Friday, December 30, 2016

Amba Khatta (Mango Curry) (Odiya Cuisine)

As 2016 draws to a close, I look back at it and wonder, was there a year that had so many ups and downs? 
The high was my trip to India, spending time with family and catching up with my besties from college. That one day brought back a surge of those wonderful 5 years and we just went back to being Seenagers (Senior Teenagers). These girls made the 5 years of college the best ones of my life! We shared so much, laughter, tears, food, secrets. Just thinking of them makes me smile.

The lows were, I lost my uncle and aunt, within a week of one another. Many of my closest friends also lost their loved ones and it was just one blow after another. 
I'm glad this year is almost over.

Here's wishing everyone a very happy new year. May 2017 be a really, really good year for all of us. 

The conclusion on 2016 brought about one more change for us, as a family. We have moved and will spend the next few days settling in. 

As controversial as this may sound, I'm happy to be out of Florida. It is beautiful, no doubt. But, yes, there is always a but!, it had way too many reptiles for my liking. They just made my life plain miserable. 
I am not one of those intrepid women who walk fearlessly when they see half a dozen lizards right in front of them, who just make a 'shoo' sound and pad on, watching in delight as the creepy, dirty little buggers scurry hither and tither. 
So, I'm happy, where I am. 

I will miss my friends though. That is the sad part about moving. This time I had a mixed up group of friends from all over India. Among them was my friend S, who is from Odisha (formerly Orissa).

My introduction to Odiya cuisine was at a potluck, in Los Angeles, a long time ago. my friend B had made this fantastic red tomato and dates chutney. I was bowled over. And now, S taught me this Amba Khatta which is equally delightful.

This khatta (or curry, if I dare call it that) is a fantastic blend of sweet and spicy with the wonderful mingling flavors of the panch phoron (5 spices) which when mixed with fluffy, piping white rice will have you wanting second and third helpings. 


Begin with making the Masala Paste:

1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/3 tsp Jeera (Cumin seeds)
3 fat cloves Garlic
Ginger, half the size of garlic.


Soak all the ingredients for about 10-15 minutes and then grind them to a fine paste.

Start with one large mango (sweet but firm to the touch, I buy mine at Aldi). Wash it well and cut into large chunks.
Add water to a saucepan, tip in the mango chunks and bring it to a boil.
Cook the mango pieces till tender.
Once cooked, strain and set aside.

In a deep sauce pan heat 2 tbsp Oil and add 1 tsp of *Panch Phoron .

Once the panch phoron seeds pop and sputter, add in the masala paste made earlier. Saute this paste on medium- low for about 5-7 minutes.

To the masala paste, add salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilies powder (or a blend of Kashmiri and cayenne). Do not make it spicy, it will just spoil the  overall taste.

Add the mango pieces and add 2 tsp. Sugar.

Cook until the spices and mango flavors come together, about 5-7 mins. Not exceeding 10 mins.

Serve with white rice.


I have this Panch Phoron blend I use. It is from a cook book borrowed long ago from a library and I haven't a clue which one. My apologies that I cannot link it. But I am not taking credit for what I have been only following for some years now!

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 Tbsp Fennel seeds
2 tsp Nigella Seeds
2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds ( I use black as it is the only one I usually buy)
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds

Mix the seeds and store, use as needed.


To all my friends and readers, A Very Happy New Year! 
See you in 2017. Till then, stay safe and stay happy! 
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tea and travel pains.

This Thanksgiving, I gifted myself ( yes, that is a thing) an Electric Pressure Cooker (EPC).
Everyone, and I mean everyone has been raving about the InstantPot. I was tempted. People seem to be cooking everything in this one gizmo.
After a lot of deliberation and delay and comparison I decided, I'm getting me one of these.
A bit of research and I zeroed in on this model. When I got it it was on sale for about $55, a lot cheaper than the IP with the same functionality. Win-Win.

I snagged it and started cooking, just the basic stuff.
Rice and daal.
Beans.
Soup.
Potatoes.
Rasam and Sambar.
Making vegetables ( it has a 'Sear' function)

I liked it, I would put the daal in the main pot, stack rice on the trivet and lay a plate with peeled and chopped potatoes (with a couple of tbsp water drizzled on top) set it and forget it.
I cooked beans to perfection. This was always a task for me. I used my regular Prestige cooker but almost always forgot to count the whistles and the beans would be underdone or mush. What a hassle!  But it was so easy with the EPC, I had only to adjust the  quantity to 'less' and set it on the beans mode and forget it. Perfectly cooked beans!
Then I made yogurt in it. Easy, but not necessary, in the Florida warmth and humidity.

My next experiment will be getting the dosa batter to ferment in this. And I can see the advantage of using the EPC to ferment the batter. You see, we have moved again.

Source: Google search
After a back breaking packing marathon and forgetting where I packed what (by then I was too darn tired to even care, I just know I took good care in packing my kitchen appliances), I bundled what ever remained in 4 suitcases, forced them shut and the husband and I heaved them into the rental car and drove to the airport. The heaviest suitcase contained my EPC, a small frying pan and my rolling pin. That is all I traveled with. Time to put the EPC to use.
The movers will bring the stuff in about 2 weeks, so I will have to make do with the 'make it all' gizmo and see if it is worth the hype and money I put into it.

The thing about travel (in my case, move) is, it lets you relax and unwind and most importantly, takes you away from the routine that you get sucked into.
Can you guess where I am?
My son and I love staying in a hotel. He likes it because it is a novelty to him. I like it because of the housekeeping cleaning up and making everything spic n span for me!
Advantage, free hot breakfast.
Disadvantage, no tea. I love me my chaha/ chai. Even a laid out breakfast cannot compete with a hot cup of ginger spiked tea.

Time to start testing the versatility of the EPC.


So day 1, I made tea in this with fat free milk. It was delicious!
Nailed it! Moment.
Day 2, half milk and half water. Delicious, again!


For my friends, who have purchased the EPC ( around the same time as I have and are experimenting with it), this is for you all.

In the main pot of the EPC, pour 2 cups of water and place the trivet in it.
In a small pot (image below) pour the usual combination of milk and water that you normally use.
Source: Google search

Wash a small knob of ginger.

Add sliced / crushed  ginger to the water+milk combo.

Add sugar and tea powder. (1:1:1 )

Place the pot on the trivet and close the EPC. Make sure the 'whistle' is set to 'Seal' (and NOT 'vent').

Press 'Manual' and adjust the timing to 1 minute ( press the '-'button to adjust).

Press 'Start'.

Go do what you were doing, take a shower, get ready. Tea will be ready by then.

Once the pressure goes down, open the EPC, strain the tea and enjoy.


Things to remember:

The EPC takes time to build pressure.

You will see the lines go round on the panel, that is normal.

Once the cooking time is done, the EPC will switch to 'Keep Warm ' mode.

Let the pressure go down normally (also called NPR).

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