Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mango Season and Chire-Doi-Aam

aka Beaten Rice(Poha) mixed with Yogurt, sweet mangoes, bananas and jaggery


Dear Mango, Do you Love me as much as I do thee
Do you look forward to summer,to be in your element or are you just sick and bored with all the hype
And what about all the competition, the Langda, the Himsagar, the Hapoos, running the rat race, do you really want to be there
Do you want to be the chosen one to be sent overseas or you would rather get your guts sucked out by the little boy on the dusty road
Do we even care what you think, no wonder you are sour at times but then your sunny soul takes over and you spread your warm yellow sweetness
But Mango, we really love thee.

I am not sure if the above is a food art that deserves to go to Indira for her Mango Manthram, but I will send it over and see.

Talking of mangoes, I love the hot, sweltering, Indian Summer. I am not sure I loved it as much when I actually survived it. But now when my Ma cribs about the temps soaring to the 40’s and it being extremely hot and unbearable, I sympathize with her audibly but secretly I am pining for that heat, for the relief that the whirring fan would bring after a prolonged power cut, the coolness of the watermelon sherbet that waited for me when I reached home after a sweaty bus journey, the cool feel of the marble floor soon after it had been freshly mopped.There is pure pleasure in seeking out comfort instead of it being served on a platter.


Now every summer my Ma would do this particular Puja called “Jai Mangalbar” each Tuesday of some summer month. I do not remember the details, it was kind of a fast or actually a vrata followed by a katha/story and Puja for the Goddess Mangalchandi who I am sure is one of the many embodiments of Durga. Only that it was not fast in the real sense, you went without breakfast in the morning and then at lunch instead of the usual, rice-daal and fish curry you had a special delicious spread taking full advantage of the summer bounty a la Mangoes. So lunch was “Chire Doi Aam” which means beaten rice or poha mixed with yogurt, sweet ripe mangoes, bananas and the whole thing sweetened with sondesh. This was also called “Falar”(Falahar or fruit diet) for some unknown reason as it was not strictly fruits that you ate.

This simple dish was so delicious that after having the Prasad for a a week or two, I decided to go the whole nine yards and jumped into the “Jai Mangalbar” bandwagon. It was summer hols anyway and I woke up late, so skipping breakfast wasn’t a big deal. A quick bath and a few mantras and rituals later I would join my Ma for this special lunch sitting on the cool floor of the Puja Room.

The strange thing is this concoction of Chire, Doi and Aam could be normally had at any day of the week without the “holy” tag and was often offered to me as an evening snack or breakfast during the summer. But there was some kind of a special feel about having it on those particular summer Tuesdays, sitting on the Puja room floor with my Ma & Grandma, the heady smell of the incense and flowers making the dish ethereal.

When I got the first ripe mangoes of this season, I was craving this simple dish. I had it for breakfast sitting on the dining table on a regular weekday, not exactly the same effect that the mantra, the katha , the incense and the Langda would induce in this simple dish but it was a joy none the less.

Chire Doi Aam

Soak 1 cup of beaten rice(raw poha) for a minute or so in water. The poha I get here gets soft very quickly and needs minimal soaking, you might need to soak yours longer till it is soft but not mushy. Drain the water completely and transfer to a bowl. Add about ½ cup of plain yogurt. Peel and add the flesh of one ripe, sweet mango. Add half a banana chopped. I added about 1 tbsp of jaggery instead of sondesh to sweeten it. You can add other forms of sweetener too. Mix well, umm... your fingers being the best mode as you can lick off them too. Eat immediately.

This healthy and ideal summery breakfast is my entry for May Mango Madness (WBB #22) hosted by Escapades. I just came across the Beautiful Bones event by Susan at Food Blogga, my Mom suffers from osteoporosis and I might be at risk too though I haven't got tested yet and so I thought this would be a easy simple brekfast that gives you your calcium from yogurt and bananas. Also vitamin B-12 and vitamin K may reduce fracture risk by increasing bone mineral density as well as the improvement of bone microarchitecture and mangoes provide a good source of both.

