Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Baishali'r Enchor Kofta -- Green Jackfruit Kofta Curry

There was a time when if you talked about food it would always be closely linked to family.



Ma's chhanar dalna with its soft pillowy cottage cheese squares plumped with the sweet jhol, Dida'r chingri cutlet where the red-orange tail of succulent prawn peeked just so from one end of the cutlet , Boro Mashi'r jhol with gondhoraj lebu. Food was closely associated with family and recipes were mostly handed down from one generation to other, the secrets guarded zealously within boundaries defined by blood.



There were winter afternoons when that guard was let down and recipes were exchanged over fences and terraces, but those moments were rare and in between. Crochet patterns and knits and purls were more frequently exchanged than recipes. I think it was something to do with those times when the kitchen was a woman's domain and a recipe her closely-guarded personal asset.

My Mother did learn to make a variety of papad from our neighbor Jain auntie and once in a while something different like a Bandhakopir kheer from another neighbor but mostly what she cooked was what she had learned from her family. She also would try out recipes from newspapers which were sketchy and relied a lot on the cook's knowledge. Those were made with her own adaptations and so we always tagged them as ma'r recipe.



But now boundaries have expanded and we venture out to cook from books, television, internet and above all friends. Barring a few people most folks are generous with their recipes. My repertoire of recipes teems with N's jhaaler jhol, R's chicken korma, J's eggless date cake, A's broccoli pasta, S's zucchini chingri and so on. My kids often request for this mashi's chicken or that mashi's shrimp scampi.

Sometimes these recipes are more helpful than the original as they have more precise measures and adapt with the ingredients easily available now. Though not linked by blood these recipes have a tie of their own.

Today's Enchor er Kofta recipe is my friend Baishali's.



I have known Baishali from a time when we were unencumbered with social media and thus related obligations. We happened to meet through a common friend and the lovely, warm person that B is, she immediately invited us to their home.

At that time when cooking was not something that came easy to me, Baishali and her husband were cooking up a gourmet storm. I still remember the whole red snapper that her husband cooked and the baked egg she made on our first visit to their home. The food was beyond delicious and those baked eggs have been since made several times by the husband-man to rave reviews.

We still call it "Baishali'r baked dim, as in "Achha party te ki Baishali'r dim ta hobe?"


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Apple Cake and a Happy Diwali



October and November are busy months. Being a true Bengali at heart( or at least half the heart as those who know me will insist on my ties to Bihar), I have the habit of embracing every other festival that comes my way.By "I", I do not necessarily mean the first person singular, rather it is a representative of the multitude "We", who do the same. However there is a fine print in all this embracing. The fine print clearly states to embrace only festivals that have a happy ending and does not involve any kind of physical discomfort, be it fasting or walking.

So with much joy we jump from Durga Pujo to Lokkhi Pujo to Halloween and then take a short break to sort through and upload Durga Pujo selfies, after which we march into Kali Pujo followed immediately by Diwali and Bhai Phota ending it with a Thanksgiving Turkey only to celebrate Christmas again in 3 weeks.



Since Thanksgiving or Halloween was not part of my childhood and Christmas was kind of like a watered poach on a soft winter day, Kali Pujo and Diwali marked the culmination of the month of joy and festivals for us. We never had a month long holiday and after the ten days Dusshera break, Diwali was a two day holiday affair. The days would be cold by Diwali and there would be dew glistening on the grass in the mornings. Dusk fell quickly in the month of Karthik and the lanes in our small town would grow quiet early in the evening with only a few people on cycle or scooters, their upper body tightly wrapped in shawls, returning home from the market or work.

Strangely it is the dusk and the quiet that I recall of Diwali. As if the Kalipotkas never existed. Diwali doesn't remind me of firecrackers, instead it reminds me of row of slim white candles their lights flickering in the light autumn breeze and the clay lamps filled with oil bravely glowing in the darkest corners of the uthon. It also reminds me of "Gharonda" -- mud doll houses and the "kuliyah-chukiyah" -- toy pots and utensils made with a shiny pink clay that was a Diwali ritual when I was still younger.



Diwali for me is all about light and clay and flickering lamps on dewy evenings. So every year, I make it a point to get the girls paint a few clay diyas. I think it would help them be a part of the festivity. And of course because it is very low hassle for me. I can just hand the girls, a bunch of clay diyas, some acrylic paint, brush and a few sheets of adhesive jewels and go take a nap. After a few hours whatever they do will turn up gorgeous and best part is usable.

  • Buy a bunch of plain clay diyas/clay lamps from your Indian grocery store
  • Wash them and set out to dry overnight
  • Next day find a nice spot for the kids to sit on the floor and paint. Put a mat to cover the area and make clean up easy.I usually spread a sleeping bag covered with a bedsheet and then put them in the washer to clean after the activity.
  • Get 3-4 bright colored acrylic paints
  • Paint the diyas
  • Let the paint on the diya dry
  • After the diyas have dried out, decorate the diya with stick-on jewels
  • You can put a tea-light candle in the diya and light it

I have been seeing this Kundan Rangoli on the internet for a long time but this year decided to let the kids do a simple version of it. I got some idea from here.
  • Get this clear Grafix plastic sheet. You can get them from Amazon.
  • Buy packs of stick-on jewels. Again good deal on Amazon.
  • Put a rangoli pattern or rangoli stencil beneath the plastic sheet.
  • Now stick the jewels on the plastic sheet according to the pattern
  • Even if the kids don't exactly follow the pattern and follow their heart this will end up sparkly and beautiful.

This is also a month of birthday in my home and while my Ma's b'day is celebrated on Kali Pujo when she usually fasts, the husband-man's birthday is on a fixed date which falls around the same time. We made a beautiful apple cake for him which was in perfect sync with the season. The cake came out really really good and I hope to bake it again soon.



Here is the Apple Cake Recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I followed the recipe closely except for some little changes here and there. I added a little butter and drizzled a little maply syrup after taking cake out of the oven. It was a delicious cake with apples going all soft and sweet, and my kitchen smelled of fall, apples, Diwali and what not.



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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Chocolate Narkel Naru Truffles -- in a flowchart


Durga Pujo is over. Umpteen of them. Spread over weekends, weekdays and months, there were gorgeous pics of Ma Durga and glamorous pics of her devotees all around on my Facebook feed. I could feel the festivity right here, on my laptop. We had our own share of fun too. Saptami'r anjali, Ashtami'r bhog, Nabami'r arati, we meticulously followed the traditions, draping nine yards after work on a weekday and dragging tired children with their homework folders from mandaps to mandaps.

It wasn't religion that pushed us.

We were okay with offering an evening anjali after the day's meal, circumventing the scriptures which speak of fasting. We diligently bowed our heads in front of the protima, her bright gaze penetrating our hearts, but only a moment later we stood in a line smiling at the camera urging the photographer to make us look as slim as possible. If we found that the queue for Bhog was too long and the Khichuri wasn't enticing we trooped off for a Sri Lankan meal winding it down with Singa beer.

It wasn't religion. It was tradition.A pleasure in the mere sense that we belonged even if we were many miles away. It was more precious than religion.

It is for the same reason that I did Lokkhi Pujo and made Narkel Naru soon after. And it is for this that many of my friends do the same. When the oil lamp flickers and they read "Lokkhir Panchali" in a sing song voice, they are not praying for wealth or riches, they are actually building a bridge to their beginning.



