Thursday, June 19, 2014

With malice towards one and all.......

Let me start this post with a simple food quiz to check familiarity/awareness?
Dahibara/Dahiwada- familiar?
Alu dam- familiar?
Ghuguni/Patiala Matar/Matra- familiar?
 Most of you would I am sure have got a yes for the first three. Now for the clincher,
Dahiwada+ Alu dam+ Ghuguni all served as a snack combo- familiar?
How many Non-Odias got a yes to the last one? If you happen to be one then you are definitely in the minority. And I can safely assume that either you have good Odia friends and have been subjected to Odia hospitality or have travelled to Odisha more specifically to Cuttack where this used to the most popular snack. I say used to be because today it is no longer just a snack. It has replaced every possible meal. People start and end their day with this combo. You are never too full for ADDB(Alu dam dahi bara). For some strange reason the ghuguni gets underplayed. Maybe that makes the name a mouthful. So before, after, in between meals. When you are hungry and also after you are stuffed.

People from Cuttack are crazy about their ADDB(with all due respect I must add that I am using the shortened version for mere convenience). I know of people( and neither of them shall be named here) who pre-order a couple of plates( to friends/family members of course) while they are on their way to Cuttack. It needs to be their first meal (Maa ke hathon wala khana can wait a bit- Maa having lived long enough in Cuttack will definitely not mind).

And don't you dare dismiss this off as mere street food. The brand name plays a big part here. There are clear camps- the ones who like the  'Raghu' brand of ADDB and there are others who prefer brand ' Bhagi'. These are individuals who have been making and selling ADDB for generations. They enjoy semi-god like status and have facebook pages dedicated to them. Each camp defends their brand very strongly. Reminds me of the East Bengal- Mohan Bagan warring groups one came across in Kolkata- yes, the same level of passion and enthusiasm. And NEVER ever attempt passing one brand for the other( the loyalists are quick to identify the brand even visually when sent as a photograph- I can vouch for this). ADDB is carried from Cuttack to various parts of the country and across continents( this is no exaggeration). The die-hards insist that it is not the same as eating the ones made at home.

As for me I started with a lot of scepticism- dahi bara with alu dam( why not with the regular imli chutney as the rest of the country enjoys it). Let me quickly clarify that I did like all three and used to eat them separately with other accompaniments. So dahibara with imli chutney, alu dam with paratha/ puri and ghuguni again with paratha or puri or roti. I did not seen any sense in mixing all of them into this hotchpotch. When served I would politely eat it but never really did enjoy the taste. And then slowly over the years I grew to like it(maybe it is an acquired taste- you acquire it when you marry somebody from Cuttack). And now I am a complete convert. Though I am still not brand loyal( forgive me Raghu/Bhagi) but yes a trip to Cuttack does not seem complete without a plate of ADDB. Usually happens to be my first meal( but that must just be a coincidence).

I have also been making it quite regularly at home and have been introducing a lot of our friends to the combination. And today I strongly feel(okay you Cuttack people you can sneer) it is only a matter of time before ADDB gains popularity and starts selling as street food across the country. I would be happy to have played a small part in its journey.

Dahibara Aludam

Preparation time: 1 hour( soaking time 5/6 hours), Serves: 6 adults( or 2 Cuttakis)


For the Dahibara

White Urad Daa1: 1 cup, soak for 2/3 hours
Ginger: 1 tsp, finely chopped
Green chillies- finely chopped
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

For the Alu Dam
Baby potatoes: 300 grams
Whole Jeera(Cumin)- 1 tsp
Dhania( Corriander) powder: 1.5 tsp
Jeera(Cumin) powder- 1 tsp
Tomato- 2( grated)
Salt to taste
Garam Masala- a pinch
Oil- 2 tbsps

For the Ghuguni
Ghuguni Matar- 1 cup( also goes by the name Patiala matar or Matra)
Jeera/Cumin- 1 tsp
Dhania/coriander- 1 tsp
Ginger- 1 inch, ground to a paste
Garlic- 5 pods, ground to a paste
Salt to taste
Tomatoes- 2
Oil- 1 tbsp.
For the garnish
Onion- 1 , finely chopped
Green chillies- 2/3, finely chopped
Chilli powder- to taste
Roasted cumin powder- to taste
Cuttack mixture- 2 tsp per serve


This requires you to make all the three parts separately and then assemble them together like a chaat.

  • Grind the soaked Urad daal with a little bit of water to a fine paste. Add the salt, ginger and chillies and mix well.
  • Heat some oil and drop the Urad batter into it like small balls( If you are a pro and can manage them with a hole in between- good show. I can't). Once the baras are done drop them into hot water and let them rest there for a while- about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the baras, squeeze them between your palms and keep them on a plate.
  • Mix the dahi with some water, salt, chilli powder and roasted and ground cumin and red chilli powder. Pour over the baras. Please note that this is of a much thinner consistency than the  North Indian version.

