Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tangy tasty Ketchup

So tomatoes have come down to Rs30 a kilogram for the plumpest reddest and sweetest tomatoes which means it is ketchup time. Now I cannot imagine reaching for those bottled ketchup off the shelves. All that preservative makes me run miles away.

This easy peasy recipe can change anyone's mind to take less than half a day out of their busy schedule to indulge in customized ketchup. To be fair for this one's flavours I suggest you not follow any recipe but make it as per your taste buds. If you do not like celery there always is basil if not that then there is thyme and if herbs are not your cup of tea there is no need to worry you can always use Indian spices for all you lovely people. What is important is the use of vinegar and salt which is the preservative for your ketchup. As per Jamie Oliver, if you seal this deal you have amazing tangy sweet and spicy delight  which lasts a good 6 months. I did not even follow his recipe except the basics. Mine was tangy , hot , spicy , caramelized and well if I may say so I licked off every last bit left in the pot. Now ketchup is supposed to be thick not the runny stuff one usually gets in an Indian market so here goes the recipe for thick delicious tangy hot  ketchup

So what you need is:

1kilogram of plump red tomatoes
200ml red wine vinegar or any vinegar of your choice
Salt as per taste
Sugar as per taste , I used a handful which was enough for me
4 tablespoonful of olive oil
9 to 10 crushed garlic cloves (The size of the garlic is half of what is usually considered fat )
2 medium sized onions
Two fat pinches each of dried oregano and dried thyme and dried basil
8 dried red chilies (increase and decrease as per level of hotness you can handle)
1 tsp homemade mustard

Start by heating oil and sauteing crushed garlic, (just press it with the flat side of your knife) and onions, soften the onions and remember everything must be on low heat. Add the dried red chilies broken in half. Now add chopped tomatoes. I did blanch the tomatoes first for half of the usual time for blanching but did not skin them. This speeds up the process. Bring to a slow boil and add the vinegar and salt. Add the herbs and mustard and sugar and if you want the ketchup a little less thick 300ml water. Simmer till the quantity is reduced to half its amount, cool , blend away so that its all smooth without one bit of solid bit and transfer in a sterilized bottle. Refrigerate and enjoy :)

PS I always try and make the most usage of things and so always store those bottles once the olives or jalapenos etc are finished off and sue the jars to jar my ketchup and condiments wink wink

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dundee Cake

Dundee Cake

With love from Scotland Dundee Cake 

So its the time of the year when parents suddenly become Santa Claus and children who are still gullible think that Santa travels all the way from his snow land on his sledge drawn by Rudolf to climb down the chimneys and leave the presents. parents threaten children the rest of the year with ,"If you do not behave yourself Santa will not bring any presents for you". Looking back at the Christmases what I most vividly remember is the Christmas holidays being my favourite holiday from school due to the long vacation and the treats and well when I was young my mother would tell me how Jesus was born on the 25th of December and a little devil was born exactly one month later. Not caring that I was being refereed to as the little devil I would listen to her stories wide eyed because it was only when she was telling me stories that my mother was not disciplining me or coming back from office to say, "Did you while away your time again"

Christmas for me never meant big parties with lots of people because my "quiet and peace loving" parents would pack up and decide on a place "Far Away from the madding crowd" at any little possibility. And every Christmas we would go to the hill stations which during the 90s and early 2000s would be all calm and quiet because most tourists would avoid cold places during the cold season in India but both my mountaineer parents loved it and soon I realized my heart belongs to the mountains especially the eastern Himalayan range though my parents would mostly head to the Western Himalayas for the expeditions and treks but when it came to our annual trips we mostly stuck to  the mountains which lies yonder in the northern part of West Bengal.

Our trips were usually predictable. What was a definitive inclusion was walking the entire day and yes I was bullied into walking with my own backpack and realizing how much I enjoy it today. Another essential part of our trips were a somewhat heavy breakfast, lunch carried in our backpacks which usually consisted of bread,chocolates, fruits, crisps , biscuits snacking on steaming soups and momos (a dumpling ) etc and a dinner of chicken curry.

The most exciting day of the trips for me would be of course Christmas day when Santa would pay me a visit  which was the highlight of the day. What I loathed were those rich dry fruit cakes which were a must inclusion for Christmas Day's lunch and snacking. Oh no matter how earnestly I would pray on Christmas eve that Santa get us a nice creamy chocolate cake it was always those fruit laden cakes staring me in my eyes the next day.

Over the years the timing of the trips have been freely moved thanks to my completion of education and the excessive crowds in the hills during the holidays these days. India sure has grown its resistance to cold and well of course then there is global warming. So we usually chose a time when its all quiet on the mountain front.

Well anyways coming back to cakes as I grew up despite my dislike for fruit cakes I would religiously go to the age old Flurry's (a heritage bakery of Calcutta) for their rich fruit cakes and then one Christmas I saw something which interested me, a round cake with almonds in circular patterns all over the cake. Turned out to be the Dundee cake . I bought one and was well finally this was something which made me very very very happy. With its crumbly texture and almond laden top it was what my taste buds needed.

Then I realized that what made me dislike the fruti cakes were the inclusion of cashew nuts and sweetened pumpkins something which probably takes place in India alone. Anyways so this year I decided on the Dundee cake, presenting Scotland's very own fruit cake, not very rich , needs no soaking and with a kiss of whiskey. What makes it unique is the inclusion of marmalade.

Interestingly Dundee has a very nice little story attached to it. Legend has it that Mary Queen of Scots disliked cherries and so a fruit cake was made in her honour which included a lot of almonds and there is also another legend of her having introduced marmalade to Scotland but then legends are legends. What is definitive is that Keiller's started producing marmalade in huge massive quantities which is an important ingredients for Dundee cake and as per them they were the ones who produced Dundee cake in masses and invented it. Well I do not know who invented this cake but yes this is one of the best fruit cakes I have had. Laden with figs, apricots, raisins, sultanas , currants and almonds this one is fully laden yet its crumbly light texture is simply delicious, the marmalade and orange peel gives it that perfect touch of citrus aroma and flavour.

