June 24, 2012

Ratha Jatra special - Puri Jagannath Mandira "Mitha Dali"

On the auspicious occasion of Ratha Jatra, I could not help but recollect all the fond melodies and memories associated to this grand festival. I  found myself looking for ways to feel closer to home. Warm memories of the occasion swept over me, with the drum beats and jhanja kirtana being so distinct that I could actually feel the reverberation of those beats. For a short introduction, Ratha Jatra is the grandest chariot festival that takes place annually in the mystical coastal city of Puri in Odisha. The three deities- Lord Jagganath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra are decked up in their finest adornments as they travel out ceremoniously in their newly built chariots to visit their beloved aunt at Gundicha Mandira about 2 km from their abode at the Sri Mandira.

I scoured the internet for any live broadcast of the grand event and was lucky enough to find one. Utter joy swept over me as I saw the three grand chariots with the deities on their way to their beloved aunt’s home. It brought back all the memories when as kids we would not understand the importance of this grandiose celebration and instead would secretly regret it for hogging all the television space. To top that, that day was a strict “Arua” day – a day where meals were prepared without onions and garlic. With underdeveloped taste buds, that simply meant bland food. How time changes and unknowingly changes us too..is completely beyond my comprehension.

Every visit to the Puri Jagganath Mandira is almost incomplete if not followed by a mandatory visit to the “Ananda Bazar” or very aptly the “Pleasure Mart”. Ananda Bazar is a large open air mart where thousands of devotees throng daily to taste the Mahaprasad. The ambience of the Anand Bazar can only be described as electrifying and anyone who has ever been there will agree for sure. To my surprise, I was actually craving for some warm, fresh out-of-the-earthen-pots delicacies.  So, to recreate the feel of the Ratha Jatra, I decided to make this lentil dish which features in the “Chhappan Bhoga” (56 offerings) list of dishes which is offered to Lord Jagganath as a Mahaprasad. The whole menu at home comprised of the Nadia Chana Dali, Mitha Khechudi, Baigana bhaja and podina amba khatta.

Puri Jagannath Mandira "Mitha Dali" 

This slightly sweet earthy dish made of split yellow peas simmered with a paste of fresh coconut paste and assorted spices springs to life with the final aromatic touch of a ghee tempering with fennel, cumin and mustard seeds. This hearty lentil soup melds together the wonderful aromas of jaggery, coconut and fennel seeds together with the al dente texture of the chana dal to pair with sweetened rice pilaf or Mitha Khechudi.

Ingredients: ( Serves - 4)
1 1/4 C of chana dal 
½ C red lentils/ Masoor dal
¾ th tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp salt
1 T Jaggery/ Sugar (Alter the quantity based on how sweet you would want it to be)
1 tsp grated ginger

For the paste:
½ C dried unsweetened coconut or 1/4 th C Freshly grated coconut  
2 nos. 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cardamom powder
4 whole cloves 
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
½ C hot water

For the tempering: (Traditionally no tempering is used for this dish but I have added some)

1 T ghee/butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds


1.  Combine all the ingredients for the paste with 1/2 cup of very hot water.Let it seep for 5 minutes and puree until it is a rough paste. Add more water if needed. Add this mixture to the dal and cook for 15-20 more minutes. 

Bring to a boil 4 cups of water and add in the turmeric, salt, and jaggery ,the soaked dals and the paste. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the chana dal is almost tender. 

3. Once the lentils are cooked, heat the ghee/butter over a medium-high flame in a small skillet and toss in the cumin seeds along with the mustard, fennel, and fenugreek. Fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Stir them into the dal and taste for any final season adjustments needed. 

Tips: Using the pressure cooker

- I used the pressure cooker for this step for fast and efficient way. Put all the above ingredients in the pressure cooker along with the water and wait till one whistle. Let it release the pressure before proceeding to the second step.

