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Its been a long separation from food ~ A recipe for Burmese Khow Suey

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This blog has seen more restaurant reviews in the last 6 months than in all the 8 years that I have been writing it. I think it is safe to say that I have lost my cooking / writing mojo. My blog always gave me joy. A space to document what I cook at home and save some of the recipes for posterity because I cook on impulse and rarely stick to a recipe. Increasingly I have come here, opened up a new post and closed it with a few unfinished sentences, buried as a draft.

I realise this has been happening a lot and try as I might I am unable to shake it off. Usually it is a week or a few days maximum and I can shake myself back into my “good moods”. This time I am unable to. I am unwilling to give up the blog or shut it down either.

I haven’t picked up my camera in months. I browse through the photographs on my phone and realise how boring they are, and yes I am brave enough to admit that. I wonder if I am turning into more of a social hermit. I do spend a large amount of time online, but increasingly have less patience with it or people.

Anyway. The only exciting aspect of my cooking / kitchen these days is my 6 month old black board. In april this year, when my brother’s family was visiting, my niece and I painted a wall in my tiny kitchen with blackboard paint. I use it to make shopping lists, to do lists and meal plans. I have been doing some sort of meal planning for the past few years. Since the beginning of the year, I hand wrote it on paper and put it on the fridge with magnets. It has simplified my cooking and helped me use ingredients more efficiently than I had imagined.

This weeks meal plan

I graduated to the black board in April and cannot recommend it more. None of those fake black board apps for me. I am someone who needs something to be in my face to be able to take action! And yes we do eat a lot of Idli and dosa. My meal plans are pretty standard. K and I prefer south Indian breakfast, I grind a huge batch of idli/ dosa batter at the start of the week to last me 5-6 uses. For lunch it is mostly roti, with two vegetable dishes or one dal and one vegetable. This is except on the weekend when we eat at home and not carry our dabba and hence eat rice for the mid day meal. We try and eat a light dinner, usually soup, stir fries or sometimes again a breakfast item. I even have designated leftover days to clean up the fridge.

Anyways, I think I should do a post on meal planning and the black board soon (if I ever get down to it). It is a joke these days, for K to point out the board to anyone visiting us and tell them, “macha (term of endearment between two guy friends) check what’s for dinner da (term of endearment again), that’s all we’re going to get, no deviations from the daily meal planner”. When Amma is here, K and she will gang up and force me to write “order food” or “food truck” on it and break into peals of laughter.

Why am I writing this? I don’t know, but I feel like telling you the story.

But this is a recipe blog, and a recipe I shall give you. Khow Suey is a Burmese broth eaten with noodles. The broth is very accomodative and one can add any vegetables that are at hand. I’ve used sweet potatoes, yellow pumpkin, coloured peppers and usual vegetables one adds to a stir fry and loved it every time. I teach this same recipe in my Gourmet Soups and Salads class and the students love it.

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Khow Suey (Serves 4)

Grind to a smooth paste the following:

2 inch stalk of lemongrass, crushed lightly or 2 teaspoons of dried Lemongrass

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

2 pods Garlic peeled

½ teaspoon Turmeric

½ medium Onion, sliced

For the Curry:

2 cups Vegetables of choice, cut into similar sizes (mushroom, carrot, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, yellow pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, bok choy etc)

2 cups Cooked noodles of choice (soba, glass, egg, rice noodles) – cooked according to the instructions on the pack

1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

200 ml Coconut milk

1 teaspoon Sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 lime leaves, torn

1 cup water

1 tablespoon gram flour / besan

For the garnish: To be added while serving the soup

Basil, mint and coriander leaves – a few sprigs

1/4 cup Fried onion

roasted and coarsely powdered peanuts

fried garlic chips

Lemon Wedges to serve

red chilli flakes

Boiled eggs, cut into quarters

Method:

Steam the hard vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and beans for 3-4 minutes, drain and set aside.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the curry paste, cook stirring for 3-4 minutes till the raw smell disappears.

Add all the vegetables (including the steamed ones) except the spinach/ bok choy if using and the lime leaves and ½ cup water and cook for 4-5 minutes till the vegetables are tender but not overcooked.

Add the coconut milk, salt, pepper  and sugar, stir and adjust any seasoning if needed.

Dissolve the gram flour in the remaining 1/2 cup of water and add to the curry. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, add the bok choy / spinach at this point.

Adjust the thickness of the gravy, this will be your main soup so adjust as much as you prefer. Turn off the heat.

To serve the soup, spoon out some cooked noodles into a bowl, top with the curry sauce, garnish with fried onion, garlic, crushed peanuts, basil, mint, coriander leaves, boiled egg and a wedge of lemon.

