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Monday, June 30, 2014

Bhendi Amba Khatta

Usually 'Ambula' or 'dried green mangoes' is the preferred ingredient for adding a touch of tang to this simple and tasty dish. But since green mangoes are plentifully available, i decided to save up on my ambula stock and use some green mango this time. And since some of our South Indian friends find the all out mustard-garlic flavoring a bit too overpowering, I also added a few slices of fresh coconut to the mustard paste to sweeten it a bit and turn down the heat.

The result was a sweet and tangy gravy that became the high point of my lunch. Had it with white rice and dal. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time : 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 200 gm Ladies finger/bhendi
  • 3-4 thin slices of green mango
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 red chili
  • 3-4 flakes of garlic
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh coconut
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of fenugreek for tempering
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation: Wash the ladies finger and cut across the section into 1.5 inch sized pieces (do not slit it along the length).

Keep aside a few mustard seeds and one pod of garlic for the tempering. Grind the mustard seeds and remaining garlic pods along with the coconut and green chili into a fine paste.

Cooking: Heat 2 tsp oil in a deep vessel and fry the ladiesfinger pieces till the stickiness goes away.
Remove from vessel and keep aside.

Add another tsp oil. When it starts smoking, add the broken red chili, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves and crushed garlic pod to the spluttering seeds.

Add the green mango slices and cook on high for 2-3 mins.

Add the mustard-coconut-garlic paste along with 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil and add the fried ladies finger pieces along with turmeric powder, sugar and salt to taste.

Allow the curry to boil for 5 mins or till the ladies finger becomes soft. Remove from the fire and serve with rice.

My Food Canvas!!!!!!!!!!!

"Do not judge a book by its cover". Haven't we been hearing this lines ever since we can remember. But I cannot recollect a single meal that I have not judged by appearance. In fact, good food to me is something that seduces by the looks, titillates the tongue and finally satiates the soul. As a food blogger, I do keep thinking about food at all times of the day and conjuring up tantalizingly colorful image in my mind. Well, I am about to share a meal about which I have been dreaming lately. ( Shhh....this is a secret between you and me. If you have been planning to make that someone special fall in love with you, this meal is the good old fashioned way of doing it!!!)

I plan a menu that is simple yet elegant. With a play of colors on my mind, the next step was to finalize a canvas (read 'Plate') that whispers subtle and understated class while providing the perfect backdrop to showcase my creations . The 'English Summer - Milano' collection by Borosil is what I have in mind.

Starting the meal with something healthy, a colorful salad which is a mix of lightly fried aubergine slices, baby corn, yellow peppers, red peppers, thinly sliced onions and cherry tomatoes tossed with the right amount of lemon juice, paprika and some roasted cumin powder would provides the right color and crunch. The round casserole used for serving the salad showcase the riot of colors infused into this recipe. It gets one into the mood for the good things yet to come.

But the Pièce de résistance on this table happens to be the square variety platter whose elegance is rivaled only by the Hors d'oeuvre that it showcases. Reaching out for the Murg Malai Tikka, one cannot stop admiring the sophistication crafted into these pieces. The tender white chicken pieces which have been marinating overnight in a yogurt, cream, garlic and nut paste are cooked just to the extent required to preserve their succulent character while allowing them to develop a few of those 'aah...so perfect' brown spots. Slice through them in a single stroke to reveal the moist juicy interiors, dip them in that tangy minty chutney and embellish with an onion ring or two before popping a sinful morsel in your mouth. Doesn't it just melt into your mouth leaving your taste buds begging for an encore.

But the golden fried prawns with their upright tails have been beckoning you and one just cannot resist going after them. With their shells still on, they glisten with freshness and the only word that can describe them is 'Gorgeous'. One knows that inside the crisp exterior, the moist flesh would leave a divine sensation on the tongue. You bite into them, chewing slowly as you relish each bite. "This is not one of those meals that should be hurried through", you mutters to yourself.

By this time the "Chenna matar" has began to sulk, having been kept waiting for too long. Holding the elegant glass casserole gently in your hands, bring it up to your plate all the while appraising the aromatic gravy that has the dainty green peas gently jostling for space with brown balls of fried cottage cheese or 'chenna'. 'They look so fragile. Wont they break as I pick them ?', a quick thought crosses one's mind only to be squashed the next instant. The heady aroma is sufficient to overpower ones' senses, leaving one with no other option apart from giving in to its lure.

Glancing though the walls of the 'Deep round Casserole', one can see a beautiful white canvas that is dotted with cumin seeds and sweet corn. Helping oneself to the long grained Basmati grains that have been cooked to perfection, one cannot resist taking in a lungful of that heavenly aroma . Not even a single grain sticking to each other, but the corn pulao reveals more with each bite. The subtle aromas from the rich spices and the desi ghee which accompanied it while cooking still linger on. Cinnamon? Yes. Black cardamom ? Yes. Mace ? Definitely. Nutmeg ? Maybe, I am not too sure. A mental debate goes on.

Last but not the least, the delicious looking 'Dal Tadka' comes around in 'Souffle Dish', its transparent walls revealing the layer of ghee/butter that has separated from the glorious yellow. Spotted with kasuri methi, ginger juliennes and slit green chillis , it has been generously tempered. Spooning some over the fragrant rice, one cannot wait to taste it. The grains look to be in one piece but are surprisingly soft as they melt into one's mouth. It is a match made in Heaven ( or the host's kitchen in my case ).

