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 ??

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Enchor-er Dalna ba Enchor Chingri


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That means Green JackFruit Curry
Enchor (ch pronounced as in chair and not as in choir) or Green Jackfruit is another veggie pretty popular in Bengal. I knew the jackfruit tree grows in the tropics but didn’t know this:
The jackfruit is believed indigenous to the rain forests of the Western Ghats of India. It spread early on to other parts of India, southeast Asia, the East Indies and ultimately the Philippines. It is often planted in central and eastern Africa and is fairly popular in Brazil and Surinam.

Both the ripenend fruit of this tree, popularly known as Kathal in Bengali & Hindi and the green unripe one known as Enchor in Bengali is very popular. The ripened jackfruit is sweet and has a delicious heady smell and is eaten as a fruit. The green unripe one is eaten as a vegetable. It is also a very nutritious fruit. It contains protein, fat, calcium, iron vitamin B, B2 and vitamin A. More on JackFruit here.

My grandparents house in Bihar had a huge jackfruit tree in the garden and it produced abundant fruits during summer. The huge tree with broad, deep green glossy leaves & the green jackfruits clinging to it was a pleasure to watch. Though I was not very fond of the ripened jackfruit I liked the enchor er dalna or the green jackfruit curry. The enchor when cooked in the aamish or non-veg way with onion & garlic closely resembles the goat meat and hence this enchor also has a nickname in Bengal “Gach Pa(n)tha” which literally translated means “Tree Goat” but the essence being Vegetarian Meat.

Also if you are a young Bong and are trying to act too smart, you know what the elders would say, you are “Enchore Paka” !!!! This means you are a green jackfruit who has ripened before age ;-)



Here in the US I like the Chaokoh canned green Jackfruit. They are pretty tender and since they are canned in brine, it takes very little time to cook

I cooked jackfruit in the non-vegetarian way with onion & garlic over the weekend. I also threw in some shrimp after I saw that a dish called Enchor Chingri really exists, I can go that extra mile for my love of shrimp. You can skip the shrimp, no harm done, my Ma never cooked enchor with shrimp.



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What You Need

1 can of Chaokoh Green JackFruit ~ 1 can is about 570g. I got it from my Indian Grocery Store, you can try other Asian stores too. It is here on Amazon, but the price of the same can is 3 times as compared to my local store!!!
Potatoes ~ 1 whole, peeled and cut in cubes
Onions ~ 1 medium grind to a paste
Tomatoes ~ 1 medium very well chopped
Green Chillies ~ 3/4 chopped (Optional)


For Phoron or tempering:
TejPata or BayLeaves ~ 3 or 4
Dry red Chillies ~ 3/4


For Masala:
Elaichi
/ Cardamom ~ 2-3
Darchini or Cinnamon ~ a small stick
Laung or Cloves ~ 2-3
Jeera or Cumin Powder ~ about 2 tsp
Garlic Paste ~ 1 tsp
Ginger Paste ~ 1 tsp
Yogurt ~ 1 tbsp
Turmeric Powder
Garam Masala Powder ~ 1/2 tsp
Ghee ~ 1 tsp optional
Salt

With Shrimp:
15/20 pre cooked medium or small shrimp ~ after thawing mix them with little turmeric powder and salt.

How I Do It

Since the jackfruit is canned in brine, it becomes a little salty. So the night before you cook, open the can, drain the liquid, wash the jackfruit several times in water and soak them in fresh water over night
Cut the Jackfruit pieces in Cubes, cut Potatoes in Cubes
Note: Toss the jackfruit cubes with a little Red Chili powder, 1/2 tsp of Cumin and Corriander powder each
Heat Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
If I am using shrimp I fry the shrimp first and then keep them aside

Note: Add about 1/2 tsp of sugar to the oil if using canned jackfruit. When the sugar browns add the jackfruit pieces. Lightly fry the jackfruit pieces in oil. Remove and keep aside. Similarly saute the potatoes. Remove and keep aside.


Add the Tej Pata (Bay Leaves) and Dry Red Chillies as phoron
Coarsely pound the Elaichi (Cardamom), Laung (Cloves) & Darchini (Cinnamon Sticks) and add it to the oil
As soon as the spices start crackling Add the onions.
Add a little sugar and fry them till they are light brown in color.

