Malabar Egg Curry is a staple recipe in south India. The spice blend is common to Kerala; hence it is named for the Malabar coast. Egg Curry is usually served for breakfast but it is delicious served at dinner as well. Serve with chapatis, appams, noolputtu, puttu or steamed rice.

Malabar Egg Curry

Malabar Egg Curry is a traditional recipe from Kerala with boiled eggs served in a delicately seasoned coconut curry.

To make Egg Curry, the first step is to hard boil the eggs. The second step is to make the curry. Shallots fried in spiced oil until they turn golden brown are ground to a paste which becomes the base for the curry. Chopped (or sliced) onions are fried in more spices. To this, tomato paste is added along with coconut milk, water and the spiced shallot paste to finish the curry. After the curry simmers and becomes thick it is done.

Transfer the egg curry to a serving bowl and place the halved eggs on top to serve. The simple boiled eggs are a perfect accompaniment to the rich curry. Use your favorite bread or rice to eat up every tasty bite!

There are many variations on this recipe. But all of them include onions, tomato, coconut, eggs and spices. When my husband makes it, he slices the onions rather than chopping them. I think he was a bit distressed that I didn’t prepare it the way he likes it. Another variation is the use of tomato paste versus two chopped plum tomatoes.

Some recipes omit the grated coconut since coconut milk is included. Other recipes omit the coconut milk to get a darker curry and only use grated coconut. I like to be able to bite into a tiny bit of coconut while other people prefer a smoother texture in their curry.

The traditional recipe uses whole boiled eggs. I think it is easier to eat them if they are already cut in half.

The spices used include cumin anise, turmeric and chiles. I use dried red chiles. More can be added for a hotter curry or the seeds can be removed to make it milder. My husband uses both dried red chiles and one or two green chiles to achieve his preferred heat level. My recipe has moderate heat so you can taste and enjoy the flavors in the curry.

This is obviously a very flexible recipe. There are so many variations on this recipe that any changes you make based on your preferences, the resulting dish will be a hit.

You may have noticed over the past few months that I have not been posting new recipes with the same frequency as last year. This is because I have been working hard to finish writing my second cookbook. I used the extra time to focus on writing, reviewing and taste testing my selected recipes to make sure everything was just right before I finished the book. It was hard to organize all of the recipes to determine the approach so I arranged and rearranged the book several times before settling on an approach and outline. With the structure of the book, we, meaning my husband and I, had more work to do.

We decided on Indian fusion cuisine that brought together the special flavors and techniques of Indian and Western cooking into an exciting new cuisine. Traditional Western recipes fused with Indian spices and methods, and Indian recipes adopted Western techniques and ingredients. This new approach to cooking resulted in delicious, unique taste combinations.

When I started this cookbook project a few years ago, I wanted to pair wines with my recipes and had started documenting my favorite parings. We eventually nixed this since wine parings are vintage or year specific and seem to become outdated after a while. We had attended many whisky tasting events in the U.S. and the U.K., and observed that pairing whisky with food was becoming very popular and was a lot of fun. We attended whisky tasting dinners where the menus were created around the list of whiskies to be served. These were wonderfully enlightening events and a lot of fun.

Last summer I wrote a series of posts that discussed the whiskies of Scotland and India. I discussed the flavor profiles and paired several whiskies by region with some of my recipes. Since then my husband and I have had a lot of ‘work’ to do to pair all of the entrees that I was planning on including in my book with one or more whiskies. It as a challenge but we really enjoyed doing it.

Inspired, my new Indian inspired fusion cookboo

Inspired, my new Indian inspired fusion cookboo

With the help of my creative daughter and her degree in advertising, we finally named the book Indspired to incorporate the fusion of Indian and Western cuisines with their liquid gold pairings, into a new world of globally inspired food.

I submitted the manuscript to the publisher a while ago and it is just about finished! Indspired should be released some time this summer. Check back often for updates!

Before I became comfortable cooking with coconut milk I was not confident that I would be successful at creating tasty recipes with it. Little did I know that cooking with coconut milk is actually easier and more forgiving than cooking with cream.


