Monday, September 30, 2013

Pasta with Grilled Vegetables and toasted Breadcrumbs

We had this Pasta for dinner some time last week.

It was so good and the girls liked it so much that I decided to share with you all.

Also maybe I would want to make it again, very soon, and I would be moving heaven and earth trying to find the Pasta recipe that I just did on 26th September, 2013 or was it 25th ? But I would never find it because a) it would all be in my mind and b) I forget things that are on my mind.

So for benefit of mankind and myself, here is the recipe as I made it.

1. Chop veggies like pepper, mushroom, onion. Toss in Olive oil and salt. Pop in oven at 350F for say 30-40 mins.

2. While veggies cook, you can do several other things, none of which should involve stressful activities like doing power yoga.

3.If you still have time from doing non-stressful activities, put a big pot of water to boil. Generously salt it.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. I had Fettuccine and the box said "cook for 10-12 minutes" and so I chose 13. Once pasta is done, drain and reserve some pasta water.
Toss the pasta in olive oil and keep aside.

5. While the pasta cooks, for 13 minutes is a looong time, put a a frying pan on fire. Yes, you heard it right.

6. Warm up some olive oil in there. Add  a good amount of minced garlic and stir around a bit. Gahhhlic is important. For your breath.

7. Once the garlic is fragrant add some chopped sausage if you have or want them in your pasta. Follow with a tbsp of marinara sauce from the jar.
Again, if you don't have the tomato sauce, fine, go and add a tbsp of ketchup. This pasta thing is very free wheeling as long as you are not Italian.

8. Throw in the almost-done veggies from the oven and toss with sausage etc.

9. Now put in the cooked pasta. Add some salt to taste. Sprinkle little of the pasta water and toss the pasta along with veggies. Add a splash of olive oil if you feel that is the right thing to do.

10. Meanwhile put a cup of breadcrumbs into a oven safe tray and toast in the oven for couple of minutes. You can use fresh for that is best but I had the store bought seasoned kind.

11. When you taste and all feels fine with the world add some...Guess what ? Add some of the toasted bread crumbs!!! Yes, yes. Breadcrumbs. I had no idea that people add breadcrumb to pasta until I saw this. Toss the pasta with breadcrumbs. It is excellent.

12.And since there has to be a twelfth commandment for 11 is an odd number to end a list, garnish with some fresh basil and add feta if you so wish. Then dig in.

Now something that is totally unrelated to Pasta. As in "Pasta se koi wasta nahin". If you have by any chance read through my book, you would get a general idea that I am not the one who has perfectly matching accessories and high sense of fashion. I am severely challenged in that area. That does not preclude my being friends with fashionistas though. Many of my friends are impeccably turned out and have a very acute sense of what earring complements which high heels.

One of them is this lady who has been creating waves with her beautifully designed sarees. If you are in the area and you want to catch a glimpse of her exquisite creations do stop by her exhibition on Oct 5th.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Indian Fish Curry with tomatoes, coriander and mint

What is "The Indian Fish Curry" ? I have no clue.

I just named it thus. I have been clueless since yesterday. Yesterday, I spilled tea on LS's homework. The very first homework that she brings back back from Kindergarten. The one single worksheet which asked her to color all objects which start with a letter M. Objects as in, pictures of objects in an A4 sized worksheet.

So here I am calmly drinking my tea at the kitchen table while she is very importantly coloring the "mitt" , proud to have at least some homework compared to the loads that her fifth grader sister brings in. And then I shoot out my hand to point out that maybe it is a nice idea to color within the lines. And my shot out hand actually knocks off my cup of tea which spills part on her worksheet. No one is harmed, except for the worksheet. And my ego.

LS wags her finger at me and says "This time it is not my fault at all. Puro tomar dosh. All your fault." I nod my head in agreement and say "Sorry" umpteen times. We also mop up the worksheet which is now stained with my red label chai and set it to dry. I fear LittleSis would be hopping mad. Surprisingly she isn't. She takes a certain pleasure in the fact that it is all my fault and then asks me if I have to make more tea for myself as there was none left for me to drink. Tea is important to me.

Then I print more worksheets. I don't get the exact same one on internet so I print something similar. She does not complain and does the homework again. And at that point, I am a bit ashamed. If it had been my important work which was messed up by the kids spilling something on it, I would have shouted, given them a scolding and then a lecture on how to be more careful. And then I would have showcased that incident as an example for all of life's future lessons that I have planned for the girls.

"Remember that purple grape juice, the one that you spilled on my..., did you realize how it could have triggered global warming and war in Syria?" I would have droned.

LS with all her anger on her nose tip showed more composure than me.

