Saturday, December 29, 2012

Langostino Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Happy New Year, 2013, to all my readers and followers! :)
Enjoy this one-pot wonder! 


Shell pasta - 1 cup, raw

Canola oil - 2 tbsp
Vodka Sauce - 8 tbsp (Bertolli brand)
Brown Mushroom - 8-10, small, remove the stalk and slice the head
Onion - 1 medium, sliced
Tomato - Cherry or Medium sized ones, chopped into halves

Langostino (recently found this in Costco near the Shrimps counter!)  -  1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on taste.
meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. It is more closely related to porcelain crabs and hermit crabs. Crustaceans labeled as langostino are no more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, and weigh no more than 7 ounces (200 g). Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, lobster is called langosta). Also, langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine. (Source: Wikipedia link)
Chilli Powder - as per taste, just to whet my appetite for hot food - you can avoid this!
Salt/Pepper seasoning - as per your taste


Cook the Pasta as per the instructions on the packet. I usually add a little Salt and a few drops of oil in the boiling water for the Pasta to absorb the Salt and to remain separate respectively.

Drain the cooked Pasta and keep it aside.

Heat Canola Oil.
In High heat, cook the Mushroom and Onion.
When half-done, add the Cherry Tomatoes.
Add the Vodka Sauce, Pasta and the Langostinos and toss well for the sauce to mix well.

Season with Salt, Pepper and Chilli Powder (optional).

You can replace the Langostino with Shrimp (any size) or shredded Chicken. It is best to make this for one person at a time - beauty is in the detail! Uber-delicious! :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Knit Stole (Light Country Peach)

In my growing years, I remember my mom and her friends getting together to knit and exchange patterns during winter. The local market would have the colorful yarns sellers, some of them claiming to have come straight from Kashmir! What a delight to watch those colors and more so when they were knit into beautiful sweaters, scarfs, mittens and what not! They intrigued me then - they intrigue me even now - the adrenaline rush (kid you not! ;)) on seeing the end-product is always cool! My first knit was a pencil bag - if I remember correctly, it was something we did as part of the school project (SUPW class, anyone? :)). I was so proud of it and held on to it for a long time after.

Thank you, Maa, for introducing me to it and nourishing that interest further. My granny (Aai) was the best - I definitely got the crafting gene from both of them. This has kept me away from boredom more often than not - when I am in a solemn mood, I depend on this as a diversion and to boost my spirit. If you have any such neat tricks to keep you satisfied and content, do share them - would love to hear more.

Enjoy the stole I knit during this holiday season - I love the color and texture. I have a weakness for the seed stitch that I have used in this stole and try to use it wherever I can, though it is usually used only as a border by most other crafters.

You need:

Knitting Needles - Two (6 U.S 4.0 mm)
Caron Simply Soft 6oz Skeins - Three Skeins Light Country Peach (9737)

How to:

CO 72 stitches for 17'' width (more or less depending on the desired width - make sure it is even number of stitches)
For the rest of the work, always slip the first stitch of a given row to get a neat edging to the stole.
Knit the first 25 rows for end-borders (refer pic below).
Seed stitch the rest of the work -
  • 26th Row Right Side (RS) - Slip first stitch, knit and purl repeatedly the rest of the stitches till the last stitch which needs to be knit.
  • 26th Row Wrong Side (WS) - Slip first stitch, purl and knit repeatedly the rest of the stitches till the last stitch which needs to be knit.
Knit the last 25 rows for end-borders (refer pic below). 
Bind off by knitting the last row. Finished length was 76''.

Stay warm and cheerful! :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peda using Ricotta Cheese dedicated to Aai

In some of my past posts, I had mentioned my Aai (Odiya word for Maternal Grandmother) and her simplistic yet uber-delicious cooking skills. She was more than an inspiration for me. I trully admire her spirit - she always had a kind word for everyone, even for people she knew did not always mean well for her! How many of us can be like that? Well, she was!

The sad news is that she recently left for heavenly abode. This post is dedicated to her - that's the very little I can do. I could not see her in my last India visit - and this will always remain a disappointment in my life. You may be thinking - why Peda for Aai? Wikipeda page for Peda is here for more information. During my school days, whenever she would visit us, she would get me "Cherry Pedas" - ooh, what a delight they were! They were Pedas in Cherry fruit shape - as my dad says, he is still trying to find where she used to get them from! Those Pedas were special - and will remain so forever for me!

