28 November, 2007

Goodbye... See You All Next Year...

Our bags are packed (including my precious camera & laptop), fridge is cleared (Lata Maami, wrong timing for tagging;), and our taxi will be here any time… Yes, we are going HOME. See you all next year ;) If time permits, I will update my blog with of course delicious posts of Home, Hotel, Dhaba, Gaadi, Restaurant, Street (etc etc) food ~ducks her head~. Oh!!! I am all set for lots of shopping, eating and fultu masti with my family and friends…
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and Fabulous New Year. Happy Cooking and Blogging :)

India… Here we come…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Img Source: My Brother-in-law.
Model: My dashing boy friend Arjun, our nephew.
Location: Mangalore
This pic has won the runner-up place at Wacom Wallpaper Contest
Click Here to view enlarged image.

25 November, 2007

Winter Warmers: Thai Clear Soups

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu

With the mercury hitting south in our part of the globe, our kitchen smells of sizzling pots of soups, rasams and dals. Sizzling bowl of soup with warm bread straight from the oven or steaming cup of rice with hot Rasam/Dal is what we crave for. After my successful attempt at making Thai Curries, I was keen to learn and cook something new. Thai food is greatly influenced by its neighbours, India, China, Malaysia and Laos. No wonder our Indian taste buds start singing and dancing when tasting Thai food, an explosion of salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavours that sparkle with personality. The four main Thai flavour groupings are salty (from fish sauce), sweet (from coconut and palm sugar), spicy (from dry and fresh chillies) and sour (tamarind, lime, lemongrass), with the less used bitter as a fifth primary flavour. These five primary flavours are the characteristics of Thai cooking, something to touch and delight every taste bud.

As I said in my earlier post, don’t get intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients used in Thai cooking. There are good substitutes available which you can use if few ingredients are not available in your local shop or you can omit those ingredients which you are not very fond of. And more importantly, don’t be afraid to make changes to suit your taste. While cooking Thai food at home, we found that the food tasted much better than the one from local Thai restaurant. And why it shouldn’t, with freshest of fresh ingredients used, homemade curry pastes and spices made a whole difference. You will never get to see the liberal use of fresh ingredients in any restaurant as at home. Many people shy away from cooking Thai food under the misconception that it takes lot of time and ingredients which are unfamiliar to them. Something magical is created when you cook Thai food or any foreign food over time and the ingredients which were aliens in the beginning become more familiar. I find the time consuming dishes more rewarding. Believe me when I say it is as close as meditation when you get to use mortar and pestle and pound out day’s anxiety.

With today’s recipes we want to prove that Thai cuisine can be as simple as it can get and you need not use many ingredients to taste some authentic Thai fair. By planning ahead and little preparation everyone can cook delicious Thai food which sure to please every taste bud. Make sure you use the best and freshest ingredients and be flexible. Cook with an air of playfulness, experiment with flavour and learn to balance. If you are not sure and nervous, follow the recipe strictly and pay careful attention to the final result. As you taste the dish, think to yourself: is it spicy/sweet/sour/salty enough? Does it suit your palate? Most importantly, remember to please yourself-cook the food the way you like it because it should taste good to you and enjoy the whole process. Every time we experiment and cook, we learn something new. Cooking is as refreshing as meditation with delicious food as a reward and nobody can say no to this delicious reward :)

Armed with our new acquisition Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott to our empty cookbook rack we tried two Thai clear soups, Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu and Jasmine Rice Soup with Mushrooms, Green Onions & Crispy Garlic. As author says, “Soup is an essential component of almost every meal, served and savored along with rice and its accompanying dishes. In keeping with Thailand’s Chinese culinary ancestry, soup functions as a beverage, a liquid refreshment that cleanses the palate between bites and makes way for further rides on roller coaster of tastes that make up a classic Thai meal.” Most of the Thai Vegetarian recipes are also perfect for Vegans and I thought these soups will be a perfect entries for this Vegan Month. These two Thai Clear Soup goes to Suganya's Vegan Ventures Event.
Nancie says,
“Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu is a one bowl celebration of Thailand’s sparkling cuisine. Spicy hot with roasted chilli paste and sharply fragrant with lemongrass, wild lime leaves, and a squeeze of lime, tome yum sounds an inviting reveille to your senses.”
And I totally agree with her. This delicious flame-colored broth studded with green herbs and vegetables with exotic citrus perfume is a pure delight to one’s senses. Serve hot with a bowl of jasmine rice and enjoy its healing power.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Makes: 3-4
Ingredients:
4 cups Vegetable Stock
2 Lemongrass Stalks
3+2 Kaffir Lime Leaves, cut into long stripes
1 inch Galangal/Ginger, sliced (Optional)
3 tbsp Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
3 Spring Onions, thinly sliced
1 Green Chilli, thinly sliced
1 cup Tofu, cut into 1cm cubes
1 cup Button Mushroom, thinly sliced
½ cup Carrot, julienned (Optional)
½ cup Red Bell Peppers, cut into i cm pieces (Optional)
1-2 tbsp Sambal Olek
1 tbsp Basil Leaves, finely chopped (Optional)
2 tsp Palm Sugar
1-2 tsp Soya Sauce
Salt to taste
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu

Method:
In a large pan bring vegetable stock to boil over medium heat.
Meanwhile, trim the lemongrass stalk by removing upper hard, dried skin leaving smooth stem. Cut the stalk into 2 inch pieces and lightly bruise the stalk with pestle and mortar.
Add bruised lemongrass , 3 kaffir lime leaves strips, galangal to boiling stock and reduce the heat to low. Let the ingredients simmer for 5-8 minutes till lemongrass stalks turn into khaki green and nice citric aroma fills the room.
While the soup simmers, combine spring onion greens, 2 kaffir lime leaves strips, green chilli slices and lime juice and place them into serving bowls and keep aside.
Scoop lemongrass stalks, galangal from vegetables stock and discard. Add tofu, mushrooms, carrot, bell peppers, basil leaves, sambal olek, soya sauce, sugar, spring onion and salt to taste and increase the heat to high.
When the soup boils again, remove it from heat and pour it on serving bowls and serve at once with Jasmine Rice.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Tome Yum Soup with Mushroom & Tofu

Nancie says, “Rice soup is comfort food in Thailand, simmered up from leftover rice to nourish a family member who is ill. It is also popular as a hearty breakfast or midnight snack. Cold, fever, aches, hangover and heartbreaks all seem to soften their edge just a little when a generous steaming bowl of Kao Tome appears.” And how can we not try this soup which claims to have medicinal properties and can be served as one-dish meal to satisfied our taste buds. We omitted Wheatballs or Wheat Gluten which the recipe calls and made few changes to suite our taste.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Jasmine Rice Soup with Mushrooms, Green Onions & Crispy Garlic

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Jasmine Rice Soup with Mushrooms, Green Onions & Crispy Garlic
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients:
1 tbsp Garlic, coarsely chopped
½ tsp freshly ground Pepper
¼ cup Coriander Roots or Steams, coarsely chopped
5 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ cup Carrots, shredded
½ cup Sugar Snap Peas, cut into 1 inch pieces (Optional)
1½ cups Cooked Jasmine Rice
¼ cup Spring Onion, chopped
1-2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp Crispy Garlic in Oil (Recipe follows. Original recipe used ¼ cup)
1 stalk Lemongrass (Optional)
½ inch Galangal/Ginger (Optional)
½-1 tsp Palm Sugar
Salt to taste
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Jasmine Rice Soup with Mushrooms, Green Onions & Crispy Garlic

Method:
In a blender, combine 1 tbsp garlic, pepper, coriander roots/stems with little vegetable stock and grind to smooth paste.
Heat vegetable stock in a pan and mix in ground paste over a low flame. Add bruised lemongrass stalk, sliced galangal if using and bring the stock to boil in low flame.
Meanwhile, deep fry or pan fry sliced garlic pieces till they are crisp and golden and transfer to paper towel till required.
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan and add mushrooms. Toss them for about 3-5 mins until they are shiny and tender and keep them aside.
Discard lemongrass stalk and galangal from vegetable stock and add sautéed mushrooms, carrots, sugar snap peas, sugar and salt to taste and cook for further 5-8 minutes over low heat.
Add cooked jasmine rice, spring onions and cook for further 5 minutes.
Serve hot or warm soup garnished with crisp fried garlic and coriander leaves and enjoy this one-dish meal.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Jasmine Rice Soup with Mushrooms, Green Onions & Crispy Garlic


Notes:
To check substitutes for different ingredients used in Thai Cuisine and also read more of Thai Cooking at Monsoon Spice Click Here. Also Read
Thai Vegetarian Red Curry
Thai Veg and Tofu Green Curry
How to cook Jasmine Rice
How to make Thai Red Curry Paste
How to make Thai Green Curry Paste
Also Check Jugalbandi’s Thai Pantry.

23 November, 2007

Life is Beautiful-3

Peek-A-Boo, I See You!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
(Click Here to view large image)

20 November, 2007

Gingerly Cooking... From Cookery Show: Ginger-Potato Curry

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Ginger-Potato Curry

The symptoms were there but it was not known to me or to my family for quite many months until last week. Like many people I had been unknowingly affected by cooking shows and it was too obvious not to see what I was doing. The first sign of it showed on one weekend morning when I realised I was talking to myself. I had been making our favourite breakfast Upma. “First we chop these ‘lovely’ onions very finely. Don’t we all love the aroma of onions frying in oil”, I whispered. “Next chop these hot green chillies and these ‘gorgeous’ plump red tomatoes. Make sure that you have sharp knife so that tomatoes are chopped into nice small chunks without much difficulty”, I said flashing all 31 teeth to my virtual audience who were watching my actions keenly. “Pick few coriander leaves and chop them very finely…. Mmmm… I love the fresh smell of these coriander leaves and always end up adding more”, I winked at my fans. “You know what the trick behind good Upma is? It is to roast the semolina in low flame till it turns golden brown and to add water little by little when cooking”, said to my all impressed audience.

