Monday, June 22, 2020

Lau Ghonto with Bori and Lau Chingri

BottleGourd with Bori and BottleGourd with Shrimp...

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto Bori diye | Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto is a popular Bengali vegetarian dish for the summer months made with Bottlegourd that has been chopped fine and garnished with fried Bori. There is also a non-veg version of this dish, Lau Chingri, where fried shrimp is mixed with the dish.

This post was first done in 2008 when I was pregnant with LilSis. Given that my pregnancies were never an easy affair, I don't know how I made a Lau Ghonto and posted a recipe then. The Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.
I have been eating real simple these days, simple food not laced with too many rich spices or garlic and onion seems to have become my favorite. It is still spring here but my food cravings are like those served in my home during the hot summer months.
Summer veggies like Lau(Bengali)/Lauki(Hindi)/Bottle gourd, Parwal, Green mangoes have caught my fancy. These veggies prepared with simple spices and no onion or garlic and a light fish curry is what is staple food, in most Bengali homes in the Gangetic Plains where summer is hot and humid.

Green View from my Kitchen

Is it the green all around that makes me long for these veggies ? Before the days of air conditioned grocery stores and easy availability of exotic veggies, vegetables in the local markets were seasonal in India. So while winter was colored with deep red beet-root, orange carrots and rich red tomatoes, summer was green with deep green striped parwal, mellowed green bottle gourd, vivid rich green of cucumber and smooth green of raw mangoes.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi
Chopped Lau/Bottlegourd

The tender lau or bottle gourd with its soothing green skin soothes the eyes in harsh summer and because of its high water content has a cooling effect and so is one of the preferred veggies in the summer months.
According to ayurveda, the cooked bottlegourd is cooling, diuretic, sedative and anti­bilious(corrects secretion of bile). It gives a feeling of relaxation after eating it. It is rich in essential minerals and fibre.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto

I am sharing this veggie and the dish with Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska who is hosting WHB, originated by Kalyn, this week

The bottle gourd was used in several different kinds of dishes in my home ranging from the dal, the lau-ghonto which I think was made with milk and usually white in color, another lau-ghonto with fish head, the lau ghonto with bori where the dish was garnished with fried moong dal vadis, the lau-chingri where the shrimp was mixed with the dish to dress up the simple homely dish.

The recipe of Lau Bori and Lau Chingri here is as my Ma made it.

Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.

Lau Ghonto with Bori


Lauki/Bottlegourd ~ 3 cups. Peeled and chopped in small pieces. You need to cut the bottlegourd in really small & thin pieces, large chunks are a NO NO.
Tomato ~1 medium finely chopped in small pieces
Green Chilli ~ 3-4 slit through the middle. I use hot Indian Geen Chillies
Ginger - 1" piece

For Tempering

Bay Leaves ~ 2 small
Cinnamon Stick ~ 1” stick
Whole Jeera/Cumin seeds ~ ½ tsp

Wet Masala Paste

Cumin seeds - 1.5 tsp Cumin seeds
Ginger - 1" ginger chopped ~ 1 Tbsp

With a sprinkle of water make a paste of cumin and ginger in a mortar-pestle.

Note: If you cannot make a fresh paste like as I said, then grate the ginger and mix with 1 tsp of Cumin powder to make a paste

Dry Spice powders

Red Chilli Powder ~ 1/2 tsp or according to your spice level. I go with the green hot chillies and do not use any chilli powder.
Turmeric Powder ~ about 1 tsp

Sugar ~ 1/2 tsp or none if you don’t like it sweet
Salt ~ to taste

For garnish

Bori ~ 1/4th Cup of Moong Dal Bori fried and crumbled. If you do not have any Bori, you might skip it. The Bengali Vadis are known as Boris and are small sun dried cones of lentil paste, the shapes are like Hershey's Kisses. Here is a recipe of boris made of Urad Dal. These boris are fried and then added to the dish.
Coriander Leaves ~ a fistful finely chopped

How I Did It

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan.

Fry the Bori/Vadi till it is a nice warm rich brown. Remove and keep aside

Temper the oil with Bay leaf, Cinnamon Stick and Whole Cumin seeds
When the cumin starts sputtering add the finely chopped tomato and green chillies.
Sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy with no raw smell.

Add the wet masala paste of ginger-cumin. Saute the masala for 2 minutes. Sprinkle some water if necessary

Add the chopped bottle gourd and mix with the spices. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Add Turmeric powder, salt and mix well

Once you have mixed it nicely, cover and cook. Intermittently remove the cover and give it a good stir. You don’t need to add water as bottle gourd releases water on cooking. If the bottlegourd is dried up or not that fresh you may need to add little water while cooking.

