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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekly Snapshot (25/05/2015 - 30/05/2015)

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  • Blog Nominated for WIN 2015 +BlogAdda !!
  • The high point for this week was writing the post on Bhubaneswar and its awesome gastronomic culture !! I know I have missed a few..planning to cover all those in another post for those. Check it out here .

Friday, May 29, 2015

Badami Paneer

Badami Paneer or cottage cheese cubes cooked in a rich nut based gravy is one dish that invokes sheer bliss. It has an silken texture that just seems to envelope one's entire mouth while the tangy taste of the tomatoes and the mild heat from those aromatic spices join hands to tingle each and every taste bud.

But surprisingly it is very simple and rather easy to prepare. Make this dish for friends and family and have them wondering about the kind of effort that you have put in. Read on for recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 250 gm Paneer cubes
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 tsp Garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger paste
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup coriander powder
  • 1/2 cup cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4-5 tsp oil/butter ( 1 prefer 1 tsp oil + 3 tsp butter )
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnishing
  • 5-6 cashews
  • 10 almonds
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

Preparation - Soak the cashews, almonds and poppy seeds in warm water for 1/2 hour . Then grind into a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Grind the onion separately into a smooth paste

Cooking - Heat the oil and butter in a wok.

Add the onion paste along with the ginger paste and garlic paste. Fry till translucent but no more.

Add the powdered masalas along with the tomato puree. Fry till oil starts to come out from this gravy.

Then add the nuts paste and fry for 2-3 mins. Finally add the warm milk and get it to a boil.

Once the gravy has reached the desired consistency, add the panner cubes. Let it simmer for 2 mins.

Garnish with cilantro before removing from the flame.

Serve hot with jeera rice, rotis or even some delicious butter naan. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tinday aur Channa dal ki subzi

This one obviously draws inspiration from the kakharu-buta dali tarkari or dalma that is so popular in Odisha. In fact mixing gourds with lentils is common practice and we end up with quite a few combinations that go really well with roti/paratha or even puri !! The cooking process is similar for all recipes and it is a good way of squeezing in some veggies along with all that protein that comes from the lentils.

Read on for this recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup channa dal
  • 2-3 medium sized apple gourd (tinday)
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and soak the channa dal for 2-3 hour so that it gets cooked easily.

Peel and chop the tinday into medium sized pieces. The onion needs to be chopped into small pieces.

Cooking - Wash the channa dal and boil in a pressure cooker for 3 whistles. Keep aside.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the pancha-phutana, red chillis, cinnamon and bay leaf. Follow with the chopped onion pieces.

Fry till the onions turn translucent. Add the chopped tinda along with a little salt and cook for 5-6 mins till half done.

Add the channa dal, bring to a boil and let it simmer for a few mins or till the vegetable is completely cooked through.

Remove from flame and serve hot with rotis/parathas .

Bhubaneswar - A Foodie's Day Worth !!!

Bhubaneswar or the temple city has a rich cultural legacy and is also popular as the transit point for one's visit to the Puri Jaganaath pilgrimage. But that is not it's only claim to fame. The capital city of Odisha also has a unique and thriving food culture which is waiting to be discovered. Eating habits are a reflection of the socioeconomic status of people and nowhere it is more apparent than in this food paradise which is a melting pot of people from all regions of the state. The food is simple, good to eat without being too rich/heavy and the great variety suits all pockets . So what are we waiting for ? Join me as I take a guided tour of the city's favorite eats !!

Image courtesy - thebrokenscooter.com

The city wakes up to a breakfast of 'Dahibara ghuguni aludum', a curious mish-mash of watery dahi baras, yellow peas curry and dum aloo embellished with some chopped onions and sev, and spiked with a special chutney/masala. While one might have some misgivings before tucking into it, everything is forgotten after that very first bite which leaves a tantalizing feeling all over the mouth. It is the perfect breakfast, being lightly spiced and yet quite filling as well. Vendors carrying huge aluminium pots on cycles can be found at almost every corner of the city or wherever you can find a crowd in the morning hours. And they do some real brisk business as almost all of them are sold out before noon. This dish starts at a unbelievable Rs 5/- per plate and the price goes up depending on the quantity. While the dahi baras are mandatory, one can also choose to go with either curry instead of both.