At the end of it one is full to the brim but which meal is complete without a dessert. And for one that has been going so good, it should end in a double celebration. Arrives the 'rasmalai', delicate cheese balls soaking up in a semi thick rabdi and sprinkled generously with saffron and pistachios. The elegant mini plate sets used to serve the dessert heightens the excitement of tucking into it. 'Should I take in a spoonful of that deliciously creamy liquid or do I directly go after one of the fragile looking balls ?', one contemplates . 'Utter bliss', one exclaims after the first mouthful. One tries hard to prolong the moment of bliss, tucking into the dessert now and then, but it is all over too soon. Nevertheless, for a meal that is so good, the memories would still linger on.

This post is written for the "My Beautiful Food", a contest hosted by Borosil.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chocolate-Gajar Halwa-Gulkand Truffles

I find working with chocolate a bit intimidating. Hence one will rarely find experimenting with chocolate recipes on my blog. But I do look at the posts put up by my fellow bloggers and dream of doing something like them someday. Finally, it was a contest that propelled me to try something new with chocolate.

While I been eyeing Chocolate truffles recipes in all kind of forms, from the simple ganache ones to the ones containing liquor, I wanted to try an Indian version. That is when i got the idea to use 'Gajar Halwa' inside the truffles. But it seemed a bit too simple. Wanted to add another dimension so went for a white chocolate core with 'gulkand' infused in it. The outer layering is made with dark chocolate. It was time consuming but loved the results (especially the white chocolate-gulkand core which was quite a revelation). Even my husband (who is not much of a chocolate person) quite liked it.

This is my entry for the 'Chocolate Girl' contest launched by Shoppal, one of India's leading coupon shop. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 1 hour 15 mins ( the gajar halwa itself takes up around 45-55 mins )

Ingredients -

For the Gajar Halwa -

4 small carrots (grated)
1 1/2 cup whole milk
4 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp khoya
a pinch of cardamom powder
2 tbsp unsalted butter

For the inner white chocolate core -

5-6 tbsp white choco chips
1 tsp gulkand

For the outer layer -

40 gm dark chocolate chips
2-3 tsp grated white chocolate
2-3 tsp grated chocolate ( i used Cadbury's Dairy milk)

Butter/shortening for greasing the hands

Preparation -

For Gajar Halwa -
Heat the butter in a frying pan/wok. Add the grated carrot and fry on medium flame for 7-8 mins.

Around the same time, boil the milk separately. Allow it to reduce to 3/4 th. Then add the fried carrot and cook till the water has almost evaporated and it starts to looks lumpy.

Add condensed milk, khoya and cardamom powder to it and mix well. Cook till it almost turns into a solid mass. This will further solidify on cooling.

Remove from flame and allow to come down to room temperature before you pop it into the fridge.

Assembling the truffles -

For the inner core -

Put a bowl on double boiler. Add the white choco chips and allow them to just melt. Switch off flame.

Add the gulkand and stir it to incorporate it uniformly. Keep it aside till it starts to solidify again.

Rub shortening on hands. Pinch small portions of white chocolate and shape them into smooth balls about the size of a hazelnut.

For the middle layer -

Take a lemon sized ball of gajar halwa. Spread it into a thin layer on your palm. Place the white chocolate ball in the middle and close it from all sides. Using gentle pressure, mould it into a smooth round shape.

Keep these in the fridge for 2-3 hours to allow the gajar halwa layer to firm up.

For the outer layer -

Put a bowl on double boiler. Add the dark choco chips and allow them to melt. Stir a bit till they turn into a dark liquid. Switch off flame.

Remove the balls from the fridge and dip into the melted chocolate one by one, coating each one uniformly. Keep aside on a greased and chilled plate.

Spread the grated chocolate ( both white and regular ) on a plate.

Roll each ball over the grated chocolate to form a uniform coating. The truffles are now ready.

Serve immediately or store upto 3-4 days in a airtight container in the fridge.

( Note - If the gajar halwa has more water content/moisture, then the truffles gets spoiled too soon )

Reposting : Ratha Jatra ( 29 June 2014 )

Ratha Jatra is being celebrated on 29 June ( today ) this year.

Ratha Jatra also known as the Chariot festival or Car festival, is one of the most important festivals in Orissa and also a major tourist attraction. This festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Jaganaath who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Every year in the month of Asada, the Chariots of the Lord Jaganath accompained with those of his siblings, Lord Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra roll from Srimandira to Gundicha temple, the abode of his Mausi maa ( Mother's sister ). The sight of the sea of humanity which follows the Gods during this journey is a truely overwhelming experience.

The majestic sandalwood chariots take more than two months to prepare and are built newly every year. The chariots also have very interesting names :
Nandighosa - Lord Jaganath's chariot
Taladhwaja - Lord Balabharda's chariot
Darpadalan - Lord subhadra's chariot.

Important rituals on this day are :
Pahandi - the Lords are carried from the temple to the chariots in a grand procession; and
Chera pahanra - the chariots of the Lords are swept by the incumbent King of Puri with a broom which has a few gold strands in it.

The chariots are pulled by the eager followers who believe it be aspicious. The journey takes about midday to evening. In case the Lords are not able to complete the journey on the same day, they resume the remaining jouney on the next day.

The Lords stay at Gundicha temple for 7 days and return to Shri mandira in a similar procession which is called the Bahuda or Ulta Ratha Jatra.

During their stay at the Mausi Maa Mandira, various edibles are offered to the Lords as prasad. SOme of them are Khaee, Khira Kadali, Gajja, Pheni, Poda pitha, Manda pitha, Enduri pitha, Arissa pitha and Karaka pitha.

