Monday, July 29, 2013

Smoked Meat In Dal/A Rustic Dimasa Dish

Lentils with smoked pork and garnished with ginger leaves
Recently, I had smoked some pork over a wood-fire in our backyard. Smoked meat enhances the taste and flavour of any dish that it's added to. It's been a while since I had lentils with smoked meat and that was on my list. This kind of cooking is usually preferred in the winter months when the temperature turns so much cooler and it's a joy to work with fire and smoke to create these timeless dishes.

During my childhood, our kitchen had a lingering smell of smoke, a wood-fire that glowed with welcome and a bamboo shelf above the hearth that stocked and cured meat and fish. Known as "gari", it was a common sight in Dimasa homes. Writing my post today reminds me of the kitchen where this taste (in my life) originated. Dal gosht is common in other parts of our country but we prefer smoked varieties of fish or meat in dal. We also like to add a whole lot of vegetables but usually one variety at a time.
Ingredients used in this dish
100 grams Masur dal
About 10-15 pieces of smoked pork 
3 onions, grated
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tiny piece of ginger, coarsely grated
8-10 chillies, chopped fine
Chopped tomatoes (optional)
A quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A tablespoon of oil
4-5 ginger leaves for the garnish
Hot water

Wash the dal and keep aside as you prepare the rest of the spices.Heat the cooker and pour the oil in it. As soon as it turns hot add the fatty portions of meat along with the grated onions. Cook till the onions change colour then add the rest of the meat and the ground spices.

Keep stirring, add the turmeric and the salt. If you're adding tomatoes, they can go in now. The meat need not be fried for long. Add the drained dal and stir well. Let it cook for five minutes or so before you add the hot water. It shouldn't be too watery. Cover with the lid of the cooker and cook till one whistle.Take off the lid when the steam goes off. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with bruised and roughly torn fresh ginger leaves.

A rustic dish but delicious!
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pork & Pumpkin Curry

Elephant apples, serrated coriander, radishes, beans, okra, gourd, squash (chayote), cucumber, pumpkin, and chillies
Looking at these vegetables bought at a market from the outskirts of town, my mind is already teeming with combos about menus. The gourd with fish, tender elephant apples in dal or fried with pork, cucumber raita...the list goes on...
I finally settle for this green pumpkin, chop up half of it leaving the skin on and combine it into the pork dish.
Pork and pumpkin cooked with a mix of spices
Our lunch is rice with urud dal/shbai-ha khari, pork with pumpkin and boiled rice.

Both the dishes have all the zing that can make your meal enjoyable!
Recipe for pork and pumpkin curry. There is no extra oil used in this recipe.

500 grams pork
700 grams pumpkin, chopped into bite-size pieces
4 large onions, grated
10-12 cloves of garlic, roughly pounded
1" piece of ginger, coarsely ground
8-10 hot green chillies, chopped
A tablespoon of coriander seeds, roasted and ground
A teaspoon of coarsely grated pepper
1 turmeric leaf, chopped
A quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder
2 large tomatoes, quartered
Salt to taste
Serrated coriander, chopped (for the garnish)

  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and when it becomes really hot, throw in a few fatty portions of pork. Very soon the oil will separate.
  • Add the onions and fry till they turn translucent.
  • Add the rest of the meat and the rest of the ingredients except the coriander and the tomatoes. Continue cooking till the oil separates.
  • When the meat is half done, add the chopped pumpkin pieces. Keep cooking stirring not too often. Also add the tomatoes.
  • At this point you can add about a cup of water.The dish should have very little gravy.
  • When the curry becomes a homogeneous mix, remove from the fire. Garnish with finely chopped serrated coriander. 
This tastes best with steaming hot rice. 


A Simple Mango Dessert

Sweet fruits with cream make the easiest desserts. Not only are they delicious but they are not loaded with extra sugar. In fact I did not use any sugar in these glasses. And it's also about enjoying mangoes for maybe the last time this year...before next year's summer comes laden with the fruit as well as interesting recipes.

To make these, you'll need:

Ripe but firm mangoes
Cream (  I used Amul Fresh Cream)
Passion Fruit
Any other sweet fruit in season (optional)

Peel and cut the mango into bite-size pieces. Put the pieces into individual glasses depending on the quantity you need. Whip the cream and pour over the mango pieces. Cut the passion fruit and pour the orange/yellow liquid right on top. Chill for an hour and serve.

