Monday, October 30, 2006

Egg Paratha with a Twist


Saturday Morning Breakfasts at our home are usually my husband’s affair, he is in charge, whipping up a warm breakfast different from the toast-omelets or cereal-milk kind. This does not mean that he does not lapse from his routine, after all he is a man , but even if I take 52 Saturday mornings – 12 lapses – 4 traveling Saturdays – 4 Vacation Saturdays, the answer is 32, way better than 42 (!!!).
But this Saturday was different, to add a nice twist to the breakfast for WBB#6 Breakfast with a Twist at Nandita’s Saffron Trail, I woke up bright & early and donned the chef’s hat, relegating my hubby to the position of the sous-chef.
So I started with the Original Recipe of my Mom. She used to make Dimer Paratha or Egg Paratha which was a breakfast delight in itself and still is a favorite at our home not only for breakfasts but also for evening snacks. I added a twist by making a stuffing of soy chunks for this paratha, which made the paratha look like a wrap or a roll. I also make the stuffing with Keema if I am making this as an evening snack. For my breakfast I prefer the Soya as it is lighter and a more healthy way to start the day with.



What You Need

For Paratha

All Purpose Flour/Maida ~ 2 cups
Eggs ~ 3 (you can also make do with 2)
Milk
Onions ~ ½ finely chopped
Chillies ~ 2/3 chopped
Salt

For the stuffing

Soy Chunks (Nutrela) ~ ½ cup -- you can try with soy granules too
Onion ~ ½ grind to a paste
Garlic ~ 1 small clove finely chopped
Maggi Hot & Sweet Tomato Sauce (any suitable alternative)
Salt

How I Do It

Mix together flour/maida, eggs and milk in a big bowl to make a batter. Stir till smooth. The thickness of the batter should be same as that needed for a pancake or say to make utthapam.
Add the chopped onions and chillies, and salt to this batter and mix well.
Grease your frying pan with Olive Oil.
Pour a scoop of this batter in the frying pan and spread it out (same as for cooking pancake)
Cook until golden in color and then flip and cook till golden on the other side too.
You can go ahead and eat it at this point, it's yummy


My li'l one loves to eat this with jam




For the stuffing





Soak the soy chunk in water and microwave for 2 minutes. Let them soak in the hot water for 1 more minute
Once they are soft put the chunks in the blender and mince them, so that they look as in the picture (left side).
In a frying pan heat Olive Oil.
Add the chopped garlic
Add the onion paste
Fry till they have browned and add the minced soy
Add Maggi Hot & Sweet Tomato Sauce or any suitable tangy alternative and cook till the soy is nicely cooked as in the picture (right side)
Add little salt.

To Serve

Put this stuffing in the center of the Egg Paratha, add sauce/ketchup, you can also add lettuce, tomato if you want. Roll it and serve hot.

Note: Instead of Soy you can use Keema/minced meat. Mix the keema with little yogurt, ginger paste and garlic paste and keep aside for 2/3 hours. Then cook same way as the soy.

Trivia: Nutrela soya chunks are made from fully cooked soybean and is a brand name for Textured Vegetable Protein(TVP) ,marketed by RSIL. "Meal Maker" was another brand available in India , I am not sure about it's existence in the present days.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Macher Kalia or one more Fish Curry



I am a recent NPR convert and like all newbie converts I am right now totally hooked on, though only during my morning commute when my li’l one is not there in her car seat voicing her opinions which are far more important than those aired on NPR.
So I was pleasantly surprised this Monday morning, when I heard them saying how millions of Hindus celebrated Deepavali over the weekend. Next thing I hear is the correspondent saying that Ganges is a very sacred river and then a correspondent from Rishikesh, India is waxing eloquently about the river, describing his experience as he went on a rubber dingy on the river. It was very nice to hear them not talking about the Ganga being polluted etc. and instead stressing on it’s greatness.
I have a pretty close association with the river Ganga as most of the places we lived as a kid were on its banks.
And this mention sent a shiver of happiness down my spine, and I felt how I miss my country and how a simple mention of its river made me all proud. Would my daughter feel the same hearing about Hudson River, ok at least Niagara on AkashVani?

On another note, if we are talking of the river, can fish be far behind? Bengalis being pretty fishy folks (pun intended) have thought of hazaar permutation & combination of cooking fish. Today I thought of making Fish Kalia for dinner. This is a gravy based dish usually made with fish like Rui(Rohu) or Katla, it is not very rich but sufficiently spicy. This is appropriate for both lunch and dinner and is also popular as a dish that a Bengali family would serve their guests on special occasions.
I made this with Red Snapper this time and it was really very tasty. I have had Red Snapper at Thai Places and one of my friend’s place but this was my first try and it turned out great.
Ok, an apology is due here, as I do not cook by measure, & I kind of throw in ingredients according to andaaz, so feel free to innovate. I will try to be more specific with my measurments while I cook now.

