Congress Kadalekai (Roasted Spiced Peanuts)

Congress Kadalekai- Congress is a political party in India and kadalekai is peanuts in kannada, the language spoken in the state of Karnataka. How did this dish get the name. There are different stories, one being, that this was named after the congress party split in 1969 as the peanuts used here are always split and not whole. You can read more here: bangalore/#:~:text=Legend%20has%20it%20that%20since,split%20to%20make%20this%20snack

The peanuts are relished by all, whatever the party affiliation of the person. This is healthy and tastes so good. In Bangalore, you can buy this in every Iyengar bakery and now even in stores. Iyengar Bakeries are small bakeries typically selling fresh white or milk bread, rolls, stuffed potato buns, vegetable puffs, cakes and snacks. They are cheap and affordable. When I was in India, I would but this and make masala peanuts as an appetizer when I had guests. It is easy to make. Now, I make the congress peanuts at home and sending a batch with my son to college to snack.

Congress peanuts goes really well with coffee, tea or a cold glass of beer. In a lot of pubs, you will find masala congress peanuts. To the congress peanuts, add some chopped onions, grated carrots, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and cilantro and you have bar food. After you have this, you will wish every pub serves this instead of the plain peanuts.

Recently my colleague made this and she and her family and friends loved it. Give it a try, super easy to make.


  • 2 cup skinless peanuts (raw or roasted)
  • 3- 4 tsp vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1-2 pinches (1/4 tsp) asafoetida
  • 20-30 curry leaves about 2 sprigs, washed and dried
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder (Kashmiri chilli powder is less spicy than the regular chilli powder and it imparts a red colour. You can use regular chilli powder too. Add according to how spicy you would like)
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • salt to taste (about 1 tsp depending if peanuts are salted or not)
  • a pinch sugar


  • Heat a heavy bottom pan
  • If using raw peanuts, add to pan and roast. Be careful not to burn. Set aside on a plate. If peanuts have skin, rub them against your palm to remove skin and seperate skin and nut. (I used roasted peanuts and skipped this step)
  • Place pan on stove and add oil.
  • When oil is hot, reduce flame to medium heat and add asafoetida and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds
  • Add spices and fry for a minute on low heat. Do not burn
  • Add peanuts and mix well
  • Take off heat and let cool before you serve
  • Store in airtight container

To make Peanut Masala: To 1 cup congress peanuts, add 3 tbsp chopped onions, 3 tbsp chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp grated carrots, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, a tsp or two of lime/lemon juice, salt to taste and mix. If you want it even more spicy, add 1 chopped serrano chilli pepper or some more chilli powder and mix. Serve with coffee, tea, beer or as a salad.

Indian Street Style Grilled Corn

Monsoons bring a vivid picture to all those who have experienced it. Each one with different memories and mostly about food. I remember one day, returning to the office (I was working in marketing just after college) on my moped. I was at on the street my office was on, could almost see it at the end of the road. It started raining; I was sure I could make it to the office in a minute or so and therefore did not stop at a shelter. The skies opened up and I was soaked to the bone. I literally had to squeeze the water from my clothes. The experience of soaking wet or standing under a tree or under a bus stop shelter, trying to keep dry; umbrellas flying in the wind; a chaiwalla at the corner of a street selling chai; a person frying hot pakodas and bhajjis (fritters); a person selling grilled corn at the street corner.

Grilled Corn- The thought of it makes my mouth water, the spicy chilli and the tangy lime and the green chutney. The cart would have a small charcoal grill (a metal bowl filled with coal). The person would grill the corn, embers flying; you standing close to the grill to stay warm but trying to avoid the embers. Once he grills the corn, he would ask you if you want chutney on it. It is a green liquid in a bottle with a brush. If you are brave (not worrying whether the water is filtered or not), you would say yes. He would then brush the corn with the chutney and put it back on the coal. He would then dip a piece of lime in a mixture of salt and chilli powder and rub it on the corn. Taking the first bite, there would be a rush of flavours; the dry spices sticking to your lips, the mixture of herbs and spices and the charred grill corn.

This is really easy to make and after you eat this, you will not want to eat plain grilled corn. In Mexico, I saw them grilling corn on teh roadside and added spices and sprinkled some cheese on it. I have grilled corn and sprinkled mexican spices (tajin) and the taste is very similar.


  • 4 corn on the cob, cleaned
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chat masala or garam masala (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • green chutney- grind 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, salt to taste and 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper to a paste with 1/4 cup water (optional)


  • Clean corn- remove husk and silk. Brush oil over it
  • Heat a coal or gas grill
  • In a bowl, make a mixture of salt, chilli powder and chat masala
  • If using, grind ingredients for green chutney and set aside
  • Place corn and roast on all sides. Keep turning to uniformly roast.
  • Take off heat and brush chutney all over the corn and put it back on the grill for a minute. Turn. Be careful not to burn
  • Take off heat
  • Dip lemon slice into the salt chilli powder mixture and rub on all sides of the corn.
  • Serve

Walnut Basil Pesto

The fresh smell of basil, some garlic, olive oil and roasted nuts, ground to a paste with some parmesan cheese. The aroma from these blended simple ingredients can draw everyone into the kitchen. In the summer I usually have a bowl of pesto in the fridge. It is so versatile; can be added to pasta or vegetables/meat to make a sauce, it can be used on pizza as a topping and as a spread for sandwiches.

