Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Arisa Pitha / Arsa Pithe

Nostalgia is the mother of ... well ... if not invention in my case ... trying my hand at making Arisa Pitha.
Pithas ( Oriya) / Pithes (Bengali ) are cooked sweet or savory items usually made from agrarian products like rice, lentils, coconut and jaggery or sugar. If it is a prasad for Jagannath, then it is always jaggery that is used.

Arisa pitha, a very traditional sweetmeat, is one of my favourite pithas. This was never made at home .... not even by the cook who was a local ... as it was easily available to buy. This is also a part of the Chappan Bhog (Chappan = 56, but the actual number of dishes made for Jagannath is 156 ) prasad at any Jagannath mandir .... those are fried in ghee and last very long.

Whenever I used to leave home after a vacation, Bapi would order at the temple a huge batch and get around more than a kilo of these .... each the size of a dinner plate .... hard and tough ... and very sweet. I just had to break off a piece and munch on it to supress the hunger pangs while waiting for our dinner dabba to arrive. :-)

Today is Rath Yatra. Lord Jagannath ... the lord of the universe ... steps out of the mandir to be amongst his devotees. So while watching the telecast and listening to the commentary in Oriya ... am transported back home. So decided to make the Arisa Pitha to celebrate while listening to Kalia's (Jagannath) escapades and bhajans and slokas on the telly.

Oh ... I do have a huge collection Bhikari Bala's janans ( bhajans ) ... but right now I will not miss the chance to listen to the anecdotes on Chokadola ( The one with wheel like eyes i.e. Jagannath ) in fluent Oriya on the telly. :-)

Like most of my recipes, I have learnt to make this myself ( with a few inputs from a Panda(priest) at the kitchen of the Jagannath mandir in Puri ). So I do not follow any measurements.

And found it very simple to make ... which has always made me wonder at the huge agitation at home whenever I wanted these to be made. Those that are easily available at the sweet shops are small, usually made of sugar and hence not as dark and have sesame seeds sprinkled. Nothing like the original ones that are made at the Jagannath temple.

Need : Rice flour ( easily available in packets off the shelf ), jaggery / gur, a little water, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of salt and white oil or ghee (clarified butter ) for deep frying ( I usually use oil and add around 2 tbsp ghee to it for the flavour).

How to : Heat a little water in a non stick kadhai / wok. Add enough jaggery / gur and a pinch of salt. Cover and let it boil till the gur is dissolved.

Remove cover . Add the black pepper powder and then add rice flour slowly. Keep stirring all the while so that there are no lumps.

Remove from flame and let it cool a while.

While still warm, take small balls from the dough and make flat patties with your hand. Use dry rice flour so that the dough does not stick to your hands.

Do not try to make perfect rounds .... you won't be able to. And there lies the beauty of these pithas ... slightly irregular, dark brown rounds.

Heat enough oil + ghee. Gently slide in one patty at a time and deep fry till dark brown on both sides.
Don't wait for them to puff up a la puris ... they won't.
When removing from oil you may feel they are still limp ... do not worry ... they will harden as they cool.

Done ! The whole thing takes not more than 40 minutes if you have the ingredients at home.

If fried in pure ghee, these can be offered as prasad. And will stay fresh for a very long time.
Enjoy !!
PS : I did not realise that my comment section was giving trouble to all you good souls out there until a couple of you informed me. Am sorry for that and have changed the settings. Hope you will be able to speak your mind here henceforth without any more hitch.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Easy Paneer Butter Masala

( Vegans can make this with tofu / boiled potato cubes / steamed medium sized cauliflower florets ).

Too many things at hand these days ... and every job demanding attention at the same time ... not to say nothing of the people around me ( I hope JKJ pardons me for using the line in such frivolous settings).

There have been a few things ... read major few things ... that needed to be done with in the house before the monsoons set in ( no sign of that yet ... still .... ). So we have been after the guys who were suppossed to deal with them, for over a month. And after days of unending calls (from us) , they all land up on one single day.

The house turns into mayhem ... we are banished to a corner .... and the sounds of hammering, drilling and breaking of bricks etc. made a din enough to drive wild elephants away.
And with my kitchen taken over, we were left to the mercies of home deliveries.

