Zaalouk - A Vegan/Glutenfree Eggplant Dip

I first tried Zaalouk at a Mediterranean restaurant in Hong Kong. After several coy tries of figuring out what exactly went into this delectable dip, I had asked the owner for the recipe (none of the ones online did it any sort of justice!). He obviously didn't reveal it all, but did mention that its "simply a blend of roasted eggplant, garlic, red pepper, lots of tomatoes and common spices". Ha, a sentence that didn't give away much, but just enough for the sleuth in me to set off on a culinary mission and decipher this recipe! After a few tries, I felt I had come pretty close to what I tasted in the restaurant - the missing ingredients was probably just the amount of oil I could get myself to use at home! 

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Baked Eggplant Fries

Eggplant Chips6

“Eggplant, what can I say

You’re my hero true,

I put you in pasta

Or curry for two.

You are filled with iron

And that I like,

You char & sizzle

And soak up spice!

Now you’ve taken on fries

In an avatar new,

I’m not a stalker

But I’m so in love with you!”


1 small eggplant, washed and cut into strips

2 tablespoons gram flour (besan)

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon dry mango powder (amchoor)

2 teaspoons chat masala (Indian mixed spice)

5 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon light olive oil

Salt to taste

Eggplant Chips2

Eggplant Chips3

Toss the eggplant with all the dry ingredients [except the chat masala] and 5 tablespoons of olive oil, till the pieces are evenly covered with flour. Line on a baking tray and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil evenly across. Bake in a 400 F pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once in between. The pieces will turn brown and crisp on the outside, but will remain slightly soft on the inside. Cool slightly [will crisp up more] and eat it all up with some Sriracha or garlic aioli. Quite yummy!

Eggplant Chips5

Eggplant Chips1

Maple, Yogurt & Olive Oil Cake

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake2“Have it at tea

Or with a dollop of cream,

Grey will turn to blue

And winter to spring serene.

Happiness will return

With a mouthful of cake,

There is no place like home

For this magical bake.

So roll up your sleeves

And get covered in flour,

Soft, moist, gently sweet

It’ll be gone in an hour!”

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake4 Maple Yogurt Pound Cake6

Adapted from a Food52 recipe


¾ cup grade A dark amber maple syrup

¾ cups non fat yogurt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla creamer (or vanilla essence)

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

½ cup light olive oil

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake5

Pre heat the oven to 350 F.

Beat eggs slightly and combine with the syrup, yogurt and creamer. Stir till the mixture is smooth. Mix the flour, salt & baking powder separately and add to the wet ingredients. Stir till just combined. Finally add the oil and fold with soft movements till the oil is fully incorporated in the batter (there should be none floating on top).

Pour into a greased bread or cake pan and bake in the centre rack for 45-50 mins. The edges will turn brown and crisp, and a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Cool slightly and cut into pieces. Enjoy warm with a cup of cardamom chai. Delish!

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake7

Kale & Farro Fried Rice

Kale & Farro Fried Rice2“Farro is nutty

Farro loves spice,

It is my solution

To something other than rice.

Cooks in minutes

And blends in well,

Be it soup or curry

Or a bake so swell.

With a grainy bite

And a fragrance mellow,

I now turn everything

Into a version A-la-farro…”

Kale & Farro Fried Rice


1 cup Farro, cooked as per instructions on the packet [can be substituted with barley or brown rice]

2 cups kale leaves, roughly shredded

8-10 snow peas, halved

1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise

4 cloves of garlic, diced

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste


Heat sesame and olive oil in a non-stick pan. Keeping the heat to high, add the ginger, garlic and onions and sauté till the onions just turn transparent. Stir in the snow peas, farro and sauces and stir continuously till the farro is coated with the oil & sauces. Lastly add the kale, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and continue to cook till the leaves just start to wilt – a quick couple of minutes. Remove from heat & serve hot. A quick, healthier alternative to fried rice packed with flavor and nutrients.