While I am pretty generous with scolding my girls, I do realize that there is a lot to learn from them each day. Like the way BigSis is ready to take up harder tasks at school and the way she is comfortable facing a large crowd on the piano, scares me downright. When LS does her somersaults, stands on her head and tries to do cartwheels, I flinch and think how I can do none of those. They say children learn from their parents. It happens the other way too. Only I can never do cartwheels or play the piano. Ever.

Fish curry and those pretty painted cups are a gift from Mandira Maashi of Ahaar

This Fish curry which I have so generously named "The Indian Fish Curry" as if it is a representative of the 1.23 billion people in India, is a curry which probably no one has ever had or even heard of. But then it perfectly represents the country as it is not from east, west, south or north but is a dish which happened when I closed my eyes and started throwing things like tomatoes, mint, coriander from the refrigerator into the blender and then borrowed the tempering of tej-patta and methi seeds from my Mother's tomato fish curry. It is a blend. And a spicy, tangy one at that.

Also when I googled "Indian Fish Curry", my browser was flooded with curries from a lot of non-Indian sites shouting hoarse their best curry and some even claiming to be from Bengal. Couldn't be left behind I thought. If the world wants "Indian Fish Curry", I am all up for it.

I wish I could say this dish reminds me of "Desh ki Dharti" and smells just like the river that meandered right past my house. But nothing like that happens. Nevertheless it is a darn good curry and tastes beyond borders. And that river was a good 15 minutes from the house.

Fish Curry with tomatoes, mint and coriander

Buy Fish. Most important step. This is a versatile gravy and so you can choose almost any fish. Only not Hilsa. Never embarrass a Hilsa with "The Indian Fish Curry".
BTW I bought Tilapia from the Asian Market which was cut in steak pieces. I used about 6-8 of those steak pieces for this gravy.

Rinse the fish pieces. Pat them dry. Now rub them with salt, turmeric powder and leave them aside for 15-20 minutes.

At this point, which means 20 mins after the previous step, you are supposed to fry the fish. Fry in hot mustard oil. But thanks to my friend R, I no longer do this. I just broil the fish in the oven.
So drizzle some oil on the fish. Choose mustard oil if you wish. Then pop them in the oven to broil. I have a toaster oven which has a broil setting and 25 mins in there, the fish is done.
Of course your neighbor aunty from Kolkata will nod her head and say "tch-tch" and that nothing tastes like a fish fried brown in Shorsher tel. Smile and ignore.

Now to make the gravy put the following in a blender
1 cup of mint + coriander leaves(50% of each)
1 cup of pureed tomato OR 1 large tomato chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic
5-6 hot Indian green chillies
and make a fine paste

Heat some oil in a kadhai. Mustard oil should be good but any other will work. Few of you might disagree on that but what is "The Indian Fish curry" if there are no discords and disagreement.

Temper the oil with
2 Tej Patta/Bay leaf
few methi seeds, say about 15

Once the oil is flavored, add the paste you made. Fry the paste till oil starts separating. Unity in diversity.We all know that is what boosts the taste.

In a bowl take 2 tbsp of thick yogurt. To it add
1 heaped tsp of Coriander powder and 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch
Mix well.

Add this to the kadhai and saute for a minute at low heat.

Now add the broiled fish pieces and saute with the masala for a minute.

Add about 3/4th cup of warm water, salt and very little sugar to taste, 2 green chilli finely chopped and let the gravy simmer to a boil.

Once the gravy has reached a consistency which is not very runny, switch off heat. Sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves and cover the kadhai. Let the curry soak up the flavor.

Serve with rice or pulao.

Be ready to hear diverse opinions abut how good, or how bad or how ordinary it is. Also be ready to answer any questions about your before life, after life, price of fish, quality of fish and how Bunty's mother would make it way better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Peas and Corn with Himalayan Pink Salt

The Himalayan Pink salt is not important to this recipe.

The sweet peas are. So is the corn. I threw in the Himalayan Pink salt because it sounds hippie chic and also because I bought it very cheap at Costco.

I think Saindhav Lavan is how this Himalayan Rock Salt, mined in the Khewra salt mines at the foothills of Himalaya, was known to us in India. The Kala Namak which is more popular in India and is known as "Beet Noon" in Bengal, is a chemically transformed version of the Himalayan rock salt. Though these days Kala Namak is synthetically produced and there is no trace of Himalaya in there.

This Pink rock salt, looks like an original. Raw and unprocessed. I will keep my fingers crossed until someone crashes my delusion only to confirm that the cheaper Costco version was actually made in some lab in China.

Until then, here is this easy sweet peas and corn snack which will be packed for BigSis's lunch tomorrow along with ravioli. Whether you want regular salt, Himalayan Pink salt, Kosher salt or Kala namak is up to you.

