Saturday, February 28, 2009

Masoor Dal -- revisited with Mangoes


So we all know about the rising food costs and the plunging economy. We also know about food wastage in the first world countries. Being born and brought up in a developing country we were not used to wasting food. Food or Anna was sacred for us, something to be revered. If I didn't eat up my food, my Ma reminded me about the kids who went without them and those kids weren't some that I saw in a magazine page, they were right outside my home. Food wasn't something to be thrown away unless it had gone bad or was spoiled beyond consumption and those situations were ardently avoided.

Here in my daughter's school they have this rule of throwing away leftover lunch. Even when the kids get home lunch, if they don't finish it up, they just throw it away. They cannot save leftover food for some quality adherence issues, and so perfectly good food goes to trash. Food that could have fed millions of hungry child finds its way in the compost heap. And this is not only with this school, I see a similar scenario in atleast all other pre-school/daycares.

I tell my daughter that we don't throw away food and we try not to at home. If she doesn't finish her lunch or dinner, either I just eat it (and now you know why Google puts adds like "Cut 1lb off your stomach" on my page) or I save it for later. Usually I start off by serving really small portions, and giving her more only if she wants it. But that is not always possible when I pack food for lunch. So how much food do your kids waste every day and what do you do to control it ?

On the other hand have you ever tried to keep a tab on how much your every day food costs ? Go over to this blog to see how two social justice teachers tried to eat at just One Dollar a Day for 30 days. They say it wasn't healthy though and no one should attempt to repeat it, so eating cheap is not healthy.

But really in our effort to eat right and Organic (expensive at least in my area) and go Local (which is again expensive where I live) how much are we spending on food some of which we might just be wasting ?

With Masoor Dal you can never go wrong and not eat it. A bowl of Dal is also pretty cheap even when you add a green mango. I had blogged about Tak er Dal earlier but with Matar Dal/Yellow Split Peas. Since Masoor Dal is a staple in my pantry I made Tak er Dal with Masoor & Green Mangoes this time. As BWM said in her comment, the orginal Tak Dal has a phoron or is tempered with Mustard Seeds & Dr Red Chillies, here I have used Paanch Phoran & Dry Red Chillies instead.

This Dal is a staple at my home in India only during summer because thats the season for green mangoes. Here I am guilty of buying a green mango, not grown locally and out of season, but at least I just got one mango and didn't waste any of it.


This goes off to Susan of the very well known Well Seasoned Cook for MLLA - 8, she is the creator as well as the hostess of this legumy affair

Masoor Dal with Mangoes (Tak Musuri'r Dal)

Serves about 4-5 adults when served as part of a meal

How I Did It

Peel a green mango and chop in smallish cubes. I used half of this the rest including the kernel was saved for a small serving of ambol

Wash 1 cup of Red Massor Dal(Red Lentil) and boil with 3 cups of water, 3 slit green chillies, 1/4 tsp turmeric and salt in a heavy bottomed pan. Alternately you can cook the dal in the pressure cooker as I did here.

The dal should be cooked well, so well that the legumes will be soft and mushed up. After it is done, whisk the Dal with a fork or a whisk

Heat Mustard Oil (or any other Oil) in a Kadhai or a deep frying pan

When the Oil is hot, add 1 tsp of Paanch Phoran and 2 Dry Red Chillies

As soon as the spices sputter, add about 1 cup of chopped cubed green mangoes and 1/4 tsp of turmeric

Saute for some time say 4-5 minutes at medium heat. The mangoes will be pale yellow in color and have softened a little by now

Add the cooked Dal and 1 and 1/2 cup of water (I like my dal soupy and add more water)

Stir well and cover & cook at medium heat till mangoes are done. As the dal simmers it soaks up more flavor.

Add 1 tsp of sugar and salt to taste

Just before serving, heat 1tsp of Mustard Oil and temper with 1/4 tsp of Paanch Phoron and 2 dry red chiilies. Pour this over the dal to get more zing. I would suggest do not sidestep this and definitely use Mustard Oil for at least this step.

Have it as a soup or with Plain Rice

Other Similar Dals from my Kitchen:

Tak er Dal -- Yellow Split Peas with green mnagoes

Musuri'r Dal or Red Masoor Dal

Trivia: Interesting article on Decision between Organic & Local itself is not easy


Monday, February 23, 2009

Muri Ghonto -- a heady Fish Head Dish

Muri Ghonto, Bengali Fish head Curry
Muri Ghonto -- Bengali Fish head Curry

Bengali kids are initiated into eating fish head from a very tender age and so very soon they learn to do it with a panache that very few non-Bongs can contend.

