Pressure Cooker Tendli Masale Bhaat| One Pot Maharashtrian Spiced Ivy Gourd Rice

Have you been acquainted with Tendli Masale Bhaat yet? If not, you definitely must, and soon! This super flavourful dish deserves to be tried out and loved.

What is Tendli Masale Bhaat?

It refers to a rice dish from the state of Maharashtra, prepared using the very nutritious ivy gourd or coccinea (‘tendli‘ or ‘tondli‘ in Marathi, ‘kundru‘ in Hindi and ‘kovakkai‘ in Tamil). It is usually a little spicy, with just a hint of sweet and tangy tastes. There is a version of Masale Bhaat made without ivy gourd too, but the one using it is hugely popular across Maharashtra.

The ‘masale’ in the name of the dish comes from the use of goda masala – a traditional Maharashtrian spice blend made using coconut, stone flower (patthar ke phool or dagad phool), dry red chillies, cinnamon, bay leaves and sesame seeds, among other ingredients. Goda masala is an absolute must in Tendli Masale Bhaat, and it is what gives the dish a unique aroma and flavour.

Tendli Masale Bhaat is an absolute delight to eat, rustic and hearty and delicious, just perfect for a winter’s day. I do have several fond memories of sitting with my family around the dining table, on chilly winter evenings in Ahmedabad, eating it, this dish that happened to be my grandma’s signature. It can be served with plain curd or with a raita of your choice. I usually do plain curd, but recently served it with a sweetish Boondi Raita, and the combination was a huge hit!

About my One Pot Tendli Masale Bhaat

I was introduced to the wonders of Tendli Masale Bhaat by my grandmother, who spent a large part of her life in a Maharashtrian colony. Her cooking had a definite Marathi touch to it, thanks to her neighbours, friends and acquaintances from the colony. Grandma, though, would make the dish in a pan, with oodles of oil and chillies. Over the years, I adapted her recipe to use less oil, a pressure cooker and limited spiciness – the way my family likes it.

Grandma would get her stash of goda masala home-made by her friends, which explains why I have never seen her making it. I used to buy goda masala whenever I spotted it in the departmental stores, which is still somewhat a rare occurrence in Bangalore. Lately, though, I have started substituting the goda masala I use in various Maharashtrian dishes with kala masala from Wandering Foodie. I absolutely love the masala, made the traditional way, without any artificial colouring or flavouring agents or preservatives. This brand of kala masala is available online, and it gives my Tendli Masale Bhaat the same gorgeous fragrance and flavour I remember from my grandma’s times.

Are goda masala and kala masala the same?

No, they aren’t. Several online recipes suggest that they are the one and the same or that one can be substituted for the other – just the way I did here – but the two spice blends are different. There are subtle differences between the two, although they might look and smell similar.

I’m not sure of the nuances, having never prepared either goda masala or kala masala. I have, however, used both extensively. There are a few differences in the ingredients used in both masalas, and the degree to which they are roasted in both cases is also different. Goda masala is brown in colour, lighter in shade than the blackish kala masala – this is because of the greater time for which ingredients are roasted in case of the latter. I believe both these masalas have traditionally been used in different regions of Maharashtra too.

However, goda masala and kala masala do have a rather similar flavour profile. I have used one in place of the other – in dishes like misal, amti and Tendli Masale Bhaat – without any noticeable change in taste. It is, according to me, anyday better than using garam masala in a quintessentially Maharashtrian dish, as some recipes suggest. Garam masala has an entirely different flavour, and I don’t think it can replace goda masala or kala masala in a dish.

Tendli Masale Bhaat for #GourdsAreBeautiful

Today, I’m going to share the way I make Tendli Masale Bhaat in a pressure cooker for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the blog hop this week is #GourdsAreBeautiful, and we are showcasing dishes made using different types of gourds. There are so many different types of gourds available in India – bottle gourd, ridge gourd, spiny gourd, bitter gourd, ivy gourd, pointed gourd and snake gourd, to name a few. However, the gourd family is oft disliked and ignored, in spite of many of them possessing various health benefits. Our aim at the Foodie Monday Blog Hop is to make sure you eat gourds, by presenting some really beautiful and delicious dishes with them. 🙂

It was Sujata ji of Batter Up With Sujata who suggested the theme this week. Her blog is a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind baked goodies, traditional Bengali curries and desserts. You should check it out, if you haven’t already. I made this Niramish Aloor Dom using Sujata ji’s recipe and all of us at home absolutely adored it. Now, I’m super eager to try out her Bengali-style Chatpata Gobhi and Chhanar Dalna!

