Friday, December 30, 2016

Shrimp in a garlic-chili- basil pesto -- quick appetizers

I have been away from my blog for a while. There were more important thing at home that needed attention and so though I was cooking our daily meals, I was not in the mood to take pictures and post them! You know how it is right ? I bet each of you have been through the highs and lows of the ride that is called life. I can only be very very thankful that we have been through it with everything ending on a positive note. **fingers crossed**

Now let's get back to business and discuss finger foods or appetizers for the New Year's eve party. Whether you are having a "dhamaka" party or a quiet family time ushering in the New Year , we all do understand that the most important part is the "food". The New Year will bring many things with itself, the foremost being loads of resolution on diet and exercise. In face of that, lots of lip-smacking appetizers at the year end party, seems like a good start.

1. Shrimp in a Garlic-Chili-Basil Pesto

To make this easy-peasy you start off with store bought Basil pesto and off course store bought Shrimp.

If shrimp is frozen, defrost it by putting it in cold water. Never ever microwave it or defrost in hot water.

Shrimp -- 12 medium sized shrimp

Next, in a blender add
2 heaped tbsp of basil pesto
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 green chili
1 tbsp Olive oil
Make a smooth paste

In a bowl marinate the defrosted shrimp with
garlic-chilli-pesto you just made
keep aside for 10-15 minutes

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Put the shrimp in it in a single layer. Drizzle some more Oilive oil

Bake in oven for 7 mins. Then turn the tray around and bake for 7-8 more minutes. The shrimp will be cooked by total 15 minutes.

Take it out. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice

2. Puff Tartlets with different filling

This is a very popular snack with the kids. You can do a potato filling, a fish filling or a keema filling. You can prep the stuffing a few days ahead and then you have less work to day on the day of the party

3. Chicken Meatballs

This is another quick and easy favorite

In a bowl add 
1 lb of ground chicken

To it add
1/2 of a red onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic minced
1 geen chilli minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Tandoori Masala(Raja Brand is good)
1/4th cup Bread Crumbs

Finely chopped mint and coriander leaves. Dried mint also works very well.
Salt and pepper

few drops of olive oil
Work everything well into the mix and keep aside for 30 minutes

Fashion balls or patties of this mix. Freeze them in single layer. NoteUsually I will make one ball, fry and do a taste test. I will then adjust the seasonings in the mix and proceed to make the other meatballs.

You can either fry them or bake them to serve. While frying very little oil is needed if you have shaped them in small flat rounds.

If you are baking, bake at 350F on a greased tray for 20 minutes or until the meat is cooked. Then take the balls out and shallow fry in a frying pan to brown the outside

For shallow frying, make small round and flat patties. Shallow fry them in hot oil

Serve them on a bed of fresh salad or with a yogurt dip

Another recipe for similar meatballs is here

4. Stuffed mushroom with mascarpone

This stuffed mushroom is my absolute favorite. Read the recipe, there is a version with mascarpone cheese, I absolutely love. If you like mushrooms, you are going to love that one.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Narayan Pujo'r Shinni - a Prashad fit for Dessert

I am not a very ritualistic person. I am kind of wishy-washy around them. If a ritual is something that my heart takes after and is easier to get done with, I will do it. If not, I will probably skip. I am not a very religious person either or rather I am not very ritualistic about the religion that I follow. I like praying and I light incense sticks almost every other evening for a set of gods in my Puja corner. It doesn't matter if I am having my periods, I will still do it. If I don't feel like on some evening, I don't.

This is very different from the way I have grown up in a home where rituals were strictly adhered to.

With age, I see my parent's vision has changed regarding religious rituals too. My father is no longer as conservative as he was some twenty years back. He reads vedas and the other day was telling me, how some of the words in Sanskrit mantras like "Hrring", "Krring"-- which are actually sounds(dhwanis) with no literal meaning -- were actually derived from the sounds of nature, which was what the early humans were afraid of and thus prayed to. His belief in the ritualistic form of prayers has waned too, making it easier for me to relate to his pujas.

So this time when my parents wanted to do the Kojagari Lakhsmi Pujo , which they have been doing at their own home for many many years on the night of the first full moon after Durga Pujo, I agreed to all the little nuances. I do this Pujo, other years too, but in my own very random way. This time I agreed to the rituals as they did not seem too rigid and gave me excuses to buy the the brass lamps I have always had eyes on.

