Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chalks and Chopsticks -- Roundup

At last it is here. The Chalks and Chopsticks round up that you all probably waited for and then politely gave up.

I will not bore you with lame excuses and sheer tales of my laziness; instead dig in and start on a wonderful journey of food and tales. If I have missed anyone's entry please do let me know and pardon my incompetence.

Next edition is at Jaya's. Hop over to see the rules she has for you.

"‘Vivek took permission from my hostel warden and would come to teach me English as well as the other subjects. He was doing his engineering those days and we would sit in the common room. I was comfortable being taught by him. His only demand was that I served him omelettes and tea."
"Omlette" -- by Bhagyashri who blogs at Searching Self

"With a sigh, Sunanda picked up the now empty cup and froze.
The bright, dark circle of soy stared up at her from the
lovely face of Gauhar Jaan*.
Sunanda gave a small sigh and closed her eyes in silent resignation."
"Hot & Sour Vegetable Soup for 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks'" -- Sharmila who blogs at KichuKhon

"Office theke phire ese chabi ghuriye ghore dhuke, juto chhNuRe khule, kobjike ghoRir fNaas-mukto kore, gaa dhuye, rannaghore giye burner jwalai. jol fote. Miss Marple-er boite lekha achhe, rolling boil howa chai. apekkha kori. aaNjla kore cha pata dhali. Second-er kNata 3 baar ghoRi prodokkhiN kore asa matro sada cup-e chhNaknir gaa chNuiye sonali srot naame. ami se sroter theke chokh pherate parina."
"Kintu sobar chaite bhalo" -- by Kuntala who blogs at Abantor Prolap . Kuntala blogs in Bengali but her story was so apt for the theme this month that I requested her entry.

"In the here and now, it’s another coast, another pot of tea. Shrugging at the undissolved sugar in the first attempt, one turns to a potpourri of mild spices – cinnamon and star anise – and the tang of lemons, to add a kick to the warm and properly sweetened new brew."
"Citrusy Sweet Tea, Y'all!" -- by R&R who blog at Tadka Pasta

"The mugs had held fond fancies, but she had squashed them with her penchant for practicality. Didn’t find a glass to mix her smelly Ayurvedic medicines in? Resort to the mugs. Didn’t find another mug to bake her one-minute microwave chocolate cake in? Use these....In her case, a one-pot meal involved putting a few tablespoons of rice into dal or curry heated in the mug and eaten with a long-stemmed spoon in front of the TV. Constipated? Drink mugs and mugs of hot water, alternating between the two. "
My Mug Shot and Masala Chai -- by Sra who blogs at When My Soup Came Alive

"She woke up when Ma's alarm went off but stayed still and pretended to be asleep. As soon as the toilet door closed behind Ma, she jumped from her bed, ran to the kitchen , took a small bowl, poured out some tea, drank it steaming hot (sieving the leaves with her teeth), washed the bowl, placed it back on the utensils rack, ran back to the bed and just pretended to be asleep again. Yes, in four minutes."
Tea-her first love ---by DR who blogs at The gift of Life

"After dinner, the kids were in their rooms, she and Saurabh sat on the sofa reading and quietly sipping their cups of satisfying cocoa. This was their late evening ritual for over a decade, it always allowed them to catch up together no matter how busy the day was. Today she looked troubled until her husband interrupted her thoughts by quietly saying, “She needs to find herself a little, it will happen. I know an accomplished musician who at her age wanted to spend her life behind closed doors, locked away from the world”."
The Cup Of Solace -- by Rinku who blogs at Cooking in WestChester

"Gradually, it became a routine for both the two ladies to sip their morning cup of tea in their respective balconies around the same time and chitchat. They both used to look forward to their "Me Time" together in midst of clear skies, piping hot cups of tea and lovely conversations. On days when the weather would be cold or windy or it would rain heavily, they would sit sipping their respective ginger teas and wave to each other and share a smile or laugh.
Both were totally addicted to their morning teas. "
Just One Cup Of Tea -- by Rujuta who blogs at the World According to Rujuta

"Another love of his was coffee. He would often tell Aarti that his life would have been an utter waste had he never tasted this enchanted drink. He loved to pour the decoction into his favourite white ceramic glass with a floral print on it. He would add an extra spoon of sugar and sip it away making a *sluuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrp* sound. He seemed to enter a transcended state, whenever he sipped from that cup. It looked like he was sipping from an eternal cup of bliss. That would irritate Aarti. Aarti hated coffee. She was more of a tea person. "
Eternal Cup of Bliss -- by Deepthi from Topsy Turvy Life

