Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate chips and Chai Streussel Topping

Pumpkin Bread with Streusel Topping, Chai spices

I had never thought this day would come. The day we would make Kumro r Cake or Pumpkin Bread. Well, I had tried making one last year too but it had turned into a kumro r shinni. No Godmother could save it.

This year I decided to be prudent.

Instead of shifting through the million search results that Google throws up, the moment you type "pumpkin bakes", I decided to go with a recipe in one of the very trusted and authentic blogs "Smitten Kitchen". I have been  a fan of Deb Perelman's very un-staged kinda photos and delicious blog from way back, though I have hardly made anything as I am not a dessert person. But if I have to bake anything and she has a recipe for it, I will take hers above anyone else's.

I took her recipe of pumpkin bread but then I wanted a coffee cake like streusel topping. A spiced streusel topping in keeping with the season. So I made a streusel topping with some "chai masala" and it was so very good. Mmmm...good. Also please note, I had no idea that topping was called "steusel topping" until two weeks back!

Then LilSis, took over the recipe and became the chief baker in charge. She  also wanted chocolate chips. Now, if the chief-baker wants chocolate chips in her pumpkin bread, she will add it no matter what the recipe says.

LS's interest in baking reminds me of a story when she was 3 or 4 years old.

One day driving her back from her pre-school I had asked
"LS, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Bekaar," she had said confidently.

Assuming it was "baker" and have had seen her not interested in any baking so far, I was a little surprised.

"So what things do you want to bake? Bread, Cookies, cupcakes?" I wanted to get into the details.

LS had rolled her eyes and said, "Not that English Baker, I want to be the Bangla bekar*, the one who does nothing!!!"

* In Bengali, "the word "bekaar", means someone or something who is of no good.

That said, for this pumpkin bread mostly LilSis did the job, I helped. We baked 1 big loaf and 3 mini loaves of Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips and Chai Streusel Topping. You could do two 9x5 loaf pans with this measure. We shared some of our cake with friends and everyone loved it.

Halloween at our home is bit toned down this year. The High School junior has given up on Halloween and doesn't want to go trick or treating any more. The new middle schooler has a very basic costume, which her sister helped put together. She is going to be a blue M&M! But Halloween Day forecast shows rain all day so I don't know what we will do.

This Pumpkin Bread is our proshaad for Kumro Pujo aka Halloween this year.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Portuguese-Style Fish Stew -- on hump day

Portuguese-Style Fish Stew, Weeknight Dinners, Fish Curry Recipes
Portuguese-Style Fish 
There was a recent @nytimes article which asked 18 families around the world what they were having for a typical weeknight dinner. Almost all the families in that article were eating a dinner cooked at home!! Other than India and Peru (where there was a cook), in all other countries, the dinner was cooked by members of the family. I really found it very interesting as did Li'l Sis. i love to learn about other cultures and seeing what a family is eating gives me a peek into their world.
Yesterday on my FB page I asked a similar question -- Are you cooking dinner tonight?
82% of readers said, they were cooking dinner at home.
Though a small sample size, it gives me so much hope.💕
Inspired by the families around the world, I decided to cook something different last night and settled on a Portuguese style fish stew. I had Tilapia loins that were waiting in the sink, already defrosted. The Fish stew required just the basic ingredients and little effort. Right up alley on a Wednesday.

I followed a couple of recipes, one of which was from Washington post. Interestingly this tomato based stew has a Portugese + New England influence from the Portuguese immigrants. To it I added some of my own Bengali influence with Bhaja Moshla and lots of green chilies and coriander leaves.🤣

I cooked in a cast iron skillet and finished it in the oven, this reduced my active cooking time to about 20 mins. I loved this part about the dish, that it was so quick.

The dish came out really very good and I am adding it to my favorite weeknight fish curries recipes.

Portuguese-Style Fish Stew

Inspired by Washington Post -- Portugese Style Fish-Stew

What You Need

Tilapia Loins -- 4 Tilapia filet, each about 4oz, from Costco. Cut each into 3 pieces. Pat dry and then dust with salt-pepper.

You can also use fish like Cod or Bassa

Onion -- 1 medium or half of a large one. Chopped
Garlic -- 6 fat cloves minced
Tomato -- 2 large tomatoes chopped OR 1/2 Cup of canned organic no-salt added crushed tomato
Green Chili -- 4 slit and 2 chopped

Cumin powder (I used Bhaja Moshla) -- 1/2 tsp
Thyme -- a pinch of dried Thyme
Rosemary -- a pinch of dried rosemary
Red Chili Powder -- 1/2 tsp
Salt -- to taste

You can add some vegetables to this dish like I added diced carrots
Andouille sausage -- 2 cooked sausages chopped
White Wine -- a splash

Start Cooking

Preheat Oven to 350 F.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil a cast iron skillet.

Add the garlic and green chilies.

Once the garlic starts sizzling add the onion. Saute until onion is soft. 2-3 minutes.

Next goes in the tomatoes and carrots. Saute and then cover and cook for 10 minutes at medium heat. Tomatoes should not have any more raw smell.

Add the sausages and saute for a minute. You can add a splash of  white wine at this point.

Next add all the dry spices
Bhaja Moshla
Red Chili Powder
Salt to taste

Add the fish pieces, moving them around gently so that both sides are coated with the sauce and they are touching the bottom of the pan

Add round sliced lime, some more green chilies if you like it hot.