What You Need
2 mid size Red Snapper ~ each cut into 4 steak like pieces (didn’t use the fish head). Total 8 fish pieces
Potatoes ~ 2 , each cut into 4 halves
Tomatoes ~ 1 medium
Onions ~ 1 medium/half of the big ones, grind to a paste
Ginger ~ freshly grated around 1tbsp
Garlic ~ 2 flakes grind along with onion
Green Chillies ~ 4/5
Corriander leaves

Turmeric Powder
Jeera(Cumin) Powder ~ 1/2 tsp
Dhania(Corriander) Powder ~ 1/2 tsp
TejPata(Bay Leaves) ~ 2
Elaichi(Cardamom) ~ 4/5
Whole Jeera (Cumin seeds) ~ 1/2 tsp
Yogurt ~ around 2 tbsp
Salt

How I Do It

Wash the fish pieces in warm water, pat dry & and mix them with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt.
Chop tomatoes in small pieces
Grind onion and garlic to a paste
Chop the potatoes, each in 4 halves
Fry the fish in hot oil till it turns golden on both sides, kind of deep fry.
Heat oil in Kadai/Frying Pan.
Lightly fry the potatoes, remove and keep aside.
Temper with TejPata (Bay Leaves), Elaichi (Cardamom) and whole Jeera (Cumin seeds)
As soon as they start sputtering add the onion & garlic paste.
Add a little sugar while frying as it adds a brown color (due to caramelization)
When the onion has turned reddish brown add the chopped tomatoes. You can also puree the tomato and add.
Saute till they become a fine pulp and you see oil separating from the paste.
Mix the Jeera Powder, Dhania Powder and the grated ginger with yogurt(instead of water) to make a paste and add this masala.Cook this masala for about 2 minutes till you see the oil seeping out of the edges.
Add the fried potatoes.
Add a pinch of turmeric powder and water. You don’t want this gravy to be very watery so add water with caution.About 2 cups of warm water should be fine.
When the gravy comes to a boil and the potatoes are almost done(not fully boiled yet) add the fish pieces.
Add salt.
Cook for a few more minutes till the potatoes are cooked and you are done.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. The gravy is best enjoyed with white rice.

You can also try this dish with other fish available in American stores like Tilapia. Mandira of Ahaar has a recipe of the same dish with CatFish. Check it out here.

Trivia:The drink we know as Bloody Mary was originally called Red Snapper. Correct me if I am wrong !!!

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fish Curry On a Winter Noon


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Winter is there at my doorstep, knocking on my doors, announcing its arrival. In the twirling of the fall leaves, the chill of the air, the Diwali lights blinking on the front porch, that’s what I hear. This is the time that reminds me of Winter in India, winter in the plains of Bengal not very harsh but winter that let’s you soak up the sun during the day, cuddle up in the warmth of a lep (blanket) at night.
I grew up mostly away from Kolkata (where nowadays what we have during December-January is an apology to winter), in small townships where winter was much better and brighter. Winter also meant the local hat (marketplace) looked much more colorful with the bright red tomatoes, the fresh green dhone-pata(coriander leaves), the orange carrots, the deep red of beetroots. These were vegetables available only during winter months and my Ma made the most use of them. Our daily fish curry had a different flavor during these months. Today with the winter sun streaming down my kitchen windows, all those memories rushed back, and I decided to make this fish curry which was a favorite at our home, during these months.
This is a light fish curry with tomatoes and coriander leaves and almost no other spice. This is a dish that is usually cooked for a quiet lunch at home with the family, and with fish like Rui (Rohu) and Chara Pona (baby Rohu fish). I made this with fresh Pomfret from my local Chinese store and it was delicious.



What You Need
Serves 3 people

3 Pomfrets ~ each cut into 2 or 4 steak like pieces
Tomatoes ~ 1 medium and maybe a a half more
Ginger ~ freshly grated around 1tbsp
Green Chillies ~ 4/5
Corriander leaves
Turmeric Powder
Kalonji/Kala Jeera
Salt

How I Do It

Wash the fish pieces in warm water, pat dry & and mix them with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt. Keep aside for 20/25 minutes
Chop tomatoes in small pieces
Heat oil in a Kadai/Wok till you see smoke just coming out, indicating it's hot enough.
Fry the fish in hot oil till it turns light golden on both sides, kind of deep fry. The only draw back of this is most of the oil goes to waste as you discard most of the oil after frying. You can also save this oil for frying fish again next day as my Ma would do.





