Custard gingerbread tart with Chai poached pears


An eggless dessert that is great for so many occasions. Diwali, Thanksgiving even Christmas. You can use different pears like Anjou or Bartlett to make this dessert. They tend to be larger so you will need fewer pears.


  • 2 cup water
  • 2 whole star anise seeds removed
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 black whole peppercorns
  • 2 inches fresh ginger root peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 350 ML ginger ale or ginger soda
  • Peel and juice of one orange
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 8-10 small to medium firm Indian pears (Nakh), peeled and cored, leaving stems on
  • 1/2 cup custard powder
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipped vanilla cream
  • 350 grams Digestives
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons skinned roasted hazelnut pieces


  1. Blitz crackers, ginger powder and cinnamon to a fine powder. Then add butter and blitz again until you have a soft dough.
  2. Press dough into a 7 inch square French tart pan wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours until firm.
  3. Heat milk then add custard powder, stir and cook till you have a smooth thick spreadable custard. Cool 20 minutes. If lumpy strain your custard.
  4. Pour custard into the prepared tart over the crust, smoothen the custard then cover with wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
  5. In a large pot about 10 inches wide combine water, sugar, whole spices ginger ale and orange peel. Cook 8 minutes on a low flame.
  6. Then place pears stem facing upwards into the liquid. Cover with a piece of parchment and cook on a slow flame until tender. Pears should be fully submerged in the liquid.
  7. Do not over cook; the pears should be easy to slice. The poaching time will vary depending on the ripeness of the pears.
  8. Remove tart from the fridge and unmold onto a serving plate. Cover with whipped cream. Slice each pear so it can be spread across the cream easily. If you use the smaller Indian pears you can leave them whole. Top with toasted hazelnuts and drizzle with cooled poaching syrup.




A dish that is traditionally made with pork this is the vegetarian version prepared with potatoes.

Use baby potatoes or cut whole cooking potatoes into wedges.


Considered a specialty of the Khasi community this dish is made in most homes and every recipe varies just a little bit.


1 kg boiled and peeled baby potatoes

6 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1 cup onions finely sliced

6 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tsp peeled grated fresh ginger

2 red Thai chillies finely chopped or to taste

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp honey (optional)

salt to taste and chopped parsley or coriander leaves for garnish


Toast sesame seeds in a dry wok about 8 minutes on medium flame until fragrant. Cool and grind to a paste. Reserve.


Heat pan on a medium flame. Add okl add onions and chillies and toss until soft on a medium flame. Add garlic and ginger and mix well.

Add turmeric, honey and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss, then add potatoes and cook 4-5 minutes on a medium flame. Toss potatoes to ensure they are evenly coated in spices. Add the sesame seeds and honey and continue to cook until fragrant. Garnish with coriander or parsley and serve with rice or rotis.


Goan chorizo is both salty and spicy so add additional salt and red pepper flakes with care. You can use various Goan, East Indian or Mangalorean pork masalas for this dish. I’ve found they all work well.

Ingredients serve 4

  • 2 cups Goa red rice or Ukkade rice
  • 250 gm chorizo / Goan pork sausages
  • 2 red bell peppers deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger & garlic paste
  • 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable  oil
  • 2 tsp bafat masala powder
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar or to taste
  • red chilli flakes (if desired to taste)
  • salt to taste

Whole spices (garam masala)

  • 1 inch cinnamon stick 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 black cardamom

For garnishing (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons coriander or parsley leaves chopped
  • Lime juice
  • 1 cup diced and lightly pan fried potatoes
  • 4 crispy fried eggs
  • 2 red onions finely sliced soaked in white vinegar


  • Remove the chorizo meat from the casing and crumble it onto a plate. Discard casing.
  • Wash the Goa rice 2-3 times and soak it in sufficient water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and dry completely.
  • In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil and saute the onions until just tender. Add the chorizo and stir well.
  • Add the garlic and ginger paste followed by the tomato puree and the Bafat masala. Cook until fragrant and bubbly. Add the sugar and vinegar.
  • Add the rice, and gently toss to coat in oil and flavours. Pour in 3 cups of  hot water water add the whole spices, add 1 tsp salt, cover and cook until fluffy. Check salt to taste & adjust spices if required. Add the vinegar and sugar.
  • Open the lid, fluff up the rice gently with a fork, cover & leave it to cook in its own heat for 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley or coriander, fried potatoes & serve hot with crispy fried eggs and vinegar onions.

