Jul 25, 2007

Announcing RCI

I kept reminding myself that I have to announce the RCI event this month. My worst fear was that I would somehow forget announcing and Lakshmi and my fellow bloggers would ban me from the blog world for such a horrible mistake:))
A small announcement: I am going to India for a short 3 weeks vacation. We are leaving tomorrow and I am very, very excited:)

This is the first time I am hosting a blog event. So, I am nervous, excited, thrilled, and worried at the same time. Lakshmi has given me this wonderful chance to host the event and I am thankful to her for the same. Out of all the delicious and varied cuisines of India, I chose...

Orissa cuisine

Lying on the East coast of India, this state has been blessed with a coastline. Bhubaneswar is the capital of Oriya. Orissa is famous as a tourist location mainly for the beautiful temples such as Jagannatha and Sun temples. Read more about Orissa here.

Read the details about RCI and rules for participation:

What is RCI?: The Regional Cuisines of India is a monthly blog event started by Lakshmi. It's Lakshmi's baby and we all are taking turns to take care of the baby. The host chooses the cuisine from the ethnic Indian cuisines and bloggers have to come up with dishes cooked from that cuisine.

How do you participate?: Write a post featuring any dish related to the Oriya cuisine. Include a link to this post and the RCI logo in your post.

What do I cook for RCI Oriya, I know nothing about it: Well, you are not alone. RCI gives you a great opportunity to explore a new cuisine every month. To know more about the Oriya cuisine, check Wiki and sites such as this, this, and this. You can also refer to cookbooks such as Purba: Feasts From The East by Laxmi Parida or Healthy Oriya Cuisine by Bijoylaxmi Hota. For all of you who are Orkut members, you can find loads of recipes in the Oriya Delicacies community. Fellow bloggers have already experimented with Oriya cuisine and come up with dishes such as Jahni Alu Posta, Luchi aur Aloor Dom, and Shrimp with Opo Squash.

My friend staying in a nearby building is from Oriya. Her in-laws are visiting from India and I thought I would get some first-hand information from them about Oriya cuisine. The sad part was that her mom-in-law could not speak or understand Hindi. So, we set about my interview by me asking my friend questions in Hindi, she translating to her MIL in Oriya, her MIL replying back in Oriya, and S translating back in Hindi. Meanwhile, I was furiously scribbling all this information in my notebook for fear of forgetting it. Here's what I learned about Oriya cuisine:

  1. Swapna: What kind of dishes are famous in Oriya cuisine?
    S: Oriya cuisine is famous for a variety of vegetables and daals. We also use rice flour and urad daal in a lot of dishes. We make different kinds of dosas called chakuli pittha.

  2. Swapna: What kind of spices are used in this cuisine?
    S: We use mustard seeds paste to make some vegetables. Almost all the spices are roasted and ground to a fine powder. We also use poppy seeds and panch phoron in a lot of dishes.

  3. Swapna: How would you define an Oriya breakfast?
    S: A typical Oriya breakfast consists of upma, plain parathas, stuffed idli (using coconut and jaggery stuffing), rice appam (chittau), or sweet sheera.

  4. Swapna:What does a typical Oriya lunch consists of?
    S: Vegetables such as santuda or palak saag, plain rice, tomato pickle (khatta), dalma, rotis (without ghee), papad, raita, and daal. We mostly use moong daal for making daal. Oriya cuisine has some interesting raita recipes. Raitas can be made using combination of curd with any of the following - cauliflower, okhra, coconut (nadia pachedi), and brinjal. Pickles are another area where we experiment with different fruits and vegetables. Famous pickles from our cuisine are made using mango, drumstick, jackfruit, tomato, and pineapple.

  5. Swapna: What are Oriya dessert specials?
    S: Rice kheer, sweet boondi, sankarpala. Majority of the sweets are made using combination of daal and rice/rice flour.

