Monday, November 29, 2010

Kumro Seddho/Kumro Bhaate -- Mashed Butternut Squash

So here we are, back to hectic Monday, from a long luxurious weekend. My high point of last week was getting the Cuisinart Hand blender from CSN Stores.Yep, that is what I finally ordered, thanks for all your wonderful comments. I still have some left over points and have to finish them up by this month end. I am not going to get extra tall bar stools, but they are selling those if you like.

Now back to the weekend we were discussing. Hope you all had fun, cooking, cleaning and clearing up.


Me ? I really had fun. Not to make you jealous or anything but all I did this holiday was eat food cooked by friends and sit at the corner couch with my feet tucked beneath reading Judy Blume. Typical "lyad khaoa" as we call such relaxation in Bong lingo.

Of course it wasn't totally peaceful, because there is LS to account for. But she spent a lot of time with BS and our friend's daughter and didn't cause much harm except scribbling with a pencil on the walls of their new home. Now these friends are practically like family, so they didn't mind the graffiti and continued to feed us good food throughout.

I wouldn't have done that. Before LS came into our life, I was very particular about walls and such stuff. I would internally hyperventilate if a child so much as brought a crayon to my Western Flaxed wall. And then LS came and changed everything. In the scheme of things, Western Flax suddenly was not that important.

I didn't tell my friends that though. I mean here was this guy effortlessly making rosogolla from scratch, just to give us the fresh wonderful taste of warm soft rosogollas bobbing in light syrup and here was I doing nothing but sitting on the corner sofa and there was my little girl practicing "Sircol" on their fresh white walls. How could I tell them fresh white walls was not important ?

Apparently they knew.



Back home yesterday, I was not up to cooking much. It was D's dinner making day so I had to do something for lunch. While I cooked the chicken, I thought how exactly I should serve the Butternut Squash in the refrigerator.

I am not particularly fond of cutting and peeling B. Squash. I never said this, because I thought it was my personal problem. But it seems it is a global phenomenon(does 2 people make global ?) and peeling butternut's tough outer skin is not everybody's idea of fun.

I usually do Mandira's roasted butternut squash . That way, there is no peeling and it tastes good too. But the soul craved some sunny kumro bhaate or kumro sheddho with steaming rice.Yes, I could have hacked the squash in chunks, boiled them and then peeled the skin to make kumro sheddho. That would be normal but also b..o..r..ing.


So I hacked them, tossed them in olive oil, red chili pepper, roasted cumin powder, salt, little honey and roasted them as Mandira said. I kept the honey and spices low, 'coz ultimately I was going to mash it up and spike it up with mustard oil.

After it was done, I peeled the skin off. You could also scoop out the orange fleshy innards, that would be easier. It came off effortlessly like hair off my scalp. I then mashed the soft flesh. Added a tsp of mustard oil, 3 finely chopped green chili, sugar and salt to taste and lightly worked everything in.

It tasted delicious. Not exactly my kind of comfort food, but the kind of food I am at the right age to go back to seeking comfort.

For posterity's sake, BS loved this and asked for seconds.


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Kumro Seddho -- Mashed Butternut Squash

Cut a butternut squash vertically through the center. Scoop out the seeds. Now hack large chunks of it(same or larger than the ones in the picture).

Toss the chunks with
1 tbsp Olive Oil
a pinch of Dry Roasted Cumin Powder
1/4 tsp Red Chili Powder
salt to taste
1 tsp of honey

Preheat oven to 350F. Roast the squash in a single layer till you see squash is done and the skin is just starting to shrivel. Do not over roast it, because we are now going to mash it.
Note: With regular Indian pumpkin skip the roasting part and just boil, mash and season

When done, peel the skin off and scoop out the orange soft flesh in a wide mouthed bowl. Mash it, yeah, mash, mash.Add 2 tsp of Mustard Oil, 3 green chili finely chopped, a little sugar and salt to taste. If you like it hot, crumble two dry red chili pepper and add the flakes. Work everything in lightly with your fingers. Garnish with freshly chopped corriander leaves.

Serve with steaming white rice.

Note: If you want to skip the oven, you can boil the butternut squash on stove top till tender. You can also cook in the microwave for 10-12 minutes or until tender and fully cooked. Remember to cover and add a little water while cooking in the Microwave.
If you have a Pressure cooker, cook in the pressure cooker. It should be done in 5-6 minutes, I am thinking, check this.
In the MW or boiling method, the squash may become watery. So after mashing remove extra water and then add the seasonings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Alu Seddho/Alu Bhaate -- Thanks for Mashed Potatoes

This Thanksgiving I am really thankful that BS does not have a Thanksgiving Feast at school.


