Shef's Kitchen

Food and Cooking Stories from an Indian-American girl nicknamed Shef

Tarragon-Shallot Compound Butter July 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 8:45 am

Hello folks! I am in the process of migrating this site over to my new and improved site This post on the compound butter was published there yesterday but it seems that my subscribers didn’t get an email about it! So I wanted to post it here as well and direct you to the new site for the actual recipe which now you can print easily with the click of a button! Please bear with me while I try to make this change and convert everything over. And please check out my Meal Share Program tab on the new site for another project I’ve been up to!

Here’s yesterday’s post, re-published here:

Yesterday, we had some impromptu guests come over for an easy casual dinner. LOVE SUMMER! My husband wanted to do his regular easy grilling favorite, beer can chicken, so to accompany that I made our favorite black bean, corn, and avocado salad in a lime-garlic vinaigrette. My guests brought a very-currently-trendy watermelon dish, a watermelon-feta-tomato salad, and we also had a Caesar kale salad. But a couple of the guests don’t eat chicken, so they brought some salmon to throw on the grill. What easy way to oomph it up a bit without too much extra work? Compound buttah, baby!

Compound butters are a versatile flavor-booster to any dish, particularly meats and seafoods, on grilled dishes, but also added to any simple vegetable side dish. Last night we had a slice or two of the butter on that simple grilled salmon.  I had whipped it up (literally) recently because I had some very good quality butter that I wanted to use up before it lost its freshness. And I had a half bunch of tarragon left that was starting to look sad and wimpy on my kitchen window sill now that it’s July in Texas!

Though the salmon got a little overcooked on the grill, all the guests loved the flavor that the butter lent to an undressed piece of protein that otherwise would have been mundane with the meal. I cannot wait to try the rest of my butter with some scallops!

Recipe and picture HERE!



Yellow Squash Chutney May 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 7:00 am

I’ve talked about chutneys here before, right?

I’m always talking about chutneys (not to be confused with Indian pickled condiments like aachaars) in class, telling my students that in Indian cooking they are not always chunky, nor even always cooked. They can be raw or cooked, and usually are highly-seasoned with a smooth consistency, unlike the fruity chunky chutneys I see served on roast meats here in the West (though this one looks GREAT!) Westerners tend to use my chutney recipes for anything and everything: as dipping sauces for vegetables or chips and as all-purpose condiments in lieu of say- ketchup. But a very traditional way is to have some chutney just on your plate next to the rest of your food. And have your ketchup too, if you must.

This chutney recipe came about since I shopped at my regular grocery store this week, the Wheatsville Co-op, and was surprised to see an overabundance of local produce. The crops must have just exploded with these colorful edibles since I was just there a couple of weeks ago and saw very little. I picked up some sunshine yellow squash and thought I’d make a chutney out of them since they’re a water-laden vegetable and could blend up nicely after a quick saute.


You only need a dollop of this South Indian style condiment for your whole dinner. Use it to add a dimension of flavor to your already flavorful curries. By that I don’t mean mix it into your curries. Set it on the side of your plate (it does look ugly, but then so does a lot of Indian food!), next to your chhole, kheema, chappattis or rice, raita, and whatever else you might be lucky to enjoy today. With each forkful or handful of starch plus curry, scoop up a spoonful of yogurt or raita and a bit of the chutney. Another way to use these chutneys is to mix it into some khichri, a satiating porridge of overcooked lightly spiced lentils and rice (the British transformed this dish into kedgeree).  Or simply mix chutney into steaming plain basmati rice with a bit of ghee and some homemade yogurt. That’s how the South Indians do it!

Save the rest of the chutney for dosas or idlis the next day, should you be so lucky to have them in your meal plan. I might even use this condiment as a base on bruschetta or pizza. If you make this, I’d love to know how you used the chutney!