But I just could not stay away from my blog .... I must say this wanting to hear from you all on my posts is getting addictive. :-)

So while checking mails was sidelined ... or any other work for that matter, I wanted to post something. Luckily, the snaps for this dish were ready. So here's the dish that I made, as promised when I posted my homemade paneer cubes.

This recipe is very quick to make .... and easy too. If you have the paneer ready, then this is done in a jiffy. The butter here is just a wee bit ... just to give a flavour.
I have simplified it ... if you want an elaborate one, you can of course use more ground masala pastes like onion, cashew, etc.

Need : Paneer cubes ( around 10 pieces of small size ), a little butter, a few cloves of garlic[optional] , 2 big sized tomatoes, 2 black cardamoms,
a cupful of whey, crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) leaves,
a little garam masala, salt and sugar to taste.

How to : Run the tomatoes, garlic and the cardamom in a mixer to get a paste.

Heat a non stick kadhai / wok and add a little butter. You can go overboard and add lots if you want to too.

Add the tomato paste and keep frying till it is well cooked and dries up. Now add the crushed kasuri methi and keep stirring for a while.

Add the whey and the paneer cubes. Cover and simmer till you get the gravy of desired consistency.

Remove cover and sprinkle a pinch garam masala. Cover and let it stand for a while for the flavours to absorb.

Serve hot with rotis / parathas / naan.
Another easy dish using whey is here. :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Homemade Paneer Cubes

I was wondering in one of my last posts at how few of my recipes actually make it to my blog.
One of the main reasons is I cook most of the good stuff for dinner ... and absolutely hate to click snaps in bad light. So inspite of cooking up loads of food, my blog lacks most of them.

So when dear Joyeeta lamented that her homemade paneer always breaks down before a dish is complete, I remembered that I do make paneer at home. And also realised that I have never posted it.

So here's the paneer ... made by me. And it doesn't break ... see? Hope this recipe helps Joyeeta and anyone who wants make paneer at home.

I have never liked store bought paneer and guess that's what prompted me to try making it. It is surprisingly easy to make .... and has a firm yet soft texture. Has always worked well for my dishes.

I am giving the measurements and snaps for a detailed description. Since I was making it only for this post, I have used less milk. If you want to, you can increase the measurements accordingly.

The sun chose to play hide and seek today .... wreaking havoc on my snaps. :-(

Need : Half litre milk, juice of half a lemon / 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon cornflour, a little cooking oil.

How to :

Bring the milk to a boil and then add the lemon juice / vinegar. After it curdles, keep boiling for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Drain it in a soup strainer. Tie it up in a cheese cloth and hang it to drain out all water.

Or .... just keep a bowl filled with water ( to make it heavy enough) on the paneer in the soup strainer .... for about half an hour.

Remove after half an hour and mash it well with cornflour till smooth.

Pat it on a plate ( preferrably steel ) and give a thick, squarish shape.
Place it in the freezer to set ... for about half an hour.
Make sure it does not start to freeze ... the water in it will go bonkers once you start to fry it ... the whole thing will fall apart. :-)

Bring out the set paneer and cut it into cubes.

Spray a little oil on a very lightly heated pan / griddle. Place the paneer cubes on it for a while ... turn them over once ... and remove.
Don't brown them too much ... this is just for the paneer to hold together.

Done ! Your gloriously golden and creamy paneer is ready! :-)

Add them to any dish you want to. Just remember .... store bought or otherwise .... good paneer is delicate. So don't go about stirring and tossing and bullying it into oblivion.

Always add paneer at the end while making a dish with it. Just add it, give a stir if necessary ... cover and simmer. That's all.

I made this out of the paneer I made ... recipe coming up in the next post. :-)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Chorchori / Mixed vegetables cooked the Bengali way

Ok ... this is a hurried post. And am posting this very common traditional Bengali dish in the absence of anything better ... haven't really got the time to click my dishes these days. They go straight from the kitchen to the waiting plates and get devoured.

Chorchori or charchari is a great way to use up leftover vegetables from the fridge ( at least I do so). But it tastes great with fresh vegetables though .... no two ways about it. Once upon a time I would not touch a chorchori if it did not have fish. But now I have come to love the flavours of different vegetables fused together.

I sometimes use Boris / bodi / vadi in it ... and even though I love chorchori made of the Pui / Pohi saag ... have to use the Palak / Spinach as I do not get Pui here. Many people use a little ginger paste in it ... I do not.