My paternal grandparents were very ritualistic when it came to religion. Lokkhi Pujo and Saraswati Pujo were done at home by my Grandfather who sat straight, sacred thread around his bare upper body, chanting mantras in crisp Sanskrit. The entire neighborhood was invited on Kojagari Lokkhi Pujo and his perfect Sanskrit diction in the smoke filled Thakur Ghor made the whole thing very mystic.

But in that Thakur Ghor, you had to fast for anjali and sit cross legged with your toes tucked under the hems of your dress. There were allowances made if you were a child but adults were held to high standards. To pick flowers for Pujo, you had to shower and change into fresh clothes. The Bhog offered to the Goddess had to be cooked in much sanctity.You weren't allowed to touch the Bhoger thala until pujo was over and you knew not to enter the Thaku Ghor if you had your periods.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Durga Pujo 2015 -- Food and Recipes

A short guide to Durga Pujo and the food around it. Click on the food names to get the recipe.



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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Tomato Khejur Chutney




Bengali Tomato and Date Chutney

This recipe is in the book and being reposted. Original date: Nov,2009.

*Chaatni is the Bengali for Chutney

Tomato Chaatni was my staple diet as a kid. That and Chanar Dalna. I don't remember eating anything else much as a 5 year old. My memory has gone bad so I don't remember too much but the red tomato chutney still glistens on the steel tiffin carrier that the help along with my Mom would bring for school lunch every day until Grade 2. Tomato chaatni to me means a safe haven of home amidst strict nuns, new friends and a foreign language that I didn't understand.

Later the aamer ambol pushed tomato chaatni to second place but a childhood sweetheart always has its own special corner.

So one of these weekends we were at this lunch at a friend's house. When I had first met her a couple of years back, she had thrown me off by saying that she makes experimental dishes like chicken with cauliflower. She didn't even say that it tasted great or anything re-assuring about it. So the first time she invited us for dinner we went with a lot of trepidation. She is wonderful company and we thought that the evening would be great even if the chicken had cauliflowers.

It turned out she is a wonderful wonderful cook, all her dishes are fabulous and none of them were radical.The last time we were invited for lunch, she had made 70 vegetable chops, all perfectly shaped and fried. Ok, just to get things clear there were more people and we didn't eat the chops just by ourselves.

Her Tomato chutney or tomato chaatni was really good, studded with raisins, dates and aam shotto, it tasted heavenly. But there was a tang in that chutney that is missing in mine which I just attributed to her good cooking.

Later when I asked, she told me she had added some tamarind chutney to the tomato chaatni and that was the secret to its tangy taste. And then I remembered my Mom adding a little tamarind pulp to her tomato chutney too. How did I forget ? In fact my Mom sometimes would add whole tamarind, pits and all to the tomato chaatni and now that I remember I can hear the clatter of the deep brown tamarind pits on the steel plate as I sucked them out clean.




More than just the tamarind pulp the sweet-sour-spicy tamarind chutney really lends a nice dimension to the tomato chutney and makes it delicious, so do try it next time. Khejur or dates is the perfect company for the tomatoes in the chutney and that is how it is almost always made in a Bengali home. The aam shotto or aam papad/dried sweet mango slices is another delicious addition to the traditional Bengali Tomato chutney. Sadly I had none and so couldn't add any.

I have also made tomato chutney with cranberries when they are in season, the cranberries also add a nice tartness to the chutney but I must say I like this one better.

Read more...






Tomato Khejur Chaatni/Chutney


Prep

Wash and chop 5/6 nice juicy plump red tomatoes in large-ish chunks, like say each tomato should be chopped in 8-10 pieces

Chop 20-30 pitted dates in halves or in thin slices

Start Cooking

Heat Oil in a deep bottomed sauce pan

Temper the hot oil with 2 tsp of black mustard seeds and 2 dry Red Chili. Cover with a lid to avoid mustard dancing around your kitchen. Note: You can avoid the Chili if you don't want spicy

When the mustard sputters, add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of turmeric, little salt and saute them. Then cover and cook the tomatoes at low heat. The juicy tomatoes will release a lot of liquid and will cook in their own juice. Every minute or so, remove the lid and give a good stir

Once the tomatoes are almost done, add the chopped dates, about 1/3 cup of golden raisins and stir well. If you have amswatta, add some chopped now. Add about 1 tsp of ginger juice, grate ginger and squeeze to get the juice. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of water and cook for a few more minutes till the tomatoes have totally disintegrated and thoroughly cooked to a soft pulp.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar, mix well, adjust for salt & sugar and then let the chutney simmer and reduce to a thick consistency

Now is a small tip. To make the chutney tangy add 1-2 tbsp full of a tamarind chutney to the tomato chutney. You can use a store bought one or make one of your own using tamarind pulp. This really gives the chutney a sweet-tangy taste instead of just sweet.

Before serving, sprinkle with dry roasted cumin powder or dry roasted and ground paanch-phoron powder.

Updated on 11/10/2009: As I said in an earlier post a traditional Bengali meal usually consists of five to six courses, starting off with something bitter and ending with a sweet dessert. The fifth course served just prior to the dessert is the sweet & sour ambol or chutney.

The chutney (pronounced cha-a-tni in Bengali) in Bengal is not the chutney, sold in jars in the Asian/Indian Aisle of your SuperMarket and hugely popular in the Western World . The Chutney as we have it in a Bengali household is almost always prepared fresh and is eaten as a course of a lunch or a dinner to accent the meal and not as a relish or as a dip. It is the pickle which is preserved for later day use.

Updated on 12/01: A simpler recipe of Bengali Tomato Chutney from Eves Lungs as said in the comments
Dice 250 gm tomatoes . Temper a tsp pf paanch phoron in a little oil, add the tomatoes - add 1 cup of sugar . Cover and cook. Don't add water . You can also add some raisins . This tastes yummy. The tomatoes cook in the juice released from the vegetable as well as the sugar .

Similar Recipes:

Tomato Khejur Cranberry Chutney -- a similar chutney with cranberries for added tartness

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Home made Marinara Sauce and a Pasta with Peppers and Greens



My relation with Pasta is not something that goes back to my grandmother's or even my Mother's kitchen. My grandmother had no idea about it and my Mother didn't care about it.

It wasn't a food that we even craved for. As a middle class Bengali, way back in the 90's, I don't think we had much idea about Italy beyond Roberto Baggio,Salvatore Schillaci, Michelangelo and Pope John Paul 2, in that order. We weren't bothered about what Italians ate.

Though Pizza had found its way in middle class Indian homes in the early nineties and was described as a kind of "ruti" with ketchup and Amul cheese on it, it was embraced as a food which the rich Americans with poor eating habits, survived on. Very few of us deemed it as food from Italian kitchen. In those days, Domino's and Pizza Hut were not familiar names and Mongini's was where we got our pizza from. Mini round thick crusts with onion, pepper and cheese on them. I think they also sold pizza bases there which I remember getting a few times.

My Mother had this round electric oven, shaped like an UFO. It had a glass porthole at the top of the aluminum lid and couple of times a year, she used this contraption to bake a cake. On all other days it rested on the top of our Godrej almirah, wrapped in sheaths of plastic. I remember the few times that I made pizza in that oven. Squirting ketchup on the pizza base, shredding Amul cheese on it and then watching the cheese melt through the porthole, I am sure I felt like a pioneer ushering in a new cuisine at our modest dining table.

