Iraqi and Sudanese cooking classes as well!

At Veena’s Market, we love so many cuisines! I just shared the South Indian cooking class in a previous post. Here are two more really cool opportunities!

Project Feast’s pilot training sessions have been in full swing these last two months. We have a Burmese group that started a month ago, and a Middle Eastern group that is almost done training. We also have a large group that will start training at the King County Housing Authority’s Greenbridge Center next week. Exciting times!

Recently, we taught cooking class facilitation skills to a Middle Eastern group in partnership with the Lutheran Community Services Northwest. Brian Donkersley, a volunteer with Project Feast, attended and took these pictures below.

Some of the women who completed the training, will be teaching cooking classes!

Rana and Sundus, both from Iraq will be teaching a class together on July 13th, Saturday from 11:30-2:30, also at Lutheran Community Services Center. Their initial menu had 10 dishes on it and we really had to work with them to bring it down to 6! We will be learning how to make chicken beryani, maqluban (a dish with cauliflower and chicken), oat soup, date halawa, vegetarian salad and nabulsi kunafa, a dessert with cheese. Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased here.

Rehab, a soft spoken lady from Sudanhas designed a menu with many middle eastern favorites such as falafel and hummus. There will also be Sudanese chicken and rice, chickpea salad, and a Sudanese dessert called kunafa. We are offering her Sudanese cooking class to the public on July 9th (postponed to July 23rd from 6-9pm where you will not only learn Rehab’s recipes but also get to eat as a group. This class will be at the open kitchen at the Lutheran Community Services Center. Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased here.


Photo credit for all photos: Brian Donkersley

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Announcing a South Indian cooking class!

Sambhar, a South Indian lentil curry for dosa cooking class

Sambhar, a South Indian lentil curry

It’s been a bit quiet around Veena’s Market…this is because I’ve taken a break to start up a nonprofit called Project Feast. We work with refugees and immigrants in the Seattle area, offer basic training that helps them find jobs in the food industry.

This is one of the hardest and most fulfilling “jobs” I’ve ever had. We’re a long way from being fully established but working really hard to make a difference and show strong results from the beginning.

As part of our work at Project Feast, we like to offer cooking classes and events where we can help provide exposure to the refugee and immigrant community and create opportunities for interaction with the broader Seattle community. These events also help us generate a small amount of revenue to support our training programs.

Since I can teach Indian cooking classes, I’m doing my bit too! Next week, I’ll be offering a Dosa making extravaganza at the Fremont Abbey.

We will be making the popular Masala Dosas with a curried potato filling as well as Kheema Dosas that are stuffed with curried ground meat. We will have the South Indian lentil curry called Sambhar as well as a couple of chutneys as accompaniments. You will leave with recipes as well as some of the ingredients so you can repeat the dishes at home. Tickets are $55 and the classes will be held at the downstairs kitchen at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle.

For more information and to buy tickets.


Filed under General, India

Burmese Cooking Class on March 16

IMG_5244 notedit

It’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been REALLY busy getting an exciting nonprofit venture off the ground. This is a social enterprise called Project Feast that provides training and opportunities to refugees and immigrants in the food industry. It shouldn’t be surprising that this startup too is all about food!

We’ve been very focused so far on working with Burmese cooks. This is a cuisine that Veena’s Market customers are bound to love. Much like India, Burma has a lot of diversity in religion, ethnicity, and food. The Seattle area has become home for many people from the various communities of Burma with a lot of diversity in religion, language and cuisine. While the Burmese cuisine is influenced by that of its neighbors – India, China and Thailand – its flavors are unique, fresh and delicious.

I get many requests for cooking classes. I wanted to share a unique opportunity with Seattle area readers of this blog. Project Feast is offering a unique cooking class in partnership with Crooked Trails on March 16th. Come taste the flavors of Burma at a hands-on cooking class.

Our class will be taught by Annie P from the Karen community of Burma through a translator. We will be featuring a family style menu reminiscent of how most Burmese, and how Annie’s family eat at home. There will be a mix of hot and cold, spicy and mild, dishes served with rice. We will make a flavorful curried chicken dish, a mix and match salad bar, rice, along with fresh herbs and raw vegetables on the side. In addition, we’ll have sweet treats to munch on while cooking.

We will be doing a wine tasting with Masquerade Wines before we get started cooking. 10% of wine sales will benefit Crooked Trails. 

Date: March 16th from 5:30-9:00pm
Venue: Private residence in Magnolia (address will be sent upon payment)
There are a couple of spots left. To reserve your spot , please email AND purchase a ticket at the link.