Now put the skillet in the pre-heated oven. Cook for 15 minutes. At the end of this, fish should be flaky and cooked.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with salad and brown rice.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Dugga Dugga -- 2

"Ma, o Ma", a pretty young girl, with beautiful doe eyes, and shiny black hair stands in front of the bathroom vanity mirror with a worried look on her face. She is intently studying the labels on two identical jars, each containing some gooey black and green stuff that looks like face cream.
"Ma," the girl repeats again anxiously. "What do you think is better for my face? Dead sea mud and volcanic ash or Ashwagandha* and Ghritakumari?"
In absence of any reply, the girl hesitantly assures herself, "Ghritakumari* sounds so beautiful. I think this will be better for my complexion. After all, it is made in India. There is no other way to go with this product than fair and more fair."
She then carefully applies the greenish gooey, substance on her face, making sure that every inch of her face and neck is coated with the product.
"Ma, can we meet Ghritakumari, when we go to India this time? I think am her fan. I want to follow her. Is she on Insta? Does she do Tik-Tok?," Lokkhi makes a pouty face and takes a selfie.

The mother, bent double over her phone, her eyebrows furrowed, her ten hands flying across ten different apps, does not even look up.
"Didi, grow up. Think beyond your piggy bank and face mask. There is a whole Universe out there to explore before global warming destroys our Kailash," a fair and bespectacled young girl, marches in with a tall glass of emerald green juice, the color of the juice only a shade lighter that the green mask on Lokkhi's face.

She does not drink the juice however, holding it aloft like a statue instead, and keeps checking her phone every few seconds.
"Why do you keep checking your phone? Is your boyfriend going to call you?" Lokkhi suppresses a giggle beneath her masked face.
"Not BF idiot, IF" the fair girl murmurs, letting go off a very audible sigh.
"IF?" Lokkhi squeaks.

The Mother keeps tapping, her bifocals hanging off  the tip of her nose, beads of perspiration shining like drops of pearls right atop her upper lips.
"Intermittent Fasting re baba. Instead of only taking selfies, you should start reading your FB and WhatsApp forwards, Didi. IF is the range in US and India. Everyone is doing the 16:8".

"16:8 ?" Lokkhi squeaks again, just when the phone in Saro's hand starts beeping urgently.

"It's time, it's time. I did it, I fasted for 16 hours, " Saro jumps up, gulps her juice hungrily and quickly snaps into a squat position.
"Dhurr no weight loss with IF. What everyone needs to do is Keto instead. Good food. Lots of fat. Eat as much mutton kosha you want. And still have a figure like me," Kartik walks in with a smirk, pushes Lokkhi aside and flexes his muscles in front of the mirror.

Well, he deserves to be narcissistic.He does indeed look good -- tight muscles, gelled hair, trim mustache. Looks like that Keto or whatever he keeps doing works. Now, only if he tried a little and stopped looking at the mirror so much, he could have a job, even get some role in Bollywood.

While the two of them argue about IF and Keto and Lokkhi keeps taking selfies of her green face, their pleasantly obese, fat bellied brother strolls in with a Krispy Kreme donut-laddoo in hand. He doesn't look into the mirror and focusing on his donut says,  "If I do Keto, can I eat as much mutton kosha as I like? With Luchi or Mishti Pulao?"

Kartik shakes his head in disbelief and looks disdainfully at Ganesh's protruding belly. Ganesh ignores him and takes a bigger bite of his cream filled donut laddoo.

Tension brews in  #12 Kailash Drive. It's always tense and chaotic around here. You couldn't expect anything else with four adult kids living at home.


"Gonshaaa," the Mother's shrill voice pierces through all the arguments, "Eta ki sottiy? Is this true?" For a Goddess, she has a real shrill voice -- years of shouting at he worthless husband, her four kids and that Mahishasur has permanently raised her voice to a high pitch.

"What is true Ma?"

"That now back in my home, that "Bhuter Raaja dilo Bor" is a reality? Only instead of clap, you have to tap your phone and food arrives like magic?"

"Ahh, are you talking of Swiggy Ma? Or Uber eats?" Gonsha smiles benevolently at his Mother.

He loved them. Not mothers. The apps. They were the only reason he could survive all those la-re-lappa songs and intense arguments over Ganapati Visarjan for those 10 days in September. Biryani for dinner, Idli with gun powder for breakfast, Vada Pav or Khao Suey for lunch, and even his favorite Krispy Kreme donut-laddoo for midnight was pure magic.

"Sottiy tahole? Mandap e delivery korbe?**" Mother's face lights up with a 1000 watt smile. Finally there was something to look forward to after all that standing around in that weird pose for five whole days. She wasn't getting any younger and all that standing with a bent knee was taking its toll.

"No more of that Khichuri, labra everyday! Uff such a blessing." Dugga murmurs to herself.

Now she could have her favorite chilli chicken from Tyangra while posing at that ludicrously expensive pandal in Sreebhumi. She could order Beguni and Muri from Baagbazaar, waiting at Maddox square pujo pandal where no one seems to have heard of North Calcutta. The possibilities seemed endless. She should not forget the pack of Gelusil and Joan er Arok though, her digestion is not as good as it was ten years back

"And Gonsha, what is this? All these food bloggers are taking our recipes and posting them on Facebook, why re? Our Oshur doesn't even cook that well, why are they going crazy?" Dugga peers closer into the phone screen.

"Ei, don't complain about my cooking, free te ranna tar abar oto kotha," Oshur groans from the dining room.

"Plagiarism? Ke koreche? Let me get a internet lawyer. did they use our photos?" Saro jumps in and snatches the phone from her Mom.

"Thakurbari'r mangsho , Thakurbari'r Chholar' Dal, Thakurbari'r aloor chop, Thakurbari'r maggi..." she murmurs scrolling down the list.

"Thakurbari'r Maggi? That is my recipe. Mine. Totally mine" Lokkhi shrieks. "OMG, I am famous. They are copying my recipe".

