Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gutti Vankaya Biryani

Gutti Vankaya or Stuffed Brinjal is a popular Andhra delicacy that one can find in most of the South Indian restaurants. It is more commonly known as Baghara Baingan in Hyderabad. More suitable for a festive menu rather than a everyday meal, it is infused with a rich medley of flavors. Peanuts (or cashews), coconut, curry leaves, sesame seeds(optional), dried chillis and tamarind along with a host of other spices give it that tantalizing and unforgettable taste.

Giving a twist to this unique taste experience, a few restaurants in the recent times have started serving it with an aromatic Andhra style biryani. And having had occasion to sample this combination, I can vouch for it's heavenly taste. While most restaurants stick to using Basmati rice for this recipe, I prefer the small grained but equally aromatic 'Jeerakasala' or 'Jeera' rice variety.

It is one of the best one-pot meal options for those potluck occasions peppered with a generous number of 'strictly vegetarian' individuals. And it is actually quite easy and takes relatively less time to put together than a dal-roti-suzbi meal. Reason enough to make it a part of your culinary arsenal.

The small purple aubergines are generally used for making this recipe. But I used the long white ones as I had a batch that needed to be consumed before the weekend. Read on for the details -

















Preparation Time - 30-40 mins

Ingredients -

For the Gutti Vankaya -

For the stuffing -

  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 dry red chilis ( less spicy ones like byadgi )
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Others - 

  • 2 long white eggplants / 8 medium sized purple ones
  • 1 large onion ( chopped into thin long pieces )
  • 1 tsp GG paste
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch of garam masala
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • a lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • salt to taste
  • oil for shallow frying

For the Biryani -

  • 2 cups Jeera ( jeerakasala ) rice 
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 2 inch long cinnamon
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 6-7 black peppercorns
  • 2 pinch shahjeera
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water. Squeeze the juice and discard the pulp.

Chop the white eggplants into 3 inch long pieces. Then put a 'X' shaped cut on each piece. Make sure that the cut is only till 3/4 of the length and not more. Soak the pieces in warm water to which a little turmeric has been added.

Cook the rice using the open pan method. It should be cooked yet firm to touch.

Cooking - Heat a thick bottomed pan. Add the peanuts and red chilis. Once peanuts start popping, add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, and bay leaf. Once they gets fragrant, add poppy seeds. These start spluttering at once.


Immediately add the coconut to the same pan. Fry for 30-45 seconds and switch off.

Allow it to cool down and then grind into a coarse paste. Stuff this paste into the slits made on the aubergine pieces.

















Heat a wok. Add the oil. Throw in the curry leaves, asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds.

Once they get popping, add chopped onions. Once onion is translucent, add GG paste. Fry for 2-3 mins before adding the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Fry for another minute.

Gently put the stuffed eggplants into the wok. Sprinkle some salt over them. Fry gently till the skin turns brown.

Add about 1 cup water and the remaining stuffing to the wok. Adjust the salt. Bring to a gentle boil and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for 5-6 mins or till the aubergine in cooked.

Add the tamarind. Simmer for 5 mins or till it reaches the desired consistency. Remove from the flame.

Heat the ghee in a wide pan. Add the onions, mint leaves and coriander leaves. Fry till the onion turns translucent. Add all the spices and fry till fragrant.

Finally add the rice along with a little salt and sprinkle a bit water. Toss gently. Cover with a lid and remove from the flame. Let it stand for 10 mins.
















Serve the Gutti Vankaya on a bed of the fragrant biryani rice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chattua ( Happy Janmashtami And a Tale of True Friendship )

Krishna and Sudama. Childhood friends separated over the years. The chasm in their bond thought to have widened given their disparate fortunes. But staying true to the tradition of true friendship, they did not let anything get in their way. The impoverished Sudama did not let his ego hinder him from paying a visit to his old friend who had reached the stature of a King. Nor did Krishna show any signs of an inflated self-image when he embraced the former with open arms.

