Monday, August 31, 2009

Prawn Patia -- straight from Persia




Today was not a day in my dysfunctional "to do list" to write a post. No, today was a day for me to wallow in self pity for the simple reason that my child has grown up and is no longer a Kindergartner and is going to Grade 1 tomorrow.

Not my fault, solely nature's, I mean the "growing up" part. But as a Mom it is my birth right to put my hormones to full use and make a big senti deal of the whole growing up thing. The way Moms pine about the baby growing up you would think they are happiest cleaning poop and staying awake through the night. But all that sentimental mush would have done nicely for a post and with a balanced dose of nostalgia, melodrama and some pre-school rhymes it could have soared my blog hits.

I had even thought up choice phrases to write a teary post about how the little baby who looked into my eyes 5 year 8 months 3hours and 45 minutes back is no longer little and entering the big bad world (actually a school only fifteen mins away from home) .But all that will have to wait, for there is a fishy situation.

A Bong Mom or (maybe a true Bong Dad but not the resident one) will abandon fisrt born's milestones for the love of fish and that is exactly what happened here. Indrani sent me a reminder about the Fish event at her blog and luck had it that there was a brand new, still smelling fresh ,fish recipe sitting in my draft which was only waiting to be posted for a fishy event.





It is called Prawn Patia or Prawn Paatia or something similar. I had no clue that this dish existed, I am pretty clueless you might think but that is the truth. So I was clueless until I saw this name in Kalyan's blog. He is a clever Bong guy whose best half is a Parsi, a very intelligent thing to do, i.e. to marry into another culture, that way you get to sample lots of variety in food at home itself. Now though I have hardly ever had Parsi food, I have this fascination for Parsi food. So when I saw that Prawn Patia was a Parsi dish, I simply had to make it.

Kalyan had no recipe in his blog or maybe I wasn't able to find one, so the recipe I thought would be most fitting for such a dish is from RecipeZaar. I adapted the recipe and the result was delicious. All those whole coriander, cumin and fennel used for tempering added a lovely new flavor to the dish. I also dry roasted and ground a part of the above spices to make a powder which was not called for but I used in the recipe. I gave the tamarind a miss, the vinegar provided the tartness that suited our taste.The only thing I wasn't too sure of was the consistency of the gravy, any verdict ?

Going to the event @ Appayan with Prawn Patia is Doi Maach, a bengali preparation of fish in yogurt sauce and Bhapa Ilish, steamed Hilsa in mustard sauce.


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Prawn Patia



My adaptation of this recipe


Prep

Dry Roast 1 tsp Cumin Seeds, 1 tsp Corriander Seeds and 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds. Cool and grind to a powder in a spice mill

Squeeze some lime juice and salt on the shrimp and set it aside. I had about 15-20 frozen shrimp which I defrosted.

Make a wet paste of 2 cups of chopped red onion + 4 green chili + 2" ginger + 2-4 cloves of garlic + 3 tbsp yogurt + very little water

Start Cooking

Heat a Frying Pan/Kadhai

Toast 1/2 tsp of Cumin seed, 1/2 tsp of Coriander seed and 1/4 tsp of Fennel seeds

Add Oil

Add 1/2 tsp of Mustard seed, 1/4 tsp of Paprika, 1/4 tsp of Red Chili Powder

When the spices start popping lower the heat and add the wet onion paste. Fry this for 20-25 minutes at medium heat till you see it turning golden and there is no raw smell. This will need some time, don't try to hasten the process.

Add the dry roasted spice powder,1 tbsp of tomato puree, 1 tsp of white vinegar, salt and sugar to taste. Fry for 5 more minutes

Add about 1/2 cup of water and let the gravy come to a simmer. Add the shrimp but do not over cook it.

To finish off I added about 1/4 cup of fat free half and half but this is not in the original recipes

When the shrimp is done garnish with some finely chopped coriander and serve with hot rice

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Imam Bayildi -- and then The Imam Fainted


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Its the last week of summer hols around here. I am jittery. Guess why ? Big sis S starts Grade 1 next week in the big school. Yeah the little girl who was a couple months short of 3 when I first started this blog is going to be a first grader now.

Last week we went uniform shopping for her. Since she doesn't meet our township's cut-off date she is going to a private school for a year and then will be back in the public school system in Grade 2. Now this school she is going to is a Catholic School and they have uniforms.

That had made me very happy initially. Having been straitjacketed into uniforms 12 years of my life, I love them. What I didn't realize is, it was my Mom who shopped for my uniforms and also largely maintained them while I was merely a bystander. Now roles have shifted.

