Friday, December 9, 2016

Pumpkin, Black Rice and Sun Dried Tomatoes Salad ( Christmas Special Colab )

These days there is a slight nip in the air, a certain spring in my steps, a smile on my lips and a rather familiar melody keeps playing in my head at all times of the day. And all this is making me feel more generous than ever. Little wonder that they also call Christmas as the 'season of giving'. No prizes for guessing that it is none other than 'Jingle bells' that's been on my mind all this time.

And I suspect that everyone who has been brought up in the sleepy little town of Rourkela also feels the same way about this festival. Giving the thriving numbers of the Christian community in our place, most of us were blessed to have a very special christian friend. For me, Christmas was all about hogging on cakes and more desserts at my special friend's house. And walking through the rows of shops selling all those glitzy stars and baubles! Of course living near a church and studying in a convent meant that those carols too had become an integral part of those days. No wonder Christmas makes me feel so nostalgic !

Coming back to the food, while it is the cakes, breads and pot-roasts which occupy center-stage during the Christmas festivities, the sides are equally important in my opinion as they help in balancing out the entire meal. And with the sugary stuff tipping the calorific scales, a filling salad is all I can ask for. Keeping it vegan is a personal choice though. While I prefer rice or pasta, feel free to use ricotta or feta cheese as a substitute (though I would rather not call it so as the former is carbs while the latter is all protein). And with this being a collaboration post, there are more such savory recipe ideas to help you out with a Christmas lunch/brunch/dinner.

Read on for my rather simple and yet wholesome recipe that boasts of a melange of flavors ( imagine the earthy flavor of spinach, the nuttiness of the black rice, the sweetness of the caramelized pumpkin and the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes ) that have just been brought together in a manner that invokes sheer delight. And I bet you would calling for the seconds instead of reaching out for that rather sinful cheesecake -

















Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 1 cup cubed pumpkin
  • 1/3 cups black rice
  • 1/2 cup spinach (blanched)
  • 7-8 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Toss the pumpkin cubes with some of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle salt and put in the oven. Roast at 180 C till it shows signs of browning / caramelization. 

Cook the black rice separately till it is cooked yet slightly firm to touch.

Mix the olive oil, honey, orange juice and remaining vinegar in a bowl.

Take the black rice, roasted pumpkin, blanched spinach, chopped sundried tomatoes in a bowl. Sprinkle the dressing all over it. Toss together.

Season with salt and ground pepper.

Serve warm. Or slightly chilled ( letting it sit in the fridge also allows the flavors to come together which makes it taste better ).

































And there is more to be discovered as my amazing blogger friends share some of their delectable Christmas recipe !! Scroll down for more drool-worthy discoveries - 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Flaxseed and Curry Leaves Powder ( Podi )

"How do I include flax seeds in my own / husband's diet ?" .

This is probably one of the most frequent questions that I have encountered as a blogger. For those who are still unaware of the existence of these tiny dark brown seeds that boast of everything from better digestion to clear skin, lower cholesterol to weight loss and of course the much touted cancer fighting properties. In addition, they help in better regulation of the hormone levels in the fairer sex. No wonder all those who are aware of these benefits keep thinking of new ways to include them in the everyday diet.

While the simplest way to have them is to roast them, season as per taste and just chow down a spoonful, I have seen people coming up with interesting recipes just to include some flaxseed the diet. While some powder and add them to curries, others add them to pancakes and cookies. While all these methods are really good, I personally prefer being more quantitative in my approach. Most people are unaware that overdosing on flax seeds can cause gastrointestinal side effects like bloating, stomachache and even nausea.

This simple powder or podi (as they call it in Andhra) promises approximately 1 teaspoon of flaxseed goodness when two spoonfuls are consumed everyday. Have it as a dry chutney with dosa/upma/idli or even add to hot white rice along with some ghee.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 15 mins
Ingredients -


  • 4 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp split black lentil
  • 2 tbsp split Bengal gram
  • 4 dry red Byadgi Chillis
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2/3 cup curry leaves
  • salt to taste


Preparation - Heat a cast iron pan.

Add dry red chillis and cumin seeds. Keep flame on medium high.

Once the cumin starts to pop, add the lentils. Roast till the give off a fragrance and show some browning.

Next add the flax seeds. Once they start popping, let them pop for 1-2 mins.

Finally add the curry leaves and lower the flame. Lower the flame and roast till they wilt and turn crisp.

Remove pan from flame and let it cool down completely.

Transfer to a grinder jar, add salt and buzz for a minute. The texture will be somewhat grainy.

