Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oven baked Begun Bhaja -- and a book review

Definition of "Bossy" according LS with real life example -- "Bossy maane....bossy maane. Ei je dhoro tomar ei room ta clean korar kotha. Kintu tmi korcho na. Ar tumi amake bolcho clean korte jate tumi araam kore cha khete paro. Tar mane tumi Bossy."

She says, "Bossy means...well bossy means. Ok, lets take you. It is your job to clean this room(at this point she looks at me pointedly). But, you don't do it. Instead you tell me to do it so that you can sit and drink your tea. That means you are being bossy".

Point noted.

Everyone knows that a Bong loves his or her Begun Bhaja. Slices of purple eggplant, tossed in turmeric powder and salt and then shallow fried in hot oil. With a good quality eggplant, the flesh of the fried being is so soft that it is not wrong to call it "buttery". Growing up, the begun bhaja was a standard side with dal and rice and a fish curry in my and many Bengali's home. I never liked it nor did I spare any thought towards it. It was that one more bhaja served with dal.

Today, I do not make  a begun bhaja all that often simply because I don't want to do the frying, an eggplant sucks up oil fast and is as much a gas guzzler as a Hummer H1. I would rather eat a begun pora than a bhaja, I claim.

And then a reader(if you are reading this and had suggested this oven method please leave a note brilliant Lavanya Krishnan) said that she does it in the oven. "Click". Went the rusted switch in my brain. I chopped the eggplant, tossed them with turmeric, salt and couple tsp of olive oil and popped them in the oven.  They came out near perfect like a bhaja.

Then to get more experimental I dusted them with cajun seasoning and sprinkled some paprkia.

Next I wanted to rub them with cinnamon powder and nutmeg. But I restrained. This far and no further was the mandate. "Don't mess with my Begun Bhaja",  was a familiar cry around home.Hah! tell me who is "Bossy" around here.

Traditionally the Begun Bhaja is fried. In Mustard Oil. As in this Begun Bhaja. In the oven version I used olive oil instead of Mustard but you can use the latter too.

Wash 1 slender japanese eggplant in water and pat dry

Chop the japanese eggplant in rounds, each 1/2" thick.

Toss the slices with
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp Olive oil

Grease a baking tray. Arrange the eggplant slices on the tray. No piling or overlapping.

If you have a cooking spray, spray the surface of the eggplant slices. Or else you can smear them with drops of olive oil.

Pop in an oven. I used a toaster oven where I baked them at 300F for about 30 mins. After 15 mins from start I turned the tray and sprayed the slices once more. Towards the end, I flipped the slices, sprayed with little more cooking spray and did it for 5 more minutes.
Oven temperature and timing will vary. The larger oven temp should be about 350F. Also depending on the quality of the eggplant timing will vary. Just check that the slices are not getting dry and take them out once they are soft and cooked. If they are getting dry but not cooked, cover the bake tray with a aluminum foil and then bake.

Sometimes I might brown them further on a greased fry pan on the stove after they are done but mostly that is not necessary for this variety of eggplant

Now that we have the begun bhaja out of the picture and you saw the simple psychology that made me happier to bake them as opposed to frying them, I will introduce you to Scott Haas, food writer and psychologist. Yes, a deadly combination.

In his newest book, Scott explores what goes on inside a chef's mind in the back of a professional kitchen. Intriguing, haan ? Wait and hear the rest. In the book, "Back of the House-- Secret Life of a restaurant" Haas looks at famed Boston restaurant Craigie on Main, where chef Tony Maws basically gave him free reign to observe for the past year and a half. If you want to know what inspires a chef, if you want a peek into the racing drama in a restaurant kitchen and want the drama to unfold like a novel, this book is for you.

Now available on Amazon

I have my own copy which I am not going to share  but I would be very happy to send a copy of this book to one of the commenters in this post.. Winner will picked by and book will be shipped in US only.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chirer Pulao aka Poha -- witth Oats ahem

Chirer pulao featured a close second in my "Most wanted School Lunch" list as a kid.

The winner was almost always the egg noodles.

Third and Fourth place were tied and was either a fried rice, savory french toasts or aloo paratha. Yes, my mother packed good lunches.