When the bottlegourd/lau is fully cooked, add sugar and cook for a minute. The water should have dried up by now and the result would be a dish with no gravy but moist.

Now crumble the fried bori on top
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves

Lau Chingri aka Bottle Gourd with Shrimp

Lau Chingri, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Everything is same as the Lau-Bori recipe. Except for the Bori you need about ½ cup of shrimp. Wash the shrimp and mix with a little turmeric and salt and let it marinade for 30 minutes. Fry them to a light yellow and remove and keep aside. Cook Bottlegourd exactly as above. Instead of the bori, mix the shrimp with the bottlegourd at the second last step. Sauté for a minute and you are done.

Other recipes of similar Bengali Lau er Tarkari:

Tetor Dal with BitterGourd and BottleGourd

Trivia: Ektara the most ancient form of string instrument found in the Eastern parts of India, is constructed out of a half of a dried gourd shell serving as the sound-box, with a metal string running right through the middle of the shell. The Ektara was used by the Bauls of Bengal for their folk singing

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna 

Chanar Dalna is a typical niramish (vegetarian) Bengali dish where homemade paneer balls or koftas are fried and cooked in a lightly spiced, subtly sweet gravy with potatoes. I have shared my Mother's recipe of Chanar Dalna in this post which is cooked with a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger.

Every Friday, as far along as I can remember, my Mother kept a fast and therefore did not cook any meat or fish on that day. She herself ate a single one-pot meal of rice and vegetables cooked together with some ghee and salt. But for some reason unknown to me, she felt that one day of not having any protein would render us weak and feeble. Trust me, there was not a sign in my health to make her believe such. But she steadfastly did. And according to Bengalis that protein can never ever come from a "dal" or lentils. It has to be meat, eggs or if those failed then dairy!

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Fresh chana simmering in gravy

So, my Mother made Chana or as we say Chhana aka cottage cheese. Diligently. Week after week. She boiled whole milk and squeezed lime juice in it until the milk had a rent and tore apart to form blobs of white cotton like milk solids suspended in a greenish whey. She then drained the whey out on a piece of starched white cloth, usually cut from one of one of her old saris and washed and dried to act as a cheesecloth. That paneer or chhana then rested under the weight of our black stone nora until all the water was squeezed out. She sometimes tried to feed me that raw chana with sugar sprinkled on it, saying it was good for me, but I hated it so very much that she soon gave up that idea.

Instead, she made flat disc shapes from that chhana, shallow fried them golden brown in oil and dunked them in a lightly spices sweetish gravy with potatoes and spice blend.The gravy would always be a thin one, spiced with freshly made paste of cumin and ginger. That niramish chanar dalna with those pillowy soft balls of cottage cheese was a much loved dish from my childhood. If that was how I was supposed to get my protein fix, I was all for it!

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Niramish Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

And so Chanar Dalna stayed on as a staple in our home on most Fridays. It would also pop up twice or sometimes thrice in the course of the week but if it was Friday then it was almost sure that Chanar Dalna was on the menu.

I usually make a chanar dalna with store bought paneer as that is easier and quicker. Also, my kids like that paneer a lot, we get really a very good Nanak paneer which is soft and delicious. However I have to agree that they are not the same thing. The Chanar Dalna that my Mother made, with homemade chana or homemade cottage cheese is definitely a dish that Bengalis will find more superiors.

Cumin-Ginger-Green Chilli paste
Today, I re-created the same dish with chana or paneer made at home. I wanted to get the exact flavor of my childhood dish and so instead of using cumin powder, I made a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger  in my mortar, the quintessential jeere-ada baata, and used that paste as the masala for this dish. I must say that the fresh ground paste played an important role to enhance the flavor of this light curry. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtly sweet Chanar Dalna with rice for dinner today.

The kids thought that there was no need to go the extra mile of making chhana at home!! But sometimes you do things, for your own happiness, and that's fine.

It wasn't a difficult dish to cook, maybe takes bit more time to make. If you are running short of time, you can make the chhana a day ahead and then do the gravy the next, that might make the process easier. Also for an easier version of the dish with store bough Paneer follow my other Chhanar Dalna Recipe.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Kerala Style Egg Roast | Kerala Egg Curry

Kerala Egg Roast, Kerala Egg Curry

Kerala Style Egg Roast | Kerala Egg Curry

This Nadan egg Roast or Kerala homestyle egg curry is a very simple egg curry bursting with flavors. It is a lot like the Bengali Dim Kosha with different spices. I will not say this is the traditional recipe but this is close to what I have tasted.

