Som Tum – Thai Papaya Salad

Thai Papaya salad

Serves 6-8
Meal type Salad
Misc Serve Cold
Region Thai


  • 4-5 Thai bird chillies finely chopped (For the dressing)
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp crushed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6-8 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 3 Juice of lime
  • 1 cup unflavored white or rice wine vinegar
  • 11/2 tablespoons Palm Sugar or jaggery or brown sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 2kg peeled shredded raw green papaya (shred or julienne) (For the salad)
  • 6 green beans or French beans cleaned and sliced into 4 lengthwise
  • 5 Cherry Tomatoes or Roma tomatoes cut into small bits
  • 200g shelled and toasted peanuts Optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander leaves


Combine all the ingredients for the dressing, taste for salt and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Toss the dressing with the papaya, tomatoes and green beans and return to the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Garnish with coriander leaves and peanuts just before serving.
• For a vegetarian som tum, substitute the dried shrimp and fish sauce with soy sauce. If I have some fermented bamboo shoots I stir in a ¼ teaspoon- its strong smelling and helps replace the fish sauce. You can also use tamarind instead of lime. Regular sugar can be substituted for palm sugar. Som tum dressing can be seasoned to suit your taste.

Author Tara Deshpande

The Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

The Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

Serves 10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Serve Cold
Occasion Birthday Party
Region American
By author tara deshpande
i cannot remember the number of times I've made this recipe. Its a classic and kids love it. Add a little rum and adults love it! You could use a variety of icings, add nuts and flavorings to this cake. Its a moist cake that stays moist, cuts well and has a light crumb and a deep chocolate flavor.


  • 1 cup good quality unsweetened Cocoa regular or dutch will do
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Chips or peanut butter or butterscotch chips (optional)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons fine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons butter, very soft but not melted (about 170 grams)
  • 4 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil
  • 4 Large eggs whisked
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup butter (for white butter cream frosting)
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup butter (for chocolate buttercream)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 9 inch by atleast 2 inch round cake pan or 8 by 12 by at least 2 inches


consult your doctor if you have allergies or health restrictions before you enjoy this recipe.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grease the 12 by 8 by 2 or a 9 inch by 2 inch round pan thoroughly and line the bottom with parchment paper.

For the cake -ingredients 1-10

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar.

Beat the butter, eggs, oil, vanilla, and water together using a whisk or in a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat again scraping the bottom and sides from time to time until the batter is smooth.

Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour all the batter into the pan and spread it evenly.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (except for melted chocolate chips).

Cool in the pan for 35 minutes. Gently loosen the cake from the sides with a sharp, thin blade then turn over onto rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate. A cold cake is always easier to slice when you are ready to ice.

With a long and sharp blade slice the cake horizontally into two layers on a clean surface.

Apply icing as desired and then place one layer over the other.

If you don't wish to slice it just frost the top of the cake.

For the icing

For the white buttercream whisk together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk until fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before icing the cake.
For chocolate buttercream whisk cocoa, 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk until fluffy, cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove both from the refrigerator and whisk lightly. Add some milk if frosting is too thick.
You can use the chocolate buttercream on top if you prefer and the white inside.
Decorate with edible confetti as desired.

Photo Credit Binaifer Bharucha

Author Tara Deshpande



Make-Ahead Madeleines

Serves 12
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 18 minutes
Total time 38 minutes
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Region French
By author tara deshpande
I prefer a metal Madeleine pan- i find the cookies are springier but you could also use a silicone one which is much easier to clean up. I have several recipes for Madeleines. Some require a fair bit of beating and produce a very light cookie. This one is quite the opposite. Everything needs to be stirred together just enough to incorporate the ingredients. It produces a denser cookie but you can chill the batter in the oven and pop the mold into the oven 20 minutes before you are ready to serve them. Warm, straight out of the oven Madeleines are a treat. I serve them with a big pot of melted chocolate so guests can dip and eat- a bit like a fondue.


  • 130g granulated sugar
  • 110g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Zest Orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 115g butter melted


If you have allergies or health restrictions please consult your doctor before enjoying this recipe.


1. With a pastry brush butter, then flour the Madeleine molds (see photo). this recipe makes 12 individual cakes.
2. Stir together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Stir in the whisked eggs. Do not beat excessively only until lightly incorporated.
4. Stir in the melted butter until lightly mixed.
5. Use a spoon or a pastry bags and pipe the batter into the prepared molds about a tablespoon each. This will expand while baking.
6. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Chill until firm about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. You could also bake these just before you are ready to serve dessert.
7. Bake the Madeleine’s at 400 F for 7 minutes, or until they are firm and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Place a clean kitchen towel on the counter. Unmold the Madeleine’s immediately upon removing from the oven by banging the tray on a hard surface. The cookie cakes should mostly just fall off. If not gently pry them loose with a small knife. They can be dipped after they are cooled.