Yes, I have had fallen a victim of “food porn” in capital letters. Fallen prey for all those flashy cookware and utensils, the way food is cooked and presented, the charming chefs (Jamie Oliver is the one;). It shouldn’t be a big shock for a person who is a foodie and has her own food blog going on full swing. It shouldn’t be a big shock to her husband who is getting used to the sight of his wife clicking pictures of each and every thing which comes under the category food or anything edible. But talking to myself in kitchen pretending to be a celebrity chef on TV is little too much for my own sake. But hey, it was kind of fun while it lasted ;)

With too many cooking shows in too many channels hosted by too many chefs and too many food blogs I some time wonder at this new craze of cooking. You flip the channels and you will find Gordon Ramsey's explosive attitude showering F-words at would-be chefs in one channel, Nigella Lawson whipping delicious (???) food in minutes in other channel. Other channel has its viewers glued to their screen with all sorts of so called celebrities from politics, movies, music backgrounds trying to win Master Chef fame in one show and next one has tight competition going on for the best dish prepared by Michelin-star chefs for Her Majesty, The Queen. I am not sure if the number of people and time spent in preparing food in their own kitchen has increased or is it just another TV show gimmick! But one thing is for sure, the attitude towards cooking has surely changed. In spite of working late in offices or workplace outside home, both men and women are spending much more time with their families in the kitchen cooking everyday meals. Few years before, it was just the lady of the house whom we would see slogging in her kitchen. With changing time, attitude and lifestyle, we can see many men cooking along with their spouse at home. (Well, at least this is the case in our home:)

Coming back to Cookery shows, Ginger-Potato Curry is adapted from the recipe demonstrated by Rakesh Sethi of Mirch Masala fame. With free-view channels with our TV package, I came across this show on Star Plus and watched Mr. Sethi cooking this dish which immediately caught my attention. This was the first time I came across a recipe which uses so much of deep fried ginger and using it as the main ingredient in a curry. With Sunita hosting this month’s Think Spice event where she asked us to cook with Ginger, I could hardly stop myself from giving it a go. I have made few changes to the recipe to suit my taste. Chef Rakesh used 1 cup of ginger julienne for 250 gms of baby potato which I thought will be too bitter and spicy for our palate. I added 1 tbsp cashew paste because I wanted little thick gravy than thin watery one. It was spicy, sour and sweet with tingling taste of fried ginger and sweet taste of baby potatoes and it tasted better the next day when potatoes nicely absorbed the flavours. Next time I might roughly mash potatoes for the flavours to blend well. So with all these changes here is my Ginger-Potato Curry.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Ginger-Potato Curry

PhotobucketPrint This Recipe
Ginger-Potato Curry
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 3-4
Recipe Source: Rakesh Sethi of Mirch Masala
Ingredients:
10-12 Baby Potatoes, cooked and peeled
¼ cup Ginger juliennes (Original recipe called for 1 cup)
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1-1½ tsp Chilli Powder (preferably Kashmiri Chilli Powder)
1 lime size Tamarind Pulp
½ tsp Methi/Fenugreek, lightly roasted and powdered
1-2 tsp Brown Sugar/Jaggary (adjust acc to taste)
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Cashew Paste (Optional)
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

For Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
2 Dry Red Chillies, broken
Few Curry Leaves
¼ tsp Hing Asafoetida
½ tbsp Kasoori Methi
1 tbsp Oil
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Ginger Juliennes Before Frying

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Ginger Juliennes After Frying

Method:
Place tamarind pulp in ½ cup of hot water for around 10 minutes. Squeeze the pulp and collect the puree and discard the pulp.
Mix turmeric powder, red chilli powder, tamarind puree, salt to taste with ½ cup of water. This is the basic marinade for the potatoes. Prick cooked and peeled baby potatoes with fork and place then in the marinade. Mix them well and keep aside for around 15 minutes (Chef didn't marinade the potatoes and used it directly). After 15-20 minutes, separate the potatoes and the marinade.
Deep fry ginger juliennes in heated oil in a slow flame till they turn brown and crisp. Drain them on paper towel and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add mustard, red chillies, hing and curry leaves.
When mustard starts to pop and splutter, add marinade mixture carefully and mix well. Bring this mixture to a boil at medium flame.
Now add fried ginger, kasuri methi, brown sugar/jaggery, cashew paste and mix well. Cook for further 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add baby potatoes and methi powder and cook over a low flame for 10-12 minutes till all the flavours blend well.
Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves with rice or roties.

16 November, 2007

Seeking Comfort: Fried Okra Dal & Palya

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Fried Okra Dal with Rice & Majjige Menasu

Winter has come early to our neck of woods. Last night the wind blew, trees shed their last of few leaves and a light rain kissed our parched landscape with thick frost giving it white ghostly look. With temperature dropping to minus degree Celsius, it was the perfect night for comfort food. I know you will agree with me that comfort food is one of the nice things about these chilly cold nights...

