Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pakodi Kadhi -- dumplings in a yogurt gravy

Pakodi kadhi,  Kadhi
Pakodi Kadhi

e are on the 3rd week of school closures. It has now been 14 days since we are in quarantine though the official lockdown in our state started a bit later.

Cases in New York and NJ seems to be rising like crazy. Almost 0.4% of NY's population has tested positive while 0.2% of NJ's

I am just glad that we are safe home and I am absolutely clueless why people are complaining so much about staying indoors.

I am for one happy as I can sleep a little more in the morning, don't have the hour long commute each way each day, and now that the girls don't have any after school activity, my evenings are no longer rushed.

Instead of crazy Sundays, where I had to plan and cook ahead for the week, now I am cooking a dish almost every evening. I am also making rotis, albeit painstakingly, and not always great ones, but I am trying.

Today after a long time, I made this favorite dish of mine -- Pakodi Kadhi.

There was a time when I would pester my Mom to make this once a week at least. She would usually make it on a Friday, the day we ate vegetarian meals only. There were three favorite dishes earmarked for Fridays and she would always rotate the menu amongst these -- Chhanar Dalna, Aloo Posto and Pakodi Kadhi.

My Mother, having lived a lot of her life outside Bengal, had adapted a variety of non-Bengali Indian recipes in her kitchen and made them often. This was one of them. So at a time when most Bengalis, including the husband-man looked at me curiously when I mentioned that Kadhi was my favorite dish, in our home we were eating Kadhi like we were born into it.

I still remember, many years ago, an impromptu guest (the typical Calcuttan) who had arrived with one of my cousins around our Friday lunch time. Our Friday lunch was usually simple and involved rice, dal, aloo posto and then either Chhanar Dalna or Kadhi. That particular day it was kadhi. We had almost finished our lunch when they had arrived but my Ma I remember insisted they join us at the table. The typical Bengali guy had plowed through, rice, dal, aloo posto, kadhi and sat at the table food drying up on his hands. When finally asked if he was done, he had blatantly said, he was waiting for the fish!! I still cannot forget the look on his face, when we told him, that there was no fish curry that day!! He was unable to fathom what the "kadhi" was and kept saying that in their house there was always a fish curry that followed dal.

Now that I think of it, it seems incredibly rude of him, but at that time we were just plain flummoxed by his ignorance.

Pakodi Kadhi or dumplings made of besan/chickpea flour in a yogurt gravy is a very popular dish in Northern india and also Gujarat. There are little differences in the spices used in the two regions. I find the Punjabi Pakodi kadhi is a tad bit more richer with use of onion in the pakodis as our Punjabi nanny would insist. The Gujarati Pakodi kadhi is thinner and less spicy and I loved all the variety of Gujarati Kadhis that LS's Gujju babysitter would make for us. But that was 7 years ago. We haven't had anyone making anything for us since then!

This version of Kadhi is closer to the Gujarati version but I have stuck to the spices my Mother used which were minimal. The kadhi that LS's Gujarati nanny would make was more thinner and white in color, with no turmeric. However my Mother does uses turmeric and her kadhi is not runny so I have kept to that.

Pakodi Kadhi --  dumplings in a yogurt gravy

Make the Pakodi

Besan/Gram Flour -- 1 Cup
Green Chilies - 3 finely chopped
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds -- 1/4 tsp
Baking soda - a pinch
Water -- 3/4th Cup

In a wide mouthed bowl, add the
Green Chili
Baking soda
With a fork mix the dry ingredients

Gradually add water, mixing the batter to a medium-thick consistency. Make sure the batter has no lumps.

Heat oil for frying in a Kadhai.

Once the oil is hot, take a tea spoonful of hot oil and add it to the batter and mix it in.

Now in hot oil, add 1 Tbsp of batter.
Depending on the size of your kadhai, you can add more. 1 Tbsp for each Pakodi.