As far as I go Chirer Pulao is largely similar to a Poha, with small differences like the former does not have kari patta, is sweeter and is overall Bong. The experts may differ. My Mother made chirer pulao with a tadka of mustard seeds and finished it with lime juice and fresh coriander leaves. It would be a little sweet and tart. That chirer pulao would be studded with crunchy brown friend chinebadam pale on the inside, alu bhaja -- finger length potatoes fried and soft and soft green jewel like green pea motorshuti . It was a simple dish, I thought.

The first time I tried to make it on my own in the US, my self-esteem took a good beating. The chirer pulao turned into a chirer khichuri. And it all happened in the split second that I was searching for the mustard seeds while the poha was soaking. I did not know of a term called "mise en place" and I did not know I was using thin poha. It was the wrong kind. The thick poha stands a better chance of holding its own and is the poha of choice for Chirer Pulao.

Having survived that tragedy, I have been making the chirer pualo the way my Mother makes until that is this Monday.

Chirer Pulao, Bengali Poha

This Monday I decided to add oats to chirer pulao. Why you ask ? Why not just let oats be and eat it as a breakfast cereal.

Well, while me and the husband eat a decent amount of oatmeal, the kids do not. They don't like the texture. Since I was making this for BS's school lunch, I thought why not make it a bit more healthy by adding steel cut oats. I mean people make oats upma all the time so why not this.I used only 1/4 cup of steel cut oats and 1 cup of poha and then cooked and rinsed the oatmeal to remove the slimy texture. The end result was pretty good if I may say so myself.

I was pretty impressed by my fine sense of culinary mix and match (ahem) and just when I was feeling a wee bit like Marc Samuelsson this conversation happened.

The husband(who was at work on Monday and would be back next day): What did you make today ?
Me: I made a Chire Oats er Pulao for tomorrow's lunch.It turned out so good.
He: Oats and Chire together ? ***Followed by Long silence ***
Me: Yeah, why ? It is really good.
He: Amake khete hobe na to ? I hope there will be none left by the time I return.
Me: !!#$%#$!!

But of course I did not let that bother me. The lunch was packed for BigSis next day and she did not complain.

For the recipe of Chirer Pulao with Oats check my blog for kids where I am storing lunch box ideas. 

Chirer Pulao or Poha

Steel Cut Oats -- 1/4th Cup (optional)
Thick Poha or Chire - 1 Cup


Potato - 1 medium
carrot - 1 medium
Green peas - 1/4 Cup
Cauliflower -- 8-10 small florets chopped if available

Green Chilli - 3-4 minced
Ginger - 1" knob minced
Onion - 1 small chopped

For Tadka

Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chilli - 1

Other Ingredients

Peanuts- 1/8th Cup
Coriander - to garnish
Lime Juice - 1 Tbsp

Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Oil -- 2-3 Tbsp


Cook 1/4 cup of steel cut oats in boiling water for 8-10 minutes or as mentioned in package. The oat should be cooked but have a bite. Once cooked drain on a sieve and rinse out the starch with cold water

Chop 1 medium potatoes along the length or small cubes. Chop 1 carrot in small cubes . Defrost 1/4th cup of  green peas

Chop 1 small sized onion. Peel and chop 1" knob of ginger in julienne

Fry a handful of raw peanuts till brown and crunchy.

Keep 1 cup of thick poha ready. We are going to soak it soon.

Start making the Chirer Pulao

Heat Oil in a fry pan. Vegetable Oil or Mustard oil preferred but I often make it with Olive oil too.

Saute the potatoes with a sprinkle of turmeric till they are golden brown. Remove and keep aside.

Temper the oil with 1/2 tsp of Mustard seeds and 1 dry red  chilli

When the spices pop, add the onion and saute till soft and pink. Throw in the 2 green chilli chopped in rounds and minced ginger

Next add the carrots and green peas. Saute and then cover to let the vegetables cook.

When the carrot is almost done, add the potatoes and finish cooking them.

While the veggies are cooking do this:
Take a sieve
Put 1 cup of poha/chire on the sieve
Now hold the sieve under running water and soak the chire until they are soft.
You can also soak the poha in water directly but I often end up with soggy poha that way. The sieve and running water helps me control the exact softness I want in my chire.
Once the chire/pha is soft, squeeze out the excess water and keep it ready

Once the veggies are cooked, add the poha/chire to the frying pan. Add salt to taste and toss the poha so that the vegetables and the poha are nicely mixed. Add the cooked oats and mix well. Add a tsp of sugar and cook the whole thing for a few minutes. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

At the very end add juice of about half a lime and mix. Garnish with fried peanuts and chopped coriander.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dida's Gota Sheddho -- traditions reborn

Before I go into the recipe of Gota Sheddho let me be honest and tell you that this is the first time I made it.