I have not used the quantities in my recipe since it's not about cooked products. It's all about individual preferences. And options about adding more or less will always with all you wonderful cooks out there.:)

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Guava Muffins With A Crumble Topping

Ten sweet guavas were used to get half a cup of sauce that went into these muffins.
Now that the mango season is about to bid goodbye, it's the turn of the guavas. My mornings now start with picking ripe or nearly ripe guavas. Today I made guava muffins that made the kitchen and the house smell like an orchard. Not in an overpowering way but there were hints of a mango/banana kind of smell. My neighbour who was busy weeding her garden told me that the aroma wafting towards her was heavenly!!
Sunset Bells are a feature of a tropical summer garden. Just like guavas!
We mostly have the fruits raw. We aren't fond of jam (anything that has a high sugar content) and the fact that guavas are high on Vitamin C and A make them even more welcome. These are small but sweet.
So many seeds! The mixture was sieved and added to caramelized sugar.
The guavas were boiled till they softened. Then I mashed them up a bit and passed the pulp through a sieve. Since these guavas are pale in colour I caramelized about three teaspoons of sugar and added the sieved paste. That explains why the "sauce' looks brown.
Just before going into a 175 degree oven for thirty minutes
I used my regular measurements that I have used in my past muffin posts. The difference was that I used guava paste as well as the crumble mix for the topping. Ripe guavas can be very strong-smelling but using guava in cakes and muffins gives a wonderfully subtle flavour. And going by what my neighbour commented, you can well imagine how the aroma was. I should have used more crumble mix for the topping. Maybe, next time....
Guava muffins with crumble topping.
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bendakaya gojju/South Indian okra dish

Okra is often consumed in our home and is cooked in a variety of ways. Today I made this South Indian style dish to be eaten with rice and other accompaniments. My youngest sister and her family lived in Chennai for several years before shifting base to our city. This is an okra dish that I fell for after having it in her house. With a blend of flavours from coconut, tamarind, jaggery, sambar powder, asafoetida/hing, curry leaves, and mustard seeds, this dish is delightful! 

About 200 grams okra
Half a coconut, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Half a teaspoon jaggery
A bit of tamarind extract (one can always taste and add more or less) 
About 2 teaspoons sambar powder
Salt to taste
Some chopped coriander leaves
Half a teaspoon mustard seeds
9-10 curry leaves
A pinch of hing


  1. Heat oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion till golden brown. Let it cool.
  2. Combine coconut, jaggery, the fried onion,tamarind, coriander, and sambar powder and grind in a blender.
  3. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard, curry leaves, and the hing. Then add the ground paste.
  4. Cook for a while and then add the okra and the salt as well.
  5. Keep cooking till the okra is done.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lemon Cake With Lemon Dressing

On our recent trip we got fresh lemons from a wayside vendor at Dihangi.  It's a village that we cross when we go to Haflong, my hometown. Many of the sellers are subsistence farmers and by way of produce, it's never in large quantities. Multi-coloured corn, hot chillies, herbs, pineapples, bamboo shoots, papayas, amaranth leaves, mushrooms are the usual produce sold during this season. But the fruits and the vegetables are grown without the use of fertilisers and they taste so good.

When I saw these lemons, Donna Hay's recipe of a lemon cake came to mind. particularly because my older son is fond of cakes with citrusy flavours. Only one lemon was used in this recipe but it was enough for the cake as well as the dressing.

For the cake
100 grams butter at room temperature
100 grams caster sugar
140 grams plain flour (sieved with a level tsp of baking powder)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
Grated rind of one whole lemon
Juice of half a lemon (some people might like to add all depends on personal taste)

For the dressing: 
The juice from the other half of the lemon was squeezed out and was mixed with about four level tablespoons of sugar. The dressing was poured when the cake was still warm.

Grease a ring mould and dust it with flour. Keep aside. Preheat the oven. Cream butter and sugar. Break the eggs one by one and beat into the mixture. Add the vanilla essence and the juice and rind of the lemon. Fold in the sieved flour making sure that no lumps remain. Pour the batter into the mould, give it a good tap on the worktop to remove any air bubbles and bake in a 180* oven for about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the dressing all along the circumference of the cake with the help of a spoon making sure that some of the sugary-lemony mix falls on the sides. The cake tastes best at room temperature. The balance of tang and sweetness made it most delicious!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Savoury Corn Muffins

I was away for a few days and couldn't post. I'd gone to my hometown and on the way back we bought multi-coloured corn from small growers. Known as Manglai maiju in our language this variety of corn gets its name from the sticky rice that we are so fond of. The smell is the same as that of the sticky rice(maiju). We usually boil them without removing the husk. I also like to add them to pulao choosing the darkest of the purple beads:) and also to vegetable dishes like saag bhaji/fried leafy greens.

