Friday, December 29, 2017

The Great Bengali Pata Bata or veggie Pâté -- leafy greens pâté

Mulo Shak Bata, Phulkopi pata bata, bengali pata bata

Mulo Shaak Bata | Phulkopi Pata Bata| Bengali Pata Bata

Radish greens, Cauliflower leaves, Lau Pata, and other such fresh green peels or leaves which we usually discard, are made into a beautiful dish in Bengal called "pata bata" which is a seasoned and spiced paste of these leaves and stalks. A close cousin of  Pate in French or a Pesto in Italian, this very Bengali rustic dish with generous doses of Mustard oil is a culinary delight.

Bengali Pata Bata

Many, many years ago, it was a cold winter day just like today, when I was visiting my in-laws in India. Well not exactly cold like today as it was in India but it gets pretty cold where they live. Though I must say with the  sun on the terrace winter in their town is far better than here. On that winter afternoon there were several small bowls on the dining table at lunch. So yes, lunch is what I concentrate on when I visit anyone, in-laws or out-laws.

Well there were always several small bowls on the dining table but this time each of them contained a paste or mash like something in earthy colors of brown, deep green or deeper green. I had never seen the likes of them and was actually a bit suspicious with their color and portions. The husband-man however went ecstatic and shouted in glee "Baata korecho?" I was still clueless. The guy loved weird things like bittergourd and bitter neem leaves fry and so his happiness did not aid my confidence.

Nimbly I took a little of one of those baatas and mixed it with white rice and took a morsel. Flavors of mustard oil, green chili, kalonji burst in my mouth. This was good. So so good. Unlike neem paata which I detested. Surprised with the fullness of flavors and smoothness of the texture, I asked my Ma-in-law what it was ?

"Mulo Shaak Baata", she said. And then she pointed to the others and said "Kochu baata" and "Kopi paata baata"! I was bowled by all these baatas or pates or pastes. They were really heavenly. That something so simple like "Leafy greens of radish" or the "green leaves of cauliflower" could morph into something so delicious was beyond my imagination.

She explained how the greens are ground into a paste on the sheel-nora, the same pocmarked slab of stone used in all Indian homes used to wet-grind spices. After that the paste is sauteed in Mustard oil with spices like kalo jeera(kalonji), green chilies and garlic, until the water is dried out and the paste is cooked.

Sheel Nora -- though here it is being used for making posto

Back home, I asked my Mother, "How come you never made paata baata?"

She looked quizzically at me and didn't appear too happy about my allegiance towards this strange dish called "paata bata"

And when I explained what it was she dismissed it as something that Bangals make, "Bangal ra oi shob banay".

Well might be true. The Bangals, or the Bengalis who immigrated from Bangladesh during or just before partition, are known for their distinctive cooking strategies. They are also known for their enterprising habit of using every bit of vegetables and fish in a dish and not wasting even the peels. I am not sure why people from this region of Bengal are more prone to making baatas etc while the folks from West Bengal are not.

It could be that the immigrant Bengalis, living a rough life, uprooted from their home and earnings, were more careful about not wasting food and making the most of what they had. It could also be because Bangladesh was a river state with frequent flooding, so people tried to make most of the vegetables they grew during those periods of rain and flood. In both situations, the idea was to stretch to the limits of what little you had.

So whatever the reason of their origin, the pate' like dishes made from vegetable peels or leafy greens or even whole vegetables are delicious. Later my mom-in-law also made a Kaanchakolar khosa baata made with the skin of green plantains which I have shared on the blog earlier.  Last month when we were visiting my friends from Thanksgiving, my friend Deepshikha made a "Dhonepaata Bata", a similar paste like my Ma-in-law makes but with coriander leaves. It was not the "dhonepata chutney" that we make every winter. This was a cooked dish.

So once I was back in my kitchen I was itching to make a paata bata. But instead of using only Coriander leaves, I wanted to use radish greens and cabbage. And then I didn't find any radish greens at the market so I got some watercress, which we are very fond of. The paste was now made of watercress, cabbage and coriander leaves.  More of coriander and watercress and less of cabbage. I wasn't sure how the  cabbage would  turn out so I sauteed them first and then made the paste. But honestly  the transformation of these greens into this Bengali style pâté was spectacular.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Goat Sukka -- a spicy dry meat dish to blow you off

Goat Sukka | Spices

Goat Sukka | Goat Sukha

Goat Sukka or Goat Sukha is a dry mutton preparation, which is native to the Mangalore and Udupi region. Many attribute the origin of this dish to the neighboring region of Goa where culinary influence of Arab and Turkish traders can be seen in the meat dishes. The recipe probably amalgamated with  the signature ingredients of the western coastal region of India and is thus heavy on spices like peppercorns and fennel and a good amount of coconut.

hough I am not fond of winter or cold or snow, I love the festive spirit that is all around during this time of the year. Shopping around for little gifts to be sent to school, lighting up the house, putting up the Christmas tree, each tiny thing seems to be filled with light and joy. There is something to look forward to every evening. And the houses look so pretty shining brightly against the winter sky.