Note: You can also chop onion in large chunks --> fry till soft and brown on the edges --> cool and blend. Use this fried onion paste instead of raw onion paste for a very nice taste.

Add the chopped tomato and the green chillies
Continue frying till the tomatoes are well blended, all mushed up.

Note: For a smoother curry, puree the tomatoes and green chili and then cook


Add the potatoes, a pinch of turmeric powder and fry till they take on a light golden hue
Add 1 tsp of Ginger Paste & 1 tsp of Garlic Paste
Add about 2 tsp of jeera Powder mixed in 1 tbsp of Yogurt to a paste and continue what we say in Bangla as “Kashano”. I don’t know how to explain this but this means cook, stir do the whole routine, till the masala looks and feels cooked.

Note: Instead of only Cumin Powder, you can add 1 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder + 1 tsp Roasted Corriander powder + 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch. I normally lightly dry roast cumin & corriander and then make a large batch of such powder.

Add the cubed green jackfruit and Cook for some more time till the masala coats the jackfruit and the potatoes nicely.




Add little water as needed for gravy, salt, and cover and Cook
Cook till Potatoes and Enchor or jackfruit is done.

Note: Adjust for salt and seasonings. I usually add some sugar at this point to balance the tartness of canned jackfruit




The above pic is before the potatoes were done, so the gravy reduces more and the gravy is not very watery
If I am adding shrimp, I add the fried shrimps at this point
Sprinkle a little Garam Masala Powder and add a ½ tsp of ghee (optional , but lends a nice smell)
Cook for maybe some more minutes, check if tastes perfect and you are done.
Have this with Rice or Roti.

For the Vegetarian or Niramish way:

I asked my Ma for this and though I haven’t tried this, this is how she makes it.
Heat Oil and add about 1 heaped tbsp of Ginger paste and about ½ tsp of hing or asafoetida powder.
Saute and add BayLeaves , Dry Red Chillies and coarsely ground Elaichi, Cardamom, & Darchini
Follow procedures as above, but omit the onions & garlic Paste.
Also along with Cumin Powder add Corriander Powder.
Rest is same.

Everyone at home enjoyed this dalna and even my almost 3 yr old who is not a veggie fan ate up her enchor.
This is my entry for WHB a event started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and this week hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. I was not sure if I could send an entry for this but since I cooked this over the weekend, I thought it would be a nice thing to share.
Trivia: Jackfruit or Kathal is the National fruit of Bangladesh. Wow that's a big thing

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

So long and Thanks for Rajma Keema


"Give Thanks" said Meeta and I wondered, and wondered...

Should I give Thanks for driving for almost an hour through the drizzle after work only to come home and start dinner when all I want is to be served hot chai while I cuddle up in the couch to watch some "Saas-Bahu" stuff. Should I give Thanks that if I want a hot "chai" I need to make it myself and just forget the pakoris because there's so much left to be done or should I give Thanks because my damned cable does not serve up any "Saas-Bahu" stuff and denies me the pleasure of rotting my mind.

I wondered & muttered and the rain dropped pitter-patter...

And then, my little one jumped all over me, wrapped her arms around me and hugged. I thanked for that, to have her to come home to, to watch her, to love her. And as I mixed the ground chicken, popped open the can of red rajma and chopped up the onions I thanked for being able to do this, to have a family to feed and care for, to have enough food to cook, to take pleasure in what I was doing. And then my husband suggested to adjust the AWB on the camera, set the exposure, and I clicked & he clicked. I thanked for having such a good friend in him who not only ate the rajma I served but was benevolent enough to help me take pictures which looked better than the dish :)

I thanked for being a WOMAN, for having the power to give birth, to work, to feed, to cook, to create & to blog...

Thanks to everyone out there living your life & helping others live theirs. Thanks Meeta for letting me be thankful.

And I went back and cooked my Rajma with Keema. This is not a Bengali dish but I try to make it the way my Ma used to make Keema Mattar which again does not have a Bong stamp to it. But a very hearty meal can be had of this combination, it satisfies with it’s quality & quantity, and there are different ways you can enjoy it.