How to make Pressure Cooker Tendli Masale Bhaat

Here’s presenting to you the way I make the Tendli Masale Bhaat, in a pressure cooker. This way, it gets cooked in just a few minutes – a lifesaver on busy weekdays and lazy weekends alike.

This is a no-onion, no-garlic recipe. It is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those following a plant-based diet. It can be gluten-free too, if you skip the asafoetida in the tempering. The Wandering Foodie Kala Masala I use does not contain any asafoetida in it either – make sure it is the same with whatever brand of goda masala or kala masala you are using.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1-1/2 cups rice
  2. 4 cups water
  3. 12-15 tender ivy gourd
  4. 1 medium-sized carrot
  5. 1 medium-sized tomato
  6. 4-5 large florets of cauliflower
  7. 1-1/2 tablespoons green peas
  8. 1 medium-sized potato
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Red chilli powder to taste
  12. 1-1/2 tablespoon goda masala or kala masala or to taste
  13. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  14. 1 tablespoon oil
  15. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  16. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  17. 2 small bay leaves
  18. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  19. 3-4 cloves
  20. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  21. 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut

Method:

1. The first step is to prep all the veggies needed to make this dish, and to keep them ready. Slice the tops and ends of the ivy gourd and chop them lengthwise. Peel the carrot and potato, and chop into large-ish pieces. Chop the cauliflower florets into slightly large pieces. Chop the tomato finely. Keep the shelled green peas, grated coconut and finely chopped coriander handy.

2. Wash the rice well under running water. Drain out all the water. Keep ready.

3. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom, keeping the flame high. Add in the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

4. Now, add the chopped ivy gourd, potato, carrot and cauliflower, as well as the shelled green peas to the pressure cooker. Saute on high flame for a minute.

5. Add the washed and drained rice to the pressure cooker. Saute for a minute.

6. Add the 4 cups of water to the pressure cooker, along with salt and red chilli powder to taste, jaggery powder, turmeric powder, kala masala and finely chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

7. Still keeping the flame high, let the water start bubbling. Close the pressure cooker at this stage, and put the weight on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

8. After the pressure has completely gone down, wait for 10-15 minutes to open the cooker. Then, gently fluff up the rice using the back of a ladle.

9. Gently mix the grated coconut and finely chopped fresh coriander into the rice. Your Tendli Masale Bhaat is now ready to serve. Serve it hot with raita of your choice or plain curd.

Tips & Tricks

1. I use Sona Masoori rice to make this. You can use any variety of rice you prefer.

2. Use only firm, fresh and tender tendli aka ivy gourd to make this dish. Overly ripe ivy gourd will alter the taste of the rice.

3. I have used 4 cups of water here for 1.5 cups of rice + some veggies, which comes to roughly 2.5 cups of water per cup of rice. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how grainy or soft you want the Tendli Masale Bhaat to be. The above measurements yield rice that is well-cooked, neither very grainy, nor overly mushy.

4. I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker to prepare this Tendli Masale Bhaat.

5. Only a few veggies work best in the making of this Tendli Masale Bhaat – green peas, pigeon peas (tuver dana) cauliflower, carrot, potato and the ivy gourd (tendli), of course. If you so prefer, you could skip all the other veggies and cook the rice using only ivy gourd.

6. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, jaggery powder and kala masala or goda masala, as per personal taste preferences. This rice is supposed to be spicy and fragrant with the masala, with just a hint of tanginess (from the tomatoes) and a bit of sweetness (from the jaggery).

7. Once the pressure from the cooker has fully gone down, wait for 10-15 minutes before opening it. Then, gently fluff up the rice with the back of a ladle, ensuring that the grains of rice do not break.

8. For best results, use very fresh goda masala or kala masala. Since these spice mixes contain coconut, it is important to use them before they start smelling rank.

9. Cooking times might differ, depending upon the type of rice and vegetables used, as well as the make of the pressure cooker. For the above quantities of ingredients, 4 whistles works perfectly for me. Please adjust the number of whistles or cooking time as per your preference.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Hyderabadi Khatti Dal| Lentils Soured With Tamarind

I bring to you today the recipe for Hyderabadi Khatti Dal, a lentil broth from the city of the Nizams that is very simple and yet a burst of bold flavours. Have you heard of this dal before? I only had the pleasure of trying it out recently, and it was love at first bite. I have made this quite a few times over the past month already!

What is Hyderabadi Khatti Dal?

The term ‘khatti dal‘ literally translates into ‘sour lentil broth’, the sourness in question coming from the addition of tamarind. Originating in the city of Hyderabad, this dish can be made with either moong dal, toor dal or masoor dal or a mix of two or more varieties of lentils. What makes the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal supremely flavourful is the tempering of mustard, asafoetida, cumin, dry red chillies, curry leaves and finely chopped garlic that it is given. Can you imagine what a delight this dal would be?

