Friday, June 25, 2010

Tara Tari Paanch Mishali -- Five Vegetable Medley

Eating healthy does not necessarily mean eating a salad.

Think of something your Mom used to make and you would turn up your nose at. Go ahead, quick. Do you see yellow, orange, green ? Yeah ? Well those were the nutrient laden, healthy dishes from your own cuisine.

Cook them. Make your new age changes to them. Use EVOO.

Talk like Rachel Ray.Ask yourself "Why do people like Rachel Ray?". They don't.

So you are in safe company, go ahead and make your very own Five Vegetable dish in under 30 minutes or maybe more.Depends on how fast you chop or don't.

Eat a bowlful of that. Tastes better than a salad and has all the goodness of it.

Paanch Mishali Tarkari or Five Mixed Vegetables is a very popular Bengali dish. Chop five different vegetables, not any vegetable, there has to be a rhyme and rhythm to them. Something sweet like pumpkin, something sharp like radish, something velvety like ridge gourd or eggplant or in my case zucchini, something orange and crunchy like carrots, something generous like potatoes to bring everything together.

You don't have to strictly follow this rule. I don't. I will toss in some other stuff, like this time I added bitter gourd and ignored potatoes.

I had 1/2 cup each of chopped pumpkin, radish, carrots, zucchini and 1/4 cup of bitter gourd. I cooked them in the microwave with little water, 1/2 tsp of Garam masala(totally optional not used in traditional Paanch Mishali), 3 green chillis and 1 tsp of ginger julienne. It is not necessary that you pre-cook the veggies but I do it, to make the process faster.

I think it took me 10 mins in the MW and I used that time to convince D that going to the beach is actually an outdoor activity while watching Football is well just watching TV. You see I am not a fan anymore, I don't root for a favorite team, I don't cry or get frustrated or jubilant.

Heat 2 tsp of EVOO. Ideally you should use Mustard Oil which is the new EVOO. But I used Olive Oil, my wish. Temper the oil with 1 & 1/2 tsp of Paanch Phoron, the mother of all spices and father of none.Add 2-3 Dry Red chili and a pinch of Hing/Asafoetida. Watch the spices sputter and pop. Feel the power.

I felt the power, the sharpness of chili up my nose. I felt that D might just sway and switch off the TV.

Add the vegetables. Reserve the water, the vegetable stock. We will add that later. Add about 1/4-1/2 tsp of Turmeric Powder. Saute the vegetables for couple of minutes.

Add the water, the stock, add salt to taste, cover and cook. This is too much water, use much less water to begin with.

I continued my convincing process. My methods are not right. No one gets convinced around here.

The veggies are done now. Remove the cover. Add 1 tsp of Mustard paste. I added 1 tsp of Kasundi, the spicy Bengali Mustard sauce. If you have your Mustard Powder or your homemade mustard paste, add that. I have never used Dijon Mustard, how bad can it get ?

Brazil won the game. Of course they would.

Stir everything together. Check that veggies are done. Taste and make any adjustments. If needed sprinkle 1 tsp of roasted Cumin Powder. Cook till water has almost dried up.

Everyone looks happy. The world is a fair place. D wants to go to the beach. But it is too hot. I really don't want to.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt -- arm made

Summer is a difficult time. I am obsessed with the season.

Every weekend I want to go to the beach, to the park -- the one with the sprinklers, to a carnival, to the beach again.

My family thinks I have too much energy for un-worthy things, that two beach visits with a bawling toddler who hates car seats should have been enough to put my desires in order, that the nearby park is fun enough for the kids and that watching football is as much an outdoor activity as running around kids in a strawberry field.

I clearly think otherwise. But it is not easy to put my thoughts to reality. Weekends are times for birthday parties, get-togethers, groceries and chores. Weekdays are time for work, piano(not mine), swimming(not mine), next days lunch. Work is crazy and I don't even get time to visit my blog friends.How do I fit in summer outdoor stuff in this busy schedule ?

In the recent years I have learned to delegate. I have outsourced my house cleaning, occasional help to dust and vaccum. It is hard to get help here in the US but look around and you will find affordable cleaning, someone who might be of service. There might be an Auntie few blocks down who will make you Rotis for the week, a kindly neighbor who will sell home made idli batter, a young Spanish girl who will chop your vegetables for those extra bucks. Once in a while take their help, you not only need it, a busy Mom like you deserves it.

Last month I took a day off. I wanted to take the kids strawberry picking. Since weekends just weren't working, it had to be a weekday. I felt it was really important for the kiddos to know where their favorite fruit was coming from, to know that strawberries are not produced at the neighborhood grocers.

The farm is thankfully not that far and we spent a nice hour or so grazing the strawberry fields. Rows of deep green against the blue sky and the little red fruits hidden in all that green.Being close to Nature is so enchanting that I wouldn't have cared if we were picking bitter gourd and not strawberries.

The kids had loads of fun, they ate some, picked some and I just let them be, at least for this once.

Since they hadn't picked the choicest of fruits, after eating some, I froze the rest. And then one fine day, I wanted to make a strawberry ice cream. Ok not ice cream, but at least a frozen yogurt.

Of course I don't have an ice cream machine. I don't have a whole lot of things. Actually the list of things I DO NOT have is way longer than the things I DO have.

But I won't fret on that, because if your upper arms are as sagzy as mine and you want to do this, you better make ice cream by hand. You will like the process so much that you will do it maybe once and buy Hagen Dasz by the pints. Ok, it is not all that hard, I kid.


