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Monday, March 31, 2014

Lettuce-Cucumber-Tomato Salad

Its Monday and time for yet another 'detox recipe'. The detox process puts a lot of emphasis of consuming lots of fruits and vegetables (preferably unprocessed) and any grains need to be consumed only in moderation. Meat and dairy are considered off-limits. Hence along with juices, salads are a very important part of any detox diet.

With Ugadi/Gudi Padwa falling on a Monday, most of you would be busy feasting for the extended weekend. Hence this week's detox recipe comes on a Monday. Quite simple and easy to assemble, it can also multitask as a quick snack.

So, here is an easy and yet filling salad recipe that consists of fruits and vegetables rated highly on the list of 'Detox foods'. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

1 big ripened tomato (to be thinly sliced)
1 small cucumber (to be thinly sliced)
1 small head of iceberg lettuce (to be torn roughly)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp pepper powder
salt to taste
1 tsp vegan mayonnaise (optional)

Preparation - Wash the vegetables carefully and wipe of excess water. Cut the tomato and cucumber into thin slices.
Tear the lettuce into small pieces.

Transfer everything into mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Chill for an hour before serving.

Note - You can also add some shredded red cabbage and blanched broccoli to make it more appealing.

Danone Misti Doi - Everyone loves it!!!!

It is everything that I want my misti doi to be. Ever since I saw the commercials being aired on TV, I was a bit skeptical about trying it out. One factor could be that I stay near to a Banchharam's and hence can get it anytime from there. Hence I made the mistake of buying only two units. And they did not last even for an hour after exiting the mall.

Its thick. Creamy. Not overwhelmingly sweet. Just the right bit of tang. Even the top fatty layer that you find in most traditional clay pot misti doi's is also present. Can't wait to replenish my stock hence planning to get some online from Bigbasket (here) or Zopnow (here).

My verdict: 4.75/5 .

Taste & texture - Just the way it should be.Can't give anything less than a 5
Price - I think it a little more than the average price for the given quantity. So, 4.5.
Packaging - Neat and compact. Small portion size is a boon for weight watchers. Check the below pic for Nutritional values -

No chances of spilling and can be easily carried in a handbag to office. Deserves a 5. (But I would love it if they add a little scoop/spoon in the packaging so that i do not need to carry one.)

Got for it!!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ugadi Pachadi And a Happy Ugadi/Gudi Padwa to all !!

Yug-adi. Ugadi. Gudi Padwa. It is the beginning of the spring season and also marks the start of a  new year. It is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra with great fervor. Each of these regions have their own specialty which they prepare on this day but I will only be covering the 'Ugadi Pachadi' as it is something that I miss the most (owe it to the years spent in Hyderabad). My team-mates never forgot to get some of this yummy stuff to office and I remember making frequent trips to their workstation till the container got emptied.

The 'Ugadi Pachadi' comprises of the ingredients - raw mango, jaggery, tamarind juice, salt, green chillis and last but not the least, neem flowers. Each of these are said to reflect the 6 flavors (Shadrachulu) of life -

Raw Mango - Excitement/Surprise
Salt - Fear
Green Chilli/Pepper - Anger
Jaggery -  Happiness
Tamarind Juice - Disgust
Neem/Methi - Sadness

It tastes quite unique and I can still remember it tickling my taste buds. The Karnataka version is called 'Bevu-Bella' and it used neem leaves instead of flowers. Read on :

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 raw mango (finely chopped)
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • 2 tbsp powdered/crushed jaggery
  • 3 green chillis (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp neem (Margosa) flowers.
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup water. Crush and take out the pulp.

Add the jaggery and stir till it dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

Note - You can also add a few pieces of ripened banana, grated cococut, suagrcane, or even put a little tadka with mustard seeds and curry leaves.

[Imp- The Detox Mondays post will be published on Tuesday for this week.]

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mansa Jholo / Mutton Curry (Traditional/Old Method)

Imagine a village situated on the foothills of a densely forested mountain. Along the dusty winding path that goes up the mountain, one can spot butterflies flitting from flower to flower. If one is lucky, then they can spot a rabbit/deer hiding somewhere in the bushes. With the entire forest blossoming during the spring-summer season, the scent of this place is intoxicating. And the view from the top simply exhilarating. The lush green fields that lie in the bottom of the forest have now turned yellow/brown. Most of the crops have been harvested and people are waiting for the rains to sow another lot. An almost dry river with small pools of water and lots of exposed sand flows near the village.

