Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year



Wish all of my readers, my blogger friends and all of you out there a Very Happy New Year. May the New Year bring in all your life all the sweetness, the spiciness, the tanginess, the richness, the colour that you have in your food and cuisine.

You guys are the reason I am here. Your comments , your enthusiasm, your events, your very presence is very important so a BIG THANKS TO ALL OF YOU and please be around in the New Year. I do hope to contribute and learn more from this commnunity in the coming year. I also hope to make many more friends in this blogging world and sustain the friendship of the ones I already have.

Heres to 2007 and to all of you dear friends...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Moong Dal Narkel Burfi for JFI



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The New Year was here, the JFI for January was close and I was so hard pressed for time that I hadn’t come up with anything yet. Coconut is not something I use in my daily cooking as opposed to something my blogger friends from the Southern part of India do. I use Coconut & Coconut milk in some of my dishes but they are few and I was frazzled as I wanted to make something quick and simple and with coconut and knew not. I would have loved to post Prawn Malaikari as an entry as it is my favorite but that would have defied the true essence of JFI, a recipe that has not been blogged yet.

So I dialed Coconut 911 and my Ma came to the rescue as Mothers always due. This sweet is her baby and she was actually half way through her prep last night for this, when it suddenly struck my dull brain that THIS HAS COCONUT. Hey so this does have coconut, why didn’t I think of this when she said she is going to make it. The year 2006 has taken it’s toll on me it seems, my mind goes blink…blink…boink….
So from my Ma…

Moong Dal Coconut Burfi



What You Need

Split Yellow Moong Dal ~ 1 cup
Shredded Coconut ~ 2 cup . I used a frozen pack but a freshly shredded one is definitely better
Condensed Milk ~ ¾ of a can
Sugar ~ ¼ of a cup of fine sugar
Ghee ~ 2/3 tbsp
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 5/6 pods. Take the seeds out of the pods and then ground them. Alternatively use cardamom powder

Raisins ~ one for each
Cashew ~ broken cashew one for each

How My Ma Did It

Boil the Moong Dal in a pressure cooker with almost 2 cup of water (enough water to cook the dal but not make it watery)
Take the boiled dal out and drain any excess water if any
Whisk the dal to a fine paste. The paste should not be watery.
Heat 3tbsp of Oil and 1tbsp of ghee in a Kadai/Frying Pan. You can forego the Canola Oil and use Ghee also, we try to reduce our ghee intake and so substitute in many cases.
Add the ground cardamom
Add the moong dal paste and stir.



Keep on stirring at medium heat till the moisture evaporates and the moong dal paste takes on a light brown colour.



Add 2 cups of shredded coconut and continue stirring.
Add 1 tbsp of ghee and fold in the coconut into the moong dal paste



Add ¾ can of condensed milk slowly, stirring the mixture
Add ¼ cup of fine sugar. Depending on your sweet level you may need to add more sugar. If your sugar is a little coarse then you may need to powder it.
Keep on stirring the mixture at low/medium heat. Take care that it does not burn. Add a little ghee if needed



Continue doing this till the mixture looses it’s stickiness. To check take a little of this paste and make a small round, if it sticks to your palm the mixture is not yet done.



Grease a plate and pour the mixture on it.
With a knife make incisions to create diamond shapes. Cool and then take each piece out and decorate with raisins and cashews.



Alternately you can also make round laddoos. You can decorate with icing as I did for the ones in the first pic

Thanks to Ashwini of Food For Thought for hosting Jihva for January and Thanks to Indira of Mahanadi for starting this event

Trivia: Antiseptic fatty acids in coconut oil help to prevent fungal and bacterial infections in the skin when it is consumed and to some extent, when it is applied directly to the skin.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fishy Fishy Bong Bong or Doi Maach


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The title might sound ludicrous but I couldn’t just get it out of my head. Since the last couple of days this is the line that hums in my mind. You know how it happens, when a particular phrase gets into your system and you just can’t flush it out. The same thing happened when I read Seemas post on “Tindora in Coconut Gravy” aka "Huli Menasina Kodilu". I loved that name. It kept on reminding me of movies like “Hassena Maan Jayegi” or “Hum apke Hain Kaun” and though I don’t know ABC of Kannada I kept on humming that name to myself.

On another note, I went and watched “Casino Royale” at the theatres with D last night. Yeah went and watched it with D my legally wedded husband so what is so surprising that I have to write it in my blog. That’s because this is the first movie we watched in the theatres all by our self (barring the numerous other people in the same theatre watching the same movie) sans my little daughter. A big step for parent kind, so I better chronicle it.

Doi Maach (ch as in chair)or Fish in Yogurt Sauce is a typical Bengali dish which is light, easy to prepare and yet is a favorite as a dish you would serve your guests on those special occasions. I made this with Rohu (a fresh water fish from the carp family) or Rui Mach , which I procured from my Bangladeshi Fish seller. You can also try with other fish like carp, buffalo carp, fresh water bass. Salmon should also be a good bet.If the fish is very fresh and firm as in back home, my Ma or Ma-in law does this without frying the fish. I however always lightly fry the fish and I am presenting here that version

Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates. 



