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Friday, November 21, 2014

Biri Gojja ( A Steamed savoury delicacy )

Biri Gojja is one of the very few savoury pithas that I have ever tasted/tried. While most of the Odia pithas are more or less on the sweeter side, some like the saru chakuli, poda pitha (the Western Odisha version), sada enduri (without stuffing) and biri gojja fall into the exceptions category. Since I do not have a sweet tooth, I am naturally inclined towards the latter and love to have then with a nice curry like Ghuguni, alu dum or even Mutton/Chicken curry.

The biri gojja can be described as similar to a sijha/sukhla manda with an steamed 'biri bara' kind of stuffing. Biri or black lentil is ground into a thick batter and seasoned with various spices before being stuffed into the pitha. This recipe belongs to the Salepur/Padmapur region of Odisha and not many people know about it. However my in-laws belong to that region and my  MIL's sister churns out the most lip-smacking gojja's ever. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cups raw rice 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ghee

For the stuffing -

  • 2/3 cup black lentil/biri (skinless)
  • 1-2 finely chopped green chilis
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (finely chopped)
  • coarsely crushed black pepper
  • salt to taste

Preparation: Soak the rice for 10-15 mins. Wash and drain all the water ( Use a colander, do not dry under the fan or the sun ). Put in a grinder and grind into a fine powder.

Wash and soak the black lentil for 2-3 hours. Grind into a smooth and thick paste. Season it with salt, pepper, curry leaves and green chilis.

Cooking: Bring the water to boil. Add salt. Add the rice flour in small batches and mix continuously so that no lumps are formed.

Stir the mixture on a low flame for about 15 minutes till it takes on a softer consistency than the dough used for making rotis. Sprinkle the ghee and mix in . Switch off the flame at this stage.

Allow the dough to cool down a few degrees till it is tolerable. Rub ghee all over your hands and knead the dough for 5 mins to make it smoother.

Rub some more oil over your hands. Pinch small lumps out of the dough. Roll each lump into a ball and gently pat it to flatten it out into a circle. Put some of the black lentil dough on one half of the circle and fold the other half over it. Press it gently to close on the sides but keep the middle portion slightly open. (This ensures that the batter gets cooked thoroughly during steaming).

Boil water in a idli maker/steamer. Spread some banana leaves/thin cloth over the idli plates. Put the gojjas/dumplings over the leaf/cloth. Close the lid and steam 25-30 mins. Allow to stand with lid covered for 5-10 mins.

Take out of the idli vessel/steamer and serve warm.

Note: When adding the rice flour to milk and water, pass it through a sieve to avoid any lumps. It is important to work with the dough while it is hot else it loses its elasticity .

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Magic of the senses

The demands of parenthood and the rush of corporate life often leaves couples with very little time to nurture their relationship. The magic of looking into each others eyes, whispering those murmured words, resting one's head on the other's shoulder, one hand seeking the comfort of the other are lost in the cacophony of ensuring that life runs on the smooth track (read maintaining a steady income).

Me and my husband being no exceptions, had become quite oblivious to each other in the years following our marriage. It took a vacation to Coorg and some exclusive time together to ignite the dying embers in our relationship. The Monsoon getaway was planned in a hurry and we did not get the best of the hotels. But our accommodation was neat and cozy.

Travelling from Bangalore to Coorg by car can be quite tiring. Add that to the fact that it started raining almost immediately once we reached the hotel.  Thankfully, the hotel was ensconced in the thick vegetation of the valleys and our hotel room provided a beautiful view of the misty peaks. With no other option at our disposal, we decided to take a short rest in our room. The journey had taken its toll on our kid who was blissfully sleeping by now. After a quick shower, we changed into more comfortable wear and ordered for some tea. With time at my disposal, I quickly rubbed on some Parachute body lotion ( this was another ritual that I had been ignoring for sometime ).