Trivia: Chandi is one of the most popular folk deities in Bengal, and a number of poems and literary compositions in Bengali called Chandi Mangala Kavyas were written from 13th century to early 19th century. These had the effect of merging the local folk and tribal goddesses with mainstream Hinduism. (The Wiki)
Personally I feel these folk cum religious rituals played a more social than religious part. In an era when the women were deprived of simple pleasures and denied good food, if you notice most of these rituals practiced by women folk of the house had good food as an important part of the process, thus giving the women an excuse to savor the nicer things which they were normally deprived of.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Aloo Methi and Methi in my Dal

aloo methi

I am having a choppy time, not physically but mentally. I always knew I was weird but then I thought everyone was in some way or other so that actually made me normal. Once I knew about hormones I was intelligent enough to assign my weirdness to them of course but the hubby thinks that is just taking advantage of the poor things. What does that have to do with blogging you might ask, nothing but it is just that there are days my interests take a dip and I don’t even want to open Blogger and so you don’t see me around. I still cook and eat though because that keeps me happy. Strange thing is I even take pics of all that food and not even download them. Real world friends (unaware of my blog persona) who happen to peek at them on my camera are convinced I am the weirdest.

Anyway, have you had days when you want go out and eat not because you want to eat something fancy or exotic but just because you are tired to whip up a simple homely meal and that is what you want to eat when you go out. You want to have a decent Indian every day meal and that does not mean a cream laden orange hued paneer butter masala paired with naan and a thick menacing Kali Dhaal. There is nothing wrong with these dishes and they have perfect right to be on the menu card but you go to an Indian restaurant (not a South Indian or Udupi restaurant) in one of USA’s 50 states and chances are you will only see variations of this on the menu.

Why can’t they serve phulkas I ask you, why should it always be Naan or Tandoori Roti ? And why can’t they have simple earthly dishes like alu-methi, bhindi bhaji, a simple toor dal flavored with garlic and red chillies along side the rich cousins? Am I the only one who wants to eat these stuff even if I am eating out or there is a market untapped? As it is there is no Bengali restaurant that I can hog at and there aren’t Indian ones that serve simple North Indian meals either, what is wrong with restaurateurs, I say.

Also the South Indian restaurants serve Thali with side dishes which I do not know the names of but taste like something you would have at a normal South Indian home too. Am I right? Are those dishes same as the ones you would cook for a weekly meal or are they typical special dishes too?

Disgusted with the restaurants and deciding to fend for myself I put the bunch of methi leaves from my Indian Grocery store to good use. I made a Aloo Methi ki Sabji and also added some of the methi leaves to my Dal. Served them with Brown rice cooked in water flavored with Cloves and Cardamom.

Aloo Methi

My Aloo Methi recipe is from here with some slight changes.

Finely pluck (a tedious job) and the wash about a bunch of methi or fenugreek leaves. Then chop them up. Peel and cut about 3 potatoes into small cubes. In a Kadhai/Frying Pan heat the ghee/oil. Temper with 1 tsp cumin seeds followed by half a clove of garlic finely chopped. Add the potatoes, salt, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, 3-4 green chilies and cook till the potatoes are cooked. Keep on stirring it so the potatoes do not get brown. After the potatoes are cooked add the methi (fenugreek) leaves and stir. The leaves will wilt in a couple of minutes. Add about ¼ tsp of Red Chilli Powder and ½ tsp of Kasuri Methi. Stir and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Serve hot.

Red Masoor Dal with Methi Leaves

I made a Red Masoor Dal exactly like my previous recipe here. After frying the onions and tomatoes I added the plucked and chopped methi leaves, sautéed for a couple of minutes and continued with the rest of the steps.

Plain Brown Rice

The Brown Rice, was hated by the husband unless it was a Fried rice he made or the Khichdi, but I am not the one to let go. So to make this rice I boil almost 3 times the water and flavor the water with a pinch of salt, Cardamom, Cloves and Bay Leaves. Cook the rice and drain the excess water. Now he likes the taste he says even if so at gun point.

Lastly Thanks Srivalli and Pooja for passing on such nice awards to me. I know, I know I am not doing tags either but I told you I am weird. For all you wonderful bloggers theres this wonderful music video from Shubha Mudgal featuring Nandita Das. And no I didn't make the video or music, I just loved both so sharing it with you guys.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

with Maggi Noodles and a small picnic.