By tender age I mean at the age of 6-7 months when they have not tasted anything beyond mother's milk or formula. At their Annaprashan or Rice Ceremony, an occasion to mark the intake of first morsel of rice by a Bengali baby, they are offered to suck on a finger dipped in Paayesh and then presented with a silver plate with rice, dal, bhaja, maacher muro(fried fish head), fish curry, chaatni, mishti. Of course the baby is not even allowed to eat such stuff but a moment with the fish head is captured on either a film roll or a piece of memory(not human but digital). For fish loving Bongs anything fishy is "not fishy" but auspicious and might even bring good luck.

When we were kids we were pushed into this barbaric activity (of eating fish head) with an incentive that devouring fish head especially the brain part of it would enrich our brains and also make our vision stronger."Khub buddhi hobe (You will have a high intelligence)", my Ma or Aunt or some other such person would shout over the din and we would deftly manouevre a tricky head and suck with might. What we would do with so much "buddhi" was a question that was never asked.

By the time we were teenagers and had lost sight to myopia and also lost faith in "more buddhi" when we saw veggie eating South Indians topping the IIT-JEE every year, we were so used to eating a fish head that we relished it even without the added incentive.

The deed was done, we were now fish head loving converts for life.

Muri Ghonto is a dry dish made with fried fish head (known as maacher matha or muro in Bengali), potatoes, very little rice and myriad spices. Don't turn up your nose, it smells nothing but heavenly and tastes more so. If you haven't sucked onto a piece of fish head and pondered on the complexities of life while doing so, you have not lived a full life.

To eat and relish Muri Ghonto you need a long leisurely afternoon, enough time to deal with fish head pieces without being rushed, family banter in the background to convince you that everything is right in the world, company that will let you sit cross-legged on your dining chair and rest your elbows on the table, people who will not make fun of your facial expressions and of course a nice nap afterward.

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


Now I was always used to a Muri Ghonto with rice and potatoes till the other day I had a discussion with the nanny. She is a Bengali but from Bangladesh and I had no idea that there was so much difference in cuisine across the borders. She said she had never even heard of Muri Ghonto with rice and instead they make it with Dal or Lentils. What she makes is more like our Maacher matha diye Dal(Lentil with fish head) and nowhere near my dear own Muri Ghonto.

So I made Muri Ghonto our way last week after a long long time. I don't make this very often so I eyeballed the ingredients and the measurements are approximate. It tasted great and while I had mine with Rice, D had his just by itself. The kids in my home, they are the generation of Bengali kids who are not pushed into eating a Maacher Matha and so avoid it, maybe the time will come for them to get "more buddhi" soon.

Muri Ghonto -- a dry dish with Fish Head

Makes just enough for two bong fish lovers

Prep: Wash and clean fish head, sprinkle salt and turmeric and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. I used half of a regular sized fish head for fish like Rohu or Rui. I have not used fish head of salt water fish or any other fish than Rohu for this dish ever and do not know how it might taste.

Start Cooking:

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Fry the Fish head till its nicely fried, it should turn a nice shade of yellowish brown. While frying try breaking it into medium sized pieces, kind that is easier to suck on but will not choke you. Remove and keep aside.

Fry 2 cut and cubed potatoes to a light golden, remove and keep aside

Temper the Oil with a large Bay Leaf, 2 green cardamom and a 1/2" cinnamon stick

Add the paste of one medium sized onion and fry till the oil separates and the onion has taken on a light brownish hue

Add 1-2 tsp of fresh grated ginger, 2-3 slit green chillies, 1 tsp of Cumin powder and saute the masala with a sprinkle of water for couple of minutes. Now add back the potatoes

Saute for a minute

Add 1/3 cup of uncooked and washed Basmati Rice. If you have Gobindo bhog( a variety of rice popular in Bengal), it's better.

Fry for a couple of minutes and add the fried fish head pieces.

Add 1 tsp of fresh Garam Masala Powder, 1/2 tsp or less of Red Chilli Powder, salt and mix well.

Add about 1 cup of water and cover and cook at low heat. At this point you can add few golden raisins (15-20) to add a touch of sweetness.

Check to see if you need water in between(you might need to add 1/2 cup more water), and stir in between.

Cook till the rice and potatoes are done. It should be moist but will not have a gravy.