Image courtesy - theyoungbigmouth.com

The melt-in-the-mouth 'Pahala rasgulla' is the next dish on one's itinerary. One has to travel about 20 kms from the center of Bhubaneswar on NH 5 to reach this small village. The best time to reach this place is around 11 am when the first lot of the day comes out and the freshly made rasgullas are still warm to touch. These dimpled cheese balls are tender beyond any stretch of imagination and just seem to melt away on one's tongue leaving behind a sensation of utter bliss. Having sampled some of these buff colored beauties with just the slightest hint of cardamom, one is sure to be addicted for life. And these rasgullas are not too sweet which makes it possible to dig into a couple of them without feeling too guilty about it !

Along the same route, one can sample yet another delicacy which goes by the name of 'Matihandi mutton'. This is mutton cooked in rustic style in earthen pots on a wood-fired flame. This slow cooking lends the meat a deliciously smoked flavour and also imparts it a darker hue while the earthen pot acts as a kind of sponge which absorbs the excess oil and fat. Without all that lard clogging one's tastebuds, one can relish the divine texture and exquisite taste of the meat which is still tender yet juicy. This dish goes best with some fine grained 'arua' rice. After a heavy lunch as this, one would do best with a seista but a foodie's quest is never ending. Hence we return to the center of Bhubaneshwar to sample more of the city's delights.

A short stopover at  Lingaraj Lassi at Shahid Nagar Pandal is next on the itinerary. After a spicy lunch, something as soothing as this rich and very unique lassi is most welcome. Apart from the usual yogurt and sugar, a multitude of addons like rabdi (the key ingredient), freshly grated coconut, chopped cherries, dry fruits and pineapple essence make this one unforgettable drink. Unlike the yogurt and milk lassi that one finds in Punjab, the yogurt and rabdi combination leave a very different feel all over one's mouth. It is sure to seep into those remote corners of one's tummy that might still be unoccupied after that sumptuous mutton lunch. The effect is such that one starts feeling real drowsy after consuming a glass. Not a big problem as one can squeeze in a bit of an afternoon nap before the next eating spree. The climate is hot and humid and the evening stalls come alive only after six.

Image courtesy : 101bhubaneswar.com

Come evenings and the multitude of chaat, gupchup ( a variation of pani-puri that has more aloo in it ), pav-bhaji, roll and Chinese fast food stalls start buzzing with activity. One of the city's favorite picks are the chaat stalls lined up in front of RD Women's college. The yellow peas curry topped with grated beetroot, carrot, coconut, broken papdi, sev, yogurt, onions, green chilis, chaat masala and ofcourse the 'dahi-bara' is served sizzling hot. The amalgamation of the hot, sour and sweet flavours are sure to fire up those taste-buds. But make it as point to reach there on time as the best stalls get stocked out quite .

Another unique combination that needs to be tried is the 'Malpua-Aludum' that is sold in Market building, one of the most visited shopping avenues. The sweet succulent Malpuas are dunked into a spicy Aludum gravy to create a strikingly remarkable gastronomic experience. The crunchy edges, the lusciously soft middle, the tangy-spicy gravy somewhat mellowed by the sugary syrup and even the deep fried potato chunks all have different textures and with each bite one gets to relish a different taste.

It is almost dinner time and one's mind might be begging for an encore after that delicious lunch of 'Matihandi mutton and arua bhata'. But it is not the time to let oneself be seduced by the lure of the flesh for our foodie voyage can hardly be complete without the final stopover at Priya's. This South Indian eating joint has been in business for more than 30 years and has considerably expanded its business from its first branch located at Kharavela nagar. But my husband still swears by the taste of its 'Butter Masala Dosa' which has remained unchanged since his school days. It also serves great choley-bhatura and other North Indian dishes. It is the lip-smacking taste combined with the variety and affordability which makes this place click. Since it is jam packed during the peak hours and one has to wait for up to an hour to find a table, it makes sense to reach the place before one is hit by those full fledged hunger pangs.

All good things must come to an end and thus it is time to bring our one day foodie tour of Bhubaneshwar to an end. Hope you enjoyed the journey !!

Batibasa Omelette

Was feeling quite lazy today and got this bad craving for some comfort food ! So decided to make some vegetable pulao and a nice omelette to go with it. But instead of a regular omelette, I thought of going for something that my grandma used to make for us.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 12 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 green chili (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation -  Take a thick steel bowl and rub oil on its insides. 

Beat two eggs with a little salt, onion and green chili . Pour into the greased bowl and add 4-5 drops of mustard oil on top.