"It was still dark outside as Naina strained the two cups of tea and walked towards the picture window. She loved this time of the day, sitting by the window, reading a book and sipping her cup of tea. It was calm and peaceful, no jarring sounds of the television and no hustle bustle of daily chores. There was hardly anyone on the sidewalk except an occasional runner jogging past or an early riser walking the dogs."
To Stalk a Brinji -- by Jaya who blogs at DesiSoccerMom

"By the time she returned to her rocking chair with the coffee, the wind had picked up, bringing with it the earthy smell of wet mud. On the terrace below her apartment, she spotted Mrs. Joshi collect the papads she had left out in the sun. In the balcony opposite her window, she saw the maid hurriedly gather the clothes left to dry out on the clothes line. The people on the streets too were casting anxious glances toward the rapidly darkening sky and hurrying along. "
Indian Espresso Coffee -- by Aqua who blogs at Served with Love

"I remembered the baby eggplants I had purchased the previous day at the market. They looked so fresh and cute that, I could not ignore their baby voices crying ‘buy me please!’ So, what could I make with them? Yessss, Gutti Vankaya - a traditional Andhra Pradesh recipe for stuffed eggplant (or brinjal as it is called or even aubergine) fry."
Eggplant -- by Knot2Share who blogs at A Space to be Me

"The Chinese Breakfast.

Okay, so I was hungry. Thanks to the gastronomical disaster, which was my cousin's five-year anniversary lunch yesterday, I was terribly heartsick about any "bangalibarir dupurer nemontonno"{non-bongs, read luncheon to celebrate aforementioned anniversary} and decided to not eat anything, just to get rid of the taste of stale Fish Tandoori from my mouth."
Panu and the Earlymorning Foodpost -- by Panu who blogs at Presented by P

"The only time she softened was when Manju took out the coffee mugs, the ones with pictures of two little girls smiling out of the cup, hair blowing in the wind and something written in English all around. They were Mashima's grand daughters. Every New Year, Mashima's son would send a coffee mug neatly snuggled in bubble wrap and ensconced in a colorful box. And every year the mug had a picture of the girls in different stages of their life."
For a Cup of Tea -- by BongMom who blogs at Bong Mom's CookBook

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Vegetable Chop or Bhejetebil Chop


Vegetable Chop or Bhejtebil Chop(sic!) is another popular snack from streets of Kolkata

My Mother having grown up in the mofussils, where everything from rosogolla to chingri'r chop(shrimp cutlet) was made at home, had an uncanny fear of Kolkata street food. Actually any street food.

All through the 80's, she stymied my attempts at street food with a vengeance that matched a NRI mother who washes her hands with Bisleri and rubs Purell before a meal at Flury's. She thought anything cooked and served along the streets could bring nothing but cholera, jaundice and disaster. My school days were thus spent, longingly watching the alu-tikki and chole chaatwala serving myriad of school girls in badly washed steel plates. All I was allowed to buy, once a month, was a packet of spiced up potato chips in a transparent plastic packet or a bar of Golden ice cream from the yellow ice cream cart.

It was her good fortune that we did not live in Kolkata or its suburbs where phuchka and telebhaja(fried stuff) by the road side was easier to find than a S23( a bus) in service. On our annual visits to my Dida's home in Kolkata, my Ma would ease a little and allow an alur chop here and a phuchka there. Those brief sojourns were so rare that the taste of those treats ached my memory until we came back to visit Dida next year.


My Ma however compensated for this behavior of hers by cooking a lot of those things which we were denied outside at home. She would make shingara, dim er devil, khasta kochuri and bhejetebil chop all through winter.

Once the Northern winds started blowing and it was time to take out the napthalene scented hand-knit sweaters and Kashmiri shawls; the deep red beet, flame orange carrots and green peas flooded the vegetable market.Those were the days my Mother made vegetable chop, lots of it. With the freshest and sweetest of beet and carrots, those chops would be delicious. If I am allowed to be totally honest, I will say that I still missed the chops fried in stale oil, dusted with grime and carrying the germs of cholera but my Mother's vegetable chops were the best you can do in a clinically hygienic condition.


Now while I had the vegetable chop down to the last peanut theoretically, I have always made it when my Ma is visiting us. Only that means she cooks the beet, the carrots, the potatoes, makes the stuffing, fries the chop while I eat them. My Ma thinks they are good for the kids, a good way to make them eat veggies she will say and so makes them quiet frequently while she is here. Once she had boarded her flight, I just make a stew with the same vegetables.