So what exactly is Comfort Food? In my search for a clear definition of Comfort Food I can say that I am yet to come across any place which explains to me what exactly comfort food is. I can see some of you rolling your eyes and saying why she has to make everything look so complicated. Doesn’t she know the simplest definition of comfort food, a food that provides comfort when eating? But wait, don’t you agree with me that the definition of ‘Comfort’ is quite vague. It’s not necessary that what provides comfort for one may make other person shriek in horror. When I say Egg Plant/Brinjal Sambar is my comfort food, I can see Krish running a mile away from it. We have to look beyond the word ‘comfort’ itself in order to get a better definition.
Dictionary.com defines Comfort Food as
Noun
"Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment or food that is simply prepared and gives a sense of wellbeing; typically food with a high sugar or carbohydrate content that is associated with childhood or with home cooking."

Yourdictionary.com defines Comfort Food as
Noun
"Any food eaten not only for its pleasing taste but also for a sense of contentment, nostalgia, etc. that it provides."
Take quick look at the list of comfort foods listed in Wiki, About.com. Most of the things listed don’t fall into my category of comfort food. So is comfort food is based on regional, ethnicity? Or is it defined by it being entrée, main dish or dessert or anywhere else it might sit on a menu card? If someone says that they eat junk food on daily basis, first thing which might cross my head is what an uneducated palate that person has. But if the same person is to tell me that junk food is his/her comfort food, will that make me think twice and make me perceive him/her in any other way? Yes, I think it will on some level.

Comfort food for me is food I qualify as something worthwhile and is a food I enjoy. It is something which I wouldn’t find in any star restaurant’s menu. When I am sick, or tired, or far from home I yearn for the gastronomic equivalent of warmth I get from my loved ones. It may be a warm sweater, a kiss on the forehead, a favourite blanket or a food that reminds me of home. My comfort food changes depending on climate, occasion and whom I am with. It’s cold Salad with chilled Yogurt and Ice Cream in summer, a piping hot bowl of Soup or Dal with Rice in winter. A bowl of Rasam is what I crave for when I miss my Amma and a fattening double cheese Veg Deli is what I need when hungry me cross MacDonald’s. White Rice with Curd and Pickle is all I need when I am alone at home and its 3 course meal which comforts me when I am with my family. Comfort food makes me feel good because it reminds me of my childhood, of my mother, of good times and good friends and it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Without any doubt Dal is the quintessential comfort food! Unpretentious, rich in nutrition I feel good whenever I make Dal and eat it. When I am worn out and the world isn’t such a nice place to be in, I make simple Dal with Rice. When time is short but dear ones must be fed with joy and not pressure, I make Dal with some Palya. Okra/Bhindi/Ladies Finger is one of the most favourite vegetables at our place. When I found these small and tender bhindi in our local store I could no longer stop myself from buying a big bagful of them. Instead of everyday plain dal I wanted to experiment by adding some vegetables which will compliment the spicy and sour taste of this dal and I felt Okra will do that trick. For my amazement it not only complimented the dal but tasted very delicious. It was one experiment which produced wonderful results and I am going to make this again and again. These tender okras are fried in little oil till they are crisp and then simmered in sweet, sour and spicy dal is a perfect comfort food for me. I am sending my dear friend Linda who is hosting this month’s JFI-Toor Dal this comforting bowl of Fried Okra Dal. I hope you enjoy this one Linda:)

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Fried Okra Dal
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
15-20 small tender Okra
1 cup Toor Dal/Masoor Dal
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2-3 Garlic flakes, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, crushed and chopped
2-3 Green Chillies, slit
1 lemon sized Tamarind Pulp
1-1½ tbsp Jaggery
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli, broken
A big pinch of Hing/Asafetida
Few Curry Leaves
½ tbsp Oil
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Fried Okra Dal

Method:
Cook toor dal in pressure cooker in enough water for about 15 minutes till the dal is cooked and mushy.
Soak tamarind pulp in about 1 cup of warm water for 5 minutes and squeeze the juice and discard the pulp.
Mean while, trim the ends of okra and cut them into 1 inch pieces.
Heat oil in a pan and sauté it continuously at medium-high flame for about 8-10 minutes till okra turns crisp and brown. Keep this aside.
Heat ½ tbsp of oil in a pan and add mustard, broken red chilli, jeera, curry leaves and hing in that order and sauté.
Once the mustard starts to pop and splutter, add finely chopped garlic and sauté it for about 30 seconds. Then add finely chopped onion, slit green chillies and sauté it for around 1-2 minutes till onions turn translucent.
Mix in lightly mashed cooked toor dal, squeezed tamarind juice, jaggery, turmeric powder, finely chopped ginger and tomatoes and about 1-2 cups of water if needed.
Bring it to boil in a medium flame and mix in salt to taste and fried okras.
Cook over a medium flame for around 5-10 minutes till all the flavors blend well and serve hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Fried Okra Dal