Once the pakodi is cooked, flip with a slotted spoon and fry the other side. Do this a couple of times, turning and frying the dumpling in hot oil until the pakodi is crispy and golden brown.
When both sides are golden brown, take out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

This amount of batter will make almost 12-15 pakodis.

Make the Kadhi

Yogurt - 1 Cup
Besan - 1/8th Cup
Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
Yellow Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Water - 1 Cup

Spices for Tempering

Jeera/Whole Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Methi/Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chili - 2
Hing/Asafoetida - a pinch

Green Chili - 2 chopped

Kasoori Methi -- 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp

Vegetable Oil -- 1 Tbsp

In the same bowl that you had used to make the batter, add
1 Cup sour Yogurt
1/8th Cup Besan
1 Cup Water
Red chili Powder
Turmeric powder
Beat well

Now in a saucier/kadhai warm 1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

When the oil is hot, temper with the spices listed under Spices for Tempering.

Once the spices start popping, take the saucier/kadhai off direct heat. Wait for 1 minute and then slowly add the yogurt mix.

Put it back on low-medium heat mixing the gravy. Cook at medium heat for 2 minutes. Add some more water and mix well.

Now increase the heat to medium and bring the kadhi to a simmer. Add salt to taste. If the yogurt is very sour add little sugar. Simmer until there is no raw smell of besan/gram flour. If needed add more water. Remember, the pakodis will absorb some of the liquid.

Now add the pakodis and simmer for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat.

Add 1 tsp of Ghee and the Kasoori methi crushed between your palm. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot with rice.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

ChurMur from Calcutta's Phuchkawala

Churmur, Kolkata Churmur
ChurMur from Calcutta's Phuchkawala

We have been in official quarantine now for just over a week. The schools have been shut down for two weeks.

Online classes are going fine. For the high-schooler, it is more regimented with defined periods from 8AM to 1PM every weekday. She has online quizzes and loads of assignments to complete, keeping her busy during the day. Major plus for her is she doesn't have to wake up and catch the school bus at 6:30 in the morning. She gets a good nights sleep finally.

For the 6th grader, online classes are from 9AM to 1PM but it's bit flex and most days she finishes her assignments by noon. Every other day from 4pm to 5PM she joins her gymnastics team. On Sundays an hour long dance with the group.

In all, I see that they are getting little more time to relax and that is helping them. Hope the schools learn something from this and reduce the work load for the kids after the quarantine.

Food has not been a major issue at home yet. We are low on meat and fish but the girls are okay with that. For dinner, I am trying my hand at Rotis and Parathas these days. I am not good at making them but since evenings are no longer rushed, I am learning. Also I see that with Roti, it is easy to have a meal with just one more dish, which is a great advantage.

Lunch for me on a work day is usually light and quick. Of all the groceries I did before lockdown, there were 3 boxes of Golgappas I bought. Yes, what foresight :-D

So some days my lunch can be just this. This tangy, spicy, lip-smacking ChurMur!! For all others it doubles up as snack.

Churmur is a very popular road side snack in Bengal, served by the Phuchkawalas. For us, standing around our favorite Phuchkawala outside the College gates, it was usually the last stage of the Phuchka rounds, when we have had enough of phuchka and now wanted the phau phuckas (the free ones) crumbled into a ChurMur.

Chur-Mur if you say it aloud, rolling around your toongue is the sound of crunching of crispy golgappas. A plate of spiced and boiled potatoes, some boiled kala chana, raw onions, green chilies, green coriander leaves, spicy sweet and sour tamarind water and topping that some crumbled crispy Phuchkas. That's ChurMur for you. An explosion of tastes and flavors in your mouth.

