Plantain Two Ways

Plantain is such an under-appreciated vegetable in so many cultures. Even here, in the Caribbean, they make tostones, fried plantains and that’s it. But we, South-Indians have so many plantain recipes. And seeing plantains so often in the supermarket, in the farmer’s market, or simply on the street side shops, makes me very happy.


Vazhakkai, has so many uses in the South-Indian kitchen. We make so many sides, bajji, pan-fried, sautéd with spice powder, steamed, and I’m sure so many more preparations. I’m gonna try all of them, as plantains are in season here now. In fact, in South India, we use every part of the banana tree. We cook with banana stems, blossoms, plantains, bananas, we eat on banana leaves.. I remember a time when we used to go to our grandmother’s house for summer vacation, and there were a few banana and coconut trees in backyard, and we used to cut banana leaves just before lunch to eat on them.

But here, in the Cayman, it’s still here. If you go down south, to the older, non-touristy parts, every house has a couple of banana trees and coconut trees, sometimes neem trees and mango trees. (New life aim to live in one such house).

In the past one month (it’s been a month since we moved here? :O), with my limited kitchen utensils (no, our shipped stuff is still somewhere mid-atlantic), I’ve tried out 2 recipes using local plantains. One is pan-fried, and the other steamed. Will give both recipes here. I am also currently ripening one plantain to make platanos maduros. More on that later. Now to the recipes.

Pan-Fried Plantain (Vazhakkai varuval)



Ingredients :

Plantains – 2
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Chili powder – 1 tsp
Salt, to taste
For tempering –
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – few
Asafoetida – a pinch

Method :

  1. Peel and slice plantain thinly. You can use a mandoline for this.
  2. Marinate it in a mixture of turmeric, chili powder and salt for salt.
  3. Heat a wide pan, add oil and temper mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.
  4. After the mustard seeds splutter, add the marinated plantains to the pan, and try to spread them so they’re in an even, single layer on the pan. (If your pan is too small, and the plantains look crowded, pan-fry in two batches).
  5. Pan-fry them, on medium high heat, turning once or twice, so it cooks evenly on all sides.
  6. When it’s cooked through, and you have the desired level of crispiness, remove from pan and serve.

Vazhakkai podi (Plantain spiced powder)

The traditional recipe, of course, doesn’t use flaxseeds. I’m adding it here because, flaxseed is super healthy with fibre and omega3, but has to be eaten powdered and raw. Also we should consume it immediately after grinding. So this podi is only meant for serving right away, not to be kept for later and eaten. But, even if the nutrients deteriorate, it would still be good kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.



Plantain – 1
Urad dal – 2 tbsp
Chana Dal – 2 tbsp
Red Chili – 2
Curry leaves – few
Flaxseed – 1 tbsp (optional)
Tamarind – 1/4 tsp of extract, or tiny bit of raw tamarind
Salt – to taste
Asafoetida – a pinch


  1. Steam the plantains with their peel on, in a steamer or in your pressure cooker for 10-15 min.
  2. Remove off steamer, and peel the plantains. The peel should slip off easily. Grate the plantains on a box grater and keep aside.
  3. Roast the dals, red chiles and curry leaves in a tsp of oil till golden brown.
  4. Grind the roasted stuff, along with a bit of tamarind, salt, and asafoetida coarsely.
  5. Add the grated plantain, spin the blender a few more times, till you get an even mixture.
  6. Vazhakkai podi can be eaten mixed with plain white rice and ghee. Or you can use it as side for curd rice, idli, dosai.

Vendakkai Kari (Pan-fried Okra)

I’ve always had a thing for cooking/buying local, in-season produce. I don’t understand people who live in India and pay Rs.200 for an avocado, or people living abroad hunting for imported Indian mangoes. Sure, once in a while is fine. But regularly, we should all try to eat local produce. They’re fresher, cheaper and definitely much healthier.

