Monday, October 31, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Red Curry paste

It snowed. In October. After Diwali and Before Halloween, even before daylight saving set in. And all because when I heard of Colorado having a "White Diwali" I thought to myself "Thank God, I don't live in Colorado".

Yes, go ahead and blame me for this freak of nature. And the worst part is it happened on a Saturday instead of a lovely Monday when it would have served the perfect excuse for not turning up at work.

What it meant is staying home all through Saturday though, which is not necessarily a good thing when six people of different ages are in the picture. Unable to venture out and in absence of carving experts, the kids decorated their pumpkin which actually meant LS pouring glitter glue over anything BigSis attempted to do. This ensured in a lot of screaming and horrific activities best suited for Halloween night.


Then was the issue of the Halloween costume. I have nothing against them really and I love 3-4 year olds in their cute ladybug and tinker bell fairy dresses. But the deluge of princesses has done me in. I have had my fair quota of them and I put my feet down this year, very firmly. "Be a scientist", I told BigSis, as if it was that easy. I was actually thinking of an over-sized coat and glasses from the dollar store and thus a one dollar costume.
She however refused. "I only know of Edison, Newton(yes, the apple guy and btw the hand washing scientist was Ignaz Semmelweis) and Einstein and they are all guys. I don't know of any girl scientist and so I won't dress up as one" was her logic. And she didn't want any tom-dick-sally scientist, she wanted famous female scientists and all I could think of was Madame Curie and finally Jane Goodall.

These are the times I really wish that I should have gone for that Nobel Prize. Okay, the Ig Nobel at least. Darn it.


Hee Haw

Finally she decided to dress up as an artist, a painter to be precise.She made her own costume from an old white T-shirt, made a palette from a brown cardboard, borrowed the beret from grandpa and looked perfectly the part. The little one just wanted to be a frog. At her age Frogs are far more charming than any handsome prince.

So the painter and the frog collected enough candies to start their own retail site Anyone interested please sign up and order.


In midst of all this there was Butternut Squash of course made into a soup which people feared to tread upon. Once they did though they agreed it was pretty good if not "very good" or "the best soup on earth good". At least it was good, next time it will be better and then one fine day it will be the bestest soup in the universe. Go try. Measures are rough and add coconut milk if you have some.

Heat 2 tsp of Olive Oil

Add 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, saute for half a minute. Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 2 green chili slit and saute till onion is softened.

Add 2 tsp of Thai Red Curry paste and saute for 2 minutes with sprinkle of water. Next add 1 tsp of curry Powder, 1 tsp of All Spice(optional). Add about 2-3 cups of chopped b.squash and 1 small apple peeled and chopped. Saute for 4-5 minutes till spices coat the squash nicely.

Now add about 3 cups of warm water(substitute with thinned coconut milk), 1 tsp of lime zest, salt to taste, sugar to taste and let the b.squash cook in it. Puree and bring it back to boil again.

Meanwhile saute some shrimp with sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Once the soup is ready add some lime juice, fresh black pepper and the sauted shrimp. Give it a simmer for a minute. Serve hot.

Serve this soup with chunks of some good bread on the side or some pasta tossed in butternut squash if you will.

Go here for more recipes on pasta sauce.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Microwave Besan Laddoo - thanks Red Chilies

If you have known me even for t-e-n nanoseconds you would know that when there is a microwaveable-done in twenty minutes- besan laddoo versus stove top-arm twisting- back aching-one whole hour-besan laddoo, I will choose the former. If you are the kind who will go for the latter, more power to you and a Happy Diwali in the kitchen. Others, please read on.



I could have cited reasons as this, this and this  for my choices but no, the bottom line simply is that I am a very phankibaaj kind and love food especially sweets that can be done short and simple. That is SWEET to me. If the sweet is not going to help me tide over a dinner, a lunch or even a breakfast why should I spend a big chunk of my life making it is my basic principle of life.

