Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Those Delicious Letters - a year and half

It has been more than a year since my book Those Delicious Letters was published. After last October (Oct '2020) , I never got back the mojo to promote it and I didn't do anything. Really nothing. I am thankful to the many reviewers who reviewed it on their blog, Instagram, media et.  I am sorry I was not able to reply to many of them or thank them for their kindness.💓

This holiday season, Dec 15th being the global publishing date (August 20th, 2020 the original date), on a whim I checked the book rating on  Amazon, and guess what ? 

Those Delicious Letters - -- The darn book has a rating of 4.3 with effing 241 reviews, 97% of which is organic. I am a chhota mota author and that is a lot of reviews for me!! Yes, 3% of the initial reviews are from friends and few readers, whom I had coerced to  write one 😝, soon after the book was out. But rest all were folks who read it without me forcing them to 😍

Those Delicious Letters - -- 4.4 with 177 reviews

Those Delicious letters - Goodreads - Goodreads rates it at 3.88 with 225 ratings and 83 reviews !!

Of all the reviews, the one most precious is a review written by my Baba. I am not sure if he read the book in its entirety, we did not have any discussions over the content or the plot line. The book was not in one of the genres he would read. The font was not big enough and though my mother mentioned that he sat around with it in the month of last September, I doubt that it held his interest. It was my Mother who actually read the book  as I would have expected her to.

But that is not important. What is important is Baba was very excited about the book and would religiously tune in to all the lives I did as part of book promo last August-September. He shared all my book posts on his own FB wall (something I was very embarrassed about at that point). He was excited about the web series offer asking details that even I had not asked my publishers.

And then he wrote a review on I DID NOT ask him to write it just because I thought it would be difficult for him to post a review on a platform other than Facebook! He didn't even tell me that he had posted a review. But there I found it one fine day much later.  Notice how he has put in a sales pitch about discounted price and no delivery fee 😂😂

My Baba was not a foodie at all. He had no love for food unless it was a Bengali mishti. He did not like cooking and found the whole process highly over-rated.  Many a times when we would urge him to learn some cooking, he would say he could make tea, buy his mishti from stores and put together a Doodh-Pauruti-Gur for dinner, that is all that was needed for him to survive!!

When I got an offer for my first book from Harper Collins, he was happy but could not fathom how "me" of all people could write a cookbook. "Tui physics ar engineering pore ranna r boi likhbi keno bujchi na" !! Maybe he was worried about the kind of recipes I would unleash on the world. Or "Ranna r Boi" was not a thing he felt was worth writing, though once the book was out he championed it the most.

So anyway, I had really wanted to write a novel which was not a "ranna r boi", a cookbook, and show it to him. I don't know why as a 40+ woman, I felt like I had to prove my literary merits to him but I am so very thankful that I could do that and he could be a part of the book even if for a short time.

Thanks to all who read it, enjoyed it, loved it and shared your stories with me. I am so glad that I could spread a little happiness and cheer through my books.

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Thakurbari r Beet Baata -- Beetroot paste

Thakurbarir Ranna | Beet Baata | Beet Bhorta

Though we get each and every vegetable around the year and at all times, every season I tend to gravitate towards those vegetables which were specific to that season  while growing up. 

Well, I make an exception when it comes to three of my favorite vegetables -- tomatoes, cauliflower and coriander leaves. These were very much winter vegetables in my childhood and even while waxing merits of seasonal eating, I am so very glad that now I can have them at any time of the year.

With veggies like Beetroot, I have seen I inadvertently end up buying and cooking more of this veggie in winter than summer. Similarly with Lauki or bottlegourd, which I am pulled towards in summer months but not so much in the winter.

So anyway, every winter, beetroot reminds me of 3 things, Yes the rule of 3 is ruling me today.
Bhejetebil Chop with grated beet and carrots, Beet Gajor er Chechki and a soup that my mother would make with big chunks of carrots, beet, thick slices of onion and potato sautéed in butter and then cooked in a pressure cooker with lots of broth spiced with whole black peppercons, cardamom and probably ginger.

No doubt I loved #1 and #2 but hated #3. I have tried to make that soup a couple of times as an adult and quite enjoyed it but I don't know why LS calls it "chemical jhol" and refuses to have anything to do with it!!

This time when I got beetroot, I wanted a quick easy recipe and found the Beet Baata in the slim book titled Thakurbari'r Ranna.  Now in contrast to popular belief, the recipes included in this book were not necessarily what was cooked in the Tagore Household, neither were they Rabindranath Tagore's favorite dishes.

This book is written by Purnima Thakur, daughter of Nalini Devi and Pramatha Chaudhuri. In the preface, the author very clearly says that these recipes are collected from a tattered recipe book handed down to her by her aunt, Indira Devi Chaudhurani. Indira Devi, the favorite niece of Rabindranath Tagore, had never entered a kitchen or cooked on a regular basis. But she was a connoisseur of good food and whenever she liked a dish that she tasted, she made sure to collect the detailed recipe from the cook and diligently note it down in her book. Purnima Tagore has also included some of her mother's recipes in the book. 