It was there at the uniform store, it hit me that I really need to live up to the role of a Mom . Nothing before, nor even the stubborn lactation consultant had thrust this thought into my face so hard as did the uniform store.

I realized that there are only so many shirts and tunics and gym shorts you can buy. I also realized that I need to gauge and buy the perfect size which will fit through whole year. Of course I can be extravagant and buy all sizes but then I won't be writing this blog, there would be someone writing it for me.

And because of the limited buying you need to maintain these stuff. As a responsible Mom you would need to iron the shirts every couple of days, you will have to sew on buttons 'coz those goddamn shirts have numerous buttons ready to fly off any minute, you might have to hem or un-hem skirts depending on how the child grows, you might even have to mend a rent in those expensive knee-highs, and then keep those black shoes shining bright.

The very thought that my Mom did all this and more through most of my school years, wanted me to book her a flight and bring her here. To reach that exalted position I need to apprentice at a laundry and go get a needlework for dummies. Till then I keep my fingers crossed that the dad does the ironing and I can fix those buttons with glue.


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Eggplants stuffed and ready to go in the oven


Now as part of the celebrations I mentioned last week I made an exotic turkish dish for the small gathering at home. Exotic seems to be the right way to describe anything Turkish I feel but this one is really exquisite. And to think that I had no clue that such a dish existed on the face of earth until August 1st.

That is when we were visiting some friends. As kids were being taken care of and I had ample time to rummage through their book shelves I found a cookbook with this recipe. The name caught my attention. "Imam Bayildi" or The Imam fainted. Why, You say. Try this beautiful eggplant dish doused liberally with olive oil and infused with herbs, and you will know for yourselves

I also referred to this blog for very nice step by step pics as to what exactly should be done while peeling and stuffing, though my version was a tad different. This recipe has the measurements, mine are eyeballed.


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Imam Bayildi



The recipe is for 4 eggplants

Get those long slender eggplants and trim the “heads”. Do not cut them completely off. Peel the eggplants in stripes i.e. the skin and the peel should run parallel. Put the eggplants in salted water. After 30 mins remove and drain on paper towel

Heat 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is a must and no other oil will do.Add two chopped red onion and saute till pink. Add 8 cloves of garlic minced.

Add 1 large juicy tomato chopped, 1/2 cup of chopped coriander(the recipe said parsley), some chopped dill, 2 tsp of citrus zest, salt and sugar to taste. Saute till the tomato softens and is cooked. I added some Red Chili powder and also some garlic chives from my garden to spice it up.

Remove and keep aside

Now you need to fry the eggplants whole.

Heat 1/2 cup or a tad less of olive oil in a deep bottomed pan. Saute the whole eggplants till they are lightly browned on all side and a little soft but not thoroughly cooked. Do not try to do all the eggplants together, saute them individually. Note: I had to chop of a fraction of the eggplant tip because they weren't fitting into my frying pan. However if you are doing so do not cut from the head end

Arrange the eggplants in a baking dish

Cut open a slit/pocket in each eggplant. You might need to salt the pockets at this point if needed. Spoon in the stuffing in generous quantity into the pockets. If they spill over it is better. Pour in the juice and about 1/4 cup of hot water + olive oil into the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375F and cook covered till eggplants are fully done. At the end of the process remove the cover and keep in oven for few more minutes to dry out any excess liquid.

Serve whole at room temperature





Trivia:The BIG question. Why did the Imam faint ? Multiple choice, pick your own: a) The imam (Muslim prayer leader) fainted or swooned when he tasted how good it was b)the stingy imam fainted when he saw how much expensive olive oil was used c)the imam was delighted when a shopkeeper's wife was required to quickly prepare a dish for the imam's unexpected visit

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Bhapa Doi -- Steamed Sweet Yogurt


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August is a month of celebration and merriment around home. It is also a time to take a breather from the pursuit of happiness and be happy with what already exists. The last year has been a hard one for us and maybe one day when I am at peace with the situation I will write about it.

But one thing I have learned in the process. When you are shattered and don't have control over destiny, non-atheists like me pray. They pray with all their might, asking God to settle things, to make whatever is going wrong right, to solve the problem. God does not necessarily listen but all that praying lends courage to otherwise scared souls and you learn to survive, to take things in your stride and most of all to accept if you are unable to make the change.

As time passes you realize that situations do not go on reverse and solve themselves, miracles don't happen but you just learn to accept whatever has been doled out to you and you try to make the best out of it. If Time does not heal it at least mutes the pain and that in itself is a miracle.

