the cooler temps (and upcoming busy work week) were a great excuse to make this (leftovers!).

She explains that Kolambi Bhaat is a rice dish in the style of a pulao, rather than a biryani, as the rice is cooked separately from a flavorful base and then the two are folded together. In this recipe, you make a base of cooked onions and spices (cinnamon, cardamom, asafoetida, bay leaves, cumin, and cloves) to which you add ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes, and tomato paste, along with garam masala. Then you add shrimp that you’ve dusted with a little salt and turmeric and let the shrimp just cook through. Season with lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, and curry leaves, then fold in your warm, cooked basmati rice until the rice is well coated with your tomato and shrimp base. Let rest for a moment and then serve with chopped fresh chiles, cilantro, and grated coconut. Pretty easy easy for a weeknight and made even easier by me making the tomato base yesterday and then reheating it today with the raw shrimp.

A couple little changes - I did not have the Maharashtrian goda masala powder called for, so I subbed in garam masala and some toasted, ground coconut. I also added a fresh hot chile (a habanero) with the tomatoes and left off the fresh chiles at the end. We found this really delicious and I would make it again!


Very pretty dish. Some dishes you can just smell through the internet!


BENGALI MACHER JHOL (Thali - p. 130)
Turmeric and Mustard Fish Curry

If you enjoy fish curries, this one is really satisfying. I used a fatty trout fillet instead of steaks from a white fleshed fish. I think that trout and salmon work really well with mustard, of which this curry is redolent! She writes in the recipe that if you have mustard oil then you don’t need to add the English mustard at the end. Indeed, the flavor of the mustard oil (3 T. worth) does carry the flavor more than satisfactorily.

You fry nigella seeds and bay leaves in the oil and then add whole chiles and ginger-garlic paste. Then you fry tomatoes until pretty thoroughly dissolved into the now very well spiced oil. Add a little turmeric (you will use the remainder to season your fish). Add potatoes (she does not specify if floury or waxy. I used red potatoes because that’s what I had.) and water and simmer until tender. Then add the fish (that you’ve dusted with turmeric and salt) and cook until just cooked through (mine took about 5 minutes) and the English mustard (if using) and garam masala. The result is a soupy stew that really wants something to sop it up, be it rice or bread. Serve with rice or as part of a thali. I made two other recipes of hers to go with this, although they were from her other cookbook, Indian Kitchen - green bean poriyal and her Simple Pulao (which has cashews and peas and is flavored with cumin, cloves, and turmeric).

We really enjoyed it and the weather, which keeps tending toward bleak and rainy, called for something this hearty. As with other recipes of hers, you get a note in the ingredients of “extra salt to taste”, so I tasted as I went. I used a healthy pinch to break down the tomatoes, as well as another to the water the potatoes cooked with. To my taste (with the salt on the fish) it was enough. Verdict - I will make this again!


Such a beautiful plate of food @Amandarama!

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Thank you! Credit partially goes to my mom for finding those pasta bowls. They make it very easy to plate things in a way that looks good!


Our January COTM nomination thread is here:


I made this with masoor dal (because that’s what I had on hand) and half a bag (~170g) of frozen spinach. I sauteed the spices, garlic and (chopped) chiles up front (she has you add it just split), rather than separately and frying the cooked lentils in it. I just used the sauteed aromatics as the base for the simmering lentils. Be aware that there is a typo in the US version of the book - if you follow the imperial measurements for the additional water - 300 ml of water (~10 fl. oz.) is NOT 3 3/4 cups. It is about 1 2/3 c. So, you’re best off using the metric measurements for this recipe! I caught myself, but that would have been unfortunate.

I served this with brown rice and a little chile oil. Great flavors and a real pick me up on this very rainy day!


GOAN DALICHA RAS (Spicy Turmeric Dal with Sichuan Pepper) p. 140

Getting one more recipe from this book in for the year, before BF comes back from Florida and we probably spend much of this holiday week getting delivery or venturing out to eat.

This dal caught my eye because of the use of Sichuan peppercorns. Gowardhan says these do grow in India and are called tirphal . On her Web site, there are a couple of other dishes where she uses them, a mackeral dish and a vegetable one. I hope to get to those at some point, as well.

The dish begins with cooking the beans with some water. She calls for toor dal, but, again, I had masoor dall, so I did not cook for as long as she called for (about half the time). Meanwhile, you make a paste from coconut (I used reconstituted, unsweetened dried; she calls for fresh or frozen), turmeric, chile powder, tamarind paste (I used concentrate to taste), and water. This gets stirred into the cooked beans along with the Sichuan peppercorns and a pinch of sugar and simmered for another 10 minutes.

You might be tempted to skip the sugar. Don’t. It really helps to balance out the flavors of the coconut and tamarind. I salted to taste at the end. I also added a crushed, dry red chile de arbol and a bit more Sichuan peppercorn (everything to taste, right?).

I loved this! It is nutty, a little sweet, spicy, tangy. A lot going on in this one. Will definitely go in the repeat file!


This is the recipe that sold me on the book, and then I forgot to make it! Thanks for your review.

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KERALA CHICKEN ISHTU / Chicken stew with coconut milk, ginger, curry leaves and chillies

Website recipe.

I’ve been craving Kerala stew, and decided to try this recipe vs how the vegetable version I usually eat is made.

This is simple if the key ingredients are at hand – curry leaves, ginger, garlic, green chillies, whole spices.

The recipe and process are linked, so I won’t go into those, just my changes. I found the omission of ginger in the cooking process very odd, as ginger has been one of the main flavors whenever I’ve eaten this. It’s also ginger and not garlic used in her own vegetarian recipe. So, I added a good bit of ginger. I used chicken thighs, let them cook for a good stock to form, then removed them before adding the coconut milk. I shredded the meat and added it back for a few minutes at the end. I also added broccoli slaw (to my bowl, not the soup, to keep the flavor clean) for vegetable content.

I made this thinner than usual because I was going to add rice noodles (instead of making appam) and eat it like a soup. It worked, but I didn’t love the Thai rice noodles – cappelini would have probably been better.

The flavors were a bit muddy compared to the vegetarian version I usually eat, but still tasty. Another time I would use the vegetarian recipe (without tomatoes or turmeric, this is a white stew for me!) but add the chicken early on. I love cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots in this, so I’ll make sure I have them on hand next time I make it.

Still, flavorful for not much effort.


I learned a delicious Mutton “Ishtu?” dish in the Kottayam area eaten with Appams (which we also learned to make).
Are most of the “white” Coconut milk curries called “Ishtus” in Kerala?

Ishtu is just a common mispronunciation of Stew.

There are probably a lot of white gravy dishes in the region, as coconut and coconut milk looks that way in the absence of turmeric, so there are likely other preps that look similar (kurma and so on).

I think I enjoy appams best with stew (vs rice or idiappam), whether made with coconut or just plain dosa batter (cheat version) – I was sorry I didn’t spend the extra few minutes to make them! Maybe with the leftovers…

Ah. That explains a lot. The recipe I received was titled “Mutton Stew”.


Website recipe.

This is an easy and delicious use for extra boiled eggs, or a quick dinner where the curry base gets done while the eggs are cooking.

My two changes: I didn’t fry the eggs (I don’t like overcooked boiled eggs and it’s hard enough to make egg curry without that happening as it is), and I didn’t grind the onion but sliced it long and caramelized well as step 1 (I had ground ginger-garlic paste already, and ground onions take a lot longer to cook out than chopped or sliced). Also added a sliced green chilli in addition to the dried for a different flavor of heat (does that make sense?).

Lovely with fresh bread, as also with rice.