What You Need
Fish(Rohu or Rui) – 8 pieces large
Onion ~ grind to paste about 2 medium ~ about 5-7 tbsp heaped
Ginger ~ 2 - 3 tsp paste
Yogurt ~ 1/2 cup
Turmeric Powder ~ ½ tsp
Red Chilli Powder ~ ½ tsp
Green Chillies ~ 8 cut in slits

Whole Garam Masala
Elaichi or Cardamom~ 5/6
Laung or Cloves~ 5/6
TejPata or BayLeaves~ 3
Dalchini or Cinnamon Sticks ~ 1” stick

Salt
Oil
Sugar ~ 1tsp

How I Do It

Clean the fish pieces and lightly rub with salt and turmeric. Keep aside for half an hour
Grind the onion to a fine paste.
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan.
When the oil is sufficiently hot, add the fish and lightly fry till light golden. Take out the fish and keep aside. If you are a fastidious cook you would put them on a kitchen towel to drain the oil.
In a bowl add 1/2 cup of yogurt/curd and add about 1/3 cup of water and beat till its smooth in consistency. Add to this 1-2 tsp of ginger paste, 2 tbsp of onion paste, ½ tsp of red chilli powder, a little of turmeric powder for the color and beat.
Heat Oil now for cooking the gravy
Add the coarsely pounded whole garam masala
When they start sputtering add the remaining onion paste
Add about 1 tsp of sugar and fry the onion paste till the oil separates and the onion turns a light brown
Add about 1 tsp of ginger paste and the green chillies and sauté well
Now take the Kadai/Frying Pan off the heat and give it a couple of minutes to cool
Add the beaten yogurt/curd and mix with the masala. If you add the yogurt directly when the utensil is on heat the curd may curdle so you need to do this
Put back the Kadai/Frying Pan on heat.
Add salt as required .Add about 1/2 - 2/3 cup of water at this point. depending on how much gravy you need you might need more or less water.
Simmer on low heat till the gravy comes to a boil
Add the fried fish pieces, they should partially submerge in the gravy. Let it simmer till the excess water dries off and the gravy is thick, smooth and coats all the fish pieces. The texture of the gravy should be silky smooth because of all that yogurt. Note: the gravy will not dry off totally but will be thick and not watery
Garnish with raisins if you want
Add a tsp of Ghee if you are lean or your guests are and you don’t have to worry about mundane things like your blood lipid level or you just don’t care and want your doi maach to taste just right.

Update on 02/22/09: I have seen two comments which say they found the ginger to be more. Now when I make this fish, the fish pieces I used are pretty large so I add some water (about 2/3 cup) to the gravy and let the gravy simmer on low heat till I get a silky consistency. Also we always have this with rice. Maybe for these reasons we don't find the ginger to be too much and it suits our taste. You are always welcome to make changes to suit your palate and you can reduce the ginger if you want


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Enjoy this dish with white rice or pulao. You can serve it for either lunch or dinner.

I am sending this recipe which is a traditional Bengali fish dish as an entry for the FAHC campaign. The very well known food blog My Dhaba by VKN has embarked on a group book project 'You Can Cook for FAHC Campaign', as a mission to fight against global poverty. I am pleased to support this effort and urge all food lovers to contribute. Many of you must have already contributed, if not please do, GO HERE and check the details


I do sincerely hope this project is succesful and is able to help in it's own way towards feeding a hungry child.
Trivia:In Bengali wedding there is a ceremony which precedes the main wedding. This ceremony is called "Gaye Holud" meaning applying a paste of turmeric & oil to the bride & the groom in their respective homes. The groom's side sends the turmeric paste for the bride to her house and along with that sends a hoard of other things like sweets, spices, clothes, utensils etc. The fish being an important part of a Bengali life a huge whole Rohu fish decorated and sometimes with a small nose ring is sent over to the brides place.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays To All



Peer pressure finally got me. Every Blog I was visiting for the last couple of days was filled with the rich aroma of baking and though I am a bekaar Baker I finally gave in.

We do not celebrate Christmas as per se. That means we do not put up a Christmas tree, do not frantically buy last moment Christmas presents or bake for Christmas. However I enjoy the Christmas season because of the joyful spirit that you feel in the air, the long long weekends, the heavy discounts at the stores, the Christmas carols on the radio.

When I was small I loved the “Enid Blyton” Christmas. What intrigued me most was the ritual of hanging up of stockings and the stockings being filled with toys by Santa. I could never fathom how so many toys could go into a measly stocking and I always felt maybe stockings those “English” kids had were way better than mine.

But I guess that was the real essence of Christmas, of giving and being happy with small gifts and not asking for an Xbox or a PlayStation which would really really need a XXL stocking.

My little daughter who is usually scared of Santa at the mall has only asked for a small YoYo which would easily fit into her stockings :).

Back to baking I wanted to try out the scores of the cake recipes at all your wonderful blogs but decided to stick with something simple. So went for a Christmas Cranberry Cake. I followed the recipe from here . I am not reiterating the entire recipe here but just jotting down the notes.





What I learnt

Melt the Butter and mix the butter and sugar first
Then add the eggs and mix
Next the sour cream
Now go for the flour
The recipe I followed said a small sour cream and I really got the smallest one. This resulted in the mix being pretty thick at this point. So I added 1 more egg and half quarter of melted butter (in all I used 3eggs and 1 and ½ quarter of butter) to the mix to make it the right consistency, maybe I should have added some more sour cream.
I used a can of cranberry sauce (whole berries)

What I shall not do next time

I added Almond Extract as the recipe said but the flavor was not liked by the family much so I am going to give that a miss next time
Make a topping

The result was pretty ok, considering this is the second time I baked a non-boxed cake :)
The cranberrys in the cake gave it a slight tartness not making the cake very sweet.

Why Cranberries are good for You
Cranberries exhibit a level of tannins, in addition to antioxidants. Tannins have anti-clotting properties, and may help reduce infections in the urinary tract and reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth, thus being a prophylaxis for gingivitis.

Enjoy the cake and the joy this season brings. Happy Holidays to all of you.

Christmas Icons are from IconDrawer

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy BirthDay...