Now don't get me wrong. Usually I have no problem with them, the feasts that is. Actually I love feasts more when they are hosted by a third party.

In all her pre-school years, the teacher would put up a sign up sheet behind the door a week before the party and the parents would pick anything from that list to get for the feast. The school was paranoid about food allergy in a good way and no cooked food from home was ever allowed. The list was always always made up of boxed or packaged items, juice, fruits and paper products. The school supplied the rest.

Her school since last year is no less paranoid about food and does not even accept home baked cake etc. for birthdays.

So last year when her teacher sent home a list a week before Thanksgiving with a tick and my name against Mashed Potatoes, I was flummoxed. With despair I looked at the Paper Products, Table Cloth, Juice boxes, Apple slices all there on the list but nary a tick for me on any of them but Mashed Potatoes.

Why me ? I said silently and soon after I said 20 "Hail Marys". I mean shouldn't I be thankful that after all it was only mashed potatoes and not a whole stuffed turkey.


And what after all is Mashed Potatoes ? Nothing but what in Bengali we call Alu Seddho and what I ate for breakfast with rice and ghee for the first eight years of my life until the doctor intervened.

Alu Seddho or Alu Bhaate with a hint of mustard oil, finely chopped red onion and green chili, served with steaming rice, light masoor dal and a spoonful of flavorful ghee is after all every Bengalis comfort food. My Ma could make it with her eyes closed. Why, even my Dad could make it with his eyes open and that speaks volumes about the ease of the dish.If I had doubts about mashed potatoes I would be putting my Bong upbringing to shame.

So I said "Hah" and promptly forgot all about it.

However as the day dawned near I started having my doubts. Logical doubts based on real life. Doubts like would BS's classmate take to mustard oil like fish takes to water ? Was it ok to put finely chopped raw red onion in food served to 20 odd kids, half of whom probably had never seen an onion in life ? What if their parents sued me because the green chili was too hot or the mustard oil caused them to sneeze ?

So, I sent her teacher a mail asking what kind of Mashed Potatoes they preferred, Asian-Indian or American-Indian ?

The teacher said I need not worry too much and I could pick any American recipe.

So, of course I googled and each recipe of mashed potato looked worse than the other. I mean, milk, heavy cream and cream cheese in your mashed potato ? Why would you need two sticks of butter to make a potato taste good, hello, who set up that rule? What was I doing here, trying to teach kids spell O-B-E-S-I-T-Y?


Chop potato in quarters. Boil in pressure cooker or in an open pan. You can also microwave. When the potatoes are done, cool and peel the skin. Mash the potatoes with a masher or your hands. Add few drops of mustard oil, very finely chopped red onion, very finely chopped green chili, salt to taste. Work everything together. Make uneven, rustic looking balls and serve with steaming rice and ghee.

So, there I am again, e-mailing the teacher, asking which exact recipe she wanted me to follow.

Was Alton Brown's mashed potatoes with garlic good enough ? Did she want cream cheese or just milk and butter was fine ? What potatoes did she think would cut the deal, Russet or Yukon Gold ? How many times should I wash my hand and was Bath & Body Anti-bacterial better than Purell ?Did she even know how much a bag of Yukon Gold cost ? I mean, what is wrong with Idaho, I make Alu Seddho with Idaho and they are very good.

At this point I am sure the teacher must have hollered a few choice words at me in confinement of her school's staff room. In a very polite mail, she suggested I just buy mashed potatoes at the super market and send it to school.

Trust me, till that time the e-mail arrived I did not know that they sold mashed potatoes in the Super Market. Yes, mashed potatoes in a tub or in a box, microwaveable and ready to eat. I could see before my eyes, Manju'r ma, my Ma's house help, losing an opportunity to be the next Martha Stewart simply because she did not know to package and market alu seddho. My eyes welled up at the opportunity lost and I cried fat tears right there at one of the aisles in the frozen section of Shop Rite or was it Wegman's.

Ok, I actually cried because there were so much to choose from. I came home with tons of mashed potato boxes, some with sweet potatoes, some with garlic and chive, some plain, some organic, some in tubs while others in flat boxes. The hubby not trusting my choices had made his own detour and came home with boxes which had dehydrated mashed potato flakes. Where do they need that now ? NASA maybe ?

Our dinner table overflowed with boxes of mashed potatoes of all kinds. We finally narrowed down to the kind we thought would serve the school right it's purpose and returned the others. Some for which we lost the receipt stayed in the pantry for the next 6 months till expiration date. Some stayed in the freezer and my Mom made delicious Alu'r chop with them.

