book review

‘Going green has never been so deliciously exciting. Bon Apetit…’
Farhan Akhtar

Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes VegRoasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad from Vicky Goes Veg. Everything about the book is colourful, fresh, exciting, full of flavour and vegetarian of course! It’s an exciting new book by Chef Vicky Ratnani and holds a LOT of promise. Vegetarianism is no longer considered ‘second food. Slowly but surely vegetarian centric cookbooks are appearing on bookshelves, grabbing eyeballs as they do so!Vicky Goes Veg @ The Palms, GurgaonWe were hosted by Harper Collins & Nachiketa at the lush and beautiful ‘The Palms‘, Gurgaon for the book launch. Vicky Ratnani has infectious energy, is animated and absolutely passionate about food. I was fortunate to meet him in Jan last year at a tea & food pairing session, and it certainly was a pleasure to meet him again.Vicky Goes Veg, The Palms,.Gurgaon

Vicky Goes Veg He held fort by the poolside under the blazing setting sun, which shouldn’t have been quite so blazing in Mid March … but was! Sporting that he is, he didn’t blink an eyelid, no complaints nothing. He was there well before the guests began to arrive and after a short delay {thanks to the TV crew}, he fired up!

Eggplant & Bok Choy in Sambal, Vicky Goes VegSauteing, chatting, sharing tips and trivia and a load of his passion, he held the attention of the select audience. As he stirred up magic, we were served the same from the kitchen alongside. The flavours blew us away! Who wants to eat non vegetarian food if vegetarian food can be so exciting. Not me!! The Braised Plantain with Thai spices was out of the world good, as was the Eggplant & Bok choy in sambal.

Local produceI love the energy throughout the book. It entices you to ‘try’ something different. I also love that Vicky has stuck to the concept of  sourcing local produce, something that makes the locavore in me do a merry dance. The photographs that liberally colour the pages are a journey of the food chain in India including the merchants and the local bazaars.

Carrots,beets, home grown 2Vicky is often seen arm in arm with the guys who matter … yes, those who grow, deliver and sell local produce. It’s refreshing to see so much space dedicated to the local sabziwala i.e. vegetable vendors. The recipes in the book are unique, hail from across the world but come with an Indian twist, all green and fresh!

Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes Veg The good thing is that Vicky encourages you to think out of the box, constantly innovate and evolve. He offers his book as a stepping stone for new ideas in vegetarian cooking, and tells you to be fearless. If you don’t have this, use that. There’s plenty of trivia tucked within that makes the book even more interesting. One downside is that the number of portions or ‘servings’ aren’t specified.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes Veg So I set off to make the Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad.  Of course, my heart followed his advice and my recipe meandered off as I was short on time. I didn’t blend the dressing, only whisked it. Substituted apricots for walnuts, simplified the dressing a bit. I also made Stromboli from the book which disappeared too quick!

If you’d like to win a copy of the book, VICKY GOES VEG, please leave a comment below telling me which your favourite vegetarian dish from across the globe is. Please be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you. This giveaway is open to residents of India, or anyone with an Indian mailing address. {Giveaway sponsored by Harper Collins}


Recipe: Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad 

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Summary: Summary Info Goes Here

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

  • Salad
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted
  • 1 big head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 broccoli stem, peeled, thinly sliced
  • Salt to season
  • A pinch of cracked black pepper
  • A few spigs of thyme
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
  • Dressing
  • 2 cloves of garlic, cut into chips
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a white onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 spring onion, cut into 3cm long batons
  • 4-5 dried apricots


  1. Season the bell peppers, broccoli florets and stems with salt, pepper, thyme and olive oil {I blanched the broccoli for 2 minutes first and then plunged it into ice cold water}
  2. Cut the bell peppers into strips
  3. Fry the garlic in olive oil, and allow to cool and crisp. Resreve the garlic flavoured oil for the dressing.
  4. Dressing
  5. Saute the white onion in the garlic oil. Deglaze with red wine vinegar. Transfer into a bowl to bln it to a dressing.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oriander leaves including their juicy stems. Whizz to blend to a smooth, sour, creamy, garlicky dressing.
  7. Mix the spring onion batons and apricots along witht he broccoli and peppers. Spoon the dressing over the veggies. Garnish with the fried garlic chips.
  8. Yum! Toss all the veggies along with the dressing. Chill before serving.


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“Each individual has a unique food personality. The key is finding the balance point at which you feel great and are healthy.”
Rachel Frank

Red Berry CrumblesRed Berry Crumbles from a chick lit cookbook. A youthful, racy, around the world in 80 recipes cookbook with a catch to every name. The Tadka girls who blog at Tadka Pasta present fresh and imaginative recipes from their repertoire of travelling the globe. From the bylanes of Shanghai to the farmers market of Santa Monica, they leave no stone unturned. Their experiments in different cuisines have a personal touch … the inimitable Indian Tadka style of their own kitchen.