You can have it with Rice, with Chapati, all by itself with some steamed veggies thrown in, if you make it dry use it as a stuffing for a wrap for lunch next day. I think this is the perfect dish to make if you are rushed and want to make something for dinner, next day lunch and a different dinner out of it on day 2.





What You Need

Rajma or Red Kidney Beans ~ 1 can, it said 1lb 13oz. I used this from Goya. If you are not using canned you might have to go through the process of soaking & pressure cooking the rajma.

Ground Chicken (Keema) ~ 1 lb. I used this from Perdue Ground Chicken. You can use fresh if you get them.

Onions ~ 2 medium grind to paste
Tomato ~ 2 medium blended (chopped does no harm either)
Green Chillies ~ 5/6 chopped
Corriander leaves ~ for garnish

For Marinating the Chicken:

Ginger Paste ~ 2 tsp for marinade
Garlic Paste ~ 2 tsp for marinade
Yogurt ~ 2 -3 tbsp

For Masala:

Garlic Clove ~ 1 clove chopped
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 5
Laung or Cloves ~ 5
Darchini or Cinnamon stick ~ a small one
Maggi Hot & Sweet Tomato Ketchup ~ my all time fav or any other tangy sauce
Jeera or Cumin Powder ~ 1 tsp
Dhania or Corriander Powder ~ 1tsp
I dry roast Cumin seeds, Dhania Seeds, Dried Red Chillies and then dry grind them and store that for this and many other cooking. You can do that when you have time.

Garam masala Powder ~ I make this and store it too, but whatever you have is fine
Red Chilli Powder ~ your choice
Salt

How I Do It

Marinade the ground chicken with yogurt, 2 tsp of ginger paste, 2 tsp of garlic paste and little salt. Keep it aside for 2-3 hours. I often do it night before so it’s just ready to be cooked by evening.
Make a paste of the onions. Quick Tip: I make a paste or chop onions when I have extra time. They stay in the fridge good for 3/4 days
Heat Oil in a Kadai /Frying Pan
Coarsely pound the Elaichi (Cardamom), Laung (Cloves) & Darchini (Cinnamon Sticks) and add it to the oil
Add the chopped garlic and the green chillies.
As soon as you get the fragrant smell of garlic rising add the onions.
Add a little sugar and fry them till they are light brown in color.
Add the tomato
Continue light frying till oil separetes from the paste.
Add the marinated Keema (ground Chicken)
Continue cooking till the Keema changes color. Stir so that the keema transforms to a granulated mass. Since ground chicken here is machine processed, when raw, they are like a soft paste.
Add the Cumin, Corriander & Red Chilli Powder. Mix well.
Add about 2 tbsp of the Maggi Sauce (or any other). Actually I didn’t measure, I just poured till I got the tangy taste & color.
Add the Rajma .
Cook for some more time till the masala engulfs the Rajma as well as the Keema
Add little water, salt, Garam masala Powder and cover and Cook
Cook till Rajma is done. The Rajma I cook is not gravy based, it’s on the dry side, if you want gravy go ahead.
Add a little Fajita Seasoning Mix or KitchenKing Masala if you feel the taste is lacking something. I do that.
Garnish with Corriander leaves.
If you want add chopped hard boiled eggs.

Enjoy hot spicy Rajma Keema any way you like.

Let me reiterate, I kind of cook by smell & taste & instinct so my measures stated might not be exact, feel free to innovate & deviate. I am trying to measure while cooking these days but on a busy day, nah-nah !!

This is my entry for Monthly Mingle at photographer cook Meeta's of What's For Lunch Honey. Her very interesting theme was Give Thanks. And as I eat my dinner I do just that.
Happy ThanksGiving.

Note: For Vegans out there, instead of using keema you can substitute keema with ground soy granules as in Egg paratha with twist

Trivia:Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (not originally of Cajun cuisine), traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, vegetables (onion and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf), and pork bones left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. From Wiki.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shukto on weekend




There is some error with the pics in this post. For better step-by-step rendition of Shukto check this post.

A traditional Bengali meal usually consists of five to six courses, starting off with something bitter and ending with a sweet dessert. Dal–bhaja (lentil soup & fritters), a vegetable, fish and chutney find their way in between and are served as well as eaten in that order. I think the six courses were to give importance to the six basic tastes or rasas. The first course which is bitter can be a dry preparation of Uchche (bitter gourd), fried neem leaves, neem-begun(neem leaves and brinjal lightly sauted) or the culinary epitome of bangla cuisine the Shukto.