Friday was Mother’s Day Tea at S’s pre-school. It was a rainy and dull morning but that one hour in her school pepped me up. It has been a year since S has been going to this pre-school and she is comfortable there now, I too know most of her class mates and some Moms unlike last year. So it was a happy one hour accompanied with iced tea and munchkins, it was another thing that S devoured 2 of mine. They then gave us the surprises they had made for us.


I knew about the art, but the cute photo frame made of popsicle sticks and stick-ons with a picture of S in the playground was a real surprise.
A day before S had told me, she has a surprise for me at school and she was not supposed to tell me what it is. In the next 5 minutes she had whispered in my ears, that when her teacher asked, “Why she loves her Mommy”
she had said “’Coz Mommy makes good food for me” :-)
She had drawn me and herself going to the restaurant and eating noodles that apparently I had cooked. Huh ? This girl doesn't want to miss out on the restaurant inspite of Mom's cooking, maybe she likes to have a backup plan.


Today morning, I was expecting a Mothers Day breakfast but I woke up hungry at 6 in the morning and since everyone else was deep asleep I went downstairs, had a bowl of cereal and then came back and promptly went to sleep again.

D and little S let me sleep in late and by the time I freshened up and went downstairs I was expecting a la-di-da breakfast with flowers and what not. There was nothing in view. In fact there was no one in view. Father-daughter were in the basement, the kitchen was bare and no trace of breakfast having cooked could be seen. This soured me considerably and I grumpily sat down with my tea.

Later when D came up and wished me and asked me why I was grumpy, I pointedly asked him that wasn’t he supposed to make me breakfast
“But you already had cereal and we were going to go out for lunch, why do you need breakfast again?”, he asked
“Because it is Mothers Day”, I said, better to make it clear since men are thick in the head and I had no intention of sulking over this the whole day.
“Of course you don’t need that much food” he insisted.
Good that he made up for it by getting me Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, else I might have bashed his head.


Little S then wanted to go to the park and I didn’t want to go to a crowded restaurant either so we decided on an impromptu picnic. Since there was hardly any time in hand, I made Maggi Noodles with eggs and some veggies, a favorite in our home like Nupur’s and D made some sandwiches with fish sticks, cucumber and mustard and off we went to the nearest state park where the day turned out to be apparently cold and chilly.

S had fun and I always like a green view better than anything, so it was not all that bad and a nice way to spend a lazy Sunday

How I Make Maggi Noodles

Boil the Noodles according to the package direction. Do not add the spices/seasoning in the packet. Drain the noodles and wash off the starch in cold water and toss with a little olive Oil
In a pan, heat Olive oil, add sliced onions and fry till pink. Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till soft. Add an egg and stir to scramble it. Add veggies (carrots, peas, beans or whatever you have, which have been steamed) to this.Add chopped green chillies if your kid is ok with it.
Sauté for a couple of minutes and add half of the Masala/seasoning that comes in the packet. Add salt and the Maggi Noodles.
Mix well and serve with Ketchup.
This serves as a good lunch to be packed for kids too

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Soya Peas Pulao on a PlayDay


Little S’s friend was to come over after school to spend an evening with her. They are in the same pre-school and same class and I do not understand their need to spend still more time after school together. Both of them had been pestering me about visiting each other’s home for some time now and finally I called up her Mom and we decided to do it once a week.

The weather having turned a beautiful warm a week back, I had planned to take them to the park in the afternoon and let them run free. But come the day of the meet and it was chilly, so the poor kids & of course poor me, had to be stuck inside the house. They played on their own though and didn’t bother me except for occasional call for snacks. Four year olds can be angels if they want.

Now this little friend speaks Kannada(language spoken by natives of Karnataka a state in Sothern India) at home and last time she was visiting, she had asked for Rice & Tuppa for dinner. Of course I didn’t understand and had plied her with Rice, dal, vegetables and yogurt. Only later did her mom tell me that she loves rice & ghee and that is what she had wanted.