Since we were having the Pujo, I asked my Mother to make Shinni. Shinni, is a very simple prashad made with atta(whole wheat flour), sugar, bananas, milk--- many of you are thinking banana bread at this point but no--all mixed together with hand and offered to Lord Satya Narayan. This is a typical prashad made only during SatyaNarayan Pujo but I love it so much that I insisted and my Mother obliged this time.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Sondesh -- the fabled Bengali Sandesh

A Bengali Food Blog and not a single Sondesh recipe in there. "Chee, chee, ...", the Bengali Mashima in her wide red bordered spun cotton sari spat out a stream of betel juice in disgust. The other ladies in their filigreed gold bangles stopped midway in their task of "boron", feeding Ma Durga pieces of sondesh and smearing her with Sindoor on BijoyaDashami, and looked at me with rebuke writ on their face. Ma Durga's face shimmied in the rectangular mirror placed for Dorpon Bishorjon. I hate betel juice and was about to say a few choice words to Mashima when the darn alarm went off. this was just a dream, I looked around trying to spot betel juice stains lurking in any corner. None. That settled, I switched my thought to Sondesh or rather Shondesh. Really , why did I not have a decent sondesh recipe on my blog ? I did have two "faankibaaji" recipes but not the real deal. Why oh Why ?

"Wait. I can explain", I said. And then I gulped for what I was going to say was close to blasphemy. But "Honesty is the Best Policy" was my favorite topic to write essays on and so I decided what the heck...I do not like Sondesh. That is the sweet Sondesh. I have always liked the children's magazine Sondesh but that we are not discussing here. There, I said it. Sondesh does not feature among the sweets I would like to eat after I have come back from Mars or the Alcatraz. Nope. I will take Kalakand, KheerKodombo, Crisp raas soaked Jilipi, ChamCham, Kheerer Shingara, Motichur Laddus, Chanar Jilipi, Ledikeni, Kheerer Naaru, LobongoLotika and then, only then shall I consider the Sondesh.

I have no concrete reasons why I don't like it given that all my childhood, my Ma kind of force fed me Sondesh. Every winter vacation that we spent in Kolkata was marred by huge Kara Pak er sondesh from Balram, Taal Shaansh sondesh or Jol-Bhora sondesh made of nolen gur with a spot of liquid jaggery in the core from Sen Mahashoy, creamy white shaankh sondesh shaped like a conch from the Kalika Mishtanno Bhandar near my Dida's home and several variations of the same stuff again and again.

In absence of these in our Bihari town Ma made them at home, making fresh chhana and shaping the sondesh with her dark black stone molds.I hated them all. Well "hate" is a strong word but I didn't really take to Sondesh like a Bong should. I did prefer the "Makha Sondesh", moist, warm and fresh over the harder and dried Kara Pak er sondesh but nothing to go ga ga about. The only variation of sondesh that I like is one where my Ma adds kheer to the channa and thus makes a Kheer-Chhanar Sondesh.

Many, many years later I made norom paak er sondesh at home on this Bijoya Dashami. As if the house move was not exciting enough and I needed more. I had a stash of Khejur Gur from last year and I wanted to use it to make Nolen Gur er Sondesh . I used both sugar and the jaggery but if you have enough of the Khejur Gur I suggest you use more of it. So anyway the sondesh was easy to make and pretty decent to eat, so it is definitely worth a try. If I could have done it, so can you. And then if you fall in love with the famous sweet all the more better for you.

Sondesh -- is a popular Bengali sweet made from fresh chhana/chenna aka home made paneer also known as curdled milk solids. The chhana is kneaded with sugar and different flavorings to make different variety of Sondesh. Different kind of kneading from smooth to grained, leads to different types of sandesh. Traditionally only delicate flavorings were used for sandesh like rose or saffron and notun gur in winter. While the raw flavored and sweetend channa/chenna is made into KaanchaGolla, the kneaded chenna is put back on heat and cooked further for different durations to make different kinds of sondesh. The first Sandesh was introduced by Bhim Nag in 1826 but Nakur Chandra, Sen Mahashoy and Balram are some of the oldest and famous sondesh makers of the city

Nolen Gur er Sondesh -- This is a sub-species of Sondesh found only in the winter season. The sweetener for this Sondesh is Date Palm Jaggery or Khejur Gur. This enchanting and aromatic jaggery is made by collecting the fresh sap of Date Palm Trees on foggy winter mornings. The Notun gur er sondesh has a coloring that varies from pale to a deeper shade of brown and a heady aroma if the Khejur gur is good quality.

Kaanchagolla -- In this variety the fresh warm chhana is kneaded with sugar or jaggery and then tossed into balls.The chhana is not cooked for this. Natore, a town in Bagladesh is famous for its Kaancha Golla.