  6. Swapna: What do you cook during fasts (upvaas)?
    S: Everything is cooked in ghee. No onion or garlic is used in any of the dishes. However, ginger can be used. We make lot of pittha varieties for upvaas.

Well, I am sure you have a lot of information after reading this.

How to send entries?: Mail me your entries at swaps1@gmail.com (swaps1ATgmailDOTCOM)with the subject "RCI: Oriya". Include the following in your mail: 1. Your name 2. URL to your post 3. Name of the dish 4. A picture of your dish in 400X400 pixels.

When is the last date for sending entries?: The last date for sending entries is 25th August, 2007.

What about the round-up?: Well, what about it?:) I will be posting the round-up asap. I will need your support in posting a timely round-up, which means no late entries.

I am going to have a fantastic time hosting this event and you are going to have a fantastic time exploring the Oriya cuisine. So, start reading, surfing, or asking friends for authentic Orissa recipes. Have fun!

Jul 24, 2007

Matar Paneer

RCI is a monthly blog event focusing on various Indian cuisines. The cuisine this month is Punjabi and Richa is hosting it at As dear as salt.

A funny thing happened with me the other day. We had been to an Indian restaurant and while browsing through the menu I realized I had made all the dishes at home. Palak paneer, Alu palak, Punjabi chole, Paneer jalfrezi..the list went on and on and for the first time in my life I felt like my mom. Mom would say it's useless to waste so many rupees on a simple dish in a restaurant when we can make it at home and it's much healthy too. Back then we used to get irritated when mom said this. We said "Zala hicha suru (she's started again)".

As a teenager, I was obsessed with eating out. Most of the times eating out would be =Punjabi food. However, we used to end up ordering the same dishes again and again. Thinking back I realize that most of the veggies would be stale and there would be a heavy ghee layer floating in it. For RCI, I made one of my favorite Punjabi sabzi.

Matar Paneer/Green peas with cottage cheese


  1. 1 tbsp ghee
  2. 1 inch cinnamon stick
  3. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  4. 2 cloves
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 1 onion - chopped fine
  7. 1 tsp ginger paste
  8. 1 tsp garlic paste
  9. 1 tsp red chilli powder
  10. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  11. 2 tsp coriander powder
  12. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  13. 1 tbsp cashew pieces
  14. 2 tomatoes - cut into huge chunks
  15. Salt to taste
  16. 1 cup fresh green peas or frozen peas (thawed)
  17. 1 packet fried paneer (about 230 gm)
  18. 1 tbsp whipped cream or malai


  1. Soak the paneer in water for 10-15 minutes. Puree the tomatoes along with the cashew pieces.
  2. Heat ghee in a pan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaf. Fry for a minute.
  3. Add the chopped onion and the ginger garlic paste. Fry till the onion turns light brown.
  4. Add all the powders from 9 to 12. Fry for a minute.
  5. Next, add the tomato-cashew puree and salt to taste. Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes (till the mixture thickens).
  6. Add the peas and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil.
  7. Add the whipped cream and paneer cubes. Mix well taking care that you don't break the paneer cubes.
  8. Serve hot garnished with chopped coriander leaves.
This one turned out super-tasty. It went into our favorites list. Be sure to try it out!

Jul 21, 2007

Xploring Kohlrabi

I wanted to try Kohlrabi ever since I read about it in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. She has described this vegetable wonderfully. Kohlrabi, or gant-gobi as it is called in India, belongs to the cabbage family. The bottom part is turnip shaped while the top part consists of green leaves. The kohlrabi head should be peeled before cooking.

I found Kohlrabi in the organic section of Kroger and decided to explore it for Nupur's A-Z series. Peeling the head took quite some effort and I found it very difficult to cut it. P helped me in the cutting and chopping. Be very careful while cutting this vegetable as it has a hard cover.