Ratha jatra is also celebrated at the ISKON temples and by the oriya community settled in various parts of India and abroad.

Catch the live action in Hyderabad @ Jaganath Temple, Banjara Hills or @ ISKON temple, Secundrabad. Bangalore folks head over to the Jaganaath Temple in Agara.

Jai Jaganath!!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nadia Bara Tarkari (Coconut-Lentil Dumping Curry)

A rich curry made with coconut and gram dal dumplings, it is one among those lesser known gastronomic delights of Odisha. While the crisp dumpling is more commonly eaten all by itself and is quite tasty, the extra usually goes into the making of a curry. The curry can be one with a thin red gravy (pania jholo) or a thick white one. The latter uses a paste of cashew and poppy seeds/watermelon seeds and some sugar too. While the thin version goes great with white rice, the thicker one complements rotis/parathas rather well.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 45 mins


For the dumplings -

  • 1 cup chopped/sliced coconut (fresh)
  • 1 cup gram/chana dal ( soaked for 3-4 hours, washed and drained )
  • 1 inch grated ginger
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
  • a pinch of baking powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp cornflour (binding purpose)
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying 

For the curry -

  • 1 medium sized onion  
  • 1 large sized tomato 
  • 1 large boiled potato
  • 3-4 nos garlic flakes
  • 1 1/2 inch long ginger 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds 
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 nos dry red chillis
  • 2-3 nos cardamom
  • 1-2 nos  bay leaves 
  • 2-3 nos cloves 
  • 1 inch long cinnamon  
  • 2 tbsp broken cashews
  • 2 tbsp watermelon seeds
  • turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp sugar 
  • salt
  • 3 tbsp for cooking curry

Preparation: Grind the coconut and gram dal using into a very coarse paste. Add the remaining ingredients except oil and mix together.

Peel and chop the potato into large chunks.

Dry roast the cumin seeds ,coriander seeds, whole red chillis, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves.

Grind the all the whole spices without adding any water . This should form a fine powder. Then add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic flakes along with very little water and grind into a smooth paste.

Soak the cashew and watermelon seeds for 1-2 hours. Grind into a smooth paste using little water.

Cooking: Heat oil in a wok for deep fying.

Pinch small portions of the coconut and dal mixture. Shape them into balls and then flatten them. Slide 4-5 such dumplings into the hot oil per batch.

Fry on medium heat till it has browned on both sides and the center is also cooked. Remove and keep aside. Repeat for the remaining mixture.

One can also use the same wok for preparing the curry. Remove the excess oil from the wok. Add the potato pieces along with a pinch of turmeric. Fry for 1-2 mins, remove from wok and keep aside.

Add the bay leaves followed by the masala paste and turmeric, and stir fry for 4-5 mins or till the raw smell goes away. Add the finely chopped/pureed tomato and cook till oil starts to separate oil. Add fried potatoes and stir fry for 2 mins.

Add 2-3 cups of water along with a little amount of salt. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5-6 mins.

Add the cashew-watermelon paste along with the sugar and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the dumplings and simmer for another 5-6 mins or till the dumpling soften. Do not stir vigorously so they might break. ( They will absorb the gravy if covered and kept aside for another 10 mins )

Serve with rice/roti.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Janta Roti

Does the name sound a little odd ?? Hindi speaking folks would confuse it with 'Junta' or the masses. So, is it a roti (indian bread) meant for the masses ? No, it is nothing of that sort. 'Janta' in odia loosely means 'pre-cooked'. The flour is cooked in hot water/milk to form a sticky mass. This is allowed to cool down before it is kneaded into a smooth dough which is then fried/baked/steamed. Most of the 'Pitha's' like Manda, Kakara, Arissa, or Poda pitha are prepared this way. The pre-cooking helps in easy chewing and digestion. Hence it is the preferred food for elderly folks and infacts who are just being introduced solid food. Even people who are recuperating from fever/jaundice/upset stomach can be given this 'roti'.

While many of my Odia friends may be knowing about it, still I would love to share the recipe as it is a very useful one. Read on -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins ( For about 1 cup of flour, will vary with quantity )

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cup water (plus a little more might be required as different wheat varieties absorb different quantity)
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tsp ghee
  • 2-3 pinch salt
  • extra flour for dusting
Preparation - Boil the water in a wok. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp ghee to it.

Dissolve 1 tsp of flour in 2 tbsp of water. Add this to the boiling water .

Then slowly add the remaining flour while stirring continuously. Cook for 4-5 minutes till the mass feels somewhat tight to move around. Remove from flame and allow to cool down completely. (it will be very sticky at this point.

Transfer the cooled mass to a working surface. Dust the surface with flour and drizzle 1 1/2 tsp ghee over the dough. Knead the dough till it forms a smooth mass.

Pinch small portions from the dough. Shape them into smooth balls and flatten slightly.

Dust the working surface with more flour and roll out the balls into small circles or rotis.

Heat the tawa and place the roti over it. Cook on medium flame till you can see small bubbles coming up on the surface of the roti. Flip it over and cook on the other side. The roti will swell up.Remove from tawa after 1 minute.

Repeat for the remaining rotis.

Serve with dalma and santula ( or dal and subzi ). These rotis stay soft for a very long time.

