Friday, November 29, 2013

Bhate bhat

True Blue Bengali affair "Bhate-Bhat" 

- Comfort food from all Bengali homes 

No generation is better or worse than the other

A true blue simple Bengali affair, tasty , healthy and so easy. This one meal evokes so many emotions in me that I do not even know how to begin. It evokes childhood memories when I refused any food items with any spice even cumin and so stuck to this simple yet delicious affair. Boiled "atop chal" (the short grained rice used for kheer) with mashed potatoes , mashed with "gaoya ghee" (Ghee from cow's milk) an array of vegetables all boiled and mashed either with butter , clarified butter or mustard oil and chilies and some might even have a hint of lemon. In Bengal we literally can boil and mash any vegetable perhaps other than brinjal , tomatoes and a few other vegetables. It is of course one of the greenest states of India.  This is my happy emotion but along with growing up you learn too many unwanted details such as how this was the preferred meal for widows of Bengal whose lives were  devoid of any pleasures and some mind you were not above the age of 10 years. I wonder how generations of men and women could bear to sit down for meals with extravagantly cooked pulses, fish etc while little girls or older girls or mature women who were part of the family were forbidden from all pleasures. No,  the excuse of "times were different" is not good enough. I am just glad times have changed. Anyways while a rage fills my heart thinking of uncounted number of suppressed little girls and women this meal does give me the assurance that in their own little worlds they found a way to make meals so delicious with the simplest of items. perhaps this was the way they revolted, I can imagine a widow saying, "You deny me all spices here I make something which will be so tasty that generations after generations will love the taste be they poor or rich , with ample time for cooking or not" My way of remembering all those fantastic queens. The taste is pure comfort . Of course the boiled egg was an addition from a long time ago and this was a preferred breakfast food for many a household before school or after it etc.

Anyways so travel through India and you shall be fascinated , live in the country even a metropolitan one such as Calcutta and it will leave you short of screaming around pulling at your hair. There is this monthly problem of the refill of gas being delivered late and so everything goes up in flames. with no real gas-stove and a small little stove handy I gave into temptation and decided on the great Bengali meal.

I cooked for 1 person and so this is the amount that I required

Half a cup (250ml) of "atop chal" (short grained rice used for making rice pudding "kheer/ payesh" in India)
1 potato
100gm of pumpkin
Spinach leaves which renders a bowl of spinach
Less than half an onion sliced finely
2 to 3 tablespoonful of clarified butter made form cows (We Bengalis are very cautious and organized about our clarified butters, while the one made from Buffalo milk is used as a medium for cooking the one form cows goes straight on chapatis , rice etc)
1 to 2 tsp mustard oil
Salt as per taste
Chilies as per taste (I used 3 chilies)
1 wedge of lemon
1 egg

Pressure cook the boiled potato and pumpkin together. Boil the spinach. Boil your rice. Use twice the amount of water, bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 7 minutes checking from time to time. When simmering the rice add the egg and let it get cooked along with the rice.

Make mashed potatoes with clarified butter say about 2 tsp, salt and 1 green chili and make a ball. Mash your pumpkin with 1 tsp mustard oil, 1 green chili and salt with 2 to 3 drops of lemon and make a ball. use salt and sliced onion with half a tsp of mustard oil. De-shell the egg and mash a  bit and eat your rice with veggies. When serving add 2 tsp clarified butter  with the hot rice. Remember this meal must be taken piping hot.

Low calorie Orange, Carrot , Cucumber Chicken salad with an amazing bite

While I was drowning myself in aromatic robust flavoured rich Indian dishes I did not realize how much I was missing the simple taste of a simple salad at the back of my mind and so come Thursday I was hopped up on images of fresh salads. That is the funny thing about Calcutta's November , one night you feel cool comfortable and ready for soups and spicy delicacies and the next thing you know its hot again , you are sweating and you need summer salads. Besides what Europe traditionally calls Summers is probably what we call the winters at least the better part of it and to be honest warmer.