Used in savory curries like Vegetable Kurma, Egg Curry, Olan, Potato Stew (Ishtu), Fish Molee and Kofta and in sweet dishes like Payasam, coconut milk is a staple in Indian cooking. Years ago people would make their own coconut milk by grinding the flesh of a fresh coconut with a bit of water and then straining it through a fine cloth. This was prepared as needed and had to be used within a few days or it would go bad. Canned coconut milk is readily available at every grocery store, inexpensive and ready when it is needed. What a great convenience.

coconut milk can

Controversy continues as to the health benefits of coconut milk. Last year I wrote an article that compared the nutritional value of coconut milk and heavy cream, please refer to my article Is Coconut Milk Healthy from 10/10/13. The bottom line is the two are nutritionally different with similar amounts of fat and calories. Light coconut milk is also available. Recently I purchased a can of light coconut milk to compare it with the regular product. On the positive side, it is about 40 percent lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates. On the negative side, the flavor isn’t there. It is runny and tasteless. When cooking with it, the light coconut milk has the same impact on curries, runny and less flavor. The egg curry with light coconut milk had a very different texture and flavor. In the future, I think I will use regular coconut milk and eat less of the curry.


Now that you know my opinion which coconut milk to use, start using it in your every day cooking. Simply add it to a sauce that normally requires cream, for example tomato sauce or onion sauce. It can be added to sautéed or steamed vegetables and a handful of fresh herbs as a sauce for pasta. Use it in dessert recipes by substituting for or mixing it with milk or water when baking or making pudding. With the heavenly flavor of coconut and the convenience that it brings to cooking, I use it as often as I can. I hope you find it as much fun as I do.


As my son returned to school and fall approaches, I am starting to think about heavier, cool weather cooking. I thought of my tagine, a clay pot that is used for cooking in Morocco and North Africa and my clay pot from Tuscany and dreamed of how lovely a savory stew would taste with a great bottle of wine. Then I remembered that I write a food blog that specializes in Indian cooking and Indian fusion cuisine. As I refocused my mind, I discovered that clay pot cooking is actually very prominent around the world.


Clay pots come in many different shapes, sizes and styles. They are older than our modern stainless steel pots but remain popular for many reasons: the clay interacts with the food to enhance its flavor, retention of water inside the pot so the food does not dry out and the nutrients remain, even distribution of heat through the pot and through the food inside so it cooks evenly.


clay pot from Tuscany

My clay pot from Tuscany.

Even though I don’t know where they originated, they are found across Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. The most amazing thing I learned is that two different varieties are found in India. Those in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are called chatti while the ones in northern India and Pakistan are called handi. See my Dum Pukht Biryani recipe that originally would be cooked in a handi.


Along the Malabar coast in northern Kerala cooking in a chatti is common, both savory and sweet dishes are made in it. One of the most popular dishes is called Chatti Pathiri. (Chatti – the pot in which this dish is cooked and Pathiri – pastry). Many people have made the comparison between this dish and Lasagna. Without the tomato sauce, the analogy works.


Pathiris are thin, flat breads made with rice flour, water and salt that are cooked on a tava (cast iron griddle). They resemble chapatis but are lighter and more delicate like a crêpe. They can be made with white and even whole-wheat flour as well. The filling is spread out between layers of pathiri and then the whole thing is steamed in the chatti. When sweet, the filling is often made with egg, cashews, coconut, sweet milk and cardamom. The savory varieties feature various types of meat and vegetables along with spices.


Both meat and vegetarian curries are cooked in a chatti. A bit of oil is poured on the bottom of the pot then the ingredients and spices are added. After the lid is set on top it is placed on the stove over low heat where the contents are steamed until done. This is a very healthy way to cook while preserving the best flavors of the food. I will feature my Clay Pot Chicken Curry and my Baked Basmati Rice in upcoming posts. Stay tuned…

A friend recently gave me a bottle of an East Indian spice blend called Panch Phoron. I was aware of it but had never cooked with it so I did some research. It is a blend of 5 different spices (the name actually means five spices): cumin, mustard, nigella, fennel, and fenugreek, that are mixed together and used in seed form rather than being ground. Occasionally other spices, like anise, are added or substituted to vary the flavor of the spice mix. The spice mix may be used as it is, gently roasted or lightly fried in a bit of oil just before it is used to bring out the flavor.


In India panch phoron is used to season meats, breads and vegetables. The flavors these spices bring to food are amazing. Together they provide a warm, earthy flavor with a fruity, bitter, grassy essence. It is a very mild spice mix that is not overpowering or hot at all. I’m surprised that is it not as popular as some of the more common Indian spices mixes like garam masala but it should be.

Panch Phoron

Panch Phoron


The basic recipe for Panch Phoron is equal measures of each spice. I have adjusted the ratio to suit my tastes. I think the fenugreek is too bitter so I reduced it a bit. Just mix all of the seeds together and you are done! This spice mix can be made ahead and stored in an airtight jar to save time in the future.