Surprisingly, never once in the book has the author mentioned a dish being cooked in the Tagore Kitchen nor anything about Rabindranath Tagore enjoying "beet baata" on a winter afternoon. She has very deftly and cleanly kept Tagore out of it and yet every time, someone cooks and shares a recipe from "Thakurbari r Ranna"  they want you to believe that the dish will make a poet of you.

If that is your intention, you have to skip this recipe. However you would be foolish to do so. From whomsoever this recipe of "Beet Baata" was collected, was a genius. It is the  easiest thing to do with beets and gives you way more value than the effort you put in. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Pig In a Pumpkin with Indian spices -- from Chef John's Pumpkin-Braised pork

Braised Pork in Pumpkin, Chef John

Pig In a Pumpkin with Indian spices | Chef John's Pumpkin-Braised pork 

Pig In a Pumpkin is a fun, seasonal recipe where the pork is braised for hours in seasonal sweet pumpkin.The original recipe is from Chef John as shared in AllRecipes. The husband-man has used Chef John's braising method and technique but his own blend spices. He has basically used the Goat Sukka Masala as his dry spice powder and marinated the meat with sharp stinging mustard oil, ginger-garlic paste and sliced red onion. Recipe Cards included in this post.

Back in 2019, the husband-man had made this dish for our Thanksgiving get together. Pig-In-A-Pumpkin might sound like the title of a bad murder mystery or a children's book, but it was huge hit with all who had a chance to taste it. I was in India at that time and missed that chance. 

Once I was back, everyone still kept raving about the dish. I still had not tasted it.
Then whenever any pork dish was made for a party, everyone still kept telling the husband-man, "Oita ja baniyechilis, uff"!! I had still not tasted it.

The thing is, this is a dish which is as seasonal as they come. Mid October to end of November -- that is the short time period ideal to try out this recipe as that is when you will get the type of Pumpkin(small sweet pumpkins used for making pies) needed for this recipe!! The pig you can get any time, that is not seasonal.

This year, I had looked up the Panchang, consulted the Almanac, put in my request early and had committed his Pig-in-Pumpkin for the Thanksgiving get together by October end. Smart move eh?. The husband-man was notified the same well in advance. A week before Thanksgiving, we went in search of the perfect Pumpkin and none were to be found. After scouring through four different Whole Foods and couple of Farmer Markets, the right sized Pumpkin was finally brought home. The Pig was a way easier hunt.

Braised Pork in Pumpkin, Chef John

The original recipe is from Chef John as shared in AllRecipes. The husband-man has used Chef John's braising method and technique but his own blend spices. He has basically used the Goat Sukka Masala as his dry spice powder and marinated the meat with sharp stinging mustard oil, ginger-garlic paste and sliced red onion. He then followed the method as shared by Chef John.

The dish is really delicious, with the pork being cooked in the pumpkin for almost 4 hrs, the meat is tender and soft. The warm spices and sweetness from the pumpkin play together to bring a delicious flavor to the dish.

Goat Sukka masala

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Baked Rosogolla | Baked Rasgulla -- Diwali sweet treats

Baked Rasgulla | Baked Rosogolla

Baked Rosogolla | Baked Rasgulla

Baked Rosogolla is a delicious and easy twist to the classic Bengali Rosogollar Paayesh where the Rasgullas(Rosogolla) are baked/broiled in a thick caramelized sweet milk. The broiling in the oven gives a nice caramelized surface to the roshogollas. I had first tasted it from the sweet shop of Balaram Mullick few years ago and I find the easy homemade version is very close to that taste. This comes together very quick and is a super easy Diwali sweet to take for your Diwali potluck

First a  Disclaimer: Although I celebrate Diwali with as much merriment as any other, I do not usually make sweets on Diwali. 

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

So this post is for you. Not me. 

I will eat grilled vegetables, no-oil chicken curry, light Diyas and try to lose 10lb of my hard earned Pujo weight while you won't.

Happy Diwali

If you are still searching for Easy Diwali Mithai Recipes here you go

Microwave Besan Laddoo

Microwave Besan Mithai | Besan Laddoos

It has been 8 years since I first made these laddoos for Diwali🎆. 8 years back making *besan laddoos in the microwave* was a novelty and I had learned it from another blogger.
I feel ancient even saying that how much internet & social media has exploded in these last 8 years. Now if I search a recipe, there is such data deluge that I don't know which one to pick. So thankful that I knew Supriya and had got this recipe from her blog back then.
Else you know my Diwalis would be sweetless.
For if you have known me even for t-e-n nanoseconds you would know that when there is a microwaveable-done in twenty minutes- besan laddoo versus stovetop-arm twisting- back aching-one whole hour-besan laddoo, I will choose the former.
If you are the kind who will go for the latter, more power to you and a Happy Diwali in the kitchen. Others, please follow the recipe link and say sweet things about me😜.
I had added a little more ghee by accident and couldn't make those round laddoos. So put them in cupcake liners, stuck a chocolate chip and voila there were besan laddoos that doubled as Diwali Diyas.