Follow David Leibowitz's hand made ice cream making process. This Strawberry Frozen Yogurt recipe is adapted from here.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I have used strained whole milk yogurt but Greek yogurt which is creamier will give better result

Put 2 cups of roughly chopped strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of sugar and let them sit for an hour.

In a blender add the
strawberries along with their juice,
1/2 cup of Evaporated Milk,
1/2 cup of Thick Greek Yogurt,
2 tbsp sugar
Note: Replace Evaporated Milk with
Condensed Milk if you want a creamier, sweeter taste.

Blend till smooth. I also strained the mix through a strainer.

Freeze and follow the hand made ice cream making process. Or use your ice cream maker.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Of Chalks and Chopsticks -- 2nd Edition Roundup

Today I won't talk much. If I start there is no stopping, so I will be quiet, really, really quiet. I will do this so that you get a moment of silence, ok not a moment, you will need more.

And when you get that "chasm of silence" take a deep breath, sit, relax, and lose yourself in the wonderful world of food fiction where real life merges with the imaginary, where food conjures memories, where tales are weaved around life and where life evolves around food.

Presenting Of Chalks and Chopsticks -- 2nd Edition Roundup with stories from 26 very talented food bloggers whose stories are as delicious as the food.

Have a great weekend reading and thinking about your own food story.


Entries are listed in the order I received them

"Except... Jam!! Sarita was terribly foodie. And her Mom's cooking was something she couldn't do without! And it wasn't just her dal and rice.. Mom's cookies, her cakes, her chicken, her fish, her smoothies, her shakes, her mutton, her quiche....and most of all.. Mom's jams!!!" -- Apple Jam -- Happy Mother's Day from SS@SS Blogs here

"He walked up to the pan which was on the gas burner. There was a strange sound of tiny pebbles clanging against a glass pane. He peered in and saw a kaleidoscope of images flickering in front of him. The pan was full of water. The water was bubbling. There was a thin film of yellow on top. He parted that with a ladle and was intrigued to see what was going on. There were white grains of rice and yellow dots of daal (pulses) circling all over the pan. Soaring up. Going down. Bumping into each." -- Playing 'House' : A Khichudi Recipe Story from Kalyan @ Finely Chopped

"It takes me to places that I lived as a 12-year old, in a house that had a huge kitchen, the time that we had the hottest summers in Kottayam and the baths we used to take under the backyard tap in the dusky evening light. The hot dosas for dinner and this sweet and slightly sour pickle that complemented the dosas like not even coconut chutney could." -- Sweet Mango Pickle - Amma's Recipe from Nags@Edible Garden

"It was hard to tell which came first - the rush of joy at the mention of that unabashedly unwholesome menu or the sigh of relief that the salad could be put off! Or was it neither of these but a surge of love, coupled with the reassurance that he had chosen right, after all? " -- Quinoa: A Love Story from Sra@When My Soup Came Alive

"She quietly eats up the dosa and even the two pieces of drumstick that fell on her plate. She couldn’t tactfully throw the green little sticks onto her brothers plate as she normally would, nor complain about it and chuck it in the garbage. And slowly chewing her food, she understood what the boy meant. She would never be able to say no drumsticks again." -- The Moringa Oleifera story from Denny @Oh Taste n See

"She could see and feel that fateful morning when her mother was preparing ingredients for Momo. It was she who had requested her mom to prepare Momo. From early morning her mom started chopping onions and garlic, kneading the dough, making small balls. She was served steaming hot Momos before she left for school.
Her mom promised Thukpa and Momo after she returned from school." -- Mom(o) from Balaka@Prathompadokhep

"When Shakuntala devi came in the kitchen, it was already 6.30 in the evening. Naren will be here in few minutes or so. She cleaned fish pieces hurriedly and then smeared holod (turmeric powder) and noon (salt) over each pieces well. She then started to make the jeerey/kalo jeerey/golmorich bata in Sheel nora.Then she quickly put the Kadai over gas stove. By the time kadai and shorsh'er tel (mustard oil) was getting hot, she was finished making the bata moshla (masala paste)." -- Tangra Mach'er jhaal from Jaya@Spice and Curry

"Raghu stretched himself up to his full height, took a full breath, and without a single stammer made an offer to the ice cream man "you give us two ice creams and we will give you two bigggg mangoes, what do you think?" The ice cream man thought hard, and drove a hard bargain "I'll give you two ice creams for 4 mangoes, deal or no deal?" Everything sounded fair for ice creams, Raghu ambled up the nearest tree and brought down 4 huge mangoes, they barely fitted into our tiny hands, still we managed to get it over to the gate. " -- Aam Panna from Rajani@eatWRITEthink

"She had borrowed some ingredients from her neighbor to prepare breakfast and she sat in front of the stone grinder and started grinding the batter and Niru came out rubbing the sleep off her eyes.She grinned at her mom who was holding the batter, for it was for her favorite breakfast -Kaara Rotti ,an rare treat!!!" -- Kaara Rotti and the light of dawn from PJ@Seduce Your Tastebuds

"Budhua got up and went to the mango tree behind his hut. Selecting some good sized stones, he threw them at a couple of mangoes. A good marksman, he got them down in no time.
Going inside, he saw the embers of last night's fire had not yet died. He had forgotten to clean out the chulha in his worries. So threw in the mangoes to roast them a little. He would make Aam Pora Sharbat for Moina." -- Aam Pora Sharbat / Aam panna from Sharmila@KichuKhonn

