Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Musur Dal Seddho with Lime Leaf -- Boiled Red Masoor with Lime Leaf

Musurir Dal Seddho -- Boiled Red Masoor with no tadka

Little Sis will soon be five. A big milestone. For her. For me. I had never thought I am the kind of Mother who sheds tears at her children growing up. I always thought "growing older" was a nice thing to happen with children. I can only think of how nice it will be for BigSis to turn twelve and then welcome me home with a cup of tea at the end of the day.

Musurir Dal | Red Masoor Dal
Red Masoor in a beautiful bowl gifted by a friend and on a coaster gifted by a lovely reader from Australia

But now that Li'lSis is almost five and will soon be a Kindergartner, I panic. I have not been able to have  much time, where there is no one but only her and me. Like the ones I used to have with BigSis because there was no other child and I had quit work for a while.My time with her is usually shared by the elders sis or the Dad.And now with onset of school, I know it will never happen until she graduates college, and both she and me are on unemployment.

This has been a niggling thought at the back of my mind for a while now, and I had wanted to take off for a period, to be with only her before Kindergarten starts but because of various reasons it did not work out. Thankfully my work is such that I do get to spend enough time with her, even if it is not strictly one-on-one. She does not mind at all, this getting me to herself thing, as I think she sees enough of me, but it is my maternal instinct which triggers my pangs. I don't know if Moms with more than one child go through this phase or it is my PMS talking.

Of course the time that I do get with her, I try to multitask with things like...errmm... like drinking tea. So every request of a game from LS is preceded by "Tumi eita cha niye khelte paro" (You can play this with a cup of tea). Her games, mostly made-up,  are however very complicated. I often fail to grasp their rules which makes her lose patience.As a result I am always trying to find an excuse to not play those games. It is a circular problem.

LS doing the cartwheel after umpteen days of trial

She is also a very independent minded child and one with a quick temper. One of our close frineds has a nickname for her -- NDR -- "Naaker Dogay Raag" (temper at the tip of her nose) and it suits her fine. So one of these days when BS's BFF was having a sleepover at our home, I threw a random question to the kids
"Tell me something that you would like to improve in your personality this summer?", I said.

BS's 10 yr old BFF, M,  promptly said that she had a quick temper and she is trying to think happy thoughts every time she gets angry so as to cool her anger.

BS said the it was her personal problem and she did not want to discuss in public.

Inspired by M didi, LS too quipped that she wants to cool her temper by counting to 10 as I had suggested but it was not working, so she would try the happy thought method.

Few days later when I tried to remind LS that she needs to work to reduce her temper, she told me "But how can I think happy thoughts about you, if I am mad at you. You have to stop doing things that make me mad at you".
So now the responsibility has been offloaded to me. She is as smart as they come.

One of the things that most took me by surprise in the recent months was LS's ability to read. She reads almost everything these days from road signs to books. Though BS had started reading as early as 4, I had never thought LS had the patience to do so. Each child is different and since I don't sit with LS to make her read as much as much as I did with BS, I had assumed it would take her longer.

Imagine the surprise when a child who would read 4 letter words at the most was reading Peter Rabbit with words like "garden" and "wanted" with ease and saying aloud "New York & Company" or "Banana Republic" at the stores. It seems magical to me, that something clicked in those tiny brain cells and now she can figure out words without me saying "Chunk" or something like that. These days she peers over my shoulder and reads words from a book I am reading and feels very chuffed about it all. The deal now is we sit with a book and she reads few lines while I do others. She is not yet a "passionate reader" like BS, but she is great at emoting the lines she reads, complete with exclamation and question marks, which makes reading a lot of fun!

Talking about emoting, she has this knack for acting out songs etc. and if in a good mood, the sisters sing and act out songs all the time in the car. And after "Despicable Me 2", creative songs with "bottom" have been featuring more regularly in there.

She will soon be a fabulous five and I will be a Mom with two public school going kids. Sniff. Sniff. Clearly, this is taking me some adjusting and comforting which means a Red Masoor Dal in my book.

