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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy no reason at all cake

Cakes are possibly the most popular form of dessert. Or at least in my household. Somebody reading my blog is bound to have that perception. Quite rightly so though I must confess rarely eaten as dessert. I seem to be averaging 2/3 cakes a week. And nobody seems to mind.

But then cakes straddle different kinds of occasions with ease- ceremonial ones like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, tea times, breakfast times(banana bread and lemon poppy seed cake), snack times at school and then all the in between times- "a little snacky", " could do with something sweet" etc.

My colleague M attended a baking course where she learnt this cake. She was kind enough to share this recipe with me. And I have made it umpteen number of times since then. Both the ingredients(apple and date combine) as well as the crust( cinnamon, sugar and nuts) make this a little different from the regular chocolate/vanilla fare.

Date Apple Cake

Preparation time: 20 minutes, Cooking time: 45 minutes, Serves- 1- 5


Apples- 2 cups(chopped fine)
Dates- 1 cup (again chopped really fine)
Refined flour(Maida)- 1.5 cups
Sugar(Powdered)- 1 cup
Sugar(granular)- 1 tbsp.
Eggs- 2
Vanilla essence- 1.5 tsp
Baking soda- 1 tsp
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Butter- 1 cup
Cinnamon powder- 1/2 tsp( finely ground)
Nutmeg powder(optional)- 1/4th tsp
Sliced almonds- 1/2 tbsps (Sis has sent me some thinly sliced almonds which makes it soo simple)


Once you figure out that baking most cakes just requires you to sieve the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients and then assemble it is really easy and quick. This one has a few additional steps. Do pay close attention to how the cake comes together.  
  1. Sieve together the flour along with the baking powder and soda. Keep aside.
  2. Beat the two eggs with the vanilla essence until light and fluffy, Again keep aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar and the butter( keep the butter out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours to make this step easier). You will be tempted to taste the butter and sugar combine as you used to as a child( at least I used to and that kinda explains the weight) but don't. Save your calories for the cake- it will be worth it.
  4. Once the butter and sugar have mixed well( should take about 10 minutes or so) start to add the other ingredients. Alternate between the flour and the eggs- a little bit from each type till you are done with the two.
  5. Next add the apples and dates. You could also add 1 tbsp of the sliced almonds or save all of it for the topping. Add the nutmeg if using.
  6. Pour( now this is not really a pouring consistency cake) so just spoon it onto a greased dish. Flatten the top with a spatula.
  7. Then sprinkle some granulated sugar, cinnamon and the sliced almonds over them.
  8. Preheat the oven at 200  degree centigrade for about ten minutes and the bake the cake. Initially with just the lower coil for about 30-40 minutes and then with the upper and lower coils for another 10/15 minutes till the crust starts to look a rich, golden brown.
Take a bite and you can almost feel the burst of flavours in your mouth. The part that I like the most about this cake is the smell of apple and cinnamon combine as the cake is baking. Always puts
 me in a cheery frame of mind. The kitchen just smells divine.
Store ideally in the refrigerator(if you can manage to make it last that long) and warm it for about 30 seconds in the microwave before you serve. It also goes well with fresh cream or ice cream. You can start your day with a slice of this cake and down it with a glass of milk or pack it in your lunchbox and relish it after a light lunch. So go ahead and indulge.

And as I sign off I am reminded of the lines ' cream coloured posies and crisp apple streudles....these are a few of my favourite things'. Baking is definitely one of mine.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking !

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Basic Instinct

Given all the talk around food porn I thought a header like " Basic Instinct" was sure to grab eyeballs. While the post has to do with a primal need namely food and that too comfort food the attempt has been to amplify/dramatize. And isn't that what a lot of food writing/recipes are about- give it an unusual name, a twist here- a turn there and a you have a brand new avatar. Many a times these do help create interest in long forgotten or lesser know dishes. And in sharp contrast the recipe that I discuss below is a far cry from any such frills. Its strength and appeal lies in its simplicity. The kind of food that you reach out to when you are looking for warmth and nourishment from within. Dishes that use a minimum of ingredients and spices but yet taste fabulous. One bite and you are filled with nostalgia. You immediately( at least in your head) start to reminisce about Mom/Grand mom's cooking and happy, carefree times. Coming back in the good old days to that familiar aroma and knowing in your heart that 'all was well.'  