But did we ever try eating or cooking Pasta ? Nope. Never.



Until that is I started working in Bangalore in the late nineties and had a first taste of Casa Picola's delicious Pasta. I have no idea what kind it was but was in a creamy white sauce which was so subtle that it just tickled your senses without over powering it.It had capers and olives and was utterly delicious. That is what I thought was Pasta and loved it.

And then we came to the US. My first encounter with Pasta here was a disaster. At one of those "American-Italian" restaurants that are so popular here, I was served a plate of squiggly spaghetti drowned in a scarlet red colored marinara sauce, which was so bad that I sweared to stay off Pasta all my life. I never really tried eating or cooking pasta there after, except at a Bengali friend's home, who made elbow macaroni with onion, eggs, vegetables and soy sauce, in a similar manner that we make stir-fried noodles. It was so good and for a long time that was the only kind of Pasta I would eat.



But after Big Sis was born and started going to pre-school, pasta re-entered our home. It seemed like a lunch which a 3 year old could easily eat by herself at school. Even as I tried to come to terms with the wonder of pasta, elbow shaped Macaroni or "Macu" climbed the charts in Big Sis's favorite foods list.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Fish Kofta Curry -- and the summer that was

We are in the last leg, rather finger of the summer holidays. Four more days to go and school opens on Tuesday. It has been a long vacation and a surprisingly fun one. I think that is what happens when you set out with very low expectations. With our holidays(to Yellowstone, which I need to write about soon) done at the very beginning of July and no excitement of grandparents visiting, when we had looked upon the stretch of two months lying ahead of us back in July 9th, it seemed like barren two months of little fun. A lot of our and the kids' friends were also away in India for the summer and the prospect looked really bleak.

As is my habit, I am filled with utter remorse if  summer vacation is not "fun" enough and so I even had a panic attack or two and had I been born in the West I would have a shrink who could have profited by my state. The husband-man who looks down upon my attempt at concocting "summer fun" with utter disdain and thinks I am getting sucked in by Western ideas of "must-have-fun-in-summer" had his own set of panic at the prospect of getting dragged out in the heat instead of zoning out in front of X-files on Amazon prime.

All this panic and absence of "shrink" led to marital discords and two absolutely exciting summer months. Okay, not exactly exciting because of the discord but because we had so little expectations.



So what happened ?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Swai or Basa Fish in a Curry Leaves and Tomato gravy



The Swai Fish or Basa has become recently very popular here. They are from the catfish family and are mostly farmed in Vietnam. There are plenty of debates about fish like Basa and Tilapia as the "catfish war" goes on and it is up to you to decide whether you want to eat these farmed fishes or go for the more expensive wild salmon.

When I first had this fish at a friend's home, I really liked it as I felt that the Swai/Basa has a texture which complements the Indian gravy very well. It goes well with a mustard based curry, a coconut based one or the regular onion-ginger-garlic curry. My girls however did not take to this fish but me and D would enjoy it now and then.

And then one day I made this fish with tomatoes and curry leaves. Big Sis is a huge curry leaves fan and she liked it so much that she will now have Swai/Basa when cooked in this particular gravy. Now this gravy has nothing to do with Swai in particular and tastes as well if you are using filet of salmon or even any other white fish. Try it and I am sure you will like it.



For 3 filet of swai/basa in standard size. You can also use salmon or any other white fish like cod.

Wash the fish filet and pat them dry. Now cut the fish filet in cubes ~ 2" x 3". I think I had about 8-9 pieces

Dust the fish with turmeric powder, salt and then add 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss the fish pieces gently.

Now ideally the fish should have been fried but I don't do that. Too much work. Instead do this.

Put all the fish pieces in a single layer on a baking tray and put in the oven to "Broil". Now depending on your oven the time to broil the fish until it is golden will vary. It takes about 20-25 minutes in my toaster oven while in the conventional oven it is done in 10-15 minutes.
Note: With swai a lot of water is releases on baking so make sure that the fish is spaced out in a single layer on the baking tray.

For making the gravy, the most important thing you need is Tomato Paste. It gives a great color to the gravy. While the fish cooks in the oven, you can actually proceed with the gravy.

Make a paste of
1 large red juicy tomato
2 green chilli
1/2" ginger

Now heat Mustard Oil in a wok. I have also done this gravy in Olive Oil and sunflower oil.

Temper the oil with
5-6 Curry Leaves(Kari Patta),
1/4th tsp of Whole Methi seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli

When the seeds pop add
1/2 tsp of garlic paste
1 tbsp of Tomato Paste from can (like this one)
the tomato-chilli paste you made

Fry for a minute or so.

Now add
1 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch
a pinch of Turmeric powder

Fry the tomato paste until the raw smell is gone and you see the oil seeping around the edges. Around 6-7 minutes.

Add
1 tsp of Coriander powder
1/2 tsp of sugar

Sprinkle a little water and fry for a minute

Now add about 1 Cup of water, salt to taste and let the gravy simmer to a boil

When the gravy is simmering, taste and see if everything is right. If sugar or salt is needed adjust at this point.

Now add the broiled pieces of fish to the gravy and let it simmer for couple more minutes.

Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with rice



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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Bhaswati Kalita's Borar Tauk or Borar Tenga


It is 10:30 at night right now. I have just had a bowl of luscious vanilla ice cream with really sweet mangoes. That the ice cream and mangoes were served to me by Big Sis and Li'l Sis while I lounge on the sofa makes it extra sweet. And then I am watching "Liv&Maddie" or some such Disney series which is a privilege in itself as we usually have no access to Disney and such cable channels. We finally signed up for a month of Netflix on trial only because it is the summer holidays. I really love summer vacations. I get it that it is not exactly the working parent's dream come true but I still love it and I am going to sign petitions if anyone decides to make it any shorter.

Summer also means mangoes.Both the sweet and the sour ones. Though the sour raw mango is available almost all year round, having a mango chaatni or "aamer ombol" in summer is the real thing.



Now why am I jumping from summer to mangoes in one breath ? Well because in my brain they are kind of interconnected. If you say "summer", I say "mango". Quite a few months back one of my blog readers had asked for a "Bori Posto" recipe. I had no idea what a "Bori Posto" was. Still don't. The strange thing is over the summer that recipe morphed in my brain as a "Bora or Borir Tauk" and I went around looking for it. I was pretty sure that "Hasina Ahmad"di wanted to make a "Borir Tauk". So deeply influenced was I by this idea that I even asked on my FB page about a "Bori'r Tauk" recipe. Many of the readers shared a "Maacher Dim er Borar Tauk" which no doubt was brilliant but I was looking for just plain "Borir Tauk"!

I was on a mission to find this recipe which my blog reader had never in her life asked for. Clearly shows signs of my aging.

So anyway this "Mission Impossible" turned out to be possible because of two people.