Spicy kohlrabi stew with tomatoes

Serves:4 to 6


  1. 6 kohlrabi heads

  2. 2 tbsp oil

  3. 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

  4. Pinch of asafetida

  5. 4 dried whole red chillies

  6. 5 medium tomatoes chopped fine

  7. 1/2 cup tomato puree

  8. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder

  9. Salt to taste

  10. 1/4 tsp sugar


  1. Cut off about 1/8 of each kohlrabi at the bottom end. Peel the rest and cut into chunky quarters.

  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.

  3. Put in the cumin seeds and after they splutter, add the asafetida and red chillies. Stir briefly till the chillies turn dark red.

  4. Add the kohlrabi and stir 2-3 times.

  5. Add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, 1/2 cup water, salt to taste, and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil.

  6. Cover and cook on low heat for 30-35 minutes. The kohlrabi should be tender once cooked.

  7. Serve hot with rotis or rice.
Verdict: I was lucky to have been introduced to this veggie. I am going to try new recipes with it.

Jul 19, 2007

Me, Myself, Swapna

My friend Tee has tagged me for a meme in which I have to reveal 7 facts about myself. I love writing memes. Here I go:

  1. I can never light a match stick in the first attempt. In India, my Mom and bro used to stand and watch while I patiently tried lighting a match stick while doing the pooja. After the first 2-3 attempts, they used to start counting 5..8,..12..15.. 25..By this time, I would have broken at least 2-3 matchsticks and reached the height of frustration. My match-stick lighting skills have improved considerably in the US.

  2. In India, I detested and stayed as far away from cooking as possible. I never entered the kitchen. Rarely, I made poha or pulao either to please my parents or to momentarily stop my mom's nagging. Read all about my cooking history here. It was only after I came to the US that I developed a liking for cooking. The sad part is my parents have not eaten a full, decent meal cooked by me. I am waiting to go back to India and cook something special for them.

  3. I am a very organized person. I make lists for everything. There's a shopping list, a things to do list, a weekly menu, a things to read list, monthly expenses sheet, and so on. I like to keep things where they are. This habit is sometimes the focus of our fights, as my husband does not keep his shoes in the rack, does not keep things where they are supposed to be.

  4. My father is the only person in this world whom I am really scared of. Even now, if he raises his voice and looks at me angrily, I start crying. Of course, I am scared of going to the dentist too. I have a very funny dentist in India. She talks non-stop. I mean there you are sitting with pain in your tooth and she would inquire about what class her daughter should attend in 10th std (her daughter wud be in 5th std then).

  5. I love sleeping:). I used to sleep for 10-12 hours even in the 10th and 12th standards. Thank God, I didn't sleep during the exams. It's not that I have hypersomnia; it's just that I like cuddling up, sleeping, and dreaming. When mom used to wake me up, I used to mumble that I would get up after 5 minutes. If I was too sleepy, I would just point 5 fingers and sleep again:)At times I have told "Sleeping" as one of my hobbies. Whenever I meet someone who lectures me about sleeping too much, I lecture them about sleep debt and so on:)

  6. I have no sense of make-up and color. I used to wear very dull and light-colored clothes. I used to wear florescent blue or green nail polish that even my male friends in college would frown upon. Until 3 years back, I thought that mascara is some form of undergarment. Whenever I saw any girl looking good with perfectly matched clothes, make-up, bangles, and accessories, I used to wonder why I couldn't be like that. After I started working, I used to observe a lot of people and gradually improved my dressing sense:)

  7. I am a voracious reader. I read books on any subject - fiction, non-fiction, inspirational books, cookbooks, interior decoration books. I read for hours and hours. In India, I used to keep a little light on and read till the wee hours of the morning. My dad used to get up and tell me to sleep and I would tell him that I would sleep in 5 minutes, which used to end up as one hour. I believe that books are man's (in my case woman's) best friends.

I am tagging Sandeepa, Swapna, and Mandira. Please participate only if you can.

Jul 17, 2007

Preserving the love for pickles

This week I am going to present 3 entries for 3 different blog events;the first one being MBP. Every month Coffee chooses a theme and bloggers have to try fellow blogger's recipes based on the chosen theme. This month's theme is Preserve it.