The Hyderabadi Khatti Dal is traditionally served with steamed rice, with a vegetable or meat dish on the side. Tamarind and curry leaves are quite an interesting addition in dal, and I can’t help but thinking that is a cross between the regular Dal Tadka and Sambar. Whatever its origins might be, I’ll tell you that this is a keeper of a recipe – try it out once and I’m sure you’ll want to make it often.

Hyderabadi cuisine and me

My growing-up years in Ahmedabad were punctuated by yearly visits to Hyderabad, in the summer holidays. My uncle was stationed there, and all of us cousins would gang up at his place during our vacations, all set to spend endless days of leisure, cuddled and cosseted by our grandparents. I was too young then to go around exploring the local cuisine of the place, and the food cooked at home was mostly standard Tam-Brahm fare. The little I know today of Hyderabadi cuisine comes from a family friend, a lady from the city whose husband was transferred to Ahmedabad for a few years. I was in college then, a foodie in my own right, and she – let’s call her B Aunty – introduced me to the various fiery pickles, thokku, punugulu, chutneys and curries of Hyderabad, including her signature Gutti Vankaya Koora made with peanuts. A few trysts with ‘Andhra meals’ have happened in Bangalore, but I’m not sure of how close the food was to the authentic stuff.

This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are exploring cuisine from the state of Telangana, where Hyderabad lies now. Telangana, carved out of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, is also home to cities like Secunderabad, Warangal, Khammam, Nizamabad, Nalgonda and Karimnagar, but for the sake of the challenge, I narrowed down my scope to Hyderabad only. Lately, the more I have been reading up about Hyderabadi food, the more I have been realising just how sparse my knowledge of it is, that I know nothing beyond what B Aunty taught me. Can you sense the stirring of desire for a food exploration trip to Hyderabad, in me? 🙂 I now understand there are a whole lot of differences between coastal Andhra fare and that of the arid Telangana, and I can’t wait to figure it out for myself!

About the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a wonderful initiative, started by Priya of Priya’s Versatile Recipes. Every month, a bunch of us food bloggers get together to cook dishes from a certain part of India. I love how the challenge makes us take a closer look at the food from various Indian states, to dig deeper in search of the real thing, beyond what it is commonly perceived to be.

I chose to make Hyderabadi Khatti Dal for the challenge, because I am forever looking for new ways to serve dal and this beauty was right up my alley! I was paired with Narmadha of Nams Corner for the month, who assigned me two ingredients to cook with – toor dal and garlic. Luckily, both the ingredients fit right into the dal recipe I was planning to make, and that was that!

Do check out the beautiful Vankaya Pachi Pulusu that Narmadha prepared using the ingredients I assigned her.

How to make Hyderabadi Khatti Dal?

Here’s how I went about making this dal. I largely followed the recipe that Zaiqa has outlined, with a few little variations of my own.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1/2 cup toor dal
  2. A small piece of tamarind
  3. 1 medium-sized tomato
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  7. 2-3 green chillies
  8. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  9. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  10. 1/2 tablespoon oil or ghee
  11. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  12. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  13. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  14. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  15. 2 dry red chillies
  16. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  17. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water.

2. Add enough fresh water to the toor dal to cover it fully. Pressure cook on high flame for 6-7 whistles or till fully cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for 15-20 minutes or till it becomes soft.

4. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

5. Peel the ginger. Julienne it. Keep aside.

6. Chop the tomato finely. Keep aside.

7. Peel the garlic cloves. Chop finely. Keep aside.

8. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. You may add in a little more water, if required. Keep the tamarind extract ready.

9. When the pressure from the cooker has entirely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash it well with a wooden buttermilk churner. Keep aside.

10. Take the chopped tomatoes, julienned ginger and slit green chillies in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in about 1/4 cup water and a little salt. Cook on high flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.

11. Now, add the cooked toor dal to the pan. Add in salt to taste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, tamarind extract, coriander powder and about 1 cup of water. Mix well.

13. Cook on high flame till the dal comes to a boil, then turn the flame down to medium. Let it cook on medium flame till it thickens, 4-5 minutes.

14. Meanwhile, we will prepare the tempering for the dal. Heat the oil or ghee in a small pan. Add the mustard, and allow it to pop. Add the cumin, dry red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida and finely chopped garlic. Turn heat down to low-medium, and let the ingredients cook for a minute or so. Switch off gas when the garlic starts to brown. Make sure the tempering does not burn. Add this tempering to the dal simmering in the other pan. Let everything cook together for about a minute. Switch off gas.

15. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Keep the pan covered for 10-15 minutes, for all the flavours to get nicely infused into the dal. Your Hyderabadi Khatti Dal is now ready to serve alongside roti-sabzi and/or steamed rice.