"Uff Ma, you are too much. This is not us, not Durga Thakur. This is Robi Thakur, Rabindranath Tagore", Saro shakes her head in disbelief. How did she land up in this family of idiots? How?

"Ohh Robi? He rote such good songs, aha. He cooked too? I always knew he was multi talented," Dugga smiles fondly thinking of her favorite bard.

"Achcha Gonsha make me a list of what food to order in the Mandap. There are so many reviews of where to eat for Pujo that I am getting confused now. We have only five days and I am getting older, can't eat that much anymore," Dugga hands over the phone to Ganesh and finally sits back, relaxed and smiling..

"Dada, I kintu want phuchka with jhaal-mishti-tok water," says Lokkhi sliding up to Ganesh.

"I want momos Dada, and Hakka Noodles, but ask them to deliver before 5:30. I have IF", Saro picks up her books and stands behind Ganesh's shoulder.

Kartik shuffles his feet and meekly says, " Dada oi Shiraz er Biriyani ar Rezala, 2 plates, we can share. Biryani is allowed in my Keto."

"Ami vegan. For me, Dosa with coconut chutney only," groans Mahishashur from the kitchen.

Shib finally stirs up from the recliner and says, "Duto shingara, bonde ar ek cup cha".

*Ghritakumari -- Aloe Vera
*Ashwagandha -- Indian ginseng
**Sottiy taholeMandap e delivery korbe? -- So it's true! They'll deliver at the Puja pandal.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Bati Charchari 2 -- with cauliflower stalks et al, pumpkin and eggplant

Bengali Bati Charchari
Our Lunch plate today

engali Cuisine has so many different varieties of vegetarian dishes that it is hard to keep a count. Charchari, Ghonto, Chechki, Jhol, Jhaal, the permutations and combinations are endless.

Even within each of these genres -- there are hundred different varieties.

Charchari is a dish which is usually made with multiple of vegetables. However there are exceptions and individual charcharis also rule the genre, like "Aloo Charchari" with only potatoes or "Dharosh Charchari" with only okra. But most charcharis involve a  myriad of vegetables with a lot of sauteing and thus generous amount of oil. I had read somewhere the name "charchari" came phonetically from the "char char" or charring sound that happened while sauteing vigorously in an iron kadhai.

The Bati Charchari is a little different from usual charcharis as it does not involve any tempering or  sauteing at all. In fact the bati charchari that I have grown up with was made with only potatoes, chopped in long  thin slices, cooked in a steel container with mustard oil drizzled oil from the top.

Today's Bati Charchari which I am calling Bati Charchari 2 is a variation of the typical charchari. It has mustard paste and a tempering of Paanchphoron , Hing and Green Chili. I love the flavor of Hing in my vegetarian dishes and often add them to charcharis. Instead of Mustard paste, I have used Kashundi from a bottle because my Mother sent me  a large stock of Kashundi recently.

The star of this dish was of course the cauliflower stalks which were tender and tasted delicious. I was delighted to see again a cauliflower with such lovely stalks and used the stalks and green in this dish as well as in a dal. Yep, I am officially that age when I get excited by cauliflower stalks.
Instead of going "Oooh, Farhan Akhtar", I am like "Oooh, such lovely green, firm, kopi'r daanta (cauli stalks)"🥰. My heart races seeing such stuff.
Here is a video to give you an idea about making this dish.

Bati Charchari 2 -- with cauliflower stalks et al, pumpkin and eggplant

Chop in equal proportions all of the following vegetables.

Cauliflower stalks and leaves

*I have chopped everything in cubes but you can chop them longitudinally

Heat Mustard Oil for cooking

Temper the hot oil with
1 tsp Paanchphoron
3-4 Green Chili
a pinch of Hing

Now add the vegetables, one after the another.
So add pumpkin, quick saute, then add cauliflower stalks.
Next, goes in cauliflower florets, saute for a minute.
Next eggplant

Sprinkle some Turmeric powder and saute everything for a couple of minutes.

1 Cup of water
1 tsp of Mustard paste (OR 1 tsp Kashundi mixed with some water)
Salt to taste

Mix well.

Cover and cook at low medium until vegetables are tender.

Finish off with a tsp of kashundi and few green chilies for best taste

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tumi'r Chicken Malai Kabab

Today is Bishawakarma Pujo.

And guess what ? I do not have a single food memory of this festival.

Tomato? Potato? Khichuri? Biriyani? Potol Posto? Neem Begun? Bishwakarma ki kheten🤔

Nothing. Zilch. Nada. My brain throws up a 404 Error at "Bishwakarma Pujo Food". Ki blasphemy!!

There are several for Durga Pujo, a couple for Lokkhi Pujo, a nice number for Saraswati Pujo, even one for Ma Mongol Chondi'r Pujo.

But Biswakarma? Nothing. My mother never made anything special for this guy. Neither did my Thama, paternal grandmother.

Even Dida, my maternal grandmother, who usually was the one with all the rituals and related food, did observe something called "Arandhan", on the day before Bishwakarma Pujo but that was for another goddess Ma Manasa.

Actually I don't remember my Mother making anything special on Ganesh Pujo or Karthik Pujo either.

Do you see the trend here ? I guess these Bengali females were more feminist than any. They made special dishes only for the Goddesses!

But I believe in equal opportunity. If Durga, Lokkhi can have their bhog er khichuri and narkel naru then Baba Biswakarma can have my Kababs.

So what if the women in my family never cooked anything for him! I have other resources.

These tender, soft, juicy malai kababs are my friend's sister's recipe. She lives in UK and she shared this recipe with me almost 4 years back. I have made it umpteen times since then and everytime I make it I remember her saying that she uses "Crème fraîche" for this dish, for that is what they get in Europe and not just some blah "sour cream".

