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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Coorg Chronicles (Part 1)

With the last weekend being a long one (thanks to the Ramzan celebrations), we could finally make the much awaited trip to Coorg which is also touted as the Scotland of India. Ever since we moved to Bangalore, we had been planning for this trip but somehow it always got cancelled the at the eleventh hour. 'Monsoon is not the best time to visit Coorg', warned some folks but this time we were determined to go ahead. Since it was on a short notice, we had to call up quite a few hotels before we could finally book a room. So, if you are planning to make a trip during the peak season (October to April), do make the hotel reservations fairly in advance.

Coming back to the trip, we started off from Marathahalli around 7:45 in the morning. With no major traffic hassles (it was a Saturday) except at Kengiri, we moved out of the city at around 9 am. This is a wonderful stretch dotted with a whole spectrum of eateries, ranging from the more popular ones like CCD, Adigas, A2B, Kamat to lesser known ones. We made the first stop at a Kamat joint. Though it was crowded, the service was fairly quick and we were done with breakfast in 20 mins flat. Starting off once again, the first major town that we came across was Channapatna, also known as the 'land of toys' . Shops selling a whole range of wooden artifacts, toys and lacquer items were lined up on both sides of the road. Most prominent were the rows of wooden rocking horses which reminded me of the old Bollywood number 'Lakdi ki kathi, kathi pe Ghoda....Ghode ke dum pe jo mara hathoda.....dauda dauda Ghoda dum uthake dauda'. While I would have loved to take a closer look at the wares displayed, there was a lot of distance to be covered and hence I dropped the idea.

Next to capture our attention were huge fields of sugarcane crops. It signaled the arrival of 'The Land of Sugar', Mandya, one among the more prosperous cities of Karnataka. It boasts of a govt medical college and one of the top engineering colleges of Karnataka. Quite a developed city with good roads, it is quite impressive at first glance. With sugar factories located in Mandya, one can make out the distinct smell of molasses while travelling through certain stretches of the city.

Mysore was the next major city on the map but we took a bypass to avoid the city traffic which would be quite high around noon. After covering a bad stretch of road, we passed through the fringes of Infosys Mysore Campus, undoubtedly one the major landmarks of the city. Leaving behind the limits of Mysore, we were greeted with vast acres of land on which short shrub like plants were being cultivated. We also encountered a few bullock carts laden with the yellowing leaves of those plants. After a few wild guesses ranging from radish to oil seeds, a google search finally revealed it to be 'Tobacco'. Little wonder, we were crossing the tobacco growing town of Periyapatna. This area is also famous for growing 'sweet corn' which has turned around many a farmers' lives.

Finally we entered Kodagu or Coorg district. The first place that we visited was the Namdroling Monastery, more commonly known as the Golden temple. Home to more than 5000 monks living in exile, it houses huge idols of Buddha ( in different avatars ) and colorful Tibetan painting depicting mythological creatures. It was the time for afternoon prayers I suppose ( around 1:15 pm ) as there were lots of monks chanting prayers and a huge gong/drum going on. A beautiful sight that I will remember for a long time.

Covering the entire premises of the monastery can be quite tiring and in our case it whetted up quite an appetite. We decided to stop at the next decent-looking hotel that comes on the way. Thankfully we did not have to wait for more than 10 minutes as Hotel President came looming. It looked hygienic and on entering it, we quickly got a table. Though the waiter was quick to take our order, it was quite sometime before the food arrived on out table. But it was quite good, far better than what we had expected. Most restaurants at hill stations serve notoriously bad food as they do not have to worry about customer retention. This was an exception.

After a hearty meal consisting of dal, rice, butter chicken and naan, we proceeded to the next destination. The Cauvery Nisargadhama is a beautiful but ill-maintained tourist spot. An island formed by the tributaries of river Cauvery, it is accessible by a hanging bridge. Quite a peaceful spot with the sounds of gushing water and chirping birds, it lacks directions. Though it has a rabbit enclosure, a parrot enclosure, a deer park and even an elephant ride, we were only able to make out the first two. The heavy rains had made it kind of slippery and one had to tread with care. Also the fear of reptiles, given the tall grass along the trials, kept us from exploring more.

Starting on the final leg of our journey, it started getting cooler and cloudier as we climbed the sloping roads leading to Madikeri. The roads took us through numerous sandalwood and coffee plantations. The roads are in surprisingly good condition given the copious amount of rain that this place receives. Finally we reached the Thimmaiah circle, an important junction of the town of Madikeri.

Taking a turn to the left, it took us another 3 kms to finally reach our hotel. Located in the midst of greenery, Sri Venketeshwara Residency is a hotel that I would highly recommend to anyone traveling to this place with their own conveyance. Clean, well kept, courteous staff and decently priced, they were gracious enough to accept our reservation over the phone without any advance. The package included free breakfast (served at 7:45 am), which was really good. The room service is fast but a little irregular as they were a little short on cooks. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items are included in the menu. However running hot water is available only from 7 pm to 11 am, which is something they could improve on I felt. Though we reached around 4:30 in the evening, we had to wait till 7:30 for a shower.