This time I tried to play safe and asked Little S what her friend liked to eat. The morning of the their play-day she declared “Friend S likes Pulao”

So be it I thought, easy for me and convenient for the kids to eat too. I decided on a Soya Peas Pulao with soya granules instead of the chunks. I loosely followed Tarla Dalal's recipe. Since Friend S was a eggatarian, I served it with boiled eggs which were lightly fried to a golden yellow. This was a complete meal delicious, protein rich and yet very easy. Served with a bowl of plain yogurt on the side, there was little more the kids will ask for. Ideal to be packed for a school lunch also.

Little S finished of her plate happily while I had to force friend S to eat, though she said she liked it. Friend S turned out to be unfamiliar with boiled eggs though and was pretty much taken by the egg white, hated yolk. She likes omlettes, more homework to be done next time.

When little friend S's Mom came to pick her up, she brought me some steaming Upma from her kitchen, now this kind of play days I like.

Soy Peas Pulao

What You Need

Uncooked Rice ~ 1 cup
Soya granules ~ ¼ cup of Nutrela Soya Granules(Note: Next time I am going to up this amount)
Green peas (fresh or frozen) ~ ¼ cup

For tempering

Cumin seeds (jeera) ~ ½ teaspoon
Cinnamon (dalchini) ~ 1/2" stick
Cloves (lavang) ~ 2
Bay leaf ~ 1
Cardamom (elaichi) ~ 2

For masala

Onions ~ ½ cup chopped
Tomatoes ~ ½ cup chopped
Ginger ~ ½ “ grated

Turmeric powder (haldi) ~ ¼ teaspoon

Garam masala ~ ¼ teaspoon
Coriander (dhania) powder ~ ½ tsp (You can use 1 tsp of this, but I kept it low)
Fennel (saunf) Powder ~ ¼ tsp

Oil ~ to cook
Ghee ~ ½ - 1 tsp to smear the rice (optional)
salt to taste

To be ground into a chilli-garlic paste – I did not use this since the pulao was intended for kids

3 cloves garlic
3 whole red chillies

How I Did It

Wash the rice and soak it for 10-30 minutes. Drain the rice after this and smear with ½ tsp of ghee.

Heat Oil in a Frying Pan

Flavor the oil with Bay leaves, whole cardamom, and cinnamon stick

Add ½ tsp of whole cumin seed

When the seeds crackle, add the onions and sauté till the onions turn golden brown.
If you are using chilli-garlic paste add it now

Add finely chopped tomatoes and sauté till they are soft

Add the green peas and soya granules and sauté for a minute

Add the turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, fennel powder and salt and sauté for another couple of minutes

Add the Rice now and mix well with the masala. Sauté for 2 more minutes and add about 2 cups of water and cover and cook. If using a pressure cooker add 2 cups of hot water and pressure cook for 2 whistles

If not using a pressure cooker, check occasionally to see if rice is done. If not and water has dried up add a little more water (very little about ¼ cup might be needed) and cook till rice is done.

You can serve with boiled eggs, which I fried to a golden yellow because Little S likes the color. Also a bowl of yogurt on the side completed the meal.

Note: for younger kids you need to fish out the whole garam masala like cardamom, bay leaf, clove and cinnamon stick before serving

Other Recipes with Soya Granules:

Egg Paratha with Soya Stuffing

A recipe that could use soya granules or chunks:

Daliya Pulao

Reading List: Thanks for all of your inputs and enriching my reading list. I recently read Chitra Banerjee Divakurani's Palace Of Illusions, a feminist interpretation of the epic Mahabharata. I also read Cold sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. Enjoyed both the books. I am currently reading Anne Tyler's Digging To America. I had read her Breathing Lessons earlier, but had totally forgotten about her, thanks to RLM for the suggestion. Sadly the library didn't carry "Tales from FirozSha Baag" by Mistry

Friday, May 02, 2008

RCI Bengal: Round Up Stage II


The second and last RCI-Bengal Round up is the sweetest. This series has Chutney, Dessert, Snack, Drinks and Non-Recipe write ups.


Photo Courtesy: Flickr

As I said earlier for a history of Bengali Cuisine please refer to the article "Bengali Cuisine" from Wikipedia , I found the article very interesting and informative. For many of you who might not be aware of the history of Bengali cuisine, the various terms used and its delicate intricacies this article is a treasure. Even for those who are aware of the cuisne this article throws new light about the historical influences etc.