Microwave Kalakand | Chocolate Kalakand

Microwave Kalakand | Chocolate Kalakand

In the fag end of 90s and early 2000s, we were new to this country. Fireworks were not sold in NJ and only allowed during 4th of July celebrations. No stores sold special mithais or namkeen for Diwali.
Come Diwali, we however diligently strung fairy lights on the porch, lit 14 candles for choddo prodeep, trekked to the only Kali Pujo in some high school and then got our movie tickets for the rare treat of a Bollywood movie in a far away theater.🎬. Yes movie tickets!
For in those days, Diwali was the time when KJo movies with all the bling, drama, Kajol, Rani and SRK would be released. A group of us friends would go together and the sole theater showing Hindi movies would be brimming with people. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho...Ahh those were the days. 

And in one of those early days, totally a novice in cooking anything at all, I had learned to make Kalakands in the microwave from my friend R. It was probably the first dessert or meetha I had learned to cook! And it was so easy. I was thrilled with the result. Later I even added a chocolate layer to make chocolate kalakand for my kids.
It is still a sweet that reminds me of those days -- the Diwalis that glittered with whatever little we had, twinkling fairy lights dancing in cold fall evenings and romance, drama, bling unfurling in a big movie screen. 🎆🎇

Chanar Jilipi | Chhanar Jilipi

Chanar Jilipi | Chhanar Jilipi

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. They are made of  maida (all-purpose flour), chhana (or Ricotta Cheese), deep fried and dunked in syrup.
Here is  easier recipe with Ricotta and Bisquik which I am sure you will love.

Sondesh | Bengali Sandesh | Shondesh

Sondesh | Bengali Sandesh | Shondesh

Sandesh is a popular Bengali sweet made from fresh chhana/chenna aka home made paneer also known as curdled milk solids. The chhana is kneaded with sugar and different flavorings to make different variety of Sondesh. Different kind of kneading from smooth to grained, leads to different types of sandesh.  Other than making the chhana, it is not a very difficult dessert to make. Try it this Diwali

Khejur Gur Roshogolla

Khejur Gur Rosogolla | InstaPot Rosogolla

Roshogolla or how it is famously known as Bengali rasgulla needs no introduction. There was a time before internet and micro-cuisine, when people from different regions of India had little idea about what other Indians ate, spoke, wore; and yet when faced with a Bengali they would say "Rasgulla Khaabe?" That is how cliché it was. Rasgulla aka Roshogolla == Bengali. 

Of course then come the the whole war about whose-Rasgulla-is-it-anyway and GI tags and now I am not even sure to call it Odiya Rasgulla or Bengali Roshogolla or Cheese Balls Dunked in syrup!!! Anyway if you want to make it this Diwali -- there are two methods that I have on my blog a. Instapot Rosogolla and b. Rosogolla in Pressure Cooker or a Regular Pot.

The Lobongo Lotika is  a delicate square shaped parcel of flour, stuffed with kheer, the flaps of which are secured with a lobongo or clove,and then dunked in a sugar syrup. This is a sweet that I love immensely. At the end of the sweet sensation, biting into that clove brings about a fresh, pungent and spicy burst of flavor. A very different and refreshing note to end the sweet journey. I used to be a bit weary of the lobongo as a child and wished mine didn't have any. I would always eat around it. But as I grow older, I have come to appreciate the innovative mind of the sweet maker who first came up with this sweet and used a clove to tie up the loose ends. What brilliance!

Monday, October 25, 2021

TikTok Salmon Bowl | Honey and Soy glazed Salmon Rice


TikTok Salmon Rice Bowl | Honey and Soy glazed Salmon Rice

This leftover meal commonly eaten in Japanese and Korean households became viral when a Tik Toker Emily Mariko shared a video of her version of this dish. A delightful dish with a lot of umami, this Salmon Rice Bowl is very easy to cook. I learned it from my thirteen year old daughter and while she goes the whole Korean route eating it tucked in seaweed wrappers, I prefer to eat it more like a Bhorta. After all if you step back and look at it with your Bengali eyes, you would call it a Japanese/Korean Salmon Bhorta -- Rice, Flaked Salmon, topped with ingredients common in Korean or Japanese Kitchen!! 

It is amazing the kind of things you learn from your thirteen year old.

Like recently she keeps using the word "Kapow" to declare, that the food that I have just cooked, after toiling for hours over a coal stove with soot in my eyes, is lacking something!!

Last week I had made Motor Dal. It was really good, fragrant with Hing and generous drizzles of Ghee. My mother would have been proud. Even my Mother-in-law would have been proud.
But my all-knowing gourmand said, "But Mummy, it doesn't have something".
"What thing?"
She threw around her hands as if she was a magician sprinkling fairy dust and said "It doesn't have KAPOW!!!"

I rolled my eyes. 

