Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My Comfort Soup ~ Red Masoor Dal

Ok so I have missed all deadlines, couldn’t submit an entry for JFI-Potato and I wanted to send a soup for Alanna, but am too late and have missed that too, almost, unless I really try hard tonight.

To console myself and to make good of the little time I had, I made my all time favorite comfort soup, a dal actually, the Bangali Musuri’r Dal or the Masoor Dal.
This is the Dal we, as in my family, look forward to when we are down, depressed, tired, anxious, worried or hard pressed for time. We make it quick, there’s no way you can lengthen the process anyway, have it with White Rice & Alu Seddho (mashed Potatoes) with green chillies and a quarter of a lemon on the side and bask in it’s warmth slowly forgetting the gloom that had shrouded us and feel content.
If I am in a good mood and do not need all that carb to lift my spirit, I have this Dal as soup and again feel contented.

This Dal is like my husband D, whom I can trust to warm up my car in the cold mornings even though we have fought the night before and googled for “marriage for dummies” earnestly.
This Dal is like my dear friend who lends me a patient ear and hears me bitch about D though I trust her not to believe anything I uttered while in an acerbic mood.
This Dal is like my Ma, whom I can call up at any time of Day or Night to complain about how hard a day I had and how the little one was throwing a tantrum and trust her to say how good little S actualy is and how I threw more tantrums when I was small.
This Dal is like me who lounges in a faded pajama watching inane serials in Sony (yeah we have that now, courtesy my parents) and scrambles at the nth moment to write up a post for an event which is almost over.
This is Comfort personified.

So here’s My Comfort Soup ~ Red Masoor Dal for Alannas’s Soup Fest hosted at her abode A Veggie Venture


My Comfort Soup ~ Masoor Dal

What You need

Masoor Dal or Split Red Lentils~ 1 cup washed thoroughly
Onion ~ 1 red onion medium sized, sliced in thin long slices
Tomato ~ 1 firm red tomato chopped fine
Green Chilies ~ 2-3 finely chopped

For Tempering
Panch Phoron or Panch Puran (a Bengali Five Spice Mix) ~ 1 and ½ tsp

For Garnish
Lime Juice ~ 4 tsp of fresh lime juice
Corriander Leaves~ 3-4 sprigs

Salt ~ according to taste
Sugar ~ 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder ~ ½ tsp

How I Did It

Pressure Cook the 1 cup Masur Dal with 2 and ½ cups of water and a pinch of turmeric. Once it is cooked mix it well with a whisk. The time to cook depends on your cooker. I use a Futura which needs 3 minutes after the full steam build up.
Heat oil and add the phoron, or as we say temper with Panch Phoron. You can also use Kalo jeera/Kalonji/Nigella Seds if you do not have Panch Puran
Add the finely sliced onions and fry till they turn pink in color. Add the chopped green chillies.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they become a fine pulp
Add the previously cooked dal.
Mix well.
Add salt, sugar and about 3-4 cups of water. If you feel you need to add more water do so.
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 and lime juice

Also check out:
Alu Posto and Musuri'r Dal
Another post Masoor Dal with BokChoy

Trivia : The optical lens is so named after the lentil (Latin: lens), whose shape it resembles (Source: Wiki)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shorshe Chingri Bhape


When I was waxing eloquently about Mustard and Mustard Paste in my post MySpice -- Mustard, my dear blog friend Indosungod raised her eyebrows (ok I didn't see but am sure she did) said (to the effect) "You use mustard paste in your cooking". That hit me hard, I have blogged for almost 6 months now and have not conveyed to the world that Bongs adore Mustard paste and their most keepsake recipes are the ones that have Mustard paste or Sorshe Bata in it.


What am I, a disgrace to the Bong Culture? Am I the prodigal bong female that Bong Gurus gossip about and dismiss with a nod of their head while gulping their hot-hot tea and chicken pakodas? Am I that abhorred Bong Mom in the night-time stories told by the millions Bengali mothers to their little ones, the one who went across seven seas and forgot the mustard paste ? Or maybe I am the one who forgot her "Shankha-Pola"(Red& White Bangles symbolic to marriage in Bengal) and her sorshe bata and became "Amrikan" and lost her roots as the Ma-in-law in one of the many Calcutta homes would be whispering to her soon to be NRI daughter-in-law.