A few years back, my SIL made Pedas out of Ricotta Cheese (I believe from a friend's recipe). When I remembered that, I went googling for "Peda using Ricotta Cheese" - found a number of recipes but I narrowed down on Achu's Kitchen's Peda. Thank you, Achu!

I first made them for a cookie exchange in my friend's place. I knew everyone was making cookies, so I decided to try something Indian! Nan Khatai came to mind, but later decided on the Pedas as they are sweet. The pics from that event. Later on, for my own holiday party, I made them to include in the goody bags. Have received a few compliments so far - glad my friends liked them. So yes, this is a keeper recipe! I am sure I will be making once too often in future - if you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Here is Achu's recipe with minor modification:


  • Ricotta cheese.................................................................... 15oz.
  • Sugar ................................................................................. 1 cup
  • Milk powder....................................................................... 1 cup
  • Mawa (Nanak brand, grated).............................................. 1/2 cup
  • Clarified Btter( Ghee )......................................................... 2 tbsp
  • Cardamom powder............................................................. 1 tsp
  • Pistachios ( thinly chopped )................................................ 2 tsp / as required to garnish (optional)
  • Heat a pan and add Ghee to it. I used Butter one time when there was less Ghee in the house.
  • Once it is gets melted, add Ricotta Cheese and cook under low flame for 20 - 25 mins.
  • The moisture content should evaporate fully. Stir it continuously.
  • Next add Sugar to it.The mixture will become watery again.
  • Once the Sugar dissolves with the Cheese mixture, add the grated Mawa and Milk powder and cook till the mixture start leaving from the sides of the pan. It will take 15 - 20 mins.
  • Take a small portion of it and try rolling it into a ball. If it attains the shape without sticking to your palm, then we can access that the right consistency has attained.
  • Add Cardamom powder at this stage and stir well. I grind the Cardomon using a stone pestle and mortar.
  • Remove the mixture from heat and let cool.
  • When warm enough to handle (does not matter if the mixture completely cools down - once I made the above mix in the night and shaped them the next morning), squeeze a small lemon size portion of the mixture between your fingers and palm to form small balls.( apply a little ghee on your palm to avoid sticking).  Give each ball a slight press between your palms to get a flat shape.
  • Garnish with chopped pistachios and saffron (optional). Instead, use the cookie shapers or wood design implanters (Thanks, Maa, for getting those for me - they were a delight to use and such beautiful pattern on the Peda, just like store-bought!).
They will stay good for a week. Store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy them in this holiday season! :) Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mama's "Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding" :)

I have been waiting to start a series of guest posts from my friends and family who mean a lot to me. These people have definitely influenced me in a big way - each in their own way has made my life experiences rich and memorable.

This is the first in the series. It is from my sister-in-law who is my name-sake (we both have same nicknames which has led to quite a few confusion situations! ;)). When you get married via arranged marriage and move into a new family, there are some people who will make you feel at home and she was/is definitely one of them. I have always enjoyed the few moments we have spent with each other and I cherish her being "family". Thank you, Mama, for all the camaraderie! :)

Mama had made this super-delicious "Banana Pudding" when I was visiting them during Thanksgiving this year. Wow! The taste and smell still lingers! So you can imagine? I had to get the recipe and she was as gracious as ever to share it in no-time with all the detailed steps. Thank you, Mama, for sharing the recipe. Btw, Mama has her very own blog - would recommend everyone to take a look! Good luck, Mama, in all your pursuits - may the new year 2013 fulfill all your dreams and beyond! :)

Continue reading for the yumm recipe...

I can only speak for myself, but it's not often I find a recipe that is quick to make, delicious to eat, and impressive to look at. But I found these three criterions rolled into one in a glorious Paula Deen banana pudding recipe titled Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding. For full disclosure, I was drawn to the recipe because of the novelty of the name and because "Mama" is my pet name. That, and the fact that this recipe had been reviewed 5-stars by a thousand-some people.

