Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wood Apple-Vanilla Smoothie ( A Western Take on Odisha's summer drink 'Bela Panna' )

Think summers. Think icecreams, kulfi, lemonades, lassi, pina colada, fruit punch and endless other tantalizing concoctions. But somewhere in a remote corner of the world, summer is the time when the air hangs heavy with the smell of ripened tropical fruits. Mangoes, jackfruits and even the wood apples carry a scent which can only be described as heady. While the first two are much more popular and find their way into multiple cuisines, the wood apple is mostly confined to Odisha. A sad thing given that it is endowed with innumerable health benefits.

The wood apple has an intoxicating scent that reminds one of an overripe mango. Not something for the faint hearted for sure. But the flesh is sweet and varies widely from plant to plant. Some fruits have a nice creamy pulp with very few seeds and fibers, and a rich tatse that can be described as akin to a mango shrikhand. But much less sweeter ofcourse. Others have an astringent taste, a profusion of seeds and so much fiber that extracting the juice becomes a challenging task.

Wood apple is posessesd with multiple health benefits like aiding digestion, purifying blood, removing toxins, controlling diabetes, good for liver and kidney, curing earaches and also boosting energy levels. Not surprisingly, the seasonal fruit is available during the summer months when there is an abundance of stomach related ailments. That's Mother Nature watching over us and giving us hints to stay healthy throughout the year.

Coming back to the recipe, it is adapted from the traditional drink or 'panaa'. In Odisha, 'panna' refers to a drink in which diary products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese have been added. But I wanted a vegan version with a gourmet twist to it, hence I skipped the milk products and went for some lime, vanilla extract and honey.

Read on for the recipe -























Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • Bael/wood apple 
  • lime juice
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • honey to taste
  • ice cubes
  • 2 tsp chia seeds (soaked for 2 hours)

For garnishing -

  • vanilla beans
  • colored sugar


Preparation - Break the shell of the wood apple on a hard surface and scoop out the ripe flesh.

Put the flesh in a mixing bowl and add some cold water. Mix the flesh with the water using your fingers to extract the juice. 

Strain the juice using a sieve. Transfer the remaining pulp back to the mixing bowl and add a little more cold water and extract any remaining juice.

Strain the juice and throw away the pulp.

Transfer the juice to a blender jar. Add lime juice, vanilla extract, honey and 1-2 ice cubes. Give it a quick buzz. Adjust consistency by adding water in required quantity.

Serving - Rub a little honey on the rim of the serving glass. Dip it in the colored sugar. Let it stand for a few minutes to dry. Repeat this step for all the glasses/

Pour the Bael smoothie into the glasses, add the chia seeds and garnish with a vanilla bean.























Serve immediately.

Check HERE for the traditional 'Bela Panaa' recipe !



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Patra Ni Macchi ( Navroz Collaboration with ADollopOfThat & DelishPotporri )

The Parsi New Year Navroz or Nowruz literally means a new day or new light ! Celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Shehenshai calendar, it almost always falls on March 21st according to the Gregorian calendar. And just like everyone else, Parsis celebrate the day with new clothes and some great food. Of course there is the mandatory visit to the Fire Temple and the laying of the festive table with various items that symbolize the Parsi way to life. A copy of the Gathas, a lit lamp that symbolizes fire, a bowl with live goldfish, sprouted wheat, silver coins, painted eggs, flowers and sweets along with seven food items are some of the things that one can expect to find in every Parsi home on this day. Each one of these things is supposed to hold some kind of significance in life.

For the rest of us, it can be just about the food. While it does sound cliched, almost everyone thinks that Parsis are synonymous with great food. Of course they are but that is not all. Parsis are actually a very intelligent breed with an added sense of humor ( did anyone say Cyrus Broacha ) and immense business acumen ( Tata, Godrej, Wadia and so on.....). For an ethnic group with a population that does not even breach 6 digits, they sure have a way of making themselves seen and heard !

