Instant Lemon Pickle/Relish (Vadukkapuli Achar)

Over the past 18 years since I got married, I have cooked and baked like crazy.  Curries, Stews, Chutneys, Breads, Cakes, Desserts.  Indian, American, South Asian, Mexican, Italian – you name it, I have tried it!  You just have to browse through the recipe categories on my home page to see what I mean! However, one category that I have not really ventured into a lot is that of ‘pickles’. And by pickles, I mean ‘Indian’ pickles which are an altogether different class of foods as compared to what pickles mean to the western world.  A pickle in India is usually something that is a relish – something that is either extremely sour or extremely spicy or in most cases both 🙂 The very mention of the word ‘pickle’ gets my salivary glands into hyperactivity! And I can confidently say that it does the same for most Indians 🙂

These pickles are meant to be consumed in very tiny quantities in a meal and is thought to tickle your palate thereby improving your appetite and aiding digestion. In fact, the way to enjoy these pickles is by dipping your finger in it and then licking it between eating portions of rice or rotis! The best pickles – the ones that I grew up eating were all home made! By my grandmas and my various aunts. Yes, my mom for some reason too did not make pickles.  But after I got married, I started getting pickles from my MIL regularly. That could very well be the reason why I never tried to make pickles. And the fact that it just seemed like a lot of hard work. Which is true in most cases since the pickled object for example the lemons or the green mangoes etc have to be washed, wiped and sun dried completely for one. Second of all, once the pickle was made, it needed to be sealed appropriately and stashed away for a few months before it was ‘ready’ to be consumed! Now who has the patience for that?

For the past two years being on a Paleo and AIP diet I have cut down considerably  on the quantity of pepper from my diet. I now only use kashmiri chill powder which is very mild – it gives the hot red color which I crave for without the added heat that I can do without.! So I had very much given up the hope that I could be eating pickles anytime soon.

However, last month while I was visiting India, my elder sister made the Kerala traditional Vadaukkapuli achar for Onam. God bless her! Vadukkapuli is the name of a variety of lemon that is much bigger than regular lemons and they have a thicker rind. The pickle made using these lemons are a side dish for the Onam sadya. makes sense right considering what I mentioned before about palate and digestion 🙂

Gosh, I very hesitantly tasted it telling myself that I was just going to have one tiny bit – a little indulgence since it was onam! What I didn’t realize was that this innocent tasting would open up the floodgates of pent up ‘pickle cravings’!  Having tasted it now, there was no stopping me. Luckily my sister had not made it too hot or spicy. I loved it so much that I begged her to tell me the recipe. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that she had made it that very morning. Meaning this was an instant version of pickle. She had peeled the skin off making the lemon pieces soften instantly. What a neat trick! I couldn’t wait to get back home and try a version that suited my needs – less hot and spicy and completely paleo friendly.  I used lesser quantity of all the spices and also used apple cider vinegar instead of synthetic vinegar and used regular organic lemons since I couldn’t find the large Meyer lemons.

Presenting to you a milder version of the traditional Kerala Naranga Achar!.  I have been currently enjoying this lemon relish with boiled yucca (kappa). Yum O!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Instant Lemon Pickle (Naranga Achar)
Recipe type: Relish, Pickle
Cuisine: Indian, Kerala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
Spicy and tangy lemon relish made with lemon pieces sautéed in sesame oil along with spices like mustard, fenugreek and cayenne pepper.
  • 3 large lemons (I used regular organic lemons)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (gingelly oil)
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp fenugreek powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Peel the lemons (removing the yellow rind) and then cut into small bite size pieces. Discard the seeds. Place in a strainer that is placed over a dish. Collect the juices and reserve.
  2. Heat a small pan or cooking pot and add the oil. When hot add the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When they splutter, add the lemon pieces and saute for 2 mins.
  3. Add all the spices and salt and sautee for 1 more minute. Turn heat off and add the vinegar and stir to mix.
Although I used regular lemons, you can use same recipe to make vadukka puli (Meyer lemons)achar

Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

dsc_0890The three months of summer just breezed by! I had been on a sabbatical from work yet I don’t know how the months flew by! I spent 5 weeks in India so that explains partly why I felt the time go by so fast.  I spent half the time in kerala undergoing Ayurvedic treatment for my RA and the rest of the time in Mumbai pampered by my family.  Gosh, I really needed that! And now I am back to face reality and work 🙁

Anyways, last week of August was wonderful since it was both my birthday and my daughter’s. I always try to make a special cake for my kids’ birthdays and so was wondering what cake to bake this year. Plus this one was special – my baby girl was turning 10! Before leaving for India I had promised the kids that I would make home made ice cream for them but somehow never got around to it. Hence now an idea came to mind. How about an ice cream cake? And after that,  it was easy to decide the flavors – what better than chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream? After all my daughter loves both – she eats strawberries all year round! And she can never have enough of chocolate! My son helped to make this surprise wonderful cake for her!