Red Berry CrumblesRanjini Rao and Ruchira Ramanujan offer you flavours galore, sometimes quirky enough to make you sit up. Real life stories accompany each recipe, setting the scene and connect that make the book more interesting. At times however, the written word tends to get cumbersome. You want to get to the recipe quick.

Red Berry CrumblesWith the book nicely divided into interesting sections – like bites n brews, sweet treats, signature tadka, funnibles etc, there’s plenty in it for everyone. The Red Berry Crumbles was a recipe I enjoyed. Good for an everyday dessert. Go a step further, perk it up a little and make it special for the holiday season!

Red Berry Crumbles The layout and design of the book is something I like; the simple scrapbook layout which adds to the appeal. Not overpowering, yet aesthetic. Notes with almost every recipe are quite welcome. It is thoughts like this that make a difference!

Red Berry CrumblesWhat should I try first from the book? I thought I’d hand it out to junior. NOT something sweet I ‘gently suggested’ {read instructed}! He came back within minutes mumbling Red Berry Crumble. When I said there aren’t the sort of local berries here that we you see in the book, he was quick to retort … they say you can use strawberries! Kids grow up faster than you can imagine. Smarter too. “I checked the ingredients,” he said.

Red Berry Crumbles At times the recipe title font {and dual headings} confuse. Different fonts and different header designs salt and pepper the book. I think fun stuff like this is possibly targeted at the younger reader, new adventurous cooks in the kitchen. The recipes infuse new life into old classics, a pinch of chaat masala here, a tadka there!

Red Berry CrumblesMultigrain tortillas, DIY Oatnut bread, green chutney pesto, cawliflower soup, Tadka’s own chicken curry, chocolate bark, sundried tomato and herb crackers, Tadka style baklava dessert … yumminess aplenty. An African touch here, a Persian footprint there. Interesting indeed!

Red Berry Crumbles The Red Berry Crumbles offer a burst of colour, texture and fun! They bring alive the holiday season. A crumble is right up our street. This looked and smelt fab as it stepped out of the oven! I added some extra fruit to accommodate an extra serving. I also substituted the plain flour in the crumble topping with whole wheat flour.

Red Berry Crumbles That’s just how crumbles are … very accomodating and simmering in rustic goodness. In a few recipes, I find some basic standardisation missing. It’s best to either go with cup measurements or weight. A combination of the two in the same recipe makes me want to retype and correct!

Red Berry Crumbles A serving of light cream on the side, or some ice cream as suggested by the girls, will dress up this simple weekday dessert for guests. I think you can assemble it in advance and pop it into the oven about an hour before dinner! The red juices that spill out of the ramekins will win you over!!

Red Berry CrumblesThe crumble was delicious. The flavours paired beautifully. We loved it!! You could use frozen berries if you like! I threw in some frozen mulberries too. I leave you to dive into the recipe, while I go to explore the book some more!

Before I sign off I’d like to thank Praveen for including Passionate About Baking in the list of the Top Indian Food Blogs of 2013. I am honoured to be part of the list. Humbled too!

[print_this]Recipe: Red Berry Crumbles 
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Summary: A bubbly dessert which is sweet, tart and even mildly spiced. This rustic red berry crumble is a melange of flavours and textures from Around the World with the Tadka Girls

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

  • The Berry filling
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped orange zest
  • 1 tbsp all -purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • A dash of chaat masala powder
  • 12 strawberries {fresh or frozen, {do not thaw}
  • 100g raspberries or blueberries
  • The crumble topping
  • 1/3 cup maida {I used whole wheat flour & it worked just fine}
  • 60g cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts


  1. The berry filling
  2. Stir together the orange juice, zest, flour sugar, salt and chat masala in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Slice the strawberries and mix gently with the other ingredients in the bowl.
  4. Set aside while you prepare the crumble
  5. The crumble topping
  6. Place all the ingredients except the walnuts, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  7. Refrigerate till it’s ready to go into the oven
  8. To assemble the crumble
  9. Preheat the oven to 190C
  10. Divide the berry filling into four buttered ramekins, or use a larger baking dish
  11. Sprinkle the topping evenly on top of the filling.
  12. Scatter the chopped walnuts over the filling.
  13. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. The tops will be browned crisp and the berry juies might bubble over slightly.
  14. Bring the crumble over to the table, and serve while it is still hot from the oven.


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“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
Mark Kurlansky

First Food , A Taste of India's BiodiversityLife can be strangely coincidental at times, or maybe it is just the trend of the times. My recent amaranth obsession is at an all time high, and then I got an invite for the launch of a very very interesting book Centre of Science and Environment – First Food, A Taste of India’s Biodiversity. The locavore in me jumped to it. What’s not to love about celebrating local produce?