Norom Paak Sondesh - In this variety the chhana/chenna after kneading with the sugar or jaggery is then put back on heat and stirred gently at low heat for a few minutes to form a soft grainy mix. "Paak" means to cook while "Norom" means soft, and that explains the process. This soft grainy mix is either shaped with molds or tossed into soft round balls. The soft grainy mix which has not been shaped yet is called "makha sondesh". The molded ones usually have the shape of conch or fish, the traditional symbols in a Bengali home.Guptiparais the home of Bengal’s first community Durga puja, the place where first branded Bengali sweets graduated from makha sandesh (sandesh mixture) to gupo sandesh (a variety of sandesh pieces)

Kora Paak Sondesh -- This is a harder variety of sondesh where the chhana/chenna is stirred for a longer time to make it hard. I have no idea how they then mold or make shapes out of it.

A very interesting article on Sondesh of Kolkata is here.


What You Need

Whole Milk -- 4 cups (~ 1 liter)
Lime Juice -- 2tbsp (almost 1 whole lime)
Sugar -- 1/8th cup (= 2 tbsp)
Khejur Gur -- 1/8th cup (= 2tbsp)

Note: Adjust the sugar and jaggery to your taste.You can use no sugar and all jaggery too.

How I Did It

Step 1-- Curdle Milk

Bring 4 cups of whole Milk to boil.
When the milk is boiling add about 2tbsp of Lime juice. Lower the heat. Almost in seconds you will see the milk curdle and clumps of white milk solids forming.When you see the greenish water separating take it off from heat. Let it sit for 30 secs or so.

Step 2 -- Drain chhana

Now line a colander with cheesecloth and drain the chhana/chenna/paneer. The greenish hued whey is great for making roti dough says my Ma. Next lightly rinse the chhana with water to remove the lemony taste and let it drain.
After few minutes gather the ends of the cheesecloth to form a purse like shape and squeeze out the remaining water from the chhana. Next put it on a flat plate and weigh it with a slightly heavier object and let it remain like that for the next hour.I used my mortar for weighing down, I remember my mother using her nora.

Step 3 -- Knead Chhana with sugar and jaggery

Now we have to knead the chhana. Knead the chhana with the heel of your palm for about 4-5 minutes. Add about 1/8th cup of fine sugar and knead for 4-5 more minutes until the sugar is totally mixed with the chhana. 

Since the khejur gur is usually hard, we will microwave 1/8th cup of jaggery + 1 tsp of water for few seconds to soften and then add it to the chhana. If your khejur gur is already soft, you don't need to do this. Knead for 5 more minutes until your palm is oily with the fat from the chhana.

At the end of this kneading, the chhana will look like a smooth ball of dough. Take small portion of it and toss to make small balls. These sweetened balls of raw chhana are called KaanchaGolla.

Step 4 -- Paak or Cook Chhana

Now we will do the "paak" or cook. Since I am doing a Norom Paak er sondesh we will be cooking the chhana at a very low heat.

To add saffron to sondesh, warm 2 tbsp milk in microwave and soak saffron strands in it.

Put a non-stick pan on low heat and add the kneaded, sweetened chhana. Add the saffron and milk. Stir and cook at low heat. Keep stirring with a spatula for next 10-15 minutes or so. The chhana should come together and will no longer stick to the pan by the end of this time. Take a small portion of the chhana and try rolling a ball. If you can make a smooth firm ball, the chhana is ready!

Step 5 -- Shape cooked chhana to make Sondesh

Now take out the warm chhana and immediately shape with molds or just toss into balls. If you wait, it will harden and you cannot shape it. For further decoration you can warm few strands of saffron in drops of milk and dot each sondesh with the saffron or add bits of pista.

Updated on October 2nd, 2016: Khoya and Chhana Sondesh

On this Mahalaya, we made sondesh again. My Mother presided the process, the girls helped in kneading the chhana and shaping the sondesh and I did the rest. Three generations of women made sondesh on Mahalaya to welcome the Goddess. It seemed to hold a special meaning for us. This time, as advised by my friend J, I mixed khoya and chhana to make the sondesh. I liked this one better than the ones made of pure chhana but if you like the pure chhana sondesh stick with the previous recipe.

What You Need

Whole Milk -- 2 liters
Lime Juice -- 2tbsp (almost 1 whole lime)
Vinegar -- 1 tbsp

Khoya -- 6 oz or 150gm of store bought khoya(In the US, we buy a 12 oz block of Nanak khoya, half of which was used)

Sugar -- 1/2 cup
Khejur Gur(Bengal Date Palm Jaggery) -- 1/2 cup
Note: Adjust the sugar and jaggery to your taste.You can use no sugar and all jaggery too.

Makes about 24 sondesh

Step 1-- Curdle Milk

Bring 2 litres of whole Milk to boil.
When the milk is boiling add about 2tbsp of Lime juice + 1 tbsp of Vinegar. Lower the heat. Almost in seconds you will see the milk curdle and clumps of white milk solids forming.When you see the greenish water separating take it off from heat. Let it sit for 30 secs or so.