Hence, I frequent farmer’s markets. After our recent move, it took me one day to locate the time and place of the local market. It was quite easy given that the area of the island is just 75sqmi. But the local market here is so different from those I’ve been to before, the produce so different. Summer in NY means, best of fruits – peaches and apricots and berries. Here it’s mangoes. So many varieties of local mangoes. And star fruit and guavas and coconut. It’s quite a revelation. As far as veggies go, right now, okra and plantains are in season. I buy them every week and try out new ways to fix them.


Today, I will give here my Okra recipe. I never buy frozen okra, because my favorite way to make it crispy, pan-fried, and okra and moisture don’t go well. Look how gorgeous this farmer’s market haul is! And I’ve never seen red okra before! I’ve always loved okra, and not because my mom told me that eating okra makes you a genius at Math. Now my kids love it too. It’s their favorite vegetable of all time. Here’s how I make it (and how my mom made it).

Pan-fried Okra (Vendakkai kari in Tamil)


Okra – 1/2 kg (about 1 pound)
Oil for tempering
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves – few
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1tsp (You can change this based on your spice level, but I keep it here otherwise you can’t really taste the okra, or anything else)
Salt – to taste


1. Wash the okra well. Wipe it well with a fresh tea towel. Let it sit in a colander for 10-15 min to air dry. You don’t want any water on the okra. Dry it again with a paper towel if you must. No water!

2. Slice it with a sharp knife, taking care not to bruise it too much. And don’t slice it carpaccio-thin, thinking it would be crisper. Slice it thusly.




3. Use a wide pan. Don’t use your vANali/wok here. You need a pan wide enough to fit the okra without crowding it in a pile. You don’t want it to steam.

4. Heat oil (medium high heat). Temper mustard seeds, urad dal, asafoetida and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered and the dal is brown, add turmeric powder and chili powder. Don’t burn them, but let it mix with the oil well.

5. Add the chopped okra. Mix with the seasoned oil well and spread it out evenly in the pan so it’s not all crowded. Let it sit here and cook for a bit.

6. Resist the temptation to stir the okra too much. The more you stir, the more gooey the okra becomes. Also, notice we haven’t added salt yet. And we won’t till the very end. This is because salt is hydrophilic, and will draw moisture out of the food. We don’t want more moisture in there. Keep the heat at medium-high as well.

7. Stir the okra once every five minutes. so it cooks evenly on all sides. In about 15 min, you will notice, while stirring, the okra is no longer gooey and has turned color slightly. At this point, add salt to taste, stir well, and cook for another 5-7 minutes, till the okra is at desired level of crispness.

8. Take off heat and serve with rice/roti or just eat it off the pan. I’ve done all 3.




Rice and Beans


I always have canned beans on hand. Dried beans of course are the  preferred  choice, and I use those often, but canned beans are a lifesaver for quick week night meals. Especially for vegetarians. Today, for example, I had some ripe avocados that I wanted to use before they spoiled. Guacamole  is always my choice, because the family loves it. And when considering a main dish of the same cuisine, I didn’t have much choices. Hence decided to make this simple, one-pot  Mexican  rice and beans.

Rice and Beans


Onions – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Carrots – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Garlic – 2 cloves
Green bell pepper – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Green chilies – 2 (I just slit them in half, if you like it spicy, dice it finely)
Tomato paste – 1 tsp
Rice – 1 cup (any kind, I used basmati)
Red kidney beans – 1 can, rinsed many times
Cumin powder – 1tsp
Salt – to taste
Vegetable or Chicken stock – 2 cups (can be substituted with water)
Cilantro for garnish


1. In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I used my pressure pan) add about a tbsp of olive oil. Add onions, garlic, carrots, bell pepper and green chilies and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste, salt and cumin powder and sauté for a few minutes more.
3. Add the rice, and mix well, till every grain is coated well with the onion-tomato mixture.
4. Add beans, stock and bring to a boil.
5. If using a pressure pan, at this point close and cook for 2 whistles. If it’s a regular pan, cover and cook till all the water is absorbed, for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Let it sit, covered, for about 5 min.
7. Fluff the rice up with a fork, and serve, garnishing with chopped cilantro.