Sunita Narain @ First Food , A Taste of India's Biodiversity, India Habitat Centre, DelhiA live wire opening introduction to the book by CSEs petite and very talented Sunita Narain had everyone’s attention. A cause close to my locavore heart, I was thrilled to see how beautifully local and rather unknown ingredients have been woven into the book. A lot of historical cuisine connect runs through the book, emphasising time and again that food is personal, and that everyone has a food story. The book, authored by Sunita Narain & Vibha Varshney,  attempts to share India’s rich, diverse and largely unexplored culinary tradition. Paired with vivid food memories and a deep emotional connect, it does a brilliant job!

Sunita Narain is an Indian environmentalist and political activist as well as a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development. She has been with the India-based Centre for Science and Environment since 1982. She is currently the director of the Centre and the director of the Society for Environmental Communications and publisher of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth. The recipes in First Food have been curated from Down to Earth.

Beets, carrots and kanji ...fermented drinksImportantly, it makes the mind think. Think out of the box, as also question how far we will be pushed as a community before we realise that we are losing a whole lot of local food wealth falling prey to imports. To make the environment flourish and to add economic value to local produce, getting to the roots of traditional food is essential.

traditional Indian cusineThat somewhat explains First Food, an interesting title in itself. Thought provoking too. To understand the vast economic system that runs behind each fruit, flower, leaf and grain, the book does a good job in bringing together a rich resource of information; food stories, environmental issues, intriguing trivia and of course interesting recipes.beets, amaranthFor me, it is also the ingredients that inspire. I love cooking with beet greens {thanks to Sangeeta’s vast knowledge}, and with turnip greens too {thanks to my mother who used to do it; still does}. Fermented pineapple kanji and beetroot kanji are on top of my list, thanks again to Sangeeta. These days, it’s popped amaranth in cakes and brownies, whole grain in cookies and so much more!

Lamb with turnip greens, shalgam ke patton ka goshtAt the launch that night other than the very talented Sunita Narain, we had Prof Pushpesh Pant {a noted food critic and historian} and Vinod Dua {a food critic and one of the best known names in indian media} regale the rapt audience with their tales. The professor had the audience in splits “When Sunita first told me about the book I thought it was priced too high. Then when I read it, I discovered that it was priceless!

First Food , A Taste of India's Biodiversity with Pushpesh pant, Vinod Dua and Vibha VarshneyVinod Dua, the great orator and entertainer that he is, took to food centric quotes, prose and couplets, both Indian and foreign. Beginning with one my favourite food quotes by George Bernard Shaw, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.“, he went on to read some best loved ones much to the delight of the audience!

First Food, India Habitat Centre, DelhiIt was a short and crisp launch ceremony, followed by a live food demonstration by master chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent fame, and then dinner, all made from recipes in the book. It was impossible to get within hearing distance of this very popular chef, so we had to make do with queueing up for the dinner which was served alongside.  The chefs special touch was discernible…

Cooking from First FoodIt was a vegetarian spread, as is the cookbook, and the food was mind blowing good! There was so much flavour, so much inspiration there that day. The bajre ki khichdi, the gahat ki dal, ker sangri ka paneer, til ke aloo, chaulai ka saag, drumstick leaves curry all delicious. There were  accompaniments galore too. Savoury pancakes, stuffed parathas, chutneys, raita … plenty of flavour and plenty of old world charm. You’ll find all the recipes in the book!

Cooking from First Food I came home rather inspired. Early the next morning, I bought fresh amaranth greens or chaulai ka saag {also lal saag as it’s commonly referred to here} as it’s in season. Stirred up some chaulai ka saag, some chaulai ka raita, aloo chaulai ki sabzi and karonde ka khatta meetha achaar; most recipes from the book, others just inspired. Made mixed grain puris on the side {makki ka aata, chakki ka aata and besan}. Oh so satisfying and all wiped clean!

Cooking from First Food Here’s a quick recipe of Amaranth greens /  Chaulai ka saag from the book.  The books a great buy for recipes ideas and inspiration, a good feel narrative that takes you back to your roots. From herbs, flowers, leaves, fermented foods to summer coolers, it  packs a pretty punch! I also like that the listed ingredients are short & sweet.

[print_this]Recipe: Chaulai ka saag {amaranth greens}
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Summary: A quick, healthy and delicious stir fry that offers a highly nutritious side to an Indian meal. 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 500g chaulai {amaranth} leaves
  • 2-3 whole red chilies
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil {I used clarified butter}


  1. Wash the leaves and chop finely.
  2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Toss in red chillies and cumin seeds. Add garlic and asafoetida. Stir.
  3. dd the chopped greens and salt to taste.
  4. Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Let the water dry.


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