Tired with the journey, we decided to relax for the rest of the evening. Though the floor was bare, the room had a small LED TV with most channels available (which is a big thing when you just want to sit back and relax). The bed was neatly made and comfortable.  The view from the room was amazing with undulating green fields and forests all around. With evening descending, a mist started to envelope the place adding to its already charming beauty. After a quite dinner ( thanks to the room service ) around 9 pm, we hit the sack within an hour and we fast asleep.

More to come................

Monday, July 28, 2014

Makhana Dalma

Just as the Dalma (dal cooked with vegetables) is symbolic of fasting in Odia culture, the phool makhana (roasted padma manjee) is consumed by North Indians on fasting days. Makhana or puffed lotus seeds are rich in protein, carbohydrates, phosphorous, calcium, iron, thiamine and zinc. They have a neutral flavour and hence can be added to just about any cuisine. Hence thought of adding this crossover ingredient to our very own Dalma.

This is a regular Muga ( split moong dal) Dalma that i have prepared. Have used vegetables like cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, ridge gourd, arum, brinjal and potato. The makhana is thrown in during the chunka/tadka (tempering). Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 1/2 cup muga dali / split mong dal(lightly roasted)
  • 2 cups diced vegetables (use any 5-6 vegetables of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup phool makhana/puffed lotus seeds
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • jeera lanka gunda /roasted cumin-chili powder
  • salt
  • ghee for tempering

Cooking - Wash the dal and put in a pressure cooker. Add sufficient water cover dal and stand about 2-3 inches above it. Wash and cut vegetable into medium sized pieces . Add the vegetables to dal. Add turmeric powder and salt, and close the lid. 

Cook on medium flame.Allow for 2 whistles. Remove from fire and keep aside for 5-6 mins.

Heat ghee in a pan. Add broken red chili, cumin and mustard seeds. Pour the spluttering mix over the cooked dal. Add chilli-cumin powder and mix. Throw in the makhana. Simmer for 1-2 mins.

Serve hot with white rice (arwa bhata) or paratha. (sprinkle some ghee over the rice/paratha for added flavour)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chifferi Rigate in two-tomato sauce

[Pasta facts - Did you know that Durum wheat has a yellow endosperm, which is what gives pasta its distinctive color ?? Also, Durum is a high protein but low gluten variety of wheat which makes it a healthier option as compared to other wheat variants.]

As the name suggest this is an easy sauce which has the smoky flavour of roasted tomato and the juicy tang of the fresh one. With some garlic and basil thrown in for adding more flavour, one can choose to omit the heat ( but i prefer chili flakes too along with the usual freshly ground pepper in mine).

Read on for the easy recipe -

Preparation Time - 12-15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2/3 cup chifferi rigate pasta
  • 2 medium sized ripe tomatoes
  • 3-4 garlic flakes
  • 5-6 Italian basil leaves
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • a dash of freshly ground pepper
  • salt for the pasta water

Cooking - Boil 6-7 cups water in a large saucepan. Once it gets to bubble, add enough salt. As you put the pasta water to boil, start roasting one of the tomatoes on a low flame. It should be done by the time your pasta is ready.

Add the pasta next and cook it till al-dente. (that is it should be cooked yet firm)

Drain the pasta while reserving 1 cup of the pasta water for adding to the sauce.

Skin the roasted tomato, dice and add to a food processor jar. Dice the fresh one and drop into the same jar. Add olive oil, chili flakes, basil leaves and a few teaspoons of the pasta water. Buzz for a second or two so that you get a numbly/coarse sauce.

Toss the pasta along with the tomato sauce adding a little more pasta water if required.

Dig in.

Schezuan-Style Prawns Fried Rice

Life is all about choices. What we wear, who are friends are, the career decisions that we make, these are some of the important decisions where we would like to have complete freedom of choosing. With too many things on our mind, we often forgo some of the smaller pleasures of life. Hardly a surprise since we are reminded day in and day out to focus on the big picture.

Food happens to be vital part of our lives and we all admit that we would love to eat a fresh and piping hot meal every single day. However with deadlines snapping at our heels, traffic snarls eating into our time and the overpowering need to spend quality time with our loved ones, cooking up a 'real' meal takes a backseat. And we find our choices limited to ordering pizza from the neighborhood joint or just heating up leftover. After all, when it involves slogging an extra hour or two over that all important presentation which is going to give you an edge over your peers, would you trade it for the delights of 'rajma-chawal'? This is a no-brainer.

But fret no more as our foodie-buddy is here. Yep, that is how I choose to refer to Foodpanda India, the leading food delivery website. 'Fuss-free, fast and definitely fun' is what they claim to be. And boy, they do live up to the word. 

Just log in to their page, choose city, locality and you are good to go. For example, click here to view the city page for Delhi. If you stay in some other city (and they do deliver at more than 20 cities for that matter), replace 'delhi' in the URL with the name of your city, hit 'enter' and voila, all the restaurant names appear on your screen. Details like cuisine type, minimum order amount and delivery time are also provided to help you narrow down a particular restaurant. 