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Burmese Goat Curry

Simmering the Burmese goat curry

Simmering the Burmese goat curry

Just before Christmas, I had the wonderful opportunity of being invited to a Burmese home for a cooking class and feast. Chef Aung Myo Min and his family are refugees from Burma / Myanmar. He was a chef at a restaurant in Malaysia for many years before they were resettled in the US. Chef Aung Myo comes from the Yangon area in southern Burma as does his wife, Inzali.  Inzali speaks some English and she explained that Chef Aung Myo’s grandparents and earlier generations used to cook for royalty in Burma. Here in Seattle, he is a stay at home dad to their precocious 4 year old.

Chef Myo is a master in the kitchen and you can tell that cooking is his passion. As you can imagine, I learned a lot that day in his kitchen. We were in his tiny and spotless apartment kitchen in Kent, WA but might as well have been in a city in Burma. We made goat curry, a vegetarian lentil curry that was similar to Indian Daal, and a papaya salad though we got to taste more dishes. Though we started at noon, by the time we sat down to the feast for an early dinner at 4pm, dusk had already fallen. My husband called it the best curry he’d ever eaten. It was very flavorful, the goat tender, the spices perfectly blended together with no single flavor dominating.

I would love to share with you all the recipe that I wrote down for the goat curry. I wrote down the ingredients and steps as I saw them in Chef Aung Myo’s kitchen. With the copious amounts of onion and garlic in the dish that I cannot eat due to my food issues, I was not able to cook this again at home. If you cannot get goat meat, you can make this curry with lamb or chicken.

Burmese Goat Curry

(serves 8)

  • 4 lbs goat meat, cut into 3 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 7 dry red chilis
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 7 green cardamom
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 star anise, broken in half
  • 1/4 cup onion paste (blend yellow onion in a food processor or very finely chop up onion)
  • 1/4 cup garlic paste (process similarly to onion)
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger (you can use a grater)
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass (remove the thick outer skin and then pound with a mortar and pestle or cut into 2 inch pieces and food process)
  • 1/4 cup red chili powder (the medium spicy chili powder from the Indian store will work great)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 cup water to simmer
  • 3 teaspoons salt


Marinade the meat with turmeric and sugar, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large pot or wok over medium and sizzle the whole spices. Add the marinated meat and the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass pastes and the red chili powder. Mix well and add a 1/2 cup of water. Simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes. If the gravy starts sticking to the pot at any time, add more water.

Mix in the tomatoes, fish sauce, salt and another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water as needed. Simmer on low, covered, for another 30 minutes or till the meat is cooked and tender. You should have a thick gravy at the end. If you added too much water, simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve with rice.

Chef Aung Myo Min teaches us a few Burmese dishes

Chef Aung Myo Min teaches us a few Burmese dishes

Homemade fried beef and pork with onion and chili - great topping on soups, salads and rice

Homemade fried beef and pork with onion and chili – great topping on soups, salads and rice

An herb with an aroma similar to cilantro. IS it culantro?

An herb with an aroma similar to cilantro. IS it culantro?

Goat Curry!

Goat Curry!

Burmese goat curry

Burmese goat curry

Our Burmese feast

Our Burmese feast


Filed under Burma, India

Fall Colors on My Plate

Quinoa with curried carrot and chard

Quinoa with curried carrot and chard

My focus this Fall has been to create simple, hearty and nourishing meals that I can make in large batches and eat leftovers for at least a couple of meals. I’m noticing a certain pattern emerge when I need to cook this way. There’s a gluten free grain like quinoa, millet or rice that I cook separately. And I sauté whatever vegetables I have in the fridge. A bowl of the grain and sauteed vegetables, usually curried in some way, and a hard boiled egg makes for a very satisfying meal.

The awesome thing about cooking this way is that it gets much easier to accommodate food allergies! This dish is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, and FODMAP friendly for those with fructose malabsorption or fructose intolerance.

And this is absolutely my favorite way of making carrots!

So if you’re getting pampered with spectacular food or just over indulging at holiday parties, here’s a dish that looks stunning, tastes great but is also good for you. I must admit that my problem this holiday season has not been the food so much as the wine! Got any tips for me?

Curried Carrot And Chard Over Quinoa

Serves 4

  • 1.5 cups quinoa
  • 10 oz grated carrot (or 3/4 lb carrots, grated)
  • 1/2 bunch chard, sliced into 1/2 inch shreds
  • 1/2 piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 dried red chilis, ends removed and cut into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 10 fresh curry leaves (optional, I didn’t have any but it adds a lovely earthy aroma and taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice (or lemon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste


Put the quinoa, 2 cups of water  and a big pinch of salt in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low, covered for 15 minutes or till the quinoa is cooked.