We had just moved to the US. I was back to grad school D to work. Life was ok, different and very new. We had an everyday evening ritual which went like this :: he would pick me up on his way home (we had only one car then), coming home we would sit at the edge of the carpet with steaming mugs of tea & samosa or alu bonda whatever was picked up on the way, laughing our hearts out at "Friends" followed by "Everybody Loves Raymond" and chatting, then I would go on to finish my homework he to his work and the day was done. Weekends were for pouring over maps to find new places to drive to and new restaurants to eat out. Life wasn't hip and happening but it was fun.

I scorned at my Mom whenever she brought up "kids" in the telephone conversation, balked at elders who suggested "what are your plans ?"

Life was ok, kind of same and not that new. All that pressure was getting on me, I thought Calvin's Mom was naive & just joking, I thought "what the heck we should have a baby"

Life was getting difficult, kind of same and not that new. The doc said I should lose some weight before alighting on the journey. So the "alu bondas"&"samosas" stopped, the time free from homework & classes were spent in the gym

Life was difficult, very different. My daughter's life formed inside mine . Every day of the 8 months was fraught with anxiety & fear. Every day all that we hoped for was her. All else in our life took a blur, while each day we prayed frantically for her to safely reach the next day within me.

Life was happy, different and very new. And then she came into this world wide eyed and wailing. She claimed all our time and attention with her being. The tiny curled fists, the pink toes, the quivering smiling lips, and those wide curious eyes. We felt relief and joy.

Life was happy but difficult, different and very new. She was so important that I gave up the job I had studied hard for all these years. I did not want some stranger to take care of her. I was afraid of everything that happened or did not happen to her. I "Googled" every word that had to do with babies. I called up the ped in the middle of the night if she had those jitters (most babies do) or threw up or cried too much. I grew frustrated when all we did didn't ease her colic.

And she grew and I grew too as a mom. I learnt to stay calm if she threw up after her meals, to smile when she went for her shots, to ignore if she threw a tantrum, to be ok if she cried a little at school, to be brave and let her bruise a little while she attempted climbing the slide the wrong way, to let her grow.

Life is not that difficult, different and still new. Life as a mom is still new, lots of new things to learn and do. Life is also about less and less time for me and my husband. The little one does not let us talk and has to butt in every discussion that we have. We have to spell out words that too in Bengali for discretion. Everything that we do needs to be explained to her. The only thing we watch on TV is "Barney" or "Arthur". Even if I snatch a conversation with D it is about how much I like "Arthur's Christmas"

This too shall pass and soon the newness will go out of my life. In a couple of years she will not proclaim in a sing song voice "Mommy is my best friend" and will not seek the nook of my arm to curl up in sleep. Till then let me savor and learn from every bit of it...



To our little girl who turns all of three this month, what I wish for her..


The Mother's heart, the hero's will,
The softest flowers' sweetest feel;
The charm and force that ever sway
The altar-fire's flaming play;
The strength that leads, in love obeys;
Far-reaching dreams, and patient ways,
Eternal faith in Self, in all,
The light Divine in great, in small;
All these and more than I could see,
Today may "Mother" grant to thee!

--Swami Vivekananda



I also hope to fulfill her expectation as a mother as I hope she does mine

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Baked Beet BreadRoll & Chai

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Jump to Recipe

When I and many others at that time were growing up (as in the late 80's when I was in school) life in India was much simple, informal, relaxed and also slow. At least that is how it was in our sleepy little township. The IT outsourcing had not overtaken India and call centers were not heard of. Devoid of malls and multiplex theaters our weekends were spent watching "Mahabharat" on Sunday Mornings followed by "Spiderman" on the "Uptron", "EC" or some such TV. Even now I can still faintly hear the Rasna jingle before "Spiderman".
Those days wireless was unheard of and Telephones were rare. Though we did have a black phone with a rotary dial in our home but in our township all calls had to go through this archaic Exchange where the operators manually connected our calls to the requested so-and-so and also entertained themselves listening to us. So people hardly called and if neighbors wanted to drop in they simply knocked or rang the bell.
At least that is how it was in our sleepy little township...

Those impromptu visits by neighborhood aunties were much awaited as you got to hear the local gossip and also because my Ma maintaining the age old tradition of "Atithi Devo Bhava" (Visitors are God so they should be treated with respect) always entertained them with Hot Tea and some quick delicious snacks. She would make things of whatever she had as the visits were unplanned and bread being omnipresent Bread Roll was one of the things often made.

Lots of different stuffing was used for this roll but the stuffing with Beet also known as BeetRoot was a winter special. The sweetness and redness of the beet made the roll delicious as well as pretty. This beet stuffing was also used as a stuffing for a Bengali Specialty called “Chop” which is like a fritter made of mashed potatoes with stuffing.
Though the roll is ideally fried I baked it to add a healthy touch. Baking cooked the beet a little more and brought out the flavor pretty well.

Baked Beet BreadRoll


What you Need

Red Beet - 1 and 1/2 of the medium sized ones. Chopped into small pieces and put in the blender to chop finely
Green Coriander Leaves ~ a quarter of a bunch chopped
Green Chillies ~ 4/5 chopped fine (optional)
Raisins or Kishmis ~ a fistful (about 20) soaked in water
Cashew or Kaju ~ 20 crushed
Salt

Bhaja Masala or Dry Roasted Masala ~ 2 tsp heaped



My mother makes this masala and stores it. To make this Dry Roast 1tbsp each of Jeera (Cumin Seeds), Dhania (Corriander seeds), Saunf (Fennel Seeds), 6/7 Laung (cloves) , 6/7 Elaichi (Cardamom), 6/7 TejPata(Bay leaves), an inch & half of cinnamon stick and peppercorns according to desired hotness.Then just dry grind it to a powder.
You can also use your own Garam Masala Powder or any suitable spice mix instead

