Tag Archives: Jagruti Vedamati

Of Earthen Pots

When I hear the words “mitha dahi” or sweetened yogurt, I remember dainty little earthen pots with inviting dark beige yogurt served at, what I consider, one of the most pious places on earth—The Puri Jagannath temple.

I recall the quaint little shop by the temple serving the most luscious dessert I have ever tasted, replete with flavors that are blended with a sense of peace, a fresh smelling air and the earthy taste of the clay pot.

Those are primarily the very reasons I have been so hesitant to try replicating the dish at home.recipes-mitha_dahi

Traditionally, in India, sugar is caramelized and then milk is added in. This mixture is then simmered over a low flame till a thick, creamier mixture is obtained. Once done, it is poured into earthen pots and left to ferment overnight.

Although, that utter creaminess of the earthen-pot yogurt still beats the modern version any day; the recipe here comes really close.

Last weekend we had friends over for dinner and I had prepared mitha dahi for them. I served the dessert with sliced peaches, and the mere combination of colors impressed my guests. But when I mentioned the name mitha dahi they found it less impressive. As, very rightly, put by our friend—for a decadent dessert, mitha dahi sounds somewhat underwhelming.

If I were to hear mitha dahi without previously having tasted it, I would imagine a dessert with sugar dissolved in yogurt. So we came up with names that probably work better like “shahi yogurt,” “peach-khand” …  Although even those names don’t do full justice to a dessert that is rich, decadent and creamy in texture.

Jagruti Vedamati is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University.

 


PEACH MITHA DAHI

Steamed peach yogurt with a hint of cardamom exudes a distinct earthy aroma that makes the flavors marvellously unique. This is a quick three-ingredient dessert for those last minute cooks.

Ingredients
1 cup full fat yogurt
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 tsp crushed cardamoms
2 chopped medium sized peaches
1 tsp pistachio crumbles

Method
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, stir in the yogurt, condensed milk and evaporated milk. Sprinkle in the crushed cardamoms and the chopped peaches and mix well.

Pour the mixture into small greased baking dishes and place them in a large roasting pan.

Pour water into the roasting pan (about 1 inch upto the sides of the bowls). Make sure not to splash water into the yogurt bowls while transferring to the oven.

Note: I used earthen bakeware to bake and the yogurt had that earthiness flavor that is so typical of mitha dahi. I would recommend using earthen bakeware if you have it. Otherwise any other bakeware will  work fine.

Place the roasting pan at the center of the oven and bake for 30 mins. After 30 minutes, the mixture should look set at the top. Take out the baked yogurt from the oven and leave it on the counter to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate the yogurt. It sets further when cold.

Serve with sliced peaches and pistachio crumble.

Variations
Substitute other seasonal fruits for the peaches or use homemade jam or jelly along with the fruits.

Dalma and the Odia Thali

“If you had to name a dish that would sum up the essence of Odisha, what would it be?” This is the question I get asked a lot. To that my first instantaneous answer is always—the humble, unassuming Odia comfort offering—dalma. For me, dalma is to Odisha what undhiyo is to Gujarat or pav bhaji is to Mumbai—that core, essential dish that sums up the palate of its people.

recipe_1_color

Dalma’s simplicity and ease of preparation, mélange of flavors and the history behind it makes it the contender and winner for the honor of being the Odisha state dish.

Dalma lends itself to all seasons and reasons. Simply described, it is a surprisingly effortless, yet utterly delicious lentil stew with seasonal vegetables that gets the final punch from a delicious tadka (seasoning) of cumin seeds and a pinch of jeera-lanka powder (commonly used in Odia dishes—red chilli-cumin powder).

It is most famously known for being served at the holy deity Jagannath’s abode in Puri. As very aptly put by writer James Osland, “For worshippers at Odisha’s Jagannath Temple, a dish of lentil stew with coconut is itself a form of prayer.” Couldn’t have been said better.

This idea of dalma being a prayer and an offering rings especially true in our house. I remember Sunday lunches with the family when it was almost a ritual to have arua bhata (a special kind of rice), alu bharta (mashed potatoes with a hint of cumin seeds and red chillies), and of course dalma with its various accompaniments for lunch.

There are some distinct, joyous memories of these lunches. To trouble my younger brother, I would often hide his serving of alu bharta (mashed potatoes), which was his favorite side dish, inside his mound of rice. Initially he genuinely got upset and then later, as he caught on, he pretended to be upset, as he frantically searched for his portion of alu bharta. We broke out into fits of laughter when he found his favorite dish hidden inside his rice mound. Now, every time I eat this meal, I always think of those days with nostalgia.

Jagruti Vedamati is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University.

Dalma
Yield: 4 servings
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 potatoes, diced
½ cup pumpkin, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup green beans, diced
½ cup eggplant/brinjal, diced
½ cup split toor dal
(yellow pigeon peas)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup water
½ tbsp crushed ginger
1 bay leaf
2 whole red chilies
3 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli & cumin powder
(jeera lanka powder)
To taste: salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp amchur powder
(dry mango powder)

Method:
Soak the toor dal at least 10 mins prior, to get a soft and smooth dal. You will notice the difference, especially if you plan to pressure cook the dal.
Boil all the vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, green beans, eggplant) with the toor dal, along with turmeric powder, crushed ginger and bay leaf. You can also pressure cook for one whistle. Note: I usually add seasonal vegetables,  although the very typical dalma that I have grown up with has potatoes, eggplant, pumpkin and carrots.

For the tadka (garnish):
In a pan, add ghee and let it heat up.
Then add cumin seeds and after it splutters, add red chilies and saute. Add in half a cup of water to the ghee and let it boil. Then add in the jeera lanka powder (red chilli and cumin seed powder) and amchur. Boil over low medium heat till the ghee floats to the top.
Add the tadka to the dalma and then add salt and sugar and adjust for taste. Simmer for 10-15 mins. Sprinkle with fresh grated coconut, and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.