PICKLES - the very word flashes images of raw mangoes hanging from trees, pickle bottles containing a heavy oil layer, the "khatta meetha" taste of different pickles, the summers when mom made heavenly pickles, and then suffering from cough after eating too much pickle:)
Every summer, Mom would make pickles without fail. She used to buy kilos and kilos of raw mangoes and spend an entire day in washing, peeling, and making the pickle. Though I am a die hard fan of pickle, the very thought of mom getting tired would make me deter her from the task. My only contribution in the pickle making process would be to convince mom to make a smaller quantity and then eat as much pickle as I could. I and Dad would hardly wait till the juices had settled in. We would taste the pickle the very next day. Being a cook who has just mastered some vegetables and chapati, I had not ventured into the area of pickle making. That changed since I saw this.

After seeing Manisha's recipe, I have been returning to the post to see the wonderful picture and drool over it. I was waiting for the right time and enthusiasm to try my hand at pickle making. Coffee's MBP presented the perfect opportunity to make lemon pickle. I used 3 lemons to make this pickle and half the ingredients. 3 days after I made it, the pickle looks like this.

(Lemon pickle without oil)

Manisha says that it takes 2 long months for the pickle to be ready. It's a long wait for me. Meanwhile, P keeps checking Manisha's post to confirm that she has written 2 months and it's not one of my ploys to keep him away from eating it. Thanks Manisha for this wonderful recipe!

Jul 14, 2007

Capsicum Masala

When you stay away from home, friends become family. In fact, they become everything - neighbours, guides, mentors, relatives, and critics. You try to search for familiar relations in their faces, and someone looks like your sister, brother, or aunt. We have been in the US for almost a year now. Having never been away from home, it was tough for me to adjust at first. But then I started surviving with the help of so many friends staying nearby.

The apartment complex where we stay is home to many Indians. There are approximately 35-40 Indians staying in our complex. These people work in the same organization, take the same bus to office, and eat their lunch together. I have known most of them having worked in the same organization earlier. We all are pretty close-knit family. We spend some weekends playing UNO, going for bowling, or visiting each other. One such tradition that we have here is inviting people for dinner either to know them better, or cook something special for close friends, or treat farewell when they are going back to India.

Our dear friends P and S had invited us for dinner sometime back. P took loads of efforts and almost spent the entire day cooking. Amongst the plethora of dishes she had cooked, Capsicum Masala was one that we had not eaten before. Now, my husband is not a capsicum fan, whereas I love capsicum in all forms - I even eat it raw:). I am always trying new methods for hubby to like capsicum. Luckily, he liked this vegetable at the dinner party. So I whisked the recipe from P and made it at home.

Capsicum Masala

Serves: 4


  1. 2 green peppers (capsicums) - washed and chopped into chunks
  2. 2 medium onions - sliced thin
  3. 2 tomatoes - washed and chopped roughly
  4. 1 tsp oil
  5. 1 tbsp crushed peanut powder
  6. 1 tbsp cashew pieces
  7. 1 tsp garam masala powder
  8. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  9. Salt to taste


  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan over medium flame. Add the sliced onions and fry till the onions turn light brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes turn soft.
  3. Add the peanut powder and cashew pieces. Fry for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the above mixture in a blender and blend till it's a smooth paste. Add 1/4 cup water.
  5. Heat a pan and add the above paste to it. Stir for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Next, add 1 tsp garam masala, salt to taste, and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder. Mix well and cook for 5-6 minutes.
  7. Add the chopped capsicum and mix. Cover cooked on low heat till the capsicum cooks. This should take around 15 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat and serve hot with rotis/parathas/puris.

Verdict: We fell in love with this sabzi. In fact, P who's not a great fan of capsicums, appreciated something made from capsicums for the first time:)The gravy turned out superb. We decided that we could use the same gravy with other veggies such as peas, cauliflower, brinjals, and paneer.