In the center of the village, elders sit around a 'Baula' tree on a raised chaupal. They are discussing about the wild elephants that ransacked the crops during last winter. Someone chips in and says something about a 'Heta bagha' or wolf who stole a hen/lamb last night. People discuss all sort of problems and try to fix a match at the same time. Nothing interesting enough for a ten year old.

Moving on the 'Khanja', a row/block to houses build in such a manner that they seem to be a single entity. They house the members of a erstwhile 'zamindar' household, its a huge joint family. A big 'agana' or courtyard where the ladies of the house have gathered after finishing their daily chores. They are busy oiling and combing each others hair. Someone opens a 'paan-daani' and offers a betel leaf ( its only a betel leaf with a little 'chuna'(pickling lime or food grade lime) brushed onto it...not a proper paan) to everyone. For the more seasoned folks, there is 'Gudakhu', a type of tobacco on offer. Big vessels known as 'Handas' lie abandoned in a corner. Sometime not too long back, all these ladies used to cook together in a single kitchen that fed about 50-60 members spanning multiple generations. The curious ten year old fiddles with these vessels, raises some funny questions and listens to these ladies for an answer. One particularly alert lady catches the youngster biting into yet another 'ambula' and shakes her head. 'Peta katiba', she says yet again. Not enough to deter a youngster on a summer visit to her village with her grandmother.

Fast forward 20 years. A posh apartment in Bangalore. A nuclear family. A wave of nostalgia grips the now grown-up youngster as she reminiscences about those long forgotten carefree days. Her grandmother is no more but those memories must live on.

Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 1 hour 20 mins

Ingredients -

250 gm mutton
1 medium sized potato
1 large onion + 1/2 of a medium onion ( the chopped onion should be equal in volume to the mutton pieces )
1 1/2 tbsp coarse garlic paste
1 1/2 tbsp coarsely chopped ginger
3-4 dry red chillis
1 big cardamom
1 bay leaf
2 2" cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
6 tsp mustard oil + 1 tsp for the marination

Preparation - Wash the mutton pieces and drain away all the water. Add salt, turmeric and 1 tsp mustard oil. Mix well and keep aside.

Cut the onions into medium sized pieces. Crush lightly using a mortar and pestle. Keep aside.

Also crush the ginger and garlic in the same way but just a little more fine.

Cut the potatoes into big chunks.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a pressure cooker.

Add the potatoes and fry till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.

Add the red chillis followed by the cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon sticks to the hot oil. Fry till they turn fragrant.

Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Fry them on low flame till they turn quite red in color. (This is a sign that the onions have started turning sweet due to the caramelization process)

Next add the mutton pieces. Fry them till they stop oozing water. You do not have to stir continuously. Keep the lid on the cooker without completely closing it. Stir once every few minutes. This process takes a long time so keep patience ( grab a snack/drink something if all that heavenly smell is making you hungry ).

Once you see that the mutton pieces start leaving oil ( a sure sign that the water had dried up ), add 1 1/2 - 2 cups of boiling water along with the fried potato pieces. Adjust salt. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 whistles. Remove from flame.

Allow steam to escape before opening lid. Check if the mutton is done. Else add another half cup water and cook for another 1-2 whistles.

Serve hot with rice/rotis.

Note - If you do not want to use pressure cooker, use a thick bottomed copper vessel for best results. Also add a few pieces of raw papaya to expedite the cooking process.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dahi Bara - Ghuguni - Alu dum (Cuttack Style)

'Dahibara-Ghuguni-Aludum' is probably the most popular street food in Odisha after the ubiquitous Gupchup. Actually the two belong to different regions of the State, the Gupchup being a specialty in the Western parts while the former is more popular around the State capital. During my childhood years in Rourkela, we never saw this delicacy being sold on the streets. Visiting relatives from Bhubaneshwar would sometimes mention this and we would wonder why curries like alu dum and ghuguni need to be paired with dahi vadas. But as most of them had very high regards for the yummy 'Gupchup', we never bothered to find out.

It was only after I finished college  (or maybe sometime in the final year) that these cycle-wallahs with their big pots of dahibara and smaller pots of ghuguni/alu dum began to make their presence felt in my hometown. I have to admit that I was quite skeptical about it in those days. And maybe that's the reason I am not so nostalgic about it. My husband in comparison is completely nuts about it. He can have it for breakfast, lunch and also dinner. Nowadays you can find it in every nook and corner of Odisha and everyone keeps raving about it ( I guess the internet wave is behind its popularity to quite an extent. Check out FB.) . The potato crisis in recent times which had the cost of 'Gupchup' heading North came as another boon for this road side delicacy. With an affordable price tag starting at Rupees 5 per plate even the poor could afford it. An added advantage is that it packs in quite a good quantity for the price.