I had never made Gota Sheddho before. Neither has my Mother. It is my Dida, my Ma's mother, whose Gota Sheddho is what I remember today. Her Gota Sheddho was much in demand in the North Kolkata neighborhood she lived. Younger women who had turned new mothers would send out a request to her before Saraswati Pujo. "Mashima, amar jonyo ektu gota deben", they would say.  In the years that we lived in Kolkata, she would send it for my Mother too, in steel tiffin carrier boxes, the day after Saraswati Pujo.

The dish did not look appetizing with its dull brown black color and I never really wanted to taste it. It was supposed to be had cold and my Ma would implore me to have at least a serving of what Dida has sent.. "It is good for you", she would say. I would swallow it like I would a lot of other veggies at that age. Fast. Pushing the morsels at the back of my throat.  Refusing to taste it with my tongues or senses. I wish I had better adjectives to describe that dish my Dida cooked with love for the wellbeing of her children and then theirs. But I hardly tasted the dish and every year I wondered if the young women in my Dida's neighborhood had gone bonkers to send request for "Gota Sheddho".

"Why would anyone want to have Gota Sheddho ?", I often wondered.

The Five vegetables: Red Potatoes, Purple Eggplant, Green Sheem, Whole peas in a pod, Baby Spinach

Yesterday on my FB page, a reader asked if I had a recipe for Gota Sheddho."Nope", I told her. And there the matter rested. Until another reader came by and shared a recipe of her Mother's Gota Sheddho. Anuradha's Mom's recipe was simple like it should be and it instantly reminded me of my Dida's Gota Sheddho. I had a hunch that this was how Dida made it. Strangely, at that point, I did not remember it as the dull black unappetizing dish instead I remembered it as something my Dida cooked. It must have been good, I told myself, she was a fantastic cook after all.

So I called my Mother. I wanted to know the story behind the dish. Why was it had cold ? Why was it cooked at all on Saraswati Pujo ? Information trickled down and a tradition shaped up.

I did not have Masshkolai so I used Green Moong

Ma said, "The day after Saraswati Pujo is Sheetol Shoshti. Shoshthi is the goddess of  fertility and worshiped by Mothers as a guardian angel of their offspring. Sheetol==Cool. And on the day of sheetol shoshthi, cold gota sheddho that had been cooked the previous day, is to be had by Mothers worshipping Ma Shoshthi.

The way your Dida made Gota Sheddho was by boiling kali urad(the urad dal with skin) known as maashkolai in Bengali with five different vegetables in season which were to be added whole, little salt, sugar to taste, some pieces of ginger and drizzle of  raw mustard oil to finish off. The vegetables most commonly used were small red potatoes, small eggplant, sheem, whole green peas in their pod and baby spinach."

Okay, so the Gota Sheddho was cooked on Saraswati Pujo but had cold only the next day and it was done apparently for the long life of one's children.

My Mother also said that on the day of Sheetol Shoshthi, Dida wrapped the sheel-nora in a fresh new cotton cloth and worshiped it. It was the sheel-nora's day off and no masala(spices) were to be ground or made into a paste. Amazingly, the gota sheddho is cooked sans any spices also. Not even a speck of turmeric is added to it. I am not sure if this was as a respect for the sheel-nora but that is how the story goes.

Now that I think of it, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the whole thing. Saraswati Pujo heralds the advent of Spring and with Spring came many diseases in those days. So along with the prayers for well being of the children, the food cooked was something healthy and brimming with nutrients from the steamed fresh new vegetables and dals. A diet like that would keep any disease at bay, given that you had it every day.

Now, there are many different versions of this dish. Each home in Bengal has their own little touch to Gota Sheddho. I closely followed my Dida's recipe, as narrated by my Ma. But I had to adapt and make some changes. I did not have the black urad dal and so I used green moong. I used five vegetables but did not follow the rule of six parts or numbers of each. Also instead of the raw mustard oil I heated up mustard oil, tempered it with few dry red chillies and added that oil to finished dal.

I am not a ritualistic person and I did not do this with the religious goal in mind. Everyday I pray for my children's well being and I do not believe that having a cold dal on a certain Spring day would do any extra good. But I am sure my Dida and the women of their generations had their own reasons and nothing beats the fact that this is a dish brimming with nutrition. I liked it hot though. And a squeeze of lime made it better.