For the Roll
Bread ~ a slice for each roll. I made 12.
Butter ~ 1 tbsp melted
Egg ~ 1 beaten

How I Did It



Chop the beet into small pieces and put them in the blender. Process them till they are chopped real fine, beet being solid you will not get a fine paste (you don't want that) but it will be granular, something like the above pic.
Heat oil. Use Olive Oil if you want
Add the chopped green chillies, the chopped beet, and sauté.
Add the chopped coriander leaves, the raisins, the crushed cashew
Add salt & the Dry roasted Masala



Sauté and cook covered for about 10 minutes till the beet is cooked. It will be lightly crunchy but totally dry

For Roll
Take a slice of Bread. It is better to use Wheat Bread my Ma says, but I only had White Bread at home.
Remove the sides.
Now comes a slightly difficult part. To make the bread pliable you have to sprinkle water on it and then press it between your palms to drain the water out. If you have already done this before it is easy, else it will take one or two attempts to get this right





Make a round from the stuffing and put it at the centre of the bread. Now mould the bread around the stuffing to make a roll or a round as in the above pic.
Brush the rolls with little butter and the beaten egg. Use a brush lightly to do this
You can fry it at this point if you want. If you are frying no need to brush with butter.

To Bake
Refrigerate for about an hour



Take the roll out of the refrigerator and lightly brown them on both sides on a griddle or tawa as in the pic
Heat oven to 400F



Sprinkle corn meal (I used semolina/sooji) on the baking pan which has been lined with aluminum foil. Tip: I always line my baking pan with aluminum foil, as that makes cleaning the baking pan easy
Place the rolls on the baking pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes
The baking time might vary, so check and bake till the roll is evenly browned
Serve with hot Tea or Chai

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This roll can be made and kept in the refrigerator prior to baking. You can Bake it next day

Todays post of Beet Bread Roll & Chai is for Cutting The Chai a delightful Blog by Soumyadip. Check it out for it’s delightful posts and wonderful archive of Indian Ads. If you loved Indian Ads as I still do, it's a ride down memory lane.

Why Beet is Good for You
The various table beets contain significant amounts of vitamin C in the roots, and the tops are an excellent source of vitamin A. They are also high in folate, as well as soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and several antioxidants. From Wiki

Trivia: The sugar beet song, sung nearly weekly on Sesame Street in the early 1980's had only two words: Sugar Beet. How did I miss this, I watch Elmo almost every day, not that I want but I have to

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chicken65 from Fellow Blogs


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It might seem that all I cook and eat is typically Bong Food and all others Cuisines are Greek & Latin to me, actually I like Greek and Latin Ameriacn food too and I like all other non Greek food too. Truth is I simply love to eat and try out different restaurants and eat outs.

We also cook a lot of non Bong food, of course the easy ones, but I never chronicle them because there are a lot of source out there on blogs and non blogs from where I and millions other get the recipe. However on many of these occasions I throw in some of my ideas (rotten though they may be) and the result turns out to be something which the originator might not have had in mind. Me on the other hand is unable to re-create the recipe when the need arises as I suffer from mild amnesia.

I don't know if it is with other people too but I have had a loss of memory after my pregnancy, though my husband claims it's just old age, I feel it's the hormones. I can well remember random stuff like my neighbour's daughter's third cousins dog's name but I have to scratch and stress my poor brain to remember the first Ash starrer, ok it might be because it's better if Ash starrers are forgotten but come on I do need that extra RAM.

So not relying too much on my memory I thought to borrow some server space with Blogger and upload the recipes that might not be Bengali but are eaten and liked at our home.

So here goes Chicken 65 from the great blogs like MyDhaba and PastPresent&Me.

This is a dish we liked during our stay down south in Bangalore where we were very surprised to find curry leaves in our chicken on our first day of restaurant hopping, but later got used to it :) Do not read further and Go to the above sites to find the authenticate versions.
On my part I liked both their recipes and merged them. A quick recap for myself


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How I Did It

Marinade the chicken pieces in vinegar, 2 tsp garlic paste, salt, little turmeric powder, little red chilli powder, 1 tsp soya sauce, a sprinkle of corn flour and a dash of sambhar powder (this is what Vee said and boy did I like it) for a couple of hours
Heat Oil
Add Mustard seeds, Curry Leaves and finely chopped Garlic
Ideally it's good to add chopped green chillies, but I went light on it
When the spices sputter, add the chicken pieces (pick them up from the marinade and add)
Fry till they are browned
Check to see if they are done, else cover and cook in low heat, no water added
Great Chicken65 ready in a jiffy
Eat and thank VKN and Vee and other bloggers who have contributed this recipe.


Other Chicken65 Recipes on the same line

Shaheen of Malabar Spices -- Chicken 65

Trivia: Theory no.1:The story goes that an English traveller visiting Kerala in 1965 asked a chef to make this dish. The traveller expressed his contentment at the result and left, whereupon the bar staff tried the remainders, having never seen anything like it before. The result certainly was good and Chicken 65 was born, there being no other name for it.

Theory no.2:As legend has it, in all the country liquor bars, the favourite ‘food fight’ is: who can eat the maximum number of chillies? It is a symbol of machismo to be able to eat the most chilies. An enterprising hotelier capitalised on this and cooked up the dish Chicken 65, denoting that 65 chillies were used for every kilogram of chicken. Some chefs believe it is called so because of the 65 ingredients used in making it.

