Monday, April 06, 2020

Pasta Mexilian Bolognese -- or 3 ways to use the same dish

In the face of increasing number of deaths in New York and New Jersey, my lament about grocery stores sounds petty, There are many people getting very sick, there is an army of doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers tending to those that are very sick and getting sick themselves, there are the grocery line workers, the mailman, the garbage guy all risking their lives and out on the street while all I can complain about is going to a grocery store.

I am eternally grateful that we are able to stay home safe and so far doing okay. The little we can do to help flatten the curve is -- stay home and that is all we are doing. Thank you Google for this beautiful doodle thanking healthcare workers and researchers in the scientific community.

I had written this last week to remind me many years later how our day-to-day simple chores like grocery was impacted by the coronavirus.

It is now the 16th day that I have been home and except for groceries once in 8-10 days, or a quick walk around the neighborhood, we have not ventured out anywhere.

Grocery shopping itself has become a nightmare.

Before going to the store, we have to wear masks, gloves, sunglasses.

Then on reaching the store have to wipe the shopping cart down with a disinfectant wipe.

After hauling all the grocery home, is the biggest task!

For the fresh vegetables, I got 2 weeks back,I had washed them and left them out in the sun. I chose a particularly sunny day to do grocery. If I had a Benimadhab Shil er Panjika (a Panchang) I would have consulted that too! I don't intend to buy Vegetables again.
The non-perishables I keep in garage for 72 hrs.

The perishables like milk, meat etc has to be brought inside. Also the frozen stuff. This means more work.
I try to wipe down the bags and then when possible transfer the contents to another bag before putting in freezer finally.

At the end of this whole ordeal, I never want to go back to a grocery store again! Seriously.

Yesterday I went to Costco and it felt I was living in a dystopian novel. Costco has restricted access to only 30 members at a time inside the stores, so it was pretty empty, none of the usual rush. Every person was wearing a mask and gloves and moving around silently, picking up their groceries. No samples. No one peddling Vitamix. The check out persons were all behind a plexi glass shield and the usual happy faces were missing.
The employees were managing the social distancing very well though including the checkout lines. Pretty impressive.
Since we are all staying home, the kids do not have their after school activities and I do not have my grueling daily commute anymore, I do get more time to cook meals during the evenings. Even then it always helps if I can cook one dish and re-purpose it in different ways over the week. That way everyone gets to eat something new and yet I can ration pantry ingredients. Also my efforts in the kitchen are halved.

This dish is one of those which can be very easily serve many purposes. The primary purpose is of course the sauce base for one of our favorite Pasta dishes.
This pasta is my take on Bolognese. But it's Mexalian Bolognese 🤣, like Italian + Mexican!
First I make a chilli with ground chicken, canned tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers and taco seasoning. Also some good old bhaja moshla and kashmiri mirch.

This chilli is then used used in 3 different ways.

1. First as a sauce base for Pasta. Our favorite Pasta Mexilian Bolognese

2. Second on a Roti or a Tortilla topped with avocados and onions. Or on a crepe made with millet and oat flour

3. Third you can make an empanada or a chicken patties like I did. I had puff pastry sheets and I used those

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pakodi Kadhi -- dumplings in a yogurt gravy

Pakodi kadhi,  Kadhi
Pakodi Kadhi

e are on the 3rd week of school closures. It has now been 14 days since we are in quarantine though the official lockdown in our state started a bit later.

Cases in New York and NJ seems to be rising like crazy. Almost 0.4% of NY's population has tested positive while 0.2% of NJ's

I am just glad that we are safe home and I am absolutely clueless why people are complaining so much about staying indoors.

I am for one happy as I can sleep a little more in the morning, don't have the hour long commute each way each day, and now that the girls don't have any after school activity, my evenings are no longer rushed.

Instead of crazy Sundays, where I had to plan and cook ahead for the week, now I am cooking a dish almost every evening. I am also making rotis, albeit painstakingly, and not always great ones, but I am trying.

Today after a long time, I made this favorite dish of mine -- Pakodi Kadhi.

There was a time when I would pester my Mom to make this once a week at least. She would usually make it on a Friday, the day we ate vegetarian meals only. There were three favorite dishes earmarked for Fridays and she would always rotate the menu amongst these -- Chhanar Dalna, Aloo Posto and Pakodi Kadhi.

My Mother, having lived a lot of her life outside Bengal, had adapted a variety of non-Bengali Indian recipes in her kitchen and made them often. This was one of them. So at a time when most Bengalis, including the husband-man looked at me curiously when I mentioned that Kadhi was my favorite dish, in our home we were eating Kadhi like we were born into it.

I still remember, many years ago, an impromptu guest (the typical Calcuttan) who had arrived with one of my cousins around our Friday lunch time. Our Friday lunch was usually simple and involved rice, dal, aloo posto and then either Chhanar Dalna or Kadhi. That particular day it was kadhi. We had almost finished our lunch when they had arrived but my Ma I remember insisted they join us at the table. The typical Bengali guy had plowed through, rice, dal, aloo posto, kadhi and sat at the table food drying up on his hands. When finally asked if he was done, he had blatantly said, he was waiting for the fish!! I still cannot forget the look on his face, when we told him, that there was no fish curry that day!! He was unable to fathom what the "kadhi" was and kept saying that in their house there was always a fish curry that followed dal.