Another favourite way of cooking Okra is simple Fried Okra Palya. Tender fried okra is spiced with ground paste of sweet coconut and spicy sambar powder and crisp onions. The dash of lime juice adds the tanginess and creates a wonderful fusion of sweet, tangy and spicy dish.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya with Jolada Rotti

PhotobucketPrint This Recipe
Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:
15-20 tender Okras, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Lime Juice
1-2 Green Chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Few Curry Leaves
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

Grind to Paste:
½ cup Coconut, fresh or frozen
1½ -2 tbsp Sambar Powder
½ tsp Tamarind Paste/2 tbsp Lime Juice
½ tbsp Jaggery (optional)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya

Method:
Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and curry leaves. Sauté it till jeera starts to sizzle and mix finely chopped onions and green chillies.
Sauté it till onion turns light brown and add cut okra pieces. Fry these okra for about 7-10 minutes over medium-high flame till it is crisp and brown.
Now mix in ground paste and keep stirring for about five minutes on medium flame. Make sure that the paste doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Switch off the pan and mix lime juice and mix well. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves with rice or roties.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya

14 November, 2007

Life is Beautiful-2

One Fine Autumn Day...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

11 November, 2007

Dates Obbattu

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Dates Obbattu

Winter is beautiful in India. This is the time when dawn is lightly touched with frost; a soft new light appears from heavenly sky. The thundering monsoon and damp earth give way to ‘Kartika Maasa’, the golden season of October and November. Kartika is a season of silky and golden sunlight and blossoming trees. There is the shivering anticipation among every form of life waiting in anticipation for what mother earth has to offer. It is the season when the mother earth is all dewy and she takes on a delicious newness. The sun turns pleasing honey-gold spreading golden sparkles to whatever he touches. It is the season of festivals, and it is the time to celebrate Deepavali, a festival of lights.


Diwali is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Deepavali’, meaning "row of lamps". It is a time for feasts, fireworks, remembrance, forgiveness and a renewal of life. Clay lamps of all size and shape are lit along verandas, on rooftops, on windowsills, along driveways, in gardens and courtyards and colourful paper lanterns are strung to the high roof. All pooja utensils, the prayer room is washed and cleaned to their sparkling best. The pooja mantap with all kinds of god and goddess radiates a different glow of energy decorated with colourful array of marigolds, roses and jasmines and the heady aroma of incense sticks and dhupa. Each and every streets and nook ‘n corners are decorated with bright colourful lights and paper lanterns, shops are dressed in shimmering golden streamers, and fairy lights are wound around trees transferring the whole world to festive season.


For three little kids, the Diwali day would start at the very wink of dawn with sandalwood and oil bath called ‘Abhyanga’. Although it was not one of the things they enjoyed, just the thought of the day ahead would make it for getting up that early and oil baths. Their parents would exchange smiles looking at their kids smeared in oil, yawning and rubbing their eyes to get rid of slumber and lightly shivering to the cool breeze of dawn tickling their scantly clad bodies. After hot water bath the kids were dressed in their new and crisp cloths ironed by their father and ready to receive their family and friends. While their mother created beautiful Rangolis, colourful geometric and floral patterns made from coloured rice flour, at the entrance to the house; the kids were given the task of making small S-shaped foot prints with five dots on top arch from door step to pooja room. It is believed that these prints represent the little feet of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, who makes a trip to every home on Diwali night to survey family fortune and decides whether they need any boost. The little kids made it sure that they painted it well so that the goddess didn’t get lost on her way to pooja room.


After heavy breakfast, mother would start cooking special treats apart from the one’s which she had prepared days before with the help of her mother and cooks to send it to relatives and friends. Different sizes of colourful boxes of dry fruits and nuts, sweets, gifts wrapped in colourful papers would sit in corner table to be given to the guests visiting. It is the day when foe becomes a friend and generations of hatred seems to dissolve in the soft glow of light from diyas. It is the day when tradition is passed from one generation to the next while the lamps illuminate quietly, shimmering over night, encircling the parents and children in its golden glow. As the late night approaches and as the harsh electric lights are switched off, small quiet flames from diyas and candles flicker amid bunches of marigold, hibiscus, roses and jasmines. While whole street sleeps under the dark blanket of glittering stars, the kids dreams of goddess Lakshmi emerging from the soft glow of diyas and stepping into home bringing wealth and well-being with her.


For three days and nights families and friends gather to celebrate the festival of lights. While the kids set off fireworks, elders sit behind, keeping an eye on kids and chat about passing years. The smile on every kid’s face matches that of sparkling diyas. Sparkles, rockets and torches explode in the sky, shedding red-orange, blue-green flames. When the noise of bursting fire crackers drowns conversations, the ladies bring out the feast to be devoured. There is no dining table with silver cutleries and delicate china sets. Families and friends sit together under the sparkling sky and eat from green banana leaves which looked like an artist’s colour palette with different savouries and sweets and with range of curries, rice and roties… The noise of Diwali does not distract from its serenity. This is the festival which brings together families and friends and thus brings happiness and content of being with your loved ones and sharing that joy. Diwali is the time to stop, to sit back, to gaze at the sparkling sky and to allow ourselves to be braced with the love and affection of our loved ones.