Heat the oil in a skillet or pan over medium high heat till you see ripples on the surface. If the oil is hot enough, a mustard seed thrown in will sizzle. Sizzle the whole spices for just 15 seconds or till the mustard seeds start to pop.

Add the ginger and garam masala and stir for 10 seconds. Immediately mix in the carrot and chard and cook for 2 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add 1/3 glass of water, and cover the skillet. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes or till the carrot is cooked.

Stir in lime juice and salt to taste.

Form quinoa cakes by pressing some cooked quinoa into a small and flat bowl; ramekins are perfect. Upturn the bowl onto a plate and voila, you have a quinoa cake. Place some of the curried carrot and chard on the quinoa and serve. Or if you are eating by yourself and don’t care about presentation, just mix it all up in a bowl like a quinoa salad.

Quinoa salad fodmap safe and gluten free

Quinoa salad

Sauteed carrot and chard on a bed of quinoa

Sauteed carrot and chard on a bed of quinoa

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Thankful for Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is over but that certainly does not mean that Pumpkin Pie season is over.

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and instead of turkey, made Fondue Chinoise, a holiday tradition in my husband’s family. This is a meat fondue where you cook individual slices of meat in hot broth and then dip into one of many yummy sauces. Typically Fondue Chinoise is served with veal and pork and the sauces usually involve cream. We changed things up a little by adding chicken, fish and shrimp and making a couple of sauces that I could eat. We had a mediterranean sauce, a South Indian sauce that was essentially coconut chutney, and a homemade mayonnaise with freshly ground black mustard among others. After a three hour feast and plenty of wine, there was still the apple crumble my friend made to look forward to. Did I mention I love thanksgiving!

So the next day, we had planned on eating lightly. However, I had a hankering for pumpkin pie. After some research and finding this pumpkin pie recipe, we gave it a try. It was soft, spicy and just made my day. The fact that the pie didn’t have a crust bothered me slightly but it also meant that it was much less work. It was already quite dark by the time the pie was baked and we just had pie for dinner! And unfortunately it was too dark to get any decent pictures. One of these days, I’ll get around to experimenting with a gluten and dairy free crust that I can eat. In the meantime, I wanted to share this recipe, bad pictures and all, as soon as possible especially with those of you who, like me, have a lot of food allergies. Life is so much better when you can eat pumpkin pie!

dairy free gluten free no crust pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie that I can eat!


no crust easy fodmap pumpkin pie recipe

Yay for pumpkin pie season

Crustless, dairy free, gluten free pumpkin pie

Adapted from gluten free easily’s recipe

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can (16 oz) unsweetened pumpkin puree or 1 cup of homemade puree
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup almond milk


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 inch pie dish with oil (or butter if you can eat it). Mix together all the ingredients and pour into the pie dish. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for another 25-30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

*I used regular table sugar or sucrose since I can handle it in small quantities. Please note that I don’t like my desserts too sweet and vastly reduced the amount of sugar used. I’ll be reducing the sugar to 1/4 cup the next time I bake this pie. For those on a FODMAP diet, you can try substituting with dextrose or glucose.








Filed under America, Holiday, Recipe

Beyond the Beaches in Hawaii

Today, it’s pouring rain in Seattle. In fact it’s rained so much that we’ve set a new record and according to NPR, Nov 19th is officially the rainiest day of the year! I badly need a new pair of rain boots that are actually waterproof. Sigh.

I’m recently back from a 10 day trip to Hawaii. This was my first time! We were on the Big Island and Kauai. While I enjoyed the beaches and got to do some scuba diving while on the Big Island, there was a lot of other things to like about the Hawaiian islands. Here’s a photo essay of some of my favorite things: bananas, sweet potatoes, taro fields, lu’au, kalua pork and of course the flora.

I haven’t traveled much since getting hit with all the food allergies and I’ll confess that I was slightly worried about how it would all go. We rented cottages on Airbnb and made sure we had a kitchen for me to cook in if needed. This helped a lot. I ended up cooking about 50% of the time and you can see below some of the produce I found at local farmers markets.