Now for the recipe of Musur Dal Seddho which I made with MLLA(My Legume Love Affair) in mind. Now, honestly, I love my legumes too much, so much that I have a whole chapter on Dals in my book and a Dal is had almost every day in my home. So when Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, decided to giveaway two copies of my book for her the 61st edition of her event MLLA hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, I was overjoyed.

Since I could not decide on what to cook for MLLA from Mango Dal, Chholar Dal, Dal er Bora or Musurir Dal, I resorted to the simple Musur Dal Seddho or Boiled Masoor Dal with green chilli and raw mustard oil perfumed with lime leaf, the one that is done without any tadka or "tempering" or "putting life and spice in my Dal" as I say in my book

This is the easiest form of Musurir dal that I do. The last moment what-shall-we-have-for-dinner kind of Dal. Green chilli, raw onion, drizzle of mustard oil and few lime leaves make it exemplary.

With some Rice it is bliss. With some salad and Papad , it is healthy eats.

I am sending this dish to Aparna for MLLA this month, started by Susan and managed now by Lisa.

Recipe updated with option for a variation

Rinse 1&1/2 cups of Red Masoor in running water.

In a sauce pan put the
rinsed lentils 
about 4 cups of water
1 tsp of turmeric
2 green chilli finely chopped
salt to taste( go with less salt as you can always adjust later)

In a small variation which turns out fabulous, add thinly sliced onions and chopped tomatoes along with all of the above and then set to boil

Keep the heat at medium and let the dal simmer. The Dal will simmer and froth. So be careful. Because if you are like me and get too engrossed in the kids playing "Just Dance", the dal will spill.
Solution: Use a deep sauce pan. Stir infrequently and keep a long handled wooden ladle immersed in the saucepan.

When the Dal bubbles over, give some stir and you will be good to go. If you want the Dal more soupy, add more water.

In about 25-30 mins, the lentils will be almost cooked.
add couple of lime leaf, 
2 more green chilli finely chopped 
1 tsp of Mustard Oil
and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Adjust for salt.

If I don't have lime leaf, I also add mint leaf to get a mint flavored Musur Dal.

Garnish with finely chopped raw onion, coriander leaves if you have them and a squeeze of lime juice.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Keema Stuffed Tomatoes -- sleight of hand

Years ago when I was a cooking novice and the new friends I had made in the US were something of a culinary genius, this dish had come into being.

No, it was not their recipe. Rather it was my attempt to match up to their amazing homemade rosogollas, fantastic chorchoris and perfect biriyanis. To invite these culinary genius friends to my then home, a one-bedroom apartment, and then to feed them a dinner that would be fitting to their expectation, needed hard work or sleight.

I went with the latter. Hard work was over rated.

I think it was also a take off from Sanjeev Kapoor's Khana Khazana, the only food show I knew about and watched before I landed in the US.

So instead of matching a roshogolla by attempting a chomchom, I made Keema stuffed tomatoes. They were easy to make for a crowd, looked pretty and tasted delicious. No one was complaining.

And then as I learned to cook the other stuff, this tomato was slowly forgotten. By forgotten, not as in 'how-to-cook" forgotten, for this is so easy to make that you can't forget even if you try to. By forgotten I mean, the way simple recipes like postor bora or borar jhaal are being forgotten by Bengali households and there are queues outside restaurants in Kolkata to eat them.

The stuffed tomatoes were brought recently back at a friend's request and I have made it several times in the last few months.

In this recipe I have stuffed tomatoes with a chicken keema stuffing. You can substitute keema with soy granules or use only potato stuffing for a vegetarian option. The best part I like about it is that the dish can be broken down in 3 parts and each done on a separate day while the assembling is all you need to do on the day of the party. You can even cook the stuffing a week ahead and freeze to be used later. So if like me you want to do minimum work and yet create a great starter dish for any gathering this summer, these stuffed tomatoes are the way to go.