No words were exchanged as to the actual purpose of Sudama's visit. And yet Krishna understood his friend's plight. The once penniless Brahmin finds himself as the owner of a palatial house on his return. Krishna did not give him occasion to lavish praise for that would have created an imbalance in their relationship. Such is the beauty of friendship. It is rightly said that we cannot choose our birth but we are free to choose our friends. So, choose wisely.

By now most of you would be wondering about the connection between this beautiful story and my recipe. Ok, let me give you a hint. One of the important components of this recipe is something that Sudama had taken as a gift when he went to visit Krishna. Bingo! It's beaten rice which is also known as pohe/avalakki/chuda in various parts of the country.

Chattua ideally refers to roasted Bengal gram flour. In large parts of Odisha, it is consumed as a porridge mixed with milk and sugar. But these days, a special kind of Chattua has overtaken the older version. A mix of roasted gram, beaten rice, cashews, milk powder, glucose biscuits and sugar goes into the making of this one. Some versions also include roasted wheat, ragi and other grains to boost the health benefits. Here is my version of 'Chattua' that I usually make in small quantities and keep in a small jar within my reach. Two to three spoonfuls is guaranteed to take care of those unwanted hunger pangs. At the same time, it can also be eaten in the regular manner with warm milk.

Read on -

















Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -
  • 2/3 cup beaten rice
  • 2/3 cup roasted bengal gram
  • 1/4 cup cashews ( substitute with almond and walnut to make it healthy )
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 tbsp sugar ( depends on taste so I skip adding it in mine )
  • 6-7 glucose biscuits (any brand)
  • 2 tbsp milk powder (any brand)

















Preparation -  Heat a skillet. Dry roast the beaten rice till it turns crisp. Remove and keep aside till it cools down.

Add the cashews to the same skillet. Roast till they darken faintly. Remove and keep aside till cool.

Finally add the flaxseeds to the skillet. Once they start popping remove and keep aside till cool.

Take all the ingredients in a mixer jar and grind into a powder of medium consistency.

Store in a airtight container and consume within 1-2 weeks.

















To consume as a porridge, add about 1/2 cup of this powdered mixture to 1 cup of warm milk.

















Note - Chattua can be used as a substitute of Cerelac for children older than 1 year. I have also tried the same recipe with my kid. He was ok with it till he grew bored with the porridge stuff and wanted something chew-able. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Kamal Kakdi (Lotus Root) Biryani

Yes, it is yet another Lotus root recipe on my blog. Can't seem to get rid of my fascination with this exotic and yummy vegetable. So, I keep finding new ways to add it to the everyday menu. And this is just another everyday recipe with the delicious crunch of lotus root.

Biryani or one pot meals are a staple when I end up cooking just for myself. It is much more than plain coincidence when you find more than twenty finger-licking varieties ( including veg and non-veg ) of biryani on my blog. This is yet another addition to the list. I have kept it really light considering that it is something that one can serve as an regular meal (instead of dal-roti/chawal) or even pack some in the lunchbox. All it takes is some raita and a salad to make it a complete meal.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 25 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 100 gm lotus root 
  • 1/3 cup shelled green peas
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp GG paste
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 large tomato (freshly pureed)
  • 1 tsp chopped mint leaves
  • 4 tsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 green chilis ( slit lengthwise )
  • a few strands of mace
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 3 green cardamon
  • 5-6 peppercorns
  • 2 tsp poppy paste
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Chop the onion into thin long slices.

Wash and soak the rice for 1-2 hours.

Cooking - Peel and slice the lotus root. Soak in warm water for 10 mins and rub them gently to dislodge any mud sticking to the pores. Once cleaned put them in fresh water till required.

Heat 2 1/2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onions and fry till light brown.

Add the GG paste and fry till raw smell goes away. Add the tomato puree and fry till oil starts to separate out.

Add the poppy seeds paste along with turmeric, chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala. Fry for 1 minute.

Add the lotus root and green peas. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes.