Panch Phoron recipe

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds


All of the ingredients are supposed to be used as whole seeds. The commercial spice mix that was given to me contains fenugreek seeds that are very small while the seeds I buy in the U.S. are large and extremely hard to chew (more like impossible to chew). When I make Panch Phoron at home I use crushed fenugreek seeds, not ground, to make the spice mix easier on the teeth.


One of the ingredients, nigella, is somewhat unusual to most people outside of India. They are hard and crunchy with the flavor of toasted onion. They are also known as kalonji and charnushka.


Some recipes call for crushed or ground Panch Phoron. Gently dry roast the spices before grinding them to bring out the flavor. Do not grind them in advance so the flavors do not have a chance to interact with each other and change the flavor.


Try adding Panch Phoron to any recipe. Just sprinkle it on meat, roasted vegetables, lentils (dal) or some curries. I guarantee you will love the flavor.


Check out how to use Panch Phoron in my Steak Chettichurri recipe.



In my last post, I described the process my husband and I went through to become familiar enough with the textures, tastes and nuances of various Scotch whiskies to be able to pair them with food, specifically South Indian food. We love whisky and would enjoy a little bit before dinner on occasion and would switch to wine to drink with our meal. That is so old school. Now we are pairing our favorite whiskies with many of my Indian recipes with great success. Let me tell you about the pairings we have made so far.



Since the purpose of this post is to get you started pairing whisky with Indian food I thought I would start with the products from my favorite whisky region of Scotland, Speyside.

Nearly half of the distilleries of Scotland are located in Speyside, which is located around the Spey River in northern Scotland and surrounded by the Highlands region. The whiskies produced in this region are, in my mind, simply classy and elegant. Their flavor is subtle, with a fragrance of honey, flowers and, perhaps, citrus. They are very pleasant to roll around in your mouth so you can get the full taste leaving you with a polished, pleasant finish. This region is known to provide two important exports to the world: whisky and salmon. It is not a surprise that the flavors of many South Indian recipes made with salmon are greatly enhanced with the pairing.


Speyside Whisky Pairings:


South Indian Recipe Speyside Whisky Attributes
Salmon, Swordfish Masala The Macallan 12 Year Old Smooth flavor of vanilla with a bit of sweetness on the nose with fruit and sherry on the palate that stand up to subtly seasoned fish
Mild Salmon, Grilled Fish with Molee Sauce Aberlour 12 Year Old Soft, round aroma, tastes of ginger & spices, hint of spice in finish
Pork Vindaloo, spicy Grilled Shrimp with Black Salt Balvenie 14 Year Rum Cask Rich toffee scent, smooth flavor with essence of cinnamon & spice, warm finish
Anything spicy Glenlivet 12 Year Old Light nose, fruity palate, smooth finish to balance the spice
Kesari, Sevai, Puttu and Kadala Glenrothes Lovely vanilla scent combined with a soft flavor boasting vanilla and cinnamon
Spicy, Blackened Redfish Tacos Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old Fresh, fruity nose, fruit and butterscotch flavors with a mellow finish
Goan Pork Vindaloo, Piri Piri Chicken Curry Cragganmore 12 Year Old Essence of honey and wildflowers in the aroma, and rich smoke and fruit in the flavor pair well with the bold spice in these recipes
Pondicherry Pouillabaisse Tomatin 12 Year Old, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Fresh and fruity aroma, balance palate of fruit, male and nuts, smooth and rich finish


Try out these Speyside whisky pairing and see for yourself that they work. Let me know what you think, even if you think I missed the mark. My next post on whisky pairings will feature the Highland region that surrounds Speyside.

Slàinte mhath!

I have talked about the role of chutney, pickle and raita in Indian cooking over the past few months so now it is finally time to finish my series on Indian condiments. The last installment is dedicated to powders, or podi, which are mixtures of various spices that are roasted and ground then served along side of other dishes like Dosa, Idli and rice. They accompany these items to enhance their flavor. Sometimes they are mixed with a bit of oil that brings out the essence of the podi. Podis are also used as pre-made spice mixes for cooking dishes like sambar to save time.



Podis, or powdered spice blends, are popular in Indian cuisine.

Podis, or powdered spice blends, are popular in Indian cuisine.