So when this thirteen year old avid Tik-Tok watcher declared she would make a salmon bowl and needed seaweed wrapper, I nodded my head and continued doing what I was doing. I did not want anything ka(n)pa-kapi in my kitchen. Also this is my usual tactic to many of her pleas, which are mostly peppered with requests for Snapchat, iPhone etc etc.

But this was serious. She begged for one chance to make this dish that she saw on TikTok. It was healthy and had salmon as well as rice -- what is there to not like, she argued. Though I do not have blind faith in TikTok like she does, over the last year LS has become quite the chef so I trust her culinary skills.

The weekend that her sister was home, she coerced the older one to get not only seaweed wrappers but also something called Japanese mayo. And then she made the salmon. I did not think much of this TikTok recipe and stayed away from the kitchen. 

However, one taste and I was hooked. It was such a delicious Salmon Rice Bowl. The salmon itself was so tasty. A burst of flavors. 
Total KAPOW!
Now this has become a favorite at our home and is often made by LS.

It is also a very versatile dish. If you do not want the whole shebang, you can just have the salmon, rice and salad.  In that case you need only the salmon, cooked rice and the marinade ingredients.

But at least once you should have the whole rice bowl in the way it should be had. I am sure you will love it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

Potoler Dolma | Potol er Dorma | Stuffed PointedGourd

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

The word Dolma, from the Turkish verb Dolmak, means to be filled and refers to all kinds of stuffed food in the Ottoman cuisine, the most popular being stuffed grape leaves. The Persians call it Dolmeh. The Bengalis call it Dolma or even Dorma. Potoler Dolma or Dorma is a very popular Bengali dish made with the summer vegetable potol or pointed gourd. It is believed that dolma came to Bengali households holding the hands of Armenian families who were originally from Persia and had followed the trade route to finally settle in Chinsurah, near Kolkata. While the original Dolma was stuffed with minced meat and rice as mentioned earlier, the fusion potol’r dolma in Bengali households was stuffed with minced meat, fish and even a vegetarian stuffing of paneer and coconut.

Potoler Dolma is the kind of dish that always, always reminds you of your grandmother and her kitchen. A slightly hunched figure, sitting on the kitchen floor, on a raised wooden plank called pinri, her gnarly fingers expertly stuffing hollowed out potols (pointed gourd) , which would then be lightly fried and simmered in a gravy. I don't know how my Dida felt about making Potol er Dorma or where she learned it from. It was not really an easy task and since it was always made when there was a house full of people, there were lots of Potols to scrape and stuff. She cooked happily, tired but satisfied, and we thought it was given that she would make Potol er Dolma for us.

My Mother prepping Potol

More than the potol or pointed gourd, I loved the stuffing that went in it. My Dida's standard stuffing for Potoler Dorma would be made with fish. Fish filet was not easily available in North Kolkta in those days and my Dida steamed pieces of Rohu, deboned them patiently and then made a delicious stuffing with the fish. Usually when she was making a large batch of Potoler Dorma for the whole family, my mom or one of the aunts was delegated to make the stuffing. But rest of the Dolma was always hers and hers alone.

Ma stuffing the Potol. This stuffing was made of Ricotta as I was too lazy to make Chhana

Unlike my grandmother, I never ever make Potol er Dorma when there is a house full of people. I want to hold on to my lyaad-quuen crown and cooking difficult stuff for a crowd doesn't get you one!
So it is always made in small quantity for the family and then depending on the availability of the right size Potol(Pointed Gourd) in our Patel. I think I made it multiple times a few years back in 2019, while writing "Those Delicious Letters" as there was a chapter around this dish. This summer I made it once more. My mother was surprised and couldn't believe her eyes that I was doing such a thing !!

Now what I have realized is with a dish like this if you can break it down into smaller tasks, it is much easier to do. 
1. Day 1/Task 1 -- Make the stuffing. Depending on your choice you can make a niramish stuffing with chhana/paneer or  amish stuffing with fish or keema. Refrigerate and make sure no one eats it.
2. Day 2/Task 2 --  Make the base for the gravy/curry. Scrape the potol, Peel in alternate strips, hollow it out, wrap it in a damp cloth and refrigerate.
3. Day 3/Task 3 --  Fry and stuff the potol. Finish the gravy. Simmer the potol in the gravy. 

There are two things I do to make stuffing the potol more easy

1. I first sauté the potol, cool and stuff. In the original recipe, the raw potol is stuffed and then fried. There is a chance that the stuffing might come out if you do this so I do the sauteing first.
2. I try to make my stuffing with a very smooth texture, so that it kind of sits nicely inside the potol and doesn't  spill out. My Dida would securely tie the potol but I don't do that and so far it has been fine.

Hope you make this dish at least once to see what a star Mr. Potol Babu can be too. I have shared the recipe for both the vegetarian Paneer stuffing OR the Fish stuffing, you can use either.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Ilish Maacher Tauk -- heady memories

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok/Ambol | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Chutney, Ambol and Tok are the three different varieties of sour dishes in Bengal, the difference being in the sourness and thickness of the gravy in the dish. While Chutneys are the sweetest with a thick, sticky base, the ambol and tauk/tok are more sour and have a thinner gravy. Of all this, the Tauk(or Tok) is supposed to be the most sour. Since fish is abundant in Bengal, fish often features in a Tok or Ambol. Usually it's the tiny Mourala  which goes in a Tok or the fish head and tail of Hilsa (Ilish Macher Tok).  This tangy stew kinda dish is had as a last course, mixed with rice and supposed to have cooling effects in the hot summer.