How could I have done this, such shame and dishonor and so I decided to rectify it "Right Here, Right Now" -- the recipe with mustard paste I mean


So I bring to thee Steamed Prawns in Mustard Sauce or Sorshe Chingri Bhapa. As you eat this the strong and sharp flavor of the mustard will clear any doubts you had earlier about this mustard loving clan, as you press the green chillies (that is what you should do, not discard them) and mix the light yellow gravy with white rice and tears run down your face for the all the "Hotness" which is sharp and pure you will be filled with joy and Thank The Mustard

Sorshe Chingri Bhape is a popular and traditional Bengali dish. Best enjoyed with white rice it has satisfied numerous Bengali palates at lunch as well as dinner. Simple and easy to cook it plays on the taste and flavor of mustard.


Shorshe Chingri Bhapa ~ Steamed Prawns in Mustard Sauce

What You Need

Prawns ~ 12-14 large sized ones. I used fresh ones, you can use frozen too

For the Paste
Mutard Seeds ~ 3 tbsp
Posto or Poppy Seeds ~ 3 tsp
Green Chilli ~ 3
Salt ~ a pinch
Soak in warm water for 30 minutes and then grind to a paste
The Mustard-Poppy Seeds Paste ~ use almost 3/4th of the paste, makes little less than 1/2 cup. If the paste is too pungent for you, you can sieve the paste and use the more liquid mustardy water mixed with a little of the thick paste.

Narkel or Grated Coconut ~ 1/2 cup fresh or frozen. You can use more if you want
Yogurt ~ 1/4 cup thick beaten yogurt. Use 1/2 cup of yogurt for more gravy-ish dish.

Sugar -- 1/4 tsp for a light sweet edge

Turmeric Powder -- 1/2 tsp

Sorsher tel or Mustard oil ~ 2 tbsp
Green Chilies ~ 8-10

Salt -- to taste

How I Did It

Wash and shell the prawn and devein them as explained here in an earlier post on Prawn Malaikar

Mix the prawns with salt and turmeric and keep aside for half an hour
Make a smooth paste with mustard seeds, poppy seeds, 3 green chillies, a little salt and water.

In a container which you can steam or which you can put in the pressure cooker, mix the prawns with mustard paste, yogurt and salt according to taste. I also add just a pinch of sugar.
Slit 4/5 green chillies and add to above
Add 2tbsp of Mustard Oil to this, drizzle liberally on top that is
Add some fresh grated coconut to this. If using frozen grated coconut defrost and then use.

Now put water in the pressure cooker bottom and put in this container.
I have a Futura Pressure Cooker and I steamed for 1 minute. In this pressure cooker, after the full pressure is built the time has to measured (no whistles), so I kept for 1 minute after the build up of full steam. In a whistling pressure cooker, you have to allow one whistle I guess
Take it out and serve with hot white rice. For an extra kick drizzle little mustard oil before serving

Note on making Mustard Paste: When I didn’t have a wet grinder to make my mustard paste I used to dry grind the seeds in my coffee grinder and then mix the dry powder with a little vinegar, salt, and green chillies and keep for an hour or so. The wet grinder serves the purpose much better and makes a nice smooth paste with green chillies, and salt
Alternate Recipes: The same recipe can be applied to Paneer and is called Bhapa Paneer. I think this is what Ashwini meant, when she left a comment about Bhapa Paneer she had at her friends place.
SJ has a recipe for Bhapa Ilish or Steamed Hilsa in Mustard Sauce another Bong favorite. That doesn’t need the Posto or poppy seeds though
You can also try this with Salmon. Though I have never steamed Salmon. I use this same method and then bake the salmon, covered at 375F

Trivia: Darius, King of Persia, sent Alexander a bag of sesame seeds, meant to suggest the number of Darius’ troops. Alexander, in return, sent Darius a bag of mustard seeds, not only more numerous because of their smaller size, but also more potent and fiery than sesame.(Source: Mustard facts from Plochman)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ma er Tetor Dal ~ Dal with Bitter Gourd

…or My Mother's Bitter Dal is a Dal or Lentil Soup with veggies like Lauki or Bottle Gourd and Karela or Bitter Gourd. This is also an entry for this week’s WHB from both me & my Mother.