Step 2 -- Drain chhana

Now line a colander with cheesecloth and drain the chhana/chenna/paneer. The greenish hued whey is great for making roti dough says my Ma. Next lightly rinse the chhana with water to remove the lemony taste and let it drain.
After few minutes gather the ends of the cheesecloth to form a purse like shape and squeeze out the remaining water from the chhana. Next put it on a flat plate and weigh it with a slightly heavier object and let it remain like that for the next hour.I used my mortar for weighing down, I remember my mother using her nora.

Step 3 -- Knead Chhana with sugar

Now we have to knead the chhana. Knead the chhana with the heel of your palm for about 5-10 minutes. Your palm should be oily at the end of kneading and the chhana should have come together.
Add about 1/2 cup of fine sugar and knead for 4-5 more minutes until the sugar is totally mixed with the chhana.
At the end of this the chhana will look like a smooth ball of dough.

Step 4 -- Getting Khoya ready

Soften the Khoya in Microwave. Crumble up the khoya and put in your mixer with a tbsp of milk and blitz it to get smooth khoya

Step 5 -- Paak or Cook Chhana

Now we will do the "paak" or cook. Since I am doing a Norom Paak er sondesh we will be not be cooking the chhana to hardness. We will also add the khejur gur at this point.

The khejur gur is usually solid, so in a microwave safe bowl, add 1/2 cup of loosely packed Khejur Gur and 1 tbsp of water. Microwave for a minute or until the jaggery melts.

For the "paak", put a non-stick pan on low heat and add the khoya and the liquid jaggery. Stir around for couple of minutes. Then add kneaded, sweetened chhana. Mix with your fingers. Keep the heat at low so that you can mix with hand.

After you see that the khoya and chhana have mixed together, raise the heat to medium and stir continuously for the next 15 minutes. The chhana mix will slowly come together and will no longer stick to the pan. When you can take a little of it and make a ball, you know it is done.

Step 6 -- Shape cooked chhana to make Sondesh

Now take out the warm chhana and immediately shape with molds or just toss into balls. If you wait, it will harden and you cannot shape it. If you have the sondesh moulds, grease them with ghee. Put a ball of sondesh on the mold and press to flatten it out so that it hugs the shape of the mold. Gently pry it out and put on a plate.
Keep a bowl of water handy to dip your fingers and proceed with the next ball.
For further decoration you can warm few strands of saffron in drops of milk and dot each sondesh with the saffron or add bits of pista.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chicken Rezala -- a regal stew

September is close to an end. Pujo is upon us. And no has any time to breathe. I cannot believe that 8th grade and 3rd grade started in our home 3 weeks back. We are already done with "back to school" nights and summer seems to be a bygone affair.

This summer was special as my parents were here after almost 3 years. They are getting older and the visits less frequent. It is no longer easy for them to hop on a trans-atlantic flight and traverse continents. Both my girls goaded them into coming and once the flight part was put away, they were looking forward to their stay as much as us.
We were lucky to do a lot of short trips around the home with them this summer. My father loves visiting places of interest and is comfortable with long walks, while my Mother has a bad knee which prevents her from walking more than a few yards at a stretch or standing for too long.

Thanks to my father, we re-discovered Philadelphia, surprisingly a city which we never thought of visiting unless it involved work or shows or passport office or such. But my Baba, wanted to visit Philadelphia this time and see the Liberty bell. So off we went on a Sunday morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day, one of those summer days when it is not too humid, and Philly treated us so well.

For me, the best part of Philly was the Reading Market. The covered market teeming with various food specialty shops, bakeries and people reminded us so much of New Market. I spent quiet sometime there, roaming around, not able to decide what to eat and then settled for guess what ? The Philly Cheese steak.

Another weekend we went to a beautiful sculpture garden, not too far from home. Again a place that we had always intended to visit but could never make it. The parents definitely enjoyed the sculpture garden with its unique pieces but the kids too had much fun.

Next up was the Dingman's water fall in the Delaware water gap area. Delaware water gap is beautiful with many natural jewels strewn across the area and Dingman's falls with its well constructed pathway was the ideal trail for my Ma. On our way back from the falls, we stopped by the Delaware river. The sky was overcast and soon a heavy shower rolled in. While everyone else ran back to the car, me, my Baba and Little Sis stood under the tree, breathing in the rain and gazing at the sheer curtain of rain falling on the Delaware river. It was a curious thing, how one person from each generation in our family stayed back in the rain and the other went back to the car like sensible beings.

This picture still takes me back to the day and I can hear the rain drumming on the river.

Next up was trip to the Great Wolf Lodge, a indoor water park, which had taken mythical proportions in our home by the dint of sheer marketing. I am glad we finally went and got it over with this summer.