Update: This post was originally done in2012. I am updating with new photos and more precise recipe in 2021.
midst the umpteen other things that my Dida(maternal grandmother) cooked, there was an Ilish Macchher Tauk. Heads of ambrosial Ilish suspended in a thick, brown, sweet and syrupy liquid that was sweetened with jaggery and soured by ripe tamarind. To call it a "Hilsa Head Chutney" would be plain blasphemy.

It was a backstage kinda dish. I mean while the choicest pieces of Ilish were fried and served as is in a bhaja, the beautiful steak pieces steamed as a bhapa in clinging mustard sauce with fluffed white rice, the fish roe were fried and served with the tel and fresh green chili, the head and the tail led a sad life in waiting.

"Too many bones. Can't eat it", said the young girls in the family with a toss of freshly washed step-cut hair.

"Not enough meat in these pieces", said the grown up men who thought it beneath themselves to be served a lyaja -- a fish tail.

"Rohu heads are better. This has a strong smell", said the younger men, their faces till gentle, their opinion yet not chauvinistic.

And so the matha and the lyaja -- the fish head and the fish tail -- waited in my Dida's kitchen till she was done with the bhaja, the jhaal, the jhol. By then the sun was high up, the crows sitting on the Neem tree outside the kitchen were tired of all the cawing, the neighborhood cat had a princely meal of Ilish fish scales and was patiently waiting by the kaltala for the remains from the men's lunch plates who could never chew on the fish bones. The kaajer mashi--the house help-- Minoti'r Ma was hovering around the back door waiting to see which piece she would be taking home.

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Tok

Ilish Mach er Tok/Ambol

It was then that my Dida opened up a green lidded plastic jar where lay a block of tamarind, brown, ripe and sticky wrapped in a piece of
The matha and the lyaja heaved relief. They loved the tauk. They loved being in that tangy, sweet liquid where they were the stars of the dish.

Minoti'r Ma stopped fretting and came to sit by the stove. I kept telling Ma that I would have lunch later with Dida and the older women. Dida put the kadahi back on the unoon and poured some more Mustard Oil in it. Minoti'r Ma rubbed the tamarind in a bowl full of water to take out the seeds and make the "kaath". The water slowly turned a deep burnt sienna and the kadhai hissed with scarlet red chili and mustard seeds. The matha and lyaja nudged each other and smiled. Their moment had come. As they bubbled in the tamarind gravy of the tauk sweetened by jaggery I waited patiently for the last course of my meal. The Ilish maacher Matha'r tauk.


My Mother made this tauk way back in March when she was visiting. I merely hovered around in anticipation. She and I are the only ones in the family who will eat this dish nowadays. So I wait for her--to visit us---and amidst many other things to cook me a Ilish Maacher tauk.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Salsa Egg Curry -- Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha

This Salsa Egg Curry saga goes way back to pre-Independence India, when my grandmother was a young girl who tended wild hens in her backyard while making fresh salsa that a Mexican traveler had taught her! Those wild country hens laid some delicious brown eggs and the Mexican traveler had brought her some of his country's fresh hot jalapenos. Actually that was his way of proposing marriage but she gave him bhai-phota and ruined his plans! Inspite of this heart breaking incident, this dish was much loved in our home and went by the name of Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha.

How many of you think that is the truth? How many of you think staying true to your roots means cooking a dish from your country or culture exactly how it has always been done?

Truth is this Salsa egg Curry saga goes back to the summer of 2019  when vacationing in Iceland and missing Dim Kosha, we had promptly made this egg curry, the night after we saw the magical Northern Lights. This is the story that I will tell my grandkids. This might just become their story for their version of Dim Kosha,

How at 9:30 PM at night, the aurora tracking app on my phone started buzzing and we jumped into the car, driving towards the location where sighting was supposed to be best. A merely short 10mins drive out of town and we could see the activity increasing. We pulled up on the side of the road somewhere in pitch darkness and the magnetic storm put up a great show for us. The dark sky above us came alive with curtain of lights, swaying and waving, and  taking on colored hues. It was at the same time beautiful and creepy, kept reminding me of horcruxes from HP.
The night after we had Salsa Dim Kosha!
If a Bengali dish with Mexican ingredients comes into existence in Iceland,  does it mean going back to your roots or adapting your roots and giving it space to breathe and grow?