There are many recipes of Chicken Kabbas out there but I always, always stick to Tumi'r recipes. And every freaking time I make these kababs with hung yogurt, some cream cheese, a little sour cream -- I say to myself I should have used "Crème fraîche"!!!

That is how recipes are for me, they are always about who told you about it, whom you learned from, where you heard about it, whose home you tasted it, who gave you those small to  and what you remember it by.

Chicken tenderloins cut in kabab sized cubes -- 1.5 lb

Marinade Ingredients

Thick Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt strained of whey) -- 1/2 cup
Sour Cream -- 1/4th Cup (I usually don't have sour cream at home so skip this)
Cream Cheese -- 3-4 Tbsp
Olive Oil -- 2 tsp

Spices for marinade

Garlic Paste -- 1 Tbsp
Tandoori Masala -- 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder -- 1 tsp
Chat Masala -- a sprinkle
Dried Mint -- 1/2 tsp
Green Chili -- 2 minced
Lemon Juice -- from 1/2 lemon
Salt -- to taste

Marinate the Chicken pieces with all the ingredients listed under "Marinade Ingredients"

Then add all ingredients under "Spices for marinade"

Toss the chicken pieces well making sure all pieces are well coated. Now refrigerate for 1 hr to overnight.

When you are ready to cook, put the pieces on a skewer. put the skewers on a grill rack with a dripping tray below. Into the oven at 375 F for 20 mins.

Then take out and turn the skewers. Drizzle a little bit more of olive oil and put to broil for 6-8 minutes

Serve it right away with salad or roti.

School Lunch ideas: You can also cool and freeze in portions and add these to noodles or fried rice or even make a chicken tikka gravy with these kababs

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Bengali Rice Congee or Phenaa Bhaat

Bengali rice Conge or Phenaa Bhaat

Phenaa Bhaat in all Bengali Homes == Bengali Rice Congee in a restaurant.

Few days back, I was talking to Pritha Di( the famous Pritha Sen) about typical Bengali breakfasts served in Bengali middle class homes until a few years back.

" Don't tell me about Luchi, Parotta, Kochuri. Tell me something else, " I said.

That is when memory of this ubiquitous dish, ever present in our childhood mornings, came back.

For the first ten years of my life, I remember rushing through the morning, sleepy eyed and grumpy to catch the school bus somewhere around 8 AM. What I cannot fathom is, how I managed to eat a hot breakfast of soft cooked rice, mashed potatoes and boiled eggs with a pat of melting Amul Butter, that early!! My daughters can barely finish a bowl of cereal in that time.

But it wasn't me alone. Millions of Bengali kids fortified themselves with a similar breakfast and probably still do. It is a healthy, one pot meal. easy for the mothers to cook and definitely good for the kids who swallow the soft morsels hurriedly in the morning.

In PrithaDi's home it was known as "Jau Bhaat". In mine "Phenaa Bhaat" and if the starch was drained then "Seddho bhaat" or "Bhaate Bhaat".

In those days, we had no idea that other Asian kids, strewn around China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Myanmar are probably eating a similar gruel called Congee as their breakfast.

The key to the Bengali "Phenaa Bhaat" is the rice. It has to be a short grained rice and if a fragrant one, all the more better. So the natural choice is Gobindobhog rice. In its absence you can use Kalijeera or any other local short grained rice. The rice is to be cooked with lots of water and vegetables to a starchy gruel like texture. The vegetables vary with season and shouldn't overpower the dish. During summer it is usually potatoes, and then you pick couple of choices from okra, pumpkin, radish and green papaya. In the winter, there is carrots, sweet peas, cauliflower and of course potatoes.

Once cooked, the vegetables can be mashed separately and served with the dish. Some of the vegetables like pumpkin, potatoes and papaya can just be roughly mashed into the rice itself. My mother used to also serve fried fish with the seddho bhaat when she was pressed for time. All of this would be topped with Ghee or a pat of golden Amul butter.

I like it when the dish has a silky and smooth texture and served with eggs. I also like to dress it up with some green chili and ginger slices fried in mustard oil.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

3 Ingredient Oreo Cookies Ice cream

Summer temperatures have been high around here and that can only mean ice cream and more ice cream.

This "No Ice cream Maker" recipe is so easy that any kid could do it and that's what Little Sis did. Well she is not that little any more. Almost eleven.

But what I am saying is, this recipes is so easy that any kid in elementary school who can follow some instructions should be able to make this ice cream.

Honestly taking a photo of this ice cream was more difficult than making it. Since the oreos had been crumbled and the rest devoured by the girls, we couldn't find any Oreo cookie to style the ice cream photo. That is when Big Sis suggested to put a tiny piece of brownie (she had just made a batch for her friend) on the ice cream. That is what you see there and Li'l Sis said it was a good addition to the ice cream actually. Sugar on Sugar.

But then that's what our short lived summers are for.

3 Ingredient Oreo Cookies Ice cream

What you Need

Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream -- 1 Cup

Condensed Milk -- 1/2 Cup or 4oz (a little less than this is okay)

Oreo Cookies -- 10-15 Oreo Cookies crumbled (Either crumble them with a rolling pin or use a mixer)
Note: We had Thins so used about 15

How I Did It

Beat heavy cream/whipping cream at high speed setting until soft peaks form. Speed setting 6 for 6 minutes. This was our KitchenAid setting.
You could use a hand mixer or even beat with a whisk but the latter would take longer time.

Add Condensed Milk to the heavy cream and stir to mix.

Add the crumbled Oreos. Mix well.

Pour this heavenly mixture in an air-tight glass container. Cover with lid. Put in freezer.

Take out after 8-10 hours. Ice cream will be set by then.