No wonder Bhapa Doi, Kalakand  and Rosgollar Paayesh holler out to me and get done in less than half hour. Except of course Paayesh which I stir and stir and then stir some more for over an hour because that is what Mother told me to. Thank God she didn't profess other such time consuming wisdom and left me on my own regarding besan laddoos.


When I had first seen these ravishing plump very 70-ish beauties at Red Chilies(who in turn had found it at Bhaatukli), I wanted to do it right then because me & besan laddoos are insanely in love with each other. But I checked myself. That amount of Ghee deserves a special occasion and what better than one dressed up in lights and crackling with sparklers. So Besan Laddoos it is for Diwali. I did a small test run yesterday and those laddoos blew us away. It is worth all that Ghee and more. The fact that it takes under 20 minutes and one microwave safe dish to wash is a gift that no Dhantaras can ever bring.


Original Recipe Source: Red Chilie's Besan Laddoo and Bhaatukli's Besan Laddoo

Besan Laddoo in Microwave

I halved Supriya's recipe and so I used 1/2 cup Besan, 1/2 Cup sugar and 3-4 tbsp of Ghee to make about 6 laddoos.
         Besan -- 1/2 Cup
         Ghee -- 3-4 Tbsp
         Sugar -- 1/2 Cup 
         Cardamom powder - a pinch

         Prep Time: 6 minutes in Microwave at 2 minute intervals + 10 minutes to mix.
         Makes: 6 laddoos

Grease a microwave safe bowl 
Add and mix
1/2 cup of Besan with
2 Tbsp of melted ghee
Make sure that all of the besan is coated in ghee.

Microwave for 2 minutes. Beep Beep.

Take out. Careful, it will be hot. Add 1 Tbsp of melted ghee and stir mixing it together.

Microwave for 2 minutes in 1+1 interval. Beep, Beep.  
Note: It is best to microwave for 1 minute, check and stir, then microwave for 1 more minute again. 
Take the container out . By now you will get the nice aroma of besan roasting. The besan will also have turned a deeper shade of golden-brown. If you think it is still raw continue roasting.

Stir and back in the microwave again.
Microwave for 1 minute --> check if Besan is still raw --> Microwave for 1 minute. Beep, Beep.  The Besan will have turned a rich nut brown shade and the aroma will make sure that is is cooked through.
          Note:  If you feel Besan is raw, add a little more ghee and microwave for one more minute .                  Besan should not be raw or overcooked.

Now let it cool slightly.
When it is still warm to touch but can be handled
add 1/2 cup of fine sugar
and 1/4 tsp of Cardamom Powder.
Mix thoroughly with a spatula or with your fingers. As you do this you will feel the mix binding as the sugar melts and mixes with the Besan. Do this for about 10 minutes. At this point you can add some more melted ghee if the texture is too crumbly. 

Now fashion small balls and decorate with raisins, varak or anything that catches your fancy.
To make the Diwali diyas as in the photo, add 1Tbsp more ghee and mix well, put a small ball of the besan mix in mini cupcake liners. Add a tiny chocolate chip at the center and voila it looks like a Diwali diya. It will harden on cooling.

I think these Besan Laddoos, sweet and decadent as they are and which I found over ether at a blog which in turn was shared by another blog carries forward the true spirit of Diwali, of giving and sharing and of acceptance that all things good need their Ghee and sugar.

Have a Happy Deepavali.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Sister-in-Law's Methi Chicken

Methi Chicken

Before any of you go ballistic and start crashing up your iPads and say this recipe is a hoax, let me come clean and tell you this recipe of Methi Chicken does not need a single sprig of fresh methi green.

I mean you can add fresh methi greens if you want and it definitely would be a nice thing to do but on a chilly October evening when you do not feel like donning a jacket to drive out in quest of fresh Methi greens, stay put. Chances are you still have those pale brown almost saffron colored methi seeds in a small dabba on the left corner of your second kitchen shelf. Pull them out and also the box of MDH Kasoori Methi, fragrant and crumbling like old parchment. This and the chicken and you are all set to make my sister-in-law's methi chicken.