One was my dear blogger friend Sharmila of KichuKhonn who shared her grandmother's recipe of "Daatar Tok"

The other was by blog reader Bhaswati Kalita. She said in Assamese cuisine they have something similar called borar tenga which is had mostly during summers....either mango, lime juice or something  called thekera which is somewhat similar to kokum, is used. This sounded so interesting that I asked her for the recipe and this is the recipe she shared with me:

"Here is how it goes...if you are using lime juice then make the juice of 1 lemon/lime(be careful not to squeeze it too much; belief has it if you do then the resulting juice is bitter; I know sounds ridiculous) Make the daler bora's with mostly chana dal fried in mustard oil...just add a little bit of salt and turmeric to the dal paste...no other seasoning required, then temper some mustard oil in the wok...add panch phoron, mix the lime juice with some water and a little sugar n salt...check seasoning...add this to the oil, you can add kafir lime leaves to add to the aroma once it starts to boil...then add the bora's...to thicken the gravy you can either add a little bit of rice flour or plain flour...and simmer till the desired consistency... we usually have this towards the end of the meal...really a relief to the tummy during hot and humid summers
Alternatively u can use raw mango slices, instead of lime juice fry the mango slice in oil with phoron and then add water and a mint leaves towards the end..."

So I adapted it for mangoes and this is what I did...



Make the Dal e Bora

Soak 1 cup of Chana Dal overnight or for 5-6 hours. Drain the water and put the chana dal in your mixie or blender jar. Add a tsp of chopped ginger and 1 green chilli. Grind the chana dal to a paste with splashes of water

The chana dal should be a thick paste, a little on the coarse side. Add salt and a little red chilli powder to the paste and then beat it well with a fork.

Now heat enough oil in a kadhai. Mustard oil is your best bet. When the oil is hot enough, you will know by putting in a pinch of the batter and checking if the batter sinks(not ready) or rises up with bubbles(ready), add scoops of the paste in the hot oil.Fry small boras or fritters from this paste. Remove the fried balls or bora and soak the excess oil in a paper towel or any absorbent paper.

In other news you can make the boras with way less oil in this ebelskeiver pan like I did.

Make the Tauk

We will use about 6 of those Boras to make the tauk and so I used only half of a green mango . Peel the mango and chop in medium pieces.


Now to make the tauk, heat mustard oil in a kadhai

Temper the mustard oil with a tsp of PaanchPhoron

Add chopped green mangoes and sprinkle a little turmeric powder

Saute the mangoes for a few minutes.

Add 2 Cups of water and salt to taste and let the raw mangoes soften and cook

Once the mangoes are cooked add about 3 tbsp of sugar and let the jhol simmer. You may need more or less sugar depending on how sour your mangoes are and your personal taste.

Add a tsp of mustard paste(optional)

Add the boras/fritters and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes until the bora soaks up the liquid. Squeeze a little lime juice and add a few mint leaves if you wish.

This tok or tauk is a very light soupy gravy and you can have this with rice

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Spaghetti with Broccoli,Sausage and Burnt Garlic



So we are back from our vacation and I am feeling very depressed. This happens to me every summer. I look forward to it with so much eagerness and then BOOM past June 21st I am all anxious and feeling melancholy that the days will start to shorten and soon there will be chilly winter winds blowing. I try to chide my mind and focus on living in the moment but then when I am not being mindful, the melancholy creeps right back in.

Given that the major vacation is done with and there is no family visiting us from India this year, I am trying to scout for things that we can do for the next two months of holiday. Things other than laze around of course. Focusing on happy summery thoughts.

Like, that my coriander is growing.



And the basil I started from seeds is finally ready with tender basil leaves.



And that after "Inside Out"( love, love, love) and "Jurassic World", there is "Minions" to watch!

So anyway, the fact of the matter is that we have been back only a couple of days and have done the laundry! Score point 1. Before leaving, I had frozen a Dal and Chicken curry so that we could defrost and eat those, while going through holiday trip hangover. Also I have really good friends and one of them had supplied us with enough soul food(read musurir dal and posto) on our return. Therefore I didn't have to cook much in the last couple of days.



The only thing I made for lunch today is a Pasta. My daughters somehow never tired of pasta. Almost living on it for ten days they are still glad to have more. I am happy with it too as it is a easy one pot meal that satisfies everyone.

Today I made a Spaghetti with Broccoli and then flavored with burnt garlic.That simple. The trick to this Broccoli pasta is to stir the broccoli florets vigorously until it totally crumbles into tiny tiny green specks and then just hides somewhere in the pasta infusing it with its flavor. And ahem, I also added some andouille sausage.

Here is how you do it.

I used Spaghetti but you can also do the same with elbow or Farfalle. I feel penne requires more sauce and this is too light for penne.

We will be adding some Andouille sausage for the non-veg version and if you are using that take it out to defrost. 

Cook pasta according to package directions. After cooking the pasta and draining the water, I give the pasta a quick rinse in cold water and then toss it in olive oil.

Chop a medium sized head of Broccoli into florets. Chop some of the stem too. No need to chop the florets very small as you will be steaming it.

Now steam the Broccoli with a pinch of salt. I just put them in a pan of boiling water and cook until they are really tender. Like soft tender.

Mince about 4 cloves of garlic.

Heat some olive oil in a pan which is big enough to toss the pasta. Add the sausage cut up in pieces and saute until sausage pieces are lightly browned. Remove and keep aside

Add the minced garlic to the oil and when you get the garlic flavor then follow with the steamed broccoli florets. Saute the broccoli until it crumbles into tiny pieces. Sprinkle salt as needed, remember the pasta was boiled with salt and you will be adding cheese and sausage later which will have some amount of salt. Now add the spaghetti and toss so that the broccoli is mixed with the pasta.

Sprinkle parmesan generously and then pour the pasta in a serving dish. Add the sausage to the pasta and toss.

Now heat some more olive oil in the same pan

Add 1 fat clove of garlic chopped in thin slices to the hot oil and quickly toss it around until the garlic starts to brown.

Pour this garlic oil and garlic on the spaghetti

Garnish with some fresh basil and serve




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Monday, June 29, 2015

Omeltte er Jhol -- Omelette in a Curry


This Omelette er jhol or Indian style Omelettes in a gravy, is one of my favorite egg dishes. There is something about an omelette basking in a thin curry and growing fat and pillowy, all so that you can bite into its softness and let the curry juice trickle down your throat. It makes an omelette far more sensuous than an omelette.

I don't know if anywhere other than in a Bengali home, an omelette is dunked into a gravy. Why you might ask ? I mean why can't you just eat an omelette like it is destined to be eaten?

For we like to change destiny, I say. For we see rainbow where you might just see a blue sky with white clouds. Nothing wrong with a blue sky and white clouds. But a rainbow adds magic. Just like the omellette in a jhol.

Now, there are many Bengali homes too where this dish is not the norm, like this dish was never made at my in-law's home and when I made it for the first time, they thought it was some crazy idea of mine.


But my Ma, has been making this for ages and I have always loved this slightly runny jhol with its potatoes and soft omelettes. Big Sis loves it much more than the regular egg curry aka dim er jhol and asks for it often. It is pretty simple to make too. Rice and omelette er jhol makes for a very comforting dinner for us.

Bengali Style Omellete er Jhol

First take 4 large eggs. Or more eggs if you so wish. Let us not even go into the conundrum of which comes first "Chicken or the Egg"

Now comes the difficult part. Break the eggs in a bowl, two at a time.

To it add
a tbsp of onion finely chopped
green chillies finely chopped
salt to taste
1 tbsp of milk
chopped coriander leaves(optional)
Beat them to a smooth mix

Now make an Omelette. Heat oil in a frying pan. Pour out the egg batter on the pan and swirl till the batter is evenly distributed and let it cook. Fold the omelette in half and cook both sides. Slide it out on a plate. When cool slice in two portions. You can also slice up in cubes or squares.

