Saturday, May 23, 2015

Quinoa Pulao -- superfood superfast

Sometime around April, the weather around here changes radically. The ground shakes off the expanse of white snow and gets to work.

Green grasses sprout.
Tiny pale green leaves unfurl as if touched by some magic wand.
Flowers blossom. Pollen blows around in the wind to keep the cycle of life going.
I sneeze.
Trees turn a shade of deeper green. The temperature soars.Ceiling fans are switched on. Windows are opened wide.
Evenings stretch longer.The neighborhood kids come calling sharp at 4:30 every afternoon. The girls ride their bikes, play hide and seek, run around playing tags from one backyard to another.

Everything around says "Summer is just around the corner".
Which means I have to start eating healthy. I don't know why this happens. It is not that I have lofty aims to sunbathe in a bikini by the pool or anything.
But with any sign of summer, I start digging in my pantry for that forgotten packet of Quinoa and dusting the Nutribullet to make the first health dripping juice of the season.

Quinoa or Keen-wah is a grain I had no clue of until 2010. I am a rice eating Bong and I don't like any grains other than rice. Not even wheat. Period. So if I have to eat a grain which is not rice, I better get the most advantage out of it. And it better not require more than 30 minutes of my time. Yeah, I am very particular that way.

The first time I tried Quinoa at home was in a salad. It was good if not great and I noticed that the high protein in this grain does quell my hunger for a longer period and read that it has lots of vitamins and nutrients. Now honestly if my Mother were to read this, she would have pooh poohed the whole idea and say that there are plenty of other food with the same benefit and it is a balanced meal that is important and not something which is touted as "superfood". Agreed. No need to buy and eat Qunoa if it is super expensive where you live.

For me what works, is that a dish like Quinoa Pulao makes a nice one pot meal to take to lunch. If you don't get this grain, don't fret, you can do the same with a Daliya Pulao.

Cook Quinoa according to package directions. If there are no direction then cook as follows.

Soak 1 cup of Quinoa in water for 2-3 minutes .

On the stove set to boil a pan with 3 cups of salted water. When the water comes to a boil, drain the quinoa on a strainer and add to the pan. Lower heat to medium and cook for 12-15 minutes. Little thread like thingy will come out from the seeds when they are cooked and the tiny seeds will turn translucent. Once done, drain the Quinoa, put it back in the pan and let it sit for 5 minutes. I also rinsed it in cold water while draining and then fluffed it with a fork.

While Quinoa is cooking do the following
a. cook a cup of frozen vegetables in the microwave
b. chop half an onion
c. mince one clove of garlic. I often buy a jar of minced garlic from the Grocery store. It helps when I don't want to mince them

Now heat Olive Oil in a saute pan or wok

Temper the oil with
1 Bay Leaf/Tejpata
2 small green cardamom

Add the minced garlic and follow suit with the onions. Throw in a few chopped chillies to add the spice factor

Saute until onion is soft

Add the cooked frozen veggies. Sprinkle a little Bhaja Moshla(dry roasted cumin, coriander and dry red chilli powder) and saute for a few minutes. You can use any other masala of your choice too, a little Garam Masala or Biryani Masala works great. Depending on how healthy you want to eat, you can fry the vegetables more or less.

Now Quinoa is cooked and you need to add it to the pan
Add the cooked Quinoa gradually, tossing it with the veggies.

Saute for a about 3-4 minutes. Adjust for salt and some chilli.

Serve it with some boiled eggs if you please

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

G is for Gota Seddho, Ghugni, Ghonto, Goalondo Murgi and Gokul Pithey

When I asked for suggestions on the letter "G" in the series A-Z of Bengali Cuisine, a lot of ideas came pouring in. From Ghugni, Ghonto to Golaap Jam, Gokul Pithe the names were endless. I went into deep thought over all the suggestions and in the process found two amazing recipes for Goalondo Murgi and Ghugni. I steeled my heart and skipped "Golda Chingrir Malaikari" as we already had "Chingri Malaikari" while in C.

Finally after much dilemma(as if), the dishes that I felt could truly represent the Bengali Cuisine are here. If I am totally honest, I must admit that I skipped stuff like GolaapJaam because I had no idea how to make it.