And if you are one of those smartphone yielding types, here is where you can download their cool app. (scroll to the bottom of this post for the QR code)

Coming back to today's recipe, it is a simple schezuan style prawns fried rice. Most of you might have already guessed by my ramblings that I am in the mood for lazy one-pot meals these days. Fried rice happens to fit the bill perfectly. Some leftover rice thrown in with a bit of this and a bit of that, and a nice hot meal is ready. 

Read on for the easy breezy recipe - 

Preparation Time - 10-15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup cooked rice 
  • 1/3 cup tiny freshwater prawns (if you are using big ones, chop them up)
  • 1 1/2 tsp schezuan sauce ( I used Delmonte brand, it is quite good )
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 5-6 garlic flakes (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp chopped spring onions ( whites only )
  • 1 small onion (optional)(finely sliced)
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • few drops vinegar

Preparation - Wash the prawn and mariante with salt and vinegar.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the prawns and fry till they are pink all over. Remove and keep aside.

Add the remaining oil to the same wok. Toss in the onion and garlic flakes. Fry till the garlic turns slightly golden.

Add the schezuan sauce, soy sauce, tomato sauce, chili flakes along with 2-3 tsp water. Cook for a minute before adding the rice.

Throw in the prawns, check for salt and toss everything on a high flame for 2-3 mins. Finally add the spring onions just before turning off the flame.

Serve hot.

Note - Check the illustration for ordering from Foodpanda -

Scan the QR code shown below for downloading the Foodpanda App -

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Overnight Oats and Sago (No cooking required)

How many times have you skipped eating breakfast at home just because felt lazy to cook someting in the mornings ? Quite a few of us would have done so. But in most cases it makes us hungry and we end up gorging on something unhealthy by noon. Which is a double whammy when you are trying to lose weight !!

Overnight oats is just what the doctor prescribed for such days. Easy breezy recipe that requires no cooking. One just needs to take the trouble of measuring out the oats into a bowl and covering it with milk before popping it into the fridge for the night.

I decided to add some sago to the oats as I am very fond of soaked sago. It is quite popular in Odisha to soak the sago and then eat it milk, yogurt, sugar/jaggery, fruits or sweetened boondi on fasting 'vrat' days.But I sometimes have it on regular days too. Read on for more info on this interesting dish -

Preparation time - 5 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2/3 cup rolled/instant oats
  • 1/3 cup fine sago (subudana)
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 small banana/ half of an apple/ 1 kiwi
  • few dried cranberries
  • 7-8 almonds
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp honey

Preparation - Take the oats and sago in a bowl. Add sugar and 1 cup milk to the same bowl. It should be sufficient to cover the oats and sago. Keep it in the fridge for the night.

Also soak the almonds separately in a cup of water. Peel and chop them in the morning.

Take out the bowl in the morning. Add the cut fruit of you choice along with the yogurt, cranberries and almonds.

Drizzle with honey.

Dig in.

Note - One can omit the sago if one doe not like/prefer it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bendakaya bhaath (Okra/Bhindi Rice)

A yummy variation of the very popular Vangi Baath from Andhra/Karnataka, this one simply replaces the eggplant with okra and throws in some garlic seasoning. The recipe is sure to find a lot of takers among the kids who usually shun the eggplant version. I personally love it as it is very easy to make and it is one of the best (and easiest) things that one can with leftover rice.

Read on for the easy breezy recipe  -

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

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 10-12 ladies finger
  • 8-10 cashews
  • 2 tsp whole urad dal (skinless)
  • 1/2 tsp thick tamarind paste
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch of fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 7-8 curry leaves
  • 3-4 garlic flakes (crushed)
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 4 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste

For the 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 - Cut the ladies finger into 1 1/2 inch long pieces.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan. Add all the ingredients for 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 ladies finger pieces along with a bit of salt and turmeric. Fry till cooked.

Add 1 1/2 tsp of the Masala 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, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and urad dal. After urad dal turns a little brown, add garlic, cashews and curry leaves. Pour the tempering over the rice. Mix in.

Serve hot with appalam and papad.

Note -

1. If you want to keep it more healthy, swap the white rice with brown rice/parboiled rice.

2. If preparing this for your kid, do remember to cut the okra into tiny pieces and go easy on the powdered masala.

Maccha Ambila

Maccha ambila can be broadly described as fish cooked in a light sweet-tangy gravy. The tang could come from anything ranging from 'ambula' (sun-dried raw mango), tamarind, tomatoes to even curd being used in a few versions. There are too many versions of this recipe to pin-point the original one if at all there is one. I had not come it during my growing up years in the Western part of Odisha. Ofcourse, there was the delightful kanjee or ambila which was a kind of light vegetarian soup. Maybe it was created by some fish worshiping person who took his muse to another level by combining it with the tang of the 'ambila'. It is reminiscent of the Bengali 'Tawk' which my parlour lady had told me about but I feel the spicing is different for both the recipes.

It is during moments like this that I feel a wave of resentment towards the Odia ladies of yore who were so busy cooking up 'chaa tiana, naa bhaja' ( roughly translated into six curries and nine fries ) for the male members of the house that they never found the time nor the inclination to chronicle their vast gastronomic experiences. But then these ladies would lovingly ply the plates of the male members and the kids with second or even third helpings, only to eat a bowl of 'basi pakhala' (stale rice soaked in water) with some 'kandia-lanka paga' and some raw onions. Personal ambition was not their forte. Things would have been different had it been so.  Maybe it is kind of touchy, but then it reflects on the status of women in Odisha. Personally I feel that things have changed but only on a superficial level. However this is hardly the platform to lament on social issues. "Its a food blog for God's sake", I have to keep reminding myself.