  • Add your choice of vegetables like red/green peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus etc. Leafy vegetables should be added with the kale, but hardier ones can go in with the farro.
  • To include meat, simple add it before the farro, cook till tender, and then continue with the recipe.
  • Add a few dashes of hot sauce if you cannot eat a meal without a kick.
  • Love eggs? Fry one for the top!

Farro & Chickpea Risotto

Farro Chickpea Risotto

"Creamy yet not, with a nutty bite

Wholesome yet flavorful, and a colorful sight.

Healthy too, for gluten there is none

Mix & match your veggies, have some fun!

With hints of spice, it craves the hunger

Ah! a warm welcome, on this day of thunder."


1 cup chickpea curry (recipe : either this or this. Leftovers from your favorite Indian take-out will do as well)

1/2 cup Farro, thoroughly rinsed

1 cup mixed vegetables (I used carrots, asparagus & red radish)

1/2 cup spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons fresh coriander, finely chopped (for garnish)

3/4 cup low sodium vegetable stock (chicken/beef stock can be used as well)

1 teaspoon light olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt, pepper to taste

Mix the Farro with the stock and bring to boil. Once it's half cooked (about 5-6 minutes), reduce to a simmer and add the chickpea curry. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid has been absorbed by the Farro. Once done, remove from heat, cover and leave for another 5-6 minutes.

In the meantime, heat oil in a non stick skillet. Add the cup of veggies, along with the dry spices and saute for a quick 1-2 minutes, till they just begin to brown. Stir in the chickpea Farro cooked earlier and give it another quick stir. Finally add the spinach leaves and saute till they're just wilted. Garnish with chopped coriander and enjoy hot.

A delicious gluten-free & vegan weekday dinner!

White Chocolate & Cardamom Kheer (Rice Pudding)

White Chocolate Kheer4“A gift from my kitchen

Straightforward & fast,

Wholesome, with spices

That’ll fill up your heart.

Call it comfort-ilicious

Or flavors in a bowl,

It’ll complete your meal

And warm up the soul..

Oh and did I mention

A boil is all it needs,

Simple to make, yet tasty?

Now that’s a recipe for keeps!”

White Chocolate Kheer2

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 cups whole milk

6 tablespoons white Basmati rice

3 green cardamoms, crushed

2 tablespoons brown sugar

6-8 pitted dates, hydrated & chopped

8-10 pieces of white chocolate

White Chocolate Kheer5

In a deep-bottomed pan, bring to boil the milk, cardamom & sugar. Once boiled, add the rice and cook on medium low flame so the mixture is just simmering. Continue to cook till the rice is soft and fully cooked. Turn heat to high and give it another boil to slightly thicken the kheer. [PS-At this stage, it’s already a delicious pudding and can be eaten as is. But the next step just adds a creamy twist to it..]. Discard any cardamom skin, and stir in the dates & white chocolate. Mix well till the chocolate is fully melted.

Chill for 2 hours & serve with a dash of cinnamon & caramel!

White Chocolate Kheer6

White Chocolate Kheer1

Roasted Red Pepper Almond Chutney

Almond Red Pepper Chutney1

“Smooth like silk, and of buttery feel,

But without the calories, Oh! what a steal.

Slightly sweet, with a tang within,

A condiment for all, minus the sin.

Serve it on canapés, or for a lick at home,

Keep it in the fridge, for that midnight scone!”

Dressed in red, your new found friend,

Whip it up quick, before it becomes a trend.”

Almond Red Pepper Chutney2


1 red pepper

¾ cup raw unsalted almonds (or you  can use 1/2 cup store bought almond butter)

¾ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon dry mango powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon light olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

Put the almonds in a food processor and pulse till the pieces are all broken up. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and continue to blend on a low speed. Keep scraping the sides of the blender and let it work as the almonds release natural oils and break down completely. It will start to resemble peanut butter in about 10-12 minutes . If it’s too dry, add a few teaspoons of water. Be patient, it takes some time. You can see some step-by-step pictures on the Natural Noshing blog.