- To further ease the process, I also soaked the lentils for about 20 minutes to cook in a shorter time.
- For those using a pressure cooker, after step 1, let the pressure release. Add in the paste and put the cooker back on the stove for another whistle. No more than 2 whistles in total for the dal. If the lentils need further cooking, cook it with the lid open for whatever time needed.

This rustic dish pairs wonderfully with Mitha Khechudi and is perfect for days when you would want to relive those delish moments in the Ananda Bazar. A great dish to prepare for the family and sermonize them with the importance of this festival in the life of an Odia ;) So as I leave you with this soul soothing delicacy, I sincerely hope that it warms up your heart too.

Apana samstanku Ratha Jatra ra hardik subechha!
Have a great week ahead,

P.S: I am submitting this post to- 
- Frugal Fridays event hosted by Caroline
- "Spotlight: Curries and gravies" hosted by Chandrani and Indrani.

June 15, 2012

The irresistible team - "Coriander Luchi" & "Khatta Mitha Aloo"

Isn't it quite fascinating to observe your own thoughts when faced with options? Thoughts seem to run in all directions but its only when both the heart and the mind concur that the final decision is made. This is exactly what happened when I readied to prepare my first entry for the Magic Mingle Challenge for this month. Magic Mingle is a group of talented food bloggers who all come together once a month to present their creations based on a common theme. Its very exciting to see the world of  possibilities these talented bunch put forth with seemingly very mundane ingredients. I decided to take on this challenge more so to challenge myself and push my limits. Seems quite similar to the TV show "Chopped" when as soon as the ingredients are "out-of-the-basket" my mind starts racing in sync with the chefs on the show. There was always a tiny desire to be there working with the ingredients and this is my way of satisfying my desire.

This month's two special ingredients are - Cilantro (coriander) and All purpose flour (Maida). Immediately my mind raced towards all baked goodies- how about some cilantro scones..no no..cilantro nan khatai??...hmmm...so as this continued , I put my dilemma over to my Ma. Straight comes the answer, how about making some very typical Odia fried puffed breads known as "Luchi". So that was it..I zeroed in on Dhania luchi as my final dish. Luchi is mostly fried up on festive occasions and it transports me to happy days when the smell of freshly fried luchis would waft through along with the festive smells and compel us kids to run into the kitchen and steal some of the crispy fried beauties.

So amidst my busy schedule, I decided to make this for a lunch date with a friend I was catching up with after quite sometime. This recipe was quite easy to fit into my schedule and anything that makes things more manageable is always welcome. I kneaded the dough the night before and kept it to rest in the fridge. The next morning I took it out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. To munch along with the luchi, I made some super easy, sweet and sour spicy potatoes - Khatta meetha aloo. So here's my twist to the classic "Luchi" along with its classic accomplice "Khatta Mitha Aloo".

Traditionally, luchi is made of all purpose flour dough kneaded till smooth and then, fried to make perfectly puffed, round breads. A typical Odia combination for these fried goodies is with Aloo Dum. So, I made a quick Khatta Mitha Aloo to team up with these beauties, the recipe of which follows right after the luchi.

"Coriander Luchi"
Ingredients: (Serves:2, Makes 10-12 small sized luchis)

For the dough:
1 C All purpose flour/Maida
1/2 tsp Ajwain seeds/Carrom seeds
1/4th tsp + 1/8th tsp Salt
3 tsp - Oil
3 T Cilantro and green chilli paste (Add in green chillies based on your taste)
1/4th tsp Dried Mango powder (Optional)
Lukewarm water (as required)

Oil for frying.


1. Make a fine paste of the cilantro and green chilies.
2. Now add in all the ingredients for the dough along with the cilantro-green chili paste into a bowl to make a stiff yet pliable dough.
Tip: The dough should be kneaded well till it appears smooth which takes about 7 minutes.
3. Cover the dough with cling wrap and keep aside for a minimum of 20 - 30 minutes to rest for good results.
4. Right before rolling out the dough, knead again for 2 mins and roll out the dough balls into small palm sized luchis.
Tip: While rolling out the dough make sure that the remaining dough is always kept covered to prevent it from drying out.
5. Heat oil in a deep vessel and fry the luchis over medium heat and as soon as you put the luchi into the oil, flicker oil over it with your spatula so that it swells like a ball. This takes about ~15 secs each depending on the size and thickness of the luchis.