Gokul Pithey -- Pithey is a very Bengali sweet made during the harvest festival of Poush Parbon, celebrated during Makar Sankranti in the cold months of January. Pithey was a typical home-made sweet made with basic agrarian ingredients of the region like rice, date palm etc. Many kinds of pithey were made and Gokul Pithey is a particular kind of pithey where a flat disc made of coconut and khoya is dipped in a batter of wheat flour, deep fried in hot oil and then soaked in a syrup of sugar or jaggery.

Gota Seddho -- "Ma said, "The day after Saraswati Pujo is Sheetol Shoshti. Shoshthi is the goddess of fertility and worshiped by Mothers as a guardian angel of their offspring. Sheetol==Cool. And on the day of sheetol shoshthi, cold gota sheddho that had been cooked the previous day, is to be had by Mothers worshipping Ma Shoshthi.

The way your Dida made Gota Sheddho was by boiling kali urad(the urad dal with skin) known as maashkolai in Bengali with five different vegetables in season which were to be added whole, little salt, sugar to taste, some pieces of ginger and drizzle of raw mustard oil to finish off. The vegetables most commonly used were small red potatoes, small eggplant, sheem, whole green peas in their pod and baby spinach."

Ghonto -- Ghonto is a typical Bengali dish which means a mishmash of different things, primarily vegetables. I guess it comes from the word "ghanta" which means to mix. Typically therefore a Ghonto will have vegetables which are softer and so will easily become a mishmash. Vegetables like pumkin, eggplant and greens are therefore almost always a must in a Ghonto. Of course a Bengali will have a fish version of everything and to abide to that theory, there is Muri Ghonto made with fish head and potatoes.

Ghugni -- Ghugni or Ghoognee is a very very popular snack in Bengal and in parts of Bihar and Orissa. It is made with dried white peas and cooked with myriad spices including Bhaja Masla.While the Northern India has its Chhole, Bengal has its Ghugni.

Goalondo Steamer Fowl Curry or Goalondo Murgi -- A rustic curry cooked by the Sylheti boatmen on the steamer that plied the river Padma, from Goalondo Ghat to the interiors of towns in Bangladesh.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Somnath's Raasta'r Ghugni -- Ghugni from the street

Bengali Ghugni

Ghugni or Ghoognee is a very very popular snack in Bengal and in parts of Bihar and Orissa. It is made with dried white peas and cooked with myriad spices including Bhaja Masla.While the Northern India has its Chhole, Bengal has its Ghugni.

But as a child growing up in a Bengali home, I never liked Ghugni much. Our neighbor Jain Auntie's deep brown Chhole is what I salivated over. Though Ghugni was not made very often in our home it was a staple item in our neighborhood, served without fail by the para'r kakimas on Bijoya, at the culmination of Durga Pujo. My heart would go into a nosedive the moment I saw the steel bowl of ghugni accompanying two brown narus and one spongy roshogolla on a plate after the customary Bijoya'r pronaam. There was not a single homemade Ghugni that could woo me in its spicy deliciousness. Of course there were the myriad ghugniwala's outside school gates and at the street corner selling lip-smacking ghoogni in dubious steel plates which I never got to taste because of the mater.

As I grew older I realized I could not ignore the fact that Ghugni is an integral part of being a Bengali. If I was going to be a Bangali, not that I had a choice, I better know how to make Ghugni.

Before I write anything further let me make a honest confession. I suck at boiling the Ghugni motor. I know it is kind of silly but either I over boil it until the paper thin like skin floats around or under boil it. If I under boil it, then to cook it to softness, I again over boil it. Cooking Ghugni Motor to perfection is a chore I dread. So I mostly made my Ghugni with chickpeas!