Photo Credit Beynaz Mistry

Author Tara Deshpande

Express Low Fat Strawberry Banana Ice-Cream

Express Low Fat Strawberry Banana Ice cream

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert
Misc Serve Cold
Occasion Casual Party
Region American
By author tara deshpande
Low Fat Strawberry Banana Ice-cream: If you have health restrictions please checks with your doctor before enjoying this recipe.


  • 500g fresh strawberries washed, leaves removed and quartered
  • 750ml natural fat-free plain dahi or yogurt
  • 1 banana peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons golden honey
  • Cheesecloth, sieve and freezer safe containers


Recipe for 4-5 scoops. This ice-cream is all natural and contains no eggs or preservatives so it melts easily.


• Reserve 2 tablespoons of quartered strawberries in a small bowl. Toss with half a tablespoon of honey, cover and chill.
• Put the remaining strawberries and banana in a freeze safe bag or box and freeze overnight.
• Tie the yogurt tightly in a cheese cloth. Place over a sieve. Put the sieve over a bowl and refrigerate overnight.
• Remove and squeeze excess water out of the yogurt. Use this whey in a curry or lentils.
• In a food processor or mixer blitz the frozen banana, frozen strawberries remaining honey and chilled strained yogurt immediately until smooth.
• Working quickly put the blended yogurt mix in a freezer safe box and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.
• Scoop into bowls when ready to serve. Top with marinated strawberries and serve before it begins to melt!

Photo Credit D Netto

Author Tara Deshpande

Pad Thai Noodles

Pad Thai (Thai Style Stir Fry Noodles)

Pad Thai means stir fried noodles and is a street food that became popular in Thailand in the 1930’s. It is not a spicy dish but it is one you can adjust to your taste.

Ingredients for 4-5 portions

  • 150 grams Thai rice noodles (also called flat pad Thai noodles, cellophane or glass noodles)
  • 1 cup cooked and cleaned shrimp/prawns (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded or small pieces of uncooked chicken (optional)
  • 1 cup firm Tofu chopped and pan fried (for vegetarians)
  • ½ cup shallots or green onion bulbs finely chopped 
  • 1/4-1 tsp red Thai chillies finely chopped (this is optional)
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sprouted moong or bean sprouts
  • 3-4 stalks Chinese chives, sliced in batons or use stems of green onions slivered
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander / cilantro
  • ½ cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons oil for stir frying ( peanut, corn, soy, sunflower, or canola)
  • 1/4 cup tablespoon water or vegetable stock or shrimp or chicken stock 
  • 1-2 eggs whisked (optional)
  • Wedges of lime for serving 

Pad Thai Sauce

Add this  when the noodles are cooking. You can make it more sour or less sweet to your preferred taste.

Mix together and set aside:

  • 6-8 tablespoons tamarind paste (available as Asian / Indian food stores)
  • 1 cup shrimp or chicken stock or use water or vegetable stock
  • 3-4 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce for vegetarians. Use fermented bamboo shoot paste or vegan fish sauce if you prefer
  • 3 tablespoons date palm sugar or brown sugar (use sugar substitute if you prefer)

Method for noodles

Bring a large pot of water to a furious boil then remove from heat. Soak the rice noodles for 5-10 minutes until soft enough to eat, but still a little chewy-don’t over-cook them .  Drain just before you are ready to add it to the sauce and spices.

While noodles are soaking work quickly. Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. Add 3 tbsp. vegetable oil and stir fry onions or shallots and garlic about one minute. Use large tongs as they help to toss noodles as well.

Add chicken   and vegetables. Cook 2 minutes, stirring to make sure chicken cooks through. Add shrimp then add drained noodles and toss well. Taste the Pad Thai Sauce for sweetness and tartness- adjust to your taste by adding more tamarind or sugar. Slowly pour over noodles and toss vigorously.   Add tofu or chicken and continue to toss. Cook until noodles begin to brown and get just a little crispy.  Add more sauce, toss and taste.

Add the bean sprouts and chives and continue stir frying 1-2  more minutes. Remove from heat and taste, adding more Pad Thai sauce until desired taste is achieved.

Garnish with the coriander, green onion stalks and peanuts. Squeeze over with lime juice. Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side if desired.


Watermelon and homemade cheese salad

Watermelon and Home-made Cottage Cheese salad

Serves 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Salad
Misc Serve Cold
Occasion Casual Party
Region Greek
By author tara deshpande tennebaum
Refreshing Watermelon Salad adapted from a Greek recipe. Perfect for a summer party.