And BS claimed she loved mashed potatoes the way her Didun made.

This year I don't remember the exact brand which we had sent to school and I would have to start all over again. But the school authorities had enough of my mails last year and this year second graders are not having a Thanksgiving feast.

Honestly, it is not my fault.

*****************


Ok, and today, at around midnight, I baked this zebra cake from this wonderful blog. The midnight part is not as important as the "I baked" part. It was an easy cake to bake and was quiet good to eat too. I found it a little less sweet for the kids liking so next time I am going to up the sugar. For now I did a cream cheese and chocolate frosting to enhance the sweetness.

Happy ThanksGiving folks, if you are celebrating. If not, just be thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dhonepata Maach -- Fish in a cilantro sauce


My two girls being different in a lot of aspects are uncannily similar and I am not including points about both being of the same gender here. For one they are both House Devils and Outside Angels. In case of LS, "Outside" means other people's homes and excludes public places like library, stores, mall etc.

But the charm of hearing "How well behaved your kids are", have worn off me.I would rather they jump on the neighbor's couch than mine and beat up snotty down the road than share my idli stand with him. I don't see that happening though. Even LS who screams if BS so much as touches her bagel, will politely give up her toys in face of a stranger who is not a house resident. And I did not even teach her to share !!!


Now to the fish. This recipe is my friend S's, the one who is the diva of fish fries and all such things. Have I told you she is an amazing cook ? Ok, I have.

But have I told you that she might be THE reason for me to eventually shut down this blog ? No, I haven't ? Well, I just did. I mean I didn't shut the blog, but if I ever did She(S) is to blame.

Every time I am at a dinner at her place, I want to come home and forget my password for Blogger. I mean there she is, cooking up a storm for 30 odd people, each dish perfect and delicious, the presentation beautiful and the best is, every time she has something new to offer, a slight twist on similar Bengali dishes  and here am I who gets the hibbie-jibbies at the very though of cooking for 30 people !!!

S is also very nice about sharing her recipes. She doesn't have intentions of filing a patent on them and her recipes are totally open source. She will share them with all her tips unlike some people who guard recipes like the state secret.

So last week at the dinner she hosted, she had made an amazing green fish/fish in cilantro sauce/dhone pata maach. It was very unlike anything I had ever had. It is another story, that "that evening" was unlike any I had ever had, what with the hostess accidentally cutting her hand and being rushed to the emergency for stitches and the kitchen looking like a murder scene with blood and shards of glass everywhere. But we Bongs are shameless folks, so while S was in ER we ate her awesome fish, bhapa chingri, biryani, fulkopi et al and discussed her awful accident.

Yesterday while discussing her eight stitches, she revealed the secret of her fish. I wanted to try it right then, but I did not have half her ingredients. So I improvised. The result was good but not as good as hers.

Maybe it is time for me to make the last call.

1. S said, we need Shaan Fish Seasoning. I had none and no way was I going to buy a box for one dinner for two of us . The ingredients on the Shaan Spice box said:mace, clove, cardamom, green mango powder, fenugreek leaves and what not. I mixed 1/4 tsp Garam Masala + 1/4 tsp Kasoori Methi + 1/4 tsp Corriander Powder + little Amchoor to make my own seasoning.

2. S said to use a little of MDH dried Mint. Again I gave this a skip.

3. S said to fry the fish, I baked them. S said to use a little ajwain, instead I used Methi/Fenugreek seeds and Big Brown Elaichi/Cardamom.

As a result my dish wasn't exactly like hers. But still I am writing it down both with her and my versions so that I NEVER forget her version which I intend to do soon.


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Dhonepata maach -- Fish in Cilantro Sauce

Serves 2 adults and 1 kid. 2 fillet of Tilapia cut in cubes were used.

Grind together
1 cup of chopped fresh corriander leaves
1/2 cup of thick yogurt
2-3 fat cloves of garlic
1" ginger
4 green chili
to a smooth paste
Note: S used a little dry mint in this paste.

Cut the fish fillet in 2" cubes. S used a fish called Swahi, I did Tilapia. A firm fish with no strong flavor works well

Smear the fish with turmeric and salt and keep aside for 15-20 mins. Pan Fry the fish pieces till they are light golden on both sides. I baked them at 350 for 20 mins and then on broil for last 5 mins.

Heat White Oil in a saucier/kadhai. Add 1 cup of chopped red onion. Fry the onion till it browns on the edges. Cool and make a paste. I don't remember if she asked to use Tomato.