Meanwhile, roast the red pepper on a direct flame, turning continuously, till it becomes soft on the inside and the skin begins to char. Remove and cool completely. Once cooled, strip off the skin and seeds, and chop it into small pieces. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a non stick pan. Add the red pepper along with the dry spices and roast for a few minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Once the almonds are creamy, add the roasted peppers in and continue to blend till you get a smooth consistency. A few almond bits are fine, but if you prefer not to have those, just add another teaspoon of oil and blend for a little longer. Once done, stir in the lemon juice and store in an airtight container.

A great vegan spread for breads, crackers, parathas or idlis!

Almond Red Pepper Chutney4

Almond Red Pepper Chutney5

29. Dining Experiences : A Visual Journey

It's the 29. Busi-versary! {err, do you have a better word for it?}

Last year on this very day I launched the 29. Private Kitchen. Without a firm idea of the direction I was headed in, I decided to just cook my way through it. And that is exactly what I have been doing!

With a busy start to the year [in a good way!], more & more people are rolling up their sleeves to dig in to some Indian Tapas. Well, high time! Thus, the 29. kitchen has been anything but untouched. And although I might have been less-than-prompt at posting recipes, I always have enough photographs to keep you occupied. Here is a snippet of my culinary journey through Jan & Feb 2014...

[Unless otherwise mentioned, all photography is copyright of 29.Calories]

Pickled Potato Cracker Cups - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Sweet Potato Chaat - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Vegan Fritters - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

29. Business Cards

Water Station

Spicy Potato Cups

Tandoori Shrimp Cakes

Eggplant Kulcha Bites

Choco Coconut Tarts

Red Bean Salad Cups

Spouts & Kulcha Chaat



Tandoori Meatball Chaat


Sweet Potato Bites

Appetizer Buffet

Mint & Veg Biryani

Carrot Halwa Custard Parfait


Date Tea + White Chocolate Truffles


Indian Poppadam Tacos

“Papad & veggies

Look so hip,
In their new avatar
With a Mexican twist.
Spiced, with a crunch
Of fresh salad crisp,
It shatters in form
When touched to the lips.
Bring out the margaritas
And celebrate the feel,
For these Tacos make
A party of every meal…”


10-12 round Poppadams
1 carrot, grated
½ cup red cabbage, grated
2 teaspoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Toss the coriander, mint, carrots and red cabbage in lime juice, salt & pepper and keep aside.

Heat a non-stick pan. Lightly roast a Poppadam on both sides while pressing down with a cloth so it doesn’t fold. Once it turns lighter in color [i.e almost cooked] and becomes soft, remove from heat and fold halfway into a taco shell shape. Hold it like this for a few seconds till it takes shape and becomes crisp. Do this with all the Poppadams.
Put a dollop of the eggplant, top with carrot slaw and serve crisp. Your Indian Tacos are ready!
Try one on the next 29. menu! Sign up for one of my underground dinners in 2014.


Beetroot & Chickpea Pancakes

“A little red wonder

That shows colour,
Packed with nutrients
Zest & flavour.
A mellow mouthful
To boost the appetite,
If you’re about to binge
Start it right.
Leave it chunky
That's the way,
Go away infection

Beets are here to stay..”

1 small beetroot, grated
1 1/2 cups leftover chickpea curry
5 heaped tablespoons whole-wheat flour (atta)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Salt to adjust taste (Note: the curry already has salt but approx. 1/2 teaspoon should adjust the seasoning of the batter)
Light olive oil to cook
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt and keep aside. Blend the chickpea curry with 1/2 cup water. Add to the flour mixture and mix to form a smooth batter. Stir in the grated beets and mix well. 
Heat a non-stick pan. Put dollops of the batter on the pan and pan fry both sides with a little oil. The batter might be sticky so only flip once one side is cooked to avoid breaking the pancakes.
Enjoy warm with some yogurt, cream cheese and a steaming cup of coffee. A healthy, vegan breakfast that is sure to drive those chills away.