Steamed sweet peas sauteed in butter was one of my favorite childhood snacks. Sometimes diced carrots and potatoes would be thrown in. At other times a chopped boiled egg. Sprinkle of black pepper and salt were the only seasonings. And it tasted so good that I care to make it again and again.

Only this time I did a tempering of Curry Leaves and Cumin seeds. You can ditch both and saute in just plain olive oil or butter too.

Cook 1 cup of frozen peas and 1 cup of frozen corn kernels in microwave. Usually 1 min for 1 cup cooks mine.

Now heat a tsp of Olive Oil. Temper the oil with 2 Kari Patta and few cumin seeds. You can add some sliced red onion too but I skipped.

Add the cooked peas and corn. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Season with Himalayan pink salt or regular salt. Sprinkle some crushed black pepper.


Ganesh Chaturthi was on Monday. It was also the day, both girls started their school after the summer break. Little Sis came back from her half-day KG and happily said "They call it Early Learning Center. But actually there is no learning."  I am sure hoping, she thinks it will remain that way.

Big Sis too liked her homeroom teacher. But she has a busy schedule with lots of running in between different classes and that too with heavy books and binders. Once the classes start in full swing and band practice etc. begins, she is going have a full day.

Leaving you with some pictures of Ganesha around my home and may the one with Curved Trunk, Large Body, and with the Brilliance of a Million Suns remove obstacles from our path or show us the way to do so.

Next week, I will be announcing some interesting giveaways on this blog. So stay tuned. And don't forget to get your copy of my book.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Salmon Doi Maach-- Salmon in a yogurt gravy

Doi Maach, Bengali Fish in Yogurt sauce
Doi Maach -- Fish in Yogurt Sauce

Next week school reopens in my part of the world. After 2 and a half months of late nights, later mornings, lazy breakfasts, no school lunches, no worries of homework, unlimited story book reading time and any hour ice cream time, letting go of summer vacation is not going to be easy.

For anyone.Okay, at least not for me.

Doi Maach
Sauteing Onions to grind into a paste
Though I was not at the receiving end of those sleep-in mornings and unlimited ice creams, it is my heart that squeezes in this awful manner, thinking of a summer that is slowly gathering up the hem of its laced skirt and preparing to say good bye.This summer has been one of those very laid back kinds, with minimum activities, no summer camps and the girls free to do what they want with their day. Well, for the most part.

Tempering oil with Whole spices
There have been several sleepovers, couple of picnics, multiple park visits, visiting friends in neighboring states, grandparents, beach, water parks, a short trip and a birthday party in the park for LittleSis. Nothing else was planned or chalked out and not once did they say they were "bored". BigSis of course read and re-read many books from Percy Jackson to Harry Potter, from the Malory Towers series that my Ma got to some Agatha Christies. LS learned to read pretty well but is yet to get hooked onto its magic, so she kept herself busy with imaginary games involving complex rules, which take more time to explain than play.

I think they had a good summer, kind of like those I had,only with air-conditioning. Listless, long, timeless.

Add the onion paste

And now here we are, with school starting on Monday. The prospect of two school buses at my doorstep for the two sisters, wrenching my gut. Darn, I am hitting menopause or what.

The supplies have been bought and labeled by BigSis. The bags have been packed. This is always an exciting part of a new school year though in this case there are no new text books involved. Supplies largely consist of  Sharpies, Folders, glue sticks, pens in certain colors, post-its and index cards. For LS it is glue sticks, crayons, glue sticks, color pencils, more glue sticks and did I say glue sticks ? I have no idea what they do in Kindergarten but it sure involves a lot of glue sticks.

Add fish and sprinkle kashmiri mirch
The start of a new school year was always exciting during my school days too. One of them was the new pencil box, which was a coveted treasure and the one thing where my parents gave in to fancy renditions. So I had those magic pencil boxes where the contents would disappear if you opened it a certain way, the two tier ones with Mickie on top,  the ones where the scale slid on and doubled as a cover and then shiny camel geometry boxes every year.Close second, were the new text books with their fresh smell and crisp pages and the Radiant Readers or Gulmohars with their new stories to leaf through.

In goes tomatoes and green chillies
There was also the act of covering each of them with brown paper. A daunting task which my Mother finished for the most part. While in the last few days of vacation, I would be busy completing the handwriting homework I had conveniently procrastinated, Ma would be sitting down with rolls of brown paper, a ruler and a pair of scissors, neatly covering each of the text books. I mostly covered the notebooks and then patiently drew lines on each of those covers to pencil in my name, classroom and section.