Many years ago when I lived in Bangalore, was when I first got introduced to the full plethora of South Indian cuisines.

Those were the pre, pre social media days. There were no smart phones and so no photos of food were ever shared with anyone and hence we knew little beyond local food. You ate mostly local and occasionally indulged in the two popular non-local cuisine -Chinese and South Indian. Growing up in small town Bengal, the only South Indian food we knew was Dosa and Idli which the tan-tan-dosawala would make expertly on his black griddle as he went around the shady lanes of our neighborhood at dusk. That along with Sambhar and coconut chutney which my Mother stored in steel tiffin carrier boxes from the dosawala would be an unexpected weekday treat.

Later my experimental Mother would make dosa batter in her Sumeet Mixer and make dosas, which were never as thin and crisp as the dosa walas. However with the fermented batter she would then make Utthapam studded with onion and green chillies and those were excellent. She also made Upma in her own way and called it Nonta Suji. That is where my culinary knowledge ended and that was what we thought everyone living in the south of vindhyas ate -- Dosa, Idli, Sambhar, Uttapam and Upma.

Once I moved to Bangalore, I was introduced to a variety of South Indian cuisines courtesy of the office cafeteria and the various PG aunties I boarded with. What surprise that they never really served dosa at lunch and the vegetarian fare at the office cafeteria in ISRO was mostly boring consisting of rice or a veg pualo, rasam, sambhar, some vegetable (which I never enjoyed) and then yogurt.

The PG aunties had more interesting food. One of them was a Kannada Muslim and she often made Hyderabadi Biryani in a big dekchi which she served in ample amounts with raita. Of all the PG homes I stayed in, the one I loved most was a beautiful home in Indiranagar owned by an elderly Coorgi lady. She was then in her 60's, much older than my mother then, and lived in that house with a little granddaughter and couple of helps. Her family owned a coffee plantation in Coorg and the sons stayed at the plantation. The little girl went to one of Bangalore's popular convent schools and lived with her grandmother.

Oh, how I was in awe of that PG aunty. I admired her energy, her independence and her cozy home. And she had the most delicious dinners to offer, a lot of which was non-vegetarian. I was not at all interested in cooking those days and so I gladly ate what she cooked, praising them, the taste lingering in my memory now for 20 years.

Kerala Egg Roast, Kerala Egg Curry

Spices for Kerala Egg Curry 

She often made appams which she served with a Kerala stew or a Kerala egg curry. She never cooked them in coconut oil and probably added her own Coorgi style to the Kerala dishes, who is to tell, but they were delicious.

I often think of her and her dishes and yesterday searched for a Kerala Egg Curry or what they call a Kerala Egg Roast or Nadan Egg Roast. The problem with recipes these days is, you search for one thing and the ones that come on top are not the ones who are really authentic but ones with good SEO. I sieved through them and wasn't convinced with all the garam masala they were asking to add, I mean it was like our Bengali dim kosha, where was that distinct flavor that Aunty added coming from. If I closed my eyes and thought I could inhale some black peppercorns and maybe fennel.

So I followed Sailu's Kitchen recipe, one of the blogs I trust for South Indian recipes and then skipped the Garam masala powder. Instead I added freshly ground Coriander powder, Fennel powder and Black Pepper powder. No coconut. Absolutely no coconut necessary.

As the egg curry cooked, I could smell the flavor that lingered around the cool dining room in Coorgi Aunty's house, or so I imagined.
A lot of memory rushed in, Aunty's little granddaughter singing "Amazing Grace" on some evenings; the "Chicken Curry For Soul" books I would love to read in my bedroom after dinner; her always tidy and clean kitchen which she wiped down every night and a lesson I took to heart; and a sadness at my younger software techie self who never took the time to learn how dishes were created and who got so busy to never get time to meet Aunty after moving out.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Pomfret Vindaloo | Pomfret Curry

I rarely buy bone-in fish pieces as the kids don't like them. But I do miss them. Recently one of my neighbors got some pomfret for me from the fish store and I was overjoyed

I wasn't sure what to make with them as the fish was already cut in steak pieces. I like to do a whole baked pomfret but this time I was swaying between a curry and bake. Then I asked the neighbor who got me the fish what she was planning to make. She is a Mangalorean and said she will just fry them with a red masala paste, which basically has red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder,  little garam masala and some vinegar.

That set the ball rolling.