Last week however I made vegetable chops just by myself. I did not even think "kids", I only thought about myself and okay a little about the husband and how it will be nice to have some vegetable chops for breakfast for a change.


It is pretty easy and though involves some frying in gallons of oil is not too bad for you. You are eating vegetables you see. Yeah, keep chanting that. With some planning you can cook the vegetables beforehand and make the croquettes and refrigerate them for 4-5 days. That way you can fry up some as needed and enjoy them with a cup of chai.


Vegetable Chop

I think this recipe made about 24-30 vegetable chops but I can never be sure. Also my chops were smaller in size than standard

First lets make the Bhaja Masla

Cumin Seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Corriander seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Clove -- 6
Green Elaichi -- 3
Cinnamon -- 1/2" stick
Peppercorn -- 12
Red chili -- 2-3
Bay leaf -- tiny

Roast the above on stove pop, cool and then grind to a fine powder. Do not char. Note: If you are feeling extremely lazy pop in toaster oven instead of stove top roasting. You can store this powder in a air-tight jar for months.You can use it to sprinkle on chutneys and make more chops.

Second --- We will work with the veggies, good stuff here.

Now we will chop the following vegetables in chunks
2 medium beet ,
2 carrot (if carrot is the thin kind use 4 else 2 should be fine),
2 large potato

Cook the above vegetables till they are mash-able. I usually cook them in the pressure cooker. Note: Sometimes I grate the beet instead of boiling it and then cook it while making the stuffing.

Once cooked, drain water and mash the vegetables. It is okay if the texture is little grainy and not totally smooth
Note: My Mother used to grate the beet and have her veggies a bit coarsely mashed, there shouldn't be any bite-able veggies but they can be a notch lower smooth.

Now heat a little oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Roast 1/4 cup of halved peanuts, remove and keep aside

In the same oil add
2 tbsp of minced or grated ginger
3-4 green chilli chopped in rounds

Next add
the mashed vegetables,
3 tsp of Bhaja masla,
1/4-1/2 tsp of red Chili Powder,
salt to taste
sugar if needed

Saute the mashed veggies, mixing with the masala till the excess water dries up and the veggies come together, leaving the sides. Add 1 tbsp of finely chopped coriander leaves/dhone pata if you wish.Also add the roasted peanuts. Check to see the spices are right.
Note: If needed add 1-2 tbsp of bread crumbs or maida for binding.

If you have grated your beet instead of boiling it, add the grated beet to the pan before adding the mashed carrots and potatoes. Once the beet is cooked, add the mashed carrots+ potatoes and spices and follow the previous step.

When this mixture cools, grease your palms and fashion croquettes out of them. Add a golden raisin to each.
The usual shape is oblong or oval but I have made small slightly flattened balls.

Third -- Lets do some Coating

Vegetarian Coating

Make a batter of 1/3 cup of chickpea flour/besan + 4-5 tbsp of water. The batter should be thin, thinner than the pakori batter.

Dip the croquette/chop in above Besan mix, roll in seasoned breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the croquettes/chops for an hour. You could refrigerate these for about 4-5 days in a closed container. Only don't forget about them and go on a vacation. They need to be used sooner than later.

Egg Coating

I prefer this breading more than the former. I dredged the balls in all-purpose flour, dipped them in egg wash(2 eggs beaten with a tsp of water) and rolled them in bread crumbs. I then refrigerated them for a few hours/overnight before frying

Finally -- Now is the Frying Time

In a Kadhai heat enough oil for frying. Once the oil is hot, check if it is right temperature by putting a tiny piece of bread in it.

Roll the croquettes lightly again in seasoned breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil till golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and keep aside in a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
Note : If you had added besan as a binder you might get a scent of besan in the chop. In that case fry a little more at medium heat till it is cooked through.

Sprinkle some chat masala or beet noon and serve with some ketchup and a salad of onion, cucumber.

Notes: First time Vegetable chop makers please read the note

1. There is two kind of Bhaja Masla that Bongs make. The one in the recipe is how my Ma, her Ma, me etc. does it. The second kind is one where Cumin Seeds + Dry red Chili is roasted on stove top and then grind to a powder.

2.The besan coating for the chop should be a VERY thin coating. It SHOULD NOT be thick as in a Alu Bonda/Vada.

3. If you do not like besan coating you can make a thin batter of white flour + water. You can also do dip in egg wash and then roll in breadcrumbs like here in Maacher Chop

4.My Ma-in-law grates the beet instead of boiling and mashing all veggies, that gives a nice texture to the chop.