Note - One can also brush a little ghee on the roti while cooking on the tawa or immediately after removing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Phulakobi Batibasa ( Rustic Cauliflower Curry )

'Batibasa' is a traditional method of cooking that is used in Odisha. Hard working ladies who did not have much time at their disposal would cut up the vegetable or even fish/small shrimp and mix it with mustard oil and a mustard-garlic-green chili paste. This would then be the last dish to go into the oven ( mind you...these were earthen ones that were dug into the ground and wood-dried cow dung was used to fire them ) and the heat from the dying embers would be just sufficient to cook it. This method of slow cooking imparted the dish with a smoky flavour that I find hard to replicate in my modern kitchen fitted with all possible kinds of gadgetry. Some would suggest using a piece of burning charcoal for the smoky effect but it somehow results in a harsh flavor as opposed to the mellow one imparted by the wooden fire.

Coming back to the recipe, I have used black mustard for the paste. But those who find it too strong, can go for yellow mustard or even a mix of yellow mustard and poppy seeds for a still milder version. The mustard oil used in this recipe is akin to the HG (or Holy Grail) and I strongly discourage anyone to compromise on it. Read on for the details -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 3/4 cup cubed potato (if you have baby potatoes go ahead and use them)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • 4-5 fat garlic cloves
  • 2-3 green chilis
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • extra mustard oil for drizzling at the end

Preparation - Wash the vegetables and drain excess water. Transfer to a thick steel bowl.

Dry grind the mustard seeds first. Then add the garlic and 1 green chilli along with a sprinkling of water. Grind into a fine paste using as little water as possible.

Pour this paste over the vegetables. Add salt, turmeric, mustard oil and the remaining green chillis (slit lengthwise). Mix it up.

Cooking - Place the steel bowl over a grill placed on a regular gas burner or use an electric stove/induction stove (not tried doing this in a micowave). Cover with a heavy lid and cook for 15-16 mins.

Do check once or twice in between and add a little water if it is catching at the bottom (If the vessel is sufficiently thick and the flame is kept very low chances are rare) .

Once it is cooked, sprinkle mustard oil and lightly stir the vegetables. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat source.

Serve hot with white rice and dal or with pakhala.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sindhi Biryani

It was by sheer chance that I saw a 'Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala' packet at Total superstore and decided to try out the recipe. Of couse, I did not buy the masala packet as I usually avoid the ready made masala mixes( with a few exceptions ofcourse when I am not too about the masala proportions.....should have mentioned this before but anyways thanks to one of my readers to point out this blunder ). Around the same time someone posted the recipe on FB which I thought was good but too much spicy. It made me browse around for sometime till I zeroed in on the ingredients I wanted to put into my version. Apart from the usual stuff, the important things that were supposed to go into it were the big potato chunks and some apricots. The heat from those green chilis is obviously negotiable. But since I did not have apricots in store, I used a mix of raisins and dried cranberries.

Read on for my recipe (it is a toned down version but those who dig the Hyderabadi dum biryani will still find it spicier) -

Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients - 

  • 1/2 kg Chicken pieces
  • 3 cups Basmati Rice 
  • 2 Onions (chopped) 
  • 2 Tomatoes (pureed)
  • 2 big Potatoes ( Boiled, peeled and cubed)
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Red chilly powder 
  • 2 tsp Coriander Powder 
  • 1 tbsp Ginger garlic paste 
  • 1 Bay Leaf 
  • 1 black Cardamom
  • 2 green Cardamom
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick 
  • 4-5 cloves
  • Lemon juice 
  • 1/2 cup raisins  
  • 1/4 cup cranberries 
  • Handful of Mint Leaves (chopped) 
  • Handful of Coriander Leaves (chopped) 
  • 2-3 Green Chillies 
  • 1/2 cup Curd
  • 2 Tbsp Oil + more for frying onions
  • 2 Tbsp Ghee
  • Salt to taste
  • Orange food color (optional)

Preparation -  Slice the onions thinly.

Soak the raisins and cranberries in some hot water for 1 hour.

Wash and marinate the chicken with salt, turmeric, powdered masalas and yogurt.

Cooking - Heat the oil for frying the onions. Fry the onions till brown. Remove and keep aside.

Remove excess oil from the wok. Add the remaining whole spices ( keep aside the black cardamom and 2-3 cloves) and fry till fragrant. Now add the browned onions keeping aside a few for layering. Add the GG paste along with the crushed green chilis. Add chicken and fry for 6-7 minutes on high till it stops oozing water.

Add the pureed tomato, mint leaves and coriander leaves, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the boiled potato and pulped raisins and cranberries. By this time, the chicken should be cooked through.

Boil water in a large pan for cooking the rice. Wash the rice and add  to it. Drop in one black cardamom, 2-3 cloves, salt and 1/2 tsp ghee. Cook till 3/4th done. Drain immediately and keep aside uncovered.

Take a thick bottomed vessel. Brush the insides with ghee. Then spread 1/2 of the cooked meat followed by half of the rice. Then add the remaining meat and finally the remaining rice. Sprinkle fried onions, mint leaves, lemon juice, ghee and some food colour. Close the lid tightly so that no steam can escape ( use some dough to seal the edges ).

Cook on 'dum' for 15-20 mins. Keep aside for another 10-15 mins before opening.

Serve hot with raita and papad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Falafel with Tahini Sauce

Made falafels for the first time yesterday using one of the All-stars recipe from Foodnetwork.com. As I scanned the ingredients list, I could vaguely recollect having made something similar but could not put my finger on it. However once the fritters were ready, I took one bite and the truth dawned upon me. Nothing short of a bollywood potboiler from the 70's, it was a long separated sibling of our very own 'piaji'. The cliched story of two brothers one of whom grows up to be an upright police officer while his good-at-heart sibling lurks on the fringes of the underworld flashed in front of my eyes. Made with garbanzo beans/, the Falafel is spiced with ingredients that are indigenous to the Middle east while our Piaji is made with gram dal and used local spices. Check the recipe for Piaji (here).