I wanted to highlight the vegetable Karela or Bitter Gourd for this week’s WHB hosted by Anna of Anna's Cool Find. Karela or Korolla as we say in Bengali and its smaller cousin Uchche, which I can rarely find in the stores here, is a very popular vegetable in Bengali cuisine. As I said earlier (in Shukto post) the first course of a Bengali meal is usually bitter to cleanse the taste buds. The Bitter Gourd serves this purpose delightfully and so is much loved in Bengali households. Uchche Bhaja - Thinly sliced Bitter Gourd and then fried, Uchche Begun – Bitter Gourd and Eggplant chopped in small pieces and then sauted, Uchche-Alu Seddho – Bitter Gourd and Potatoes simply boiled and mashed with little mustard oil and salt are almost every day part of a typical Bengali cuisine. And Bengali cuisine doesn't want to get rid of the bitterness of Bitter Gourd, no way, they need that bitterness in full volume.
Me who did not love this bitter tasting veggie much had a hard time growing up as any one can imagine. Even now while D chomps on boiled Karela gleefully I swallow it down with water and sugar!! I guess it's an acquired taste and not everyone can appreciate the bitterness. However as I grow older or old as is the case, I appreciate this veggie more and try to incorporate it in some form in my diet.

Since my Ma is here, over the weekend I tried out this Dal with her narrating the steps and also judging each of my steps. Bitterness is mellowed down in this Dal and though it is called Tetor Dal or Bitter Dal, bitterness is just a mellowed fleeting taste intermingling with the subtle sweetness of the lauki or bottle gourd and the taste of the yellow Moong Dal itself. The "T" in Tetor is pronounced as "T" in Tai-chi with the tip of your tongue touching the base of your teeth

This Dal is best enjoyed with white rice accompanied with a veggie side or with some veggie fritters and usually served at lunch. This is served not only as an everyday dal but also if you are serving a traditional Bengali lunch.

You can also have it by itself like I did yesterday, a bowl of this Dal with some crisp salad of finely chopped cucumber and carrots in lime juice.


What You Need

Split Yellow Moong Dal ~ 1 cup
Lauki or Bottle Gourd ~ 6oz cut into large cubes as seen in the above pic. I used a little less than half of a medium sized lauki
Karela or Bitter Gourd ~ 1 cut into small pieces as seen in the pic
Ginger ~ 2" grated

For Phoron or temperingMustard seeds ~ 1/2 tsp mustard
Green Chillies ~ 4-5 slit

Ghee ~ 2 tsp

How I Did It

Wash, Peel and chop the Lauki or bottle gourd in large pieces a seen in the pic.
Wash & Chop the karela or bitter gourd in small pieces as seen in the pic
Heat a Kadhai or Frying Pan
Dry roast the split yellow moong dal till you get that nice roasted smell and see the dal has browned very lightly
In a pressure cooker, cook the now roasted dal and the lauki with twice the amount of water i.e. dal : water in ratio of 1:2
Heat Oil & 1 tsp of Ghee in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. My mother uses Ghee but I used Canola and a little bit of ghee for that flavor. You can do this in ghee if you want
Sauté the chopped karela till they are lightly browned and remove and keep aside
Add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds to the oil
When the Mustard starts sputtering add the grated ginger and slit green chillies
Sauté for a couple of minutes and add the pressure cooked dal and lauki
Sauté a little and add the fried karela
Add about 3-4 cups of water
Add salt and bring to a boil
Add about ½ tsp of Ghee before you take the Dal off the heat
Enjoy with white rice and other veegie sides. We had this with thinly sliced potato fries and hot white rice

Why Bitter Gourd is Good For you

This is a tropical and subtropical vine, which is widely grown for edible fruit. The fruit is among the most bitter of all vegetables. This is also known as Bitter Melon and there is a Chinese as well as Indian variety
The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface which is ridged. It looks like the one shown in the above pic and is known as Karela in Hindi and Korolla in Bengali. There is another smaller variety which is commonly known as Uchche in Bengal and is supposed to be more bitter.
Bitter Gourd aids or stimulates digestion. It is also very useful in treating Diabetes Melitus and helps control Blood Sugar. Compounds in this bitter vegetable may also be effective for treating HIV. Check Wiki here for more info.
Another Good Source of Bitter Gourd info -- here

Note: Pressure Cooker tips from IndoSunGod

Trivia:Other than India the Bitter Gourd also known as Bitter Melon is very popular in China, Vietnam, Phillipines, Bangladesh and Pakistan

Monday, February 19, 2007

Remove Plagiarism

Plagiarism -- much has been said about it and I am not going to reiterate.

