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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Moudardara ( The Lebanese version of Khichdi )

I love rice varieties and when I chanced upon this amazing recipe on the show Vickypedia hosted on Living Foodz channel, I knew that I just had to give it a try ! And while it took time and patience to ready this khichdi, it turned out to be one sparkler of a dish. The richness of the caramelized onions, the aroma of Basmati rice, the luxurious fragrance of saffron coupled with the nutrition from a medley of pulses make it a wholesome choice for one pot meals !

One word about the texture though. As Moudardara essentially means scattered, it is more like a biryani rather than being mushy like a khichidi. So, do not go overboard with the water and the stirring. Remember that we an always add a little bit of moisture whenever needed.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 40-45 mins

Ingredients -
  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 cup mixed lentils ( I used kidney beans, red lentils and horsegram )
  • 2 medium sized onions (sliced finely)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp all spice powder
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp EVOO
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 pinch saffron

Preparation - Wash and soak the lentils overnight.

Crush the cumin and peppercorn into a coarse mix. Soak the saffron in the warm milk.

Cooking - Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles. They should be just cooked and firm to touch. Drain the excess water but do not throw it away.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the onions and fry on low heat till they turn brown. Remove half of these onions from wok and keep aside.

Add the washed rice, cooked lentils, crushed spices, all spice and salt to the same wok. Mix together and cook for 2-3 mins till the rice grains are well coated with oil.

Add the drained water from the lentils and some more such that it just stands a few millimeters above the rice.

Bring to a boil and then let it simmer while covered till rice is almost done. Stir gently once or twice during the cooking.

Add the saffron along with the milk. Cook till the excess moisture disappears.

Mix in the remaining caramelized onions.

Serve with plain yogurt or a raita.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Amaranth Anjeer aur Khajoor ke Laddoo

After all that fasting and feasting (aka Navratri and Diwali), I was left with still unused Amaranth flour and lads of dry fruits. I was wondering what to do with all that stuff, when I chanced upon a recipe that used amaranth grains to make laddoos. I though I could replicate the same with amaranth flour. Instead of sugar or jaggery, I opted dates and dried figs as the sweetening agent. The result was a delicious and very nutritional recipe.

Read on -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups amaranth flour (Rajgire ka atta)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped figs
  • 3-4 tsp ghee
  • a handful of raisins
  • chopped dry fruits (optional)

Preparation - Heat a heavy bottomed wok. Add the ghee to it followed by the amaranth flour. Roast till it turns a few shades darker and the smell changes. 

Remove from wok and keep aside.

Add the dates and figs to the same wok along with a few teaspoons of water. Once it turns into a thick liquid, add the roasted amaranth flour and raisins.

Mix for 2-3 mins.

Remove and keep aside till it is tolerable to touch. 

Grease your palms. Take small portions and roll into laddoos. 

Allow to cool down completely before storing in a airtight container. Stays good for 2-3 weeks.

Note - These laddoos taste better when consumed after a day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Mommy's guide to Baby Skincare !

"Smooth as a baby's bottom". Most of us have heard this repeated many a times. But not all are aware of what it takes to keep it as such. Baby skin is very sensitive and delicate. It demands frequent hydration and yet too much of moisture can cause it to get irritated. Hence one needs to strike a comfortable balance to keep it at its softest best. Cleanliness is another important factor that needs to be taken care of but remember 'less is more' when using skincare products.

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Here are a few tips from a mommy's diary -

1. Bathing time - Babies are not pets and hence one does not need to spend hours to get them all squeaky clean. Too much water can actually dry out the baby's skin and so can a soap/shampoo meant for adults. Use a very gentle pH balanced cleanser for baby and never ever rub the delicate skin.

Apply baby lotion on still wet skin right after the bath and pat it dry. Dust all over with a gentle baby powder or even corn flour ( use only organic and 100 % pure ) to absorb excess moisture.

2. Clothe them right - Smooth and breathable cotton fabrics are best for the baby. But make sure that you wash and disinfect them before use. Baby clothes need to be washed separately from that of other family members and preferably using a fragrance free liquid detergent.

3. Diapers - It is the wetness from a soiled diaper that is the most frequent cause of distress to a baby. Diapers need to be of a good quality, have great absorbency and elasticity while retaining a feather soft feel that does not irritate baby skin. Gel based diapers with added features like a inner lining of baby lotion with aloe vera are the best choice.