"He started cooking, methodically chopping, washing, sautéing and stirring. He was done in exactly 40 minutes. He transferred the hot risotto to a serving dish as the phone rang. “Hey, it’s me. I am on my way home,” she told him.
He looked around the kitchen and with a sigh started cleaning up. By the time he was done there were ten minutes left for her to reach home.
“Just enough time to set up the table,” he thought." -- Of Quiet Husbands and risotto surprises from Jaya@Desi Soccer Mom

"Maya's question reminded her of the origins of this infamous salad - a summer picnic at Nick's sisters house, when they wanted something Indian. Her sparse pantry had very few "Indian" ingredients but nonetheless this salad emerged as an "Indian" egg salad and stayed that way even when "they" were done." -- Zippy Egg Salad Sandwiches from Rinku@Cooking in Westchester

""Atthe, I cannot make these undes. They are just crumbling. Can you fix it?" girl goes and asks the old lady letting go of her 'Chef' ego. She is almost ready to cry imagining her mother mad because of this. Old lady asks the girl to bring some warm milk, sprinkles it on the mixture and starts making undes. "Thank God for Atthe" the girl sighs in relief and starts to make undes with the old lady. She then fries the ambode and is beaming with pride ear to ear when both the oldies praise her for her work." -- Mother or Not? from Champa@Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen

"That night she boiled some eggs, shelled them and put them in the refrigerator for the next day.She woke up early next morning and started making the egg salad. She packed it in the tiffin box. Mou came down for breakfast and looked glumly at the tiffin box."What did you pack today?Some rice again!" She smiled conspirationally at Mou."Its a surprise!Let me know how you like it." " -- The Tiffin Box from Tania@Experiments Of a Cooking Enthusiast

"He was no novice to cooking but he didn't want to waste his weekend over it. She had a dream the other day that he cooked a number of delicacies and served her. She woke up in the middle of the dream, but her joy and excitement didn't abate. She woke him up and narrated it to him. " -- Love, the Secret Ingredient from Nithu @ Nithu's Kitchen

"” I dont like tomatoes!” cried the girl. “ They are not for you, we are going to eat them.” replied her mum thinking that once the sauce was all mushy & done, the girl will not realise that she was eating tomatoes. " -- Gnocchi with a Tomato Basil Sauce from Bhagyashree@Taste Buds

"“Khe nay, baba”, she said seating herself on a cane modha in front of him. That’s when he started to howl. Just like a baby, bawling and muffling his own sobs. In between drinking water and stuffing his mouth with the sondesh. He choked, ate the sondesh and gulped the water down all at the same time. " -- Sweet Taste of Freedom from Pree@PreeOccupied

"Ma would eagerly empty the khaki bag on a big steel platter and examine the contents with gusto. On most occasions there would be the quintessential Rui or Rohu, the most commonly eaten fish in our house. And then there would be fishes of various sizes depending on what the market had to offer. Finger sized ones for chorchori, and palm sized ones for jhal. The bothi with its curved iron blade would be brought out. Amma would sit on a wooden piri on the floor and place the bothi in front." -- Fishy Tales from Piuly@A Pinch of This and A Sprinkle of That

"I was very afraid to travel since childhood my family never let me travel family is very brother used to follow me everytime i was out may it b my job,interviews,classes.." -- A sweet story and 3 dishes by my hubby from Sanyukta@Creative Sanyukta

"The next day, as Mrs. Kumar walked back from the vegetable seller carrying sweet tiny eggplants for the night's dinner, along with a small packet of gulkand burfi that she simply could not resist, she found the inspector standing at a street corner, staring thoughtfully at the ground. "Not again", Mrs. Kumar exclaimed. " -- Mrs. Kumar and the Sweet Tooth from Nupur@One Hot Stove

"Well, just boil some milk....add some maida and sugar to it. If you want, you can also add essence. Freeze it. Beat it twice in the mixie. That's it.
No amma.....that doesn't sound interesting in the least bit." -- Mango ice cream from Jayashree@My Experiments with Food

"Archana changed quickly, put some tea to boil and set about washing the rice and mixing the curd. “Everything is going to be ok,” she thought as she mixed the curd and the rice and prepared the tempering." -- Anonymous from Jaya@Desi Soccer Mom

"He snuck closer to Amma, who hurriedly put the ladle down, pulled at the sari tucked in at her waist, and smoothed it down with one hand. "Come in, come in!" She called out, picking up the plate of adhirasams. "Look what I made for you-- your favorite sweet."" -- Adhirasam from Vaishali@Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes

"Reluctantly, she ate a spoonful. It had the perfect balance of spicy, sour and sweet, with just the right crunch. A burst of freshness from the cilantro and grated coconut. Exactly the way she liked kairi chi dal.
Exactly the way her aayi used to make it, she remembered. Exactly the way it tasted the last time she had eaten it." -- Kairi Chi Dal from Aqua@Served with Love

""And I must repeat, there were no secrets. I just added a little extra bit of love. Plus, I always chose the fruits with care. The freshest possible, the best money could buy. After all, nothing but the best for you," he smiled." -- Fruit Chaat from Aqua@Served with Love

"Amu always ate last the advantage being that she could eat-heartily without worrying that the food might get short. But today she felt it was a bad idea. Because right in front of her Rati sat and ate and went on eating. And Amu wondered if anything would be left for her at all." -- Cravings from Bhagyashree@Searching Self (Bhagyashree is not a food blogger but her fiction is all about food)

"It would take more than an hour for the payyesh to come to the right thickness. And then Ma would take it off the heat and add the patali, the khejur gur, fresh and deep brown if it was dada's birthday in winter. The whole house would be infused with that rich, sweet smell, that reminded you of cold winter mornings and dew drops clinging on to the leaves." -- Chocolate Brownies for a Birthday from Bong Mom@Bong Mom's Cookbook

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Macher Chop/Maacher Chop -- or a Fish Croquette

I made Maacher Chop on Saturday.

