Today's Guest blogger: Lata Raja of Flavours and Tastes

The guest post section is back in action. Today's guest blogger is none other than Lata Raja of Flavours and Tastes . Lataji as we fondly call her is a very amicable, easy-to-approach person. She has an awesome array of recipes in her blog that includes specialities from various cuisines. Many new bloggers (including me) look upon her as a mentor as she is readily available to guide, give suggestions and appreciate our efforts.. Now without hijacking the post, here we go to see what Lataji has to say...

C & S: Tell us about yourself I am a woman who just loves life as it is. Have been blessed with many things wonderful and I keep counting all those blessings.

C & S: What does Cooking mean to you?Cooking is still a learning process for me. I love to put ideas from all over to work in my day to day cooking. And to share them I write a blog @ Flavours and Tastes.

The blog was primarily to help document recipes for my daughter and her friends (who were taking up campus living with kitchen facilities), to try and cook their meal by themselves. Later the blog became a hobby and has evolved into what it is today.

Cooking was once an everyday chore, later developed to an interest. Now I would only be too happy to cook as many dishes for my family and friends.
Cooking and writing for the blog has taught me to be more attentive to my recipes, given me the confidence to try some dishes I would have not thought possible.

C & S: Your inspiration/role model/favorite cook
I draw inspiration from everyone, elders in the family, friends who are innovative. My fellow bloggers are my main influence. Of course some cookbook authors and television show hosts are serious inspiration.

C & S: Your favorite Cuisine
South Indian cooking is the top of charts, though Indian vegetarian food is my favourite. I would always willingly try any cuisine so long as it is vegetarian.

Traditional Vegetable Biriyani

Biriyani needs no introduction and just the blend of aromatic spices, rice and vegetables is sufficient to bring a healthy appetite about.
This one though is the first of the biriyanis I have ever watched someone cook for us and tasted, long many years ago. For a family who did not eat garlic and spices, even rarely, one of my aunts cooked it with permission from my grandmom. That was the first time, I recall that we had biriyani! The rest of the aunts and my mother soon copied the recipe and were trying it as a special treat for us kids! Thus I have the recipe and wanted to cook it for virtual friends here.

Recipe:Serves four people.
1 ½ cups basmati rice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups cubed vegetables that include shelled peas, potatoes, french beans, carrots and bell peppers
1 medium onion sliced in fine strips
3 tablespoons Ghee
1 bay leaf
Salt as required
For the masala:(to be ground to a very fine paste, adding as little water as possible)6-8 shallots pealed
2 teaspoons grated coconut
1 ½ teaspoon broken and soaked cashew nuts
1 tight fist full chopped coriander leaves
4 cloves garlic
1” piece of ginger
2 green chillis (can add according to required level of heat)
2 pods green cardamom
2 pieces Marathi moggu (optional)
4 cloves
2” piece cinnamon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cooking poppy seeds (optional / or increase the coconut a bit)

Grind the paste. Recover the adhering paste with some water. This water may be added to the raita to flavor the same.

Method:1. Wash the Basmati rice well and soak it in water for about 30 minutes.
2. Drain the water and spread the rice on a cloth to allow it to dry until about moist.
3. Meanwhile, steam the vegetables separately until they are cooked but the crunch is felt.
4. Heat one tablespoon of ghee in a pan. Add the bay leaf and then the sliced onions. Saute until the onions are pink.
5. Add the masala paste. Cook this on a low flame until very aromatic and the ghee separates.
Remove this from the pan.
6. Add some ghee if required and drop the drained rice. Toss the rice in the pan for a few minutes allowing it to roast a bit.
7. Heat the vegetable stock or water in a pan. Add the rice and cook the rice until tender, but separate grains showing.
8. Remove the rice from the pan. In a flat dish, mix gently the rice, the cooked paste and the vegetables well.
9. Heat the rest of the ghee in the pan. Add the above rice mix and cook on a low heat gently turning the biriyani over for a few minutes.
Serve hot with onion raita.

Onion Raita:Slice one medium onion in very fine strips. Chop one green chilli very fine too. Chop fresh coriander leaves.
Combine all of the above and some salt as desired in a bowl of whisked yoghurt. The water which was recovered from the grinding of the masala can be added to this.