 So there I was hopped up on ideas of low calorie salads clicking , browsing, scribbling making quick notes of what is available in the refrigerator and what can be easily stocked from the market and so I note down at least 25 ideas for use and then decided on the fresh sweet taste of an Orange and carrot based salad which were lying in the refrigerator and needed given respect with a herb based dressing which provides the much required bite and a kiss of lemon. All I did was pay a visit to the fresh vegetable market the next day and stock up on some mint leaves while I had some celery and chives lying around. The real twist comes from the green chili which is freshly made in a paste for the chicken.

With a bit of input this turned out healthy delicious and a very satisfying lunch with the knowledge of health and a lasting taste.

What was tossed in

1 large sized red carrot
1 cucumber as fresh as possible
1 whole orange skinned

For the dressing

2 tsp finely chopped mint leaves
2 tsp finely chopped chives
2 tsp finely chopped celery
Juice of half a lemon or less
1 to 1.5  tablespoonful extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper as per taste

For the chicken

1 breast of chicken
1 to 1.5 tsp ginger green chili paste (I used half a chili for subtle taste but you can decrease or increase the amount as per your taste)
1 tsp olive oil

Start by first using a mallet to flatten the chicken and then marinate with the ginger chili paste, oil and salt and keep aside for 1 hour to 2 hours

Peel the cucumber and then use the peeler to shape the vegetables. The orange must be de-seeded and skinned. Assemble the salad and make the dressing. Here is an interesting tip I learnt from a book which deals with salads alone that I had borrowed from British Council quite some time back but do not remember the name. Never use the dressing from before, else it becomes watery but you can always assemble the salad and store it in the refrigerator. Whisk everything together to make a nice summery dressing.

Steam your chicken and then cut in stripes. Toss with vegetables , add dressing and ooh la la you have the perfect healthy lunch with a summery feel and the right bite. The surprise element from the green chili and ginger makes this a winner.

P.S. I used the micro oven at 900W to steam my chicken and it took 1.5 minutes on each side. Do not over steam your chicken lest they be stringy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Palak Paneer (Indian cottage cheese in spinach curry)

While washing chopping and prepping today I was taken back to a hot summer's evening earlier this year. My husband is a solar site engineer and so while I had visited him at site in Haryana we were invited by one of his juniors to dine with his family in the near-by village. While the initial thoughts regarding that day makes me find it hilarious, such as the young man telling me I should not take my husband's name and how I looked an appropriate wife in a churidar and hoe covering the head brings good luck. Most other days when he would come back with Arvind, I would be in trousers and a cotton overcoat. While I do believe in when in Rome do as the Romans do the idea of suffocating in the heat of June under a scarf was impossible. The family was wonderful and to be fair ti was the most delicious of meals I have ever had. The paneer and dal were exquisite , in no other restaurant of Delhi or Haryana have I tasted that good a dish, rather two dishes. I am naturally fond of clarified butter and it was my day. My remembrance of that day is more focused on the little girl I met in that household. Aged about 9 she was fascinated with this "sheherwali" , head uncovered, wearing a hint of lipstick and after the initial shyness remained attached to me throughout the visit. I guess children across borders in all states and nations are the same. They are full of questions, speak really fast when excited and are intrigued by anything which is different form their surroundings. In our 2 hour long conversation I did learn that her favourite subject was geography and that she loved "palak paneer" "Mujhe na palak paneer bohot hee pasand hai" (i just love palak paneer) (A beautiful curry made with cottage cheese and spinach) , what i do also distinctly remember is her telling me that she hates the kitchen and hates the idea of cooking. While I was craving palak paneer I could not but remember this little girl and could not help hoping that she never is pushed into the kitchen unless she expressly wants to. Here is remembering  you little girl , here is hoping that you travel the world and here is hoping you do whatever your heart wants you to do. With Amrit ji's recipe for palak paneer , cooked in clarified butter alone and chapatis with ghee on top this is an evening to remember. Here is to winters and all little girls and hoping they never are pushed into this activity that we all love against their will.

Anyways for those of us who do love cooking here is the recipe. Start by making the paneer. Its all in a  day's work.