I followed Dan Lepard's recipe and am ever grateful to him for giving some extremely valuable tips. I did look around and gather some other  useful tips which ended in the perfect crumbly rich wonderful cake.

So what you need is

175gm of unsalted butter
175gm of brown sugar
250gm of all purpose flour
baking powder (Now here is the thing about baking powders, it does vary as per country, so while using do read the label please, mine asked me to use 2tsp for every 450gm and so I used my eyes and it was somewhat well say a little more than 1 tsp but you should really read your label because excessive baking powder leads to a funny zinc like bitter taste and too little will make your cake not fluff up 0
180gm of soft de-seeded apricots chopped in little pieces
75gm of chopped dried figs
100gm of sultanas
75gm of currants de-stemmed completely
75gm of raisins
150gm of glazed cherries pitted and halved and dried
80gm of almond flour (What I did was simply blanch them and dry them and toast them and grind them but please do not grind them since nuts have oil and if you grind for too long you end up with a lumpy greasy mass)
25ml of warm water
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp marmalade
3 eggs (I did use the big sized ones and the country eggs not the poultry ones for maximum taste and flavour)
100gm of blanched and halved almonds
2 tbsp whiskey

Start by lining your baking tin ( 6 inch to 7 inch) . Now most people will advice you to not grease the pan post using the parchment paper but that is essential to make sure that the greasing and dusting is done to easily peel off the parchment paper once done with baking. i am sure it will not be a hilarious story to tell when your guests end up with a little paper for extra taste :)

It is always useful to get things done from before so I did chop my apricots, figs , cherries etc the previous night of baking . On the B-day (baking day) grease your tin if using a nonstick tin and then place the parchment paper and then grease and dust. It is always helpful if you do this ahead of time.

First sift your flour and baking powder together . Now start by first creaming your butter with sugar. Here is something interesting that blew my mind. I usually use a hand held non electronic whisk and today for some reason i went even more old school and started the process of softening the butter with the back of a massive spoon and believe me the result of fluffiness was simply amazing. I went on to cream my butter and sugar with my whisk. It was something that just disappeared in my mouth , it was lighter than air :P I added my marmalade and orange zest and then 75gm of your sifted flour and whisk and then add the eggs one by one and keep whisking and now you are done with the whisk . Now is your time to preheat your oven to a 140 C , then use a spatula to fold in the flour and lastly the dry fruits. At this point you need all your strength, there is a reason why some women who bake have no jiggy wiggies hangign out from those arms :P

 The mixture will feel very rich and tight. Add 20ml warm water and mix well with spatula. Fold it in your prepared baking tin. Now here is a very useful tip. Wet your hands and smooth the top so that you need up with a even topped cake. So you think you should arrange your almonds now , no all in good time my loves all in good time.

Place a flat dish with raised sides filled with boiled water in the middle of the oven, use a rack and place the cake in the middle and bake for 50 minutes. This placing of water beneath the rack makes sure that you keep your cake moist since like most fruit cakes this requires at least 2 hours 50 minutes of baking. Now is your time to carefully take out the cake and quickly arrange your almonds in circular patterns. i did preheat it again at 140 C and it took a few minutes and then baked it for another 2 hours. If your skewer comes out perfectly clean you are done. Use a toothpick , no big skewer please to make little holes and feed the cake your whiskey.

Enjoy this crumbly yet rich cake with your afternoon tea.

I proudly am entering this with Kolkata food Blogger's Baking palooza 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Maa Ki Daal

Maa ki Daal 

India is the land of pulses. From thick creamy and spicy  dal to light and mild tasting dals . From coriander leaves to curry leaves the variety of pulses will amaze you. I like mine thick, smooth, creamy and silky.

This pulse originates in the Land of five rivers, "Punjab" the land of wheat, the land of cheerfulness , the colourful vivacious land of India. It is thick , creamy and utterly butterly delicious. Most people which included me as well till a few years ago would incorrectly think that Maa ki daal mena Mother's dal but such is not the case, Mah means mush in Punjab because this pusle is mushy, creamy and gorgeous. Of course mother's love is but incorporated in the recipe itself.

There were those good old times when the pulse after being soaked for 8 to 12 hours would be cooked overnight or till 12 hours for it rich thickness. Of course those were the times of large families, and huge cauldron of pulse.

Now there are a number of ways to cook the pulse, if you check recipes you shall find the internet overflowing with recipes for maa ki daal and different families have different takes on it. I am following one such mother's recipe from Punjab. Usually the food up in that lovely land is spicy , creamy and rich. The rela deal to getting the creamiest of creamy dals is to still cook it for over 3 hours and stirring constantly.

Using oil is completely inadvisable and would be similar to not using butter in a recipe for butter cakes. The melt in the mouth texture comes from cooking the pulse for 2 hours to 4 hours in case you pressure cook the pusle. Now generally in Punjabi homes there is a full flavoured garam masala ready to be used but of course  the ingredients of garam masala changes as per the different cuisines and for people who like variety for their it is best they use fresh small quantities of spcies to make garam masala because if you make a large amount of garam masala and store it for long it loses that robust aroma and flavour. This recipe calls for what I call the 4 ps of spcies (cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom)

Serves 3

What you need

3/4th cup of whole urad pulse
1/4th cup of rajma (use the big ones which take less time for cooking)
Salt as per taste
4 to 5.5 cups of water

4 heaped tbsp desi ghee
8 to 9 garlic cloves (These are Indian cloves of garlic which are much smaller in size than the large ones available elsewhere)

1.5 inch ginger
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large tomato roughly pureed

4 cloves
2 black cardamom
1 inch cinnamon
1 large bay leaf

1.5 heaped tsp cumin powder
1 heaped tsp red chili powder
1.5 tsp dry roasted and ground coriander powder
Pinch of turmeric

2 tbsp fresh cream
1 tbsp whisked / whipped yogurt
Chopped fresh corainder for garnishing
3 to 4 green chilies.
1 tbsp butter

Soak the pulse overnight and in the morning wash the pulse and put it in the pressure cooker with 4 cups of water. Cook on low flame for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let the pressure go down on its own.