Perfect accompaniment to Argentina playing Netherlands.

Bongs love Maacher Chop. They also love Football. It is hard to say which they love better.

This version of Maacher chop is an easier one, more like a croquette. The real Maacher Chop has an outer casing of potato, stuffed with a separately cooked spicy fish stuffing, the whole of which is then deep fried. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water and not watch Football and cry because Maradona has aged, and Batista does not play and I have lost the passion to become a fan.

In short THAT Maacher Chop is much more work than THIS Maacher Chop. If you raise an eyebrow, I will say "Thank You, This is the most I can do in servantless US of A. If you don't want a bite, you are more than welcome"

The roundup for "Of Chalks and Chopsticks" will be up in a couple of days. Bear with me till then and fry some Fish Chops and get yourself a cup of tea.


Maacher Chop -- or Fish Croquette

I had 3 standard sized Tilapia Fillet and I made about 14 croquettes/chop

Cook the fillet of fish in the MW for 5-6 minutes. I would suggest do it in intervals of 3 minutes each. I had Tilapia fillet which was frozen and it took me 6 minutes to cook it fully. Yours might take like 3-4 minutes.

Cook one potato whole in the MW. Prick the potato with a fork mercilessly and then wrap in a plastic cling wrap. Zap in the MW for Baked Potato setting which is like 3 minutes. I think I learned the MW trick from Nupur (or is it someone else ?)

In a big mixing bowl put the cooked fish, breaking and crumbling it. Add 1 tsp of lime juice.
Once the potato has cooled, peel and mash it. With your hand mix the fish and potatoes to make a smooth mix

Heat about 2 tsp of oil in a frying pan. Add 1 clove of garlic minced. When fragrant, fry about 1 cup of onion till it is soft and browns on the edges. Add 1 tsp of Garlic paste, 1 tsp of Ginger paste, 4 green chili chopped fine and fry for couple more minutes.

Add the above to the fish + potato mix

Next add
1 tsp of fresh Garam Masala
1/2 tsp of Paprika (or Red Chili Powder if you want it hot)
1 tsp of Coriander Chutney (or 1-2 tbsp fresh chopped Corriander)
salt to taste
15-20 golden raisins
a little sugar(optional)

Mix everything well with hand till you get a smooth dough like mix.

Fashion your chop either like flat discs or make oblong shapes. 

Now prepare for frying and set up the following

a plate of all purpose flour --> Egg Wash --> a flat platter with Seasoned Bread Crumbs -->You can deep fry these or shallow fry. I would suggest deep frying for the full on taste
Note: I season the bread crumbs with garlic-pepper powder

Roll the croquet in flour --> Dip the chop/croquette in egg wash --> roll in bread crumbs --> shallow fry till golden brown on both sides. It tastes better if you can deep fry though.
Note: After rolling in bread crumbs , I leave them in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Then I roll them in bread crumbs for the second time and then shallow fry

Serve with chopped onion, mustard and Ketchup.

Note: You can freeze the chops in a single layer before frying. Keeps well for a week. Deep fry in hot oil after taking out. The frozen croquettes might take longer to get heated inside so fry twice

I am sending this entry to Mansi @ Fun n Food who is having a giveaway for my favorite Magic Bullet.

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Baked Tuna Fish Chop

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chocolate Brownies for a BirthDay

Tomorrow is Anu's birthday. Anu, her first born. It has been 8 years since that snowy day in Boston.The snow had been heavy that day, almost 4 inches had accumulated by noon. Her doctor, Dr.Richardson, could make it only 3 hours after the scheduled time of her C-section. Three whole hours after the time her Mother-in-law had deemed the most auspicious.

It didn't matter though. Nothing did except that a baby was arriving in their life that day, albeit three hours late.

She started taking out the flour, the eggs, the butter to melt, the brown sugar

When the Doctor finally congratulated and the nurse brought the wailing baby wrapped in a white hospital blanket with blue borders all she had felt was relief, a culmination of the journey she and her husband had undertaken over the years. Yes, that is what it was, relieved, tired and nauseous is what she had felt even later in that bright wallpapered room. When had the love come in, the worry, the protectiveness, the eagerness to change a diaper, wipe a snot, the enthusiasm to drive to a swim class and then the ballet ? She wasn't sure, they had just crept in as she folded the laundry, she guessed.

She took out Anu's favorite chocolate sprinkles and the Hershey Cocoa Powder

"Rrrrrrring", the phone went, in the monotonous tone, jolting her out of her reverie. She ignored it, thinking of the pile of work needed to be done before her husband and daughter came back from the piano class.

The sugar goes into the melted butter, mixed to be together

The phone went "Rrrrrrrrring" again. It was Ma, she was sure. Even after a decade Ma could never keep track of the time difference between the far east and west. She must be calling to wish Anu a day early. If told she would say, "Aaajkei to unish, ekhankar hisebe or jomnodin hoye geche" (Today is the 19th here, it is already her birth date in my part of the world")

Two eggs into the wet mix. A tsp of vanilla for the sweet smell

"Hello AnuMoni, aaj tomar jonmodin (Hello Anu Moni, today is your Birthday)", Ma said, without even waiting to hear the voice on the other end.

"This is me Ma, Anu is out and it is not even her birthday today, not until tomorrow", she said.