Shukto is a mix of vegetables with an emphasis to the bitterness, a preparation where instead of hiding the bitterness , it is the taste around which the dish evolves. The bitter taste is said to be good for cleansing the palate and also for letting the digestive juices flow and so no doubt it is a good start off to the meal to follow.

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


Shukto is also a culinary experience for whoever eats it and a culinary achievement for whoever cooks it. In fact a Bengali cook is judged by his or her shukto preparation. Though I don't understand what's so diificult about cooking it, but that might be because I haven't reached the desired culinary height of tasting and neither has my Shukto been dissected and analysed by the Shukto patrol. My shukto doesn't turn out as good as my Ma's or my Ma-in-law's but then that's natural, that's what Mothers are for.

All said and done I am not a big shukto fan though my husband is and thinking of all the goodness that comes out of eating it, we do have occasional Shukto weekends.

Before going into the recipe I would briefly describe the medley of veggies that go into this dish. Lots of veggies to be chopped so be sure to get your bitter (uh-oh better) half to chop them up.

Uchche or Bitter Gourd -- Bitter gourd contains vitamin A, B1, B2, and C. It also contains minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium. From the ayurvedic perspective, bitter gourd is excellent for balancing Kapha. It helps purify blood tissue, enhances digestion, and stimulates the liver. http://www.ayurbalance.com/explore_foodbittergourd.htm
Bitter gourd is also known to cure or at least control diabetes.

Jhinge or Ridge Gourd -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luffa
Begun or Brinjal
KanchaKola or Raw Cooking Banana – This vegetable is more popular in the south of India. In Bengal it is popular as a vegetable which is often prescribed to treat a weak stomach or diarrhea.
String Beans
Potatoes
Mulo or Raddish
– I diddn’t have these at home

What you Need

Uchche or Bitter Gourd – 1 chopped
Jhinge or Ridge Gourd – 1 chopped
Begun or Brinjal – 1 chopped
KanchaKola or Raw Cooking Banana – 1 chopped
String Benas – 10 chopped
Potato – 1 chopped

Vadi (nuggets made of ground lentil and later dried )~ 10/15 small ones (Optional)

For Phoron or Tempering
Methi or Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Tejpata or Bay Leaves -- 4
Hing or Asafoetida Powder – a pinch

For Paste
Mustard seeds ~ 2tbsp soaked in water.
Poppy Seeds ~ 1 tbsp soaked in water
I always make the above paste and keep it in the fridge for later use during the week so I use more. Often the grinder is such that it is difficult to make a fine paste with little amount.

Ginger Paste ~ fresh grated ginger about 1 tbsp

Milk – 1/3 cup
Salt
Ghee




How I Do It

Chop the vegetables as shown in the picture. Try to cut them in the shape as in the pic.
Wet grind the mustard seeds and poppy seeds to a fine paste. While grinding put a little salt. If you are using a dry grinder make a paste of the dry ground mustard powder in a little vinegar and salt, this is because dry grinding sometimes makes the mustard taste bitter.
Saute the vegetables, bitter gourd being the last, lightly and keep aside
Fry the vadi till they are brown and crispy
Heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a Kadai/Frying Pan
Add the methi (fenugreek) seed, tejpata (bay leaves) and the hing (asafoetida powder)
When they start sputtering and you get the smell of hing rising add the veggies.
Add about 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of the mustard & poppy seeds paste.
Add the Ginger paste
Mix well, add salt add water and 1/3 cup of milk. Enough water to cook the vegetables, this dish is not gravy based so don't add too much water.
Cover and cook till the veggies are cooked and there is very little water.
Once the vegetables are almost done add a little suagr.
Add the fried vadis at the end.

Note: One of my readers pointed out that his Mom's shukto has a slight gravy in it. In fact my Mom too makes shukto sometimes which is more moist. So you can have your shukto with a little gravy in it (ver little though) if you want.





Have this with white rice and remember to start off your lunch with this.