Coming back to the recipe, it has hardly been documented just like the vast Odia cuisine. So I decide to give myself a free reign. Kind of liberating, isn't it ? No set rules to be adhered to. But then I do have the spiraling tomato prices on my mind which is why I decide to skip this foreign import. We call it 'bilati baigana' for a reason, don't we ??

Read on for my version -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 pieces of Rohu fish 
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 inch ginger
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1/3 tsp cumin
  • a pinch of fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard paste
  • 2 nos of ambula (dry mango)
  • 1/3 cup curd
  • 2 tbsp jaggery (one can also use sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 tsp oil

For tempering -

  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 2 pinch mustard seeds
  • 6-7 fenugreek seeds
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp oil

Preparation - Add a pinch of turmeric and a bit of salt to the fish. Marinate for 10 mins.

Take the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and dry red chili in a grinder. Make into a paste. Add the onion (diced) to the same grinder and buzz for 1 sec to get a coarse paste.

Soak the ambula in 1/2 cup hot water for 20 mins. Dissolve the mustard paste in 1 cup water.

Lightly beat the curd to break the lumps. Add a little water to it.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the marinated fish and fry on both sides till lightly browned.

Remove and keep aside.

Add the onion and masala paste to the same wok and fry till the raw smell goes off. Add the strained mustard to the wok. Add salt, turmeric and red chili powder. Bring to a light boil.

Slowly add the curd with constant stirring. Once it gets to a boil, add the soaked mango along with the water used for soaking it. Sprinkle the jaggery and allow it to dissolve.

Add the fish pieces to the grvay and cook on medium flame till you get the desired consistency. It will take about 5-6 mins.

Heat oil for tempering. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Follow with the asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry the leaves for 4-5 seconds. Pour the tempering over the fish gravy, mix in and remove from flame.

Serve at room temperature. Tastes best with white rice.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chingudi Jholo (Odia Prawn Curry)

The staple Chingudi (prawn) recipe from Odisha had been missing from my blog for so long. This I realized with a shock (or was it more of a disappointment ?) when I was trying to do some minor changes on my posts. This version is more popular than the 'Chingudi Besara' that is prevalent only in the western regions of the state. While the masala used is the staple 'onion-garlic-ginger-green cardamom-cinnamon' combo, one must take care to get the right texture. Too fine a paste makes it a thick gravy while over-frying the masala tends to caramelize it and changes the flavour (kind of intensifies it)of the curry. My family prefers this curry to be mellow and kind of watery ('pania jholo' as we say in Odia) but then different folks have different preferences.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins
Ingredients -

  • 500 gms prawns (I have used small ones)
  • 1 large potato 
  • 1 large onion + 1 small one
  • 12-13 garlic flakes
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  • 2 inch long cinnamon
  • 2 dry red chilis
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder, 
  • 1/3 tsp red chili powder ( I have used less as the whole chilis were very spicy, adjust as per taste )
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 3-4 tbs oil

Preparation - Clean prawn and add salt and turmeric. Allow to marinate for 15 mins.

Grind the cumin seeds, 2 cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon and red chillis into a powder. Add  the small onion, half of the garlic flakes and 1 inch ginger to the same grinder jar. Grind till the paste is smooth.Keep aside.

Finely chop the tomatoes and keep aside.

Coarsely grind the remaining onion and keep aside. Crush together the remaining garlic pod and ginger using a mortar and pestle. Take care not to make a very fine paste.

Cut the potato into cubes.

Cooking- Heat 1 tbs oil in a pan. Add the marinated prawns and fry till golden. Remove and keep aside.

Add another tbs of oil into the wok. Add the potato pieces. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok. Add coarse onion paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the sugar and allow it to turn brown. Add the crushed garlic-ginger and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the ground masala along with turmeric and chilli powder. Fry for 4-5 minutes till the raw smell goes off.

Add tomato and fry for another 3-4 minutes or till it turns mushy.

Add 3 cups of boiling water to the wok. Bring to a boil on high flame.

Add fried potatoes and prawns to the wok. Cover with a lid and allow to boil for 7-8 minutes or till potatoes are cooked.

Powder the remaining cinnamon and cardamom and add to the curry. After 1-2 minutes, switch off the flame.

Serve hot with white rice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rajma Galouti Kebab

Had my eyes on this for a long time but finally got a chance this week as I was running a little short on vegetables. A good thing that my timing coincides with the holy month of Ramzan as this would be great on the 'iftar' menu. Read about it for the first time in one of those handy cookbooks written by the late Tarla Dalal and quite liked it for its simplicity. Then came an episode on Khana khazana featuring another strikingly different version of this delicacy which seemed to have originated in some far away universe. The latter was loaded by spices and too much of nuts I felt.

