Veganuary 2024 Challenge

Veganuary 2024

Thursday, January 25 – Wednesday, January 31

Sampler of recipes from
Vegan Serendib:


1) Curries (cooked in coconut milk):
Beet Curry
Eggplant Curry
Green Bean (and/or Carrot) Curry

2) Poriyal (fried with seasoned onions)
Cauliflower Poriyal
Deviled Potatoes

3) Tempered (cooked, mixed with seasoned onions)
Tempered Lentils / Paruppu
Tempered Potatoes

4) Varai (steamed or stir-fried with coconut)
Broccoli Varai
Cabbage Varai


5) Salads
Cucumber Salad
Pickled Beet Salad

6) Sambols
Coconut (Pol) Sambol
Eggplant Sambol
Kale Sambol

7) Special Dishes
Lime-Masala Mushrooms
Leeks with Chili

8) Soups
Coconut Milk Gravy / Sothi
Curried Pumpkin Soup


Milk Rice
Tamarind Rice with Lentils


Love Cake
Sweet Thosai (Inippu Thosai)



Beet Curry

(30 minutes, serves 4)

This dish has a lovely sweet flavor with just a hint of spice—beets have a higher sugar content than any other vegetable. The lime tang beautifully balances the sweetness and the spice, for a flavor characteristic of Sri Lankan cuisine.

3 medium onions, chopped fine
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1⁄4 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seed
4 large beets (about 1 lb.), peeled, cut in thick matchsticks
1–2 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. ground turmeric
2–3 tsp. lime juice
1–3 chopped green chilies
2 dozen curry leaves, optional
2 cups coconut milk

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden / translucent (not brown). Add beets, salt, turmeric, lime juice, chilies, and curry leaves. Continue cooking on high about 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, just enough so the onions and beets don’t burn—you want that beautifully caramelized flavor coming through.

2. Lower heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until beets are cooked through and coconut milk has reduced to simply coating the beets, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.


Eggplant Curry / Kaththarikkai Kari

(30 minutes draining time + 30 minutes, serves 6)

My mother’s eggplant curry was always a huge hit at Sri Lankan dinner parties, and is particularly popular with vegetarians.

1 lb. eggplant, roughly 1-inch cubes
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 onions, chopped coarsely
1⁄2 cup oil
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. black mustard seed
1 dozen curry leaves
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Sri Lankan curry powder
1⁄2 cup coconut milk

1. Prep eggplant—rub with turmeric and salt and then set in a colander to drain at least 30 minutes, which will draw out the bitter water. Blot dry with paper towels.

2. Sauté onions in oil on medium-high, stirring, with cumin seed, black mustard seed, and curry leaves, until golden.

3. Add eggplant, sugar, and curry powder, and sauté for another ten minutes or so, until eggplant is nicely fried. (Add more oil if needed.)

4. Add coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes until well blended. Serve hot with rice or roti—particularly nice for a vegetarian dinner with lentils as the main protein.

Variation: Eggplant and bell pepper work well together in this dish; just add chopped bell pepper about five minutes into frying the eggplant for a nice sweet element to the dish. Sometimes I make a nightshade curry, adding potatoes and tomatoes as well—small cubed potatoes would go into the onions first, then eggplant and spices, then bell pepper, then tomato, with a few minutes between each addition.


Carrot (and/or Green Bean) Curry

(20 minutes, serves 4)

This carrot curry is a perfect dish for early spring, and is the perfect accompaniment for jackfruit or chickpea curry. For a variation, you can switch out half the carrots for green beans, which brings a pleasant contrast and some extra nutrition to your plate.

3 medium onions, chopped
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1⁄4 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seed
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄2–1 cup coconut milk

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden. Add carrots, turmeric, and salt. Cook on medium-high, stirring, until carrots are mostly cooked, about 10 minutes.

2. Add coconut milk and turn heat down to low; simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 3–5 more minutes. Be careful not to curdle the milk by cooking on high heat. Serve hot.


Cauliflower Poriyal

(25 minutes, serves 4)

The key to this dish is sautéing the cauliflower until it’s browned—the browned bits will be the tastiest. This is, oddly, one of my picky children’s favorite dishes, and has often proved popular with my friends’ children as well. I think it’s all the frying.