While opinions vary on the texture of Falafel, it is agreed upon that it should have a crunchy exterior while retaining a moist and fluffy core. The texture of the chickpeas paste plays an important role in this. Too coarse and it falls apart while too fine a paste makes the falafels dense. To achieve the right texture I made a fine paste out of half of the beans while leaving the other half coarse. The baking powder should always be added just before frying as it gets activated as soon as it comes in contact with water. The refrigeration time is also crucial as it allows the flavours to blend in. 

It is served with tahini sauce, a sesame-olive oil paste with lots of lime added for tang.

Read on for my recipe -

Preparation Time - 30-35 mins 

Ingredients - 

For the Falafel -
  • 1 cup dry garbanzo beans/kabuli chana
  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely grounded pepper 
  • 1-2 tbsp coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley (use the fresh flat-leaf parsley if you get it)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour/maida
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
For the Tahini sauce -

  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3-4 tbsp water
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of pepper (optional)
  • a bit of minced garlic (optional)

For making the Falafels -

Preparation - Soak the beans for 12-15 hours. Drain all the water and dry with paper towel before transferring to a food processor.

Pulse 2-3 times and remove half of the still coarse paste. Add all the remaining ingredients except baking powder and oil to the food processor. Pulse till everything is incorporated into a smooth paste. Add the coarse paste removed earlier and mix thoroughly using a spatula.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours (atleast) before using ( can be kept upto 48 hours ). Remove and add the baking powder.

Cooking - Heat oil in a wok. Once it reaches optimal temperature (not too hot nor too cold), make small balls out of the mixture and flatten them slightly. 

Let them into the oil, 3-4 nos at a time and fry till they turn brown on both sides. It usually takes about 6-7 minutes per lot. Remove and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

To make the Tahini sauce

Roast the sesame seeds on a low flame till they start to pop. Keep aside to cool down.

Transfer to a food processor and blitz to powder them. Add the olive oil, cool water, lemon juice and salt. Buzz to get a smooth sauce. Add more water if the consistency is still thick. If it is too thin, stir in some hung curd.

Serve with the Falafels.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Daliya-Green Moong Khichidi

Doing a healthy twist on a classic recipe is always tough as the USP of the latter has to be kept intact. Muga Khichudi is a popular recipe during fasting days (in Odisha). A medley of fragrant rice, whole green moong, a hint of sugar, fresh coconut and spices, it is a combo of health and taste.

But since I am on a daliya (read High Fiber) eating spree these days, I could not resist replacing the rice with the former. Also, reduced the coconut (read High Cholesterol) content to keep it still healthy. It turned out to be good and both me and my son enjoyed having it for lunch. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30-35 mins

Ingredients -

1/2 cup daliya/cracked wheat
1/2 cup green moong dal (whole)
1 cup mixed veggies (carrot/potato/french beans/cauliflower/chopped into small pieces)
a pinch of turmeric
1-2 dry red chilis
1 green chili
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 green cardamoms
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar (avoid for diabetics)
1 1/2 tsp ghee
1 tsp oil
1-2 tsp grated coconut
a dash of freshly cracked pepper
salt to taste

Cooking - Soak the green moong dal for 2-3 hours.

Heat half of the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add the daliya and roast till it changes to slightly red color. Add the moong dal to the same cooker along with 3 cups water, salt and turmeric.

Close the lid. Cook for 4-5 whistles. Keep aside for steam to escape.

Add the veggies and green chili to the same cooker and mix in. Close lid and cook for another whistle. Keep aside for steam to escape.

Heat the remaining ghee/oil in a tempering pan. Add the broken red chili, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the remaining spices. Fry for 10 seconds and then pour over the contents of the pressure cooker. Also add the pepper, sugar and grated coconut. Mix all ingredients nicely.

Check for the salt and also adjust the khichidi consistency. ( Add some hot water and simmer for 2-3 minutes if it is too thick. Do not worry if it seems to be very watery as it thickens considerably on cooling.)

Note - If you are making it for your kids, go easy on the spice content (green chili/red chili/pepper) and use just one among the three. I would suggest going for pepper especially during the monsoon/winter seasons.

The Kejriwals shop it out on Baggout!!!!!!!

It's been a few days since Mr Kejriwal has been MIA. He is lounging at home and planning for the next 'Dharna' aka 'sit-out' over an endless supply of tea (courtesy Mrs Kejriwal). One such day after drowning the umpteenth cup, he again requests Mrs Kejriwal for another cup only to be turned down by the latter. He threatens her with a dharna only to be met by a "Will file a RTI to find out how many cups of tea/coffee is one's husband entitled to in a day".

Their little spat is dissipated by the entry of their nosy neighbour Pammy ji who barges in with two huge bags to show off her "online-shonline" haul. She rattles on endlessly about this new site which her daughter had told her about. "One can see the biggest discounts at one place. No more haggling with multiple shopkeepers." she screeches. All the while she is pulling out stuff from her bags. Sarees, salwar suits, clutches, watches, earrings, bed covers, accessories, she has bought them all. Mrs Kerjiwal's eyes pop out looking at her loot. She is silently devising a plan to do some shopping and to make Mr Kejriwal foot the bill. Her thoughts are interrupted by the ringing of Pammy ji's phone. "It's a 2 hour flash sale they are having", announces the lady before running out in a hurry. Abruptly, she stops and turns back. "Oh..did I tell you that I am also getting paid for shopping at Baggout.com?? Well, they have this incredibly good cashback policy that deposits money in your account when you shop with them.". By this time, Mr Kejriwal who had been a uninterested listener is all ears.