I decided to go with my favorite cook's recipe and modify/tweak it a bit while making the best use of ingredients available in my pantry. But when I made the first lot, I realized that the rajma gives a dry texture to these kebabs. Typical of any lentil fritters. So the potato/panner/khoya/nuts paste are very much required to impart that silken melt-in-the-mouth kinda texture to the kebabs. The addition of ghee is also crucial for the same reason. They turned out fine with the addition of more potato and unsweetened khoya.Read on for my version -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

1 cup rajma/kidney beans
1 medium sized potato (boiled & peeled)
1/3 cup grated paneer
4 tbsp grated/crumbled unsweetened khoya
1 medium sized onion
2-3 green chilis
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
2-3 tsp chopped coriander leaves
1-2 tsp chopped mint leaves
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/5 tsp cumin powder
1/3 tsp red chilli powder
2 pinch garam masala
1/3 turmeric
salt to taste
5-6 tsp oil/clarified butter (gives a more authentic taste)

Preparation - Wash and soak the rajma beans overnight.

Finely chop the onions and green chillis.

Cooking - Transfer the rajma to a pressure cooker with salt, turmeric and 1 1/2 cups water. Pressure cook for 3-4 whistles till soft but not too mushy. Allow steam to escape naturally. Then drain the kidney beans and keep aside.

Heat 3 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onions and fry till translucent.

Add the ginger and saute for 30 seconds. Add the powdered masalas and fry for another 20-30 seconds.

Add the kidney beans along with the grated potato, paneer and khoya. Use a heavy spoon or ladle to mash up the beans and get a uniform mix of the ingredients. Adjust salt.

Finally add the chopped green chili, mint and coriander leaves. Mix well. Remove from flame and keep aside till it cools down a bit.

Take small portions from the above mixture and shape into flattened circles or tikkis.

Heat a flat non-stick pan and brush with some oil/ghee. Place 3-4 of the flattened circles on it. Let it cook on one side for 3-4 minutes on low to medium flame. Brush on some oil/ghee on the top of each before flipping it over. Let it cook on this side for another 3 mins. Remove and keep aside.

Serve hot with mint-coriander chutney/ketchup or even a yogurt dip.

Note - There kebabs are actually meant to be deep fried but I wanted to keep the calories in check with all the ghee and khoya going into it. Hence pan-fried them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shahi Tukda

A few days back I had posted the recipe for 'Double ka Meetha'. And quite a few people came back asking for the difference between the former and 'Shahi Tukda'. I would say that both have quite a few similarities but have originated from different regions/cultures. 'Shahi Tukda' is the more royal one of the two, soaked up in delicately flavored 'rabdi' or condensed milk and showered with toasted nuts.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 25-35 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 thick slices of white bread
  • 2 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp condensed milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • a few strands of saffron
  • nuts for garnishing
  • 4-5 drops of rose essence/syrup (optional)

Cooking - Take the bread and cut off the sides. (This is optional and i usually do not do it) Cut each bread slice into two triangles. 

Heat a pan. Place the bread slices on it and toast for 2 mins. Flip over and apply a little butter on the browned side. Toast the other side for another 2 mins and flip over. Apply a little butter on this side as well.
Remove and keep aside.

Heat 1/2 tsp butter in a pan and add the nuts. Toast for 1 minute or so.

In another saucepan, add the milk. Boil on low to medium flame with regular stirring in between till it reduces to 1/3rd. Add sugar and condensed milk. Simmer for 1 min. Add the saffron strands and the toasted nuts, and keep aside till it cools down a bit.

Lay the toasted bread slices side by side on a plate. Pour the thickened milk all over the slices and some extra too.

Garnish with more nuts and serve warm. (Or you can pop it in the fridge for 20 mins or so as I prefer it.)

Easy Vegetarian Quesadillas

Having got bored with the usual breakfast menu, I was looking for a change. Something more filling and healthy was what I wanted. That is when I came across someone's post of Quesadilla on FB. Not that I had not seen it before. But it never occurred to me that I could make this super easy snack at home whenever I wanted instead to buying it from outside everytime. That way I could also decide what filling I wanted to put inside it.

While the totillas are made from bleached wheat flour or maida, I decided to stick to the usual multi-grain wheat flour that we use on a everyday basis. For the stuffing, I have used peppers, spring onions and tomatoes but one can add anything from mushrooms to paneer along with loads of leafy stuff like cabbage, spinach, lettuce, etc. Read on for my version -

Preparation Time - 25 mins (plus some standby time)

Ingredients -

For the Tortilla/rotis -

  • 1 cup wheat flour or maida
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of pepper
  • warm milk for kneading

For the filling and final touches -

  • 1 cup chopped vegetables ( I used spring onions, peppers and tomatoes )
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • pinch of cayanne pepper
  • pinch of pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp grated cheese (I used Amul processed cheese, use can use any other too)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (optional but give a great taste)
  • EVOO for brushing the quesadillas.

Preparation- Take the flour in a wide plate. Add salt, pepper and butter. Rub in.

Add milk to the flour, little by little and keep on mixing so that it is well incorporated into the dough. We want a soft dough. It is ok if it is slightly sticky but too sticky means more flour should be added.

Cover dough with moist cloth and rest aside for 30 mins.