I always loved quiet Diwali than noisy firecrackers where I would light the clay lamps with my siblings and parents. I guess I am among the few who liked noiseless Diwali with hundreds of small lamps glittering like stars around me. With the electric lights switched off, these small diyas radiated sense of calmness and serenity which I always feel is the true meaning of Diwali, a festival of lights. Sitting under an open sky, laying my head on my Appa’s lap, we kids enjoyed stories of Lord Rama, devil Narakasura, goddess Lakshmi with keen interest even though we had heard the same stories for zillionth time. With all these fond memories and nostalgia K and I made Kharjura Obbattu (Date stuffed Poli) on Deepavali eve. I have many sweet memories attached with this dish and I couldn’t think of any other thing to cook for this Diwali. Steam cooked sweet dates is ground with dash of jaggery and lightly spiced with cardamom and nutmeg is stuffed between the maida dough and tawa fried with ghee is one dish which sure to win everyone’s heart. Looking at the picturea you can easily guess that its my first attempt at making Obbattu ;) True to my Flow Chart, I am sending this to Vee’s Jhiva Special Edition-The Festive Series, Meeta’s MM-Traditional Feasts and Chandrika’s AFAM-Dates. Ek teer, teen shikar ;)

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Dates Obbattu (Date Stuffed Indian Flat Bread)
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes: 5-6

Ingredients:
For Kanaka/Dough:
1 heaped cup Maida/All Purpose Flour
A big pinch of Salt
2-3 tbsp Oil
Ghee for frying

For Hoorana/Stuffing:
1 cup Dates, deseeded and quartered
1 tbsp Jaggery (adjust acc to taste)
1 tbsp Ghee
¼ tsp Cardamom Powder
A big pinch Nutmeg
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Kanaka with Dates Hoorana
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Dates Obbattu

Method:
Place plain flour and salt in a vessel and make it into stiff dough of chapatti consistency by adding little water at a time. Keep it aside covered with wet cloth for around half an hour.
After ½ to 1 hour, add oil and knead the dough till all the oil is absorbed and the dough becomes soft and elastic. Keep this dough aside for another half an hour or so.
Mean while, steam cook dates for around 10 mins till they become soft and mushy.
Cool these dates and place them in a blender with jaggery and blend them without adding any water.
Heat ghee in a pan and to this add ground paste and keep stirring on moderate heat for around five minutes. Make sure to stir at medium flame so that the stuffing doesn’t stick to the bottom of pan.
Mix in cardamom and nutmeg powder and switch off the flame. Let the stuffing mixture cool for sometime.
Make golf sized balls of dough and date stuffing by applying little ghee to your hands.
Grease an aluminum foil/banana leaf/thick plastic wrap with little oil and place maida dough ball in center.
Press the dough with your fingers and start spreading it to a circle stating from center, working towards the edge. Make poori sized circle of about 3 inch diameter and place date hoorana/stuffing ball at center. Close the hoorana/stuffing by pulling the dough on all sides.
Slowly press the dough with your fingers to about ½ cm thick and 6 inch diameter. Use little ghee/oil if the dough sticks to your fingers.
Heat griddle/tawa and gently transfer the obbattu to tawa and cook on both sides by applying little ghee till little brown patches appear and they are cooked well.
Serve warm with ghee and enjoy.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Dates Obbattu with Ghee


Tips:
If you find it difficult to spread the dough with your hands then place another greased sheet on top of the dough and roll it gently using rolling pin.
The left over obbattu can be freezed once it is completely cooled down for about 3 weeks in freezer. Place a parchment paper in between each obbattu and place them in zip lock bag and freeze. When required, thaw and heat it using a griddle/pan and serve.
You can replace jaggery with honey or sugar based on your preferance and maida with wheat if you are health conscious.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Dates Obbattu


Note:
Another Sweet recipe on Monsoon Spice using Date is Kharjura/Date Payasa.
Here is Richa's recipe for Poli where she adds pistachio powder to dates stuffing.

05 November, 2007

Bihari Thali

Title: Food Blogger’s Kitchen
Characters: He (Hubby Dear), Me (Food Blogger)

Scene 1: Weekends at He & Me’s Home
He: What are we gonna have for lunch?
Me: Mmmm… Give me few mins and I’ll tell you.
~after Few+ mins~
He: Err… Have you decided on our lunch menu?
Me: Yeah, We are having XYZ cuisine.
He: Sounds interesting… I never knew you could cook XYZ dish.
Me: ~Chuckles~ Me neither ;) I got to Google for the recipes.
Me: ~Smiling sweetly~ I need few ingredients which are not in our pantry. We’ll need to shop for them NOW!
He: Why don’t we just cook something we know?
Me: ~Shaking her head~ Oh No!!! It’s for one of the Food Blog Events.
He: ~Rolls his eyes~ OK as you say.