  • Boil the potatoes and remove the skin.
  • Heat the oil and add the whole jeera to it. Once the Jeera browns add the boiled potatoes and fry them for a bit. Add the salt. Make a paste by mixing the Jeera and Dhania powder with a little bit of water and add. Next add the tomatoes and approximately about 2 cups of water. Finally add the garam masala
  • Boil the ghuguni and keep aside
  • Heat the oil and fry all the masala. Add the boiled ghuguni.
  • Adjust the water.
To assemble
  • Layer the bowl or plate with some dahibara, then add the alu dam and ghuguni. Garnish with onion, green chillies, chilli powder, roasted jeera powder and mixture.
  • Serve immediately
  • Dig in
Take a bow at having mastered this elaborate dish. Make sure to thank Raghu, Bhagi and all the people from Cuttack.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Inlaws and Outlaws.....

Growing up in Odisha Rasgullas (Rossogollas to some of you) were available in plenty. Every street shop round the corner was sure to have them. They were the most popular sweet going and lent themselves to any meal big or small. You served them to guests, at the end of a wedding meal along with kheer, you made Rasmalai with leftover Rasgullas, you even dipped parathas into the extra syrup and had them for breakfast. Puri, Alu subzi and Rasgulla was of course the classic breakfast combo and a safe one if you had guests over. Everybody loved Rasgullas. And nobody ever made them at home. They were always meant to be bought and the mithaiwalas excelled in them. And so I had thought life would always be.

A few years later we moved to Chennai where one did not get good Rasgullas. What was peddled in the guise of ' Bengali sweets' was a far cry from the Rasgullas I had been used to- they had this syntheticish taste and almost seemed like one had dunked blotting paper into sugar syrup. I declared that I was better off eating Rasgullas only during the annual visit home. Though people coming down from the Eastern part of the country were kind enough to cart them for us.

It was around this time that my husband's Uncle visited us from Canada. I happened to mention that while we loved the city and were otherwise happily settled we did miss Odia sweets and often craved for them. He empathised with us as he had gone through a similar experience when he moved to Canada- in the late 60's there were a handful of places that sold Indian sweets and even the few that did sold Barfis and Pedas( longer shelf life and catered to the large migrant population from the Northern part of India).  And so he had gone ahead and learnt to make them himself. That got me really excited and interested. With just a wee bit of cajoling he was willing to make them for us.

I watched him make the Rasgullas not once but during each one of his trips to India. Yes, I must shamelessly confess that a part of his holiday time did go in making Rasgullas for us. I am so thankful for his indulgence.  I observed, assisted and watched closely. I learnt that he did not drain the water completely from the paneer, that he kneaded the dough patiently for a long time and then took a little bit of it in between his palms and rolled them 'lightly' into a ball. He also dropped the balls quite gingerly into the syrup. And he seemed happiest when they were all gone in minutes.

And then finally one day I was brave enough to make them on my own. A couple of attempts and I think I have now got them near perfect. Maybe not as good as Dada (Uncle) but I am getting there.



Preparation Time: 45 minutes( 30 minutes of kneading time), Serves: 6


2 litres of full cream milk
Sugar: 1 cup
Sooji/Semolina: 2 tsp( 1 tsp for every litre of milk)
Vinegar: 2/3 tbsp.
Green Cardamom: 2/3


  • Boil the milk. Curdle it into chenna/paneer using the vinegar. Let it stand for about 5 minutes and then drain out the water. (You could add the whey to your dough for tastier rotis or parathas- I usually end up throwing it).
  • Let a little bit of the water remain in the chenna/paneer (don't let it dry out too much) else the Rasgullas will turn out quite hard/chewy.
  • Spread the chenna/paneer out on a plate and add the semolina/sooji to it.
  • Mix them together and knead the dough. You should knead the dough for about 30 minutes. I watched TV(helped) as I sat there kneading. The more you knead the softer the Rasgulla as they swell up really well.
  • Next take a bit of the dough and roll it between your palms to make them into little round balls. Two litres should get you about 30/40 Rasgullas. By this time your palms would be covered in a layer of oil- that means you are doing it right. Keep the balls aside.
  • Make sugar syrup in a deep kadai or pressure cooker(minus the lid) by boiling 1 cup of sugar in about 4 cups of water. Add 2/3 green cardamom to the syrup.
  • Drop the chenna/paneer balls into the syrup one by one(give them one final roll before you drop them as this helps retain the shape).
  • Let them boil for about 15 minutes- they should have become at least three to four times of their original size.
  • Switch off the gas and let the Rasgullas soak in the syrup.
  • Once the Rasgullas have cooled down transfer into an airtight container and leave them in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Serve the following day or after they have been in the syrup for 6/8 hours. Now if you think I am stretching your patience do remember that most sweet shops make Rasgullas at night and sell them the next day.
  • You could warm them for about 10 seconds in the microwave before you serve. I know many of you will prefer it cold.
There is sheer joy in watching the chenna balls metamorph into Rasgullas. I usually stay almost glued to the spot and watch these little devils swell up in size. Seems almost magical.