Tips & Tricks

1. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the dal to be.

2. The dal thickens upon cooling, so it is best to stop cooking it when it is still runny.

3. If the heat from the green chillies is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.

4. You may skip the coriander powder. Some families use it, while some others don’t – from what I read on the Internet. I liked the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal with a bit of coriander powder in it, though.

5. A couple of small onions, sliced thin and fried, can be added to the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal too, along with the tempering.

6. Adjust the quantity of tamarind you use, depending upon personal taste preferences. It is crucial to use just the right amount of tamarind – use too little and the flavours of the dal will not come through brilliantly; use too much and the taste of the dal will be impacted.

7. Don’t forget to keep the dal covered for some time, after tempering it. This is an important step, which helps the dal gather flavours from the garlic and the other ingredients added in the tempering.

8. This Hyderabadi Khatti Dal can be prepared using either moong dal, toor dal or masoor dal or a mix of two or more types of lentils. I have used only toor dal here.

9. You can soak the toor dal, moong dal or masoor dal for 20-30 minutes before pressure-cooking it. I haven’t.

10. If you use oil in the tempering instead of ghee, this is an entirely vegan recipe, suitable to those following a plant-based diet. This recipe can easily be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. If you can get your hands on gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Masala Vadai| Spiced Paruppu Vadai

Today’s post is a little nostalgic, a little glum, a little fearful, a little hopeful. It is definitely about a big reality check that all of us need to pay attention to. I’m also sharing our family recipe for Masala Vadai, a monsoon-special delicacy from South India.

I absolutely adore the rains. Rain uplifts my spirits almost immediately. Bangalore becomes all the more beautiful in the rains (yes, waterlogged roads and traffic jams come into the picture too, but I still love it). The heady scent of wet earth, greenery sprouting everywhere, the diffused sunlight peeking through the clouds, the pitter-patter of raindrops – all of it leaves me with a fresh, clean feeling. Life starts anew in the monsoons, and I cannot not be charmed by that. And then, there are the hundreds of delectable monsoon-special foods to think of!

This year, though, there are no signs of a robust monsoon here in Bangalore. It started turning skin-blistering hot in February this year, and a scorching few months followed. The weather definitely started getting cooler in June, but there was no sign of the overcast skies, pleasant drizzles and heavy thunderstorms that usually set foot in Bangalore in April or May. The peacock in my soul has been waiting. Only in the last week or so (in July!) we had the beginnings of rain – cloudy skies in the evenings and a couple of showers. I am eagerly looking forward to the full works that I have come to love Bangalore for. Meanwhile, we had to celebrate the start of monsoon with some Masala Vadai, crispy deep-fried lentil fritters that are a specialty in the South of India.

While we are on the subject of delayed monsoons, I cannot not talk about the acute water crisis that Chennai has been facing for the last few months. It has been disheartening and scary reading media reports about the same. This report about Bangalore’s water situation going the Chennai way scares the living daylights out of me. Ground water in Bangalore (among other Indian cities) has been dipping lower and lower by the year, and there is a huge chance of it running out all too soon. It is time we do something about the situation – or we are going to be left high and dry. As a family, we have been doing our part and I urge all of you to do so, too.

Coming back to the Masala Vadai, they are delicious, delicious things that I just cannot have enough of. Made using coarsely crushed chana dal, jazzed up with onions, fennel, mint, coriander, chillies and curry leaves – these vadais are nothing short of a treat. A simpler version of these vadais is made in South Indian homes on festival days and other auspicious occasions, called Aame Vadai or Paruppu Vadai. I’m presenting an amped-up version here that is just perfect for regular days. Make these as a tea-time snack or when you have guests over, and it’s sure to be a huge hit. It is a great choice for those days when it’s pouring outside and your tastebuds crave for something deep-fried and lovely. 🙂

Amma makes some mean Aame Vadai and Masala Vadai, a skill that she has passed on to me. I have extremely fond memories of Amma waiting with a plate of these fritters for me to get back home from work on rainy days. She knows I love them to bits, and her care and affection washed away all the woes of commuting home, soaked to the skin, in the midst of a downpour.

These fritters are actually super-easy to make. You need to soak chana dal for a few hours, and once that is taken care of, the rest falls into place fairly quickly. Below is the recipe, with some tips and tricks to get the Masala Vadai perfect. This is an entirely plant-based, vegan recipe. It can easily be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used here.