Making the thin gravy for Omlette er Jhol.

You can make a richer and thicker gravy if you so wish but we like a thin gravy.

Heat 2 tbsp Oil in a Kadhai/Saucier

Temper the Oil with
1 tsp of PaanchPhoron

When the seeds pop add half of a medium onion chopped fine + 2 green chillies slit along the length. Saute till onion softens.

Toss in 1 potato cut in thin half moon shapes. With a sprinkle of turmeric powder, fry the potatoes and onion until they turn golden. At this point the fried flavor of onion and potatoes will make you very hungry!

Next add a chopped tomato.

Add about 1/2 tsp of ginger paste. Fry for a couple of minutes. Tomato should be totally mushed up by now.



Meanwhile in a bowl add
1 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri Mirch/Red Chilli powder
pinch of turmeric powder
and mix well so that you have a smooth paste

Add this masala paste to the potatoes in the kadhai and cook at low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Add about 2 cups of warm water, salt to taste and mix well. Let the gravy come to a simmer.

Cover and let the potatoes cook.

Once the potatoes are done, taste the curry and adjust for spices. You might like to add a little sugar to the jhol at this point.

Once the jhol/gravy is ready add the the omelette into the gravy and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Best served with rice.



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Friday, June 26, 2015

Aam Pudina Grilled Murgi -- Chicken grilled with Mint-Green mango chutney



Yesterday was the dress rehearsal at LS's dance class. Being an Indian classical dance you can well imagine the lengths one had to go to, getting the child dressed. But this post is not about the dance so let us not deviate.

I usually drop Little Sis off at her dance class and come back to pick only later. Yesterday however I had to stay back to check with the teacher if the dress and get up was okay or anything more was to be done. The place was full of little girls all in traditional costume and their Moms. Mostly the parent/guardian was female so I assume it was the Mother except for one whose Dad was there.

Now on other days I see many Dads doing the drop off and pick up but yesterday it was mostly Mothers. I guess it was because they were in charge of the costume and make up for the child. Now this particular Dad who was there yesterday wasn't just doing a drop off. He had come armed with full knowledge of what his daughter's dress and makeup should be and was not afraid to ask questions. His daughter, a little girl of probably eight was beautifully dressed but was missing a couple of fake jewellery.There were a few other kids who were missing the same.

The teacher handed them the pieces and said it has to be secured with safety pins. Most of the Moms were clueless and did not have any safety pin on them. I myself had just bought a box of safety pins the day before and the box was tucked away at home.As we were looking around, this particular gentleman fished out a box of safety pins from his bag and fixed his daughter's jewellery. He then also took out some bobby pins and fixed her hair. When all was done, he shared a few of the safety pins with us too. I was really amazed at how well prepared and organized he was compared to moi. Maybe it his wife who had packed the bag, maybe it was his super organized nature but he seemed like a pretty good Dad to me.

The resident Dad is an all rounder and I often get to hear how my life is extremely easy as the Dad chips in.I am happy to see that there are more of his kind.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Aam Pudina Chaatni -- Mint and Green Mango Chutney

The school is wrapping up for the year and there are too many things going on. The middle schooler had her auditions for the school choir and band, and for two whole weeks the house reverberated with sounds of clarinet, piano and singing. Looked like the entire year of practice to be done at home, was crammed into the last two weeks of school. After several nail biting days of audition, first callbacks and waiting, finally the list was up. Big Sis was too happy to be selected for the school show choir and also got a chance in her school jazz band. She decided to go with the choir though and is already looking forward to the inter school competition at Hershey Park next year.

There is also music(vocal) and piano recitals as the year ends and honestly all this is too much of "kaalchar" for me.



The one recital that has me the most stressed though is Little Sis's dance recital next week.  This is LS's first year of BharataNatyam lessons and the dance school has a full fledged show to mark the year end. All these months LS has been dancing to glory in her shorts and tees and doing her aramandis and mudras with perfect comfort. Unlike BigSis, who never wanted to take dance lessons, LS took to classical Indian dance very naturally. However she treated the dance class just like her gymnastics class and wore what she was comfortable in, which again turns out to be shorts in summers and leggings in winter. I was perfectly fine with it.

The dance recital however demands full BharatNatyam regalia with costume, makeup, hair and what not. The costume had to be bought from the school and cost me E-I-G-H-T-Y dollars. A total rip off. And the size is 2 sizes big which means I am begging crafty friends to alter it for me. Then there is makeup. Yeah makeup! I  don't wear eye shadows and have two lipsticks in shades like burberry brown that last me for 2 years. So the word "makeup" sends a chill down my spine.

"They should wear gold eye shadow", says the dance school, "and red lipstick. Also eyes should be lined with kohl. Don't forget a red bindi for the forehead."

The more I hear all these the more I want to grab LS and walk away from this whole dance business. But I have to stay put. Which apparently is not a good idea, as there is hair to be done! LS has short hair and the teacher wants every kid to have their hair tied with garlands wound around it.
I mean seriously? What about free spirit and flying hair? Is their no such thing in classical Indian dance?

I have a really tough next week what with the dress rehearsal and then the actual recital and all that glittery eye shadow. Keep your fingers crossed so that I live to tell the tale.



On a brighter note, I have lots of mint aka pudina growing in my garden this year. Mint has a tendency to spread and grow and the few saplings that I had put down in the ground last year has morphed into a flourishing bush this year.


My Mom used to make a aam-pudina chutney with mint and green mangoes in the months of summer. The house help would make the paste in sil-nora, the flat pock marked piece of stone ubiqitious in all Indian homes to grind spices, and the green semi-liquid chutney would be a favorite accompaniment with musurir dal. It would be minty, tangy and sweet with a strong summery undertone. Yeah thats a lot of "y". So a friend of mine make this chutney too and recently reminded me of it.


I used a cup of mint leaves, half of a raw mango, two green chillies and made a paste with a splash of water. You can also add some coriander leaves to the mix.

I then added sugar and salt to the paste until it tasted just right. If your mango is not too sour add a little lime juice to makeup for the tang.


We are using this chaatni in abundance. I put it on top of grilled fish and also made a chicken with it. It is the perfect sauce or chutney for summer.



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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jamai Shoshthi

I had written this story sometime last year around Jamai Shoshthi, a day set aside in the month of Jaishtha when Bengali mother-in-law's pamper their son-in-law with food and gifts. I wasn't sure of Sulochana's reaction at the end of this story and so toyed with the idea of this story for a while. It was Jamai Shoshthi two weeks back and I had intended to post this then but never got around. Hope you all like it.

*************************


The day had dawned stiflingly hot and muggy. Technically it wasn’t even dawn yet. The eastern sky had just turned a shade lighter, a slate grey dhonekhali with few scattered twinkling star work. The seamstress was probably trying a combination of gota-patti on dhonekhali and had decided not to go ahead. Instead she decided on a pale pink border to the slate gray canvas and was working on it right now.

Tossing and turning under the cotton mosquito net, which was held together with safety-pins in the couple of odd places where a rent had grown bigger, Sulochana did not think of dawn in those poetic terms. Instead she cursed the fan, which rotated painfully, doing little to move the hot air. She had been asking for an air-conditioner since last summer but nothing had materialized.
“No one in this house pays any attention to what I say,” she grumbled to herself, “the day I am gone they will understand my importance”.