I haven't had a street side Phuchka for years now, but I do pray that those favorite Phuchkawalas get back into business soon and serve their unique Churmur, dirt and grime be darned.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Baansh diye Dim Malaikari -- Egg Malaikari with Bamboo shoots

W are in the middle of a surreal time. 5 year later when I come back and read this post, I don't know how I will feel. In the beginning of February, when we were discussing Coronavirus, we discussed it lightly, never even fathoming how it would turn our life upside down in a few weeks.

We thought it we are careful, washed our hands, everything would be ok. Maybe a thousand people or so would get infected but they would recover. Surely the government had a plan. We were far from China, an entire ocean and many countries lay between us. The virus wouldn't travel here.

And then early February, we heard of the lockdown in Italy and it hit home a little closer. We were in beautiful Italy only two years back. I had a friend in Italy with two little kids who would update about how they were house bound and not allowed to go outside. We started worrying but still thought, this was Italy,  still far away from us.

Next it was Washington and California and a neighbor panicked as her son worked for Amazon in Seattle. We told her to calm down and that nothing will happen.

Then cases started happening in New Jersey around March 5th. SAT was canceled.

We had a Holi party in our neighborhood on March 7th, still unaware of the looming pandemic. The husband-man was still traveling the week of March 8th, though I panicked. Instead of flying, he drove to DC on March 10th for a meeting. Things were getting tense. There were many more cases, now in the low hundreds. I was still going to work, kids were still going to school. No masks could be found.
By March 11th things started getting crazy. Some people in my county had got infected from a Biogen workshop they attended in Boston. The school started sending Covid-19 regarding emails. On March 12th, many of us Moms decided to keep the kids home from school and asked the School Superintendent to take a step towards closing schools. They were still unsure. No word was there from the Governor about school closures. The administration was still waiting to hear from them.
on March 11th I did a grocery run of 2 stores -- Wal-Mart and ShopRite. I couldn't find Lysol Wipes or hand Sanitizer anywhere. It was as if our life depended on a bottle of Purell Hand Sanitizer. That was the solution to all problems. Some folks thought Toilet Paper was a solution to all problems and started hoarding those!! Later at night, I went to CVS, our pharmacy store and found 2 cans of Lysol spray.

On March 12th, I did a grocery run of 2 more stores  -- the Indian Patel and Costco. I needed Rice and Rusks and Maggi. I wasn't hoarding but we were hearing that things can go bad and we need food for at least a week. There was no chicken in Costco or Hand Sanitizers. The employees were ruffled and didn't answer questions. No one was wearing a mask. The atmosphere was borderline festive. One of the infected person in NJ wasn't doing well
After much coercing and panic calls, on March 12th, the husband-man told his co-workers that he was going home, and it was best everyone else did the same. Some people were unhappy. Some had flights to catch. He drove back home sometime around midnight.
On Friday, March 13th, the kids went to school. I went to work. Cases in NJ were rising. Around mid-afternoon, the schools sent an email declaring school closures for the next two weeks, until March 31st. Classes would start online. Our office said they would do a soft closure where we would still have to go to work 3 days a week but would rotate the WFH schedule so that too many people weren't together.

Om March 14th, Saturday, the kids were happy that schools will be closed next week. LS was still playing with her neighbor friend. they spent a lot of time together doing crafts and riding bikes. It was okay we thought.
On March 15th and 16th, I went to work. I wiped down all surfaces with Lysol. We all kept 6ft distances. Then we were told that offices will be closed until March 31st and we would be working from home. Most people complained. They didn't like the idea of WFH every day. I thought it was great!

It's been TEN days since and the end is nowhere near.
Cases In US have gone up like crazy upto 85K infected.
NJ alone has 6000+ cases.
I am afraid to step out. When BigSis had a cough for the last seven days, I worried so much.

There are lots of plus that is happening too. More in the next post.

I had no idea that Bamboo shoots were used in Bengali Cuisine until I saw Pritha Di's photos of a "Haansh diye Baansh" or Duck with Bamboo shoots. I knew they are popular in North-east India in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur but never knew about the Bengal part of it. Looks like bamboo shoots are a traditional food of the indigenous Jumma people, or the hill-people, in the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh also.