The dramatic diva suppressed inside me would like to say that the first time I made this pudding was a happy accident where the stars aligned so that I could make this dessert. But, the reality is far less titillating: It was 3 am and I needed to prepare something with the ingredients in the kitchen for a barbecue the next afternoon. I typically have the opportunity to cook for a potluck few times a year and because I usually stay up late into the night working and studying (OK, and procrastinating), I tend to revert to a tried and tested recipe. But 3 am is an inconvenient, if not impossible, time to go grocery shopping, so I scrambled online to see what I could make with the random ingredients in our fridge, the eclectic ensemble of fruits on our counter, and the overflowing pantry filled with snacks and spices.

Long story short: Twenty minutes after finding the recipe, I was all tucked into bed with an episode of The Good Wife playing on my TV (yes, I am that nocturnal) and my dessert chilling (pun intended) in the refrigerator. The next day my impromptu attempt at making a dessert turned out to be a hit and since then, this recipe has replaced caramel walnut brownies as my go-to dish for potlucks and gatherings.


2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6 to 8 ripe bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream


Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve or at least 2-3 hours.

The only modifications I make to the recipe above is that I tend to add more bananas—it really varies by banana size and how many ripe bananas I have on hand. I find adding more fruit evens out the sweetness and the rich flavor of the pudding, but it boils down to personal preference.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Strawberry Santa - Merry Christmas!!

This was prepared following the post here. Her Santa Claus's are much more beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Leanne! They brought a smile on my face every time I saw them. As well as for the number of guests in my holiday party who got a chance to enjoy them - an absolute hit with the kids for sure!


Strawberry - about 40

Cream Cheese - 8 ounces
Granulated Sugar - 1/4 cup
Vanilla Essence - 1/4 tsp


Black sesame seed - to make eyes, 2 grains per Strawberry (optional)

Mix Cream Cheese, Granulated Sugar and Vanilla Essence till it is soft and fluffy.
Put it in a ziplock bag and seal it.

Chop off the stem so the Strawberry can sit on the base.
Chop off a little at the other end to use as cap.
Prepare all the pieces that you need like this.

Make a small hole in the bottom corner of the filled ziplock bag.

Add a dollop of the Cream Cheese mix between the two pieces.
Add a small dot of the same cream cheese mix on the small piece as a pom-pom.

These Strawberry Santa's are one of the cutest food-items I ever saw. 'Almost' felt guilty eating them away! :) They are going to be a constant fixture in all my holiday parties!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Note: You can also have Strawberries with the dip as-is!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season! Happy Hannukah! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Celebrate life, family and friends! I will be back blogging more frequently soon..

Here's some Eggnog to spread the delicious cheer... :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Belated Happy Ganesh Puja Chaturthi! With Kala Chana Sundal...

Ram Mandir Chowk Pandal shared by Discover Bhubaneswar FB Page
Belated Happy Ganesh Puja Chaturthi, everyone!

This is a post I wanted to make last Wednesday but due to certain factors, I could not. As usual, using the principle of "better late than never", I am here!

Ganeshji has been my favorite God since childhood. I remember when we were in Keonjhar, a beautiful scenic place in Odisha, I was about 4-5 years old and me and my dad were out shopping. I was enchanted by a picture stall where they had colorful pictures of different Gods. Amazingly, I still remember that clearly even after all these years - human brain is interesting, right? Here I can remember certain instances years and years later while sometimes I cannot what I had for lunch yesterday or what I did on the weekend when someone asks me on Monday! So, yes, I do remember that clearly - I insisted with my dad to purchase two framed pictures - one with Lord Ganesha and the other with Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Laxmi (think there was one more God or Goddess in this pic). Once we got them installed in the house, I used to religiously worship them.

When we moved to Bhubaneswar, I think those pictures got misplaced. Ganesh Puja and Saraswati Puja are huge in Odisha (Orissa in those days) - different clubs and associations will set up temporary structures (called "pandals") by taking donations (read "forced" donations from the neighborhood and anyone they can lay their hands on!). They are brightly lit podiums with the idol of the God - this is done by the guys only - maybe things are different these days, don't hold me on this statement.

Puja days meant new dress, no studies since you are not "supposed" to touch books on these two puja days (which kid will protest against this? well, I did a little coz this meant you can't even read story-books!) and visit the different pandals across the city in the evening. Back then, Bhubaneswar was so small that we could cover all the pandals if we wanted to. The city has grown to four times the size it was when I was a kid...