Check out Sandeepa's blog for some great writeup on the Charchari.

Need : Palak / Spinach leaves ( I use the stems too ) cleaned and chopped,
chopped onion [ optional ] , diced vegetables like the potato, pumpkin, brinjal, any kind of string beans, sweet potato, potol / parwal ... basically any vegetable you have will do,
paanch phoron, dry red chillies, haldi / turmeric powder, a little cooking oil ( I prefer mustard oil ) and salt to taste.

How to : Heat a little cooking oil in a karahi / wok. Add the paanch phoron and the chillies.

Then add the vegetables and stir well.

Add the haldi / turmeric powder and salt ... remember .... palak is salty ... so add the salt accordingly.

Cover and cook till the vegetables are done. The vegetables will release a lot of water ... so no need to add any.

Remove cover. If using fried boris / bodi / vadi , add them now. Simmer till all water dries up.

I like my chorchori slightly sweetish ... so sometimes add a pinch of sugar too. But if the pumpkin is very fresh and good , it does impart some sweetness that makes the use of sugar unnecessary.

Goes great with hot rice and dal .... makes a simple plateful. :-)

I might get a little irregular with my posting .... but will try to blog hop and check out all your lovelies being dished out.

Take care all !

Friday, 5 June 2009

Aloo Posto / Potatoes Cooked in Poppy Seeds Paste

Accepting things is sometimes difficult. Accepting people even more. When I just so badly want rain ... the sun shows off just how well it can scorch.
When I am planning to have an elaborate dinner, the other half does not feel 'too hungry' ... and I make do with a salad ... nah .... I do not even feel happy about the break from the kitchen.
When I want to sit at home and read in the weekend, I am taken on a long endless drive.

Grin and bear? Well ... sometimes I do. Mostly because I am not too aggressive a person .... both temperamentally or vocally. I like peace ... in my heart ... and in the world.
After all Betty Crocker's quiz tells me I am a vanilla cupcake "from the heart" type of person .... some solace that.
Oh yes ... am that worthless ... I go about taking online quizzes to know myself. ;-)

Keeping in line with my posto dishes, I am posting the very favourite Aloo Posto. I still have some posto left from the loot that S got from Calcutta ... and before I run out of stock, I want my blog to have this.
Don't know when I'll get good posto again.

Like I have said before, I believe that you may come across a Bengali who dislikes fish .... or even any non-veg food for that matter, but there is hardly one who does not like Aloo Posto.

Back home, many a completely vegetarian lunch / dinner on a particular day of the week would be saved from complete disregard ... or worse ... getting fully ostracised ... with just this one beautiful dish.

As always, I will say that make sure you have good posto .... which is sweet to taste .... and no matter how much you fry .... will never taste bitter .... unlike the posto we get in the Western part of this country.

Need : Posto / Poppy seeds soaked (for around 2 hours) and ground to a paste, peeled and cubed potatoes, chopped onions, Paanch Phoron, cooking oil ( I use mustard oil ... but any white oil would do ) and salt to taste.

How to :
Heat oil in a kadhai / wok. Add the paanch phoron and the chopped onions. Fry for a while.

Add the potatoes and a little salt and cover. When the potatoes are half done add the posto paste, diluted with a little water.

If needed add more water ... don't worry ... they will get soaked up. Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.

Remove cover and cook till it turns dryish. Goes great with hot plain rice with a little ghee on top and dal.
Enjoy !

PS : Am sure there's somebody up there smiling down ... the rain part just got fulfilled. It has just started raining real hard here .... with a gutsy wind and lightning. Yay!!! Am filling my senses with the sweet smell of water on warm earth. Aaaahhh! :-)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Hasslefree & Simplified Thalipeeth

The Thalipeeth is a nutritious snack that any Maharashtrian is familiar with. Made of a combination of a flours and legume powders, it is very filling too.

To my knowledge, the mix for the dough ... known as bhajani .... is usually made from jowar, rice, gram flours to which sometimes legumes like chowli or dals like urad is added too.

Everything has to be dry roasted and then ground to a powder. I however have always depended on dear N bhabhi's gift of this mix which she personally gets made ... or sometimes buy the readymade version ( K-Pra's bhajani is very good .... so have always stuck to it).