So, here is a very delayed post on Odisha's cult favorite( A big thanks to hubby for pointing out that it had been missing ). Schedule it on a weekend as this is quite an elaborate process. In order to save time, I would suggest doubling the quantity of masala being prepared for the alu dum and removing half of it before adding the potatoes. This masala can be used for preparing the ghuguni.

Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 1 hour 30 mins

Ingredients -

For the Dahibara

  •  1 cup Urad dal
  •  1-2 green chillis (chopped),
  •  1 1/2 cup curd (slightly sour preferably)
  •  1/2 roasted cumin powder
  •  1/3 red chilli powder
  •  a pinch of baking powder
  •  1 tbsp semolina
  •  1/5 tsp black salt( kala namak )
  •  salt to taste
  •  oil ( for frying )
  •  For tempering -
  •  few curry leaves
  •  1-2 dry red chillis
  •  2 pinch asafoetida
  •  few mustard-cumin seeds

For the Alu Dum

  •  12-15 baby potatoes or 1 big potato
  •  3 tsp grated onion
  •  1/2 tsp Ginger garlic paste
  •  4-5 cloves
  •  1 small bay leaf
  •  1 green cardamom
  •  1/5 tsp cumin seeds
  •  1 tbsp yogurt
  •  1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  •  1/3 tsp coriander powder
  •  1/5 tsp garam masala (optional)
  •  1 1/2 tbsp

For the Ghuguni

  •   1 1/2 cup Yellow peas
  •   1 medium sized potato
  •   1 small tomato
  •   1 medium sized onion
  •   1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  •   1 tsp cumin seeds
  •   1/3 tsp cumin powder
  •   1/3 tsp coriander powder
  •   1/2 tsp chilli powder
  •   1/5 tsp garam masala powder
  •   1 bay leaf
  •   2 tsp oil
  •   1-2 tsp chopped coriander stems
  •   1/3 tsp turmeric powder
  •   a pinch of baking powder (optional)
  •   salt to taste

For sprinkling on top:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 5-6 green chillis, finely chopped
  • 1 cup thin sev
  • kala namak
  • jeera lanka gunda (roasted cumin-chili powder)

Preparation -
For the Bara: Soak urad dal for 3-4 hours. Grind into a smooth paste. Add salt and allow to stand for 5-6 hours.Take the batter in a mixing bowl. Mix in the suji and baking powder into the batter. Whip it lightly to incorporate some air into the mix.

Add a little portion of the curd ( approx 2 tsp )to some warm water in a mixing bowl. Add a little salt and mix well.

For the Ghuguni: Soak the yellow peas overnight.
Cut the onion and tomato into small pieces. Peel the potato and cut into small sized cubes.

Cooking -

For the bara: Heat oil in a wok for frying baras. Take a spoonful of the batter and carefully add to the hot oil. Do this 6-7 times per batch. Fry on all sides till it turns brown . Remove the fried vadas and add to the curd water prepared earlier. Allow the vadas to rest in the warm mixture for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, take the remaining curd in another bowl. Add salt, black salt, chilli powder, roasted cumin powder and chopped green chillis to it and beat gently to break any lumps. Add 2 1/2 cups water( you can add more if you like a thinner consistency ). Transfer the soaked baras into this curd mixture.

Heat 1 tsp oil in tempering pan. Add mustard seeds, broken red chilli, curry leaves and assfoetida. Pour this tempering over the dahi-baras. Keep aside for 3-4 hours.

For the ghuguni: Wash and put the soaked yellow peas in a cooker along with chopped potato, salt and turmeric powder. Cook for 2 whistles. Remove and keep aside to cool.

Heat oil in a deep vessel. When it starts smoking, add the cumin seeds and bay leaf. Wait till it splutters, and then add onion pieces and chopped coriander stems. Fry the onion for about 2-3 mins and then add ginger-garlic paste. Cook till raw smell goes away.

Add the tomatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Fry for about 5 mins or till the tomatoes turn mushy. Add the cumin powder, coriander powder and chilli powder. Stir fry for 2 mins and then add the boiled peas. Fry on Medium High for 3-4 minutes.

Add 2 cups hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes on Low flame. Add the garam masala, mix well and remove from flame.