3 medium onions, chopped coarsely
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1⁄4 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seed
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. ground turmeric

1. Sauté onions in oil on high in a large nonstick frying pan with mustard seed and cumin seed, until onions are slightly softened (not brown). Add cauliflower, turmeric, and salt. (I’ve made this in a regular frying pan, and found that it’s difficult not to burn it; if you don’t use non-stick, you’ll need to stir constantly.)

2. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is browned (mostly yellow, but with a fair bit of brown on the flatter parts). This takes a while—don’t stop too early, or it won’t be nearly as tasty. Serve hot.


Deviled Potatoes / Urulai Kizhangu

(30 minutes, serves 4)

This was the first vegetable dish I learned to make, and I still find it addictive. It’s great with rice and curry, but also works quite well mashed up as a party spread with triangles of toasted naan or pita. For a little more protein, you could add canned and drained chickpeas when you add the potatoes.

3 medium onions, chopped
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1⁄4 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seed
1–2 Tbsp. (or more to taste) cayenne
3 medium russet potatoes, cubed
3 Tbsp. ketchup
1 rounded tsp. salt
1⁄2 cup coconut milk, optional

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden / translucent (not brown). Add cayenne and cook 1 minute. Immediately add potatoes, ketchup, and salt.

2. Lower heat to medium and add enough water so the potatoes don’t burn (enough to cover usually works well). Cover and cook, stirring periodically, until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove lid and simmer off any excess water; the resulting curry sauce should be fairly thick, so that the potatoes are coated with sauce, rather than swimming in liquid. Add coconut milk, if desired, to thicken sauce and mellow spice level; stir until well blended. Serve hot.


Tempered Lentils / Paruppu

(1 hour, serves 6)

Lentils are a staple dish in Sri Lanka—across the country, people eat what we call paruppu daily, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s terribly good for you, very affordable, and also delicious. I used to dislike lentils, or I thought I did, but it turned out I only disliked my mother’s version (which everyone else loved, so I blame my being a slightly picky kid). I was converted to lentils through my adult discovery of Ethiopian food, a cuisine which cooks the lentils to a soft porridge-like consistency; now I am quite fond of them. This recipe is adapted from Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook.

2 cups red lentils
1 can coconut milk, plus 1 can hot water
1 dried red chili, broken into pieces
1 pinch of ground saffron
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
6 curry leaves
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 strips of lemon rind (about a quarter lemon)
3⁄4 –1 tsp. salt (to taste)

1. Put lentils in a saucepan with the coconut milk, chili, and saffron. (If you don’t have red lentils, you can use a different variety, but it will notably change the flavor.) Fill the can with hot water and add that as well; this will ensure you don’t waste any coconut yumminess. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until lentils are soft, about forty-five minutes. Stir periodically and add more water if needed; it’s fine if
the bottom starts to stick a little—just scrape it up.

2. In another saucepan, heat the oil and fry the onions, curry leaves, cinnamon, and lemon rind until onions are golden- brown.

3. Reserve half the onions for garnishing the dish and add the lentil mixture to the saucepan. Stir well, add salt to taste, and cook down until thick, like porridge. Serve with rice and curries.

Note: Some people like their paruppu more watery, but I think they’re just wrong. Still, cook to your preference.


Tempered Potatoes

(20 minutes, serves 4)

Simple, classic — my kids love this preparation.

3 russet potatoes, peeled 1 onion, sliced
3–4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1–2 tsp. dried red chili pieces
1⁄2 tsp. cayenne
1⁄4 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 1⁄2 tsp. black mustard seed
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
1 dozen curry leaves
1 tsp. salt

1. Boil potatoes, drain, and cut into large chunks or small dice, as you prefer.

2. In a medium bowl, mix these ingredients: onion, garlic, lime juice, chili pieces, cayenne, turmeric, and salt.

3. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat; when oil is ready add mustard seeds and let it pop up (nearly 2–4 seconds). Then add cinnamon and curry leaves and let it fry for 1–2 minutes. Then add the onion mixture and stir to mix.

4. Turn heat to medium, and fry, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent-golden, about 10 minutes; be careful not to burn them. The mixture should be very aromatic by this stage.