1. Use any kind of rice. I used basmati. If using brown rice though, soak it for about 30 minutes first, and then follow the recipe.
2. This rice can be eaten as is, or served with toppings (sour cream, lettuce, grated cheese, the works). Or wrap everything up in a tortilla and serve as a burrito.
3. Skip the beans, and serve the spiced rice as a side for fish or chicken.

Kovil Dosai

In Azhagar Kovil (Madurai, South India) this dosai is given as prasadham. It’s not the paper thin dosais of restaurants, but a heartier, thicker dosai that has this aroma of ginger, cumin and black pepper. I don’t know how, but you can smell it everywhere around the temple. It’s quite easy to make at home, but if you’re ever in Madurai, don’t miss this.

Kovil Dosai


Raw Rice – 2 cups
Urad dal (black urad dal, with skin) – 1 cup
Dry ginger (sukku) – 1″ piece
Black Peppercorns – 1 tbsp
Cumin – 1/2 tbsp
Curry leaves – 10
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste


1. Soak black urad dal in enough water overnight.
2. Soak the raw rice in enough water for around 4 hours. (You can do this in the morning, say around 6am and grind the batter around 10am. Whatever works for you. Rice doesn’t have to soak as much as the dal).
3. Grind the urad dal finely, till it’s light and fluffy.
4. Grind the rice next, fine enough.
5. Mix the dal batter, rice batter with enough salt, and let it ferment in room temperature overnight. (Depending on where you live, this can take anywhere from 4-5hrs to 12hrs. If you live in a particularly cold region, ferment the batter inside the oven with the light on.
6. Once the batter has fermented, and smells pleasantly sour, you can store it in the refrigerator.
7. When you are ready to make dosais, coarsely powder the dry ginger, peppercorns, cumin. Pile it on top of the batter, with the curry leaves. Heat ghee in a small pan, until it’s smoking hot and add it on top of the powdered spices. (We do this to fry the spices, bring out the aroma in them. See the picture below).

8. Mix everything well.
9. Make dosais (crepes) on the griddle/tawa. This is not supposed to be thin, but thicker, uthappam like. Cook it with a lid on, so it cooks well on both sides. Use ghee/oil to cook them.
10. Serve it hot with the chutney/idli podi of your choice. Doesn’t need a side really, because it’s spicy enough on it’s own.


1. Instead of 2 cups raw rice, you can use 1 cup raw rice and 1 cup idli rice. Makes for a softer dosai. Temple prasadhams never use parboiled rice like idli rice, so the above recipe is authentic. Being in Madrid, I used a short grain. starchier, paella rice. Which made a good raw rice alternative for the idli rice.
2. Spice levels can be adjusted to your liking. This recipe makes a milder dosai than that of the the temple, but my kids prefer it this way.

Masala Bread

There was an Iyengar bakery in every corner of Madras in the 90s. There was one very close to my school. I’ve had so many slices of the spicy, fragrant masala bread from there, our bicycles parked outside, laughing with friends.. such happy times. Even now the aroma of cumin and onion and green chilies evokes memories from high school for me. Of course, this recipe is a bit more milder, mainly because my kids don’t like it too spicy.

Masala Bread


3 &1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small bunch of cilantro,finely chopped
1 bunch of curry leaves, finely chopped
1 onion,finely chopped
1 tbsp green chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 pinches of salt
1 tsp of turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1) Make masala:
Heat 1tbsp of oil, add cumin. Then add onions, chili, curry leaves, salt & turmeric. Saute for 4-5 min, turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Let the masala cool.

