April 30, 2008


A big HELLO to all my beautiful blogger friends out there! Hope you all had a great Ugadi (Hindu New Year) and a great start for colorful Spring. I know it has been quite a while since I have seen you and I am very happy to be back. I am sure you are all wondering what the heck did I do in all those 5 weeks of my blog break! :D

Quite a lot actually! After celebrating two birthdays and the brief vacation at the beach which we enjoyed thoroughly in warm weather(75F+), came home and started planning my days of "leisure". As you can see in the collage at bottom of the post, went on a cooking Marathon from other blogs' recipes, absolutely enjoyed each and every dish, I read few books, watched movies, spring cleaned the house, updated my blogs, built a red barn (no, I didn't, got it built for us, yet to be painted!:D) and worked in the garden to get it ready for Summer, which made my Spring allergy worse but who cares when there is that very painful allergy shot to take care of me! :D

My family enjoyed the new tastes so much that I have decided to blog and comment just 3 days a week (Mon., Wed., Fri.) from now on and cook for very few events if I can. I will continue to surf all your blogs and cook more dishes from you which I always wanted to do but never had the time before! I am grateful to all of you for posting so many wonderful recipes, my family thanks you too. Don't forget to check out the tail end of this post! :)

As all parents with school age children know by now, kids also have their "End of Grade" exams coming up in May and June, one more reason for me to make myself free a bit and spend a little more time with them for "emotional" support. They wouldn't dare ask me to help with their Algebra and AP Calculus!:D

Now, let's celebrate the gorgeous state of Rajasthan, India:

Rajasthani Thali (platter) is my two cents for "Regional Cuisine of India", a event started by Lakshmi from "veggie cuisine" and Padmaja from "Spicy Andhra" blog is hosting RCI event this month showcasing the princely state of Rajasthan. Thanks for hosting Padmaja!:)

Beautiful Lake Palace Hotel on Lake Pichola, Udaipur ("City of Sunrise"), Rajasthan,India.

Photo from Brittanica.

About Rajasthan:
Rajasthan was formed on 30 March 1949 when those princely states ruled by Rajput kings, it's also known as Rajputana is situated in the North West and is the largest state of India in area, about the size of Germany! Large area of Rajasthan contains inhospitable and beautiful Thar Desert, also known as "the great Indian desert. The state capital Rajasthan is Jaipur.

One of the world's oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli Range cradles the only hill station of Rajasthan, Mount Abu and its world-famous Dilwara Temples, a sacred pilgrimage for the people Jain faith. Eastern Rajasthan has two national tiger reserves, Ranthambore and Sariska, Bharatpur as well as Keoladeo National Park are famous for bird sanctuaries.

Historical traditions of Rajasthan are that of Rajputs, Nath, Jats, Bhils, Ahirs, Gujjars, Meenas and Marwaris with their diverse and interesting contributions to the development of rich Rajasthani culture which includes their unique culinary expertise, Music, folk Dances and many architecturally beautiful palaces, majestic forts and Havelis. Rajasthan is often called a shopper's paradise and is famous for it's crafts; textiles, semi-precious stones, handicrafts and furnitures has intricate with bright colors.

Land of Princes, as Rajasthan is called, shows off a fine gastronomy cooked up by the 'Khansamas' (the royal cooks) as they are called. Lack of leafy green vegetables in the desert land, a heavy use of lentils, chickpea flour and the use of milk, Yogurt and buttermilk in place of the water in cooking lends a remarkable contributions to Rajasthani cuisine.

Read this article for more interesting facts on regional cuisine! Take a photo tour of Rajasthan here! (Above info from WIKI and links from various Rajasthan tourism sites).

Rajasthani Thali:
Here is a very simple thali, Rajasthani style! Lal Maas(red meat/red chicken in my case, although lal maas is originally made with Mutton/Gosht), spiced Bajra-Aloo-Besan rotis (Millet,Potato,Chickpea flour), Panchmel (five lentils) dal, plain rice with onion, green chilli and lemon slice on the side. Recipes mostly adapted from Nita Mehta's Rajasthan cookbook with my slight changes. Enjoy!:)

Rajasthani Thali1

Lal Maas:
Lal maas/Lal Maans is a traditional Rajasthani dish, usually made with Mutton/Gosht/Lamb. I have used chicken here in this recipe. Bright red color for this dish mainly comes from Kashmiri chilli pd and paprika, not necessarily spicy to taste because of the use of milder chilli pepper powders.You can adjust the spices as you wish.Tastes better the next day reheated in the microwave.

