Friday, June 11, 2010


I have always been fascinated with dishes that contain a mixture of vegetables. It’s probably the same reason why I am a big fan of salads. In Malabar cuisine, Avial is a very popular dish and a well-made Avial is very tasty. In Chettinad cuisine there are kootus which usually involve more than one vegetable.

Oondiyoon is a very common dish in Gujarati cuisine. Although I have heard about it many times, I have had the privelege to eat it only twice. It’s been so long ago that I can hardly recollect the flavour or textures from that dish.

One fine evening when I was pondering over what to cook for a vegetarian dinner, a friend of mine offered me a rough recipe for Oondiyoon. I have always resisted cooking Oondiyoon in my kitchen for two main reasons. One, it involves deep-frying the motiyas and two, it’s a very lengthy and time-consuming procedure. I try my best to keep deep-frying to a minimum in my kitchen for obvious health reasons. Motiyas are generally deep-fried (sometimes they are steamed or boiled to add to gravies) balls of roasted gram flour (besan) with a mixture of spices.

Anyways, I was running out of ideas for a good vegetarian, north-Indian vegetable dish that’ll go well with chappathi and a dal. So I decided to try out my friend’s recipe for Oondiyoon. I first made the motiyas and then went on to cook the vegetables and toss it all together. When I tasted one of the motiyas right after I finished making them, I knew that the final dish was going to taste spectacular.

Oondiyoon consists of roasted vegetables, mashed motiyas and whole motiyas. Motiyas are a vital part of the dish and I was excited that I got that part right. Also the vegetables used for Oondiyoon are mostly the country-type. Yams, gourds, country-variety of beans, etc play centre-stage in this dish.

And as it turned out, it was not a very difficult dish to cook. Also the motiyas were not very oily. We savoured every morsel of the final dish. If you ever come across a decent recipe for Oondiyoon, do not hesitate to try it out. It’ll make a great vegetarian side dish for a simple meal, as well as a festive meal for friends and family.


First impression is the best impression when it comes to most things in life. Food presentation is a very important part of entertaining and dining. Food should satisfy all your senses. Very often you look at the food first before you smell or taste it. So it is very important to make a good first impression with a creative presentation.

I love browsing through cookbooks in a bookstore just to look at all the lovely and colourful pictures of food in them. The more pictures, the better it is. The dishes are generally presented in a very artistic and creative way these days. I hardly buy cookbooks that have no pictures or not so great pictures in them. Good pictures in a cookbook inspire me to try out specific recipes.

Next time you cook a special meal for your family or friends do make an extra effort to present it in a very appealing way. Your guests will love the meal even before they taste it. Here are some pointers to make your meal look extra-special.

• The dish you serve the food in should look great. Mix white bowls and platters with a few colourful ones.

• Garnishes can make the food look appealing and fresh. We usually sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on most Indian food items. Try garnishing with sprigs of coriander or mint for a change. Slivered nuts make for an interesting garnish.

• Swirls of cream, oil or sauces look great on soups and gravies.

• For chocolate desserts, try sprinkling cocoa powder or icing sugar on top just before serving. Slice cooking chocolate using a bread knife to obtain beautiful shards of chocolate that can be sprinkled on a mousse.

• For desserts with fruits, garnish with slivers of fresh fruit on top. Mint sprigs look and taste great with fruity desserts.

• If you are serving food as individual servings, you can plate up each course with an attractive lay out.

• Some of the vegetable dishes can be arranged as individual servings on a large platter. It’ll look good and be easy for the guests to help themselves.

• A lovely centre-piece in the middle of the dining table is a good idea if you have the time to put together something after cooking an elaborate meal. Try and be creative and use non-floral items too in your centre-piece. Spices, vegetables, shells, candles, pebbles and pinecones are just a few examples.

These are just a few tips that can go a long way in making a lunch or dinner spread look amazing.