Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 - The year that was ....

And just like that, another year has flown by.
Another eventful year that was, for me.
2017 was good to me; after a long time I could finally breathe, laugh a little and felt assured in my heart that all will be well .... always.
The year started off with what we love best ... a road trip .... to Hampi and then on to Bangalore, on the very first month of the brand new year.
And then a trip to Rajasthan almost at the same time.
And then again in summer.
And then again in October.
Being with the family healed me a lot.

And then in September I went to the US of A again. This time it was a longer trip and I got to visit a lot many places, share food and stories and lots of warmth and laughter with many friends and new people. I also got to cook Indian food for a few, which was the highlight of my travels.

Coming back, we made a quick short trip tp Goa too, after ages.
Visited our old haunts as well as some fabulous new places and enjoyed the food scene in Goa all over again.
If you are following me on Instagram, you will know as I share there.

I am surprised that inspite of all my travels and such a hectic year, I managed to post regularly ... at least four to five posts every month. Makes me feel real proud of myself ... because god knows how difficult it is for me with my illnesses.
Posting regularly took a backseat only after I got introduced to Instagram. That pressure of writing when I can't think of anything was gone.
All I had to do was to click a snap and post it. Sometimes with the recipe. And that was it.

So, here I am sharing with you some photographs that I have posted on insta but never made a post here.
I have mostly shared my snacks and my lunch plates. And at times some dinner plates too.

Inspite of making the Luchi numerous times, I still have not made a post on it.
So here is my snap of the verily loved Phulko Luchi. With the shada aloor torkari.

This year, I have not been able to do much with the winter sun as I have not been keeping well for a while now. But did make some Kuler achar and some Mirchi ka achar to go with our parathas.
 Here is a collage of some of the lunch plates that I had shared on Insta.

I had also shared a glimpse of my kitchen and some of my new toys there. 

The most significant thing that I could do this year in my kitchen was rustle up a real biryani.
The real chicken biryani, step by step, complete with the addition of the saffron and other essences as well as the birista.
Was pretty chuffed with the way it turned out and helped in soothing the souls that were hurting at India's disappointing loss in the cricket ground that day.

Today, while I sit here, struggling to type in a few words to round off the year with, I realise that not everything is always perfect. Even if it is a year.
After a beautiful year, I am rounding it off with a high fever that refuses to come down below 101 degrees for the last 4 days. While the man struggles in the kitchen.
So much for my showmanship in my kitchen and my culinary achievements.

I just hope the next year treats me well.
All I want is a little health and happiness.
And some peace everywhere.

All I want is to be able to do what I want to.
All I want is some genuine love and warmth everywhere.
And some more.

All I want is to be able to feed at least one child everyday.
May no one ever go to sleep hungry.

Here is wishing you all a very happy brand new year!
May you find and be able to share a lot of love and happiness!!
God bless!!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Besanwali Bhindi / Okra cooked with gram flour

I have been intending to make some posts on the bhindi / lady finger / okra, for a while now.
But either I run short of time or the dish, even if it turns out to be tasty, does not look worthy of a photograph.
I do click anyway but those photos languish in the pending folder and then get poofed into oblivion after a while.

But when I made this recipe of the bhindi, I knew I had so share it; good photograph or no.
The reason I fell in love wit this dish was due to that combination of the saunf / fennel seeds, gur / jaggery and hing / asafoetida.
I had learnt to make a Gawarfali ki sabzi  with this combination long back and have often used it for a few other vegetables too.
Nothing worked as well as it did with the okra.
I was tempted to add some crushed peanuts as well .... since the original recipe had it, but did not as I was not sure how the peanuts would go with the okra.

Nonetheless, the dish is one of my most loved Okra dishes.
And has no slime at all in it.
While I have kept the okra long, with just a slit in the middle, you can chop it up too.
Only it tends to dry up faster when chopped, which in turn renders the besan dry too. On the other hand, the lengthwise pieces hold more moisture and helps the besan to hold on to it.

Need :

Okra / Bhindi - ¼ kilo, cleaned, washed, dried and cut into half lengthwise ... only halfway
Gram flour / Besan - 2 tbsp
Fennel seeds / Saunf - ½ tsp
Jaggery / Gur - 1 tbsp, powdered
Coriander / Dhania powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli / Mirchi powder - 1 tsp
Asafoetida / Hing - a pinch
Mustard oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed kadahi / wok.

Add the saunf and the hing.

Let in the bhindi and stir it well.

Add haldi + salt.

Cover and cook till bhindi is done.

Remove cover and stir it well, spreading it around so that any moisture left slowly dries up.

Add the dhania powder + gur + mirchi powder + besan.

Mix well and cover for a while for the besan to cook.

Remove cover and turn and toss so that everything mixes well.

Make  sure the besan does not burn .... if it dries up too much, give a sprinkle of water for extra moisture.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

This goes best with hot rotis.
But it is great on the side with plain rice and dal too.