2) Make Dough:
Warm the milk in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (Milk should be luke warm).
Add sugar and yeast and mix well. Let it sit for 10 min till it becomes frothy.
In a big bowl, mix dough, oil, yeast mixture and salt. Add the water and mix till the dough is homogenous.
Add the masala and mix once more.
Then knead the dough on a floured counter for about 10 min, till the dough isn’t sticky, but soft and springy. (you can do this whole thing in a stand mixer too)
Shape into a ball, place it in an oiled bowl, and cover with a tea towel. Let it proof in a warm place for an hour- 90 min.

3) Shape the dough:
Punch the dough to de-gas.
On a floured counter, flatten the dough to a roughly rectangle shape. The width of the rectangle should be the same as the length of your loaf pan.
Fold the lengthy side of the rectangle (which is closer to you) a little past the half way of the length of the rectangle. Fold over the other side, overlapping slightly. (It is like folding a letter to put in an envelope, except for the overlap).
Seal the seam tightly by pinching together (so that the top of the loaf is nice and taut).
Place in the greased loaf pan seam side down.
Cover with a oiled plastic wrap loosely (the loaf will rise over the pan and you want it to rise).
Let the dough rise till the center is about an inch over the loaf pan sides (about an hour-90min)

4) Bake the bread:
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Brush the top of the loaf with milk/butter.
Bake for 45-50 min, until the top is golden brown. Turn the pan around 180degress halfway through baking, so it bakes evenly.
Take the bread out, let it sit in the pan for 10 min, turn out on the cooling rack, and let it cool completely before slicing.
Slice with a serrated blade (motion like a saw) for uniform slicing.


Alternately, you can also shape the dough into buns, dinner rolls etc. Baking times would vary: about 20-25 min for dinner rolls, 18-20 min for buns.
Herbs can be varied: you can use dill or parsley instead of cilantro. And you can make your bread more spicier with more green chilies.
Since the bread has no preservatives, it will harden after 2-3 days. Don’t throw it away, it makes amazing ‘spicy french toast’.

Kancheepuram Idli

Temples in India are special in that they attract food enthusiasts and gourmands as well, thanks to their “prasadham” (offering). Each temple (let me stick to my homeland) in Tamilnadu, has it’s own special food offering. And for a relatively cheap price, sell it to all the visitors. One temple in Kancheepuram, Varadharajar temple, offers this special, spicy idli as prasadham. My mom tells me, her great uncle was the cook there for many years, making these idlis day after day, and this recipe from him, has been in the family forever. Try it, it’s both healthy and delicious, with a spicy kick from the dry ginger and black peppercorns.

Kancheepuram Idli


Idli Rice – 1 cup
Raw Rice – 1 cup
Black Urad dal – 1 cup
Salt – as per taste
Sour yogurt – 1/4 cup
Dry ginger (sukku) – 1″ piece
Black Pepper Corn – 1 tbsp
Cumin – 1/2 tbsp
Curry leaves (fresh) – 10
Ghee – 2 tbsp


1. Soak black urad dal overnight.
2. In the morning, soak the rice, for 3-4 hours.
3. Grind the dal, and rice  separately, into thick batter (don’t add too much water).
4. Mix the dal and rice batter with salt, and ferment for 10-12 hours. (or until the dough rises and has bubbles on the surface). At this point, you can store the batter in the refrigerator for future use. It can be used for a week.
5. On the day of cooking, mix in sour yogurt (just leave 1/4 cup of yogurt on the counter overnight).
6. Coarsely powder dry ginger, cumin and black peppercorns and add it to the dough, along with fresh curry leaves.
7. Heat the ghee (clarified butter) in a small pan, and pour hot ghee over the spice powder on the batter.
8. Mix the batter well.
9. Now you have two choices, you can cook it in regular idli pan for 20 mins, or pour all the batter into a cake pan, or the steamer pan of your rice cooker (lined with aluminum foil), and steam for an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
10. Cut into wedges and serve with idli molaga podi, or chutney of your choice.