Also this is the perfect time to cook the spiciest, richest dishes as both the food and process of cooking warms you up. Like this Goat Sukka which I will tell you about but I need a preamble...

Many years ago when I had started blogging, it was a small, close-knit community of Indian bloggers. We read each others blogs, commented on posts, cooked from each others blogs, and slowly via food became familiar with a sliver of their lives.

Slowly though the community disbanded, they are still there but they don't blog as much. If I have to search for a recipe and I google it, there are thousands thrown at me and I have to cautiously scroll through to find the one that will work. There is always some that will work but I don't trust them blindly any more.

So all this reminiscing is because of one single dish called Goat Sukka. It might actually have been Goat Sukha, given that it is a dry meat preparation but I have seen it blogged as Sukka and I like to call it that way. Goat Sukka is a dry mutton preparation, which is native to the Mangalore and Udupi region. Many attribute the origin of this dish to the neighboring region of Goa where culinary influence of Arab and Turkish traders can be seen in the meat dishes. The recipe probably amalgamated with  the signature ingredients of the western coastal region of India and is thus heavy on spices like peppercorns and fennel and a good amount of coconut.

I had first made Goat Sukka from SigSiv's blog. We loved it too much and I bookmarked her recipe. It had just the right amount of fennel, peppercorns and whole coriander, the perfect aroma of kari patta, a little bit of coconut, and was way easier than making kosha mangsho. I made it a few more times and then I forgot about it. These things happen. I get obsessed about some dish, cook it every other day, and then bam I forget all about it for the next 2 years.

So after this long gap, I felt a strong urge to cook goat sukka again. To refresh my memory I clicked on the url I had so carefully saved. And guess what happened ? I got a "This site cant be reached error"!! I tried hacking around and yet nothing. In desperation I sent Sig a Facebook message to see where her blog was. Turns out she hasn't blogged for a while and now her domain has expired. In the process she has also lost her blog posts.

I was so depressed by the news that I decided not to make Goat Sukka at all. But I had already bought 5 lb of mutton and no one wanted a mangshor jhol or kosha mangsho again. So I googled and pages upon pages of Goat Sukka washed over me, none of which seemed liked my old Goat Sukka. Then I searched up another favorite and very very reliable Konkani blog Aayis Recipes and no wonder she had the chicken sukka recipe.

Based on the old recipe I had in mind and with help from the one that Shilpa of Aaayis Recipes had, I made the Goat Sukka again. It turned out to be so so good. I also didn't want to risk losing it again and so right away got down to blog about it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mitan Ghosh's Gulab Jamun CheeseCake -- No Bake

Many of you already know 🌸Mitan Ghosh,  a successful fashion designer in her own rights. Her designer sarees and dresses are quite the rage in US. You can have a peek at her beautiful collection here and I promise you, you will be hooked forever. Just like her designs, her home is another work of art and I love, love how she designs each corner.

Her creativity runneth over and you can see her magic touch in everything from exquisite saris to scintillating wedding trousseau, from carefully curated paintings to the food she cooks.

I asked her a few rapid fire questions for fun and here is what she had to say:

🍁1. Designing or Cooking?


🍁2. What do you like cooking best?

I am not really fond of cooking but when I do cook anything, I do so passionately!

🍁3. Favorite Food?

Dal, Bhaat, Begun Bhaaja

🍁4. Favorite Designer?

None. Oh wait, Gaurang Shah.

🍁5. Mishti na Nonta ?


🍁6. Favorite Restaurant?

NJ/NY: Minado for Sushi
Kolkata: 6 Ballygunge Place
Mumbai: Mahesh Lunch Home
Chennai: Ponnusamy

I love Mitan, not only for her multiple talents, or because she is a wonderful person inside out, but because we share the same day of birth and it only gives me hope :-p, for myself that is!

Last week she baked a Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake as a test run for our Thanksgiving meal. Now this Thanksgiving I will not be sharing this meal as I will be traveling miles to celebrate it with another set of my friends.

So when I saw the photos of her test run, I pleaded and cajoled and she sent me a generous portion to taste. That very morning we were discussing this cheesecake recipe. Mitan had taken the idea of a Gulab Jamun cheesecake but played around with the ingredients to make it a far more simpler version than anything you would get on the internet. I told her if it works well, I am going to give it a try :-) And boy the outcome was gorgeous.

I followed her instructions and made the cheesecake over this weekend. It was so so good. I shared it with neighbors and colleagues and everyone raved about it.

It is
no bake
easy to make
freezes very well
and Delicious
Those are all my criteria for a good dessert!

Make it this week. Perfect dessert for your Thanksgiving table straddling the East and the West.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Spicy Kale Soup with Potato and Sausage

The weather around here is getting positively chilly. It had been a fabulous couple of months with great weather, festivities in the air, glittering lights and overload of sweets. The trees near my house are now preparing for winter, their leaves turning a rusty red, though this year we did not get the gorgeous colors like other years.