For the paneer:

1 litre of whole milk
1 tbsp vinegar diluted with 1 tbsp water / 1 cup leftover whey

Bring the milk to a roaring boil and add the diluted vinegar or whey  . You shall see the cottage cheese forming in front of your eyes and when the whey has completely separated and you can see white clusters floating about in green water , turn off stove and cover and wait for 5 to 7 minutes. Then transfer everything to a clean thin cloth with a bowl underneath it to collect the whey and drain the water for not more than 10 minutes and then use a big flat bowl to transfer the content and press it down to a slab and then put a weight.

Now here is a trick. Many people use the "sil" of sil-nora. A slab of stone with an oval stone shaped object for grinding but while usign that would make yield set paneer it will be ahrd and we do not want our cottage cheese to be hard so press down with another plate and use something like a stone bowl or a heavy book, not one that can be thrown to injure people wink wink on top for a couple of hours. This way the paneer is  soft yet set perfectly. So lets say you start makign it at 11 a.m. , you should be done by 3 p.m. or say 4 p.m. Do reserve the water. It dishes a beautiful unmatched flavour to dishes when used.

For the palak paneer. Now I followed the recipe of Amritji but also took help from my over the years collected ones

So you have your :

1 big bunch of palak / spinach
1 heaped tsp to 1.5 tsp ginger garlic paste
Half a tomato
2 small but not tiny sized onions chopped very finely
2 to 4 green chilies
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
Juice of half a lemon or a bit less.

2 green cardamom
2 cloves
1 tablespoonful to 1.5 tablespoonful of Coriander powder
2 tsp Cumin powder
1 heaped tsp chili powder
Pinch of garam masala
Salt as per taste
Clarified butter about 5 to 6 tablespoon

Start by first thoroughly washing the spinach /palak leaves. The bets way to make certain that you get all the dirt is immersing them in a big bowl of water and washing them with your hands while changing the water twice or thrice or a greater number of times. Now palak is a leafy vegetable with high water content, so you need not add too much of water. Do add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to ensure that the green colour is maintained. In the meantime make a course paste of ginger and garlic, chop the onions as finely as possible and blend half the tomato.

Now blend you cooked spinach to a smooth paste. Add the chilies when blending and if you cannot handle so much heat just leave the chilies out.

Keep a bowl of warm water ready, I usually use the leftover water from the spinach. Cube the paneer and saute in clarified butter till golden but not beyond that and add them to the warm water. this step ensures that they stay soft and beautiful. Take some clarified butter and add your onions, saute till translucent. Add the garlic ginger paste and cook till done but not browned or worse burnt. Add the spices after smashing them with a mortar and then add the tomato and a wee bit of the spinach water to make a thick paste and add the coriander and cumin powder.  Now remember that too much cooking of spinach makes them loose colour. So add the spinach and bring to a  quick boil and then simmer and quickly add the paneer and  mix real well and add a pinch of garam masala and lemon juice with a bit of clarified butter and transfer to a bowl. The lemon juice aids digestion when taking leafy vegetables. Serve with hot flatsbread smeared with clarified butter.

Tip :-

If you have leftover whey from a previous paneer making session store it in the refrigerator and use it to make paneer the following time you are making it by bring the milk to a roaring boil and adding 1 cup of whey per litre of milk. It takes a bit of time to form the cheese but it gives the softest cheese ever

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin soup

Someone from the blogging world has rightly said that this is the "season of desserts" but this is also the season of soups, the season of reading under the blanket with a cup of warm chocolate for company. Anyways so it being a standard boring Monday it was time for some healthy soupy dinner.

While in Calcutta I wouldn't really go hunting for a sweater I am just grateful that I need not sweat with 5 minutes of walking or prancing or doing anything at all. The weather is cool and wonderful. The hands and feet are going dry and need constant moisturizing  and so does the body. I suddenly feel thirsty due to the dry season and soups are very hydrating and give so much warmth that it would anyways put a smile on your face.

Now there are somethings which if stored from before are the most helpful items in your kitchen, chicken stock being a very important ingredient. use it for soups, curries , other dishes and it magically enhances taste and flavour. Anyways so back tot he creamy pumpkin soup.