Goan chorizo pulao

Manicotti or Cannelloni with Spinach

Manicotti is the Italian-American version of Cannelloni. In India we know it as Cannelloni but we prepare it like Manicotti!


Both are pasta tubes, but the difference between the two is not great: Manicotti tubes are ridged, larger and slightly thicker. Cannelloni tubes are smooth, a shorter and thinner. In Italy a stuffed cannelloni maybe served with just tomato sauce but often in Italian American cuisine it is topped with cheese or a cheese sauce. This recipe is the Italian American version. Find the recipe video on youtube (Tara Deshpande).

Add salt to the sauce with care as Parmesan is a salty cheese.

serves 6-7

For the Marinara Sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil
10-12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 small white onion very finely chopped

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tsp red chilli flakes or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2.5 kg can crushed plum tomatoes (you can also use whole)
2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves plus more for garnishing

For the Cheese topping:

250 grams of shredded mozzarella

50 grams grated Parmesan

For the stuffing

500 grams cannelloni pasta tubes or giant shell pasta
250 grams ricotta (no liquid)

1 cup cooked, drained and chopped spinach
1 whole egg beaten (optional)
85 grams grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste



Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

In a bowl, make the filling by combining the ricotta, spinach, egg, Parmesan and salt and pepper. Spoon into an icing bag with a large round tip. Reserve.

Heat a large Dutch oven type pot on medium heat. Add olive oil and saute the onion and garlic till just soft. Add tomatoes, oregano, red chilli flakes, 1 cup water and salt. Cook until sauce comes together about 12 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent burning. Add parsley and cook another minute. If using whole tomatoes mash them down with a potato mashing tool. Season with salt sugar and more red chilli flakes to suit your palate. Traditionally cannelloni is not a spicy dish.

Pipe the stuffing into the manicotti tubes until just full.

Spread cooled tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 9-by-12 inch baking pan. Place the manicotti in the sauce one next to the other. Continue until the pan has a layer of manicotti. Spoon more sauce over the top to cover the pasta tubes. Cover with foil. Prick the foil with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove foil, top with cheeses and let it bake open for 10 minutes until golden and bubbly before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired and serve with a green salad and garlic bread. Pour additional marinara sauce into a dish for pouring.




Butternut squash and red pumpkin can be used to prepare this recipe.

if you want a smaller portion use butternut squash and reduce the marinade in proportion. Generally

pumpkins can vary greatly in size. A 2.5 kg pumpkin once peeled and trimmed can feed atleast 12 people as a side. If you are only able to find a larger pumpkin use only half and reserve the other for a different dish.


  • 2-2.5 kg small red pumpkin (lal kadoo)
  • 50 g butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or use honey
  • 2 tsp paprika or use chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, plus extra sprigs to serve
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted, roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice of one navel orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste


  • Preheat oven to 170F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper if you are making a whole pumpkin otherwise you will need just one that can fit half the pumpkin. Brush sheets with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil.
  • Combine melted butter, garlic cloves, maple syrup or honey, remaining oil, paprika and orange lemon zest and juice. Add salt to taste and adjust for spiciness. Reserve.
  • Peel pumpkin. Cut in half lengthways. Scoop out seeds and use to make toasted spiced seeds if you like.
  • Place one pumpkin half, cut-side down, on a chopping board. Slice pumpkin thinly into crescents leaving a half inch base uncut. This will help support the slices as they cook. Transfer to 1 prepared tray. Brush with half the marinade on both sides. Roll up some aluminium foil into a ball and place inside the cavity of the pumpkin. The center cooks much faster than the sides and can sometimes sink in the middle. You don’t have to do this but if you are using a large pumpkin it may prevent your centrepiece from slumping.
  • Spread the sage leaves on top. Cover with foil. Make several tiny holes in the foil with a fork and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil brush again with half the remaining maple oil mixture. Roast until until golden and tender.
  • While the pumpkin is baking thicken the remaining sauce into a glaze like consistency.
  • Remove pumpkin from the oven and check for doneness. Glaze with thickened marinade. Garnish with remaining sage and toasted nuts. Slice and serve.



An easy dessert thats festive and can be served in indivIdual portions with fresh fruit. To make 500 grams of strained yoghurt you will need 1 kg of full fat plain yogurt.