Ganesh is the God of learning and wisdom. Students pray to him more diligently than the rest to get good marks in their upcoming examinations. And any prayer to any other God will always begin with a prayer to Lord Ganesh. Wedding invitations have his picture - before you start anything good, it will be successful if you begin with a prayer to Him.

Over this Ganesh Puja, I made an early morning visit to our temple closeby. In the past years, I used to visit in evening which would be quite crowded. Liked the morning visit this time more due to ease of parking and less crowd. I wanted to make Rice-based Modaks this time but had to give up the idea.Next year, maybe. In the temple, I received the prasad of Laddoo and Kala Chana Sundal. Temple food is always different - atleast I feel so. I liked them both. Here is the recipe trying to replicate the Kala Chana Sundal.While in IIT Madras, there was a temple inside the campus and I had this prasad there for the first time.

Makes about 4-5 servings

Kala Chana - 1 cup, soaked overnight and pressure cooked with Salt as per taste and a pinch of Baking Soda for about two whistles and five minutes in Medium heat. Leave it covered till the pressure cooker opens by itself - that is, don't force it open.I love having some of this fresh out of the pressure cooker with a little bit of salt, chilli powder and chat masala - quick instant chat - try it out! :)

Canola Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chillu - 5-6, break into halves
Hing powder (Asafoetida) - a pinch
Salt - 1/2 tsp (or as per taste)

Fresh Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp (for garnish)
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp (I used frozen grated coconut after reducing it to room temperature)


Cook the Kala Chana as mentioned above. Keep it aside. Use immediately or keep it in the refrigerator till you are ready to use. Will stay good for 2-3 days but rather use it immediately. Bring it to room temperature before cooking.

Heat Canola Oil.
Add Cumin seeds, Hing and dry Red Chilli and let it sizzle.
Add the cooked Kala Chana and mix it well. I cook it in High heat for about 5 mins.
Reduce the heat to Medium and cook covered for another 5 mins.
Add chopped fresh Coriander leaves as well as the grated Coconut and mix it well.
Serve hot.

I will sometimes pack it and bring to work. Makes a great morning snack just warm. As well as a workday lunch - very nutritious and filling.

Some nice pics of Ganeshji that I came across in the Ganpati festival season that friends shared on Facebook are below - enjoy! Thanks, friends, for sharing these with me.

This is by my darling niece Pihu! How creative...loved this!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Small Fish Fry


Medium sized Fish - 3

Garlic - 4-5, crushed finely
Salt - 1/2 tsp, or as per taste
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Chilli Powder - 1/4 tsp, or as per taste
Fish Seasoning - 1 tsp (Shan brand)

Canola oil - 1 tsp in the marinade + 2-3 tbsp for shallow frying


We got the fish shown in the pic in pack of three and frozen from Indian store in New Jersey. New Jersey Indian stores carry frozen fish now. We bought from the one near East Brunswick (sorry, don't remember the name!)

Unpack the fish and wash in water to wash away the ice and defrost the fish.

Mainade the fish with the rest of the ingredients mentioned above.

Let it sit aside for about 15-20 mins.

Heat a flat skillet. Add the oil for shallow frying using Medium heat and let it warm up so that as you add the marinated fish, the fish should sizzle.

Let it cook one side in Medium heat - takes about 5-10 mins. Turn it and let the other side cook.

Once both the sides are cooked, you may decide to cook either side in High heat for a few mins to make the fish crispy in the exterior. Keep a close watch - as long as you don't like "burnt" fish! :)

Serve with a slice of lime and thinly chopped Onions. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Uttapam (Baghara Pitha in Odiya)


Prepare ahead
Urad Dal - 1 cup, cleaned and soaked overnight in water and a pinch of fenugreek (I use coarsely-ground ones), grind with as little water as you can, keep it aside for 4-5 hrs outside in a warm place to ferment.
End of Prepare ahead

Rice Flour - 1/2 cup, increase if you need to make the batter thicker

Tomato - 2 Medium
Onion - 1 Large
Green Chillies - 2-3

Curry Leaves - a few sprigs
Ginger - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - a pinch
Hing - a pinch
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Canola Oil - a few tbsp
Salt - as per taste


Heat Canola Oil.
Add Mustard Seeds and let it splutter. Add Hing, Curry leaves and chopped Green Chilli.
Add chopped Onion and let it cook. Add grated Ginger as the Onion turns translucent.
As it turns translucent, add chopped Tomatoes.
Add Salt and Turmeric.