Chocolate strawberry ice cream cakeI didn’t waste any time looking for recipes – I decided to bake the chocolate cake using my vegan chocolate cake recipe. And then I made the ice cream base using whipping cream and real strawberries!  The Birthday girl was floored and so were the rest of the neighborhood kiddo gang whom we invited for an impromptu pizza and cake celebration.  Yummy Yum!

Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

  • Servings: Makes about 10-12 servings
  • Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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For the chocolate Cake:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup beet puree or apple sauce (or 1/4 cup whole milk)

For the ice cream layer:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can evaporating milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp strawberry preserves or jam
  • 1/2 cup strawberry finely chopped (optional)


Pre heat oven to 350 deg F(180 deg C). Prepare a loaf pan by greasing and dusting lightly with flour.

Mix all the dry ingredients-flours, baking soda,salt,cocoa and sugar in a parchment paper/tray.

In a large mixing bowl add the water, oil,vinegar and vanilla. Add the above dry ingredients to this and mix using an electric mixer(or a stand mixer).  Add the beet puree or apple sauce or milk. Mix till well blended and you get a smooth mixture.

Pour into a loaf pan. Bake at 350deg F (or 180 deg C) for about 20-25 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool.

Once cooled , take the cake out from the pan and cut into two layers horizontally carefully using a sharp serrated knife. Keep aside.

Take a large mixing bowl (or use a stand mixer) and whip the whipping cream, evaporating milk and condensed milk together until creamy. Add the strawberry preserves and the chopped strawberries and mix well.

Now to assemble the cake, take a loaf pan and place a large piece of plastic wrap on it such that there is enough overhang on both sides. Now place one piece of cake on the bottom. Then add half the whipped ice cream mixture. Place the second cake layer on top and add the rest of the ice cream mixture on top. Cover the pan with the plastic wrap that was hanging outside. cover tightly and place cake in the freezer to set for 6-8 hours.

Remove cake from freezer about 30-45 minutes before serving. Place pan on a pan with hot water to get it out quickly. Turn ice cream cake onto serving tray and cut into slices to serve.

Chocolate Strawberry ice cream cake


Salmon in spicy mustard sauce (Bengali Style Fish Curry)

Bengali style Salmon(Baked)When it comes to eating fish, I don’t think any other state in India can beat the Bongs (bengalis) or the Mallus (Keralites) 🙂 I am so relieved that my naturopath has asked me to continue eating fish as it is beneficial for me. So be prepared for a deluge of fish recipes! Nothing can stop this fish eating mallu now Ha Ha 🙂

Over the past few weeks I have made some variations of the traditional Kerala fish curry, which I will post soon. But today’s post is on the Bengali fish curry where mustard is the star. My friend Samita suggested this recipe to me recently one evening amidst all of us ladies bantering as usual at a recent gathering at her place. Samita, cooks up lovely lip-smacking dishes in a jiffy in her easygoing, carefree manner. She is not the one to fuss over recipes. Nor is she the one to note down exact recipes. And so what she told me went something like this – ‘Indu, why don’t you try making it Bengali style – just make a paste of mustard and green chillies and mix it with the salmon(elaborate hand gesture here showing how the paste is to be applied) and bake it. Mast hoga re! ‘

After that description from Samita how could I not give it a try! Plus it looked too easy! I checked out some online recipes for bengali curry and some of them used tomatoes which my diet does not permit. So in the end I really did what Samita had suggested. It came out wonderful and so tasty. Thank you Samita!

After that I have made it a couple more times now and I additionally strain the paste to get a fine texture for the curry plus it takes away the very pungent mustard taste.  I have also made it over the stove top. And this is one curry that I am sure has come to stay in my kitchen. And you know the best thing about this curry? – it is so darned easy to make!


Linking to Throwback Thursday this week. Also linking to Fiesta Friday.