For the Alu Dum: Wash and cook the potatoes for 1-2 whistles . Allow steam to escape before opening lid. Peel the potatoes and cut into two.

Heat the oil in wok. Add the potatoes and fry for a few minute till they turn light brown. Remove and keep aside.

Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cardamom and cloves and fry for 20 seconds. Add the grated onion along with the GG paste. Fry till raw smell goes away. 

Add all the powdered masalas and fry for 1 minute. Add curd and fry till oil separates. Add the potatoes and fry along with masala for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup boiling water and bring to boil.

Simmer on low for 6-7 minutes before removing from flame. 

The toppings:

Getting your act together. Its showtime.

Place a few baras (4-5 nos) on a plate along with some of the watery curd. Pour about 5-6 tbsp ghuguni over it followed by 3-4 tbsp alu dum.

Sprinkle finely chopped onion, coriander leaves, green chillis, kala namak, jeera-lanka powder and crispy sev on the chat.

The final product :

What are you waiting for ????????????? Dig IN!!!!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kadali Kasa (Raw banana fry)

Simple fries served hot with white rice, dal and raita happen to be among my favorite meal options. Of course, my first choice would be some nice one-pot meal but since kid loves these fries so much that the one-pot meals are becoming increasingly rare.

This stir fry is made with green banana that was boiled first. Hence it uses very little oil for cooking. Add that to the natural goodness of green bananas and you have a very healthy and tasty side-dish that will become a regular on your lunch/dinner menu. It was a regular at home when we were kids as we had a lot of these plants growing in our garden. It used to be fun plucking the fresh vegetables and taking them right into the kitchen for preparing lunch.

Read on for the super easy recipe:

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 1 raw banana
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 1/5 tsp cumin-mustard seeds
  • a pinch of asafotida
  • few curry leaves (optional)
  • 1/5 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil

Preparation - Cut the banana into two. Put it in a pressure cooker along with 1 cup water and little salt.

Cooking - Cook the banana for 2 whistles. Allow steam to escape before opening lid. Remove the peel from the banana (this step becomes a lot easy in this case as opposed to peeling the uncooked banana). Cut into small cubes.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add cumin-mustard seeds and broken red chilli. When it starts spluttering, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Allow curry leaves to brown a bit.

Add the banana pieces along with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Fry for a few minutes till raw smell of turmeric goes away. Remove from flame .

Serve with rice/rotis.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sukhua Besara Tarkari

Its too early in the season for Pakhala. But I could not resist a quickie. And with no vegetables in the fridge last week, I got a good excuse for this one.

Yeah, its 'Sukhua' or dried fish. Very popular in all coastal areas on India (Odisha happens to be no exception), these are a boon when the vegetable supply dries up (especially in summers). And it so happens with us folks that we love it but are scared to own up. Blame it on the former's reputation as the poor man's food. Nothing that wannabes like us would like to be associated with. Aren't we the quintessential aspiring lot ?? Take heart people suffering from such a malaise, it is quite popularly used in cuisines from other countries ( including our favorite Chinese ).

If you are still on this page, I am sharing a simple recipe made with dried anchovies. Made with 'besara', the mustard-garlic paste that happens to be the mainstay of Oriya cuisine, it is a breeze to make. But do open the doors and the windows to let in some breeze while cooking it else your house might end up smelling like the neighboring  fish-market or 'maccha-haata' as we call it. Read on:

Preparation Time - 15 mins (plus 30 mins soaking time)

Ingredients -

  • Dried anchovies/smelt fish ( 1 cup )
  • Baby potatoes ( 1/2 cup )
  • pearl onions ( 1/3 cup )
  • 1 medium sized ripe tomato
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 green chillis
  • 8 garlic flakes
  • 1 ambula (dried mango,optional)
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Soak the dried fish in some warm water for 1 hour. At the same time soak the ambula in a separate cup with 1/2 cup warm water.

Wash and the cut the baby potatoes into half. Peel and cut the pearl onions into half. Finely chop the tomato.

Grind the mustard seeds with 1 green chilli and half of the garlic cloves into a fine paste.

Cooking - Smoke the fish on a wire mesh for the smokey flavour. Then soak it in water for 5-6 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the broken green chilli and crushed garlic cloves. Fry for 1 minute.

Add the soaked anchovies. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the baby potatoes.pearl onions and fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the mustard paste with 1 - 1 1/2 cups water, salt and turmeric. Cover with a lid and allow to cook till potatoes are half done. Add chopped tomatoes and cook covered till potatoes are 80 percent done.