Now on a more cheery note back to the merriment. Hot and humid August is perfect time to let go of the worries and sink into blissful indulgence. Summer does that to you. Nature is so giving and earth is smelling so sweet, how can one not be happy to just be hanging around.

To celebrate the month with us we have friends popping in and out almost all weekends. Friends who have been a partner in the pain and now deserve a share of happiness, friends who have not been burdened with our worries and yet deserve a share of sweet luscious Bhapa Doi.


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Bhapa Doi which was made this time around with delicious Oikos Greek Yogurt from Stonyfield Farms. Anyone who has kids would be familiar with the Stonyfield Farms Yo Baby organic yogurts. That was the staple yogurt for Big Sis S until of course she discovered Natural Desi dahi and now slowly Baby A is getting her taste of Yo Baby yogurts.

The greek yogurt from Stonyfield Farms is a delight, the ones with honey is now almost a lunch time staple for me. With the plain I decided to make the much loved Bhapa Doi. The Sweet steamed yogurt or Bhapa Doi as we say in Bengali came out much more creamier than usual, thanks to Oikos Greek Yogurt. In fact even with a Non-fat version of the Greek yogurt this dessert came out more than perfect

This is a very simple dessert to make, something you can make even when you are thinking "Oh I haven't made any dessert" and the guests ring the bell. It is so easy that your 5 year old can make it, only he/she shouldn't 'coz it involves a hot oven.


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Bhapa Doi



Mix about 1 can of condensed Milk, 1 cup of Evaporated Milk, 1 cup of Greek Yogurt. Beat with a hand mixer or in the blender till nice and frothy. Pour in a baking dish.
Note: This time around to add my own twist, I scooped out half a ripe mango and added it. Use a little less than 1 can of condensed milk if you don't like it very sweet.

Update on 08/29/09 : Also if you do not have greek yogurt you can use regular full fat plain yogurt but the measurements may vary. Today I made a Bhapa Doi again with Whole Milk Plain Yogurt. The measurements were about 1 can of condensed milk + 1 cup Evaporated Milk + 1 cup Full fat plain yogurt. No need to use hung yogurt but I drained out the whey simply by putting the yogurt on a strainer.If you don't like too much sweet, use a little less than 1 can of condensed milk.

Heat Oven to 350 F. Fill a large baking tray with water. Put the baking dish with the mix in it so that water is half way up. Do not cover the baking dish.

After 30 - 35 minutes the yogurt will be set, if not allow a couple more minutes. Take it out and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Note for double the quantity: If you have started off with more quantity, it will take more time, you will know when the top and edges start browning a little. At this point insert a fork lightly to see if it is done. It might be a little wobbly but cool in the refrigerator for 5-6 hrs or overnight to set completely.

Garnish with saffron strands and serve. Or with the mango flavored one garnish with pieces of fresh ripe sweet mango.

Tip: If you have a small gathering, You can pour the mix in small ramekins and set the bhapa doi in it. Such individual servings look damn cute.

Updated on 08/21: An alternate method to make this dessert is on the stove stop in a double boiler. I am not sure if it can be done in pressure cooker. Check this link for several variations on this dessert


Trivia: Called “yiaourti” in Greece, Greek yogurt is creamier than regular yogurt. It also has twice the protein and fewer carbs than regular yogurt







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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Posto Murgi or Chicken in Poppy Seed Paste


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A Recipe is just a story with a Good Meal at the end -- Pat Conroy

I have been reading Hidden Kitchen from NPR's the Kitchen Sisters lately. I do not read cookbooks for recipes. Most of the stuff I cook is what I have memories of, hand-me-downs from my Ma or Dida, pass me along kind of recipes from friends, blogs, neighbors, impromptu concoctions whipped up to please the palate, but very rarely from glossy beautiful cook books. I love cook books with stories and am afraid of tomes with teeming recipes.

When I saw this book at the library I picked it because it said NPR and I have liked it a lot since then.Who glues your community together through food ? Who is cooking on your corner ? What traditions are vanishing from your neighborhood, your family, the planet ? The authors ask these questions and more and as I read about the farmer in Indiana who sells raw cow milk or the Italian forager in San Francisco who cooks beautiful meals of his finds I am more and more intrigued.

The Kitchen sisters say "People are telling us that home cooking and the family table are on the endangered species list --- small farmers and producers are too -- and these age old practices and ways of life, cornerstone of our civilization will become extinct if we don't stop and take notice and protect and preserve them"

Home cooking is not easy and can get stressful as I sometimes find, juggling home, a job and two kids, but then again it is the most healthy and joyful alternative. And I don't say that just because it sounds nice and haloed and I am destined to do it in "servantless US of A". It does brings along a sense of peace on an otherwise bustling day.