This is also the time when I start making soups. Soups that can be sent in a thermos for school lunch, soups that can be served with dinner. Now, the thing is there are millions and billions of soups and soup recipes out there, but my girls like only a few of them, and so those are the soups I make most often. Until they get tired of them that is.

In this whole gamut of soups, or rather a fraction of whole gamut of soups, both my girls seem to have taken a certain liking towards Kale soup.

Yes, you heard it right. K-A-L-E soup. It is a pretty, mossy green looking soup but it tastes delicious. I add little bit of potato to it and even carrots. I might or might not add sausages but sausages are definitely a plus. And garlic, oh yes garlic, lots of it please.

For a spicier, kind of Indianized version of this soup, I make a paste of coriander and green chili and then add it towards the very end to the soup simmering gently on the stove.

You see there are plenty of directions this soup can go. It is for you to decide which road to take.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dim Narkel Posto -- Egg Curry with Poppy seeds and Coconut

Dim Posto or Dim Narkel Posto -- Egg Curry with Poppy seeds paste
Dim Posto

Almost everyday I tell the girls, "Practice makes Perfection. You have to practice <*> everyday if you want to be good at it". Into the wild card goes everything from math, piano, gymnastics to combing hair. By now they have heard it so often that they turn a deaf ear to my gyaan.

Now I will let you on to secret. Though I give them this gyaan repeatedly, I don't always adhere to it. Definitely not when it comes to cooking.

I mean look at it this way. I am an adult! It is not for nothing that I have grown up to pay monthly bills and worry about them. I need some leeway, some pleasure out of this whole growing-up business, something that will make my adulthood worth it. And that is not to achieve perfection. At least not in my kitchen. For to be perfect in cooking any dish, I need to do it again and again and again. That is B-O-R-I-N-G. And then who is going to eat that same thing tell me?

So instead of practicing the same thing over and over, I fleet around from one recipe to another, jumping to add a tomato where it is not called for, posto aka poppy seed paste where unnecessary. My rutis can take whatever shape they want but I am not rolling them until they are round! Of course all of this fleeting around is bound within certain constraints like
a) has to be easy peasy
b) the end product will not be so wild that it will be untouched by my house humans.

Following this line of thought, I made something different with eggs few weeks back. A Dim Posto Narkol or Dim Narkol Posto or Narkol Posto Dim or whatever that required eggs, posto aka poppy seeds -- a Bengali's favorite spice, and coconut. Now my mother did make a Dim Posto and even a Dim Shorshe posto, so technically I am not crossing uncharted territories here. It is just that this Dim Narkel Posto is, you know different!

Try it. We loved it and even Big Sis who is no lover of eggs grudgingly admitted "Eita khub bhalo hoyeche"! She doesn't know about my personal policies on perfection yet. Don't tell them!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Diwali in a Jar -- or Spiced Nuts

In the neighborhood that we live, we have a lot of Indian neighbors, and as a result invites for Indian festivities like Haldi-Kumkum, Lakshmi-puja, or Kanya puja on Ashtami are in abundance. Most of these festivals are done by the women folk, who are very open with welcoming new people into their house or sharing their home-made goodies with others. Puri-halwa-kala chana on Ashtami days, sundal and small packets of haldi-kumkum on the Lakshmi puja days and boxes and boxes of delicious sweets on Diwali are shared with much love and joy.

Now, although I celebrate Diwali with as much merriment as any other, making sweets on Diwali is not a tradition I grew up with. Very practical too, as we are done with our sweets like naru and sondesh making first for Bijoya Dashami, then Lokkhi Pujo and now we are prepping to make more for Bhai Phota. In between Diwali is when we light up candles, enjoy some fireworks, do Kali Puja and enjoy sweets gifted by other people!!!

However this year, I wanted to share some Diwali gift with my neighbors too. I had already shared Roshogolla with them for Durga Pujo and it didn't make sense for me to make more sweets. I was enjoying the besan laddos and gulab jamuns that were piling up in my house.

So I decided to gift them Diwali in a Jar!!! It all started with a 40% coupon for Michael's the craft store and the dozen Mason Jars that I brought home from there. It was to be my project for a relaxing evening. I would sip tea, watch some sitcoms and decorate mason jars. The plan was to put some Diwali trinkets and chocolates in the jar. The main focus was decorating the jars and me having a "relaxed evening". But did that happen as I planned ? No. Never does.

The moment I sat down with all the bling craft jewels and the shiny ribbons, LilSis joined me.

"I want to do one", she said. Well, so, yeah why not. She pulled away the jar from me and started sticking the jewels. I hovered around, hoping to guide. But she was doing a fabulous job anyway.

Soon BigSis came downstairs and whined, "I never get to do anything fun. All I do is homework. I want to do this too"! Oh, boy! Here goes my jar and "relaxed evening", I thought. Both the girls sat around intently decorating the jars with so much enthusiasm and artistry that I did not have the heart to ask them to stop. So they decorated all the 12 jars, and did a beautiful job of it too.