The curry and the noodles should be refrigerated separately if storing. Assemble before serving. Keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Note: you can add 1 cup of boiled chicken / prawns while cooking the vegetable curry for a non veg option.

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

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K’s lunchbox is like my one excited cooking moment of the day. What to make (and subsequently pack) is a question I am asking myself almost everyday.

I make a weekly list of things I can make in the stupor of the morning that won’t take too long. It helps to have a list because in the mornings, the last thing I can do is to be creative while watching the clock hands tick away. This pasta (like most pastas in my life) is crowd pleasing and can be done in less than 20 minutes. Quantities can be altered according to need and passes muster on my benchmark for a dish that is a crowd pleaser – is welcome at a lunch / brunch buffet.

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

You know those garlic pods, that decide to spring to life in the vegetable tray of the fridge? I planted a bunch of them in a plastic takeaway tub filled with growing medium. In a week, green garlic shoots were ready for cutting. I snip them with a pair of scissors and they grow back. Conveniently placed on the wall of my kitchen, they are at arms length to be thrown into scrambled eggs, omelets, pasta, soup or a salad. Sometimes I use them in place of fresh coriander leaves as a garnish for Indian style vegetable dishes. They add a mild garlic flavour and are subtle enough not to make you want to drink mouthwash after your meal 😛DSC_0406

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta (Serves 2)

3  cups cooked pasta (I used penne, but any short pasta will do)

1 medium onion, sliced thickly

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

1/4 cup fresh garlic chives

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons Olive oil

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the oil, when warm, toss in the red chilli flakes, after a couple of seconds, ensuring the chilli doesn’t burn, add the onion and mushrooms and a little of the salt.

Saute for 3-4 minutes until the mushroom and onions are very lightly caramelising.

Add the cooked pasta, and toss well. Season with salt as per taste, garnish with the garlic chives and toss again. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil and serve.

Done!

A simple summer spaghetti recipe and a long story

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Some days Most days, I cook just to get done with a meal and don’t put too much thought when my only aim is to whiz in and out of the kitchen. I always wonder how my mom did it. These days, I have far greater respect for her than she could imagine. As a working woman in the 80’s with school going children, a bed ridden mother in law, a blind brother, rambling house, pets and assorted creatures living and a retinue of permanent and semi permanent house guests, I wonder how she managed. Not that I or my brother gave it much thought, but we always had a welcoming if sometimes messy home, hot freshly made food on the table at all meals and some non negotiable rules about things such as eating what is on the plate and rudeness quotient for behaviour.

Everything else was pretty much flexible. We didn’t have maddening schedules but we had to help around the house. I cannot remember not being a house / kitchen help since I was 5-6. We had strict rules about eating as a family at the table and no TV while eating. Duties were gender neutral and included bathing and dressing ourselves, laying and clearing the table, filling bottles with drinking water from the blasted water filters and feeding and bathing the pets.

I cannot remember her asking for ‘me time’ or ever laboring over what to cook. Favorites were made by rotation on the weekend, but that apart no fuss about food was entertained. She discharged her duties with utmost responsibility and made sure everyone was taken care of without feeling smothered.

What's an occasion that isn't marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

What’s an occasion that isn’t marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

Yesterday Amma had an eye surgery for cataract. This is in today’s time a simple 15 minute procedure. In her case, it is far more complicated because she has only one eye. A few years ago, after multiple operations to help her with her eyesight failed, Amma became fully blind in one eye with an irreversible damage to her optical nerve. The last couple of surgeries had to be abandoned because of complications and contributed to the rapid loss of her eye. The other eye has 30% vision and that made this operation even more critical.

She travels between my brother’s home and mine alone, manages her daily routine, even reads the newspapers with a magnifying glass, chops vegetables and cooks full meals. She is determined to make the best use of whatever vision she has and not be a bother to anyone around. She has a busy circle of friends and family that she keeps in touch with. Watches her favourite TV programs sometimes relying only on the dialogues to figure out what is happening and freely gives her opinion on everything from how clumsy I sometimes am to football teams in the current world cup :). We were fortunate to find a doctor who invested almost 2 years to understand her case and gain her trust. He reassured her that he would operate only when it was absolutely needed and only in her interest.

So last week when the doctor told her at the end of a routine check up that it was time, though she was anxious, she agreed. She spent the week preparing mentally for being sightless for atleast 6 hours post operation. She counted the steps from her bed to the washroom and dining table and back and practiced with her eyes closed. She made little packets of her medication and kept them ready so that I wouldn’t have to help her figure out which ones to take. She told the doctor that she was in his hands and that he was in God’s hands as she walked in for her procedure.