Top it with a little ghee, lends a wonderful flavor

*Buddhi -- intelligence, brains

Trivia: The reason fish is so good for the brain is the so-called omega-3 fatty acids it contains. Oily fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, bluefish and black cod, are the best sources of those special fats. One of the omega-3s—DHA—is the main constituent of cell membranes in the brain, and a deficiency of it can weaken the brain's architecture and leave it vulnerable to disease.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Mommy of 2 -- Lesson # 2

Do not compare your kids with others or others with your kids or whichever way, baseline is do not compare kids. Period.

Each kid blossoms in his or her own pace so just let them be. If you have concerns, talk to the doctor but don't compare. If you are proud of your kid's over achievements you are mucho welcome to brag about it but again do not compare.

If you are a third party do not say stuff like "A's son cannot read yet but my niece started reading at 2", ok if you are saying that out of ear shot of A&A's son or the niece, I don't know what the protocol is.

Now that I have two kids I keep repeating such stuff to myself so that I do not ever compare them, maybe we discuss their differences but not compare.

But there is a thin line between comparing and motivating.

Like say Big Sis S wouldn't want to towel herself dry after her bath, her claim was she was too small for such tasks and so I should do it for her. So then I started drawing on examples of a friend's daughter who had started drying herself at the same age. This girl is looked upon by Big Sis S and so it was easy to convince her that such tasks are doable by 5 year olds.
Now what did I do just now, did I compare or motivate ? Or did I compare to motivate ?

So, what is your opinion, what is the fine line ? Or is it that I should not take such devious routes to motivate ?

Some harmless motivations can lead to funny results though. A few weeks back I has seen this post of ChoxBox. I loved the story idea and what n3 wrote.

Since Big Sis S now writes small sentences at school I asked her if she would like to write a story for me and then I told her she could write one on "How The Tiger Got Its Stripes". She readily obliged, took her writing tablet to the table and was back in a minute. So there was the "Shortest Story of the Century" illustrated by the author and duly signed off as "By S..."

I was !!!:D


It says -- "I think they Paint it"

(Cross posted @ Desi Momz Club)

I am closing comments here because I will be discussing and replying to the same post @ DMC

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fish 65 or Hot Hot Indian Chili Fish


She was hesitant, nervous even

Dancing had never been her forte. To say that she had two left feet would be a mere understatement. The last that she had wiggled her fat hips were at the New Year Eve party but that didn't count because mostly people were under the influence and she had an excuse -- the baby in her arms.

But she so wanted to. As she rolled around the name on her tongue it sounded so much fun, maybe even wild, certainly not something that a middle class bengali girl from a bhadro family would do. She imagined graceful women with flaming red lips in swishing silks twirled around by tall, dark men with taut muscles. And she decided she would go.

"But I don't know much dancing, is that ok ?", she muttered to the girl at the reception
"I don't know but it seems like so much fun. Why don't you try?", whispered the young girl

She looked around, shuffled her feet, took a deep breath and pushed open the glass door.


The room was bare with mirrors all around washed in white light. Maybe they will dim these she thought. She looked around and instead of swirling silks she saw these women, so many of them, all fit and flat, their slim legs encased in fitted black leotards, their chests pulled back in black top tanks. She didn't see any men and was secretly thankful, she didn't want to be twirled around by unknown men after all.

And then the beat started, it was pulsating, fast and made your heart jump.
And she let her inhibitions drift
and she danced....

While all the fit ladies in black went left, she in her faded tees and crumpled tracks went right. While they shook their slim waists in circles, she with the girth of Saroj Khan shook hips like Amitabh Bachchan. She wiggled and jiggled and sweated and panted.

It didn't matter anymore, her lack of skills, lack of glistening hot men or silks, lack of her hand-eye co-ordination. What mattered was that she was having fun and sweating in the process.

And so Bong Mom danced away to the rhythms of Zumba at her neighborhood sports club

If the neighborhood sports club had any business acumen, they would cash in on the above event and arrange for a peep show, after all its not everyday that you see fat bong mammas jiggling lard out of sync with Latin music.

Back home she wanted something spicy out of her salmon and with a brain that had been charged up by all that energy she decided to make Fish 65 a la Chicken 65. It was hot and spicy and immensely fulfilling, a tad more than the Zumba.


Fish 65 with the other half's Brown Rice Khichuri

Fish 65 or Hot Indian Chilli Fish

This was just enough to serve two people

Marinate about 2 cups of filet of fish cut in bite size pieces in 1 tsp of Tamari or Soy sauce, 2 tsp of fresh lime juice, 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger, 1 tsp of garlic paste, 1/2 tsp of cumin powder, 1/2 tsp of Garam Masala Powder, 1/2 tsp of Red Chilli Powder for an hour or so. I used salmon but you can use any other filet of fish too.