All you need to make these jars is:

1. Mason Jar
2. Variety of stick on Jewels (from Amazon or any craft store)
3. Satin Ribbons (from Amazon or any craft store)
4. Creative ideas

Meanwhile I roasted some nuts following this recipe. The only thing is I changed the spices and used all Indian spices like Bhaja Moasala and Chat masala. Once the spiced nuts were cool, we filled the jars with nuts and chocolates. These sparkling jars filled with spicy nuts and chocolates was our Diwali gift for our lovely neighbors. I am hoping they had a good time snacking.

Don't you think these would make excellent holiday gifts too? It is easy, simple and surely a keeper.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pritha Sen -- and her Bhoger Khichuri

Anyone who reads my blog would have come across recipes like Goalondo Murgi or Railway Mutton Curry and by now know who Pritha Sen is. And if you don't read my blog but you are a Bengali food enthusiast, there is not an iota of doubt that you would know her!

For the uninitiated, she is a journalist, a food consultant, a development consultant and last but not the least  -- the person who unearths lost recipes, ingredients, cuisine from undivided Bengal and  traces their history.

The reason I respect PrithaDi so much is not only because of  her repertoire of knowledge on food but because she is one of those rare breed of food writers who are also very generous with that knowledge and experience. She is always there to share her recipes, suggesting changes, answering questions, guiding you along the way. I have learned a lot from her and hope to continue that in the future.

This Durga Pujo, I bring to you Pritha Sen, woman power in food from Undivided Bengal (as she puts it)! My humble ode to thank her for all she does.

Come join me as she talks about everything food -- from her foray into food history to the Bhog she cooks at her community Pujo, from her childhood pujos to her  special pujo memories.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Enchor Chingri Malaikari

My grandmother's house in India had a wildly growing garden. Trees of all kinds grew around the age old garden, leaning over the solid brick parapet that surrounded the house. Guava trees with their albino limbs and pale green leaves, Jamun trees with marble sized juicy jamuns hidden in their leafy canopy, jackfruit trees where the jackfruits clung onto the tree like koala babies and loads and loads of flowering trees from shiuli to tagor.

Enchor Malaikari, Enchor Chingri Malaikari
Enchor Chingri Malaikari

I don't know who planted the trees or who take care of them, for I never did see anyone take care of them regularly. Once in a while my grandmother would get hold of some poor guy walking the lane on a solitary afternoon in search of  odd jobs and then she would entice him with prospect of food and easy money. That is how she got all her weeding done and kept the garden neat. But I never did see anyone spraying fungicide or pouring insecticide or do anything thing fancy in there. Most of the trees in that garden were old and big anyways and knew how to take care of themselves.

In that garden there was this Ka(n)thal gaach -- a jackfruit tree, where jackfruits grew in abundance hanging around the tree like koala babies. Since no one at our home was fond of ripe jackfruit smell, the jackfruits were plucked when they were green and young and called "Enchor" in Bengali. "Enchore paaka" was also a term often used when any adolescent tried to act smart-alecy. Given that it was actually a much adored vegetable, it was hard to figure out, that the term was not actually a compliment!

As a result of all this abundance of enchor, green jackfruit curry or enchor er dalna was quite a common dish at our home. Though honestly cutting green jackfruit, with all its thorns and spikes and sticky glue, was no mean feat and it would be an elaborate affair compassing couple of hours. As is the rule, I was not much fond of "enchor er dalna" as a child. The adults loved it. They called it "gaachh pantha", the vegetarian meat. Much later would I know that it tasted a lot like pulled pork. But at that point I didn't appreciate the soft fibrous texture of green jackfruit in a curry. My mother sometimes made koftas with the green jackfruit, like meatballs, the jackfruit boiled and mashed with potatoes and spices and then fashioned into spherical balls which were deep fried. They were soft and delicious, more after soaking in the spicy gravy. Now those I absolutely adored.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mahalaya, Thin Arrowroot biskoot and Birendra Krishna Bhadra

I set a lot of alarms on my phone. From the first wake up call in the morning to alarms notifying me when the elementary and high school bus is supposed to come, I have a series of them set up in variety of tones. My wake up alarms are so melodious that I often snuggle in and go into deeper sleep hearing them.

This was not the case with my parents. We, or rather my parents had only one moon faced alarm clock, white and chrome, which stood on two tiny legs and had two buttons around the top. It was wound by a key like all clocks were on those days and I am sure the alarm was set in a similar fashion. Standing on its two legs, it looked exactly like how you would draw an alarm clock. It also had a jarring, steely noise, that would not only wake us up but also the neighbors and any stray dogs or cats in the street outside.

However, unlike me, my parents rarely needed an alarm. My mother's body clock would be naturally set to a fixed time in the morning when she would wake up. In turn she would go around acting as our very own human alarm. We didn't need a clock.

There were only 2 or maybe 3 days a year that our Alarm clock with the jarring alarm would be put to use. Two of those days would be when we had to catch the early morning train to go to my grand parent's home.