She was hot and worried about how the day would pan out. But she was also excited.

Today was Shoshthi, the sixth day of Shukla Paksha in the month of Jaishtha. Since the day she had married into this house as a bride, she was christened into the rituals of Aranya Shoshthi on this day. When her Mother-in-law was alive, she was the one who spearheaded the celebration, but now it was Sulochana who made sure that the jackfruit branch was cut, the kheer narus made, the haatpakha--palm leaf hand fans and new clothes bought for each of her 3 children and 2 grandchildren. Her grandkids who were here for the summer would make the figurines of shoshthi thakurun with rice flour and then paint them with turmeric and bright water paint. The kids were excited about the Pujo, though her own sons, now middle-aged executives, could care less.

“Naah, let me get up now. There is so much work to finish. Montu will soon come with milk for the paayesh, Baroda has to be sent to haat for fresh rui and chingri and if I am late, the neighborhood kids will pluck all flowers and leave the tagor tree bare,” she folded her palms towards the east, bowed to the now pink streaked sky and straightened her sari to get ready for the day.

“Thakur, let everything end well today. I have been waiting for this day for five years now,” she threw across these words as a parting shot.

Her plea made sense. Sulochana’s 35 year old daughter Tara was coming home today. It had been 5 years since her last visit from USA where she was doing her PhD. All these years she had offered one excuse after another to defer her visit -- visa problem, limited money from the teaching assistantship, not enough vacation, complexity of her thesis which never seemed to get finished. Tara always had an excuse when Sulochana insisted that she come visit them.

Deep down Sulochana knew Tara was avoiding her mother and the list of marriage proposals that she would have ready, had Tara managed a visit.But what could Sulochana do? How could she let her only daughter live a lonely life in faraway California, while she led a full house with 2 married sons, their children, a dog and two parrots ? How could she a Mother not pine for the perfect son-in-law for her only daughter ?

Today as Sulochana stirred milk in the shiny brass dekchi in her kitchen, her heart fluttered like the tej-patta in the milk both in anticipation and disappointment. Two days ago Tara had called. In a halting voice she had asked if it was okay to bring a guest with her.An American. Her fiance. The news that first seemed like a shock, had now grown familiar to Sulochana. Really, in this day and time when Domino’s delivered pizza to their home even in suburbia of Madhyamgram, an American jamai was nothing to lose one’s sleep over. He sure would be much better than these Bengali boys who think Chicken pomodoro is way better than Kosha murgi.

Bolstered by her own belief, Sulochana started to stir the paayesh with more vigor now. She had planned an elaborate meal for lunch, to welcome Tara and her fiance. That today was also Jamai-shoshthi, a day set aside for celebrating son-in-laws in a Bengali family, seemed to her like a divine signal. Unsure of her American guest’s taste, Sulochana had decided to go the traditional route with few modern twists thrown in. A saag bhaja -- green spinach leaves sauteed with garlic and red chilli to start off the meal. Then a dal. Sulochana had narrowed down on a tetor dal with kaancha moog cooked with cubed pieces of bottlegourd. Bottlegourd was the perfect vegetable for this hot and humid day. Its coolant properties along with antiseptic of bittergourd would be fitting for this visitor from the colder clime. For the fish curry, she skipped the more traditional rui for a chingri today. Maybe a bhapa, large prawns steamed with grated coconut, light and yet flavorful. A kaancha aamer chaatni, with a runny gravy that Tara adored, to round off the meal. And then a aam doi, mango yogurt made with the sweet himsagor from her own tree.

The thought of this menu made Sulochana relax a bit and look forward to the day. “Manu’r Ma, chop the spinach really fine for the saag bhaja. Remember to wash it well. My American jamai is not used to the pesticides we ingest every day,” she instructed her house help. The kitchen grew hotter and fell into a rhythm as the day progressed. The shil-nora crushed spices, the fire blazed the pungent mustard oil, the hefty pieces of fish sizzled in oil.Outside, a lone crow had taken shade in the branches of the mango tree and cawed every few minutes. Sulochana’s fair face glistened with beads of perspiration that had gathered on the crease of her brow. “Ahh, can someone shoo that crow away”, she said irritably.

The dal and saag were done, the large prawns would be steamed right before lunch-- that way they would retain their juice and be most flavorful, the yogurt had already been set. She had been fasting since morning, taking only sips of lime water to keep her going. She wanted to finish off her prayers quickly and be ready with all her time on Tara’s arrival. Her husband and sons along with the grandchildren, had already left for the airport to receive Tara’s flight.

“Ma, why don’t you take rest, while I make the chaatni,” suggested her younger son’s wife. But today, Sulochana wanted to cook each dish herself. Food was the only way Sulochana knew to express her love and this lunch was going to be a slice of her heart. She wanted to welcome this stranger into her family with an open heart and she would prove to Tara that her love for her daughter’s american husband was to be no less than her own son’s.

The pujo for Ma Shoshthi today was done in a hurry. The Goddess would understand. It was already one in the afternoon and Sulochana was getting tired, straining her ears for crunch of wheels on the driveway. Her stomach lurched in anticipation and hunger. Who could it be? She lapsed into moments of day-dreaming while chanting her shlokas. Her mind scanned the Facebook pictures that Tara shared with her brothers. Maybe it was that fair skinned guy with a boyish grin who shared her office at the University. Or was it the slightly older Spanish professor, she raved about? Anyway, there was little for her to do now. The choice had already been made.

Right when she raised the shaankh to blow a heralding sound, the car pulled into the driveway. Sulochana’s hand, holding up the shaankh, trembled and with a last bow to her deity, she gathered her red bordered sari and shuffled to her feet. Shrieks of laughter and loud voices could be heard outside. The door to the patio was ajar and her daughter-in-laws were rushing outside with cheerful welcome ringing in their voice. Sulochana arranged the dancing fire of prodeep, few grains of dhaan and the dubbo-- three pronged grass on a brass plate and steadied herself, her heart drumming and waiting for Tara’s high pitched call of “Ma”.

“Ma”, a calm composed voice rang behind her.

Sulochana whirled around into Tara’s slightly anxious face, her eyes scanning for the stranger, her would be jamai, in the crowd. Tara had a faint smile but her eyes were anxious and defiant at the same time. This was exactly how her Tara was, even as a baby, she was self-willed and would do only what she had set out for.

“Ma, meet Sarah,” Tara said and pushed an athletic looking girl in cropped hair and faded jeans to the front.

“My fiancee”

Sarah, not sure if she should hug or do a polite handshake, extended a hand which remained suspended in mid air.

At first Sulochana could not fathom what Tara said. She looked around with a puzzled look. Her sons, standing behind Tara, were nodding their head making silent gestures to her. She tried to catch her daughter-in-law’s eyes but they glanced away. The sudden silence was pregnant with all kinds of possibilities which left Sulochana confused.

And then she saw Tara’s face and she knew. She could not make much sense of it but Tara’s face had taken on a defiant look and she saw her protective hand around her partner.

If Tara is happy, so was she, Sulochana decided."Bhogoban shobar mongol koruk."

She held Sarah’s face between her palms and sprinkled some dhaan on her head, praying for her long life. The pressure cooker whistled in the background. The steamed coconut prawns would be ready in just a few minutes.