The ingredients are basic.

600gm of pumpkin
300 to 400ml of chicken stock
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
4 to 5 garlic cloves (the garlic cloves in Calcutta are quite small)
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
1 large bay leaf
200ml of skimmed milk
Olive oil 1.5 tablespoonful
Salt and pepper as per taste

Begin by first sauteing the onions and garlic in olive oil . i use a little trick of covering which cooks it faster without requiring too much oil. Then add the pumpkin and a bit of salt and cover and cook for 7 minutes and once the pumpkins are lightly browned add the stock and bay leaf and bring to a roaring boil and then simmer covered till pumpkins are well cooked. Drain, discard the bay leaf and then blend the pumpkin to a smooth paste. Add the rest of the chicken stock and bring to a slow boil with the milk , cinnamon , nutmeg. Simmer till consistency is very thick and enjoy it with some whole wheat bread.

Nawabi Murgh

Nawabi Murgh 

Fit for a nawab indeed. A nawab is a royal prince. This was one of the first recipes that I had collected and have probably cooked it for many a lunch party of dinner party. Easy to make with a regal taste this one sure does make you feel like a Queen or King. There is the aromatic clarified butter , the regal cinnamon and nutmeg, the rich taste lend by the cashew buts, poppy seeds and coconuts and of course not to for get the beautiful work of ginger garlic and onion chili paste. Now finding its exact origin is difficult because such is the delightful taste and with so many former princely states of India many a  princely state has claimed the recipe to be theirs but I would say this is essentially a part of  Awadhi cuisine and so Uttar Pradesh which houses some of the greatest historical marvels of India is the state from where this amazingly delicious cuisine was born. I can well imagine the Nawab of Awadh enjoying a delightfully scrumptious meal of this decadent dish before a musical concert.

I did learn to better the recipe over the years by say marinating the chicken for 1 hour which helps aid in faster cooking and results in a tastier dish.

Here is what you need

750gm of chicken cut up in medium but towards the small pieces
100gm pure clarified butter /ghee
About 300gm of whipped curd (300gm after it is whipped)
2 heaped tsp ginger paste
2 heaped tsp garlic paste
200gm of smooth onion paste (I usually make the paste with 2 green chilies)
2 tablespoonful of poppy seeds soaked in milk for 1 hour
1 large bay leaf
1 half of a coconut grated (I used a total of a handful of grated coconut + about 1 tablespoon for garnishing)
50gm of cashew nuts soaked in milk
Milk to soak the poppy seeds and cashew nuts in.
1 stick of cinnamon (which should yield 1 to 1.5 tsp of powdered cinnamon)
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tsp black pepper
Pinch of garam masala
2 tablespoonful of cream (optional)

So start by first marinating the chicken in 1 tsp garlic and 1 tsp ginger paste along with a little salt and keep is aside. Soak the poppy seeds and cashew nuts in milk. Once soaked for an hour blend the poppy seeds and cashew nut in smooth pastes. Whip your curd as well. After an hour first heat about 50gm of the clarified butter and on high heat saute your chicken to seal the juice in for about 2 to 3 minutes . Stir to make sure it does not brown one bit. keep it aside . Add the rest of the clarified butter , fry the rest of the ginger garlic paste and then the onion paste along with the bay leaf  and crushed cinnamon and cook on medium heat stirring constantly to make a beautiful spicy mixture. It should be well cooked. Add the yogurt and bring to boil while stirring constantly. The constant stirring when curd is added makes sure that the curd does not separate. Now slowly add the poppy seed paste and the cashew nut paste. It will almost immediately thicken so make sure heat is on low . Add a little water to the bowls in which the poppy seed, yogurt and cashew nut has been kept to make sure you get all its goodness and then add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for 15 minutes on low heat stirring from time to time to make sure nothing gets stuck at the bottom of the wok. Add the pinch of nutmeg and black pepper (optional) the grated coconut and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes till chicken is tender enough to melt in the mouth. I usually forgo the addition of cream in the end since the dish itself is so heavy and opt to garnish with grated coconut.

