Tejate-inspired Holiday Drink

The beginning of summer deserves a new drink. I was exposed to tejate in a food market in Oaxaca, where masa (processed -nixtamalized- corn) and water was being mixed manually. The process looked both impressive and intriguing (see also my Instagram post). And, the concept of masa in a cacao drink is equally fascinating. Lacking talent and patience, I resort to a high powered blender, substituting hyper-local flora with baru nuts (of South American origin) and a final spike (Cacao liqueur)!! This was my Memorial Day holiday’s final drink- a resounding hit. Enjoy!


High powered blender.


Serves 3 small drinks.

  • 2 tbsps (toasted) baru nuts + 2 tbsp good quality cacao powder + 2 tbsp masa harina
  • 2 cups coconut water + 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 dash of salt + 1 tsp almond essence 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • cacao liqueur (optional)


Run all ingredients, except liqueur, in blender till well mixed. Serve chilled, with a dash (or more) of cacao liqueur.


  1. You could use any other nut like almonds or cashews.
  2. I wanted to use lilac flowers, but I missed the blooming season by a week or so. Alas! May be next year. Orange blossoms or lavender or bergamot could be very good choices too (they are in my list to-experiment list)
  3. Even coffee liqueur is a good choice.

Turkish coffee: my way

I approached the traditional coffee in Istanbul with some trepidation –having heard quite aplenty about strong, unfiltered coffee– But I was mildly surprised with how good and addictive the coffee was (with a dash of sugar). Not at all uncommon to find little, medium or more sugar in the coffee of Istanbul denizens. The coffee is generally served with water (in a little 2 oz glass) and the quintessential confection, a Turkish delight.

The coffee sets with the tiny coffee cups and matching trays, in engraved copper, looked very enticing in Grand Bazaar. I instantly succumbed. I also bought a matching coffee pot (cezve) with intricate carvings in the body and the characteristic long handle. It looked so small to me that I mistook it for a single-cup pot and complained to the shopkeeper; he promptly pointed me to an even tinier (single-cup) pot.

There are even electric coffee makers that one of my Turkish hostesses used, claiming she even carried them with her when she traveled. But I had been seduced by the copper stove-top ones. The coffee is surprisingly easy to make. Here goes.

Coffee grounds: The Turkish coffee ground is very, very fine. Like flour. If you grind your own, use your finest setting. If you use a scale, then approx 7 gms per cup. By volume, 1/2 tbsp (or 1 1/2 tsp) grounds per cup. Each Turkish cup is about 2 oz (a demitasse).

Extraction: For 1 cup (approx 2 oz) of coffee, place 1/2 tbsp ground coffee in a dry cezve. Note, the 2 serving cezve is about 6 oz. Using the serving cup as a measure, pour 1 cup of water into the pot. Mix well. Then place on very low heat. Do NOT stir. In a few minutes, the mixture froths and begins to rise from the sides. Quickly pour about half the contents into the cup with the crema on top. Then put the pot back on the heat and let the remaining half froth up again for the final time. Then pour the second half into the cup. The crema on top is a sign of a good extraction (just like an Italian espresso, although the latter is filtered).

My way: I experimented with half milk and half water OR all milk, instead of all water. And, no sugar. It has been consistently turning out great. With rich crema. Enjoy the way or my way!!

Baobab Kombucha

While fourth of July is best celebrated in the time of Covid-19 in responsible and measured isolation, here is an incredible summer bubbly to cheer you up! Homemade kombucha is used here, but farmers market or store bought is equally uplifting. Baobab debuted only recently, but is already heading towards becoming the queen of the pantry!




  • 1/2 tsp Baobab powder
  • 1 cup kombucha (chilled)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)


Place the powder in a glass. Pour the kombucha over the powder, mix with wire whisk so the powder is blended (few seconds). Serve immediately.


  1. If using honey, first mix it well with the powder, using the wire whisk, before adding the kombucha.
  2. The Baobab powder adds a little citrus, but a lot of fizz!