Add Rice Flour to the Urad Dal and fold it well.
When the above Onion-Tomato mixture is cooked, add to the Ural Dal - Rice Flour mix.
Mix it well.

Heat a flat skillet using Medium heat.
Add a drop of oil and spread it. You can use a piece of Eggplant or Potato to spread the Oil in the skillet.
Drop a big ladle of the batter and let it spread by itself.

You can cover it for faster uniform cooking.
Turn it over to cook the other side. It takes a good 3-4 minutes to make each Pitha.
Enjoy with hot Indian Garlic pickle or Coconut Chutney.

This is a good use of the leftover Dosa\Idli batter as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Around the World event for September - Sri Lanka

Hi All -

Reshmi has kindly provided me the opportunity to host this unique event "Around the World". Being a food blogger, trying out different types of food is a passion. Each cuisine has it's speciality and unique-ness that defines it. When I started thinking of potential choices for this event, I realized I may know more about Italian, Mexican and Thai than the neighboring countries of my birth-country India. The least familiar was Sri Lankan cuisine. And thus, I decided to use this hosting as a challenge and learning opportunity to know more about the cuisine of this island.

As I started reading up about the Sri Lankan cuisine, some names that repeatedly came my way was Hopper, Sambol, Mallun, Lumprais, Mul - all new words, ain't it? Well, let's learn more about this as we prepare to post for this event. Good luck, everyone! I will try to get my Sri Lankan friends and other friends who are familiar with this cuisine to do certain guest posts - do look out for these posts in my space here.

Here is the rule for the event:

1) Prepare any dish from the Sri Lankan cuisine, post them on your blog and link here. The linky tool will be open till Oct 15th, 2012 (Please note the end-date is different. Due to a family tragedy, I did not realize that I have missed the posting till Reshmi reminded. She also kindly agreed on the new date to give everyone enough time to post. Thanks, Reshmi!). Non-Bloggers can send their recipes with the details to the my email id .
2) Please link back your recipes to this event announcement and to Reshmi's event page. Do include the logo in your post (mandatory requirement).
3) You can link as many links as you want.
4) Archived posts are accepted. Repost them and you are good to go.

Entry submission link:

Some Sri Lankan cuisine links that may be useful for you to prepare for this event:
  • Wikipedia - Sri Lankan Cuisine Link 
  • Sri Lankan recipes Link 
  •  Sri Lanka Asian Vegetarian recipes Link
  •  Sri Lanka Asian Non-Vegetarian recipes Link
  •  Sri Lanka Asian Sauce recipes Link
  • Sri Lanka Asian Dessert recipes Link
  • Sarogini's

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

White Bass - Baked with Tunisian Fish Spice Mix

Prepare the marinade mix with Salt and Turmeric.

Add 2-3 tsp of fresh lemon juice to cut the "fishy" after-taste. I forgot to add this and the "fishy" after-taste was there in my preparation - don't like that! Maa said even Vinegar can cut that after-taste.

Add 4-5 cloves Garlic, freshly crushed.

Add about 3 tbsp Tunisian Fish Masala mix that my dear friend Kavita carried for me all the way from Tunisia - that was so very thoughtful and a perfect gift for me. Thanks, dear - I always cherish our friendship!

Marinade the fish in room temperature. Let it sit aside for 30 mins to 1 hr.

Heat the Oven at 375 degrees F.

Bake the fish for about 25 mins. Keep close watch if you need more or less time.

Broil the fish for the crunchy exterior for about 5-10 mins. Keep close watch if you need more or less time.

Fyi for DC suburb folks - We got the White Bass from Lotte Plaza - number 3 cleaning! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Easy fix Puliogare aka Tamarind Rice

I should credit my dear friend Siri for introducing me to this quick and delicious dish. She had made it for my first road-trip here with her and a few other friends - that taste still lingers on. Thanks, Siri, for the camaraderie! :)

This is an easy-fix wholesome dish for lunch or work-tiffin box. Whenever I have leftover rice, this is another dish I like to whip up for work lunch-box. These days, I try to limit my rice intake for lunch hours and this dish works out perfectly.

I use the branded store-bought Tamarind Rice mix. I like the MTR brand because of their quality and authentic taste.