Cooking - Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the vegetables to it and sprinkle pepper and salt. Saute on high for 2 mins max. Keep aside to cool down.

Pinch small balls from the dough. Dust a working surface with flour and roll out into thin circles.

Heat a tawa/flat pan. Put the roti/tortilla on it. Wait till small bubbles begin to form. Add some of the stir fried veggies to one half of the circle. Sprinkle mayonnaise and cheese on the veggies. Fold over the other half so that the veggies and the cheese are sandwiched inside.

Slightly press with a splatula for 1 minute or so to allow the cheese to melt from the heat. Brush some olive oil on the side. Flip over and brush more olive oil on the other side. Cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from tawa and keep aside. Repeat with the remaining dough and veggies.

Serve hot with a hot sauce/sour dip of your choice.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chingudi Mahura/Chingudi Ghanta ( Prawns and mixed vegetables curry )

Found some tiny shrimps last weekend and after making a chechha,a jholo and a fried rice with those, there were still a few remaining. As I had posted the recipe for Maccha Mahura few days back, it was still on my mind and I could not think of doing anything better with the last of those tiny juicy prawns. Used the same recipe/method to prepare 'Chingudi Mahura' with. Did not have all the veggies that I would have liked to put into the curry so made the best use of whatever was there in the fridge. Cut down the amount of spices a bit and the curry turned out to be good.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup tiny shrimps/prawns ( actually I had less than 1/2 cup remaining )
  • 1/2 cup chopped eggplant
  • 1 cup chopped pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup pointed gourd/parwal/potolo
  • 1 big potato
  • 1/2 of a small ridge gourd
  • 8 Malabar spinach stems ( about 2" each, use only the thin ones )
  • 1 medium sized tomato
  • 1/3 cup shelled green peas
  • 1 small onion
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1/3 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • oil (as per requirement)
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Marinate the shrimps with salt and a pinch of turmeric.

Grind the onion, garlic and ginger into a coarse paste.

Chop the tomato into small pieces.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the malabar spinach stems and fry on high for 3-4 mins. Remove and keep aside.

All the vegetables (except tomato and green peas) should be chopped into similar sized cubes. Clean and transfer them to a cooker with 1/4 cup water. Add a pinch of turmeric and salt. Cook on high flame for 2 whistles.

Set aside for allowing steam to escape. Drain excess water and keep aside.

Dry roast the coriander, cumin, chili, bay leaf, peppercorn, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom till fragrant. Remove and allow to cool down. Grind into a fine powder.

Heat 2-3 tsp oil in wok. Add the shrimp and fry for 4-5 minutes. Remove and keep aside.

In the same wok, add some more oil. Add the onion-garlic-ginger paste and fry till raw smell goes away.

Add the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle a little salt. Allow to soften a bit. Add the boiled vegetables along with the green peas and fried malabar spinach at this stage. Turn up the flame and fry for 3 minutes.

Finally add the powdered masala along with some of the water used for boiling the vegetables. Cover with a lid and simmer on low flame for 3-4 mins.

Add the shrimps and simmer for another 4-5 mins.

Serve hot with white rice or rotis.

Easy Oreo Cake

I am still to come across a kid who does not love Oreo biscuits. Maybe thats why we have so many Oreo cakes recipes floating around on the net. I went though a dozen (or was it even more ??) recipes and finally selected this one from 'Apy Cooking' (Do check her blog for more interesting recipes). But I wanted to make it more fun for the kiddo so decided to make a two layer cake with buttercream frosting in between ( in short, the cake mimics the look of an Oreo biscuit. Had planned to do some detailing with chocolate frosting on top of it but finally gave up as my hands had gone numb with all the whipping involved in preparing buttercream frosting ). The cake itself is a zero effort one that is eggless and calls for very few ingredients.

As the biscuits are a bit salty by themselves, the cake is not too sweet. So, one might need to add some more sugar to the batter to adjust the sweetness as per one's preference. I myself did not add any extra sugar in this one. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 25 mins

Ingredients -

20 Oreo biscuits (regular ones)
1 1/4 cups milk (room temperature)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3-6 tsp powdered sugar (optional)
3/4 tsp baking powder
butter for greasing the pan
flour for dusting the sides of pan
baking sheet/parchment paper for lining the tray

For the buttercream frosting -

50 gm unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar ( powdered )
10-12 drops vanilla essence (use extract if you have it)
2-3 tsp milk

Preparation - Crush the Oreo biscuits nicely with you hands so that there are no large pieces remaining.

Transfer the crushed biscuits to a blender/mixer with milk, cocoa powder, sugar and baking powder. Blend to get a smooth mixture/batter.

Line two 8" diameter round trays with parchment paper. Brush sides and bottom with butter and them dust lightly with flour. Pour half of the mixture into each tray. Tap lightly to release any trapped air.

Baking - Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C for 5-6 mins. Place the trays inside the oven.

Allow to bake for 10-12 mins. Carefully press the centers of the cakes. If it springs back, then turn off the heating. It will continue to cook for another 5-6 mins inside the oven.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

To prepare the buttercream frosting -

Take the butter (at room temperature) and beat with a heavy wooden/metal spoon till it turns lighter in color. Then add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat till it is well incorporated. Slowly add the remaining sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.