Dalma is staple in Odia households. Roti and dalma for dinner is possibly the most common menu you would come across and this cuts across socio economic classes. It is really easy to prepare, in three quick steps- boil daal, add vegetables and then the tempering. You are done. Retains an earthy flavour and tastes delicious. 

Dalma(Yellow lentil cooked with vegetables)

Serves 6, Cooking time: 30 minutes


Arhar daal/toor daal)- 1 cup
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Ginger- 1/2 an inch- pounded
Mixed vegetables(you could use your own combination of vegetables but a mix of starchy and green ones work best- any four from the ones mentioned below)- chop all vegetables the same size.
         Potatoes- 2, quartered(large chunks)
         Brinjal- 1 large, cut into large pieces
         Parwal- 3/4 halved
         Pumpkin- Half a slice( about 1/2 cup when cubed)
         Broad beans- 2/3, chopped into large pieces
         Colocasia- 2, halved
         Green banana- remove skin and chop
Grated coconut- 1/2 tbsp.
Ghee: 1 tbsp.
Whole cumin(Jeera) - 1 tsp
Red chillies- 2/3
Roasted cumin and red chilli powder- 2 tsp( dry roast cumin and red chillies separately and coarsely grind them together. Store in an airtight jar and use as required- 2 tbsp of cumin with 3/4 red chillies)
Salt to taste


  • Pressure cook the daal with 3/4 cups of water, salt and turmeric. You must end up with a fairly runny consistency.
  • Transfer the cooked daal to a large kadai/wok. Bring the daal to boil. Add the ginger, vegetables - one by one starting with potatoes then followed by the others.
  • Cover and cook for a while on low heat and then open and cook.There could be some scum on top, ladle it out.
  • Once the vegetables are done, separately prepare the tempering/tadka. Heat the ghee, add the whole cumin seeds, once they sputter add the red chillies and sauté for a minute or two. Add this to the daal vegetable mix.
  • Top with the grated coconut and the roasted cumin/chilli powder.
  • Serve hot with plain steamed rice or hot chappatis.
  • Enjoy.
There are modern day variations of Dalma with onions( one could sauté some onions in ghee and then add the pressure cooked daal to it) and tomatoes( add it with the other vegetables). But I love it in its purest satwik form. It also make for a complete meal and tops my list of one dish healthy meals. Best had freshly prepared and the taste lingers in your mind for hours afterwards.
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cakes- the long and short of it

I never tire of baking cakes. On an average a cake a week. Easy to bake, store, serve, pack in lunch boxes. And once you have got the measurements right it becomes a 'never fail' recipe. But despite all that baking I still have fairly limited repertoire- the same ones tend to get repeated week on week. I tend to be partial to the traditional way of baking cakes- so in a conventional oven and with eggs.

Have always viewed the microwave cakes with scepticism- for the ones in a hurry/too lazy to make a 'proper' cake etc. And as for the eggless variants- they are no real cakes. The egg substitutes(condensed milk, curd) make them denser- they don't look or feel like cake. A poor replica of the original. And they just don't taste as good.

I love to watch cookery shows (can watch them for hours especially the delightful Nigella), leaf through food magazines and food sites/pages. It is in one such page that I came across this gorgeous looking chocolate cake- smeared with chocolate ganache and topped with strawberries. The photograph caught my attention and prompted me to read some more. And then I read the words "eggless" , "microwave" and was just about to skip the post when " six minutes" popped up somewhere in the narrative.  Sounded quite unbelievable but I was tempted to give the recipe a shot. So on my next grocery visit I came back armed with strawberries, Nestle dahi(curd) and Cadbury's Cocoa powder as the recipe had specified. I chose to make it on a day when we already had a good menu going(I wasn't banking on this one).

So went ahead and baked the cake. To my surprise and delight the cake turned out just the way it was described( see picture above once more). It was fluffy(in fact the cake almost doubles in quantity), soft, moist and delicious. Quite amazing that something so heavenly is so easy to make and gets done in a jiffy.