Vegan Date Truffles

“Why celebrate love

A day each year we live,
When hugs & cuddles
Don’t measure & give.
Be different, be bold
No gift? Stop sighing!
Scoop up some cocoa
And get messy trying.
And when you wrap this
Homemade, not from a store,
It’ll hold all that you want to say
And a little bit more…”
Everyone wants to do a V-day recipe post. So I thought I may as well join the bandwagon. 
But guys! I am making it super easy for you. All those out there who cringe at making any home-made treats, this IS the one for you. There is no significant measures, no kneading, rolling, frying, braising, waiting on the timer etc etc....and the result is decadently sweet (although sugar free), moist and melt-in-the-mouth good. And they'd look rather cute as a gift too. 
If you're nodding your head at all the ingredients, then go pull them out and give it a try right now. Oh! and a penny for your thoughts. Please leave a comment!


1 cup pitted dates
½ cup walnuts or almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons coconut cream (the thick part of canned coconut milk)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or any tasteless oil)
Coconut flakes to coat

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend till you get a thick smooth paste. A few chunks here and there are fine. If the mixture is too dry to blend, add a teaspoon of water but make sure it doesn’t become too wet.

Transfer the mixture into a airtight container and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Once slightly firm, oil your palms and shape a teaspoon of the mixture into small balls. Toss in coconut flakes and enjoy!

Quick Recipe: 5-Min Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry

"If you hate these

Little balls of green,
You must must try
This recipe mean.
Quick 5-minutes
Is all you'll waste,
And it'll be worth
The new-found taste!
Your world will change
Thank me you will,
Most people I know have a love-hate relationship with Brussels Sprouts. And I can understand why. These mini cabbages are slightly bitter in taste, and the centre is quite stiff and doesn't cook easily. There was a time I used to dislike them too. But that's the very reason I had to find a way to cook them my liking. A little patience and technique is all it takes to transform them into the most delicious stir fry side! 
Don't believe me? Ask my husband, he is a complete convert.
10-12 Brussels Sprouts, shredded (this is key - shredded cook way better than halved!)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cooked chicken sausage, casing removed and diced (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook for quick minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients, cover and cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes - this will make the brussels sprouts lose some of their unwanted crunch (not all of it). Remove cover and saute on high heat for a minute till the ingredients brown on the underside and you can smell a heavenly buttery fragrance. That my friends, are your brussels sprouts telling you they've become delicious! Nice & charred. 
Eat with quinoa or as a warm side with a main such as Chicken or Fish. Tastes even better with a dollop of yogurt on top!