Recently the husband-man had made a pork vindaloo which was fiery and delicious and I decided to use the same spice base. Following the same masala and recipe I made a pomfret curry which I will call a pomfret vindaloo. It was spicy and good. Even the fried pieces of pomfret with this masala paste was delicious.

Pomfret Vindaloo | Pomfret Curry

Pomfret Fish -- cut in steak size pieces. I had 6 pieces

For the Masala paste

Dried Kashmiri chile peppers -- 8
Cinnamon stick - 1"
Cumin seeds -- 1 tsp
Cloves - 4 whole
Whole black peppercorns - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder
White vinegar - 2 Tbsp
salt to taste

For Gravy

Onion - 1 whole chopped
Garlic -- 6 cloves minced, or more to taste
Fresh ginger root - 1"

Green Chilli peppers - 4 cut into strips
Vegetable oil -- 2 Tbsp
White Vinegar - about 1 Tbsp
Salt - to taste

Prep the masala

Make a dry powder with all spices under Masala Paste. Make a thick paste with the white vinegar and little water.

Marinate and Fry the fish

Now smear the fish pieces with this masala paste and keep aside for 30 mins.

Heat enough oil for shallow frying the fish.
Shallow fry the fish, approx. 3 mins on each side.

Note: I realized later that you can make this curry without frying the fish and adding the marinated fish to the curry and cooking it there too. You decide your choice.

Make the Gravy

Now we don't need this much oil for cooking the gravy. So we will remove most of it keeping only 1-2 Tbsp for cooking.

To the hot oil add the garlic and 2 green chilies. When you get the flavor of garlic then add the onion and ginger. Saute until onion is browned. Add the fish pieces and any remaining masala paste from marinade. Add a little water for gravy and bring gravy to simmer. Reduce heat and cook. Add salt to season.

Now stir in the remaining 2 Green Chilli and 1 Tbsp of vinegar. Cook uncovered until the gravy has thickened and oil rises to the surface. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Chingri Bhorta or Chingri Mola -- spicy prawn pate

Chingri Bhorta, Chingri Mola

Chingri Mola | Chingri Bhorta

Chingri Bhorta or Chingri Mola is a spicy prawn paste, made with tiny, small shrimps cooked in mustard oil and then mashed with green chillies and raw onion. This recipe is my adapted version of the original.

This Chingri Mola or Chingri Bhorta is a huge favorite with me and my older daughter. It is shrimp so what is not to love honestly.

As simple as this dish is, it was not something that my Mother made. Bhortas or baatas, which means anything that is mashed or made into a paste, was not very popular in our urban home, except for the few vegetables that were steamed and then mashed. So say like, aloo seddho/aloomakha or mashed potatoes, kumro bhaate aka mashed pumpkin.

Most of the baata or bhortas in Bengali cuisine is attributed to the Bengalis from East Bengal or Bangals. And that is why whatever baatas I have had is at my in-law's home, be it Kaanchakolar khosha baaata or Phulkopi or Mulo r paata bata

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 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 got during those periods of rain and flood. In both situations, the idea was to stretch to the limits of what little you had.

This particular Chingri Bhorta or Chingri Mola however is not something that my MIL made either. I first heard of it from a friend who described the "Chingri r Mola" that he had at his friend's house in Midnapore, West Bengal. It was made with tiny, small shrimps in their shells, too tiny to remove the shells or tails. These were cooked in mustard oil and then mashed with fingers. Slivers of chopped raw onion and green chillies were then added to them and mashed in together. The friend reminisced how delicious the Chingri Mola tasted and how his friend's mother who pressed the tiny shrimps with her fingers into a coarse paste had magic in those fingers.

This sounded so exciting that I started cooking this chingri mola at home. However the one major thing that we lacked here was the tiny shrimp. We only had the bigger prawns here. So I  adapted the recipe a little. I use medium sized shrimp and make a coarse paste in the mixie. Of course the flavor of those tiny shrimps caught from the local river is missing but we make do with what we get don't we ?
I have also added a second step where I  saute the shrimp paste in mustard oil with nigella seeds, green chillies and onion to make it drier. I think this definitely boosts the flavor and also makes it a dish which you could serve at parties.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Tomato Kasundi -- adapted from Leela Majumdar

Tomato Kasundi

Tomato kasundi | Tomato Kashundi

This Kasundi is great as a dip for anything or a dressing for your cucumber-carrot salad. It has more of a tangy tomatoe-y taste than a mustard-y taste. Be generous with the mustard oil and you won't be disappointed.