Serve hot with plain basmati rice or rice cooked with a stick of cinnamon and clarified butter.

Here is my recipe for a mild cinnamon rice which is the perfect base for this dish.

2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
1 stick of cinnamon
2 tablespoonful of clarified butter

Wash the rice and then soak with 4 cups of water  for 15 minutes (soaking aids in faster cooking) then drain and reserve water. Add the ghee to the drained rice as this makes sure that each grain remains perfectly separated. Then add the water and rice and cinnamon stick and bring to boil. Cover and simmer till rice is done. Once done keep covered for 7 minutes to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to a colander else the rice will take the shape of the container it is kept in and you can wave goodbye to the perfectly separated rice. Serve immediately with the chicken. Feel like a queen or king and enjoy your lunch or dinner :)

This is part of Kolkata Food Blogger's Kashmir to Kanyakumari Project

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spinach based winter curry from Bengal

Green winter valley from Bengal.

There are times when you cant stop feeling how lucky you are. My favourite and dear aunt M. The one who guided me when it comes to all Bengali affairs of the kitchen and what I like is her meticulous way of explaining things such as "Chop the brinjal larger than the other vegetables else they will become too soggy and break" or "don't add too much water when boiling spinach because  ti has a lot of water content in ti which will automatically come out while cooking" "When done with cooking Indian food if using chilies take a bit of water in the same kadhai and add thew chilies and use the spatula to get all that is stuck on the sides with vigorous stirring, this way the chilies maintain the green colour and its easy to clean the kadhai" , "Ektu ghee garam masala na dile ki taste ase sona , tumi exercise kore niyo " (darling without a bit of clarified butter and homemade garam masala the taste remains unsatisfactory)

She swims, she knits , she cooks , she cakes and what is astonishing is how perfect every thing she touches is. I was lucky enough to hear how her mother would keep a big trunk in which all the silver utensils were stored. She attributes most of her recipes to her mother which has eventually been passed on to me and so I can actually call these vintage old school Bengali recipes and boy do they taste good.

Whenever I feel at a loss I know which number to dial. This one is a simple affair a big bunch of spinach leaves, 1 potato, 1 raddish , half a brinjal, a bit of asafoetida, bay leaf, cumin seeds , ginger chili cumin paste , clarified butter, vadi, sugar and homemade garam masala and its a true blue Bengali affair. I am just counting my lucky starts that she came into our family many a decades ago :)

The affair is simple :

Half a brinjal
1 potato
A big bunch of spinach leaves cleaned thoroughly
1 radish
Clarified butter
Garam masala (homemade is preferable)
Mustard oil
1 to 2 tsp Ginger chili cumin paste
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2 slit green chilies
A pinch of asafoetida
A few vadis (dried lentil cones)
1 bay leaf
Salt as per taste
1 heaped tsp sugar. In case you do not like your dishes too sweet reduce it to 1 tsp or even half a tsp but we Bengalis especially people from the Western side of undivided Bengal like their curries with a hint of sweetness.

Dice the radish into very little pieces, the potatoes a bit bigger and the aubergine in chunks. Chop the spinach leaves. Boil everything but remember it has to be thick not watery . remember that spinach leaves have a lot of water content so use little water cover and cook. Heat mustard oil and first fry your vadi and put aside. Then add asafoetida, bay leaf , cumni seeda and when they splutter add the ginger cumin chili paste and then add the boiled vegetables and bring to boil , add salt and then simmer , covered till the vadi is well cooked. Since all vegetables are precooked it doesn't take much time . Add ghee and garam masala and simmer for another half a minute and then transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tabelspoon water in the same wok and put in two or three green chilies and use the spatula to get all that is stuck on the sides. Once most of the water has evaporated just add the chilies to the cooked dish. This way the chilies retain colour. Do not worry if there is a little bit of water in the bowl it will quickly set with the vegetables if left too dry it will become more dry .

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake 

Caramel , caramel oh my love Caramel 

My dear cousin brother A's birthday is coming up and I just had to bake a cake. What else does a sister do?  So come Thursday and I was torn between Gateau au Chocolat and Butterscotch cake with a caramelized frosting. Swayed this way and that way and finally settled for the Butterscotch since I had made quite a bit of chocolates a few days ago.