And the third day would be on Mahalaya! This day marked the end of PitraPaksha and start of Debi Paksha, the fortnight when Ma Durga would arrive. I did not pay any attention to these details though. For me, Mahalaya was synonymous with the radio program Mahishashurmardini, aired by All India Radio at an ungodly hour on this day.

We never did say "Mahi-sha-shur-mar-dini".
"Mahalaya shunte hobe", was the phrase. We have to listen to Mahalaya. It was not a day, it was a phenomenon.

To wake us all up in time for that program, the alarm would be set to an ungodly hour of 3 in the morning. To be sure that the hour is not missed, my diligent Baba always set a couple of practice alarms the evening before.Reassured by that earth shattering krrr-rr-ing a couple of times he would finally set it to 3AM the next morning.

He then checked the new set of radio batteries repeatedly and set the dial to Akaashbaani. My Mother kept her clothes ready to change into the next morning. It was no ordinary radio program after all.

"Kal bhor bela uthe Mahalaya shunte hobe. Ghyaan ghyaan na kore uthei chaan kore nebe", I would be coaxed repeatedly the night before, to wake up and take a shower the very first thing in the morning.

Honestly as much as I was excited for DurgaPujo, I dreaded the early morning Mahalaya. I was never a morning person and waking up at 3AM was not my forte. My parents were ardent fans of the event though and would be up before day break . Tightly holding a pillow over my ears I mostly slept through the jarring alarm and the sound of morning ablutions. My Mother tried various methods like untying the mosquito net and letting the soft net fall in a heap over my sleeping self. I did not budge.

Finally she would patter away grumbling about my insouciance. As the first pink ray of sunlight hit the earth, the radio would crackle and there was this resounding voice reverberating over ether and entering our home through the radio. The deep baritone of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, traveling from afar and bouncing off the walls of our house. There was some magic in that chant that pushed even someone like me out of the bed, and rubbing my eyes I would sit around the dining table listening to him invoking the Goddess. Crisp Thin Arrowroot biscuits dipped in cups of sugary tea, mingled with 'Bajlo alor benu..." on Mahalaya mornings.

Strains of the same voice would float around from neighboring houses too and the neighborhood would be all awake in their separate homes, united by the power of the single voice reciting "Ashwin er sharod o praate..".

I never managed to listen to the entire Mahalaya program ever and dozed off some where between the chant and the songs, carrying the voice deep in my heart. A voice that I would never forget even when radios were replaced by television and later youtube channels. On Mahalaya I still listen to the original version of mahishahshur mardini. In my early days in the US, it was cassette tapes but now Birendra Krishan Bhadra lives on over the ether once again via on-demand internet.

Tomorrow early morning it will be me and Mahalaya once again. With Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Thin Arrow root biscuits and cups of sugary cha. My girls will sleep on.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

School Lunch Box -- What to pack for school lunch?

After two whole months of lazy summer, schools open up this week. Right after depressing stuff like setting the alarm clock to 5:30 in the morning, what looms large in my mind is "What to pack for school lunch?".

This year, I have a high schooler who has a strong dislike for lunches at the school cafeteria and prefers lunch from home. And then I have an elementary school goer who scans her school lunch menu to pick the days when the school will serve Mac & Cheese or a Pizza. While the first one eats her veggies and likes more of the pasta dishes, the second one loves fruits and prefers a ham sandwich. The first one will finish her lunch, while it is on a rare day that the second one will bring home a clean lunch thermos.

As you must know by now, I am not the Mom, who makes pretty bento boxes or egg faces for school lunches. I admire those lunches and look at them longingly on instagram but sadly that is not me. I also make sure that my kids never get to see those glorious lunch boxes on social media ;-)
The lunch boxes I pack have to be done the night before, packed quick in the morning, and not make me shed any of my remaining my gray hair!!!

Easy, Quick, Kind of Healthy-- those are the key words that describe our school lunch boxes.

Thinking of all the possible lunch options that my kids love, I decided to curate the lunch box recipes from my blog and present it in one post. Since both my girls have a hurried, small breakfast in the morning, they get hungry by lunchtime and want something "interesting"! I have tried to break down the lunches we pack in 4 broad categories.

1. Pulaos and Noodles
2. Pasta
3. Crepes, rolls and Quesadillas
4. Sandwich

Click on the Recipe Titles to get the recipe

I am hoping to have one more similar post soon as this list is not complete. Until then this will help me and you both. And then in-between there is always Costco raviolis to tide us over.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Eggplant Indiana -- the baked Imam Bayildi

It is uncanny how I often repeat a recipe after years and yet it is around the same time of the year that I last cooked.

Yesterday, I bought these lovely eggplants from Costco. Wondering what to do with them, I remembered Imam Bayildi. Guess when I had made Imam Bayildi last? 8 years back just before Big Sis was starting Grade 1.

It has been eight years since. Yes E-I-G-H-T. And Big Sis is starting high school next week. What are the chances that I will be making the same eggplant recipe, at the same time of the year, after a gap of 8 years? And this when Big Sis will not even eat eggplant. Uncanny right?