In between we had guests, visits to the beach which is close by, movies and lots of cooking. Well honestly, my Ma was doing most of the cooking. One of the days, I made a Chicken Rezala for them. I usually make the Mutton Rezala as the goat meat packs in a lot of flavor to this otherwise light stew.

Rezala, is a very popular dish in Calcutta, a signature dish speaking volumes of Awadhi influence on Bengal's culinary history. It is a mildly spiced, yogurt-based stew with chunks of meat. To just call it a stew would be undermining this royal dish. It is not just any stew but a stew that is made regal by lightness of its gravy and the fragrance, which comes with use of Kewra and saffron. The best Rezala can be found in restaurants like Sabir's and Shiraz's in Kolkata. To have a plate of their rezala, the pale golden gravy with a thin layer of ghee floating on top and morsels of soft meat, and mopping it up with soft as mulmul roomali rotis is an experience that you would not want to miss.

I would like the add here Prtihs Sen's comments on Rezala here. She has a deeper knowledge on the subject than me and thinks the Rezala has its origin in the Afghani dish names Rasala.

"I would like to tell you my impressions about the Rezala. All muslim cuisine in Calcutta/Bengal is not Awadhi. It harks back many centuries -- from the 12th century onwards -- with the arrival of the Turks and Afghans in Bengal that established Muslim rule. and later ofcourse the Mughals. The Rezala I feel, the word probably originating from Rassala, is of Afghan origin, to be found only in two places in India actually -- Bengal and in the Rampur cuisine of central India, both very different recipes yet both Afghan strongholds at one time. Awadhi cuisine in Calcutta adapted it to fit into their offerings and while it is also found in Lucknow, its not a very popular dish there as it is in bengal. Awadhi rezalas add coconut milk or dessicated coconut." -- Pritha Sen

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shosha'r Shukto -- Bengali Shukto with Cucumbers

This post was written way back sometime in July. That is when this dish was cooked and the recipe duly noted. Now when I look back on those long stretch of summer day, I want to throw a tantrum to get them back. But that is not happening. Never does.

So, while I try to brave my soul for fall, you guys take a trip back to summer...

Summer is always busy around home. The schools are over, the days are long and once I am back home, it is impossible to cook when there is so much to do outside. With my Mother here, it has been a slew of lazy days for me, as she is the one cooking up what the granddaughters fancy.

Meanwhile I am staying up late following the conventions and scouring articles about the preposterous things that one of the presidential candidates keeps on uttering. It beats stuff that even Zee TV saau ma's would mutter. If only he would have on 3 pound jhumkas and dazzling bindis, I would know for sure that it was a Ekta kapoor serial and not reality tv.

So anyway in between all this, my summer plants yielded fruits...I mean vegetables. This year we planted tomatoes, peppers , cucumber. Cucumbers mainly because LittleSis picked up a packet of cucumber seeds and wanted a cucumber plant. My dad did the brunt of the work on them but we were not able to build a trellis aka "maacha" for the cukes.. That didn't dither them though and the cuke yield was in plenty. By the time I realized there were so many of them hidden in the vines, they had already ripened and were not the best in a salad.

Ma made a shoshar shukto (cucumber shukto) with them as they were too ripe to eat raw. Why would anyone buy cucumber and make a shukto I wondered ? I mean cucumbers are good enough raw so why cook them ? Also the original Bengali Shukto has done enough to garner a following so why a contender ?

"Well, we had very limited choice of summer vegetables in our times and shukto made with the slightly ripened cucumbers was a welcome change from the daily grind of lau and potol," she said.

Valid point. The shoshar shukto tasted good too. It was creamy and slightly sweet with a faint bitterness of the uchhe. The crunchy boris added the necessary bite to a otherwise creamy dish. Maybe I won't make it often, but if you ever have a load of cucumbers to finish, this is a great way to go.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tel Sheem -- Hyacinth Beans from Soma

I was seriously waiting for something to get my blogging mojo back.

August had been surreal with a vacation to beautiful Banff and Jasper National parks(more on that later), short trips around the home state, a water park vacation to Great Wolf Lodge specifically for the kids, and lots of tea time with my parents while watching "Mahanayak" -- the Bengali serial people love to hate (yeah, yeah, I know!). I was getting used to vacations and summer.

Since my parents are visiting, the kitchen had also morphed largely into my Ma's domain and I rarely bothered to see how and why things were getting done. I even managed to watch a movie at the theaters with the husband-man, an event worth remembering simply because it is so rare in its occurrence.

You must understand that it is very easy to slip into a life of leisure, if you are already lazy like me. I could totally fit into the society of Roman Nobles in ancient Rome. It is very natural that I drifted.

