Monthly Archives: March 2011

Korma Meets Filo Pie

Korma Meets Filo Pie

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life… Today India meets Greece in a pie made with a crust of filo (phyllo) dough and a nice korma for the filling. It’s a perfect marriage of creamy korma and flaky filo resulting in an extremely tasty meal.

This pie is inspired by a recipe from my brother who makes a delicious Greek Spinach Pie. He lives far away so I haven’t had his version for several years. I do remember fondly that it’s stuffed with tons of veggies such as zucchini, carrot, green beans and lots of spinach.

My korma recipe is a non-traditional take on a traditional north Indian korma. The recipe I adapted comes from Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. I changed a few of her ingredients and made it without any dairy, keeping with the pure vegetarian theme of this blog. And I used way less oil than the original recipe called for – I used about 4 tablespoons of oil/margarine while the original recipe called for 12 tablespoons (plus paneer). But then there is added oil in the crust…oh well! You can use a variety of vegetables in this recipe. Just substitute similar veggies if possible. Broccoli would be excellent as well as leeks and peas.

A note about the filo: when I started making my brother’s spinach pie recipe on my own I experimented with using less oil on the filo leaves. It doesn’t work. I tried to oil just every other leaf (resulting in too dry, fly-away layers) and only the top layers thinking the juice would sink in (it only made a soggy mess). If you are scared of using oil, try using a traditional savory pie crust or just serve the korma with naan or rice.

Korma Meets Filo Pie

Serves 6 – 8


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 stick cinnamon (or 1 tsp cinnamon powder)*
  • 12 cardamom pods, crushed and skins removed (or 2 tsp cardamom powder)
  • 20 cloves (or 2 tsp clove powder)*
  • 2 cups onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced in 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 cup cauliflower stems, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, diced in 1/2″ cubes or chunks
  • 2 cups cauliflower flowers, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup spinach, fresh or frozen, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 5 tbsp ground almonds (powder or paste)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp margarine or butter (or other fat), softened
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup soy milk creamer (or other cream)
  • 1/2 pkg filo (phyllo) dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight and set out at room temperature unopened for at least 20 minutes)
  • 4 tbsp oil (approximately) for brushing the filo leaves

For the Korma:

  1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp oil.
  2. To the hot oil, add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
  3. When the spices become fragrant (after about 30 – 60 seconds), add the onions and allow to cook until they become translucent. Stir frequently.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilies and stir. Allow to cook for a few more minutes until the onions start to get brownish on the edges (but not burned!).
  5. Add 2 tsp of salt, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower stems.
  6. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining cauliflower and spinach. (*see note below)
  7. Stir in the almond powder/paste and allow to cook for about a minute.
  8. Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water. Stir everything together, lower the heat to the medium low and cover the pot. Stir occasionally and allow to cook until the veggies are cooked through (but not mushy). Add more water as needed but never more than barely covers the veggies. (The veggies can cook with the steam created when the pot is covered.)
  9. Remove from the heat. Remove most of the liquid using a spoon and reserve.
  10. Mix the margarine/butter with the flour in a small bowl. Be sure to mix it well so that all of the flour is fully incorporated.
  11. Stir 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid into the flour mixture, then add this back to the veggie mixture.
  12. Add the cream and stir well.
  13. Add additional reserved liquid if necessary to make a very thick gravy.
  14. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

For the assembly of the pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Oil a round deep-dish pie plate (2 inches or more in-depth) or an 8″ x 8″ square (or similar size) baking dish.
  3. Put 4 tbsp oil in a small bowl. Set aside with a pastry brush.
  4. Remove the filo dough from the packaging and place on a cookie sheet or other surface.
  5. Cut the dough in half from long end to long end. Put half of the stack of dough under a moist towel while you work with the other half.
  6. With the pastry brush and working quickly, pick up a bit of oil and spread gently on the first layer of dough. Spread all around, don’t be too stingy but don’t have pools of oil either. Be sure to get oil on the edges and corners.
  7. Place this sheet in your pie plate or baking dish.
  8. Repeat with 8 more layers of filo, alternating the layers cross-wise. It’s okay if some of them rip a little bit. The layers should hang over the side of the dish.
  9. Now add the filling – spoon 3 – 4 cups or more (depending on the size of your dish) into the center and flatten out to the edges of the dish. You most likely will have korma left over.
  10. Repeat oiling and placing layers of filo, using 6 layers for the top.
  11. Roll the overhanging dough under and gently tuck into the sides of the pie. (This is a rustic pie, so doesn’t have to be perfect!)
  12. Score some vents in the top of the pie with a knife so that steam will escape.
  13. Place in the oven for 20 – 40 minutes or until nice and lightly browned on the top. (I know that this is a wide range of time but it depends on the size of your baking dish and how full your pie is…the filling is cooked, it’s just the filo that needs to cook and get browned.)
  14. While your pie is in the oven, wrap up your leftover filo and put it back in the freezer.
  15. Allow the pie to set up for about 10 – 15 minutes before cutting and serving. BTW, it’s normal for the top of the pie to break up into little crispy goodness pieces 🙂

*While cooking the veggies in Step 6, you may want to pick out as many cloves as you can find along with the cinnamon stick (you can skip this step if you don’t mind serving with the whole spices or you can substitute ground spices for the whole spices).