 Now heat 2 tbsp ghee in a heavy bottomed kadai and add the finely  chopped onions and then add the roughly mashed ginger garlic , saute this till the raw smell of the spices change to a beautiful tempting one and the onions are translucent. crush your dry spices and add them and then add the roughly pureed tomato and the bay leaf . Cook on high for 1 minute and then simmer to cook the spices well.

Once you find the oil separating add the chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder along with turmeric an stir for 1 minute and then add the pulse. I had originally planned to cook the pulse for 4 hours but the amount being less I needed 2 hours inclusive of the boiling of the pulse .

So add your pulse. The 1 hour cooking should have made the pulse absorb all the water . So add 1 cup of water and simmer. Your flame must always be on low. All you need to do now is check every 10 minutes for the next 2 hours and keep stirring vigorously every 10 minutes to prevent the pulse from sticking tot he bottom. Keep a big ladle ready to mash the pulse after an hour of cooking.

Once the dal is thick and luscious  add 2 tbsp ghee and the yogurt and  mix well. You shall see a beautiful shine to tempt you. Keep stirring. If you feel its a bit dry another half cup of warm water and bring to a boil and switch off gas .   Take off from stove add the cream , butter and add 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves and 3 to 4 green chilies and serve immediately with hot and soft phulkas  or fluffy long grained basmati rice .


  1. For the summers 3 tbsp ghee is what I use
  2. I always grind my spices at home and it does make the dal extra delicious against packaged spices 
  3. At times I leave out the yogurt and it gives the dal a whole new flavour. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bacon sausage ham Rice

Bacon sausage ham Rice 

Some days are just for a quick fix comfort food. You need a quick meal which is loaded with your favourite things. So I had fresh bacon, ham, dried sausages , fresh celery and some rice. Ah you must already be knowing where I am headed

Serves 1

Half a cup of long grained rice
1 bacon with the fat
2 slices of ham
2 thin dried sausage
1/2 tsp chili flakes
Pinch of salt
1 cup water
1 stalk of celery
Olive oil for brushing
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion

Chop the bacon, ham and sausages. Mince the garlic and chop the celery stalk into very small pieces and finely chop the leaves. Just brush a wok or pan with olive oil and add the little bits of bacon and lower heat cover and wait for 2 minutes. Then you'l have some fat bubbling away and add the minced garlic and saute and then add the celery stalk and the ham and sausage , chili flakes  and then the celery leaves and spring onion and saute for 3 minutes and leave it aside on a bowl. Now add the rice in the wok and add the water and bring it to a boil and add the salt. Be careful with adding salt because bacon and ham will have salt in them when you shall later mix the rice with the meat. Now lower heat and cover and cook for 8 minutes to 10 minutes till the rice grains look separated and then switch off gas and leave for 5 minutes and then mix the rice with the meat and serve.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gatto Di Patate (Potato Pie all the way from Italy)

So when there is a special lunch to be prepared you take your time on deciding the menu. You read so many articles that you become confused and then suddenly you hit the jackpot. A treasure of a blog all the way from Italy. A dish which is cheesy, creamy, fluffy and meaty and one you  know you shall serve it no matter what. Extremely easy this one is a keeper. It seems this is very popular in both Sicily  and Campania . of course I did use locally smoked ham instead of mortadella but the end result was that every crumb was licked clean off the plate.

You need:

500gm potatoes
Pinch of nutmeg
8 tablespoonful of Parmesan cheese
100gm of mozzarella cheese
Salt as per taste
1 large egg
200gm of smoked ham
3 to 4 tablespoonful of unsalted butter
250gm breadcrumbs

Boil and mash potatoes with the egg, salt, nutmeg , butter and Parmesan cheese. Butter the pan and fill it with breadcrumb which helps in de-moulding the pie else it will stick to the sides and you can never get it out. So be generous when sprinkling with the breadcrumbs. Now fill half the pan with the mashed potatoes and press down with wet hands and top it with breadcrumbs , add your meaty layer and on top of it goes the thinly sliced mozzarella cheese and then the rest of the mashed potatoes and top it with a good amount of breadcrumbs. Bake in preheated oven of 180 C for 45 minutes. This is a real treat.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Triple Gateau Au Chocolat

Triple Gateau Au Chocolat 

 My dear friends were coming over and I had been planning my menu for over 3 weeks. I was excited like a child , giddy with joy and anticipation and trying to read up as many recipes as possible. You see I had a bit of confusion, should it be the Dobostorte rich, dark, with a caramel layer, the elegant Opera Cake or the ever Classic Triple Gateau Au Chocolat.

Playing tic tac toe I suddenly decided Gateau au Chocolat it would be. I searched high and low for the perfect recipe and boldly tried out my own with amalgamation of two different recipes for the chocolate cake base. It was french yolk based utterly silky and sensuous chocolate buttercream frosting and of course a ganache layer to top it all. In this season of strawberries I but naturally used those plump , juicy, sweet and sour berries because not only are they the sensation of the season , they cut down on the sweetness of the cake and works wonderfully well inside one's mouth. Imagine fluffy, soft, moist , firm yet light cake with a creamy buttery lighter than mousse frosting topped with dark , bitter yet delightful chocolate ganache giving it the perfect vintage coat for this winter. Triple for the triple indulgence - chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache :)

So here comes the cake, ta tah ta tah:

For the base

6 eggs
300gm all purpose flour
Baking powder (3 tsp)
4 to 6 tablespoonful of Sour Cream (I made homemade substitute of sour cream with heavy cream and buttermilk and allowed them to ferment for 24 hours before usage)
300gm of castor sugar
200 to 220 gm of butter
130gm of cocoa powder

For the chocolate butter cream frosting

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4th cup water
200 to 300gm of tempered dark chocolate
250gm unsalted butter
200gm double cream