Squash Chutney

Makes about 1/3 cup, enough for 6-8 adults

This authentic South Indian style vegetable chutney from Andhra Pradesh is meant to taste spicy, strongly seasoned, and faintly sour from the tamarind. If you don’t have tamarind, just leave it out as lemon just won’t give it the same flavor. Thai chilies are great for the heat, but you can use Serrano peppers as well. And sesame powder is a cinch to whip up so don’t be put off by that last extra step, though it is optional in this chutney.



2 tablespoons canola oil or any high-smoke point cooking oil

¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

2 Thai chilies, sliced and quartered lengthwise

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

10-15 fresh curry leaves (not curry powder)

½ medium onion, thinly sliced crosswise into half-moons

1 medium-sized yellow squash, cut into a ¼ inch dice

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

2 quarter-size pieces of dried seedless tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water

3-4 green onions, chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, then finely ground to a powder


1)     Begin the tempering of spices (known as tadka/chowk/thalimpu): heat oil to medium-high in a small saucepan or skillet until shimmering and very hot, but not smoking.

2)     Add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, which should be within a few seconds if the oil is hot enough, add cumin seeds (which should sizzle around the pan) and immediately lower heat.

3)     Immediately add the sliced chilies, sliced garlic, and curry leaves. The leaves can cause oil splash so keep a lid nearby. Stir constantly to avoid burning the garlic.  Lower heat as necessary.

4)     Add onions and stir well.  Cook for a few minutes, until the onions are beginning to sweat and turn translucent.

5)     Stir in the squash pieces.

6)     Add turmeric and salt. Mix well.

7)     Put in the tamarind pieces without their soaking water into the skillet. Keep the soaking liquid for later.

8)     Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the squash softens and the tamarind pieces soften.

9)     Turn off heat and cool slightly.

10)   Scoop the skillet contents into a food processor, adding 1 tablespoon of the soaking tamarind water and additional water, up to 2 tablespoons, to achieve desired consistency (like a paste, or thick dipping sauce).

11)   Blend in the ground toasted sesame powder.

12)   Taste for salt and for sourness. Add more tamarind water as desired.

13)   Serve at room temperature with curries, dosas, idlis, chips, or pita bread.

copyrighted by Shefaly Ravula/ Shef’s Kitchen



Being Me May 16, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 12:32 pm

Hi there y’all.

I am ready to be me in this blog.

I tried the flowery food writing me, then the technical recipe writing me, then the measly attempts to be funny me. But now I’m just gonna be me. Basically, I’m tired of NOT writing simply because I don’t have a perfect recipe or a gorgeous photo. I’m just gonna write. I have lots to say and have had lots to say and it seems to be kept bottled in because of the need to LOOK good. Yes, my blog needs a better design and I haven’t gotten there yet. Yes, I need to give you more recipes, I hear you. And I’ll do that when I can and when I get to it. But in the meantime, I’m just gonna write. And I’m gonna write like I talk, for the most part. (I mean, I guess i don’t go around socializing with people saying “Vigorously whisk in one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil until it emulsifies” or “Chiffonade the basil and garnish the soup”).

You know what I mean. I just am going to be me!


If I lose readers, I’ll be sad. But I’ll be happy to just be writing. If I gain readers, I’ll be happy. And I’ll wonder why? and who? would want to read ME?

Wish me luck!!


Favorite Foods Friday April 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 6:30 am

This is my 2nd post on a list of my favorite things. So just to repeat here in case you missed it last time, for my Type A self, it’s always fun to write lists. I do so almost everyday, either on paper or on Evernote, or even on my electronic post-it note app. Yes, it’s noted. I’m confused about my note-taking devices.

I also love to read lists on blogs, on Amazon, in magazines and brochures. My friends used to make fun of me for gathering pamphlets everywhere I go. I collect lists!

So, here are a few of my favorite things right now. They include the gamut of everything I find that is enjoyable, interesting, or beneficial to me right now:  in food, music, websites, books, and moments.

Today, it just all happened to be about food 🙂

Here you go!