Saturday, 23 December 2017

Motorshuti bhaja / Stir fried fresh green peas

 Winter is finally here. I mean not by the names of the months but by the temperature outside.
We have been missing the real winter for the past couple of years in Pune. But this year it has turned real cold and the fresh, crisp air outside has that perfect smell of winter ... dry leaves, smoke from a faraway bonfire mixed with the beautiful, sweet smell of the Eucalyptus leaves that waft around in the light breeze.

I step out on to the balcony every evening to catch the gorgeous sunsets. And to watch the stars come out. These days the sky is so clear that they sparkle a couple of shades brighter. And the new moon comes up looking all shiny and clean.
Needless to say, I love winters.
I can knit all I want to, wear the ones that I have knitted earlier, enjoy my hot cuppas of sometimes tea or coffee and soups at other times.
I can sit in the sun for longer times ... my bay windows are now awash with sunlight ever since the sun has shifted south.

I have recently twisted my knee ... yes, how can the year go by without my falling ill properly at least once .... and am confined to rest right now.
I do try to hobble around and rustle up quick meals but my leg turns too painful and I go back to my corner in the sofa. Near the window, in the sun.
And do what I do best ... knit. 
And reminisce.
Which I do a lot these days.
Of days gone by, of the winters of my childhood.
Losing the elders of the family one by one, memories are the only things that stay with me these days.
So I think of the winters of my childhood, the breakfasts of crisp, toasted bread and poached(fried) eggs ... sitting out in the sun.
Lunches of steaming hot stews. Teatimes with cakes at times and traditional snacks at other. 
And it was from one of those memories that I made this traditional, simple stir fry that spells winter as well as memories for me in many ways.

This used to be a favourite evening snack for us at home.
Ma would make this with the fresh green peas, soft and oh so sweet, that the season brings, and that have been freshly shelled.
Iin the afternoon, after lunch, Ma and the other kakimas would sit out in the soft winter sun in the uthon / courtyard ... some drying their long hair, some knitting .
All around, there would be achars/ pickles sunning as well as  batches of boris here and there. 
The breeze from the pond, which was so welcomed in the summer, would make them shiver and draw their shawls around them a little more.
Thamma would be there too, soaking in the sun, eyes closed and narrating small incidents ... mostly form the past.
The house helps would join in too, enjoying the leisurely time.
They would bring along with them small pending jobs .... one of which was the shelling of peas.
We children would drift in and out, picking up handfuls of freshly shelled sweet peas and munching on them.

While I love raw peas in about everything .... I add them to my egg scrambles / anda bhurji, stir fries, upma, uttapams, salads and muri / puffed rice, I love this stir fry just as much.
In the evenings, when at a loss as to what to make to accompany the evening tea, Ma would rustle this up while Jethima would prepare the muri.
She would add a dash of mustard oil and some chanacchur to the muri. ( It will not be the regular moshla muri ). And serve them in individual bowls.
At times, the muri would be tempered with some kalo jeere / nigella seeds and dry red chillies too ... but only if it has turned soft. This tossing on heat crisps the muri up as well as add some flavour too.

Meanwhile Ma would temper some heated mustard oil with kalo jeere / nigella seeds and whole dry chillies. Then she would add some chopped onions and stir fry them till just soft. No browning.
And then tip in a bowlful of shelled green peas and a pinch of salt.
The peas will release water and everything will turn soft.
Just a few tosses ( you may cover and cook it for a while too ... but not for too long ) and it is done.
They would top the muri and the bowls would be handed out to everyone ... along with some thick, milky ada cha / ginger tea.

I can still see everyone sitting around the dining table, some sitting on the low window sill when there are no empty chairs left, some even on long, low bench that stood near the wall at the far end of the dining room .... munching, sipping, talking, laughing, discussing dinner's menu.
The dining room would no longer be cold .... there was so much love and warmth all around.
The peas would be so soft they would just melt in the mouth. And the crisp muri was the perfect foil, with its crunch.

Here is my bowlful of muri and motorshuti bhaja that I made one evening.
I had shared it on my Instagram and my facebook page .... but then memories overwhelmed me and I decided to make a post too.
For you.
And for posterity.

Hope you have a wonderful winter.
Have lots of hot food and make loads of memories.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Pui data Alu Begun Shorshe diye / Malabar spinach stalks cooked in mustard paste with potatoes and brinjals

 Recently, when I was visiting the other side of the family in Rajasthan, the lady who helps out in the house came up to me one day and asked when will I be going back. Taken aback, I asked why did she want to know.
All she said was to inform her a day before I left.
This lady is a Bengali and loves me to no end.
The moment she sees me, she turns all chirpy, smiling and joyous. Father-in-law says a drastic change comes over her.
It is not that I chat with her all the while. On the contrary I hardly talk to her except for once in a while.
All I do is smile at her ask about her welfare.
And take care that she is not burdened with any extra work due to our visit. And make sure that she gets whatever food is cooked at home .... fresh ... and whatever snacks and sweets we get home.

She on the other hand, like a child, would insist that I make her tea. Everyday.
I have no idea why.
I make the worst tea in the world. Even I cannot drink tea made by my own self. And so stay away from making tea for anybody at all. That is one job that B fulfills beautifully ... if we have guests it is B who makes tea.
But for this lady, it has to be me.
I love the fact that she knows I make the most terrible tea ever, and still insists that I make it for her.