Mandira of Ahaar also has her own recipe of Shukto. Hers is a little different from mine because every Mom puts their distinctive touch to their Shukto.
This is also my entry for WHB hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey. I didn't know about this event and got to know from Mandira's blog, so thanks to Mandira.

Trivia: Shukta should be had only during the day so don't have it for dinner. Don't know reason yet.

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If you have ever thought about trying your hand in some foreign cuisine, some online universities offer courses on culinary arts, Asian cuisine included

Monday, November 06, 2006

Chingri Macher Malaikari


Chingri Macher Malaikari or Prawn malaikari



Chingri Malaikari or Prawn Malaikari (no relation to our dear Malaika at all), is a very famous and popular Bengali entrée served with white Rice or Pulao for lunch or dinner on special occasions. I saw it described somewhere as an “Elegant Bengali Classic” – that definitely sums up this dish. It is so delicious that I want to run down and have my dinner right now instead of writing this up.

I made it this Sunday as a pre-B’day treat for my husband and this write up is for Chandrika of Akshyapatra who said she would like to have the recipe of a certain prawn recipe she had at her Bong friend’s place and which I guessed to be the infamous Chingri Malaikari.

So most people think that coconut or coconut milk is not a popular ingredient in Bengali cooking, but it is in many of the special Bengali cuisines. This particular dish is cooked in a spiced up gravy of coconut milk and involved a lot of hard work for my Ma back in India. Since life & it’s commodities in India was not universally canned or processed back then, she had to press the grated coconut to extract the sweet white coconut milk.

Here in the US, life is much easy and you just pick a can of coconut milk off the shelf of your grocery store. I guess this and the abundance of prawns, is also a reason why you would find Prawn Malaikari a part of the menu in most Bong parties in the US.


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For today’s preparation I got ½ lb of large prawns with heads on and ½ lb with heads removed. The reason for this being the prawns head being very very tasty adds a fourth dimension to this already delicious preparation. However if you are not very familiar around prawns, I would suggest you get only the ones with no head , as the prawn head has to be delicately cleaned.

If you want to though, go through the following steps to clean fresh prawn :-
Remove the hard shell, do not remove the tail, leave it on
De-vein the prawn, slit the back a little and take out the black thread thingy
For shrimps with heads, carefully remove only the front portion of the head the eyes etc., do not remove the entire head, you want to keep the liquidy thing inside the head.



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

What You Need

Prawns ~ 1lb of the larger size, get fresh ones, see above why I got some with heads on
Onion ~ I made a paste of a large one and used about 5 tbsp of the paste (yipe, I noted the measure)
Garlic ~ 1 large clove coarsely chopped
Ginger ~ 1 tsp
Green Chillies ~ 6 slit
Coconut Milk ~ 1 can

TejPata or Bay Leaves ~ 4 small
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 4
Laung or Cloves ~ 6
Darchini or Cinnamon ~ 2 smallish sticks as in picture

Red Chilli Powder
Turmeric Powder
Salt
Little Sugar



How I Do It

Clean the prawns as explained earlier and mix it with turmeric and salt and keep aside for about ½ hour
Meanwhile grind the onion to a paste.Note: If your onion paste tends to turn bitter, saute the onions until translucent and then make the paste.
Heat oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Lightly fry the prawns so they turn golden in color, do not deep fry like other fish.
As soon as the prawns turn a pale golden take them out put them on a paper towel.
In the same oil, add the chopped garlic.
As soon as the fragrance of the garlic rises, take out the garlic from the oil so that the oil is now garlic flavored but there is no garlic in the gravy.
Add TejPata or BayLeaves
Coarsely pound the Elaichi, Laung & Darchini with a pestle and add them too
Add the onion paste when you see the whole garam masala crackling
Continue frying the onion with a little bit of sugar till it turns brown in color or the oil separates from the paste
Add the ginger paste and cook the masala.
Stir and add the can of coconut milk
Add a little water (about 1/3 of the can) in the can, mix well and add it too.
Add Red Chilli Powder, very little turmeric powder and salt.
Add the green chillies
Mix well and cook the gravy.
When you see the gravy slightly bubbling add the fried prawns.
Cook on low for some more time till the gravy thickens and acquires a creamy consistency.
Serve with white Rice or yellow Pulao