She, the sister-in-law, the husband's younger sister cooked this for us when we visited her early last month. Well actually she cooked a lot of other dishes, a lot and I mean it. She would call me up every day, a week before our visit and diligently note down stuff we might want to eat. I really had no clue why she was asking stuff like "Do you eat Luchi for breakfast or Paratha?", "Do you prefer pav bhaji with afternoon tea or pakori?". I assumed this was some kind of survey to trend the obesity pattern among legal immigrants and tried to be as honest as I could.My oldest very innocently informed her pishi(aunt) that we actually eat luchi only when Didun(grandma) is here and thus made null&void my verybusy-cooking-working-notime image that I had painstakingly created over the years.

The sis-in-law took it to heart and cooked anything and everything that the nieces or we might have lacked in our diet.

So during our short stay, while I scoured through all her FB friend's albums, passed smart ass comments and raised my eyebrows in a very Bindu-ish manner ; trying to retain my elder bhabhi stature the poor girl cooked, cleaned and fed us like the sweet Jaya Bhaduri in Bawarchi.

The girl cooked umpteen delicious meals but her methi chicken stuck with me from the moment I saw the delicious curry with a gossamer thin veil of oil which smelled of heaven. It is magical what power those tiny seeds can unleash all by themselves. White fluffy basmati rice drenched in this aromatic chicken gravy is what I will always remember of those four days and oh yes, some of her FB friend's scandalous photos but that we will not discus...


I have cooked this particular dish about 3 times since. Come on, it is easy, convenient and quick. The first time it turned out to be really good, the second time I skimped on the oil and chili and it was meh, the third I skimped on the time and oil both and it was again okay but not like hers or my first attempt.

End point is, if you want this to be dramatic you have to go easy on the oil, spend the time a chicken needs for "kashano" or "bhuno" and also give in and raise the heat. A bird needs some love and also oil if I may say so.


My Sister-in-Law's Methi Chicken

The recipe here is a rough one so feel free to use your cooking instinct

Marinate 2-2&1/2 lb of chicken( skinned and with bones or use boneless thigh portions) with
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Garlic paste
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Corriander powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri Mirch
a little Mustard Oil
a sprinkle of turmeric powder
Keep it in the refrigerator for 30 mins to an hour or more.

Now heat white oil in a deep bottomed pan or kadhai. Don't skimp on the oil unless you want a healthy chicken dish.

Temper the oil with 1/2 tsp of Methi seeds and 1/2 tsp of whole Cumin seeds. The Methi seeds should not burn but give out a nice fragrance. If you are unsure at the point the Methi seeds are turning brown, switch off the heat and wait for 2 minutes. Switch on the heat back again. The oil should be nicely flavored by now.

Add 1-2 cup of thinly sliced onions and fry till the onions are soft and turning brown. Meanwhile make a paste of about
4-5 cloves of garlic
4 hot Indian green chili
1" peeled and chopped ginger
Add this paste to above and fry for next 2 minutes

Follow with a chopped tomato and fry the masala till you know the usual "oil separates blah..blah"

1 tsp of Cumin Powder
1 tsp of Corriander Powder
1 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch (I use kashmiri mirch powder but you can also use red chili powder according to taste)
and fry the masala with sprinkle of water

Add the chicken pieces, salt and then fry them till they change color.Let it cook uncovered for the next 15-20 mins or so, with frequent stirring. This process is actually called "bhuno" in Hindi or "kashano" in Bengali. At the end of this process you will see the oil separating , that indicates good things are in the making.

Now add 2 tsp kasoori methi crushed between your palm(or warmed a little in the microwave), mix everything well together and about 1/2-1 cup of warm water. Adjust salt for taste. Cook covered till chicken is done. By this point a thin layer of oil should float on the top indicating all is good.