Season the oil with 5-6 methi seeds and two large cardamom. S did not use methi or cardamom, remember she had Shan. When the methi seeds sputter, add the onion paste. Fry for half a minute. Then add the corriander-yogurt paste. At low heat fry the masala till you see there is no excess water and oil seeps out from the edges. You need to cook the masala really well, you will no when it is drier than what you started with and there is oil around the edges.

Now add about 1 tsp of Shaan Fish Seasoning. I did not have this, so I added my spice mix of 1/4 tsp Garam Masala + 1/4 tsp Kasoori Methi + 1/4 tsp dry roasted Corriander Powder + little Amchoor . With a sprinkle of water fry the masala for a minute. Make Garam Masala like this.

Now add 1 cup of water. Add salt to taste. Let the gravy simmer at medium heat. Adjust and check for seasonings. I think I added a little sugar at this point.

Gently slide the fish pieces into the gravy. let it simmer for 2-3 minutes till gravy thickens. Switch off and transfer to serving dish.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Befriending Sarson da Saag


Sarson da Saag | Sarson saag | Mustard Greens


Unfriend -- a new word though trust Blogger to still thinks otherwise. Heard it on NPR day before and I was surprised, so "unfriending" was not a word all these days. How else could you explain the ebbing away of the people you once knew ? It is true I have not really "unfriended" people formally for ages. People just flow in and out of my life, some without even a formal good bye, they move away, I lose interest and one fine morning I ask D, "You remember T, she used to make such lovely shorshe chingri, heard they moved to a new home, its been years that we have talked to them". I don't make an effort to befriend T again, I have moved away, even if I call there won't be much to talk about so I don't. But I haven't "unfriended" her, if I ever refer to her shorshe salmon to new acquaintances I still say "I had a friend T".

My daughter and my neighbor's daughter "unfriend" each other almost every day. Every afternoon I hear "N says she is not my friend any more". There is hurt in that voice, the pain of rejection.Before, that pain used to hurt me, I used to reassure her "It is ok, you can make other friends". Now I know to ignore, almost every evening they get together and play again. I am not sure how the "befriending" happens, they don't lock their thumbs, they don't do anything, they just become friends.

This post reminded me of my childhood, those days of "aari" and "bhaab". The little girls holding up their cute pinkies and declaring a somber "katti". An hour or so of not talking to each other, not making eye contacts and then everything forgotten as thumbs were locked into "bhaab". If things were really rough, there was even a poem, a very humiliating one, to end it all.

Aaari, aari, aari
Kal jabo Bari (Tomorrow I shall go home)
Porshu jabo Ghor (The day after I shall be with my family)
Hanuman er lyaj dhore tana tani kor (Meanwhile you while away your time pulling a monkeys tail)

That is how we did it then, formally with decorum.

How do you "unfriend" for that matter, now that you have been reminded you can ? Do you just bump people off your contact list and send them a "unfriendly" message ? Soon will you also "unfollow" on Twitter ?

I befriended "Sarson Saag" very recently.


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Strange as it may sound, I never had it back in India. The famous Makki di Roti and Sarson di Saag never enticed me enough. Recently Baby A's nanny, M Didi, suggested that we get "shorshe shaak" or mustard greens and she would cook it for us. We never saw Mustard Green at the Indian Grocer's and then one day she pointed out to broccoli rabe at the Farmers Market and declared it to be "shorshe shaak". So that is how Broccoli rabe was re-christened as sarson saag at our home and later as I learned in many Indian homes across USA.

Her preparation of the greens were ok, nothing to be talked home about. And then one of my colleagues who is a Punju shared his lunch of sarson di saag with me. The greens were delightful, creamy and delicious. A call to his wife later, I got the following recipe. I have tried it only once since and have not measured the ingredients, follow your instinct and you will do fine.

Sarson Ka Saag


Wash the greens well.

Cook in pressure cooker one part broccoli rabbe (or mustard greens) with 2 part spinach, a little salt and a couple of green chilis for 15-20 minutes

Take the greens out, add a little chickpea flour to them and make a smooth pulp or kind of paste out of them. I did a coarse puree but technically you are not supposed to use any electronic gadget.