  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed or good quality orange juice
  • 1/4 lime freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red or white onions
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup good fresh vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/6 teaspoon saunf (aniseed) lightly roasted and coarsely crushed (about 6-7 seeds)
  • 200g rocket or baby arugula, washed and refrigerated
  • 2 cups of watermelon, rind and seeds removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes or scooped
  • 1/4 teaspoon zest of lime
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or crushed toasted walnuts (skins removed)
  • 4 cups plain whole-milk
  • 1 juice of lime


If you have health restrictions please consult your doctor before enjoying this recipe.


Whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, onions, honey, aniseed, salt, and pepper. Add vegetable oil, and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Taste for salt and sweetness before using on salad greens.
Heat milk in a heavy bottomed pan until it reaches a boil. Make sure to stir from time to time to prevent burning. When milk is about to boil over add lime juice and switch off flame. Let sit. Milk will split and cheese curds will form. Start the fire again on medium and let the milk boil once more. Switch off flame. Cool about 15 minutes and strain through a fine sieve. Use whey for soups or lentils otherwise discard. soak the cheese curds in clean drinking water to get the lime juice out. Strain again through a fine sieve and squeeze out all the water. Seal in an air tight container and chill until ready to use
Take chilled rocket from refrigerator. Tear coarsely. Place the rocket in a large bowl. Drizzle with half the salad dressing, then gently toss leaves. Scatter the watermelon and pour remaining dressing over the watermelon. Toss gently. Top with chilled crumbled cheese and nuts. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.

Photo Credit   Deepa Netto

Author Tara Deshpande

Thai style Green mango salad

Thai style Green Mango salad with cashews

Serves 6-7
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 5 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Allergy Shellfish, Tree Nuts
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Salad
Misc Serve Cold
Occasion Casual Party
Region Thai
By author tara deshpande
You can also use peanuts instead of cashews. if you want to make this veggie use light soy sauce instead of fish sauce.


  • 2 red or green Thai or Indian chiles, with seeds, chopped
  • 3 clove garlic chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce or soy sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 2.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons palm or light brown sugar
  • 4 green mangoes peeled and shredded on a mandoline or use a coarse cut manual shredder
  • 4 Medium green onion bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted or fried cashew pieces (you can also uses toasted only sesame seeds if you are allergic to nuts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro leaves washed,stalks removed
  • 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons store bought crispy noodles or toasted parched rice
  • 4-5 mint or spicy basil leaves torn
  • Salt as required


For the dressing grind chiles, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and sugar in a mixer until smooth. Stir in 1.25 tspns salt.
Toss mangoes, green onions, sesame seeds, and dressing in a large bowl; season with more salt and sugar if required. Cover bowl and let sit for a few hours in the fridge.
Toss with coriander leaves, basil or mint and sprinkle crispy noodles or toasted parched rice and cashews on top then serve immediately

Photo Credit  Deepa Netto

Author Tara Deshpande

Crisp Bitter Gourd or Karela Salad

Crisp Bitter Gourd Karela Salad

Serves 4-6
Prep time 35 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Side Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Indian
By author tara deshpande
This is a fantastic way to eat Karela or bitter gourd. Its a super food no doubt but now its also super tasty. Karela juice is valued by some as excellent blood cleanser.


  • 600g (about 6) bitter gourds
  • 1-2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red or white onions
  • 2-3 Indian green chillies, 2”- 2½” long, finely chopped and mixed with 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh; or frozen, defrosted, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 Lime Juice
  • 1-2 teaspoon grated jaggery or sugar


Wash and dry the gourds. Using a sharp knife cut off the tips. Slice and scrape off the spiny surface with a knife. Squeeze the gourds between your palms to release its bitter liquid.
Slice the gourds into fine rings about ¼” thick-discard seeds. Sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and leave to drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Squeeze out all the water.
Soak them in water for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze again.
Spread out on a large plate and dry by patting them with a dish towel.
Pour 2” of oil in a kadhai, wok or deep pan on high heat. Fry the gourds, till crisp and golden. Drain in a sieve lined with paper towels, till they cool to room temperature.
Toss the fried, cooled gourd slices with the remaining ingredients.
Taste and add more salt and jaggery or sugar.
Serve immediately.

Photo Credit Deepa Netto

Author Tara Deshpande

Karwari style coastal fish curry

karwari pomfret curry 2-1


Karwar is a coastal town about 2 hours drive from Goa. It has a culinary tradition distinct from that of other cities in the Malwan on India’s western coast, off the Arabian sea .
This family recipe comes from my maternal grandmother. You will notice peculiar techniques like the use of two kinds of souring agents; tamarind and kokum or salted and dried mangosteen fruit, similar ingredients are both roasted and ground and separately sautéed and the use of turmeric for both flavor and color. This curry has a mellow flavor and is easy to make. You can use steaks of white fish like pomfret, cod, halibut or shrimp. For a vegetarian version add potatoes.