5. Add potatoes into the onion mixture, mixing well, but don’t break the potatoes into small pieces. Stir for a minute or two until well blended; taste and add salt and/or lime juice as desired. Serve with rice or bread.


Broccoli Varai

(30 minutes, serves 4)

A good way to get green vegetables into children.

Note: I keep this fairly mild, so my kids will eat it, but for a spicier (and more traditional) version, chop 2–3 green chilies, and stir them in during step 1.

1 lb. broccoli (crowns and/or stalks), chopped fine (by hand or in food processor)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1–2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6–12 curry leaves
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1⁄4 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. black pepper (or cayenne)
1 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp. oil (optional)
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
1–2 tsp. lime juice (optional)

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with curry leaves, cinnamon, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds until onions are golden / translucent (not brown).

2. Add broccoli, salt, pepper, and turmeric; fry, stirring, for a few minutes. (If the broccoli starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, you can add a little water.)

3. Add in coconut and stir for five minutes.

4. Taste, and stir in sugar and/or lime juice if desired. Serve hot, with rice and curries.


Cabbage Varai / Muttaikoss Varai

(15–20 minutes, serves 8)

Sweet, firm, rich with coconut.

8 oz. cabbage
1 medium onion, minced
2 fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped
1⁄4 rounded tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄4 rounded tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp. salt
1⁄2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1. Shred cabbage finely. Wash well, drain, and put into a large saucepan. Don’t worry about drying the water clinging to the cabbage—you actually want that water to help steam the cabbage.

2. Add all the other ingredients except the coconut. Cover and cook gently until cabbage is tender, stirring periodically.

3. Uncover, add coconut, stir well, and when the liquid in the pan has been absorbed by the coconut, remove from heat. Allow to cool before serving.


Cucumber Salad

(5 minutes, serves 8)

A cool, refreshing bite, slightly crisp.

1 English cucumber (or 2 Persian cucumbers), sliced into bite-size pieces
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 green chili, chopped fine
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lime juice or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. coconut milk

Combine and serve with rice or uppuma and curry, with perhaps a nice mango pickle on the side.


Pickled Beet Salad

(30 minutes, serves 8)

A sweet-sour accompaniment that can be eaten fresh; the flavors will mellow and blend if allowed to sit for a few days.

Note: Half a red onion, sliced and added at step 3, would grace this dish nicely.

2 cups raw beet, peeled, cut in half, and sliced
4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar

1. In a saucepan, boil beets in water; cook until beets are tender, about 10–15 minutes.

2. Sauté cumin seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes, stirring, until they start to smell fragrant. Remove from heat.

3. Drain beets, return to saucepan, combine with remaining ingredients and cumin seeds, bring to a boil, and simmer 10–15 minutes.

4. You can now cool and serve immediately with rice and curries, or alternatively, let cool, pour beets and liquid into a jar, close, and refrigerate. Eat within a few weeks (unless you follow proper procedures for long-term canning).


Coconut Sambol / Thengai-Poo, or Pol Sambol

(10 minutes, serves 8)

This is meant to be an accompaniment—make a batch (it keeps for weeks in the fridge) and then put a teaspoon or two on your plate with your rice / bread and curries. In Sri Lanka, they would just use straight up cayenne, instead of a mix of cayenne and paprika, which would make it fiercely spicy. If I were only going to make one accompaniment for the rest of my life, pol sambol would be my choice, although seeni sambol would be a very close second.

1 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
3 Tbsp. hot coconut milk (I heat mine in the microwave)
1 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. cayenne
2 rounded tsp. paprika
2–3 Tbsp. lime juice, to taste
1 medium onion, minced fine

1. Reconstitute coconut in a large bowl with the hot milk. I recommend using your fingers to squeeze the milk through the coconut. (If you can get fresh or frozen grated coconut, that is, of course, even better, and you can skip this step.)

2. Add salt, cayenne, paprika, lime juice, and onion. Mix thoroughly with your hand, rubbing ingredients together until well blended.

Note: If you don’t feel that your onion is minced sufficiently fine (ideally, to match the texture of the coconut), you can use a food processor to chop it more finely, or grind it with a mortar and pestle. You can grind just the onions, or the whole mixture.