Heat Oil in a saute pan/Kadhai

Add minced garlic or garlic paste

Add a good amount of finely chopped onion and fry till onion turns reddish brown

Add a little turmeric, red chili powder, and pureed tomato

Fry till you see oil seeping out from the masala

Add the greens, salt to taste and cook till there is a little oil coming out from the side of the greens

Serve with butter or a dollop of yogurt as I did

Enjoy with Makki di Roti, Chapati, whole wheat bread or just by itself

Note: I felt some paneer in that saag would have been just wonderful



Trivia: In north India and Pakistan sarson is more intimately entwined with village life. Sarson is a surprisingly resilient plant that resists infestation and is not easily affected by adverse weather. It is, therefore, eminently suitable to an unsophisticated rural economy. Wide fields of blooming yellow mustard, the sarson ki khet is a popular shoot location for Bollywood romances.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup -- spiced up


"Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

Who in the frickin blue blistering barnacles drafted this thing ? It is so dang complicated, I don't even have something concrete to base my argument upon.
Who brought on this topic about gender equality and equal opportunity ?

Yeah, please Sir/Ma'm,  I want some amendments.

All that equal opportunity has done for me is to make me work outside the home, inside the home, in the periphery of home and everywhere foreseeable. I have been given enough opportunity to work. Thank you.

Now I want the finer points ironed out. Like who gets the opportunity to fold the laundry or say pack lunch or plan dinner every night ? Whose fundamental freedom is it to watch Hulu while the kids are being taken care of ? Who gets the opportunity to be depressed when the baby says "Mummy four o clock e asbe" every single day ? Who has the exclusive rights to check and sign homework every night ? Who gets the "once in a lifetime" opportunity  to research & pick the nearest, cheapest Taekwondo center/Gymboree/Swim Class/some class in town ?

If in simple English, maybe bullet points, someone could take care of these, and in printed letters put it to UN or where ever you do such stuff, I would be ever obliged.

Ok, I am having had a bad day, so what ?

* The UN has intervened since this was drafted (on Monday) and some sort of a treaty has been reached but I want a signed official document.


Fall is practically Winter to my tropical soul, the kind of Winters I like, mild, pleasant with the sun on your back, and cold enough to bring out the woolens. But it getting colder and windier and a sweater is not enough.

Everyday that my Dad calls he asks, whether we need a jacket outside. "Yes, we do", BS says. My Dad sighs and grumbles about how difficult the cold must be for the kids. They don't mind all that much, except for the winter jacket. Yeah they don't like winter jackets and we are not yet discussing mittens and scarves.


A bowl of warm soup with the colorful winter vegetables warms up the heart though. It is a perfect way to welcome the cold.With some bread brushed with olive oil this made a lovely Sunday night dinner, a calm end to an otherwise hectic weekend. BS loved it and had two small bowls, though LS insisted that "Ami soup khai na"(I don't drink soup).

I don't know where or how I came up with this soup. It all started off with the lone sweet potato and then I was inspired by my previous Moroccan Lentil Soup.


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Serves 4, measurements are eyeballed

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Peel and roughly chop 1 sweet potato, 1 small-ish beet root and half of an yellow squash, ok any squash, ok, ok no squash

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange flat on a baking tray and bake at 400F for 30 minutes till you see the veggies shrivel a little.. These are my small toaster oven settings

Heat Olive Oil in a deep stock pot

Add half a cup of chopped onion. Saute till onions are soft and translucent.

Add 2 tsp of fresh ginger-garlic paste and fry for half a minute. Add one small peeled tomato along with some juice. I used canned else chop one small.

Add 1/2 cup of chopped baby carrots(or regular). Cook till carrots are soft.

Add the roasted vegetables. Wash and add about 1/3 cup of Red lentils

In a skillet dry roast 1-2 tsp of cumin and then grind to a fine powder. I usually do a whole batch of this and store it in an air tight jar. Add 1 heaped tsp of roasted cumin powder and 1/2 tsp of dry ginger powder to the stock pot. Add a dash of adobo chile powder(optional). Ok, honestly you do not need adobo chile powder. What does adobo have to do with this soup anyway. It is just that I have a bottle of it and wanted to use it 'coz it sounds nice. No pressure.
Give everything a good stir and saute for a minute or two.

Add enough water and salt to taste.Cover and cook till lentils and vegetables are done. Squeeze a little lime juice and adjust seasonings to taste.

Puree with an immersion blender. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

Serve with some crusty bread or enjoy a warm bowl by itself.

More Heart Warming Soups:

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup

Healthy Moong Bean Soup

Thai Vegetable Soup

Salsa Soup

Moroccan Lentil and Carrot soup

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rosogollar Payesh -- the shortest cut


If you have known me for the last four years of my blogging, you must have realized by now that I am not-really "a-from-scratch" kind of person and take shortcuts if there is one. I mean I will not take a detour and heat frozen dinners when I cook for the kids or when I try to pack a healthy lunch or put dinner on the table but I will take a jump over the stream if there is one.