Heat 1/2 tsp of Canola oil.
As it warms up, add a few cumin seeds and chopped fresh 1-2 green chillies.
Add 2-3 tbsp of the Tamarind Rice paste\powder.
I usually add a half-cup of chopped Peanuts separately as well even though the spice mix usually includes a fair share of ground Peanuts.
As the flavors are imparted and the spice mix looks mixed well with the oil in 3-4 mins, add the room-temperature cooked Rice.
Mix well. Cover for 5 mins for the flavors to inter-mingle!

Serve with hot Cucumber Raita or Papad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nadiya Rasa dia Chingudi Tarkari (Shrimp in Coconut Milk Gravy)


Shrimp (Chingudi in Odiya, peeled and deveined) - about 30-40
Salt - 1 tbsp
Turmeric - 1 tbsp
Chilli Powder - 1 tsp

Marinate the Shrimp with the above spices for atleast 30 mins. Depending on temperature outside, you can keep it back in the fridge after coating it well. Cover it with a seal-wrap.

Take a flat heavy-bottomed pan.
Heat 2-3 tbsp Canola Oil in Medium heat.
As it warms up, add the Shrimp in a layer and let it half-cook on one side. You will get a beautiful Orange color. Turn it over and let it cook the other side. You don't need to fully cook it since it will also cook in the curry later. Depending on pan size, you will never to shallow fry the Shrimps in multiple batches. To let you in on a secret, I sometimes fully cook a few of these babies and have them as-is. They taste awesome! Ah, if they are the fresh Prawns of Odisha, I can't imagine you not doing this... :)
Keep them aside. You don't need to place them on paper towel since it is tasty to add the oil back to the curry later.

I use my regular Onion/Tomato/Green Chilli/Ginger/Garlic curry paste to prepare this. It is roughly 2-3 Medium Onions, 2-3 Medium Tomatoes, 2-3 Green Chillies, 1 inch Ginger, 6-7 Garlic Cloves with as little water as possible.

No need to clean the pan used for frying the Shrimp. I reuse the same pan in order to not lose out on any of the flavors - that is why it is a good idea to use an appropriate dish when you start frying, something that can hold the curry while cooking.

Heat 1 tbsp Canola Oil or lesser if the pan still has some oil from the above shallow frying process.
Add 2-3 dry Bay leaves, 2-3 dry Red Chillies, 1-2 Cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds.
As the above whole spices sizzle, add the ground paste of Onion/Tomato/Green Chilli/Ginger/Garlic.

As the curry paste is half-cooked, add a little more oil if required. I try to add a dash of water instead and it usually helps continue the cooking process without burning the curry paste and without the need for the  added oil.

Add 4-5 tsp of Curry Powder, 1 tsp of Coriander Powder and 1 tsp of Garam Masala.
Adding a dash of Paprika Powder gives it a bright color.

10 minutes before you stop cooking, add 1/2 to 1 cup of Coconut Milk (I use canned ones and this is called Nadia Rasa and thus, the name) and mix well. The color is further enhanced with the addition of the Coconut Milk which gives it a nice golden color.

Enjoy with Rice\Roti\Naan anyday!

Funny note - Back home, little babies are also affectionately referred to as Chingudi! LOL!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Independence Day Chitrahar from back in the days...

Happy India Independence day..belated wishes!

Does anyone remember Chitrahaar from back in the days? I am sure anyone and everyone from my age-group definitely does - right? For the uninitiated, it was a bi-weekly movie song program that used to come in the Indian National Television Channel "Doordarshan". It was the only channel available back then - yes, I am from the pre-cable era (made me feel akin to dinosaur era, as I was writing!)

So every Wednesday and Friday used to be movie song night via this program .. 8pm and we were all hooked to the television. No 24-hour song channels in those days and anyways, don't think parents would have allowed that much TV-time back then! :) School lunch-break conversation would center around what were the new songs..and the thing was on special occasions, they would play the same songs!! Yes, same songs.. :)

Gandhi Jayanti meant a song from Ben Kingsley's Gandhi movie - that was the only Gandhi-based movie in those days, now we have a few more to the mix. Holi, Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Raksha name the occasion and they had a set of canned songs which played every year. As I was thinking of a special post for India's Independence Day celeb, I thought I should repost the songs from Chitrahar that were played religiously every Independence day. If anyone is enthued enough, mind checking in this year to see if they end up playing any of these YET AGAIN!! An informal Bingo game of sorts, you know! :)

So here they you remember any others? Let me know if you do..