Aam Kashundi

This Tomato Kasundi recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbook of all times. It's in Bengali by my favorite author Leela Majumdar. For those who don't know about her, she is a very famous author of Bengali literature and most loved for her writings for the young adults. Her books like "Podipishi'r Bormi Bakso" or "Monimala" are legends in their own times. Her memoir "Paakdondi" still remains in the list of my favorite books. She also happens to be Satyajit Ray's aunt.

I am not a big time cookbook reader. Never was. My recipes are mostly from friends, families and now blogs. My mother too never had a cookbook as far as I can remember. Cookbooks were not the "in thing" in those days. However she used to often copy recipes from magazines like Jugantor or Sananda and write them down in a diary. We both loved reading the recipes in colorful pages of Sananda or Femina those days. And of course the Personal columns :-p

The first cookbook I ever bought was just before I moved to US. It was a bengali cookbook by Bela De, very popular in those times. It had lots of recipes and was very cut and dry but useful. The recipes were written just like my Mother would say if you asked her how she made a particular dish -- a little of ginger and some cumin seeds. It gave you a basic framework and you took it from there.

Along with Bela De, I had bought another book, not because I wanted to learn the recipes (though they are excellent) but because I was a(still am) huge fan of the author Lila Majumdar. By then I had read all of her writings and when I landed one afternoon at the Dasgupta book stores in College Street asking if I had skipped reading any of Lila Majumdar's books, they gave me her "Ranna r Boi".

To be honest, I wasn't too enthusiastic. I had hoped for an unpublished manuscript maybe. But then I started reading it without the intention of cooking and started loving it. Her words in the introduction of that book became my mantra.  She wrote recipes in a conversational tone, again missing out on the measurements, but they were honest. They told you about substituting ingredients and things like "You can use this instead of this but it won't taste as good :-D". I read through that book often when I felt homesick in those early days in a foreign country. I cooked from it too but mostly I just read those recipes for pleasure.

"If you have to eat to survive then why not try to eat well. And eating well  means eating food that looks good, tastes good, is nutritious, inexpensive, easy and takes little time to cook "

I was craving for some Aam Kasundi or Mango kashundi  but did not have any mangoes. So I settled on Tomato Kasundi. I have adapted this Tomato Kasundi recipe from the book. The ingredients are as she suggested. It made for a very delicious dip. This Kasundi has more of a tangy tomatoe-y taste than a mustard-y taste. Be generous with the Mustard Oil and you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta -- made by Big Sis

Homemade whole wheat pasta

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

This was the 16 year old's first attempt at making homemade pasta from a recipe following allrecipes. It turned out to be delicious and if we had time, we would not go back to buying boxes of pasta again

Yesterday, someone in my neighborhood came back home, recovered from Covid-19. I didn't know him and so was even unaware that he was in the hospital. We only came to know when yesterday we saw there were balloons in his lawn and signs with "Welcome Home". There were car parades and honking, probably from his friends and colleagues.

Today as a neighborhood community, we all went in our cars with "Welcome Home" signs and drove in front of his house, honking and welcoming him back home.I don't know them but it felt very nice to be part of it. However it was scary too hear his wife's first-hand account of her husband's illness. And here he was a very fit person in his 40s, who had to fight for 3-weeks in the hospital and has to still use a walker when we waved to him today. I cannot imagine what it must be doing to at-risk individuals.
Sometimes I feel guilty sharing food and what we are cooking at home while a pandemic rages through our state, taking lives, making thousands of people sick.
Here is the thing, there are 2-sides to this story.
On one side there are the heroic frontline workers facing the pandemic, their families, the patients and their families.
On the other side, there are people depressed staying home, some not understanding the importance of social distancing, some not happy with online school, some in fear of losing income, some unable to travel to their loved one, some just wanting to get out and go shopping.

When I share stories from my kitchen, I hope someone in the second category will read and find some joy in staying home today. Maybe they will find a reason to get up and make a meal for themselves. Someone will see that the schools are doing a lot, that's enough education and it's good that kids have little more time on hand now.
Ours is not a story about great master-chef style cooking. It's more of finding joy in staying at home and cooking a meal for family. It does not have to be perfect to be delicious.
Today BigSis made pasta from scratch. She has been wanting to do this for a long time. Homemade Pasta just like the one we had in Tuscany. However her school workload leaves no time for such stuff usually. As a fallout of the pandemic the kids did get a little break and today she could spend cooking one of the things she loves.
Our first issue was we did not have enough AP Flour or Maida. So she had to look for a whole wheat Pasta recipes and she found one in AllRecipes which she followed.

She made the dough. We don't have a pasta making machine, so she rolled the dough by hand and cut her shapes. It was truly delicious 😋😋 .