Getting back to the food (thank God for that), there are some favorites that feature on the Navroz menu every year. Prawn Patio, Ravo, Mithu dahi, Sev, Patra ni Macchi, Sali Chicken, Faludah are some of delicacies that are simple and yet sure to make one drool.

And simplicity was what I was looking for when I zeroed in on the 'Patri Ni Macchi' which literally means fish wrapped in leaves. Yup, it is a Pomfret or Ravas smeared in simple spices and very little oil, wrapped up carefully in tender banana leaves and steamed till done. That's it. Simple, rite ? But wait the best part is yet to come ! As one unfolds the leaves, a tantalizing aroma starts tickling the nostrils and as if one cue, the mouth starts watering. The final blow to the senses comes when one takes a bite of the succulent flesh. It can only be described as 'heady'. Trust me, I am not going to be thinking about grilled or fried fish for a long time.

But save some of that drool for there is more delicious to be sampled. Check out  Parinaaz's  and Saswati's !

Read on for the recipe of 'Patra Ni Macchi' -

















Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients -
  • 6 pieces of rawas (fillets)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 banana leaves

For the green chutney -
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut 
  • 1-2 green chilis
  • 1 cup coriander leaves (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 pinch cumin seeds
  • 2 pinch sugar (optional)
  • salt to taste


Preparation - Wash the fish pieces and dry with a paper towel. Add 1 tsp lime juice and salt to taste. Mix and let it stand for 20 mins.

Take all the ingredients mentioned under 'green chutney' into a mixer jar. Make a smooth paste using as little water as possible. Mix the lime juice into this paste.

Wash the banana leaves and dry them. Remove the stiff middle spine and cut into decent sized squares for wrapping the fish.

Brush a little oil on each leaf. Place a teaspoon of the chutney in the center and a fillet over it. Heap the fish fillet with more of the green chutney till it is completely smeared with a thick layer.

















Fold each leaf individually and tie it up with a string. Repeat the process for each fillet.
















Cooking - Get a steamer ready . Place the parcels inside it and steam for 20 to 25  mins.

Transfer to the serving dish and remove the strings.





















Serve with the banana leaves. (To be opened just before eating)


















And before you set off to buy fish, just take a few minutes to go through these two delicious recipes !! Maybe it will save you another trip to the market ;)

Check out the delicious Mithu Dahi by Parinaaz on 'A Dollop Of That!'























and the luscious Lagan Nu Custard by Saswati on 'Delish Potpourri'.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Zero Oil Methi Murg ( Guilt Free Indulgence for Real )

How does one measure success ? Is it in terms of money alone or is it metered in terms of fame ? Or maybe both in balanced measure. While this hypothesis may hold true for the majority, a few people will always believe that true success is synonymous with bringing about a change. However small it may be.

I too believe strongly in making a difference in the lives of the people whom I come across in my everyday life. And my blog readers are one such group. It all started when I started putting up the recipes for 'zero oil matar paneer' and 'Bachelor's egg curry'. So many of you have written to me that you loved them and would love to try out more such low calorie recipes. Now I am all excited to experiment with regular recipes and bring out a zero oil (or atleast low calorie) version so that people can get to enjoy their favorite food but at a lower cost to their health.

While I still believe that diet is only one aspect of one's fitness goals and there is no substitute for regular exercise, a gradual realization has began to set in that some of us may not be able to workout given certain restrictions. Plus a busy schedule also prevents people from working out regularly. Hence, it becomes important to adopt healthy cooking methods and recipes that utilize less oil and provide maximum nutrition.

This 'Zero Oil Methi Murg' recipe has been adopted from www.cookingwithsukhi.com recipe 'Methi Murg' which he claims to be his family's favorite. It turned out to be one amazing dish when I tried it out. And I decided to experiment a bit with it and transform it into one 'guilt-free' recipe. It took two trials to get it right but I finally nailed it.

