Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baked Salmon er Kalia


This recipe is for SJ of A Pinch of Spice. Until she mentioned I did not even know that a dish called "Baked Salmon er Kalia" was titillating Bong palates up North-West. I knew the regular maacher kalia (or fish kalia) but this was salmon and that too baked. My local bong friends spoiled by the bangladeshi fish sellers abounding the east coast seldom cook salmon while entertaining and so such a nouveau dish had not found its way in their kitchen.

So I searched high and low, actually I just Googled and bam landed on this recipe. "So this is what it is", I thought, "almost like a regular kalia but the salmon has been marinated in spices and baked" ?


I still do not know the answer i.e. if this is the REAL "Baked Salmon er Kalia" or not. Only SJ can testify. Till then all I can say is this was a lovely salmon dish, just like a regular macher kalia but with salmon and we thoroughly enjoyed it with a bowl of brown rice. Big Sis S seems to have taken a liking for salmon and certain fish fillet, and this dish apparently earned her approval


Baked Salmon Kalia

For 6-7 pieces of salmon fillet. Each piece roughly a square of 2" x 1.5"

Prep: Make a marinade of 2 -3 tbsp yogurt, 1/2 tsp of garlic paste, 1/2 tsp heaped of ginger paste, 1/4 tsp of R. Chilli Powder and salt. In a shallow flat bowl(or even a plate) put the fish pieces and pour the marinade over the fish. Put back in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes

Grind 1/2 cup of chopped red onion + 1 fat clove of garlic + 2 green chilli(adjust according to your hot tolerance) to a fine paste

Start Cooking:

Drizzle a little olive oil and bake the salmon pieces for 20 minutes at 275F 350 F  After 20 minutes turn them over, sprinkle a little sugar and put in broil for next 5 minutes. Note: After suggestions by a friend I have been baking Salmon at a lower temp of 275F and the fish is much more moist and delicious. So i am updating this post with the new bake temperature.

To Make the Gravy:

Heat Oil in a kadhai or a heavy bottomed pan

Temper the oil with 1 large Bay leaf or 2 small tej patta(tej patta is usually smaller than bay leaf) + 4 Green Cardamom/Elaichi + 1/2 tsp of Whole Jeera/Cumin Seeds.

When the spices sputter add the onion + garlic paste

Fry for a couple of minutes with a sprinkle of sugar.

When the onion turns a nice reddish brown, add 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger + 1 small tomato finely chopped(try to get a nice juicy stem tomato and use only 1/2 of a large one)

Fry till you see the tomato turn into a pulp and there is no raw smell

To 1-2 tsp of yogurt add 1/2 tsp of Corriander powder + 1/2 tsp of Cumin Powder + 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli Powder + little Turmeric and make a paste. Here instead of yogurt you can make a paste in water also

Add this paste + salt to the Kadhai/Pan, turning the heat to low

Fry till you see the oil separate from the masala

Add about 1/2-1 cup of water and let the gravy come to a boil. You may need to add more water depending on the amount of gravy

Let the gravy simmer till it thickens. The gravy will have a smooth consistency.

You can pour the gravy over the baked fish and serve. Alternately add the baked fish to the gravy and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh corriander leaves and serve

My other Fish Kalia with Rui -- Maacher Kalia

Salmon in an Indian Chilli Fish

Monday, April 27, 2009

Besan Ka Cheela and Pepper Shrimp


We are done with 7 days of Challenge, woo hoo. Am I glad or what.

Saturday with all that fasting-shasting I was pretty crappy and so was the husband. We were spiteful and had huge rows. Low carb/sugar was showing its effects.

"But I feel lighter", I said to myself, "Maybe I have lost inches(or feet) if not pounds. If I lose my marriage so what, at least I will be thin"

And then came along dear N and made me re-read the rules again. As always I had just skimmed through the rules. I have been doing this since time immemorial. The only times I read and re-read the rules was during TOEFL and that because I thought I wouldn't understand Amriki accent over my headphone

Ok so as it goes I have broken errrr worked around several rules of the challenge. I had potatoes, honey with my yogurt and did no exercise

No wonder the husband was gladly gliding along until the fasting started.

Let me quickly sum up the pros of this process before I crib

* You feel much better about yourself
* All that eating right makes you feel a whole lot better. You do feel light believe me and may even lose pounds if you are strictly adhering to the rules. Actually the husband did lose noticeable inches as claimed by him.
* Remember the guilt after wolfing down a pizza. Well now you don't have any, neither pizza nor guilt
* You learn a whole new lesson on self-restraint and "giving up". If you continue you might achieve moksha soon

Things that did not quiet work for me

* We spent a whole lot of time cooking and packing lunches during the weekday. I was packing 3 dabbas each !!! This was definitely not good for me as I prefer spending weekday evening with my kids rather than in the kitchen. Maybe we also went overboard with the idea, but next time I plan to keep it even simpler

* Don't know why but since so much after-work time was spent in the kitchen that I didn't feel like going to gym at all. That would have cut into my time with the girls but Exercise would have helped

* No eating out on Weekends were tough, I am not going to do weekends next time. Such nice weather and yet we couldn't grab anything and had to be back home for dinner

* This challenge saw both of us(D & me) together in the kitchen a lot and by that I mean A LOT. Now this might be a total incentive for honey-baby-lovey-dovey kind of couples(with no disrespect meant to anyone). But for me this is a hindrance. I have known the husband for a loooong time now and don't feel the need to bond over how to grill salmon just right.
The hubby is a good cook and definitely a help in the kitchen but when he is in there I would rather spend my time with the baby who needs me more. Once the kids are older and can be in the kitchen too maybe we all can have coochie-coo Kitchen time.