"Amader ekhane unish hoye geche (It is already the 19th here)", Ma continued, obstinacy and hurt in her voice. Ma had wanted to be there, to welcome her first granddaughter 8 years ago. But the straw haired, pale faced officer at the US Consulate in Kolkata thought otherwise. He refused Ma a visa. One stamp and a grandmother was denied the happiness of being united with her first grandchild.Ma still carried that grievance and some more.

The Flour, the coccoa powder, the baking powder and a pinch of salt. Dry into wet

"Paayesh ta baniye rekhechis? Kal to ar shomoy pabi na"(Did you make the Paayesh, you won't get time tomorrow), Ma asked.

"You know Anu doesn't even like Paayesh. What is the point ? I am sending cupcakes for her school tomorrow and at home I will make some chocolate brownies", she said

"Jonmodin e ektu paayesh banabi na. Paayesh ta shubho ( Paayesh brings good luck. Won't you make even a little on her birthday)", she could imagine her Ma sitting by the black telephone, a cup of tea in hand, her brows furrowed while the maid swept around the morning dust with a broom. Her Ma trying to send across good wishes over the oceans, trying to maintain the age old traditions, she steadfastly refused.

"Dekhbo (I will see)", she said. She didn't want to argue any more. There was no time really. She wouldn't make the paayesh, she didn't have hours to stir and thicken milk, to make a dessert her daughter would not even touch.

Mix till each component loses its own identity to be one

Busily she started taking out the flour, the eggs, the butter to melt, the Hershey cocoa powder. This was an easy recipe, the brownies would be in the oven by the time Anu was back.

She melted the butter and added the fine sugar, stirring with a steady hand, willing the sugar to dissolve.

She cranked up the oven to 350F. Greased and floured an 8 inch square pan and lined with butter paper. Poured the batter into the baking dish, smoothing out the top. Slivers of almonds placed gingerly on the surface would look lovely but Anu hated almonds

On her birthday and Dada's, Ma would be up early, very early. The Milkman would be there early too. Ma would have told him to get an extra liter of milk, with a special request to keep it water free because paayesh had to be made, there was a birthday to be celebrated. The maid would have scrubbed and washed the deep bottomed brass pot, the day before. It would be on the stove, gleaming as it caught first rays of the morning sun.

The brownies baked in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Ma would pour out the pristine white milk, still warm, into the pot. A few tej pata and fragrant whole green cardamom would be thrown in. And then Ma would stir and stir, careful so that the milk did not boil over, careful so as to not scald the bottom of the pan. She wouldn't utter a word as she did so. For this was sacred, the paayesh would be first offered to the Gods, requesting blessing for the birthday child from the unknown.

As the milk thickened, she would put in a handful of gobindo bhog chaal, the short grained rice, smeared in ghee. The rice spread its fragrance as it cooked. Everything else in the house would stop that morning. Baba did not get his tea, breakfast got delayed and the maid was asked to come back later as the paayesh simmered on the stove and Ma stood watchful over it.

It would take more than an hour for the payyesh to come to the right thickness. And then Ma would take it off the heat and add the patali, the khejur gur, fresh and deep brown if it was dada's birthday in winter. The whole house would be infused with that rich, sweet smell, that reminded you of cold winter mornings and dew drops clinging on to the leaves. The thick paayesh studded with golden raisins would be kept in the Puja room till the Gods had their fill. And then Ma would bring in bowlfuls for her and Dada in silver bowls, scalloped along the edges, saved for special occasions.

She never liked Paayesh, she didn't like anything sweet, she would refuse to have more than a spoonful of that dedicated love. Dada would gorge on it.

Suddenly she craved some of her Ma's paayesh, bowlful of sweet creamy paayesh with plump golden raisins made perfect with time. The warm, chocolate smell of the brownie did nothing to satisfy that craving.Sighing she took out the milk and last of her patali from the refrigerator. Maybe two decades later, Anu would crave paayesh some day. Till then she would just keep the house smelling fragrant on this special winter evening.The blessings from her forefathers would pass on.

This is a part of my Food Fiction series. Anu is not my daughter, it is NOT my daughter's birthday, this IS fiction. It might seem strange but it is the simplest food that has all the fiction entwined around it. This post goes to Of Chalks and Chopsticks -- 2nd Edition an event started by Aqua and this time hosted by Me. What is your Food Story ? I won't be doing round up until Sunday, so if you are running late, send me your entry, I am waiting.



Here is the recipe for Khejur Gur er Paayesh

Here is Paayesh with Sugar

Today's dark, decadent, delicious chocolate brownies are from Sailu's Kitchen. Thanks Sailaja.
BS, deserves a special mention for this one, since she not only helped me bake, she also helped me take the pictures. We baked yesterday night and since I have no night time lighting equipment, BS held a flashlight, so that I could take my pics.

Chocolate Brownies

What You Need

All Purpose Flour ~ 1/2 cup
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder ~ 1/3 cup
Baking Powder ~ 1/4 tsp
Salt ~ 1/4 tsp or a pinch

Butter ~ 1/2 cup i.e. 1 stick
Brown sugar ~ 1/2 cup
Regular Fine Sugar ~ 1/2 cup

Eggs ~ 2
Vanilla extract ~ 1 tsp

Milk ~ 2 tsp(if needed)

How I Did It

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan and line with butter paper. I placed an aluminum foil inside my square pan and greased it.

Put butter in a microwave safe bowl and zap it for a minute so that it softens. Stir in the sugar. Mix with a whisk for 2-3 minutes.

Whisk in eggs, one after the other and add the vanilla essence. Beat with whisk or hand mixer.