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Saffron Rose and Honey Ice cream -- No Ice Cream Maker needed

Saffron Honey Rose Icecream

Last year for Spring break we were on vacation.This year, it's summer and I have not finalized our vacation plans yet.😭😭

So, of course I am wallowing in my own sorrow and perusing pictures of the past. And that is when I remembered this Gelateria in a small town called GELATERIA DONDOLI IN San Gimignano, Italy. #throwbacktoholidays

Dumping us off at this quaint medieval town in Tuscany, the pretty Italian tour guide had ended her historic spiel about the town with "And don't forget to have gelato at the Gelateria Dondoli which has the best gelato in the world. it is the winner of the Gelato world cup( that's a thing?)"

Tossing her auburn curls she wagged a finger and warned "When you enter the piazza, there is one more store with a sign "World's Best Gelateria"-- but don't go there, it is fake😱. The only real World champion is Dondoli and you will see it."😎

Armed with this knowledge we strode into the beautiful piazza surrounded by medieval stone houses in gothic architecture, towers and beautiful church. But of course I paid little attention to this as my focus was on Gelato. True to the guide's words there were couple of gelaterias all proclaiming themselves to be winners of "Gelato World Championship". Modest crowds hung at each and I pitied the tourists who did not have my knowledge and thus would never taste the world's best gelato.

Unfortunately there were plenty prepped like us by the guide and there was a serpentine queue in front Gelateria Dondoli. To taste a World Champion gelato, you do need to put in some hard work after all.

Since the girls only wanted gelato while we wanted to see the town too, we went on a quick round of the small town while the girls waited patiently in queue.

By the time we were back, our turn had come but the hardest part was still not over. The hardest part being, choosing a flavor in the deluge of the flavors that Dondoli offered. The unique thing about the gelato here was they had a range flavored with spices and herbs like rosemary, lavender, saffron and more aromatics. We were very excited to see a flavor dedicated to Michelle Obama and I of course took that one. It had saffron and was delicately sweetened with honey.

I don't remember if it was the best as I loved almost every gelato around every corner I have had equally but I do remember the girls getting very excited that there was a photo of Priyanka Chopra as well as Michelle Obama in that tiny gelateria.

I am not yet sure if Sergio Dondoli makes the best gelatos but he indeed is a genius in creating unique flavors.

Inspired by Dondoli's Michelle flavor, and remembering his gelato, I made a Saffron and Honey flavored ice cream today.  

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of  "crocus saffron". It is the stigma and styles of these flowers. Known as Zafran it is grown mostly in Mediterranean regions.   I love Zafran or Saffron but since it is expensive, I always use it sparingly. For this ice cream I used half of a 1 gram pack.

Of course mine was not a gelato but generously flavored with fragrant saffron and hints of rose water, the ice cream did taste delicious. I added honey and reduced the amount of condensed milk for sweetness. This gave the ice cream a subtle sweetness which I really liked.

And it was my favorite 3 ingredient ice cream that requires no ice cream maker. I had learned this ice cream recipe from my neighbor and use it as a base to add different flavors. The Nolen Gur er Icecream too is based on the same recipe.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Best Mutton Biryani Recipe -- from Sanhita

Mutton Biryani, Kolkata Mutton Biryani

If you have been following me for a while you know about my Biryani woes. How I am never able to get that perfect Biryani rice

This year I was on a quest to a perfect my Biryani and the journey started with Neha Murad's Mom's Kolkata Biryani. It is a beautiful recipe and worked perfectly well and everything was good until it came to the rice part, when I faltered. It was always the rice which I either overcooked or it had extra moisture or something. I never got the "jhor jhore" Biryani rice where every grain is separate and independent.

Now two of my friends make excellent Biryani -- Moumita and Sanhita. Their Biryani is literally to die for and beats any restaurant Biryani that we get. I realized that the only way to salvage my Biryani was to shadow these experts in their kitchen and correct my errors.

Say Hello to Sanhita

My friend Sanhita kindly volunteered to teach me her excellent Biryani a couple of days back. Her approach to the dish was very simple, which caught my interest. She did not ask for any fancy ingredients and her style of Biriyani making seemed pretty simple with delicious results.

So I packed up 5lbs of goat meat, long grained Basmati rice, and arrived at her home on a hot summer afternoon to learn tricks of the trade.

Since none of us had time, we went with store bought Shan Bombay Biryani Masala. Next time I will be making Neha's mom's masala.

I am uploading 2 videos to show how the mutton was made and the rice was layered. The mutton is made with almost no water. After "koshaoing" or "bhuna-ing" for an hour, the mutton was transferred to a pressure cooker where it finished cooking. Point to be noted -- the oil from the mutton was not used in the Biryani.

 Cooking Mutton for Biryani

The rice grains were cooked al-dente and cold water was run through them to stop further cooking. The rice was then spread out in a tray and left to dry.

Layering Biryani

We made a very simple but utterly delicious Biryani. We did not waste our time in making the Birista(fried onions) to layer etc. The taste was subtle and clean, with the meat, spices, kewra and saffron flavoring each grain of rice.

Looks like my Biryani quest has finally come to an end with this delicious stop.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Grilled Chicken with Sate Oil

I have been obsessed with this grilled chicken recipe and had to share it here. It is perfect for the summer. A little marination and a whole lot of flavor.

Usually I marinate my chicken with Indian spices for grilling. However that was getting kind of boring. The other marinades that the husband-man uses is bit bland for my taste and the chicken is not as juicy as I want to be. psst... he doesn't agree though.

Until...yes until last week...when this recipe changed my life and grilled chicken's.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine, an annual subscription gifted by my lovely friend. I took two recipes of Chef Tom Cunanan and then made them my own.

