Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Palette in pastels

A few years ago, I met a chef who comes from a line of chefs that goes back a few centuries. Amidst talk of how his dad had been too unworldly to patent those recipes and techniques which are now attributed to five-star hotels and their research, I do remember mentioning secret recipes - you know, we always read about how proud family cooks and chefs always hold back revealing the crucial element that gives “that special touch” – and was taken aback by the intensity of his reaction.

“Oh c’mon, there’s a lot of s**t spread about secret recipes and ingredients and stuff – I’ve read interviews with chefs who claim they’ve made a marinade with 120 herbs and spices – what flavour will come through if that’s really so? They don’t know what they are talking about, these jackasses – you really shouldn’t have more than two or three spices, only that will allow the taste to register,” he said with an expression that was a mixture of weariness and impatience. I paraphrase (though I put it in quotes for effect) but I certainly remember jackasses, marinade, 120 herbs and spices, and the profanity could have been different. It was amusing to watch a suave, until-then-cool person say something so spontaneous but it was probably something he needed to get off his chest.

Chef will probably approve of the dish I’m presenting today. It has just three spices and salt, just a teaspoon of oil and uses three rather bland vegetables that amicably cooperate to let the flavours shine through. It’s an Oriya dish called Santula, and like Dalma, there are varieties of it. I also discovered the book, Healthy Oriya Cuisine, by Bijoylaxmi Hota and Kabita Pattanaik (Rupa, 2007) soon after I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve never come across a book on Oriya cuisine in India – I usually make a beeline for the cookery section in any bookshop and regretfully moon over all those books (I have most of them and can’t buy the rest either because the ingredients are hard to find here or I already own a book on the cuisine) but this time, I struck gold – this was the last copy on the shelf and I grabbed it and hung on to it for dear life!

This recipe is also a rediscovery of the bottlegourd – occasionally, I bring it home but end up giving it away because the thought of the insipid/watery fate it meets at my hands enervates me before I even try – it really came into its own and held its own against the sturdy potato and the sweet yellow pumpkin.

This is my second submission to RCI - Orissa being hosted by Swapna of Swad.

What you need:
Potatoes – 2, peeled, diced
Bottlegourd/Lauki/Sorakaya – 4-inch piece, peeled, diced
Pumpkin: 4-inch piece, peeled, diced
Garlic – 15 cloves, skinned
Green chillies – 2
Mustard seeds – ¾ tsp
Oil (preferably mustard oil) – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste

Pound the garlic and green chillies fine. (I took the easy way out and whizzed them in the mixer.)

In a pressure cooker, place the veggies and salt. Cover and simmer till the vegetables begin oozing water.

Now pressure cook the vegetables with just a little more water – for one whistle. Let the pressure drop naturally.

In a pan, heat the oil, pop the mustard. Once it begins to crackle, add the ground paste. Fry well.

Now add the vegetables, mix carefully, cook for 3-4 minutes and take them off the fire.

Your dream in pastel is ready!

Note: There was a little bit of water in the pressure-cooked vegetables but I didn’t bother draining it – you can choose to do so.


  1. Really a beautiful combination sra!! I will search for that book in Amazon,sounds interesting.
    One reader today told me that we always should say Odiya or Odiyan,never Oriya! I told him,
    "man,I am as ignorant as rest of the World,even famous Oriyan book says Oriya"!:D But I did add a word about that in my post.Ah!! The beauty of Indiaaaa!!!;P

  2. It really shines through Sra...I can imagine how satisfying it must have tasted with chapati:)

  3. This is one lovely dish, sra! I am wondering if Santula takes its name from santulan-or balance :).

  4. Yummy dish and an interesting story. :)
    I always run away from recipes that have a long list of ingredients. This dish looks so doable and new recipes for bottle gourd are always welcome :)Thanks.

  5. that's an unusual combination, 15 garlic cloves :) gotta' try this!
    the subtle colors look beautiful.

  6. another beautiful Oriya recipe. You are lucky to find book but me still hunting on the net.

  7. Oh definitely! the pastel colors are pleasing to the eye and the method really simple.

  8. 3 spices + salt and no watery insipid watery state, I'd say you done a fantastic job. I like the combinations you used in this dish, the potatoes, pumpkin and bottle gourd.

  9. i remember making jahni posta and thnking 10 cloves of garlic?? and it was so yummy. i can imagne how yummy this must be.

  10. Sra nice simple recipe :)Nice picture.Even I prefer putting few spices.

  11. my oriya roomie says that they always make sabzi with a mix of vegetables and have it with rice...probably this is what she meant

  12. Wow just garlic and green chillies... that is an amazing recipe... and yep I'm sure that chef would approve... :) And the pastel palette looks great!