But there was some magic that happened over the weekend, which triggered me back into the kitchen and back to the blog again. The magic would have never happened, if I did not have a blog in the first place. So the magic had a dependency on the blog and on you. Ok, so without going into the chicken and egg scenario, let me tell you what happened.

A blogger friend Soma, who blogs at Spices and Pisces and does a trillion other things, sent me a box of sheem and ucche, that is Hyacinth beans and bitter gourd for you, grown in her own garden. Soma has a very bright shade of green thumb and grows gorgeous vegetables. Her community garden pictures on Facebook, boasting of curvaceous laus(bottlegourd) and glistening sheem(flat beans) would make you love vegetables to the point of making you a vegetarian. She pours tons of love into her garden and the beautiful person that she is, she shared the love by sending me a box of her home-grown vegetables, by priority mail.

Once we got over the surprise part of seeing fresh vegetables from a box delivered by the USPS lady, the family spent next several minutes ogling at the vegetables. Little Sis was thrilled by the uniqueness of the whole act. "Mommy's friend sent her vegetables from Maryland," she told my Ma.

Then a discussion ensued as to what to cook with the sheem. Here, I must tell you, tender aka kochi sheem is not a given where I live. I don't even get sheem at the Indian grocery store and substitute all sheem dishes with sugar snap peas. My Ma, who is used to an abundance of sheem where she lives, proposed sheem bhaate or shorshe diye sheem or sheem er jhol. I didn't want to add shorshe(mustard) to this tender sheem as I feel the mustard sauce tends to overpower the natural taste of the vegetable.

The husband-man then proposed Tel-Sheem, without the mustard and with almost zero spices. Something that would be just fitting for a vegetable so fresh, tender, and grown with love.

So that is what I did

Tel Sheem

Lope off the tip of each Hyacinth bean(sheem) and then pull off the stringy part from the edges

Heat Mustard oil in a kadhai.

Now temper the oil with 1/4th tsp of Nigella seeds and 3 slit green chili.

Add the sheem to the kadhai and saute for a few minutes until each sheem glistens with oil.

Make a wet paste with
1/4 tsp of turmeric Powder
1 tsp of fresh ginger paste
1/2 tsp of red chili powder
1 tbsp of yogurt

Lower the heat and add add this to the veggies in the kadhai. Saute at low heat for few minutes.

Add a 1/2 cup of water, 3 more green chili slit through, salt to taste and let the gravy simmer to a boil. Cover the kadhai with a lid and check occasionally if sheem is cooked.

Once the vegetable is cooked and the oil has surfaced, the dish is done. Now for you to enjoy it with some steaming white rice.

This tasted so so good that I cannot thank Soma enough

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

How to Make Luchi 101

Inspired by Sawan Dutta's Maachher Jhol videos, the girls were inspired to sing a Luchi song. They also roped in Didun(my Ma) and interviewed her on the luchi making process. It was a fun morning, very amateur, but fun. Years later when they look back on this, they will either cherish it or die of embarrassment. Already they have warned me , not to divulge, who in the family sang the song as it could jeopardize their future singing career !!!

Please do listen and hope it will inspire you to roll and fry more luchis. The recipe is added at the end of the video. For more details on what exactly is luchi and the recipe in details please follow this recipe "Phulko Luchi and Aloor Dom"

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Big Sis's Double Chocolate Vanilla Cake

I had grand plans about the blog this summer. "I will post at least two recipes a week," I promised myself. Well, the summer is close to its end and I have done nothing. I feel exactly the way I felt when I was a fifth grader and only the week before the end of summer vacation I would realize that I had not done a single page of my Hindi handwriting homework!!! That last week would be gruesome when I had to find the shortest paragraphs and then write them down in jumbo handwriting to fill the pages as fast as possible. Thankfully, I don't have to do that for my blog.

So, there has been so many things that kept me busy this summer, that it flew by in a blink. Top it with the Presidential conventions and then the Olympics, it is hard to find time to do anything else.

We have been caught up in Olympics frenzy for the last two weeks. I am sure it is the same with you. Courtesy the daughters I am now well acquainted with the Fantastic five in the US women's gymnastic team. Little Sis is a very enthusiastic gymnast and so every gymnastic event is being duly followed. That one of them(Laurie Hernandez) lives only fifteen minutes away and another(Dipa Karmakar) is from my motherland has only added to our excitement.

It is amazing how many of the athletes have overcome both nature and nurture to achieve what they have. It is humbling to realize that it is neither genetics nor upbringing that can create legends.
It is also very reassuring to tell BigSis that she cannot blindly blame me if she is not growing any taller. Genes definitely has a role to play when it comes to traits but hey come on I am the Mother, I can defy science.