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Monday, June 08, 2015

Pasta with Spinach Pesto -- author's day at School



Yesterday was Author's Day at Little Sis's school. At first I thought it would be one of those days when an author comes to school to read his/her books. Turned out it was a day to celebrate all the little authors in LS's first grade class.

The class had a writer's workshop program in first grade where the little guys had learned all about the writing process from mind map,to story web, first drafts, edits and even illustrating a story. Honestly they knew much more about the formal process of writing than I ever did. The teacher also took great pains to publish their story with a proper cover, index and even a dedication page! In addition to this the kids also did journal entries throughout the year. The journals were free writing where the teacher let the kids write anything and everything without any edits. As she said, she knew stuff about us we couldn't even imagine via the journals. To celebrate all the little authors' work, the parents were invited to join in last Tuesday morning and I am so glad I went.

It was such a fun morning hearing about the stories that the kids wrote. I was also very impressed with the teacher who made the whole thing more interesting for the kids, by giving each child an award for their book declaring it to be best in the genre she thought fit. So there were best crime fiction, best magic story, best once-upon-a-time tales and best historical fiction. All the kids had written such interesting books that I really wanted to read all of them. LS had written three books, one of which was about two kids who go to a museum and then get on a time machine to go back to the time of dinosaurs. I am sure she wrote it as an adventure tale but the teacher declared it to be the "best historical fiction". LS was elated with this accolade and is now very proud of her "historical fiction"!


Some kids also read from their journal entries and LS read a piece she wrote about "the rickshaw". On our India trip last year, she would pester my Dad to take her on a rickshaw ride almost every day and looks like that was the best thing about our India trip for her. No prizes for guessing why. She had written that the rickshaw was like a car without a door or windows and the thing she liked most about the rickshaw was that it didn't have a seat belt. She did not get on the kind of rickshaws shown in the pic though, she was on the ones that are pedaled like a bike.

I recorded most of the author's day event and I know I will be watching the recording with much fondness for years to come. It was really an extremely sweet morning where every kid got a chance to be proud of whatever they wrote.

Now to this spinach pesto Pasta which I have been making lately as my basil plant is still very very tiny and I have run out of my store bought basil pesto. I usually buy a big box of organic baby spinach from Costco. I saute them in Olive oil and add it to Pasta but last week I decided to make a spinach sauce instead. It is a bit different from the usual spinach pesto recipes.This is how you do it.

Cook Pasta according to package directions. Drain the Pasta. After draining the pasta I drizzle some olive oil on the Pasta so that they don't get sticky.

Now heat some olive oil in a pot big enough where you can also toss the pasta later.

Add about 2 tsp of minces garlic

When the garlic sizzles, add about 1 or 1&1/2 cup of baby spinach. I used baby spinach but you can use regular chopped spinach

Saute until the spinach wilts.

Cool and make a smooth paste with
spinach+garlic
2 tbsp of blanched almond(I didn't have pine nuts but you are welcome to use what you have)
generous olive oil
salt to taste
Note: You can add some black pepper to kick up the taste but i didn't as LS wouldn't eat it.

After the paste is made I also add a little milk to it to make it more creamy.

Now in the same pot add some more olive oil and warm.

Add the spinach pesto that you made and saute for a minute

Add the pasta and toss.

Add a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese. This is very important and gives an awesome creamy taste.

Toss everything and adjust for salt. Serve. It is yum.



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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Quinoa Pulao -- superfood superfast

Sometime around April, the weather around here changes radically. The ground shakes off the expanse of white snow and gets to work.


Green grasses sprout.
Tiny pale green leaves unfurl as if touched by some magic wand.
Flowers blossom. Pollen blows around in the wind to keep the cycle of life going.
I sneeze.
Trees turn a shade of deeper green. The temperature soars.Ceiling fans are switched on. Windows are opened wide.
Evenings stretch longer.The neighborhood kids come calling sharp at 4:30 every afternoon. The girls ride their bikes, play hide and seek, run around playing tags from one backyard to another.

Everything around says "Summer is just around the corner".
Which means I have to start eating healthy. I don't know why this happens. It is not that I have lofty aims to sunbathe in a bikini by the pool or anything.
But with any sign of summer, I start digging in my pantry for that forgotten packet of Quinoa and dusting the Nutribullet to make the first health dripping juice of the season.


Quinoa or Keen-wah is a grain I had no clue of until 2010. I am a rice eating Bong and I don't like any grains other than rice. Not even wheat. Period. So if I have to eat a grain which is not rice, I better get the most advantage out of it. And it better not require more than 30 minutes of my time. Yeah, I am very particular that way.

The first time I tried Quinoa at home was in a salad. It was good if not great and I noticed that the high protein in this grain does quell my hunger for a longer period and read that it has lots of vitamins and nutrients. Now honestly if my Mother were to read this, she would have pooh poohed the whole idea and say that there are plenty of other food with the same benefit and it is a balanced meal that is important and not something which is touted as "superfood". Agreed. No need to buy and eat Qunoa if it is super expensive where you live.

For me what works, is that a dish like Quinoa Pulao makes a nice one pot meal to take to lunch. If you don't get this grain, don't fret, you can do the same with a Daliya Pulao.

Cook Quinoa according to package directions. If there are no direction then cook as follows.

Soak 1 cup of Quinoa in water for 2-3 minutes .

On the stove set to boil a pan with 3 cups of salted water. When the water comes to a boil, drain the quinoa on a strainer and add to the pan. Lower heat to medium and cook for 12-15 minutes. Little thread like thingy will come out from the seeds when they are cooked and the tiny seeds will turn translucent. Once done, drain the Quinoa, put it back in the pan and let it sit for 5 minutes. I also rinsed it in cold water while draining and then fluffed it with a fork.


While Quinoa is cooking do the following
a. cook a cup of frozen vegetables in the microwave
b. chop half an onion
c. mince one clove of garlic. I often buy a jar of minced garlic from the Grocery store. It helps when I don't want to mince them

Now heat Olive Oil in a saute pan or wok

Temper the oil with
1 Bay Leaf/Tejpata
2 small green cardamom

Add the minced garlic and follow suit with the onions. Throw in a few chopped chillies to add the spice factor

Saute until onion is soft

Add the cooked frozen veggies. Sprinkle a little Bhaja Moshla(dry roasted cumin, coriander and dry red chilli powder) and saute for a few minutes. You can use any other masala of your choice too, a little Garam Masala or Biryani Masala works great. Depending on how healthy you want to eat, you can fry the vegetables more or less.

Now Quinoa is cooked and you need to add it to the pan
Add the cooked Quinoa gradually, tossing it with the veggies.

Saute for a about 3-4 minutes. Adjust for salt and some chilli.

Serve it with some boiled eggs if you please



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Thursday, May 07, 2015

G is for Gota Seddho, Ghugni, Ghonto, Goalondo Murgi and Gokul Pithey

When I asked for suggestions on the letter "G" in the series A-Z of Bengali Cuisine, a lot of ideas came pouring in. From Ghugni, Ghonto to Golaap Jam, Gokul Pithe the names were endless. I went into deep thought over all the suggestions and in the process found two amazing recipes for Goalondo Murgi and Ghugni. I steeled my heart and skipped "Golda Chingrir Malaikari" as we already had "Chingri Malaikari" while in C.

Finally after much dilemma(as if), the dishes that I felt could truly represent the Bengali Cuisine are here. If I am totally honest, I must admit that I skipped stuff like GolaapJaam because I had no idea how to make it.