Like I mostly buy organic baby carrots instead of the regular sized ones which demands peeling and then chopping. I tend towards buying canned beans instead of the dry which needs pre-soaking. I will invariably lean to buy a box of clean baby spinach instead of the fresh green large leafed bunch. I will tend to over sleep and avoid the "what to have for Saturday b'fast" routine.

Ok, as I write, it dawns on me that the above points more towards me being lazy than anything else. So we won't discuss it any more. Period.

But I must admit that blogging has improved me a lot and I now no longer use off the shelf masala except for Pav Bhaji Masala, Deggi Mirch, Kashmiri Mirch, Kitchen king, Amchoor,...., ok that is getting long. But hey, I am not buying Garam Masala and making Biryani Masala from scratch. That counts.

And what about Ghee ? Come on, I make Ghee. So what if it is from sticks of store bought butter and made only quarterly and everyone except the baby is shunned from eating it to make it last longer.

I also try to bake totally from scratch now, with flour and eggs and frozen butter which never ever is at room temperature. Sometimes I just want to take a box of Betty Crocker and bake one of those totally delicious cakes with minimum effort and say "Ta-da". The family actually loved those more than what I spawn out now and I know they would be eternally grateful if I went back to Betty. But I have a blog where such stuff is looked down upon and I need to live up or down to it.

But even I have to draw a line somewhere.


And you all know that I am "oh so busy" .That I don't even have time to gulp my tea back from work. Yeah, tea is important, much more than ghee.That I volunteer as a chauffeur 3 nights a week and then a tutor , a washing lady, a very uninterested game player, a lousy story teller, a cook and odd job doer.

Those are fun jobs and I am really glad I have them. So as long as I have them, I am not buying me a cow, milking it, making paneer out of it and making my own rasgulla. No siree, no rosogolla from scratch. One fine day I might or not, we shall see. Honestly, even without any of those extra jobs I doubt my finesse and expertise in making things like rasgulla. So I will just open a can of syrupy rasgullas and make a Rosogollar Payesh as I have always done.

This I made not for Diwali but for Bhai Phota or Bhai Duj which comes two days after. My little girls have littler brothers to give phota and we try to celebrate this occasion every year. Not that the little ones are interested in such Rosgollar payesh, they would rather have cake or a lollipop as is the case for LS.

But Bengalis have a tradition of making Payesh on important occasions, kind of like Turkey on Thanksgiving.Only for Bongs, the occasion arises 1 x n times every year. Do I thank my stars that the Bong fore fathers chose Payesh and not Turkey...pheww.

This Rosogollar Payesh is one easy dessert to make and can be made couple of days ahead. It is best when served chilled and also thickens when a day old, a fact I adore.


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Rosogollar Payesh

In a deep thick bottomed pan add
1 can of evaporated milk
2-2&1/2 can of Whole Milk(use same can as Evaporated milk to measure)

Bring the above to a boil. Be careful so that it doesn't spill over.

Now add 1/2 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk to above and mix well. You can use sugar instead of C. Milk. Also depending on your sweet tooth, increase/decrease amount of C. Milk.

Add some ground cardamom.

Keep stirring at medium heat for 30-35 minutes till the milk thickens. You need to stir frequently or the milk tends to scald the bottom of the pan.

When the milk is at a consistency where it is pourable but thicker than what you started with, add a few drops of rose water and a generous pinch of saffron. Give a stir and switch off heat.

Meanwhile open a can of rasgulla/rosogolla. I had KC Das, you can use Haldiram or any good brand. Pick a rosgolla from the can using a spoon or your thumb and forefinger, give it a light squeeze to get little of the syrup out. In a serving bowl, arrange the rasgulla/rosgolla. I had about 15-18 rasgullas. Pour the warm thickened milk over the rasgullas so that the balls are soaked in milky goodness.Note: If your rasgullas are super sized, halve them, it is best to get a can of standard sized rasgullas though.

Alternately add the rasgulla/roshogolla to the pan of milk and simmer for about 30secs to a minute. This makes the rasgulla softer even with less time for soaking.

For a non-messy tip of squeezing rasgulla check Nupur's version of Rasmalai.

Chill and serve.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phuchka, Egg-Chicken roll, Jhaal Muri and...

On my recent trip to the mater land, I had lofty intentions to make "eating food", especially street food my priority.

Yeah, 2 weeks of binging on street food on the streets of Kolkata was going to be my motto.I had decided. And then I would click enough pictures to last me an year of blog post. I dreamed.