 Dida's Gota Sheddho -- my version
The day before cooking, soak 1/2 cup of Green Moong (1 Cup if you want more dal type) in water. Actual recipes asks for Black urad aka maash kolai. 

The next day, in a big pot, add the soaked dal. In my case this was the pressure cooker.

Along with the dal add the following veggies whole. No chopping or cutting. Makes life easy.
Small Red Potatoes
Small Round eggplant
Whole peas in their pods
Baby Spinach with stems
Ideally each vegetable should be added in six-es. But I did not follow this rule

Add enough water to the pot to cover the veggies and dal.
Add salt to taste.
Add 5-6 whole green chillies
Add a tbsp of grated or minced ginger
Note: Instead of only ginger you can use this -- 1 tsp of fennel seeds(mouri) + 2" inch piece of ginger, pounded in a mortar-pestle. Amazing flavor.

Cook till dal and veggies are done. Since I did it in a whistling pressure cooker, I did it for about 5 whistles at low medium heat.

When done, dry off excess water if you wish. Add sugar to taste. Drizzle some mustard oil. Serve hot or cold.
Instead of raw oil, I heated 1-2 tsp of Mustard Oil (more if you want, I keep oil low) in a separate kadhai. Tempered the hot oil with 4 Dry Red Chillies. Added the Oil+Red Chillies to the cooked dal.

This dish also goes to Jaya's event  "I cooked Gota Sheddho in my Indian pressure cooker and it did not blow up in my face".

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pasta with Roasted Peppers, Greens and Ricotta

Today was one of those days. The kind of day when you have a long To-Do list and nothing on it gets done.

Wait. Actually that is not today, that is everyday.

But while everyday, I just push off the today list to tomorrow, "today" some of the things on there had to be done. Simply had to. And one of them was to get Valentine's day gift or treat or some such thing for LS's class. Yes, for a class of four year olds who care the sheeshkabob about Saint Valentine. All they I am sure want is some colored candy which unfortunately I wasn't going to give.

Now all these years I have never sent gifts to school on V day. I have sent treats for the party but not individual gifts for the kids. "We just did this for Christmas. Why again in February?" was how my general train of thought went.But this year in a moment of weakness (or maybe it was the moment when I was busy clicking a food photo)I promised LS that I would send goody bags on Valentines Day. I promised but did not lift even one of my fat fingers towards that promise until I made the TBD list for today. "Buy V G.Bags", was scrawled on it along with several other illegible stuff which may  have included "Go to Gym" or may not.

To keep that promise, I came home; took a shower; drank tea with one several Marie Biscuit; quickly made a Pasta with roasted sweet pepper, spinach and ricotta because the tub of ricotta in the refrigerator was inching towards its expiration; donned a jacket and then rushed out to the nearest available store that sells stuff that can qualify for "V G.Bags". Thankfully the husband was around to take the kids to their taekwondo class and I could scratch that from my list.

So the main thing is, I donned a jacket and rushed out. When I say donned a jacket, I "donned" it on whatever I was wearing at home while sipping tea and cooking pasta. If you know me or in the case that you don't, it is high time you understand the way I function. I do not sip tea or cook pasta in designer wear. Forget desinger wear which I don't even own, I actually prefer drinking tea and stirring pasta in tracks which have been through the wash cycle so many times that they are now super comfy and in t-shirts so frayed at the edges that they might work better to mop my counter than covering my body. The only reason I like winter, is zipping up that jacket hides my wardrobe inadequacies in most places.

Comfortable in the super cape power of my jacket I breezed through the aisles of the store trying to figure which pack of valentine cards will give most bang for my buck, all the time feeling like I was being hit by a cold draft. But there was too much on my mind, like Winnie or Dora,  to pay attention to drafts and winds.

Finally all set, when I was at the checkout, the young guy at the counter was extra nice and kind of treating me like he would an older senile lady. You know, how you are extra nice and gentle and sweet when you encounter a ninety year old who is slightly woozy in the head. Well she has a reason, her sleep medication is doing that. "What is my excuse", I thought. It was then that I glanced down and what do I see ? The jacket that I had so confidently zipped up at home, had somehow unzipped midway and split up exposing my threadbare tee and holey pants. I surely looked like someone whose upper storey needed some repair work. Struggling with that zipper did not help at all and I quickly gathered my stuff and walked to the car. Fast.