For the ganache

300gm dark chocolate
20gm butter
60gm double cream

I usually always start by baking the base a day ahead of serving because it not only lessens the pressure of the kitchen on the D-Day but helps in holding the frosting better. I also bake it in two batches and bake the cake batter twice by dividing the ingredients. Preheat ovent o 180 C and Start by sifting the baking powder and flour together and then moving on to creaming your butter with the sugar and when it is properly creamed add the eggs one by one mixing thoroughly. Fold your flour baking powder mixture but soft it once again before folding it because that helps in creating a light fluffy texture of the cake. Add your cocoa powder but sift it while adding it and then fold it . here you will find the mixture very thick and so add the sour cream. Fold gently because over mixing will cause the cake not to rise perfectly. bake at 180C for 47 minutes to 50 minutes. I use a convection oven and so my timing is more than what an OTG would require so lessen the time to 40 minutes in case of using OTG. Check if cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the center and if it comes out clean you are done. Wrap in plastic leaving one side open and work on the frosting the next day.

Here are some tips :

  1. Do not ever open the door even by mistake during the baking
  2. After the toothpick insert let it rest in the oven for 10 minutes 
  3. Let the cake cool down completely before trying to de-mould it else some of it remains stuck to the baking pan. 
Before frosting the cake. First cut the cakes to make four pieces the next morning. 

For the butter cream frosting 

Make the butter-cream using the French butter-cream method with the given amount of ingredients in thsi recipe 

Prepare ganache 

Temper chocolate on double boiler , take care not to seize the chocolate add cream and butter and mix really well. Now while it is in the liquid state use a spatula to gently spread all over the cake. decorate with strawberries and serve. Your guests will definitely remember this cake. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Just a little mention of all those people without whom my kitchen would have never come alive. Be it the honest old man who sits with his lemon, herbs (corainder, mint, chives, dill) and always charges honestly. When the rest of the market charges Rs3 per lemon , he gives them for Rs1.5 , when other demand Rs50 a kilogram for tomatoes his price is always at Rs40 or say the green coconut seller who sits at the end of our residential street and starts his day at 6 in the monring screaming " Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye, daab niye ja aye aye aye ) "Come , come , come , come , come come come have some "daab" (green coconut water) come come come all day long and takes the trouble of delivering the coconuts right to our doorstep even on those days when it is not required. On several occasions when he has seen my now old wolf of a father from far away  carrying heavy bags he has leapt to his aid and taken the trouble of running to get the bags keeping his business on hold.

Should I not be grateful to the shop which imports cheese in blocks and then gives it at affordable prices or the grocery man in New Market who knew I wanted the imported paprika but couldn't afford to take 500gm of it and opened the pack in front of my eyes and gave 100gm at a throwaway price. He always gives everything at a discounted rate.

I am glad I have a chicken butcher who gives fresh tender chicken 99% of the times and always lends a ear to those rare moments of complaint and a an ever smiling fruit seller who selects the best of the lot for me. His sons though does not have his sharp eye does make up for it by asking me to return any fruit I am dissatisfied with and though I did not return it once he gave another batch for free.

Most of all I am glad that all the people I deal with understand the value of money. They wouldn't send you those snooty outright insolent looks that those people from supermarkets give you if you put back a product. Some might say its marketing skills but they would ask you to have some tea and make small talk. I might complaint about the wonder of man, animal and vehicle all trying to overrun one another while going to the market or the filth but I am glad I deal with warm blooded warm hearted people full of life in an electric environment instead of those cold lonely isles.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Aloo Da Parauntha

 While I do love most cuisines from around the world which but naturally include all those lovely variants of India Punjabi cuisine made the authentic way remains one of my top picks and here is why. The land of five rivers has this exquisite robust cuisine spicy creamy delicious. Traditionally the food would be cooked in pure "sudhdh" homemade "ghee" (clarified butter) and i do not see why it should be changed one bit. The real essence is in the spoonful of homemade butter added to most dishes making it a delicious affair to remember for all your senses.

Aloo Da parauntha (Stuffed Potato flat bread cooked on a girdle with "sudhdh desi ghee" is a delicious treat. To me this delectable filling dish made without ghee is like cheese sauce minus the cheese, or pizza without any tomato base or french toast without eggs, its just not the same without the aroma of ghee filling your kitchen and a puffed up flatbread with enough stuffing to make it a gorgeous meal. I mean if you want to be healthy you eat steamed vegetables with poached fish or chicken on the other days , why take your revenge on the aloo da parauntha ?

Basically it is a simple recipe but takes some practice to be perfected. While I have come across many a person from the very land from which this dish originates put in different spices etc I like mine robust spicy and full of flavour. I followed two amalgamated recipe and this is what I have. due to the seasonal change my ghee was kind of clotted and so I used heaped teaspoonfuls. Juts before I was about to start I found out that my homemade garam masala has finished off and so off I went dry roasting my spices for garam masala and filling my kitchen with that tempting seductive aroma.

For the dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 heaped dessertspoonful of thick clotted ghee
1 cup warm water

For the filling

2 large potatoes
Half cup finely chopped coriander leaves
5 to 6 finely chopped greenchilies
2 heaped tsp ginger paste
2 heaped tsp garlic paste
1 onion finely minced
2 tsp freshly homemade garam masala
1.5 heaped tsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp chili powder
1 heaped tsp cumin powder
2 heaped tsp mango powder

8 heaped semi solid dessertspoonful of ghee (clarified butter)

Boil the potatoes to a stage where they can easily be mashed to a pulp. While it boils make your dough. Now the success of paraunthas or any flatbread depend upon your skills of making the dough. Keep kneading well for a long time and you have fluffy beautiful soft paranthas. Keep it aside for 1 hour wrapped in wet cloth. I sued a pressure cooker to cook my potatoes, took them out smashed them with the back of a fork and left them aside.