Add the dry ingreds i.e. cocoa, flour, salt and baking powder into the wet mix until no trace of flour is left. Mix using a spatula. I had to add 2 tsp of milk at this point as my batter was very thick.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Add the chocolate sprinkles if you want.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Do not overcook. After 25-30 mins, put in a knife to see if the brownies are done.

Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares at room temperature and serve with cold ice cream. Store in an airtight container. Warm while serving.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Nupur's Pav Bhaji

If you could see me now, as in right now, you would see my head hanging down in shame, my eyes looking down to my feet, which is not exactly the most pleasant sight on earth, but better than the boring beige carpet.

For one, I am ashamed that I am a sorry human momma who is doing nothing for the oil slick pelican momma in Louisiana.

I am Sorry.

For second, this one is not as grave as the first but still I should be ashamed that I did not make India's famous street food Pav Bhaji at home until day before yesterday.

In the time and era which I grew up, Pav Bhaji was not heard of where we lived. Even if some third removed Mumbaikar cousin ever mentioned it, the adults dismissed it as "Pauruti-Tarkari" and no one showed any further interest.

Much later when I lived in Bombay, now Mumbai on my new found independence for a very short time, I was introduced to Vada Pav and Pav Bhaji.

I thought Pav Bhaji was healthy, wholesome and NOT deep fried. I therefore chose to live on the deep fried goodness of Vada Pav, saying a polite No to Pav Bhaji.

Still later in a narrow littered street in the US, lined with stores named "Payal" , "Shalimar" and "Udipi Bhavan", I had Pav Bhaji in a small chaat place.

This time I chose Pav Bhaji because I thought Pav Bhaji was healthy, wholesome and NOT deep fried. I loved it enough to go back several times to have just Pav Bhaji with nary a glance towards the shammi kabab on the husband's plate.

I loved the buttery soft pav, the spicy bhaji with red onions, the pat of guilt butter. But never did I want to make Pav Bhaji at home, because I thought it was too much work. I thought you needed to chop at least ten vegetables and if I would/could chop ten vegetables for one single mashed up dish, even if it is India's most famous street food, I would...well...not be me.

I would buy a packet of Pav Bhaji Masala once in a while though, it felt like the right thing to do. This version of Pav Bhaji Masala in the pantry has been sitting there for the last six months now. It would have led a still longer, cozy, comfortable and relaxed life on the second row of the middle shelf if not for Nupur's Blog Bite #4.

So I took the Pav Bhaji Masala which by the way was Badshah and not the recommended Everest and declared that it better get to work and that in this hard time, its serene life was over. It would have to prove its worth in none other than Nupur's Pav Bhaji, who is a MarathiMaharashtrian and the recipe is her Aunt's who too is a MarathiMaharashtrian and the Pav Bhaji is Maharashtra's national dish, so it does not get more authentic than this.

Did I say, I loved the fact that Nupur did not use 10 different vegetables. Hallelujah.

The Pav Bhaji turned out to be an easy dish to make. It was pretty good given that I do not have much of a benchmark to compare. Like I have not had Sukh Sagar Pav Bhaji only backstreet US Pav Bhaji. Here I would also insist that if Nupur asks to use the Everest Pav Bhaji Masala, there is a reason she does that and so the Badshah (the one I had) will not deliver the same result.

I am going to make this next using Everest and I am sure that will give Sukh Sagar a run for its money. I am also going to get some of that soft Pav and indulge. I am going to take a vacation all by myself in Corfu, because I love Gerald Durrell and it will be very cheap. I am also going to fire everyone in BP.

For now I will send this to BB4:What's Lurking in the Kitchen ?


Original Recipe

Nupur's Pav Bhaji

Pressure cook half head of a cauliflower and 2 peeled and cubed potatoes till tender and set aside.

Heat 2tbsp oil in a deep saucepan and saute the 1 chopped green bell pepper chopped till it starts browning on the edges.

Add 1/2 tsp of ginger paste, 1/2 tsp of garlic paste and saute some more.

Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2-1 tsp of chili powder to taste and salt to taste. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Add 2-3 cups of tomato puree. I added 3 whole peeled and canned tomatoes along with their juice.

Next add 1/2 cup peas, boiled potatoes and cauliflower, 1 tbsp or more Everest pav bhaji masala and 1 tbsp butter.

Keep frying and mashing it together till it is a smooth mixture, adding water as required (you can use a potato masher to help you along). Simmer for 20-25 minutes to really get the flavors to meld together. I also added a little sugar because my tomatoes were really tangy

Nupur says "You have to keep tasting and adjusting salt, masala and tomato till you like the balance between the tomato-ey tang and the heat of the masala. " -- This is important

Garnish with chopped red onion, chopped corriander, a wedge of lime and a pat of butter. Serve with buttered pav.

Trivia: The origin of Pav Bhaji is traced to the heyday of the textile mills in Mumbai. The mill workers used to have lunch breaks too short for a full meal, and a light lunch was preferred to a heavy one, as the employees had to return to physical labor after lunch. A vendor created this dish using items or parts of other dishes available on the menu. Roti or rice was replaced with pav and the curries that usually go with Indian bread or rice were amalgamated into just one spicy concoction-the 'bhaji'. Initially, it remained the food of the mill-workers. With time the dish found its way into restaurants and spread over Central Mumbai and other parts of the city via the Udipi restaurants

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Quick Egg Pulao

If you have noticed I am on Twitter. But I don't Tweet all that much.

I want to. But I can't. Every morning I try to think something intelligent, or witty, or intelligent and witty, so that I can tweet it. But I can't. Nothing remotely clever pops up in my mind.