Well, I am sure that left all of us slurping and drooling. Thank you Lataji for the wonderful recipe! Till I meet you all again with another interesting post, Happy Cooking and Happy Blogging!

Idli Milagai Podi - The best pal of Idli

South Indian breakfast items are usually a hearty fare and you can go about even skipping the lunch if you had a heavy breakfast. Idlis form a staple diet in breakfast menu and comes with a variety of side dishes. Some like it with sambar, some with coconut chutney. Pudina or mint chutney is capable of sending down unlimited idlis within a wink of an eye while tomato chutney leaves you asking for more.. All said and done, it would be unfair if I leave out the most under-rated yet the most delicious side dish for idli, the 'Milagai Podi' or the gun powder as the local lingo names it.

My dad and grandma can never finish off their idli or dosa without a hint of this powder, irrespective of having sambar, chutney on the plate. I used to be a great fan of this one that I can have it as is..! Brrr....

Now that I have toned down the spice levels during and post pregnancy, mom makes this less-spicy powder to suit my palates. You can always increase the amount of red chillies, or replace the red chilli with pepper for a better taste.

Idli Milagai podi/Gun powder
Spice powder served with rice cakes

What we need:
Urid dal - 1 cup
Gram dal - 1 cup
Roasted Gram dal /Dalia / Pottu kadalai - 2 tbsp.
Red Chilli - 10 to 12 or Pepper corn - 1 tsp.
Asafoetida - 1 tsp.
Curry leaves - 4 sprigs
White Sesame - 1 tbsp.
Salt - as needed
Oil - little, for frying

How to do:
1. Roast all the above ingredients (except salt) separately in a tsp. of oil each.
2. After the ingredients cool down, grind to a coarse powder. You can also make it a fine powder if you like it that way.
3. Combine salt as needed and mix thoroughly.
4. Store in an air tight container.

When serving with idli, mix generous amount of sesame oil or ghee and serve.

Till I come back with another toungue tickling recipe, Happy Cooking and Happy Blogging!

Back to blogging with a Desi Delight!

Hey people, I am back!!! (read as in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines") I know many of you checked in to find out if I was doing good. Thank you so much for your concern. I am very much alive and doing good. As my friend had said, I was down with a sweet sickness that bore fruit at the end of 9 months..Oh wait, it was 8 months plus 3 days!!

Yes, we recently welcomed a little cub into our pack! And that was the reason for my 'a year-long hibernation'. Our sonny dear arrived on a chilly November day and from then on, life has a taken a steep turn that is totally perpendicular to what it used to be! Suddenly sleepless nights are no more irritating, watching TV in mute and deciphering the dialogues is fun, and of all, waking up everyday to witness a sweet innocent toothless smile is HEAVEN!!

Well, I can go on and on bragging about my son and my new-found-status as a mom, but that's not what we are all here for, right? OK here's the recipe of the day, HOT and SOUR IDLI... yes our own south Indian breakfast with a twist.

This recipe, I saw a couple of years ago on a cookery show and it turned out to be fabulous. But I had completely forgotten about it. Recently when mom and I was talking about all the different dishes we used to make, this one promptly flashed on my mind and here I am blogging about it.

Hot and Sour Idli
Steamed rice cakes deep fried and topped with tomato based sauce

What we need:
Idli - 4 to 5 preferably left-over cold ones
Capsicum - 2, sliced
Tomato - 2 medium sized, chopped
Onion - 1 medium sized, thinly sliced
Garlic pods - 2 to 3, finely chopped
Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp.
Salt - as needed
Oil - to deep fry
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp. Optional

How to do:
1. Cube the idlis into bite sized pieces. Deep fry the pieces to golden brown.
2. Blanch and puree the tomatoes.
3. In a kadai, heat oil. Add onion, garlic pods and salt.
4. Fry till the onion turns pink and soft. Now add the sliced capsicums and fry till they get cooked.
5. While the capsicum is still crunchy, add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup, red chilli powder and if needed, a bit of water to bring to the gravy consistency.
6. Bring it a boil and swtich off.
7. When ready to serve, arrange the idli pieces in the serving bowl and pour the gravy over them
Serve immediately.

As I sign off with a hope that I would be able to resume blogging, I also hope that I would be able to catch up with all your posts I missed for so many months! Till then, Happy Cooking and Happy Blogging!!