Cooking - Cover and place the bowl on a tawa which has been placed on low flame. Cook for 7-8 mins. 

Batibasa omelette is ready.

Enjoy as it is or serve it with rice .

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stuffed Chachindra (Snake gourd)

Forget the zucchini boats or even the stuffed peppers ! This is a homegrown Odia dish that is as good as the imported ones. A rich stuffing of onions, freshly grated coconut and broken cashews lend this dish a sweet and rich taste. Some folks avoid adding potatoes to the stuffing but I just cant do without it.

And moreover this is one native dish that really looks beautiful without much effort on the presentation. I mean I have been working on my food photography skills to be able to click some decent photos of the food that I so painstakingly prepare. While I do not buy the logic of making food so good that one wants to take it home instead of eating it, I want my food to look presentable to a given degree. Sadly our dishes lacks the right amount of color but make up for it with the great taste.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 medium sized snake gourd (chachindra)
  • 3 tsp oil
  • a pinch of salt

For the stuffing -

  • 2 medium sized potatoes (boiled, peeled and lightly mashed)
  • 1 large onion 
  • 1 cup grated coconut (chopped into medium pieces)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1-2 green chilis (chopped into small pieces)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/3 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and peel the snake gourd. Chop into 3 inch long pieces. Hollow them out by removing the mushy insides.

Cooking - Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add cumin seeds and chopped green chillis. Wait for them to start spluttering.

Follow with the grated ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the chopped onions and fry till red on the edges.

Add all the powdered masalas and fry for 2 mins. Finally add the potatoes and stir fry for a couple of minutes till everything is nicely mixed.

Add the grated coconut just before removing from the flame. Keep aside it is just warm to touch.

Stuff this into the hollowed out snake gourd.

Heat a wok or skillet on a low flame. Add the remaining oil. Place the stuffed snake gourd pieces on the skillet and sprinkle a little salt over them. Cover with a lid. Remove the lid at regular intervals and turn them on their sides.

Let it cook on a low flame till completely done. Remove from the skillet .

Garnish with some more grated coconut and cilantro. Serve hot with white rice and dal . 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gosht Moplah Biryani

Yaaaawn!!! Yet another mutton biryani recipe. Have drummed up quite a repertoire for this delectable meat and rice one-pot-meal. And still have the appetite for more as it is one super duper comfort meal that suits lazy bums like me who do not like to compromise on the taste. The pressure cooker method of cooking biryani makes the task quite easy.

Got this one from a facebook forum, tried it myself (although with a slight modification) and loved the results !!! Read on - 

Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients - 

For marinade - 

  • 1/2 kg mutton
  • 1/2 cup thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 crushed green chilies
  • 1/4 tsp shahi jeera
  • 2-3 tsp ghee
  • 2 medium onions (crisp fried to a brown )
  • a handful of mint leaves.
  • 2 tsp coriander stems (these have more flavour)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup thick coconut milk ( I did not have the fresh one so used the Maggie coconut milk powder)
  • 15 curry leaves.
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds 
  • Salt to taste

For cooking the rice -

  • 1/2 kg biryani rice
  • khada masala or whole spices ( 3 green cardamom, 1 black cardamom, 1 bay leaf, 3-4 cloves, 10-12 peppercorn, 1 mace, 2 inch cinnamon, 2 star anise )
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • salt to taste

For final assembly -
  • 3 tsp mint leaves
  • 2 pinch saffron soaked in 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 tbsp ginger juliennes
  • 4 tbsp crisp fried onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • green chilis slit lengthwise (skip if you do not want too much heat)

Preparation Marinate the mutton with all the ingredients listed except oil , shah jeera and curry leaves. Allow to stand for 3-4 hours.

Wash and soak rice for 1/2 hour.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add shah jeera followed by curry leaves. Add the mutton after 30 seconds. Cook it covered till completely tender.

Bring the water to a boil . Add the whole spice and allow to boil for 5 mins before switching off the flame. Allow this to sit for 1 hour so that the aroma of the spice really gets into the water. 

Bring it to a boil once again and then add rice. Once half done, add the ghee and salt. Strain the water once it is 80 percent done.

Assembly -  Divide the rice into three parts. Take a thick bottomed vessel. Grease with ghee. Layer one portion of rice. Sprinkle saffron milk, ginger juliennes, green chilis, fried onion, mint and cilantro. Spread half of the mutton over it.