Now I need a foolproof jacket. That tee and track pants are here to stay,

That said this Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers ,Greens and Ricotta was pretty good. A pinch of Garam Masala and some garlic made it better. It was inspired by a recipe in NY Times and will be packed for school lunch tomorrow. Of course it works perfect for a dinner too.

The recipe is in my kids' blog where I am storing lunchbox ideas.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bhoger Khichuri and Anarosher Chutney

Bhog er Khichuri is the Khichuri, a Bengali will offer to the the Goddess on Durga Pujo, Lokkhi Pujo or Saraswati Pujo. If done on any other day it will just be the Bhaja Moog Dal er Khichuri or a Khichdi made with Roasted Moong dal or a Rice and Lentil dish akin to Risotto if I try going international.. The same Khichdi when mixed with devotion, faith, respect and fragrance of incense, is lifted to the sublime and is called Bhog er Khichuri.

Along with a mixed vegetable dish of Labra, different kinds of  fries called bhaja and Tomato Chaatni, this Khichuri was offered during Pujo, in heavy plates with raised edges made of kansa (bell metal) or brass. Water was served in similar glasses. Sweets and several fruits cut and cubed made up the other edible arrangements. Fresh flowers, heavy fragrance from incense sticks and dhuno made up the complete atmosphere.

In addition to all this there was something offered called noibiddyo, small mounds of small grained raw rice that had been soaked, raw yellow moong soaked, some sweet sondesh, pieces of ripe banana were arranged in portions in a separate plate. Though Noibiddyo or Naivedhya means "offering made to the Gods" and so everything offered should actually have fallen under this category, we specifically labelled this offering of raw rice et al as Noibiddyo. You will get a clearer image of this from this pic I found in Flickr.

After the pujo was over, these small mounds of rice, sondesh and bananas were mixed together in a kind of mash. The raw rice due to the overnight soaking was soft but had a bite and the sondesh and banana sweetened the whole deal. More than the khichuri, it is this thing called chaal-kola makha, distributed with prasad at the end of  pujo, is what I waited for.

Saraswati Pujo is on Friday. My parents are going to have an elaborate pujo back home as usual. Friday being a working day, I will have a small pujo at home in the evening where I will do almost nothing according to tradition except offer sweets and books, pray and ask her for knowledge and wisdom.

On Saturday, we will have a pujo at a larger scale in a friends' basement. There we will have Khichuri and labra and also much fun. I am trying to teach the girls to sing a Saraswati Vandana for the pujo there and given that I cannot sing a single note in tune, I have roped in help from YouTube. So every night for ten whole minutes I play a simple Saraswati bhajan on my laptop and the girls' join in singing at the top of their voice. It does not sound very musical and the little one keeps saying "Naamo Sharada Maatha" instead of "Maata", which is kind of funny given that "Maatha" in Bengali means "head". The ensuing cacophony is enough to drive any Saraswati up the wall but we are hoping that the Goddess and audience has more patience.

In prospect of this wonderful future (ahem!), I made a Bhaaja Moog Dal er Khichuri today. Since I did not offer it to the divine, I cannot say it was bhog er khichuri yet. Instead of Tomato Chaatni, I made Anarosher Chaatni or Pineapple Chutney. The Begun Bhaja or fried eggplants I baked in the oven taking cue from a reader who had suggested this method. I lighted up some incense sticks and then deliberated on eating it, since Khichuri does not feature in the top 20 things I want to eat stranded in a desert island. Furthermore Khichuri without an omlette holds very little charm for me. So I made an omlette, something which would have been impossible on the actual day of Pujo and then ate it all up myself. I mean I also fed it to the rest of the family.

You don't have to wait for any divine intervention, any day you want a one pot meal, make this and offer yourself.

Some of my previous posts on Saraswati Pujo are here and here. Here is my Labra, Begun Bhaja and Anarosher Chaatni recipe to complete the meal. There is another version of Khichuri I make called Bhuni Khichuri which is a spicier and richer version of this.

The very nice people from masalamommas had asked me a few questions and that article up on their site. Go check if you want. Thanks Salima, the lovely lady who did the piece. And btw that picture is of Salima's. 