Heat oil in Kadai/Wok.
Temper with Kalonji/ Kalo Jeera and slit green chillies.
Add the chopped tomatoes
Saute till they become a fine pulp, kind of mushy
Add the freshly grated ginger, a pinch of turmeric powder and water
When the gravy comes to a boil add the fish pieces.
Add salt.
Add fresh coriander leaves.
Cook for a few more minutes and you are done. The gravy is light and is best enjoyed with white rice.




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Trivia: There are towns called Pomfret in New York, Vermont and Connecticut which have nothing to do with the fish and aslo a private school with the same name in Connecticut. No doubt this fish is also called Butterfish in the Chinese Stores

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kalakand for Deepavali


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Happy Deepavali to everyone. This is my Diwali dessert and also my entry for the JFI Diwali event. JFI is a very unique community cooking event started by Indira of Mahanadi fame. Mahanadi is an amazing food blog and an inspiration to many. This time Vee of Past, Present & Me another beautiful food blog is the graceful host of this event. So there’s going to be a big Diwali party at her place.
Vee wanted to see a Bong take on Diwali. But my entry is more of a busy-Indian-Mom-Take-on-Diwali. But then, Diwali is much much more Indian than Bengal or any other region and I am a busy Mom, so it fits I guess...
Kalakand is a sweet I loved since my childhood. When I first left the Indian shores for USA, among all of my cherished possessions were at least two packets of Kalakand from Haldiram loaded in my carry bag. It was only last year that my friend R~ showed me to how to make this very easy Kalakand in my microwave and I was hooked. Of course R’s Kalakand always turns out perfect, so thanks to her and again to some unknown brilliant person who adapted this recipe and made it beautifully simple.



What You Need

Sweetened Condensed Milk ~ 1 can
Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese ~ 1 15oz tub
Green Elaichis ~ 8 to 10
Some Pistachios


How I Do It

Grease a flat bottomed microwaveable bowl with little ghee
Pour 1 whole can of condensed milk in the bowl
Stuff the condensed Milk can with Ricotta cheese, the essence is to get 1:1 by volume and add this amount of Ricotta cheese to the bowl. Mix well
Dry grind the elaichi pods to get elaichi powder, add that to the above mixture.
Mix well and put it in the microwave. Now comes the fun part.
Microwave on HIGH (mine said POWER-100) for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixture so it does not boil over.
Stir the mixture very well and microwave again for 5 minutes. These 5 minutes are pretty crucial as you need to keep peering into your microwave and at any signs of the mixture spilling over, stop – stir – start again. If your microwave is on the counter top good for you, if above your stove, bring out the high heels, it’s party time.
At the end of this you stir again, by this time the liquid would have thickened.
The next 5/6/7 minutes are more important. So what I do is, Microwave for 1 minute, stir, check the consistency and start again. At the end of all stirring and microwaving the consistemcy should be thick & slightly grainy, not totally dry and hard.
When the consistency becomes grainy (should normally happen by end of 15 or 17 minutes) , the mixture has taken on a very very light brown hue and there is still some moisture left, take it out and let it sit just like that .
After about an hour, cut it up into pieces (it might stick a little, don’t worry, shape it with hand if needed) and decorate with pistachios.

I think the timing gets better with trials. The end result is always edible, so even if you don't get it right the first time, give it a second chance.

Since Bongs love their sweet and eat it too, this version is much liked by my family& friends and non-Bong friends too.Many of you might have slightly varying versions of this recipe, let me know your versions too. And for those who are new into cooking, try this out and have a great mithai for Diwali.

Trivia:The name "ricotta" means "cooked twice" in Italian, referring to the second processing of the liquid to produce the cheese

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Friday, October 13, 2006

SoyBean Sprouts diye Mochar Ghonto


For the uninitiated that's a Vegetable dish with SoyBean Sprouts and Potato.
Ok so every person on the face of this earth , know why soy bean is good for you, that it contains plenty of vitamins and blah, blah, blah. If you still want to enrich your mind with all the good facts about soy, go here , soybean in wiki.
What many don't know is, Mocha(ch pronounced as in charm and not as in choir) or Banana Blossom/Banana Flower is deep purplish-crimson-coloured and is used as a vegetable from South East Asia.
Mocha holds a much esteemed position in Bengali Vegetarian cooking, and though the mocha preparation is delicious, the act of peeling the outer bracts and extracting the inner flowers is a pretty tedious job according to me. I have never attempted it but watched my Ma, Dida go through the process.
Some pretty brilliant person had this idea to make mochar ghanto using SoyBean Sprouts, because I guess in the days of yore, Mocha was not a vegetable easily available in the US. I on my part, learnt it from a friend, and found it tastes pretty well, is easy to prepare and also a pretty healthy dish. Even my epicurean hubby, who being a Bangal(ancestors going back to East Bengal now Bangladesh), is more tuned to the finer points of these delicacies, agreed that it comes pretty close.