Add another rice layer and top it with saffron milk, ginger juliennes, green chilis, fried onion, mint and cilantro. Spread remaining half of the mutton over it.

Add the last rice layer. Sprinkle saffron milk, ginger juliennes, green chilis, fried onion, mint and cilantro. 

Seal with a foil or put a heavy lid and seal the sides with dough. Cook on low heat for 20 mins. Allow to stand aside for 10 mins before opening and serving.

Serve hot with raita and pickled pearl onions.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weekly Snapshot (17/05/2015 - 23/05/2015)

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Chachindra Raee ( Snake gourd cooked in mustard paste )

Chachindra or snake gourd is not a very regular vegetable in my house. My mom used to cook it at times but I did not like it much as a kid. Later as I started making a lot of healthy changes in the menu, it started appealing to me as an easy to cook and tasty vegetable. As my husband is not fond of it, I usually make a quick 'Raee' or cook it along with channa dal/toor dal for lunch. Getting my kid habituated to all kinds of vegetables is my top priority and hence I an trying to introduce him to new vegetables (especially seasonal ones) on a weekly basis.

This is a simple recipe and the preparation is not different from the usual 'raee' that is prepared in most Odia homes. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 10 -15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 4 cups chopped and peeled snake gourd
  • 1 medium onion chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pancha-phutana/mustard seeds preferred)
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2-3 garlic flakes (crushed)
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2/3 cup grated coconut
  • cilantro for garnishing

For the mustard paste -

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chilli

Preparation -Grind the mustard, cumin and red chilli into coarse powder in dry state .Then add a little water along with garlic flakes and grind again into a fine paste.

Chop onion into small pieces. 

Cooking - Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the broken green chilli and mustard seeds. Follow with the crushed garlic. Allow to garlic to brown lightly.

Add the chopped onion and stir fry for 2-3 minutes till translucent

Add the mustard paste along with 2 cups water. Add salt and turmeric, and bring to a boil.

Add the snake gourd pieces and cover with  a lid. Cook till it softens. (Do not throw away excess water as this curry tends to be watery.)

Garnish with grated coconut and cilantro.

Serve with rice and dal.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fish and Spring Onion Dal Curry ( Adapted from the Odia Mudhi Ghanta )

That I love to experiment with recipes is nothing new to you. Usually I try to do a fusion/crossover with two different cuisines but with this recipe, I have tried to bring together two different Odia dishes and create a completely new one. 'Mudhi Ghanta' or channa dal cooked with fish and ' Muga Dali -Paija Patra Tarkari' are two completely different recipes. The first one is spicy while the second one is as light as it can get.

Using the common ingredient, which is the lentil, I made a dish which is lightly spiced and can go either with rice or rotis. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup channa dal 
  • 200 gm spring onions
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • 2 pieces lightly fried Rohu fish 
  • 2-3 dry red chillis
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 nos garlic flakes
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric 
  • 3-4 tsp vegetable oil
  • whole spices ( 1 inch cinnamon, 2-3 cloves, 1 bay leaf )
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash the spring onions and drain excess water. Cut into inch long pieces. Peel and cut the potato into six halves.

Lightly mash the shallow fried fish .

Wash and soak the channa dal for 3-4 hours.

Cooking - Wash and transfer the dal to a pressure cooker. Add salt, turmeric, green chili, potato, whole spices and 2 cups of water. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 whistles.

Remove from the stove and allow steam to escape. Lightly mash the dal.

Add the spring onions to the mashed dal and cook on medium flame for 4-5 mins.

Heat oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and broken red chillis. Crush the garlic
flakes lightly and add to the spluttering seeds. Fry for 10-20 secs.

Pour the contents of the wok over the dal and spring onions. Add the fish. Close the lid and simmer for 2 mins.

Serve hot with white rice/rotis.

Note: Adjust the consistency as per your liking. 

My Ethnic take on Aishwarya's Oscar de la Renta gown at Cannes 2015 !!

The lady still manages to look like a trillion bucks at 41 !! Agreed that it takes truckloads of money and an army of stylists to put it together, but an individual's attitude and poise is also pivotal. And all of us will readily vouch that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was only born with it.

For lesser mortals like us putting together something like it is akin to a dream. The lady's killing appearance inspired me to create a look that can be easily replicated by most Indian women. The average Indian woman would find it tough to carry off a gown like that. Even Aishwarya had some fitting issues in the underarm region if you look closely. So, I have picked up a lace saree in Burgundy and teamed it up with minimal jewelry. Have omitted the clutch as it has largely remained in the shadows this year !