When I read my old post I realized next week there will be no uniform. I will not have to worry about sewing buttons or hems. I will not even decide what she wears to school. But there will be lots more to worry, things far worse than "buttons"!

So anyway, yesterday when I looked up the Imam Bayildi recipe, I didn't want to fry the eggplants like the original recipe. Instead I decided to do the whole thing in the oven. Like a faux Imam Bayildi.

Now, as you know Imam Bayildi, is a classic Turkish eggplant dish, and it calls for quite a large quantity of Olive Oil. The phrase Imam Bayildi translates to "the Imam fainted" and often the joke is that the Imam probably fainted seeing the amount of expensive olive oil that his wife used in this dish.
This version that I made in the oven is way lighter and the Imam would probably never faint seeing it. He could faint from the heat of my eggplants though.

In fact seeing all the green chilies, Big Sis named it "Eggplant Indiana", which seems to be a more apt name for this dish.

Friday, July 07, 2017

No-Bake No-Gelatin Super Easy Mango Pie

June has been an extremely busy month. End of school year means the school tries to fit in hundreds of stuff in there. Add to that fabulous warm weather which means lot of outdoor times. This June was extra special as Big Sis is going to high school and 8th grade graduation is a big deal in our school district. The graduating 8th grade class do not all move to the same high school but depending on their interests and performance get scattered among different high schools in the district. So while our parents probably never noticed our transition from 8th grade to 9th, here we had umpteen ceremonies to celebrate the graduation class. The school had a semi-formal 8th grade dance, a picnic by the pool, award days and then the graduation with gowns, caps and whole nine-yards. Not to forget the orientation for the new school and the placements.
Pheww, it was one thing after another, where it is kind of drilled into you the importance of high school!

When we could barely breathe and school had just shuts its doors, little Sis had her Bharatnatyam dance recital. That thing had me stressed more than high school; what with all the makeup, costume and hair do. Thankfully a dear friend came to the rescue(as usual) and took care of all the makeup and hair. Little Sis did the rest -- practicing and doing perfect dance routines. I did nothing. Wait, actually I did. I stressed!!!

I am so glad it all is done. At this point I am just trying to relax and not think what September will bring.

Meanwhile Big Sis has also been keeping up with her culinary endeavors. here is a super delicious recipe of Mango Pie that she learned from our neighbor. It is no-bake. It is no-gas top. It is no-gelatin. And the best thing that we have had with mangoes. This has been vouched by many people other than me so if you don't believe me, believe in the universe.

A slice of this cool mango pie on a summer day is better than any ice cream for sure.

What You Need

Two graham cracker pie crust -- store bought

One can of sweetened condensed milk -- Nestle carnation 14oz can

Same amount of mango puree as condensed milk -- Deep Mango Pulp from a can

Equal amount of greek yogurt as condensed milk and mango puree -- Fage greek yogurt

How I Did It

Blend the condensed milk, mango puree, and Greek yogurt until a smooth consistency

Pour into pie crust and freeze (put in freezer section) overnight. It is a good idea to cover it with a cling-wrap to prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface. But it is okay, even if you don't

Take out 6-8 minutes before serving. It will soften a little. Top with whipped cream for an extra taste

Serve cold

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mumu'r Phulkopir Malaikari -- Cauliflower in Coconut Curry

This recipe is our friend Mumu's. She is one half of that couple who makes roshogollas and dal gosht and tolerates us when we land up at their home on any random weekends. That is saying a lot. No good stuff that I say about her and K, can top the fact that they welcome us and feed us on "random" weekend. I mean anyone who does that must be close to a saint or something

So anyway this Phulkopir Malaikari is Mumu's signature dish. We have had it at her home many times and loved it every time. I don't know why I never made it at home though until recently. A few weeks back, I made it at home, roughly following her recipe. It turned out so good that I had to share it with you all.

Now if you are a Bengali, Chingri Malaikari is your anthem and needs no explaining. If however you are new to Bengali cuisine, let me tell you that Chingri Malaikari, is a Bong's national anthem. I mean, it is a dish where succulent prawns are cooked in a gravy of coconut milk and is so delicious that you need to eat it to believe it. There are many theories about roots of this curry. I don't know which one is true but once you taste the dish, it clearly shows the effect of  the cuisine of SouthEast asia, the Malay world,which now comprises of the modern nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and southern Thailand.

If you are a vegetarian and have never tasted the Chingri Malaikari, this Cauliflower Malaikari, is just the thing you need.It is pretty simple where fried cauliflower florets are cooked in a coconut gravy with almost the same spicing as a Malaikari. Since there is no prawn which adds the full bodied flavor to the chingri malaikari, here we add a bit more spices to compensate. But I must say, the result is phenomenal! Try it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nandini's Fish Curry with Lime Leaves -- Lebu Pata diye Maacher Jhol

I often hear people say that you don't make good friends after your childhood. That the best friends you make are the one you had since school or college. I understand the logic in there, that the friends you made in the age of innocence, unencumbered with worldly burdens or egos, are the true ones.