When changing a diaper, it is best to clean the area with water and a gentle soap. Sometimes, the perfume or other additives in wipes can irritate the skin, so going natural is best. Allow for natural drying instead of rubbing the tender skin with a towel. Finally apply a layer of Vaseline or any petroleum jelly and put on a fresh diaper.

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4. Say 'No' to strong scents - Babies smell great even by themselves. And scented products can actually irritate skin or aggravate dryness. Some of these products could also cause respiratory distress to the baby hence it is best to stay away from such products until the baby is about two years old.

This is especially important to follow if the parents have a history of skin diseases, allergy or asthma.

5. Sun protection - Babies love going out and exploring the world. The social stimulus actually helps to develop their brains. Once your baby takes to his knees it is good to expose him to the outer world but without exposing his skin to the harmful UV rays.

Baby sunscreens should come recommended by the pediatrician. But even when using a broad spectrum sunscreen, it is best to keep the baby out of the sun from 11 am to 3 pm.

This post is written for Pampers. 
Pampers brings you the softest ever Pampers Premium Care Pants. Its cotton-like softness is #SoftestForBabySkin and allows it to breathe, thus keeping baby’s skin soft and healthy, and your baby happy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Empowering a Smarter India !!

If I had to explain the way smartphone technology has changed India, I would put it as 'it has done away with the digital divide', a fact endorsed by a majority of the rapidly growing e-commerce companies. While more than 50 percent of their business comes from the tier II and tier III cities, e-commerce giants like Flipkart and Amazon reportedly state that this segment is their the fastest growing customer base. As a blogger, I have noticed a huge change in the geographical distribution of my audience over the last seven years. While most of the blog traffic was from laptops and mobiles formed only a minuscule segment around 2010, now the lion's share of my blog traffic comes from handheld devices like smartphones.  Does want any more proof ?

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With more and more people in the smaller cities/towns getting access to cheaper smartphones powered by Android, the league of people who prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes is swelling dramatically. But it is not just the online shopping which has revolutionized the lives of these people. Many an enterprising youngsters are honing their skills by enrolling in the online education programs. And as I found out recently, a particularly talented young lady along with a handful of good tailors has set up her own boutique and does a fantastic job of replicating Bollywood styles even as the first images are uploaded to cyberspace or the trailers are released on YouTube. Apart from ensuring a good income for herself an her motley team, she helps the young girls around her stay fashionable without spending a bomb. Thanks to entrepreneurs like her, many a Kavyas do not have to rush to Delhi to buy that exclusive wedding lehenga. If case you are confused, I am referring to this Bollywood movie with Alia Bhatt as the female lead who goes to Delhi to make some moolah for buying a Kareena Kapoor lehenga.

With octacore processors making for longer battery life, people living in the smaller towns and villages will find it convenient to surf uninterrupted for longer duration. It is also a blessing for people who commute to work or study. This time can be well utilized in catching up on work related stuff or learning some new topics. And with the availability of 4G, downloads are quick and, video chats and conferences can be carried out over real time. The boom in the number of startups, most of which are app-driven is proof enough that the younger generation is hooked on to smartphones and is out to make the most out of it.

Knowledge is empowering. And smartphones are the way to go as the youth of the nation has aptly demonstrated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Roasted Tomato Salsa ( aka Bilati Baigana poda from Odisha )

Bah. That's too glam a name for something as rustic as the 'Bilati baigana poda' or 'Tamatar Poda'. Yup, that's what we call this dish which originated in the rural kitchens of Odisha, one of the most backward states of India. Then why on earth am I calling it a salsa ? First it shares a helluva lot of resemblance with this Mexican delight . Second, I believe in free speech . I think, Therefore I am. Get the drift.

Coming to the authentic recipe, the tomatoes are usually roasted in the dying embers of a wood fired stove or 'chulah' as we call it in India. But most of us have done away with the cumbersome (and also polluting contraception). Hence it makes sense to roast them on a gas burner using a grill or just pop them into the oven ( low heat for 10 mins and turn up to get them blackened on the outside).

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1 medium sized red onion ( finely chopped )
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
  • 1-2 green chilis (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp mustard oil 
  • 1 tsp coarsely chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Roast the tomato till the outer skin is blackened. Allow it to rest for a few mins.

Peel it carefully and chop it up into chunks.

Throw into a mixing bowl and toss in the other ingredients. Mix and keep aside for a few mins.

Enjoy as a dip or with white rice.