However an authentic Ghugni is made only with Motor or White Peas(sold as White or Yellow Vatana in Indian grocery stores). So this time around I ditched the Pressure Cooker and cooked it in a open pot and watched with hawk eyes. After all I was making Somanth Roychoudhury's Father's Ghugni. I couldn't falter. I am not the kind of person who easily makes friends on social media but I must say that I have met loads of people whom I admire via facebook. Somnath, is one of them. His zest for food enthralls me and his ability to dig out local food stalls and sample street food has me in the throes of jealousy. You can follow him on his Facebook page The Street Gobbler. Or on Instagram

Ghugni at the roadside -- pic courtesy Somnath

When I was looking for a soul-punching "Rasta'r Ghugni" recipe, the spicy kind served at the street corner, I knew I had to ask Somnath. He not only shared his Father's recipe but also answered my questions and shared his pics of street-side Ghugniu wala. This is what I call a Food Connoisseur.

1. You are a street food connoisseur. List Kolkata street food in order of 1 to 5

I am not a connoisseur at all. Street food is a vastly spread out subject. I am just learning about them every day. It is really tough to make a list of best street food of kolkata. Everyone has different choice and their own favorites.

I always categorize street food in several groups of which the two major ones are Snacks and Meals, depending the time of the day when it is mostly consumed.

Afternoon Snack

1) Fuchka or Phuchka
2) Alur chop/ Beguni/ Fuluri
3) Egg Roll /Chicken Roll /Mutton rolls
4) Kochuri with assorted sabjees -- kochuris with different fillings among which the most popular is motordaal-sattu combination , Hing-chholardaal , Koraishuti (mostly in winter) and some more which are served with daal/alu torkari/alukumro torkari.
5)Jhaalmuri / Moshla Muri / Alukabli / Ghughnee

Meals or Street Foods available all day

1)Ruti Shobji - Ruti/Roti with a side dish of curried vegetables. Yes this combo is slowly winning over our maach bhaat / shobjee bhaat / pore bhaat which at one time used to be popular in the small bhaater hotel or paise hotels. It is sad to see Bengalis eating ruti for lunch but I guess it makes more practical sense in today's faster lifestyle.
Kolkata makes over a 100 thousand rutis every day and those are consumed by pedestrians throughout the day.You will always find garam ruti with various options of shobji be it day or night.
2) Poori Shobji/Luchi torkari/ with mini bhatura
3) Dosa / Idli / Vadas
4) Deem Toast / Butter Toast / Jelly toast
5) Chow-chili chicken
6) Litti -- chokha

2. In your search of street food, I see you sample many kinds at different locales. Any interesting experience?

There are so many of interesting experiences in my trail on Kolkata roads for street food... most of them are amazing. Telling about you one in recent days. Few weeks back myself and Soma Chowdhury (from blog Spices and Pisces) were craving for this very elementary beef haleem at Esplanade (in front of Nizaam).As there were some official program around there, police wasn't allowing the thela owner to put up his shop on time.We were getting restless.So both of us literally pushed the cart to its right place and helped the person in setting it up. He got irritated at us at first but then he smiled, seeing us crazy for Haleem, and served the food with a smile. It was awesome in taste and the experience is also memorable.

3. Where do you get best Ghugni on Kolkata streets?

The toughest question in this row. There are many kind of ghughnees available all over, on railway platform, on running train, on tea stalls and yes of course the stand alone ghughnee sellers. I prefer the stand alone ghughnee sellers the most. Two places I must mention.

Ghugni at the station -- pic courtesy Somnath

1. The sealdah south section platform no 12. there are few vendors who comes with a handi with cooked ghughni in it. They serve with chopped onions green chilli and few drops of tamarind pulp water aka Tetul jol.

2. One (not so)old man in behala, near behala tram depot.. I am having ghughnee from him for last 2 and half decades. The best part is the unchanged taste...serve with just sliced cucumber and tetul jol.

This recipe of ghugni is from Somnath's father. Somnath says his Father picked up cooking from his grandmother and though he cooks only a few items, he does them well. I took the recipe Somnath gave and matched it with what my Mother does(she cooks Ghugni on rare occasions) and voila the result was fantastic. The husband-man who has always turned up his nose at my Ghugnis said "Ekdom rasta'r taste esheche"(tastes just like the Ghugni from street side). Hope he meant well.

And oh yeah, inspired by one of Somnath's pictures, I added boiled eggs to my Ghugni. I am not going back.