Next comes the making of the filling. Chop your chilies and coriander. Make it as fine as possible to prevent poking out of the filling. Add the spices and make a smooth paste without nay lumps. Make them into little balls and then taek the dough and knead it for 2 minutes and make four big balls .

Now there are a number of ways to put in the stuffing but after numerous failures what worked like magic for me was to roll out the dough a little bit , add the stuffing and then seal it, using wet hands while sealing helps me. Seal them in such a way that it forms a ball. Roll out on a flour dusted surface but use the pressure carefully else little bits will poke out. Now take your girdle and add 1 heaped dessertspoonful of ghee and ad your parauntha. Press the sides and when it puffs up a bit add 1 dessertspoon of ghee on top and flip and cook till all done and puffed up a bit. Once done add a dollop of unsalted butter.

Serve with homemade curd and I did use homemadeHara Bhara Chutney . The yogurt is a great balancing ingredient for all that ghee and the hara bhara chutney is just delicious with the paraunthas.

P.S. The one who was exceptionally happy was the grizzly bear who fondly recalled the numerous times he had passed through Punjab and would indulge in "exactly these type" of deliicous aloo da parauntha

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter vegetable curry

Winter vegetarian Medley from Bengal

There is a crispness in the air. The mornings are cool and the cotton socks have become mandatory. The cats dry and bask in the sun, the flowers bool with all their might and the offerings of the vegetable market is a sheer delight.

I was delighted when my favourite Aunt M (Mimi) called me over for a quick chat and a delicious meal on Monday and sent over some homemade "vadi" (dried lentil cones made at home) Not to be mixed with the spicier Punjabi Vadi these special Bengal bori as we call them can be bought at most grocer's but of course the asafoetida flavoured homemade "bori" is a class apart.

There is a special reason why all my Bengali recipes can be attributed to this one beautiful aunt of mine. So any other Bengali might ask me what might be so special about her cooking. That is exactly what I shall tell you today. You see as a child I was hyper sensitive to heat and spice in food and to some extent some emotive problems with the extra usage of turmeric giving the dishes an extra artifical colour. While at my home half the days would be spent either having Plain short grained aromatic rice with boiled potatoes and butter with fried fish it was a different story when I spent my weekends at my "mamarbari" some 15 minute walk away from my own home. Not only was there my Grandmother but her food was more adult friendly and again I was stuck with fried fish and plain rice, it was at my Mimi's that I developed my taste buds for Bengali food. They were always full flavoured yet mild, without too much heat from chilies. her chilies would always retain the original colour making it easier for me to avoid them. It seemed healthy and was extremely delicious. Over the years I did develop a palate which appreciated extremely spicy food and extremely mild food as well but the simple flavoured recipes are what I mostly crave.

This one is a medley of winter vegetables.

What one needs

2 medium sized Cauliflower cut up in medium sized florets
1 large Eggplant
1 massive sized Potato
A little more than a handful of Seem / Flat beans
Carrots (Optional)
Homeamde "bori, dried lentil about 10 of them, these were small sized ones) If you do not have homemade ones you can of course substitute with store bought ones
Mustard Oil
Salt as per taste
1 tsp sugar
Half cup milk
1 to 1.5 tsp Panch phoron (Five spice from Bengal) Now there is a lot of debate on the correct spices sued in Panch Phoron but the 4 ingredients which remain intact are fenugreek seeds, radhuni/ajmod , Kalonji /nigela seeds and fennel seeds, the fifth disputed one is among mustard seeds and cumin seeds. So use it as per your liking. I have seen my father's house using cumin seeds and I have seen people use mustard seeds as well. Mix these in equal proportion.
2 medium sized bay leaves
2 to 3 dried red chilies
2 slit green chilies
1 to 1.5 tablespoonful of coriander leaves
1 large tomato pureed from before (You can blanch it and then blend it and cook it with sugar and salt or simply make a paste)

The fresh smell of coriander leaves and the mild taste yet beautiful aroma and flavour makes this dish really delicious. Start by cubing the eggplants in not very small pieces because Eggplants easily overcook in water. Make medium sized cauliflower florets. Dice the potato smaller than the other two vegetables. Chop the flat beans in squares.

First fry your boris/vadis golden brown and take them out.

Now use about 3 tablespoonful of mustard oil and saute the vegetables in the order of cauliflower first, then potatoes, eggplants and the flat beans. I use this trick to covering them for quicker cooking.  Add enough water to cover the vegetables and after bringing them to a roaring boil  and yes do add the boris /vadis as well take out the eggplants and bori or vadi else they will get overcooked. When the other vegetables are half done. Check with a fork , add the eggplants and cook till all are cooked and transfer to a bowl along with the remaining water . Now add 2 tsp oil and add the five-spice , bay leaves and dried chilies, when the spices splutter add the tomato paste /pureee and then add the vegetables with the remaining water and add the milk. bring to a moil and then simmer and add the coriander leaves. Cook for 7 minutes and serve hot with rice. This is a typical Bengali vegetable dish. It is called "Niramishi jhol" (Vegetarian soupy curry) which means it is a soupy vegetable curry and so this cannot ideally be teamed with chapatis.

Placki Ziemniaczane (Polish Potato pancakes)

Santa paid a visit to my home in the middle of the night. My Ping Pong came back. I was sadly sleeping with Ting Ting when at 4 in the morning I heard a maeow which got my heart racing. I shot away to the kitchen to find my mother feeding a dirty , half his original sized Ping Pong.

Ah the joys of having my darling return back to us. (A Bengali would say "ghorer Chele ghore phireche" The boy has returned back to his family where he belongs). I actually had a motive for waking up that early. I did have the little bit of work from a Project left and somehow I always find that I produce my best work after a good night's rest early in the morning when the silence is your only companion and then comes the chirping of the little winged friends.

