Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saru besara, dahi baigana and mixed vegetables: Culinary trip to Orissa and the warm aroma of cumin :)

The title tells you all, doesn't it ;). Has it ever happened to you that you plan days in advance before a certain event that you really want to enjoy, and then suddenly you get all busy and have almost no time to prepare the much planned khana, let alone blog about it :-D. Why o why, does it happen just before the events :-D. What do you do then? Ah! you day dream, cook those delicacies in your dreams, think of them during the bus rise, during lunch time, write imaginary posts in your mind ;). You also try to sneak some time out, get disappointed, etc etc. when that doesn't happen. and you look for simple, quick and yet delicious recipes to come to your rescue! This certainly was my story this week :)). I had been thinking and imagining about RCI:Orissa since the day it was announced.....and now its the 25th, and i am yet to post anything :). Same for my love for Cumin :). But i decided that i won't give up ;). So last night, i went all out: it took a lil' effort, but it was totally worth it :).

So here are the lovely, easy breezy dishes for RCI:Orissa (being hosted this month by dear friend Swapna of Swad. RCI is an event celebrating the myriad lovely regional cuisines of India, conceptualized by the creative Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine), and for Think Spice:Think Cumin, the spicy event at Sunita's World, a brain child of Dar(l)ing Bakerina Sunita :).

As i looked for dishes for RCI, i wanted something that was quick and easy and yet something that would convey the flavors of Oriya Cuisine. So i zeroed on to Saru besara, a yummy taro and mustard based dish and Dahi Baigana, a culinary meeting of eggplant and curds: the result was fantastic! I loved the Dahi Baigana even more, because it boasted of cumin and hence i could take it to two e-potlucks :). Talking of cumin, how about a really easy mixed vegetable preparation, that primarily derives it flavor from cumin? So friends, here goes: my recent tryst with Oriya cooking and enjoying cumin:

Saru besara:

It is a simple dish made out of taro/arbi (saru in Oriya) in a mustard base (the besara). I adapted the recipe from Oriya Kitchen. Here's my version of Saru besara:

We need:

  • 6-7 taro roots, peeled and cut into 1" long pieces
  • Mustard paste (2 heaped tsp. mustard+ 2 cloves of garlic: ground into a coarse paste)
  • 2 tomatoes (cubed)
  • Chopped green chillies (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. Panch phutana (cumin, mustard, fennel, nigella, fenugreek seeds spice mix)
  • 1/4 tsp. Turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil (1/2 tbsp. for cooking, 1 tsp for tempering)

Peel the taro roots and cut them into 1" long pieces. Microwave these for 4-5 minutes and set aside. In a pan, heat 1/2 tbsp. oil and add the mustard-garlic paste. Saute' for 1-2 minutes and add the taro pieces. Stir fry for about 5-7 minutes till the pieces are slightly toasted/golden brown. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Add 1 cup of water and stir. Bring to boil and cook on low heat till the gravy thickens. In a small pan, heat oil and splutter the paanch phutana. Add the cut gbreen chillies and saute' for 1/2 a minute. Add this to the besara and cook another 1-2 minutes. Serve hot with chapati or rice :).

Dahi Baigana:

This is one of the favorite combinations in Indian cuisine, this pairing of eggplants and curds :). Sample e.g. Dahiwala baingan bharta, Baingan Boorani, Buzwangun, Kathrikai pachadi etc. This is the delicious Oriya version of this national favorite. I adapted the recipe from Oriya Nari.

We need:

  • 2 Japanese or Graffiti or Chinese eggplants or 4 small eggplants(cut into 2" long pieces)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup curds (beaten)
  • 1/2 tsp each Cumin and mustard (jeera and sorisha)
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 4 green chillies (cut into 1" pieces)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. oil
Beat the curds with some salt and set aside. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin and mustard and add the curry leaves. Stri in the curry leaves. Saute' the cut eggplant pieces with a lil' salt till the eggplants are fried well and the raw look and smell goes away. Add the cooked eggplants to curds, garnish with lil' bit of chopped green chillies and enjoy with rice :).

