Every household has its unique eating habits. One vegetable or dish may be a regular affair for some however, unheard for many others. This depends on the culture, place and availability of resources. When I was in Mexico I explored so many local produce and included them in my daily menu and when destiny brought me to Almora, my small hilly town things were different. The Himalayas not only bring serene beauty to the place but also bestows on us bounty of nature. I love to try them out and rather I feel privileged. Some time back I made Angel Hair Pasta with Garlicky Lingda, which is Fiddlehead Fern found in the hills. I also made Sherbet with Kaafal or Bay Berries found in this particular Himalayan region.


And when I saw this serpent looking vegetable in the market I was drawn to its beauty. It looked ecstatic. Its called as Chichinda or Padwal in Hindi and Snake Gourd or Serpent Gourd in English. Most of the people make it like any other gourd sabzi however, I tried to make it differently. I stuffed it with cooked Chicken Keema and then cooked the outer body with the stuffing. It took this humble vegetable to a whole new level. You can always stuff it with mashed potatoes or paneer

1. Wash the snake gourd thoroughly and cut them into 2 inch long pieces. Scoop out the pulpy portion by running a knife in the centre. Reserve the pulp.



2. Repeat the same with rest of the pieces and set aside.



3. Chop Onions, Tomatoes, Ginger, garlic and green chillies finely and set aside.


4. In a pan pour some oil and add cumin seeds. They will crackle in a few seconds.



5. Add ginger garlic and green chillies and saute them till the raw smell of garlic fades away. At this stage add chopped onions and continue to cook till they are transparent and soft. 



6. Add tomato sand continue to cook till they are gooey and soft.


7. Season it with salt, red chilli powder and Turmeric powder. Combine  everything.




8. Add minced chicken keema and reserved pulp of gourd and toss it with the spices in the pan. Saute for a couple of minutes till chicken is cooked half way through.



9. Add water and cover with a lid abd continue to cook further.



10. Add tandoori masala and combine.



11. Add Garam masala and turn the flame off.

12. Fill the stuffing  inside the hollow snake gourd pieces we had reserved.

13. Now in a pan add some more oil and place all the stuffed snake gourd pieces.

14. Cover with a lid and keep cooking it. Do not forget to change sides for even cooking after every five minutes. 




15. When the gourds have acquired a golden colour all over and are softer they are done. Turn the flame off and serve hot with Roti.

Other dishes with Chicken you can try are: Butter ChickenChettinad Pepper Chicken MasalaHyderabadi Murg KormaCheesy Chicken LasagnaGinger-Sesame Chicken with Bok Choy and MushroomsItalian Chicken Meatballs with Spaghetti.


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Braided Bread
Ever since I have perfected the art of baking a simple sandwich bread I like to experiment with my bread dough. I love to braid it, stuff it and do all sorts of crazy things with it. It is not just fun but the experience is both pleasing and delicious . I had been eyeing this braided bread – Stromboli for a long time but the last time I had mushroom and spinach on hand I simply went ahead and baked this beauty.

As I said you can do anything with your bread so you can choose any stuffing of your choice. You can braid it or shape it like a Bread Loaf with inside layering, just as I did it with Cinnamon Raisins Bread. Its your Bread you are the master. Simply give it a pinch of love and loads of patience and you will have a beautiful bread making experience.

For this recipe I have used the bread dough for White Sandwich Bread. Its extremely light and has a beautiful texture. If you like you can substitute Half all purpose flour with whole wheat flour to make it more healthy.


1. For the dough,  take some lukewarm water in a vessel. It should neither be hot nor cold, just hot enough to comfortably put your finger into it . The right temperature of the water is very important for yeast to activate. Put yeast into it.

2. Along with yeast add some sugar.

3. Give it a gentle stir with a fork and let the mixture sit and activate for 10 minutes or until you see some bubbles on top and mixture has become frothy and milky.


4. Take all purpose flour in a bowl and add salt and olive oil.



5. Add the proofed yeast to the flour little by little and mix till it comes together.

6. Bring the dough to a flat counter or your kitchen platform and knead for good 10 minutes till it becomes soft and supple. Read more about Bread baking techniques in “Basic Steps to Bake a Perfect Bread

7. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. And cover with a kitchen towel or cling wrap. Let it sit for an hour or so to double up in size.