Gokul Pithey -- Pithey is a very Bengali sweet made during the harvest festival of Poush Parbon, celebrated during Makar Sankranti in the cold months of January. Pithey was a typical home-made sweet made with basic agrarian ingredients of the region like rice, date palm etc. Many kinds of pithey were made and Gokul Pithey is a particular kind of pithey where a flat disc made of coconut and khoya is dipped in a batter of wheat flour, deep fried in hot oil and then soaked in a syrup of sugar or jaggery.


Gota Seddho -- "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."



Ghonto -- Ghonto is a typical Bengali dish which means a mishmash of different things, primarily vegetables. I guess it comes from the word "ghanta" which means to mix. Typically therefore a Ghonto will have vegetables which are softer and so will easily become a mishmash. Vegetables like pumkin, eggplant and greens are therefore almost always a must in a Ghonto. Of course a Bengali will have a fish version of everything and to abide to that theory, there is Muri Ghonto made with fish head and potatoes.


Ghugni -- Ghugni or Ghoognee is a very very popular snack in Bengal and in parts of Bihar and Orissa. It is made with dried white peas and cooked with myriad spices including Bhaja Masla.While the Northern India has its Chhole, Bengal has its Ghugni.


Goalondo Steamer Fowl Curry or Goalondo Murgi -- A rustic curry cooked by the Sylheti boatmen on the steamer that plied the river Padma, from Goalondo Ghat to the interiors of towns in Bangladesh.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Somnath's Raasta'r Ghugni -- Ghugni from the street


Bengali Ghugni

Ghugni or Ghoognee is a very very popular snack in Bengal and in parts of Bihar and Orissa. It is made with dried white peas and cooked with myriad spices including Bhaja Masla.While the Northern India has its Chhole, Bengal has its Ghugni.

But as a child growing up in a Bengali home, I never liked Ghugni much. Our neighbor Jain Auntie's deep brown Chhole is what I salivated over. Though Ghugni was not made very often in our home it was a staple item in our neighborhood, served without fail by the para'r kakimas on Bijoya, at the culmination of Durga Pujo. My heart would go into a nosedive the moment I saw the steel bowl of ghugni accompanying two brown narus and one spongy roshogolla on a plate after the customary Bijoya'r pronaam. There was not a single homemade Ghugni that could woo me in its spicy deliciousness. Of course there were the myriad ghugniwala's outside school gates and at the street corner selling lip-smacking ghoogni in dubious steel plates which I never got to taste because of the mater.

As I grew older I realized I could not ignore the fact that Ghugni is an integral part of being a Bengali. If I was going to be a Bangali, not that I had a choice, I better know how to make Ghugni.



Before I write anything further let me make a honest confession. I suck at boiling the Ghugni motor. I know it is kind of silly but either I over boil it until the paper thin like skin floats around or under boil it. If I under boil it, then to cook it to softness, I again over boil it. Cooking Ghugni Motor to perfection is a chore I dread. So I mostly made my Ghugni with chickpeas!

However an authentic Ghugni is made only with Motor or White Peas(sold as White or Yellow Vatana in Indian grocery stores). So this time around I ditched the Pressure Cooker and cooked it in a open pot and watched with hawk eyes. After all I was making Somanth Roychoudhury's Father's Ghugni. I couldn't falter. I am not the kind of person who easily makes friends on social media but I must say that I have met loads of people whom I admire via facebook. Somnath, is one of them. His zest for food enthralls me and his ability to dig out local food stalls and sample street food has me in the throes of jealousy. You can follow him on his Facebook page The Street Gobbler. Or on Instagram

Ghugni at the roadside -- pic courtesy Somnath


When I was looking for a soul-punching "Rasta'r Ghugni" recipe, the spicy kind served at the street corner, I knew I had to ask Somnath. He not only shared his Father's recipe but also answered my questions and shared his pics of street-side Ghugniu wala. This is what I call a Food Connoisseur.

1. You are a street food connoisseur. List Kolkata street food in order of 1 to 5

I am not a connoisseur at all. Street food is a vastly spread out subject. I am just learning about them every day. It is really tough to make a list of best street food of kolkata. Everyone has different choice and their own favorites.

I always categorize street food in several groups of which the two major ones are Snacks and Meals, depending the time of the day when it is mostly consumed.

Afternoon Snack

1) Fuchka or Phuchka
2) Alur chop/ Beguni/ Fuluri
3) Egg Roll /Chicken Roll /Mutton rolls
4) Kochuri with assorted sabjees -- kochuris with different fillings among which the most popular is motordaal-sattu combination , Hing-chholardaal , Koraishuti (mostly in winter) and some more which are served with daal/alu torkari/alukumro torkari.
5)Jhaalmuri / Moshla Muri / Alukabli / Ghughnee

Meals or Street Foods available all day

1)Ruti Shobji - Ruti/Roti with a side dish of curried vegetables. Yes this combo is slowly winning over our maach bhaat / shobjee bhaat / pore bhaat which at one time used to be popular in the small bhaater hotel or paise hotels. It is sad to see Bengalis eating ruti for lunch but I guess it makes more practical sense in today's faster lifestyle.
Kolkata makes over a 100 thousand rutis every day and those are consumed by pedestrians throughout the day.You will always find garam ruti with various options of shobji be it day or night.
2) Poori Shobji/Luchi torkari/ with mini bhatura
3) Dosa / Idli / Vadas
4) Deem Toast / Butter Toast / Jelly toast
5) Chow-chili chicken
6) Litti -- chokha

2. In your search of street food, I see you sample many kinds at different locales. Any interesting experience?

There are so many of interesting experiences in my trail on Kolkata roads for street food... most of them are amazing. Telling about you one in recent days. Few weeks back myself and Soma Chowdhury (from blog Spices and Pisces) were craving for this very elementary beef haleem at Esplanade (in front of Nizaam).As there were some official program around there, police wasn't allowing the thela owner to put up his shop on time.We were getting restless.So both of us literally pushed the cart to its right place and helped the person in setting it up. He got irritated at us at first but then he smiled, seeing us crazy for Haleem, and served the food with a smile. It was awesome in taste and the experience is also memorable.

3. Where do you get best Ghugni on Kolkata streets?

The toughest question in this row. There are many kind of ghughnees available all over, on railway platform, on running train, on tea stalls and yes of course the stand alone ghughnee sellers. I prefer the stand alone ghughnee sellers the most. Two places I must mention.

Ghugni at the station -- pic courtesy Somnath


1. The sealdah south section platform no 12. there are few vendors who comes with a handi with cooked ghughni in it. They serve with chopped onions green chilli and few drops of tamarind pulp water aka Tetul jol.

2. One (not so)old man in behala, near behala tram depot.. I am having ghughnee from him for last 2 and half decades. The best part is the unchanged taste...serve with just sliced cucumber and tetul jol.



This recipe of ghugni is from Somnath's father. Somnath says his Father picked up cooking from his grandmother and though he cooks only a few items, he does them well. I took the recipe Somnath gave and matched it with what my Mother does(she cooks Ghugni on rare occasions) and voila the result was fantastic. The husband-man who has always turned up his nose at my Ghugnis said "Ekdom rasta'r taste esheche"(tastes just like the Ghugni from street side). Hope he meant well.

And oh yeah, inspired by one of Somnath's pictures, I added boiled eggs to my Ghugni. I am not going back.