Theory no.3:It was the 65th. item on the menu of a restaurant at Palghat


Source: The India Tree

Friday, December 08, 2006

Of Barbie Dolls and Little Girls


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Diwali Barbie is what Mattel has come out with.
Those of you who are Barbie fans must have known this already. For me who is not in that league, I heard about it on NPR during my drive back home yesterday. What was exciting is that blogger Anna Johns who writes on SepiaMutiny was interviewed on NPR about her post where she disputes about the fact that Diwali Barbie is really wearing a lehenga and not a saree as Mattel claims. Read her post here. It's nice and encouraging that so many bloggers of Indian origin our dear Indira of Mahanadi fame among them is getting featured on NPR .

Back to Barbie, I have never really liked her, that hour glass figure, that perfect body is too much for me to endure. Mattel must have a real good marketing group because I can hardly imagine little girls being happy playing with a doll who is not cuddly and comfy. Growing up I never had a Barbie, maybe because they were not that IN when I was in the doll playing stage and also because they were pretty expensive. Later too, I felt no liking for her, though I like her accessories. As long as I can I will try to avoid that Barbie for my daughter, a cabbage patch doll is better any day.

Not that my little soon-to-be 3 year old is much interested in dolls, all she wants to do is talk, talk and talk and in the between times jump or hide. She is on this hiding spree these days, maybe this is this age when hide & seek becomes exciting. She drives my Dad around the house hiding in all possible closets and because she is not that patient creature she keeps on shouting from her hiding place. So every time I or anyone else is entering a room we have to say “Oh, so where is S…? Has she gone to school or some such thing” and then she jumps out with a big grin.


So to keep this active little one healthy we have to think up ideas to get those veggies into her. She is not among those angelic creature who eat broccoli with glee and bean without making a scene (sic sic !!) However she loves her “Chicken Jholu Bhatu” (As per her babytalk Jholu in Bengali means a light gravy and Bhatu is rice) and taking advantage of this I put all veggies and make a mutton or chicken stew for her. It tastes really good and you can have it too. with some peppercorns afor yourself

She also like to help me in the kitchen and she likes pounding away to glory on that mortar whenever I am making her Stew




What You Need
Mutton/Chicken ~ about a pound
Onion ~ 1/2 of a small grated to a coarse paste, chopped is also fine
Tomato ~ ½ chopped
Raw Papaya ~ a quarter of a small one peeled and cut into pieces
Beet ~ 1 small chopped, about same quantity as in pic
Potato ~ 1 small chopped into 4 halves
Baby Carrots ~ 5 or more chopped
Beans ~ 5 or more chopped
Note: I didn’t have beans or carrots but usually I put them
For Phoron or Tempering
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 2
Laung or Cloves ~ 2
TejPata or BayLeaves ~ 2
Darchini or Cinnamon Sticks ~ a small one

Garlic ~ a small clove of garlic finely chopped
Ginger Grated/Paste ~ 1 tsp of fresh paste, you can also use grated or crushed ginger
Yogurt ~ 2 tbsp for marinade
Turmeric Powder
Jeera or Cumin Powder
Salt

How I Do It

Marinade the mutton/chicken with yogurt, a little salt and turmeric powder for about an hour.For Mutton I usually keep it for couple of hours while for chicken half hour is fine
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Temper with TejPata, Elaichi, Laung and Darchini (this is also called as whole Garam Masala). I do not pound them as then it is difficult to fish them out from the stew and you know how kids are !!
Add the onion paste and the finely chopped garlic
Fry with a little sugar (this helps in browning the onion)
Add the tomatoes and sauté a little
Add all the chopped veggies and sauté again for some more time
Add the mutton or chicken.
Add about ½ tsp of jeera powder and mix well
Add 1 tsp of fresh ginger paste or grated ginger
Add salt
Cook for 2 /3 minutes so that the masala mixes well with the veggies and the chicken
Next I transfer the whole thing to my pressure cooker and add water as required for stew.
Pressure cook till the veggies and mutton is done. Beet takes a while to cook and mutton also. If you are making chicken and not using beet, you need not pressure cook.
Add butter to the hot stew and fish out the garam masala while serving to your little one
Can be had as a soup, but my daughter likes it with rice



Trivia: Garam Masala literally translated as "hot spice" is a mixture of several spices mainly Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Bay Leaves. Occasionally Peppercorn, Nutmeg and Mace is also included in this mixture. Powdered Garam Masala is added to the dish at tle last stage of cooking to enhance the flavor while Whole Garam Masala is often used for tempering. The hot referred to, however, is not hot as in spicy, its meaning comes from ancient ayurvedic medicine, according to which the blend "heats" the body, which is useful in a cold climate

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kancha Aamer Ambol ar Chaatni


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Green Mango Chutney to tickle your taste buds if the name hasn’t already. This recipe was long due considering we have it pretty often but as Chandrika said the pics never got taken. Need I say in not so many words I simply love this Ambol & Chutney.

As I said in an earlier post a traditional Bengali meal usually consists of five to six courses, starting off with something bitter and ending with a sweet dessert. The fifth course served just prior to the dessert is the sweet & sour ambol or chutney.

The chutney (pronounced cha-a-tni in Bengali) in Bengal is not the chutney, sold in jars in the Asian/Indian Aisle of your SuperMarket and hugely popular in the Western World . The Chutney as we have it in a Bengali household is almost always prepared fresh and is eaten as a course of a lunch or a dinner to accent the meal and not as a relish or as a dip. It is the pickle which is preserved for later day use.

