Building community and a healthy food system, one bite at a time.

A Vegetarian’s Invention, by Archana Mishra

WRITTEN BY ARCHANA MISHRA 

I love to cook and share my ideas, shortcuts and tricks that I learn and improvise on in the small culinary world of mine. I am a vegetarian (precisely, ovo-lacto eggs and dairy Ok). I find myself in interesting situations with a number of amusing questions and consideration from my well-meaning, non-vegetarian friends:

As a child, I grew up eating and appreciating dishes from many parts of India. My mother is an amazing cook who infused variety and experiments in her cooking, which helped me develop similar appreciations.

I am an amateur cook and not skilled in precision of quantity and ingredients for a particular dish. I open the kitchen cabinet and drawers and help myself to those items and, somehow, it works out. I cook all kinds of vegetarian meals. I also like to experiment a lot and add my own concoction to a recipes I follow.

I am forever fascinated by the history of food and the impact of globalization (a very ancient phenomenon) on how we see the regional flavors in today’s world. In my daily cooking, I try to give my family a taste of various cultures and also retain some of the regional delicacies I have inherited from my mom.

Of all the great dishes I loved as a child, Idli (an elaborate recipe can also be found here) from South India and Pitha (recipe here) from North India were two of my favorites.

IDLI RECIPE

Ingredients:

2 cups Rice

1 cup Urad Daal (white)

1 1/2 tblsp Salt

A pinch of Baking Soda

Oil for greasing

Wash and soak the daal overnight or for 8 hours.

Wash and drain the rice. Grind it coarsely in a blender.

Grind the daal into a smooth and forthy paste.

Now mix the ground rice and daal together into a batter.

Add salt and set aside in a warm place for 8-9 hours or overnight for fermenting.

Idli 1

Idlis are ready to be cooked when the batter is well fermented. Grease the idle holder or pan well and fill each of them with 3/4th full of batter.

Idli 2

Steam cook idlis on medium flame for about 10 minutes or until done. Use a butter knife to remove the idlis. Serve them with sambhar or chutney.

Idli 4

 

DAAL PITHA RECIPE

Makes around 6-8 Pithas

Ingredients:

For the Outer Covering:

1/2 Cup Rice Powder/Rice Flour

1 1/2 Cup Water

1 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera

Salt to taste

For the Filling:

1/2 Cup Chana Dal/Bengal Gram

3 Green Chillies

2 cloves of Garlic

1 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera

Salt to taste

2 sprigs of Coriander Leaves

  1. Soak the chana dal in sufficient water for around 4-5 hours or overnight. Drain and keep it aside.
  2. Heat water in a thick bottomed pot and add salt and cumin seeds as soon as it starts boiling.
  3. Now switch off the flame, add rice flour to it and mix well till it forms a dough.
  4. Transfer it to a plate. Allow it to cool slightly.
  5. Dip your fingers in little water and form a smooth dough using your hands.
  6. Cover it with wet cloth and keep it to rest till use.
  7. Grind chana dal with green chillies and garlic to a coarse paste.

Note: Do NOT add water at all while grinding.

8. Add cumin seeds and salt and grind till the chana dal are mashed. Add coriander leaves. Now, both the filling and covering are ready.

9. Divide the dough into equal sized balls and keep aside.

10. Take one ball and press it between your palms. Now shape it with your fingers to form a small circle.

Note: Dip your fingers and apply your palms with water if the dough is sticking.

11. Keep a small lump of the filling inside.

Note: Don’t fill too much as it will be difficult to close.

12. Cover it into desired shapes. You can make semicircle like this or cover fully into a round dumpling.

Image 4

Photo courtsey: Jharkhand Pitha (not originally taken by the author)

 

DAAL PITHA MET IDLI AND THERE CAME PIDLI!

Yesterday, while in a yoga class when we were supposed to ‘surrender’ ourselves and lie in Shavasana, I couldn’t resist the urge to think about what I should be cooking for dinner. I had made Idli for breakfast and had some more batter left. I usually make Dosas or Uttapams when this happens. Then, for some weird reason, I thought, it’s been a while since I made Pitha. Perhaps I was missing my mother a lot. At some point during my now disturbed Shavasana, I created a fusion dish, in my head. I asked myself, “wouldn’t it be great to bring my two favorite dishes together and create something new?”

I couldn’t wait to come home and try it out.

  1. Soaked yellow lentils, ground it and prepared Pitha stuffing  as per the recipe above;
  2. Poured the left over Idli batter in the trays;
  3. Scooped the pita stuffing in with hand and put in the middle of the Idli batter portions;
  4. Steamed it, waited with fingers crossed; and Voila! PIDLI was created on May 18, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska!!
Idli 6

Photo of Pidli.

Idli 7

Family ate it and gave big thumbs up. Now available for everyone to enjoy!

 

About Archana Mishra

Archana is an Anchorage resident who moved from Australia in 2012. Born in India, she has traveled extensively with her husband and two children, and enjoys her status a global citizen.

She is the Author of a newly published fiction novel, The Fortunate Child, and the Director of Live. Work. Play. initiative at the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.

Archana also has a blog: www.bluelamingtons.com where she shares her love for travel, cooking, and photography.

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Shannon Kuhn

Shannon Kuhn, Co-Founder

Born on the coast of South Korea and raised in Anchorage, Shannon is a lifelong Alaskan with a kimchi twist. She lives to eat adventurously, meet new people, and learn about different cultures and places. She is passionate about reconnecting with her food heritage, as well as the soil it was grown in. Shannon is the Philanthropy & Communications Director for Great Land Trust and writes a column for the Alaska Dispatch News around food and culture.