Arugula-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Arugula-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Hello! Welcome to This Spicy Life! Spring arrives in a few days, but I am ahead of the curve with this green pasta dish that is hearty but light. It’s a not-very-spicy recipe but you can spice it up by adding more chili flakes and/or raw garlic. If you are afraid of raw garlic, just keep this for a weekend (non-date-night) recipe!

This recipe was inspired by the wonderful spring weather as well as out of necessity. I needed to use up my bag of wild arugula and a bag of cut mushrooms I got at Trader Joe’s earlier this week.  I was also skimming the food section on Huffington Post today and saw an article with beautiful pics of spring pastas. Therefore, a variety of inspiration, boiled down into a bowl of pasta.

Feel free to substitute whatever greens you have on hand. Pesto is very forgiving when you use different seeds/nuts and greens.  My usual go-to pesto recipe is part arugula and basil with pine nuts or sunflower seeds. The arugula keeps the basil nice and green and gives it a peppery taste. Parsley and spinach are also delicious as stand-ins for part of the greens.  Normally pesto contains cheese, but this is a vegan (non-dairy) version. If you would like to add cheese, add about 1/2 cup grated cheese (usually parmesan or asiago) to the blender when making the pesto. Or simply grate it on top of the finished pasta before serving.

Spring Arugula Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Serves 4 – 6

  • 4 cups boiled pasta of your choice
  • 4 cups arugula or other greens, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 – 2 tbsp flaked red chili
  • 2 – 4 tbsp olive oil or margarine/butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper to taste

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups arugula (or other greens), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic (or to taste), peeled
  • 1/4 cup (or more) good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, shelled
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  1. While cooking the pasta, make your pesto: place the garlic, 1/2 of the greens and 1/2 of the walnuts in a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend to a smooth paste by running the machine while adding oil a little at a time.
  3. Add the remaining walnuts, salt and greens (and cheese if using) and pulse until it becomes a chunky mixture. You may need to add additional oil. Taste for salt and set aside.
  4. Heat a pan over medium heat and add 2  tbsp olive oil.
  5. When it shimmers, add the mushrooms and flaked chili and let cook wtihout stirring for at least one minute.
  6. Stirring occasionally, let the mushrooms cook down. They will release their water and start to turn brown.
  7. Now add the arugula or greens on top of the mushrooms along with the salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  8. Allow to cook until the greens are wilted and any moisture evaporates. Turn off the heat.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with 1/4 cup of pesto. Mix gently to combine. Add more pesto to taste.

Serve while warm with a side salad and/or garlic bread. You can freeze left-over pesto sauce or use as a spread on sandwiches or a topping on baked potatoes… Happy Spring!

Spicy Garlic Chickpea Curry

Spicy Garlic Chickpea Curry

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life…

I am starting to get requests for recipes, and I LOVE IT! Please send me any requests and I will do my best to come up with an easy but tasty way to make whatever you are looking for (vegetarian, of course).

There have been lots of requests for a recipe for chickpea curry/chana masala. As with almost popular Indian dishes, it seems like there are as many variations to chana masala as there are chickpeas in the pot! The following is my version of a super easy, no fuss, no-exotic-ingredients recipe. It does take some time to cook, but the preparation itself is very simple. It’s a very flexible recipe too since it can be served with an Indian bread or with rice. Or as I did tonight, with potato patties (aloo tiki). My husband was very happy to see what we were having for dinner tonight since we usually only eat tikis at restaurants.

Just a few notes: Please use fresh garlic if at all possible as the taste is so much better, especially when it is a primary flavor. And don’t shy away from the amount of garlic called for unless you just don’t want a garlic flavor. The curry is cooked down and the garlic really mellows out quite a bit.

I normally would use tamarind paste but used fresh lemon juice as an experiment with great success. Feel free to substitute, however, I never use the bottled lemon juice so I’m not sure how it will compare in taste.

If you want to serve the masala with rice, add a little more water to the curry. I served this very dry (since we were eating it with the tikis) so it’s difficult to see the rich, deep red sauce that was created.

You can garnish this with all or some of the following: finely chopped raw onion or shallots, lemon wedges, chopped green chilis and fresh cilantro. I hope you enjoy!

