Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pakhala or Paanta bhaat or Fermented rice and water ... going back to traditional staples and completeing 9 years of food blogging

 Yes, 9 whole years.
Albeit with a few breaks.
But 9 years, still.
And this is what I wrote on my wall on facebook -
"Food blogging is just as much hard work as it is fun.
Cooking whole meals for just one post to rearranging an already set table for just one photo.
Rushing to keep up with the sun for some natural light to waiting with bated breath for the reactions to your food, photos and recipe.
Asking hungry family and friends to hold that spoon as you catch a click.
Ignoring illnesses and bad days to complete that pending post. Or to reply to a reader's query on mail.
Sitting up nights after a full day's chores to complete writing down the lines that have been playing in your mind the whole day.
Getting to know wonderful people who are now more than just blogger friends ... they are real friends now.
Thanking you all, as I complete 9 years of food blogging, for being a part of my journey with Kichu Khonn.
Love you all! "

Yes, this roller coaster of a journey would not have been possible without all of you and your support and love.
So, a sincere "Thank you!" from the bottom of my heart.

I have with me today the photo of our very tradional Paanta bhaat or the Pakhala, as it is known in Odisha. I had posted this photo as a part of the Pakhala theme in one of the most traditional food oriented groups on facebook.
And had recieved an overwhelming response.
After which I shared it on my page for this blog on facebook too.
And was so happy to see that many still prefer our traditional and old ways of food and eating.
Many came out to say that while they absolutely love this, sadly, the paanto bhaat is slowly losing its popularity.
( You can read as well as write in your views on the Paanta bhaat too, here. )

Not so in Odisha ... that much I can say with conviction.
While the Paanta bhaat or the Pakhalo is a very regular and common meal in rural Bengal and Odisha, come summer and its popularity doubles in many households, including urban ones.
Traditionally, it is rice and water, left overnight (or more) to ferment slightly, and is eaten with a number of side dishes that depend upon the socio economic conditions.

Once upon a time, doctors used to advice rural people to just eat panta bhaat with a little saag / leafy vegetable ... that is enough to fulfill the vitamin, especially B12, as well as required carb for a person.
While people in rural Bengal and Odisha eat it with saag, a little fish, potatoes, onions or whatever vegetables are available, people in cities have glamorised it with a side of dishes made with posto and sometimes the very rare Ilish maach bhaja too.
Extremely cooling, the much loved panto bhaat is now a part of many restaurants too.

The perfect pairing to the pakhala will be all kinds of bhajas ( of both vegetables as well as fish ) and makhas or bhartas.

Here is my layout for today -
Baasi paanto with doi / basi pakhala (fermented), bori bhaja, ucche sheddho / kalara bhaja, aloo sheddho makha / aloo chakata, rui maach bhaja, aloo borboti bhaja, potol bhaja, narkel nadia, peyaj, kancha lonka.

I will try to make some more posts on the Paanta bhaat or the pakhala, before summer runs out.
Till then, thank you again folks, for all the love!

Enjoy life!
Have fun!!
And here's to good food!!!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Bhindi ki sabzi / Okra cooked with spices ... a typical Rajsthani dish

I was engrossed in the vegetables section of the supermarket, leaning over to reach the farthest corner of the over the plastic basket that held the Okras / Bhindis / Dharosh, when I felt someone come and stand very close to me. While it did irritate me a little ... I hate it when strangers stand too close to me, and that happens all the while, especially in queues, I did not have the time to look up.
I needed to pick up my weekly vegetables real quick and rush to meet B, who was waiting for me at the corner for a midweek lunch date at a newly opened Rajasthani food joint.
But the presence continued to bristle me and I finally gave in.
Riled, I looked up to give a big frown, only to see a very young face gaping at my hands working at picking the okras.
The girl was very young, possibly still in college. Seeing me look up, she broke into a smile and asked "Why are you breaking them?"
I couldn't help smiling.
And showed her how to select good bhindis.

And decided to include it in my post on Bhindi / Dharosh too.
I have been trying to click photos for all the dishes with bhindi that I cook and have come to the conclusion that they are one of the most difficult things to photograph, especially the dharosh bhaja.  Unless I deluge the set with a number of props and some light and shadow play, etc. etc.
And since I don't have the time or patience for either, I decided to post them as they are.

But first, how to buy good bhindi.
Pick up a bhindi / okra, preferably small in size, and break the tip of its tail.
If it breaks with a snap, it is fresh. If it does not break immediately, discard it.
It is old and will be chewy.
Always buy the medium to small sized bhindis. They are the freshest ... though do put them through the snap test too.

Prepping for this vegetable requires only one thing .... the Bhindi must be completely dry.
That is, unless you are planning to use it in a dish with gravy like the Kadhi, or the ambol or the jhaal.
The best way to deal with it is to chop it and keep it on the fridge for a night or day, preferably without cover or loosely covered.
And not too tightly packed too.
Spreading them on a plate works for me well.
This way ensures much of its slime dries up and results in a better, dryish dish after cooking.