The end result was a rich creamy , buttery goodness for the taste buds and spun sugar for the eyes , a brother who gobbled up a little less than half of the cake and a very happy cook.

The recipe is simple:

For the cake one needs

225gm of all purpose flour
225gm of unsalted butter
100gm of castor sugar
125gm of brown sugar
Half a heaped dessertspoonful of baking powder. Now here is a tricky business with baking powder. Here in Calcutta I use Wiekfield's baking powder which clearly states that one should use 2 tsp for every 450gm so adjusted accordingly.
5 eggs (I used 5 since the sizes in India differs from the ones in many other countries.)
4 tablespoonful of cream

For the icing :

250gm of whipped cream (Amul worked fine with its 25% fat)
300gm of butter
Caramel made from 500gm sugar
5 egg yolks

For decoration
Moist praline

Start a day ahead with your cake. Divide the ingredients and start with half of the ingredients for the cake. Cream the butter, add the eggs one by one. Sift flour and baking powder and then further soft it in bit by bit. Add cream and make a smooth heavy batter.

Preheat oven to 180 C and bake for 40 minutes. I use convection which requires extra time . When using OTG lessen the time to 30 minutes or till skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Make the batter again and bake away. Store at room temperature overnight in a plastic wrap whcih ensures that the cake does not loose moisture.

The next day begin with first softening the butter at room temperature and then making the caramel. Remember that caramel is a tricky affair and is a demanding item and needs your full attention like a little child. One moment you take your eyes off it and the next moment you have burnt caramel. once it reaches a nice dark brown colour quickly add cream and make a caramel sauce. Let it cool down.

Use the French butter-cream method but with the given amount of ingredients for frosting in this recipe.

Now begin by first using a knife which has been held under hot water and wiped down to make two layers of the two cakes. Then first put a thin coat of icing and refrigerate for 10 minutes . This helps in holding the frosting better. Then frost away and use piping to decorate things.

Make your moist praline with caramelized sugar and almonds and a wee bit water and make little balls to decorate.

For spun sugar it is not possible to write down and explain things. You tube has many helpful videos.

Important tip :

The size of the cake pan used was 6 inch to 7 inch

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Potato Soup

Creamiest of the creamy healthy soups (Potato celery) 

I love this time of the year. The weather is cool , there is the promise of chilly days for maybe two weeks in January. Christmas is approaching which means feasts :) You can walk all you want and not perspire and puff as much as the rest of the year. There are comforting nights to look forward to where a mug of hot cocoa and a good book are your companions under a thin blanket. The markets are filled with colours.

Sighted the movie poster called "" ( , well so apt with all the monkey caps that Calcuttans insist on wearing. Its hilarious and so sweet.  Though how they do not sweat and fele hotter than a volcano shall always remain a mystery to me.

Anyways has it ever happened that a fresh ingredient dictates what you prepare. Ah two days ago I came back home with the freshest of celery leaves. For some unexplained reason all I wanted to have was potato celery salad. Then the evenings became cooler and well decided on a cream of potato soup. With potatoes, celery , onion, skimmed milk , a bit of pepper and a bay leaf  , 1 sausage crumbled and of  course replacing the 50gm butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil this was my magical Thursday. You see there was the one left and I wanted to badly have it :D Besides I once saw a soup being prepared with crunchy bacon crumble on top and that has always tempted me. So though mine were not crunchy bacon the beautiful sausages had their own magical power. The creamiest of soups I have had in sometime. This one is so comforting that all you want to do is to have bowls of soup. In case you have bread with this just skip the sausage, though 1 sausage crumbled and  shared between 3 people is not that unhealthy. Cheers to health and taste. Not to forget the chicken stock which lends its magical taste to the soup.