Image source : Rediff.com

My take on this outfit -

The saree is my own (it looks darker than it appears in the pics), earrings and finger ring from Jabong.com and the watch (a maverick touch) and bracelet are from mirraw.com . Entire look can be put together in less than Rs 15000 or still lesser if you swap the earrings which are in 18K gold !!

A closer look at the saree !! It goes will with a black halter neck blouse or a sheer /nude blouse with red sequins on it ...

Team this up with a nice brick red /burgundy lipstick. I would suggest a budget pick like Maybelline Color Sensational Moisture Extreme Lipstick in the shade Burgundy or a Coloressence Mesmerising Lip Color in the shade Brick Red !

How do you find the look ? Please share your feedback as this is the first time I am writing on fashion. Have wanted to do some articles on styling for a long time and the play of colors on the red carpet this year has been very inspiring. Lace, embroidery, frills, cutouts and an overall relaxed look has been the theme this year. Even the hair styles are so much more natural and care-free.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dahi Waley Tinday

Yes. It is yet another tinda recipe ( plz excuse me for doing those back to back). And a quite simple one at that. It reminds me of the 'Dahi-aloo' that I make quite often. Lazy, refreshing and quite good with a couple of rotis. Perfect for the hot summers .

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup apple gourd /Indian baby pumpkin /tinday (peeled and chopped into medium sized cubes)
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnishing

Preparation - Take the cumin and fennel seeds. Pound them into a coarse mixture.

Take the yogurt in a mixing bowl and beat lightly to break any lumps. Add a little salt .Mix.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the asafoetida followed by the mustard seeds and the broken  green chili. Once the chili turns somewhat brown, add the pounded spices. Stir fry for 10 seconds.

Add the chopped apple gourd and mix with the spices. Add very little water (3-4 tbsp), salt and close the lid. Cook for 1 whistle on medium flame.

Remove from the flame and keep aside for 10 mins.

Open the lid and transfer the contents into the mixing bowl containing the curd. Sprinkle chopped cilantro.

Serve at room temperature with rotis or jeera rice. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lessons for a Lifetime !

Every year, around Mother's day, people suddenly start getting nostalgic about their mothers and the special moments spent with them. Some talk about the emotional support and encouragement received while for others it might be a lesson that has held them in good stead. And then there are a few for whom it is all about the maternal pampering and love . But that is just the explicit part of it.

In truth, those indispensable lessons that a mother taught us are something that define what we are and how we conduct ourselves in our everyday life. It is the implicit teachings, the judgement of what is right or wrong, what needs to be done or what must be done and other such sublime stuff that gets ingrained into our psyche during the formative years. Her first slap may seem like a punishment and its echo might still resound in our ears, but actually is the first lesson that teaches us to refrain from doing wrong.

Some of life's most important lessons are learnt by her side as she is the first mentor for every kid. She teaches by setting a example as her interactions with others set the tone for our future relationships. It is her relationship management skills that sows the elements of trust, respect and sharing in those young minds.

But unfortunately, a majority of these women happen to be homemakers who have been denied their due. While their contribution to society is immense, they are still judged by their inability to contribute to the household income. As everyone focuses on gender equality and we seek greater participation from women in the workplace, the role of the stay-at-home mothers is largely ignored. While we may not choose to follow their footsteps, we need to respect and applaud these women. And my mother taught me to do so.

My mother, while she taught me and my brother to uphold tradition, also instilled the importance of being flexible and the need to adapt/change with time. These are same values that has helped Godrej stay as the hair color of choice among a majority of Indians. I remember my mother using the old Godrej hair color of the 90's ( and maybe that is why it is the first thing that came into my mind when I wanted to try a hair color for myself ). While the dye itself was a pioneer in the Indian markets, it came in just one shade, a jet black one that looked quite stark on senior folks and smelled quite strong. They did launch a brown version after sometime but the shade repertoire remained quite limited for a long time. However they have evolved over time and are now available in seven shades. That too in an ammonia free formulation. A great thing as they have the best understanding about Indian hair which is thicker and darker when compared to the Europeans. A quality that at times necessitates the use of a bleach when dyeing one's hair a few shades lighter than the original. But say bye-bye to such hassles with the new range of Creme hair colors from Godrej which make dyeing your hair seem as easy as a breeze while also being light on the pockets.