First Sighting as per FB: September 2019 -- in Iceland

In Bangla there is a saying "Dheki swarge giyeo dhaan bhaange".
Loosely translated it means "If possible, a Bong will cook & eat a spicy dim kosha(egg curry) even when she is amidst the beauty and luxury of a place like heaven"!
Well actually that's not the translation but I an 100 percent sure this is what it means🤣😜
After the ethereal beauty of the Aurora yesterday, this egg curry gave us  joy that only heaven can shower on you. So errm, due to lack of regular ingredients this was made with salsa from a jar, onions, sriracha sauce and a sprinkle of curry powder. All found in our Airbnb kitchen!
And it was so good that I am going to copyright this recipe. Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha!! ❤

Also a huge thanks to all of you who inspired us to cook on vacation. Grocery stores will be put on my next vacation itinerary. Really enjoyed the experience.

Second Sighting as per FB post: August 2020 -- in Maine

Last year, around this time we were getting all ready and doing last minute booking for our Iceland trip🏞.
Food was big on my mind as everyone had said Iceland is an expensive country. However other than some packets of maggi and snacks, I did not carry any more food in my luggage. I love to eat local at the places we travel and if local restaurants were expensive or not good enough then I would rather buy local groceries🛒 😜
And that is what we did. I made it a point to visit the local grocery store Kronan and Bonus in the 4 different places that we stayed in our airbnb!!!  
However I don't like spending time cooking during vacation either. So there were shortcuts. Marinated salmon and fiskoo burgers were our regular buy.
And then this egg curry, made with a jar of salsa 💃 + hot sauce🌶. No chopping onions and garlic, no other spices needed. This was such a hit that on our recent road trip to Maine, we made this salsa egg curry again. 
It's the easiest egg curry that tastes closest to dim kosha and with zero effort. Perfect for a vacation or staycation.
I think I should post a recipe for this one soon. A #norecipe recipe 😍

In Maine, this Egg Curry was made with a tub of fresh pico de gallo at the neighborhood grocery store. Some green chilies, garlic powder, paprika went in.

Third Sighting: May and July 2021 -- in Vermont and Catskills

This time the salsa was a super hot, ghost pepper salsa. The spice rack at the AirBnB had some seasoning from TJ’s and also some paprika and curry powder. That’s all that went into the curry.

The Egg Curry was delicious. And so easy to make. I don’t know why I don’t make this at home. Maybe it’s the wanderlust that makes this egg curry more exciting, the adventure of what lies in an unfamiliar kitchen, who is to say!

Salsa Egg Curry - No Recipe Recipe

Buy Eggs from the local grocery store wherever you are.

Buy Salsa
  1. You can buy fresh Pico de Gallo
  2. You can buy a jar of any generic hot salsa
  3. You can buy the super hot Ghost pepper or Dessert Pepper Salsa.
I prefer the salsa to be bit chunky for this dish.

Now if you do not want to buy salsa, the essence of this dish is lost, but what can we do. Make your own fresh Pico De Gallo, You can follow this recipe for pico de gallo but I will say increase the jalapeno.
Make this Salsa too. Use one or both
Take 2 medium good quality tomatoes. If you don't have access to great tomatoes, open a can of crushed or diced tomatoes.

In a food processor add
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
3 chopped green chili or 1 jalapeno chopped
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Pulse to combine everything. Should NOT be a smooth paste.

Add salt and sugar to taste to the above. Combine. Your salsa is ready

Boil and peel the Eggs. Score the tips like a cross. Fry them with Turmeric powder and a sprinkle of paprika until the skin starts to crinkle and takes on brown spots. Remove and set aside.

Now in the same oil, add the Pico de Gallo and sauté. Follow with the Salsa. (Note: With store bought chunky salsa, just add the salsa to the oil, nothing more).

Add any spice powder that is available and takes your fancy. Some suggestions - garlic powder, total seasoning, onion powder, curry powder, paprika, red chili powder, a touch of garam masala.

Sauté until you see oil separating from masala. The ole Indian trick. Add salt and sugar as per your taste.

Add the eggs now and cook along with the masala. The gravy will be clinging to the eggs. Serve with rice.

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach - Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach - Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

KaloJeere-Til-Dhonepaata Maach | Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon

Kalo Jeere (Nigella Seeds) is supposed to alleviate joint pains. Sesame seeds might lower lipid levels. Every spice has a nutritional benefit, other than adding taste and flavor. Taking off from the Bengali favorite Kalo Jeere diye Maacher Jhol, this is a little different salmon dish, cooked in a paste of coriander, nigella seeds and sesame seeds. It really tasted so delicious and is so easy to make that it has found a secure place in my weeknight salmon repertoire. You can play around with the spices and find your perfect fit.

For a long time, I could not figure out what to name this dish ? Was it DKT (Dhonepaata-Kalo Jeere-Til) Maach or KTD (Kalo Jeere-Til-Dhonepata ) Maach? Or was it just Nigella-Sesame-Coriander Salmon? Or was it just a delicious weekday fish?

I think I spent more time in the nomenclature than in cooking this simple dish which definitely tastes more Bengali than it sounds. It owes its origin in parts to my mother, who has been trying to add more of kalo jeere(nigella seeds) to her food once she learned that Kalonji seeds help in alleviating joint pains and aches. 