Now, I had a can of Bamboo shoots at home, waiting for a Thai curry. But I thought what the heck let me make an egg curry with coconut milk and bamboo shoots instead, in true blue Bengali malaikari style, only this time with bamboo shoots added. 

So here is delicious Baansh diye Dim Malaikari aka Egg Malaikari with Bamboo shoots. If you don't have the bamboo shoots at home, don't step out to buy them, you can make this without them too.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Parsi style Mutton Curry with Apricots

Parsi style Mutton Curry with Apricots, Persian Mutton Curry
Parsi style Mutton Curry with Apricots

Last week I realized I know very little.

Like Toilet Paper plays a crucial role in times of Coronavirus.

Or like  a small country like South Korea is far more equipped to combat Covid-19 than US.

Or like dried apricot is used in a Mutton Curry!!

This last piece of info was shared with me by my friend Deepshikha, whose neighbor fed her a Parsi mutton curry with dried apricots. I honestly had no idea that dried apricots could be put in a mutton curry or else I would not have finished half the pack just eating them. Thankfully, I had half a pack left.

My friend didn't have the recipe but said it is just like or Mangshor Jhol but with Apricots. It's a bit sweet and sour. "Add more chilies", if you want it spicy is what she said. I was definitely intrigued and wanted to make this mutton curry.

Now the problem is, we eat red meat or goat meat only very rarely. And then when we do, the girls want a very Bengali Mangsho'r Jhol with potatoes. They don't like me experimenting.

Last Sunday, not paying heed to their protests, I went ahead and made this Mutton Curry. Initially, I had kept the heat from chillies low and the dish did face protests in my home as too sweet. Next day I added some more green chilies and simmered the gravy. It became  a major hit!! The recipe here has a fair amount of chili and is hot. If you want a milder dish, cut down the green chilli.

Apricot or "jardaloo" in Parsi is a very important ingredient of this dish which can be traced back to the use of meat and fruits in the Persian cuisine.
"In the 17th century, India’s Mughal emperor Shah Jahan – famed for his enormous appetite and love of food and luxury – insisted on importing expensive ingredients and an army of cooks from Persia. Its influence stuck for many centuries. The cuisine of Lucknow and also areas of Bombay  still draws heavily on Persian influences – sweet and sour, spice and dairy, meat and fruit – all mixed with savoury dishes" -- from The Guardian

In fact, Jardaloo Salli Boti, a dish of meat cooked with apricots and topped with "salli" (potato crisps), is a true Parsi Cuisine classic with strong Persian touches like dried apricot (jardaloo,) red vinegar and sugar along with a blend of mouthwatering Indian spices.

What I have made here is not exactly Jardaloo Salli Boti. We will call it Parsi style Mutton Curry with Apricots. I have taken some liberty and mixed up the spices a bit.
Instead of just cumin and coriander powder I have used a different spice blend which makes this dish more spicier as I wanted to cut through the sweetness that the apricots will bring. The recipe here has a fair amount of chili and is hot. If you want a milder dish, cut down the green chili.

At the end of the day, with sweetness of the apricots, the heat from the masalas and the tang from the yogurt and vinegar, this was a delicious mutton curry that we really enjoyed.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Dal Chawal Palidu -- from Bohri Kitchen