  1. Texas Olive Oil. We try to be as locavorous as possible for many reasons. But truly this is high quality olive oil, which I believe to be pure and unadulterated, unlike the rapport some other “imported” olive oils are getting. We love the lemon olive oil from Texas Olive Ranch and for my daughter’s 8th birthday present, we gave her a bottle of their basil olive oil as part of her birthday package. She gawked at it for a whole minute in front of all her little 7 and 8 year old friends. IMG_4747
  2. Cultured Cream Cheese. It’s hard to go back to Philadelphia after this. Cultured cream cheese has a faintly tart taste that falls back so it’s almost unnoticed. Great with bagels.IMG_4748
  3. Scotch. I started enjoying the fine flavor of good scotch. But then it gave me heartburn. And I realized I’m not an Indian uncle. I really must be aging!! It’s still on my favorites list right now, but may disappear later.
  4. Butter. This is most certainly not a new favorite thing of mine but since this is a new column for me, I need to put a few brands I like in here, such as Plugra or Lurpak for baking, softened Amul for spreading, Kerrygold’s garlic herb compound butter (they’ve done all the hard work for us!), Vermont Creamery’s excellent cultured butter with sea salt crystals, so enticing in its cute little basket and adored by all last Thanksgiving on our dinner rolls. My everyday butter is Double Devon salted butter (for buttered peas, buttered toast, buttered veggies, etc..). At this point on this list, you are probably realizing I spend a lot on food. I learned that from my parents who taught me to spend money on food, not clothes. Unfortunately, I do both.IMG_4825
  5. Harmless Harvest’s 100% raw coconut water. Again, it’s hard to go back to those other brands. But with that crazy price, despite my efforts to try to realize that good food costs money, I may have to go back 😦
  6. Qia Chia Seed brand cereal. It’s not really cereal in the cold milk and cold sweet flakes in a bowl sense. But on the rare occasion that we do Breakfast for Dinner, I tried soaking some of this in cold milk and the kids lapped it up, like good little obedient puppies…I mean children.
  7. Lattes at Hillside Farmacy. Yes a few good coffee and espresso shops abound in Austin now (check out the Austin Food Blogger City Guide list here). And my husband is his own barista and roasts his own beans, etc.. but I do like their lattes here. I like the size of the latte, the foam is perfect, and the beans are topnotch. Size and mug of latte is strangely important to me. If it’s a large cup, like a teacup, the latte gets cold too fast for my liking. Besides the foam tends to dissipate faster. And I just can’t drink 12 ounces of latte, so right now, Hillside has my favorite latte. I’ve loved Cafe Medici’s, Houndstooth’s, and JP Java’s before.
  8. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. Reads like a novel. He’s an inspiration.
  9. Blog communities. We have a really great one in Austin. I didn’t realize it’s rather uniqueness until recently. We published our very own gorgeous cookbook, which I blogged about earlier.IMG_4808
  10. Grocery co-ops. I would drive by Wheatsville Co-op in college wondering who on Earth would shop there. Such a teeny store, no parking, and HEB had everything, and cheaper! (or so I thought at the time) Well, that is truly the thoughts of a college kid. Boy how I’ve grown up. As mentioned before here on my blog, I almost exclusively shop there now for the last couple of years, and a little bit at Whole Foods and Central Market. But we can get virtually everything we need at the co-op and much of it is local so I actually still don’t even belong to a CSA. Last Fall, I was hired to shoot some cooking videos for the National Grocery Co-op Association. They were finally produced and went online recently. Those videos will be available here on my site very very soon!

Stay tuned for this bi-monthly column on my blog on my favorite food finds (and more!).

What are your favorites right this second?


Austin Community Cookbook Announcement April 22, 2013

Filed under: Cookbooks — shefskitchen @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , , ,

Last week, I went to the cookbook release party for the community cookbook for the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance. Over the course of more than a year, the team headed up by Statesman food writer Addie Broyles, has been working collaboratively on this gorgeous cookbook, completely made by its own members. I am proud to say that two of my recipes along with my photographs are published in the book, as well as a short essay on supper clubs that I co-authored with Addie Broyles.