I had heard of this magical property of Kalonji long back when our babysitter M Nani, from Bangladesh, used to eat Kalo Jeere bhorta ( a paste of roasted nigella seeds, chilies and garlic cooked in little oil) as a side with her meal. However until my mother used the same strategy in fish, it never crossed my mind to do that. My mother also added sesame seeds (til) along with the nigella as she read somewhere that sesame seeds help in controlling cholesterol and has been gently coaxing the husband-man to have sesame seeds in his diet.

This is really a very simple, easy recipe. I haves skipped garlic but you can add it. Play around with the quantity of Nigella and Sesame seeds until you find the best balance. This is what worked for me this time, there was no overpowering taste of kalonji or til. Next time I might increase the amounts a little.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Ma'r Peper Shukto -- Green Papaya Shukto

Pepe Shukto | Raw Green Papaya Shukto

Peper Shukto | Raw Green Papaya Shukto

Shukto, in Bengali cuisine holds a very important place as a palate cleansing starter to a gourmet meal. Dating back in origin to the medieval period (as mentioned in Mangal-Kavya, shukto recipes might vary over time and region but a bitter vegetable is always the mainstay. The more common Bengali shukto is cooked with a mélange of vegetables. This very different Pepe Shukto made by my mother, has grated raw green papaya and bitter gourd, both vegetables having immense medicinal qualities and is the perfect start to a meal on a summer day.

Some people cook a lot in times of stress. I am not one of them. I think my Mother is.

Last year, when India went into lockdown during Covid, I had suggested that my parents get food delivered from a caterer. A friend suggested a home caterer recommended by her elderly parents in the same area as my parents. There was some initial resistance from my parents,

My Mother had always cooked all our meals as far back as I can remember. She never liked the idea of a cook and on the few occasions that she had one, she couldn't wait to get rid of the "cook" person.  Naturally she was not very eager about this home delivery. However I was getting worried about them going out for daily grocery, vegetables, fish etc. during Covid and so the home delivery seemed like a wise decision at that point. Simple Bengali dishes, cooked at home by the gentleman's wife, enough for two meals for my parents. 
Surprisingly, they soon took to the home delivery, in particular the person who ran the business, and on occasions my Baba would even praise the cooking. "Enchorer torkari ta besh bhalo korechilo, laal rong hoyechilo jhol tar," my not-interested-in-food Baba would say over the phone.

Many of you know that I was in India in the later part of last year. The home delivery was still continuing. The food was good but for someone like me, who cooks mostly in Olive oil and always chooses low-oil options, the aloo-potol er dalna with a slick layer of oil floating on top or the jackfruit curry with a shimmer of oil like a placid lake, was too much for everyday meals. The oil was not in excess for those used to full course Bengali/Indian meals but I realized it was me, whose food habit had changed with time and environment,

So to complement the food delivered with healthier options, I started popping across to the small store across our housing complex, every other day to get some vegetables that could be steamed or boiled. I bought the same vegetables every time -- a raw papaya (pepe), a couple of bittergourd, carrots, green chilli and lime. I would then add all these vegetables to a pot of lentils and boil them together, to make a dal with vegetables. I was in no mood to do anything more.

One day for lunch, I saw a beige colored vegetable dish with a bay leaf peeping out for lunch. It was not from the home-delivery tiffin carrier. My mother sheepishly admitted, that she had made Pepe'r Shukto. I had never heard of it. Neither did I understand the point of making hundred different types of shukto.
Maybe my mother got tired of the raw green papaya and bittergourd that I would always steam with the lentils, maybe she just wanted to do something that would keep her mind busy, maybe she wanted to be engaged again in her kitchen, to go back to a routine...I don't know. What I admired was that with so many things going on, she gathered strength to grate a raw green papaya, chop bittergourd and make a dish which was far more complex than the boiled fare I had been doing all along!

I have never been fond of any kind of shukto ever but I have started making this Pepe'r shukto often. My friends and the husband-man seem to love it. In my mother's version it is more sweet than bitter and with a generous amount of ghee, it could pass off as an almost dessert!! Naturally, my version has less sugar and ghee but if you want be generous with those.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Ma-in-law's Macher Dim er Bora Jhol | Fish Roe Fritters

Macher Dim er Bora, Bengali Fish Roe Fritters

Maachher Dim er Bora | Bengali Fish Roe Fritters

For fish loving Bengalis, the fish roe or macher dim is a delicacy that they hanker for. Nope we are not talking of caviar! While Ilish maach er dim(Hilsa Fish roe) is the star, the Rui Maach er dim comes a strong second when it is made into fritters or bora. Mostly available during the monsoon season, the fish roe of sweet water fish like Rui or Carp makes a mundane lunch fantastic for the Bengali middle class.

Last Friday Big Sis had her second dose of Covid-19 vaccine and with that all of us eligible for vaccine have been vaccinated. Waiting for Pfizer to give the green light for 12-15 year olds now.

Now the reason I brought up the vaccine is that the pharmacy where BS's vaccine was scheduled was close to a South Asian fish and meat store. So how could I not stop by and get some fish? You tell me! That would be so impolite right?