After a half day’s stay at the hospital, we came back home yesterday. The procedure went well and the doctor has said that he was happy with the outcome. He was able to successfully remove the cataract and some growth that would help her see a little clearer than before. Amma is recovering well. She has eaten all her meals by herself with a spoon, seated at the table. While I was busy in the kitchen, she found her clothes, freshened up, changed herself and combed her hair. I am scanning all phone calls from her close circle of trusted friends and family who are checking on her progress. She is tenacious and determined not to ask for help unless needed, yet she knows her limitations and wont jeopardize herself by taking unnecessary risks.

If I turn out to be even a fraction of what she is as a person, I will be very happy with myself.

The recipe I am sharing today is unlike what Amma would have rustled up. On the busiest day too, the table would be laden with rice, rotis, dal and atleast one vegetable or meat dish, all made from scratch. The kitchen appliances and other conveniences I so much take for granted were not available, no pastes, no frozen masalas, no fuss.

I turn to pasta when in doubt. When I need to feed just myself, when I couldn’t care less about what to cook. This is an ingredient that lends itself so well to any situation. It is a summer pasta and inspired by what I saw my current TV chef obsession David Rocco cook in an episode while travelling in India. My fellow salivator over David Rocco, R too made something similar and when I saw her post, I thought I should post this recipe of easy pasta (do I ever post anything that I don’t claim is easy to make?) too.

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti Recipe (serves 2)

Spaghetti or any other dry pasta for 2 servings

1/2 piece of Green Zucchini (About 4-5 inches, sliced)

6-8 button Mushrooms, washed (yes they are dirty in India), wiped and quartered

1 large Roma or other firm ripe tomato, chopped into 8 pieces

2-3 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil (be generous)

a small sprig of fresh basil (1/2 teaspoon of dried)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pods of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (optional, I never have this on hand)

In a wide pan, bring about 2 litres of water to a rolling boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt to it.

Add the spaghetti and cook stirring till done the way you like it. I do not like it al dente, so I cook it 1 minute more than that. By all means cook the pasta the way YOU like eating it 😀

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Set aside the cooked pasta.

In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the garlic till just turning a shade darker. Add the zucchini slices and cook till they are turning golden around the edges, turn over gently and repeat. Remove the zucchini slices to a plate.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the remaining hot oil and toss till they are beginning to wilt about 2 minutes but retain a crunch. The idea is not to cook them till mushy so cooking time is flexible as per your taste. Add the cooked spaghetti, zucchini slices and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and the torn basil leaves. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it is very dry.

Turn off the heat. Drizzle on the lemon juice and toss well before serving it out into bowls and top with some parmesan cheese if you have it or drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve.

This is a simple dish and can be served with a nice soup or salad on the side. For a non veg version, grilled chicken or prawns can be added to the mix. The simple flavours are so refreshing from the loaded with tomato / sauce / cheese pasta dishes that we usually reach out for.

Fusilli with Pine Nuts and Basil in Marinara Sauce

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Last year, I attended a live demonstration at a recently opened bistro in Hyderabad where the Chef showed us how to make fresh pasta. I have attempted to make fresh pasta in the past and I loved it. It was nice to interact with the Chef, ask questions and get answers for best techniques, ingredients, etc. We were served a pasta in a basic Marinara Sauce for which the chef gave us a rough recipe. What makes me want to cry is most of these recipes for sauces, need to be cooked for hours and hours and simmered and have all kinds of fussy ingredients. No doubt they taste fabulous, but I am nothing if not a cook who wants to always cheat!

There is nothing I loathe more than standing and stirring for hours. Even when a special celebration meal with several dishes is

So here is my version of a quick Marinara, ready in under 20 minutes, and tastes fabulous (even if i say so myself). I know a lot of cooks blanch tomatoes and peel the skin off and I do it too sometimes, but not this time, this is a quick sauce. I used local desi tomatoes, if you are using the Roma variety, you may need to blanch and peel the skin off as it is thicker than the skin of country variety of tomatoes.

Fusili Pasta

Fusili Pasta

Fusili Pasta in a Quick Marinara Sauce

2 cups cooked fusili (or any other pasta of choice) pasta {Cook according to packet instructions in salted water, drain and reserve some of the water}

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used regular desi tomatoes)

1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 pods of garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon each of sugar, red chilli powder/ red chilli flakes, dried/ fresh oregano and dried/ fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of grated cheese (I used cheddar, parmesan is also good)

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts (use almonds to substitute)

a small sprig of basil leaves

Put the chopped tomato, garlic, onion and 1/4 cup of water in a blender and pulse till smooth.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and tip over the pureed tomatoes. Add the red chilli powder / flakes, oregano and basil and half the salt and pepper, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times in between.