On the whole the Challenge was worth it and I am going to do it maybe every alternate week or so. Take it up and feel good.


On Saturday after the fast I didn't want to settle down for anything less but cheela -- a savory gram flour pancake and some hot spicy pepper shrimp. The very thought of it pepped me up until I broke the fast an hour early. Lovely light besan ka cheela with the hot shrimp did heal bruised egos and rumbling appetites to some extent. The Pepper Shrimp is frameworked on Cham's Pepper Mushroom recipe which I altered around a bit to suit my convenience and loved a whole lot


Besan Ka Cheela or Gram Flour Pancakes

Makes enough for 2(5-6 cheelas)

In a wide mouthed deep bowl add 1 cup of besan(chickpea flour) and fluff with a fork to break lumps if any and aerate

Make a batter with the above Besan + about 1/4 cup of finely chopped red onions + 3 finely chopped green chilli + 1/2 tsp of Carrom Seeds/Ajwain + 1/2 tsp of Cumin Seeds + little Asafoetida/Hing + salt. Add a little more than 1 cup of water slowly to make the batter.

Heat a flat tawa or frying pan.

Grease it with little oil

Pour a ladleful of batter and spread it out to make a circle. This step is same as you would do for dosa or pancake. Add less than 1/2 tsp of oil in droplets along the edges

When your spatula slids under the edges easily, flip the cheela and cook the other side

Pepper Shrimp

Defrost about 10-12 frozen shrimp. I used frozen raw shrimp, substitute with whatever kind you like. Sprinkle some sea salt on them and let them rest for 15-20 minutes.

Heat oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. A little more oil boosts the flavors in this dish

Add 5-6 Kari Patta(Curry Leaves) to the hot oil

Add 1/3 cup of chopped red onions and fry

Once the onion turns pink and translucent add 1 tsp of garlic paste

Add 1 tsp of Pepper Powder and saute for half a minute

Add the shrimp

Add 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of Fennel Powder

Add salt and fry the shrimp. You need to sprinkle a little water to bring the spices together and fry

Once the shrimp is cooked you are done. Don't cook shrimp for too long, it might get rubbery.

* If you are not a shrimp eater replace shrimp with mushroom and do not add any water while cooking. Also cook till all the water released by mushroom dries up

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The All Purpose Masala Paste & Fish Fry


Today is Day 4 of The 7 Day Challenge, it has been good so far. I am not missing my grains any more, I have become paranoid about going grain free and am eating better in both quality and quantity.

The problem is both me & D are true foodies and cannot live on just salad & soup even if it only for a week so we both have to do a lot of work every day cooking interesting stuff and prepping. Only if I was able to transmogrify into a bovine creature chomping greens in a spring meadow, life would be easier.

I will analyze the pros and cons at the end of 7 days, but believe me even if you don't lose an inch this challenge is worth every salad because of the self-restraint you will acquire by the end of it

Now to The All Purpose Masala Paste which is an efficient homemade packaged solution for busy moms.

If I had any business acumen I would market it and put it on not Patel's but Whole Food's Freezer aisle. But before that I would have to pay hefty royalty fees to Vee and then Coffee, the original creators of this idea. This masala saves me on most weekdays and if you are not already making it, I urge you to refrain and wait till my product is out there.
I promise I will have a fun, family ad out with it too with a jingle that says "Taste mein Best, Mummy aur Mummy Ka Paste"


Till then you can make it on your own by following these steps

Chop a large red onion roughly

Chop a medium plump red tomato in rough chunks. I keep saying rough because you don't need to spend time and cut in small equal sizes

Peel two to three cloves of garlic and chop in 2-3 pieces

Peel and chop about an inch of ginger, again roughly

Heat little oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic, follow by tossing in onions and then ginger

Fry till the onion is soft and translucent. Toss in the tomatoes and saute till tomatoes turn soft and mushy.

At this point you can get imaginative and add some generic spice powders if you wish, like say Garam Masala or maybe Kasoori Methi. I usually skip this step.

Cool the above and make a paste in your food processor, make a smooth paste not one of those chunky ones.

Cool this paste, pour it in a ice cube tray and freeze

Once frozen, take the frozen cubes out and store in a ziploc bag. I usually make enough to last me a week for impromptu weekday cooking

On a busy week night when all you want to do is just pull a blanket over your head, take some of this cubes out and make a quick gravy in minutes.