I know I will sleep easy tonight thinking about the sweet treat that awaits me at breakfast.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!   

Monday, June 16, 2014

In search of excellence......

There is something about being able to make a dish from "scratch"- where no part of the process is outsourced/store bought. In days when Grandma/Mama cooked that was the only way. But today you do have plenty of options(take away, ready to cook, ready to eat) and sometimes all you need to do is open multiple packs, assemble and you are done. You can still personalize the dish by adding some garnish or that extra dollop of cream or the grated cheese that the dish did not call for. Works for many with almost as good if not better results. You still have the satisfaction of having made it at home in your own kitchen.

However when you do cook a dish with just the basic ingredients there is a different kind of high, you ' stay lifted longer'. To me it cues a kind of mastery over the dish, " Yes, I have nailed it". It also allows you to customize the dish- no currants if the family does not like them in meat balls, sugar/spice/salt are all to taste( your family's taste) and of course it is fresher and you stake your claim on the entire dish.

But sometimes a dish can look so elaborate that I feel intimated. It seems simpler to substitute with the ready to cook/eat version. Three years back I had cooked this very dish with store bought  Meat Balls . If you were to read my post you would realize that I was petrified of frying the meat balls( or for that matter cutlets and chops too)- always feared that they would come apart as I was frying them( comes from being clumsy I guess). But in these three years and many new dishes later I am bold and ready for the challenge. I tell myself if I don't get it this time there will always be a next time. I am glad I braved it and with some excellent results. And of course the accolades(now come on I deserve them don't I - it is almost like that giant leap I took when I swam for the first time to the deep end of the pool)

Spaghetti with meat balls 


For the meat balls
Mutton mince: 500 grams
Onions: 2/3 finely chopped( as finely as you can)
Garlic: 4/5 pods, minced
Bread: 4/5 slices( should make about 1.5 cups when cubed)
Milk: 1/4th cup
Thyme: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste( there I go)
Pepper: to taste( yet again)
Eggs: 1/2
Olive oil: 1 tbsp to be added to mince mix
Oil for frying: 5 tbsps

For the tomato sauce
Tomato: 8/10 medium sized ones
Salt to taste
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Garlic: 2/3 pods minced
Italian seasoning(Oregano): 1 tsp
Red Chilli flakes: 1 tsp (add some more if you would like it spicier)

For the Spaghetti
Spaghetti: 200 grams
Olive oil: 1 tbsp.

Some finely chopped coriander for the garnish


This looks like a really elaborate recipe with a long list of ingredients but once you start to work you realize that it gets done in quick and easy steps. Boil the pasta- set aside, then tackle the meatballs and alongside the sauce. And one final step of putting it together and then plating it

  • Bring to boil about 12/14 cups of water to which 1 tbsp of olive oil and some salt has been added. Add the pasta and let it cook al dente(or a little kacha). Drain out the water(keep about a cup of the starchy water to add to the sauce), spread the pasta out on a plate and add about a tsp of olive oil to prevent it from drying/sticking. If you think this was the easiest step wait for the day your pasta gets overcooked- can ruin this dish.
  • Next for the meat balls. Trim the sides of the bread and chop them into even sized cubes. Pour the milk over the bread and leave them to soften. This should take about 5/10 minutes. Next add all the mince ball ingredients and mix well to form a dough like consistency. Make little round balls out of them- you should get anywhere between 15/20 balls. Shallow fry the balls in oil turning them from time to time so that all sides get evenly browned. Do this in batches of 5/7 balls each time. Spread the meat balls on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
  • And finally the sauce. Blanch and puree the tomatoes. Heat the oil and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes till it changes colour, add the pureed tomatoes, sugar, salt and seasoning and let it simmer for 10/15 minutes. Add the pasta water( this gives it a nice, glossy texture), the meat balls and further cook for about 10 minutes.
  • To plate: make a little pasta nest( you can do this very easily with a fork, twirl the pasta around the fork, lift and let it slide onto the plate), a generous helping of the sauce and meat ball over it, sprinkle some finely chopped coriander and maybe if you are feeling very indulgent some grated cheese. The contrast of colours makes this dish look really appetising.
  • Take slow, measured bites and savour each mouthful. Allow your tongue to play a wee bit longer with the succulent, juicy meatballs that have hungrily soaked up the sauce. 
  • And once done pat yourself on the back and say " I did it".
Leftover meat balls make good sandwich filling. They can also be added to traditional Indian curries and gravies. Perfect making meatballs and let your creativity take over.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Of G Jams and Hot Sams......