But this time I added them to savoury muffins made with flour and polenta. Although polenta is generally added along with the flour in most recipes, I like to cook it in milk or chicken stock before adding it to the muffin mixture. Makes the muffins softer.


1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup polenta
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 quarter teaspoon salt
2 deseeded green chillies, finely chopped OR
1 quarter teaspoon coarsely grated black pepper
1 medium onion finely diced
2 eggs
One & a half level teaspoons baking powder (sieved with the flour)
1 cup of boiled corn
100 ml milk


  1. Grease a muffin tray and preheat the oven. 
  2. Mix the sieved flour and polenta together. if you don't like that extra crunch you can cook the polenta in about two cups of milk or chicken stock till it becomes a thick mixture.
  3. Beat the eggs, add the milk and the oil.
  4. Then add all the dry ingredients along with the boiled corn. Divide the mixture in the baking spaces on the muffin tray.
  5. Bake in a 190 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Check with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven.
These are best eaten warm. We enjoy having them for breakfast as well as our afternoon tea time!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Miya Mikhri (Fermented Bamboo Shoots) with Pumpkin and Sponge Gourd

Bamboo shoot curry/Miya mikhri cooked in chicken stock with pumpkin and ridge gourd
The other day I was watching my favourite food show on Fox Traveller. It happened to be the one on Lao cuisine. There were quite a few ingredients similar to ours, particularly the herbs, the bamboo shoots, and the sticky rice. So today I made a dish using a combination that is not always used in our cuisine. The idea of the veggies came from this recipe-- Bamboo and yanang soup.
Most of the ingredients used in the dish
During this season, bamboo shoots are widely available and widely consumed. One popular dish we have is khari. This is thickened with rice flour and garnished with a herb called bahanda from the basil family.
Bahanda/Ocimum basilicum (photographed in my sister's garden in Guwahati)
Apart from bamboo shoots, the other vegetables that went in are pumpkin, and sponge gourd or angled gourd. We always use a thickening agent for bamboo shoot khari but not for vegetables like pumpkin, ash gourd, eggplants, papaya and other veggies that thicken when cooked. But the Lao dish had pumpkin as well as a thickener in the form a paste made of soaked sticky rice. I found that very interesting and recreated the dish in our Dimasa way.
The bamboo shoots were soaked overnight. This is a popular fermentation process. The shoots are soaked for a day or three days depending on how strong/sour you like it. This is again an acquired taste but soaking it overnight is fine with me. The recipe is given below.


Freshly sliced bamboo shoots soaked overnight, about 400 grams
6-7 hot green chillies
4-5 fermented fish
500 ml chicken stock
2-3 cups of water
A small bowl of cubed pumpkin pieces
2 medium sponge gourd with the skin scraped off and cut into chunks
A bowl of leafy greens, optional (I used a bowl of pumpkin shoots)
About 3 tbsps of sticky rice soaked and ground to a paste
Alkali (about 3 tbsps) or soda bicarbonate (a quarter teaspoon)
Bahanda for the garnish
Salt to taste


  • Heat some water in a pan. When it comes to boiling point add the soaked shoots and boil for about ten minutes. Remove and drain.
  • In the same pan, heat 2 to 3 cups of water. Add the shoots. Score the chillies lengthwise and add to the pan. The chicken stock can go in now. Water can always be checked at a later stage. With thickeners, you usually need to add more water.
  • Add the remaining vegetables and let it cook for a few minutes before you add the alkali or soda bicarb (if using). You can also add the salt now.
  • By now the khari will begin to come together (and look good as well).
  • Add the fermented fish and lightly stir the dish. Stirring isn't an important feature in making khari.
  • When all the vegetables are cooked, add a little water to the rice paste and mix it into the dish. Once that is done, it needs to be removed from the heat.
  • Garnish the dish with sprigs and leaves of bahanda lightly bruised with your fingers so that the refreshing scent becomes stronger.

Fermented bamboo shoots are generally made with rice flour or teamed with vegetables such as the snake gourd and eggplants in our cuisine. I changed the combination after seeing that particular program. And I'm glad I tried it. It was delicious!

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