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wine 101 - 'I am Modern' magazine

The other day while waiting for my 'much coveted' dentist appointment, I was flipping through the 'I am Modern' magazine. One article that caught my attention was a write-up on Wine.

What has always intrigued me about Wine is the food-wine pairing involved and it's use in cooking. As my close friends know, I don't drink (nothing wrong with drinking in moderation but alas, had to clarify here before some conservative friend and family members get their wild thought process going and make snide remarks!) but it's cooking use is something I want to be comfortable and conversant in someday! You have to agree it is a unique cooking technique and an interesting part of the palate. Who does not like the flame color when the spirit such as Rum or Wine is added to the food? Gorgeous, isn't it? :)

Am sure will use these clicks someday in determining the appropriate food and wine pairing. One thing to note here is that with Indian food, Pinot Grigio is recommended.

White Wine
Red Wine

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Khada Saga Bhaja

Ask any Baripadia (yes, I wear that hat too!) about Mudi - Saga Bhaja (Puffed rice with Stir-fried Greens), you will suddenly find them in a tranquil space! I can start smelling the garlic infused greens..and am transported to the mornings at my parent's house where this is one regular breakfast item!

But it is a bit of trouble for my mom and aunts..coz back home, my Dad and Uncles prefer to get the green freshly plucked in the morning which means they have to be delicately cleaned and individual leaves removed and cut (a time consuming process) quickly enough to prepare it in time! Maa - you rock! :)

I recently found these greens that look like Khada Saga at our grocery store with somewhat larger leaves but oddly enough, it tasted and felt just like Khada saga. I threw away the wrapper before noting the name and also forgot to take pic..but making a note to self to note the same in my next purchase!!

Heat 2 tbsp Canola oil.
Add 1 tbsp Mustard oil.

Peel and crush 1 pod of Garlic - this dish is only flavored by Garlic, so we add lots. It is not a typo - we do add one entire pod of Garlic - the more, the better!!
As the oil sizzles, add the Garlic and 5-6 dry Red Chillies. Mix it well with the oil and cook for about 2-3 mins till the Garlic turns slightly translucent.

Add the chopped greens in batches and mix them well. The greens reduce a lot. Cover them briefly to fasten the cooking process.

I will toss and turn them till they get evenly reduced. After I have managed to get all the greens in the pan, I will cover them in Medium heat for it to cook well and lose the raw taste.

Remember to add Salt as per taste when the greens are half-cooked.

Note - We do not use Turmeric in this stir-fry.

Maa likes to toast 'Badi' (Urad dal fritters hardened in sunshine and stored for later use) and add them to this.

Oh, I forgot but this tastes great if you chop Brinjal\Eggplant into tiny 1/2 inch pieces and cook them in the oil before adding the greens. It gives the dish more volume.

Since I was serving this akin to Collard Greens with my Burger dinner menu, skipping the Eggplants was ok. It tasted great either ways!! :)

Enjoy and have a great time!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bonsai & Penjing Museum, National Arboretum, DC

The Bonsai tree is an art-form which originated in China centuries ago. Japan grew this art and spread all across the world. I was first exposed to it when my Maiin (Odiya word for Mami, maternal Uncle's wife) who is an avid gardener had a Lemon Bonsai tree with tiny Lemon's growing on them. How delightful! Down the years, my mom also had a beautiful Banyan Bonsai tree.I should look in my past India trip pics and find a pic of my Aunt's Orange Bonsai.

During the weekend of July 21st, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum @ Washington, D.C. had a "Bonsai Basics with Tropicals" class scheduled for the entire day. Prior to this event, I was not aware of this place - so it was quite a discovery for me. I have definitely added it to places to visit when friends and family are visiting us next, particularly my dad who most enjoys this type of places.

My friend Raji at work informed me of the class and since she had already enrolled for the same, I also went ahead and signed up. Our morning ride to DC was an adventure enough - what with the day starting off with my alarm cheating on me! I overslept but managed to meet her and also reach there just in time! Before I show you the wonderful exhibits they have, let me first show you the Ficus which I worked on and am now responsible to look after.