Salmon in mustard sauce (Bengali Style Fish Curry)

  • Servings: makes 4 servings when served with rice
  • Time: About 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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6-8 Salmon pieces (boned-in and with skin preferred), about 1 inch thick
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
4 tsp mustard seeds(I used brown mustard only but you can use mix of brown and yellow)
4 green chillies
3/4 tsp red chilli pow
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water plus 1 cup more water

For tadka(oil garnish)
2 tsp olive oil(or mustard oil)
1/2 trp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp kala jeera (nigella seeds)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds


If using Stovetop:

Rub the salmon pieces with the salt and turmeric. Keep aside.

In a food processor, blend mustard seeds, green chillies, turmeric, red chili pow and salt with  1/2 cup water to form a smooth paste. Add the rest of the water and blend again. Strain this mixture using a strainer and keep aside.

Take a medium size wide bottomed cooking pot and add the oil (under tadka). heat the oil and add the tadka ingredients. Let cook for about 30 seconds until the seeds pop. Add the salmon pieces to the oil and lightly fry for about 2-3 minutes on side.  Make sure the fish does not stick to the bottom of the pan (Do not Flip them before 2 minutes).

Add the strained mustard mixture to the fish now. Cover and let cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Cook uncovered for last few minutes until you get curry of desired consistency.

Sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves! Serve with some cooked plain rice.

If using oven:

Rub the salmon pieces with the salt and turmeric. Take an oven proof baking dish and place the salmon in it in a single layer.

In a food processor, blend mustard seeds, green chillies, turmeric, red chili pow and salt with  1/2 cup water to form a smooth paste. Add the rest of the water and blend again.

Strain this mixture and pour over the fish.

Bake at 400 deg F (200 deg C) for 20 mins. (Covered for first 15 minutes and then uncovered for last 5 minutes)

In a tadka pan, heat the oil and add the tadka ingredients. Let cook for about 30 seconds until the seeds pop. Pour this garnished oil over the baked fish.
Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves. Serve with some cooked plain rice.

Bengali style Salmon(Baked)


Easy One Pot Shrimp Pulao (Prawn Pulao)

DSC_0699One pot dishes ? Now that’s my kind of dish! Easy to make, easy to serve and easy to clean up. A busy mom’s best friend and ideal for weeknights! I rely on shrimp a lot when it comes to weeknight quick meals. My hand quickly reaches for that shrimp pack in the freezer when I have had a busy day and do not have too much time to think about what I should be making. Shrimp tastes great anyway you cook it so that’s another reason why it is so popular with me.

DSC_0698This one pot shrimp pulao has to be my most common one out of all my shrimp dishes. This dish holds a lot of memories for me. All of which are wonderful and transport me to nostalgia world.  Growing up we had a Goan couple, Mr and Mrs F as our next door neighbor.  This couple did not have any children but they were very loving and always loved to have us kids in their home. One of the beauties of city living is that apartments being so close to each other, wonderful aromas used to come out of different kitchens around meal times and lurk in the common veranda. There used to be quite a bit of food exchanges also happening between the different neighbors. Mr F loved to cook and we had grown to love a lot of his dishes. And this prawn pulao was one of them! The pulao Mr F made was so tasty and I still remember the aroma coming out from their kitchen when this was being cooked.

Those were the days…when everything seemed to be so slow paced – the long lazy afternoons where the kids would play outside – games with marbles,gulli danda and the likes. And the moms chatted standing near their own doorsteps for hours …when neighbors meant more than family and exchange of food and recipes happened. No youtube video demos were there to search but actual demos in kitchens occurred over endless cups of tea and snacks…Oh those were the days…

This pulao recipe relies on only whole spices like cloves,cinnamon and black pepper for the flavors. And lot of butter. (I think mr F used Lard which really gave it extra flavor). I use a combination of olive oil and butter. This time I also added some herbs from my garden. I usually also add some vegetable like peas or green beans to make it a complete meal.

I am bringing this very tasty prawn pulao to Fiesta Friday this week.

I am linking this post to Recipes of the week.recipe-of-the-week


Easy One Pot Shrimp Pulao (Prawn Pulao)



  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, about 16-20 medium,de-shelled and deveined,
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or combination of olive oil plus unsalted butter)
  • 4-6 whole cloves
  • 1 1 inch’ long cinnamon stick
  • 4-6 black peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • about 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 small tomatoes,chopped fine
  • 1 tsp red chilli pow (use less for less spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 1/4 cups water


Wash the rice thoroughly in water draining the water. Keep washed rice aside.