Belonging to a minority community in my adopted country and "God-alone-knows-what" community in my mother land, I stay away from discussing politics in this space. Also, I am not good at being a keyboard warrior.
However even as I type and share news about what I cooked and served for dinner in the backdrop of chaos, a part of me cringes at the selfishness of it all. But then that's life. That is what you do.
Bias as has always been a part of our countries. You peel away religion, there is region, then caste, then gender, then color -- there is always a minority community, whose voices are not loud enough to be heard. And it's always relative. If there is more of you, I am a minority.
Many a times, we are not even aware of the communities outside our own and often stick to the stereotypes. Like say, all Indians are vegetarians or all Indian parents get extremely upset if their kids get anything less than a A+ grade or Girls like pink or  South-east Asian Muslims serve Biryani on all important occasions.
To know a community, you have to break bread with them . It's best if you can share a meal but if not just expand your horizons and cook a meal. That way you learn a little and you find that your heart has space to share for more.
So that's what I thought I will try to do. I usually stick to my known cuisine of Bengali, global Indian, Italian, American etc.  This time, I went out of my comfort zone to find a Bohri Muslim recipe. I know no one from that community and I know very little about their eating habits. However Bohri Thal has recently become very popular in Mumbai and so there were plenty of articles on the internet. The more I read, the more I was intrigued.

"The Bohra community originated from a Muslim sect in Yemen and Egypt, later spreading to India and Pakistan. Hence, the food influences have been heavily adapted from the Middle East. The initial settlement of the Bohra’s in Surat, Gujarat have led to major Gujarati influence on the cuisine as well.This is why you will find that Bohri cuisine is much lighter and lower in spice than Mughlai or Pakistani food." -- Mumbai Foodie

I found a very, interesting and simple vegetarian dish that all those articles mentioned as the Bohri comfort food. So, I went out on a limb and made "Dal-Chawal-Palidu" for lunch today.

I followed the recipe from two sites -- Goya Journal and Farida's post in One Life To Eat

Did you know Dal-Chawal-Palidu and not Biriyani, is a dish for all celebratory occasions in the Bohri Muslim Community?

In the Bohri style of community dining, the family gathers around the thaal, eating the meal in courses that alternate between sweet and savoury.  One of the staples of the Bohri thaal is Dal Chawal Palidu – a dish with rice, lentils and moringa that is so beloved in the Bohri repertoire that no meal, no celebration, is complete without it. Gently boiled and spiced, the lentils are layered between freshly steamed rice, and cooked on dum, served with a side of tempered moringa - Goya Journal
It was so very different from the Dal-Chawal I have grown up with that I had to actually compare 4 recipes to make sure this was indeed a Dal-Chawal. The Palida on the other was more in our line of food habit and the taste was very akin to sambhar. We really loved the Palida.
Did we like Dal-Chawal-Palidu? Yes.
Will it be my comfort food? No.
But I did learn something and if I befriend someone from the Bohri community, I will look forward to taste their authentic version of "Dal-Chawal-Palida".

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Sharmila'r Chhana'r Jilipi -- the North American way

Chhanar Jilipi
Chhanar Jilipi

Some days I think that the Nobel Committee should introduce a new category in their awards.

The Food Nobel.

I bet, it would be won almost every year by one or the other Bengali in North America. Don't get riled up because I said North America. The Bengalis in India have so much readily available that the common man doesn't need to innovate, they can simply go to the store or make a trip to the home of ma/masi/pishi/jethi.

Truth be told, the amount of research and innovation that goes into recreating a much loved childhood favorite, a traditional Bengali recipe, a forgotten food that lingers in nostalgia; with local ingredients and limited resources, by the Bengali community living away from Bengal, parallels no other.

After discovery of fire and wheel, I have never seen the saying "necessity is the mother of invention" so directly applied anywhere else.

You want to eat mocha'r ghonto and there is no grocery store selling Banana Blossoms ? Raid the asian stores and get soy bean sprouts to make a faux Mochar Ghonto
You want the Rui diye Doi Maach that your Mom made but can't find Rui? Get salmon and make the most of it.
You want to make Enchor er Kofta but have no time or expertise to deal with a actual raw Jackfruit ? Get a can and make this shortcut but delicious Enchor Koftas instead.