8. Punch it down and deflate the dough. Knead for another 5-7 minutes.


9. Chop some spring onions along with their greens and Garlic and set aside.

10. In a pan heat some butter and olive oil.



11. Add garlic and onions and saute them till they are soft and translucent.



12. Add Red chili Flakes and saute.

13. Add sliced Mushrooms and chopped spinach. Saute the mushrooms till it releases its water and cooks.



14. Season it will salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried oregano.




15. Add whisked cream cheese to the mushroom spinach mixture and combine. Turn the flame off and let the mixture come on room temperature.



16. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Work on each dough one by one.

17. Roll the dough with a roller pin into a rectangular circle. Place the rolled dough in a baking tray lined with aluminium paper or parchment paper. I did it after braiding and it was difficult to transfer at that stage. Don’t commit the mistake I did πŸ™‚

18. Place half of the mushroom cheese filling in the centre. Leave out place to braid the bread. Take a sharp knife and make inclined cuts about 1 inch wide on either sides of the filling. Ensure there are equal number of cuts on both sides.



19. In order to braid the bread, take one strip and cross it over the filling and press it on the other side. Alternatively take the adjacent  strip and cross it over the previous one and press on the other side.  Keep doing this until your full bread is braided. Cover the bread with a lint free towel and let it rest for 20 minutes or so on room temperature. It will rise the bread.



20. Brush the braided bread with Egg wash or Milk. Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds or sesame seeds or you can completely leave it out.



21. Bake it in a preheated oven on 180 degree Celcius for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let the bread cool down completely on a wire rack and then slice and serve. 

Other Bread recipe you can try on The Secret Ingredient: White Sandwich BreadRussian BubliciWhole Wheat Sandwich BreadChinese Black Sesame Steamed BunsCherry Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea SaltRosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread, Cinnamon Raisin BreadBeetroot Bread with Garlic and ThymeHoney Oats BreadDomino’s Garlic Breadsticks, No Knead Light Wheat Bread.

[yumprint-recipe id=’163′]Sending this Bread to YeastSpotting

Punjabis Love spices. There is no denial to this fact. They gorge on chillies and love spicy food. Being a punjabi myself I cannot accept bland, tasteless food. Some of the dishes are signature from a punjabi household like Kaddhi Chawal, Bharwan Karela, Dal Makhani, Langar wali Daal, Gobhi Ke Danthal, Bharwan Baingan and much much more. Basically Punjabis love to eat day in and day out. We live to EAT. Period!

Another interesting technique of cooking Punjabis follow is to stuff the vegetables with spices and then cook them. This method ensures that the spices are deeply infused in the vegetables. I have a few stuffed or bharwan vegetable recipes on my blog like Bharwan Karela, Bharwan Tinda. I will soon be posting Bharwan Tori and Bharwan Bhindi. But today I bring you Bharwan baby eggplants or chottey baingan.  As a kid I used to call them cooked rats!! ..hahahah am I scaring you? Well its because they were cooked with the little stem on. πŸ™‚


1. Pick baby size eggplants , because they are perfect for this recipe. Wash them and pat them dry using a kitchen towel.



2. Make a cross insertion with a sharp knife. Do not cut all the way down separating the pieces. The piece should be intact.


3.  In a bowl add Salt, Turmeric, Garam masala, Coriander powder, Amchur,  Asafoetida , Sambar Powder, Channa Masala and Red Chili Powder and mix them evenly for the filling.

4. Stuff the eggplants with spoonful of spice mix and keep them aside.If some masala or spice remains reserve it.


5. Peel and slice some potatoes. Also cut onions in big chunks. Set aside.

6. In a cast Iron wok or kadhai add some mustard oil.

7. After the oil gets pipping hot add the potatoes and roast them till they turn golden and partially cooked.



8. Add the onion chunks and saute them with the potatoes.


9. Add to the wok the stuffed eggplants and toss them in the oil gently.

10. Add some leftover reserved masala or spice mix. 

11. Cover the wok with a lid which barely covers the vegetables. We are not looking at a bigger lid. When you tightly cover the vegetables with a lid while cooking, they cook faster and become crispy at the same time.



12. Open the lid after 5-7 minutes and change the sides with a service spoon and cook again till eggplants have lost the purple colour and cooked thoroughly.