Now that I think of it, it seems incredibly rude of him, but at that time we were just plain flummoxed by his ignorance.

Pakodi Kadhi or dumplings made of besan/chickpea flour in a yogurt gravy is a very popular dish in Northern india and also Gujarat. There are little differences in the spices used in the two regions. I find the Punjabi Pakodi kadhi is a tad bit more richer with use of onion in the pakodis as our Punjabi nanny would insist. The Gujarati Pakodi kadhi is thinner and less spicy and I loved all the variety of Gujarati Kadhis that LS's Gujju babysitter would make for us. But that was 7 years ago. We haven't had anyone making anything for us since then!

This version of Kadhi is closer to the Gujarati version but I have stuck to the spices my Mother used which were minimal. The kadhi that LS's Gujarati nanny would make was more thinner and white in color, with no turmeric. However my Mother does uses turmeric and her kadhi is not runny so I have kept to that.

Pakodi Kadhi --  dumplings in a yogurt gravy

Make the Pakodi

Besan/Gram Flour -- 1 Cup
Green Chilies - 3 finely chopped
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds -- 1/4 tsp
Baking soda - a pinch
Water -- 3/4th Cup

In a wide mouthed bowl, add the
Green Chili
Baking soda
With a fork mix the dry ingredients

Gradually add water, mixing the batter to a medium-thick consistency. Make sure the batter has no lumps.

Heat oil for frying in a Kadhai.

Once the oil is hot, take a tea spoonful of hot oil and add it to the batter and mix it in.

Now in hot oil, add 1 Tbsp of batter.
Depending on the size of your kadhai, you can add more. 1 Tbsp for each Pakodi.

Once the pakodi is cooked, flip with a slotted spoon and fry the other side. Do this a couple of times, turning and frying the dumpling in hot oil until the pakodi is crispy and golden brown.
When both sides are golden brown, take out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

This amount of batter will make almost 12-15 pakodis.

Make the Kadhi

Yogurt - 1 Cup
Besan - 1/8th Cup
Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
Yellow Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Water - 1 Cup

Spices for Tempering

Jeera/Whole Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Methi/Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chili - 2
Hing/Asafoetida - a pinch

Green Chili - 2 chopped

Kasoori Methi -- 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp

Vegetable Oil -- 1 Tbsp

In the same bowl that you had used to make the batter, add
1 Cup sour Yogurt
1/8th Cup Besan
1 Cup Water
Red chili Powder
Turmeric powder
Beat well

Now in a saucier/kadhai warm 1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

When the oil is hot, temper with the spices listed under Spices for Tempering.

Once the spices start popping, take the saucier/kadhai off direct heat. Wait for 1 minute and then slowly add the yogurt mix.

Put it back on low-medium heat mixing the gravy. Cook at medium heat for 2 minutes. Add some more water and mix well.

Now increase the heat to medium and bring the kadhi to a simmer. Add salt to taste. If the yogurt is very sour add little sugar. Simmer until there is no raw smell of besan/gram flour. If needed add more water. Remember, the pakodis will absorb some of the liquid.

Now add the pakodis and simmer for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat.

Add 1 tsp of Ghee and the Kasoori methi crushed between your palm. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot with rice.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

ChurMur from Calcutta's Phuchkawala

Churmur, Kolkata Churmur
ChurMur from Calcutta's Phuchkawala

We have been in official quarantine now for just over a week. The schools have been shut down for two weeks.

Online classes are going fine. For the high-schooler, it is more regimented with defined periods from 8AM to 1PM every weekday. She has online quizzes and loads of assignments to complete, keeping her busy during the day. Major plus for her is she doesn't have to wake up and catch the school bus at 6:30 in the morning. She gets a good nights sleep finally.

For the 6th grader, online classes are from 9AM to 1PM but it's bit flex and most days she finishes her assignments by noon. Every other day from 4pm to 5PM she joins her gymnastics team. On Sundays an hour long dance with the group.

In all, I see that they are getting little more time to relax and that is helping them. Hope the schools learn something from this and reduce the work load for the kids after the quarantine.

Food has not been a major issue at home yet. We are low on meat and fish but the girls are okay with that. For dinner, I am trying my hand at Rotis and Parathas these days. I am not good at making them but since evenings are no longer rushed, I am learning. Also I see that with Roti, it is easy to have a meal with just one more dish, which is a great advantage.

Lunch for me on a work day is usually light and quick. Of all the groceries I did before lockdown, there were 3 boxes of Golgappas I bought. Yes, what foresight :-D

So some days my lunch can be just this. This tangy, spicy, lip-smacking ChurMur!! For all others it doubles up as snack.

Churmur is a very popular road side snack in Bengal, served by the Phuchkawalas. For us, standing around our favorite Phuchkawala outside the College gates, it was usually the last stage of the Phuchka rounds, when we have had enough of phuchka and now wanted the phau phuckas (the free ones) crumbled into a ChurMur.

Chur-Mur if you say it aloud, rolling around your toongue is the sound of crunching of crispy golgappas. A plate of spiced and boiled potatoes, some boiled kala chana, raw onions, green chilies, green coriander leaves, spicy sweet and sour tamarind water and topping that some crumbled crispy Phuchkas. That's ChurMur for you. An explosion of tastes and flavors in your mouth.

I haven't had a street side Phuchka for years now, but I do pray that those favorite Phuchkawalas get back into business soon and serve their unique Churmur, dirt and grime be darned.