I knew that the day would start off with celebrations and what better way to start a day than try the one recipe I had been eyeing for a pretty long time. You see this one comes straight from Poland. Someone's Nanna (grandmother) passed on her recipe and her sweet grandchild was kind enough to share the recipe. So Placki Ziemniaczane it was today morning. Delicious hearty potato pancakes served with sour cream. I did replace sour cream with my homemade Chili Garlic dip . Of course somehow Poland always makes me think of sausages, juicy tender, delicious sausages though I have never been to Poland or tasted its famous sausages and of course Warsaw and in turn the second movement of Moonlight Sonata , that one is all on Roman Polanski.

I have this habit of trying to simply know more about a recipe and a quick search made me realize how the world is connected with this one recipe. There are variants of the recipe across Eastern Europe and even one from one of the land of Kebabs, Iran. It can be served as a savoury dish topped with meat sauce with a side of sour cream or even served sweet with apple sauce.

Of course some recipes with their ingredients scream success right from the beginning. with Polish Nanna's recipe in hand I happily grated the potatoes, onions mixed by batter, shallow fried them and we had a beautiful family breakfast. Everyone declared it a raging success. And why wouldn't it be delicious it has potatoes, eggs, flour . I know not of any person who dislikes potatoes. I am not saying there isn't that odd man in an ocean of potato lovers but no I haven't seen it. Serve this for breakfast for your kids and see them gulp down this delicious pancake.

P.S. The glowing happiness of my grandmother on hearing her "Ping- oo" is back is a moment I shall carry with me forever. Unfortunately her allergy of eggs exempted her from the family fun but I have something planned for her for later during the day. Today I shall celebrate till the sun  waves goodbye and the stars shine brightly and beyond as well.

This recipe is as easy as a recipe can get

You need:
3 large potatoes
1 large sized egg
1/4th and a little bit extra all purpose flour
1 small to medium sized onion
Salt and pepper as per taste
Oil for shallow frying

Sour cream for serving

Start by grating the potato and onion and squeezing out every last drop of its juices. I not only squeezed them with by hands. I left them on a big mesh strainer for 20 minutes after squeezing them . There will of course be the starch at the bottom of the pan on which you place the strainer which you would have to discard  . Now simply beat an egg and add a bit of flour and a bit of potatoes and make a smooth batter with salt and pepper . Take a girdle and use 1 to 2 tablespoonful of oil per cake , shape them with wet hands (wet hands help in shaping them easily) into flat circular patterns and shallow fry on both sides till golden brown on low to medium heat. Once you put the batter on the girdle spread out a bit with the back of your spatula to make thinner cakes if you desire so but after flipping them do press them for quicker cooking. Simply serve this with sour cream or a garlicky dip. i cannot wait to get my hands on some fresh sausages and next time eat it with meaty sauce on top. Ah the joys of life. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mixed grilled chicken

So my original plan was to make some Cajun spice but as we all know when freelancers do not get work they have all the time in the world and once they are loaded with work it is as if they have not even 1 minute to spare. So I have been a bad girl and have not made my Cajun spice but then I wanted spicy jazzy herb grilled chicken.

So there I was marinating my chicken with dried oregano, thyme, dill , chili flakes, salt and oliv eoil when it hit me that I could jazz it up with some of my special homemade garlic dip. 1 hour of marination and grilling later I was a woman who was happy.

What I used

300 to 350gm chicken pieces
1 tsp dried oregano
Half  tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried thyme
Half a tsp red chili flakes
Salt as per taste
Olive oil
1 heaped tsp of Creamy garlic

Just mix everything together and let it get marinated for 1 hour to 2 hour sand grill away. team with a nice salad and you have a lovely healthy lunch. I suggest the beautiful Healthy Okra with its caramelized flavour to cut down on the spiciness. 

Healthy Okra

Imagine you have enough work to drown yourself into but how do you wave goodbye to hunger. I am sure none of us would want those tyres around our waist. Lets say you are tired of the usual salad ingredients such as cucumbers, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc etc etc and you have seen those green delights in the refrigerator and your hands are itching to prepare something while your taste buds demand that you make non-slimy okras with that caramelized flavour keeping in mind that "health" is the key factor . There is of course that whey from having made homemade cottage cheese (Paneer) a few days ago.

So in a situation like mine this is what I did.

I took 200gm of okras
2 small onions
5 to 6 fat garlic cloves
Half a tablespoonful of finely chopped fresh dill leaves
Salt as per taste
Enough whey to boil the okras in.
2 tsp olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper

I brought the whey to a boil with a pinch of salt. I gently added my okras and let ti simmer for exactly 7 minutes. A minute more and they would have turned slimy. Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic and add onions just when the aroma of garlic begins to work its magic. Saute onions till translucent. Add okras and dill leaves and of course the hot cayenne  and salt and stir well to coat the okras and that's  it. Its as healthy as tasty as green . Team it up with some grilled chicken and you have a wonderful healthy lunch waiting for you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Carrot beet soup

My love for various soups started with various packaged soups available from Knorr in the mid 90s and then of course there were delicious soups we would have on a weekly basis from those lovely little Chinese joints of Calcutta. Of course there was a weekly chicken stew made by the old man who was quite young back then. Whether they came from a package or not it served the purpose of giving exquisite pleasure. You see when you are immersed in Russian folktales, Enid Blyton etc where all those characters have various kinds of delicious soups. Ah those descriptions how can you settle for a plate of rice and pulse and fish.

My Mamma was fine with it as long as she did not have to  work too hard. Time spent in the kitchen was complete wastage in her eyes. So there I was growing up on Knorr soups half the week and then even without realizing I grew up, discarded any packaged item like the plague when there was a healthy alternative at home and so the love affair continues and of course I tease my mother to no end.

Soups are always warm comforting and healthy, many an article says that a bowl of soup before a meal curbs appetite and you end up eating less yet getting all the nutrition from the soup itself.

Ah Winter my love, the riot of colours everywhere is a pleasure alright and I craved love, I craved any shade of red and so carrot and beet soup it was on a gloomy Sunday evening. The weather has been gloomy right from the start of the day and this soup just added that much required splash of colour or I had 3 carrots and 2 beet roots which needed immediate cooking. :D

I did talk about the immense power of a simple chicken stock and this is the perfect example of how it can jazz up a simple soup. Feeding vegetables to your children will never be a problem again.