That way I could still have a food blog and not cook. I was elated.

And then some publisher would come across my wonderful blog posts and commission me for a book, a nice glossy book, and then I could chuck my job and start my very own telebhajar ar cha er dokan (tea stall) by NH 34 or NJTPK if you prefer. I was on cloud nine.

But things did not exactly happen as planned. It never does. Not complaining.

I ate a lot, but not exactly street food.The Ma, the Ma-in-law, the aunts and similar characters thought it necessary to feed us delicious, home cooked meals, by the bushels every few hours. While my agenda said I should eat greasy shingara from Mahaprabhu down the road, early morning my Ma got up and made singara from scratch. There is little you can do on the face of such maternal super power.

And thus it went, 3 kinds of fish for lunch, mutton for dinner, long forgotten vegetables like mocha and thor, fried luchi or kochuri for breakfast, narkel narus to stuff your face with. I managed to do my best in spite of this. Aided with dependal, metronidiazole and other such serious sounding stuff I had limited amount of roll, phuchka, jhaal muri, alur chop and such. My pics were taken hastily and I didn't dare take out my DSLR , at any of these places in the fear of being shunned and ridiculed.

But I can't resist sharing with you some of the delicious stuff along the roads of Bengal.


Phuchka, the life line of most female Bongs who have come of age. While gushing about Phuchka to my non-Bong friends and colleagues , I would refer to it as Pani Puri or Golgappa. But that, it is not. Phuchka is well...phuchka. You stand in a circle around the phuchkawala, the shalpata bowl in your hand, you lean forward a little and pop that brittle pale brown ball into your mouth and it goes "phichik", the light sour tamarind water bursts into your mouth giving way to the mashed potatoes, spiced with green chili, cumin powder and red chili powder. Fireworks explode and honestly this is the closest I have experienced to what a M&B heroine would have in a totally different scenario.

And D, you need not worry, I just love food too much.



Phuchkas, I found have become very expensive though. "Paanch takay Paanch ta"(5 for 5), the guy told me. Even then, I did not haggle or ask for a fau( a free phuchka without the tangy water), a typical criteria when ordering phuchka. I ate only 2, in the fear of my dying of cholera and then I moaned my impending phuchka less old age.


Then there is the egg roll or still better the egg chicken roll. I cannot get enough of this but could only manage two rolls during the stay. The very thought that I could not visit Hot Kathi makes me want to take the next flight back.


But the rolls at my para( the neighborhood) almost made up for it.The paratha was soft and flaky, the chicken pieces tender and the spices just right without an overdose of ketchup.The chopped onions extracted from the dungeon below with a squirt of lime added just the right crunch.


And the sauce in that Maggi bottle is not Maggi, it is some amazing tomato thing which my dad insists does not even have tomatoes.


If you can close your eyes and not think of this man perspiring in the hot, humid atmosphere, you will eat only egg roll from the street all your life.


Then there is the Masla Muri or Jhaal Muri as I prefer to call it. This amazingly simple and tasty commodity is not available in all corners of Kolkata any more. The lanes, by lanes and  Shoshtitala'r mor is now overtaken by garish yellow carts selling Bollywood Bhel Puri. Now Bhel Puri is NOT Jhal Muri, though both have muri/puffed rice as the base. Bhel Puri is wet, doused with a wet chutney and needs to be eaten with a wooden ice cream spoon at Chowpatty. Jhaal Muri is dry, can be eaten directly out of the paper bag or using your fingers in Kolkata.

To eat Jhaal Muri you need to travel, slow.You have to take a bus or a passenger train rushing through the green paddy fields and potholed roads to the far suburbs.A commute where time is not really an important factor. It is only to be whiled away and there is nothing better than Jhal Muri to aid you in that process.

The jhal muri guy at the bus terminal or station just tosses some muri/puffed rice with a sprinkle of some suspicious oil, finely chopped onion, green chili, roasted peanuts, a handful of bhujia and a pinch of dry masala powder. I never ask the other stuff like chana etc. in my jhaal muri but you can if you want. He then shakes the mix in the tin can.Poured into a small paper bag made of yesterday's news with a sliver of coconut balanced on the top, you have your fuel for the journey. 

I also ate alu'r chop and singara sold just behind this Jhal Muri wala along the highway.


Tha nimki, gaja and Jalebi stall outside the Puja Pandals.


And when the tummy protested with all that eating, daab er jol aka coconut water came to the rescue.

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BS however insisted on having nuggets and fries at the McDonald. Sighhhhh.....