Read on for the recipe - 

















Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 200 gm chicken pieces
  • 1 medium sized onion (roughly chopped)
  • 2-3 garlic flakes
  • 1/2 inch ginger 
  • 1 medium sized tomato
  • 3-4 tbsp thick yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fenugreek leaves (tighly packed)
  • 2 pinch cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Preparation - Heat a wok. Add the cumin seeds and allow to splutter a bit.

Add the roughly chopped onion to the wok, sprinkle a little bit of salt and cook on low flame till the onions get caramelized.

Cook the tomato, ginger and garlic in a pressure cooker along with 1/2 cup of water. Keep aside till it cools down.

Strain the solids and grind into a paste along with the caramelized onions. Retain the water as it will be utilized later while cooking.

Wash the fenugreek leaves and grind it coarsely in a mixer.

Wash the chicken. Marinate with salt and turmeric. Let it stand aside for 30 mins.

Cooking - Heat another wok. Add the paste and cook for a few minutes to get rid if the raw smell.

Switch off the flame and add the beaten yogurt. Stir it for 2-3 mins before returning to a low flame. 

Add the red chili powder and coriander powder. Cook for 2 mins.

Add the fenugreek leaves and chicken pieces. Turn up the flame a tad bit and cook till the chicken stops giving out excess water.

Now add the retained water to the wok and cover with a lid till the chicken is cooked through.

Rub the kasuri methi between your palms and add to the wok along with the garam masala and the sugar. Adjust salt if required.

Mix and remove from the flame.

Serve hot with roti or steamed rice and dal. 






















Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spiced Banana Stem Buttermilk ( A digestive Summer drink )

"What !!! U made Sol Kadhi again ? ".

That was hubby wailing from the kitchen as he spotted yet another pitcher of light pink liquid sitting prettily on the counter. Unlike me who spent more that a year in Pune savoring the unique culinary heritage of the place, the poor guy is yet to acquire a taste for Kokum or it's pungent flavor profile as he described it to one of his Odia friends.

"Nopes. There you go again. Judging by mere appearances. Why don't you just take a whiff ?", I replied back. Silence ensued. A full minute ticked by and then some more time lapsed. The suspense was getting on my nerves. Finally I saved the Word document on which I had been slaving for sometime and stepped into the kitchen. 

"Gotcha". I surprised him and in the process almost made the glass slip out of his hands. After finding him sipping merrily from my pitcher and simultaneously being engrossed in his phone, that was the least I could do to get back at him. Not a word of appreciation !! Hmm....aren't men perfect examples of slobs ? 

After experimenting with a variety of raw vegetable juices that can be included in my family's menu, this one turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Not only it is loaded with soluble fibers, the raw banana stem is beneficial in curing a variety of gastro-intestinal disorders. And it is especially good after a heavy meal or during the summer months when the digestive tract turns sluggish. Plus it tastes really good when mixed with buttermilk and a few spices. In fact, I found it to be a good substitute for rasam ( which gives warmth to the body ) on the hot days. 

But the single greatest advantage of this recipe is that it can also be prepared by people who lack the skills to chop the banana stem. That has been the major hindrance i face when I advice people to include this wonderful vegetable in their regular diet. 


Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 10 mins ( plus 1 hour standby )

Ingredients - 

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2-3 inches of tender banana stem
  • a sprig of curry leaves
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 7-8 peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Remove the outer layers of the banana stem. Wash the inner core and wipe it dry. 

Slice off and discard about 1/2 inch of the banana stem from both the ends. Cut slices about 3-4 mm thick and soak the round pieces in the buttermilk. Keep aside for 1 hour.

Transfer the buttermilk and the banana stem to a blender jar. Give it a good buzz and then strain the liquid. Discard the fibrous solids.

Heat the oil in a tempering pan. Add the red chili, peppercorn, mustard and cumin seeds. 

Once they get popping, add the curry leaves too. Remove from the flame. 

Add the tempering to the buttermilk. Season with salt and check for the consistency. 

Serve at room temperature.






































Can be enjoyed as a after-meal digestive drink. Or have it mixed along with rice during meals. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sugarfree Thandai Shrikhand ( A very Happy Holi to Everyone :) )

"Gulal hai Bhaiya ?"