Eggplant Sambol / Kaththarikkai Sambol

(1 hour prep, 20 minutes cooking, serves 8)

My vegetarian friends are particularly fond of this dish. It offers a bright note, with its raw onion and lime juice, that wakes up a plate of rice and curry.

1 eggplant
1 rounded tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. ground turmeric oil for deep frying
3 fresh green chilies, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin lime juice
1⁄4 cup coconut milk, optional

1. Cut eggplant into quarters lengthwise and then slice thinly. Rub with salt and turmeric, spread on a few layers of paper towels and leave at least 1 hour. Bitter water will rise to the surface of the eggplant; blot that water with more paper towels. This will make for much tastier eggplant.

2. Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry eggplant slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift out with Chinese spider (mesh metal spoon) and put in a dry bowl.

3. Mix with remaining ingredients; serve warm.


Kale Sambol

(20 minutes, serves 8)

I had never been a big kale fan, but my friend Roshani completely converted me with her Aunty Indranee’s use of kale in this traditional sambol. In Sri Lanka, this would have been made with a native green, gotu kola, but kale is an excellent substitute (you can also try any other leafy greens, like beet greens, mustard greens, or rainbow chard).

For this preparation, kale is chopped small and tenderized with lime juice. When mixed with the coconut, tomatoes, sugar, and salt, the result is a tasty and addictive sambol that has become an essential component to many of our meals.

Note: This can be served immediately, but best if allowed to sit and blend for an hour or so. It will keep in the fridge for a good week—refresh with a little extra lime juice as needed.

1 bunch kale, leaves stripped off (stems discarded)
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
juice of 2 small limes (about 2–3 Tbsp.)
1–2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fine salt

1. Pulse kale in food processor until completely shredded into small bits.

2. Add onion, coconut, tomato, lime juice, sugar, salt. Mix thoroughly.


Lime- Masala Mushrooms

(20 minutes, serves 4)

Another one of my own invention; quick and easy to make. Rich in flavor, a favorite of hobbits and my dinner guests. This one is easy to start going and then just stir every once in a while as it cooks, so it’s convenient for a dinner party when you have twelve things going at once.

1 1⁄2 lbs. mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 stick salted vegan butter
1⁄2 rounded tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Sri Lankan curry powder
1⁄4 cup lime juice, or to taste

1. Sauté mushrooms in vegan butter and salt and cook on high heat until quite reduced, stirring frequently.

2. Add curry powder, pepper, and lime juice and cook until juice is absorbed. Mushrooms should be glistening and slightly fried, not sitting in liquid. Serve hot with rice and curries. (Also nice on toast.)


Leeks Fried with Chili

(50 minutes, serves 8)

This accompaniment offers a little extra heat and onion-y zing to a plate of rice and curry.

4 medium leeks
1⁄4 cup oil
1⁄2 rounded tsp. ground turmeric
1 1⁄2 rounded tsp. cayenne
1 rounded tsp. salt

1. Rinse dirt off outside of leeks. Discard any tough or withered leaves, but do use the green portions as well as the white.

2. With a sharp knife, slice the leeks thinly across the stalk, making thin rings / chiffonade; when you’re slicing the green leaves, make a tight bundle in your hands for easier slicing.

3. Wash the sliced leeks very thoroughly. The soil trapped between the leaves won’t actually taste particularly bad, but the grittiness is unpleasant. I recommend not simply running the sliced leeks under a colander—rather, put them in a large bowl of water and wash them vigorously, changing the water at least three times. This is labor-intensive, but well worth it.

4. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the leeks. Sauté, stirring for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.

5. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The leeks will reduce in volume. Uncover and cook, stirring, until liquid
evaporates and leeks appear slightly oily. Serve hot.


Coconut Milk Gravy / Sothi

(45 minutes + soaking time, serves 8)

This is a delicious traditional accompaniment for stringhoppers, served with a little coconut sambol. When I last visited Sri Lanka, that was one of my favorite meals to have for breakfast, in the very early morning at the hotel, while I was still jet-lagged. It’s quite soothing. This makes a fairly large quantity, suitable for feeding several people; just cut ingredients in half for a smaller portion.