While I was making pesto, I was reminiscing my days in India when I made pesto. Pushpa, my helper, would ask me what this was and i would tell her it was a type of chutney. She would taste it, make a wry face and say in kannada, ‘I have no idea how you eat these things; they have no ‘uppu kaara’ (they have no spices- chutneys are supposed to b spicy)’. So I suppose this is an acquired taste but in our house, we love it.

Usually pesto is made with pine nuts. In this recipe I have used walnuts. Since we love pesto I have in my garden a variety of basils.I used a mix of basils including sweet basil and a Chef’s trio basil (one plant with Genovese, Purple, and Serrated basil). I also used a lot more walnuts and got a creamier version.

For a sundried tomato pesto check this out: and for a pesto with pinenuts check


3 cups Italian basil

3-4 garlic cloves

1 cup walnuts

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional for vegan option: 2 tbsp nutritional yeast for cheese flavour )

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Toast nuts in a pan. Add the garlic while the nuts are toasting (I do not like to add raw garlic)

In a food processor or blender, add the basil, garlic, nuts and blend coarsely. Drizzle olive oil and continue pulsing until smooth. Add more oil if required (to make it healthier, you can add a few teaspoons of water instead). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer pesto to a bowl and mix cheese (leave out for a non dairy or vegan option) or add cheese (or nutritional yeast) to the blender and give it a whizz. Cover with saran wrap or drizzle a layer of oil on it to avoid discoloration.

Muhamammara (Roasted Red pepper and Walnut Spread)

Many years ago, my friend Devika introduced me to a dish called Muhammara which her sister made. I had never heard or tasted it before. The ingredients were interesting and tasted scrumptious, sweet, spicy and slightly sour. I came home and looked up the recipe. This was a middle eastern dish using pomegranate molasses. In India, I could not find pomegranate molasses but it was easy to find pomegranate. So I tried it with the fruit, added some sugar and lime juice.

Recently I found pomegranate molasses and was excited. This is a really quick and easy spread to make. I usually have roasted peppers in the freezer, which I roast when it is in season. Of course you can roast it when you need it or buy roasted peppers in a jar. I usually have some breadcrumbs in the freezer. I toast and powder leftover bread and store. This recipe has been adapted from NY times cooking, Epicurious and my friend’s recipe


  • 1 large (or 2 small) red pepper, roasted and skin removed (roast, place under cold water and peel the skin)
  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small red onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes plus extra for garnish
  • 4 + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 +1 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs


  • Roast pepper and remove skin (either on gas flame or in an oven (425F for 30 minutes). Run under cold water and peel and remove seeds. Place in food processor
  • Add garlic, toasted walnuts, cumin, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes, onion, 4 tbsp olive oil and 2 tsp pomegranate molasses and puree.
  • Add bread crumbs and pulse again. Taste and season
  • Transfer to a bowl. Make a well and add 1 tbsp olive oil, pepper flakes and a few walnuts and serve with bread or pita chips

Crispy Oven Baked Potato Wedges

We were having burgers for dinner and we had to have fries. This took 10 minutes to prep and then in the oven for 40 minutes. Easy and healthier than fries and much tastier than your restaurant fries, trust me on this!


  • 4 large potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp chilli powder/ flakes
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder ( or 1 tsp fresh minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp onion salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional) – leave out for vegan or lactose free option
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro or parsley for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Cut potatoes into wedges and let it sit in cold water (with some ice cubes). I left it in for 15 minutes
  • Drain and remove excess water using towel or paper towels
  • In a bowl combine all ingredients except the garnish
  • Toss potatoes with the oil mixture. Pour on pan
  • Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer
  • Bake for 40 minutes. Flip after 20 minutes
  • You can increase the temperature to 450ºF for the last 10 minutes
  • Garnish with cilantro


Potatoes are always a hit in my family, especially the baby potatoes. I usually marinate it and make a dry curry which can be eaten with rice or rotis. My mom makes it often and I have adapted the recipe. Today I decided to use similar spices but roast it and serve it as a side.


  • 1 pound baby potatoes (1/2 kg potatoes)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion finely sliced
  • Marinade:
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • Herb Sauce:
  • 4 tbsp cilantro/ coriander leaves
  • 4 tbsp fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


  • Wash and cook baby potatoes for 8-10 minutes
  • Drain and peel
  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinade
  • Add to potatoes and mix
  • Put all ingredients for herb sauce in a food processor and blend
  • Add 2 tbsp of the herb sauce to the potatoes and mix
  • Let it sit for 30 minutes to 3 hours
  • Heat oven to 450ºF (230ºC)
  • Add a tbsp oil on a sheet pan
  • Add potatoes to the pan. With a bottom of a measuring cup, gently smash each potato to 1/2 inch thick
  • Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil on the potatoes
  • Roast for 40-50 minutes. Flip them after 20 minutes
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil
  • Fry onions till golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle some salt when frying to crisp it up faster
  • Once potatoes are crisp, remove and place on serving dish. Garnish with herb sauce and fried onions
  • Serve hot