First, I was blown away by the Sate Oil. This is very similar to the Chili Garlic oil that you get at Chinese or Thai restaurants.

Next was grilled Chicken where the chicken was marinated in a brine and that contained guess what ? SPRITE. Yes, sprite. The sweet-lemony and fizzy sprite did do wonders to the chicken. The aromatics (yes the author kept saying aromatics for ginger, garlic etc and I loved it) in the brine add a lot of flavor to the meat. The meat was also very juicy and did not become at all dry after grilling.

The original recipe of the grilled chicken called Chicken Inalsa, involved Acchiote Oil but I did not have it.

So, I grilled the chicken as per the recipes and then basted it with previously made Sate Oil. The best thing ever. That oil is amazing. Be liberal with Sate Oil if you wish to kick up the flavors. Serve grilled chicken with a simple salad, add it to pasta, or in a sandwich. It is delicious.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Grilled Lamb Chops with Indian Spices

When my kids were younger, I used to have this dream -- that they are now older, responsible teenagers and hence doing everything on their own, leaving me with huge expanse of plump, golden afternoons of nothingness. I used to crave for those afternoons of nothingness. I used to fantasize about all things I could do then like -- exercise,new recipes every other day, social media updates by the minute, blog every hour, write a new book every week...

Future seemed glorious.

I was like that kid who wanted to be an adult until she becomes an adult and has to pay mortgage!

Now that my kids are older, those afternoons seem to have vanished. I do not have afternoons. And if I have any, they are gone so fast that I miss them. My afternoons seem to sprint faster than Usain Bolt and vanish in the blink of an eye.

My younger one thinks I could have got hold of those afternoons to do some conditioning and get fit abs like her. My older one thinks I should use those afternoons to do anything but check her Physics hw.

I do neither and honestly I have no idea what I am doing really other than wasting my time browsing what-to-watch-on-Netflix. I keep saying I will get more time once the kids are in college, but those are all excuses. Clearly I am ignoring all these well-meaning quotes about "Living in the now". Or maybe I am actually "living-in-the-now" by doing nothing.

So anyway, instead of wasting my time describing afternoons, let me share the recipe of these delicious grilled lamb chops or more like grilled rack of lamb. With fresh garlic, ginger and Indian spices it is a very, very flavorful recipe. I learned it from my friend Deepsikha and just like her I make this dish completely in the oven. No browning in skillet or anything. You can use the same recipe for lamb chops too, only cooking time may vary.

Technically this is not grilling as I am doing it in the oven but I will take convenience and taste over jargon any day. So you can call it what you may but a morsel of that lamb in your mouth and you will agree it is delicious. Period.

I am sure you will love it as much as we do. For a summer dinner, I served it with a salad and a cool Tzatziki which Big Sis made.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Niramish Mangsho -- Shubho Barsho

Niramish Mangsho, Bengali Vegetarian Mutton Curry

Tomorrow is  Poila Boishakh, the first day of Boishakh ushering in the Bengali New year. While the English NewYear involves a lot of hard work like late night partying, looking back, looking forward, making resolutions, blah, blah...the Bengali New Year is much more relaxed and laid back in style.

During the 80's and early 90's, Bengali New year was all about 3 things --
(1) wearing new clothes (2) feasting at home (3) visiting stores and collecting single page Bengali calendars rolled in a narrow cylinder and cardboard boxes of sweets and shingaras. In addition to that there was the usual cultural stuff , involving Rabindrasangeet , because how can a Bengali celebrate anything without kalchar -- but I was not greatly interested in them.

Now, #1 holds no attraction for me and it has been almost 30 years since #3. So that leaves us with #2 as the only way to usher in the New Year.  Not necessarily at home but anywhere. Today, we had one of our classmates visiting us from Finland and so we had our Notun Bochor celebration a day early with lots of Bengali food at home.

This Niramish Mangsho, is something I cooked last weekend and have been thinking of sharing with you but the week just got so busy that I didn't get a chance.

Niramish Mangsho or "Vegetarian Mutton Curry" would sound like an oxymoron to most except a Bengali.

To my ears, it sounds perfectly logical since I have grown up hearing about it. Every year, around Kalipujo, my Father would reminisce about one his Uncles, an ardent devotee of the Goddess Kali. This extremely spiritual Uncle, who practiced a strict vegetarian diet all 364 days of the year, would become the greatest meat eating glutton on the day of Kali Pujo. The sacrificial goat for Goddess Kali would be cooked without any onion or garlic and that mutton curry, labeled as "Niramish Mangsho" would be enjoyed by her devout followers as "maha proshaad" -- the blessed mutton curry!!!

As a child I was awed by this show of reverence. How could someone forego meat for one whole year and the satiate his cravings on just one day? And that too with a mutton curry that was cooked without any onion or garlic. Must be very blehh in taste...I thought!!

I might have have tasted that mutton curry during Kali pujo, a small piece as a portion of a larger proshaad, but it did not really make enough of an impact to my childhood palate. I preferred the "Robibar er Mutton Curry" cooked by my Mother on Sundays.

Recently as I was trying to look up more about this Niramish Mangsho, I found that it had a lot of similarity with Kasmiri Brahmin recipe of Rogan Josh which too is made without any onion or garlic. Onion and garlic were not very popular ingredients in the Hindu kitchen yet and Asafoetida or Hing is the major flavoring agent in both the recipes.

In Utsa Ray's book "Culinary Culture in Colonial India", he mentions the the first Bengali cookbook Pakrajeswar(published in 1831) and the second, Byanjan-ratnakar(in 1858).