Scene 2: For Super Market Scene, Click this Link;)

Scene 3: Back at Home
He: ~Puzzled~ Why are you adding XXX ingredient? It’s not listed in the ingredients list here!!!
Me: Oh!!! This ABC event calls for this XXX ingredient. That’s why I HAVE to add this ingredient.
He: ~More Puzzled and Confused~ I thought you were cooking XYZ cuisine.
Me: Of course I am cooking XYZ cuisine along with the ingredient required for ABC event. Mmm… Let me see if I can add DEF ingredient for DEF event and make it 3 in 1 post!!!
He: ~Screams and Faints~ SOS
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
If you are among those people who are laughing at my so called joke, then you surely belong to Food Blogger community. And the one’s who are still confused about ABC, DEF, XYZ etc just forget it and check out the recipes. Today I am presenting my humble Bihari Thali containing Phulka, Aloo Choka, Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma and Kheera Raita. This one obviously goes to this month’s RCI-Bihar hosted by lovely Sangeeta of Ghar Ka Khana. If it was not for Lakshmi’s Regional Cuisines of India I would have undoubtedly missed cooking and tasting fabulous food from different states of India. Apart from cooking and eating, RCI is one event which makes me do little research on that region and learn little about its amazing culture, wonderful people, and colourful history.

There is much more to Bihar than its colourful politicians. This is the state which had one of the greatest universities in recorded history, Nalanda University. It is the same sacred region where Buddha and Mahavira attained enlightenment and the birthplace of Sikh’s tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. With such glorious history, no wonder Bihar also boasts rich and colourful cuisine. Starting from Indus Valley civilization Bihari cuisine has evolved through Maurya Empire, Middle Kingdoms, Islamic Sultanates and Mughal Empire. Each and every Kingdom/Empires have left their marks on this rich Bihari cuisine and yet its simplicity makes it all the more enjoyable. For more information on Bihari Cuisine, click here, here and here.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Bihari Thali: (R-L) Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma, Aloo Chokha,
Kheera Raita, Gulab Jamoon, Phulka

Aloo Choka is a simple dry dish adapted from here. Chhonkna means tadka and here I have used Paanchforan/Paanchphoran (a mix of 5 spices: Saunf/Fennel Seeds, Sarson/Mustard Seeds, Methi/Fenugreek Seeds, Kalonji/Black Onion Seeds/Nigella Seeds and Jeera/Cumin Seeds). Cubed Potatoes are lightly fried (bhoonjana) with onions and whole spices to give it a distinct flavour.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Aloo Chokha
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients:
3 medium Potatoes, peeled and diced to 1 cm cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2-3 Green Chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp Amchur/Dry Mango Powder
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

For Chokha(Tempering):
1 tbsp Oil (Preferably Mustard Oil)
1 tsp Paanchforan
2 Dry Red Chillies, broken
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Aloo Chokha

Method:
Heat oil in a pan and add broken dry red chillies and paanchforan. Sauté till the spices starts to pop and splutter.
To this add chopped onions and sauté for a minute and half.
Now add chopped garlic and green chillies and sauté till onions turn golden brown.
Mix in cubed potatoes and sauté for 3-4 minutes till they turn light brown.
Add ½-¾ cups of water, salt to taste. Cover and cook till potatoes are cooked well. Keep mixing the potato pieces in between so that they don’t stick to the bottom of pan. Add little more water in between till potatoes are well cooked but take care not to add more water as it is a dry curry/subji.
Mix in amchur and chopped coriander leaves and cook uncovered for another 4-5 minutes. Serve hot with rice or roties and enjoy.

Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma is another wonderful, aromatic dish adapted from here. Colourful mixed vegetables are simmered in sinfully delicious sweet, spicy and creamy gravy of cashews, almond, coriander leaves and coconut just leaves one craving for more.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma
Prep Time: 10-15 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
4-5 cups Mixed Vegetables (I used Carrot, Cauliflower, Potato, Beans & Peas)
1 large Tomato/Tomato Puree
1 tsp Ginger & Garlic Paste
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1-2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tbsp Oil (Preferably Mustard Oil)
1 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Ground to Paste:
2½-3 tbsp Fresh/Frozen Coconut gratings
½ tbsp Poppy Seeds/Posta Daana
10 Cashew Nuts
5 Almonds
1 tsp Sugar
2-3 Green Chillies
¾-1 Packed Cup Coriander Leaves
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma

Method:
Cook mixed vegetables in enough water and salt to taste for about 10 minutes and keep aside. Vegetables should be just tender. Drain the water from vegetables and keep aside. Also save 2-3 cups of drained water.
Heat oil in a pan and to this add ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for about 30 seconds till the raw smell disappears.
Now add ground paste and sauté continuously for about 2-3 minutes.
To this mix in chopped tomato or tomato puree, turmeric powder and chilli powder and sauté for another minute or two.
Mix cooked vegetables and drained water (vegetable stock) and mix well. Cook at a medium to low heat. Bring the korma to boil and simmer for another 5 minutes till the flavours blend well.
Serve hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves with rice or roties.