Add the soaked rice along with the chopped mint, coriander leaves and green chili. Fry till the leaves wilt up a bit. 

Add 1 1/3 cups water. Add salt to taste. Finally drop in the whole spices, nutmeg powder and the remaining ghee.

Cook on a medium low flame for 1 whistle (approx 12-14 mins). Remove and keep aside for 15-20 mins. 

Open the lid and fluff the rice grains with a fork.

Serve hot with raita.



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Baigana Alu Posto ( Eggplant cooked with Poppy seeds )

The last few days have been tough on me. As if a seasonal flu coupled with throat infection wasn't bad enough, the balmy weather in Blore has been making things worse. The kid does not want to be cooped up inside the house, meals/groceries are getting delayed thanks to rains and traffic snarls, and I am constantly feeling drowsy thanks to a combination of factors.  Even the latest Harry Potter book is not temptation enough for me to keep my eyes open. A few pages ( or rather dialogues coz this book is written for a stage play ) down and I am dozing off blissfully.

So, the meals have been reduced to the very basic dal-chawal or dal-roti with one dry curry. Any cribs from the boys are strictly being ignored. The pickle is accessible to all and hubby dear can just about manage an omelette for himself.

Kid has been busy with figuring out the intricacies of the capital and small alphabets. The gaps in between are taken up by story telling sessions where he just lets his fantasy take flight. To sum it up, my folks are managing rather well by themselves .

But the pace at which I had been working on my blog has slowed down significantly. Last 3-4 weeks, I was editing my old posts, redoing the pics of some of the recipes and rarely finding the time to post new ones. But this week I havn't really managed to get anything done. Except for this very basic recipe which is just an adaptation of our 'Janhi Alu posto'.

This recipe came to exist when I purchased a batch of the green aubergines (long ones) as I could not find any decent veggies at the neighbouring shop. I discovered that they are quite bland and even somewhat bitter in taste. Since I had to somehow use them, I cooked them with potato and poppy seeds paste. It improved their taste by a large extent and I was able to use up the entire batch over 2-3 meals.

Read on for the recipe -


















Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -


  • 1 cup sliced aubergine ( I cut them into a half moon shape )
  • 1 medium sized potato ( chopped into small pieces )
  • 1 small onion ( chopped into medium sized bits )
  • 2 garlic flakes (crushed)
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 1/5 tsp pancha phutana
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp mustard oil


For the paste -


  • 1-2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 garlic flakes 
  • 1 green chili ( only if you want it to be spicy. I skipped )

Preparation - Dry grind the poppy seeds in the small jar /chutney jar of your mixer. Then add garlic, green chili and a little bit of water. Grind into a somewhat coarse paste. Keep aside.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add broken red chili and pancha phutana. Once it gets spluttering, add the crushed garlic and allow it to turn golden brown.

The onion goes in next. Fry to a translucent.

Add the aubergine and potatoes. Cook on a medium - low flame till 70 percent done.

Now add the poppy seeds paste along with 1/3 cup water, salt and turmeric. Cook covered on low flame till all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from flame. Drizzle with a dash of mustard oil for better flavour.

Serve hot with white rice and dal.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Five Must-Try Desserts from Odisha ( Rakshabandhan Special )

It's sibling bonding time yet again. The rakhis have been purchased and even dispatched via courier for those staying away from each other. The pooja thalis are all but ready. Even the return gifts have been ordered (online in most cases to facilitate easy exchange). With the stage all set for the Rakshabandhan festivities tomorrow, it time to finalize the menu for the celebrations.

And desserts happen to be the sweetest way to seal this bond of love. Take your pick from one of these fabulous desserts originating from Odisha. Spend a little time and energy to make it at home instead of going for the store bought stuff. I bet the smile on your brother's face will be worth the effort .

Here we go -



















1. Pahala Rasgulla - Though a little low on sweetness, these delicious and melt in the mouth rasgullas are seriously addictive.

















