Rajasthani Mini Thali

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Rajasthan, the desert land, is a beautiful state with a colourful history behind it. It is the land of ‘Rajas(kings)’ (Raja-sthan) and there are many palaces and fortresses there, reflecting the state’s rich royal heritage.

Travelling to Rajasthan was a dream and we did travel to Jaipur and Jaisalmer 8 years back. It’s still an experience I relive and relish, especially the Jaisalmer fort. If possible, I would love to go there again…and again….and again

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Not just the palaces, Rajasthani food is also famous. Their cooking style is a bit different. They bank on pulses and dried vegetables more than fresh veggies, since the desert is no ideal place to grow vegetables. It’s all different with advanced irrigation techniques and easy transportation now a days.

Yet you will find extensive use of pulses in Rajasthani cooking.

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We had been to Choki Dhani,  a Rajasthani village resort which showcases food and art culture from Rajasthan. We went as a group and so had fun. The place was over crowded and the waiting time for each and everything was long, but since we were a big group, the waiting time was yacking time and hence a happy time as well :-).

My son enjoyed the trip a lot (‘a lot’ is really less to describe his happiness) and surprisingly, loved the food also a lot.

He finished almost everything on his plate, without much fuss. He was hungry and the food was tasty.

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The menu I have here is a bit on the lines of what we had in Choki dhani. They served us phulka, puri and bajra roti…all of which my son loved. I have replaced the puri with missi roti.

They started off with churma and brought the dal and baati. Then came the kadi and gatte ki sabzi. I skipped the last one, it deserves a separate post on its own :-). There was palak paneer and an aloo ki sabzi to go with the rotis. Some 3-4 varieties of pickles and chutneys were served.

Kichidi came later and it was served with sugar. Keeping the Chennai crowd in mind, they have included rasam, sambar rice and curd rice in the menu as well.

So here I have 3 bread varieties, an aloo curry and a mixed veg curry to go with it. Kichuri, dal and kadhi with 2 types of pickle/chutney as well.

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The Menu:

  • Khichuri/Kichidi : Rice and moong dal cooked together with a pinch of turmeric powder and salt. Vegetables can also be added to make it healthier.
  • Bajre ki roti  : A whole grain roti made of millet flour. It’s usually made as a single thick roti, saving cooking time. The dough is crumbly because of the absence of gluten, so thick roti is the way to go.
  • Missi roti : Roti made with chick pea flour (besan). Has many versions and this is one of them.
  • Phulka : Thin whole wheat roti  which is cooked in the flame directly for puffing up. No oil is used.
  • Sabz Jaipuri : A mixed vegetable preparation from the city of Jaipur.
  • Atte ki kadhi : A yogurt based preparation which uses whole wheat as the thickening agent instead of the usual chickpea flour (besan)
  • Aloo ki sabzi : A simple potato preparation that goes all around India.
  • Dal : My friend’s preparation :-). Here is a the recipe for Pancharatna dal, which is very popular in Rajasthan as well.
  • Malai Mirch : Chopped green chillies, fried in ghee and then cooked with cream. YUM!
  • Lehsun Chutney : Garlic chutney, pairs well with the breads
  • Pyaz, Nimbu, Mirch : Raw onions, lemon wedges and green chillies. The green chillies can be fried in ghee/oil.

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Punjabi Thali – Palak Paneer, Dal Tadka, Chole, Aloo Paratha, Jeera rice

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What are the dishes that come to your mind when you think about an Indian thali?

Paneer butter masala? Palak Paneer? Paneer Tikka masala? Dal Makni? Rajma? Chole? Parathas? Naan? Dal fry?

Well, almost all of these are from the state of Punjab. Punjabi food has become synonymous with Indian food.

And with a good reason. It’s absolutely fantastically tasty!

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The flip side is that it’s rich. A lot of fat in the form of butter or ghee go into these dishes and it cannot be had on an everyday basis.

On an everyday basis, it can be roti or low fat parathas with simple side dishes.