1–4 Tbsp. fenugreek seeds, soaked for two hours beforehand
1 Tbsp. toasted rice powder (optional)
1 large onion, diced
12 curry leaves
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped
1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed (optional)
3 cups coconut milk
1–2 Tbsp. lime juice, to taste

Note 1: Traditionally, this dish was made with quite a lot of fenugreek; modern recipes tend to reduce to about 1 tablespoon, instead of 4. But fenugreek is a potent galactagogue, so if you’re making this dish for a nursing mother, you may want to go old-school.

Note 2: Toasted rice powder is used throughout Asia (especially in Thai cooking) to thicken and add flavor and fragrance to dishes. It’s best made fresh, in the quantities needed. To make, take 1 tablespoon rice and sauté over medium heat in a dry pan for 10–15 minutes, stirring constantly. It’ ll release a beautifully nutty, toasted scent. Then grind to a powder—I use a coffee grinder that I keep dedicated for spices, but you could also use a food processor, or the traditional mortar and pestle.

1. Put all the ingredients except the last two (coconut milk, and lime juice) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, until onions are reduced to a pulp and the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes.

2. Stir well, add thick coconut milk and heat without bringing dish to a boil. Stir in lime juice, and/or additional salt to taste. Simmer a minute or two longer, stirring, and then serve hot, with stringhoppers or rice.


Curried Pumpkin Soup

(1 hour, serves 8)

I live in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, so autumn is definitely gourd season— pumpkins everywhere. When my children were little, we took them to pumpkin patches; now we try to grow pumpkins in our garden, with mixed success, and carve messy jack-o-lanterns, making sure to save the seeds for roasting. So it just seems right to enjoy a curried pumpkin soup on a bright October day, when the sun is glowing through the turning leaves, gold and crimson.

1 batch pumpkin curry
32 oz. vegetable stock
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1⁄2–1 tsp. additional salt, to taste
Optional garnishes: coconut milk, marigold petals, Sri Lankan-style roasted pumpkin seeds

1. Make pumpkin curry in a large pot. (I recommend peeling the pumpkin if you plan to use it for soup.)

2. Add stock and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove cinnamon stick and purée until smooth. Optional, but makes it pretty and gives the soup a velvety texture—an immersion blender makes this job much easier than trying to transfer hot soup into a blender safely.

4. Stir in lime juice, taste, add salt if needed.

5. Serve hot, garnished with a swirl of thick coconut milk, edible marigold petals, and roasted pumpkin seeds.


Milk Rice / Kiri Bath
with Bottle Gourd (Labu) variation

(25–40 minutes, serves 4)

Kiri bath (pronounced ‘buth’), rice cooked with coconut milk, is an essential part of Sinhalese culinary tradition in Sri Lanka. It’s a required element on New Year’s Day (celebrated in April on a lunar cycle), and often eaten on the first day of each month. Kiri bath is generally served with lunu miris or other spicy sambols, although some prefer it sweet, with jaggery.

Sri Lanka has been a multi-ethnic society for over 2000 years, and when my parents’ Sinhalese neighbors made kiri bath, they would always bring some over to share with their Tamil friends. I didn’t grow up cooking it myself, but it was always a particular treat when my Sinhalese friends made it for me. I love kiri bath with pol sambol plus a nice curry, and a little paruppu (dal / lentils) never goes amiss. Maybe a bit of brinjal moju (pickle) too!

I ran across an interesting variation through a cooking video (by Chandeena and her mother at Village Life), where you add bottle gourd to the dish—it lends a lovely delicacy to the finished kiri bath, and may also serve to lighten it up a bit, for those who love the richness of flavor, but are perhaps being careful about their portion sizes of luscious rice and coconut milk.

2 cups short grain white (or red) rice
3 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
1 1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 cups shredded bottle gourd (or cucumber), optional

1. Put rice, bottle gourd (if using), and water in a pan and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 15 minutes. The rice should be mostly cooked at this point, but it’s fine if it’s a little firm still. (Red rice may want an extra 5 minutes.)

2. Add coconut milk and salt, stir well. Cover the pan again, turn heat to low, and cook for a further 10–15 minutes, until the milk is entirely absorbed. (Red rice may want an extra 5 minutes here too.)

3. Traditionally, you’d let it cool a little, turn
it onto a flat plate, and smooth it (using a spatula or banana leaves) into a firm, flat round. Mark it off in squares or diamond shapes, and serve with your favorite sambols.