Fortunately, there were a few things I could eat out. Plate lunches included meat and white rice and often came with a salad. I got the grilled fish, kalua pork or poke (raw fish salad dressed in sesame oil) options and skipped the salad dressing. Laulau was another wholesome meal where the meat was covered in taro and ti leaves and steamed. Simple, yummy and very filling with rice. It was great for me that meats are usually simply prepared without a lot of sauces by grilling, steaming or roasting.

I’m counting on the memories, the remnants of a tan and hopefully lots of stored up Vitamin D to get me through another Pacific Northwest winter! The thought of the ski slopes opening soon does help too.


Hawaiian bananas, pink limes and sweet potatoes big island farmers market

Hawaiian bananas, pink limes and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes had a very floral flavor when steamed. The local bananas were starchier and I liked them a lot bananas than what you normally get in the US.

quail eggs and hawaiian bananas

We treated ourselves to quail eggs one day! And those bananas went from green to yellow just in 2 days.

Taro field

Fields of taro, the starchy tuber used to make the Hawaiian staple poi. The leaves are used to wrap around meat and steam, adding flavor and helping keep the moisture in.

banana tree

Banana tree blossom

kalua pork cooked in imu

Opening up the imu – the pit constructed in the ground to cook a whole pig in

Kalua pork

Kalua pork when cooked the traditional way in the imu

After a luau

After the luau feast and show, very touristy but great show.

palm tree braids

Palm tree jewellery


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Squash Soup, South Indian Style

south indian curried squash

South Indian squash curry

I posted a squash soup with spicy tahini recipe just last week. And I’m following up with a variation of it. You see,  that soup was inspired by a friend’s post. And while I was making that, my South Indian instincts took over and I had to make another version! You know what they say, you can take the girl out of South India but…

So here’s this ultra simple and awesome dish: Squash Curry. Simple, hearty and healthy! Living with food allergies does not have to be boring!

By the time this posts, I will be in Hawaii on vacation. Thank god for being able to schedule posts as this means I don’t have to take my laptop with me. This will be my first time traveling for more than a couple of days after being diagnosed with all the food issues. Fortunately, we were able to find places to stay with kitchens. So I’ll be cooking in Hawaii and hopefully learning more about its cuisine!

I made this with a mix of one squash and one small pumpkin each. For a sweeter version, use just the delicata squash.

South Indian Style squash and pumpkin curry

serves 3-4

  • 2 cups squash / pumpkin puree (cut into slices, brush with olive oil, bake at 425 for 40 minutes and then puree)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (coconut oil or vegetable oil works fine too)
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chilis
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 green chilis, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger cut into thin matchsticks (grated works too)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime or to taste


Heat the ghee or oil in a small saucepan. Sizzle the cumin seeds, curry leaves and red chilis. After 10 seconds, add the ginger and green chilis and saute for another 20 seconds. Remove from heat. This is your tadka or spice seasoning.

Thin out the puree to your desired consistency and warm up in the microwave. I like the consistency of this curry to be thinner than pumpkin soup but not too runny. Mix in the tadka. Add salt and lime juice to taste.

Serve with rice and cucumber.

tadka for the curry

Tadka for the Squash curry

dairy free, gluten free, fodmap, Squash and pumpkin soup, South Indian style

Squash and pumpkin soup, South Indian style

Simple, hearty and healthy! Living with food allergies does not have to be boring!




Filed under America, India, Recipe

Squash and Pumpkin Soup with Garam Masala Spiced Tahini

spicy tahini squash and pumpkin soup

spicy tahini squash and pumpkin soup

I’ve been complaining about my food allergies on this blog these last few months! It’s definitely been a challenge to keep cooking traditional Indian dishes at home that I can blog about. With every new addition to my list of food issues, I went through each of these phases: disbelief that you can’t eat that food, despair as to how you’re ever going to do without it, kitchen clean up where I get rid of all the offending ingredients and subsequent trip to the grocery store to stack up on things that I can eat, experimentation with new recipes and finally, finally feeling like it’s not that big a deal any more.

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with food allergies, how are you doing? Wondering what you can cook or eat when you go out? Please reach out and send me a note. I’d love to help if I can. Here’s the list of foods I’m avoiding and I’d be more than happy to fill you in on recipes and substitutions (Fruits and vegetables are listed because I need to follow what’s called a FODMAP diet):

Dairy (with the exception of ghee), all soy products, gluten, lima beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, peanuts, honey, corn syrup, agave, most artificial sugars, most vinegars, coconut, apples, pear, cherries, watermelon, figs, mango, avocado, nectarines, plums, prunes, bananas, cabbage, green beans, onions, shallots, garlic, beetroot, asparagus, artichoke, leek, spring onion, radicchio, chicory, and tomatoes. 

pumpkin soup with spicy tahini garnished with garam masala roasted squash seeds

Garam masala roasted squash and pumpkin seeds are the perfect garnish for this fall soup

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this butternut squash dip recipe my friend Alli had posted! It was seasonal, spicy and different from other pumpkin or squash soups. I had to make a few adjustments of course including leaving out the yogurt. If I could do coconut milk, I would have loved to use that as a replacement.