I have already brought a sachet of this new-age hair color for my Mom. Have you ?

Tinday ki Subzi ( Curried Apple gourd )

'Tinday' or 'tindi' happens to be one of those vegetables that I had never came across during the first twenty years of my life. It was only when I started working and had this Delhi girl as a room-mate, that I was introduced to this vegetable. But with her limited cooking skills, the first time we tried cooking this vegetable, it turned out to be disastrous.

And I never got around to trying it again till last month when a neighbor told me about this really simple recipe that she got from her 'Nani' . I tried it and quite loved it. And from then, I started experimenting with this vegetable. The recipe that I am sharing today is one of the spicier versions that one may come across but I am hooked onto it. Read on -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 nos Tinday /apple gourd
  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp onion paste
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 pinch turmeric seeds
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • whole spices ( 1 black cardamom, 1 green cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon, 2 cloves )
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil

Preparation - Take the curd, ginger paste, garlic paste, half of the powdered spices and salt into a mixing bowl. Beat together. 

Peel the tinday and make a cross on each one till almost 2/3 of the length. Remove the seeds from inside. Add to the curd mixture and allow to marinate for 2-3 hours.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the whole spices and fry till fragrant. Remove and keep aside.

Add the cumin seeds followed by the asafoetida. Add the onion paste after 20 seconds. Fry till light brown.

Add the marinated tinda along with the marinade. Sprinkle a little salt. Close the lid and cook for 2 whistles on a medium flame.

Remove the cooker from the flame and keep aside till steam escapes. 

Open the lid and garnish with fresh cilantro .

Serve hot with white rice or rotis !!

Note - Will post another simple version in the next few days !!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gatta Pulao ( No onion No garlic version )

For someone living south of the state of Rajasthan, the term 'gatta' sounds almost alien. Quite a few of us have grown up thinking that 'gatta' is just another vegetable that could be native to the arid lands of the state. So, it was quite a surprise when I had a chance to taste the famous delicacy. 'Gatta' is nothing but 'besan'/'gram flour dumplings that are first cooked in boiling water, cooled, fried and then later added to any dish. It serves as a substitute for vegetables which are hard to come by in a desert.

It is when most of us want to try such exotic dishes, that we seek to connect with someone who has had experience/expertise with it. And that is where 'TalkToChef' comes in with help at hand. It is  a platform that allows one to connect with real chefs and get any cooking queries answered on a real time basis. TalkToChef is not about recipes but real folks who are ready to dish out information with their vast culinary experience. Make your meals healthier and fix any last minutes issues with expert help so that you do not have to rely on takeaways or frozen meals.Their mantra is simple and can be summed up in the following words - "we envision every table adorned with a home cooked meal as if it were prepared by a professional chef". 

If spicy curries are not your thing and you prefer the sheer comfort of rice dishes, this is another 'gatta' recipe that you must try. While chopped onions and garlic paste do form a part of this rich pulao, I have kept this version 'niramish' so that it can be had on fasting days too. Read on -

Preparation Time - 30-45 mins

Ingredients -

For the Gatta -

  • 1 cup besan
  • 2 tsp curd
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • salt to taste

For the pulao -

  • 3 cups cooked rice ( use Basmati or Jeera rice )
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • 1/5 tsp garam masala
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 2-3 green cardamom
  • 1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3-4 tbsp raisins
  • 3-4 tbsp broken cashews
  • 3 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnishing

Preparation - Take all the ingredients for the 'gatta' in a mixing bowl. Mix together into a tight dough. If it feels too dry, sprinkle a few drops of water. Cover with a cloth and keep aside for 10-15 mins.

Divide into 3-4 portions. Roll each portion into a sausage like cylinder .

Boil water in a saucepan. Add the cylinders into the water and allow to cook for 12-13 mins. Remove from the water and keep aside till cool. Cut into smaller portions of about an inch long.

Cooking - Heat the oil and ghee in a wok. Add the 'gatta' and fry lightly for 2-3 mins. Remove and keep aside.

Add the whole spices and cumin seeds. Fry till fragrant and then add the raisins and cashews. Add the green peas after 30 seconds. Fry for 2-3 mins.

Add the powdered masalas, fried gatta and salt.  Fry for 1 minute. 

Finally add the cooked rice along with the chopped cilantro. Switch off the flame and mix everything together.