You need:
About 4 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts or mix of dark and white meat, cut into bite sized pieces,
2 Onions, finely chopped or blended to a rough paste,
2" ginger and 2 Garlic, ground to smooth paste,
1/2 cup Tomato sauce+ 1 tsp Tomato puree,
2 tbsp Coriander powder,
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, 1 tsp Paprika for color, Chilli pd for heat if you like it hot,
1 tsp Garam Masala,
Salt, Cilantro.
2 tbsp Butter+1 Tbsp oil.

How to:
1. Heat the butter and oil in a pan. Add onion, saute for 2 minutes until translucent. Put in ginger-garlic paste, saute for 2 minutes. Add in the tomato sauce+puree, stir until it leaves the side of the pan,oil shows on top.
2. Add all the chicken, stir until it's coated with masala and whitish. Put in all the dry masala, 1 cup of water, heat and then simmer for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked and sauce is fairly thick.
3. Adjust the salt and heat. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with lemon slices, sweet onion slices, Parathas/Rotis or with rice seasoned with ghee, cloves and cumin seeds.

Bajra rotis with Panchmel dal:

Panch=5, mel=mix, one of the most popular dal of Rajasthan, is a delicious and nutritious mix of five different lentils combined with light spices makes a great accompaniment for rice or rotis. It's also very easy and quick dal to make if you use a pressure cooker. Try it.

You need: 1/2 cup Moong dal, 1/4 cup each of Chana dal, Tuar dal and Masoor dal and 2 tbsp of Urad dal, 1/2 tsp Turmeric, salt and cilantro.(adding 4tbsp of tomato sauce which is optional but enhances the flavor)

For Tadka/tempering:
2 tbsp ghee/butter+ 2tsp oil, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 bay leaves, 2 crushed slightly cardamom pods,1" cinnamon bark(Dalchini),2-3 cloves, 2 green or red chillies, 2 tsp grated or ground ginger,1/2 tsp more chilli pd, pinch or two of Mace powder,(1 tsp good quality Garam masala if you want to skip all the khada masala/whole spices).

To make dal:
1. Wash, drain and cook the dals with 3-4 cups of water and Turmeric in the pressure cooker until soft, mash roughly and keep aside.
2. In a pan, heat ghee+oil, add all the whole spices first. When they are plump, add ginger, chillies, stir fry for a minute or so.(Add tomato sauce if you are using now and cook until it's thickish)
3. Take the pan off of the heat, add the powders.Do not burn them,sprinkle little water to prevent that. Pour in the dal mix quickly to the pan, mix and heat through.
4. Add some chopped cilantro, lemon slices and serve with rice or rotis.

Bajra Aloo Besan rotis:
Again, a combination of 3 ingredients along with some spices makes this a great roti to dip into the dal or scoop up the Lal maas dish.

You need:
1 cup Bajra flour, 1/2 cup mashed boiled and potatoes or use potato flakes to make mashed potatoes like I did, 1/4 cup Besan/Chickpea flour, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp Cumin powder, 1/4 tsp chilli pd, 1 tsp grated ginger,1/2 tsp Amchoor/tangy mango pd and enough salt, about a cup or more hot water to mix, only if needed.

To make them:
1. Mix all the above flours with mashed potato and spices first, which has enough moisture to bind. If not, use little hot water just enough to bind it to a firm dough, cover and let it rest for 15mins. Divide into equal Tennis ball sized rounds to roll.
2. Spray a foil with no-spray(this is how I do it here but surely not by Rajasthanis!:D)oil and take a ball,flatten and press the dough with your fingers to make about 4-5" circles and place it on a clean kitchen towel.Repeat with other dough.
3. Heat a Tawa/griddle, cook the rotis on both sides until red spots appear and brush with ghee or butter as soon as you take them out of the tawa.
4. Serve immediately or store in Tortilla warmer to reheat later.

Variations: Skip the Potato and Besan and add 3/4 cup of cornmeal and make rotis.