Bhog er Khichuri 
A liitle prep

Chop 1 medium potato in quarters.
Chop half of a small cauliflower in about 6-8 large-ish florets
Defrost about 1/4 cup of frozen peas (or use same amount of fresh green peas)

Wash 1 cup of rice(short grained rice like gobindobhog, kalijeera etc. preferred, I used sona masoori) and soak in water

Roast 1 cup of Yellow Moong Dal till you get a nice nutty aroma. About 50% of the dals should be a light brown on roasting. Rinse the dal lightly in water and keep aside. Approx. 4 minutes.

In a separate frying pan, fry the potatoes and cauliflower with sprinkle of turmeric powder till they are a shade of light gold and the cauliflower florets have some brown spots.Throw in the green peas and saute them too.

After we are done with the prep part we will start on the actual khichuri

Heat Vegetable Oil + 1 tsp Ghee in a deep and heavy bottomed pot.

Temper the oil with
4 green cardamom
4 clove/laung
1 thin stick of cinnamom
1 Bay Leaf/tejpata
2 Dry red chilli
1 tsp of whole cumin seeds/jeera

When the spices pop to the oil add
1-2 tbsp mince or grated ginger 

Add 1 medium tomato

1 tsp Cumin powder
1 tsp Garam Masala 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder(or Kashmiri Mirch)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
all made into a paste with water Saute for 2-3 minutes

Next add the roasted moong dal and mix with the masala. Saute the dal along with the masalas for couple of minutes.

Add 1 cup of pre-washed ned rice now

Now add about 8 cups of warm water to the pot. Add little salt. Cover the pot and let the water simmer to a boil.

2-3 minutes after the boiling starts add the potatoes, cauliflower and peas. Add 1-2 Cup more water if needed.

Once you see the water boil, lower the heat, cover and let the rice and lentils cook. In between, remove the cover, gently give a stir and check if they are done or if more water is needed.

Once the rice, lentils and vegetables are cooked, sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar and a pinch of Garam Masala. Mix gently. Drizzle a tbsp or more of ghee . Serve hot.

Pressure Cooker Method:
To cook in pressure cooker, after you have added the vegetables, do not add any more water. Close the Pressure cooker lid and cook for 2 whistles or 3 minutes if in Futura pressure cooker.

Once the pressure has released naturally, open the lid and check the consistency of  Khichuri. Add little more water if needed and adjust for salt and seasoning. Add Garam masala if needed.

At the very end, heat 1 Tbsp ghee in a small frying pan and roast some cashews and raisins until golden. Add them along with the ghee to the Khichuri. Serve hot.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Egg Butter Masala or Egg Malai Masala

This Egg Butter Masala was inspired by an Egg Malai Masala a colleague's wife had cooked. Since I did not have her recipe and based this on my Paneer Butter Masala recipe, I decided to call it Egg Butter Masala. The end product looks and tastes very similar to what my Punju colleague had brought.

Now , honestly, I am not a big fan of butter masala kind of gravies. It is ok. I like them but I don't go ga-ga over them. However I have noticed that a large percentage of Indian population and still larger percent of non-Indian population goes absolutely crazy over this dish. My girls also love it. I guess it satisfies different palates and tastes. And for this reason, I have found that a dish like this helps a lot in a party or a potluck where you are not very sure of the food choices of the other person. This one is sure to please.

As you can well guess, I made this for a potluck at work. The recipe is almost same as my Paneer Butter Masala but this one is easier and more creamier. In the other one, I did not use cream. Instead I added cashew paste and evaporated milk. For this one, I thought, "What the heck ? If those people are going to eat 2 more tsp of butter or cream it is not going to harm anyone. Also my life will become simpler". With that thought I skipped the cashew paste and added about 1/2 pt of light cream. I also had to make it borderline spicy and could not use as much Kashmiri Mirch I wanted to. So to get some color I added tomato ketchup taking cue from Nag's blog.

The end result was very good and definitely easy to make. I cooked the gravy a day ahead. You can do it even a week before and freeze, only in that case, don't add the cream until you are ready to heat and serve it. To make it a malai masala substitute water with milk while making the gravy. I added eggs but really you can add anything to it. Both my girls loved it and you can sneak in veggie puree into it if that is your goal.