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This mini thali here is a balance of rich food and the simple ones. The parathas have been treated with ghee, but there isn’t much that’s gone into the side dishes. The dal is simple and plain and so is the chole. The salad provides a refreshing experience, so does the onion with lemon wedges. I have never tried eating the chillies (fried or not), so can’t comment on that!

Palak paneer is also not too rich, yet maintaining that oomph factor. You can dress it up a bit more by adding some cream.

Jeera rice is a good side for this meal. It’s mildly flavoured, so it can be enjoyed with curries without having a clash of flavours.

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The Menu:

  • Palak Paneer: Puréed spinach with cottage cheese curry
  • Dal Tadka  : A simple and easy moong dal preparation
  • Chole: Chickpea cooked in a tomato based sauce. Pairs well with the Indian breads.
  • Aloo paratha : Potato and onion stuffed whole wheat Indian bread.
  • Jeera rice : Rice with a simple tadka of cumin seeds and some spices.
  • Raita : Chopped onions and green chillies in yogurt. Decorated with a pinch of chilli powder
  • Onions, chillies, lemon wedges : on the side

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Pondicherry Simple Lunch

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I remember the only time we have visited Pondicherry. My son had turned just one and my brother and SIL were visiting us for a weekend. We took our one year old car (which had done only 1600 kms) for a drive to Mahabalipuram.

On the way, my brother suggested that we can travel another 30 kms and go to Pondicherry and stay there overnight. Everyone jumped in the wagon, except me, of course! I like things to be planned and to decide a weekend getaway while travelling in a car is just unthinkable. So I started blabbering things like, “I haven’t closed the windows”, “The clothes in the yard for drying” and more stuff.

But the look from others was enough to add-on,”Yeah, all that’s fine. Let’s go to Pondicherry!”

So, the windows were open for a night and the clothes were left out to dry, but boy! what a stay we had in Pondicherry!!

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The guest house we stayed (they gave us the dorm that could accommodate 15 people) charged only 300/- or 400/- INR. The food was simple and good. And that weekend was just great.

We looked around the place and totally loved it. Pondicherry is a small place, but it leaves a lasting pleasant impression on your mind. You have good pedestrian paths on both sides of the road. You can walk as much as you want.

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I was shopping with my SIL and for a moment, I turned to look somewhere else. I turned back, expecting to see my SIL there, she wasn’t. She was down…She had fainted, just like that!!

She was as shocked as the rest of us were. She was fine, may be hunger and the harsh sun collapsed her. It’s something I still remember about Pondicherry.

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Another thing was, my one year old would point at our car, if we pass it. We checked it multiple times, passing our car without getting in. But every single time, he would kind of point at our car correctly. Once it was parked right next to a similar colour similar model car, yet he pointed at ours correctly.

And if the kid could talk – he would have asked,”But that’s our car.Where are you going?”

At an age where in he didn’t know the numbers or may be even colours, I have no idea how he did it, but he did it all the time. He used to recognize the man’s bike as well. God knows, how though!!

Anyway, coming to the Pondicherry food, I browsed Priya’s blog for recipes. She is from Pondicherry and this is the kind of food she was brought upon. This may not be the signature dishes of Pondicherry, but their everyday food is kind of similar to this.

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The Menu:

  • Kadala Kuzhambu  : Chickpeas in a tangy and coconut based gravy.
  • Thenga Manga Pattani Sundal : An all time favourite beach snack. Cooked dry peas with coconut and chopped raw mangoes
  • Peas and Carrot Saute : According to the book, The Pondicherry Kitchen, this is an adapted version of French sauté.
  • Yogurt
  • Plain rice

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Oriya Mini Thali

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Orissa, or Odisha as its known now, is a state in the Eastern part of India. For me, Odisha is Orissa. And Orissa, to me,  will always mean the magnificent Konark Sun temple and the beautiful Puri Jagannath temple.

The Puri temple pulls tens of thousands of worshippers everyday and the kitchens here work to feed them. The simple prasadam and the meal there, apparently tastes divine.

