Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vegetarian Cooking

Most of us who cook, serve and eat non-vegetarian food struggle when it comes to serving an entirely vegetarian meal. No, don't get me wrong. I do cook and eat a lot of vegetarian food. In fact I can very proudly claim to eat all vegetables. But it just seems way simpler to make a meal with a chicken curry or mustard fish thrown in. Non-vegetarian food seems simpler to cook and you rarely go wrong. In whatever form you serve the non-vegetarian dish people tend to relish it. Further the vegetarian accompaniments are treated as lesser mortals with hardly any attention being paid to them. So when you cook for a primarily non-vegetarian family you don't hone your vegetable cooking skills. They are there to curtail the meat eating and to make the meal more balanced.

Cooking vegetables, well seems a lot tougher. Most of my exotic vegetarian cooking is either with a mayo(egg less) dressing or a cheesy sauces or as stir fry's or with a heavy stuffing( Stuffed tomato, stuffed capsicum). Neither of this goes with the rest of the home cooked Indian food. Have been trying to learn a few new ones like Masala Stuffed Parwal, Sorshe and Poshto Parwal, Kadali Bada(Odiya) etc.

A friend of mine has elderly vegetarian house guests visiting her in two weeks. She wanted me to upload a few vegetable based dishes. This one is called Kasa Tarkari in Odiya( loosely translated it means Stir fry, though made quite diferently from a stir fry and tastes really different). Traditionally eaten with Puris and Parathas but tastes equally good with Roti. It has a " Makha Makha" consistency( neither dry nor gravy somewhere in between) and thus does not require an additional gravy dish or daal to go with it.

Kasa Tarkari( Serves 4)


Potato: 2 large sized ones
Ridge gourd( Janhi in Oriya and Jhinge in Bengali): 2
Pumpkin: About quarter of a small pumpkin
Parwal: 4/5
Brinjal: 4/5 small sized brinjals
Onion: 1 (optional)
Tomato: 1 large tomato
Panch Phoran: 1 tsp( This is a mixture of Methi seeds, Kala Jeera, Jeera, Saunf and Radhuni/Ajwain), would be available as Panch Phoran in most Modern Trade stores
Oil: 1 tsp
Finely chopped corriander leaves for the garnish
Salt to taste


Chop all the vegetables to the same size( small cubes).

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the panchphoran and let it sputter. Next add the onions and saute for a while till the onion looks glassy. Add all the vegetables, salt and cook on medium flame. Keep sauteing the vegetables from time to time. Do NOT cover. The vegetables will give out water as they cook and the dish gets cooked in the same. No need to add extra water. The taste comes from the process of constantly moving the vegetables around( it is called "kasiba or "ghantiba" in Odiya). Cook till the vegetables are done. The dish will have a mish-mashed look. Ridge gourd and pumpkin provide it with a natural sweetness.

Garnish with finely chopped corriander leaves and serve hot with rotis.

Note: Do not cover and cook to speed up the process, would taste like boiled vegetables

Uses very little oil and is a really healthy dish.

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