"Kaunsa color chahiye Maam ?"

"Pink aur Green de dijiye ."

"Kaunse flavour mein doon ?"

"Excuse me."

"Madam kaunsa flavour chahiye ? Jasmine, mogra, gulab ya chandan ?"

I was almost tempted to ask "bas itni hai ? Aur char paanch flavor bhi rakhna tha na Bhaiya ". But better sense prevailed and I asked him to give whatever he wanted as I had to wind up last minute Holi shopping and get back home to prepare dinner.

However the next stall had an ever greater surprise in store. Gone are the days when we were happy with those pichkaris that cost around 10 bucks each. The salesman duly presented me with the latest water gun which had a 2 liter water storage tank attached to it. And even before I could close my jaw which had dropped to threatening levels, yet another specimen was placed in my hands. This one could spray three different colors. And predictably, this 'state of the art' did not come cheap. Each gun was marked above Rs 1000.

Anticipating another tantrum, I quickly placed them back on the makeshift counter and dragged the kid to another stall. His protests quickly drowned out as I handed him a 'Chota Bheem' gun which was priced much more reasonably.

The final stop happened to be the local supermarket. I needed a few things for preparing desserts for the next day. One look at the shelves revealed endless bottles of Thandai jostling for space with a variety of bottled beverages and tinned/canned sweets. A little voice in my head reminded me about my health/fitness resolutions. And that was the moment when I decided to ditch my plans for making kheer. I wanted to prepare something that captured the essence of the festival but without piling on the calories.

Thandai Shrikhand seemed to the prefect answer to my dilemma. I was anyways preparing Thandai for Holi so it was a smart choice to use some of the extract to flavor a home made Shrikhand sweetened with a Zero calorie sweetener like Sugarfree Natura. As I had predicted, none of my guests could guess that it was a sugarfree dessert.

Read on for the recipe -
























Preparation Time - 15 mins ( plus overnight standby time for the hung curd )

Ingredients -
  • 500 ml curd
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 almonds
  • 3 cashews
  • 1/2 tsp khuskhus
  • 1/2 tsp watermelon seeds
  • 1/2 pinch fennel
  • 1 green cardamon
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • a few strands of saffron
  • a few drops of rose syrup
  • 3 tbsp Sugarfree Natura ( or as per taste )

For garnishing -
  • Chopped pistachios
  • dried rose petals
  • rose syrup
  • saffron strands

Preparation - Strain the curd overnight using a muslin cloth. This will remove all the excess water from it.

Soak the almonds, cashews, khuskhus and watermelon seeds together. (remove the almond skin once it is soaked)

Dry roast the peppercorns, fennel and cardamom till it gives off a fragrance.

Transfer the roasted spices to a grinder jar and powder them as finely as possible. Add all the soaked nuts to the same jar. Grind everything till it becomes a fine paste. [ Add 2-3 tsp milk to thin the consistency if it is getting too difficult to grind. ]

Heat the milk in a saucepan. Add the saffron strands to the still hot milk. Once it cools down to room temperature, add the nuts and spices paste along with rose syrup to it. Let it stand for 1 hour.

Use a muslin cloth to strain the extract into another vessel.

Transfer the hung curd, thandai extract and the sugarfree into a mixing bowl. Whisk together to get a uniform mixture. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Serve into small dessert bowls and garnish with rose petals, pistachios and saffron strands.

Serve .















Friday, March 10, 2017

Salted Caramelized Lime Mojitos

The tang of the lime. The freshness of the mint. Just the right amount of sweetness. The tingling sensation of the sparkling water on the palate. The subtle scents tantalizing the nostrils. The green sprigs soothing the tired eyes. And i am in mocktail heaven. No less !! These days I am addicted to mojitos in a big way and have been experimenting quite a bit.