But it hurts to see when the content and the pictures we so lovingly create and put up being stolen and used. Most of us bloggers, blog to vent their creativity, they find it as a channel to showcase their passion, to share what they love doing with million others.
We all know that Internet is open and we were always aware that our work could be used by others, after all we all use free icons, free javascrips, free information. But we do that only when it says that is for "FREE". We do not abuse the free availability of this information (though there are people who do so)

However when we bloggers want to protect our content and we state that explicitly in the copyright statements all we expect is the user to use that information but not to lift it straight off our web page. We want them to post a request in the numerous comments that we have, to ask our permission, to use the content if permission is given and in the manner the owner says and last but not the least to give due credits. This is not much to ask for, after all we are entitled to our creative copyrights.

If large organizations like Yahoo do not behave responsibly and lift contents as stated here, we can not expect much from small independent sites like AndhraMirchy.com etc. It would not do Yahoo much good if they rise up one morning to see an exact replica of their portal with their Logo, Design and Content stolen, right ? And that's why they have lawyers drawing up statements like
"Yahoo! respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask our users to do the same. Yahoo! may, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, terminate the accounts of users who infringe the intellectual property rights of others. "

So why don't they practice what they preach ? Boo to Yahoo and join us on March 5th

Sunday, February 18, 2007

MySpice -- Mustard

Mustard as a spice is an important part of Indian cooking.The whole Mustard seeds are used for tempering, to add flavor to the oil. The Mustard paste is very popular in mostly Bengali or east Indian cooking. Mustard Oil is also an important part of Bengali Cooking and traditional Bengali Cooking mostly used Mustard Oil as the cooking medium. Even now when many households in Bengal have grown more accustomed to the other white oils, Mustard Oil is still the favored oil for frying and cooking fish. A recent study shows that Mustard Oil as a cooking medium reduces the chance of heart disease by 70% and it also an excellent source of anti-oxidants (source: Wiki)

There are three kinds of Mustard seeds -- Black, Brown and White/Yellow depending on the Mustard plant.

Mustard paste or oil adds a sharp, spicy taste to food. Both the Brown and Black Mustard seeds are used in Indian cooking, the brown one more popular for making the paste.

Brown Mustard seeds are considered good for digestion and for alleviating stomach discomfort as gas and cramps (source: Maharishi Ayurveda) Mustard Oil is also widely used for massage in Northern India. Even now when my daughter catches a cold, I heat a spoonful of mustard oil with garlic flakes and rub the warm oil on her chest and on the bottom of her feet. My dad says, his grandma used to tell them to rub mustard oil on their big toe before bath as that helps eyes to remain healthy, this piece of information is not proven though and might be a lore
Mustard seeds were used medicinally not only in India but also by the Greek and the Romans

Update: From the coments I gather that many of you are unaware of use of mustard paste in Bengali Cooking. We grind mustard to a paste with green chillis and salt and use that extensively in many of our cooking. This cannot be substituted with the Mustard Sauce we get in stores here as it lacks that sharpness. A particular mustard based sauce called "Kasundi" is very popular in Bengal. It is used as a dip and is best when eaten with rice and alu seddho (boiled potatoes) or any sauted greens.
Sorshe Bata or Mustard Paste is ubiquitous ingredient in Bengali cuisine. The best Bengali fish curries always have a mustard based sauce. Even vegetarian dishes like Shukto, Charchari (shall blog soon) etc. have mustard paste as the only spice.
The black mustard when ground to a paste may be slightly bitter so it is ground with a little poppy seeds (optional) and green chillis and salt. This somehow never happened at home when the Shil Nora was used for grinding.
Radhuni is not mustard, it looks more like Ajwain and maybe in the same family, but it is not Ajwain and has a stronger smell & flavor. Its hard to get Radhuni outside Bengal and I don't have any.

So add that little Mustard to your food in whatever form you like best and enjoy.

Trivia: Aristocrat Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf founded the Order of the Mustard Seed in Germany in 1715 inspired by the Parable of Mustard Seed told by Jesus

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sailaja's Chicken Masala Balls


I do not get the opportunity to leaf through many cookbooks to decide "What’s for dinner" or "lunch" or "snack". Not that I don't want to but simply because I don't get time. While coming to US I had packed two Bengali Recipe Books written in Bengali with me. One of them doesn't have great collection of food but I loved the author, Leela Majumdar, and her all other Literary works, so had to buy it. The other is a very ordinary looking book, no glossy pages, nor any nice pictures, no glam-sham that is, but has a very good collection of Bengali Recipes. Albeit this book is like me & Ma, it doesn't give any measurements, just the ingredient list and a general way to prepare, it has most of the Bangla Recipes I have ever heard of. Bengali Cook Books written in Bangla were not much in vogue in those days .Recently some very good cook books for Bengali recipes have been published but most of them are in English.