Ingredients (makes about 20 vadais):

  1. 1 cup chana dal
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 2-3 generous pinches of asafoetida
  5. 2 green chillies
  6. 2 dry red chillies
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (saunf)
  9. 1 big onion
  10. A handful of fresh mint leaves
  11. 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
  12. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  13. Oil, as needed for deep frying

Method:

1. Wash the chana dal well under running water, a couple of times, draining out the water from it each time. Add in just enough fresh water to cover the chana dal and let it soak, covered, for 3-4 hours.

2. When the chana dal is done soaking, drain out all the water from it. Transfer the drained chana dal to a mixer jar.

3. Peel the ginger, chop it roughly and add to the mixer jar. Chop the green chillies and dry red chillies roughly and add them in too. Also add salt, turmeric powder and asafoetida to the mixer jar. Coarsely grind the ingredients together, without adding any water.

4. Take the oil for deep frying in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place it on high flame and allow it to heat up.

5. In the meantime, transfer the ground chana dal to a large bowl. Chop the onion, curry leaves and mint finely and add them in. Also add the finely chopped coriander and fennel seeds to the mixing bowl. Mix up the ingredients well.

6. When the oil has heated up fully, reduce the flame to medium. Form 2-3 small patties out of the chana dal mixture we prepared earlier and slide them into the hot oil. Deep fry them on medium flame till brown and crisp on the outside, taking care not to burn them. Shape patties from the entire mixture similarly, and deep fry them in the same way. Serve hot.

Notes:

1. Do not over-soak the chana dal. Soaking for 3-4 hours is good enough.

2. Prepare the masala vadais immediately after you grind the ingredients. Plan out the soaking according to when you want to make the vadais. Frying the vadais long after the batter has been ground often results into them getting very oily.

3. A handful of dill leaves and/or garlic can be added to the Masala Vadais too. I usually don’t.

4. Increase or decrease the quantity of green chillies and dry red chillies you use as per personal taste preferences.

5. Make sure you fry the vadais on a medium flame. This will ensure even frying and delicious vadais.

6. The oil should get nice and hot before you turn down the flame to medium and start frying the vadais.

7. Grind the chana dal coarsely. Don’t make a fine paste, for best results.

8. Do not overcrowd the pan while frying the vadais. Fry them a couple at a time.

9. If you find it difficult to shape the batter into patties, mix in a couple of tablespoons of rice flour. I typically don’t.

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of. Every Monday, the members of the group share recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #RimJhimBarse, wherein we are showcasing monsoon-special recipes. The theme was suggested by Preethi, author of Preethi’s Cuisine, a lovely blog with many wonderful recipes from across the globe.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #284. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Masala Dosa Recipe| How To Make Masala Dosa

I would have been around 12 years of age when my first real spark of interest in cooking ignited. I don’t remember precisely which grade I was studying in then, but I do remember the particular day when it happened very, very clearly.

We were living in Ahmedabad then – Amma, Appa, me, and my paternal grandparents. I was a studious girl, hugely focused on getting good grades and making a good career for myself. A good career = a good life, to the 12-year-old me. I was never required to cook or even help out around the house. I lived a highly protected life, which some would call privileged. We weren’t uber rich or anything – we were just an ordinary, middle-class family – but I had the freedom to spend my days as I chose, not having to be encumbered by things like grocery shopping, paying electricity bills, taking care of the elderly or cooking. That said, I would help out Amma and my grandmother in the kitchen sometimes of my own free will, small tasks like shelling peas, chopping vegetables, rolling out rotis or making glasses of lemon juice on hot summer days. Never had I cooked a meal entirely on my own, though, till then.

Then, one fine day, my young self found herself face-to-face with temptation. There was no one at home that day; I was alone. Amma had gone out with Appa, to attend to some urgent errands. The grandparents were off to a religious discourse, I think. The dosa batter was thawing on the kitchen counter, and a batch of potatoes had been boiled and were cooling, ready for Amma to get back home and make piping hot Masala Dosas for everyone. I saw this and felt – Why not? Why can’t I make that Masala Dosa myself? Why can’t I give Amma a surprise when she gets back? And that is just what I did. I got busy in the kitchen, wishing fervently that the doorbell wouldn’t ring before I was done with my job. It didn’t.

Making Masala Dosa isn’t a big deal for me today, but back then, it was. It was a huge thing, an achievement! There was no Google at our place then, to turn to for ideas or queries, so I had only myself to rely on. Beginner’s luck or whatever, the potato filling turned out finger-lickingly delicious. I was in the kitchen all of that evening, making Masala Dosas for everyone, in the midst of which I realised that I was quite enjoying myself. I invited a couple of friends over too, to relish my beginner Masala Dosas. Much praising and patting of the back ensued, along with quips like ‘Beti badi go gayi hai!’ (‘The little girl has grown up.’)