She then used some of the dough to make ravioli. It was very impromptu ravioli with cheese+pesto filling. I loved the ravioli a lot. The kids thought the pasta was better than the ravioli.

I am sharing the pasta recipe that we did at home as well as videos. Hope this will help you make your own pasta at home

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Vegetable Fried Rice with leftover rice -- By Little Sis

Vegetable Fried Rice | Stir Fried Rice with Vegetables and Egg

Left over rice is stir fried with vegetables and eggs in this easiest one pot-meal to make a delicious fried rice

This Veg fried rice was a staple in our home with left over rice. I don't know how my Mother made the exact amount of rice for each meal but there were some of those rare days when she overestimated or we ate less and there was left over rice. Usually she would eat the left over rice herself the next day and serve us freshly cooked rice, a practice I vehemently protested against.

But then on some days when she had excess left over rice, she stir fried it with eggs and vegetables like carrots and peas to pack a fried rice for school lunch. How I loved that stir fried rice. I think it was one of the best school lunches in my childhood memory.

During this Quarantine, LS, the 11-year old has developed a sudden interest in cooking. It is usually her sister, the 16 year old who is the cook if me or the Dad are MIA and LS is the sous chef helping with chopping vegetables. She is a good vegetable chopper and often chops vegetables for me too.

But in the last few weeks, it is LS who has taken over lunch duties. Her online classes get over earlier than her sister's and so she keeps asking me if she can make lunch. She started with baking, then mac and cheese and today she made this fried rice with the leftover rice that we had. I took a video of her cooking to remember these precious memories.

It was delicious and though she made it for only the two of them, I couldn't stop eating. It is really a very quick, one-pot meal to make if you have leftover rice ready.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Quick Recipes for Covid-19 Lockdown and after

We have been in quarantine for just over a month now. And while some people have used this time to hone new skills, take masterclass, learn yoga, train for marathon, and become the next best chef, there are others like us.

Us as in me.

The ones who had dream in their eyes, a long list of things to do and learn and run and watch, at the start of quarantine but..... And there is huge BUT. But all that I have managed to achieve is multiple zoom calls and putting meals on the table. Oh also tweezing away a part of my eyebrow. I think I need at least 2 years worth of quarantine to learn anything. This past month was just spent thinking of the possibilities.

So, if you are the one who has been bogged down with work and lockdown and don't want to spend hours in the kitchen anymore, here are some easy recipes to tide you over. They are mostly quick and simple and  easy to make.

Quick Recipes for Quarantine and after

Bengali Khichuri -- Khichdi or Khichuri is the quickest one-pot meal of rice, lentils and vegetables to make. You can pair it with an egg or a papad and pickle or some fries and no meal is easier than this.

Quinoa and Samo Khichdi -- This one pot meal has Quinoa, Millets, Lentils and is protein packed as well as delicious

Bengali Congee or Phenaa Bhaat -- This is another very easy one-pot complete meal where rice and vegetables are cooked together and mashed. Top with some ghee or butter and serve with an egg or fried fish, and you have a winner

Kolkata Egg-Chicken Roll -- These are super quick to make if you have frozen parathas in the freezer. For healthier option, try these with Tortilla or Rotis.

Stir Fried Noodles - this is another favorite and easy meal to cook. You can add vegetables, eggs, shrimp or chicken of your choice.

Bread Pulao or Paurutir Pulao -- This is another of those dishes which can be a complete meal with your choice of vegetables and eggs

Doi Salmon in Oven -- This is our favorite Doi Salmon but this time done in the oven. This one is quicker and saves time. Some rice with this and you are set.

Coriander-Green Chili Fish in Oven -- Another easy and delicious fish in the oven.

Soy Sauce-Sriracha-Honey Salmon in Oven

Mixed all of these until it tasted just right
Sriracha +.
Chilli Paste +.
soy sauce +.
garlic paste +.
honey glaze.
 a drizzle of Olive Oil.
Basically just mixed all together until it tasted yum and then poured over the salmon and baked it at 275F for 25 mins. It came out really good. #salmonwithsrirachahoneychilli

Image may contain: food

Busy Day's Egg Masala -- This post tells you to make an all purpose-masala that will really help you on most working days. the egg masala that follows is a delicious one too.


Savory Crepes or Dim er Parota _- You can make these and then use any stuffing of your choice. We like it with a dosa aloo stuffing or a keema stuffing

Boiled Dal with Lime Leaves -- If all else fails there is always a big pot of Dal. A boiled Dal like this one is super simple and fragrant with Lime leaves. All we need is some rice to go with.