I had a delicata squash and a small pumpkin at home that needed to get used up. I also had a jar of tahini that I hadn’t done very much with. Alli’s recipe not only inspired me to make a spicy squash/pumpkin soup but I loved the way she combines the butter with tahini and spices. I microwaved tahini, ghee (instead of butter), cinnamon, cayenne and salt together. This on its own is a great dip by the way! But it adds a wonderful depth to the dish that you don’t get with just the typical squash and cream soup.

I remade Alli’s recipe into this dish below (scroll down for the recipe) but came up with another really simple idea for curried squash puree that I will share next week! A hint, it’s made South Indian style.

Happy Autumn!

roasted pumpkin and delicata squash

Roasted pumpkin and delicata squash ready to be pureed

delicata squash soup with spiced tahini

Delicata squash soup with spiced tahini


Adapted from Alli Shircliff’s recipe on her blog An Open Cookbook

Serves 3-4

  • 1 delicata squash, sliced, brushed with olive oil and oven roasted for 40 mins at 425*
  • 1 small pumpkin, sliced, brushed with olive oil and oven roasted for 40 minutes at 425*
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Puree the roasted squash and pumpkin in a food processor with some water.Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes on medium high power. Fold into the puree. Adjust for salt if necessary. I had to add another 1/2 glass of water to thin out the soup to my desired consistency. I think I could have easily doubled the amount of garam masala.

*Bonus: Rinse and pat dry the seeds from the squash and pumpkin. Toss with olive oil, 2 pinches of salt and garam masala. Roast in the oven (lowered heat to 300) for 10 minutes. Allow to cool down before eating. These roasted seeds are great as a garnish or on their own as a snack. If you like pumpkin beer, I’m sure these will pair really well.


Filed under America, India, Recipe

Upma with Pearl Millet

Millet Upma

Millet Upma

This was one of those dishes I threw together in 10 minutes because I was hungry and had leftover cooked pearl millet. It was an unexpected treat. Famished as I was, I realized I should probably take a couple of pictures before I ate it all up. So here they are along with a recipe.

If you’ve never cooked with whole pearl millets before, run to the grocery store, now and get your self some! It is that awesome. We eat millet instead of rice often. I first ate cooked whole pearl millets while visiting my in-laws. My MIL makes a very delicious crust-less pie with whole millets and slices of pears all baked together and served with apple compote.

What are millets? Millet is a collective term for tiny seeds from various grasses that are not even related to each other. They are used as grains and are typically highly nutritious, more so than wheat or rice. I use pearl millets as they are easily available in Seattle. There are however many kinds of millets. In South India, finger millets are widely used and I’ve shared a delicious rustic flat bread recipe before.

I’m calling this dish Upma though it’s a lot simpler than the real deal South Indian uppitu or upma. I’ve eliminated a lot of the typical upma ingredients such as onion and grated coconut and used millets instead of semolina because of my food issues. You are welcome to add those ingredients back in or follow my recipe as is. It will be delicious either way. Pearl millets are also a great gluten free substitute for couscous.

I would recommend serving this millet upma with a side of plain yogurt and spicy pickle. It’s perfect as a snack, savory breakfast or light lunch.

This recipe is vegan and gluten, onion and garlic free. It’s a FODMAP friendly recipe.

Millet Upma

  • 2 cups cooked millets, room temperature or refrigerated
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chilis, broken in half
  • 1 teaspoon urud dal (split black lentils, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon flax seeds (optional, I added some for nutrition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/3 cup cashews, roasted (or almonds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lime or to taste


Heat the oil over medium heat. When you see ripples on the surface of the oil, add a mustard seed. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.Sizzle the mustard seeds and curry leaves for ten seconds or till the seeds start popping. Saute the dry red chilis, urud dal and flax seeds for another 10 seconds.

Add the turmeric powder and stir in the millets and cashews. Add salt and squeeze fresh lime juice to taste. Serve with a side of yogurt if you can eat dairy.

Liked this recipe? Here’s another gluten free version of the Upma recipe.

delicious savory pearl millets

Savory “curried” pearl millets


Filed under India, Recipe