This incident set me off. I began suggesting to Amma to mix this flavour and that, to cook this vegetable that way, to make this dish that way. Soon, I was making little dishes on my own in the kitchen. I think the Masala Dosa incident was the catalyst that made me the huge foodie I am today. Here I am today, not in a proper ‘career’ per se, but doing something around food, and loving every bit of it!

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of has ‘#MyBeginnerRecipe’ as the theme this week, wherein we are required to share the recipe for the very first dish we cooked on our own. This has got all of us delving deep into our foodie memories, with more than one skeleton tumbling out of the closet. 🙂 This here is my skeleton, my beginner foodie memory, my tale.

Let’s now hop over to the Masala Dosa recipe, shall we? This is how I made the Masala Dosa when I was 12, and this is how I still make it.

Ingredients (makes about 10 masala dosas):

For the filling:

  1. 6-7 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 1 big onion
  3. 3-4 green chillies
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. About 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  6. 1 tablespoon oil
  7. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  8. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  12. About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
  13. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

For the dosas:

  1. About 10 ladles of dosa batter
  2. Oil, as needed to make the dosas

Method:

We will first get the filling for the Masala Dosas ready.

  1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly, and cut each one into half. Transfer to a wide vessel and add in just enough water to cover the potato halves. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  2. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the onion finely. Keep aside.
  4. Peel the ginger and grate finely. Keep aside.
  5. When the pressure in the cooker has come down entirely, get the potatoes out and discard the water they were cooked in. Add in some fresh, cold water and allow them to cool down a bit.
  6. When the cooked potatoes are cool enough to handle, discard the water they were cooling in. Peel the potatoes and mash them. Keep aside.
  7. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add in the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of minutes.
  8. Add the chopped onion, grated ginger, slit green chillies and shelled green peas to the pan. Cook on medium heat till the peas begin to shrivel and the onion begins to turn brown. Stir intermittently to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan, along with salt to taste, red chilli powder (if using) and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes, or till everything is well integrated together. You may add a little water at this stage, if you feel the potato filling is too dry. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  10. Switch off gas. Mix in the finely chopped coriander and lemon juice. Your potato filling is ready to use in the Masala Dosas! Keep aside.

Now, we will make the Masala Dosas.

  1. Place a heavy dosa pan on high flame, and allow it to get nice and hot.
  2. When the pan is hot enough, turn the flame down to medium. Place a ladleful of dosa batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out quickly, using the back of the ladle. Spread some oil evenly all around the dosa.
  3. Let the dosa cook on medium flame till it turns brown on the bottom.
  4. Now, flip the dosa over to the other side using a spatula. Let it cook on the other side as well.
  5. Transfer the cooked dosa to a serving plate. Place a little of the potato filling in the centre of the dosa and close it. Serve hot, with sambar and/or chutney.
  6. Prepare all the Masala Dosas in a similar manner.

Notes:

1. You can even add finely chopped/grated carrots to the potato filling. I usually don’t.

2. Using the red chilli powder is purely optional. If you think the heat from the green chillies is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.

3. A dash of sugar can be added to the filling, for enhanced flavour. I sometimes add it in, I don’t at other times.

4. We like the dash of lemon juice in our Masala Dosa filling, and so, I add it in. You can skip it, as well.

5. You may use butter instead of oil, to make the dosas.

6. Some people add curry leaves to the potato filling. We don’t. You may, if you want to.

7. When you are entertaining, you can make the potato filling in advance and keep it ready. When your guests arrive, you need to heat up the filling, prepare the dosas, add in the stuffing and serve!

8. Here is the recipe for a Basic Coconut Chutney you can serve with these Masala Dosas.

9. Head here to learn how to use the potato filling to make Bangalore’s famous Open Butter Masala Dosa.

10. Have some potato filling left over? Here are some lovely ways to re-purpose it!

Did you like this Masala Dosa recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘#MyBeginnerRecipe’.

I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #249. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

Dodh-E-Pather Aka Doodhpatri, The Valley Of Milk

In other news, we just got back from a week-long holiday in and around Srinagar, Kashmir. We had been considering a few destinations to go to before the bub’s summer holidays ended, which wouldn’t kill us with sunstroke, where the bub could enjoy herself and so could we. We finally zeroed in on Srinagar, and hooked up with a travel agent in the city. Working with them, I built a slightly off-beat itinerary than the done-to-death Srinagar sightseeing-Gulmarg-Pahalgam-Sonamarg plan that most tourists undertake. We have already done that in the past.

This time around, we wanted to venture deeper into Srinagar, dig into local food and experiences, and explore a couple of lesser-known destinations around the city. While I wouldn’t say we got exactly the kind of holiday we wanted, it was still a beautiful trip – we did visit some gorgeous places and made memories that will last a long, long, long time to come.