The wiki says that :The kitchen of the famous Jagannath Temple, Puri in Puri is reputed to be the largest in the world, with a thousand chefs, working around 752 wood-burning clay hearths called chulas, to feed over 10,000 people each day.

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I had always associated Rasgolla with Bengal and it was a surprise that it originated in Orissa. And so did the rice kheer (payasam). I never knew that.

There is a good balance of vegetarian and non vegetarian food in the state.

Here in this post, I have put together a thali, inspired from The Turmeric Kitchen.  I skipped the kheer and added a beans and potato stir fry.

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Tomato khatta was the most common recipe I could find in all the Oriya thalis I came across. The common version is sweet based, which uses tomatoes and dates.

I looked around for a spicy version of the dish and finally found one. Scroll down for the recipe link.

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Dahi baingan is also a bit tangy, because of the yogurt. This was a simple dish to prepare and it tasted good as well. The best of the lot was the chana dal prepared with potatoes.

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Thali Idea from The Turmeric Kitchen

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Nagaland : Aloo Gobi dal and Naga Chutney

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In India, there are only very few states that speak hindi alone. People from Bihar speak Bihari, Maharasthra speak Marathi, UP has urdu as well, Haryana – Punjab has Punjabi and the South too has its own languages.

Yet, with Hindi you can manage almost anywhere in India.

Like that, when it comes to food – with the all purpose recipe for dal, you can manage almost anywhere in India. Even in the North East states.

I was quite surprised when I saw this Potato, peas & cauliflower based dal as part of a Nagaland platter online. The rest of the items were totally non-veg, yet this phool-gobi and aloo dal left an impression in my mind.

So, dal is not uncommon, even in North East.

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Somehow landed on a tomato chutney recipe from Nagaland. And looking at the simplicity of the recipe (it’s just roughly crushing everything with your hands and then boiling), it looked authentic.

Authentic is a heavy word to use here. What people of an area cook and eat on a day-to-day basis may not be original, authentic recipes of the state. Yet it doesn’t mean that everyday recipes are not part of that state.

The spread I have here is chosen out of the few vegetarian on-line options I had for this state. And as far as authenticity is concerned, I have no idea. I can tell you for sure that in Nagaland, this will not be a meal on its own. It would be paired with at least a couple of meat based dishes!

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This is a good read about Nagaland food and another one about their market. Please keep in mind that the Nagaland food is mainly non-vegetarian and the posts have a lot of it.

The Menu:

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Mizoram – Vegetable Bai

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The other day I had lunch at my friend’s place. It was a fabulous lunch with the Kerala Matta rice (red rice) and coconut oil based curries and sambar. It was a feast for me.

And it would have been a punishment for my husband, had he been there.

Reason? He doesn’t like red rice, says it’s too thick for him. And he hates coconut oil in everything. Funny….he doesn’t like it for the same reasons that I love it!

The point is….food is an acquired taste.

We are fine with what we are used to all our lives. And we find it surprising if someone else doesn’t find it tasty.

Same way, I couldn’t enjoy this dish much as it was a totally new taste for me. But for the people of Mizoram, this is one tasty dish – Bai, a stew kind of dish made with green leaves and assorted veggies.

Recipe: Boil about half a litre water. Add salt and half a tsp of cooking soda. Once the bubbles subside, add stalks, leaves and a few florets of a small cauliflower. Add chopped beans, 2-3 green chillies, one tablespoon rice and one diced potato. Cook in a low heat, adding more water as required, until the rice is done and potatoes and beans are cooked.

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Meghalaya

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They say that sometimes the simplest things are hard to come by. The North Eastern part of India, where the cuisine is simple and close to nature, gave me days and nights of tension as I was not able to find any recipes.

The area is predominantly non-vegetarian, so that makes it all the more difficult. I wouldn’t say these are authentic Meghalaya recipes, but these are the best I could find from the limited sources in the internet.

With people crossing borders for jobs and livelihood, now the cuisine is changing everywhere. The dal-chawal combination is quite common in all the NE states now.