So I was a little taken aback at her blunt question.
And forgot about it.
The day we were about to leave for our journey back, she came up to me and handed me a huge bag, saying "Eta tomar jonne Boudi."
I started to protest at her gifting me something when I looked in and found the freshest and most gorgeous of Pui looking up at me!
Shiny, fresh green leaves and with the juiciest of stalks.
I was so overjoyed that I hugged her.

She knew I loved Pui and had remembered!
I was so touched.

After reaching home, I immediately stocked my freezer with fish and used the Pui in every possible way known to me. The leaves were so fresh that I even boiled them and added just Kasundi and devoured with plain rice.
This medley I made because I had some potatoes and brinjals lying around. Had some mustard paste in the freezer ... so added a couple of cubes. And voila!
A veggie dish was ready in no time for lunch.

Sharing this with you today in this quick post.

Need :

Pui data / Malabar spinach stalks - cleaned and cut into small sizes
Potatoes - cut into thick strips
Brinjals - cut into thick strips
Onion - cut into slices
Green chillies - slit
Mustard paste
Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - a little
Haldi / Turmeric powder
Mustard oil- to cook
 How to :

Heat the oil in a wok / kadai.

Add the Nigella seeds and the green chillies.

Add all the vegetables and stir well.

Add turmeric powder + salt. Cover and cook till vegetables are done.

Remove cover, add the mustard paste and a little water, if needed, and mix well.

Add a little sugar, cover and cook till everything dries up.

Serve hot on the side with rice and dal.
Here is a shot of my lunch plate that late autumn afternoon.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Ucche Bhaate / Boiled and mashed Bitter Gourd and Potatoes

I have been back from my vacation in the US of A for over a month now. And yet have still not been able to get my mojo back to make a proper post here.
Not to mention the thought of laying a table and clicking a proper photograph sending shivers of laziness all over me.
I did try to look through my old photographs but could not find any one good photo that deserves to be presented here.
That propelled me to further procrastination .... which is very unlike me.
And then there is this case of writer's block.
No matter how much ever I tried, I just could not frame a proper sentence.

So I let go.
Thought that lack of enthusiasm will shame my writer's block into some creativity.
But no ... nada .... nyet.
Nothing happened.
So I tried to stay active on Instagram ... at least to stay in touch with the food world. But that too lacks diligence as of now.
Most of the time I keep going back to the memories of my trip and I just love going through the numerous photos and videos .... living and reliving every moment spent at Disneyland, Seaworld and Miami.
And when I am not doing that, I am trying to get the house back into some order.

The best thing that happened on this trip, though, was that I got to cook for the friends we stayed with for a day each.
One of them, who is B's senior colleague , mentor and a wonderful person, who I was longing to meet for long, is a vegan. And loves Indian food.
I cooked them a regular Indian meal of roti, sabzi, dal and rice. Our host was very happy that the meal was vegan .... a fact that even I had not noticed till he pointed it out.
We discussed on healthy food and how a full, home cooked Indian meal will fill you up well and yet you won't  feel overstuffed.
The other friend is a vegetarian too. And happily opened his kitchen to me.
I loved shopping for fresh produce at the local markets and coming back and cook with them.
Had an absolutely wonderful time.
Nothing can beat the joy that comes from cooking and feeding friends and family in foreign lands and in unfamiliar kitchens.

Coming back, we craved light food for a few days.
The real American cuisine has a lot of deep fried stuff on the plate and we found ourselves turning to more of Mexican food during our travels ... which is a little similar to our Indian food.
Or to Indian food most times.
In Orlando, we found some very good Indian restaurants and the food quality was fabulous.
And they delivered to our hotel too ... which was a boon, considering we used to spend the whole day, from early morning to late evening, walking the parks.
So after a very tiring day, hot food on your table within half an hour of ordering, was more than what a weary traveller can ask for.

Back home, I went back to a dal,bhaat, a makha and a bhaja routine happily. Since I did not eat too much of non vegetarian food in the US, except for some fried chicken wings once in a while, I did fill up my freezer with some good fish too.
So it was a halka jhol or a light maach bhaja on most days that accompanied my rice.

But it was the sheddho (boiled) and makha (mashed together) vegetables that ruled the roost. Extremely light, detoxing and just the right thing to get your taste buds some relief, these makhas or bhortas are perfect for a light meal.
I use a lot of vegetables, sometimes individually and sometimes mixed, to make these sheddho makhas.
All you need is some chopped onions and green chillies and some mustard oil for that kick of flavour. At times I throw in some chopped garlic too, depending upon the vegetable I am using.

If you want to make a proper bhorta, then just fry the boiled vegetable in a little oil along with the onions and chillies.
I prefer my bhortas not fried.

Here is one of those vegetable bhortas, with the Ucche / bitter gourd.
Perfect for cleansing your system as well your taste buds.

All you have to do is to boil some bitter gourd and potatoes.
Cool and mash them with chopped onions + green chillies + mustard oil + salt + coriander leaves.