However, I have been extremely lucky to have found some good friends in all phases of my life. I found a very good friend when I was working in Mumbai and I am always indebted to her for sharing her love for reading with me. We would go second-book shopping outside Churchgate on Saturdays and she was the one who gave me a copy of "My Family and other Animals", thus introducing me to the magical writings of Gerald Durell.

N, is the aunt who dresses up my daughter for her Bharatnatyam performance as I am clueless
When I came to the US, and was desperately seeking a Bengali fiend, I found Nandini at K-Mart. Nope, she was not on sale. How I met her and what led to our friendship, is a saga on its own and I have even written about it in my book. If you are very interested, you can look it up in there. Slowly, I made more friends but had I not met N that day and braved myself to express my desperate need for friendship with a stranger like her, my life in US would probably be very different. Probably mundane and glitter free.
From her undying love for Shahrukh Khan to her obsessing about exercise, she keeps me informed about a wide range of things from Bollywood to weight-loss trainings, from the best sushi place in town to lebu-paata diye maacher jhol. Honestly, she is like the sister I never had !

Friday, April 07, 2017

Mourala Maacher Charchari -- from my Mother

I often say that I am not my Mother. The truth is, I can never become my Mother. It is hard. Believe me!

Everytime we have a phone call, this is how the conversation goes

If (Morning)
"Cha er saathe biskut kheyechis? Khali pete cha khas na. Shob jaigay bolche kintu brekfast ta heavy korte" (Did you have tea with your biscuit? Don't go empty stomach in the morning. It is important to have breakfast.)

Me - Huun

"Aaj lunch e bachcha der ki dili? Abar Pasta?" (What did you pack for the girls' lunch? Pasta gain?)

If (Night)
"Dinner e ki kheli?" (What did you have for dinner?)

bhaat, dal, chicken er jhol

"Abar toder sei brown rice ? Sada bhaat koris ni? Ektu gobindibhog chaal er bhaat korte paris to meye gulor jonyo. Ar sobji?" (Again that tasteless brown rice ? Why can't you make some gobindobhog? And no vegetable dish?)

After the food part is dealt with and she has finally resigned her granddaughters fate in the hands of their worthless mother, do we go into other discussions.

I cannot say for sure what will happen in 20 years but I don't know if like my Ma, I will be so single-mindedly concerned about my daughters' meal habits. Or maybe I will. Many of my friend's say, their conversation with their Mothers go more or less the same way, so I shall never know until I am at that stage.

My Ma -- The Super Bong Mom 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Baked Doi Salmon -- in oven

We are a very sporty family. Not. For a while, when the girls were small, I had them fooled with tall tales about me being a star marathon runner and their dad being a champion wrestler. Well, they did not buy that!!! The truth is sports is not our forte except for Little Sis who really enjoys being the athletic one in the family. Both my kids, defy the whole science of genetics and have interests in areas we the parents have no clue about. Well, the husband-man has loads of theoretical knowledge on all sports including gymnastics😉, but it is LS who actually does the practical stuff.

Today Little Sis had her first gymnastics meet. She was very very excited about it. Since we had no clue about what a "meet" was, we were excited too. This meet was in another town almost 45 minutes away and it was a local meet with other USAG level 2 and 3 teams competing too. All the little kids looked so darn cute in their leotards and did their routines in so perfect sync that right there I formed a very good opinion about "meets". This kind of meeting is what I like. Not boring at all.

After almost a whole day of the meet thingy, LS does not look tired at all, and is going around proudly strutting all her medals. On the other hand, doing nothing and sitting around the whole day, I am terribly tired. Thankfully I have devised an easy 3-step recipe for making Doi Salmon which was what we had for dinner.

Doi Salmon, Salmon in Yogurt Sauce, Baked Salmon in Yogurt Sauce

This Doi Salmon (Salmon in Yogurt Sauce) needs very little active time, that is the time you have to be present in the kitchen and at the stove instead of sleeping on the counter. The cooking time is all in the oven. This makes this a really easy and delicious dish, that leaves you with a lot of time to take a bubble bath and yet have homemade dinner.

Also it needs only 1tbsp of Oil and is really delicious. Did I mention that it is so so good and is exactly like how Doi Maach should taste?

So what if my knees turn into jelly at the thought of even getting on a beam, leave alone doing a handstand on it, I can find a easy way to make Doi Maach. That counts.

For the sceptics and the puritans, here is my traditional version of making  Salmon Doi Maach

And then BigSis found a neat app for me to edit videos and so helped me make this video which will give you a good idea of how easy this dish really is.

Doi Salmon in Oven


You need 1lb of salmon filet cut up in 5-6 rectangular pieces. This might work with other fish too but I like doi maach with salmon filets best so that is what I used.

You also need onion paste. Now I usually saute onion and make a paste and keep in the refrigerator for a week. It can be used in a lot of quick dishes during the week.
For this particular recipe, and the measures given, you need 2 tbsp Onion Paste.