Ekta's Eggless Choco Strawberry cake 

For the cake
1 Cup nestle dahi, any other dahi should work as well. If using home made dahi strain out the water

1/2 cup oil + 2 tbsp more
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup maida
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp soda bi carb
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup Cadbury cocoa powder- this gives it a rich brown chocolaty colour, some of the other brands are a lot darker
7-8 strawberries( cut the strawberries, sprinkle some sugar over it and microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute till it becomes mushy)
Chocolate sauce
Mix 1/2 cup icing sugar with 1tbsp cocoa powder and a little water n mix (no need to cook, sauce is ready)
  1. Mix together sugar, dahi/curd , vanilla essence n oil till sugar dissolves. This takes a couple of minutes, continue to stir till you get a nice, creamy consistency.
  2. Sieve the dry powders together.
  3. Fold in the dry powders into the wet mix with a spatula.
  4. Grease a baking dish( the cake rises quite a bit do choose a deep dish) and pour half the batter into it. Gently place the strawberries making sure you cover the batter. Next, pour the remaining batter to cover the strawberries.
  5. Bake in a microwave for 6 minutes.
  6. Once the cake is done allow it to cool( this is the hardest part but do be patient else you will end up with uneven pieces). Then pour the chocolate sauce over it and decorate with strawberries. The cake without the icing tastes equally good.
  7. Drool over the masterpiece and then 'attack'.

I can't help but agree with Ekta when she says this is the "quickest and yummiest" cake she has ever eaten. And with that begins my journey of microwave baking and well eggless cakes( feeling sheepish as I say this). Thank you Ekta. You have managed a convert.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Cake tales from near and far...

Yes, I have said this an umpteen times before 'baking is therapeutic'. To mix everything together and watch it take shape- no stirring no tweaking- almost magical. I usually peep several times into the oven to watch the cake rise. It takes a few attempts for you to perfect the temperature setting( each oven being quite unique), and then a butter cake cooks differently from an oil one. Some go 200 degree centigrade with just the lower coil on for 15/20 minutes and then at 150 degrees for the rest of the baking(another 15/20 minutes) with both the coils working together. And then there are others which cook at lower temperatures for much longer- like the eggless chocolate cake I made earlier this evening.

Pre-heating the oven is an absolute must. Sometimes I tend to get a little impatient at this stage. I can't wait for the baking to get started. Do make sure the oven is pre-heating while you finally fold in the flour. That way you don't lose time. Very often it is this stage that decides the fate of your cake.

You enter a house where something is baking and it uplifts the mood. So if serving cake for dessert a good idea would be to start the baking just before the guests start to trickle in. You have to of course be supremely confident that the cake will be a success else have some alternatives handy. When served with vanilla ice cream a badly made cake does manage to pass the muster.

I love trying out different types of cakes. On a personal mission to learn at least twenty different types before end of the year. So if you have any interesting cake recipes please do send them across.

Today's post is about a cake that uses two fairly unusual cake ingredients, and that is what got me interested- black poppy seeds( this is the differentiator) and lemon( the zest into the cake and the juice onto the glaze). The poppy seeds provide an interesting pattern- they look lovely dotting the cake and give it a delightful crunch. The cake is mildly sweet(often referred to as bread and eaten for breakfast) and this contrasts beautifully with the citrusy sweet crust. In all a combination that easily straddles breakfast and tea times.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake


Lemon- 1 medium sized
Flour/Maida- 1.5 cups
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Eggs- 2
Sugar- 1 cup
Butter- 1 cup(if using unsalted butter do add about 1/2 tsp of salt to balance out the sweetness)
Confectioner's sugar( took me a while to figure out that this was just powdered sugar)- 1/2 cup
Butter- 6 tbsps.
Milk- 1/2 a cup
Black poppy seeds- 1/4th of a cup