Handy Tip I - Adding the ajwain actually makes the luchi very light and assists in digestion of these fried goods.

"Khatta Mitha Aloo"

2 T Oil
6 medium sized Potatoes
1/2 T Whole coriander seeds

For spice mix:
1 T Coriander powder
1 T Red Chilli powder
1/2 T Turmeric Powder
1/2 T Cumin powder
1/2 T Sugar
Salt to taste

1 T Lemon juice
Chopped cilantro for garnish (Optional)


1. Par boil the potatoes, they should be firm. I do it in the microwave and it takes ~ 7 minutes to par boil halved potatoes.The potatoes will cook further in the oil with the spice mixture.
2. Mix all the dry spices in about 1/4th C water and keep aside.
3. Heat up the oil in a pan and stir in the whole coriander seeds till fragrant.Then pour the spice mixture to the oil and stir till the oil floats on top. Add in more water if required, so that there's some sauce in the pan.
4. Add in par boiled potatoes,lemon juice and mix well.Cook for 4-5 minutes on high.Sprinkle finely chopped cilantro as garnish.

Time saving tip: To ease out the process, the dough can be made at least a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Take it out of the fridge to let it to come to room temperature. I also par boil the potatoes in advance and toss it with the spices right before serving.

Now for this challenge, I got to make these gorgeous Luchis which I really wouldn't have thought of earlier. Sometimes, all we need is a push into the right direction..and I think I found mine.

Have a fabulous weekend folks!
Lots of love,
P.s: I am submitting this recipe to :
 - "From the Royal kitchen" by Pari and Divya
 - "Warm foods to bring the rain" by The Pumpkin farm and Srivalli
 - "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli
- "Diwali Bash" by Vardhini
- "Breakfast Club" hosted by Farmersgirll Kitchen & Fuss free flavours
- " Kid friendly dishes" hosted by Vardhini of Cook's joy.

June 10, 2012

Into the makings of a keeper - Curried Shrimp in spicy coconut gravy

The birth of this recipe took place in my kitchen when one fine day being too fed up with the use of excessive spices and over-cooking of the delicate sea-food, I embarked on this mission to try something different. How different? I had no real clue. Completely enamored by the freshness of the shrimps lying in front of me, I was almost disheartened to recall that all tasty shrimp delicacies that I have had were almost always overpowered by the usage of spices and thick gravies. I,of course love those curries, stir fries and fried shrimps but I bet u know the days when you crave for some freshness!

While pondering over the innumerous ways to play with the delicate shrimps, my thoughts went straight to the neglected can of coconut milk sitting in the pantry for ages. Ok not ages..but yeah for quite some time actually. So now driven by the strong desire of using that can of coconut milk, I took on this mission to create something driven by my own changing tastes.

The inertia  and of course the lack of ideas for various ways of using coconut milk stems from the fact that growing up, there was not much use of coconut milk in my mom's pantry. Freshly grated coconut has many uses in my mom’s kitchen but that’s not quite the case with coconut milk. So this dish is primarily inspired by Thai shrimp curries made with authentic Thai flavoring agents and my quintessential ingredient of interest- the coconut milk.

Just to be clearer about my approach, I broke it down basically into the two following basic steps:

-    Dry roasting of the spices - For most of my basic culinary purposes, the "secret" curry powder made up by my Ma invariably fits the bill perfectly. I always make sure that from every trip back home, I get back some of her "secret" curry powder. So my first bet to changing up flavors, was roasting whole spices and making up some fresh spice mix. Dry roasting the spices over a slow flame releases the locked up aromatic oils that can very well be the start to any great dish.