13. Garnish with some Chopped Coriander Leaves.

14. Serve hot with Rotis, paranthas or even tawa naan.

Other recipes you can try : Mushroom do Pyaaza, Pindi Cholley, Tori wadiyan, Methi Matar Malai.

Other Eggplant recipes on The Secret Ingredient which might interest you are : Baingan ka Salan, Baingan ka Bhartha

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Year 2014: Bharwan Karela also known as Stuffed Bitter Gourd is a specialty from the state of Punjab. When I married a Pahari, i.e. some one from hills, my Mother-in-law told me that her son hates karela and a few more vegetables. Everytime she makes them at home he makes faces and finds something else to eat. I took the challenge and when I made them he instantly fell in love with them. It was one of the biggest changeover my Mom in Law saw in her son after our marriage. She would jokingly tease him “biwi ne banaya tou kha liya, ma kay haath ka pasand nahin“. πŸ˜›


While we were in Mexico we literally craved for karelas as you get them only in few particular markets. When India happened it was first on my to do list. At least one thing is clear if you crave or something or something or is not available in abundance you realise its importance. Never take anything in life for granted. Count your blessing, fill your heart with gratitude.

Update: Now 2020: Fast forward many years when I decided to upload better pictures. With God’s grace and your love it is still one of the most visited recipe on my blog and those who have tried it vouch for it. I have also tried a recipe of karela with Dahi or plain yogurt. You should also try that.


1. Wash and peel off the skin of karela with a peeler. Do not forget to cut off the tail from both the ends. My mother uses even the peeled skin to cook sometime but I am not trying this. Update: I tried using the karela peels and the results were amazing. Will share the recipe soon.




2. Cut open the Karela from one end vertically so that you can stuff in the spices. Use the sharp corner of the knife to make this slit.

3. Now carefully with the help of  a peeler scoop out the pith and the seeds. I read somewhere that the seeds of medium and big sized karela are toxic so should not be used. It is better to get small size baby karelas which are soft and tender from inside and are perfect for making this recipe. But if you can not lay your hands like me use the readily available medium sized karela.



4. Now you have to evenly scrub the karela with a generous quantity of salt, both inside as well outside. This is done to take out the bitterness out of the karela.




5. Let the karela coated with salt rest for three to four hours or overnight is best.


6. After that squeeze the karela with your hand to remove the bitter water. Throw the water away and reserve the karela.


7.  Wash them thoroughly and squeeze out the extra water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Keep them aside.



8. In a bowl add Salt, Turmeric, Garam masala, Coriander powder, Amchur,  Asafoetida , Sambar Powder, Chana Masala and Red Chili Powder and mix them evenly for the filling.

9. Fill the dry karela with spoonful of spice mix and keep them aside.


10. In a wok or karahi, preferably a cast iron karahi pour mustard oil. Bharwan Karela taste best in Mustard Oil but if you like you can use even Vegetable Oil. If some spice mix remains reserve it and if you fall short of masala for the size of karela you have to make little more πŸ™ I hate doing this.

11. After the oil has heated scorchingly well (if that is any word :P) and you can see the smoke coming out that is when you put the spice stuffed karela for frying. If you have any left over spice mix you can put it on top now.


12. Toss them for five minutes and  then cover with a steel plate or lid and press tightly with a kitchen towel. Let them cook on medium flame.

13. After every five to seven minutes open the lid and turn the sides of karela to cook evenly.


14.  The karela will obtain dark brown colour after around fifteen minutes. Ensure you keep turning sides and cook evenly for they will burn.


15. Remove the karelas in a serving platter and with the left over oil in the same wok or karahi add halved onions and green chili if you like. I added the chilies later.



16. The onions will absorb the taste of karela from the burnt oil. Trust me they taste heavenly. My husband always requests extra onions everytime.


17. Cover the onions with the lid like earlier and cook for couple of minutes.


18.  This is how they look, purely divine. And look I did add green chilies I wasn’t lying.

19. Mix them with the karela and Serve hot with Chappatis.

Other recipes you can try from Punjabi Cuisine : Dal Makhni, Butter Chicken, Vadi Toriyan, Bharwan Tinda, Punjabi Shalgam ka saag, Palak Paneer, Pindi Chole, Langar wali Dal, Baigan ka Bhartha, Kadda Prasad.

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