My favorite Podis are:

Curry Leaf Podi served with rice (in the white bowl)

Mulaga Podi eaten with dosa and often mixed with a bit of oil (in the blue bowl)

Sambar Podi – used to make Sambar (in the green bowl)


The recipes for these podis are quite simple. The core ingredients of a podi  is a mixture of different dals and spices to which a special ingredient is added, either curry leaves or dried red chiles. (One word of caution, the Mulaga Podi is really hot so you might want to reduce the number of chiles you add. It is called gunpowder for a reason.) All of these podis are available in Indian grocery stores ready for use. I prefer to make my own since the process is really easy and the flavor of fresh podis is far superior.

Check out my recipes for podi and enjoy!


One thing I have learned from writing this series of posts on Indian Condiments and then reviewing them with my family is that everyone has a definite opinion of which ones are the best, whether it is Red Chile Coconut Chutney versus Tomato Chutney, Shrimp Pickle versus Raw Mango Pickle, Onion Raita versus Cucumber Raita or Curry Leaf Podi versus Mulaga Podi. The correct answer to which is best is partly determined by the dish you are eating with it. Mainly it is determined by a person’s individual preferences and taste. So, there is no single correct answer, all are correct! Enjoy!


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During my visit to Dubai’s famous spice souk last year I discovered that saffron is not only sold in its natural state as threads but also as liquid saffron extract. I purchased a bottle because I found it interesting and thought it would be a different, easy way to add saffron flavor without going to the work of heating a bit of milk and soaking the threads. The vendor in the shop told me it was very popular with the locals and tourists alike.


Saffron extract is available in a bottle for quick and easy use.

Saffron extract is available in a bottle for quick and easy use.


Saffron extract is, as the name implies, a concentrated liquid containing saffron flavor or essence. The paper that came in my bottle of extract calls it “red gold”. Its purpose, in the kitchen, is to provide a standardize measure of saffron across recipes in contrast to a pinch which varies wildly. Since it is already in liquid form, it does not need to be soaked in a warm liquid for 10 to 20 minutes to release its flavor; the liquid is ready to be used. It also has a longer shelf life than dried saffron threads. The best reason to use saffron extract is that it is quick and easy to use – just pour a few drops into your dish during the step in which you would normally add the saffron.


When I started researching saffron extract, I could not find any information on it except that people use it as an appetite suppressant for weight loss or as a nutritional supplement. Hmm. That is not my intent. I looked all over the Internet for biryani recipes, chicken recipes, any recipe that used it. I couldn’t find a single one. A year later as I search again, I have only seen one or two recipes and a minimal amount of guidance as to how to use saffron extract. Perhaps they are available but only in Arabic.


Using the extract is really easy. At first I was a little nervous that I would pour way too much into my rice but, since the top has a tiny hole, just a mini-drop comes out at a time. My rule of thumb is about 10 of these drops to a cup of cooked rice. You are supposed to add it to liquid before stirring it into the rice but I added it directly to the rice after I had mixed it into the hot oil and spices. It mixed very evenly with my rice. Even if it hadn’t mixed evenly, any variation in color would enhance the look. A photo of my cumin rice with the extract is below.


Indian cumin rice dish made with saffron extract.

Indian cumin rice dish made with saffron extract.


I can only hope that my tiny 18ml bottle lasts until I can get to Dubai again. In the meantime, I plan on using
it in as many of my recipes as I can.


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Two years ago I compared saffron grown in the top three saffron producing countries in the world to try to answer the question Is Saffron from Kashmir the Most Exotic?.  With May’s recipe of the month, Chicken and Saffron Curry, I want to explore how saffron is used in Indian cooking.


Saffron, harvested from the flower of the saffron crocus, is very special since it is the most expensive spice per ounce on the planet. To give you perspective on how rare this is, each crocus plant may have 4 flowers and each flower has 3 stigmas. That means 12 tiny threads per plant! Fortunately a tiny bit of saffron goes a long way. One needs just a pinch to flavor a bowl of rice or a dessert.


Saffron in Indian cooking is primarily used for its delicate honey and grassy aroma that it brings to food. It is also used for its concentrated yellow-orange color that it brings to food and as a dye for fabric.


Saffron, a key ingredient in Indian cooking, brings an exquisite aroma to food.

Saffron, a key ingredient in Indian cooking, brings an exquisite aroma to food.


Most often saffron is most often found in sweets or desserts, like Payasam. The threads add a subtle flavor and give it the distinctive color. The delicate flavor is a perfect match to a sophisticated dessert. Since this dish is milk based, it is very easy to see the threads floating in the liquid. Other desserts include some Kesari, halwa and paalada pradhaman recipes.