And in all this stuffing issue don't forget the book. Sorry for the plugin but there is no point writing a book if you don't read it.

There have been some more lovely reviews by some of my favorite people from the blogosphere -- Eve's Lungs and Kichukhonn.
There has been a beautiful review by Saee who blogs at My Jhola in the Gourmet Table.
I am so very proud that another favorite blogger The Mad Momma has my book on her "Book List", the list which I actually refer to get books now and then and right now have Wife 22 on her reco.

"Bong Mom's Cookbook" has also consistently been at #2 in Popularity on Flipkart and Amazon has only a few copies left for you to order.

Now back to tomatoes and this is how the recipes goes. The measure of the keema given was used to stuff about 20-25 tomato halves i.e 10-12 whole tomatoes.

Prepping Tomatoes

Buy firm tomatoes on the vine a day before the dinner/party.

Wash them well. Pat Dry

Cut the tomatoes in half. With a spoon scoop out the pulp. Store the pulp in a separate container to be used as pureed tomato.

Salt the tomato innards, invert them on a plate or flat tray and leave them in the refrigerator for an hr or more.

While you are prepping the tomatoes, also make the keema stuffing. The keema is made exactly like the way I make it for the Bengali Keemar Chop

Make Keema Stuffing or Pur

Start off with 1 lb of Chicken Keema

Heat 2tbsp oil in a fry pan.

Add 1 medium sized onion finely chopped and fry till it is soft and pink with browned edges.

To above add
1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 
1/2 tsp Cumin powder, 1/2 tsp Coriander powder, 1/2 tsp Red chili powder(more to taste)
and saute for a minute

Add the chicken keema. Add salt to taste. Mix well and cook the keema with the spices until keema is no longer pink and is cooked. Sprinkle 1/4tsp of Garam masala. At this point taste and adjust for seasoning.
Cook the keema with frequent stirring so that the keema is broken up into granules.

Once the keema is done, cool. 

Meanwhile boil 2 large potatoes.Once cooled, peel and mash with salt to taste.

Next with your hands mix all of the the following 
mashed potatoes
the prepared keema
a clove of garlic minced
3-4 green chili finely chopped
little beet noon or rock salt
a pinch of sugar

You can also add chopped coriander and mint leaves if you want.

Stuff the Tomatoes and Bake

You can stuff  tomatoes the previous night or on the day of the party.

Take each tomato halves, stuff with the prepared keema and level with your fingers. Arrange them on an oven safe tray, the stuffed side up.

Drizzle generously with olive oil and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 350F for 30 mins or until you see the tomatoes sag and their skin starts getting wrinkled.

Towards the end, take out the tray from the oven and garnish each tomato with shredded parmesan or cheddar cheese. Put them back in the oven for 5 mins to allow cheese to melt.

Top each tomato with the Cajun Shrimp for more oomph. Serve hot.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pritha Sen's Railway Mutton Curry -- Bengali style

RailwayMuttonCurry, Railway Mutton Curry

Railway Mutton Curry

The Railway Mutton Curry is a legacy from the food cooked aboard the Indian Railways during British raj. The dishes served in the dining cars of indian railways in those times  were a blend of Anglo-Indian, Bengali and South Indian, cooked to perfection. There are a few different recipes for this Railway Mutton Curry. The one I have shared here has more Bengali touch than the South-Indian version.

My first train journey, or rather the one that I can recall, because there must have been many before that, is of an over crowded Darjeeling Express or maybe Tinshukia Mail. I think it was the Darjeeling Express because if I remember correct only my Mother and I were traveling, to Dida' house in Kolkata during a winter vacation.

Ma's friend from the neighborhood P-pishi was also traveling the same day on the same train. The train was packed as I remember and faint conversations of something about a natok er dol--a drama company troupe occupying our seats in a second class compartment bubbles through memory. Those were polite times and I think my Ma and P-pishi agreed to share their reserved seats with the folks from the troupe who had last minute bookings and not enough reservations. I was all of five or maybe six and went off to sleep curled up in whatever little space we had.