This mash is usually eaten at the begining of a Bengali meal, with rice, since it has the bitter gourd and Bengalis eat a little bitter at the begining of a meal ... usually lunch.
Any other vegetable mash can be eaten along with the rest of the dishes in a meal.


Leaving you with a shot of Cinderella's castle, Disneyland.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

My Noname Chicken Curry .... the spicy, tangy and oh! so good kind

 Ever since I have started posting on Instagram, I have turned lazy when it comes to laying the table and setting up a place for photographs.
Not to mention the respite from the constant struggle with natural light.
And the fact that we have moved the dining table to another end of the living room ... away from the windows ..... is not helping too.
Which explains the sudden lack of photographs, now that I am raring to make some posts.

As I was going through my folders today,  I found these photos that I had taken on the iphone, for Insta, as usual.
And remembered that this curry had come out very well.
One look and I could remember that tangy, spicy gravy .... it was indeed good.
This was actually a result of indecisiveness and a little experiment.

Now, since I cook chicken rather frequently, and most of the time just marinate and dump the whole thing in a kadahi or pressure cooker or the oven, to cook on its own, I was getting tired of the same way of cooking.
I do use different kinds of sauces or masalas etc. at different times, but I had wanted to eat something really different this time.
Something that I would not recognise as cooked by me.
Hilarious .... I know.
But then, at times I do feel like eating food cooked by someone else .... and that does not mean eating at restaurants.

So what I had planned to do was to sear the chicken ... that has been sitting in some lemon juice for a while .... till brown, and then add spicy sauces to it.
Yeah ... I wanted to kill the already dead bird real well.
But then, as I went ahead with my cooking, things started to go very differently.

I had, initially, wanted to add tomatoes ( I rarely use tomatoes in my dishes, hence have no idea why I wanted to now) but forgot to add it.
While searing it in the pan, I decided to add Chinese sauces but forgot to do that too.
Instead, added turmeric and red chilli powder. My mind must have been somewhere else.
So now, to balance it, went ahead and added garam masala powder.
And watched in dismay as the curry was going exactly the way I did not want it to.

Adamant at not letting the chicken have its way, I threw in some Maharashtrian kanda lahsun masala too. Hoping that the onion and garlic as well as the coconut in the fiery masala will help deviate from the current path.

I also added a potato .... the Bengali in me wants a potato in her chicken jhol after all ....  and after the chicken was cooked, added another big squirt of lemon.
And just before covering it again, went ahead and added the chilli and a little soy sauce too.

And that is the end of the story.
I had no idea what to call it ... hence the name Noname.
But boy! did it turn out right!!
And lip smacking good.

And oh ... the ginger garlic paste is in the marination and the salt and sugar and cooking oil go in by default. 

I hope you try it.
With some plain rice, it was an absolute delight in every mouthful .

And if you to stay abreast with such quick and quirky recipe ideas by me, join me on Intsa here.
And get to share my meals and snacks alongwith.

Cheerio all!!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Shubho Mahalaya 2017 !!

Coming back to my home in Pune, the days have been flying by setting the house in order again.
Cooking has resumed and so the mojo, to click photos and make a post, is back.
The weather is fabulous .... the rains are back again after a short dry and hot spell ... which had led me to believe, albeit foolishly, that I can now sun the clothes and get about with our Autumn cleaning, which is a ritual before Durga Puja.

I could do with a little sunshine and kaash phool and some pujo pujo gondho though ... for the real feel.
But I'm happy with this too.
Just being back in my own domain is enough right now.

Yes, Durga Puja, any Bengali's most important celebration, is here, starting today.
It was in a blink of an eye, this year, that a whole month of Shraddh, has gone by.
And today is Debipokkho .... the day we welcome the goddess to her home on earth.
And which Bengali can ever forget this day?
Because this day is the day we listen to the Mahalaya.

Every Bengali, adult or child, is deeply connected to this day.
Waking up in the earliest possible hour to listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra on the radio is a memory every single Bengali cherishes.
The heart strings still tug at the very strains of the Mahishasurmardini .... starting with that auspicious sound of conch shell blowing.
So melodious, so beautiful!
And so very nostalgic!

Naturally, the thoughts fly back to my childhood and home.
Since I have already written about Mahalaya and the memories that come with it here earlier, I am not going to delve into it again.

Rather, I would like to pray for all the souls out there to be able to find peace, wherever they are.
And pray for some peace on this world too .... there are enough souls suffering out here.

And this dawn, when I played the Mahishasurmardini on Youtube, I sat beside the window and watched dawn struggling to break through the dark clouds and incessant rain.
The air was heavy with the smell of early morning and rain and wet earth and smoke. A thick fog hung all over the canopy of trees.
And in my mind, I saw two visions.

In one, I saw a sleepy eyed girl snuggling in beside her father under the thick kaantha, in his swing, while the Mahishasurmardini played on the radio; dawn breaking outside and in the garden, near the window, the dew soaked Jui flowers falling soundlessly on the earth below ... filling the air with their fragrance.

In the other, I saw the same father lying in the same drawing room .... only this time it was on the  ground and not in his favourite huge swing bed.
The girl went out into the garden, in the faint light of dawn breaking, and gathered a big handful of the same fragrant Jui flowers, soaked with dew, and laid gently beside his head ... willing him to take a whiff of his favourite flowers before he left home forever.