Depending on your taste you can vary the proportions and add green chillis to the above


I made a Fish on Day 3 of the challenge using this paste. I had some Tilapia Fillet which I marinated with this paste (I made with Kasoori methi added this time), salt and some red chilli powder for 24 hours. However 30 mins to an hour should be enough. I usually bake this fish drizzled with Olive Oil but then I saw this recipe at Shilpa's and wanted to try this instead.

So for 30 mins before cooking I marinated the already marinated fish with some more garlic paste, red chilli powder and lime juice. For one of the fillets I added tamarind paste instead of Lime Juice.

However I am a Bong who always fries her fish except for maybe Ilish(Hilsa) so I was not sure how just poaching the fish would taste like. I therefore smeared my frying pan with a little olive oil, maybe 1/2 tsp. Added some curry leaves to it and then placed the fish fillet on the pan. Slowly added enough water so that the fish were just submerged in water. Let it cook till all the water has evaporated.

The fish tasted definitely good but I feel this method is best if the fish was more fresh. We had it with some salad and oven baked masala potato fries.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 1: Fatoush like Salad


Today was ok. I definitely craved all kinds of grains from Biryani to fish and rice but that was all in my mind.

I sacrificed my morning tea too and still I was ok. I am not a coffee drinker so no problem there.

Lunch was pretty satisfying but I need larger portions tomorrow. After 3pm I wasn't feeling that good though. For some reason I have a pounding headache.

I couldn't do the Fatoush as I didn't have zatar or feta at hand. So my salad was this:

In a bowl add chopped cucumber, chopped red radish, halved grape tomatoes and chickpeas. In a separate bowl make a dressing of Olive Oil + Lime Juice + Minced Garlic + Red Chili Flakes. Toss the salad with this dressing.

I have this dressing saved for the other salads too.

The Keema Chickpea was damn good. I kind of followed the Rajma Keema recipe but did not marinade the keema(minced meat) or anything. I also did not use Whole Garam Masala or my favorite Maggi Ketchup to make it tangier. Added the canned chickpeas after washing thoroughly towards the end of the cooking and mixed well

The Hot & Sour Soup went like this

In a deep bottomed soup pot add very little olive oil. Flavor the oil with minced garlic, ginger and green chillies. Add chopped mushroom(I added carrots).Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, white vinegar, little salt and bring to boil. I did not add the cornstarch which goes in mixed with little water. When the soup comes to a boil add some shrimp. Add lime zest and garnish with chopped scallion. I omitted adding an egg to make the string thingy

Thanks for all your ideas. Cheela wins hands down for weekend menu. I have not had pesarattu so don't know how it will be.

Besan or Gram Flour is flour made from chickpea, a legume. I guess if that is processed even cooking oil is. However Besan contains high proportion of carbohydrate but no gluten. The higher carb is ok or not ?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Great 7 Day Challenge


I will be on the 7 Day Challenge from tomorrow. The husband has kindly agreed to be with me "for better or for worse".

I picked it up from Rads and following are the rules. I am going to work around couple of those rules, because rules are meant to worked around if not broken

* One week -- starting Monday to the next Monday. Okay, done. April 20th to April 27th

* No sugars -- I need sugar in my tea, twice a day. I can switch to Splenda, doesn't say No Splenda(see I am stickler to rules actually)

* No Alcohol -- Given up, am a saint already

* No Grains -- This is the one that lured me and yet this is the hardest for me. Needed a lot of thinking, re-thinking and planning

* No processed foods -- What, no Marie with my tea ??? Guys does Marie Biscuit or any cracker come under category "processed" ?

* Not eat out at all-- Going to be tough for the weekend. Got to decide weekend menu

* Workout everyday -- Not possible. I manage one zumba class and maybe one more gym session a week. No time or desire to leave the kids and go exercise. If weather is good I will try taking a walk each day. The husband might take this up

* Eat veggies -- Ok, maybe I will even eat the tender Spring grass and hugely reduce my grocery bill

* Eat Fruits - Not too much I guess

* Eat meat and eggs -- I will eat fish and eggs. This is an opportunity to get good eats into my system so I will stick with fresh fish and limited meat

* Fast for 18 hours - I am going to drink water and juice and tea, that is how I fast. I will stop eating Friday around 8 pm and have Saturday Lunch by 2 pm

I have a spreadsheet with probable menu for 5 work days, hopefully I will stick to it. Since no processed food(no ketchup, pickle ??) or eat out was allowed along with no grains it was not easy to plan. I also wanted to control fat in my food though that wasn't one of the conditions. This also needed some prep work on Sunday.

The menu is up here on my spreadheet. The menu seems to have plenty of food, I am not sure if it will be more or less so I will update it as necessary.

I chose simple, light, fancy free recipes which are moderately spicy and Indianized and have tried to plan a balanced meal. Got some idea from Sig's SBD Phase 1. This is NOT SBD though and I can eat a lot of things which maybe they can't.

Check my 7 Day Challenge Meal Planner Spreadsheet

The original challenge or tag started here.

Why am I doing this ? For exact reasons mentioned by the originator. I needed a push to make a change like like getting rid of all carbs. Only the end will show if I am fitter, better for it.

Anyone want to join ? Come on take it up and use the following icon I made if you want


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bengali Mutton Curry | Pathar Mangsho'r Jhol

Bengali Mutton Curry, Robibar er Mangshor Jhol, Mangshor Jhol

Bengali Mutton Curry | Pathar Mangshor Jhol

The Bengali Mutton Curry made with Goat meat is synonymous with Sundays and daytime naps. Made with potatoes and spiced with garam masala, this rich and spicy Mangshor Jhol is best enjoyed with rice.

Sunday Mutton Curry

Mutton Curry in Oven

Phissssssssssh went the pressure cooker, not once or twice but 5-6 times. With each whistle the appetizing fragrance would trace the room, trying to find its way out of the wide windows. The sun would be high up by then and the drapes drawn in while the Rasna Kids sang aloud happily on the Tele. As Spiderman saved the world the mind wandered in anticipation of lunch.

Ma would be busy in the kitchen, her cotton saree damp and smelling headily of all the spices. If you dug your face in her coolness, today would smell different. It was Sunday and you would smell Mangshor jhol (Mutton/Chicken Curry). A Sunday Lunch menu that once united almost all Bongs, it was a tradition of sorts to have nothing but mangsho'r jhol & bhaat for Sunday lunch. The meat could vary, it could be patha'r mangsho(goat meat) for the more traditional, archaic family or murgi(chicken) for the noveau ones.

The recipe wouldn't vary much. It would revolve around the same core with potatoes and lots of gravy. You wouldn't see a Murgh Malai or Lamb Chop i.e. just any preparation of meat would not do. Those were stuff for evenings, maybe dinner but Sunday Lunch was different, it was always the same mangsho'r jhol that had Bangali Sunday Lunch written in bold all over it

My grandparents were strict Brahmins and adhered to Bengali Brahmin norms. That didn't mean much except that the only meat that was allowed in their home was patha'r mangsho (goat meat) and not murgi (aka chicken). So Sunday lunch was almost always bengali mutton curry and rice. I wasn't very fond of goat meat then but loved the gravy and the potatoes in it.

I vaguely remember a particular period of our life, a couple of months maybe, my parents were going through some difficult financial situation. My grandma was not well and I think the food budget was adjusted in lieu of her treatment. I was too young(maybe 6 or 7) to understand but I do remember the Sunday mangsho'r jhol was off the menu and there used to be fish for lunch instead. One such Sunday I was visiting friends and the familiar smell of Mangsho'r Jhol at their home triggered the latent longing in me. I don't remember what I told my Ma but I do remember that the familiar smell was back at our kitchen next Sunday onwards. Maybe my Ma cooked meat just for me or maybe the finances solved themselves but that is how mangsho'r jhol is woven into crevices of my memory

Mangshor Jhol, Bengali Mutton Curry, Sunday Mutton Curry

Mangshor Jhol | Bengali Mutton Curry

Times have changed. We hardly eat goat meat or any red meat that much. There is no fixed menu for a Sunday lunch at my home to weave memories. But Patha'r mangsho or goat meat still holds a lofty place and is cooked on special occasions. So that is how this got cooked when friends were visiting some weeks back.

On a leisurely Sunday we had a delectable Patha'r mangsho'r jhol (goat meat curry) with white rice amidst much laughter and adda(gossip), spending hours sucking the juicy marrows over a lazy delicious lunch

What was/is your Sunday lunch tradition ?


Patha'r Mangshor Jhol ~ Goat Meat Curry

Prep: Dry Roast 8 Green Cardamaom/Elaichi, 8 Clove/Laung, one petal of mace/javetri, 1" stick of cinnamon, 3 Dry Red Chilli on a stove top or pop them in the oven for a couple of minutes. Grind them to a fine powder. This acts as my Garam Masala and this is the masala that will be used in this mutton curry

Marinate 3lb of mutton(goat meat) with 2 tsp of ginger paste, 2 tsp of garlic paste, a little turmeric, 1 tbsp of Vinegar, 1 tsp of Mustard Oil and salt for 3-4 hours or overnight

Start Cooking:

Step 1

Heat Oil in a deep heavy bottomed pan

Fry 2 &1/2 - 3 cups chopped red onion, 2 fat clove of garlic chopped, 1 medium tomato chopped and 2" piece of peeled and chopped ginger till the onion is soft and pink and tomatoes are softened

Cool and grind the above to make a onion+tomato+garlic+ginger paste


Make separate paste of onion and a separate ginger + garlic paste. Amount remains same. My Ma does it this way.

Step 2

Heat Oil in a heavy deep bottomed pan

Temper the oil with whole spices as follows: 4 Cardamom/Elaichi, 4 Clove/Laung, 2 Bay Leaf/Tej-Patta, 2" cinnamon stick/Darchini

As soon as you get the fragrance of the spices add the onion+ginger+garlic+tomato paste. If you have made separate pastes, add the onion paste first and fry till onion is a nice pinkish brown, then add ginger+garlic paste and fry for 1-2 minutes and then add the chopped tomato

Fry with 1/4 tsp of sugar till oil separates from masala

Meanwhile in a small bowl make a paste with 4 tsp yogurt, 1 heaped tsp Cumin Powder, 1 heaped tsp Corriander powder, 1 tsp of Red Chilli Powder (adjust according to your level), the Dry Masala you made and 1 tsp of garlic paste(optional)

Lower the heat and add this masala paste. Add 1 more medium tomato finely chopped

Fry for 2-3 minutes

Add the mutton and mix the mutton nicely with the masala

Add salt, lower the heat to medium and let the mutton cook in its own juice. Stir in between to facilitate the meat to soak up the spices

While the mutton is cooking in a separate pan fry 1-2 potatoes that had been peeled and quartered with a little turmeric. The potatoes will not be cooked but just take on a nice golden color. Do not cook further and keep aside.

Step 3

When the mutton has lost its raw coloring and it smells nice you can transfer the whole thing to a pressure cooker along with the potatoes and cook it in the pressure cooker.


If you have time on hand do this. Cook the mutton at low heat in the covered pan itself. Remember to stir in between and add water if necessary. Some water has to be added for the gravy, adjust the amount of water according to your wish. You can use a slow cooker if you have one and cook the mutton in it too.

If you are cooking in the pan, check when mutton is near to be done and then add the potatoes.

Cook till mutton and potatoes are done
Check for seasonings and adjust to taste. You might need to add a tsp of garam masala. I sometimes add juice of half a lime and finely chopped coriander at the end.

Enjoy this delicious mutton curry with any kind of rice or bread

Though not the usual trend you can garnish this dish with chopped corriander. Also when I am having this mutton curry with rice I like to squeeze a little lime juice on it and have onions as a side.

Update: I forgot to add that D (the husband) makes a goat meat curry which is simpler and yet very flavorful. Shall post that next time he cooks.
Also wanted to add that instead of making onion paste many times my Ma would use finely chopped onion too. For a larger crowd I find it easier to make a paste than chop fine

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Walkthrough of Bengali Cuisine

I did a write up on Bengali Cuisine for Indian Food Trail Series for dear Sailaja of Sailus Food.

I was delighted that she posted the article today on Poila Baisakh

Go over and check it out if you want to know more about the Bengali Cuisine. Ok go over and check it out even if you don't want to. While you are there check out all others on the Indian Food Trail series.

This is the link to the article:
Bengali Cuisine -- by Sandeepa of Bong Mom's CookBook


Since Sailaja has asked me to write a guest post on Bengali Cuisine for her blog I have been in deep thought, given that she made a polite request some months back, I have been very thoughtful ever since.
There is so much to write and such a vast cuisine to encompass that I wasn’t even sure I would do justice. Because you see, Bengali Cuisine has subtle nuances which varies within districts of West Bengal and not so subtle differences when you compare Bengali cuisine across borders from Bangladesh and that from West Bengal.

So I thought I would take the easy way out and stick to the kind of Bengali Food or Cuisine I am familiar with, the kind I have had for breakfast, lunch, dinner day in and day out while growing up, the kind my Ma makes everyday till date, the kind I have seen my Dida, my Grandma, my Aunts, my Husband’s family make, the kind I cannot live without for more than a week and so cook for myself.

My Ma in spite of spending many of her years outside Bengal in a neighboring state, was very Bangali when it came to food. She did delve into all kinds of cuisine when it came to breakfast or tiffin items, but lunch and dinner on weekdays was strictly Bengali. Only occasionally when my Baba would be out of town would she shift from this and serve a dinner of say Aloo Paratha and Raita or maybe Noodles, such stuff was meant for tiffin or packed lunches and having them for sit down dinner or lunch on a weekday was well radical.
Here I will describe a typical everyday, simple Bengali lunch which you will be served if you land up in a Bengali home in a small hamlet in Bengal on a hot afternoon. With the sun beating down on your back and the sleepy ghugoos making their call among the green shady trees if you happen to knock on the wooden doors of a Bangali home, you will be welcomed with a cool tumbler of aam-pora sherbet (green mangoes roasted and made into a sherbet) or daab er jaal (naariyal pani or coconut water) .
Once you are refreshed and sit down for your lunch, chances are this is what you will be served as was in my home many moons ago.

A typical everyday lunch would begin with something bitter, definitely if it was Spring or early Summer, occasionally in other seasons. It would be either Bittergourd (Uchche) or Neem Leaves. Fried Bittergourd, bittergourd fried with eggplant, fried tender neem-begun (neem leaves with eggplant) and even boiled bittergourd with mashed potatoes were served as starter to cleanse your system and invigorate the taste bud. Shukto is another bitter veggie dish that you might get if you are lucky.

Next was the Dal, this would usually be Moong or Masoor, Cholar Dal (Chana dal) with tiny coconut pieces on special days and Kalai er dal (Split White Urad Dal) when there was Aloo Posto or Aloo Seddho (Mashed Potatoes). Toor or Arhar Dal is not a very common dal in a Bengali household unless you are a Probashi bangali and have settled down up North.

Served with the Dal there is typically a Bhaja -- a fried veggie. The most routine bhajas are Thin Sliced Potato Fries or Aloo Bhaja, Fried Eggplant or Begun Bhaja and Bittergroud fries or Uchche Bhaja. In summer when parwal was in season, there would be lots of patol bhaja or fried parwal. On days my Ma was feeling particularly liberal the bhaja would be some veggie dipped in a batter of gram flour and fried like the Beguni or Fulkopir Bora (Cauliflower dipped in a spicy gram flour batter and fried).

Next would be a purely vegetarian dish made of any veggie that was in season. Typically most authentic Bengali vegetarian dishes are without garlic or even onion and minimum spices to retain their natural flavor. This could range from Charchari or a Labra, both of which are a medley of random veggies to a Lau Ghonto (Dry sabzi with Bottlegourd) or BandhaKopir Ghonto (a dry Cabbage & Potato Dish) or some other such stuff. There could be a Cauliflower Gravy (Phulkopir Dalna) or the much loved Aloo Posto. In fact this item could be anything with veggies that were brought back fresh from the market that day.


Then of course comes the Fish without which a Bangali cannot survive. Looking back I see we had fish twice a day almost every day, except on Fridays which was a vegetarian day at our home and Sunday which was the Chicken or Mutton Day. Some days Fish was substituted with Egg Curry but there had to be a non-veg item on the menu every day if God or Nature didn’t intervene.

Regular Fish curries were not very spicy or rich. Fresh fish pieces were fried with salt and turmeric and then cooked into a gravy dish. The gravy could have infinite avatars from jhaal (a spicy gravy) to jhol (a very soupy kind of gravy, sometimes with vegetables). The ones that still arouse my tatsebuds are Doi-Maach (Fish in a gravy of spicy yogurt), Sosrshe Ilish (Hilsa in mustardy gravy), Chingri Malaikari (Prawns in a coconut milk based gravy), Tyangra maacher Jhaal (small fish in a spicy sauce) and many many more. Both big as well as small fishes are enjoyed and put to good use in Bengali Cooking, the small fishes are devoured whole from head to toe while the head of the bigger fishes are made into a delicious Muri Ghonto.

To wrap it all up there would be a Chaatni or a Tak, something sweet and sour made with tomatoes in winter or Green Mangoes in summer. There were variations to this of course with other fruits like pineapple, a papaya and even guess what FISH. My Dida(maternal grandma) used to make an awesome Ilish er Tak with bones and heads of Hilsa and tamarind that was to die for.

The end would be either with a Doi (yogurt) or some Mishti(a sweet dish) , which is what Bengalis are famous for outside Bengal. If it was a birthday or an occasion to celebrate there would be Paayesh (rice pudding).

Since Bengalis are primary rice eaters all of this would be served with Plain White Rice and a wedge of lemon and Green Chillies on the side.

If you are a vegetarian and don’t eat the fish you would be served Chanar Dalna (a Paneer Gravy dish), Dhokar Dalna (chana dal steamed cakes in a gravy) or another Vegetarian Dish which would be gravy-ish in lieu of the Fish Curry.

Such elaborate 6 course meals encompassing six tastes or raasas are no longer common in my home here in the US. There is little time for such leisurely meals in our busy life. We still have primarily Bengali food everyday but it seldom goes the full circle from bitter to the sweet. But when I am back home in India or my Ma or Ma-in-law is visiting those days are back again.
This is not a write up on Bengali Cuisine but what I am familiar with as an every day home lunch at a Bengali home

Following are links to the recipe on my blog for some of the dishes I have mentioned in this article:
Kalai er dal
Aloo Posto
Lau Ghonto
Muri Ghonto
Doi Maach
Doi Sorshe Ilish
Chingri Malaikari or Prawn Malaikari
Tomato Khejur Chaatni

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shubho NaboBorsho -- Poila Boisakh


May your hopes and aspirations take flight this New Year
On the bright wings of peace and happiness

Wishing everyone who stops by a very Happy Bengali New Year

Nabo Borsho 2008

Nabo Borsho 2007

* Poila Baisakh, the first day of Baisakh marks the start of the Bengali New Year

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly Menu -- Week of April 5th

This week I didn't cook much. First it was going to be a short week and we were going away Friday so we didn't do that much grocery. Then Sunday I spent loitering around a open air outlet mall buying stuff for the girls. Monday morning while I was about to leave home, the nanny complained that her eyes were swollen and itching. It looked like allergy, so I asked her to go see her doctor and took a sick day. It was raining and I was really glad to get some unexpected time home with the little one which I spent mostly palying with her than cooking

Mid week we went to wish two little guys Happy BirthDay and their gorgeous Mom made a truly delicious Yellow Pualo(the bengali sweet pulao) and Mutton Curry(Patha'r Mangsho) accompanied with alu'r dom and strawberries 'n' cream as the dessert

Before I go on to the menu, I would like to thank some truly wonderful fellow bloggers Priya, Meenal and Indrani for the awards they passed on. Priya who blogs at Priya in Suburbia is a mom and blogger after my own heart. Her thoughts and life sometimes resemble mine and I love what she writes.
Meenal of Meenal's Kitchen is a foodie blogger par excellence. She is back after a long time, do check her out for some her lovely new series
Indrani's blog Appayan I came across recently. She has wonderful food there for you to try out

I am deviating from norm and passing these awards on to everyone reading here.

Now to the week's menu

Chilli Tofu -- This was a disaster. It was so bad that D insisted this was what gave nanny the red eyes(though she hadn't even tasted it). Next time should try frying the tofu well, tried a healthy baking option this time. Had to convert it to a tofu burji later

Sambar -- Sambar with brussel sprouts and some drumsticks.

Bandha Kopi'r Ghonto -- the dry cabbage side dish

Baked filet of fresh Tilapia -- the fish was smeared with a little onion+ginger+garlic paste, a paste which I make and freeze and then baked with a drizzle of olive oil. Was lovely. Should do more of this

Mutton Curry -- a goat meat curry which D cooked for one dinner. It was awesome but too little

Thupka -- Inspired by Asha's version I made a similar noodle soup. Mine had chilli-garlic sauce though and instead of cooking the noodles separate I added it to the same pot. The easiest and tastiest one pot meal ever. Got to do more of this

We are away on a short break tomorrow and will back only next week in time for the Bengali New Year. I am turning off comments on this post as there is no recipe or anything here. If you have any questions/opinions please post them in the earlier post

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Sookha Kala Chana ~ Dry Black Chickpeas


I am on a quest to lose weight. Not mine, the husband's. It is not that I don't have anything to lose. I have enough, more than enough. Only trying to lose someone else's weight is more easier than your own. That way you are not the one giving up the lone rasgulla in the refrigerator

In this pursuit I try to pack him a lunch almost every work day. He thinks the amount I pack is not really sufficient.My friends think so, his mother too but I don't concur.
It is not that I pack a measly quantity, it is just that it has a lower carb portion, which does not satiate our carb-craving souls.

Like a true Bharatiya Nari, I pack the same lunch for myself too. And truth be told some days that lunch leaves me hungry too.

So we take along a fruit, a yogurt, some nuts(the tree kinds not real ones) to snack on

But not being the fruity kinds or the super-healthy kinds that leaves us desiring something more.

As a solution, I try to take along a legume-y something as a snack on some days, like a sprouted green moong salad or a sookha kala chana (dry black chickpea curry). Something spicy to keep us far far away from the vending machine and with enough dietary fiber to satisfy our good carbohydrate craving.

Kala Chana (Black chickpea) is a smaller, darker variety of Chickpeas grown mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Ethiopia, Mexico and Iran

Sookha Kala Chana brings back fond memories. Of the times spent in the state from where the greatest Indian Empire(Mauryas) originated. Memories of Thekua on the day of Chath Puja, loads and loads of sweet dry thekua sent by neighboring homes. And Poori and Sookha Kala chana in many of my friend's home as part of a prashad on any other Puja day. I am not sure of the origin of this sookha kala chana, I guess it has a UP heritage as I had it mostly at my friends' who hailed from there


This particular preparation of Sookha Kala Chana(dry black chickpea curry) sans onion is simple, earthy, the ajwain(carrom seeds) lending a very distinct flavor, satisfying a mid-morning or mid-afternoon craving to the hilt

This goes to Susan's MLLA 10, hosted by Coco Cooks. This dish can be served as a lovely starter when the dinner theme is Indian or Middle Eastern


Sookha Kala Chana ~ Dry Black ChickPea curry

How I Did It

Wash 1 and some cup(I used a little more than cup) of black chickpeas(kala chana) well and soak in a large pot of water overnight. They swell to almost 2-3 times their size. Keep that in mind when choosing a container to soak

Next day drain the black chickpeas(which would have doubled up by now) and cook them in a pressure cooker with a little salt. When you put them in the pressure cooker cook with more than double the water. I didn't note the time to cook, will update once I do that. But the chickpeas should be cooked to a soft consistency. If you don't have a pressure cooker, it will take a while to get cooked but you can do that in a regular pot.

Heat Oil in a deep frying pan or Kadhai

Flavor the oil with 1/2 tsp of Asafoetida/Hing and 2 tsp of Carrom Seeds/Ajwain

Add 1 fat clove of finely minced garlic and 5 finely chopped green chilli(adjust according to your heat level)

Once you get the flavor of garlic add 2 tsp of ginger paste or 2 tsp of finely julienned ginger. Fry for a minute

Add the cooked Kala Chana(sans the water) and mix well with the masala. Fry for a minute or two.

Add 2 tsp of Corriander pwd/Dhania powder, required amount of salt and mix well

Add about 1-2 cups of the water (add the water in which the chana had been cooked) and in slow heat let the chickpeas simmer till the water almost dries up

Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of Amchoor powder and the delicious Dry Kala Chana is ready to snack on

You can squueze a little lime juice on your kala chana if you like it tangy. If you are in a place where bad breath is welcome, add some chopped red onions too for a heightened taste

Note: Sometimes I add half of a potato peeled and cubed small to the kala chana. If I am adding potatoes I do this after I have fried the masala. I add the potatoes, fry them a little and then add the kala chana

Similar Recipes:

Jaisalmer Kala Chana cooked in yogurt from Sharmila

Trivia: Ajwain reduces flatulence caused by beans when it is cooked with beans. Now you know why you cook kala chana with it. It is also traditionally known as a digestive aid and an antiemetic.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Doi Dim -- Eggs in a Yogurt Sauce


"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth."
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

Today is a rare day. I don't feel like writing anything except the recipe

So enjoy the silence and Doi Dim aka Eggs in a Yogurt Sauce. This is almost like the doi maach recipe and when my Ma made this last year we all loved it.


Doi Dim ~ Eggs in a yogurt sauce


Cook 6 eggs so that they are hard-boiled. Then peel them. Score the tip of the eggs and rub them with a little turmeric and salt


Make a paste of about 1 cup of chopped red onion. If your onion paste tends to get bitter fry the onion in a tsp of oil till soft and then make a paste.

Start Cooking:

Heat oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Add the eggs and fry them till they are a nice orange-yellow color. I don't fry them too much because I don't like the skin all crinkled but I do love the gorgeous yellow color the eggs take with all that light frying with turmeric

Take the eggs out with a slotted spoon and keep aside

Season or temper the same hot oil with 2 Green Cardamom/Elaichi, 2 Clove/Laung, 1/2" or less thin stick of cinnamon, a small Bay leaf/tej patta (this is actually whole Garam Masala)

When the spice pops add the Onion paste

Fry with 1/2 tsp of sugar till the onion turns a shade of pinkish brown and you see the oil separating. Remember the onion paste should not burn but should turn a nice shade of lighter brown with tinges of pink. If you are using fried onion paste, this step will be faster. Approx. 5-6 mins.

Meanwhile in a bowl add 1/2 cup of plain thick yogurt, 1 tsp of Ginger paste, 1 tsp of Red chilli powder (adjust according to your taste), pinch of Maida/AP Flour, little Turmeric powder and beat well till the mix is smooth. Note: I feel this dish requires a little heat from the chilli so if you are not using Red chilli powder compensate with hot Indian Green Chilli

Take the Kadhai/Frying pan off the heat and add the beaten yogurt slowly. Mix with the onion paste and return to heat after 30 secs or a minute. At low heat cook the sauce for 3-4 minutes. Note: If you add the yogurt directly when the utensil is on heat the curd may curdle so you need to do this

Add 1/2 - 1 cup of water

Add salt and 4 slit green chillies(hot Indian green chilli)

At low-medium heat let the gravy simmer till it comes to a boil. Let the gravy thicken to your desired consistency

Add the eggs, raise the heat and cook for a couple more minutes

Add sufficient chopped coriander and you are done. While serving you can slice the eggs in halves or let them remain whole

Related egg dishes in my blog

Dim er Dhoka

Spicy Egg Bake

Weekly Menu -- Week of March 29th

I started the weekly menu series and promptly forgot about it. However each week when I have to think what to cook or do grocery for I feel it would be nice to have a menu to resort back to. So I am initiating this series again for my own good. This series will loosely have the dishes cooked for or during the week starting Monday and ending Thursday night and will be updated Friday evening.

I know it will not be updated every week but even once in a while will help me in future to plan a work week menu

Bengali style Mixed Vegetable -- a mixed veggie dish with pumpkin, green beans, some radish and a little potato. Simple, spiced with panchphoron and cooked in Mustard oil

Mushroom Olu -- With a box of mushroom and potatoes this was enough for two meals. Was best with the tortilla that we pack for lunch

Beans with besan -- This was from Delhibelle and brought a nice change to my regular bean sabzi. Added a little potato and was enough for two packed lunches

Masoor Dal -- you cannot go wrong with this. This time around I tempered with Kalonji and not PanchPhoron

Lightly fried bitter gourd -- simple fried bitter gourd.

Chicken -- My neighbor Aunty has just started catering in small amount. When I heard this I promptly ordered some chicken and she sent so much that it sufficed for 4 meals

Doi Dim -- Eggs in Yogurt sauce for one week night dinner

And some paneer for S, stir fried with whatever veggie.