1. Mix all the dry ingredients together- flour, baking powder and salt(if using salt).
2. In a large bowl cream butter(leave it out of the refrigerator for a few hours before you start making your cake) and sugar together. This tastes yumm! just by itself. Add the eggs to the mix one after the other and whisk until light and fluffy.
3. Alternate adding milk and the flour mixture till done.
4. Stir in the grated lemon peel and the poppy seeds.
5. Pour the batter into a greased baking dish(for me round ceramic dishes usually work well but for this one try and use a loaf tin).
6. Bake for 15/20 minutes at 200/220 degree centigrade with the lower coil on and for another 20 minutes at 150 degree centigrade with both the upper and lower coils on. Should take anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour to get done.
7. Once done remove the cake onto a plate. Prepare the glaze by mixing the juice of one lemon with the confectioner's sugar. Poke a few holes in the cake and pour the glaze over it. Poking the holes lets the bread absorb the glaze better.
8. Ideally let the cake sit for a few hours for the glaze to be soaked in completely- that is going to be quite a challenge, will test your will power so I suggest you skip step 8. Just cut the cake into large slices and devour.

This recipe has the perfect balance of flavours and a refreshingly summery feel to it. The glaze oozes right down helping keep the cake really soft and moist. There is just one word to describe it- delicious!

Bon Appetit and Happy Baking!


Friday, January 24, 2014

One Potato, Two Potato...Seven Potato more

Potato or aloo is probably the most commonly used vegetable in Indian households. Counted among one of the three staple vegetables- onion and tomato following close behind. When entertaining you are usually safe when you make a potato dish. Universally liked though some may choose not to eat it thanks to it also being much maligned in the recent past( weight gain, high starch etc.).

If like me you happen to be from the Eastern part of the country potato makes an appearance in almost every meal and dish. So part of our mutton curries, fish jhols, mixed veggie, mashed potatoes and of course made as a stand alone dish with numerous variations. As a starter, main course, side dish and even a dessert with cousin 'sweet potato'

The inspiration for today's blog comes from the fact that I cooked a potato dish with exactly the same set of ingredients as I have done in the past but a tweak here and a chop there and a dish that tastes really different and delicious.

Right now I am on a mission to source authentic recipes from different parts of the country and make it exactly the way it is made there. Friends are happily obliging. This one comes from my true blue Punjabi friend A. A is very precise with her instructions/measures and it is usually easy to get the recipe right the first time round. She is also generous about parting with her short cuts and tips which make her recipes fool proof.

Aloo Subzi( also referred to as Puri Aloo wali Aloo ki Subzi)

Serves 4, Preparation time- 10 minutes, Cooking time: 20 minutes


Medium sized potatoes: 5
Red, plump tomatoes: 4
Ginger: 1/2 inch
Jeera/Cumin: 1 tsp
Amchoor(Dry Mango powder) : 1 tsp
Red chilli powder: 1 tsp or to taste
Garam Masala powder: 1/2 tsp
Refined oil: 1 tbsp.( A strongly recommends you use ghee)
Freshly chopped green coriander: 2 tbsp
Salt to taste


  1. Chop the ginger finely, cut the potato into thick roundels (Now this is a variation from how we make it- we usually boil and cube the potatoes and add to the gravy. Even when adding them raw to the masala potato is usually cubed/diced. The only time I cut potato into roundels is when I make Moussaka; and dice the tomatoes.
  2. Heat oil in the pressure cooker, add cumin and finely chopped ginger. Saute for a few minutes.
  3. Next, add the diced tomatoes and cook till the oil starts to separate. This should take you about 7/10 minutes. You will need to be a little patient as this would involve cooking the tomatoes even after they turn squishy soft.
  4. Add the potato roundels, salt and red chilli powder ( again I would have added haldi/turmeric at this stage- but I think the absence of it gives the gravy a very distinctive colour and taste). Stir them around making sure the masala coats the potatoes.
  5. Add some hot water( about a cup), close the lid of the pressure cooker and let the potatoes cook for 10/15 minutes(one whistle and then on low for about ten minutes).
  6. Let the pressure cooker cool down. Open the lid and mix the potatoes with the gravy. Some will tend to break- this adds thickness to the gravy.
  7. Then add amchur and the garam masala, mix them up well.
  8. Garnish with fresh coriander.
  9. Serve hot with Pooris( well some of us have to contend ourselves eating them with Rotis/Phulkas- tastes as good- almost).
Bon Apetit and Happy Eating!

P.S: This simple dish is somehow addictive. You are more likely to make this potato dish each time.