Heat oil, enough to shallow fry the fishes

Sprinkle 1 tbsp of corn flour on the fish, toss them and fry them in oil till nicely browned on both sides. I had salmon and shallow fried them, but you can also deep fry. Remove the fish pieces and keep aside.

In the same oil, fry 2 fat cloves of garlic finely minced, 3 chopped green chillies and 6-7 curry leaves till you get a wonderful aroma

Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped red onion

Fry till the onion are translucent and light pink in color

Add the fried pieces of fish and mix well, carefully so that fish pieces do not break

In 1 heaped tbsp of thick yogurt, add 1/4 tsp of R. Chilli Powder, 1/4 tsp of ginger paste, mix well and add it to the fish in the pan. I wanted this to be totally dry so did not add any more yogurt.

Add salt, toss the fish around and let it cook on slow heat for maybe 5-8 minutes.

You will get a beautiful aroma and the yogurt will totally dry up. Taste and if you think it is fine you are done

Serve with wedges of lemon

Note: Depending on your heat tolerance up or down the Red Chilli powder and green chilli. This was ok hot, not good for my daughter but we could have definitely tolerated more

Trivia:The word "ZUMBA" is derived from a Colombian word meaning "fast moving". Its also a fusion of the word "samba" the Brazilian dance and the Latin word "rumba" meaning "party". In other words Zumba ® means" to move fast and have fun"


Tum Ho to...

Ok, so if you have been reading me long enough you know my anti-valentiner attitude about Valentines day.
I am the kind of person, Ram Sena would have loved to put on a pedestal and pray on Feb 14th.

But then a girl has her hormones & Bollywood and no Sena could ever take that away from her. If they dare to throw Farhan Akhtar singing mushy numbers at a middle aged twice repeated Mom, who gets to watch "Rock On" blear eyed in the middle of the night only today, 6 months after its release, this is what they will get.If there is more mush coming my way, I might even break my "occasional wine" rule and wallow in self pity or bucketful of Scotch at the nearest pub.

For now, this is for D,post-valentine who I am sure is going to snort green tea through his nose, when he reads this tomorrow, it's not without reason that "You Tube" and "a drink" is blocked at work...


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Jhinge Chingri Posto

Ridge Gourd & Shrimp in Poppy Seed Paste

Jhinge Chingri Posto, Jhinge Posto, Aloo Jhinge Posto

Jhinge Aloo Posto | Ridgegourd and Potatoes in a Poppy seeds paste

The typical Jhinge Posto in the Bengali kitchen is a vegetarian or niramish dish with Jhinge(ridge gourd), potatoes and posto/poppy seeds paste. In this slightly different version I have added shrimp to make a non-vegetarian version Jhinge Chingri Posto which has onions and shrimp. Both the recipes are shared here. If you don't get ridge gourd or Jhinge, this recipe turns out great with Zucchini too

Jhinge or Ridge Gourd is not one of my favorite veggies, never was, in fact I hated it as a child and even when I was no longer a child. The dish I hated most with Jhinge was Jhinge Posto, I absolutely lurrrrved (that is some twisted form of love it seems) , really truly loved Posto and that includes Alu Posto, Posto Bora, Ka(n)cha Posto blah, blah except of course Jhinge Posto.

I felt Jhinge totally ruined Posto's personality and would become emotionally upset on days Ma made Jhinge Posto. Yeah, I was that attached to my food.

So when my Ma was here and she said "Why don't you get some Jhinge, I will make Jhinge Posto", you can well imagine my reaction.

I gasped, grunted and was about to faint when she said "Chingri debo" ("Shall add shrimp to it")

That helped because I lurrrv (BTW what is this "lurv", is it some different emotion altogether, I am hating it, makes me think up a larva) or rather really really love Shrimp, Prawns, Lobster, all crustaceans, blah, blah, blah. Anything with shrimp in it cannot be less than desirable for me.

So I got her those Ridge Gourds in their sharp armors, pretty defensive for a soft veggie like that I say. And she made Jhinge Chingri Posto, ahhhhhhh and it was absolutely, lip-smackingly delicious. I would give up a chocolate cheesecake for that Jhinge Chingri Posto and some Rice, I am telling you.

Jhinge Chingri Posto, Jhinge Posto, Aloo Jhinge Posto

I should tell Big Sis S "Be like a prawn, make the mundane desirable by your mere presence and if someone is allergic to you avoid them and move on". Isn't that a great life's lesson !!!