Makes 1 shallow 7 inch pie/tart dish or 8 small to medium ramekins

  • 500 grams full fat strained dahi or yoghurt
  • 1 can ( 380-400 gm) condensed milk
  • ¼ cup full cream milk powder
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 2 tbsp of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon high quality Kashmiri saffron strands
  • 1 tsp powdered cardamom seeds or use nutmeg if you prefer
  • 3 tablespoons roasted almond flakes
  • 2 tablespoons shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped
Baked kesar pista yogurt


  1. To make strained yogurt at home put 1 kg of full fat plain yogurt in a cheesecloth, tie it tightly and place over a sieve. Place the sieve over a dish and refrigerate overnight. If you live in a cool climate you can leave the yogurt outside. Squeeze the liquid from the cheesecloth a few times. The why can be added to lentils and soup.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F and prepare bottom rack.
  3. Combine saffron with hot water. Let sit 5 minutes then add milk powder and combine till smooth
  4. In a mixing bowl combine all remaining ingredients and whisk well until very smooth and free of lumps. Add saffron milk and stir well.
  5. Pour into a wide baking dish about 8 inch in diameter and 2-2.5 inches deep
  6. Place the dish in a roasting pan and fill the tray with hot water to approximately ½-¾ of the way up the sides creating a water bath. This will allow the yogurt to cook slowly.
  7. Cover with aluminium foil. Use a fork to prick a few holes on the top of the foil to allow steam to escape.
  8. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top starts to turn a very golden. Remove from the oven, take off the foil and allow to cool completely. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  9. Garnish with roasted nuts and serve chilled with fresh fruit or poached fruit. Its terrific as is also.



To make this middle eastern dessert vegan substitute the butter with vegetable oil.


  • 8 sheets frozen phyllo pastry
  • 200 grams roasted almonds with skin
  • 150 grams finely chopped dried Turkish apricots
  • 2.5 tablespoons of granulated sugar powdered in a mixer
  • 250-300 grams butter, melted or unflavoured vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons granulated or castor sugar
  • 1 cup honey (organic bee friendly honey where possible)
  • Juice of one lemon or lime juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick about 3 inches



  • Set the ingredients for the syrup to boil on a medium flame. Let the volume reduce by half. Switch off flame and remove the cinnamon stick. Reserve.
  • Pulse almonds until they are very tiny but not powdered.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the baklava in a mixing bowl. Reserve.
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare bottom rack.
  • Brush bottom of 11 by 13 inch baking tray with butter
  • In a large baking tray place 2 sheets of phyllo at the bottom. Brush generously with oil or butter and ensure that the sheets are uniformly greased.
  • Lay 2 more sheets over this and butter or oil again from end to end.
  • Spread the nut filling all over these sheets.
  • Cover with 2 more sheets of phyllo. Oil or butter them from end to end.
  • Place 2 more sheets over the baklava and brush with remaining butter or oil.
  • Using a sharp kitchen knife cut into the baklava to form 12 equal squares.
  • Do this slowly to prevent the sheets from tearing. Your knife doesn’t have to go right through all the layers but once the phyllo bakes it will be easier to separate the pieces.
  • Bake about 35 minutes until golden brown all over.
  • Pour warm syrup over hot baklava so as to drench it completely.
  • Cool 30 minutes. Using a knife gently separate the 12 pieces.
  • This will keep refrigerated for upto 2 days in an airtight container but serve it as soon as you can because in a humid climate the pastry can soften and lose its crispness.



A Bengali classic this seafod dish has delicate and mellow flavours and the prawns slow cooked inside the coconut are as soft as butter. Serve with hot boiled rice. Buy a tender water or paani wala coconut that fits your steamer. Have the sides shaved down a bit and the top partly slice off so you can pry it open when preparing the prawns. For those new to this dish I recommend the first time you make half this recipe with smaller, less expensive prawns. Even if you don’t eat the prawn heads please add them to the gravy for flavour. For the recipe video please visit instagram @deshpandetara


2 large tender coconuts

2 medium white onions peeled and pureed (1 cup onion paste)

6 Indian Green chillies stalks removed (or more as per taste)

2 tbsp garlic ginger paste

2 tbsp white poppy seeds

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1/2 cup tender coconut meat (only white)

1/2 cup coconut milk

12 Bengal tiger prawns cleaned, half butterflied, heads and tails intact (1 kg)

1-1.25 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tbsp Mustard oil plus more for drizzling

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup all purpose flour plus water to make a dough

METHOD: Combine water and flour and make a smooth dough. Cover and reserve.