Different regions in India specialize in the ingredients they use for their chutneys and Bengal specializes in Chutney made with fruits like raw mango, tomato, pineapple, papaya etc. Also since fish is a part of an everyday Bengali meal, chutney or ambol made with fish specially the head of Hilsa is also pretty popular. My Dida (maternal grandma ) would make this amazing chutney with head of hilsa and tamarind which she called “macher tak” . Another fellow blogger SpiceandCurry talks about ambol made with fish roe fritters here

As I already said I love all sorts of chutneys, tomato chutney and mango chutney being my favorites. I remember when I first started school in one of the hill stations of West Bengal and would be very miserable with the whole school thing, the bright spot of the day would be my Ma or the help at home arriving with my lunch which almost every day would be Rice, Chanar Dalna (Paneer in a light gravy) & Tomato Chutney. The spoonfuls of Tomato Chutney mixed with Rice (ok, that’s not the norm, that’s not how a decent Bengali should eat his chutney) would make my day. Instead of relegating Chutney to a position towards the end of the meal, I almost always start with it.

And my little daughter loves Chutney too. She calls it “Chantinge” and used to love it even a couple of months back, Now she is becoming more opinionated and has taken a fancy to eating ketchup, that too by itself. I sincerely hope she gets hooked on to my dear chutney again.
Difference between Ambol and Chaatni: The ambol is very light and is like a soup, the emphasis is more on the sourness. The chaatni is thick and is usually more sweet.

What You Need
For Ambol

Raw Mango ~ 1 cut into pieces as in pic
Mustard Seed ~ ½ tsp for phoron or tempering

Sugar ~ according to taste (almost 1/2 cup)
Salt
Turmeric Powder

For Chaatni

Raw Mango ~ 1 cut into pieces as shown in pic
Mustard Seed ~ 1/2 tsp for phoron or tempering
Dry Red Chillies ~ 1 used for phoron or tempering. I didn't use any
Panch Puran ~ dry roasted and ground to a powder 1/2 tsp of the powder

Sugar ~ 1/2  Cup or more
Salt


How I Do It
Ambol

Wash and roughly peel the raw mangoes. You don’t have to take out the peel very smoothly


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Chop them up
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Add Mustard seeds
As soon as the mustard seeds start sputtering , add the chopped mangoes
Add a pinch of turmeric powder and sauté the mangoes
The mangoes will take on a nice yellow because of the turmeric
Add salt and water. Water should be enough to submerge the mangoes.
Mix and cover and cook till mangoes are done
Add sugar according to your desired level of sweetness or as suggested
Boil for a couple more minutes and you are done.
The consistency should be like a light soup and the mangoes should be soft

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Chaatni

Wash and roughly peel the raw mangoes. You don’t have to take out the peel very smoothly

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Chop them up in small pieces as in the pic
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Add Mustard seeds and Dry Red Chilli
As soon as the mustard seeds start sputtering , add the chopped mangoes
Add a pinch of turmeric powder and sauté the mangoes
The mangoes will turn a nice yellow because of the turmeric and will also soften a little.
Add salt and about 1 Cup water. Water should be enough to cook the mangoes. The chaatni should be thick and so add water moderately
Mix and cover and cook till mangoes are done. With the spatula check to see if the mangoes are cooked to softness.
Add sugar according to your desired level of sweetness. I added about 1/2 cup of sugar for 1 mango.
Cook and Reduce the water till you get a thick consistency.
Roast the panch puran and dry grind it. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of this powder on the chaatni.


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According to this source unripe green mangoes are beneficial in the treatment of gastro-intestinal disorders. Eating one or two small tender mangoes in which the seed is not fully formed with salt and honey is found to be very effective medicine for summer diarrhea, dysentery, piles, morning sickness, chronic dyspepsia, indigestion and constipation.
The green mango is valuable in blood disorders because of its high vitamin C content.

I so wanted to send this out to Kalyn yesterday but Blogger misbehaved. So am sending this to WHB for this week hosted by SwankCaterers.
Trivia:The mango is in the same family as poison ivy and contains urushiol, though much less than poison ivy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Khejur Gur er Paayesh ~ Rice Pudding

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Kabir the great poet saint had said about this tree

"Bara hua to kya hua, jaisa per khajur,
panthi ko chaya nahin, fal lage ati dur".


Whoever had Hindi as their second language in school in India must be familiar with Kabir's dohas or couplets. They were short and so profound I used to love them and still remember some.

The above doha or couplet means "Even though the Palm tree is big, it's bigness is of no use, as it does not provide cool shade to weary travelers and it's fruits are too high to be picked up", the essence being your greatness lies not in your stature but in how you serve others.

However Kabir had missed a point, he had underestimated our endeavor for good food, to get the Khajur and Khajur ka Ras (the sweet sap from the Date Palm Tree) we can climb all the way up. I have never had Khejur Ras but the Khejur Gur, mmmmmmmm, not enough words to describe it. It has much more flavor and tastes way better than cane jaggery.

Khejur Gur (liquid date palm jaggery -- made from boiling the sap from date palms) is very popular in Bengal during the winter months. It is also commonly called "Notun Gur" ( literally, "new jaggery") or "Nolen Gur". I think the sap of the date palms is best during the winter months and that is the reason we get this gur or jaggery around this time. Also during the summer, night temperatures are high and sap harvested ferments by morning, rendering the product fit only as an alcoholic drink.

The liquid Khejur Gur is delicious, tastes better than Maple Syrup and we used to have it poured on our Luchi (Puri) or Roti for dinner or breakfast. It is also used to make a variety of sweets in Bengal. This article explains the process of making Khejur-Gur here. Khejur Gur in solid form is sold in the shape of oval discs and is also known as "Patali Gur"

But I have never mustered the courage to smuggle liquid Khejur Gur (liquid Palm Date Jaggery) to the US, though I do carry the the solid khejur gur which is also called "Patali Gur" in Bengali, from Kolkata, if I am visiting during winter.

But I have to ration my khejur gur as I have only one patali to last a year or more and I use it only for special occasions to make Paayesh or paramanna during my husband D's and my daughter's B'Day, as Bengalis consider having payesh on one's Birthday as auspicious. Paayesh can also be made with sugar but Khejur Gur er paayesh is just heavenly.