There was no network in the area which meant that our smartphones and laptops would also afford a vacation. Even the TV installed in the room provided a limited number of channels for our viewing. The prospect of being bored loomed large but even before we realized it, conversation was flowing freely over the comforting ginger tea. We ended up reminiscing about our honeymoon in Ooty, our first date and the way I had spilled ice-cream over his shirt, the Goa trip where we has spent hours sitting on the beach and even the online chats (on Yahoo Messenger) during those months of being in a long distance relationship.

Suddenly he was besides my chair and seeking my hand. The moment our fingers were entwined, it brought back all the warmth that had somehow gone missing in our life. Suddenly it was yesterday and it seemed we were holding hands while sitting on the beach. The sun had gone down and the raindrops which had been splattering aimlessly on the window panes has magically transformed into a million diamonds in the lights from the hotel lobby.

This article is written for Parachute advanced body lotion (click Here). Check out the awesome video to infuse a little bit of magic into your relationship -

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tomato Bhendi Hendua

Hendua or the dried form of bamboo shoots ( also known as Karadi in Odisha) is one of the lesser known ingredients from Western Odisha. While it has a sharp and quite distinctive smell, it lends a note of tanginess along with a delectable flavour when added to any dish. Since it offers a gustatory sensation quite unlike anything else, you either love it or hate it, but you cannot simply choose to ignore it. This dish was cooked by a dear friend's mother at my request. A big thanks for sharing it with me.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 5-6 nos ladies finger or okra
  • 3-4 green chillis
  • 3 tsp mustard paste
  • 1/4 tsp panch phutana
  • 1 tbsp hendua
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Chop the tomato into small pieces. Cut the okra into small pieces along its cross-section.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the pancha phutana and the slit green chilis.
Once the chilis start to brown, add the hendua and fry for 1-2 mins.

Add the chopped okra and fry lightly for 2-3 mins.

Finally add the chopped tomatoes along with the mustard paste, turmeric and chili. Allow it to cook till the tomatoes have softened completely and any raw smell/taste has gone off.

Serve it with white rice.

Sajna Phula Batibasa

Another simple and tasty preparation with drumstick flowers. Making to most of the opportunity to sample drumstick flowers and leaves during my stay in Rourkela, I cannot help but try out both old and recipes with them. Since winter has set in, most of the leaves have fallen out but the drumstick trees are laden with flowers and fruit during this time of the year.

Read on -

Preparation Time - 10-12 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup drumstick flowers
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic flakes
  • 2 green chili (broken into 2-3 pieces)
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Pluck the drumstick flowers from the bunch. Throw away the dried and shriveled ones. Wash and clean them.

Cooking - Mix all the ingredients in a small wok. Add about 1/4 cup water. Cover with a lid and cook on a low to medium flame for 7-8 minutes.

Serve hot with white rice.

Janhi-Chingudi Sukhua Tarkari (Ridge gourd-shrimp curry)

It is no secret that I love mixing veg and no-veg ingredients in my recipes. Maybe it has got something to do with my Odia roots. But I suspect that laziness plays a good part in it. Since cooking veg and non-veg separately calls for more effort and simply skipping one just does not sound/feel right, one has to choose the middle path of mixing and matching the ingredients from both core groups. I keep trying out recipes from different parts of the state/country. Poee chingudi, chingudi dalma,chicken saagwala,  maccha mahura, maccha chencheda, sukhua-bilati baigana poda, the list is a long one.

This recipe however is indigenous to Western Odisha. Most village folks prefer to add fresh shrimp caught straight from the neighborhood pond/river. But when the water dries up during the summers, the sun dried/smoked version of shrimp makes for a good substitute.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 cups ridge gourd (cubed)
  • 1 cup dried shrimp
  • 1 medium sized onion (roughly chopped)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp pancha phutana
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 2 tsp big mustard seeds
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and soak the dry shrimp for 1/2 hour.

Grind the mustard seeds, garlic pods and 1 red chili into a fine paste. Dissolve it in 2/3 cup water.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the broken chili and pancha phutana. Once it gets spluttering, add
the onion. Fry till translucent.