This Chhanar Jilipi is one more of those brilliant innovations and this time shared by my friend Sharmila. They are delicious and perfect and if she didn't let me onto her secret, I would have thought she was Balaram Mullick or Bhimnag's granddaughter carrying forward their secret recipes. She has many such expert patents in her repertoire and if you are particularly nice, I can cajole her to share some more!

It was very, very generous of her to share her innovation (which deserves a Nobel) and satisfy our sweet cravings for a favorite childhood mishti. This Chhanar Jilipi is so good that I have made them about 4 times now and the last time I made them, my friends went into a nostalgic trip remembering their Mother's jilipi or favorite sweet shop's creation.

Chhanar Jilipi (or Paneer Jalebi) is a typical Bengali sweet which holds its place is a few ranks above the Ledikeni, which in turn is again a rank above Pantua. All of them are kind of similar except for the shape.
Ledikeni or Lady Kenny, named after Lady Canning, is a light fried reddish-brown sweet, cylindrical in shape and made of Chhena and flour and soaked in sugar syrup. The Chhanar Jilipi has the same ingredients but has Jalebi cum pretzel kinda shape. It is the shape which makes them unique.

*Traditionally Chhanar Jilipi in India is with Chhana and Maida. However Sharmila decided to go the Ricotta + Bisquick way, and that suits me perfectly. These are so, so good that just writing about them makes my mouth water.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Khejur Gur er Rasogolla in Instant Pot

Khejur Gur Roshogolla, Rosogolla
Khejur Gur Roshogolla

Today is a day that will go down in history. Well, at least my history.

First, because I pulled out the InstantPot from the caverns of the Pantry and found it still smelled of mangshor jhol made a month ago. Well, the second part is not historical. That I pulled the IP out and put it to use was a historical moment.

Second, I used the InstaPot for something that was worthwhile finally. I used it to make Khejur Gur er Roshogolla !!

There are two people who are directly or indirectly responsible for this. Our friend, Kaushik, the master roshogolla maker who makes roshogolla making seem as simple as a magician taking a rabbit out of a hat. Second, is our other friend Deepshikha, who champions the IP and finally pushed me to use it.
And then my Dad, who sent photos of  "Notun Gur Utsav" -- a festival celebrating the new date palm jaggery that is a product of this season. The sight of those delicious sweets, sondesh, patishapta, pithe puli would send anyone to depression

I was seriously craving some khejur gur er roshogolla aka rasgullas in date palm jaggery syrup, after seeing the photos they shared and had to make some. This time around , the process really seemed far more streamlined and easier. I think it was practice that made it seem so.

The roshogollas came out soft, juicy and spongy both times I made them. The Khejur Gur I had got from India during my November visit was not the best quality but even that added a beautiful flavor to the syrup and to the roshogollas.

Also, I can now totally understand those stories about folks who went to a wedding and ate 100 roshogollas straight from the bhiyen (the sweet maker's set up). The fresh, spongy, roshogollas with no additivies, hot off the syrup are really delicious and kind of melt in your mouth. I, who am not a big sweet fan, had 20 today. Yes TWENTY!!!

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts -- with Sichuan Peppercorn and Peanuts

Since last December, on my morning commute, instead of tuning in to NPR, I have started listing to 102.7.

This is my daughters' favorite channel playing popular music in English, half of whose lyrics I do not understand. Like really not understand. For a long time, I would hum Pink's "Beautiful Trauma" as Mala Mantra Mala....

Until now, every evening, we would actually get into a fight because as soon as they got into the car, they would flip my car radio channel to 102.7 and disrupt my NPR or Radio Mirchi listening. Since December, I have voluntarily flipped to 102.7 in the mornings, to listen to holiday songs and stayed on because the Morning show is very funny. Like really, laugh out loud funny. And I need funnies to get my mind away from the news.

