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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ghora Pitha

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

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

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30-35 mins

Ingredients -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mac and Cheese with TERRA Vegetable Chips

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

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

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

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

Preparation Time - 50 mins

Ingredients -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve with these delicious vegetable chips .

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kakharu Patra Bara ( Tender Pumpkin leaf Fritters )

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

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

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve hot with rice and dal.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ambeda Sakkara ( Indian Plums in a Coconut Tamarind gravy )

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

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

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve with arwa bhata and dalma !

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mushroom Paneer Masala ( And a box full of Nostalgia )

One of the most wretched things in life is perhaps being away from loved ones during the festive season. I was feeling completely heartbroken as this year work commitments kept us from visiting our hometown during the Dusshera celebrations.  The new clothes were there, the sweets were there and quite a number of bedecked pandals were strewn all over Bangalore. But the close ones with whom we would have loved to share all this were missing. I guess that is the thing about joy. It multiplies manifold when shared.

Hence, when a beautiful green colored box arrived one afternoon, it stirred memories of celebrations back home. As I opened the box, the delectable 'Tata Sampann' spice packets tumbled out unleashing a floodgate of nostalgia. 'Paneer Masala', 'Dal Takdka masala' and 'Punjabi Choley Masala' reminded me of the delicious vegetarian meals cooked by my 'mausi' and 'mamis'. With schools being closed for Dusshera vacation, all of us would gather at 'mama's' place for fun and food. With so many people in the house, the kitchen hardly got any respite. The younger lot of ladies would be in charge of whipping of the meals while my 'nani' took to keeping an eye over the kids. The terrace would be lined with the freshly dug turmeric and red chillis, which in turn attracted our curiosity. While in those days I clearly remember sulking over not being allowed to play with those spices, today I realize that their tantalizing culinary creations carried the magical touch of these home ground spices.
Each individual use sachet of TATA Sampann seals in the same freshness of the best quality spices that still retain their natural oils which are responsible for that unmistakable aroma of the home ground spices. These spices are further sourced from the best farms and are 100 percent sterilized to ensure complete safety for one's family. Plus the signature 'masalas' are developed under the expertise of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor who is a name to reckon with.

Given our hectic lifestyle and the obvious absence of a terrace to carry out such ventures, I could never imagine creating those magical concoctions in my own kitchen. But as I cut open the carefully sealed spice packets from 'Tata Sampann', the heady aroma and the striking hues made my head spin. 'Sampann' literally translates into rich and that it exactly what these spices felt like.

I prepared a simple meal consisting of a mushroom-paneer curry, dal tadka , steamed rice and salad for our 'Dashami' lunch. Tantalizing aromas enveloped the entire house even as I added finishing touches to the spread. Some of it even escaped to tease the neighbors, and in turn, prompting queries like 'what's special today ?'. And needless to say, my family had one of their best meals in the recent times.

Read on for the recipe for Mushroom Paneer Masala, a dish that never fails to invoke my childhood memories -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -
  • 200 gm paneer
  • 200 gm button mushrooms
  • 1/2 sachet of Tata Sampann Paneer Masala
  • 2 tsp cream (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp Tata Sampann turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Tata Sampann red chili powder ( adjust as per taste )
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp butter (optional)

For the gravy -
  • 1 large onion ( cut into chunks )
  • 10 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1 inch ginger ( peeled and chopped into juliennes )
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 2 pinch salt 
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 3-4 cashews 
  • 1 tsp melon seeds (char-magaj)
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

Preparation - Soak cashews, poppy seeds and melon seeds in warm water for 30 mins.

Clean the mushrooms by rubbing them on a rough kitchen towel before then washing under running water. Slice them along the length.

Cut the paneer into cubes and immerse in salted water.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Fry till fragrant.

Add onion, ginger and garlic cloves . Fry till raw smell goes off.

Add the chopped tomato and fry till they soften a bit. Finally toss in the soaked cashews and fry for 2 mins.

Remove from flame and keep aside till it cools down. Grind into a smooth paste and keep aside.

Heat the remaining oil and butter in the same wok. Add the masala paste and fry for 2-3 mins before adding the sliced mushrooms.

Turn up the heat and fry the mushrooms till they leave most of their water.

Sprinkle the red chili powder, turmeric powder and the Tata Sampann Paneer masala. Fry for 3-4 mins before adding about 1 1/2 cups of hot water. Adjust salt.

Bring to a boil before letting it simmer. Once the gravy is done, sprinkle garam masala and toss in the paneer cubes . Switch off the flame.

Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Thank you Tata Sampann for sending over this box full of nostalgia !

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