Vanilla Cupcakes with Pomegranate Swirls

“Plain as vanilla
With a wintery splash,
Color and moisture
In a cupcake stash.
You don’t have to complicate
My mum used to say,
For a dessert satisfying
Or fancy and gourmet.
With a world of worries
Keep something straight,
Mix it up good
And let it magically bake.
And when it emerges
Moist, with happiness within,
Like a mother’s cuddle
You’ll let yourself sink..”
Keep it simple, mummy used to say. And this day, what would have been her 57th b'day, I decided to do just that. With the simplicity of a vanilla cupcake, and a dash of winter fruit color, these cupcakes are warm, moist, indulgent and addictive - much like a mother's love. 
My mother was an avid baker. Back in the day when baking wasn't quite considered art...or anything worth doing - at least not in India - she had enrolled in and completed a cake making & decorating course. "Our instructor, plump as a plum, must be eating most of what she [and we] bake", she used to joke. Her swift sifting movements, proud use of an "imported" hand mixer, frequent licks of batter and fast vanishing cakes were always the bigger, happier moments at home. And the smell. Oh the smell of a cake fresh out of the oven was enough to make us do any chore! 
I miss her every single day, and baking brings back a part of her to me. And since I don't consider myself quite the cake perfectionist [I hate measurements remember!], when something does turn out as well as these did, I can only wonder if she lent me a hand....
Happy B'day Mum. Love you always x
Ingredients (makes 24 mini cupcakes)
For the cupcakes
1 large egg
¼ cup whole milk
4 tablespoons vanilla coffee creamer (I used Nestle Coffee Mate)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/3 cup brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
For the swirl
¾ cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup water
Make the swirl
Blend the pomegranate, sugar and water together in a food processor. Run it through a sieve and transfer to a non stick pan. Cook on medium flame till the mixture thickens and the sugar begins to caramelize (approximately 7-9 minutes). Keep stirring till you receive a jam like consistency. Turn off heat and keep aside.
Make the cupcakes
Pre heat the oven to 350F.
Mix the flour, salt and baking soda and keep aside.
Mix the milk & creamer and keep aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat vigorously for a few minutes till the mixture turns white and airy. I used my hands to do this so took me around 10 minutes, but with a hand mixer it should be a couple of minutes.
Working in batches, add to the batter a few tablespoons of the flour mixture, followed by the milk mixture. Mix well after each addition. Do this till all the flour and milk has been incorporated.
Transfer the batter to a mini muffin pan and add a dollop of the pomegranate jam on top of each cupcake. Using a toothpick or skewer, slowly mix the jam into the batter, so as to form swirls. Do not over mix.Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. A couple of these, a warm cup of chai and a lovable hug. Life doesn't get more perfect than that.

This Week in Food Pictures

"A busy week it's been
Successes, failures & new challenges seen,
A lot of cooking, yes lots
From little puddings to flavorful pots,
Trials & errors, recipes that repeat
Bites with crunch, and those with heat,
Events & dinners, people new
Reviewers, readers, and comments few,
Here are the snippets, simple & clean
Of food, colors, and the week that's been..."

It's been one busy week! While I work on the recipes, here are some pictures from all the adventures this week. If only these could fill you up eh!

Come try my food at one of the upcoming dining experiences! Got a large group? No problem! Contact me to discuss a private tasting.

Carrot Pudding with Burnt Sugar Pot De Creme

Event Buffet Table

Curried Cauliflower Soup 

Vegan Semolina Halwa with Orange Compote

Masala Minced Chicken Sliders with Beer Shooters

Popcorn & Chocolate Bread Pudding

Mint Chicken Tikka Salad on Bread Cups
Vanilla Cupcakes with Pomegranate Swirl

Recipe by Request: Chickpea Korma with Roasted Squash

You gave me a shout. And I always answer. 
Here is my recipe to a quick Thursday curry lunch, filled with flavor, spice & creamy goodness. I wasn't planning to post it so I don't have too many photographs, but hopefully the recipe will suffice. 
Oh, and for those who care, it's gluten free & vegan. Hello health!
1 cup garbanzo beans, soaked (2-3 hrs) and pressure boiled (or replace with canned chickpeas)
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced
1 plum tomato, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 red onion, sliced lengthwise
1/2 green pepper, diced
3 curry leaves
1 dried red chili, broken in half
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons light olive oil
Dry Spices
1+1/2 teaspoon coriander powder 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (more if you like the heat!)
1 tablespoon Indian Chana masala (available at all India stores)
1 teaspoon Indian Mutton masala (available at all India stores)
Salt & Chili to taste

Season the squash with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder and roast in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, till soft and golden. Keep aside.

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds and cook till the seeds begin to splutter. Add the garlic, onions and dried chili and cook till the onion turns translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and all the dry spices. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes have broken down and completely cooked. 
Now add the squash and green pepper and cook for another minute or so. Lastly stir in the chickpeas, liquid and all. Mix well and let it all simmer on low flame for at least 15 minutes, till most of the water has been absorbed. The thicker the curry, the creamier the texture. Check and adjust seasoning and turn off the heat.   Garnish with slivered almonds & fresh coriander and enjoy with Roti, Basmati Rice, Cous Cous or Quinoa.
Try this recipe and more yummylicious bites at my upcoming Dining Experiences [Follow my culinary experiments via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest]