Monday, November 30, 2009

Cholar Dal -- uppity chana dal

I have no time today, really none, nada, no time at all. And yet I need to post this, which I cooked for no reason, really none but for Sra who is hosting MLLA -- 17. You can never imagine things you would do for a blog friendship and that includes sneaking upstairs to a darkened room to make a call to one's favorite blogger while real life friends and family banter down.

Cholar Dal is the dal with uber arrogance. It is a bit of a snob, not the kind you would like to come home to every day but the kind you would like to glamorize your dining table with when you have company. Standing alone, presumptuous, it might not seem to be the best thing to befriend. But when it has company with Kachuri or Luchi or even a Pulao it will dazzle you.

Cholar Dal narkel diye or cholar dal with coconut is a very popular bengali dish and is a fixed item on the menu on wedding feasts or during Durga puja bhog. It is mostly cooked on special occasions and that could be the only-son's-getting-the-visa-day to the only-son's-homecoming-day. Usually it is not an everyday dal though you could have it everyday and there is no one stopping you.

When I made it last week, I did not have coconut and so skipped it, instead I adorned the dal with almonds. It was delicious and all I wanted with it was some Kachuri. Maybe another day, another time.

This Dal goes to Sra for MLLA --17, brainchild of Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook


Cholar Dal

Pressure Cook 1 cup of Chana Dal/Cholar Dal with
almost 2 & 1/2 cups of water
1 green cardamom,
1 clove,
1/4 tsp of turmeric
and little salt
for 6 minutes after steam has built up in the cooker or say about 10-12 mins on the whole. The lentils should be soft and cooked by this time, if not you need to cook more. Note: Once cooked, you may fish out the whole cardamom and whole clove from the dal. I will sometimes skip the whole garam masalas while pressure cooking and add only later.

Heat 1 tbsp of Oil (or Ghee) in a Kadhai or in a soup pot. Note: Ghee works best for this dal, if you don't want to use ghee as the cooking medium, add half a tsp towards the end for flavor.

Temper the oil with
1 small bay leaf,
2-3 green cardamom/elaichi,
2-3 clove/laung,
1" thin stick of cinnamon
and 2 dry red chili

Add a pinch of asafoetidia/hing to the oil

When you get the aroma of the spices add the cooked dal to the pot and saute. Do not add the dal water at this point. Reserve the dal water for later use.

Add a fistful of golden raisins, salt to taste, a pinch or two of turmeric and mix well. You can add a little grated ginger, I don't necessarily do it always.

Add about 1/2 - 1 cup of water and let the dal simmer till it comes to a boil. This dal will be on the thicker side and not very liquid, so simmer till it reaches a thick consistency.

Just before taking off the heat add 1/2 tsp of sugar and mix. Add 1/2 tsp of ghee if you have not used ghee for cooking. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Tip: If you are not used to whole garam masalas in your dal, fish out the cardamom, clove, bay leaf and cinnamon from the dal at this point.

Garnish with fried pieces of coconut. Since I didn't have coconut I garnished with blanched slivered almonds. You can also add a little grated coconut as the garnish.

Tip: A friend suggested adding a little Kasoori Methi to the dal at the very end for non-Bong touch. Have never tried that myself but she said it lends a nice flavor.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick Chicken Stir Fry -- for the kids

"Baby A loves to tickle and get tickled. She will stand in front of her big sis, pick up her sis's shirt and poke her sis's belly button saying "tikol-tikol". Big Sis S will stand there, wriggle, laugh out loud and aid the process. Wrapped up in such laughter, I pause my worries about Baby A's health and join in the merriment"

"We are back from a late dinner. Baby A is still awake, doesn't want to sleep yet though its way past bed time. I put both the sisters to bed, trying in vain to make them sleep. Big Sis S holds baby A tight, sings a "made up" song and pats vigorously. Strangely Baby A falls asleep. Doesn't happen every day but when it does, is the rare times that I feel blessed"

"Big Sis S is excited about an age old Mac, that her Dad has handed down to her. She browses over to Nick Jr to play something. Then she asks her Dad "Pichone tar ta ki lagano ache?"(Is the computer plugged in ?). "Why would you need it to be plugged in?" asks her Dad wondering if the battery is low. "This game here says Flash Plug-in required", she says"

"Baby A will call her Baba -- Babba, she will call her sis -- Babba, she will call me -- Babba. Unless she is in distress she will not say "Mamma" and if I say "Mamma bolo, Mamma" she will pat herself. Weird !!!" Recent Update: she is now calling me "Mamma", hurray but only 50% of the time

I am thankful for these moments. I am thankful for the freedom to blog, to retreat into a world where I can forget my cares. I am thankful for being around.

Appreciate the small moments that each day brings and once in a while try to be thankful for them. I am not a pro at this, just trying.

Happy Thanksgiving. See you all next week.

While you are busy making the turkey or whatever that you do on Thanksgiving, you might need a simple yet appetizing recipe for the kiddos. This Quick Stir Fry Chicken is really quick and easy and tastes great. Every kid should love it, ok at least like it.

"Does S, your almost 6 year old, like it ?" you, the regular reader might ask.

I would gulp a few and be totally honest, just because you are the regular reader.

"Well I am not sure", I will say. "She liked it at least 3 times in the last 3 years and that is something."

And then I will say "But the last time I made it which is just a couple days back, she preferred the Pepper Shrimp to Chicken Stir fry. Actually even the other kid who was invited, took several servings of Pepper Shrimp and only one of this."

Just ignore that discussion, I love this dish and so does D. I follow almost the same recipe when I make a chili chicken, will post that sometime. For now, if you have adults in mind add some chopped green chilis and a dash of hot sauce, it will make them swoon.


Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Marinate 2& 1/2 -- 3 lb chicken cut in small pieces with
1 tsp of Garlic paste,
1 tsp of Ginger paste,
and salt for an hour or half

When you are ready to cook add
1&1/2 tsp of Soy Sauce or Tamari,
1 beaten egg
& 1 tbsp of Corn flour
to the chicken pieces and combine

Heat Oil in a wok or kadhai or a saute pan

Add the chicken pieces in a single layer and fry till they are lightly browned. Remove the lightly fried chicken pieces and keep aside

To the same oil, add 1 clove of garlic finely minced. Note: If for grownups, add 2-3 green chili finely chopped

When you get the flavor of garlic( careful don't burn the garlic) add 1 cup sliced onions. Fry till onion is pinkish brown.

Add 1/2 cup of french cut beans and 1 red/yellow/green bell pepper thinly sliced. Saute for 2-3 minutes

Add 1 tsp of Soy sauce + 1-2 tsp of tomato ketchup(the kids brand) + salt and mix. Note: Soy sauce has salt so careful. Instead of tomato ketchup add some Hot sauce or Sambal Olek if it intended for grown ups.

Add the fried chicken pieces & saute for couple more minutes combining the sauce and veggies. Add about 1/4 cup of water and cook uncovered till chicken is done

Serve with fried rice or noodles

Similar Recipes:

Chicken Fry

Ginger Chicken -- My Style

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bengali Fish Fry --- anglo bangla fry

The Bengali fish fry is not really the everyday bengali fish fry. The everyday bengali fish fry is actually the maach bhaja, steak pieces of fish, smeared with salt and turmeric and fried golden in smoking mustard oil. The maach bhaja can be eaten on its own as a side with the dal. It is also a precursor to the bengali fish curry, the every day maacher jhol, bengalis rarely make a fish curry where the fish has not been fried and it is these fried steak pieces that are slid into the gravy and left to simmer to complement each other.

However when a Bong says "Fish Fry" with a glazed look in his eyes and a dreamy smile, don't get fooled, he isn't thinking of Katrina Kaif, she isn't dreaming Hugh Grant, both are thinking of a Bong version of their British legacy, breaded and fried fish, famously known as what else but "Fish Fry".

The "Fish Fry" was not a household name when I was a child. First we weren't in the heart of Bengal ever and secondly my childhood now seems to go back to the days when life was very different from today's. I had my first taste of fish fry when we were attending some family wedding in Kolkata, I don't remember when. The taste was heavenly as everything else tasted in wedding feasts of the yore but the fish fry stood out because of its anglo heritage among the radhaballavi, cholar dal, begun bhaja and such.

We then had it at some specific Calcutta restaurants, probably "Bijoli Grill". Though honestly I preferred the Kobiraji Cutlet around College Street, and associated "Fish Fry" more with wedding feasts.

Gradually everyone realized that making "Fish Fry" with bhetki(the preferred fish for making fish fry in Bengal) wasn't really such a big deal after all and almost every other house started making a fish fry. Every wedding feast had a Fish Fry and later Fish Orly on their menu.

We rarely make fried goodies at home and by the time I make an attempt I forget the recipe I followed maybe a year back. The recipe that I have used this time here is that of my friend's, the domestic diva of 70 chops, everyone else's recipe is almost exactly same so go on be creative.

The crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, fish fry tastes great as a snack with hot tea on the side and company to keep you warm. It also acts as a wonderful appetizer or even a side to the main menu when you are entertaining.


Bengali Fish Fry

I had 3 fillets of Tilapia cut in 12 pieces, each fillet in 4 that is. Each piece was about a 3"x 2" piece or smaller. You can use fillet of fish like Bhetki if in India or Cod, Tilapia when Bhetki is not available.

Make a paste of
1/2 of a small red onion,
2 fat cloves of garlic,
1/2" piece of peeled and chopped ginger(or 1 tbsp of peeled & chopped ginger),
2 green chili
with little water
. This is the paste that will be used to marinate the fish.

Put the fish pieces in one single layer in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle salt to taste on them.

Marinade the fish pieces with the
paste in step 2
1 tbsp of vinegar or lime juice,
1 tsp of corriander powder,
1 tsp of Roasted Cumin Powder &
1/4 tsp of Garam Masala
. All of the fish pieces should be nicely coated with the marinade

Cover & refrigerate overnight. If in a hurry, half an hour to an hour is fine.

Before you start frying, take each of the fish pieces out from the marinade and drain the excess liquid.

Set up a "breading station". First have a
flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt and black pepper(you can also use all purpose flour seasoned with salt & pepper)

next a shallow bowl of 2 eggs whisked to a smooth consistency,

another flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt & black pepper.

In a small Kadhai or Frying pan(suitable for deep frying) heat enough oil for deep frying.

Take the fish piece, roll it in bread crumb(or flour) --> dip it in the egg wash --> roll in bread crumb again gently rolling off any excess --> and then gently slide in the hot oil.

When the fish has nicely browned on both sides take out with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Enjoy it hot off the Fryer with some mustard sauce or my all time favorite Maggi Hot & Sweet. A side of chopped onions & cucumber works wonder

If you are a vegetarian don't be disappointed you can make Paneer fingers just like this from here at Cooking and Recipes.

BTW was Chef Mehta on The Next Iron Chef using a bottle of Maggi Ketchup yesterday ? Was it me or did anyone else notice that ?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Korma

You know how prophecies come true. How when I said cook books weigh down on me while food memoirs don't I was actually treading into this little trap set out be me alone. Well so this Madhur Jaffrey book had family recipes towards the end which I initially didn't notice and then chose to ignore. The pace at which I was reading, I had already renewed the book thrice, paid an accumulating fine of $9 and was all ready to return it after the last chapter. But that was not to happen.

I turned the page, read the recipes, well some of them and thought let me try at least a couple before I return this. So I renewed the book again and there went 4 more weeks without me cooking a single thing from that book. Somehow the book & me were never on the same floor together, if I was in the Kitchen, the book was upstairs or in the basement or some place else but never at a hand's reach. Mostly it sat on the bedside table, the recipes beckoning to get cooked, while I paid some more fine.

Finally couple of weekends back there were some friends visiting and I wanted a chicken recipe simple and different. This is when I found Murgh Korma, a chicken dish made of yogurt and almonds tucked away among the few recipes in the book. The chicken korma sounded delicious, olde-worlde delicious, different from the Chicken Korma recipes out there, even different from Madhur Jaffrey's own Chicken Korma on the BBC site. I made it because of the simplicity of the recipe and because of the almonds. The dish turned out to be a reward, a deliciousness worth of 6 months of renting a book, not to mention the fines.

Here I have reproduced exactly the author's version of the Chicken Korma with Almonds in a Yogurt Sauce as in her memoir "Climbing the Mango Trees". She must have changed the recipe later to cater to a more western audience and a faster lifestyle. Try the original, it still is fast enough and the taste is worth it. I have added my own subtle changes in a separate section.


Chicken Korma

What You Need

Ginger ~ 2&1/2" peeled and chopped

Garlic ~ 4-5 cloves

Almonds ~ 3 tbsp of blanched & slivered almonds

Yogurt ~ 1&1/2 cup

Garam Masala Powder ~ 1&1/2 tsp (Use your own or make one according to the author as posted here)

Corriander powder ~ 1 tbsp

Cayenne pepper ~ 1-1/2 tsp to taste

Onions ~ 2 medium

Cinnamon ~ 2" stick

Cardamom ~ 8 whole pods

Bay Leaves ~ 2

Chicken ~ 3&1/4 lb

Golden raisins ~ 2 tbsp

Cilantro ~ 3 tbsp finely chopped

How Madhur Jaffrey Did It

Put ginger, garlic and 1/4 cup of water in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth paste. add the almonds, 2 tbsp of water and blend till you get a smooth paste

Put Yogurt in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the garam masala, corriander pwd, cayenne & salt. Stir well to mix

Heat Oil in a large saute pan

Put in the sliced onions and fry for 10-12 mins till reddish brown. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel

Now to the oil add the cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves

A minute later add the chicken pieces, only as many as possible in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces lightly on both sides, removing to a bowl when done. Do this for all chocken pieces.

Add the golden raisins. Add the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 minutes

Now put in the chicken, the yogurt and the fried onions. Stir to mix and bring to simmer on medium heat. Cover and cook for 25-30 mins at low heat until chicken is tender. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve

How I Did It

Put ginger, garlic and 1/4 cup of water in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth paste. add the almonds, 2 tbsp of water and blend till you get a smooth paste. I went a little low on the ginger, I had almost 5lb of chicken and still the same amount of ginger. Garlic & Almonds I doubled because I had more chicken.

Put Yogurt in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the garam masala, corriander pwd, cayenne & salt. Stir well to mix. I added both Kashmiri Mirch and Red Chili Powder.

I marinated the chicken with little ginger paste, garlic paste, lime juice, salt and a pinch of turmeric powder for an hour or two

Heat Oil in a large saute pan

Put in the a quarter of the sliced onions and fry for 10-12 mins till soft and pinkish brown. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel

Now add the chicken pieces, only as many as possible in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces lightly on both sides, removing to a bowl when done. Do this for all chicken pieces.

Now to the oil add the cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves

Add the rest of the chopped onions and fry till the onions are a pinkish brown

Add the golden raisins. Add the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 minutes or till oil separates from the masala.

Lower the heat and add the yogurt.
Stir to mix and bring to simmer on low heat. Adjust for seasonings. I add a little sugar at this point. Now put in the chicken. Stir to mix and bring to simmer on medium heat. Add water if you need more gravy. Cover and cook for 25-30 mins at low heat until chicken is tender.

Adjust for salt and seasonings. Garnish with the fried onions. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve

To Make Punjabi Garam Masala used in Madhur Jaffrey's recipe:

Put in a spice grinder
1 tbsp of cardamom seeds
1 tsp of whole black peppercorns
1 tsp of whole black cumin seeds
1 tsp of cloves
1/3 of a nutmeg
2" stick of cinnamon

Grind finely and store in an air tight jar. This makes about 3 tbsp of Garam Masala

Kashmiri Mirch on Foodista

Trivia: Korma has its roots in the Mughlai cuisine of modern-day India. It is a characteristic Persian-Indian dish which can be traced back to the 16th century and to the Mughal incursions into present-day Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Classically, a korma is defined as a dish where meat or vegetables are braised with water, stock, yoghurt or cream.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brown Rice -- Mint Rice

Why are you on Orkut or FaceBook ?

Why would you want to see pictures of the girl-you-hated-in-Kindergarten holidaying in Corfu while you are shoveling snow in some god damn suburb of New York ?

How will it help to know that girl from section C third grade who used to come over for homework help has just been hired by the company who rejected your resume thrice ?

Why would you want to see your one time crush smiling at you from his profile pic, svelte wife, fat kids and a steel gray BMW in tow ?

Why would you in midst of a hectic day forgo lunch and pause to fish out a picture of yours from last summer when your tummy was still in and post it on Facebook ?

Why would you write comments like "Cho chweet baby" and "Best Couple ever" on your networked friend's pics when you really don't care a nickel about the baby or couple ?

Why would you want to see a person's life in delta(t) time and ruin yours in +t time ?

Why do you want to connect to people whom you you took no effort to remember even two years back when you were not Orkutting ?

Why do you hate Brown Rice ?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Early summer my neighbors had heaped me with bushels of mint leaves. I am not sure if Mint leaves come in bushel but any way I want to use that word so "bushel of mint leaves" it is. I am not a huge fan of Mint and anyway there was too much of it. When those leaves were almost wilting and crying for help I put them in the blender with few green chillies, made a paste and froze the paste. Result was my freezer was full of Ziploc bags holding pretty green frozen cubes of mint.

Most of those cubes I used to make a Pudina Rice with Brown Rice. Brown Rice is kind of a staple at our home for Saturday Lunch, if we are having a Saturday Lunch at all. Also if there is a Saturday Lunch it is usually a one pot meal, quick, easy convenient. The Mint Rice or Pudina Rice suits that purpose to the hilt. Flavorful it imbibes the Brown Basmati with a fragrance and taste that makes a Brown Rice hater just forget that he discriminates rice by color & creed.

Note: I am not on Orkut or Facebook, don't go finding me there. The questions are triggered by this very honest post and comments from real life friends


Pudina Rice/Mint Rice


Soak 2 cups of Brown Basmati for half an hour. You can also use White Basmati but then the water required to cook will vary.

Make a paste of half of a large red onion(or 1 small red onion), 4-5 cloves of garlic, 1" of peeled ginger and 4 tbsp of Mint Leves (Pudina) paste. Add 2-3 green chillies to make the paste, I didn't because Saturday Lunches are for everyone in the family even the non-chili eaters. Note: My neighbors had given me lots & lots of mint/ pudina over summer, which I had transformed into a paste which I then froze, so that is why I say paste here. I am not sure but I think a bunch or two of mint would suffice. Update on 12/21: I did this again last week and this time I added corriander leaves along with the mint to make the paste. beautiful end result.

Start Cooking

Heat Oil

Fry 1/4 cup of cashews to lightly brown, remove and keep aside

Temper the oil with 4 clove, 2 green cardamom and 1" thin stick of cinnamon

Add the onion + garlic + ginger + mint paste and fry till you see the oil seeping out of the sides of the masala

Add 1 tsp of coriander powder, half a potato chopped in quarters, and any veggies you like. I added 1/3 cup of peas & carrots. Cauliflower cut in small florets would have worked very well too. Fry for 3-4 minutes with a little sprinkle of water

Drain the rice, smear with little ghee and add to above. Add 1/4 tsp of Biryani Masala and fry the rice for a couple of minutes

Add water to measure. For 2 cups of Brown Basmati I added about 5 cups of water. Read your rice package for directions.

Add salt and let the rice cook. Once the rice is cooked add the fried cashews and a pinch of sugar if you like sweet.

There your one pot meal is ready in no time

Serve with a papad, some yogurt or raita on the side and a salad of cucumber & radish

Similar Recipes:

Brown Rice -- Methi Rice

Brown Rice -- Tomato Rice

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jeera Biscuit -- Whole Wheat Eggless Cumin Cookies

After the thekua episode I was on a high. This was easy I thought. I didn't have to fish out menacing contraptions to whisk, mix etc. as in regular baking. I didn't have to follow measures diligently, I could still throw things around. I didn't even have to roll out perfect rounds like chapati !!! Why not make something more I thought.

Jeera Biscuits, savory cookies spiced with cumin, has always been a favorite. So that was it largely based on this recipe. Mine had no eggs and were made of whole wheat. They were delicious, lovely accompaniment to the evening tea. The recipe lets you experiment a lot, next time I am going to add some other spices and see the result


Whole Wheat Eggless Jeera Biscuits

In a bowl mix with the tip of your your fingers 1 cup whole wheat flour(atta), 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 tbsp Ghee/melted Butter, a pinch of baking powder, 1 tsp & little more of salt, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1/4--1/2 tsp of sugar and some ground pepper powder. The result should be like a crumble. Note: Adjust salt to your taste. Now I think ajwain/carrom seeds would have tasted great in this.You can add other spices too.

Mix 2 tsp of yogurt in 1/4 cup of water and add it gradually to the above, mixing with your hands to make a dough. Knead gently with your hands to make a stiff dough that does not stick. If you need more/less water adjust accordingly

Wrap the dough in a wet kitchen towel and let it sit for 15-20 minutes

Roll it out thick with a rolling pin and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or just cut out rounds with a bottle lid. Prick them with a fork.

Place on a greased baking tray

Pre-heat oven to 375 F

Bake for about 30 minutes till they are light brown in color. In my toaster oven, these took about 30 minutes after which I flipped and baked for 10 more mins to make them cripser. Note: These are my toaster oven settings, time may vary and should ideally be done in 25-30 mins in regular oven. Check to see if they are nicely browned and that should be it.

Drawback: They weren't as crisp the next day but they still tasted great.

Now Reading:

Here is some more update on the Food Memoirs I have been reading for the last few months.

Comfort me with Apples -- Ruth Reichl. This is a sequel to Tender on the Bone. Wish I had a life like her, almost, would have had so much to write about. Sometimes when I read her I am not sure if it is pure fiction, everything in her life is so vastly different from a life I am used to. Still reading...

Miriam's Kitchen -- Elizabeth Ehlrich. After this drop me in a Jewish kitchen and I will dance away in there smoothly. I know all about kosher, paerve, "kosher style" and how difficult it is to maintain a Kosher kitchen. The author's journey from "ambivalent Jew to a woman who observes tradition and teaches her children about their ethnic heritage" is definitely interesting. I know very little about the Jewish life and this book opened up a window to a culture and traditions that were very interesting. Almost done.

Kitchen Confidential -- Anthony Bourdain. Though I am smitten by this guy, the book hasn't touched a chord yet. But then I am not even half way through this book.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Baked Phoren Thekua on Halloween

Immigrant mothers in a different country amidst a different culture have it hard, they are a confused lot. They are most confused around festival time. They do not know which to celebrate, which to shun, which one to just participate and which one to immerse one selves in.

There is the stuff that she has grown up with, the ones that gave her immense joy, she wants to be bonded with her children through them. She wants to share with her daughter the same thread of excitement that she once did with her own Mother over scouring and then lighting brass lamps for diwali.

But then she doesn't want to completely let go off the new festivals in the new country either. She has grown to like Halloween, the way it ushers in fall, the bright orange color of the pumpkin bringing warmth on an otherwise cold porch. She likes that it stretches her Indian festival month by a few more days, that there is something to look forward to even after the Diwali lamps have died out and Bhai Phota sweets are forgotten. And yet her thrifty logical mind does not acquiesce to spend so much money on flimsy "made in china" costumes that lose their utility beyond one single day.

After 3 years of worthless but pretty Halloween costumes, she wants to give them a miss this year. "What about being an Indian princess ?" she asks her daughter. The daughter who had fallen in this trap 3 years back is still gullible. The little girl is excited at the prospect of wearing the Anarkali churidar her aunt has sent from India for her upcoming birthday. "I will get you a crown and some jewellery and you will look like a real princess", the Mom tells her. The daughter is happy, it doesn't matter, she doesn't like spooky yet and "Halloween Express" eludes her.

Later the mother asks, "Which festival do you like best", secretly hoping for the answer to be Durga Pujo. "Halloween" she hears, "because it means lots of candies" continues the little voice. The choice has been made or maybe not.

What the future holds, we shall see. Till then there was a princess, a frog turned into last-minute flower and two un-carved pumpkins on the porch.

My Ma was not confused. Though she brought us up in a different culture, same country, she only followed what she was comfortable with. She didn't go hyper and try to do everything. We participated in the new, on the fringe and that was it.

So though we were invited for Chhath Puja, we never did it at home. We were at banks of the river Ganges observing the devotees and enjoying the rituals without feeling the stress ourselves. All the Thekuas that we loved, we had in our neighbor's home. We maintained a silent respect for all our neighbors who followed stringent rules in sanctity to make Thekuas for the Puja and never tried to re-create them at home.

I don't know why I wanted to have Thekua after all these years and went going back and forth this post & this. Too much ghee, can't do it, I reasoned. Then I saw Sharmila's Cookies and something went *Ping* in my brain. Why the thekuas were almost similar like her cookies with little differences. So I made them, no ghee, dry fruits and raisins within, spiced up by few fennel seeds and then baked, no frying. We loved them, earthy, lightly sweet, they reminded you of the soil, of your beginnings. Fried they would have been better.

I am not sure if those one time neighbors would have approved. Maybe they would say "Ee to phoren ka thekua hai"(This is a foreign thekua). You can call them whole wheat cookies if you wish.


Thekua or Whole Wheat Cookies

Makes about 10-12 thekuas
Measurements are eyeballed

In a bowl mix with your fingers 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1-2 tbsp of Oil/Ghee, a pinch of baking powder, 5-6 tbsp of agave nectar/honey, some fennel seeds, 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom powder. Note: If you want replace honey/agave nectar with sugar or jaggery. Also adjust the measures according to your sweet level.

Add some chopped raisins/cranberry/dried apricot.

Gradually pour approx. 1/2 cup of milk and work the flour with your hands to make a dough like the chapati dough. Adjust the milk accordingly. The dough should be stiff and not stick to your fingers.

Pat the dough with your hands in a flat thick-ish circle. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or with a bottle lid. You need to imprint them using a mold, I had none so they remained plain.

Put them on a greased baking tray. Brush them with some oil/ghee.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 mins till they are nicely browned. These were my toaster oven settings, so the time may vary. Alternately deep fry them in aromatic ghee.

Cool on the rack and store in an air tight container.

If they are not enough sweet, sprinkle some sugar on them.