Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pick your Own Peaches...


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Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven -- Tagore


Seeing Chandrika’s post made me do this. Yes, finally. I had a yearning to take little S to the orchards where she can get to “pick her own” fruits. Not that that would make her eat all her fruits with a glee but just because she would know that fruits grew on trees and not in Shop Rite. With my tomato and beans and okra (last year) plants she has got the hang of where they come from but she was yet to see a fruit laden tree from where you could pluck them. So since I couldn’t grow a fruit tree in my backyard I thought the best would be to take her to the orchards



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Peaches, Peaches EveryWhere


Last week was pretty hectic with some unexpected but very welcome guests popping in and staying with us for the better part of the week. The guest was my friend with her 4 year old en route to India who had to stop and spend time at my place due to some messed up travel plan. Since it was summer but the heat was not overbearing we took the kids to an orchard near my home. The strawberry season was over and the peaches were just ripening to be picked, so peaches it was.

The rows and rows of peach trees were laden with fruits, there was fruit hanging from all possible branches and the kids had a fun time plucking them and plonking them in the basket. They ran through the trees, hung on the delicate branches (you are not really allowed to do that) and had a general good time.



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Little hands picking the fruit


I would suggest a trip to these orchards a very good way to entertain your kids during summer. Its relaxing, exhilarating and reminds you of the days when you would climb up the guava tree and get a bunch of green guavas in the nook of your long A line frock.



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Luscious Peaches


Once back with all the peaches I was not sure what to do with them other than distributing a large share. I am not really a very fruity person and though I love trees, even those with fruits hanging from them, I am not really too keen on eating them. The one fruit I really, really love is watermelon and I love it as it is without messing up. Even as a juice I like the chunky watermelon juice which needs a spoon to scoop up the chunks. Also I add almost nothing (maybe a little sugar) to my watermelon and that’s it.
So I didn’t really have anything to submit for dear Bee & Jai’s AFAM.



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And then there came the peaches. I googled for a peach salad and found this. I had nothing that was in the ingredient list except the peaches. So I paired up the peeled and cut peaches with my dear old watermelon, drizzled 3 tsp of lime juice mixed with 1 tsp of honey for 1 peeled and diced peach + six melon ball and let it chill. It tasted good but then give me my watermelon in its pristine condition any day. This goes to Bee & Jai's AFAM-Watermelon , an event that originated from Maheshwari's (whom we are missing very much) brain and blog. I would suggest you follow the original recipe to make the right salad.

A little watermelon joke that I want to chronicle, to laugh at when I get old.
Watermelon in Bengali is called Tormuj. Now Tor in Bengali is synonymous to Tu in Hindi or You in English. Last year when S took a real liking to watermelon we told her it is called TorMuj. She analysed it as Tor + Muj i.e. Your + Muj. So when she eats a watermelon she says “Ami AmarMuj khachi” i.e. “I am eating My Muj”. When I eat it she says “Tumi TomarMuj khachcho”. The name of the fruit is Muj for her while she adds a pronoun. If you didn't get the joke just let go.

Some links to Pick your Own farms
Pick your Farm from here -- State by State listing
Pick your Farm in NJ -- NJ listings

(a part of this post shared with DesiMomzClub)

Trivia: Peach is the state flower of Delaware and the state fruit of South Carolina. The Stae of Georgia calls itself the "Peach State"
Though it is not known when watermelon was first cultivated, there is evidence of Watermelon cultivation in the Nile Valley in the early second millenium BC. Numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (Source:
Wiki). Now I know why I like it

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Phulko Luchi ar Aloor Dom


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Long back Indosungod had asked “Whats a typical Bengali Breakfast ?”. As I munched on my Seven Whole Grain Kashi Bar reflecting on what good the fiber and the flax seeds were doing to me, I tried to give her question a thought. I thought of the times at home when my Ma would cook up amazing breakfasts not only on weekends but also on busy weekday mornings. When I thought such breakfasts were the norm rather than a luxury and turned up my nose at everything that I didn’t like, yes I even had a choice!!!

My Ma was pretty cosmopolitan when it came to breakfast. So even though it would be Macher Jhol and Bhaat (aka Fish Curry and Rice) for lunch, we would have everything from Alu Paratha (North Indian), Uttapam(South Indian), French Toast(Continental), Noodles(Oriental),Chirer Pulao(Bengali version of Poha), Parota-Tarkari(Bengali), Kochuri(Bengali) to Luchi ar Alur Dom (Bengali) for breakfast. Of this Luchi Alur Dom was quintessential Bengali and the one I liked the least for some obscure reason. Things have changed, I crave for some perfectly puffed up pristine white luchis now and spicy alur dom to go with it.

Luchi (ch pronounced as in chair) is a deep-fried flatbread made of bleached wheat flour or maida that is typical of Bengali and Oriya cuisines. It is almost like Puri, but while Puri is usually brown, Luchi is always white.
In order to make luchis, a dough is prepared by mixing fine maida flour with water and a spoonful of ghee, which is then divided into small balls. These balls are flattened using a rolling-pin and individually deep-fried in cooking oil or ghee. A typical luchi will measure 4-5 inches in diameter. (Straight from the Wiki)

Hot puffed up luchis are served with a myriad of dishes according to ones liking and also the time of the day. Luchi with Begun Bhaja(fried eggplant slices), Luchi with Aloo Bhaja(thin strips of potato fried), Luchi with Cholar Dal, Luchi with Payesh, and of course Luchi with Alur Dom are all time favorites. Luchi with Kosha Mangsho(a spicy mutton curry)and at times even Luchi with Aloor Dom is a dinner favorite and served as a dinner menu on special occasions.