Refreshing cool-cool Kheera/Cucumber Raita is adapted from here.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Kheera/Cucumber Raita
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: -
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
1 cup Cucumber, grated
2 cups Yogurt, beaten
¼ tsp Cumin-Coriander Powder
¼ tsp Chat Masala
A big Pinch of Kashmiri Chilli Powder
A big Pinch of Kaala Namak/Black Salt
A small Pinch Garam Masala (optional)
1 tsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Kheera Raita

Method:
Wash, peel and grate the cucumber. I usually leave the peel as I like its crunchiness.
Squeeze excess water from grated cucumber and place it in a mixing bowl.
Put all the ingredients and mix them well.
Refrigerate raita for around 15 minutes before serving it garnished with coriander leaves.

Phulkas are light puffed up unleavended Indian bread. Although they look like Chapatties, Phulkas are very light in texture and are usually made and served at the time of the meal.

Photobucket Print This Recipe
Phulkas
Prep Time: 10-15 mins (excluding resting time)
Cooking Time: 10-15 mins
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
2 cups Wheat Flour or 3:1 Wheat to Plain Flour
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Ghee/Oil
Warm Water to knead
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Fluffy and Light Phulkas

Method:
Place the flour, oil and salt in a large bowl.
Adding just enough warm water knead well to make a soft, pliable dough. Keep kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Make golf sized balls and roll each ball into a 6 inch diameter by 1/8th inch thickness discs.
Heat griddle/skillet on a medium flame. Place the Phulkas and cook for about 45 secs, until the top starts to look dry and small bubbles are formed on the surface. Flip and cook the other side similarly.
Now Take the Phulka off the tawa and place it directly on the gas flame. The Phulka will start to balloon and puff up.
Take it off the flame and serve immediately smeared with little ghee if desired.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Bihari Thali: (R-L) Subziyon Ka Panchranga Korma, Aloo Chokha,
Kheera Raita, Gulab Jamoon, Phulka


Tips:
For fluffy, light Phulkas knead the dough 2-3 hrs before to soft and pliable dough with a smooth texture.
Use gar burner if possible as they help in making fluffy and light phulkas.
Don’t lose heart if it don’t fluff up nicely at first attempt. Practice and patience is needed to get a fluffy, ballooned phulkas.

Update:
I never knew I thought till Camille of L’Assiette de Mimosa mailed me saying she has nominated me for Thinking Blogger Award. I am thrilled and honoured because there is someone who believes I do have tiny-mini anatomy called brain ;) Well, according to my dear ones I have been known to think a time or two in my life but never made a habit of it till now. Grr… This award will surely make them stop and think again ;)


Thank you Mimosa for this award. What can I say! I always felt French is one of the most romantic and beautiful languages and it felt really great to see nice things about my blog in your beautiful blog :) I am flattered. Now following the strict tradition/rules, I am supposed to pass this award to five bloggers who make me think (read who give me enough brain strain;). And believe me it took quite some time to think as whom I should nominate because everyone in my blogroll is a 'Thinking Blogger'. It was extremely difficult to choose just five bloggers. Well, if you have captured my attention enough to make it to my blogroll then there is a high chance of me thinking you as a Thinking Blogger right? Jokes(or PJ's?!) apart here are the 5 bloggers whom I would like to pass this awards (in alphabetical order).

1. Arun Shanbhag: Every time I visit his blog he has never failed me to provide me with very useful information covering wide range of topics. With his new book ‘Prarthana’ being published recently, he has got some of the most incredible and outstanding posts. And moreover he helps his lovely wife M in cooking ;)
2. Bee & Jai: Their provocative and insightful posts along with much needed dose of wit and humour is what we need in this busy world. They make it a point that I just don’t read but read, re-read and think before leaving a comment. So surely they are the Thinking Bloggers ;)
3. Desi Mom’s Club: Some of their posts did make me think of unthinkable ;) They make me laugh, makes me wonder and amaze me with their write-ups. If you haven’t already lurked around their site, be sure to swing by on a lazy afternoon with a cup of coffee and enjoy all there is to read. Each and every mommies rock!
4. Lotus Reads: Lotus is one of the most original and enjoyable writers in blogsphere. She has an incredible blog giving a great overview of the most happening books, movies and many more things. Visiting her blog has always impressed and amazed me. And darling, your blog header rocks ;)
5. VKN: VKN is a dreamer who not just dreams but works towards making it a reality. It’s his noble thought and hard work which made Feed A Hungry Child Campaign (FAHC) a huge success.

Congratulations to all you Thinking Bloggers. Please give them huge round of right mouse-clicks ;)
Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules. You don’t have to think a lot as thankfully the participation rules are quite simple.
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.
Blogging tips