How I Did It

Step 1

Soak 2 tbsp of cashew or slivered almonds(no skin) in water for 5-8 minutes

In a mixie add
the cashew/almond
and make a smooth paste with a splash of water

Now to the same mixer jar add
1/2 Cup of yogurt
2 Green chili finely chopped
2 tbsp Onion Paste
1 tbsp grated Ginger
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Make a smooth thick marinade

Step 2

In a baking dish put the salmon pieces.

pinch of Turmeric Powder
little Red Chili Powder
1/4th tsp of Garam Masala

Toss with the spices. Now add the yogurt marinade you made and let it sit in the marinade for 10 minutes.

Step 3

Add 2 green cardamom (crushed by just one thwack in a mortar pestle) and 2 cloves. This brings out the whole garam masala flavor of Doi Maach

Bake in the oven at 275F for 25 mins. After that switch off the oven, cover the baking dish with a foil and let it sit in the oven for 5 more minutes.

You Doi Salmon is ready. Take it out and enjoy with some rice or just by itself.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bengali Shingara -- not a samosa

There are samosas,the unique conical shaped Indian pies(in lack of a better word) made with pastry dough and stuffed with spiced potatoes, peas or mince meat and fried in hot oil, and then there are shingaras, the Bengali version of the same. Now don't you go and offend a Bengali, by saying that a shingara is same as samosa but only smaller. Never say that!

Bengalis are very possessive about their shingara, a popular snack served with steaming cups of tea, be it Darjeeling tea served in fancy china or sweetened bha(n)rer cha served in earthenware cups. While many upscale Bengali mashimas will look down upon aloor chop or telebhaja from the street, they will not blink a eye when offered these small triangle shaped delights from the neighborhood Kalika Mishtanno Bhandar, stuffed with potatoes-cauliflowers-sweet pea(the aloo phulkopir shingara being the favorite) in winter or potatoes and peanuts at other times of the year.

Growing up in Bihar, I was more familiar with the larger samosas from the stores, which I of course loved. The Bangali Shingara was something that was home made. Come winter, my Mother would be up in arms, steaming potatoes and cauliflowers, making conical structures from dough, like magic and frying up hot, hot shingaras. They were delicious and you could have as many of them. They were home made after all.

Potato-peas filling for shingara

Later, when we moved to this small town in Bengal, the shingara war was won by the local sweet-maker, Shotu, who fried batches of perfect shingara and made heavenly cream-chops in his shack like store known famously as "Shotu'r Dokan"!

Shotu'r shingara showed up at snack time, in our house, almost two or three times a week. Every afternoon around 5 in the evening,a huge black kadhai filled with oil would be put on the coal stove, at his store; mounds and mounds of alabaster white dough made of maida would be rolled into circular discs on glistening wooden boards; they were then stuffed and sealed in the blink of an eye; and suspended in the hot oil where they would be fried to flaky golden brown perfection.

My mother still made shingaras on some Sundays. Unlike me, she is one who fries stuff just because she wants to and not needs to. I mean, if I got perfect shingaras hot off the oil from a store, 2 miles away, I would have never made them at home.

Heck, I don't make them even when I don't get it at any store in my driving radius. We make do with samosas from the Indian stores, but I don't really like their stuffing. We love the Chicken samosas from Trader Joe's but there covering leaves a lot to desire. Sometimes for parties, we get the frozen samosas from the Indian stores, Swad or some such brand. They are ok. But honestly, none of them is a shingara.
There is my favorite Bengali caterer who does make great shingaras, with fried peanuts et al but he makes them only when there is a large order and that does not happen very often.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

KaanchaLonka Dhonepata Baked Fish

The weather has been amazingly warm for February in the last few days. Being from a warm country, I am not very fond of snowy winters, but such high temperatures scare me. With the new administration, there is little thought being given to global warming though it stares us in the face and even my 8 year old understands the impact it can have. If the EPA is not allowed to do the job it should, it is ultimately we, the humans who lose out in the long run.

We went snow tubing this past weekend. It was sunny and warm and the snow had turned to slush in parts. No one even needed a gloves or a cap.  The kids had a whole lot of fun but in a couple of decades we might have to do this whole snow world in a controlled environment indoors.

Now to this Green Chili Coriander Fish baked in the oven which is  much loved in our home. Big Sis is happiest when dinner is this particular fish dish and rice. It is also so easy to make that I don't have to do any prep work if the ingredients are at hand.

Surprisingly, this fish was inspired by a Lemon-Coriander Fish not from any Michelin starred restaurant but my Etihaad flight last year. I have not seen anyone else take their in-flight dinner so seriously, that too an in-flight dinner devoured in company of absolute strangers in a tight economy seat. But I had honestly liked the fish they had served with couscous.

It had uplifted my spirits even even when I was missing all the tyangra jhal charchari and golda chingri that I was leaving behind. As much as I like my golda chingri kalia, I know that it is not what I will rustle up for a weeknight dinner. For that, inspiration has to come from elsewhere. In this case, it was at 40,000 ft high!

Soon after I came home,I searched up the recipe and then tweaked it enough to make it kick-ass Bengali. Few green chilies will do that for you!