1. If you can’t find whole black urad dal, you could replace it with regular urad dal. You don’t have to soak regular urad dal overnight though.

Rhubarb Thokku

I follow a lot of food bloggers and chefs on Twitter. As soon as it was spring, everyone was getting excited about Rhubarb. Rhubarb is extremely seasonal, available only in the few weeks of spring. (At least here, in New York). It tastes sharply tart, like a cross between gooseberries and lemons. It needs a lot of sugar to compensate for it’s natural tartness (in pies, tarts, muffins etc) but I wanted to make a pickle with it.

In South India, pickles are usually made with spiced oil (salt, red chili powder, fenugreek, mustard is the usual combo), but we also make a cooked, quick pickle called thokku. Made on the stove top (technically not ‘pickled’ at all), it is meant to be used quickly. We usually use tomatoes, raw mangoes, gooseberries to make thokku. So I tried to make Rhubarb thokku and it was amazing.  We usually eat thokku with rice, or idlis or dosais. But it works well as a spread for sandwiches, wraps, with rotis. Really, sky is the limit.

Rhubard Thokku


Rhubarb – 3 stalks (diced, as shown in the photo above)
Gingelly oil (or vegetable oil) – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 2-3
Asafetida – a pinch
Salt – to taste


1. Heat a thick bottomed pan, and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds. Once the mustand splutters, add fenugreek seeds, asafetida, curry leaves.
2. 30 seconds, then add the turmeric and chili powder to the oil. Don’t let the spices burn, add the rhubard immediately.
3. Saute for a couple of minutes, and add salt.
4. Continue cooking on medium heat, till the rhubabarb breaks down and starts to feel paste like, stirring occasionally.
5. Continue cooking, till all the moisture from the pan evaporates, and the oil starts to separate from the thokku. Taste now, and adjust salt, and spice.
6. Remove from the pan, and store in a tight lidded jar. (Keeps for upto a week in the refrigerator).


1. This method of making thokku can be used for diced tomatoes, grated raw mangoes, gooseberries, fresh cranberries. (Cranberry thokku tastes incredible).
2. A tablespoon of thokkku mixed in a cup of yogurt will make a quick raita.
3. 1/4 cup of thokku can be used to flavor pressure-cooked dal. Tadka, mix the thokku with the dal, and you have the perfect accompaniment to rice or rotis.

ParuppuruNdai mOrkkuzhambu

There are some dishes bring about a bout of nostalgia. Mother’s kitchen. Sunday lunches. Weeknight dinners. Birthday cakes. Brunches. Everyone has that one special recipe that reminds you of mom, of simpler, happier times. For me, it’s this dish. I can just close my eyes and go 20 years back, sitting on my mom’s kitchen counter, watching my mom cook, waiting for her to finish, so I can eat it, with steaming hot rice, and pan fried okra. Those were the days.

But it’s still nice to know that I can make the same kuzhambu (sauce), and re-live those memories, even though mom is thousands of miles away. So here is the recipe of mom’s paruppuruNdai mOrkkuzhambu (steamed lentil dumplings in a spicy yogurt sauce).

ParuppuruNdai mOrkkuzhambu


For ParuppuruNdai:
Chana dal – 1/2 cup
Toor dal – 1/2 cup
Dried red chilies – 2-3 (depending on your spice preference)
Curry leaves – 1 bunch
Salt to taste

For mOrkkuzhambu:
Buttermilk – 2 cups (or plain yogurt 1 cup and water 1 cup blended together)
Cumin – 1 tsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Toor dal – 1 1/2 tsp
Green chilies – 1-2 (depending on how sour your buttermilk/yogurt is)
Fresh grated coconut – 3 tbsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
For tempering: Oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafetida.