What went in

3 medium sized carrots
2 small beetroots
700ml to 800ml Chicken stock (from an earlier post)
Salt as per taste
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp (fresh)  finely chopped dill leaves
Pepper as per the hotness you can handle. (use freshly ground pepper for superior taste)
4 to 5 medium sized pressed garlic
1 small - medium sized onion

Dice the carrots , onion and beet , press the garlic. Saute the garlic in olive oil till that intoxicating beautiful aroma hits your nostril. Add the onions and saute a bit and then add the carrots and beet and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add half of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered till vegetables are cooked thoroughly. Drain the vegetables and let ti cool and then blend away with a little bit of chicken stock to make a smooth paste. It has to be smooth. One useful tip for making it smooth is to use a small blender and blend it bit by bit. transfer everything to a big pot , add all the chicken stock and then bring to a slow boil and add salt and pepper . remember that the chicken stock will already have salt content so add carefully.  Simmer till desired consistency is reached. Since the vegetable has already been pureed it does not take much time and then you have a lovely bowl of thick delicious colorfulness waiting for you to slurp away.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Stuffed Bell peppers

Stuffed vegetables are loved all over the world be it the "Potoler Dolma" (stuffed pointed gourd from an Eastern region of the Indian sub-continent) to stuffed bitter gourd, stuffed tomatoes and even the meaty stuffed eggplants from turkey. In the beginning of this year I had hosted a small special birthday party for my little cousin brother.

Wanting to serve something different yet easy I read through thousands of recipes. While it is easy to put together a dinner party for people who have fewer dietary restrictions and have an ever evolving taste bud which readily accepts new taste I knew that my guests were particularly expecting me to put together something European. Not wanting to simply serve Italian pasta and it being the hot month of April pies and other such heavy dishes were immediately chucked out. Ah I knew I had hit upon my pot of gold when I came across this Romanian recipe called "Ardei Umpluti" a delicious stuffed bell pepper (usually rice, meat etc) dish cooked in a tomato base from the beautiful country of Romania. Later I did watch a beautiful culinary programme on one of National Geographic's channels where Turks have claimed that they were in fact the inventors of stuffed bell peppers which then spread over to other parts which is quite possible given their history. Anyways whosoever might have invented it this dish is a superb culinary triumph. Though essentially a winter's dish it can be cooked throughout the year. Now you can simply let your imagination flow when it comes to the stuffing. That first time I had put together mushrooms with small grained rice , three different kinds of meat, spicy pork sausages, lean ham and mince chicken and two variants of cheese which of course was a great triumph and why wouldn't it be . Just check the ingredients. :)

Well well I have created variants of the dish by sometimes leaving out the tomato sauce base entirely.

Today I found three beautiful bell peppers sitting in my refrigerator and immediately decided I wanted stuffed bell peppers for lunch. I had about 1 hour in my hands and it takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours to just make the tomato sauce and so did not have time to make the tomato sauce but the end result was wonderful for a daily meal. Stuffed with lean meat(chicken mince) , short grained rice, fresh herbs etc and oh mama was it a delicious meal even without the sauce. I did have as I always do, some lovely chicken stock handy which saved the day. P.S. I did have some homemade stored sauce made out of roasted bell pepper, garlic and onions which I used.

Total time taken :50 minutes to 1 hour

3 large bell peppers
1/2 cup uncooked rice
2 to 3  cups chicken stock
1 stalk of fresh dill leaves
1 tsp chili flakes
A good pinch of dried thyme
3 tablespoonful of grated cheddar
Salt as per taste
Pepper as per taste
Roasted bell pepper sauce 4 tablespoonful /You can replace it with homemade tomato ketchup
1 tablespoonful of finely minced garlic
200gm to 300gm of minced chicken
Half a small bowl of shelled peas
Olive oil for brushing the peppers and the pan and 1 tsp to 2 tsp for frying

Start by washing the bell peppers and patting them dry. Cutting the top and scooping out the contents but reserve the heads to be used for baking at a later stage . Brush the peppers with oil and use salt on the outside and Preheat oven to 220C and then bake the peppers for 30 minutes bottom side up since you would bake the contents again with the stuffing inside bottom side down later on. Do brush the baking pan with oil.

While the peppers bake cook the rice in 1 cup of chicken stock and then heat 1 tsp oil saute the garlic and add the minced meat , peas and then the roast bell pepper sauce. Finely chop the dill leaves and throw that in and the thyme and then finally the cooked rice with salt and freshly ground black or white pepper and the chili flakes.  Once the bell peppers are done in the oven now stuff them with the rice mix and cheddar cheese and put the heads on and bake at 220C for another 20 minutes to 30 minutes till they are well baked and soft. Check after 20 minutes and if the softness is as desired stop baking else bake for 5 more minutes and check and so on and so forth so that you do not end up overcooking. Let it cool and serve a delicious yet healthy lunch.

As I have always believed using everything that is homemade enhances taste, so reaching for that can of chicken stock or tomato sauce does diminish the taste.

Eierpfannkuchen (Egg Pancakes)

Now there are many a that I scribble down but when its good it goes straight to my "fair copy" , but to be fair this had straightaway gone to the fair copy . This one is a star recipe . My dear virtual friend Claudia had shared her beautiful recipe for pancakes. You see,  I used to foolishly think that pancakes automatically means it would have baking powder in it but with a lovely discussion and reading up of as many articles as possible it seems there is a whole world of pancakes out there. Explore them people, it will amaze you and would want you to try all of them. This one is , what word am I thinking of?Oh yes stupendous , amazing, "perfekt" . Thin, thin as it can be , milk based with an egg of course this one is sure to put you in the best possible mood. This was one long due. I had planned to make this some weeks ago but you know what happens , nevertheless better late than never. Besides I made way too much mousse the previous day and with the mousse as filling this one is a culinary beauty. Try this one. It is just a piece of heaven.