This is how my Ma makes Payesh and she makes the best payesh in the world. Only recently I have learned to make Khejur Gur-er Payesh from her and so here is my attempt. I made this for D's B'day earlier this month but am posting it now in time for JFI

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What You need

Whole Milk ~1 and ½ litre
Half & Half Milk ~ ½ litre

Note: My Ma uses 2 litre of Whole Milk only. I use the Half & Half as it reduces my effort to thicken the Milk

GobindoBhog Rice or KalaJeera Rice or Basmati Rice ~ a little less than 2/3 of a cup
Ghee ~ enough to smear the rice with, maybe 1/2 tsp
Raisins ~ a fistful soaked in water
TejPata or BayLeaves ~ 3 or 4
Sugar ~ 1 cup
Khejur Gur or Palm Date jaggery ~ I added depending on my sweetness level

Note: The Sugar + Khejur Gur amounts to almost 2 cups. This is sweet enough for me, not enough for my Dad and just right for my hubby, friends, Mom etc. Between the sugar & gur you can increase one and decrease the other, but the gur has to be added only after the paayesh is taken off the heat as mentioned in the recipe

How I Do It

Wash the rice, drain the water and then smear the rice with a little ghee
Pour Milk in a boiling pan, usually a deep heavy bottomed pan. I use a deep non-stick one.
Add 3 or 4 Bay leaves
When the Milk come to a boil add the rice. Be careful so that milk does not boil over.
Stir well
Stir intermittently and check if the rice is done. You kind of have to keep stirring frequently else the milk might scald the bottom of the pan as it thickens.
When the rice is cooked add sugar. Tip: Adding sugar before the rice has boiled hinders it getting cooked properly
Now stir the milk continuously so that the milk does not burn or scald the bottom of the container and the rice does not stick.
When the Milk has thickened to the right consistency, to check this take a spoonful of liquid and pour it on a flat plate, the viscosity of the milk should be such that it does not flow. By this time the milk would have also reduced from it's original volume. Approx. time to reach this stage is almost an hour or so at a medium flame setting on my gas range.
Take the Paayesh off heat and add the Khejur Gur after 5 mins and stir well. Add Gur depending on your desired sweetness level. Tip: If your gur or jagery has been refrigerated put it in the microwave til it turns soft.
Savor the sweet smell of khejur gur, pure bliss
Add Kishmis or Raisins.
Serve hot or cold, I like cold better


This is my entry for December JFI hosted by Kay.
Congaratulations to the new Mom and kudos to her for hosting this inspite of her new motherhood.

Here's some discussion on getting Khejur Gur in the US:Came across a very interesting forum discussing Khejur-Gur which I wanted to share If you are interested check it out here at this forum. They say that they found a substitute for Khejur Gur in US "This is the liquid form of Gula Jawa (literally, Java sugar, it can be made of either arenga palm, coconut palm or palmyra palm sap), and comes in a squeezable plastic bottle."

Indira of Mahanadi says she got herself some Palm Date Jaggery from her Indian store. So check your local Bangladeshi or Indian store for this jaggery, my neighbourhood Indian store doesn't carry the Khejur Gur I crave for and I haven't tried any Khejur Gur outside Bengal yet.


I just saw from Mandira's & Asha's blog (I get to know all about events from this wonderful blogger friends) that there is a festive fair at Anna's of Morsels & Musings . Since Paayesh is a "special occasion" recipe I am sending this out to her too.


Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.

Trivia: Muzaffarnagar District in Uttar Pradesh has the largest Jaggery Market in India followed by Anakapalli of Visakhapatnam District in Andhra Pradesh. Both are termed to be the biggest and second biggest in the entire world.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Amish and The CauliFlower


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So The Amish County was visited and enjoyed. The idyllic green farmlands, the quaint villages with equally quaint names like Bird-In-Hand, Kitchen Kettle Village, Intercourse (ahem !!), the buggy ride through the Amish Farms, the Dutch Farmers Market with their fresh produce and the jams & preserves was thoroughly enjoyable , more so with the lovely weather bestowed on us since Friday.

The little daughter was an angel, no throwing-up, no car seat blues, very co-operative during the entire trip, The parents were happy, The husband was happy, he got his own TV to watch while me watched chick-flicks with dear Momma (yeah I carried Movies as a backup plan for the Rains), The People who did business with the "Amish" as their USP were very very happy indeed, The Amish...I do not know.

Everything was fine except something that kept gnawing at the back of my head, that something called commercialization of the entire thing. I had gone there thinking there would be villages & farms and maybe a gift shop or two thrown in as is the norm but I was astounded by the bustling business that had built up around the whole thing and the malls that had sprung up to cater to the visitors.

Coming from a culture and a background where materialism is not the norm and simplicity is or at least was the way of life, I wasn't very amazed by the Amish way of living, though I am impressed now that being there bang in the middle of all those malls with brands screaming from BOSE to BASS they still adhere to their culture and lifestyle not perturbed by the "Amish" brand visitors are falling for.



All said and done, we had a nice break, I got lovely veggies and pickles & jams. I got a huge cauliflower so there I go and cook. I got this recipe of cauliflower called “Ada FulKopi” or “Adraki Gobi” or “Ginger Cauliflower” from my bengali recipe book by an author known as Bela De. My Ma too does this with a little variation, but the one I did yesterday was almost by the book. It is a very nice dish with ginger dominating the flavor and the taste is a little emphasizing the tartness of the tomato and the crunchiness of the cauliflower.