Silk Road: Kashmiri Kahwa Tea

In my last trip to India, I was introduced to this incredibly fragrant, flavorful, gentle Kashmiri Tea. Green tea with saffron, rose petal and sweet spices. I am a tea junkie and I feel obliged to share this one. What sets this apart, in my mind, is the use of delicate sweet spices and multiple infusions (ala some high-end Chinese tea).

Using a 21st century “samovar”, you can use multiple infusions to last you an entire afternoon of incessant flavorful tea from a scant teaspoon of tea. See picture: this pot has no beak, the tea comes out of its bottom – pardon my language- into the drinking cup. Enjoy!

Filtering from pot to cup…
Special tools:

A Steeping pot; an electric kettle for heating water.


  • 3/4 tsp Kashmiri green tea
  • 8-10 strands saffron
  • 1/4 tsp edible dehydrated rose petals
  • Sweet spices: 3-4 whole green cardamom pods + 1 inch canela (Mexican cinnamon stick)
  • Optional: dash of Himalayan pink salt


Bring a cup of water to 198 F. Place all the above ingredients in a teapot and pour the hot water into the pot and let steep for about thirty seconds. Strain into a drinking cup.

You can use multiple infusions- don’t discard the tea mix but use fresh hot water for a second, third and even fourth cup of tea. Adjust the steeping time to your preference.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The Himalayan pink salt is my contribution to this classic mix: the salt rounds out the flavor (and I believe helps your body absorb water).
    My grandfather used to take a little salt in his tea and the rest of the family scoffed. Now I totally understand.
  2. What makes this Kashmiri tea work with the very delicate flavors of saffron and rose petals is the use of green, not black, tea. The Mexican canela is milder than the regular Malabar or even Saigon cinnamon.
    My regular go-to tea has been the kadak (strong) CTC -Crush, Tear, Curl- pellet, also called mamri tea. But just once a day. For the rest, I flirt with these other gentle, soul-caressing ones.
  3. The tea gets stronger with longer steeping time. So you can adjust based on your preference. This tea is more amenable to multiple infusions.
    There is nothing worse than lukewarm tea; so keep the water hot.
  4. In my trips to Hong Kong, I had seen the use of porcelain (China) teapots for multiple infusions at tea tasting events. You can use Chinese teapots if that is more easily available for you.
    The teapot shown in the picture here was bought at Teavana in New York. It is very convenient to use: once the steeping is done, you simply place the pot on your cup and the built in mechanism automatically strains the tea into your cup, leaving the tea leaves behind for the next infusion.
  5. You may add honey to sweeten to your cup (not teapot), if you wish.
  6. Sulaimani Tea/ Malabar Tea: India never disappoints me with its variety: I was besotted by Sulaimani in a Tea House in Mumbai. Coincidentally, an Iranian general with a similar name was hot in the news and that confused me about the tea’s origin. But the Sulaimani formula hails from Kerala.
    It is a sweetened black (no milk) tea with a dash of lemon and a few Malabar spices – cinnamon, clove etc. The sweetner is usually honey, and sometimes even jaggery (you can use Mexican piloncillo or panela).
  7. Ma’s Tea. When my mother visited me, I got addicted to her style of spiced black tea. I streamlined the process as: Nuke for 2 minutes 1 cup of water, about 1/8 tsp freshly grated ginger and 2-3 grinds of black pepper. Meanwhile, place 1 tsp black tea (I used Tata Tea Gold ) in the teapot (like the Teavana tea pot). Pour the hot water into the pot. Let steep for 30 secs. Pour the black tea into a cup with 1 tsp sugar (2 cubes). Stir. Serve hot.
    [I got into the habit of using a second infusion in the Teavana pot for a 2nd cup for myself, when I served my Mom.]

Devilish Beet Shot

This year on Labor day, a planned kayaking trip was shot by inclement weather. An idle mind is the devil’s playground, so goes a wise saying, and, here is a devilish drink that tastes even better than it looks! Even if the earthy beet juice is your thing, try this version that elevates it to a festive shot. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Cold press juicer, Sparkling water maker.