"Let us check this new site", he announces as soon as their neighbour has left. "Wow...so much at one place". It is a simultaneous reaction from both. "Do they stock mufflers...yours are so worn out", says Mrs Kejriwal. Her search ends with a dazzling display of mufflers in all possible colours. "Let us buy that grey one with blue stripes and the other one in red and blacks checks", opines Mr Kejriwal to which his wife retorts "Why not buy them in all trendy colors to match all outfits. Take a leaf out of Siddhu Pajji's style guide. After all he is so popular". With his popularity on the wane, he decides it is in his best interests to let his wife have her way. Mrs Kejriwal is now gathering steam. "How about ditching the AAP caps and embracing something more 'aam' ? Hoodies are the new trend and what's more it looks good on both sexes."

Mr Kejriwal is completely sold on to his wife's suggestions for a revamp of the party's look. "Lets calculate how many core members and immediate party members are left. We need to order for all of them before announcing a press conference to showcase this juicier then 'aam'(mango) news to the media/public", he mutters. "Darling.. while you are at it, do you mind if I do some revamping for the house and for myself ??", she coos. "Of course not..if you do not mind making another cup of tea", he responds. She obliges happily having got her way and finally peaces descends on the Kejriwal's household. "Must check if I can get a steal deal one of those automatic tea makers/kettles on Baggout.com", she makes a mental note to herself before proceeding to the kitchen.

Note - I have written this article for an online contest announced by Baggout.com. Check this given link for more details (here).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kadhai Paneer

Kadhai Paneer is a hit recipe with almost all vegetarians and a few non-vegetarian folks too. The peppers and coriander seeds-cloves spicing is indispensable to this dish. While it is supposed to have a semi dry consistency, some of the restaurants serve it with a rich onion-tomato-cashew gravy. I am no fan of the latter and prefer to stick to its dry form which can also double up as a starter. It is quite easy and does not consume much time. One can make the masala powder in more quantity and store in a airtight container in the fridge. For those who dislike peppers, sliced baby corn and carrots can be used instead.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

1 cup soft paneer (cut into triangles)
3/4 cup diced red peppers
3/4 cup diced green peppers
1 big onion + 1 small onion
1 tsp GG paste
1 medium ripe tomato
1 1/2 tbsp kasuri methi
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/5 tsp turmeric
3 tsp rice bran oil
coriander leaves for garnishing

To be powdered -
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 cloves
2 inch long cinnamon seeds
1 bay leaf

Preparation - Chop the small onion into fine pieces. Dice the big onion into chunks.

Peel and chop the tomato into small pieces.

Cooking - Dry roast all the ingredients listed under 'To be powdered' till they let off a fragrance. Remove from flame and allow to cool down. Transfer to a mixer and ground into a powder.

Heat oil in a wok. Add the finely chopped onion. Fry till translucent. Add the GG paste and fry till the raw smell goes away.

Add the finely chopped tomato along with the chili powder, turmeric and a bit of salt. Cover with a lid for 2 mins. Remove lid and mash up the softened tomato with a spatula. Add the diced onions and peppers. Cover with lid and cook till it softens a bit.

Add the paneer pieces along with the powdered masalas and kasuri methi. Add 1/3 cup hot water and adjust the salt. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from flame and garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with rice or rotis.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Palak Kofta Curry

When I made the 'Malai koftas' last week, I had some leftover paneer-potato mix that I had planned to use as a sandwich filling. But while cleaning the fridge on the next day, I found some spinach that was starting to wilt. So, I decided to use both the leftover ingredients and make a curry for dinner. But since I had those koftas the night before, I kept this dish simple. No frying. Just baked the tikkis in the oven. Also, I omitted the butter and added just a hint of cream. Healthy and tasty.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

For the koftas -

  • 200 gm paneer
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • a pinch of garam masala
  • 1/3 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • oil spray

For the palak gravy -

  • 1 bunch palak/spinach leaves ( 2 cups )
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 5-6 garlic flakes
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 2 green chilis
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1-2 tbsp butter (reduce the quantity if you want)
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh cream (optional)
  • salt to taste

Cooking - Cook the potato with 1 cup water in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Keep aside till steam escapes.

While the potato is cooking, chop the onions, peel the garlic and ginger. Also, blanch the spinach and keep aside.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry till onion turns translucent. Add the blanched spinach, green chillis and garam masala. Fry for 2-3 mins. Transfer to a mixer and make a smooth paste.

Peel and grate the boiled potato into a mixing bowl. Also grate the paneer into the same bowl. Add salt, cornflour, chili powder and garam masala. Mix thouroughly and divide into 6-7 portions. Shape each portion into a flattened circle about 2/3 cm thick.

Preheat oven to 200 degree Celcius. Take a baking tray and line with butter paper/foil. Spray on some cooking oil. Place the paneer-potato tikkis and bake on each side for 3-4 mins (use the upper grill of the OTG).

Heat 1 tsp butter in a wok. Add the spinach gravy along with 1/3-1/2 cup hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 mins. Add the fresh cream and some more butter. Mix in. Add the koftas and switch off the flame.

Cover and keep aside for 5 mins before serving. (This will allow the koftas to absorb the gravy)

Serve hot with phulkas.

Note - One can also fry some tomato and grind it with the palak to give a hint of tang this dish. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chunchipatra Pitha ( an Odia Delicacy )

Today is the last day of Raja, a three day celebration in Odisha. (Click on the link to read more about the festival  ). I have been very busy making various types of pithas (sweet snacks) and hence did not get the time to post anything over the weekend.