I have never been a fan of the thalipeeth only because of the way they have to be made. The patting of the dough on a tawa/griddle or a small kadhai is still ok. But then you will have to use 2 ... use one to make ... while waiting for the other to cool ... so that you can pat in a second one again.
Not to mention burning a few fingers in the process too.

Check out this place for the way they are usually made .... the holes are mandatory to soak up oil .... read drink up oil ... without which the thalipeeth will be coarse and very dry.
In the process it does not stay that healthy any more.

So I .... as I do with most recipes .... gave my thalipeeth a twist. It not only made it faster and easier to make .... it needs very, very less amount of oil too.

All I did was.... not make it into a tight dough .... as it is usually made .... I just added a lot of water to it and made a batter of pouring consistency. :-)

And added a lot of vegetables to it. N bhabhi had given me the idea of adding fresh greens to the mix too. I do that .... and sometimes use leftover dals in it too.

Now I make the thalipeeth for breakfast very regularly .... on weekdays too ....without any second thoughts.

One thing to keep in mind is ... if you are using the readymade mix, they already have salt and spices. So go easy on them.

Need : Thalipeeth mix ( I use K-Pra's ), chopped onions, chopped green chillies, chopped freah greens like palak / methi leaves ( optional ), cooking oil, water.

For the vegetables I used grated cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes and carrots. This is optional ... you can make plain ones with just onions and chillies.

How to : Make a batter of pouring consistency with the mix and water.

Add the rest of the vegetables and a tablespoonful of oil .... I always do this .... soaks less oil when cooking.
Heat a tawa / griddle and smear a little cooking oil on it.

Now pour a ladleful of the batter and cover. After a while remove cover and flip it over to cook the other side till brown and crisp.

Done! Serve hot with butter or chutneys or achaar or fresh curd.

I was a little worried if it will turn crispy ... but then .... well ... the snaps say it all. :-)
Just don't keep it for a long while as the veggies in it make it soggy.

Enjoy !!

If you are a Maharashtrian and are here .... then please do let me know what you think of this experiment of mine ... am open to all constructive criticism. :-)

goes to Divya Vikram's event Show Me Your Breakfast .

Monday, 1 June 2009

Peanut Sauce/Dip/Chutney

Whenever we visit our favorite South East Asian restaraunt, I look forward to their peanut sauce more than the food .... which of course I absolutely love. I have noticed that they usually serve it with the starters ... mostly grilled / barbequed stuff ... or with the dimsums or momos.

But I like it so much that I ask for it even if we are having rice and curries. And the guy serving us would smile indulgently and set a small bowl in front of us.

Early this weekend when we were enjoying a dinner there, I decided to make this chutney (yeah ... am a desi ... so it will be chutney ;-) ) at home.
So the both of us tried to identify the ingredients in it by taste and smell.
We pretty much zeroed in on the ingredients.
The waiter was good at nodding his head at our guesses ... he was nodding 'yes' a little too much ... so I am still in doubt.
Trade secret I guess.

And in case you are wondering ... the chutney did not taste of any of the stuff that is usually used in SEA food.

So I set off to make the chutney. The only difference is I did not add the onions and added less chillies as the ones I have at home are spicier. Hence the whitish colour ... while theirs looks reddish.
And the quantity of peanuts should be much more than the coconut ... I guess the coconut is used to give a mildness to the sauce ... and a soft texture.

Need : Roasted peanuts, garlic, a little ginger ( the waiter mentioned galangal ), a little freshly grated coconut, dry red chillies, a little salt & sugar to taste ( I did not need the sugar as the coconut was very sweet).

How to : Grind the coconut, garlic first in a mixer. If you don't want even the teeny bits of peanut in your mouth, then add the peanuts now. Make a paste ... add a little water if necessary.
Then add the chillies and give a couple of more whirrs. Not too much.

Done! This is a great accompaniment to almost anything. I stored in a medium sized jam bottle in the fridge.

It has been pretty windy the whole of last fortnight .... with the nights turning positively chillier.
Today morning saw a very thin sun ... and already the clouds are taking up their places in the vast blue. Am looking forward to the monsoons ... but just thinking of what it would do to the light that I so much depend on for my snaps .... makes me shudder.
I mean ... just look at those two snaps ... :-(

Ciao folks !!