What You Need

SoyBean Sprouts (fresh Soy Bean sprouts in your local Chinese store) ~ 1/2 or 3/4 lb
2 medium sized Potatoes
2/3 Green Chillies
Grated Coconut ~ fresh or from the frozen section of your indian/asian grocery store
Ginger Paste ~ 1tbsp
Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Tej Pata/Bay Leaves
Red Chilli Powder (Optional)
Jeera Powder
Turmeric Powder
Garam Masala Powder

How I do it

Chop the Bean Sprouts in small pieces, you can use your blender to chop them, if you don’t have the patience. Don’t make a paste though, just chop
Cut potato in cubes
Heat oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Add the whole Jeera/Cumin seeds and Tej Pata/Bay Leaves, wait till they sputter.
Add the potato cubes in the oil with a pinch of haldi/turmeric powder
Saute the potato lightly till they develop a golden tinge. Do not over or deep fry them.
Add the ginger paste
Add Jeera Powder, chopped green chillies and red chilli powder
Sprinkle water as needed and fry till the masala is cooked, you see the oil separate from the masala.
Add the chopped bean sprouts.
Continue cooking/frying in medium heat till the masala has mixed nicely with the sprouts



Add salt and sugar. At this point if you find the sprouts a little pungent in taste, add sugar/splenda to overcome that
Add a little water, cover and cook till the Potatoes & Sprouts are done and the water has dried up.
Add grated coconut, garam masala powder and mix well.
Add a dollop of ghee to get the authentic taste.
I like to have this dish with white rice, but it would go well with roti too.

Trivia :Banana flower helps increase progesterone hormone in women. Soybeans contain isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen, that are considered by some nutritionists and physicians to be useful in the prevention of cancer and by others to be carcinogenic and endocrine disruptive.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Alu Posto and Musuri'r Dal for lunch


Loosely translated that’s Potato in Poppy Seeds and Red Lentil Soup for Lunch. Ok, that’s it, I would rather have my Alu Posto than this tough sounding dish.
Posto or Poppy-Seeds or KhasKhas is a popular ingredient for several dishes in Bengal, particularly in the districts of Bankura, Birbhum etc. I don’t know whether I loved it because it “induces euphoria and sleep” but I tell you it’s yummm and if you doze off to sleep after the above lunch that’s bliss too.

What You need

For Posto:
Potato chopped in cubes ~ 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
Poppy seeds (Khaskhas/Posto) ~ 5-6 heaped tbsp of the Poppy seeds paste or posto bata
Green Chillies – 2-3
Dry Red Chillies ~ 2 (optional)
Whole Jeera (Cumin seeds) ~ 3/4th tsp loosely packed
Salt
Turmeric Powder

Sugar ~ 1/2 tsp or none according to taste
Oil ~ for Cooking
Mustard Oil ~ a dash i.e. about 1 tsp of mustard oil to sprinkle on the top

For Dal:
Red Masur Dal
Finely Chopped Onions
Fresh Coriander Leaves
Chopped Tomatoes
Green Chillies
Kalo Jeera/Kalonji

How I do it

Grind the posto/poppy seeds to a fine powder. I use the coffee grinder which can be used to dry grind only. So afterwards I mix it with water to make a paste. The consistency of the paste should not be too watery. If you are wet grinding make a paste at one go.
Cut the potato in cubes and soak in water , else they develop black spots.
Chop or slit the green chillies.
Heat oil in a Kadai/Pan. Mustard Oil is preferred.
Add the whole Jeera/Cumin seeds and wait till they sputter. You can add 2-3 dry red chillies too.
Add the potato cubes in the oil with a pinch of haldi/turmeric powder.
Saute the potato lightly till they develop a golden tinge. Do not over or deep fry them.
Add the posto/poppy seeds paste
Cook on medium heat till the paste has uniformly coated the potatoes
Add little water (around 3/4 cup), adequate salt, and the chopped green chillies.
You can sprinkle very little sugar if you want.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are done. Also I make it dry so I wait for the water to dry up.
At this point you can add about 1 tsp of mustard oil and stir well before you remove from heat. Take care that the potatoes don't get mashed up though

Pressure Cook the Masur Dal with a pinch of turmeric
Heat oil and add the phoron, or as we say temper with Kalo jeera/Kalonji
Add the finely chopped onions and fry till they turn pink in color. Add slit or chopped green chillies
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they become a fine pulp
Add the previously cooked dal and mix well.
Add salt, little sugar and water.
Cook till you hear a nice bubbling sound. Remember to stir infrequently during this process.
Also continue cook till the thickness of the dal is according to your liking
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

The alu posto and musur dal go very well with plain white rice. My Ma used to make Urad Dal (or Kalai er Dal ) as an accompaniment with posto. Post that another day.