I was also a part of the editing team and we worked together to make a fine cookbook with truly tested recipes that work. Indeed we followed a particular style guide and recipe-writing “rules” that are widely used so that users can find the recipes well in fact, user-friendly! In fact, towards the end of the process, a tasting event was set up to taste-test all final recipes before the book went to production.

This book is an emblem of the food community now in Austin. What are people cooking and who are we? In decades down the road in Austin, will people wonder what we were cooking up in this decade? That we were still making Czech pastries, that we incessantly pursued Tex-Mex and our Southern roots , that we concocted cooling fruit potions, that we were beginning to have more multiethnic foods represented here, such as Persian and Indian cuisines. Our varied diets at the time are represented as well with features from gluten-free bloggers and paleo bloggers. We even have bloggers even who strictly cook farm-to-table!IMG_4808

Here are some upcoming events promoting the release of the book. It’s a softcover book with a nice font, beautiful pictures, short bios on each member who contributed, and mostly, delectable varied dishes for you to cook! If you really want to pique your palate, check out the list of recipes right here.

The first upcoming event is April 24th and it will be a cooking demo by one of the authors at the Triangle Farmers Market during market hours. The next one will be on May 11 at Bookpeople for a speaking and signing event. More cooking demonstrations and other events will be planned for the summer as well.

 All events are listed here also on the AFBA website and a link to purchase the book is also on the site. You can buy it on Amazon, at Bookpeople, Breed, Central Market and Whole Foods, as well as Barnes and Nobles online.
I hope you buy this little keepsake perhaps as a souvenir for a visiting friend, a gift for an Austin “foodie”, or a “timepiece” for the now for yourself. And if you can’t do that, no worries!  Perhaps you can borrow one, or perhaps you’ll take a peek at the many blogs we all write.
I’m honored to be part of a strong community such as AFBA. I have always wanted to be more involved, such as be a board member or volunteer more, but I’ll wait until my kids are just a little older before diving in. Besides, I need to be blogging a bit more before then anyway 🙂
Happy Cooking!!

How Indians (at least we Indians) Cut, Serve and Eat Mango. March 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 9:00 am

I’ve written about eating mangos before. I am Indian after all. There’s a reason mangos equate to thinking about the Indian subcontinent and its food. Mangos pervade Indian meals like breakfast tacos infuse Austin food culture. Mangos are often eaten WITH our meals and not only in-between meals, several times a day during mango season. They’re almost always unadulterated with any other ingredients. Just PURE mango ambrosia.

So this is a blog post about how to cut, serve, and eat mangoes with Indian food.

One must not cut a mango the way you are told on numerous YouTube videos and other short clips and magazine articles. I’m referring to how people here recommend slicing the mango lengthwise along the oblong large seed, then taking that large oval fleshy mango piece (with the skin on still) and making a grid-like pattern with your knife. Then the videos instruct you to invert the skin so that the now cut cubes of mango, which are still attached to the skin, stick out like a hedgehog’s fur/spines/skin whatever you call it. You then slice along the skin so that these neatly little perfectly cubed and firm mango squares fall off into a serving bowl. My problems with this method of cutting mango are listed below:

  1. If you proceed with this method all the way around the mango, you will not have uniform pieces of mango. And this seems to be the reason why this method is chosen (aside from being a generally clean and proper way to do it).
  2. You will waste the precious mango pulp on the pit, unless you eat the pit (aka got-lu) in a cleverly Indian fashion such as the photograph below.
  3. This method does not work well for fibrous mango varieties or very juicy mangoes. It seems to work OK for Kent and firm-fleshed Ataulfo mangos.
  4. It’s a lot of work. I’m a fan of doing things right in the kitchen, and though I may cut a mango this way for a fruit parfait or salsa or for entertaining, for daily use you need to try the “Indian” way.