2. Kheeri (Kheer) - Slow cooked on a low flame for a couple of hours (atleast 2 hrs), it's silken sweetness is guaranteed to engulf one's senses.

















3. Chenna Payas - The silken texture of thickened milk juxtaposed with succulent pieces of paneer, this dessert is great when paired with fruits !!


















4. Rasmalai - Luscious balls of paneer soaked in decadently flavored milk, this is one dessert that is fit to be on a royal menu !!


















5. Chenna Poda - This burnt cheesecake is unique to Odisha and is tough to find in the other cities of India. Try replicating it at home if you are feeling nostalgic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chettinad Fish Curry

A few days back, we had purchased Seer fish in a larger quantity than usual. After preparing a batch of Rawa fry on the same day, I had popped the rest into the deep freeze as I wasn't too sure of making a routine Odia style fish curry with it. The fish curries in Odisha are usually done with river fish like Rohu, Catla or Mirkali ( a golden version of Rohu ) which have a different texture and smell as compared to sea fish like the Seer fish. Hence the dilemma.

So, I ended up looking for various Seer fish preparations on the net. Quite a few of them seemed to be too spicy for our liking and I had almost resigned myself to preparing another batch of rawa fry with a little twist in the flavor. I even marinated the fish with salt, turmeric and lemon juice for the purpose of preparing a fry. Simply out of habit (though sheer boredom is more like it ), I kept surfing for curries even as the fish was being fried ( without the rawa layer which I wanted to add at a later stage ). And I stumbled upon this wonderful blog Chettinad Recipes which had the recipe for a light yet seemingly delicious fish curry. Without any deliberation, I went ahead and prepared it with the pan fried fish ( the original used raw one ) and it turned out every bit as delicious as I had envisioned it would be.

Read on for the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 35 mins

Ingredients -

For the marination -


  • 500 gm Seer fish 
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
For the curry -

  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 head of garlic ( peeled and finely chopped )
  • 2 medium size Tomatoes ( country variety is preferable )
  • 1/2 tsp Tamarind paste  ( depends on the sour content of the tomatoes/one's preference )
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp Fortune Vivo oil
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for the garnishing

Preparation - Wash and clean the fish. Marinate with salt, turmeric, red chili powder and lemon juice for 20 mins.

Peel and finely chop the tomatoes.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the fish pieces and fry them lightly on both sides. Remove and keep aside.

In the same wok, add the mustard, black peppercorns, cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Once they crackle, add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute till the onions start to sweat. Then add the tomatoes and sprinkle a bit of slat over them. Cook till tomatoes turn mushy.

Add all the powdered spices and cook for 3-4 mins.

Add the tamarind dissolved in about 2 1/2  cups hot water. Adjust salt. Bring it to boil.

Add the fried fish and let it simmer for 15 mins. Stir 2-3 times in between to that it does not get burnt at the bottom .

Once the curry acquires the desired consistency, add the chopped cilantro and the roughly torn curry leaves.

Cover with a lid and remove from flame. Let it stand aside for sometime.

Serve at room temperature .


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Savoury Tricolor Panna Cotta ( Independence Day Collaboration with ADollopOfThat and DelishPotpourrie)

"Mommy, Aarav is so bad ! "

"Why ? What happened ? "

" He does not play Cricket with us."

" So what ?"

" Why doesn't he like to play Cricket ?"

" But he plays football with you, doesn't he ? I think he is just like your Mommy. Even I prefer football. Guess we are just a little bit different . "

Diversity. A beautiful word that is fast losing it's relevance in a world where intolerance is constantly rearing up it's ugly head. That is why it is all the more important that we should be having this kind of conversation with our kids on this Independence day or rather on any day when we feel that he or she is showing any signs of parochialism. For a nation that revels in it's diversity, we need to make sure that the basics of it are ingrained into the next generation.