Note - Generally all the ingredients are mashed together with bare hands. But I have used a knife and spoon for the sake of hygiene.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Lesson Well Taught ( Amazon Card Giveaway ) !!

There is a very thin line that differentiates good from great. And one comes across such great people once or maybe twice in a lifetime. However, when we do come across them, they leave an lasting impression on us. Such was the influence of Mr J, my ex-manager on me. A leader who led by example and inspired his team to attain seemingly unattainable goals, he had a way of making each one of us feel (and also perform) like a rock-star. After all, it is tough to remain untouched by such a persona, and especially when one is closely associated with the former.

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A simple guy at heart, who loved metal and travelling when he was not busy with his coding marathons, he believed in achieving excellence in whatever he dabbled in. Yet he remained humble and down to earth inspite all the accolades that were heaped on him. Happy to bask in the reflected glory of the team's success, he taught us the delicate art of delegation and the importance of acknowledging everyone's contribution without hogging too much of the limelight. What made him stand out was the fact that he was the very embodiment of a team player and yet much more.

Keeping the communication lines open at all times to ensure transparency, build trust and keep things on track was one of his strengths as we worked on a global delivery model. Each one of the team members was given a task suitable to our skills and realistic expectations were set that just about pushed the bar a little higher each time. This ensured that everyone remained happy and motivated. He was also ready to provide hands-on support in achieving a particularly tough target.

And somewhere in the midst of all this madness, he would make time for his family. Work life balance remained his priority and he sent a clear message to the team that one needs to draw a firm line at some point. Individuals are more than just resources on a 'HR payroll' and this is a fact that needs to be respected. Driven by dedication and conviction (and of-course backed by sheer talent), he was clearly the role model for his team and for the organization in general.

Each lesson that I learnt while observing him is something that I will be utilize at any point and in any kind of setup. Whether it be a corporate setup or a rural development program, these are lessons that can be implemented anywhere as it involves people and the values that one espouses.

That's why when I read about Tata Motors association with Lionel Messi, I could not help but compare these two individuals who are "#madeofgreat" stuff. Mr J was (and remains) the ideal brand ambassador for his organization in every sense of the word just as Messi's admirable traits make him the ideal fit for Tata Motors.

Now for the most important question that can win a Rs 750 Amazon voucher for you. "What do you think of Tata Motor's association with Lionel Messi ?" Post your comments about the global icon who blends in beautifully with the values that form the DNA of Tata Motors.

The best answer will win a Amazon voucher.

This post is written for #madeofgreat campaign by Tata Motors.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Masale-wali Mathri ( And a very Happy Diwali )

Oriyarasoi wishes all its readers a Very Happy Diwali !! May the festival of lights spread the holy light and eliminate the shadows of darkness from your lives !! [ I take this opportunity to thank you people for my FB page has recently crossed 5000 likes. Not a huge number but it seems special as I am a late entrant on the social media bandwagon. And Oriyarasoi is now on Instagram as 'Swetabiswal'. Please follow me for some interesting shares.]

Festival time is the time to give in to all sorts of cravings. And the spate of bad weather in Blore has only increased my desire to munch on various kinds of 'Namkeen' or savoury snacks while sipping endless cups of 'Adrak-wali' chai (ginger tea).

I was first introduced to Mathri during my stay in Pune. My room-mate had a special weakness for fried stuff like Laccha, Bhakarwadi and ofcourse the Mathri. Though I found it to be somewhat oily, I loved snacking on it occasionally. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 45 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup maida ( refined flour )
  • 1 cup atta ( whole wheat flour )
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/4 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • oil for deep frying

Preparation - Take the maida, atta and baking powder in a big bowl. Add the hot ghee to it. Rub it into the flour so that the texture resembles bread crumbs. This will take about 5 mins.

Then add the crushed peppercorn, carom seeds and kasuri methi to it. Sprinkle salt as per taste. Mix in. Add warm water little by little and knead into a tight dough.

Smear the dough with a few drops of oil. Cover and keep aside for 5 mins.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok.

Roll out the dough into a thick circle ( about 2 mm thickness ). Take the cap of a bottle and cut out small circles ( abt 3 cm in diameter ). Pierce holes into the circles with a fork.

Add 4-5 circles to the hot oil and fry till light brown on both sides. Take out and place on paper napkins.

Repeat for the remaining dough.

Once the mathri had cooled down completely, store it in airtight containers.

Note - This recipe will yield about 30-32 pieces.