Taste the sauce and add the remaining salt and pepper if needed. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Turn off the flame and cool for a couple of minutes.

Toss in the cooked pasta, stir and add the cheese.

Serve out into serving bowls, top with fresh basil and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Eat when it is still warm.

This sauce can be refrigerated and stored after completely being cooled in an air tight box for upto 1 week. Makes for a good pasta / pizza sauce and also as a sandwich spread.

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

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Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Cooking for one is my most favourite and least favourite task in the kitchen. No I am not a person who cannot make up my mind. Cooking for one means I get to make and eat what I want, something which K doesn’t particularly care for (pasta) or even one of my not so successful experiments. Cooking for one also means that I will eat in solitude and that is not my favourite thing to do!

Last year, the one pot pasta recipe was a rage across the interwebs. Anyone who had access to the net and had one or more social networking account (from twitter to pinterest) was cooking a one pot pasta in a frenzy and marvelling at its convenience. I tried it too and the first time, it cooked itself into a flavourless gunk. I was so disappointed with the outcome that I almost cried. And that has not happened with me in a long time. I made the mistake of making it and serving it when we had guests. No one noticed because of the other dishes that were served, but I had a lot leftover which I sent to the freezer while I thought about salvaging it. Which I did a few days later, with a tonne of roasted vegetables, a layer of cheese and baked the gunk to resemble a casserole which I and amma ploughed through for a couple of meals! It would be a while before I attempted to cook this again I thought!

Today I was determined to get this right, and since I was cooking just for myself, I could quickly deal with the failure too incase that happened. 

When making a one pot pasta, the thing to remember and work around, is the kind of pasta that is being used. I used an Indian brand of spaghetti made by Bambino. The label reads “made of durum wheat’ but I find that this cooks into a gunk if not stirred atleast 3-4 times while it is being cooked. Maybe using another shape of pasta wouldn’t need baby sitting. But this is not a show stopper for me. I mean, one cooking pot, dunk everything in and stand around the stove (playing candy crush in between stirs) for 10 minutes cannot be that off putting.

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

(serves 2, Time Taken: Prep time – 5 minutes, Cooking time – 12 minutes)

Spaghetti  – to serve 2 people (I eyeballed this, about 100 grams)

Onion – 1 medium, halved and sliced

Garlic pods – 2, sliced

Button Mushrooms – 1 cup, washed and quartered

Tomato – 1 large, chopped into 8-10 pieces

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper – to taste

Red Chilli Flakes – 1/2 teaspoon

Sugar – 1/4 teaspoon (the tomato I used was tart, skip if you are using sweet tomatoes)

a few sprigs of fresh basil

Cream Cheese – 2 teaspoons (optional but recommended or use grated cheese)

Method:

Slice the onion, mushroom, tomato and garlic. Fill a heavy bottomed cooking pot with 2 cups of water.

Put everything into a pot and boil

Put everything into a pot and boil

Add all the ingredients except the cream cheese / cheese to the pot and stir well, bring this to a boil.

Cook on medium high heat, stirring every 2 minutes for about 8-10 minutes or till the pasta is cooked.

The water would have reduced and the starch from the pasta along with the other ingredients makes a nice light sauce. Check for salt and adjust if needed.

Stir in the cream cheese/ grated cheese, give it a nice mix and spoon out into bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve hot.

Last year, I attended a cooking demonstration at an Italian restaurant. One of the most valuable tips the chef gave us was to fry thinly sliced garlic in olive oil and stock it to use as a flavour enhancer in recipes. Added to the most simple soups, salads or even pasta, the fried garlic and the infused oil, gives the dish an intense burst of flavour. I used a teaspoon of this oil to drizzle on my pasta. It was terrific even if I say so myself!

Day 2 ~ Spicy Asian Style Vegetable Broth with Buckwheat Noodles

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Wishing all my readers A Very Happy & Warm Diwali. May your homes and hearts be filled with the love of your family and friends, your tummies full and your lives happy.

Spicy Asian Broth

Spicy Asian Broth

There is nothing that punctures the ego of a food blogger better than a set of terrible pictures! If you know me well enough, some of my best experiments, trials and efforts never make it to the blog because it would have been demolished even before I reached out for the camera. Sometimes, I would have made something which I felt was not blog worthy and after spooning in a mouthful, reached out to take a picture because the recipe / dish surpassed my expectation. Such is the life.