I have been a "Difficult daughter" in the past and with today I prove that I am not a "Desirable daughter" either. Her recipe yielded three thin delights and I gobbled them all up or I am just too much in love with Manju kapoor and Bharati Mukherjee's novels. :)

Serves 1:

1 egg
150ml of milk (I used toned milk)
70gm of all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
Filling of your choice (Chocolate sauce, Nutella, honey, Creme Chantilly or anything that you like)
1 dessertspoon of butter to just butter the pan.

Whip the egg, add a bit of milk and bit of sifted flour and sugar. I did sift them. Whisk real well. Just brush the girdle with butter.

Brush it with butter and pour the batter and use the back of a ladle to spread it out to make  those beautiful thin pancakes. Be careful and work fast else you risk the chance of tearing the pancake. Once golden browned on each side, transfer them on a workable surface, add the filling fold and enjoy.

Use your filling and let your morning start with perfection.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mousse au Chocolat (Raymond Blanc)

The Great Blanc and my love for Mousse au chocolat

Mousse au chocolat is probably one of the most beloved desserts of all times. Read enough articles and you shall be amazed at hoe many variants there can be. From light, airiness to a rich smoothness. Now the preference of course varies and there is no harm no foul in what you like. Talking about myself, I love the airy , airy airy kind, smooth yet so light that it disappears inside the mouth the moment you take a spoonful of this delicious dessert. Ever since that first accidental video I watched seeing the great Blanc at work I fell in love head over heels with his work. You see there are of course brilliant chefs around the world but this one self taught man is so gentle so warm that it seems as if he is your neighborhood darling Uncle with a bag full of stories of his Maman Blanc. His work has that perfection which can be achieved easily at home and yet not obsessively  professional . His work is like a waltz beautiful, charming, special. And this man who has received the OBE award for perfecting his culinary skills from the Queen of England is all self taught.

So I was quite satisfied with the mousse I would make with yolks and whites of the egg and a little cream and then I watched Raymond Blanc at work and there was just something about it and so I switched to his Maman Blanc's recipe. Aaaah! Light oh so light, airy, yet creamy with that perfect taste of chocolate. It does take a bit of time to perfect the recipe due to the absence of the yolks which means you have to be quicker than a cat for the perfect results. 2 trials and now I am no fire with mousse all because of Blanc. So it was a perfect starting to this wonderful dessert which the man of the hour says is worth "taking 10 minutes of your time" for.

 I leave it to set and well 3 hours pass by and setting but still jiggly nothing. I leave it yet for another 2 hours and yet not fully set. Ah "the abominable snowman" the "bashi bazouk" of that refrigerator which has auto-defrosting and today was the day the " nincompoop " had decided to defrost. No worries by 5 hours it was mostly set. I used a trick of 10 minutes in the freezer for that heaven in a bowl. You see ever since my ears were pulled hard enough for them to become red for using the term "damn" I am familiar with the house rules. So Captain Haddock is my only source of expletives. if only the old man knew the kind of expletives that flow freely today.

This also takes me back to my first date. The old man's rule was if a boy wants to take you out he must first consult with me. So while every other person I knew was sneaking to a date my scared little date had to call him up to ask his permission. Permission granted with the strictest of orders of returning the daughter before 9 p.m. which was followed but not before the date treated me to one of the best mousse in town. To be fair my family was and is still highly partial to the oldest bakery in town which does not still serve mousse and I hadn't tasted it before that cold night in a relatively new but over 25 year old bakery.  Needless to say the "date" was lost with growing up but the taste captivated me. The Old man is not sexists , in fact he is more progressive than most people of this country or even of most of the world but that would be a different kind of post altogether.

It is basically a 5 ingredient mousse

7 egg whites
170gm of good dark chocolate
40gm of castor shifted sugar
A few drops of lemon juice
Cocoa powder in case you do not know the percentage of dark chocolate

There are some rules to be followed :-

  1. The utensils used for whipping the whites must be bone dry without a drop of fat. One drop and it will all be ruined. Fat is egg white's enemy. 
  2. Since in India you do not get the percentage of cocoa solid there is no way of knowing the percentage of dark chocolate and so keeping some cocoa powder handy is useful if you are like me and like your normal chocolates with a minimum of 80% cocoa solid. 
  3. Tempering the chocolate properly is extremely important. You cannot use too much heat so that it seizes (becomes a grainy mass) 
  4. You have to be quicker than lightning when working with the egg whites and chocolate together else the chocolate seizes with the egg whites coming in contact with the warm chocolate. I perfected it not before trial and error of 2 times. :D but then what are Blanc's videos for eh? 
  5. When melting chocolate remember the container in which you put the chopped chocolate should eb bone dry. One drop of water and chocolate will seize. 

The egg whites

So start by bringing a container of water to a simmer and chop your chocolate as fine as you can, it helps in melting it properly. Put the chocolate in a clean bowl and place it top of the simmering water. In the meantime quickly whip up your egg whites with a few drops of lemon (the lemon helps prevent the whites from collapsing even if you whip it for a long period) and when they form soft peaks add the sugar after sifting it and whip to firm peaks. 

Now keep an eyes for the chocolate as well and use a spatula to make a smooth treat for the eyes. 

Now is your time to add the cocoa powder if required as per taste and in case you do not know what percentage of dark chocolate you are working with. use 1 heaped teaspoonful of cocoa powder and mix real well, taste and if required add one more tsp . Work very quickly. Then very very quickly add 1/3rd of the egg white and mix well with spatula. Remember not to use the whisk anymore else you knock the bubbles down and your mousse becomes a thick mass, this is the time to be faster than lightening else you will be left with little bits of chocolate after the mouse sets. 

Quickly mix the rest of the egg white and mix well and pour in bowls or dessert goblets and let it set for 2 to 3 hours or if it takes more time be patient. 

Since I have already explained my situation with the refrigerator, I did pop it in the freezer after 5 hours for 10 minutes and it set beautifully.