Serve it hot with fresh curd.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Weekly Snapshot (10/05/2015 - 16/05/2015)

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Friday, May 15, 2015

App's the way, Mahi Ve !!!

Yet another app has made it's debut on the screen (read 'scene'). And before you groan "not another one", let me add that it is a lively one that goes shake shake shake !! Yes, the new Airtel app is the new (and fun) way of making life a whole lot less complicated and much more entertaining. Being loaded with features, it has something to cater to everyone's needs. Read on to find why it is my app of choice -

1. 'I want To' - One single tab to manage the most important and recurrent of tasks which can actually get quite boring over a period. This takes care of all my bill payments and recharges, even sending reminders on time so that one does not miss out /delay on doing so. It also allows one to keep a track of the data consumed, current balance and even maintains a record of the recharge history. Sounds more organised than a personal assistant, doesn't it ?  A must have for those who want to stay connected perpetually and yet not lose track of expenses. It is something that even my Dad would approve and I guess even he would love to use it as he feels quite lost using multiple apps for different tasks !

2. Cash back -  With 'Airtel Surprises' coupons, the app ensures that you get some cash back in return of every recharge you do via your smartphone. And these coupons can be availed on some of the popular shopping websites (Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, etc) and entertainment hubs like PVR Cinemas and Cafe Coffee Day. So, say 'Yes' to loads and loads of freebies as you connect with your friends and have a blast together while actually saving money. Share this with your friends and they will love you for it !

3. Secure Payments - A prerequisite for everyone who wants to transact/transfer money via mobile. With the Airtel app, carrying your smartphone is akin to carrying a wallet but far more secure than the latter which can fall prey to pickpockets. Also, it integrates your credit/debit cards, net banking and Airtel money into one so that you can pick the one that you might want to use at a particular moment with ease. For example, if it is the month end and you want to use the credit card as you are not holding sufficient funds in your bank account, you can simple choose to make a payment via the credit card. It makes it possible to transfer even the smallest amount of money to a friend who might need some to recharge his own phone.

So, what are you waiting for ? Download the Airtel app and make the most out of your bucks !!

This post is written for the Airtel App .

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Restaurant Review Series : Pancha Phoron @ Murugeshpalya, Bangalore

Looks can be deceptive and this restaurant fits the bill perfectly. We chanced upon this place while driving on the Wind Tunnel Road. From the outside, it looks like one of those middle class places that are known more for their lip-smacking fare rather than for fancy presentation/innovative dishes or an artsy ambiance. And at a reasonable price.

Regional preferences for comfort food ensure that we turn to Bengali cuisine when Odia cuisine is not available ( and I am in no mood to cook ). So, we entered the restaurant hoping for a good and wholesome meal (dinner). The interiors are quite drab but do have that old city kind of feel. It was a bit hot and we had to ask one of the waiters to turn on the AC.  Apart from us, there was just one guy and the lady of the establishment was helping him out with the menu.

One look at the menu and the prices came as a bit of a shocker !! But we persisted thinking that the food might me good. We settled for a Chicken Kosha, Mutton Curry (Mangshor Jhol), luchi and white rice ( a meal that added up to Rs 610/- ).

The food arrived with 15 mins. They served the Chicken Kosha along with the luchi first. The chicken was good, not too spicy and quite similar to the one I make at home. The quantity (4 pieces) was good for the price. Out of the 4 luchi's ( maida puri ), 2 had been over-fried.

Then came the disaster. The Mutton curry which refuses to get out of my head. The gravy smelled of raw masalas. The mutton was just too chewy. And the meat did not take on the distinctive aroma of the spices (which can only mean that it was first boiled separately and then added to the curry). When we called the owner and told her about it, she gave a lame excuse like "since you have had the spicier Chicken kosha first, this tastes a little bland. Bengali mutton curry is like that only" . But she agreed to cook it some more. So, the dish went off the table and came back 10 mins later, with only a marginal improvement. I guess the lady had no idea that with Odia and Bengali dishes, it is the 'kasha' or stir frying ( more like braising ) process of the masalas along with the meat, that actually plays the major role in the final taste of the dish.

The mutton remained untouched (except for one piece that I had served on my plate) and we finished the rice with whatever was left of the Chicken Kosha. And sadly, the establishment did not bother with niceties like refilling the water glasses or asking for a feedback on the food.

A terrible experience !! Save your money and show some mercy to those taste-buds .....a must avoid experience !!

Rating - 1/5 .