Now that my mom is here, we have been going more often to the fish store than ever before. This time I stopped by thinking to get the tiny fish called Kaachki or Mola fish. Along with a pack of that tiny fish, I also saw a tray of Rui Maacher Dim -- Fish Roe and picked it up. 

In my home, my Dad was not very adventurous when it came to food and so Ilish Maacher Dim aka Hilsa fish roe was the only fish roe that he enjoyed. Since Hilsa Fish Roe is a star by itself, it is best enjoyed fried as it is and nothing else was ever made out of it. A few times my Mother would get Rui Macher Dim and make the fritters as a snack for me and her to enjoy, but those were few and far in between.

On the other hand, in my in-law's house Maacher Bora and Maacher Tel are very popular. My ma-in-law makes a delicious curry with the fish roe fritters too. 
So when I go the fish roe, I texted her for the recipe. Guess what my 70+ year old Ma-in-law tells me. She said "Search in UTube, oikhane shob ecipe thake". I mean really!! So then I called her and clarified that I wanted her recipe and not "YouTube's". She gave me the recipe of the fritters and then said that I could add it to a peyaaj-roshun deoa jhol like a rich version of fish curry. She also added that her son, who is not very fond of  Rui/Kaatla type of fish actually loves maacher dim!!! 

Monday, April 05, 2021

Lau with Dhonepaata - Lauki in Coriander-Poppy Seed paste

Lau Dhonepata, Bottlegourd Sabzi, Lauki Sabzi

Some days you wake up in the morning on a weekend and your life is so mundane that you sit down with a cup of chai and a foot long bottlegourd. No, you do not do anything new with the bottlegourd, you just chop it! You might also be watching something on your iPad while all the mundane chopping. Something like Bridgerton, which I had been resisting for a while and then finally gave in. Your life seems just more mundane.

You then wonder who were the first people who discovered turmeric and cumin and coriander, and then decided to make a paste of these spices, and add it to flavor their food. Long before wars were fought and new lands discovered, who was the one who said --"Let me add a dash of cumin and a pinch of turmeric to today's dish".

Who were these interesting people? Did they go to debutante balls and ride horses? Did they work in chemistry labs with pipets and glass flasks?

This was not just slapping a piece of meat on a fire and cooking it. This was far more nuanced. Like, who decided to grind certain lentils into a paste, whip them up all airy, then put dollops of that batter to dry in the sun and make Vadis/Boris? They never went to a culinary school or any school and yet they knew all the techniques. In that situation, I would never know to experiment to that rigorous level. At the most, I would pound green chilies and salt and add it to the meat which I would then throw onto the fire. Isn't that sad ?

Frustrated by your lackluster life, with no Duke of Hastings in the horizon, you are hell bent on unleashing your innovative, genius inner soul to unsuspecting family members. So you do best with what you have in hand. A little different combination of spices for the familiar.  So instead of making my usual Lau Chingri or Bori diye Lau, I made a Lau in Coriander-Green Chili -Poppy seed paste. Yeah, big deal. Not. 

But Dhonepaata baata diye Lau tasted very good and different. Not radically different but different enough to jazz up my morning. You must try it.

The tender lau, lauki 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 fiber.

Bengalis make a variety of dishes with lau over the summer from Moog Dal Chhora Diye Lau, Doodh Lau with milk and a little sweet in taste, Lau er Malaikari where the bottlegourd is cooked in a rich coconut gravy to the all time favorite Lau Chingri where bottle gourd is cooked with shrimp. The Dhonepaata Lau now got added to that lau repertoire .

Lau with Dhonepaata - Lauki in Coriander Poppy Seed paste


Lau/Lauki/Bottlegourd ~ 3 cups. Peeled and chopped in small cubes

For Paste
Green Chilli ~ 3-4 Green chili
Coriander leaves - 1/2 Cup(loosely packed) fresh coriander leaves
Posto/Poppy seeds - 1 Tbsp
Make a paste with little water.

For Tempering
Kalojeera/Kalonji/Nigella Seeds -- 1/2 tsp
Ginger - 2 tsp grated
Green Chilli - 2 slit

Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1 tsp
Mustard Oil - 1 Tbsp

Start Cooking

Heat Mustard oil in a Kadhai/Frying pan
Temper the oil with
1/2 tsp of Kalonji
1 tsp grated Ginger
2 Green Chili

Add the chopped bottlegourd and stir it for a few minutes. Sprinkle salt to taste and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover and cook until bottle gourd softens. Bottlegourd releases water and the vegetable will cook in its own juice.

Once the lauki/bottlegourd is almost 3/4th cooked, add the coriander-green chili-poppy seed paste. Add 1 more tsp of grated ginger.
Add about 1 tsp of sugar and adjust salt to taste. Sprinkle a little water if necessary.
Mix the spices and the vegetables and cook until the bottlegourd is fully cooked. 

Garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and this light dish is perfect for the summer heat.

Alternate option: For a richer dish, add some grated coconut along with the coriander-poppy seeds

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