The class gives a good introduction to Bonsai basics and their care. Thanks to our instructor Jim for making the class so interesting with anecdotes from his experiences of over 20 years. We were each given a Ficus, a tropical tree to work on and apply all the different concepts such as tree design, pruning, wiring, root adjustment and re-potting. It was quite an experience and I look forward to learning more and growing these skills. Feel like I have a pet now which needs daily care and maintenance - for some strange reason have never felt this for the other plants I have owned in the past and present! Strange!

I so missed not having my SLR with me that day to capture these beauties. Enjoy the lovely exhibits from the museum - hope to someday have these types of trees in my collection and created by me. Long long way to go.. but proud that atleast I have made a start! :)

Different arrangements of multiple Bonsai trees are such an eye-pleased sight. They made me feel so peaceful. Needs such clarity and care in designing and executing the trims to result in an end-product such as these. Just wow.

They have divided the entire exhibition area into three separate areas and have plentiful of exhibits in each - Japanese Pavilion, Chinese Pavilion and International Pavilion. You should keep aside atleast an hour to view each of the exhibits and enjoy them in display.

Apart from the Bonsai Garden, there are quite a few other parks within the Arboretum such as the Herb Garden. It seems like a place to spend the entire day walking around and being with nature. Look forward to spending a day there in serenity...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bhendi Bhaja

Another one in the "Bhaja" aka "Shallow fried" series. Ladies-finger was not in my list of favorite foods for a long time. I tried making it once right after I arrived in DC after wedding and hated the slime associated with this veggie - of course I did not know how to work around it!

When my mom and dad were visiting me for the first time, Maa made it and I loved it even more than the non-veg preparations. Ever since, this is a definite item in my grocery list. So the trick to use it is to clean it before chopping and wipe it dry. Then cut it as required with quick brisk cuts and stir-fry them till the sliminess vanishes. I either cut them into pieces as shown in the pic or into long slices. Love it either way and keep making them inter-changeably.

  • Heat 1 tbsps Canola oil. 
  • Add 3-4 dry Bay leaves, 2-3 dry Red Chillies and a pinch of Cumin seeds and let them sizzle. 
  • Add the chopped Lady Fingers (about 20-30 medium-sized ones - I pick the soft to touch ones - Use your civic sense and please don't break them to select for shopping though that is the best way to determine good ones! If you break them, buy them - don't leave them for others - ewe!). 
  • Add Salt as per taste and 1/2-1 tsp of Turmeric Powder.
  • Stir fry in High Heat till it looks half-cooked and the spluttering of oil stops.
  • Cover them for 2-3 mins for it to cook well. 
  • Based on how you like them, cook in High heat for added crunchiness and Low heat for softer ones. 

Serve it as a side-dish with Rice or Roti. I usually like them with Rice\Dal or Rice\Mutton Curry or Rice\Fish curry. Enjoy!

A similar Bhendi Bhaja recipe was posted here earlier on.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shell Pasta with Sauce Claire from Switzerland

Ingredients for Pasta

Shell Pasta - 2 cups
Salt - 1 tsp

Method for Pasta
Take a heavy- bottom vessel and boil about 6 cups of water.
After the water boils, add Salt and mix well.
Add the Shell Pasta and get it fully cooked. It took me about 15 mins.
Drain the Pasta and keep it aside.
Keep the strained water to use later as a thickening agent for the pasta sauce.

Knorr-brand bouillons from Switzerland

Ingredients for Sauce

Unsalted Butter - 1 tbsp
Knorr Sauce Claire / Sauce Risteretta - 2 bouillons provided in one box, as shown in the pic - including the other sauce mix "Sauce de roti liee" in the pic only. Note - "Sauce de roti liee" is not used in this recipe.
Cream - 3/4 cup
Salt - as per taste
Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Canola oil - 1/2 tsp - just a drizzle

Method for Sauce

Heat Canola oil.
Add Butter - the Canola oil prevents the butter from burning.
Add the Knorr Sauce Claire - both the buillions available in this box and mix well in Medium heat.
Add the cream and about 1/2 cup of water. Mix well to make a smooth sauce.
Add the boiled Shell Pasta and fold them in the sauce.
Simmer for about 5-10 mins.
Add the chopped red bell peppers and mix it. I like my Peppers to be crunchy - depending on how you like your's, cook them longer or lesser.
Just before serving, I simmer the pasta covered and warm it.

It goes great with Baked Potatoes and a nice warm bread.