For ParuppuruNdai:

Soak the dals and red chilies in water for 2 hours.
Drain, and grind it with curry leaves and salt (without extra water) into a coarse, thick batter. Do not add more water.
Shape into lime sized balls, using a light touch, don’t press too hard to shape them, they tend to become too hard when steamed.
Steam for 15 – 20 min. (Be it in the idli cooker, rice cooker or stove top steamer)

For mOrkkuzhambu:

Soak cumin, coriander seeds, and toor dal in water for 15-20 min.
Grind into a fine paste with green chilies and grated coconut.
Mix the ground paste, turmeric and salt in the buttermilk/yogurt.
Place on the stove (medium heat) and heat the kuzhambu till it bubbles up. Do not let it boil, as this will separate the curds and whey in the yogurt.
Add the paruppuruNdais.
Temper mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafetida in oil, and add to the mOrkkuzhambu.
Let it sit for 30 min, so the paruppuruNdais will soak up the flavor of the kuzhambu.
Serve with hot rice, or sEvai (rice noodles).


1. Leave the yogurt/buttermilk on the counter for a few hours so it turns a bit sour. Sour is better for this dish, because it holds up well to the spices.
2. The same paruppuruNdai recipe works for paruppusili too, after steaming, temper and saute with steamed veggies.
3. You can make the mOrkkuzhambu without the lentil dumplings, and use veggies in it’s place (okra, squash, eggplant)
4. You could add the lentil dumplings in other sauces too: vathakuzhambu, kaarakuzhambu.

Vegetarian Meatballs


Kids wanted spaghetti for dinner. Again! And I was tired of the simple marinara sauce, or pesto (which happens to be their current favorite). I wanted some protein too. And when I thinking of healthy options, I thought, the classic is spaghetti  with  meatballs. Why not make it vegetarian? I mean, if there can be turkey meatballs.. I initially thought lentils, but it was almost time for dinner, and I didn’t have time to soak and pressure cook them, but I did have canned garbanzo beans, so that’s what I went with.

Now, I’m giving the recipe for the “meatballs” here. Marinara sauce (don’t use the sauce out of the jar) is simple, and I’ve already given the recipe here. Cook spaghetti as per instructions on the box, ‘al dente’, toss around in a tablespoon of olive oil and keep aside.

Vegetarian “Meatballs”


Onion – 1 (medium sized, diced)
Carrot – 1 (medium sized, diced)
Red bell pepper – 1 (medium sized, diced)
Garlic – 2 cloves (minced)
Spinach – 1 bunch (chopped)
Tomato paste – 1 tablespoon
Fresh thyme – 1 sprig
White button mushroom – 8 (chopped)
Chickpeas – 1 can (drained and rinsed well)
Breadcrumbs – 1/2 cup
Egg – 1
Parmesan cheese – 1/4 cup (grated)
Fresh parsley (or cilantro) – 1 bunch (chopped fine)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil – to sauté and drizzle on meatballs

baked veggie meatballs.


1. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a hot pan. Sauté onion, carrot, red bell pepper, garlic and thyme for 5 – 7 minutes, till veggies are soft.
2. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add spinach and mushrooms and cook for 10-15 minutes, till all the liquid is absorbed.
4. Add the chickpeas, cooking for a couple of more minutes, while smashing the chickpeas with the back of your spatula.
4. Remove the mixture from heat, let it cool.
5. Mix in breadcrumbs, eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well with your fingertips (don’t knead).
6. Preheat the oven to 400F.
7. Grease a cookie sheet or a baking pan with olive oil.
8. Roll the veggie+chickpea mixture into golf ball sized meatballs. Arrange them on the greased tray with at least 1/4″ gap between them.
9. Spray the meat balls with non-stick cooking spray.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned evenly, and cooked through. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
11. Serve on marinara sauce, ladled over a bed of spaghetti.

Note: I decided to keep the meatballs crispy, but if you prefer, after removing them from the oven, you could place them in the marinara sauce, and let them gently poach in sauce before serving them on spaghetti. Just don’t boil them in sauce, lest they fall apart.


