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Vegetarian delights

When people come to know that I teach different types of vegetarian cuisines in the CPCC Charlotte cooks program, one question that I come across most often is, “ What do you teach in vegetarian?” and it surprises me that people are not aware of how much vegetarian cuisine and recipes are available all over the world – not only in this day and age, but for centuries – and vegetarian cuisine does not mean just salad greens.Not all could afford non-vegetarian cuisine in the earlier days; it was meant only for the richer class or cooked on special occasions when there was a feast or a celebration, otherwise the day-to-day food of farmers and peasants in quite a few countries would be vegetarian. Some people were vegetarian due to religious reasons and some social or economical, but the fact remains that vegetarian cuisine has been there since centuries around the globe. Let me share my treasures and findings of different vegetarian cultures and recipes from around the world.To begin with, let me take you to India, where vegetarian cuisine is at its peak as India is predominantly a vegetarian country due to religious, social and economic reasons. The range of vegetarian cuisine in this country is phenomenal – it varies from state to state, town to town, household to household. Indians take their food very seriously: the right food has to be eaten at the right time, the right place, the right way and most importantly, cooked the right way.The availability and the array of spices, herbs, pulses, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products as well as the influence of the many foreign invasions which introduced their own foods and cooking methods, help to easily convert the ordinary into exotic. As people travelled and learned about different foods and cooking methods, they fused it with their own. As a result, you will come across dishes like naan pizza, pakoda Manchurian, idli burger and much more. In this blog, I will share with you some original Indian recipes from different regions in India, and in the blogs to follow will venture upon vegetarian cuisines from around the world.


Pao Bhaji

This is a street food that is both tasty as well as a satisfying meal. Pao means bread and bhaji means curried vegetables, which is what this dish is comprised of.


2 tbsp butter

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped tomatoes

¼ cup chopped bell pepper

1 cup boiled and mashed potatoes

1 cup boiled and mashed mix of cauliflower and peas

1 lime

¼ tsp turmeric

½ tsp cumin powder

1/8 tsp black salt

½ -1 tsp chili powder

½ -1 tsp pao

bhaji masala (available in Indian grocery stores)


1-inch piece ginger

5 cloves garlic

1-3 green chilies to taste

Salt to taste

1 tbsp chopped cilantro to garnish

1 chopped onion sprinkled with salt and lime juice


Heat the butter, add the onions and sauté till the onions are soft and brown.

Add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste, sauté for 2 mins

Add the bell pepper and the tomatoes, sauté till you get a cooked aroma approx. 5 mins

Add all the powdered spices, sauté for 2 mins

Add the potato and the vegetable mash a cup and ½ of water, cover and cook for 5 mins

Add salt to taste, squeeze ½ of the lime.

Cook till the vegetables are thick gravy consistency

Garnish with coriander

Serve with chopped fresh onions sprinkled with salt and lime juice

Serve lime pieces so individuals can make to taste.This curry is served with bread buns and diced onions mixed with salt and limejuice.


Pakodas are deep-fried fritters, which are served as a snack or a side dish, enjoyed especially during the rainy season.

Ingredients for the batter

1 cup chickpea flour

½ cup water

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp asafetida (available in Indian grocery store)

1 tsp dhana jeera powder (coriander cumin powder available in Indian grocery store)

A pinch of baking powder

Salt to taste

Other ingredients

1-11/2 cup thinly sliced vegetables

(Onion, cauliflower, bell pepper, potato, brinjal)

1 tsp chat masala

Oil to deep fry


Mix all the ingredients for the batter and adjust the water requirement while mixing slowly the batter should be smooth without lumps and the consistency should be like pancake batter.

Heat the oil for deep-frying, dip the slices in the batter and drop them carefully into the oil and deep-fry till crisp.

Sprinkle with chat masala and serve hot with ketchup or chutney of your choice.


This is a layered rice and curried vegetable dish. The aroma of saffron and cardamom from the rice and the robust herbed and spiced curried vegetable layer combined together make it an absolute favorite of rice lovers.

Ingredients for the rice layer

1 cup uncooked rice washed and soaked for an hour

1 tbsp ghee

3 cardamoms

1-inch stick cinnamon

2 cloves

¼ tsp saffron

1 tbsp milk

Salt to taste

Ingredients for biryani

¾ cup mixed vegetables boiled (Potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, peas)

2 tbsp ghee

1 onion chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

¼ tsp turmeric

½ cup coconut milk

½ cup yogurt

1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

½ tbsp finely chopped mint

½ tsp garam masala

Salt and sugar to taste

Grind together

4 cloves garlic

1-inch piece ginger

2 green chilies (cayenne pepper)

2 dry red chiliesTo garnish

3 tbsp ghee

1 medium sliced onion

Method for the rice layer

Heat the ghee, add the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, sauté, add drained rice and sauté for 2 mins, add salt and 4 cups of water, cook rice al dante, drain and cool.

Warm the milk, add saffron and rub ill saffron releases color, pour on the rice and mix.

Method for the vegetable layer

Heat the ghee, add the onions, sauté till brown, add the ground paste, sauté till cooked (ghee will separate from the paste)

Add the turmeric, tomatoes and sauté till tomatoes are cooked. Add the vegetables, coconut milk, cilantro, mint, salt, sugar and yogurt, cook for 5 mins, add garam masala.

Adjust salt and sugar to taste.

Take Pyrex bowl and grease it with ghee.

Make layers of rice and vegetables, starting and ending with rice

Heat ghee for garnish

Add onions, sauté till brown, drain on a paper towel

Sprinkle on top of the rice.

Cover the rice dish with a foil, make holes on the foil with a toothpick.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.

Take off the foil, serve hot, with yogurt or raita.

Cucumber Raita

1 English cucumber grated

1 quart yogurt

1 tsp cumin powder

½ tsp mustard powder

½ tsp chilly powder

½ tsp black pepper powder

1 tsp sugar

½ green chilli minced

½ tbsp chopped cilantro

Salt to taste.


Beat the yogurt.

Add all the other ingredients except cucumber, mix well.

Drain the water off the cucumber and add it to the yogurt, add salt to taste, serve cool