The yogurt which was mixed with half of onion paste, ginger paste, sugar and mixed thoroughly
BigSis has these things called book socks to cover her text books, the books that the school provides for the school year. The books mostly stay in class and are to be returned when she moves up. I don't have to pay for them. They are not new. But they are extraordinarily neat with no scribbles on the margins. However I see, she does not feel the oneness with these text books that I once did with mine. I would worry even as the brown paper cover frayed at the ends and started tearing at the spine and never ever leave them face open or upturned. She keeps the books neat but they are not hers to be highlighted, underlined or to make notes.Naturally so she does not feel for them with her heart either. They are just textbooks for the new school year.

It is the folders, pencils and binders which excite her more. And then there are the glue sticks for LS. All six of them.

Add water and let gravy simmer
Before I go onto the recipe, I must tell you about this wonderful event where my book is a part of the giveaway. It is hosted by Srivalli of the wonderful blog "Cooking 4 all Seasons". You can participate and try to win a copy.
My book is now also available for UK/Europe/Canada on Amazon at the, etc. And it is always there on Amazon and Flipkart. If you have read my book, I would also urge you to rate and review it at these sites as well as on Goodreads. It will be a huge help.
Soon, I will be having a couple of giveaways on my blog too. So stay tuned.

Almost ready!

Now to Doi Machh i.e Fish in a yogurt gravy features in my list of favorite dishes. Surprisingly this simple dish varies from one Bengali home to the other in the little nuances they add. My Ma’s Doi Maachh is pretty much traditional with raw onion paste, ginger paste and yogurt in the gravy and that awesome taste is what I grew up with. Then, when I saw my Ma-in-law add chopped tomatoes to this gravy, towards the end of cooking, I was taken by surprise. But her dish tasted just like Doi Maachh and yet was unique with this touch.
When it was my turn, I went further. Instead of a raw onion paste, I started sautéeing the onion lightly and grinding them to a paste which I then used in the gravy. I was trying to shorten the time it takes to “kashao” raw onion paste. Simple. In my book, I have a version of Doi Maachh where I have added even more twists and turns.

Tastes best with some rice

Though traditionally done with fish like Rohu or Carp, I find salmon perfect in this sweet and spicy yogurt gravy. Today, I will share with you my version of Salmon diye Doi Maachh, where the salmon is poached in the gravy and the taste is so darn awesome that my daughters lick it up.

And I am sure you will love this too.

Btw, you can use this recipe for the traditional Rui or Rohu fish too. If the fish is not very fresh I would suggest to saute the fish lightly and then proceed with the rest of the steps.

Salmon Doi Maach -- Salmon in a yogurt gravy

Prep Work

Heat Vegetable Oil in a frying pan

Chop a medium sized onion in large chunks and then saute it until it is soft, pink and translucent. Now cool and make a paste.

Next in a bowl, add about 1/2 cup of thick yogurt. To it add
1/2 of the onion paste
1 tbsp of fresh ginger paste
a pinch of turmeric powder
1/4th tsp of sugar
1/4th cup of water
Beat well

Note for creamier gravy: Soak 2 Tbsp of cashew for 10 minutes and make a smooth paste with little water. Add it to the yogurt above

Clean the fish pieces and lightly rub with salt and turmeric. Keep aside for half an hour. For salmon, I request the fishmonger to get the skin off the filet and then cut the filet into kabob sized pieces.

Note: Btw, you can use this recipe for the traditional Rui or Rohu fish too. If the fish is not very fresh I would suggest to saute the fish lightly and then proceed with the rest of the steps.

Start Cooking

Heat some more Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan.

Add the coarsely pounded whole garam masala
Elaichi or Cardamom~ 5
Laung or Cloves~ 5
TejPata or BayLeaves~ 2
Dalchini or Cinnamon Sticks ~ 1” stick

When they start sputtering add the remaining onion paste. Add about 1 tsp of sugar and fry the onion paste till the oil separates.

Add the fish pieces. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri mirch  and saute until the fish pieces lose their raw color. Don't overcook or fry the fish too much. It will cook in the gravy

Next add half of a large tomato chopped into small pieces and about 5 slit green chillies. You can also add halved grape tomatoes. Saute for 2 minutes,

Now take the Kadai/Frying Pan off the heat and give it a couple of minutes to cool.

Add the beaten yogurt/curd and mix with the fish. If you add the yogurt directly when the utensil is on heat the yogurt may curdle so you need to do this.

Put back the Kadai/Frying Pan on heat.

Add salt as required .Add about 1/2 - 2/3 cup of water at this point. depending on how much gravy you need, you might need more or less water.

Simmer on low heat till the gravy comes to a boil. Let it simmer till the gravy is thick and smooth and the fish is just flaking apart. The texture of the gravy should be silky smooth because of all that yogurt. Note: the gravy will not dry off totally but will be thick and not watery

Finish off with a little ghee if you wish and a little Garam masala powder. Serve with white rice.