I have deviated a bit from original recipe here, because i felt stir frying the eggplant with salt and spice instead of deep frying them and later mixing with spices will enhance the taste of eggplants.

The end result for both these recipes was a yummy virtual trip to an Oriya household. During my M.Sc. i had a chance to work in a lab for my summer training where i met many Oriya colleagues. I still remember the taste and aroma of the delicious tiffins i had the pleasure of enjoying :). These closely matched the taste in my memories :).

Now for the simple mixed vegetable jeere wali ;)

This is a quick and easy preparataion and is a regular in my kitchen.

We need:

  • Carrots, Cauliflower and Broccoli mixed (i used frozen California style vegetable mix-1 packet) about 1 and 1/2 cup equivalent.
  • 1/3 cup green peas
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 small tomato chopped
  • Turmeric and red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil

In hot oil, splutter the cumin and saute' the onions. Stir in the mixed vegetables and green peas and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the turmeric, red chilli powder, salt and tomatoes. Stir well, cover and cook on low heat till done. Enjoy with parantha or as a sandwich stuffing. Also works well as a side dish with rice and daal :).

Saru besara and dahi baigana are my contributions for RCI-Orissa at Swapna's corner. I am also sending dahi baigana along with mixed vegetables jeere wali, to Sunita's Think Spice-Think Cumin get together.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The mad, mad tea party with poori-bhaji ;)

Hello everyone :). Am back again! Its been a couple of weeks since i posted anything :)). Ah! there are those days when you just feel tired.....That's when friends come into picture :). With their liveliness, they nudge you out of this tiredness, this slumber-sometimes with an invitation to A MAD TEA PARTY :)). Really, it was an invitation that i could not say no to! There she was, with enticing pictures, wielding the baton, err.....the belan, nudging everyone to get up and enjoy some poori-bhaji :). Ooh, in the last week, i have fried my pooris in two different styles and enjoyed them with three(no less!) delicious bhajis :). A clear case of going overboard? Nah! I made two different doughs-which gave me 8 or so pooris, two of which were snack time savory treats ;). Oh, and before i forget, poori bhaji (or poodi sabzi in my Majha Punjabi accent) to me is a symbol of travel time food-how can i forget the countless pooris i gobbled on Railway Stations and Bus stops on numerous occassions, or the home made poori-aloo and karelas packed for the trip :). So, here is my journey with the pooris and bhaji. Here's to the spirit of the really mad tea party, with countless varieties of poori and sabzis/sagus i have been enjoying this past week!

1. Poori with besan and ajwain with station style aloo bhaji

These pooris have whole wheat flour (3/4 cup), 2 tbsp. besan, 1/2 tsp. ajwain, a lil' bit of salt (to taste) and 1/4 tsp. sugar kneaded into a stiff dough, rolled into small discs and deep fried! Bliss :). The bhaji recipe is even simpler, almost like Anita's classic Railway Station bhaji. For this, we just microwave two potatoes for about 7 minutes, this is equivalent to boiling. Next, we splutter jeera/cumin (1 tsp.) in 1 tsp. oil, add a cpl. of pinches of strong hing/asfoetida and turmeric-then add the peeled, mashed potatoes, followed by 1 glass of water. Add salt to taste, dhania/coriander powder, bring to boil, add chopped green chillies (as much as you want) and a lil' chopped cilantro. I love the aroma of hing here, so i don't use too much cilantro. Hing is really the key spice here-for the authentic Railway Station style bhaji.

2. Same pooris (with red chilli powder added to the dough this time) with some khatte kaddu

Disclaimer: no poori pictures here, i was too hungry to take pictures ;). Really, i LOVE khatte kaddu: so here's the recipe.