That it is definitely not genetics is clear from Big Sis's love for baking. While I always shy away from it, she appears to enjoy in its presence, reading through recipes, working on them on her own, conjoining two different recipes to make a new cake, using the hand mixer which scares me to death. Of course she is most smitten by rich, chocolate cakes and jumps into things like making "Ganache" with a panache, words which I don't even pronounce right.

For couple of years, she is the one who always bakes her sister's birthday cake. This year it was no different and she excelled herself. The cake was amazingly soft and delicious. It was really perfect. The best thing I like about her baking is that she cleans the kitchen after herself. All mess is taken care of as of the last bake. Things might change in the future but we will keep our fingers tightly crossed.

When I asked her to share her recent cake recipe on the blog, she very diligently wrote it down in varying fonts and colors. She also referred to the original recipes with links where necessary. I did not change a thing and am posting she shared with me.

Double Chocolate Vanilla Cake

A rich, creamy chocolate mousse sandwiched between two flaky layers of vanilla cake, coated with a luscious chocolate ganache.


Total time ~ 1 ½ - 2 hours
Cook ~ 45 minutes
Prep ~ 1 hour
Yield ~ 2 round 9-inch cakes

The Cake

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

The Mousse

  • 2 packages of store bought mousse
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk

The Ganache

  • 8 ounces (2 baking bars) chopped semisweet chocolate
  • ½ cup heavy cream


For The Cake

To see the recipe this is based off of, click here
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Grease 2 round 9-inch cake pans with baking spray
  3. Whisk 3 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and a ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl until thoroughly combined
  4. Beat 2 sticks of butter and 1 ½ cups sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on a medium high speed, until the mixture is light and fluffy, which will take a total of around 3 minutes
  5. Reduce the speed of the mixer and beat in the eggs slowly
  6. Beat in the vanilla at the same speed and scrape down the bowl as needed
**Note: The batter may look separated or as if it has curdled at this point of the recipe**
  1. Mix ½ cup water with ¾ cup heavy cream in a bowl or liquid measuring cup
  2. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the cream mixture until the batter comes to a relatively smooth texture
  3. Divide the batter in two pans and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven when they are lightly golden
  5. Allow to sit on a cooling rack for around 10 to 15 minutes before continuing

For The Mousse

  1. Beat two packets of store bought mousse with 2 cups of heavy cream on a low setting until the product thickens
  2. When thick enough, add in a cup of milk
  3. Beat on the high setting for 3 to 5 minutes until the product looks rich and creamy
*Tip: This mousse is great as a dessert on its own, especially when piped into small glasses*

For The Ganache

To see the recipe this is based off of, click here
  1. Cook the 8 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate and ½ cup of heavy cream in a double boiler
*If you don’t have a double boiler, you can place a glass bowl on top of a pan of boiling water.**
  1. Stir occasionally until smooth and warm, usually around 5 to 8 minutes

The Assembly

  1. Take the cakes out of their pans and place them on the cooling racks - if needed, trim the tops so the cakes are all level
  2. Spread a generous amount of the mousse on top of one cake layer ~ I used almost all the mousse I had made but it is up to how much of the chocolatey taste you want (the leftover mousse can be stored in the fridge for a while)
  3. Gently place the second layer of cake on top of the layer of mousse
  4. Drizzle the chocolate ganache over the cake
  5. Then, spread the ganache all around and on top of the cake with a spatula
  6. Lastly, you can top of the cake with a few sprinkles but it is just as good without
  7. Cut yourself a big slice and enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Chingrir Bora -- Shrimp Fritters

It was a hot, hot day today. Temperature soared to the 90s. There was not a speck of rain anywhere.

It was also the day of Ratha Yatra. The day in the month of Ashada, when the monsoons have arrived in the plains of Odissa and Bengal, and the day on which the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Balaram and Subhadra are taken to their aunt's house in a regal chariot.

My girls don't know much about Ratha Yatra. I must have told them sometime but they don't remember. I don't try either. It doesn't make sense any more.

I would rather they take to heart from Tagore's poem which was as apt in the times that he wrote it as it is now.

"Ratha Yatra Lokaranyo Maha Dumdham (The Ratha Yatra prgresses amidst throngs of people with much jubilation)
Bhaktera Lutaye Pothe Korichhe Pronam (The devotees bow down and pay their respect)

Poth bhabe ami dev ( As people bow down on the street while the Ratha is pulled, the road thinks he is the Supreme God) ,
Rath bhabe ami ,( The chariot pulled on Ratha Yatra thinks he is the Supreme God)
Murti bhabe ami dev ( The wooden idol on the chariot preens and thinks he is the Supreme God),
Haansen Ontorjami ( The Supreme Power merely smiles at this ignorance)"
-- Rabindranath Tagore

There was one aspect of Rath that I don't want to miss though. Papor Bhaja and Telebhaja, fried in the hot oil, celebrating Nature and the rains.