Spicy Garlic Chickpea Curry

Serves 4

  • 2+ tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups onions, chopped, reserve 3 tbsp for garnish
  • 6 tbsp garlic, chopped (don’t be scared!)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned) or 3/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1 – 2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste, optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 3 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups of water (approximately)
  • 3 1/2 cups chickpeas, cooked (or canned)
  • 1 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (reserve 1 tbsp for garnish)
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped (or to taste, optional for garnish)
  • 4 lemon wedges (optional for garnish)
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a big saucepan.
  2. Add cumin and celery seeds and allow to turn dark brown.
  3. Stir in the chopped onion (minus the reserved) and cook until it starts to brown on the edges. Add a bit more oil or water if it starts to stick.
  4. Stir in the garlic and allow to cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add a little bit more oil if it sticks to the pan. Don’t allow it to turn brown – keep an eye on it.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in the cayenne pepper (if using), cumin powder, coriander powder and salt.
  7. Stir in the tamarind paste (if substituting lemon juice, skip to the next step) and about 1/2 cup water and mix to incorporate.
  8. Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the tomato mixture to cook down thoroughly. The oil should start separating from the mixture. This may take around 10 minutes.
  9. Add the drained chickpeas along with 1 cup of water. Stir and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if the curry starts to become too dry.
  10. Turn off the heat and add the garam masala, cilantro (minus the reserved unit) and lemon juice (if not using tamarind paste). Stir well. Check for salt level.
  11. Garnish: you can either garnish individual servings or top the chana masala in your serving dish with a sprinkling of the garnishes.



Hello! Today’s post is a fusion of Indian and Mexican – samosas meet quesadillas. Definitely not for the low-carb diet, this easy and yummy recipe can be served as a meal or an appetizer. Serve with a chutney or salsa of your choice.

Today also debuts my new macro camera lens. My sweet hubby bought it for me so that I can (hopefully) take better pictures for this blog. Enjoy!


Serves 2 – 4

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, chopped (or to taste, optional)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor powder (or 1 tbsp lemon juice)
  • 3 potatoes (approx. 3 cups), boiled, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 water (or more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup green peas, cooked
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 4 large flour tortillas (or 8 chapatis)
  • 2 tbsp oil or margarine for cooking the tortillas

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and allow to turn dark brown. Add the onions and, stirring occasionally, cook until they start to brown on the edges. Add the garlic and green chili and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add turmeric, salt, coriander powder, cumin powder and amchoor / lemon and allow to cook for 1 more minute. Add the potatoes to the pan with about 1/4 cup of water (or more if the mixture is very dry). Mash the potatoes slightly so that some break down and some remain in small chunks. Stir around until the water mostly evaporates. Add the green peas, cilantro and garam masala and stir well. Taste for salt and spiciness level. Set aside.

Heat a flat pan or skillet over medium heat. Oil the pan with approximately 1 tsp oil. Place one tortilla (or chapati) on the oiled surface. Spread about 1/2 – 1 cup of the potato mixture (depending on the size of your tortilla) over the tortilla and cover with another tortilla, pressing down a bit. Spread a little oil over the top of the 2nd tortilla. When the bottom starts to get crispy, flip the whole unit and allow to cook until the 2nd side is crispy. (OR for very large tortillas, use only one tortilla, oil the bottom and spread the mixture over one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half over and press down. Flip when it becomes crispy and cook the 2nd side.) Remove and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Spinach Tofu Curry

Spinach Tofu Curry

Hello! and welcome…I’m back in the saddle after a brief break. I have a lot of recipes to post this week, so let’s get started!

One of my readers requested a recipe for palak paneer (spinch-cheese curry). I wanted to try a different recipe for palak paneer since there are so many varieties. After much hand-wringing I went back to my go-to recipe since I know how it turns out and I think it’s a great variation. It’s also super easy to make and doesn’t require any special ingredients from the Indian grocery store. This recipe is a riff on a recipe my Dear Mother-In-Law gave me years ago and actually appears in her cookbook, Green Leafy Vegetables.

Please note that I use tofu in place of paneer but feel free to use it if you can get it or if you make your own. This recipe is also very tasty with potatoes cooked in the gravy instead of or in addition to the tofu or paneer.