We need: Halwa kaddu/pumpkin cut into big chunks (2 cups-i used banana squash for this recipe)-the chunks are put in a microwave bowl and microwaved for 10 minutes after adding 1/4 cup of water. Meanwhile, we heat oil (1 tsp.) in a wok, splutter jeera and kalonji/nigella (1/2 tsp. each), add a pinch of hing, stir in 1 tbsp. chopped ginger and saute', then add turmeric and stir. Add 1 cup of water and bring to boil-now we add the microwaved pumpkin and mix-this should be mushy now :). Add salt, red chilli powder (optional) and bring to boil. Stir in the juice of one lemon and add some chopped green chillies.

Enjoy the khatte kaddu with poori, chapati or paranthas :). Oh, and this is almost traditional style khatte kaddu, UP style :). Almost, because nigella is not common in this dish, and the real deal is chunkier. I like mine mushy :)).

3. Achaari Pooris with baingan-mushroom sabzi

The pooris here had masala from a mango pickle-you can pick any pickle and it would be equally yummy. So we roll a poori, spread the masala, bundle it up and roll again. The baingan mushroom sabzi was not made to go with pooris, but when i got back home tired, two pooris and this sabzi were there in the fridge, ready to be devoured ;). And surprisingly, they went very well together. The recipe for the sabzi will show up soon ;). and yes, achaari poori goes well with achaar too :)).

4. Cumin-rosemary tikhi pooris for tea-time

The dough here had the same proportions of whole wheat flour and besan, 1 tbsp. dried rosemary leaves, 1/2 tbsp. jeera and red chilli powder to taste-kneaded into a stiff dough, rolled into small discs and deep fried. While the poori recipes above can have an addition of milk instead of water for kneading the dough, this one needs to be crisp, so this dough uses water. Cumin and rosemary go really well together and this makes a really yummy tea time snack. These pooris are my entry for dear Sunita's spicy event Think Spice: Think Cumin.

Here's another favorite of mine: Vesan wali poori (plain poori, dipped on one side in a besan batter). There are tons of other favorite varieties of aloo-bhaji that i regularly make: my all time favorites Bangalore style potato sagu and hostel mess style sagu (with garlic and tamarind) are a cpl. of them. Boiled potatoes are ready and i will surely post the two recipes sometime soon :).

And now, time to thank the generous buddies who consider this blog worthy of the awards (blush).....our generous hostess Anita recently presented me with the "Thoughtful blogger" and "The power of schmooze" awards-this was soon followed by the "Rocking girl blogger" awards from dear buddies Sharmi and Sia :). All i can say is a huge THANK YOU, dear friends-for supporting this blog in your own special ways.....And since i love a huge number of blogs, who have inspired me with their creations and their thoughts-i pass on the best award to them all that i can: HUGS and LOVE :).

And this event, this rocking mad tea party, the poori-bhaji fiesta is being organized to celebrate the 6oth Anniversary of India's independence. I'll leave you with a couple of thoughts.....To all fellow Indian citizens: we are really lucky to be born in a free country, enjoying the independence, one of the best present our elders gave us. But lets not forget that there's a lot more to do.....also, lets for a moment, think of the first few days of our country's independence, the birth of twins.....which was marked by not hugs and handshakes, but blatant disregard for life and peace.....To everyone: The food bloggers have a unique power, to cut across cultural and regional boundaries and extend a friendly hand.....the desi food blogging community, for example, promotes regional harmony, this is what i call positive regionalism-the food blogs are vital in educating one and all about the multiple facets of Indian cuisine, with all its regional charm! You, my friend, have the power, to promote peace and love-a present this world needs desperately-and you do it so well-and that, dear friend, is the reason YOU ALL ROCK!!

Hugs, love and peace,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Z for zucchini-paneer sabzi :)

Hello everyone! As usual, i am making an eleventh hour appearnace for the A-Z event :). Z to me signifies a lot more than just the culmination of this wonderful potluck that has been going on at Nupur's place as a weekly signifies hopes and expectations of many more "Zaaykedaar (flavorful)" get togethers in the days to come :). So here's to one of my favorite events :).