Tamarind Rice with Black Lentils

(10 minutes, serves 4)

Ever since I had children, I’ve become a little more focused on trying to get some protein into every meal, if possible. Lentils are protein powerhouses, and these lentils don’t even require any soaking or boiling in advance — they just fry for a few minutes, and end up as crunchy little bites mixed in with the tangy tamarind rice. This rice is delicious with fried plantains, but to be honest, I often just eat it straight up, right out of the pot.

You can make fresh rice for this, but it’s also a terrific way to revive day-old rice!

2 cups cooked rice
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. urad dal (black lentil)
1⁄2 tsp. black mustard seed
1⁄2 tsp. fennel seed
4 dried red chilies
1 stalk (about a dozen) fresh curry leaves
1 Tbsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground jaggery or brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
6 Tbsp. tamarind juice (1 Tbsp. tamarind
paste dissolved in 5 Tbsp. hot water)

NOTE: This recipe moves quickly, and it’s worth having all the ingredients prepped in advance. You can measure out the whole spices into one container, and the ground spices into another, and dissolve the tamarind paste in advance.

1. Heat oil on medium-high and sauté lentil, mustard seed, cumin seed, dried chilies, curry leaves for two minutes, stirring constantly—be careful not to burn.

2. Stir in ground spices, then add tamarind juice. Bring to a boil and let simmer a few minutes, until thickened.

3. Remove from heat and stir in rice, mixing until well-blended. Serve hot!



(15 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been delighted to see coffee shops across America start serving chai; as someone who for most of her adult life rarely drank coffee, it was lovely having other options. (I’ve recently become a coffee convert, mostly by necessity!) But I admit to often being disappointed in American coffeeshop chai—it’s often made from powder, and is painfully grainy. And even when it’s smooth, it’s generally under-spiced and over-sweetened.

This is chai the way I like to make it when I’m feeling indulgent with myself; I vary the spices, and might also add peppercorns or nutmeg. Though I admit, most of the time at home, I just use Stash’s ready-made Chai Tea bags, which are surprisingly tasty. I often have a cup of the decaf version at night, as I’m getting ready to go to bed, and then I sleep like a baby.

4 cups coconut milk or your favorite non-dairy milk
6 black Ceylon tea bags
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
5 cardamom pods
5 slices fresh ginger
jaggery or brown sugar to taste (about 2–4 tsp.)

1. In a saucepan, bring milk almost to a boil (but not quite).

2. Turn down heat and add tea, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger. Simmer tea and spices in milk until well-brewed. The mixture should be aromatic and have a light-brown color.

3. Add sweetener to taste; stir until well blended.

4. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into four mugs. Serve hot.



(20 minutes, serves 4)

If you like boba tea, you should definitely try falooda. One of my mother’s favorites, quite ridiculously pretty, and very cooling on a hot day.

agar-agar jelly, diced (see below)
3 cups white sugar
2 cups water
20 drops rose essence
1–2 tsp. liquid red food coloring
ice cold coconut milk or your favorite non-dairy milk as required, about 1 cup for each serving
crushed ice
wheat vermicelli (cooked 1” pieces), sago, or tapioca pearls (optional)
soaked tulsi or chia seeds (optional)
vegan ice cream, crushed pistachios or cashews, sultanas (optional)

3 cups water
4 rounded tsp. agar-agar powder or 1 cup soaked agar-agar strands
6 Tbsp. sugar
12 drops rose essence
1 tsp. liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. liquid green food coloring

1. Make syrup: Put sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over gentle heat until sugar dissolves. Cool. Add 20 drops rose essence and 1 teaspoon red coloring. You have now made rose syrup. Set aside.

2. Make rose jelly with agar-agar (which is vegetarian). If using agar-agar powder, measure water into a saucepan and sprinkle-powder over. If agar-agar strands are used, soak at least 2 hours in cold water,
then drain and measure 1 cup loosely packed. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, stirring, until agar-agar dissolves. Powder takes about 10 minutes and the strands take longer, about 25–30 minutes. Add sugar and dissolve, remove from heat, cool slightly, and add 12 drops rose essence. Divide mixture between two large shallow dishes and color one red and the other green. Leave to set.