My Ma would mostly cook recipes she had gathered from her mother, from relatives, friends and from magazines which were a veritable source of good recipes
Me on the other rely a lot on the internet (other than Ma, friends & THE magazines) for recipes. It's easy, fast and convenient. So no wonder when I chanced upon food blogs I was delighted. What with their glossy design, beautiful pictures and all the traditions and tips thrown in they are better than any cook book for me.

At this point I need to narrate a funny incident. My daughter, who is in the "pretend play" stage, is extremely imaginative and goes on "Imagine, Imagine" all day. So a couple of nights back she was sitting on my parent's bed and planning a B'day party for her two dollies.

So my Dad said "What are you going to cook"

She says "Chole & Chicken and Bhatu (Rice)"

My Dad says "Ok, so ask your Mommy for the recipes"

She very confidently "Nah Ami nijei commen e dekhe nebo (No, I will look it up in the computer myself)" and with that she opened her "imagine" laptop with a real flick of the wrist

This shows how much I scour the net for recipes, even if I don't cook them I love reading them

Sailaja's food blog -- SailusFood is a wonderful place to be, her neat layout, the succinct steps and the crisp pictures give an idea as to what to expect of the dish. The moment I saw the "Chicken Masala Balls" in her recipe I knew all of my family and friends would love it and boy did they. Now it has become a kind of regular at my home. But since I make it so often I try not to fry it every time, though the fried ones taste the best. Thanks Sailaja for this wonderful recipe and many more that I am going to blog soon. So here’s my entry for this months MBP February-- Chicken masala balls from SailusFood. Thanks again to both Sailaja for this recipe and Coffee for hosting this wonderful event.

For the fear that soon Sailaja will get famous and her agent might restrict access to her blog I am jotting down the ingredients and the steps I follow here.
You don’t need go any further but check out her Original Recipe here. Her steps and picture are way better


Sailaja's Chicken Masala Balls

What You Need

Ground Chicken ~ 1lb

Make a wet masala paste with the following

Onion ~ 1 medium
Green chillis ~ 8-10
Corriander leaves ~ small bunch chopped

Garlic ~ 15-20 cloves
Ginger ~ 3" piece chopped

Dry roast and grind the following to make a dry masala powder

5-6 dry red chillis (adjust according to your choice)
Corriander seeds ~ 4 tbsps
Cumin Seeds ~ 1 1/2 tbsps
Cinnamon ~ 2″ stick
Cardamom ~ 3
Cloves ~ 5-6
Cashewnuts ~ 10-20

Oil for deep frying

How I Do It

Though Sailaja asked to roast the dry spices in oil and then blend, I dry roast them and grind them in my dry grinder. The dry powder I store for future purposes too.
I use minced chicken and so I mix the dry powder, the wet masala and a little yogurt with the minced chicken and keep it for sometime, say a couple of hours and sometimes overnight
Then I make balls exactly as she does.
Deep Fry them and serve them as starters when we have friends over and they cannot stop eating
I also bake these balls for weeknight dinners. Spray the baking pan with Oil and bake them at 350F till they are lightly browned and done. Tastes yummy with Rotis and by themselves.

Note: Following is the baked version. I had less corriander leaves so the balls look a little less green


Trivia: Masalas are spices and other seasoning ground together to form the basis for Indian sauces

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tofu Burji

So the Valentines Day is over and here I have something for all your hearts which went through a lot on this day. So here’s to a healthier, better HEART --- Tofu.
Tofu Burji is something I learned recently from my wonderful friend S. The first time I had it , it tasted so good, I didn’t believe it was tofu, I was sure it was eggs. It is sooooooo tasty that you have to eat it to believe it and even if you are not a big time Tofu fan, I insist, yes insist that you try it at least once before giving a verdict.
Of course the fact that S is a great cook made the whole thing easier. She told me exactly what to do to make it simple yet very tasty. Thanks to S who is not only a great cook but also a entrepreneur, check out her business portal BombayAvenue

Tofu Burji, a very simple and easy recipe, healthy and yet delicious. This tastes exactly like egg burji or scrambled eggs. Only thing is it takes more time than to make egg burji, don’t try to rush it, doesn’t help. Since we are great “egg in all form” lovers ( Sunday ho ya Monday, roj khao Andey) but can’t have too much because of the cholesterol factor, this recipe was a delight. Now I make it enough and pack it for lunch often. You can have it with Roti or just by itself, what we end up doing most of the time. My daughter who is an egg fan too, eats this happily thinking its scrambled eggs and that is a big achievement I tell you