Continue beating till the frosting turns almost white in color. It will have a very fluffy texture at this point.

Add the milk and sugar at this point and beat some more till it turns very smooth to touch. (If you want to make flowers with the frosting then you might need to add more powdered sugar for a stiffer consistency.)

To assemble the cake -

Place one layer of the cake with the bottom side facing upwards. Add the buttercream frosting on top and use a spatula to smoothen it all over the surface. (This needs a bit of practise to get a smooth and even layer. M still to get it right.)

Place the other cake (bottom side) over the frosting. Dust the surface with some powdered sugar or if you feeling indulgent, go for some detailing with chocolate frosting.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mochar Chaap ( Banana flower /Plantain flower cutlets )

A very famous street food from Kolkata, I keep reading about in many of the blogs. Crunchy on the outside and filled with a slightly chewy mix of banana flower and potato in the inside, it almost mimics the texture of a mutton cutlet. I have used a very fragrant 'roasted masala' in my version that I had read about in a blog sometime back. Sadly I did not remember the exact proportions of the masala nor the blog name so that I could go back for a second look. But as the masala was somewhat similar to what my MIL sometimes uses in the 'Ghanta' or 'Chencheda', I went ahead and made it.

One would say cleaning and dressing the banana flowers is a hard task but one bite of this sinful treat and all that is easily forgotten. I have shallow fried the cutlets (now don't I do that every time) instead of deep frying them as is the standard norm. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients -

  • 1 banana flower
  • 2 medum sized potatoes
  • 1 medium onion + 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp GG paste
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp coriander powder
  • 2-3 green chillis
  • a handful of peanuts
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp oil + more oil for shallow frying
  • 1 tbsp besan
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp rice flour
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs 

For the roasted masala -

  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 green cardamom
  • 1 dry red chili

Preparation - Clean and chop the banana flowers into small pieces. Soak them in water along with 1 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt for 3-4 hours. 

Crush them slightly with your hands and drain the water. Wash again under running water.

Chop the onions and green chilic into small pieces.

Dry roast all the ingredients mentioned under 'for the roasted masala' till they give off a fragrance. Grind into a fine powder and keep aside.

Cooking - Take the banana flowers in a pressure cooker with 1 cup water and a little salt. Cook for 10-12 mins or 1-2 whistles. Keep aside to cool down.

Once the steam escapes, open lid and drain the water. Use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can (very important else your cutlets will break).

Meanwhile cook the potatoes for 2-3 whistles. Keep aside to cool.

Heat 3 tsp oil in a wok. Add the chopped green chili and peanuts. Allow peanut to crackle before adding the chopped onion. Fry till translucent.

Add the GG paste and fry till raw smell goes away.

Add the boiled banana flowers along with turmeric, chili powder, coriander powder and 1 tsp of the roasted masala. Adjust salt. Fry on medium high flame till all the water evaporates.

Add the peeled and mashed potatoes at this point. Mix everything and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

Remove from wok and keep aside. Allow to cool down.

Meanwhile take the besan, rice flour and corn flour in a mixing bowl with salt, chili powder, a pinch of turmeric and just enough water to get a paste of medium consistency.

Heat a frying pan and add sufficient oil for shallow frying the tikkis.

Pinch some of the banana flower and potato mix and shape into tikkis or flattened dics (or you can give any fancy shape you want). Dip into the paste and then roll over the breadcrumbs.

Place the tikkis on the hot frying pan and fry on both side till brown and crisp. Remove and keep aside on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Repeat for the remaining mixture.

Serve hot as starters/snacks with some ketchup or even as a dry side dish.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Lau Posta (Bottle gourd in poppy seeds gravy)

How do I classify if a recipe is 'authentic' odia or not ?? How far do I need to travel back in time to unearth its origins ? Now that people keep asking me that question, I have set my own parameters to gauge the authenticity of a recipe. If it was a dish that my 'Jejema/Dadi' or 'Aai/Nani' used to cook up, then I deem it as authentic else i contribute it to external influences. It is not a foolproof yardstick as both my grandmothers spent the better half of their adult lives in a place like Rourkela which has a very cosmopolitan feel to it. You find a lot of Bengalis, Biharis, people from the North and South alike due to the presence of SAIL in the city. But still they would have learnt a lot of cooking from their respective mothers ( girls in those days were trained in the kitchen at a very young age ) and picked up the nuances of regional Odia cooking.

However, I cannot say the same for the next generation ( my Mom, MIL, mausi, etc ) who were influenced to a great extent by magazines like Women's era, Grihalakshmi and the sort. Now this would vary from person to person given the kind of environment that they were exposed to. Not very accurate, many would argue. I agree on that point.  Given some kind of documentation, things would be easier to decide but sadly Odia recipes are not very widely published. One might find something written in Odia but it is difficult to find a good book that has been written in English. That acts as a hindrance for some people of my generation who are not very fluent in the written word owing to a convent school background within the state or maybe because their fathers were working in another part of the country or even abroad. But with a lot of Odia blogs coming up these days, things are looking brighter and better.