Store in an airtight container.

Come about two teaspoons of this powder everyday for including the health benefit of 1 teaspoon of flax seeds in your diet.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Sol Kadhi

Though I have not really explored Goan and Maharashtrian cuisine, there are some dishes which I come across quite frequently. And one of them happens to be the 'Sol Kadhi'. This is a very refreshing drink that is served with the meals that usually consist of rice and a non-vegetarian side. The sourness of the kokum and the sweetness of the coconut combine in this dish to lend it a very fresh flavor that is simply incomparable.

So, when I got some Kokum on my hands, this was the first recipe that I had to try. And it turned out to be delicious even though I have not followed the authentic recipe. Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 8 Kokum pods
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 green chili
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 pinch cumin
  • salt to taste
  • a sprig of coriander for the garnishing


Preparation - Soak the Kokum in 2 cups of hot water for half an hour. Rub them and squeeze out the juice.

Similarly add some warm water to the grated coconut and give it a buzz in a blender jar. Strain to extract the coconut milk. Repeat 1-2 times.

Grind the cumin seeds, green chili and garlic cloves into a coarse paste. Add to a blender jar containing the coconut milk and kokum juice. Blend for 1 minute to bring the flavors together.

Strain and pour into glasses or small cups. Garnish with some chopped cilantro . Serve.
























Note - The drink tends to settle down if left standing for a while. So, give it a stir/shake just before serving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ghora Pitha

Thanks to the promulgation of culinary shows, the ranks of home chefs are burgeoning in every state/city and Odisha is no exception to this phenomenon. While there are enough varieties of 'pithas' in Odisha to keep one's palate occupied, I keep coming across new ones on a regular basis. A small twist here or there, and maybe the addition of a brand new ingredient, and voila, a new one is born. And the numbers only seem to increase by the day.

On my recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised to come across one such innovation in my Mom's kitchen. Her enthusiasm to try out something new makes her create awesome dishes even though she is in her sixties. I guess the innovation genes are hardwired in the family DNA. Anyways getting back to the dish, it is a simplified form of the 'ghora manda' or 'ghura manda' that is usually prepared during the Manabasa Gurubar puja.

Read on for the recipe -





















Preparation Time - 30-35 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup arwa rice
  • 1/4 cup coconut (chopped into small bits)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sugar as per taste
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • a pinch of camphor

Preparation - Wash and soak the rice for 2-3 hours. Drain excess water and grind into a fine paste. Adjust the consistency to a flowing liquid one ( just like Chittau Pitha batter or Neer Dosa batter ).

Cooking - Slowly drain the batter into a large wok taking care to leave behind any solids (residue) in the bottom of the grinder/mixie jar. (If this residue gets into the wok, it makes the pitha grainy and spoils the overall texture.)

Add salt and sugar to the wok. Switch on the flame taking care to keep it low. Keep stirring at regular intervals so that it does not catch at the bottom. Once the mixture thickens to that of a custard ( or somewhat thicker than Ragi malt ) consistency, stir in the coconut pieces, powdered camphor and the ghee. Switch off the flame.

Pour the hot mixture onto a greased steel plate with raised sides (about and inch and a half is good). Allow it to rest till it is completely cool.

Cut into pieces and serve. Tastes better on the next day so do pop in some of it into the fridge.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mac and Cheese with TERRA Vegetable Chips

In the run-up to Diwali, my house was literally swathed with lights, paper lanterns and delicious aromas from the various kinds of 'mithai' being prepared in my kitchen. Desserts are usually considered the 'piece de resistance' of my cooking and I was literally gloating at the sheer variety I had managed to put on the table. After all, it does not make sense to throw a Diwali party if people are not going to be talking about it. Healthy snacking was the last thing on my mind during that time.

I was bang in the middle of one such preparation when I go a call from hubby. One of his clients was on a visit to India and he wanted to get a feel of the festivities minus the rich Indian food. It was almost time for lunch and I hardly had the time to drum up something that would appease his western taste buds. That is when I was reminded of an amazing box of real vegetable chips from TERRA lying unopened in my cupboard. I quickly opened one of the packs which promise some unmatched gourmet snacking, savored a few pieces and was assured of the superior quality of this amazing product. The exotic taste of these chips is quite unparalleled by itself and the striking visual appeal only serves to elevate it further by a few notches. The rich flavors of parsnip, sweet potato, taro, blue potato, yuca, beets and batata combine to create a burst of crunch and flavor that makes one fall in love with snacking once again.Providing the perfect balance of taste and health, it could be a worthy side for anything I served to my guest.