BTW do we still call Big Sis S that in this blog or do we have a different name for her ? From the comments I feel I am making her look too big and responsible for her age.What say all ye veteran readers who have seen Lil' S grow up right here?

The typical Jhinge Posto in the Bengali kitchen is a vegetarian or niramish dish with Jhinge(ridge gourd), potatoes and posto. In this slightly different version I have added shrimp to make a non-vegetarian version Jhinge Chingri Posto which has onions and shrimp. Both the recipes are shared here. If you don't get ridge gourd or Jhinge, this recipe turns out great with Zucchini too

Jhinge Chingri Posto

How I Did It

Prep: Peel skin of 3 ridgegourd and chop in small pieces. Cut 1 potato in cubes. Dry grind 2 tbsp of Poppy Seeds.
Defrost 12-15 frozen medium sized shrimp or if using fresh, clean and de-vein. Cut the shrimp in pieces and lightly fry with turmeric and salt.

Start Cooking:

Heat Mustard Oil or any other Oil in a Frying Pan

Add 1/4 cup of chopped red onion and 4-5 slit green chillies

Saute with a sprinkle of 1/4 tsp of sugar till the onion is pinkish brown and translucent

Add about 1 cup of cubed potato or 1 potato chopped in cubes

Fry with a little Turmeric till the potatoes are light golden in color

Add the chopped ridgegourd and fry for a couple more minutes

Add salt and 1/4 tsp of red chilli powder

The ridgegourd release water, so cover and let it cook in its own water

When the ridgegourd is still cooking in its own juice add the poppy seed powder. If you see there is not enough water add about 1-2 tbsp of water.

Give a good stir and cover and cook till the veggies are done and the water has all dried up

Add the fried shrimp and mix

Top with 1/2 tsp of Mustard Oil

Jhinge Posto

How I Did It

Prep: Peel skin of 1 long ridgegourd in strips and chop in small, long pieces, each piece about 1.5" long. Almost 2 Cups of chopped jhinge

Chop 1 potato in cubes. 
Make a paste of 1/4th Cup of Poppy Seeds. Dry grind the poppy seeds and mix the powdered posto with water to make a thick paste. Alternately you can also wet grind the poppy seeds with little splashes of water to make a thick paste.

Start Cooking:

Heat Mustard Oil in a Frying Pan

temper the oil with 1/4th tsp of kalonji/Kalo jeera/Nigella seeds and 4slit green chillies

Add the potato chopped in cubes

Fry with a little Turmeric till the potatoes are light golden in color

Add the chopped ridgegourd/jhinge and saute for a couple more minutes

Add salt to taste

The ridgegourd/jhinge releases water, so cover and let it cook in its own water. Add little more water if necessary. Cook covered for about 4 minutes.

When the ridgegourd is still cooking in its own juice add the poppy seed paste. If you see there is not enough water add about 1/4th Cup water.

Give a good stir and cover and cook till the veggies are done . Dry off the excess water if like me you don't like soupy posto.

Drizzle with 1/2 tsp of Mustard Oil and server with rice and dal.

More Posto Recipes:

Alu Posto -- potatoes in poppy seeds paste

Kalai'r Dal with Alu Posto

Trivia: The fruit of L. aegyptiaca commonly known as Ridge Gourd may also be allowed to mature and used as a bath or kitchen sponge after being processed to remove everything but the network of xylem. This version is called Lifah in Arabic, bholor jaal in Assamese, dhundul in Bengali, ghiya tori or nerua in Hindi.(from Wiki)


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Mommy of 2 -- Lesson #1

Do not Co-Sleep with your babies. Period.

Yeah I know warmth of that soft, cuddly body besides you is irresistible, it is comfortable, easy for you, and now studies prove that it makes kids more independent. But take it from a Mom who has been co-sleeping twice over.

Here I am after a hard days work, with baby A on my left, same bed but she is on her own little mattress. There on my right is Big Sis S who insists on certain days of the week that she wants to come in and share the bed with me. that is what comes of co-sleeping with her all these years.I am wedged in a tiny space in-between, trying to get my sleep, which is not easy given that I am allotted so small a space in my own bed in my own bedroom.

The husband has been banished to snooze under a pink & purple Dora comforter on a Dora bedspread.

If I stick to laws of nature I can never ever become a Mommy of 3 and Thank God for that.

Err, so what does that mean, should you Co-sleep or not ?

(Cross posted @ Desi Momz Club)