You can skip all the spices above and make plain rotis and serve with spicy gravies.

That's my simple and delicious thali for Rajasthan, loved it! :)


Dishes I have tried and loved from other blogs while I was on my month long blog break, thanks again to all of you for posting these. Click on the collage to see the bigger photos of the dishes!:)

Depending on what I had in my pantry and my mood, I randomly went on searching in all the blogs I know, came upon these wonderful dishes and enjoyed cooking them. I will be surfing for more yummies like these, watch out for a silent wanderer in your blogs, I will be listing more! ;D

Broccoli Lemon Chicken from ChrisB's blog.

Eggplant Pithlai from Ssriranjini's blog.

Tomato Gravy from Cham's blog.

Bhagara Baingan from Seema's blog.

Majjige Huli from Red Chillies blog.

Bisi Bele Bhath from Vani's blog.

Cabbage saagu from Suma's blog.

Dosa Podi from Siri's blog.

Chettinad Chutney from Hema's blog.

Garlic Chutney from Meera's blog.

Green Mango dal from Uma's blog.

Dal Makhani from EC's blog.

Poondu kuzhambu from Myth's blog.

Hotel Sambhar from Indo's blog.

Okra in green sauce from Lakshmi G's blog.

Churmuri from Saakshi's blog.

Radish Pachadi from Krishna and Arjuna's blog.

Karahi Murgh (Gosht, originally) from A.R.A.D. blog.

Odiyan Aloo Chop from Saswati's blog.

Mallige Idlis
from Seema's blog.

Aloo Methi from Kribha's blog.

Garlic Aloo
from Nags' blog.

Alu Posto from Sandeepa's blog.

Vada Pav from Vanamala's blog.

Kerala Chilli Chicken
from Rachel's blog.

Egg fried rice from Priyanka's blog.

Omelette with Potato from happy cook's bog.

Raw Tomato chutney/curry
from Vijaya's blog.

Chole from Padma's Kitchen blog.

Kollu(Horse gram) chutney from Paati's blog.

Mor Kali
from Suganya's blog.

Butter Chicken from Mona's blog.

Kadala Curry from JaiBee's blog.

Kultha Saar from Raaga's blog.

Huruli saaru from Ramya's blog.

Avarekalu Saaru
from Suma's blog.

Egg Roast
from Seena's blog.

Paneer di Kadhi
from Musical's blog.

Chettinad style chicken curry from Sailu's blog.

Spicy popcorn chicken from Sig's blog.

Sajjige Rotti from Sia's blog.

Paneer Butter Masala from Mansi's blog.

Few books I read and Movies I saw:

I have my usual Spring allergy right now, can't read for a long time at a stretch but managed to read these lovely books and enjoyed them.

Three plays; Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tughlaq by Girish Karnad.

Daughter of Ganges by Asha Miro.

The Ruins by Scott Smith.

Tender at the bone by Ruth Reichl.

Movies I watched:
There will be Blood,
Charlie Wilson's war,
The Other Boleyn girl,
No country for old men,
The forbidden kingdom.(kids!! :D)


A little note to all my dear fellow bloggers/foodies:
I know lot of you including me are getting few nasty comments lately from some unhappy person or persons. Bloggers, please ignore these "anonymous" comments, enjoy blogging and the friendships we have developed thru' blogging. We are lucky to have a wonderful and talented blogger community here. Don't let few nasty comments worry you, scare you to make your blogs private or make you stop from blogging altogether!

None of us foodie bloggers claim to be "perfect" or "Ultimate cooks" or "authority on traditional cooking" but we all just take pleasure in posting/sharing what we have or cook at our homes and express/share our lives and thoughts. Delete these unwanted comments which are juvenile and silly without giving a second thought and do what you do best ie blogging, with a smile and positivity.

A request: Some of you also have this "particular" feeder on your sidebars which exposes our location (where we come from/cities etc) for all to see whenever we visit your blogs, which makes me very concerned! We don't want stalkers in our hometowns or in front of our homes, do we? May be we can get a feed which only we can see privately like site meter etc which allows us to check in privately but do not expose our location publicly. Just a humble suggestion to help us all to guard our privacy for our families' sake, hope you consider it. Hugs to all of you!

See you next week! :)