  13. Asha, thanks. I know, it's Odiya, but it's conditioning at work! I've never understood why we use an 'R' when it's supposed to be a 'D' - urad, burra sahib - these are other examples.
    Priyanka, I had it just by itself!
    Musical, thanks for thinking aloud. I too was wondering what the origin of Santula was. You're probably right - a balance of everything.
    Tee, thanks. I used to love involved, long recipes, not anymore, don't have the space or the patience!
    Richa, it's really tasty, don't let the amount of garlic put you off.
    Sharmi, hope you find it soon!
    Indo, looks light also, doesn't it? But the potato adds that bit of heaviness.
    Cynthia, thanks. I just followed the recipe.
    Bee, the garlic gives it that subtle bite - that's an oxymoron.
    Archana, thanks. I'm now going to look for a minimalistic garam masala recipe - this post got me thinking.
    Bhags, yes, most of their dishes are a mix of veggies.
    Sig, thankyouthankyou!

  14. While I can't see the pics, I can imagine what that combo with 15 garlic cloves would tate like....Yum!

  15. Very nice combo Sra. Looks delicious. Love to have with Chapati.Interesting story too.

  16. that looks so delish. I agree, too little is better than too much as far a spices are concerned.

  17. Thats a lot of garlic Sra. But it looks very pure and simple, and I like recipes with min. ingredients . Too many just puts me off

  18. Garlic adn green chillies with a tinge of ginger is the base for many side dishes my mother prepares and its simple and I can imagine how your dish tastes like....btw, i liked ur chef friend alot :P


  19. interesting recipe with pumpkin, potatoes and sorkai...have to try this soon, is this good with rice or rotis? Great pics and thanks for sharing!

  20. Jyothsna, I feel so bad whenever I remember you can't see flickr pix. Thanks for coming by despite that! I saw some comment somewhere about how to see flickr pix - maybe you can google it. I will do so and post the link in your blog later.
    SeeC, thanks.
    Sandeepa, pure. That's it, I knew some word was eluding me!
    Mishmash, only a tinge of ginger? I use ginger garlic paste and use the green chillies separately. The chef was quite entertaining - good speaker and that little outspokenness was fun!
    Padma, rice, I guess, because that's traditional for Oriyas. Am sure you can have it with chappati, too. There's no spice except the garlic!

  21. nice writeup and a lovely dish. just now was reading abt ur dalma and now another oriyan dish.. wow Sra u are becoming a super cook..
    I am hunting for oriyan recipes and find dalma everywhere!!!!dont know what i will end up with.

  22. Nice write up...Love the palette in pastels and those pastel shades that go so pleasantly well with the blog background!!:)

  23. Thanks sweetie :) It works and I've been viewing all your pictures I've missed :) Ha, now I can't complain till they ban this bypass ;)

  24. Prema, super cook! That sounds nice. Yes, the Internet will have you believe Orissa's major contribution to the food world is Dalma!
    Bharathy, thanks, nice of you to observe!
    Jyothsna, glad it worked - I'm surprised they haven't banned it yet!

  25. I just read abt dalma and santula yesterday and urs looks soo good!

  26. I wonder how I missed this post! Sorry for being late Sra.

    The title is so so apt! Loved the simplicity of the dish.

  27. In Ooty. Have you heard of the place?

  28. Dee, thank you!
    Coffee, you were sorely missed! :) Looks like this appealed to the painter in you!
    Sharmi, of course I've heard of Ooty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've even been there many times.

  29. hey potato, ghia and pumpkin is a lovely combo..., love second recipe to RCi orissa

  30. Sra, is mustard oil actually pressed from the mustard seed or is it a neutral oil that is infused with mustard?

    After reading of a French chicken recipe w/ 40 garlic cloves, 15 seems downright reasonable! Looks delicious and hearty.

  31. Very Interesting recipe Sra and I love the way you narrate each post. Viji

  32. Hey SRA,
    This is my kind of dish... minimum ingredients & not much work. I have never tried my hand at Oriya cuisine but then I have never been interested in cooking till I discovered food blogs recently!:-).
    This looks like something I would make.And I am one of those people who just loooooove garlic.

  33. Rachna, thank you!
    Susan, you had me doubting myself - there's more info here:
    Viji, thank you, it's nice to hear that.
    TBC, if it's fried properly, garlic is delicious!

  34. Sra, thanks. That site plainly described mustard oil. Good to know.

  35. Susan, glad you found it useful!


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