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy Deepavali, the Winner and Forgotten Food


It seems every week I surface only to wish someone something. This week I holler Happy Deepavali.

Life has been extremely busy since we got back.The littlest one has a new fresh bout of separation anxiety which makes it extremely difficult for me to rush out to work, to cook, take a shower. Yes, I haven't taken a shower for the last 3 days. Ok, scratch that. It is not entirely true.

Once home all my time is for the girls until after 9. And while before I would sit down after that to do anything blog related, now I just huddle with the Bangla books I got back from my recent visit. There is a sinful pleasure in huddling on the corner couch with a book on a winter night while flames dance in the fireplace. The guilt of not cooking, not making anything special for Diwali slithers in the shadow and I bravely ignore it. There is a whole lot of pleasure in not cooking for Diwali as long as you can scavenge goodies to eat, trust me.


Choddo Prodip(14 candles) to be lit on the day before Kali Pujo on Choti Diwali

Occasionally I look through the comments on my last post, the beautiful comments on forgotten food. Thanks Everyone, those comments were the most beautiful words on food I have ever read.

It seems it is not always about the food, it is about that exact person who made it, the memory we carry with it. That was the recurrent theme in most of the forgotten food that readers mentioned.

Brat Payal talks about, "Dadi's aloo chips and aloo papads and sweet whole aamla achar!!  She would slice the potatoes up patiently and meticulously, sun dry them in the verandah, we were incharge of manning the drying chips and papadums...shooing the drooling birds and turning the chips over...one by one! I miss miss those...can we bring back the unforgotten human behind these forgotten dishes...:)"

Really, would it be the same if you slogged and made them instead of Dadi, maybe not.

Sonal's Aaji made home made Supari,  "As a child I remember every summer Aaji would make a huge trip to a specific store to purchase ingredients like betel nut, aniseed, dried ginger, licorice, rock sugar and many many exotic spices. These would be sun dried for a few days on our terrace and then crushed on an iron khalbatta(mortar & pestle) by one of her trusted aides. The final SUPARI would be bottled in glass jars and distributed to family members near and far away. You never left home without a jar of Aaji's famous SUPARI. It was like a good luck charm from her……"

Sometimes a food is forgotten because it is easier to lament about it than cook and serve it. How much effort is not too much effort to re-create such a dish ?

Eves Lung mentions "Chapor Ghonto" -- made with chholar daal bora , thhor ( the stalk of the banana plant ) and assorted veggies like brinjals,potol,etc with a phoron of with methi , red chillies ,randhuni and ginger paste .And a small bay leaf. 

On my recent visit I ate lot of the Bengali foods that is never cooked at my home. It is not that I have forgotten them, it is just that I have never taken the pain to know how to make them, it takes too much of an effort and they don't get made. This time my Ma and Ma-in-law made Mochar Ghonto, Thor, Chapri diye Mocha, Taal er Bora, Dhokar Dalna and what not. No, whatnot is not a dish.They made it with an ease I can never muster. I don't think I will ever make Mochar Ghonto or Taal er bora at home. Naaah, too much effort I will say. And thus slowly, gradually such food will be forgotten by the next generation or the next.

As Manasi says Puran Poli, "This is not forgotten, but never made at home because it is time consuming and so I'd like to bring back Puran Poli ( I have learnt it, but not perfected)just the way my grandmother used to make"

At times a food is forgotten because it is too simple. The sabzi that your Ma made with Roti everyday, the jhol that you loved to hate and sweared never to cook as an adult. This is the easiest category to bring back.


Satrupa talks about "Santula" -- "There is nothing fancy about this dish and may be that's the reason I happily forgot it.Vegetables are cooked with little water, salt and turmeric powder in a pressure cooker. Then it is seasoned with panch phoran and garlic. It is an everyday diet and we usually we have it with roti. But now I would luv having it any day ..."

Maninas talks about "Fried Bread Dough", "Which food would I like back in my family? My mum used to fry some bread dough in oil (looking a little like naan), which we had with sugar, or jam, or some savouries. It was delish!"


And now about the Give Away. I picked up a random winner using the Random Number Generator at Random.org .

Drumrolls for the winner is Indosungod. Indo, Please send me a mail with your choice and I will have it shipped.

Because it is Diwali, I decided to give one more gift of $10 Amazon gift card. And this time the winner picked up was Shruti who said "mocha'r ghonto". I am not sure if Shruti blogs. Shruti send me a mail at sandeepa( dot )blog(at)gmail(dot)com and I will send you the gift card.

Related Posts:

To read more on forgotten food go through the wonderful comments of this post.

Check out specialty food items at Food Spring