Sprinkle some more of the kasoori methi and keep covered until you serve hot.

More Chicken recipes:

The Methi Murgh with methi greens

Indian Chicken recipes

Other chicken recipes

Young Hands at Play


When coking is not a chore it is fun. Why else do you think little hands fly around to make tiny rotis when the mother sucks big time at them.

This picture goes to Susan's lovely photo event Black & White Wednesday.

The second picture has nothing to do with food directly but a lot indirectly. It was taken on a rainy Saturday when we had gone all the way to the city for the sole purpose of eating Thai Jungle Curry at a place off Broadway. I loved this shot but was not sure if it suits Susan's theme so am sharing it here with you.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nimki -- salty, crunchy for Bijoya

I used to like October a lot, a humongous size of a lot, more than 2.5 acres of a lot. I would count the days leading up to Shoshthi, the days of missing school, the days until the magazine guy would drop off the anandomela on the front porch and the days until we would pack up or suitcases and metal trunks to wait at the small station early in the morning with sleep in our eyes.


I still like it a lot though none of the above happens but today I will not tell you about Durga Pujo or its aftermath.It is anyway over and I have written enough posts about it in the last 4-5 years.And honestly some of them even read like pure sentimental crap if I go back and read them all over and I don't want to repeat that.


I mean come on it is just one more festival man ? So yes, it is like the Bengali Chirstmas if there is ever such a thing and if I have to explain to my non-Inidan colleagues who I am sure worry why I leave work obscenely early on certain 4 days in October. And we do not have a tree but we have a whole family of idols dressed in the finest jewellery that would give any Christmas tree bauble a run for its money. And everyone gives gifts mostly clothes instead of toasters, and since there is no brilliant tradition of gift receipt in India you end up with a whole lot of unnecessary madras silks and ikkats in colors like parrot green which you wouldn't be seen wearing even in your nightmare. Also if you are married there is enough tension running about who spends the Pujo at whose home and whose Mom gave the more expensive sari and who actually would rather spend Pujo vacation in Mauritius than in the by-lanes of Maniktala.

So if you look at it detached with a global angle it is really just one more festival. It took me a whole awful lot of years to understand that and I thought it is best I tell you that early.


Instead I will tell you about Ballerina today. Not a Ballerina but The Ballerina as in the ballerina by Bata, the shoe company who cried themselves hoarse months before Durga Pujo, declaring "Pujoy Chai Notun Juto"(You need new shoes for Durga Pujo). Their marketing tactics must have been well researched because my Baba took this to heart and waited all year until September, a month before Pujo,  to buy me a new pair of school shoes.

It really seems odd now that though the school year started those days in January and later in May or June, we always bought new school shoes just before Pujo in October. Along with the Ballerina, I would also get a fancy pair of Marie Claire open toed sandals with straps that went firmly around one's ankles. But it wasn't the Marie Claire that would be the high point of our shoe shopping, it was always the Ballerina.


Baba believed in value for money and a shoe that was to be worn for every single school day needed utmost care and scrutiny in selection. It had to be that perfect elusive size which would fit a growing feet all year round. This needed trial, lots of them. Even after my feet size was measured on that inclined plane which Bata offered by an all knowing Bata gentleman, the probabilities were still wide ranged.

As boxes of Ballerina were brought down and piled high, I would wear each pair and then walk around the store in them, very reluctantly if I may say so. Baba would then ask me to jump in those shoes and do short runs. Sometimes a stamp or two in preparation of days when I might need to show my anger. And also marches, left-right-left because the republic day parade was only 3 months away. Walk-Jump-Run-Stamp-March.

This routine was followed for at least 5-6 boxes, each followed by vague questions like, Did the shoes hurt ? Did I have to scrunch my toes as I walked around ? Did they tend to slip off when I jumped ? Did I think they slowed me down when I ran ? All this when I was the least athletic kid a school could produce and hadn't won a single race beyond the second grade.