Add the soaked ambula along with the water used for soaking. Allow to cook uncovered till most of the water evaporates and potatoes are done. Remove from flame.

Serve with 'pakhala' or white rice and dal. (If eating with pakhla, do not forget to serve some green chillis and onions)

The frugal ingredients and the final dish . If you have a taste for pungent food, this is a must try !!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mayonnaise and Veggie Sandwich

The 4 o' clock snack time is turning out to be a big headache for me. My little one is always looking for variety and I keep looking for different ways to please him. God, kids are really getting bored of everything these days. I swear we were not like this when we were young. I will have my Mom vouch for that.

Since the heat is increasing these days, I wanted to skip the fried snacks and get something healthy for him. Leafing though my old notes (yeah, I keep making a note of everything), I found this sandwich recipe that I had not prepared for a long time. With loads of veggies, this one is a very healthy option. One can always replace the mayonnaise with some hung curd seasoned with mustard sauce and garlic. Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 10 mins


  • 2 slices of sandwich bread
  • a few thin slices of cucumber
  • a few thin slices of tomato
  • a few thin slices of capsicum
  • some iceberg lettuce
  • a few thin slices of onion (skip this for toddlers...optional for older kids)
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • a sprinkling of pepper (optional)
  • a dash of ketchup
  • grated cheese (as much as you like)
  • salt

Preparation: Place the bread slices on the kitchen counter.

Spread mayonnaise on one half.

Layer on the vegetables. I put cucumber first, then tomato, then capsicum and finally the lettuce.

Sprinkle grated cheese and pepper. Add a dash of salt.

Sprinkle tomato ketchup on the other slice.

Finally place the slices one over the other and close the sandwich. Press lightly.

Cooking : Heat a sandwich maker and place the sandwich in it. (Most have auto-cook function but if not then cook for 2 minute till lightly browned.

Else heat a flat dosa tawa. Place the sandwich over it and cook for 1 minute on both sides.

Place the sandwich on a flat surface and cut into smaller portions (triangles).

Serve immediately with some ketchup.

Note - Pleas excuse the badly clicked pics!! Kiddo was busy pulling the plate away from my hands even as I was trying the click the final pics!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My ABC Detox drink ( Apple Beetroot and Carrot juice )

Its Detox Monday. After the feasting and indulging on weekends, it is time to cleanse our body with this wonderful drink/smoothie. Give your body added ammunition with the ABC of detox: Apples, Beetroots and Carrots which figure high on the list of detox ingredients.

Apples are known to flush out toxins and give the digestive system a kick-start. Beetroot is the most potent detox juice known to mankind and is renowned for its blood purifying properties. But a word of caution. Always mix beetroot juice with other vegetable/fruit juices. Carrots are power packed with Vitamin A and are great for eyesight and skin. They also improve the immune system and help metabolize fats and lipids. This drink contains the combined goodness of all three with a dash of lime. No need for adding sugar as all three contain natural sugars. Read on:

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup apple (peeled & sliced)
  • 1/2 cup beetroot (peeled & sliced)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (peeled & sliced)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Preparation - Take all the fruits/vegetables in a blender along with 1 cup water. Blend well so that no chunks remain.

Drink it as it is (with the added benefit of fibers) or strain it to get the juice. Do not forget to add a dash of lemon.

Note - If you find the flavor of beetroot to be too strong, use apple-beetroot-carrot in 2:1:2 ratio. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kadali Bara Tarkari ( Raw Banana Kofta Curry )

Raw banana or 'Kancha Kadali' is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Though high in starch, it is classified in the 'resistant starch' category, i.e., this type of starch acts more like a fiber(insoluble). They help control blood sugar levels and lower the blood cholesterol levels while making one feel full for longer periods of time. Weight watchers would do good to add it to their menu. Infact I regularly use it as a potato substitute for my MIL who is a diabetic. It is also a good source of potassium and vitamin B-6.

Very popular in Oriya households, it is mostly consumed in the form of fries or added to 'dalma'/'santula'. On special occasions, when the lady of the house is feeling very indulgent, she may treat everyone to a special curry ' Kadali Bara Tarkari'. It is prepared just like the other kofta/bara curries which happen to be quite rich/greasy due to the quantity of oil that goes into their making. Hence the special appearance.