Spinach Tofu Curry (or Palak Tofu)

Serves 4

  • 1+ tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp margarine (or butter or ghee)
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1  green chili, finely chopped (or to taste, optional)
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce (or 1/2 tsp tomato paste or 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh tomato)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen but thawed spinach, finely chopped*
  • Water
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 8 oz (approximately) firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed (or paneer)
  • additional oil for preparing tofu/paneer/potatoes
  • 4 tbsp yogurt (soy or other) (optional)

Start by heating the 1 tbsp oil and the margarine/butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the cloves and bay leaf and let cook for about 30 seconds. Add the onion and stir around while it turns translucent, adding a little bit more oil if it starts to stick. When the onion starts to turn brown on the edges stir in the garlic, ginger and green chili (if using). Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, adding a little bit of oil or water if it starts sticking. Add the tomato sauce and salt and stir. Wait for one minute and then stir in the spinach and garam masala. If the mixture is very thick, add a little water to make it the consistency of gravy. (The amount of water that you will need to add depends on how you will eat the curry. If you are eating it with bread, then you want a drier mixture. If you are having it with rice, then make it a little wetter.) Turn the heat to low and allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the spinach is simmering, prepare the tofu/paneer. Cut it into bite sized pieces. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add the tofu/paneer pieces and fry until light golden brown. Flip over and fry the other side the same way. Remove from the pan and drain.

Add the tofu/paneer to the spinach mixture and allow to simmer for another 2 minutes. Before serving, turn off the heat and add the yogurt (if using) and stir gently. Serve with chapatis, naan or rice.

*I used fresh spinach. I washed it well and drained the water. I put it into my vitamix (blender) with water to cover and processed until it was finely chopped. You can also use a food processor or hand chop if you like.

Minty English Pea Salad

Minty English Pea Salad

Pea Salad

Hello and welcome… my inspiration today was a bag of Trader Joe’s English Peas that I got last weekend. The weather was rainy and icky (by S. California standards) so when I spotted that bag of fresh green goodness I couldn’t pass it up!

I was searching for something revolutionary to make with my little green friends but was stumped. I kept coming across soup recipes (that looked delicious) and chutney but I didn’t want to puree the little guys. I also kept finding the combination of mint with peas. I finally decided that I would try them in one of my standard salads.

This is a quick salad that can be thrown together in minutes but looks and tastes more impressive. I usually make this salad with one or a combination of shredded cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets and even chick peas. This is my first time using mint in this salad but it won’t be the last. I hope you enjoy it too!

Minty English Pea Salad

Serves 3-4

  • 2 cups fresh peas, cooked al dente
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp green chili, chopped finely (or to taste, optional)
  • 1 tsp  salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup coconut, grated (optional)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Place the cooked peas in a bowl and add the shallots, chili (if using), salt, mint, lemon juice, and coconut (if using). Mix well.

In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves (if using). Remove from heat when the mustard seeds start to pop. Allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes and pour over the salad. Mix around a bit and top with the lemon zest. Serve.

Simple Curry of Black-Eyed Peas & Carrot Salad

Simple Curry of Black-Eyed Peas & Carrot Salad

Hello and Welcome to This Spicy Life…

Today’s menu features the humble black-eyed pea and is dedicated to our old friends Sri P., Sri S., Akash V., Ram S. and Ganesh K. 🙂 Black-eyed peas are kind of a joke in our house (except when they are shown all due reverence on New Year’s Day – I never miss that tradition). When my husband (then-boyfriend) and I were just starting out in Columbia, SC, we had a close group of friends who would hang out and take turns cooking dinner. We were all novice cooks but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Money was also tight for some of us so we would eat black-eyed peas A LOT. And black beans. And kidney beans. And black-eyed peas again… you get the picture. Though it was always super tasty and we have fond memories of it, we still have to laugh about coming in the kitchen to see someone opening 4 cans of black-eyed peas and looking a little sheepish!

So here is my version: Simple Curry of Black-Eyed Peas and a quick Carrot Salad. Hope you enjoy!

Simple Curry of Black-Eyed Peas

Serves 3-4

  • 3 tsp oil for sautéing
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated on a fine grater
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste) or 1 green chili, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed powder
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped (use fresh or canned)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 cups black-eyed peas, cooked (use dried cooked or canned or frozen)
  • 1- 1/2 tsp garam masala

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. When they start to change color (about 30 – 60 seconds), stir in the onion. Allow it to cook until it becomes transparent and starts to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and stir around to cook a little more. You can add a little more oil if needed. Now add the ginger, turmeric, chili powder and coriander and cook for a minute while stirring. Add the chopped tomatoes and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes start to thicken and breakdown, add 1/2 cup of water, tomato paste and the salt. Let simmer for 5 minutes. If it seems too thick add a little more water along with the black-eyed peas and garam masala. Stir and check the salt level. Let simmer for at least 3 minutes so the black-eyed peas are heated through. Serve with rice.

Carrot Salad with Mustard Seeds and Peanuts

  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 3 tbsp onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped (or to taste, optional)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)

Place the carrots, onion, salt,  chili (if using), lemon juice and cilantro in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves (if using). Heat until the mustard seeds start to pop and remove from heat. When it cools slightly, pour over the carrot mixture.

Mix everything in the bowl and sprinkle with the peanuts (if using) right before serving.