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To help me out, Mireille had sent across a recipe for Dal (called Daineiiong) from Meghalaya. I again had to simplify it since I didn’t have sesame seeds with me. Anyway, the plain dal prepared with mustard oil was quite nice and paired really well with the tomato chutney.

I have never roasted a tomato before! I couldn’t make out too much of a taste difference, but yet this very simple recipe tasted good and was great with the dal. The spinach is just boiled with salt, again – light on stomach and tasty.

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The Menu:

  • Simple Masoor Dal : Pressure cook 1 cup masoor dal (red lentils) until done. In a pan, heat 1 tsp mustard oil, add 1 teaspoon crushed ginger and garlic and saute. Add the cooked dal, salt and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes, mashing with a ladle. *You are supposed to roast and grind 1 tbsp sesame seeds and then grind them with water. This paste should be sauteed for a minute after ginger garlic paste is added. I was out of sesame seeds and couldn’t do this. Recipe source: Mireille
  • Spinach: I adapted this recipe from one for fish. It involves boiling of the leaves with a bit of water, salt and green chillies. I have substituted potatoes for the fish. Wash the green and dice the potatoes. Put in a pan with a bit of salt and 2-3 green chillies. Cover and cook until the potatoes are done.
  • Roasted Tomato chutney: Again adapted from a non-vegetarian recipe. Roast two tomatoes, remove the black skin and keep aside. Pulse (not puree like mine!) this along with 1-2 green chillies, 4-5 garlic cloves, 1 tsp coriander leaves and enough salt. Add 1/2 tsp mustard oil and serve.

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Manipuri Lunch

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Recipes from North Eastern states of India were the toughest to find in this alphabetical journey of Indian states. One reason is the there aren’t many on-line sources. Second is because the cuisine is mostly non vegetarian. The third thing is that the vegetables/greens used for cooking in NE are mostly local and not available in the rest of India.

Assam and Manipur recipes were comparatively easier to find. But for Manipur, I checked with my neighbour for a doable lunch menu. Again, what you see here is what was available in my pantry that day.

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She suggested a dal kind of gravy- called Uti/Ootti. It can be made with dry yellow peas or with green peas. Most on-line resources show recipes for the dry peas. I too had some with me, which I thought would use up this way.

In South, people usually eat rice with veggies on the side. It’s called palya in Karnataka, thoran in Kerala, porial in Tamil Nadu. So if the veggie used is cabbage, it’s cabbage palya/porial/thoran. If it’s beans, then its beans palya/porial/thoran. The Manipuri side dishes are called Kangho. The one here is potatoes and green peas combination.

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The aloo kangmet was quite easy to prepare. Fry red chillies, fry onions and mash it all with cooked potatoes. You are done! It’s slightly spicy, so you need to adjust the chillies accordingly.

Chamfoot is boiled vegetables. It’s like a simple salad. My neighbour told me that sugar can be added if you find the taste too bland.

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The menu:

  • Aloo Kangmet    :   Boiled potatoes mashed with fried red chillies and fried onions.
  • Uti (Ootti) : Pressure cook 1 cup dry yellow peas or fresh green peas with sufficient water along with a spoon of oil, 1 or 2 green chillies and a tablespoon of rice. Once its cooked and the pressure is released, boil the cooked mix for a couple of minutes. Add 1/2 tsp cooking soda and boil again, mashing it well. Add salt, taste test and adjust accordingly. Keep aside. For the tadka, saute chopped onions, couple of garlic cloves, 1-2 red chillies. Add a pinch of jeera powder and coriander powder. Add this tadka to the cooked Uti.
  • Aloo and Peas Kanghou : Kanghou is the regular side dish. It takes the name of the vegetable used to make it. Like our Kerala thoran or Tamil Nadu porial. If it’s carrot, then it’s carrot thoran or porial. Here it’s potatoes and green peas, because that was all left in my pantry that day!! I have used chilli powder and coriander powder as well in this preparation.
  • Chamfoot : Simple boiled vegetable salad. A combination of carrots, beans, bottle gourd, cucumber is used here. A spoon of sugar can be added, for taste (I didn’t).
  • Rice

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Maharashtra Puri Bhaji Thali

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This was one of the earliest posts I did. The state of Maharashtra. This was one of the easiest one as well, since I blindly followed Pradnya’s post, combining it with her rural Maharashtra thali and changing a thing or two here and there.