All I can think of is things like "I washed my hair today. It smells nice". But I don't tweet that. Why would anyone want to know, I think. Why, even the husband does not have time to stop and smell my hair, how can I expect 75 million Twitterers to be enlightened by that piece of news.

I can say how my morning was, how I drank my tea with two multigrain nabisco crackers, crackers because my stash of Marie and Parle G is depleted, depleted as in it is zero now. So until I go to the Indian Grocers and get my next supply of Britannia Marie and Parle G, I am stuck with multigrain crackers,which taste like cardboard but not as bad as cardboard, they are easily digestible, cardboard is not.

There, a vital piece of my personal life could be out there but twitter does not allow more than 140 characters. I am sure Twitter's founder Dorsey was scarred for life by a child like BS. You ask BS how her day was and you are stuck for the next hour, listening to how many times she scrubbed her hand with Purell in school.

"Keep it short", I tell her. "Give me the central idea", I say. "You will never be able to Tweet. People have no time these days to listen to long prattles. They spend it describing life in several 140 character snippets", I want to say.

LS, I think would make a good Tweeterer. Her sentences are short, 3 words at the most, rest is action, she can do video tweets.

So I thought I will ask a question instead, on tweeter and here. A simple 10 word question.

"Why does my rice tend to break in a Pulao?"

Why, even if the Pulao turns out tasting really good, some of the rice grains break. Why, my Dad asks, how I managed to break the rice grains as he thinks that is what made the Pulao tasty.

Is it something to do with the brand of rice I buy, for it is one of the cheaper ones. I think I have clinched a deal or something if I pick up a cheaper brand of rice, the kinds which say "Buy 1, get 2 free".

But if it is the brand, how come the grains remain perfect when my Mom makes a Pulao. I could ask her this question but I want to get as many opinions as possible. I also want to Tweet.

So please tell me here or on Twitter, "Why does my rice tend to break in a Pulao?"

After you are done, you won't have much time, so make this quick Egg Pulao, which is easy and totally delicious, broken rice or not. Kids will love this one, for once BS does. Ok, and she also makes a great Raita to go with it.


Quick Egg Pulao

Make a paste of

1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
1" peeled and chopped ginger
1/2 cup of corriander
8-10 mint leaves
Note: Add very little water while making this paste, maybe 1-2 tsp

Wash 2 & 1/2 cups of rice in several changes of water and spread out to dry. This is my Mom's tip, I usually have no patience to dry the rice. But she says that the rice needs to be dry else it will break.

Heat Oil + 1/2 tsp Ghee in a flat, heavy bottomed pan

Temper the oil with 4 cloves, 5 cardamom, 2" cinnamon stick and 2 small bay leaves

Add the paste you made and fry till the masala is cooked. Any excess water should be evaporated and there will be oil seeping out of the edges of the masala

Add 1 cup of chopped mixed vegetables. It can be beans, carrots, peas etc. I added 1 cup of frozen corn, carrots and peas. Fry the vegetables for 3-4 minutes.

Add 1 tsp of Corriander Powder, 1/2 tsp of Garam masala powder and fry for a minute or so

Add the rice and fry for the next couple of minutes

Add 41/2-5 cups of water for 2&1/2 cups of rice. Add salt to taste. Let the water come to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover and cook the rice.

While the rice is cooking boil 4 eggs in a separate pan. When eggs are boiled, cool and peel them. Cut egg in slices. Heat a little oil in a pan. Add 1/4 cup of chopped onions and fry till onion is brown. Add the egg slices, 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch, little salt and fry the egg slices for 2-3 minutes

Once the rice is done, add the fried egg mix on top and mix gently. Sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves and 1/2 tsp of Garam Masala powder. Cover and let it sit till you serve with a raita.

Similar Recipes:

Soy Peas Pulao

Soy Mushroom Pulao

Mint Rice -- Brown Rice

Daliya Pulao

Trivia: Here are some pictures from the book Hungry Planet, that I thought I would share with you. Click here to see What The World Eats.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Celery Chingri -- Celery with Shrimp

When I was a kid, I thought becoming an adult was the answer to all my woes. You could sleep in late, spend money to buy as many Archie comics as you could read not and you did not have to eat vegetables.

Little did I know what I was in for.

I mean being an adult is ok and everything but you never get to do the things you had imagined and you DO EAT vegetables. The worst part is you eat them even when no one is forcing you to and you even shop for them.

Take Celery. I never had tasted a celery until I started going to BS's pre-school kiddie birthday parties a couple of years ago. These would be at one jumping place or the other and kids would have pizza while all the parents were offered was carrot sticks and celery ribs with a veggie dip. I loved the dip, I thought the celery was an instrument to scoop up that delicious dip. To eat them was blah.

I would still get celery to put in a soup or something or to rot in the refrigerator until LS's Nanny last year said "Didi apnara celery'r tarkari khan na"(Didi don't you eat celery sabzi). She must have recognized me as the ideal candidate to go on a celery diet.

I got the celery and she made a dish, Celery Chingri, a sabzi with celery and shrimp. It really was good, way better than anything with celery could have tasted. Like it wasn't something to die for but it was decent and would make for a nice side dish and it had shrimps, so why complain.

At this point though, let me tell you, if celery is not a vegetable local to where you are, like if you are in Cambodia and you have never seen your Mom cook celery DO NOT go out and buy if it is overpriced. It is not worth it. In that case just eat the shrimp.