1. Instead of chickpeas, you could use lentils. (1/2 cup lentils, soaked for an hour and pressure cooked till tender, drained and smashed).
2. You could add chopped walnuts or almonds (1/4 cup) to the mixture for a bit of crunch.
3. Technically, these meatballs could be deep fried, they will taste better I suppose, but this is healthier. 🙂
4. Any hard cheese, Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano can be used. (Parmesan is quite expensive)
5. Add any veggies you like, dice them fine so they’ll cook evenly. Substitute spinach with any other greens you have on hand.

Pineapple (Kesari) Tartlets

Puff pastry is such a versatile, magical thing. You can make savory or sweet dishes: quiches, tarts, pot pies, puffs, cheese straws, even pizza. Make them and make them look appealing and dressed up, and these days, do it all in a flash. No more rolling together slabs of butter and flour, and rolling for hours. It comes in a nice, compact, frozen package in the supermarket. And it turns out flaky and light and puffy every single time!

There is a go to dessert in South India, it’s made for any occasion (or sometimes no occasion at all), made everywhere at home, temples, weddings, restaurants. It was the first dessert I learned to make, and it’s my favorite. It’s called Kesari (or sheera) and it’s made with fine semolina. I’ve already given the recipe in my blog, here.

I wanted to make this for a party, but the theme was finger foods, so I decided to make little tartlets of Kesari. Only I made a small variation to the Kesari recipe, made it Pineapple Kesari by adding diced pineapple to the pudding, and baking it in little puff pastry tarts. It was yummy, perfect for the occasion and gone in a minute.

Pineapple (kesari) tartlets!

I’ll give the recipe again for the Pineapple kesari, and also the procedure to make little tartlets.

Pineapple (Kesari) Tartlets

Semolina – 1 cup
Sugar – 1.5 cups
Water – 1 cup
Cardamom – 2 (pods removed and powdered in a mortar and pestle)
Yellow food color – a pinch (or a big pinch of saffron dissolved in a tablespoon of warm milk)
Roasted cashew nuts – about 10 (for garnish)
Diced pineapple – 3 tablespoons (fresh or canned)

1. Boil the water and keep it simmering.
2. Dry roast the semolina till golden brown and smells nutty. Take care not to burn it. This step is important or the pudding will be like glue!
3. Add the water, and stir continuously as not to form lumps. The semolina will absorb the water very quickly.
4. Once the water has been absorbed, add the sugar and continue stirring. The sugar will melt and continue to cook the semolina.
5. Add the diced pineapple, and keep stirring.
5. Add the color (or saffron milk) and cardamom powder.
6. Once the pudding is thickened (it will continue to thicken as it cools, so if you take it a bit early it’s OK) take it off the heat, top it off with the cashew nuts.

How to make tartlets:


Kesari – recipe given above
Puff pastry sheets – 2
Egg – 1


1. Heat the oven to 375°F.
2. Thaw the frozen Puff Pastry at room temperature for 30 min.
3. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your work surface, and spread the puff pastry sheet out.
4. Roll the pastry out, making it a bit thinner than it is, taking care not to put too much pressure and squishing the layers together.
5. Cut rounds with a cookie cutter of desired size (or a glass is fine).
6. Make indentations with a smaller cookie cutter in the middle. Dont cut all the way through.
7. Now take a fork and make holes all over the smaller circle in the middle. This is to make sure that part doesn’t puff up, white the surrounding edge puffs up.
8. Place about a tablespoon of Kesari in the centre, just about the size of the smaller circle.
9. Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water to make egg wash. Coat the edge of the tartlets lightly with egg wash.
9. Place the tartlets on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 15-17 min, till the edges puff up nicely and are golden brown.
10. Let it cool on a wire rack for 10 – 15 min and serve.


1. The left over puff pastry after you cut out the rounds, don’t waste it. Bake it for 5-7 mins, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar, and a small treat for the kids. (or the cook :))
2. Kesari can be prepared ahead of time. Keeps well in the refrigerator for a week in an airtight container.