So if you have something to celebrate be it a person or an event, a Bengali family will serve you hot luchi with mangsho or al00r dom for dinner accompanied by several other things. They would serve you perfectly puffed up luchis one after the other straight from the fire, while you sit devouring them, losing track of the numbers. The patriarch sitting by your side would show you how to tap the proud puffed up luchi and thus release its latent heat and then wrap it around a piece of mutton or potato and put it to in your mouth in one go. The teenager on your other side might roll up his luchi with sugar preferring it to the mangsho while his Mom might be dipping hers in some sweet brown liquid nolen gur. Do not get distracted, and do not count your phulko luchis, they are more than a blessing, so just enjoy them.

Now me and flour are not the best of friends, but I do give in to luchi cravings now and then and take out my chaki-belun (rolling pin and the flat surface you roll the dough on). My now 3 and ½ year old is pretty fond of luchis and I think for her sake I should brush up my act and roll out this pretty white beauties more often.




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Get this much loved recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.
To relive a typical Bengali Jolkhabar, I made Luchi and Aloor Dom (Luchi with a Spicy Potato preparation, the D in Dom pronounced as Th in That) for breakfast over the weekend.For us it went on to be a big brunch though, something that made everyone happy.


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What You Need
All Purpose Flour/Maida ~ 3 cups
Salt ~ a pinch to add to the flour
Oil ~ 3 and ½ tbsp added to flour as a shortening. Update on Aug 17th: I added 2 tbsp of oil as shortening today and that worked fine too. You can add still less oil but then the luchi will be a little crisp and not soft
Water ~ to make the dough. I use warm water.
Oil for frying

How I made Luchi

In a bowl where it is easy to knead the dough I added 3 cups of All Purpose Flour.
I made a small well at the center of the flour mound and to it I added almost 3 and ½ Tbsp of Oil.(Even 2 tbsp of oil works fine, less the better)
Sprinkled a little salt and then added water gradually, while I mixed the flour with my hand.




Be careful with the water, you don’t want your dough to be soggy. Work on the dough till it does not stick to your fingers and comes out clean. You will get a smooth soft round which is lightly spongy (poke your fingers to see) as seen in the above pic.If you want to save the dough for later use, be sure to cover with a lightly damp cloth or even a lightly damp kitchen tissue
Make small round balls with the dough




Roll out the balls to make flat circles 4-5 inches in diameter. Use little oil to roll out the balls and not flour as you would for a chapati. If you have difficulty making the perfect rounds, roll out to any shape you desire and then cut out the circular shape with a katori or any cutter
The luchi is deep fried, so heat enough oil in a Kadhai. Wait for the oil to be piping hot. It should not be smoking though.
Dip a corner of a rolled out luchi in the hot oil to see how the oil reacts, if you see the bubbles you know the time is right. This test is important as the heat of the oil is an important factor for luchi to puff up.
Release the luchi gently in the oil and press the sides with a flat spatula. The right heat of the oil and the pressing makes the luchi puff up just so.
As soon as it puffs up, flip it on the other side and then take it out with a slotted spatula/chalni which has holes in it.





Alur Dom




What You Need
Potatoes/Aloo ~ 12-14 small round ones. I used the tiny baby red ones. For larger potatoes you need to increase the spices.

For Tempering
Bay leaves/ Tej Pata ~ 2
Asafoetida/Hing ~ ¼ tsp

For the Masala
Onion Paste ~ 1 tbsp heaped
Tomatoes ~ 1 smallish finely choped or blanched
Jeera Powder/Cumin powder ~ 1 tsp
Garam Masala Powder ~ ½ tsp loosely packed
Ginger paste ~ 1 tsp heaped
Red Chilli Powder ~ ½ tsp
Yogurt ~ 2 tsp
Ghee ~ 1 tsp or less(optional but does lend a good flavor)
Salt
Sugar ~ 1 tsp or less loosely packed .Update on Aug20th: I think all my non-bong readers should go less on the sugar :). Also increase the Red Chilli powder depending on your spice level
Oil

For garnishing
Corriander leaves ~ fresh and chopped

How I Did It

In a boiling pot or pan, bring water to a boil with little salt
Add the potatoes to it. Since we are using small round potatoes, we are not chopping them. It is not necessary to peel the skins either, as it is easier to peel after the potatoes are boiled
Once the potatoes are done, put them under cold running water and peel them. The jacket is out in a jiffy.
Heat Oil in a Frying pan/Kadhai
Add Bay Leaves and Asafoetida
Add the Onion paste and fry with a tsp of sugar till the onion turns a pinkish brown.
Add the tomato and sauté till the tomato is nicely mushed up and well integrated with the onion. Add the Ginger Paste.
Mix the Cumin Powder, Garam masala Powder, Red Chilli Powder with 2 tsp of yogurt and add to the Frying Pan. At this moment remove the Pan from heat for a couple of minutes.
Sauté the masala till you see the oil separate from the masala.
If you are adding ghee, do so at this point
Add the potatoes and mix well with masala.
Sauté till the potatoes take a light golden colour.
Add very little water and salt and cook till the water almost dries up to give way to a moist but dry gravy. There won’t really be any gravy as such and the masala will nicely coat the potatoes.

Note: If you do not want to use onions, for tempering use a couple of elaichi/cardamom and a small stick of dalchini/cinnamon along with the stuff mentioned here

Some other variations of Aloo Dom can be found here.




If you are a Bong or tuned to Bengali food, can you please tell me what is your idea of a Bengali Breakfast ?

Trivia:Though I have highlighted Luchi as a breakfast menu here, ideally for a Bengali Luchi is something that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It holds a highly esteemed position in a wedding feast and also is offered to the Gods as a Bhog during Pujas.