In India, you are not a mom, if you can’t make pooris. And in my case, it’s not as a mom I have been failing, but as a wife. My son doesn’t like poori, but it’s the man’s favourite food.

And with this thali, the pooris came out brilliant for a change. So the man was indeed happy!

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Pradnya had made a sweetish dal with the thali. I went for a different version, a simple non sweet basic dal.

Varan-bhath (rice with dal) is a meal combination all over India and this is just one version.

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Masale bhath is a spicy flavoured rice. Coconuts, cashew nuts, gherkins all go into this dish. This, apparently, is a regular item in the wedding feast menu.

I found these two write ups about food from Maharashtra quite interesting, A Cook at heart and Food For Thought.

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Meal Idea : The Pumpkin Farm

Read some sweet write ups about food @ A Cook at heart and Food For Thought

  • Puri                 :  Deep fried whole wheat bread
  • Batata Bhaji :  A simple potato preparation, semi-gravy style that goes along with poori or roti
  • Shrikhand    :  Sweetened thick yogurt preparation
  • Varan Bhat  : Plain rice and dal (lentil) combination
  • Masale Bhat : Spiced rice with ivy gourd and nuts, a regular wedding menu item
  • Capsicum Zunka : Capsicum cooked with gramflour, quick and easy recipe
  • Mattha           :  Spiced butter milk

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Madhya Pradesh: Poha-Jalebi and Bhutte Ke Khees

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I tried getting a lunch menu for Madhya pradesh, but wasn’t successful. I didn’t know anyone personally from there and I was not confident about the menu I created.

But browsing for recipes from the region, I realized that there was a totally new dish for me to try : Bhutte ke khees, corn grated and then cooked in milk until its dry. It was a recipe I wanted to try. Apparently it’s famous in Indore, a happening city in the state.

So to go along with it, I decided to feature another interesting combination that I haven’t heard before – Poha and hot-hot jalebis!

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Poha and Jalebi together is a new combination for me and this apparently is a popular street food there. Through this journey of the Indian states, I am learning so many new recipes and new combination of food.

Poha is rice flakes and this is a very simple dish to prepare. It can be modified to include as many vegetables as you want. In my place, this is an occasional breakfast or an evening tiffin/snack to have when you are back from school.

There is a tamarind version and a curd version as well, and I like the first the best. This is a simple version with lemon and potatoes.

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I never thought I would make jalebis at home one day. And the surprising fact was that it wasn’t all that complicated. If you can make sugar syrup and you know how to deep fry, then it’s a breeze.

Now, for me, I am still struggling with both. Yet I was able to get decent results.

The traditional recipe for jalebi requires overnight fermentation. But there is an instant recipe, which uses yeast for rising. I used this recipe. And one main thing to notice is that when they say instant, they MEAN instant. Ie, this recipe is not great for refrigerating and using the batter later (def not in Chennai). And even if you leave it outside for more than 2 hours, the batter rises a lot. So it might spread out more. There will be more holes in the jalebi as well. And more holes means it will soak up the sugar syrup a lot.

So prepare the batter in smaller quantities if you are not planning to make it right away.

 

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Bhutte ke khees is a good exercise recipe for your arms. You have to keep on stirring for about 20 minutes plus. I made only with one corn, but I don’t think that mattered. It took all the time in the world before it was ready.

The good thing was that it was worth it. It’s not a recipe I might try again as it was time consuming, but it’s definitely worth trying once at least.

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The Menu:

  • Poha : A breakfast preparation made of rice flakes. It is paired with hot-hot jalebis.
  • Instant Jalebi : A sweet preparation, that is deep fried first and then dipped in sugar syrup. This is an instant version using yeast. The traditional method uses yogurt for overnight fermentation. Check out this video from Tarla Dalal before attempting this recipe.
  • Bhutte Ke Khees

 

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