Do make it a point to try out this dish, you will find a dinner of white Basmati Rice & Chingri macher Malaikari is nothing but unadulterated pleasure.
Note: If you scour the net you might find variations of this recipe, but this is how my Ma and I make it

Trivia:It seems our very own dada, Sourav Ganguly is very fond of Chingri Macher Malaikari and his wife Dona serves him this every day when he is at home. Sorav, better get your cholesterol checked.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Masoor Dal with Bok Choy


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I love my Dal, not the “Dal Dal pe Chiriya baithe…” kind of Dal but “Meri Ma ki Dal ki kasam” kind of Dal :-). This reminds me, does anyone know how to make Ma ki Dal , like if I make your recipe of “Ma ki Dal” won’t it be “Tumhari Ma ki Dal” when I serve it and vice versa , is there a global one, like “Sab ki Ma ki Dal” ? Ok, that's it. Enough PJ’s on a dull day and let’s move on to my daily dose of dal.

Ok, so let me reiterate I simply love Dal, maybe not all kinds but most kinds. I think every region in India have their own choice of Dal, like in the Northern Region, Arhar Dal or Tur Dal is very common as a regular dal for everyday dal-chawal, in the Southern Region Arhar still holds strong being the Dal for Sambhar (correct me if I am wrong). In Bengal, the most popular Dals are Red Masoor, Yellow Moong and Chana Dal or Cholar Dal. Everyone eats the other kinds of course but I am talking about what you would cook everyday. Check out this site to know about all these dals or lentils in detail.

For me, I simply love Red Masoor Dal or Musuri’r Dal as I would say. Now Masoor Dal is generally made on its own and not cooked with veggies or greens in a Bengali home, it’s the yellow moong dal which is allowed to socialize with the veggie family.

Some years back I think I had first seen Sanjeev Kapoor cook Red Masoor Dal with Green Spinach or Palak and when I tried it, it turned out to be pretty good indeed. It was also a nice way for me & my family to get our daily dose of greens. My little one who is not exactly a veggie fan, eats this unaware and I am satisfied.

With the recent Spinach scare, I thought of an alternative and tried out Bok Choy the green much loved by the Chinese. I don’t know if it was the healthy benefits of Bok-Choy or the fact that “eating Bok-Choy keeps Chinese women thin” theory of mine which egged me into trying this rich green leafy vegetable.

So I made Masoor Dal with Bok Choy (as an alternative to Spinach) and I tell you it is very very good.


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What You Need

Red Masoor Dal ~ 1 & 1/2 cup of dal washed
Onion ~ 1 small finely chopped
Tomato ~ 1 medium chopped
Garlic ~ 1 clove finely chopped
Ginger ~ grated about 1 tbsp
Bok Choy ~ I used 3 bunches of small Bok Choy nicely chopped
You can use spinach instead and it tastes as good, even better.
Green Chillies ~ 3/4 your choice, chopped. I didn't use any because this was also my daughter's dinner

Turmeric powder
Jeera or Whole Cumin Seeds ~ for tempering
Salt

How I Do It

Pressure cook the Red Masoor Dal with Tomatoes and a pinch of turmeric.
Since I have separators in my pressure cooker, I cook dal in one and the chopped bok-choy in the other. You can also pressure cook them together
Heat oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Temper with the whole jeera.
When it starts sputtering add the chopped garlic.
As soon as you get the fragrant smell of garlic rising add the onions. Take care so that the garlic does not burn.
Saute the onions with a little sugar added until they turn a nice pink with a hint of brown
If you have steamed the dal and greens separately add the greens now, not the water only the greens and sauté else jump to next step
Mix the cooked dal (if it has the greens in it fine) well with a whisk so that the dal is all nicely mashed up and you don’t see the individual entities i.e. the dal grains. Now add it to the Kadai/Frying pan
Add the freshly grated ginger
After you have cooked them for a few minutes, add water to get your desired consistency.
Add Salt and allow the dal to come to a rolling boil.
I don’t like this dal to be very thick, but not very watery like say Rasam either. When your dal has reached the consistency you want, you are done.

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Friday night this was our simple dinner, rice, masoor dal with bok choy and Cajun catfish baked with tomatoes. The Cajun Catfish was cat fish in Cajun marinade bought from the super store. I browned the catfish a little in a frying pan and then simply baked it with olive oil and tomatoes.