And then my memory gets stronger and there is a loud voice that says "Malda eshe geche. Malda. Seddho dim khabi na ?" (We have reached Malda Station. Malda. Don't you want a boiled egg?)
I am sure there was a past history of my eating and loving the warm to touch boiled egg at Malda Station for my Mother to have woken me from a slumber in a crowded train to offer those. Those freshly boiled eggs, sliced along the length and sprinkled with coarse white salt and crushed black pepper were proffered through the iron grills of the train window by the Dimwala on the platform. I scarfed down two of them and went back to sleep. And yet again the very mention of the everyday boiled eggs brings to my mind Malda Station and I have a strong belief that no egg ever tasted that good.


Just like an omelet brings to mind the double dim er omelet or double egg omelet at the Railway canteen in Patna Junction. Once you pushed aside those swing doors, the Railway Canteen was a place with white napkins and waiters in stiff starched uniform very unlike the crowded and loud station just outside. Every year on our annual journey it was a ritual to have a plate of  kadak toast with Amul butter and double dim er omelet at the canteen. I still remember that how I would be disappointed by the omelet every year, because though it was made with two eggs, it wasn't a thick omelet but a large thin one which filled the entire size of a dinner plate.And yet every year without fail I would order the same at the Railway canteen.

RailwayMuttonCurry, Railway mutton Curry, Indian Mutton Curry

Railway Mutton Curry - Bengali style railway mutton curry

Next was an older me, maybe a 10 year old, a first class coupe with sliding doors and a corridor outside. I loved the first class coupe, way more than the A/C coaches we traveled in later. The coupe gave you the privacy and the wind blowing on your face through the wide open windows, one of the main reasons I loved train journeys.

The evening we boarded the train, a three stack high stainless steel tiffin carrier carried our dinner. Soon after the train had pulled out, Ma would spread newspapers on the rexine covered berths and open the latches of the tiffin carrier to reveal steel containers filled with luchi, sada alu chorchori and sondesh. But more than that I looked forward to the next day's lunch, the one we could not carry from home and had to order from the railway catering service. I would always order a chicken curry and rice, Baba would do the same and Ma would order a Veg meal. Dining cars were phased out by then and the catering service loaded trays of cooked food from designated stations. Lunch would arrive in those steel rectangular plates with compartments-- rice, pickle, a watery dal and a chicken curry with a thin layer of oil floating on a scarlet colored gravy which would inevitably have spilled onto the dal with the motion of the train. It was not an extraordinary curry and I clearly don't recall its taste.

But the experience of food in a train with the wind rustling through the open windows, the green paddy fields stretched towards the horizon, the little village boys standing by the railway lines waving their scrawny limbs to the marching beat of the iron wheels is something that makes it exemplary merely by situation.

Like the dim-seddho and the chicken curry, I am sure for many of my generation growing up in India, Food and railway journeys are closely intertwined. JhaalMuri at Kharagpur, Guavas with pink insides at Allahabad, Medu Vadas on the southern line, Puri Sabzi at Moghalsarai, Mihidana at Bardhaman -- we all have our train food favorites.

RailwayMuttonCurry, Railway mutton Curry, Indian Mutton Curry

So when I first saw this recipe of Railway Mutton Curry shared by Pritha Sen at Atul Sikand's page Sikandulous Cuisne, I knew I had to try it, if only because of its name. Pritha Sen, from Gurgaon has immense knowledge about history of Indian food and her narrative on  this curry made it all the more interesting. Her story about origin of this dish dates further back, when South eastern railway was called BNR and trains came with salons and dining cars.