So yesterday, I was tuned on to the show, and this caller calls in about his girl-friend not returning his call blah, blah. It seems this is one of their regular segments where the RJ's then call up the girlfriend/boyfriend and gift them an all paid date, if they agree to go out together. So anyway, the girlfriend is called, she picks up the phone and seems not very enthusiastic about this all paid for date thing. They then ask her, if there was anything wrong and she goes, "Well, he is very nice and everything but he said he loves me within 2-weeks of knowing each other and I am afraid, he can propose anytime. I find it very insincere that someone can say "I LOVE YOU" in 2-weeks!"

Having been brought up on healthy doses of Bollywood where the pair falls in love the minute they see each other and burst into a song at the end of the first meeting, I have always lamented that "love at first sight" has always eluded me. That it could be insincere is something I only now realized. The lady had a point.

However the caller guy, refused to understand this and kept pushing if he could meet her or come over and such. The lady very patiently explained that she liked it slow, and what he was doing was too much for her. The guy sounded, really desperate and I doubt their relationship will last. He was trying to do too much, too fast.

Sichuan peppercorns. And those are Big Sis's pretty nails

That could or could not be the problem for this Brussels Sprouts Dish. I was giving those cute vegetables too much attention and too many ingredients. Like usually I just roast them in the oven and they are good that way.
This time I seasoned them with Oil flavored with aromatics like garlic, ginger and my new found love Sichuan peppercorns. I also added a little of Maple Syrup to add a hint of sweetness

And then as if that was not enough, I roasted and crushed peanuts and added that on top of the roasted vegetables.

I am not sure if my Brussel Sprouts were feeling claustrophobic with all the attention because we ate all of them. This is one vegetable 75% of the family loves, only Little Sis does not eat her Brussel sprouts!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Indian Vegetable Stew or Bangali r Sobji Jhol

Come fall and then winter, my feed gets populated with soups. Every one is making a soup. And I agree, they are delicious and warm and perfect for those chilly winter evenings.

My grudge is this.

If you can have a bowlful of Minestrone Soup and take a photo and post recipes and raise a whole lot of brouhaha, why not have a bowl of Sobji Jhol ?

What you ask is a Sobji Jhol or Indian Vegetable Stew? It is a light soupy dish with a medley of vegetables. In winter, that would be cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, green beans, green peas in their pods. But then there is no set recipe, it can be anything you want to add.

This jhol was in the background of all dishes that my Mother cooked throughout the year. In one form or another it always arrived at our dining table.

The vegetables in the jhol would tell you the season you were in. Winter always made brighter with tightly packed fair cauliflower, orange carrots, ruby red beets, green pearl like peas in their pods.

The spicing determined by time and my Mother's mood. Sometimes it would be freshly pounded cumin and ginger, on other days a sprinkle of Kitchen King from a box. It was "everything goes" kind of a dish and how we loved this runny, soupy dish with some rice.

I make a big pot of this "jhol" or vegetable stew often. Mixed with rice and a squeeze of lime juice, my girls happily eat the vegetables. I can eat a big bowl of this just by itself but it does taste best with some rice.

The Indian Vegetable Stew or Bangali r Sobji Jhol

The Vegetables

Cauliflower -- Chop 1 Cauliflower in medium sized florets.

Carrot -- Chop 1 big Carrots in cubes

Green Beans -- Trim and Chop 12-15 green beans in 1" pieces

Cabbage -- 1 Cup of chopped cabbage

Green peas in pod -- a fistful, washed

The Indian Mirepoix

Onion -- 1/2 of an onion chopped in small pieces (Optional. I skip onion most of the time)
Tomato -- 2 medium tomato quartered
Green Chili -- 4 green chili sliced
Ginger -- 2" piece of ginger grated

Paanchphoron (Five Spice Mix) -- 1/2 tsp

The Spices

Kitchen King Masala -- 1 tsp

If you don't have Kitchen King use 1 tsp of Cumin-Coriander Masala.

Salt -- to taste

Mustard Oil -- 2 Tbsp (You can also use Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil)

Fresh Coriander leaves -- for garnish

How I Make It

Heat Mustard Oil to smoking in a deep bottomed pot.