Durga has come and gone twice since then.
And will continue to do so every year too.

And we will still look forward to this beautiful day of Mahalaya every year .... each of us with our very own memories and stories from the past .... and making more stories for the future.

Shubho Mahalaya everyone!
May this Pujo bring you lots of happiness!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Rinku's Sunday Yoghurt Chicken Curry

 I had been planning to make a post on this recipe that I have so fallen in love with. It so happened that Rinku, whose recipe this is, had once posted this on FB. I asked for the recipe and she promptly shared it.
Rinku is behind the wonderful blog The Spice Chronicles and the author of several cookbooks too.

It is one lovely recipe.
The only change I made was use only around 250 gms of chicken as I was cooking just for myself.
And I loved that idea of searing the chicken.
I added a pinch of sugar because the yogurt that I had was a little sour. So the sugar was to balance the taste.
Since there was no mention of turmeric in the recipe, I did not add any. The gravy had a beautiful colour and that fragrance is to die for!

While I do make a Doi morich chicken, Rinku's version is completely different. This has Punjabi flavours will go very well with parathas or thick rotis or naans too.
I had a batch of the Punjabi garam masala that I had picked up in Amritsar ... so used that.
This is a great dinner dish during the monsoons or in winter.

 My whole house was redolent with the aroma of this chicken curry.
A beautiful chicken curry as this deserved an equally beautiful companion. So I went ahead and made myself some fragrant mishti polau too.
My Sunday was made!!

You can check out her recipe for this curry here

I may not be able to make regular posts but will try to be back once in a while.
Till then ...


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Macha Munda Chencheda / Fish head cooked with spices

 Too many people all around. Too much of noise. Too many talking together. Too much of laughter. Too much of cooking going on.
Complaints throng my head. I look around for a little solitude. And do not find any.
Voices float all around me ... someone calling out, someone laughing out, children shrieking as they play, family greeting the just arrived ones with much embracing, smiles, laughter and jokes.
House helps hurrying all around, trying to keep pace with the orders given.
There is an air of festivity all around.

I look on from the terrace on the third floor of our house. And finally turn away in disgust.
I am angry.
I do not understand this casual air around. This air of happiness spilling forth amongst people who have come to our house. I do not understand this feel of vacation among them.
I am so angry that I spend all my time in the little room on the terrace.

Ma, on the other hand is more welcoming. She is all around ... giving orders, looking into the guests' comfort, assigning rooms, everything.
I do not help. I do not want to be a part of any of this.
Given a choice, I would happily be back in my home miles away; would give anything to avoid this time here every year henceforth.

I know I am being unreasonable. I know everyone is trying to lighten the air, ignoring the real, morbid reason why they are here. But I can't help it.
I miss Bapi.
I look around and miss him all the more.
Bapi loved having people over ... be it relatives or friends or unkown guests.
When relatives dropped in for a day, he would arrange for the kitchen to be filled with all kinds of fish and meat and vegetables. He remembered each one's favourite and made sure it was there on the plate.
A variety of mangoes during summer, Ilish from Kolaghat during the rains, the best mutton and prawns, ... you just have to name it. And it is there.
He did not talk much himself but loved to have people, especially our huge family, around him.
Our house in the little hilly town, where Bapi, Ma and I stayed becuse of the proximity to Bapi's industry/factory, came alive, resonated with laughter and loud, boisterous talking whenever the family and Dadu and Thamma dropped down to visit or spend a day.

And now, when everybody is here, I look around but can't find Bapi. And feel angry all the more. 
I just want some quiet around me.
And my Bapi.
And his voice, calling out to me.

Back in Pune, I often cook Bapi's favourite dishes, pretending he has asked me to. And this fish head curry is one of them.
In Bengali, it is called the Macher matha diye chanchra, and usually has vegetables added to it.
Even the Odia version has vegetables most of the time. But this one is different.
This one is a replica of the chencheda from a restaurant ... one that Bapi took solace in when it was a pure veg day at home.
Since Bapi could never eat a pure vegetarian meal, and had to have a little fish on his plate, he would arrange for some of this chencheda to be delivered home and had his lunch with this on the side. I too loved this chencheda , but it was way too spicy for me then.

All I remember is the overwhelming flavour of garlic and the reddish oil floating.
There would be very small bits of potatoes, almost invisible.
But the flavours of the fish head and garlic would be intact. At times, I could see a small piece of the tej pata,  a little green cardamom and some  cinnamon at other times.

It has been so long since I tasted it last that I do not remember almost anything about it.
Except that it tasted heaven;y.
And Bapi loved it.
With the dominance of garlic, so common in Odiya food, this fish head chencheda stays on as one of my favourite dishes.

Need :

1 Rohu Fish head - fried and broken into pieces
Onions - 2, chopped
Garlic paste - 4 tsp
Ginger paste - 2 tsp
Tomato paste - 3 tbsp
Green cardamom - 1, crushed
Cinnamon - 2 small pieces, crushed
Tej pata / bay leaf - 2
Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Dhaniya powder - 2 tsp
Potato - 1, chopped into very small pieces
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Roasted jeera powder - 1 tsp
Mustard oil - 5 tbsp
Salt - to taste

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy kadahi / wok.