With her permission, I am reproducing part of her article in her own words:

"Many a classic dish has been born out of necessity, culture, lifestyle, ethnicity and the ingredients available locally. Many of them are a testimony of the times. There are certain tastes that linger and many years later surface in our urban kitchens as a salute to those chefs whose ingenuity created them in the first place. So we got our seekh kebabs from the marauding Mongols who fanned out from Central Asia across the world, spreading their seed as well as their cuisine. Their spears served as the seekhs to roast pieces of meat over the campfire in the evenings. Then there are the now famous stories about Dum Pukht cuisine or the Mongolian hot pot and in more recent times, Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Butter Masala or American Chopsuey and Chicken/Gobi Manchurian!

One such form of cuisine was that which was developed by the entourage of cooks and bearers who travelled with officers serving in the administrative, forest and railway services in India in colonial times. They cooked with whatever they carried with them or was locally available at their place of halt, flavouring the dishes with a blend of sleight of hand, what the Memsahib had taught them and dollops of ethnicity. And thus was born dishes like the Railway Mutton or Chicken Curry, the Railway Aloo curry with triangular Atta Parathas, Dak Bungalow Mutton Curry, Madras Club Qorma, Dak Bungalow Roast Chicken, the Rose Custard and of course Bread Puddings and Caramel Custard.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in this legacy of the Raj, as a child of the Railways, when there were dining cars on trains, complete with tables for four covered with white damask and set with proper crockery and silver. Think back to that scene in Satyajit Ray's 'Nayak' where Sharmila Tagore starts her interview with Uttam Kumar. Liveried waiters padded about silently, serving known railway delicacies of those times – fish fry with tartar sauce, mutton breast cutlets on the bone, perfectly fried finger chips with tomato sauce, finely cut chicken sandwiches, chicken and tomato soups, mulligatawny soups and side dishes of roast chicken and boiled vegetables or mutton stew with bread, or chicken/mutton curry rice. The menu was limited but delicious.

When my father went on tour, which was referred to as ‘going on Line’ the phrase originating from ‘line inspection’, Naresh, our old peon, a relic of the Raj himself, packed his Line Box or Line Peti as he called it. A Line Box was a 2ft by 3ft rectangular wooden box, which had a tray with partitions on top of the main unit. The bottom was packed with rice, flour, dal, spices etc. The top tray held potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger in neat compartments. Naresh then loaded it onto Baba’s saloon, an entire railway coach converted to house a sitting-cum-dining room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, pantry and staff quarters. Naresh travelled with him along with an assistant, cooking Baba fresh meals as he travelled for days from one railway junction to another.

We, as a family, also travelled with him at times living in the saloon and eating and sleeping as the steam engine chugged across India, spewing vicious black fumes. No worries. We children were well ensconced in our fairy tale moving home, revelling in wondrous delight at the shining stainless steel hand showers in the bathrooms which we had never seen before and kitchens fitted with tall coal ovens to roast the chicken to a turn and bake the perfect dessert.

The railway cuisine as I realise today was generously tempered with a South Indian flavour. The reason being that during my childhood or perhaps before that much of the Class IV railway staff were South Indians, mainly Telugus from Andhra Pradesh. The engine drivers and ticket collectors or station masters were Anglo-Indians, the last of the community left in Railway service before they all emigrated to Australia. So the dishes we were served were a blend of Anglo-Indian, Bengali and South Indian, cooked to perfection.

I leave you with one such dish which today rightly occupies pride of place on many restaurant menus that serve Anglo-Indian or Raj cuisine. I promise to come back with more.



Pritha Di shared two recipes of this mutton curry. The first one was courtesy Jennifer Brennan and apparently the more authentic one and had Curry leaves and Coconut Milk. I selected the second one which was more Bengali than South Indian.This was from Bengal in later times: Courtesy Basav Mukherjee. I adapted the recipe making small changes but sticking to the core of the wonderful masala paste that lends the curry its special flavor. Don't get intimidated by the length of the post or ingredient list. All of them can be found in your kitchen pantry and if you follow the steps, it takes no longer than a regular mutton curry.