6-8 servings



1 kg rawas or surmai, cut into 8-10 steaks

1 tsp + 1½-2 tsp salt or to taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

50 gms white onions, chopped

400 ml thick coconut milk

8 soft, dried kokum fruit, soaked in a cup of hot water

½” fresh ginger root, peeled, julienned

2 Indian green chillies, 1”- 1½” long, slit lengthwise or 1 Thai bird chillie


Spice paste

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds

4 black peppercorns

8 dried red Kashmiri chillies, stalks and seeds removed

1 tsp turmeric powder

4 Indian green chillies, 1”- 1½” long, roughly chopped OR 2 Thai bird chillies

½” fresh ginger root, peeled, grated

1 tbsp roughly chopped white onion

1 tsp rice flour


Juice of ½ a lime

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves


Wash the fish and drain thoroughly. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, cover and refrigerate.


Toast the whole spices and red chillies for the spice paste in a skillet on medium heat for about 2 minutes, till fragrant.

Switch off the heat and stir the turmeric powder into the hot spices. Cool and grind to a fine powder.

Add the green chillies, ginger onion and rice flour and grind to a fine consistency.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.


Put the oil in a small kadhai or wok on medium heat. When hot, sauté the onion, ginger and green chillies for 1-2 minutes, till the onion is translucent.

Add the fish, ground spice paste and coconut milk.

Squeeze the kokum and strain the liquid into the pan.

Simmer for 5-8 minutes or till the fish is tender.

Add 1½-2 tsp salt and taste.

Garnish with lime juice and coriander leaves and serve hot with plain, boiled, white rice.


Coastal Indian Maratha style Pulao

[media-credit id=2 align=”alignright” width=”280″]Maratha style Chicken pulao[/media-credit]

Ingredients for 6 -7 servings
3 cups basmati rice
½ cup ghee or vegetable oil
1 dried bay leaf
4 cloves
5 cups hot water

Egg Potatoes or Meat Masala
3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
3 black peppercorns
2 cloves
1 black cardamom
2 green cardamoms
1 dried bay leaf
1” cinnamon stick
1½ cups finely chopped white onions
2 Indian green chillies, 2”- 2½” long, chopped
3” fresh ginger root, peeled, puréed
6 cloves garlic, puréed
4 plum or red tomatoes, chopped
2 cups full-cream-milk, plain yogurt
2 heaped tbsp Malvani garam masala (recipe in the book A Sense for Spice) or use store bought Garam masala
½ tsp saffron strands
Salt to taste
12 eggs or 1.5 kg cooking potatoes peeled and quartered or 2 kg boneless meat of your choice
To assemble and serve the pulao
1 cup cubed potatoes, fried
½ cup finely sliced onions, fried
12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Wash the rice and soak it in water for 2 hours.
Rinse the rice and drain completely.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan that has a tight-fitting lid.
Add the bay leaf and cloves and sauté on medium heat for about 1 minute.
Add the rice and gently sauté for about 30 seconds.
Add 5 cups of hot water. Stir, cover the pan and cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, till the rice is fluffy.
Switch off the heat and keep the pan covered so the rice continues to cook in its own steam.
Fluff up the rice with a fork and spread on a large plate to cool.

Egg Masala
Heat the ghee or oil in a large, deep pan. Add the whole spices and sauté on high heat, till they sizzle and rise to the surface. Drain the spices and discard.
Add the onions and green chillies to the spiced oil and sauté on medium heat, till soft.
Stir in the ginger and garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and sauté on high heat for 3-4 minutes, till they are completely pulped.
Mix in the yogurt and Malvani garam masala and continue to cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly, till the yogurt thickens, splits and releases its oil.
If using meat or potatoes add now and stir well. Cook on medium heat, till the meat and or potatoes are tender.
Sprinkle in the saffron and salt to taste.
Switch off the heat and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

To assemble the pulao
Spoon half the cooked rice into the bottom of a bundt pan or a large ring-shaped mould about 4” deep. If you don’t have either of these use a round ovenproof dish that into your pressure cooker.
Pat down the rice and dot with some fried potatoes and onions.
Spoon all the meat or potatoes with its gravy evenly over the rice bed.
Cover with the remaining rice, pat down and seal tightly with aluminium foil. Refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
Reheat either by steaming in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes, or place it in a bain marie (warm water bath) in an oven heated to 150⁰C for 1 hour.
Turn out on to a large serving platter. Garnish with the remaining fried potatoes and onions and the hard-boiled eggs and coriander leaves.
Serve hot.

photo credit Deepa Netto