Phuchka -- And then of course if you can make a meal out of Phuchka what else would you need


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Monday, April 20, 2020

Doma Wang's Prawn Toast -- easy, quick delicious

Doma wang's prawn toast
Prawn Toast

I didn't know Doma Wang until last year. I knew she was from Kalimpong and her restaurant Blue Poppy was famous for its momos and chilli pork, but I didn't "know" know her.

Then last year on Mother's Day, I wanted to send my Mom some food from a restaurant in Kolkata. She was not able to venture out much due to her knee pain and I thought it would be a nice surprise. I also thought it would be easy with these apps like Swiggy, Zomato etc.

Guess what? I couldn't use any of them in India with my US ph#. At this brink of frustration came a very kind restaurateur from Kolkata. Doma Wang who owns a restaurant called Blue Poppy in Middleton row.

She messaged me on FB and took upon herself to deliver food from her restaurant all the way to my Mom's for Mother's Day Lunch..And the food was so delicious. My parents loved the garlic prawn balls, noodles, chili chicken and the momos.

Then last year when I visited Kolkata, on my wish list was to eat at her restaurant. However it did not work out. So I called her to ask if she delivered food. I was desperate to eat her famous momos. The day before I was to leave for the US, she sent me her famous momos and pork sapata. They were so delicious. The pork sapata flew across oceans with me, and the husband-man as well as the girls wre blown away by this dish.

When I saw her and her daughters cooking Prawn Toast during this Quarantine, I knew I had to make this dish. It seemed to be very easy and if it was her recipe I was sure it would be delicious. So last weekend, I made these delicious Prawn Toasts at home. The perfect snack with a cup of tea. I am definitely going to make this as starters for parties too.

It was super easy to make. Just my kind of dish.

Easy, Quick and Delicious

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Kolkata Mishti Doi -- Bengali sweet yogurt

Mishti Doi | Misti Doi | Mishti Doi Recipe

Kolkata's Mishti Doi | Laal Doi

Mishti Doi is a sweet yogurt that is very popular in Bengal. The yogurt has a reddish tinge due to simmering milk for a long time and caramelizing sugar. This recipe gives both an oven as well as a non-oven version to set the doi.

In my childhood, Kolkata was the land of two kinds of "doi" or yogurt.

Tok doi -- the regular tart yogurt, white in color, which we always had with a sprinkle of sugar and the only kind available where we lived.
Mishti Doi -- a reddish tinged, sweet and creamy yogurt served in small earthenware cups. This was only available in Kolkata in those days and was high on the list of our things-to-eat during our annual visits.
Some people called this "laal doi" or red yogurt because of the reddish tinge. Some stores went all fancy and branded it as "Payodhi". My Baba was a huge fan of this one and since we didn't get mishti doi where we lived, he had it almost every day during our Kolkata visits.
But still basically two types of yogurt.
Last year, when I went to Balaram's outlet in MishtiHub, I was confronted with myriad varieties of yogurt. There was "Kheer doi" , "Aam or Mango Doi", "Baked Doi" (which seemed to be bhapa doi) and then our "Mishti Doi".
This was all very good but the "Mishti Doi" was white. I mean no reddish tinge ar all. White as if it was washed in Surf Excel!! I squinted and looked at it from all angles but it looked nothing like that "laal mishti doi" of my childhood 😩😩. (It tasted very good though).
I even asked the servers at the store about the color, and the young men gave me weird looks and said "Mishti Doi has always been white".

Now for me Mishti Doi is always reddish with a caramel tinged color. It is said that the original Laal Doi attributes its origin  to Nabadwip's Phasitala, and Kali Ghosh. Kali Ghosh and Hari Ghosh were two brothers, who used to make curd and whey. They would boil buffalo milk and let it simmer in a gentle fire for a long time, to thicken and condense it. The milk took on a reddish tinge as it simmered and thickened. This milk was then sweetened and used to set Yogurt. Later the store bought Mishti Doi always had a layer of dalda or some kind of fat reddish in color on the top. It was really delicious!!

When I saw this reddish colored Misthi Doi made by a friend last week, I knew I had to make it. However I got the red color by caramelizing the sugar.
I basically used the same recipe as I have for my Bhapa Doi but I used caramelized sugar instead of Condensed milk. Also this was not bhapa so there was no steaming. I did not do the water bath in the oven that I do for my bhapa doi. Instead I kept the oven temperature low at 200F and kept this yogurt to set in the oven for 2 hrs. A lower temperature and longer time is better.