Railway Mutton Curry

What you Need

Mutton ~ 4lb with bone, usually shoulder or back leg. After washing, mutton was marinated overnight
Onion -- 2 large chopped in slices= 4 cups of sliced onion
Tomatoes -- 1 cup pureed
Potatoes ~ 2 large potatoes chopped in quarters

Whole Garam Masala -- 2 Black cardamom, 6 green cardamom, 2" stick of cinnamon, 8 clove, 4 bay leaves, 3 strands of javetri, 8 dry red chilli

Special Masala Paste

Coriander seeds ~ 2 tsp
Cumin Seeds ~ 2 tsp
Fennel seeds or Saunf ~ 2 tsp
Whole black Peppercorns -- 15
Dry Red Chilli -- 8
Garlic -- 8 fat cloves
Ginger -- 2" piece finely chopped
Kashmiri Mirch -- 2 tsp
Sugar -- 1/2 tsp

For Gravy

Garlic paste -- 1 tbsp
Ginger paste -- 1 tbsp

Water ~ 1.5 cups

Garam Masala ~ 1 tsp
Green Chillies -- 3-4

Mustard Oil -- 4 tbsp

How I Did It

Preparation :

Marinate mutton overnight with
2 tsp ginger paste, 
2tsp garlic paste, 
2 tsp mustard oil, 
1 tsp vinegar, 
2 tsp Kashmiri Mirch
and Turmeric powder

Make the Special Masala paste:
Heat a small pan or kadhai.

Add the
coriander seeds, 
cumin seeds, 
fennel seeds, 
dried red chillies, 
peppercorns and roast till fragrant.

Once roasted, add the above spices to a blender along with
8 big cloves of garlic 
2 inch of ginger, roughly chopped
2 tsp of Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tbsp Mustard Oil

Make a fine paste adding splash of water if necessary. Add 1/2 tsp sugar to the paste. The paste is where the magic lies.

Start Cooking :
In a pressure cooker or a fry pan, add 3 tablespoons of mustard oil.

Heat the oil till its smoking. Fry the potatoes in the oil. Once the potatoes turn golden yellow with brown spots, remove and keep aside

Now, reduce the flame and  add the whole garam masala
2 Black cardamom, 
6 green cardamom, 
2" stick of cinnamon, 
8 clove, 
4 bay leaves, 
3 strands of javetri, 
8 dry red chilli

Once you get the fragrance of the whole spices add
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste. 
Fry them for about a minute.

Now add the sliced onion and fry with a sprinkle of salt. Fry the onion, stirring constantly, till they get browned and caramelized.

Next goes in the pureed tomatoes which needs to be fried for 3-4 minutes till raw smell is gone.

Next add the mutton pieces to this.Increase the flame to high and fry the mutton pieces in high heat till mutton loses its raw color. The mutton will sear and turn a light brown

Reduce the flame a bit and let the mutton release its juices.
At medium heat, continue to saute or kashao  the mutton till you see a layer of oil floating. Stir continuously. This takes a good 20-25 minutes

Now add the Special Masala that you have prepared and mix it with the meat. Fry everything together for next 5-7 minutes.

Add back the potatoes to the mix and reduce flame to low.

Add about 1.5 cups of water. Add salt to taste. I added water though the original recipe did not ask for it.

Bring the gravy to a boil and then close the pressure cooker lid.Reduce the flame to the lowest and pressure cook the curry for 15 minutes. Towards the end of 15 mins, increase the heat and cook for 8  minutes at full pressure

Once you can open the cooker lid, break 3-4 green chillies and add to the curry for an awesome flavor
Also add one tsp of garam masala powder and stir.

Close the cooker lid again  and let this rest for about an hour. Serve with steaming white rice.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cajun Spiced Shrimp -- very forgiving

I won't see you guys until next week.

Well, maybe I will. But I will try not to be too much on the internet.

I might suffocate without it so I will Google. At the least. I might also be on FB. Or Twitter. They are not internet right ?

Only the other day we were discussing how back in '96 we had internet access only on two computers at work and where I first created my Hotmail account.