Updated on 3rd August, 2007: The original post did not have measures as I was still new to blogging. This post has been updated with the measure for alu posto. For the Masoor dal check my post on Red Masur Dal.

Trivia: Only unripe poppy seeds contain narcotic substances, not the ripe ones

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Welcome to my CookBook

TheBook1

Who ?

I am Sandeepa aka Bong Mom, a regular mom aspiring to be the quintessential Mother every Bong has.

Why this blog ?

Growing up all over West Bengal, and some parts of Bihar, in a Bengali household I learnt one thing, Bengalis love to eat, feed others and cook (at least Bong women do).

That they love to eat and are connoisseurs in this matter is proved by the fact that Kolkata is teeming with all The Madras Tiffins, the Punjabi Dhabas, the Tibetan Delights, the Chinese Chow Chow and the Timbuktu Taverns. No where else in India will you see such a fare. All other regions mostly are focused and stick to their cuisine but Kolkata has it all.

So growing up amongst such a race it’s natural that I love to eat and to make my food dreams into reality have taken to loving cooking my food. I get solace in cooking, the comfort of the spices sputtering in the oil, the waft of the jeera & tejpata as they turn brown, the rich yellow of my musuri’r dal gives me peace, makes me calm and in this far off land makes me connect to my home.
I start this blog as an acknowledgement to my Ma, Dida, mom-in-law and all the mashis-pishis, kakimas-jethimas who fed me well, fed me good all my years in India. This will be a humble collection of Bengali recipes and the food I cook representing Bengali Cuisine as I know it.

I want to pass on my legacy of Bengali food to my two little daughters and all the other little ones out there who growing up in a foreign land will find a way to connect to their Bangla roots through the smell and taste of Bangla cuisine.

This is also for all non-Bongs, to try out and sample the nuances of Bengali Cooking.
Many of my recipes might not be authentic bong and have innovations thrown in, but do go ahead and give them a try. So welcome to my blog and have a feast...

Seriously Why ?

Ummm well...so that my maachher kalia tastes exactly the same every time.
So, that in some remote future I can proudly say, I have made Gokul Pithey, with full proof of picture et al.
So that there is a place for the recipes I gather from all of Bengali motherhood.
So that my daughters' don't grow up believing "paneer butter masala" is India's national food and they appreciate the layers of taste and flavor that Bengali and food from all over India brings.

Then What ?

And then I wrote a book (published by Harper Collins 2013) based on the blog. More about it here: Bong Mom's Cookbook -- the book

How old are your daughters ?

BS, the Big Sis is 9 and LS, the little sis is 4 and three quarters. This is as of May, 2013. But age is dynamic. In the book which I started writing way back in 2011, they are 7 and 3 .

Do you live off the blog ?

Wouldn't that be wonderful ? But nope. I am an engineer by education. I have undergrad degrees in Physics and Electronics Engineering and then a MS in EE.
Sadly I work to fund for that all-clad saucier you see on my blog and the bunch of dhonepata that I put in my food.

But what is this Bengali Cuisine you keep talking about ?

Read this : My article on Bengali Cuisine


I have time to kill. Anything more ?

My interview by Scott Haas in Times Of  India

At Fab Foodies: MasalaMommas

Do you do food writing ?

Well I write for my blog all the time. I have now written a book. I am available for freelance writing, food or otherwise. Contact me for detailed information at sandeepa(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com

Best way to get in touch with you ?

E-mail me : My e-mail
Now though I would love to, I am usually not very prompt checking my blog e-mails since I have a real life that demands a lot of attention. So if I am not responding to your comments or replying e-mails please try to understand. I will. Rather late than never.

Facebook Page: Facebook Page for Bong Mom's Cookbook
Don't send me a friend request. This is a Page and you can just jump in by hitting "Like"

Wait, who does the photography, design etc. of your blog ?

I have outsourced it to Mars. Just kidding.This blog is solely operated by me. Writing, Photography, Blog Design, Cooking, Recipe Writing -- all by yours truly. What can I say ? I am bit of a control freak and also I enjoy doing all of it.

To browse through recipes in this blog check out the recipe index page at
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