This Asian Style vegetable broth with noodles was made after a tired day, when the last thing I wanted to do was to slave in the kitchen. I put together whatever vegetables I had, seasoned it well and threw in some noodles for a carb kick. It hit home all the right spots and made for a very satisfying dinner. Please pardon the crappy pictures, trust me when I say this soup was excellent.

Buck wheat noodles have a nice texture because they are thicker than refined flour noodles. I happened to have a pack which I used, replace with any noodles of your choice.

Spicy Asian Style Vegetable Broth with Buckwheat Noodles – Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium Onion (sliced into semi circles)

1/2 cup Yellow Pumpkin (Remove the skin and slice into 1/4 inch thickness)

1/2 cup Mushrooms (I used King mushrooms, use any kind you have)

1/2 cup Spinach (remove the tough stems and chop roughly)

1/2 inch piece of fresh Ginger

1 small fresh red chilli (use dried red chilli soaked in a bit of warm water, discard water before using), crushed with a mortar and pestle

2 sprigs of fresh Basil

1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

freshly crushed pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sesame oil (or vegetable oil)

1 cup cooked Buckwheat Noodles

1 teaspoon of lemon juice (adjust to taste)

Method

Wash and slice/ dice all the vegetables.

Skin and crush the ginger roughly.

Cook the noodles as per the directions on the packet, drain and set aside.

In a deep saucepan, heat the oil and add the crushed ginger & red chilli. Fry for a few seconds, add the sliced onion, pumpkin and mushrooms and saute till the onion has turned translucent. Season with half the salt and pepper.

Add two cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 10-12 minutes or till the vegetables have cooked through. Skim off any scum that comes to the top with a spoon.

Add the cooked noodles and spinach and take off the heat, cover and let sit for 4-5 minutes.

Spoon into serving bowls, serve hot with a dash of lemon juice and a sprig of fresh basil.

{Vegan MoFo 2013} ~ Semia/ Vermicelli Pulav Recipe

Vermicelli Pulav

Vermicelli Pulav

I am attempting something very brave this month, cooking and posting Vegan recipes all this month for the Vegan Month of Food where bloggers around the world will post vegan recipes all this month. Wish me luck dear readers as I do not fare very well with rules and schedules. the only other time I attempted to do something like this was when I joined Nupur in the blogging marathon. I was very rewarded although it was exhausting to post daily.

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So to begin this marathon, I am posting a simple yet filling Indian breakfast / all day recipe of Semia Pulav. Semia is vermicelli which is extensively used in Indian cooking to make sweet and savoury preparations. On one occasion when Siri who is also doing this marathon visited me at home, I asked if she would have something to eat (it was past lunch time) and she said yes. I offered to make this Semia Pulav about 10 times. She must have thought that is the only dish I know how to make! She finally said “looks like you are determined to make me eat this, so yeah make it!”

Anyway, onto the recipe which is fairly simple. I like to add a dash of ready-made masala for a nice spice kick and lots of vegetables. A lot of people do not like to eat Vermicelli because it tends to have a sticky pasty consistency once cooked. This is due to the starch content in it. One way to combat this is to add a precise amount of water to cook it. Another way is to dry roast the vermicelli till golden to prevent it from turning mushy. I take the easy route out and buy pre roasted vermicelli. What? that’s 10 minutes off your active cooking time when you plan to make this!

Vermicelli Pulav Recipe

(time taken – 20 minutes, Serves – 2)

Vermicelli / Semia                   1 cup, pre roasted preferred, else dry roast in a medium hot pan, stirring gently till golden

Vegetables of Choice              1 cup (I used red capsicum, peas, carrot and carrot)

Onion                                        1 medium, sliced fine

Vegetable Oil                           1 tablespoon

Salt                                             to taste

Green Chilli                              1, slit

Fresh Ginger                           ½ inch piece, grated

Curry Leaves                           a few

Mustard Seeds                       1 teaspoon

Ready Masala Powder    1 teaspoon (I used Everest Pav Bhaji Masala, can substitute with ½ teaspoon garam masala + ½ teaspoon coriander powder)

Hot Water                                11/2 cups

Method

In a medium pan, heat the oil and splutter the mustard. Add the curry leaves and green chilli along with the onions and fry till translucent, add the grated ginger, the chopped vegetables and half the salt.

Fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the pav bhaji masala (or garam masala) and fry for half a minute.

Now add the hot water and taste for salt, adjust with the remaining, when the water comes to a boil, slowly add the vermicelli and stir till the water is above the vermicelli. Cover with a loose lid and cook for 5-6 minutes or till the water has been absorbed, but it is still moist.

Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving with some raitha and pickle.

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