3. When jelly is quite cold and firm, cut with a sharp knife first into fine strips, then across into small dice.

4. Put about 2 tablespoons each of diced jelly and rose syrup into each tall glass, add vermicelli, sago, or tapioca pearls if desired. Fill up with ice-cold milk (pouring slowly over the back of a spoon to preserve layers) and crushed ice. Float some soaked tulsi or chia seeds on top if desired. Other toppings might include a quenelle of vegan vanilla ice cream, and/or some crushed pistachios or cashews, and/or some dried fruit, such as sultanas.


Love Cake

(2.5 hours, including baking time, serves dozens)

Some say this Portuguese-derived cake was baked to win the hearts of suitors, while others say it’s because of the labor of love involved in all the cutting, chopping and grinding of the fruits, nuts, and spices (much easier these days with access to a food processor). But regardless, it tastes like love: sweet, tangy, and fragrant. My mother says it doesn’t taste right without the crystallized pumpkin, which you can find at Indian grocery stores, though honestly, I like it just as well with the candied ginger. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

The vegan version uses beaten aquafaba to add lightness to the cake; if you haven’t used aquafaba before, and are worried about your cake tasting of chickpeas—do not fret. There’s no discernible chickpea flavor to the beaten aquafaba, especially once you fold it into a sweet batter.

8 oz. coconut oil, plus more for greasing
1 lb. raw unsalted cashews
14 oz. fine granulated sugar
5 very ripe bananas
1⁄2 cup aquafaba (water drained from a can of chickpeas)
zest and juice of 2 limes (about 2–3 Tbsp. juice)
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 drops rose water extract (or 2 tsp. rose water)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. semolina, toasted
3 oz. candied ginger and/or crystallized pumpkin, minced as finely as
confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Classically, you would grease a 9×13 baking dish with coconut oil and line it with two layers of parchment paper, then grease the paper with coconut oil.

2. In food processor, grind cashews to coarse meal.

3. In a standing mixer (paddle attachment), beat ripe bananas and granulated sugar until creamy. Add zest, juice, spices, rosewater and vanilla; mix well.

4. Add semolina and mix well; add cashews and candied ginger / pumpkin and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat aquafaba until stiff (about 12–15 minutes on high); fold gently into cake mixture.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Alternatively, spoon into greased and floured mini tea cake molds (Nordicware made the excellent one I used for this) and bake for about 50 minutes.

7. Let cool completely in the pan, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional), cut into squares and serve.


Sweet Thosai / Inippu Thosai

(30 minutes + 3 hours, serves 16)

Coconut, jaggery, and brown sugar are mixed together to make a sweet filling for this crepe-like pancake. Traditionally it would have been made with rice flour; but now wheat flour is often used, which gives a softer result. You could also try a half and half mix of rice flour and wheat flour.

3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1⁄4 tsp. salt
water as needed (about 2 1⁄2 cups)
2 cups fresh grated (or reconstituted desiccated) coconut
1⁄2 cup grated jaggery
1⁄2 cup brown sugar

1. Mix first four ingredients, using enough water to make a thick pancake batter.

Note: Traditionally, you would set the batter aside for three hours at this point, but if you proceed directly to step 2, you’ ll still get a good result.

2. In a separate bowl, combine grated coconut, jaggery, and brown sugar; using your clean hand will allow you break up any lumps of jaggery or sugar and mix them thoroughly.

3. Stir batter again, and add a little more water to make a thinner, pourable batter.

4. Heat a small frying pan on high, grease lightly. Pour a little mixture into the pan (about 1⁄2 cup) and smooth into a circle; cook for a few minutes, until the bottom turns light golden. You can flip if you want, but there is generally no need.

5. Remove to a plate and place about a teaspoon of coconut mixture in a line down the center. (You can start the next thosai cooking at this point, so that you’re alternating making thosai and filling them for maximum efficiency—or, you can make all the thosai first, covering
them with a kitchen towel to keep them warm, and then fill them.) Roll the thosai relatively tightly to make a small, neat roll. Serve warm—a lovely tiffin snack for children, or with your afternoon tea.

Note: These thosai are also yummy wrapped around a little eggplant sambol, for a savory option. A nice little party appetizer.