And with diversity occupying the topmost echelon of my mind, I set about with the task of creating a dish that pans the Indian subcontinent. Choosing the three recipes that represented the three regions of India was the toughest task. But after a lot of deliberation I picked Palak Paneer from the North, Erissery (Pumpkin curry) from the South and Dahi Baingan from Odisha ( just being true to my roots ). Now I wanted to give it a whole new avatar which deifies their regular hierarchy in the main course. Hence the introduction of the savory panna cotta, a light as air and tongue tickling appetizer that leaves you wanting for more. Of course one can serve them in a tiny-weeny portion as a palate cleaner too but I would rather go for the first option.

That's not all !! This recipe is part of a collab with my favorite bloggers Saswati ( of Delish Potpourrie ) and Parinaaz ( of A Dollop Of That ) so there is much more to be explored :) . [ Remember to scroll down to the bottom of this post ]
















Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 45 mins ( plus more time for setting the panna cotta )

Ingredients -

For the Palak Paneer Panna Cotta -

  • a fistful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 inch sized cube of paneer
  • 2 tsp chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch garam masala
  • 1 tsp gelatin 
  • 1/4 cup fresh cream
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp butter for frying the onions

For the Pumpkin Erissery Panna Cotta -
  • 1/2 cup red pumpkin cubes
  • 3-4 curry leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a pinch of cumin powder
  • a pinch of red chili powder
  • 2 tsp chopped shallots
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh cream



For the Dahi Baingan Panna Cotta -

  • 1/2 cup eggplant slices
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • a pinch of roasted cumin-chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oil 
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cream
  • 1/2 cup hung curd


Preparation - Soak each teaspoon of gelatin with about 3 tbsp of water in three separate bowls. Once it swells up, place the bowls in a saucepan of hot water and stir them to dissolve completely.

Cooking -

For the Palak Paneer Panna Cotta -

Blanch the baby spinach leaves.

Heat a little butter in a wok. Add the onions and garlic. Fry till onion turns translucent.

Take the blanched spinach, garam masala, fried onion and garlic, and the paneer cube in a liquidizer jar.  Blend well. Then add the liquid gelatin and blend again.

Around the same time, simmer the fresh cream for about 5-7 mins in a thick bottomed saucepan. Season with salt and remove from the flame. Add the pureed mixture to the cream and beat lightly to mix evenly.

Pour into moulds/ramekins/glasses. Put inside the fridge for 30-40 mins to chill. Remove just before serving.
























For the Pumpkin Erissery Panna Cotta -

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the curry leaves and let them turn brown. Remove and keep aside.

Add the garlic and shallots . Fry lightly. Next add the pumpkin cubes along with the cumin and red chili powder.

Add a little water, salt to taste and cover with a lid. Once the pumpkin is cooked through, remove from the flame.

Blend the pumpkin along with the liquid gelatin.

Around the same time, simmer the fresh cream and the thick coconut milk for about 5-7 mins in a thick bottomed saucepan. Season with salt and remove from the flame. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream and beat lightly to mix evenly.

Pour into moulds/ramekins/glasses. Put inside the fridge for 30-40 mins to chill. Remove just before serving.




















For the Dahi Baigana Panna Cotta -

Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the curry leaves and remove after 30 seconds. Add the eggplant slices along with a little salt. Cook till lightly browned on both sides.

Once the eggplant has cooled down, blend it along with the hung curd, roasted cumin-chili powder, liquid gelatin and salt.

Around the same time, simmer the fresh cream for about 5-7 mins in a thick bottomed saucepan. Season with salt and sugar. Remove from the flame. Add the eggplant and curd mixture to the cream and beat lightly to mix evenly.

Pour into moulds/ramekins/glasses. Put inside the fridge for 30-40 mins to chill. Remove just before serving.























Garnish as per the images or use your own imagination.























Note - This tastes best when served on the same day. The flavors tend to change after a day or two.

And here are the fabulous recipes shared by my friends -





















Parinaaz's Rice Paper Rolls


and






















Saswati's Tiranga Rabri Mousse


Happy Fooding around on this Independence Day !!!