Jul 9, 2007

Strawberry Coldsweet

Have you ever plucked a strawberry from a tree and popped it straight in your mouth? I have. We had been to Huber farm 2 weeks back. This farm grows fruits and vegetables as per the season and offers free u-pick and eat. We visited the farm for strawberry season. There is a tractor that takes you to the farm. I had never seen a strawberry bush before and was amazed to see rows and rows of small strawberry bushes. All you have to do is start plucking and eating. Eat as many as you can and buy the rest of the berries.

I and P decided to compete each other. We started plucking the best strawberries and decided we will count who has the maximum ones and declare him as the winner. Cheater as I am, I tried to pick a couple from P's box when he was not looking. Unfortunately, he caught me red-handed and became "extra-alert" at his task. Left with no means, I hurriedly picked as many as I could. During all this exercise, we ate the plumiest and tastiest of berries. At the end of the competition, I was declared the winner with 96 berries:)

We even tasted some strawberry wine at the local winery. Well, after the trip we were left with some 150 berries and even after we distributed some among friends, there were still a lot of berries that we were clueless what to do with all of them. We soon got bored of substituting the evening tea with strawberry milkshake. That's when I found this simple recipe in a book. This recipe solved my "berry consumption" problem and the results turned out fantastic.

Strawberry Coldsweet
Serves: 3


  1. 2 cups strawberries
  2. 1/2 cup whipped cream
  3. 1/4 cup orange juice
  4. 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  5. 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar


  1. Wash and cut all strawberries into half.
  2. Combine orange juice, vanilla essence, sugar, and strawberries in a bowl. Chill this in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. When the mixture is chilled, add beaten whipped cream. Mix together and serve chilled.

Verdict: This effortless dessert is a crowd pleasure. You might want to go easy on the vanilla essence as it adds a strong taste to the dessert.

Jul 3, 2007

Danyachi Amti

I don't keep regular fasts; it's impossible for me to spend entire days eating nothing. More importantly, you have to continuously watch yourself before popping anything in your mouth. That's so difficult. Open the cabinet, see the pack of chips, stuff some in your mouth. There goes your fast down the drain. Last year, I did something very bad. I was fasting for Mahashivratri and had spent the entire day on fruits. I met my to-be-hubby in the evening and enjoyed a plate of bhel with him:((. I had completely forgotten that I was fasting. Oh God, forgive me! So, it's more from the fear of breaking fasts that I don't do many.

However, there are a couple of fasts that I keep and abide by. There have been a couple of additions to the list since I got married. Last Saturday was Vata Pournima. Maharashtrian ladies pray for their husband's long life and request God that they get the same husband for 7 more life times. Of course, you put this request only if your husband behaves the way you want him to:) The pooja is done by walking around a banyan tree and tying a thread around it. Banyan trees are not available in the US. So, I did my own kind of pooja by taking a print-out of a banyan tree and praying to it. This day also calls for a full-day fast. Now, I consider fasts as an excellent oppurtunity to eat my favorite items such as sabudana khichadi. Last Saturday, I made sabudana khichadi and my favorite curry - Danyachi Amti. The curry is a Maharashtrain upvaas special.

Danyachi Amti/Peanut curry

Serves: 2
Preparation time: 30 minutes

For the curry
1. 1 cup ground, roasted peanut powder
2. 1 cup water
3. Salt to taste
4. 1/8 tsp tamarind pulp
5. 3 green chillies chopped fine
6. 1/2 tsp sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth. Heat a pan on medium flame. Transfer the curry to the pan and boil for 5-6 minutes. Stir frequently.

For the tempering:
Heat another pan and add 1 tsp ghee to it. Next, add 1 tsp cumin seeds and a pinch of asafetida. When the cumin seeds splutter, add this tempering to the above curry and mix well.
Serve hot with sabudana khichadi or varichi khichadi.