The BIG cauliflower :)


Ada FulKopi or Ginger CauliFlower


What You Need

Cauliflower ~ 1 cut into florets. I used half of the cauliflower shown above and cut the florets a little on the large size
Baby Carrots ~ about 10 of the small ones cut into halves
Green Peas ~ ½ a cup
Ginger ~ 1” chopped fine in juliennes

For Paste
Onion ~ 1 and ½ medium sized
Garlic ~ 2 big cloves
Ginger ~ 1 & 1/2”
Grind all of the above to a paste

For Puree
Tomato ~ 2 medium sized nice plump red tomatoes pureed. I did with skins and everything

For Phoron or Tempering
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 2
Laung or Cloves ~ 2
TejPata or BayLeaves ~ 2
DarChini or Cardamom Sticks ~ about a 2" stick
GolMirch or Peppercorns ~ 10
Coarsely pound the above

Yogurt ~ 2/3 cup
Turmeric Powder
Red Chilli Powder (according to taste, I did not use any)
Salt

How I Do It

Cut the cauliflower into medium sized florets (not very small else they will turn mushy while cooking)
Chop the carrots
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan. Use Olive Oil if you prefer
Lightly fry the cauliflower (no deep frying, more like sauté them) florets till Golden. Tip: I always add Turmeric Powder to the hot oil and then add the cauliflower to prevent the oil from spluttering. This also makes the cauliflower golden with light frying. Also cover while frying.
Remove the florets and keep them in a bowl.
Grind the onion, ginger and garlic to a paste. Keep about 1 tbsp of the paste for frying, use the rest in the next step
Mix the yogurt with this paste and a little salt. Also add chilli powder if you want to the yogurt according to your spice level.
Marinade the cauliflower florets with the above marinade for about half an hour.


Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan. You can use the same oil.
Add TejPata, Elaichi, Laung, DarChini, Gol Mirch as phoron or temper with this
Add the finely chopped ginger and fry a little
After frying the ginger for a little add about 1 tbsp of the onion/ginger/garlic paste and a little sugar
When the onion turns a light brown, add the carrots and peas
Saute for a little while

Add the cauliflower along with the marinade
Then cover and cook till the masala is cooked and coats the veggies uniformly. This in Bengali coking term is called “kashano

Add salt according to taste and add the tomato puree



Cover and cook till the veggies are done. They should be crunchy.
Add a little sugar if the taste is little sour to your liking
This has very little gravy so adjust that accordingly
Garnish with coriander leaves



You can have this "Ada FulKopi" with Roti, Paratha and even Rice (I love my Rice :)). This can be served as a dish when you have guests over and also for your weekday lunch or dinner.

Trivia: Mark Twain said " Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a College Education"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

MuloShaak or Radish Greens


My weekend visits to the local Farmers Market, leaves me rejuvenated. When I was new to the US, I used to go to the ShopRites (US Grocery chain in our area) or the Indian stores for getting my veggies & fruits, but after I discovered the Farmers Market, it was a different story.

I try to go at least once a week to buy veggies, mostly the greens like Spinach, Bok Choy, Brussels Sprouts etc. and the Fruits. It is the greens that attract me here, for the rest I am ok with the other grocery places, but the greens here are so vibrant and earthly (not organic though, for organic WholeFoods Market is another great store but it's a bit far from my place and a bit pricey) that I always buy them here. If you are in the US and there's a farmers market in the neighbourhood do try it out if you haven’t already, they won't be glossy and well packaged but they will taste good and cost you less.

This reminds me of the weekend market we used to go to on Saturdays when we were in Koramangala, Bangalore. It was near Hosur Road, I think it was called Madiwala (??)and there would be all these people selling & buying and the place would be thriving with life. With my knowlede of kannada stopping at "Stop Mari" (a phrase I often used with the auto drivers), I would happily bargain and return home with a loaded bag. It was also a good place to get Fish.

So this Saturday as I was wandering around my Farmer's Market (ok not mine, someone else owns it) I came upon these beautiful bunches of radish, the radish were small pinkish red balls and they were hanging from the green leafy bunches. I brought them home for 1 dollar a pair. Now, normally I would have just cut the radish, tossed them in a salad or ate them raw. But now my Ma is here, yehhhhhhhhh and though I don't let her do the daily cooking to give her a little rest from all the years of cooking that she has done for us, you know how Moms are. She has just arrived and yet she cooks something during the day so that I don't have to cook when I get back from work but get to eat the goodies


So, my Maa sat down, chopped up the leaves real fine, kuchi-kuchi as we say in Bengali and made Mulo Shaak. A very nice, easy, healthy recipe. I never wanted to eat it growing up and only today I appreciate this dish. Maybe am getting old :)

Mulo Shaak or Radish Greens is a typical way a Bong eats his greens. Spinach or other greens are also coked in almost similar ways. This is usually eaten as a second course in the traditional Bengali Lunch.

What You Need

Bunches of radish with nice green leaves ~ 2 bunches. The variety I got is known as Red Globe and popular in US

Green Chillies ~ 2/3

For Phoron:
Kalo Jeera
or Kalonji ~ 1/2 tsp
Shukno Lanka or Dry Red Chillies ~ 2/3

Salt

How Ma Does It

Chop the radish greens (stems included) real fine, in small pieces
Also cut some of the radish about say 4 small ones into fine pieces
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Add Kalo Jeera(Kalonji) and Shukno Lanka(Dry Red Chillies) as phoron
Sauté the radish pieces
When they are little soft add the greens
Cover and sauté till they are soft.
Add salt
Dry up all the water
Serve with Rice or Roti



Enjoy your holidays wining, dining and feasting. I am off on a 3-day break to Lancaster County , PA to visit our Amish neighbours. Shall resume cooking and blogging once I am back :)

Trivia: Radishes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in China, then in Egypt and Greece. Radishes were so highly regarded in Greece that gold replicas were made. Are you kidding ??