  • 2 oz cold-pressed beet juice (red or golden)
  • 2 oz homemade (chilled) sparkling water
  • a dash of ginger-honey balsamic


Place the juice and the balsamic in a serving glass. Pour the sparkling water over it and serve.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. A cold press (masticating) juicer is used here to extract the juice from a bunch of beets. You can always replace with store-bought juice.
  2. If you don’t make your sparkling water at home, you could replace with store-bought one.
  3. Let your creativity run wild in finding a replacement for ginger-honey balsamic 🙂

Aquafaba Pisco Sour: Can AI be a creative inventor?

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) creeps into every crevice of life, fear looms about if AI will surpass human dominance. Society’s giants have weighed in cautioning researchers and inventors. And, Ted talks abound on both sides of the debate. Once when I was giving a public talk in Netherlands, I was heckled by a small group: an animated exchange ensued with the moderator (in a language foreign to me; hence the hecklers really failed to agitate me). I surmise that they were staunch luddites worried about AI elbowing humans out of the way. I only wish AI was that “intelligent”. Then AI could plough through all the data and demystify cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Then we, the mere mortals, could follow through with inventing deliverable cures.

You may be surprised to learn that AI has already made inroads into the kitchen with cookbooks authored by computer programs. Occasionally at the cafeteria, at my place of work, we are presented with dishes designed by a computer program (executed by our intrepid resident Chef). While the results are commendable, I hesitate to endorse the creativity of AI. What could impress me, you ask. Let me give you two food inventions of this century that came out of human intelligence: GABA rice and aquafaba. The former is a technique of cooking nutritious rice and the latter is a mind-blowing egg-white substitute (no, it’s not one of those protein isolates). If AI generated an idea even 10 notches below the brilliance of these, I will concede in a heart-beat.

Before I get back to the core of this posting, I would be remiss if I do not reiterate the significance and role AI in modern society. As mind-numbing tasks are being handed over to AI, like suggesting your next favorite movie, or automatically organizing your photos, or vacuuming your floor, it will be long long time before it can get stunningly creative.

Now to aquafaba, the amazing ingredient. My friends had raved about Pisco Sour, a frothy Peruvian cocktail, but I always hung back when I saw egg whites go into the cocktail shaker. When I learned that aquafaba (bean water) is an excellent substitute for egg whites, I followed a classic Pisco Sour recipe with the substitute. The result was brilliant! Enjoy. [Also check out the aquafaba version of Ayurvedic Shot]

Special tools:.

Vitamix Aer or a cocktail shaker.


  • 1 oz Pisco + 1 oz aquafaba [see below] + 1 oz fresh lemon juice + Âľ ounce simple syrup + 2-3 ice cubes
  • few drops of Grapefruit bitters


Mix all the ingredients, except bitters, in a cocktail shaker or the Vitamix Aer. Pour the frothy drink into a glass and splash 2-3 drops of bitters (serves 1).

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. You can make the aquafaba yourself as below or simply use the liquid from canned garbanzo. Make sure it is unsalted.
  2. Pisco is a strong Peruvian brandy, made from white grapes. You could use 2 oz per serving for a stronger version.
  3. Simple syrup: Dissolve equal amount, by volume, of sugar and water, in a microwavable cup. Nuke for 30 secs and stir. Cool.
  4. Homemade Aquafaba: Soak 2 cups garbanzo beans overnight. Add water (about 1 cm only above the layer of beans). Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. [Check after 1 hour with a bite-test and decide if it needs more cooking.] Remove the cooked beans—these should be still holding their shape—with a slotted spoon. Do not mash the beans into the water. Thicken the water on heat for another 15 mins. This makes about 3 ½ oz of aquafaba (see picture below). You could cool it in the fridge. Do not be alarmed to see it gel (like aspic). See pictures below for possibly different consistencies that you may get at different runs (left & center).
    The cooked garbanzo can be used for other recipes- hummus, chole, falafal etc.