Today, i just pair up the crunchy zucchinis with soft paneer to make one of my favorite dishes.

Its simple and its quick! The dish takes inspiration from the traditional pairing of bottle gourd (Al) and paneer (Chaman) in Kashmiri cuisine (paging Anita!). But the preparation style, in this case, is very different.

So here it is:

Zucchini-paneer sabzi:

We need:

  • 4 zucchinis (chopped into semi-lunar shape)
  • 1 cup fresh paneer
  • 1/4 tsp. jeera (cumin)
  • 2 bunches spring onion (chopped)
  • 1 small Roma tomato (optional, i added it for color)
  • 1/2 tsp. amchoor/ squeeze of 1/2 lemon (if you like it tangy)
  • Turmeric and red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. oil

Chop the zucchinis in semi-lunar shape (for variation, try 2" long pieces) and set aside. In a pan, heat oil and splutter the cumin. Fry the chopped spring onions and add the paneer and stir till the paneer is toasted a bit (if you are using fried/grilled paneer cubes, then proceed to the next step). Add the zucchinis and stir fry them on high heat till a lil' crisp. Now stir in the tomatoes, add the turmeric, red chilli powder, amchoor and salt.

Stir, reduce the flame and cover to cook till done when the raw vegetable smell goes). Serve hot with chapatis and dahi, or as a side dish with rice and daal. It tastes quite good as a sandwich stuffing too.

Variations: Instead of jeera, use any other seeds like coriander or kalonji/nigella or fresh methi leaves as a flavoring agent.

More fun with zucchinis here and here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mirchi etc ;)

Precisely! because when mirchis make an appearance, everything else becomes etc! (sorry Pel, that was really tough to resist) :-D. Its all about mirchis this months, folks :)). As i wondered if i would be able to participate in this month's JFI, i simultaneously made plans of having a quick dinner.....i was home quite late, again! And then, news flash, how about using mirchis as a key ingredient to spice up a quick meal!! I got home and.....what did i do? Jazzed up a simple parantha with gorgeous looking Anaheim chillies and even got the energy to dish up a delicious daal with chillies for my lunch tomorrow :)). I can see the wink-wink, folks, Musical makes paranthas and kadhis with everything :-D.

So these two quick recipes go to the very creative Nandita (of Saffron Trail fame) who is hosting this month's JFI:chillies, a lovely blog event created by dear Indira (Mahanandi).

On to the food.....

Mirchi-pudina-cheese parantha:

We need:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 big Anaheim chillies (chopped fine)
  • 1 tbsp. dried Pudina leaves (crushed)
  • Water to make a dough
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese for filling
  • Ghee for frying

Make a dough with whole wheat, salt, chillies and pudina leaves. Roll the paranthas and fill them out as shown here. Fry on the griddle with lil' bit ghee. Serve hot with plain dahi for a nice filling breakfast, lunch or dinner.

As for variations: Try dried Rosemary or Oregano :). Try some of your other favorite cheese variety. And trust me, this parantha wouldn't taste the same without MIRCHI :-D. If you want to make a kulcha with these ingredients, simply make the dough with curds instead and let it rest for 2 hrs. or so. Knead again and proceed to make the kulchas-which are paranthas from raised dough.

Masoor daal with mirchi:

This is my friend MD's all time favorite daal and is based on her Bengali recipe :).

We need:

  • 1 cup masoor daal
  • 1/2 tsp. panch-phoron
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped (my addition)
  • 1 small tomato (chopped, optional)
  • 6-7 green Thai chillies (slit) or 2 big Anaheim chillies(chopped into 1" pieces)
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • A pinch of turmeric (not more)
  • Salt to taste

Pressure cook the masoor daal for 2-3 whistles. For the tadka, spultter the panch-phoron (mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds). Add the ginger and chillies, saute' and add the tomatoes, followed by the turmeric. Cook 2-3 minutes and add to the daal. Stir the tadka in, add salt and bring the daal to boil.

Enjoy with some plain boiled rice :).