Remove the shell surrounding the prawns keeping the tail end intact. Discard the shell. Separate heads from the prawns and reserve.

Rub prawns with turmeric and keep refrigerated while you prepare remaining ingredients.

Combine both mustard seeds and poppy seeds with 1/2 cup of tender coconut water and let sit 15 minutes.

Pry open the partially sliced tops of both tender coconuts and drain out the coconut water into a cup. Using a spoon scoop out the tender coconut. Reserve.

Heat vegetable oil and half the mustard oil in a hot pan on medium heat. Saute onions until dry but do not brown. Add garlic ginger paste and saute till fragrant. Switch off the flame and cool.

Grind the onion paste with chillies, 1/2 cup of tender coconut until smooth.

Drain the mustard seeds completely and discard the water. Grind seeds until smooth. Add as little liquid as possible.

Add the onion chilli garlic paste to the poppy seeds mixture and grind till completely smooth. Add 2 teaspoon salt and continue to grinder until spice paste has no grittiness.

Taste and adjust for salt and spiciness. Add more green chillies for extra zing.

Rub this paste all over the prawns.

Divide the prawns between both coconut gently lowering them into the coconut cavity. Then add as many prawn heads as possible into each cavity. These will bring a deep flavour to the gravy.

Divide the coconut milk and remaining mustard oil between the 2 coconuts.

Divide dough in half and roll each half into a long rope. Circle to rope around the mouth of the coconut cavity then press the lid over it until the lid is firmly attached to the coconut base.

Fill steamer with water. Steam both coconuts for 2.5 hours on a medium flame in covered steamers. it is essential to slow cook these prawns. Do not use a pressure cooker.

Remove one coconut from the steamer. The dough should be hard and even browned partially from the cooking. Discard the dough and coconut tops and check if prawns are cooked. If not reapply new dough and return to steamer. If tender and cooked serve the prawn curry over plain boiled white rice.



This is a classic Tagine from Morocco that has a long and interesting history. Often made for Eid Al Adha it is a rich dish made with local black raisins. These particular raisins may not be available to you locally so use golden raisins instead. The earliest known recipe for this dish hails from Andalusia in the 12th century where vinegar was added to the meat.

  • 1/2 kg  lamb or mutton with bones (shanks, neck or shoulder), – cut into large pieces, excess fat trimmed off
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons Ras el hanout
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp olive and vegetable oils, – mixed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh peeled and grated ginger or use 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 medium yellow onion, – finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp high quality aromatic saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup dark or golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp clear honey, – or icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar
  • 3 cups mutton or chicken stock



Cook the Meat

  • In a heavy-bottom pot or a dutch oven, add the meat with a tablespoon of olive oil and sear on all sides about 3 minutes. Remove and reserve on a plate. Add the remaining olive oil and saute onions 2 minutes on high heat until soft, Add the ginger and stir well.
  • Add the meat, saffron, raisins, stock and all the spices. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Add honey and vinegar cook till the sauce is thick and syrupy and meat is tender. And water if required.
  • Taste for salt and spice. Garnish with toasted almonds and serve with crusty bread.


This is a shortcut version of the classic Mexican soup that you can make quickly with access to some tinned products. Traditionally it is prepared with hominy and a whole chicken but I use fresh corn and shredded chicken. Its a complete meal and you can choose your toppings. The recipe reel is on instagram @deshpandetara


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 400 grams crushed tomatoes from a can
  • 2 liters plain good quality chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked black beans tinned, liquid drained and reserved
  • 1 cup frozen or freshly shucked corn
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped, divided (optional or use parsley)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste


  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
  • 2 cups corn tortilla chips or fried corn tortilla strips
  • cilantro or parsley to garnish
  • pickled jalapeno slices
  • sour cream
  • Mexican grated cheese


  1. Preheat a heavy bottomed cast iron or Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil chopped onion, garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
  2. Add corn, chilli powder, cumin, chipotle, crushed tomatoes and stir well about 3 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth. Let simmer for 15 minutes until corn is tender.
  4. Add shredded chicken back to the soup and simmer another 5 minutes then add lime juice just before serving. Taste for salt.
  5. Serve the soup with your choice of some tortilla strips, pickled jalapenos, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, sour cream, cheese and lime wedges.