5.Many people say that drying the mashed vegetables takes considerable amount of time. To avoid this, drain the carrots, beet and potatoes well and only then mash it when they cool a little

Updated on May15th, 2013: -- Recently I made a version of this same chop where I deviated from being completely niramish. To the mashed veggies I added some crispy fried onions(from a box). Also for the coating I dredged the balls in all-purpose flour, dipped them in egg wash(2 eggs beaten with a tsp of water) and rolled them in bread crumbs. I then refrigerated them for a few hours/overnight before frying. I clearly prefer this method.

Friday, July 01, 2011

For a Cup of Tea


The Mashima* at 37B/1 was very stingy. Miser might be a better word to describe her. She complained about everything, about the corners not being swept, the brown stain not being scrubbed well from the teapot, the Rin bar getting over on the 28th instead of the 31st and about how much tea Manju drank throughout the day.

And the last one wasn't even true. But Manju kept quiet. The money here was good, Mashima's son who lived in Dallas made sure that Manju was paid well. And why only Manju ? He made sure that the cook Sarla's Ma, the watchman, the driver everyone got a good salary. Last time when he was here, he even gave Manju a perfume. It smelled of forest woods and dead flowers. One whiff and she would be transported to the tree laden haven of her childhood where the scent of new leaves mingled with wild flowers.

But Mashima was very unlike her son. As Manju swept the floors and scrubbed the bathroom, Mashima hovered along side always keeping an eye that Manju did not pour more bleach than necessary, did not run water for too long. And when Manju dusted the glass cabinets, carefully wiping the golden rimmed tea cups, the coffee mug with the blue windmill, the terracotta cups with white paisley pattern, Mashima sat at the dining table reminding Manju to be extra careful because they were all very expensive.

The only time she softened was when Manju took out the coffee mugs, the ones with pictures of two little girls smiling out of the cup, hair blowing in the wind and something written in English all around. They were Mashima's grand daughters. Every New Year, Mashima's son would send a coffee mug neatly snuggled in bubble wrap and ensconced in a colorful box. And every year the mug had a picture of the girls in different stages of their life.

Mashima never drank anything in those cups. Neither did she ever serve anyone in those.The cups and mugs in the glass cabinet sat just by themselves, supercilious and a tad bored .

"There is a story wrapped around each of them. Those cups are my memories", Mashima would say. The golden rimmed china was her wedding gift from an Aunt in England who is no more, the mug with the Eiffel Tower was from her honeymoon in Paris, the black tall mug with the warli painting was what her son got her on his first job and the New Year coffee mugs was her grand kid's life in front of her.

"If you ever drop any of them, I am going to fire you", Mashima would threaten, drinking her morning tea from a chipped plain white cup with a rounded bottom.Manju drank her tea from a steel glass.Wrapping the edge of her sari around its warmth, she took a long sip, making a sharp sound with her lips. The tea was lukewarm and not sweetened at all. Mashima had been stingy with the sugar yet again.With a sigh Manju poured out the tea from the verandah, onto the downstair neighbor's potted tulsi plant.

Really with tea like this, there was no reason to work here anymore. But she couldn't do without the money either. And then there were the afternoons for which she pined.

The afternoons, when Mashima would go for a walk and her evening gossip sessions at the nearby park, Manju would let herself in to do the dishes and sweep the floor for the last time in the day. This was when Manju would put water to boil in a kettle, pour a generous amount of milk, add spoonfuls of sugar and stir in the tea leaves. Lovingly she would peel a knob of ginger and pound it in the mortar and pestle, to put in the boiling tea.

She would then pour the pale brown liquor in a cup carefully chosen from the glass cabinet after much deliberation.

Sometimes when the day was cloudy and there was a wind rustling over the horizon Manju chose the one with blue windmill, on especially hot days she picked the cup with the smiling sunflowers. But most she loved to drink from the mugs with the two girls on it. She would sit in the verandah with the cup in her hand, staring at the two smiling girls and think of the long limbed, dusty haired, brown girl playing in her village where the scent of new leaves mingled with wild flowers.

As the tea grew cold, Manju sat, counting the days until she would next meet her daughter.


*Mashima -- though it means aunt, elderly ladies in Bengal are respectfully addressed as Mashima

This is my entry for the Of Chalks and Chopsticks event started by Aqua and hosted by me this time. The photo cue for the fictions was here. I will be doing the roundup next week so if you are running late, please send in entries over the weekend.