Add the crushed garam masala and the tej pata.

Add the onions and fry till they turn pink.

Now add the ginger + garlic paste and the tomato paste.
Fry well.

Add the haldi + mirchi + dhaniya powder and mix well.
Fry on low heat till oil starts to leave the sides.

Add the potato pieces, salt and a little water.

Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.

Remove cover and add the fried fish head.
Mix well.
Add some more water for everything to come together.
Cover and simmer till it dries up.

Add the garam masala powder and the roasted jeera powder, give a good stir, cover and remove from heat.

 Serve hot with rice.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Mooli ka Thepla / Radish flatbreads

It is quiet all around. Except for the birds ... flying and chirping and singing busily. The parrots are going crazy, screeching and playing around in the trees. There is a particularly large group living here and are the noisiest ones around.
It is a delight to watch them everyday and especially when it rains. ( I recently shared a video on Instagram of them bathing in a sudden shower. )
The sun has just come up from behind the little hillock in the east and I can see the brightness all around on the trees and their shining leaves ... but not the sun, not yet, as I am on my balcony in the west.
It is a gorgeous morning and still cold. And breezy too.
The rains are nowhere in sight but there are clouds, lazily passing by ... large puffs of white. An occasional dark one does pass by too, but it is too small to dim the brightness all around.
I take a sip of my Darjeeling tea. The breeze is strong and lulls the swing a little. Good ... since I did not want to move an inch.
Reclining on the swing, my feet to not reach the ground.
So I am grateful for the strong breeze.

A bulbul darts in and sits on the terracotta water bowl. I stay still.
Ever alert, it jumps up and down a little, looks this way and that quickly and jumps into the water.
Splashes around, gives a few quick dips and jumps up on to the rim again, shakes all over to throw away the excess water and is gone. Just like that ... in the blink of an eye.
I finally relax and move to wipe the water droplets on my arm.

It is a gorgeous morning.
I take another sip ... the steam is still coming out of the cup and curls upwards.
I am tempted to go back inside and get my half read book. I have just got my hands on Amish's Sita, finally, and am hooked to it ... just like I am to the rest of his books.
But I don't.
I love my time with myself and nature in the mornings and decide not to let anything else come in between. I can read later.
After all, the rains will start eventually. And I won't get to sit outside this way for sometime.

I will be away, at home.
Where it rains like all hell has broken loose. With thunder and lightening. With huge storm winds.
Where you see the sky turn ominously red, in the nights and know that it is going to pour soon. Pour incessantly; ceaselessly.
Where I will have to go back again and again, at this time of the year, when I rather would not.
When I would rather hide, burrow myself deep somewhere, or get lost somewhere where painful memories cannot reach me.
When I will have to relive those moments of agonising helplessness, relentless yet futile hope and the pain of seeing my father sink slowly into oblivion.
Where I will be reminded and mocked by life about the amount of time that has gone by, without him around me. And I can do nothing about it.
Where I will have to stay in those rooms and see him in every nook and corner of his beloved house.
Where I can see all his things around but not him.
Where my heart will burst with pain every single moment and yet I will be alive, with his memories and his absence.

The rains, that I had loved so much once upon a time, bring only pain to me now.

I have been trying to focus and bring myself to write a post before I leave, but the days are pure mayhem right now. The heart is heavy and yet, there are preparations to be made. I have been cooking in bulk and freezing. Then I need to pack too.
And to cap it all perfectly, we are having guests, relatives we cannot ignore.
So even a minute of a breather is welcome right now, but a far dream.

I will leave you with this thepla that makes for a filling breakfast as well as a dinner too.
I have made this mooli / radish, you can use any vegetable of your choice too.
A thepla is different from a stuffed paratha ... it has the vegetables kneaded in with the flours.
I say flours because I often add different kind of flours ... jowar, makka/maize, rice or a little besan. While the nutritional value does go up, the mutigrain flours add some extra flavours too.

Need :

Whole wheat flour - 8tbsp
Jowar / sorgum flour - 2 tbsp
Makka / maize flour - 1tbsp
Besan / Bengal gram flour - 1 tbsp
( If you do not have these flours, you can make with plain whole wheat flour too. )
Grated mooli / radish - 1½ cups
Ajwain / carrom seeds - ½ tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Chopped coriander leaves - 2 tsp
Amchur / dry mango powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to fry , 1 tbsp to add to the dough while kneading
Water - to knead dough

How to :

Knead everything together to make a firm, not tough, pliable dough.

Cut out small balls and roll them into round parathas.

Heat a well seasoned tawa and fry them one at a time, smearing a little oil on both side to brown them.

Serve hot with raita and achar / pickle.
The achar in the picture is my home made Amla ka achar.