I would also like to mention that RCI-Bengal was an event where Bloggers cooked and sent their version of recipes of Bengali Food, as they saw it.Many of them might have adapted the original recipe to suit their taste, preference, local ingredients, whatever. So,this is not necessarily a compilation of authentic or original bengali cooking.

I thank everyone for making this event a success.

The Chutney

Anarosher Chaatni -- the only chutney entry, a beautiful pineapple chutney from Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi

Bengali style Raita -- a new dish from Mythreyee at Paajaka recipes

The Dessert

Kesar Badam Sandesh -- a delicious light creamy delicacy from West Bengal made with fresh home made paneer or chenna is from Medhaa at Cook With Love

Rasgulla -- the all time favorite sweet looks so scrumptious that you would love to pick it up right off her blog, from Dhivya at Dhivya's Cuisine

Sandesh -- the pristine white beauties made from paneer/chenna are from Cham at Spice-Club

Kala Jamun -- a gorgeous step-by-step demo of making kala jamuns which is known as Kalo Jaam in Bengali is from Dhivya at Culinary Bazaar

Choco Mava Peda -- delightful looking pedas from Nirmala at Amma's Special

Rasgulla -- sweet, juicy delights from SunshineMom at Tongue Ticklers

Cham Cham -- they look so professional and are so beautifully presented you would want to grab one off the screen, sweet delights from Sandhya at Sandhya's Kitchen

Rasagulla -- sweet, juicy, spongy rasagullas made for her Appa's Birthday and of course RCI from Kamala at Moms Recipes

Bengali Sandesh -- melt in your mouth sandesh from Priya at 365 Days of Pure Vegetarian

Bhapa Doi -- delectable bengali cheesecake flavoured with saffron and cardamom served with dollops of humor from Mallika at Quick indian Cooking

Rasmalai -- a fabulous tasting and definitely great looking dessert from Arundati at Escapades

Mishti doi -- a sweet yogurt, a bengali favorite served with sweeter memories from Sunita at Sunita's World

Jibe Goja /Fried pastry coated with syrup -- a simple yet household favorite from Rinku at Cooking in Westchester

Rasmalai -- a great looking dessert from Swapna at Swapna's Cuisine

Patishapta -- a very traditional Bengali dessert of thin crepes filled with a sweet coconut & kheer stuffing from Archana, mama of twins at Archana's Culinary Adventures

Mishti Doi -- a lovely dessert in a lovely pot from Renuka at Fusion

Rasgulla -Bengali Mithai -- one more dessert with a "eat me up" written all over it explained with detailed steps and tips from Mansi at Fun n Food

Kalakand -- decadent looking sweets from Mallugirl at Malabar Spices

Shrikhand -- this lovely dessert does not have any bengal connection that I know of, but then who am I to give verdict in the larger scheme of things so I am including this beautiful entry here from Jan at Food with a Pinch of Love (Jan had asked me if this dessert could be considered but I am welcoming all entries with open arms)

The Snack or JolKhabar

Jhaal Muri -- with a dash of mustard oil this tasty snack of puffed rice is from Meera at Enjoy Indian Food

Koraishutir Kochuri -- kachuri stuffed with a spicy sweet pea filling, one of the Bengal's winter breakfast or snack favorite is from Raaga at The Singing Chef

Oven baked Paneer Shingaras -- healthy and delicious samosas or shingaras from Siri at Siri's Corner

The Drink

Rasamadhuri Sherbet -- a pretty sherbet with an equally pretty name from Uma at Essence of Andhra

No Not a Recipe

Day 2: 16th March 2008 -- a travelogue on Kolkata with some beautiful Pics from Anjali at Swachchanda. She also shares an article on Haldiram's Food City in Kolkata here.

Traditional Bengali Curries - One Page Cookbook -- an entry from Ramki. This is entirely his version of Bengali Cuisine as he sees it. (But please can we not say "curry" for every dish. Also I am no authority on Bengali or any cuisine but I felt a lot was "Lost in Translation" in this writeup)