Clean the shrimp and keep aside.

In a food processor, grind the mint,cilantro,garlic and ginger to a smooth paste with little water. Keep aside.

Take a large flat bottomed cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.  Place it on the stove and add the oil in it and heat. Add the cloves,cinnamon and peppercorns and stir for a few seconds on medium heat and then add the sliced onions. Cook the onions for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat stirring frequently.

Then add the ground mint paste and stir for about 30 seconds. then add the chopped tomatoes too. Continue cooking on medium heat for about 2 -3 minutes until the tomatoes are softened.  Add the red chili powder, turmeric and salt.  And then add the shrimp to this mixture and stir well for a couple minutes till all the shrimp pieces get coated with the spice mixture.

Add the rice and the peas and again stir well for about 2 minutes. Add the water and stir. Continue to heat until you see the water boiling. At that time lower heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until rice is cooked and hardly any water remains. Turn heat off and take pot off the stove but keep covered for about 5 minutes. Then open the lid and let the rice cool off a little bit and then fluff it slowly with a fork to get the grains separated.


  • The mint cilantro masala is my addition to the original recipe. But the pulao tastes great even without it so you can skip that if you don’t have time.
  • Cooking rice can be tricky since different varieties of rice may have different cook times. Hence the 10-12 minutes I mention here is approximate. Check after 10 minutes. if rice is not cooked – if you still some pieces of raw rice and all water is gone then add a little bit of water and continue to cook more.







Easy Shrimp Pulao

Around the World #2: Vegetable Quesadillas with a fiery red chili tomatillo salsa

DSC_0611Salsa Roja

Yes its all about the sauce! This red chill tomatillo salsa called as Salsa Roja is the bomb! Hot and fiery with a slightly sour tinge from the tomatillos. This was a perfect complement to the vegetable quesadillas I made. Nothing too complicated about the quesadillas – they are my ‘go to’ recipe when I need to feed my ‘famished’ kids fast! And the best thing about these quesadillas is that I can use a ton of different vegetables and they still will be gobbled up pretty fast – thanks to the gooey cheese mixed with them! This salsa roja will be a little too hot for your kids and you can make it milder. But for us adults this combination of the vegetable quesadillas with this fiery sauce just made it a perfectly balanced and filling dish elevating it to a whole new level. Yeah and add a dollop of fresh sour cream and you need nothing else! Yum yum good!

I have tried different vegetable combinations for making quesadillas and it tastes best when you have a combination of hard, crunchy and soft veggies. As for the salsa, I had seen several recipes for it online and I just made this version by throwing the different ingredients together in a proportion that would make it feisty and fiery hot!DSC_0609

Vegetable Quesadillas with a fiery red chili tomatillo salsa

  • Servings: Serves 4
  • Time: About 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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For the Quesadillas:


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 of a medium size onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mix of cauliflower,broccoli florets
  • 1/2 of a medium eggplant sliced thin about 1 cup slices
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped spinach or kale
  • 1 tomato, chopped fine
  • 3/4 tsp chipotle seasoning (or 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 red chili or chipotle pow)
  • 8 wheat tortillas (8 inch)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend


Take a wok or a large sauté pan and add the oil and heat. Next add the onions and all the rest of the vegetables except the tomatoes. Stir for about 2 minutes on high heat. Then cover with a lid and cook on medium for another 2 minutes. Now open the pan and add the tomatoes and the seasoning and again cook for about 2-3 minutes uncovered until all liquid evaporates. Keep aside.

To assemble the quesadillas, heat a frying pan and brush with a little bit of oil. Place one tortilla on the pan and then put some cheese over it then place about 1/2 cup of filling on top and spread to cover the tortilla surface. Now add more cheese on top and immediately cover with another tortilla on top.

Carefully and slowly flip the tortilla sandwich using a large flipper and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.  Immediately transfer to a serving plate.

Finish making the rest of the quesadillas in the same way. Serve hot with salsa and sour cream.

For Salsa Roja:


  • 2 dry red chills (you can use any variety but you may have to alter the quantity depending on how hot your chilles are)
  • 1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tomatillos husked and washed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch sugar (optional)


In a frying pan roast the onion , dry red chillies and the garlic for about 2-3 minutes.  Keep aside.

Roast the tomatillos in a broiler for about 7-8 minutes turning once after 4 minutes.

Blend all the above ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add the salt and sugar and mix.

Salsa Roja