Unlimited internet at home in the US around late '99 felt like Nirvana. But that was still Dial-up. "Krrrrkakingkaing..piiin..." Remember ? Now there is website for you to relive that sound.

When did all that change and I morphed into someone who can no longer think independently and yet needs to share her thoughts all the time. I have this obsessive need to check out everything on Google. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

But not this Cajun Shrimp. Well I might have at some point in the last few years because I don't think I could have learned the word "Cajun" without Google. This is very similar to a chingri bhaja only spiced with cajun spices and lemon zest. It is very forgiving and you cannot go wrong with it ever.

Here is how you do it. 1.2.3

1. Defrost shrimp if frozen

2. Toss shrimp in olive oil, garlic powder, cajun spice powder, salt and lemon zest

3. Pop it in the oven at 325F for about 10 mins or until you see shrimp is curling up and ready.

Squeeze some lime juice and enjoy.

Until then a Happy 4th of July for all who is celebrating. Happy Everyday for everyone else.

Remember to check out the book ins stores in India, Flipkart and Amazon. If you do not see it in the store please, please leave me  a comment with store name, address.

Book on FlipKart -- Order my Book now.

Book on Amazon India -- Order now

Book on -- Order now


Monday, July 01, 2013

Shakuntala's Bengali Chicken Royale -- or picnic murgi


I have been a social media cynic from Day 1. I have cringed at people's need to tweet about their un-washed hair and strut their vacation pics. I have restrained myself from opening up a personal account on Facebook for the sole reason that  on a night with nothing to do I might flood timelines with the million pictures on my hard disk. The temptation is just too much.

However when it comes to the blog and its FB page, the scenario has been very different. As a result of my early cynicism, I did not jump-start on a FB page for my blog, the moment Zuckerburg opened his doors. I stood far with furrowed eyebrows, thinking "What a disaster". Slowly I crawled in, thinking it was one more way to draw some more traffic.

What I got at the end was however far more precious than mere traffic. You know what I got ? Readers who turned into friends. Readers who delighted me with their precious heirloom recipes. Bloggers whom I got to know that much better. And most importantly a whole bunch of like minded people and their support. Though there have been numerous instances I have experienced their friendship, today I will highlight only about my book for which so many came forward to spread the word. There is nothing that I can say to thank you guys enough.

Writing is a solitary affair to begin with.If you are not from a literary circle or eminently famous, it is most likely that real life people around you do not get your need to write; be it a blog or a book. Something which you spend hours on and which gives nothing tangible beyond satisfaction makes little sense to folks who are trying to climb the financial and corporate ladder.Nothing wrong there.That is the real and practical world for most.

And now comes Facebook, which gives you the opportunity to connect with people sharing same passion as yours. Here comes social media bridging the gap, going beyond cliques and cuisines and supporting you. Probably it helps because in a virtual community you choose to see only a part of the life the person shares, the part that resonates with you.

Through it I have found bloggers and readers who are eager to support what I do. Who are ready to pick up my new book and cook a beguni(Cooking with Siri), or a kosha mangsho(Sin-A-Mon tales) or a shorshe dharosh(A Mad Tea Party), or dim kosha(My Diverse Kitchen) or Green Bean Bhorta(When My Soup Came Alive) even if it means going beyond their regular routine.
I have befriended folks, whom I have known only virtually, who have e-mailed or messaged to say if they could help in any way to spread word about the book, who have shared about my book on their timeline and blog, virtual friends like Chandrima who have connected me with broader networks I was not aware about. I am not mentioning every name right now because there are too many and I have the book page for that. In addition I have found fountainhead of knowledge about Bengali food in the likes of Pritha Sen and mentor in authors like Monica Bhide.

And then I have also found many recipes suggested by my lovely friends who started off as a reader of my blog at some point.