All this Bok-Choy compels me to discuss an author of Chinese origin I have grown to love. She is Amy Tan and her first book I read was "The Joy Luck Club". I loved it because of the interplay between immigrant Chinese mothers and daugter. Recently I bought "The Kitchen God's Wife" from our library book sale for a mere 5oCents and I liked this one too, albeit "The Joy Luck..." I liked better. Maybe because I am an immigrant mom with a little daughter, I could foresee the feelings, the tension I would face when she is growing up.

Trivia: Masoor Dal is considered as aamish or non-vegetarian in a traditional Bengali household. It is never offered during Pujas, whereas yellow Moong Dal is popular as offerings or as an ingredient for the prasad prepared during Pujas. Would love to know a plausible reason.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kumro-Chingri Botti...


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…or Pumpkin with Shrimps!!! With Halloween just gone by, can pumpkins be far behind? And I tell you there are much better ways to put a pumpkin to use than making a jack-o-lantern out of it, at least every Bong thinks so.
Pumpkin is a much loved vegetable in Bengal, and there are a variety of dishes with equally unique names made with this unassuming plump orange vegetable. We have Kumro’r Chakka (a dish made with potatoes, parwal, Pumpkin and chana), Kumro’r chechki ( pumpkin cooked with hing & methi), Kumro’r por bhaja(pumpkin slices fried in batter), Kumro in chachari(mixed vegetable with pumpkin) and even Kumro bhaate (plain boiled pumpkin, mashed and mixed with little mustard oil ). Kumro ful or flowers of the pumpkin plant are also fried in a batter and is a delicacy, so much so that last year I had a pumpkin patch in my backyard to get the flowers which are not available in this foreign land.
On the aside, all this “dear Pumpkin” reminds me of Pumpkin in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, a wonderfully written book, go ahead and read it if you haven’t. Haven't seen the movie but the book is beautiful.



Today I made Kumro-Chingri Botti, just because I loved its sound on my tongue and also because I love shrimp. This is a dish my Ma-in-law makes and is something that was never cooked by my Ma. My Ma who is a Ghoti(Bengalis originally from West Bengal) always makes Pumpkin in a strict vegetarian fashion with no onions or any other non-veg distractions. So I am not sure whether this is a Bangal(people and culture originating from east Bengal now a separete country Bangladesh) tradition. Whatever it is, it is definitely tasty and now my Ma likes it too.
What You Need
Pumpkin ~ I used 2 slices like the ones shown
Shrimp ~ I used medium sized frozen cooked shrimps
Onion ~ ½ small chopped
Green Chillies ~ 5/6 slit

PanchPuran ~ a five spice mixture
Turmeric Powder
Salt


How I Do It

Peel the hard skin of the pumpkin and cut in small cubes
Thaw the shrimp if you are using frozen and mix with little turmeric and salt. For fresh shrimp, buy the small ones, remove the shell, devein and mix with turmeric & salt
Lightly fry the shrimp
Heat oil in a Kadai/Frying pan. Mustard Oil is best.
Temper with panchpuran and green chilies or in the Bong way use panchpuran & green chillies for phoran
When the spices start crackling, add the chopped onions.
Saute till they are brown and then add the cubed pumpkin.
Add a little turmeric powder and continue frying.
Add a little water and cook covered. Intermittently remove the lid & stir to make sure the pumpkins are not getting burned and are getting cooked uniformly.
When the pumpkin turns a little soft, add the shrimp, a little salt and continue cooking
The pumpkins should turn nice and soft and a little mushy, as in the picture.
Serve hot with chapatti, paratha or luchi
Also goes well with white rice.




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Edited to add on 09/13/2012: Here is a second version of the recipe with spices suggested by a reader. Instead of paanchphoron, temper the oil with Kalonji/Kalo Jeere and Green chilies. Skip the onions. Add Cumin Powder and Coriander Powder along with turmeric powder. rest is same.



Trivia: Pumpkin is so much coveted in Bengal that in the district of Bankura, pumpkin is lovingly known as “Bankura’r aapel” or “Bankura’s apple”, the apple being a foreign and expensive fruit in those areas, this is definitely an accolade for dear Pumpkin.