Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indian Food Odyssey

Today I have finished a month long challenge. The goal was to blog a dish from a different state in India every day of the month of April, starting with the state of Andhra Pradesh and ending with West Bengal. It is especially interesting for me as I have not lived in India for a very long time.

Recipes gathered over the years from friends, colleagues and neighbors were brushed off and tried. For some states the recipes had to be gathered from the web. The dishes had to be prepared in advance to ensure a printable blog post with pictures. For at least two states cloudy weather dictated a do over while for three other states a do over was needed as the recipe turned out to be too simple. For two states the recipe was a disaster and had to be scrapped completely.

Some recipes brought back very happy memories not related to food. And the aroma of some recipes took me back decades to my childhood. I came to realize how blessed my growing years were, I was exposed to so many different sub cultures within India.

My family was so supportive through the entire process. They loved trying out the new dishes and enjoyed the tried and tested ones. On the whole it was an enjoyable experience.

Here is a round up of the Indian Food Odyssey.



Arunachal Pradesh - Rice Flour Momos


Assam - Bootor Dali


Bihar - Makhana Kheer


Chattisgargh - Lal Masur Kadhi


Delhi - Mango Lassi


Goa - Uddamethi


Gujarat - Dal Dhokli


Haryana - Choliya Subji


Himachal Pradesh - Katta


Jammu and Kashmir - Katta


Jharkhand - Sattu Paratha


Karnataka - Dudhali


Kerala - Payasam


Maharashtra - Marathi Meal


Manipur - Madhurjan Thongba


Meghalaya - Daineiiong with Jastem


Mizoram - Cauliflower Stalk Bai


Nagaland - Black Rice Pudding


Odisha - Besan Tarkari


Pudicherry - Snake Gourd Chutney














Palang Shaak er Ghonto (Spinach Mixed Vegetable Medley)

Today is the last day of the challenge and I am posting a recipe from West Bengal. Every day this month I have posted a recipe from a different state in India.


The goal was to blog a dish from a different state in India every day of the month of April, starting with the state of Andhra Pradesh and ending with West Bengal. It was especially interesting for me as I have not lived in India for a very long time.

All the dishes had to be prepared in advance to ensure a timely printable blog post with pictures. Recipes gathered over the years from friends, colleagues and neighbors were sought out and (re)tried. For a few states the recipes had to be gathered from the web. For at least two states cloudy weather dictated a do over while for three other states a do over was needed as the recipe turned out to be too simple. For two states the recipe was a disaster and had to be scrapped completely. Through this whole process my family was very supportive. They loved trying out the new dishes and enjoyed the tried and tested ones.


Back to West Bengal. When I was in second grade I was picked for a mini-play to be performed during the annual day function. The play had two characters, a cat and a mouse. I was the cat and I was supposed to sweet talk the mouse until the end when I pounced and ate it. During the play the cat and the mouse sing and dance. The girl who played mouse was Bengali and her Mom suggested this song: Ore Bhai Phagun Legeche for us to dance to. I used to hum the catchy tune for years until one day I googled it. That is when I found out that it was penned by Rabindranath Tagore and is part of what is popularly known as Rabindra sangeet.

We had a large Bengali community in town and they put up a grand show during Durga puja, the navratri festival. The idols were specially shipped from Bengal and the whole town showed up at the old Nataraj Theater to watch the cultural program. It was a treat.

Sweets from Bengal are very popular and well known. But after making so many sweet dishes for other states I was craving something savory. Something that did not go overboard with oil and spices. I found Palang Shaak er Ghonto is a popular mixed vegetable side. What I really like about this dish is the sparingly used spices. Paanch phoron (fenugreek, fennel, nigella, mustard and cumin seeds) and a little cumin powder is all that is used. I adapted this recipe from here.

You will need
1 large potato
1 cup cubed yellow pumpkin
2 cups chopped spinach
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. paanch phoron (a mixture of fenugreek, fennel, nigella, mustard and cumin seeds)
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 dried red chili pepper

Wash, peel and chop the potato into cubes. Heat oil in a pan and add the paanch phoron. When the mustard seeds crackle add the red chili pepper and the potatoes. Sprinkle a little if needed, cover and let the potatoes cook for about 4-5 minutes.


Add the pumpkin cubes to the pan and let it cook for another 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle a little more water if needed. Cook until the potatoes and pumpkin are tender but not mushy.


Add the spinach and cumin powder. Season with salt. Add a little water and let it all cook until the spinach is done.


Enjoy!