I personally like to pan fry/bake the bara with very little oil and have it as it is. For this I flatten them into the shape of tikkis(circles) as it is easier to cook the flat ones on a pan. They are quite tasty even without the gravy. But this time I was cooking for a 'Sunday special' hence the extra effort with making the gravy. Read on for my version of the recipe:

Preparation Time - 45 mins

Ingredients -

For the koftas :

  • 1 large green (raw) banana
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • 1 small sized onion
  • 2 green chillis
  • 2 pinch of garam masala
  • 1 pinch of roasted cumin powder
  • 2 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying

For the gravy:

  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/3 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp meat masala (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp oil

Preparation - Cut the banana into 2/3 pieces . Boil in a cooker for 2 whistles along with the potato. Remove from flame and allow steam to escape.

Peel the banana and potato and take them in a mixing bowl. Mash well so that no big lumps remain. Add the rest of the ingredients (except oil) mentioned under the 'For the koftas' heading. Mix everything together.

Pinch out small portions from the above mixture and make small balls by rolling between your palms. Grease your palms with a bit of oil while doing this step as it prevents the balls from sticking to your hand. Keep aside the balls.

Chop the onions and tomato required for the gravy.

Cooking - Heat oil for deep frying. Add the koftas, a few at a time. Cook on all sides to a light brown. Be careful while handling them as they tend to lose shape or crumble. Remove from wok and keep aside.

Heat 3 tsp oil in another wok. Add bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and cumin seeds.

Add chopped onions after 30 seconds. Fry till translucent.

Add ginger garlic paste. Fry for 3-4 minutes till raw smell goes away.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cover with a lid for 2 minutes. Cook till tender.

Add all the powdered masalas and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 - 2 cups hot water and adjust salt.

Allow water to reduce by 1/3 rd before adding the balls/koftas. Cook the koftas for 1-2 minutes on low flame.

Switch off the flame and allow to stand for a few minutes. This allows the koftas to soak in the gravy.

Serve hot with rice/rotis.

Note - Use grated onions instead of chopped ones if you like a fine gravy. Also replace the chopped tomato with tomato puree. Also add 1/2  tsp sugar if you prefer a hint of sweetness.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chilli Fish

Just like many of the improvised indo-chinese recipes that have become the mainstay of our menus, Chili fish is another quick and interesting recipe that can multitask as both as a side-dish cum starters. Nothing new about this recipe, as I remember having it way back in 95'-96'. It had caught the imagination of the Oriya masses at that time and hardly any marriage/reception that we attended was complete without a serving of this delicacy.

But like all good things, it suffered an overkill and that is the reason I had been avoiding it for so long. But with the onset of summer, curries are taking a backseat. So, in addition to the plain fish fry (using only salt and turmeric) , maccha besara bhaja ( using garlic-green chilli-mustard sauce/paste ) and masala dia maccha bhaja ( ginger-garlic-onion-coriander-garam masala paste ), I decided to add it to our meals on a one off basis. Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

4 pieces of Rohu fish ( or 200 gm )
1 medium sized onion
1 medium sized capsicum
2-3 green chillis
2-3 red chillis
4-5 tsp oil
2 pinch turmeric
salt to taste

For the sauce -

1 1/2 tsp corn flour
1-2 tsp vinegar
1-2 dark soy sauce
3 tsp tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp chilli sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
2-3 tsp water

Preparation - Wash the fish pieces and pat them dry. Add the turmeric and salt. Rub all over the fish and marinate for 10 minutes.

Cut the onion and capsicum into medium sized chunks. Slit the green chillis and deseed them.

Take all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Mix well.

Cooking - Heat a non-stick frying pan. Add 2 tsp oil.

Add the fish pieces and cook on both sides to a light brown (reddish) color. Remove from pan and allow to cool down. Cut into small pieces.

Heat the remaining oil in wok. Add the red and green chillis. Follow with the capsicum and onion chunks after 1 minute. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add the sauce and turn up the flame to HIGH. Cook for 2 minutes or till the sauce dries up a bit.

Add the fried fish and mix well to coat the pieces with the sauce. Fry for 1-2 minutes before switching off the flame.

Serve hot as a side dish. ( If using boneless/fillets, this can also be served as a starter. )

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pahala Rasagola

After a lot of failed attempts, I finally recreated the 4 PM magic of Pahala at home. Ok , I was late by a whole hour but as those delectable rasgullas sat in my kitchen soaking up in the sugary syrup I was transported back to this nondescript village near Bhubaneshwar. While it is not the oldest variety of Rasgulla that originated in Orissa, it has certainly taken over the former by miles. The history of Pahala dates back to only about a few decades whereas the Puri Rasgulla has been there since the time Lord Jaganaath is said to have created it.