And for all those who have been asking about the book, we are now at the stage where my erudite editor is on her final edits and I am making small changes here and there. The book cover has been decided on and we have got some sketches to be included. The book is not a cookbook and intertwining the recipes and narrative has been both fun and hard work.Also with a work outside home, kids and the blog, I have been missing the deadlines set by my editor quiet often which means the book gets delayed just that much. Hope you all appreciate once it is out and anyone with a single negative comment about it will get a time out. Serious.

Ok, just kidding !

Egg Butter Masala

First let us make the gravy

Fry one red onion chopped in large chunks till soft. Cook and make a paste. You can also use raw onion paste but it sometimes tends to get bitter and also takes longer to cook so I like it this way.

Heat 1tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil

Temper the hot oil with 1/4tsp of methi seeds and whole black cardamom lightly bruised

When you get beautiful flavor of methi, which is really really fragrant, add the onions paste. Fry for about 2 minutes

Next add
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch(more to taste)
a sprinkle of turmeric powder
Saute for couple more minutes

Now add about 3/4th cup of pureed tomato. I used canned whole tomatoes to make the puree, good juicy fresh ones will work well. You can also use tomato paste but in that case you will be using only 2 tbsp of it.
Add 2tbsp tomato ketchup

Fry till the raw smell of tomato is gone. This takes about 6-8 minutes, at end of which you will see oil separating from the edges

Now add about 1 tbsp of Kasoori Methi warmed between your palms
Add salt and 1/4th-1/2 tsp of Garam Masala.
Add about 1/2 tsp of sugar
Mix well

Add 1 cup of warm water and let the gravy simmer and come to a boil. For a richer version add milk instead of water. At this point taste and adjust for seasonings. Add more Kashmiri mirch or salt or sugar depending on your taste. Simmer till gravy is the right consistency for you, remember you are going to add cream to this.

When you are happy with the simmering gravy, lower the heat and add 1/2pt of light cream. Yes lot of cream but you alone are not going to eat it. At low heat let the gravy simmer for 4-5 mins.

You have the Butter Masala gravy ready.

Now add the Eggs

While you are making the gravy boil about 6-7 eggs. Cool and peel shells. Now you can fry them with a sprinkle of turmeric to a golden brown or just let them remain the way they are. To serve, halve the eggs, sprinkle with little salt and add to the gravy. Simmer for a few seconds. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Bengali Labra again -- a vegetable medley

I am not sure if Bengali Labra has anything to do with this time of the season but I find myself making it more during these months than any other. I do try cooking a mixed vegetable dish at least twice a month, throwing in a variety of veggies and thus ensuring that my veggie intake is avergaed out but most often it gets done with a bag of frozen vegetables from Costco which is largely dominated by broccoli and zucchini. And then I throw in some pumpkin, some carrot a dash of kasundi to sweeten up the deal.

For the labra though I specifically buy the vegetables with "labra" in mind. This is an antithesis to my Mother's labra cooking where the dish would be made with bits of pieces of vegetables left over in the veggie basket from the day before.

But me ? I made a list "To make Labra" and on Saturday even went out of the way to get something like mulo, which I categorically hate, to be put in the labra. Now the good part of having the blog to post the recipes is there is always some reader or the other telling me how a dish could be done better, or different or their version of the same thing. This time taking cue from the comments in my last Labra post, I made sure to keep the cauliflower leaves and stems to be added to the dish.

The cooking of the dish is very very simple as you all know. All it does is tries to utilize the best of the seasonal vegetables using a bit of this and bit of that. There is minimum of spices like paanchphoron, hing and ginger and majority of the  flavor comes from the vegetables alone. The dish tastes better when some time is allowed for the flavors to mingle and is served traditionally with Khichuri on Saraswati Pujo or a light dal, rice and slice of lime for a homey meal.

For the Labra follow the old recipe -- Labra for Saraswati Pujo  --  which is now updated with more pictures.

Instead in this post, I will take you for a tour around the vegetable market in my neighborhood in Kolkata which are shimmering with orange, purple, red and green at this time of the year.

Photographs by my Dad @Kolkata

Oranges better known as Clementines are a winter fruit in Kolkata. They come to the plains either from orchards in Nagpur or from the hills of Darjeeling

Rec Carrots, Methi Greens, Sweet Peas and Cauliflower are some of the winter veggies that entice you with their beautiful colors

Cauliflower with their large leaves, the kind perfect to put in a Labra

For more pictures of Indian market see my previous posts

Haat e Bajaar e -- to the Market(I)

Haat e Bajaar e -- to the Market (II)