During my growing up years (yes, many moons ago) there was an India Today article on Delhi Campus lingo. This was of course years before the advent of mobile phones and sms language( brb, btw would have been dismissed off as gibberish in an era where people spoke only the Queen's language). So the author had written with some amusement about how college students were getting into the habit of shortening everything and the traditional syrupy sweet Gulab Jamuns were being referred to as G Jams. This was also around the time when burgers and Pizzas were making their entry into India and I guess the traditional fare had to quickly re-invent itself(nomenclature change seemed like the quickest and easiest) to compete in times where anything Western was hip and happening. Yes, much has changed today(Jai Ho!) and there is pride like never before in everything Indian.

Coming back to the article, me and my siblings in small town India were suitably impressed and started to use them in our conversations.  In any case it was soon part of College lingo in most parts of the country. Whether I referred to them as Gulab Jamuns or G Jams they have been a personal favourite(they come second only to piping hot, crisp Jalebis). In fact during a recent holiday when I refused Gulab Jamuns(part of the buffet dessert spread), the boys exchanged hurried glances and realized that Mom was indeed angry. I heard the younger one whisper " but she never says no to Gulab Jamuns". They seem more perceptive than husband dearest.

I have always had the store bought/mithai shop stuff. Would microwave them for 30 seconds and try and resist having more than one. Even when I have eaten it at other people's homes these have invariably been bought from the local mithaiwala. I did sample some "homemade readymix" types and I am sorry to say but they are not a patch on the original. And even the best of the chefs have never managed to get it to taste like Gulab Jamuns( either a soggy, lumpy consistency or rock hard balls in a thin watery syrup).

So I was really fascinated when my friend R told me that she made her Gulab Jamuns from scratch and they tasted really good. While R is a very good cook but I was still not convinced if she had managed to get this one right. So we fixed a lunch date and after a delicious meal we set out to make to make the Gulab Jamuns. She had already done the basic preparatory work of soaking the Sooji(Semolina) and measuring out all the other ingredients. And I was an eager and helpful assistant. I did the mixing and kneading and made the G Jams under her expert guidance. The most difficult part was the " standing time" as R called it where you put the fried balls into the syrup and wait. It is hard and maybe the best thing for you to do is to go take a walk( literally). It was worth the wait and I greedily helped myself to a couple of them. They tasted delicious and are near perfect.

Gulab Jamun

(Serves 6)


Sooji/Semolina: 100 grams(3/4th cup)
Khoya: 250 grams
Sugar: Approximately two cups, you may need to adjust this after tasting the syrup
Refined oil: Enough to fry( about 1 cup)
Green cardamom(optional): 1/2
Patience: Plenty, especially towards the end


  • Soak the Sooji in water- just enough to cover it for about two hour. The Sooji should have soaked up the water by the time you start the actual cooking.
  • Thaw the Khoya in the microwave for about 30 seconds( if you have stored it in the refrigerator and I would strongly recommend you do as it would tend to spoil).
  • Knead the Khoya and Sooji together for about 15/20 minutes. They should come together like a softer roti dough and there should be no lumps.
  • Make small balls out of the dough- you should get anywhere between 22 and 25.
  • Fry the balls in medium flame till they turn dark brown and keep aside to cool down.
  • Make the sugar syrup( this takes a while so I would suggest you let the sugar syrup simmer before you get started with the kneading) by adding the two cups of sugar to about three cups of boiling water, add the green cardamom, let the syrup thicken on low flame. When the syrup starts to thicken check if it is done by taking a little bit between your thumb and index finger(watch out it will be hot- so take some in a spoon, blow it for a few second first and then check)- as you try and separate your finger you should see a thin string kind of thing( " ek taar" as it called in Hindi) then you know it is done.
  • Drop the balls into the syrup and give it about an hour of standing time.
  • And then help yourself to some freshly made, warm Gulab Jamuns. Close your eyes and feel them just melt in your mouth.
Store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. These keep well for days(so hot, cold or in the pot seven days old) but let me see how you get them to survive beyond day two- yes, it is a challenge!

You could serve them with Vanilla ice-cream or even custard, halve them and top it with malai and nuts(like Malpua). But I like my G Jams just by themselves.

Bon Appetite! Happy cooking and happy eating. Happy me at the end of this post.