Temper the Oil with 1/2 tsp Paanchphoron and 4 green chilli

When the spices start sizzling, add the onion and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Next goes in the tomatoes and ginger. Saute them for the next couple of minutes until tomatoes are soft.

Now add the vegetables in this order
Cauliflower florets -- sprinkle 1 tsp of Turmeric powder and saute florets for 1 minute
Carrots -- mix and saute for 1 minutes
Green Beans and Peas -- Saute for 1 minute
Cabbage -- Mix and saute for 1 minute

Now add
1 tsp of Cumin+ Coriander Powder
1 tsp of Kitchen King Masala
Mix with the vegetables with a sprinkle of water.

Add enough water so that the vegetables are just covered by water. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium

Cover and simmer until vegetables are all done. The vegetables should not be cooked to death. They should retain a little crunch.

Adjust for seasoning and add salt, red chili powder or garama masala powder as needed. I finish it off with some fresh chopped coriander leaves and couple of chopped green chili.

Serve like a soup in a big bowl with a squeeze of lime juice. Add a little cooked rice to add more body to the thin soup.

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Quinoa and Samo Khichdi - with Madhulika Liddle's tomato tadka

It's the New year and there's lot going on in the world, and you are probably thinking "What a way to start!!" But then you get on with your life and think how you can survive and whether or not you should stick to your resolutions or just give them up, since the world is anyway coming to an end.

Speaking of resolutions, I am sure at least 70% of people in this world have "healthy eating" in the top of their resolutions.

Quinoa Khichdi, Samo Rice Khichdi, Millet khichdi
Quinoa and Samo Rice Khichdi 

I don't have resolutions but I do like eating healthy, especially after the heavy feasting that happens during the holiday season. And we did eat a lot. Like every year, we were on our annual getaway with few friends from college and their families. This time we had rented a log cabin in the middle of nowhere in Virginia, with a fantastic view. We ate out, we ate in, we chatted and cooked and ushered in the New year at a fancy mediterranean lounge in Maryland. It was fun but now I need to detox for a few days and bring my body back to regular routine.

I am not very good with diets so "keto" or "IF" are not meal plans that I can stick to. Instead I try to inculcate somewhat of a healthy eating during the week and do portion controls. That makes me feel better from the inside.

When I saw Madhulika's khichuri on facebook last year, I was very intrigued by the last step of it. The thing caught my attention because of its unique tomatoey tadka. It was very different. In our Bengali home, we are used to 3 types of Khichuri -- Bhuni Khichuri which is more like a pulao, the Bhog er khichuri with roasted yellow moong and the regular Masoor Dal er Khichuri. None of them feature a tadka like this.

@madhulikaliddle as many of you know is a fiction author of repute and I love her short stories. Her historical murder mysteries are more popular I believe.
Any which way, I am pretty much in awe of her. Having written only one book and nurturing this secret aspiration to write more, I am always in awe of authors who have successfully written and published several.
So, when I saw her khichdi recipe I knew it would be a killer. Wait not that murder mystery "killer" 😜.
I adapted the recipe to reduce the carbs and add some more healthy grains and this is how I did it. I used Quinoa and Samo Rice instead of white rice.  Samo rice known as millet (Kodri) or Morio Seed, also called ‘Jungle Rice’, as it grows wild along with grass in the rice paddy fields. It is gluten free, has less calorie and less sugar content. In India, it is used during the time of fasting and called "Vrat ke Chawal". Quinoa is also a seed rich in proteins, dietary fiber and vitamins.

The original recipe was with rice and whole masoor.

This is the simplest that a one-pot meal can get. With added vegetables and a fried egg while serving, it has everything a weeknight dinner needs. Plus, it is very quick and requires minimal chopping or grinding. With that less work, the result is so delicious that you shouldn't pass this on!