Coming to the recipe that I am sharing today, I first read about it in a Facebook group. It is very similar to the 'Janhi-Posto' but cooked using the traditional 'batibasa' method. Very easy and quick to make and quite delicious tasting too. Read on for the details -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 small bottle gourd (peeled and diced)
  • 1 medium sized potato (peeled and diced)
  • 1 medium sized onion (cut into small pieces)
  • 10 garlic flakes
  • 1 medium sized tomato ( finely chopped)
  • 2-3 green chilis
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp mustard oil + extra for drizzling later
  • 1-2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp badi chura ( urad dal vadis, fried and crushed )
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Dry grind the poppy seeds with 1 green chili and 7 garlic flakes. Then add little water and grind again to get a smooth paste.

Take the chopped vegetables, chopped onion, slit green chili, turmeric, red chili powder, mustard oil, bay leaf, half of the cilantro, poppy seeds paste and salt in a wok. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well.

Cooking - Put the wok on a low flame and cover with a lid.

Stir once or twice in between. Do check for water and top up with more hot water if it is catching at the bottom. ( Usually the vegetables leave a lot of water and extra water will not be required )

Once the vegetables are cooked through, add some more mustard oil (another 1-2 tsp), crushed garlic flakes and chopped cilantro. Give a stir and remove from flame.

Garnish with the badi chura just before serving.

Enjoy with white rice or even rotis.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Falooda (Faluda)

Another sweet delicacy from Hyderabad! This rose flavored ice-cream shake cum dessert is a must try on a visit to the city (of course after the sumptuous dum biryani). I had it for the first time at Charminar and i still covet the unique taste. It is so thick that one hardly gets a few sips with the given straw. That's why they give you a spoon with it so that you can dig in. One can find it on the menu of quite a few eateries in the city but I would suggest having it at Charminar. And do not think about the calories while you are enjoying it.

And yes, they also serve it at the 'iftar' parties during Ramzan. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins ( plus 1 hour standby )

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp condensed milk
  • 3-4 tbsp rose syrup
  • 2 scoops of vanilla ice-cream ( use 2-3 more scoops if you want it thick but then reduce the quantity of milk by half )
  • 1 tsp basil seeds (sabza) or 2 tsp Chia seeds 
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • cherries or nut for garnishing 
  • 2-3 tbsp faluda sev or regular vermicelli 
  • crushed ice (optional)

Preparation - Soak the basil seeds with 1 tbsp rose syrup and 6-7 tbsp water. Keep aside for 1 hour.

Boil the milk with sugar and condensed milk for 2-3 mins. Keep aside to cool down.

Cook the faluda sev or regular vermicelli as per instructions on the packet. Drain and keep aside till cool.

Once the milk is cool, add 1 scoop icecream, 1 tbsp rose syrup and some crushed ice. Buzz for 1-2 seconds in a blender.

Assembling -  Take a tall glass. Pour a little rose syrup on the bottom. Top up with the faluda/vermicelli. Pour a little milk over it.

Next add a layer of the soaked basil seeds. Top it up with the flavoured milk.

Finally add the ice-cream on top and garnish it with cherries/dry fruits and rose syrup.

Serve immediately.

Note - Be careful while assembling the layers. Do it slowly so that the layers do not get mixed up..
But then one can also throw in everything together coz, trust me, it tastes just as good :)

One can also use Rooh-afza instead of rose syrup.

I personally prefer to use Chia as I find that they taste much better .

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Double ka Meetha

I tasted it for the first time when I had moved to Hyderabad sometime during 2006. 'It is just fried bread dipped in sugar syrup', I had exclaimed. But with passing time it slowly grew on me as did the city. While the sugar syrup version is quite common, most good restaurants soak the bread in a flavorsome 'rabdi' and garnish it generously with nuts. Very popular during iftar , it is a breeze to make unlike most of the Ramzan special dishes which require lots of time and effort

Read on for my version of this timeless Nizami dessert. Made it specially for Ramzan -

Preparation Time - 10 mins ( plus extra time for soaking )

Ingredients -

  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1 green cardamom
  • a few strands of saffron
  • nuts for garnishing

Cooking - Take the bread and cut off the sides. (This is optional and i usually do not do it) Cut each bread slice into two triangles. 

Heat a pan. Place the bread slices on it and toast for 2 mins. Flip over and apply a little butter on the browned side. Toast the other side for another 2 mins and flip over. Apply a little butter on this side as well.

Remove and keep aside.

Meanwhile take and water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-4 mins. Add the crushed cardamom. Keep aside.

In another saucepan, add the milk and the condensed milk. Dissolve and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 mins. Add the saffron strands and keep aside.

Fry the nuts in a little ghee and keep aside.

Lay the bread slices side by side on a plate. Pour a little of the milk all over the slices and wait for 2-3 mins till completely absorbed. Next pour a little sugar syrup over the slices. Wait for 3-4 mins till it gets absorbed.

Repeat the process 2-3 times till you can see that the bread is no longer absorbing any liquid.

Keep it for 1-2 hours in the fridge before serving. 

Remove from the fridge and garnish with roasted nuts just before serving.

Note - Keep aside some of the saffron flavored milk and drizzle a few teaspoons over the bread just before serving.

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