Here I am, with the first installment of travel stories from Kashmir – about our visit to a spot called Doodhpatri.

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When the husband, the bub and I embarked on our drive to Doodhpatri, some 40-odd kilometers away from Srinagar (where we were staying), little did we know that we would absolutely fall in love with the place. Neither did we know that Doodhpatri would force us to think deep and hard about human nature.

Located in the district of Budgam, Doodhpatri is a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous place. Think meandering meadows full of cows, sheep and goats. Think truckloads of soft green grass with very few people around. Think snow-clad mountains and freezing cold. Think natural springs and pine trees. Think nomadic shepherds tending their flocks and their squat mud huts. Exactly, that kind of place. Doodhpatri is not as well-known to travellers as, say, Gulmarg or Pahalgam, and has only recently started seeing tourist influx. As a result, the place still remains largely untouched, pristine, uncommercial – this also means that there are no restaurants of note or tourist activities of note here. There is a lot of virgin natural beauty, though, much to explore for the non-touristy traveller.

Locally called Dodh-e-Pather, the name of the place literally translates to ‘Valley of Milk’. The cattle here are renowned for the plentiful, rich milk (doodh) they yield, which is what gives the place its name.

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A shepherd tending his flocks, at Doodhpatri

It is an almost 2-hour drive from Srinagar to Doodhpatri, the road not in the best of condition at places, but decent enough. As you near Doodhpatri, signs of city life grow lesser and lesser, the vistas grow wider and greener, and the views become more and more stunning. When the snow-capped mountains come closer, they almost take your breath away.

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Our first sight of the snow-capped mountains and the gorgeous green plains of Doodhpatri

A few sharp curves and turns later, you come to a point beyond which no vehicles can go. Walk for a few minutes, and you reach a gurgling spring, the water milky white, humming along over rocks that have turned smooth with wear.

The beautiful spring at Doodhpatri

We spent a couple of hours at this point, just winding down, talking, eating, taking pictures and gazing at all the beauty around us. This is a hot spot for selfie lovers and photographers alike. You may even choose to don the Kashmiri costumes available for hire at the couple of make-shift stalls here, and get a photoshoot done.

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The milky white waters of the spring at Doodhpatri

The rustic wooden bridge across the spring stole my heart away. It surely was something straight out of a dream!

The rustic bridge that had me charmed

You can cross the bridge and walk along the plains beyond, soaking in the pure air and the prettiness of nature around you, or you could let a pony take you there. There is no dearth of horsemen here, who will plead and haggle with you to hire them for a look-around Doodhpatri on pony-back.

A bunch of horsemen in their traditional pherans, waiting for tourists to hire their ponies

Considering that the bub wasn’t too well when we visited Doodhpatri and the terrain looked quite rough too, we decided to skip the pony ride. We contented ourselves with just gazing out at the spring, snapping pictures of this and that. That, in itself, is quite an experience, let me tell you.

A barbecue guy we came across at Doodhpatri

There isn’t a single proper restaurant in Doodhpatri, like I was saying earlier, thanks to it not really being on the tourist grid. There are just a couple of shops here selling tea, coffee, chips, Maggi and the likes.

In fact, I hear the road we drove on did not extend till the stream, two years ago or so. One would have to get down at a certain point and hike a few kilometres to reach the stream! Now, considering increasing tourist interest in Doodhpatri, the road has been laid out further.

A small shop selling refreshments at Doodhpatri. I was charmed by just how pretty this shop looked!

There is a sharp drop in temperatures at Doodhpatri when it rains or when the mountain winds blow. In winters, the snow makes the place practically unlivable. The place, therefore, remains open only about 8-9 months a year. For 2 or 3 months every year – in the winters – the winding roads to Doodhpatri become inaccessible due to all the ice on them, and the place is therefore shut off. No one comes here then, not even the semi-nomadic Gujjar shepherds. There is no permanent structure here which is in use throughout the year – neither a home nor a shop nor a tourist activity.

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A Gujjar hut at Doodhpatri

You will find the small, squat mud huts of the Gujjars – the famous wandering shepherds of Kashmir – at Doodhpatri. These shepherds wander the mountains and plains of Kashmir with their flocks of sheep, horses, goats and cows in the winters, trying to find grass for them. They perform odd jobs – building construction and the likes – to earn some money.

In the summers, they build houses on the mountains and stay put for a few months with their families.

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A small Gujjar hut that we came across at Doodhpatri

When we visited, some of these Gujjars were selling snacks and refreshments for the tourists out of their huts. We walked along, fascinated by the structures, fascinated by the typical Kashmiri snacks some of them were offering.