Though there was no rain and it was really too hot for frying, I did make some chingrir bora today. Ideally this bora or fritters is made with the very very tiny shrimp called "ghusho chingri". You can mash those with hand or make a paste on the shil-nora. I would never get that so settled for the medium sized shrimp which I chopped and then put in the mixie to make a paste.

Soak 1/2 cup of red Masoor Dal in water for half an hour.

Wash and clean 10-12 medium sized shrimp. If you have the smaller ones use a few more. In my case , I only had to defrost the shrimp.

Chop the shrimp in small pieces.

In the blender add
the soaked lentils
the chopped shrimp
3-4 green chili
sprinkle of water
and make a smooth paste.

Add salt to taste to this paste.

2-3 tbsp of chopped onion
2 green chillies finely chopped
Chopped dhonepata/coriander leaves
1/2 tsp of Nigella seeds

Beat the lentil paste with a fork till everything is well mixed up.

Heat Mustard oil in a Kadhai or Frying Pan

Once the oil is hot, take a tsp of oil from the kadhai and add it to the batter. Give it a good mix.

Once the oil is ready which you will know by putting in a small drop of the batter and seeing it bubble and rise to top, add small scoops of batter in the hot oil. Keep the heat at high and in a minute you will see the batter turning solid. Gently flip and let the other side cook. Reduce the heat to a medium-high(between med and high). In another minute turn it around again. The outside will be a golden brown by now. It will take approx. 3 minutes in all once the oil is well heated.

Remove the "chingri bora" with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Serve as a snack with tea or have it with rice and dal.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Shahi Tukda or Pauruti'r Ras Malai

Shahi Tukda or Bread Ras Malai

I have not seen anyone use "regular white bread" in as many avatars as my Mother. It could be due to the fact that we mostly lived in small towns where buying sweets or shingaras for snack, or when an impromptu guest arrived, was not the easiest thing to do. It could also be due to the fact that we did not have a refrigerator(until I was in 8th grade) and so stocking sandesh and roshogollas for a guest who lands out of nowhere was not possible.It could also be due to the fact that my Mother had this amazing talent of making delicious edibles out of practically nothing.

One thing we did buy regularly was "a loaf of sliced bread". Buttered toasts appeared frequently with tea in the morning.But how much buttered toast can a Bengali household consume after all ? And so rest of the bread showed up at snack time in different avatars.

Neighborhood aunties dropping by for evening tea in winter, meant my Mother would make bread pakora by simply dipping slices of bread in a spiced besan batter and frying them in hot oil.

If it was hot summer, she would simply rustle up a paurutir dahi vada (bread dahi vada) with the yogurt spiced up with some imli chutney from neighborhood Jain Aunty.

For dessert, she would make paurutir malpoa(bread malpua) where squares of bread were fried crisp and then soaked in a sugar syrup until they became soft and melt in the mouth. My father was an avid sweet lover and he needed a dessert every day of the week. This helped!

The Shahi Tukda or Paurutir Rosh Malai was made only when guests came invited for dinner though. It involved a little more work in thickening the milk and making the rabri and so was not really impromptu. However once my Ma discovered "Gits Rabri Mix", even this became a super fast dish in her kitchen.

I did not know that this very simple dish that happened in my Mother's kitchen had a fancy name of "Shahi Tukda" and a fancier lineage, until our dessert connoisseur friend T served it one day. Her version looked fancier than my Ma's, who never bothered with garnishing and such.

As I searched for history of this dish, I learned interesting facts from here

"It is popularly believed that Shahi Tukray was a favorite of the Mughal emperors to break fast with in the month of Ramazan, thus the practice continues even today making it a very desirable dish at iftar, and a meetha famously served at the festive occasions of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha.

There are many who claim that Shahi Tukray evolved from Um Ali an ancient Egyptian bread pudding. Legend has it that a Sultan with a group of hunters was hunting along the River Nile when they stopped in nearby village for some food. The villagers called upon their local cook Um Ali to cook up a meal for the hungry guests. The chef mixed some stale wheat bread, nuts, milk and sugar, and baked it in the oven. And thus the delicious Um Ali came to be. Another legend claims Um Ali to be a victory dessert made to order by a succeeding king."

While Shahi Tukda owes its origin to the Mughal emperors, the royals of Hyderabad had adapted this dish to make "Double ka Meetha", probably named so as bread was called "double roti" in Hindi.

Whatever you wish to call it and however fancy it may sound, it really is the easiest thing to make. And isn't it a beautiful coincidence that I made it during the holy Ramadan ?