I cook with bhindis very regularly. While my favourite is the stir fry / bhaja , this is one way that is great as a side with rotis.
Slightly moist and a little spicy with the masalas, that the usual bhaja does not have, this version of the Bhindi ki sabzi is very common at my in laws' place.
I love it with parathas too.

Need :

Okra / Bhindi / Dharosh - 250 gms, chopped into mid sized pieces
Onion - 1 medium, chopped into big sized pieces
Ajwain / Carom seeds - 1 tsp
Dhania / Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Amchur / Dried mango powder - ½ tsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Mirchi / Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1 pinch

How to :

Heat oil in a heavy kadahi.

When smoking hot, lowder heat and add the onions.

Lightly toss and add the ajwain seeds. Stir well.
Do not fry the onions for too long.

Add the bhindi and mix well.

Fry for a while on low heat, spreading it all around in the kadahi.

Add the haldi + mirchi powders + salt.

Fry well for a minute.
Cover and cook till the bhindi is done.

Remove cover and fry well till the slime dries up.

Add the dhania + amchur powder + sugar.

Fry for some more time.

Remove from heat and serve hot.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mourala maach bhaja / Crispy fried small fish with spicy masalas

After a long, torturous start to summer and the never ending days of unbearable hot days and nights, it rained last evening. And this evening too.
In fact, it rained a lot more this evening. And how!
It poured and poured and poured.
There were flashes of lightening ever since the clouds had started to gather by late afternoon. All went still and not a leaf moved. The heat was suffocating and we could hardly breathe in the thick, humid air.
Then started the wind.
Whole trees swayed from side to side and we could see leaves and fresh cotton balls, from the trees, flying hither and thither.
Thunder rolled in the heavens along with every crack of lightening.
And then came the first drops .... big, fat and heavy, falling with little thuds. Gradually the tempo increased and soon we could not see anything through the screen of rain.
And there was a power failure promptly.

The road below was a sight to see, though.
As the heavy rain splattered on it, we could see the steam rising and create a haze that was so beautiful that we stood at the window and watched mersmerised ... every time a car passed, its headlights lit up the scene.
Later, we ignored the inverter and did not switch on the lights either.
Rather, soaked in the dark and quiet all around.
I am not much of a crowd person and the recent trip to the desert land and the extended family has exhausted me completely.
So I am very much at peace right now in my cosy little 1500 sq. ft. flat. It might not be a haveli, but it is my nest. This is where I play house, dress it up, make its curtains, play around in the kitchen and sit back in my favourite chair or my swing and happily watch the world go by.
Here, I am the queen.

We had dinner in the dark; the old fashioned way.
And sat out in the balcony later, taking turns on the swing, soaking in the beautiful cold. The rain had stopped finally but the thunder still growled in the distant hills.
We chomped on cold watermelon pieces, spitting out the seeds carelessly. It was very quiet all around. And dark; still.
Crickets sang in the small patch of forest beyond our balcony. And the dry leaves that covered the ground below the huge trees, all soaked in the rain, let out a beautiful, earthy, soggy fragrance that hung heavy in the air.
We sat quietly; not speaking lest the spell gets broken; lest the street lights come back to their sharp life, searing the eyes and the beautiful all around.

I felt relaxed, in a long while.
And at peace.
"Time to get back to my favourite space, my Kichu Khonn", I told myself.

After a long bout of vegetarian food, I am back to my non vegetarian diet. No fish in the fridge yet ... gotta buy some tomorrow ... but egg and chicken, yes.
Coming here, I saw this post in the draft and so, my friends, I have this beautiful, spicy, crunchy fish fry for you.
Quick to make, quick to finish off too, you can pair this with the simple dal bhaat or the panto bhaat or much on it as an appetizer.
Small fish are high in protein, omega 3 as well as calcium. So try to make them a part of your meal at least two or three times a week.

I had got a batch of absolutely fresh Mourala the last time I got my fish. My fishmonger cleans them for me, which I am grateful for, since I have no idea how to handle them. And it would take me ages, of course.
All I did was to wash it clean ... you have to scrub real clean ... mix with the spices, fry and much on them.

Need :

Mourala fish - 250 gms
Rice flour - 1 tbsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )

How to :

Marinate the fish with salt + haldi + lemon juice + red chilli powder + rice flour.

Heat the oil in an open pan.

When smoking hot, add the fish .
Spread out the fish ... they should not stick to each other and form a clump.
A few sticking together is ok but there should not be too many.

Fry till they turn brown on one side.

Flip and fry the other side too.

Serve hot with sliced onions and green chillies and of course, kasundi on the side.
You can sprinkle a little rock salt or chaat masala on it before serving too.


I am sharing my lunch plates on my page on FaceBook .
Join me there to get light, nutritious lunch ideas for the summer.