Ray says -- " Mutton recipes described there hardly prescribed the use of onion or garlic, something frequently used in Mughlai cuisine. The author of Pakrajeswar clearly stated that since people in the region hardly consumed onion, he had refrained from listing it as an essential ingredient in the recipes. Byanjan-ratnakar also did not include onion and garlic in its repertoire of recipes. It can be understood that the readers of Pakrajeswar were mostly Hindus who were not very accustomed to having garlic and onion in their food as yet."

In the same book he also mentions Mukundaram’s Chandimangal composed in late 16th century, which has elaborate lists of what was being cooked in the families of the trading castes and mentions--"Generally, the spices used for cooking fish and mutton were asafoetida and cumin."

We can then extrapolate that Mutton curry cooked without any onion or garlic was the norm in Hindu Bengali families in those times and so "Niramish Mangsho" was not really an anomaly. It was therefore very natural that the goat sacrificed to the Goddess Durga on the ninth day (Nabami) of Durga Pujo and to Goddess Kali on Kalipujo was also cooked in a similar way and offered as prashad.

I cooked this Mutton curry taking cues from Rogan Josh and my Mother's tip of using asafoetida+ginger to temper purely vegetarian curries. I have used whole Garam Masala and the Garam Masala powder just like we do for our regular mutton curry. For the wet spice paste, the very Bengali jeere-dhone baata, I have taken Kashmiri liberty and added some fennel seeds. Fennel seeds was probably not used in Bengali mutton curries. This dish is cooked in ghee in many recipe, however I have cooked it in Mustard Oil and added little ghee towards the end. Cooking it in ghee will definitely add more flavor.

The Mutton Curry was truly flavorful delicious. You wouldn't miss the garlic and onion at all in this dish. However it tastes best when had the same day as cooked and it does not keep well in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Neha Murad's Mom's Kolkata Chicken Biryani

I am not a Biryani expert.

I mean, I am an expert at eating it but not at cooking it.

Believe me, I have tried. Maybe not enough times.

But how many times can you try cooking a ghee laden Biryani until it is just perfect?
Who eats it? Even if its not perfect,it tastes good after all! And it has all good things.
So do you give your experimental Biryani to unsuspecting neighbors? But people are very health conscious these days. They might not like you giving them ghee laden not-so-perfect Biryani every week.
Then do you eat it yourself? But that means to shed off those excessive calories from the not-so-perfect Biryani you have to go running! Too much work.

So with all these doubts clouding my head, I had stopped experimenting with Biryanis.
Maybe this is a sign.Maybe God is telling me to only eat Biryanis cooked by others.

And then sometime in October, I was chatting with a blog reader Neha Murad over some kaanchakolar kofta that she had made.

Chatting as in FB messenger. Not real life. And I didn't even know her until that fateful day in October.

Now comes the very special thing that keeps me blogging on food and sharing my stories.

Just out of the blog, Neha said "If you are ever in the Bay Area and want to try some Kolkata style Biryani feel free to ping me. I am more adept at that than Kaanchakolar Kofta". Just like that. A warm invite to her home to share a plate of Biryani.

And then she shared her Mother's Biryani recipe. Beautifully hand-written in her recipe diary. I was overwhelmed by this generous gesture and held the recipe close to my heart.

However, I was worried about trying it out as I did not have enough Biriyani faith in myself.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fish in Ajillo Sauce -- Inspired by Vacations

Over the Christmas break in December, we went to Los Cabos, Mexico. A mini reunion of of some of our college friends from million years back. If I think of it, friends = family for us now.

Anyway, only 4 families could join this time. But don't think that was a small number!! The four families made us 16 people in all, and this was more than enough to turn the service folks crazy at the resort we stayed in. If there were more of us, there is a fair chance that we would be banned from the resort in future.

This was the first time we were going to an all-inclusive resort. So far, we had avoided that wonderful thing, thinking it will be boring and give us an insulated view of the country. That is true but when going in a large group with kids of myriad ages, there is nothing better than an "all-inclusive-resort". I will tell you why.

The first thing you have to understand is, when you have been brought up in a developing country, like me, the word "FREE" comes with a lot of magic.
Not "born to be free" or free-dom or such.
More like " Buy 1 Get 1 Free". Or better still -- "Free Food". That raises our dopamine level and makes our heart race faster than if #FarhanAkhtar was in town.
I don't know about yours, but my mom-in-law gets immense pleasure in picking up free sachets of ketchup at any place that has them and my Dad brings home tea-bags and sachets of sugar from every hotel we stay in. There was time, when I had no idea that you could buy toothpicks at the store. We always got them from the restaurant we ate at and stored them as precious possessions.
The point is we love anything that is "FREE". Many years back, when we were still new to this country and scratching our heads at -- 1% Fat Milk, 2% Fat Milk or Whole Milk, my Baba had excitedly picked up the Fat-Free Milk on basis of the argument that this had "free fat" and why would one refuse milk that has "free fat" added to it!!!

So in these #allinclusive hotel/resort deals, you pay upfront and then you don't have to glance at the cheque, end of each meal. Which to us meant -- the food is practically FREE!!!
Yehhhh!! 💃🤸‍♀️🤜🤛
And if anything is FREE, we make sure that we get lots of it. Much more than we need. Even if we don't need. .
"Take it na, it's free anyway"!!! .
That is ingrained in our DNA..So we ate like gluttons at every meal. As if we had arrived at the land of plenty from some famine struck place where we were deprived of food and drinks. That the food was delicious and the menu was tantalizing made it worse.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Daab Chingri -- Prawns in Tender Coconut Shell

Daab Chingri

Daab Chingri -- Prawns cooked in tender coconut shell

Not all recipes start with a line like "And in my grandmother's kitchen..."

Neither do all recipes have a boat load of nostalgia tied to them.