Add the shrimp and fry for 2 minutes before adding the ridge gourd cubes to it. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the water in which mustard paste has been dissolved, taking care to discard the solid bits that have settled in the bottom of the cup.

Add salt and turmeric. Cover with a lid and cook on medium flame till the ridge gourd is done. Increase the flame a bit if there is a lot of water remaining. This curry should have a semi dry consistency.

Remove from the wok.

Serve with white rice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toilet for Babli (A Domex Initiative)

Dreams of making it big drives them to school, but bitter ground realities like the lack of basic sanitation (read toilets) forces them to stay away. With nearly 47 % of the government school lacking toilet facilities, the girls prefer to skip school (on those days of the month) or even drop out altogether once they reach adolescence. A big blow to any development/growth  plan considering that women make up half of the population or workforce of the country. The CIA World Factbook suggests that if just 1 percent more girls were enrolled in schools in India the country's GDP would rise by an estimated $5.5 billion. Most of these drop-outs who have not completed basic schooling end by being married off early which more often than not results in early motherhood (and miscarriages or low-weight babies in most cases). If at all they choose to work, they have to make do with menial work and dismally low salaries. A catch 22 situation, this perpetuates the existing gender gap between men and women.

Those few ambitious ones who dare to brave it out resort to extreme measures like skipping the breakfast or mid-day meal and even forgoing on the minimum water intake so that they do not have to answer nature's call during the school hours. However such habits can lead to further complications like nutritional deficiency, lack of attention stemming from low hemoglobin levels and in a few cases even urine infection from holding it for too long. The other option available is defecating or urinating in the open fields which more often than not leads to various infections and health ailments. It is also a blow to their dignity as have no choice but to expose themselves to the prying eyes of whoever chooses to watch them.

The situation back home is no better for most of these girls. Forced to step out of the safety of their homes if they need to answer nature's call during the night, they are sitting ducks for most sexual predators. A recent crime (involving minors) in the heartland of India brought this lacunae to light. Ensuring that every Indian household has a toilet has become imperative to ensuring the safety of the women. While the issue of open air defecation is not specific to a particular gender, it is highly diabolical that while women are being murdered in the name of honor, no attempt is made to preserve their honor within the four walls of the house. Or maybe these are people who believe that it is 'OK' for the womenfolk to expose their bum rather than their faces.

It is high time that such people are educated and brought in the fold of the 'Swaach Bharth' campaign that has been flagged off by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. It would do everyone good if some of his enthusiasm rubs off on each and every Indian and we do our bit to make India a cleaner and wealthier nation. Three cheers for Domex (and HUL) for taking this great initiative.

This article is written for Domex which runs the Domex Toilet Academy programme which makes toilets accessible and affordable. The '#ToiletForBabli' is an initiative to make Indian villages 'open-defecation' free and provide our children with a better and healthier future. You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sajna Phula Bara (Drumstick flower fritters)

Another easy recipe with drumstick flowers !! This one is in the form of a snack and takes minimal effort. Given the fact that it is loaded with nutrients, your guests will be more than happy at being served a plateful of good health.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups (packed lightly) drumstick flowers
  • 1 large potato (boiled, peeled & mashed)
  • 1 medium sized onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander leaves (chopped)
  • 1-2 green chili (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp besan (gram flour)
  • 4-5 tsp cooking oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and clean the drumstick flowers. Be careful to retain only the fresh flowers and buds.

Cooking - Heat 3 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onions and fry till translucent.

Add the flowers and fry for 2 mins .

Add the mashed potato along with chili powder, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Fry for 3 mins.

Finally add the green chili and coriander leaves, mix in and remove from flame.

Allow to cool down till it is bearable to touch. Pinch small portions and shape into flattened discs.

Make a thin batter of the besan. Season it with a little salt and chili powder. Lightly brush the discs with the batter. (one can also roll them with some bread crumbs to get a crispy outer layer)

Heat a non-stick tawa. Sprinkle a few drops of oil. Place the discs on the hot tawa and cook on both sides till there is a little browning.

Remove from tawa and serve hot with ketchup.