This month long journey started out as just a challenge but became very personal very quickly. For most of the states I found I could picture a friendly familiar face or an anecdote connected with the state. Some recipes brought back very happy memories not related to food. And the aroma of some recipes took me back decades to my childhood. I came to realize how blessed my growing years were, I was exposed to so many different sub cultures within India. I also realized that as an adult I built on that foundation and formed a circle of friends that came from all over the world. To me that was the biggest take away from this challenge. Through this month I shared this personal experience with you.

This is my entry for day 30 of BM #39 for the state of West Bengal. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#39.








Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lesu (Mandua Roti / Finger Millet roti)

Today I am posting a recipe from Uttarkhand. Every day this month I will post a recipe from a different state in India.


The Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttar Pradesh are now their own state Uttarkhand. It is a beautiful region of the country located in the Himalayan foothills. Names of cities like Dehradun and Nainital bring visuals of natural scenic beauty and the faces of friends and neighbors from those regions.

A couple of my teachers in school were from this region. In high school we had danced to a very famous traditional Garhwali song 'Bedo pako barmasa'. There is a commercialized version of this song on youtube if you are interested. You can appreciate the beautiful melody of the song from the hills.

The food from Uttarkhand is similar to Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Wheat, Archar (toor), Mandua (Finger millet), Gahat (Kulath/horse gram) etc are commonly used grains and pulses. I have heard of Kulath dal made in Maharastra but have never tried it myself. I had never tried to use mandua either. I decided I had to use one of these (new to me) grains.


Lesu has a very interesting concept. It is not possible to roll mandua flour into a poli as we do with wheat. It may be the lack of gluten in the flour that requires it to be patted into shape. So the people from Kumaon came up with this solution. They made two different dough, one with wheat flour and the other with mandua flour. They stuff the mandua in the wheat and suddenly you have pliable dough that can be rolled into a poli.

This poli is best eaten hot. I got the recipe from here. This website has a lot of other interesting recipes that I would love to try out.

You will need
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup mandua (finger millet) flour
1/2 tsp. ajwain seeds
salt to taste

Mandua or Finger Millet is dark colored flour with darker specks.


Using water knead the whole wheat flour into a soft dough. Keep aside. In a separate bowl make dough with the ragi flour using water. Let it rest for 5 minutes.


Heat a griddle pan. Divide both dough into equal number of small portions. Take one portion of the wheat dough and flatten it on the palm of your hand.


Place a portion of the ragi flour in the flattened wheat dough.


Close the wheat dough over the top and form a ball.


Roll it out to a disc of the desired thickness. I like it thin so I rolled it to 1/4 of an inch.


Put a few drops of oil on the pan and place the rolled out poli on it. Put a few drops of oil on the top. Let it brown and then flip it over to cook the other side.


Take it off the heat when it is brown on both sides.


Serve hot.


This is my entry for day 29 of BM #39 for the state of Uttaranchal. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#39.








Monday, April 28, 2014

Cheese Herb Monkey Bread or Pull Apart Bread

This month I suggested to the group Kneading Bakers that we bake savory or sweet pull apart bread. Pull apart or monkey bread is made with individual size biscuits. These biscuits are shaped separately, placed next to each other in a bowl or a loaf pan and baked.


I thought the cheese and herb biscuits in a bowl looked adorable and wanted to try them. I used sharp cheddar cheese with dried parsley, oregano and thyme. The flavors went very well together.

You will need
For the dough
3 cups bread flour
1/4 oz. instant yeast
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

For the dip
2-3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. parsley
2 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. oregano

To make the dough
Melt the butter. Warm the milk and beat it with the butter. Sift a cup of flour and yeast into the milk mixture. Let the sponge sit for 10 minutes.


In a separate bowl shred the cheddar cheese and mix it with the remaining flour.


Add it to the sponge and mix together to form a dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a well oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for at least an hour until double in volume. Meanwhile grease a bowl with butter and keep aside.


Transfer the risen dough on to a floured surface and roll it out in to a large rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pastry blender cut it into 2x2 inch squares.


Roll each square into a ball. Flour the working surface and using your palm roll the ball around on the surface to smooth it out. Repeat for each of the squares.


Melt the butter for the dip and mix in the parsley, thyme and oregano.


Pick up one of the balls of dough by the seam underside and roll it in the butter. Place it smooth side up in the greased bowl. Repeat for all the balls of dough. Cover and let it rise for about 30-40 minutes.


Towards the end of the rising period preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes. Check after 15 minutes and if the top is browning too fast tent it with aluminium foil. Continue to bake until the side and bottom are browned.


Serve hot.