And have a happy monsoon filled with fun and food!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Adai, Sambar, Aloo bhaji and Mirchi ki chutney - a South Indian breakfast on the plate today

I am on a serious mission these days. A mission of doing nothing.
Yes, doing nothing. And that means doing nothing at all.
Call it a strike; call it a rebellion .... call it anything you want to. But that is the truth and the whole truth.
I do not remember exactly when it happened ... but something inside me has snapped. The last I remember is cooking up a storm ... two huge degchis of biryani ... yummy, fragrant, spicy yet non greasy biryani .... one chicken and one paneer ... for guests and ourselves on Sunday.
If you are following me in Instagram or on Facebook, you must have seen the photographs there.

Spent the whole day sweating it out in the kitchen ... and loved every moment of it. Enjoyed through the latter half of the day ... watched the match .... felt totally disappointed at what our team was doling out and left it halfway to go out and have waffles ... and all in all had a good day.
And the very next day, something broke inside me. And I just did not feel like getting up and doing any chores.
At all.
At first I thought it might just be the 'start of another week' blues. But no, it worsened as the days went by and today, we are bang in the middle of the week and I am still not moving.
B is indulging .... we went out for dinner on Monday but at other times he has been cooking.
Let me see how long this goes on.

I think I need a break; a trip. Seriously.
And all those photos of  road trips or overseas trips on fb and insta are not helping too.
Social media has its own pressures ... that I can say.
So when the weather in Pune has turned so unbelievably beautiful and the view and the breeze on my balcony is to happily die for, I ignore it like a moron and long for a drive out into the unknown.

Yes, I am a moron after all, I guess.
Like, I have not done anything all this morning except to wallow in morbidity and letting Jagjit singh croon and pull me all the more down into the dark.
Like I have not made a single post here since the last one. And neither am I clicking any photos too. Just the ones that are offhandedly clicked on my iphone and posted on insta.
I'm giving in to social media, finally.
So, pulled myself up and without moving an inch from my settled position in my den and post this beautiful plateful of breakfast before it languishes any more in my 'to post' folder.

I often soak rice + dal and make a batter and store it. And never have to worry about breakfast most days of the week.
Sometimes I up the amount of the dal or soak mixed dals for a protein rich yet light meal.
While this kind of breakfast is very common in my house ... check out the Chakuli pitha or the soru chakli pithe and others, I have not done a post just for the lack of time needed to click proper photographs.
I do post photos on my page on facebook though ... and now on instagram too.
If you follow me there, you are more updated with my cooking, I would say.

To make this light yet very filling breakfast, all the prep work you need is to keep the batter ready. And maybe have some boiled potatoes in the fridge too.
This aloo ki bhaji is usually made for the masala dosa, but it goes perfectly well with the Adai too ... so do try to pair them.
I make it slightly on the sweeter side ... the kind that the Udipi restaurants serve with puris too as puri bhaji.

How to make the Potato bhaji for masala dosa :


Boiled potatoes - 2 medium, lightly smashed
Onion - 1 medium, chopped roughly
Haldi / Turmeric powder - a pinch
Fresh green chillies - 2, chopped
Curry leaves - a sprig will do
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tsp
Water - a little
Urid dal - 1 tsp

How to :

Heat the oil in a small wok.

Add the mustard seeds.
As soon as they splutter, add the dal and fry a little.
Now add the onions and green chillies and fry till the onions turn translucent.

Add the curry leaves and the boiled potato.

Add the haldi + salt + sugar.

Mix well. Raise heat and add a little water ... just so everything comes together.

Keep stirring till it dries up.

Remove and keep aside.

How to make the Mirchi ki chutney :

Need :

Ripe chillies - (not the dry, red ones) 6
Garlic - 2 cloves
Jeera - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste

How to :

Run everything in the mixer to make a coarse paste.

You can also try my other chutneys too.

How to make the Adai :

 Need :

Red Masoor dal - 1 cup
Yellow moong dal - 1 cup
Urad dal - 1 cup
Rice - 3 cups
Water to grind
Salt - to taste

How to :

Soak everything for 4 to 5 hours.

Grind in a mixie and let the batter stand overnight.

Use a little at a time and refrigerate the rest. I keep mine for almost a week.

Heat a seasoned tawa or a non stick griddle.

Apply a little oil and on high heat pour a ladleful of the batter.
Spread quickly and lower heat.

Don't try to make it too thin.
Cover and let one side cook well.

Remove cover and flip and let the other side cook .
Apply a little oil if needed.
Do not cover.

The slightly thick Adai is good to soak in the sambar.

How to make the Sambar :

You can follow the recipe for Sambar here ... or here.
Will make a new post on it later.

I will be back with a better post and better writing, hopefully soon.

Till then ... enjoy!!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Dahibara Aloodom - Cuttack's favourite and much loved street food

 Right now, at this moment, the state of Odisha is celebrating the monsoons with a festival that is very unique to it.
It is celebrating Raja, the festival of Mother Earth turning fertile and ready for the sowing season.
Primarily an agricultural state, Odisha has this festival celebrated with much enthusiasm at homes where every unmarried girl and married woman is celebrated during this festival.
It is believed that Mother Earth goes through the ritual of menstruation during this time and hence Raja is celebrated as a festival of fertility. There is a festive air all over and the four days of the Raja festival sees a lot of home cooked delicacies too.