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Fast ( Sabitri Brata Series )

Five more days to go. I guess most of us would be done with shopping (clothes/accessories/make-up) for Sabitri and all those dresses/blouses would have gone to the tailors for stitching. Now the uphill task is to get these notorious procrastinating guys from delivering on time. So, keep reminding the fellas that D-day is nearing. And get your shopping list ready for buying those edibles.

Now moving on to the matter of the fast, I have got a few queries on what is ok to consume on Sabitri and what can be offered as the prasad. So, I am doing this blog post to answer all those queries. You can still drop a query by means of a comment on my blog or on my Fb page (here). Read on -

  • The thumb rule - "No cooked items please". All fruits, salad vegetables, milk products, sabudana and sprouts are ok. 
  • No sweets please unless it is 'misti doi' .
  • Tea and coffee are debatable. Best to avoid but if you are addicted, have a cup or two to keep you from feeling cranky.
  • No regular salt. Use black salt.
  • No ice-cream.
  • The prasad usually consists of all possible types of fruits. Though most senior ladies advice you to stick to a few 'desi' fruits, people staying abroad may find it tough. So, all fruits are ok. 

Some easy recipes that you can make -

1. Sabudana with milk - Soak 1 cup sabudana overnight. Drain the water and mix it with 1 cup milk, 1-2 mashed bananas, 1/2 cup chopped apple, freshly grated coconut, crumbled chenna and some sugar/jaggery. Consume immediately.

2. Sabudana with yogurt - Soak 1 cup sabudana overnight. Drain the water and mix it with 1/2 cup yogurt, small pineapples pieces, apples pieces, pomegranate and some sugar. Consume immediately.

3. Fruit Salad - Take assorted fruits in a bowl. Sprinkle some black salt and black pepper powder. Add a dash of lime juice. Toss. Keep aside for 5 mins. Dig in.

4. Sprouts Salad - Take moong sprouts, channa sprouts chopped cucumber, chopped avocado, black salt , black pepper powder and lime juice in a mixing bowl. Toss together. Keep aside for 15 mins. Dig in.

5. Dahi Sharbat (Lassi)- With the mango season at its peak, add some fresh mango pulp to your dahi sharbat to make it more interesting. 

6. Mango Milkshake - Chilled milk, mango pulp and sugar buzzed together for 1-2 mins. 

7. Watermelon Slush -  Watermelon cubes, lime juice, crushed ice, sugar and water tossed together in a blender will give you a most gratifying sip.

Note - Different households have different views on what is permissible. Hence, do consult with your MIL if you have any doubts.

Read more on the Sabitri Brata series Here and Here .

Monday, May 11, 2015

Raam Rochak Tarkari ( A no onion no garlic dumpling curry from Odisha )

Raam Rochak Tarkari can be described as a 'no onion no garlic version' of the 'Besan tarkari' or Moong Dal dumpling curry which is quite popular in Odisha. This particular version is also offered as prasad to Lord Jaganaath in Baripada's Jaganaath Temple.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients -

for the dumplings -

  • 1 cup split yellow moong dal + 1 handful green moong dal
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 2 pinch roasted jeera powder
  • salt to taste
  • sufficient oil for deep frying
For the curry -

  • 1 cup diced brinjal
  • 1 cup diced potato
  • 2-3 dry red chilis
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 nos green cardamom
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • 3-4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Soak the green moong dal overnight. The split yellow dal can be soaked for 1-2 hours. Wash, drain all water and then grind them together into a coarse paste.

Add salt, roasted cumin powder, chili powder and asafoetida to this paste and mix well.

Grind the red chilis, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger into a fine paste. Keep this masala (spice) paste aside.

Cooking - Heat suficient oil for deep frying. Add teaspoonfuls of the seasoned moong dal batter into the hot oil and fry till golden brown on all sides. Remove the dumplings from the wok and keep aside.

Similarly, make more dumplings out of the moong dal batter.

Heat 3-4 tsp oil in another wok. Add the ground masala paste and fry till oil separates.

Add the diced potato and brinjal. Fry for 2-3 mins. Then add salt and turmeric. Cover with a lid and cook till the potatoes are 3/4 th done.

Add about 2-3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and then add the dumplings. Allow the curry to simmer for 4-5 mins.

Remove from the flame and keep aside. Garnish with some fresh cilantro if you like.

Serve hot with white rice or Dala khichidi.

Note - It is usually served with 'Dala Khichidi', another Baripada specialty.

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