Tofu Burji

What you Need

Tofu ~ 1 packet NaSoya soft tofu
Onion ~ 1 and ½ chopped fine
Tomato ~ 1 chopped in small pieces
Garlic ~ ½ clove chopped fine (not shown in pic)
Green Chilli ~ 4/ 5 finely chopped (not shown in pic)
Corriander leaves ~ quarter of a bunch chopped (not shown in pic)

Olive Oil

How I Do It

Drain water from the soft tofu packet and crumble it with your hands. It’s very soft and will crumble easily
Chop onions real fine, chop the tomatoes in small pieces. Same as you would for egg burji
Heat Olive Oil in a Frying pan
Add the chopped garlic
As soon as you get the flavor of garlic, add the chopped onion. Fry till they turn a nice pink
Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes are well cooked and mixed well
Add the green chillies if you want them.
Add the crumbled tofu.
Sauté till all the water evaporates. Since soft tofu retains a lot of moisture a lot of water may come out and so this step will take some time. You need to dry up all the water and by the end of this the tofu should be dry
At this point you may need to add a little oil, add a lttle to add a little more flavor
Add half of the chopped coriander, salt and mix well and sauté for some more time
Taste to see if it tastes like scrambled eggs, if not yet, you need to sauté a little more.
The end result would look like the pic below
Garnish with rest of the coriander and serve with Roti or enjoy by itself

Note: More Tofu Burji Recipes
Tofu Podimas from

Update on May 2007: Did this with Firm Tofu and that turned out good as well

Trivia:The English word "tofu" comes from the Japanese tōfu which itself derives from the Chinese dòufǔ. Though Tofu is of Chinese origin in both languages it means "bean curd"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gooseberry and Not Happy about Valentines Day

Gooseberry ? That’s what the package said. The fruit that you see in the above pic was known as “Tya(n)pari” in Bihar, it was sold by the cartful on the roadside and we used to love it. It was not much seen in Kolkata, the strange thing being D had never even heard of it. He would laugh at me whenever I said this name and was I elated to see this small pack in my local Shop Rite fruit aisle a month ago. Though the package said Gooseberry I think this the “Cape Gooseberry” according to Wiki. It is sweet and juicy and I love eating it raw. If you know more about this fruit please input your info.
Can you discern the heart in the picture? I didn’t plan it but when I saw it on my computer I was sure it was all because of Valentine Day and I had to write something I had wanted to keep to myself.

Ok, so let me come clean, I have stopped being a Valentines Day Fan. I feel it's overly hyped and there is too much brouhaha with it and the commercialization -- the less said the better.

Maybe I don't feel any attachment to this tradition because I have not grown up with it, Valentines Day was unheard of when I was in school, at least there was not much hullabaloo over it in our small township. At the close of the teens there was this hush in the air about this day and it was solely marketed for "romantic couples", we felt it was supposed to be for errrrrr stupid females with bfs, we ( the more stupid ones) had none so that was it.

By the time I was in college and we had moved to the city with an "Archies" store at every corner, the cute pink bears holding red hearts and the mushy-mushy card made my heart flip and if you would sniff hard, rising above the diesel and the fumes you could smell the red roses and "Love". That was the age to go rubbery in the knees on seeing such things and if someone so much as dropped the "L" word you would go red -pink & purple, ok not purple. "Archies" did a very good job of putting pressure on the millions of Indian youth and I bet even that gangly youth with oiled hair from Jhumritaliya shyly scribbled on an “Archies” card for the love of his life.

No such luck for me though and even later when I was friends with D we never succumbed to Valentines Day, the V day was still very much targeted for the mushy-mushy lovey-dovey couple of "Maine Pyar Kiya" and no way I was going to be labeled in such a category.

This changed however after marriage, the first Valentines day I totally flipped and sent a card worth 50 bucks to D who was far from India at work on an project. I was sane enough not to spend more of my hard earned bucks on postage and sent it with another good friend who was traveling to the same place around this time. Fortunately this was a guy and "happy & gay culture" was not in so there was no confusion as to "who gave the card to whom".

Since D did not send a card or claimed that his card was lost in transit I threw a hue and cry…all those years of not celebrating V day and "Archies" & now "Hallmark" was showing signs. So by the next V day when we were here in the "Valentines Day Mecca" D promptly bought me a bunch of roses, roses on V Day are you crazy ?? I was apalled by the price and again threw a hue & cry.