Saffron is found in many biryani recipes whether made with lamb, chicken or seafood. I use it in my Dum Pukt Chicken Biryani and Langoustine Biryani recipes. The recipe for biryani is very complicated and involves alternating layers of seasoned rice, meat and caramelized onions. Since biryani is so complicated, it is usually made for important dinners for guests or special events. Saffron, as part of this dish, implies that the meal is special.


Beyond these recipes, it is found in many rice dishes as well as some seafood dishes. I use it in Pondicherry Pouillabaise and Prawn Balchao. It occasionally appears in other chicken recipes like my Chicken and Saffron Curry. My Creamy Carrot Soup also takes advantage of the subtle flavor of saffron.


I have a few tips to using saffron to its best advantage:


  • Stirring the saffron to a few tablespoons of warm milk (preferred) or water and letting it sit for about 20 minutes before adding it to the pot will bring out the maximum amount of flavor and color so you do not have to use as much as you would if you added it directly to the pot.
  • Crushing the saffron threads between your fingers just before adding them to the warm milk will bring out more flavor.
  • Don’t include saffron in recipes that are very heavily spiced or hot, as the flavor will be masked by the other flavors. Save your saffron for a dish that is worthy.
  • Pretend saffron is rationed. Some people think that more is better and add it to a recipe by the handful. When I was in Dubai, a merchant told me that this is how many Saudi women add saffron this way. In my mind, this is not necessary and wastes the saffron. It just makes the color more intense but does not enhance the flavor.
  • Store your saffron in an airtight container in a dark, cool place to keep it fresh. Use it promptly as the flavor deteriorates over time.
  • If you don’t have saffron, turmeric can be used to give a golden color to a recipe.


Try my Chicken and Saffron Curry recipe to discover the magic of chicken with saffron.



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What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Indian cuisine”? Is your answer spice? If so, you have the correct response. Indian cuisine is known for its use of a wide array of spices that give the food the tantalizing and distinctive aromas that we all love. A small subset of spices is used in most of the dishes in some combination and varying amounts. These combinations are the secret to excellent Indian cuisine.


Indian spices

Indian spices


Over the years I have seen many lists in which people have ranked their favorite spices. I thought it would be a good idea to pull together my list of the spices I use most often in Indian cooking. As you build your Indian spice rack, start with the first 5 items on this list and add more spices as your recipes call for them. Armed with this list, you should be able to prepare almost any Indian recipe you wish.

List of Top 10 Spices


Top 10 Indian spices used in Indian recipes.

1. Turmeric – From a root that looks like ginger’s smaller cousin, turmeric is dried and ground giving dishes a yellow color and a unique peppery flavor. Don’t add too much or your dish will be bitter and very yellow.

2. Red chile powder – Made from dried red chiles, this red powder adds a fiery taste to every dish. This is the reason many Indian dishes are hot.

3. Saffron – This spice comes from a species of the crocus plant. It brings a unique, subtle flavor along with a yellow color to dishes.

4. Cumin – Cumin has a warm, aromatic flavor and is used in a wide array of Indian dishes. Used whole, ground, fried in oil or roasted. I find that I use cumin in almost every dish but don’t add too much as it is powerful.

5. Coriander – As seeds or ground, coriander is one the most frequently used spices in Indian cooking. These tiny, light brown seeds of the cilantro plant have a light spicy flavor with a hint of citrus.

6. Mustard seeds – Small reddish-brown seeds have a pungent flavor and are usually added to chutneys, pickles and other dishes.  Frequently they are fried in hot oil until they pop to bring out their flavor.

7. Cloves – These dried flower buds give a warm, aromatic flavor to food. Used whole or ground

8. Cinnamon – Shavings of bark from the cinnamon tree. This fragrant spice is used in many sweet as well as savory dishes.

9. Cardamom – Small aromatic pods that contain many small black seeds.  They are available in black or green; however, the green ones are more popular. This is one of my favorite spices that I add to rice and sweet dishes for a special taste.

10. Fennel seeds – Small seeds like cumin seeds that are commonly used in pickles.


These spices are used whole or ground, and raw, roasted, fried in oil to bring out special characteristics of the spices to create a dish that makes a statement on your table. By mixing different spices together, different masalas, or spice blends, are created that you can use. For example, I make batches of the ever-popular Garam Masala that I use to season vegetables and save time. Once I like a spice blend, I write down the recipe so I can make it in the future to save time.


Try experimenting with these spices in your cooking and you will never have to eat a boring meal again.



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