-   Poaching - The second approach was to minimize the cooking time of the shrimps in the broth. So finalizing on slow poaching the shrimps in the coconut broth was possibly the best decision for the recipe.

After the basics, this recipe came together in practically no time at all. I decided to jazz it up a bit with slow roasting minced garlic,which is not an essential step. The end result was very soft, melt-in-the-mouth, creamy shrimp soaking in flavored and fragrant coconut milk gravy!

Without any further ado, here's the recipe:

Curried Shrimp in spicy coconut gravy

The tenderness of shrimp infused with a dry roasted Indian spice powder is the highlight of this delicacy which is poached to perfectness in a sweet n sour curried coconut gravy to provide the makings of a soupy meal.

Ingredients: (Serves: 3)

Shrimps - 12 nos (~ ½ lb)

For the dry roast:
Cumin seeds - 2 T
Whole black pepper - ½ tsp
Dried red chilies – 4-5 nos. (Depends on how spicy you would like it to be)
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch piece

Divide the dry roast powder as 1/4 +1/2 + 1/4 (approx.)

Coconut milk - 3/4th C
Turmeric powder - ½ tsp + ½ tsp (divided)
Red Chilli powder – ½ tsp (Optional)
Lemon juice – 1 T
Salt to taste

Oil for cooking – 2 T
Garlic – 6-7 cloves
Tomatoes (small) – 4 nos


  1. Dry roasting the spices – Dry roast all the spices over a low flame till fragrant (~ 3-5 mins).Wait for it to cool down, and then make a fine powder. If the chilies don’t make up a fine powder that’s ok, it adds to the texture.
  2. Wash and devein the shrimp. Marinate it with ¼th of the dry roast powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder and ½ tsp salt. Keep it refrigerated till ready to use.
  3. Heat up 2T of oil and add in the chopped garlic. Let it cook over a slow flame till garlic gets evenly browned (~ 6-8 mins).Then add in the chopped tomatoes. Cook it over high flame for 5 mins and then, add in 1/2 of the dry roast powder, turmeric powder and red chilli powder (if using).Cook the tomatoes for 5-7 mins till the oil floats over the spice mixture.
  4. Now, add in the coconut milk and the lemon juice.Simmer it for about 10 mins till the oil floats on the top.Then add in the marinating shrimps. Cook for about 5 mins till the shrimp turn pinkish in color.
  5. Sprinkle the last 1/4th of the dry roast for the freshness of spices.Turn off the stove and serve it with some steaming white rice or cilantro rice.

I decided to keep the head of the shrimp on for the recipe since it infuses the broth with a rich taste that adds further to the curry. You could very well opt out if you decide not to. Truly, this recipe is more about the nuances than about the steps. Little things to take care of here and there..and you are ready to have a small food trip in your mouth.

Hope you guys are having a great weekend!

P.s: I am sending this recipe to:
 - "Guest Quest" hosted by Amina
 -  "This recipes goes to Sara's Event Cooking with Love Series hosted at Torviewtoronto". 
-  "Spotlight: Curries and gravies" hosted by Chandrani and Indrani.
 - "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli 
-  " Seafood feast" hosted by Usha.

June 5, 2012

Back to my comfort zone with my comfort food - "Chaula Kheeri"

What would your realm of comfort be, once you are back home after a long period of absence? Beyond any doubt, I know what mine is! So being back in my haven after a 3 week trip both for work and fun, I knew exactly what I wanted. A brief stint in the kitchen and I got back my dilapidated energy level. Easy and effectively consistent remedy for my home parched soul ;)

Past few weeks have been very hectic with a research trip intermingled with a short outing with friends. The sparse number of posts have been a testimony to that fact. I felt guilty all this while being away from this space all along, while trying my best to focus on the trip at hand. I guess very soon (!!) I will learn how to leave this baby aside for a well deserved break. Soon..or so I hope!