By now the poor guy would have been confused but he knew me well enough not to get ruffled. So the next year I asked him to get me a single stem of rose, that's it.

By now I was getting sick of Valentines Day anyway, and then it seems V day is no longer for "romantic couples" it is for everyone are you kidding me? Why the hell would I buy a dozen Roses worth $50 and present it to close, not so close, barely know them friends.And then they have Valentines Day parties at pre school and toddler classes too. This is getting on my nerves and so I put my foot down, "No Valentines Day For Me" this year

And so while I will hop around and check out all these wonderful blog events for Valentines Day, and die of guilt for not making a contribution, I will stay put and let Hallmark lose one buyer

Check out Valentines Day in other cultures in Wiki, fun info

Trivia: March 14 is celebrated as White Day in Japan & Korea by a concentrated marketing effort, when men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day has emerged in Japan and Korea as a day on which women, and less commonly men, give candy, chocolate or flowers to people they like.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Olkopir Dalna

I always thought Olkopi or KohlRabi is a veggie popular only in Eastern India, because we had it in Bihar and Bengal but somehow never noticed it in Bangalore. So I thought it was going to be a surprise veggie for most of you and I could blog about it and yell SURPRISEEEE !!! But that was not to be, you foodies surprise me all the time. Laksmik already introduced it and there is even a South Indian Name for it, Noolkol (see the "ol" in every language ?)

This is known as Kohlrabi here in the US and as Lakshmi pointed out till date I have seen it only at the Asian Stores, the Indian stores don’t carry it.

Interesting facts about KohlRabi from Wiki
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group) is a low, stout cultivar of the cabbage which has been selected for its swollen, nearly spherical, Sputnik-like shape. The name comes from the German kohl (cabbage) plus rabi (turnip), because the swollen stem resembles the latter. Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection for lateral meristem growth; its origin in nature is the wild mustard plant
They are a good source of Potassium and Vitamin C

In Bengal we have different kinds of gravies and classifying all of them as curry would be shameful so though this is a curry based dish I am not calling it so. "Dalna" in Bengali means a thick gravy based dish as opposite to a “Jhol” which is a very light gravy more on the liquid side. Olkopir Dalna or “KohlRabi in a Gravy” is a spicy gravy of cubed kohlrabi, potatoes and peas thrown in. The gravy is tempered with methi(fenugreek) seeds and whole garam masala and spiced up with ginger, tomatoes and cumin and corriander powder. Though Kohlrabi resembles the turnip , when cooked this way it tastes more like a squash.


What You Need

Olkopi/Kohlrabi ~ 1 peeled and cut into small cubes. Be careful not to buy the older ones as they get a little tough.
Potato ~ 1 cut into small cubes. You can forego this if you want
Green peas ~ 1/2 cup frsh or frozen
Tomato ~ I used 2/3 tomatoes from a can of peeled whole tomatoes with 2tbsp of the tomato juice
If using fresh tomatoes blanch them for better results
Ginger paste ~ 1 and 1/2 tsp

For Masala

Jeera or Cumin Powder ~ 1 tsp
Dhone or Corriander Powder ~ 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder ~ to taste
Kichen king masala ~ 2 tsp . This is a masala I thing adds that zing, if you don't have it use something else like garam masala powder
Yogurt ~ 1 tbsp
Maggi Hot & Sweet Tomato ketchup ~ 2 tsp . Use any other suitable alternative or skip

For Phoron or Tempering

TejPata or Bay leaves ~ 3
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 2 pods
Laung or Clove ~ 2
Darchini or Cinnamon sticks ~ a small 1/2" stick
Methi or fenugreek seeds ~ 1/2 tsp

How I Did It

Chop the Kolrabi and the potatoes. Peel the outer skin of kohlrabi and then chop
Steam the KolRabi and the potatoes. I have a Futura pressure cooker where I cook it for 3 minutes. You need to steam them a little more than potatoes
Heat oil in kadai/Fryimng pan
Add the methis seeds, bay leaves, cardamom, clove and cinnamon
Add the tomatoes when the fragrance of the methi engulfs you
Cook the tomatoes well till you see the oil separating.
Add the ginger paste and saute
Add the steamed kolrabi and the potatoes
Saute or as in bengali we say "koshano" till the veggies take on a little colour
Mix the dry masala(cumin, corriander & red chili powder) with 2 tsp of yogurt and add
Saute till the masala coats the veggies well. Fry for a couple of minutes.
Add 2 tsp of tomato ketchup and salt to taste
Add about 2 cups of water and cover and cook till veggies are done. The dish usually has a little gravy so adjust the thickness according to your taste level. The kohlrabi has a slight crunch and I like it that way.