For the uninitiated, a pit stop at Pahala is considered mandatory when travelling on the Bhubaneshwar Cuttack highway (NH-5). And it is considered criminal to eat just one of the rust colored beauties. Read on to know more about them:

Preparation Time - 1 hour 30 minutes (putting it roughly)

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 liter whole milk ( Cow milk specifically, I used the Nandini Brand available in Bengaluru )
  • 1/2 tsp maida/suji/semolina/bombay rawa ( suji should be raw, DO NOT roast )
  • a pinch of powdered caramelized sugar
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid crystals / 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups water

Preparation - Bring the milk to boil on a medium flame in a thick bottomed vessel. Once it gets to a rolling boil, keep on the flame for another 2-3 minute.

Dissolve the citric acid crystals in 1 cup of HOT water. Or the vinegar in a cup of normal water.

Remove from flame and keep aside for 4-5 minutes. Add the citric acid in one corner of the vessel till the milk shows signs of curdling. Using a spatula, mix the contents of the vessel thoroughly till the greenish water (whey) and milk solids (chenna) get completely separated. ( You might not need to add the entire cup of citric acid but use sufficient amount needed to split the milk )

Place a thin cloth on a metal strainer ( Do not use  plastic as the mixture is still very hot at this point ). Pour the contents of the vessel over it. Wash the chenna under running water for 2 minutes to remove all traces of citric acid. Bundle/gather the corners of the cloth and squeeze out all the water but do not squeeze too hard.

Hang it for 1 hour. Not less nor more. Too much moisture or too less of it can cause rasagulla to disintegrate.

Remove the cloth and place the chenna on your sanitized kitchen counter / chopping board. Start kneading it with the heel of your palms. Then gather the chenna into a ball and start kneading again. Do this for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the suji and powdered caramelized sugar over the kitchen  sugary stuff can cause if consumed regularly ) and there will be quite a lot of oiliness/greasiness on your hands/counter. Work them into the dough. Knead till you can no longer feel the graininess of the suji. The dough will start looking like an orange peel by this time with a dimpled appearance ( reminded me of cellulite which such (and also on the kneading surface). Cover dough with moist cloth and keep aside.

Take the 2 1/2 cups of water in a pressure cooker and place it on a medium flame. Add sugar and cardamom powder, and dissolve it with a ladle. Allow it to come to a boil.

Back to the dough. Remove the cloth and knead it again for 3-4 minutes. Pinch small balls out of it and roll them into smooth looking balls between your palms. There should be no cracks as the water can seep in and disintegrate the balls. (The trick is to apply a little pressure at first when shaping into a ball, them roll it very gently. I got only 5 balls from the 1/2 liter milk that I used.)

Place the balls gently in the boiling water. Close the lid (but remove the weight/whistle first) and cook for 30 minutes ( first 5 minutes on a HIGH flame ). Resist the temptation to open the lid and keep checking on them every 5 mins.

Remove from flame and keep the pressure cooker aside for 5 minutes.

In the meantime boil about 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Remove the balls from the pressure cooker and put into the hot water for 5 minutes ( on medium flame ). Switch off flame.

Transfer the balls back into the sugar syrup and allow to stand for 15 minutes.

Serve immediately. (Pahala rasgullas are best enjoyed hot/warm)

Or keep it in the fridge for a few hours. The chilled ones are also delicious.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vangi Baath (Brinjal rice)

Vangi baath or brinjal rice is a spicy and sour rice dish (with a hint of sweetness which is optional) that is quite easy to prepare. Though I had tasted this for the first time in Hyderabad, I did not quite like it at the time. But it was reintroduced to me by one of my roomies who used to cook it with a special home-made masala and I have been a fan ever since. Maybe the fact that she was a Kannada Brahmin made all the difference. After all, its origins are attributed to the Brahmin community of Karnataka.

I made it with parboiled rice ( which is healthier) but usually people make it with raw rice. I quickly made a bit of 'Vangi baath masala' at home (got the recipe on net) but it is quite easily available in the shops. And even my kid likes it when I reduce the amount of 'Vangi baath' masala and add a sprinkling of jaggery. Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 15 mins ( if you have cooked rice else add time needed to prepare rice )

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced brinjal
  • 8-10 cashews
  • 2 tsp channa dal
  • 1/2 tsp thick tamarind paste
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste

For the Vangi baath Masala

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 6-7 cloves
  • 2 red chilli
  • 1 marathi moggu
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp split urad dal
  • 1 tsp oil

Preparation - Add a little salt and turmeric to the brinjal slices. Keep aside for 10 mins.
Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan. Add all the ingredients for Vangi Baath Masala and fry till a  fragrance starts to fill the kitchen. Remove and allow to cool a bit. Grind into a fine powder.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the brinjal slices and fry till cooked.