This question-answer part of the process made me very nervous. A wrong answer on my part could lead me to be doomed with the wrong pair of shoes for the entire school year. And no one wants to be in wrong shoes, ask Cinderella. I would ho-hum and complain a bit about each pair, nothing significant but how none was perfect and thus try to remain my diplomatic self.

Finally after hours a pair of spit polished black ballerinas were decided on and instructed to be packed. The Bata gentleman strangely did not show any annoyance during the process and actually supported the whole ordeal by making serious weighted comments just like my Baba did.


The day after the Pujo vacation was over, I would go to school in my new Ballerina and that evening there would be a band-aid on my ankle where the much researched pair hurt the most.


Now to the salty, crunchy, Nimki a staple Bijoya snack along with Narkel Naru and Ghugni. This time three generations of women in our home, sat down together to make nimki. While my Mother made the dough the others pitched in with their own version. I took pictures. Suits me.



To make the dough

AP Flour or Maida -- 1&1/2 Cup
Whole Wheat -- 1/2 cup
Salt -- 1/2 tsp (adjust to taste)
Sugar -- 1/4 tsp
Kalonji -- 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder -- 1/4 tsp
Oil -- 4 tbsp
Water -- 1/2 cup added gradually.(I am not totally sure about this, may have needed a little more)

For Frying

White Oil -- 1 cup for frying

How we Do It

In a wide mouthed bowl add

All Purpose Flour/Maida -- 1+1/2 Cup
Whole wheat Flour -- 1/2 cup
Salt -- 1/2 tsp
Sugar -- 1/4 tsp
Kalonji -- 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder -- 1/4 tsp
Mix with your fingers

Now add about 4 tbsp of White oil. With your thumb and forefinger, rub the oil into the flour mixture so that the flour looks all crumbled.

Add the water gradually and work the flour to make a tight dough. Knead the dough well for about 5 mins till it is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes or so.

Divide the dough into 4-5 large round balls. Roll out each ball into thin circle. With a fork or sharp tip of the knife prick the rolled out dough to avoid the nimki fluffing up.

Now cut the circle in small diamond shapes.

Heat enough white oil for deep frying the diamond shaped pieces of dough (about 1 cup). Fry the pieces until they are uniformly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Once it cools down, store in air tight container.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Giveaway Winner and a Shubho Bijoya

Sorry, I have been awfully late in declaring the winner. Couldn't help it. It was Durga Pujo after all. Not that we did a lot given that the Pujo this time spanned across all week days. But we did manage to wear our sarees, offer anjali, eat Bhog, see arati and even a bit of sindoor khela at the wee end of Bijoya evening.We also saw the wonderful Golu set up at the Krishna Temple near our home and had quiet a nice Pujo in our own quiet way. And late at night when we sat down to watch the glamorous Durga idols with their artistic mandaps in far away Kolkata via the Dish, the heart didn't even miss a beat. My transformation I guess is complete.


Ma Durga and her Family


Flowers for the Goddess


Offering Flowers


Simple setups


The Goddess

And now to the winner which I decided through I first put the name of all commenters in an excel sheet, eliminating duplicate comments.

Then I generated the random number through which was 13. This was Miri in the excel sheet. So the winner of this giveaway is Miri who blogs at Peppermill Recipes.


On a lark I clicked on the Random Number Generator again and this time it was 32. This was Usha, the second to last commenter.

Good sense prevailed and I closed my browser to never hit the Generate button again.

So both Miri and Usha get to pick their choice of gifts. But since Miri was the first winner I will go with her charity CSA - a corporate initiative by Kale consultants to support adoption in India.Both Miri and Usha please contact me by e-mail (sandeepa(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com).

Shubho Bijoya to you all and I will be back soon with a Nimki recipe. Promise.