Enjoy with Rice or Roti

I am sending this dish to talented Kalyn the WHB creator from Kalyn's Kitchen for this weeks WHB

Trivia: Hamburg, Michigan has titled itself the "Kohlrabi Capital of the World" and at one time had a kohlrabi festival which drew 600 people at its peak in 1985

MySpice -- Garam Masala

Whole Garam Masla for me consists of the following spices, Elaichi or Cardamom, Laung or Cloves, Tej Pata or Bay Leaves, Darchini or Cinnamon and in some cases mace and peppercorns
In North Indian and Bengali cuisine Whole Garam Masala and Ground Garam Masala play an important role. If you have paid any attention to my recipes till date you will find in most I use Cardamom, Cloves, Bay Leaves and Cinnamon or whole Jeera for tempering. This is in sharp contrast to the cuisine from South of India where the spices for everyday tempering is Mustard seeds and Curry leaves. The different spices used for tempering lend a different flavor to the oil and hence the food.
While Whole Garam Masala is used for tempering, ground garam masala is mixed with the food at the last stage of cooking to lend a flavor and aroma and peps up the dish. I use the Ground Garam masala mostly for meat dishes and if I want to make a dish rich & spicy.
Ground Garam Masala is sold at stores in several varieties. But most of the time I dry roast the above whole spices and then grind them in a spice or coffee grinder to make the powder. In many regions the Bay Leaves might be omitted while grinding.
Though "Garam" means hot, this hot is not the same "hotness" as in peppers. This masala helps increasing the body temperature and so makes it "garam".

So in this cold winter spice up your life with Garam Masala

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Strawberry and a Meme

Strawberries...my daughter loves them so. She eats them just as they come fresh, juicy and red. When Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual said Fruit of this Month is Strawberry, I knew that was a fruit I always had in my refrigerator. But I didn't want to make anything using them, they are so good and delicious just as they come, I don't have the heart to put them in a pie or a cake. Since a fruit is best eaten fresh I didn't want to present another option to my daughter. She likes strawberries fresh, biting into them, the juice filling her mouth and so let that be so...

Shilpa of Flog & Rosbif had tagged me with a MeMe "5 Things Most people Don't Know About Me". Now I am not very good at Memes but this was funny, so here are some skeletons from my closet

Though I drive a considerable distance each way to work every day, I am afraid to drive on the dreaded NJ Turnpike. Just to avoid the turnpike I have to drive 15 minutes extra :)

Now to dispel some myths -- dear Supriya said I am "fun loving and adventurous". Fun loving, yes but adventurous, have my serious doubts on this one. The most adventurous I am is when we go out to eat, I always end up taking the less trodden path i.e. deciding on something I have never even heard of before and then almost always end up eating what D has ordered. In other walks of life, less said the better.

One more...another blogger buddy Sra said she thought I was cherubic. Now I would love to think what she meant was I had an "angelic demeanor". However what she must have actually meant is I have a "chubby" appearance :) and I must give it to Sra for her insight. I am inclined to put on weight easily, no luck like Shilpa here and have never been skinny.

I have a penchant for hoarding...no no don't get me wrong..what I mean is I just cannot throw/give away stuff as in books, old shoes, old clothes etc., I cling on to them. I still have almost all the issues of the "Anandamela" a very popular children's bi weekly magazine in bengali, I used to subscribe from LKG to High School. My Ma threatens to sell them each year.
Now whenever I have to sort my lil' girl's clothes as she outgrows them, I am tormented. Maybe that's another reason I like computers, just store.

I love, love, love to read fiction both in bengali and english and I like learning as in go to class, take part in hot discussions, do assignment, give test. Strange as it may sound and though I cursed when I had to study, I now realize that I really like the process.

I was in the hospital for the last 17 weeks of my pregnancy, yeah 17 you didn't read that wrong, due to some complications. I was in total bed rest and was allowed to get up for occasional showers only once in a week or so. That experience taught me a lot and made me a better person I think. I now know how important everyday things that we take for granted are and I know when God closes one door he opens another, we just need to have faith and believe.

Ooop six already...stop, stop that's it. I would like to tag IndoSunGod, Sri and Maheshwari if they haven't done this already. Take it only if you want to.