And honestly home cooking is not so difficult as to become extinct. Much easier than fixing an Ikea book shelf and IKEA is actually doing pretty good.So what is it that makes home cooking endangered ? I often hear my cousins in India say they hardly cook and their cook does it all or if they are a young couple they just order a dabba. And when they do say that, their is a hint of pride for being able to afford a cook and an undertone of disdain for the very job of home cooking.

I am thinking is this is a slowly catching on global phenomenon, you don't want to chop, stir, cook because you either have cheap labor to do the job or you get your sandwich from the Burger baron or because you think it is a job not worth doing.

So you think the times you spend in the kitchen with the family, stirring and chopping together, explaining number lines to the 5 year old while you peel a cucumber, tasting and smelling and creating memories is just overly hyped .Maybe it is. You might bond better and have happier kids, downing shots of tequila than sweating it out in the kitchen.

But there is something wholesome and warm about this whole cooking thing which the tequila does not bring.It need not be an elaborate meal always, it need not necessarily be an everyday cooking chore, and you need not do it all by yourself, get help but whip up a hot meal and pass on your traditions.

Why do you cook dear reader and here I would urge non-bloggers to please step up ? What cooking traditions do you feel are vanishing from your neighborhood, your family, the planet that you would want to preserve ? Do you think delegating home cooking to an outside help makes a difference ? Come on tell me and share your thoughts.



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With that said, I have Posto Murgi or Chicken in Poppy seed paste just like my Ma makes it only not quiet. Some of the flavors in my creation has been influenced by Indosungod's Chicken Curry. I loved her use of fennel seeds and also adding garlic to the Poppy seed paste, so those are the small changes that I made to this old recipe of my Mom's. I love Posto (Poppy Seed) in any form so little doubt that this is a much loved dish. But we had guests and they loved it too so in spite of my bias this indeed is a delicious preparation


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Posto Murgi/Chicken in Poppy Seed Paste



Wash and clean about 5 lbs of chicken cut into small pieces. Marinade with 1 tbsp of lime juice, 2 tsp of ginger paste , 2 tsp garlic paste, salt, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 1 tsp of mustard Oil(optional) for 1-3 hours. Note: I usually buy whole chicken skinned. So when I say 5lb chicken I mean the weight of the chicken with bones et al

Soak 4 tbsp of Poppy Seed(Posto) in water and then make a paste of soaked posto + 6 cloves of fat garlic + 1" peeled ginger + 6-8 green chilli (heat alert adjust accordingly!)

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Chaunce/Temper the oil with 4 Clove/Laung, 4 Cardamom/ Elaichi, 1" stick of cinnamon/dalchini, 1 tsp of Fennel seeds/Mouri/Saunf

When the spices start bristling add 2 cups of finely chopped red onion. Fry the onion with a sprinkle of sugar till it takes on a nice shade of brownish pink

Add 1 large juicy tomato finely chopped and fry till the tomato is mushed up and there is no raw smell

Add the poppy seed paste, 1 tsp of Red Chilli powder, 1/2 tsp of Garam Masala powder. Fry the masala till the masala looks cooked

Add the chicken pieces and saute them till they loose their pink color and becomes a light yellow. You can add about 1/4 tsp or less of Turmeric powder at this point

Add salt, paprika for color and about 1/2 cup of water. Adjust the quantity of water according to your needs.

Cover and cook till chicken is done. The way I make this dish there is little gravy but the result is not dry either. I would say the gravy is mostly clinging on to the chicken and it is very moist

Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Lemon Balm Tea


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Adrenalin Rush


"The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: "Is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we kill those people"

-- Bill Hicks


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Cup of Tea scented with Lemon Balm growing on my patio to soothe the nerves. And with this I admit that Big Sis S has way more spunk than me.


Lemon Balm is a citrusy and fresh scented herb with a delicate lemon scent. A leaf or two in my tea is perfect for a relaxing evening. Known for ages as a medicinal herb, lemon balm has mild sedative properties and has been used to relieve gas, reduce fever, and increase perspiration.Fresh sprigs are used to top drinks and as garnishes on salads and main dishes. Fresh or dried leaves make a refreshing tea, either iced or hot.

I have not used it for any other purpose though it is a beautiful herb with huge potential. Check out this link for more details

This beautiful herb goes out to WHB # 195 hosted this week by Dhanggit's Kitchen.

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