The disadvantage to my method of cutting mango is that you absolutely need a sharp knife because you are slicing the slippery skin numerous times AND it’s messy. And if you don’t want to read these mundane steps, all you really need to know is that you slice the mango like you slice an apple.

Here’s How to Cut and Serve the Mango:

Hold mango upright

Hold mango upright

  1. Hold the mango standing up on its end so that it is long side is upright.
  2. Try to find the 2 flatter sides that correlate with the oblong seed.
  3. Slice along that side (as if you would for the “other” method) all the way to the bottom.
  4. Continue slicing all the sides in that fashion, much like when you slice an apple.
  5. You’ll be left with the seed with some pulp on it. Save that for eating!
  6. Take those slices of mango, which still have skin on, and place on a serving plate.
  7. Done.
Slice lengthwise, along flat side of mango seed/pit

Slice lengthwise, along flat side of mango seed/pit


Now on to How To Eat The Mango (this makes sense if you’re already eating Indian food, with your hands and sans utensils):

Take one of those slippery slices of mango. Flip upside down so that skin side is up and mango flesh is down. Partially slide the slice into already salivating mouth cavity. Grip onto sweet flesh with bottom incisors, gradually pulling out a scraped clean mango skin. Pile up a discard stack of the skins and have your kids build a tower with theirs.  And then eat all the leftover pulp on the large mango pit. Sounds messy, uncouth, and ill-mannered, but it’s my tradition.

And that is how Indians (at least we Indians) eat mango.



Pretty in Pink: Beetroot Raita Recipe February 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 9:30 am

The color of beets alone is luscious. Rich like a burgundy velvet chaise. Wet and slick, when in your hands, the color penetrates your skin. Sliced up or grated into a salad, it stains and saturates everything it touches. Adorned with flowers, this is one dish begging for the start of spring, but dismayed at the demise of winter. We’ll get beetroot here in Texas for just a bit longer, but you can enjoy raita of any kind year-round.

Just to explain briefly, raita is not a condiment. It’s a side dish. It’s not for dipping. It’s for spooning. So make the recipe, put it in a bowl and eat it by the spoonful in between bites of a spicy hot curry or even with a fish fillet and rice, like my students did in a recent class. I like chunky raitas so I’ve cubed the beets, rather than grating them. I find that grating beets is not only messier but too much of the color leaches into the yogurt resulting in a raita that is for me overbearingly discolored. The tempering spices are optional in raitas, but really make raita more complex than just a bowl of simple, salty, vegetable-laden yogurt. So, I urge you to temper the spices, make a little seasoned oil, and drizzle it over the raita.


Beetroot Raita

Serves 2


1 1/4 cup well-stirred plain yogurt

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds

1 cup diced cooked cold beets (previously boiled or roasted and peeled)

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil (or any high smoke point oil)

¼ teaspoon asafetida

½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

4-5 fresh curry leaves (optional) (Don’t use bay leaves or any substitutions here)

¼ cup crushed toasted peanuts

edible flowers (optional)


1)        Stir yogurt with salt and cumin powder in a medium mixing bowl. The consistency should be that of a thick but pourable yogurt, like a smoothie.

2)        Very gently, stir in the beets. Set aside.

3)        Temper the spices: heat oil in a small 6 or 8 inch skillet over medium heat until very hot but not smoking.

4)        Add a few mustard seeds. If they sizzle and pop, the oil is ready for tarka (the name of this technique).

5)        Very quickly and add the mustard seeds and asafetida. Quickly add the cumin seeds, then carefully add the curry leaves, which will splatter so keep a lid nearby if you are new to this technique. Take my class if you can, to improve upon tarka 🙂

6)        Stir for a few seconds to fry the leaves and adequately season the oil, then turn off heat.

7)        Spoon out some of the seeds, leaves, and a bit of the oil and top the raita with it. You will not need to use all the oil, but try to get most of the spices and leaves.

8)        Stir the seasoned oil gently into the raita.

9)        Garnish with the peanuts and flowers.

© Shefaly Ravula/ Shef’s Kitchen