And what is the Paprika doing in the picture you might ask ? It is NOT in the dish, the dish has red chili Powder, no mild paprika. The Paprika is what a harassed BongMom gives to the toddler to distract, so that she can take a pic on an overloaded work night. The outcome is not good, the pic lighted with no fancy Lowell ego but plain-jane side table lamps does not exactly glamorize the celery and the paprika has been dumped on the beige carpet. If I never ever blog again you know why.

Entries for Of Chalks and ChopSticks is welcome until Friday June 10th, midnight simply because I have not posted my entry yet. Tee hee !! I am the Super Power at least this one time.


Celery Chingri -- Celery with Shrimp

The Shrimp

If using frozen shrimp defrost else clean and de-vein. Sprinkle with little salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for 10 minutes. I had about 10-12 shrimps

The Celery

Chop the celery in really small pieces. Smaller than what you see in the pic.

The Celery Shrimp Sabzi

Heat Olive Oil in a saute pan

Fry the shrimp and remove and keep aside. When the shrimps are cool to touch, chop them in small pieces and eat a few

Add little more oil to the same pan if needed. Temper with 1 tsp of Paanch Phoron or Kalonji. If you have none of these use Cumin Seeds

When the spices sputter and pop, add 1/2 up of chopped red onion and little more. Fry the onion with a sprinkle of sugar till onion is pinkish brown

Add 1 heaped tsp of garlic paste and fry for say 1/2 a minute

Add 1 potato chopped in small cubes. Add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and fry the potatoes till light yellow

Add 1 tsp of roasted corriander powder and 1/2 tsp of red chili Powder.With a sprinkle of water fry the masala along with the potatoes.

Add about 2 cups of celery very finely chopped and mix everything well. The celery should be chopped thinner than shown in pic. Add salt to taste and cover the saute pan, letting the celery cook. Every couple of minutes remove the cover and stir the vegetables until done.

Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. If needed add a tsp of Garam Masala.

Add the shrimp pieces, give a good mix and serve with dal and other dishes.

Vegetarian Option: Instead of shrimp add fried pieces of paneer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Begun Chirer Pulao -- Brinjal n Poha Pulao

I really don't love eggplants all that much. I like okra way better than eggplant. But you wouldn't know that. I have only one single okra post in all these years and several eggplant ones. In fact the frequency with which I am posting eggplant dishes you would think that is all we eat at home. But that is as far removed from the truth as is the earth from the moon or as is me from reality.

The reality is we do eat eggplants more than okra, for one it is easier to chop and cook and does well in mass production and everyone adores it. But not me or BS. I do not love eggplant more than okra. BS does not love anything but her little sis.

But this dish, the "Begun Chirer Pulao" is different. It is a very new thing, which I have never heard or had before. My Ma with her genius and her repertoire made this some weeks back. She says she got it from a book. Whoever was invited for lunch that day "oohed" and "aaahed" over it. The husband liked it a lot. In short this dish got so much recognition that every thing else paled in comparison. Now these are words I can rarely say about 90% of the other recipes I have posted in all these years.

So you see this is important. For one it is a very novel dish and Bengalis love novelty as long as it is not octopus in tamarind sauce. They love trying out new dishes if it is Bengali, Indo-Chinese, Thai, and maybe Moroccan, ok not Moroccan but might be. So because of the newness and the ease of cooking and the taste this dish is a big winner. I made it again over the weekend for some friends. Everyone suitably "oohed" and "aahed", and acted surprised, because who would have thought of cooking eggplant/brinjal with poha, really.


Begun Chirer Pulao -- Brinjal n Poha Pulao

Suggested Oil: Mustard Oil. If Not: Canola or Peanut Oil Never: Olive Oil

Serves 5-6 adults as a side dish

Chop 2 medium sized eggplants in thick slices. Soak in water with little salt for half an hour OR if you are running out of time just wash them well. Remove from water and sprinkle turmeric powder and salt on the slices and let them rest for 15-20 minutes.

Heat oil and deep fry the eggplant slices. They should be almost like 99.5% cooked at the end of this and taste totally yum with some dal and rice. But NO you cannot eat them because the universe is waiting for your Begun Pulao and you must give them that.

Now take 1 cup of Poha (or Beaten Rice) and fry them crisp in oil. IF you are not my Mom and you are like me and you like to pretend that you do not like deep frying toss the 1 cup of Poha with droplets of oil and arrange them in a single layer on a baking tray. Put in the oven at 350F till the poha turns crisp.

Heat some more oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Temper the oil with
1/4 tsp of Hing/Asafoetidia,
2-3 small Bay Leaves
and 5-6 small green Indian chili
that have been slit.

While the oil heats, in a bowl add 1/2 cup of thick yogurt and beat. To it add
2 tsp of ginger paste,
1/2 tsp of Kashmiri mirch,
1/2 tsp of Red Chili powder(optional),
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder,
a little sugar
and mix well.

Switch off the heat and wait for a minute. Add the yogurt to the pan and mix. Put it back on low heat after one more minute. When you see the oil seeping out of the side of the masala add about 1 cup of water. Add salt to taste and let the gravy come to a boil. Add the fried eggplants and mix gently so that the eggplants are well coated with the masala. Let it simmer till the gravy is thickened. Note: If you have a fear of yogurt curdling add a tsp of besan or gram flour to the yogurt and mix well so that there are no lumps. Now add everything else to the yogurt and add it to the pan

Add the fried/roasted crisp Poha and mix with the eggplants.

Sprinkle 1 tsp of Garam Masala powder on top and serve. Goes well with Rice or Roti. Tastes best when served in a couple of hours time or at least same day.