This is a special recipe that I learnt recently from Ritu maam and had a chance to make it for the first time during Raja. A very interesting traditional dish, one does not rely on any fancy kitchen tool but a bunch of 'Doob' grass to fashion it. The batter used is a normal rice flour one but with a very runny (almost water like) consistency. One just dips the bunch of grass into it and sprinkles a cross symbol on a flat vessel or a tawa. Now, this 'tawa' should be maintained at an optimal temperature, not too hot nor too cold (quite like a dosa). Then one puts some stuffing ( this can either be sweet like a coconut-jaggery mixture or savoury like potato/paneer/vegetable ) in the center and folds the ends over it to close it like a pocket. But these days we find ourselves living in concrete jungles and grass is tough to come by ( and even if we do, God forbid what chemicals/pesticides people spray on the lawns these day ) . So, a clean piece of thin cloth folded into a rectangle shape will do in place of the grass. What I find most endearing about this dish is the fact that the layers are paper thin (almost transparent) and one can actually see the stuffing inside.

So, read on for a refreshingly different recipe -

Preparation Time - 30-40 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup basmati/jeera/arwa rice 
  • 1 whole coconut
  • sugar/jaggery to taste
  • 1-2 green cardamoms
  • 1-2 tsp ghee
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and soak the rice overnight.

Drain excess water. Grind it into a very fine paste. Add salt and more water to the batter. Make it quite runny in consistency. Keep aside for 1-2 hours.

Grate the coconut and keep aside.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp ghee in a wok. Add the coconut and fry till it starts turning light brown. Add sugar/jaggery at this point and keep stirring till it is completely dissolved. Remove from flame and keep aside.

Heat a tawa. Lightly grease with ghee. Use a paper towel to wipe off/remove the excess as it will not allow the batter to spread properly.

Take a thin cotton cloth/handkerchief and fold it into a rectangle. Dip into the batter, remove and brush lightly over the tawa making a cross symbol with it. Keep the flame low to medium. As it gets cooked, the ends will slightly lift up.

Put the coconut stuffing in the center and fold the ends over it. Remove from tawa and keep aside.

Wipe the tawa with a paper towel and proceed with another pitha. (After making 4-5 pithas, the batter gets slightly thicker. Add a few teaspoons of water to dilute it and adjust salt accordingly)

Serve hot with curry/dalma.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fish Biryani (Kerala style biriyani)

By now I have probably tried out all the popular biriyani varities from South India. Such is my fascination for this awesome one pot meal that every time I read/see about a new variety on someone's blog/newspapers or on the internet, I know I have to give it a try. The last one (hopefully) pending was a Kerala or Malabar style biriyani. Heavy with the fragrance of coconut and spices, this one has the indelible stamp of fabulous coastal cuisine.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 40-45 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 pieces of fish ( Surmai/seer fish is preferable but I used Rohu instead )
  • 1 large + 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 tsp GG paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 2 large tomatoes (freshly pureed)
  • 2-3 green chilis (crushed)
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1-2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamon
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 4 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Chop the onion into thin long slices.

Wash and soak the rice for 1-2 hours.

Wash and clean the fish pieces. Add salt, Kashmiri chili powder, lemon juice and about 2-3 pinch of turmeric. Mix together and keep aside for 10 mins.

Cooking - Heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil in a frying pan. Add the marinated fish and fry on both sides till done. Remove and keep aside.

Heat 2 1/2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onions along with the curry leaves and fry till onion turns light brown.

Add the GG paste and crushed green chilies. Fry till raw smell goes away. Add the tomato puree and fry till oil starts to separate out.

Add turmeric, chili powder, pepper powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala. Fry for 1 minute.

Add the soaked rice along with the chopped mint and coriander leaves. Fry till the leaves wilt up a bit. Add 2 cups warm water and the coconut milk. Add salt to taste. Finally drop in the fried fish, whole spices and ghee.

Cook on a medium low flame for 1 whistle (approx 12-14 mins). Remove and keep aside for 15-20 mins. Open the lid and fluff the rice grains with a fork.

Serve hot with raita. 

Note - While the curry leaves and coconut milk add authenticity to this recipe, I would suggest that folks with less than adventurous taste-buds skip these two ingredients.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Daliya-Moong dal Kichidi

Time for something light and healthy !! After eating out on the weekends and cooking up some high calorie stuff in the last few days, I thought to make up the abuse that I have put my system through. So, it was a very healthy lunch for my and kiddo, comprising of daliya khichidi, home made curd and a few slices of mango. Loaded with the goodness of fiber (from daliya) and pro-biotic bacteria ( from curd ), it is designed to get digested easily while also removing the toxins from the system. Great option for people suffering from diabetes or those trying to lose some weight.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

1/2 cup daliya/cracked wheat
1/3 cup split moong dal
1 small onion (finely sliced)
1/2 cup carrot (chopped into small pieces)
1/4 cup potato (chopped into small pieces)
1/2 cup cauliflower florets (chopped into small pieces)
a pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/5 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 red chili
1 tsp ghee
1 tsp oil
salt to taste

Cooking - Dry roast the moong dal in a pan till it gives a fragrance. Keep aside

Heat the ghee in a pressure cooker. Add the daliya and roast till it changes to slightly red color. Add the roasted moong dal to the same cooker along with 2 1/2 cups water, salt and turmeric.