But one thing is true, every delicious recipe is triggered by the memory of a meal.

I had never seen a Daab Chingri cooked in my grandmother's kitchen. Neither did my Mother ever make it. Daab aka Tender Young Coconut was very popular in India and we loved it as a drink. Bonus was the tender meat of the coconut -- the shaansh. But prawns cooked in the shell of a tender green coconut? It never featured in any of my childhood meals!

Now Shorshe Chingri Bhaape, where prawns were mixed with a mustard-coconut paste and steamed, was a very popular dish in my home. Only it was steamed in a sealed stainless steel container, that was put either in a pot of rice being cooked or in a pressure cooker.

I started hearing about Daab Chingri only when finer Bengali food restaurants started sprouting around Kolkata metropolis. Unlike the paise hotels, which served everyday Bengali meals to the masses, these restaurants offered fine dining in a lovely ambiance and a menu that boasted of Bengali delicacies -- some known and some concocted. I have a hunch that "Daab Chingri" was a brilliant idea spawned by one of them. It tasted delicious like Chingri Bhaape and was very unique in its presentation style. No wonder the dish took off swiftly and spread like wild fire.

Soon, every other person started saying "The Bengali traditional Daab Chingri cooked by my grandmother....". Like really? Your grandmother in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even early 90s cooked Daab Chingri in her kitchen? Errr...think twice!

But to be honest, Daab Chingri is more of an urban Bengali dish and not one of those traditional ones with boatmen, portugese, Thakurbari and history written all over them.

Daab Chingri at 6 Ballygunge Place
So anyway, having heard so much about this dish, I wanted to desperately try it. Last time during my India trip, my parents took me to 6 Ballygunge Place. Beautiful decor, awesome table settings, very unique menu -- I was blown over! And they had Daab Chingri on the menu. I had to order it of course. It was a beautiful dish no doubt but I had a feeling that the prawns were cooked prior and then the dish finished off in the Daab. No harm done of course. Maybe this is how one makes Daab Chingri, I concluded.

Then last week, my very talented friend Moumita made Daab Chingri at home and shared with me. It was delicious. The Daab that we get here is not the green coconut served in Indian restaurants, but a slightly more mature version, stripped of the green exterior.

Today, I had a deep desire to cook Daab Chingri at home. Moumita was away from her phone. I started browsing recipes on the internet and each involved garlic, cream, paanchphoron and what not 😡😭. That's not how  I envisioned Daab Chingri. I knew my Daab Chingri would be the mustard-coconut one and not the garlic-cream one.

I then, texted another friend Baishali and she promptly shared two recipes with me. Both her recipes were exactly how I wanted them to be and here's what sealed the deal. Her recipes were very, very easy.

In fact one of them was done totally in the Microwave. As I was experimenting, I tried both the Oven and Microwave method. With lots of green Chili, the sharp mustard paste mellowed by the mildly sweet Coconut, golden Mustard Oil, and succulent prawns -- this was a beautiful dish. Triggered by the memory of a meal and aided by friends, it was dish I would always treasure.💓

To be honest, it is very much like the Shorshe Chingri Bhaape who has gone to a glamorous party. The Tender Coconut Shell definitely adds some panache to the presentation and lends a layer of coconut flavor to the dish.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Moumita's Nolen Gur er Cake -- eggless Date Palm Jaggery cake for Sankranti

Nolen Gur Cake
Photo Credit: Moumita

Khejur Gur (liquid date palm jaggery -- made from boiling the sap from date palms) is very popular in Bengal during the winter months. It is also commonly called "Notun Gur" ( literally, "new jaggery") or "Nolen Gur".

During the cold season from December to February, the sap of the date palms is best harvested and that is the reason we get this gur or jaggery around this time. If you are in rural Bengal during the winter months, and you happen to stroll across the damp fields on a foggy morning, you will see palm trees with a afro-top hair rising like sentinels across the mist. And if you hear closely, you will hear the tip-tip of the sweet sap dripping into the earthen pots hanging just below the palm fronds. The night before, tappers have scaled the thorny trunk of the tree, to tie those pots there.

That sap is pure nectar and when boiled for hours over a wooden fire, it changes color and form to shape into our favorite Nolen Gur or Khejur Gur -- a jaggery synonymous with every Bengali's winter.

The liquid Khejur Gur is delicious, tastes better than Maple Syrup and we used to have it poured on our Luchi (Puri) or Roti for dinner or breakfast. In solid form it is sold in the shape of oval discs and is also known as "Patali Gur" or "Notun Gur". This new jaggery harvested only in the winter months is used to make a variety of sweets in Bengal like "notun gur er sondesh" or "khejur gur er roshogolla".  Ahh, the nolen gur er sondesh is so divine that if you taste it even once, the memory lingers on your tongue forever.

The whole sweet thing, reaches a crescendo during Poush Sankranti when Date Palm jaggery, Coconut and rice flour is used to make a variety of pulis and pithes across the breadth and width of the state

Some of the most popular ones being Gokul Pithe, Khejur Gur er Paayesh, and Pati Shapta.

Now since I was not too keen on making any of the above, this year I decided to celebrate sankranti with Nolen Gur er Cake. It has Khejur Gur plus coconut, that is 75% of Sankranti requirements being met. So, why not, new traditions?

The cake recipe comes from my friend Moumita (of the Kochu Paata Chingri fame), who had made this last month. Her cake was fantastic and we had devoured it in no time.

I took her recipe and added my little nuances which is my habit. However, her cake had more of the Date Palm jaggery flavor. In my recipe, I also added some dates, which made the cake very fluffy and moist but the dates  kind of masked the  delicate flavor of the Date Palm jaggery.

Sharing both versions here