My long absence from home entailed that  I have been on store bought/ restaurant bought food for the past 3 weeks. That's quite a bit for me to take. So by the end of the trip, I was literally dreaming about home-cooked simple meals. Don't get me wrong, peeps! I love eating out especially when returning to some favorite restaurants for tried and tested recipes or even for trying out new ones. But taking in 3 meals-a-day for 21 days gets a whole lot for me to digest!

So, when I got back to my "sacred space" aka the kitchen, I went straight to cooking rice. Rice is a staple food of people from Eastern India, so seeking comfort in rice for me is like stating the obvious. The first dish that I devoured on is a simple, soulful and heart warming bowl of rice pudding enriched with rose water, a pinch of saffron and lots of halved cashews. It could very well be prepared without the fancy trio - but I tried this no-holds-barred version for some self-indulgence. Before detailing its preparation, it is necessary to point out that this is a commonly prepared dessert in Odisha. Be it during any auspicious occasion or for just regular meals, its simple procedure and the use of minimal ingredients makes it my go-to dessert recipe.

"Chaula Kheeri"

Smooth,creamy, lightly sweetened rice pudding flavored with rose water, saffron and cardamom powder highlighted with the crunch of ghee-roasted cashews is one of the most common desserts in Odisha. "Chaula" in Odia refers to rice and I have specified it so as to differentiate among the various other kinds of pudding that exist in the culinary realm.


1 C Rice ( I use Basmati, any other rice such as Arborio would serve the same purpose)
5 C Whole milk
2 C Heavy whipping cream
2 Bay leaves
4-5 T Sugar
1/4 C Halved Cashews- Roasted in ghee/butter till golden brown.
1 tsp Cardamom powder
1 tsp Rose water
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of salt


1. Soak the rice for 15-20 minutes. Wash it thoroughly before adding in to the milk which gets rid of unwanted starch which usually is the cause for sticky blob of rice.

2. Boil milk in a pot and once it starts boiling,add in the soaked and washed rice and the bay leaves. The bay leaves impart a rustic earthiness to the dish.Keep stirring continuously to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom.In about 12-15 mins, check the rice to see if its firm to the bite.

3. In the meantime, roast the cashews with 1/4th T ghee/ butter till golden brown.

4. Once the rice seems firm to the bite, pour in cream and add in the sugar, a pinch of salt and cashews. Keep stirring till the rice gets completely cooked about 10 minutes.Take it off from the stove when done and then add in the rose water, saffron dissolved in 2 tsp of cold milk and sprinkle it with cardamom powder.

Handy notes:

Soaking rice before-hand is crucial to lessening the cooking time and making the pudding very light instead of a dense mass of rice in milk.

- When I made this the first time, I made the mistake of adding sugar and cream along with the rice. This resulted in uncooked rice that separated out from the milk. Due to thicker consistency of the cooking liquid, the rice could not cook properly and hence the disaster.
So, cook the rice to the texture you want - some like it soft and mushy while some like their rice grains separate, and then only add in the cream, sugar and the fancy stuff.

- The rice soaks in milk even after taken off the stove, so to manage the consistency of the pudding make sure that there's more milk than you originally desire when you take the pudding off the stove.

- For a typical Odia style pudding, you could opt out of the cashews, rose water and the saffron but the cardamom powder is a must. Its that essential spicy hint to this creamy dessert.

So as I devour this creamy delicacy, I would like to leave with a promise that I will try out some of the "famous" dishes that I tried out during my traveling spree with my spin to it. Watch out this space,for there's lot more updates to come!

Happy Tuesday!
P.s: I am sending this recipe to:
 - "Guest Quest" hosted by Amina
 -  "This recipes goes to Sara's Event Cooking with Love Series hosted at Torviewtoronto". 
- Prathibha for "EP Series-Herbs and spices"-Basil and Cardamom
- Pradnya and Gayatri for WTML event for June.
 - "Show me your hits:Rice" hosted by Sangee and Vardhini.