I quickly zeroed in on a trusted 'Mac and Cheese' recipe to act as the perfect foil to the crackling crispiness of these yummy chips. I added a sparkling mojito to the menu and I was all set to serve a decent working day lunch to the guests.

















Read on for the recipe of 'Mac & Cheese' -


















Preparation Time - 50 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups Macaroni pasta
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Mozarella cheese (optional but recommended)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • coarsely ground pepper for seasoning
  • dried herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme)
  • pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • salt to taste
  • 1 inch stick of butter


Preparation - Bring sufficient water to boil in a saucepan. Once it gets to bubbling stage, add salt and then put in the macaroni. Cook for 8-9 minutes.

At the same time, heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour followed by the milk and stir it to make a thick sauce. Season with herbs, pepper and salt. Finally stir in the cream and switch off the flame.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce along with the grated cheese.

Mix and pour the contents into a baking dish. Sprinkle more cheese on top if you want.

Cooking - Heat a oven to 170 degrees. Place the baking dish in the middle rack and bake for 30 mins.

Serve with these delicious vegetable chips .

















Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kakharu Patra Bara ( Tender Pumpkin leaf Fritters )

Pumpkin leaves or 'Kakharu patra' is one of the many greens consumed in Odisha. Though the leaves are rather coarse to touch and one might have initial misgivings about consuming them, they are quite delicious if prepared properly. While the 'Kakharu Dunka Raee' is the most popular recipe that makes use of the leaves, there are lesser known stir fries made with the tender ones.

But it was one of those days when I wanted something crispy to go with my rice and dal. And these leaves were the only thing I had in stock. Hence I ended up chopping them finely, mixing them with some garlic, onion and a binding agent to prepare some nice pan-fried fritters.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 9-10 tender pumpkin leaves
  • 1-2 small garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/5 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp besan
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • salt to taste
  • 3-4 tsp for pan frying


Preparation - Wash and shake off the excess water from the pumpkin leaves. Chop into fine pieces.

Take into a mixing bowl along with the garlic, onions, besan, cornflour, red chili powder and salt. Mix everything using a few drops of water.

Cooking - Heat a frying pan. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil all over the surface.

Take spoonfuls of the mixture on the pan and flatten into small discs. Drizzle more oil around each one.

Cook till brown spots appear on the surface. Flip them over.

Drizzle little more oil around each one. Remove them once they are crisp and done on both sides.

Serve hot with rice and dal.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ambeda Sakkara ( Indian Plums in a Coconut Tamarind gravy )

The Mondays of the holy 'Kartika' month in Odisha are never complete without a good quality 'khatta' or sweet and tangy gravy. The somewhat astringent taste of the Habisa dalma definitely needs to be delicately balanced by the presence of this tang/sweetness on the side. And after getting bored with 'Aau' and 'Ambeda' khatta, I wanted a 'Sakkara' with my next Monday meal. Unlike the 'khatta' that does not rely on a external souring agent and depends primarily on the natural tang of the vegetable being cooked, the tamarind is an integral part of the Sakkara.

With good quality ash gourd (pani kakharu) not being easy to find in the markets, I decided to go ahead and experiment with some Ambeda that I got from the HAL market . Since the ambeda is not very sour, adding a tiny bit of tamarind and some extra jaggery to balance it out seemed the obvious choice. Left out the boiled Bengal gram and added loads of freshly grated coconut instead. Turned out to be nice and tangy.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 250 gm Ambada/Ambeda/Indian Olives
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 1/4 tsp pancha phutana
  • a sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 pinch asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly grated coconut for garnishing

Preparation - If the ambada is tender, cut each one into 4 halves. Else just put 3-4 slits on the surface.

Dilute the tamarind paste in 1/5 cup of hot water.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the pancha phutana and broken red chilis. Let it splutter.

Add curry leaves and asfoetida. Fry for 30 seconds before throwing in the ambada.

The ambada need to be cooked/stir fried till it turns brown and the skin is almost ready to peel off.

Now add 2 1/2 cups water, salt and turmeric. Let it simmer for a while to let the juices seep into the gravy.

Then add sugar, tamarind juice and boil some more till it reaches the desired consistency. Sprinkle the grated coconut just before removing from the flame. 



[Mash them up a bit if you want a thicker curry. However, it will also increase the sour quotient of the gravy and hence you have end up putting more sugar to balance it out]

Serve with arwa bhata and dalma !


















Note - This can be preserved in the fridge for a couple of days.