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A stall selling the large traditonal pooris of Kashmir, called Khajla, which is typically eaten with semolina halwa. In the background are the dried pea-pakoras that are commonly available across Kashmir.

Neither the husband nor I had ever tried out the halwa-poori combination before, and we went on to do just that at Doodhpatri. My, it was mind-blowing – bites of the Khajla filled with the halwa!

We were snacking on some beautiful Maggi noodles cooked with vegetables at one such home when we noticed a sudden drop in the temperature. All too quickly, the wind started howling (that eerie way the wind has of howling in the mountains!) and the plastic chairs around us began to crash to the ground (I am not exaggerating!). It began to turn finger-numbingly cold, and the jackets and caps we were carrying with us offered no protection at all. The bub began to shiver. The Gujjar shepherd whose shop we were eating at was quick to invite us inside his house. We gratefully accepted.

The little fireplace inside the Gujjar home we visited

Inside, the hut was warm as toast. The man’s wife was busy cooking lunch for their family, and the wood fire was working wonders. I don’t know what did it – the thick, hand-made mud walls or the structure of the hut or the wood fire – but it was gorgeous inside. It was a cocoon, a separate world in its own. The howling winds outside did not even touch the inside of the house. The lack of electricity and the bare minimum of possessions inside the house kind of stunned us – it was a stark reminder of just how much we urbane folk cling to our worldly possessions day in and day out.

The family invited us to stay for lunch or at least for some tea, but we refused as we had already eaten. We did spend quite a bit of time sitting with them, chatting, warming our hands on the kangri (Kashmiri coal brazier) they were generous enough to share with us.

The kangri that saved us from frostbite in Doodhpatri

The husband and I had so many questions for the family and their way of life, and they were happy to respond to every single one of them. Snippets of the conversation still refuse to go out of my mind.

Hum 6 mahine yahan rehte hain, is ghar mein. Sardi mein 6 mahine hum parbat ke niche rehte hain.. majdoori karte hain..gay bakri charate hain.. kaam karte hain..,” the man told us. (‘We stay here, in this house, for 6 months. For the 6 months around winter, we stay in the foothills. We undertake labour and other odd jobs, tend to our cows and goats.’)

Yahan pe kuch nahi milta. Paani, aata, sabzi.. sab kuch neeche se le ke aate hain.. yahan par bahut zyaada thand padti hai na?,’ his wife said. (‘There is nothing available here. Water, flour, vegetables.. we get all of it from the foothills.. It’s too cold here, no?’)

Raat ko hamari gay aur bakri ghar ke andar rehte hain.. subah hote hi bahar chhod dete hain… woh chalte rehte hain, aur hum bhi saath chalte hain..,’ the man said. (‘We keep our cows and goats inside the house in the nights. As soon as morning dawns, we set them free. They walk around everywhere, and we walk around after them.’)

Chalna humare liye badi baat nahi hai. Humein aadat hai. Gulmarg se Doodhpatri ho ya Pahalgam se Sonamarg, hum chaltein hain..,’ the man stated. (‘Walking is not a big thing for us. We are used to it. From Gulmarg to Doodhpatri or fro Pahalgam to Sonamarg, we can walk.’)

The conversation was nothing short of enlightening. It set us thinking.

How hard would a life like this be, where you need to walk for kilometres on end just to fetch clean drinking water?

How many of the little things in my life I take for granted? Can I live a simple life like this, or am I too addicted to the complexities of my life?

How did these people cope up with so much hardship? Every single day? Did they even feel it was hard?

What makes these people stick to their roots? Do they ever wonder about the world beyond these hills?

Do they ever think about moving to an easier place, an easier way of living? Or does that thought never even cross their minds?

How different these people’s lives are from mine! And yet, we are all the same at the core of us – humans.

I don’t have the answers yet.

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Notes for travellers:

  1. Doodhpatri is a drive of about 2 hours from Srinagar. There are okay-ish roads some part of the way, while the roads in other parts are decent.
  2. It would be a good idea to carry some snacks/food while you visit Doodhpatri.
  3. Private cabs are the best way to reach Doodhpatri. You can hire one from Srinagar, where the nearest airport is located.
  4. The weather gets quite chilly at Doodhpatri at times, especially while it rains. You might want to carry a change of clothes, warm clothes, umbrellas and/or raincoats when you visit Doodhpatri.
  5. Pony riding is quite common among tourists, to see the sights in and around Doodhpatri. Walking everywhere might not always be possible. I would suggest going ahead with pony riding only if you are comfortable with the idea – there’s no fun in it if you do it half-heartedly or when you are scared.
  6. If you do decide to undertake a pony ride for sight-seeing, please do decide on the rates with the horsemen beforehand. Bargain if necessary, to fix a decent rate.

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