Add 1 1/2 tsp of the Vangi Baath Powder ( I keep it less spicy ) along with the tamarind paste (diluted with 3-4 tsp water). Fry for 1 minute.

Add the cooked rice and mix in. Adjust salt.

Heat 1 tsp oil for the tempering. Add broken red chilli, mustard seeds and channa dal. After channa dal turns a little brown, add cashews. Pour the tempering over the rice. Mix in.

Serve hot with yogurt and papad.

Note - If you like a hint of sweetness, add about 1-2 tsp powdered jaggery while adding the tamarind paste.

Shikanji (North Indian style lemonade)

With the summers fast approaching, lemonades are becoming a regular feature in my home. While the traditional lemon drink served in Odisha uses just sugar and a pinch of salt apart from lemon and water, down South they sprinkle it generously with mint leaves. Different from these two, the North Indian version is a little more spicy. It makes use of black salt 'kala namak' and roasted cumin powder along with the other ingredients. It is popularly known as 'Shikanji' or 'Shikanjvi' and is widely available at roadside stalls throughout summer.

Most of us adore the plain old nimbu-pani and this version just adds a refreshing twist to a crowd favorite recipe. Lemon being high on the list of 'Detox foods', with its properties of being a blood purifier and a cleansing agent, sip on a glass or two everyday without guilt. (Just try to replace the sugar with some honey/sugarfree if you watching weight). Read on for the recipe:

Preparation Time - 5 minutes

Ingredients -

1 big lemon
5-6 tsp sugar
2 pinch roasted cumin powder
1/5 tsp black salt/kala namak
2 glasses water ( about 500 ml )
Ice cubes (optional)

Preparation - Cut the lemon into two halves .(Check the pic below to see how the lemon should be cut so that maximum juice can be extracted. You will be surprised as to how many folks are ignorant about this simple trick)

Take the water in a blender/juicer jar. Add the sugar, black salt and squeeze in the lemon. Blitz till the sugar is dissolved.

Pour in tall glasses. Add the roasted cumin powder and ice cubes.

Serve immediately.

Note - One can also some fresh mint leaves to this preparation.  You can also add the cumin powder during the blending stage instead on sprinkling it later on.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Aam Kasundi Begun (Eggplant in a mango-mustard sauce)

Aam Kasundi Begun. Sounds almost poetic, doesn't it ???. Ever since I read this name in the TOI last week,  I have been scouring the net and some of my cookbooks/paper cuttings to get the exact recipe. After referring  quite a few sources (including Bong Mom's Cookbook) , I decided to take a bit from here and a bit from there. And the result was almost magical. It surpassed my expectations by a plenty of notches. Tangy, tart, hot, titillating, fragrant.

This is the first time I made it. And since I havn't tasted an authentic 'Kasundi' dish ever, I can not vouch for its authenticity. But the taste is something that I can vouch for...quite unforgettable. "Cholbe naa", I can almost see some of my Bong friends shaking their heads. And I almost wish for Ushnish da to appear out of thin air and reveal the magical recipe to me. On second thoughts, I think I will drop a note to him and ask him to rate my recipe. Till then this has to do (already planning for an encore on Thursday).

Read on for my version of an 'Aam Kasundi Begun':

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups sliced eggplant
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp grated coconut
  • 4 tsp roughly chopped raw mango
  • 2 garlic flakes
  • 2 green chillis
  • 2 tsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp mustard oil

Preparation - Add a little salt and turmeric to the eggplant slices. Keep aside for 15 mins.

Dry grind (fine powder) the mustard seeds first. Then add raw mango, coconut, green chilli, coriander and garlic flakes to the same grinder cup along with a few teaspoons water. Grind into a smooth paste.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok till it smokes.

Add the eggplant slices and stir fry till almost done.

Add the kasundi paste and coat all the slices. Fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add 1 cup boiling water and cover with a lid. Cook on medium heat till almost all the water evaporates.

Serve with white rice.

Note - If you find mustard to be too hot/spicy, then replace half of the quantity of mustard used with poppy seeds. Also treble the quantity of coconut used in the gravy to mellow it further.

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