Like this Bengali style Chicken Royale from Shakuntala who also blogs in Bengali at Bokom-Bokom. I have adjusted the recipe to my taste and made some changes to the cooking process. While I was marinating the chicken, the husband-man asked if I am making "the Picnic er Murgi".

"What is Picnic er Murgi?", I asked

Turns out every year after Durga Pujo, the boys in his para aka 'hood went on a picnic where their main intention was to imbibe in "you-know-liquid" that was not allowed at home.The only edibles in that Picnic were rice and Murgir Jhol and this is how the Murgi was done, all marinated together and then set to cook on wood fire.The husband-man was the designated cook or so he claims, so he knew everything about the recipe.

Both Shakuntala and D's recipe called for the chicken to be marinated with everything including the Whole Garam masala and tomatoes. The process then involved letting the marinated chicken cook on low heat in a dutch oven(for Shakuntala) or a big black bottomed dekchi(for the husband-man). But I deviated and broke up the steps by first tempering, then adding tomatoes etc.

Now, whether you choose a exotic name like Bengali Chicken Royale or a nostalgic one like "Picnic er Murgi" is upto you. Both ways this is a easy dish with a delicious outcome.

The book page has been updated with many more reviews and interviews from The Indian Express, The New Indian Express, The Hindu Business Line.
While the giveaway deadline at Aparna's My Diverse Kitchen was yesterday, there is a new giveaway announced at Sin-a-Mon tales.

Mandira of Ahaar has announced my book as a giveaway gift on her 7th year blog birthday and I am very proud to be a part of her journey.

Congratulations to the winner of the book giveaway at A Mad Tea Party

Book is now available in stores in India, Flipkart and
For all others  new stock at Amazon on July5th. Order soon and the stocks will be updated.

More details and giveaways announced at the Book Page.

Bengali Chicken Royale or Picnic er Murgi

Chicken ~ 2lb. I had about 8 small sized leg pieces, the organic ones from Costco

I have used fried onion paste to marinate the chicken. You can also use fresh onion paste. I usually chop 2 onions in large chunks, saute them in little oil till soft and translucent, and then make them into a paste which I store. It is easier for me to then use that. Also raw onion paste sometimes tends to get bitter. This way I am sure.

Marinate chicken with
5 tbsp fried onion paste (this will be from one small onion or 1/2 of a big one. Sauteed until soft and then made into a paste)
2 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp ginger paste
4 green chilli ground or paste(skip if you don't want hot)
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri Mirch
1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder or any Meat Masala
2 tsp Mustard oil
1/4th Cup Yogurt

Marinate for 1 hr or more

When you are ready to cook, throw in about 4 halved small red potatoes(or 1 large quartered) to the above and toss in along with spices and chicken.
Also throw in 1 cup of thinly sliced onion to the above and toss along with everything

Now heat some more oil. Mustard oil preferred. I cooked this dish in 3 Tbsp of Oil but the original recipe had suggested more.

Temper the oil with
1 stick of cinnamon
1 Bay leaf
2 black cardamom
2 Clove
2 dry Red Chilli

Tomato Paste works well in this recipe but you can also add fresh pureed tomato.
This time around I added 1 tbsp tomato ketchup and 1/2 cup pureed tomato If you have canned tomato paste, about 2 Tbsp should be good.

Fry for 2 minutes and then add the marinated chicken along with the potato and onion. Toss everything together at high heat for 2-3 minutes. Cook the chicken with frequent stirring at medium high heat for about 10 minutes.

Now lower the heat, add
about 1/4th cup of chopped coriander, 
6 cloves of garlic, 
4 green chilli slit, 
salt to taste and cover the pan.
At low medium heat let the chicken cook. Remove cover and stir in between. Water will release from the chicken and marinade.
Do not add any water except for a little splash of water, if necessary.
The chicken is usually cooked in about 30 minutes or more. You will see by then the color of the gravy has changed and a thin layer of oil is floating on the top.

Once the chicken is done, remove cover and taste the gravy. Adjust for any spices that is missing.

Serve with slices of red onion and lime.