The festival of Rajo ( pronounced as Rawjaw ), starts with one day before the actual festival. That day is called Sajabaja ... or decking up with new clothes, flowers, etc. or preparing for decking up by getting together new clothes and ornaments.
All agricultural work is stopped from the first day of Rajaw or Pahili rajaw till the fourth day.
Women dress up, cook, eat and share numerous delicacies like Podo pitha and other kinds of pitha, rich curries of mutton and chicken, and all kinds of sweets and payesh too.
Swings are a must ... every home and backyard will have a swing set up, either on the branch of a strong tree ... usually the mango or jamun or a neem ... and girls swing on it for fun.
This resembles the Teej festival of Rajasthan, that celebrates monsoon too.

 While my heart yearns for those beautiful days of summer vacation spent at my maternal Dadu's house in Cuttack, I set to create as many Odiya dishes as possible in my kitchen ... in celebration of those days and their memories.
Since my mother and her siblings were a big lot in number, the huge house would fall short when it came to accomodating all of them when they visited with their families.
So many would spill over to Boro Masi's place .
But would get together as soon as the day started and we kids, more than 15 in numbers, would spend the days with numerous adventures and mishaps, that would later stay on in the family as anecdotes to be recalled during get togethers.

I remember choto Mama would set up a swing for us in one of the branches of the huge ... and when I say huge it means HUGE ... Neem trees on the bank of our pond.
The pond had a cemented border and steps on four sides, complete with cement chairs for people to sit on and enjoy the cool breeze in the summer evenings when there would be no electricity power.
It was surrounded with other strong trees like the mango and the jamun too, but this particular neem stood a little behind the steps of the pond .... which gave the elders the assurance that no child will drop into the water, while swinging.

The swing itself was a broad, wooden plank with four holes drilled into it at the corners.
Thick jute ropes would then be knotted into them and tied in the most unique way ... nobody could undo them ... they were so secure.
And the swing would be set up in the highest possible, strongest branch ... which means it was a long swing. When we gained momentum and swing way high up, we would be directly above the waters of the pond. While I have never tried it, my elder cousin brothers have often jumped from that high right into the water, with a huge splash ... that would send us young ones shrieking into the water too ... but from the steps.
Dadu had made sure there was a gradual slope and the it was cemented too, from the banks, so that the littlest of grandchild could step into the waters and enjoy.

 The other beautiful memory that comes back to me from during those vacations is the gorging on street food. By the elder cousins to be precise .... we kids would merely be around but share the excitement, nonetheless.
Street food was a no no, as usual. But the older ones got to bribe the househelps to get us some anyway.
Secret messages would be passed along, avoiding the nosy elders, and we would all get together on the terrace of the third floor of the house .... where most elders avoided going due to the arduous climb ... and get one of the house helps to get us the forbidden street snacks.

One day it would be the singara + aloo chop, the Ghugni on the other. Or the much loved phuchka / gup chup ( as it called in Odiya) on other days.
But it was that one thing that everyone kept their ears perked up for .... that long tone of the man on the cycle, slowly pedaling through the quiet, lonely neighbourhoods on hot summer afternoons, two huge handis of aluminium hanging on both sides of his cycle, calling out "Alooooooo dummm dahi baraaaaa!".
And then two long trings of his cycle bell.

N didi would be up in a flash .... tip toe out of the room, and jostle and bully any one of the house helps to wake up and send the sleepy eyed fellow to buy the lip smacking Aloo dum dahi bara.
The man would make a small bowl by folding a fresh, green shaal leaf, quickly throw in some aloo dum and some break a bara / vada from the dahi vada, add some chopped onions and green chillies. a handful of spicy mixture, some more dahi and some spicy powdered masalas. A final dash of red chillies and rock salt and he hands over the leaf.
Sometimes he would add the ghugni to it too ... but not always.

By the time it would reach us, the leaf would be leaking and the precious droplets of the spicy water would be disappearing fast (which is why we sent the boy with small boxes much later ... helped by our Didima/grandmother). We would all jump in and try to get at least a couple of spoons each.
It was heaven.
And stuff that childhood memories are made of. 😃

I made a plate for myself when I had made the Aloo dom.
And sent a thought to dear N didi , who is no longer around to enjoy these sinful things that she so loved.

To make this plate of Dahi bara Aloo dom, you will have to make the Dahi bara first.
Preferably a day before.

Then you make the Aloo domm.

Then you will have to chop up some onions + green chillies + fresh coriander leaves.
Then take a plate, arrange the aloo dom and the vadas from the dahi vada.

Now add a good amount of the sour and lip smacking dahi all over it.

Then add the chopped onions + green chillies + coriander leaves.

Then add a good dose of rock salt + red chilli powder + amchur powder / lemon juice.

Now add a final spoon of the dahi and throw in some spicy mixture.

Perfect for a monsoon day or evening.
Since it is so filling, I usually have it for lunch or dinner .... especially with friends and family.
Yep ... you have to have company to enjoy this .... those close to you, those who will sniffle with you when the spice is a tad too much and those who will laugh with you thinking of long gone days.