Few points to Note:
1. I used Evaporated Milk in this recipe so my process was fairly quick and easy. If you are using Whole Milk, you have to reduce the milk.
2. My sugar got caramelized a little bit more. I should have stopped a few secs early.
3. I think adding 2-3 Tbsp of Condensed Milk would be more to my taste for this Mishti Doi.
4. This tastes best chilled for 3-4 hours.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Shubho Naboborsho -- শুভ নববর্ষ 1427

Poila Baishakh or the First Day of the Month of Baishakh is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. This is the Bengali New Year and is celebrated amongst Bengalis in a much festive manner. According to the Gregorian calendar it falls on April 14th or April 15th, this year it is April 15th. This is the New Year for both BanglaDesh and West Bengal.

The Bengalis usher in the New Year with a lot of festivities importance being given to cultural functions, and food. The day is started off with visiting the temples to seek blessings for the New Year but this is not a religious festival and Puja is not the mainstay of this day. Though for businesses this is the day to begin their new accounting year and so this group of people offer Puja and seek blessings to begin the year with a new accounting book called halkhata. With all the new accounting software I don't know what they do, maybe open a new fresh account or something.

Surprisingly as far back as I go, I remember Poila Boishakh as always a school day. It usually fell bang in the middle of a week with school, the same uniform and homework as usual. Naboborsho evenings however were different. They stood out from other school days.

This is how it usually went. We came home from school and something extra special was always cooked for jolkhabar. We had to quickly finish homework to shower and then put on the new summer dress that was bought for Poila Boishakh. And then we would visit the temple and the local Bengali community program for the cultural program that our town had to offer. That was important for my parents. My Ma in her fresh new Tanter Shari with that crisp smell that only such saris can have and my Baba in his starched Pajama and Punjabi would sit there engrossed in the Rabindra Sangeet being sung. I would be thoroughly bored and look around for familiar faces of my friends who would be equally bored.

We would then stop at the shops where my parents were loyal customers and this part was more fun because it involved gorging on great food. Almost always we were offered a bottle of cold drinks, a much coveted affair in those days, a rolled up calendar and a cardboard box tied with a string and filled with sweets and shingara. By the end of the evening, we had collected at least 4-5 boxes from the stores we stopped at. Though dinner was definitely something special cooked by Ma, I don't remember having any. I would focus more on those boxes we had brought back from haalkhata.

As I grew older, April was a month of final exams and so there was less time to accompany my parents to any program or stores. That is when I remember staying home and gorging on the  Pulao, Doi Maach and  Mutton Kosha that my Mother made.

That's how our Notun Bochor celebration was, with a simple new dress for the summer, some Rabindra Sangeet and delicious Bengali food. And of course the postcards we had to write and send out to all our relatives, wishing them "Shubho Naboborsho".

If I had to pick some food that I would love to have for Poila Boishakh, I would stick to the basic, no-nonsense Bengali dishes from my Mother and which I can make in my kitchen easily.

Start with one of these as a jolkhabar or snack

Vegetable Chop

Fish Chop -- Maacher Chop


Cleanse your palate with something bitter, something other than Shukto. Like this Uchche Begun

For our greens we will either  some Radish greens sauteed with Kalonji and green chilies or the Great Bengali Paata Baata which my girls love

Mulo Shaak -- Radish greens

The Great Bengali Paata Bata

We will then have some Tetor Dal with Lauki and bitter gourd because it seems perfect for these times
Tetor Dal

With a side of Potol Posto because what can be better than Posto for New year

Potol Posto

We will then straight go onto the Fish and pick two or all of these.

I have chosen Muri Ghonto, if you have a spare fish head in your freezer; the Kaanchalonka Dhonepata Fish with lots of green chilli and coriander because its so easy and delicious;a Maacher Jhuri -- an easy dish that can be done with any little fish that you have; a spicy Tyangra Maacher Jhal Charchari; a Doi Salmon because its so easy to make; and a Chingri Malaikari because you can always make this with frozen shrimp too.

Muri Ghonto 

Kaanchalonka Dhonepaata Baked Fish

Maacher Jhuri

Tyangra r Jhaal Charchari

Doi Maach with Salmon

Chingri Maacher Malaikari

We will skip the meat and finish off with a Mango Chaatni or a Pineapple Chutney

Kaancha Aaamer Chaatni

Pineapple Chaatni

And go straight to Dessert where you pick any one of these depending on what you have in your pantry

Bhapa Doi

Paurutir Rasmalai -- Shahi Tukda

Nolen Gur er IceCream

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