Close the lid. Cook for 4-5 whistles. Keep aside for steam to escape.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds with broken red chili. As the cumin turns brown, add the onion and saute till translucent.

Add all the vegetables and masalas. Mix well. Cover with a lid for 3-4 mins.

Add the boiled daliya-moong dal to the wok along with 1/2 - 1 cup water. Boil for 4-5 minutes before removing from flame.

Serve hot with a drizzle of ghee and coriander leaves.

Maccha Manjee bara Tarkari

What do you do when you buy a 3 kg fish and some 250-300 gms of fish eggs come free with it ?? I guess thats a no brainer. Obviously, you make lots and lots of fritters. But what if you still have some fritters leftover after eating to your heart's content. Well, you can refrigerate and microwave them the next day before eating. Or you can come up with a curried version of the fish egg fritters (a better solution I would say as you do not have to prepare another gravy dish to go with the rice/rotis). The method used is similar to that of a regular Odisha style fish curry but with some garam masala and kasuri methi added for extra flavor.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients -

For the bara/fritters -
100 gm fish eggs
1 tsp besan
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/3 tsp GG paste
1/4 tsp chili powder
a pinch of turmeric
1 tsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
salt to taste
oil for shallow frying

For the curry -

1 large sized onion
1 medium sized tomato
1 tsp GG paste
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp fish/meat masala (optional)
2 tsp kasuri methi
a pinch of garam masala
2 pinch turmeric
whole spices ( 1 green cardamom, 2 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 inch cinnamon stick )
salt to taste
3 tsp oil

Cooking - Clean the fish eggs and drain off excess water. Take it a mixing bowl and mash it up. Add all the remaining ingredients (except oil) listed under "For the baras/fritters" . Mix well and keep aside for 5 mins.

Heat oil in a wok for shallow frying. Take spoonfuls of the fish egg mixture and put into the hot oil. One can make 5-6 fritters per batch. Fry on both sides till golden brown. Remove from the wok and keep aside. Repeat for the remaining mixture.

Remove excess oil if any from the wok. Add the onions along with the whole spices and saute till onion starts to look translucent. Add the GG paste at this stage and cook till the raw smell goes away and the onion start to turn red.

Add all the powdered spices at this stage and stir fry for 1 minute.

Now, add the finely chopped tomato and sprinkle a little salt over the contents of the wok. Cover with lid for 1-2 minutes. Remove the lid and mash up the tomatoes which would have softened by now. Cook the ingredients till they start to ooze oil.

Add around 1 - 1 1/2 cup hot water and bring everything to a boil. Let it boil for 4-5 mins.

Rub the kasuri methi leaves and add to the wok along with the baras. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes after adding the baras/fritters. Remove and keep aside for 5-10 mins for the baras to soak up the gravy.               ( However if you prefer the fritters to remain crispy, add them to the hot/warm gravy just before serving.)

Serve with white rice.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Malai Kofta

I am not much of a kofta person as our menu is predominantly non-vegetarian . And paneer dishes are made very rarely, mostly reserved for occasions when we have any of our vegetarian friends coming over. With koftas being quite messy and rich, I usually avoided it in favour of dishes like Paneer Schezhuan or Paneer Tikka. But when a reader requested for a kofta recipe, I had to think hard before coming up with this. I have cut short the time (and also the amount of oil/butter) spent on making the gravy by cooking most of the ingredients beforehand. The tikkis can also be baked in a oven for further reducing the calories. (I tried doing this for 2 of the tikkis and they tasted good)

Read on for the recipe - 

Preparation Time - 25-30 mins

Ingredients - 

For the koftas -
200 gm paneer
1 medium sized potato
1 tsp cornflour
a pinch of garam masala
1/3 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
oil for shallw frying

To be boiled -
2 medium sized onion
1 medium sized tomato
3-4 garlic flakes
1 inch long ginger
1 dry Kashmiri red chilli
10-12 almonds (blanched)
1/3 tsp cumin
1 inch cinnamon stick
1-2 green cardamoms
2-3 cloves
salt to taste

Others -

1 tsp oil
1 tsp butter
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp kasuri methi
salt to taste

Cooking - Cook the potato with 1 cup water in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Keep aside till steam escapes.

While the potato is cooking, chop the onions, peel the garlic and ginger. Take all the ingredients listed under "to be boiled" in another pressure cooker with 1 cup water. Cook on medium high flame for 7-8 minutes or 2-3 whistles. Keep aside for steam to escape.(let the tomato remain intact/whole while cooking)

Heat oil in a wok for shallow frying.

Peel and grate the boiled potato into a mixing bowl. Also grate the paneer into the same bowl. Add salt, cornflour, chili powder and garam masala. Mix thouroughly and divide into 6-7 portions. Shape each portion into a flattened circle about 2/3 cm thick.

Put the koftas into the hot oil. Fry on both sides till brown. Press slightly against the side of the vessel to drain off excess oil before removing. Keep on a tissue paper to absorb still more oil.

Strain the contents of the pressure cooker. Do not throw away this water. Transfer to a grinder and make a smooth paste.

Heat 1 tsp oil in another wok. Add butter to it followed by the onion masala paste. Cook for 3 minutes before adding some of the strained water. Add honey. Rub the kasuri methi between your palms before adding it to the gravy. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the koftas to the gravy and switch off the flame (only if the curry is to be served immediately else heat the gravy and add the koftas just before serving).

Tastes best with naan/rotis but also goes well with white rice/pulao.

Note - When making this recipe for special ocasions, chop up some dry fruits ( raisins, cashews, almonds ), lightly fry them in some ghee and stuff them inside the koftas.

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