However, the Caramelized Lime Mojito is adapted from www.storyofakitchen.com .  Caramelizing the limes adds a subtly different flavor (and a a little bit of bitterness too) to the regular drink. The bitter notes need more sweetness to create a balance. But I felt that a touch of salt instead of more sugar did the trick for me. Plus the ombre effect added by the caramelized lime juice ( don't stir before serving ) is quite a treat for sore eyes !

Now that's just another amazing mocktail/drink that you can try serving during a Holi brunch/lunch . With the temperatures soaring, coolers are more than welcome. Even more so than the usual oily snacks served during Holi. Go for some baked Dahi Bhallas or even a green banana dahi wada made in appe pans by none other than my talented blogger friend Parinaaz (recipe HERE)!!

Read on for the recipe -























Preparation Time - 15 mins
  • 3 lemons
  • a handful of mint leaves
  • sugar syrup as per taste
  • 600 ml sparkling water
  • ice cubes
  • sugar for caramelizing the lime
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Cut 2 of the limes into halves. Dip the flat side into the sugar and place on a non stick skillet . Cook on low temperature till they caramelize . Take care not to burn.

















Remove and keep aside till they cool down. Squeeze the juice into serving glasses.

Assembly - Add a few mint sprigs to each glass. Muddle a bit. Pour some of the sugar syrup and then pack with ice. 

Top with the sparkling water taking care not to stir/move the contents else the ombre effect will be lost !

Sprinkle the salt immediately before serving.





































Cheers !!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Zero Oil Matar Paneer ( A Women's Day Special )

"Do I look fat in this dress ?"

"If my hips were smaller, I could easily slip into size 30 jeans !"

"This orange saree is so pretty. I wish I were fair enough to wear it ."

Doubts, doubts and more doubts. I wish we women had a genie who could appear by magic during moments like this and make us slim/tall/fair/whatever. But since that seems so far fetched a true friend will just about do. Someone who tells us stuff like  "Hey no problem . Just buy the next size" or "This looks so nice on you. The orange actually compliments your burnished skin tones.".

But since it is emotionally taxing for another person to continuously address our insecurities, every women needs to learn to love herself irrespective of shape, size or skin color. Because only then will you be allowing your inner beauty to shine through. Beauty that is sublime and yet radiates from within. The kind of beauty that transcends the passage of time and is able to reach the core of even the most hardened of souls. The kind of beauty that has the power to transform. To bring about a change in the way we perceive and act.

This women's day is yet another occasion when we can help it happen. By appreciating and helping ourselves. Not by merely sprouting mere rhetoric but actually reaching out and helping other women in every possible way that makes a difference. However small.

Dedicating this 'Zero oil Matar Paneer' recipe to all the women. Not because they need to lose weight in order to meet someone's approval. But because they need to stay fighting fit. For, whatever be our position in life or society, women never have it easy.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 20-25 mins (plus 5-7 mins standby)

Ingredients -
  • 200 gm Paneer / Cottage cheese
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 mediun sized tomato
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1 green cardamom
  • a tiny bit of mace
  • 6-7 peppercorns
  • a pinch of fennel
  • 2 pinch cumin seeds
  • 1-2 dry red chili 
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi
  • 10 raisins ( else add 1 tsp honey just before taking off the flame )
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)

Preparation - Take all the ingredients except for the paneer, kasuri methi and milk in a pressure cooker. Add 1 cup water and a little salt.

Close the lid and cook for 2-3 whistles on medium flame.

Remove and keep aside till steam escapes. Open lid and drain the excess liquid into a cup . Once cool, puree the solids.

Add a small cube of paneer ( 1 inch ) to the blender jar and give another quick buzz.

Heat a wok. Transfer the puree to the wok along with the green peas and let it cook till any raw smell goes off (takes about 5 mins).

Add the reserved liquid and the milk to the wok. Rub the kasuri methi between your palms before adding them to the wok. Let the gravy simmer for 4-5 mins .

Add the paneer cubes. Switch off the flame immediately and let it stand for 5 mins before serving.

Taste great with Indian breads or steamed rice.





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