Its simple, its easy

You need:

100gm potatoes
5 stalks of celery minus the leaves
2 tsp finely chopped celery leaves
1 medium but on the smaller side onion
700ml chicken or vegetable stock. Here is a recipe for Chicken stock
300ml of toned milk
1 tablespoonful of olive oil
1 sausage . In case you are not using the sausage increase the amount of olive oil to 2 tablespoon.
Salt and pepper as per taste

So dice the potatoes and celery and onion and sausage. Gently heat the oil and saute the sausage and quickly add the rest of the matter and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes covered and all . take out the sausages and keep aside. Now I always have chicken stock in the freezer so used 700ml of that (in case the stock is too salty with too much flavour  dilute with water and use that, mine was very salty and so I used 450ml of water and 250ml of stock)  , freshly ground pepper and covered and cooked for 12 minutes or till potatoes are easily mashed with a fork. Drain and then make a smooth blend of the vegetables with the stock so that everything is smoother than a smoothie. Add all the stock and 300ml of toned milk. Bring to a very gentle boil. Add salt if necessary. Remember that the chicken stock would already have some salt in it and so adjust accordingly. Potato being starchy and the key ingredient of creaminess will otherwise burn and become lumpy. Crumble sausages and add that and serve garnished with finely chopped celery leaves. If not using the sausage use bread and 2 tsp butter :)

P.S. For those who are living in Calcutta I srongly recommend paying a quick visit to Kalman's Cold storage at Free School Street for their amazing Hungarian sausage. While there you can pick up some deliciosu cold cuts and meat as well.

Poached with a bit of cilantro , a bit of parsley

Recently overheard a conversation in a restaurant about how health food dishes have no taste , are meant for people with no interest in food. This is while they were devouring a lovely cheesy baked fish dish. No, no I wasn't being impolite and either staring or eavesdropping but the tables were so close and the seats arranged in such a way it was what it was. God that makes me chuckle. With so many ingredients, so much of option how is it that healthy does not meet tasty. Of course taste is very subjective :P

Anyways coming back to today's lunch this one is dedicated to one of my dearest friends who is a bit plump and has been struggling for years to be a bit slimmer. This one is bursting with flavours yet subtly so.

So fish full of Omega 3 is a wonderful nutritional first class protein but deep fry it and all that nutritive value is just murdered. So while poaching might not exactly bring images of deliciousness to most people this beautiful marinated poached fish full of flavours might just change their mind. In went 4 small cloves of garlic, a wee bit ginger, a bit of parsley, a bit of cilantro , 1 wedge of lemon and 1 green chili , a good marination for 2 hours , poached ready served on a bed of shredded cabbage and tomatoes , tasty healthy lunch :D

I used:

2 small whole pomfret
1 to 2 tablespoon chopped fresh of cilantro and parsley
Salt and pepper as per taste
4 small cloves of garlic
Less than an inch of ginger
1 whole green chili
1/2 tsp crushed dried basil leaves
1 wedge of lemon
2 tsp olive oil

So start by making a smooth paste of everything by adding a little water but the lemon and olive oil and then go on to marinate the fish with salt and pepper and this fresh paste. Marinate for about 2 hours. Useful tip would be to make to cuts across either side of the fish for better marination.

Well once marinated simply poach the fish with all the marination add about 1 to 1.5 cups of water. I covered and cooked for 9 minutes and the fish had soaked all the goodness of the flavours.

For the salad

2 tomatoes
1 small cup of finely shredded cabbage

Make a bed of the cabbage, arrange tomatoes and add the fish. I tried it in two ways by fish eating the fish separately with a orange honey vinaigrette dressing and the second time without any extra dressing where the thick gravy like water from the fish itself gave all the flavorus required. Must say the second one was far better.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Meaty Beans

Meaty Beans 

My long lost comfort food in a far away country. Well lest just say as close to my comfort food as possible. So the more I read the more I am amazed by the beautiful culinary connection that binds together this "wide wide wide as the ocean" world.

I really dislike how the average media disrespects the culinary deliciousness of most cuisines. So India automatically means the land of curries, America means the land of burgers and the cliches are overwhelmingly sad. Look a bit deep and you will be amazed what each cuisine has to offer and once in a while its connection with another country far far away will delight and amaze you.

So it is only recently  that I did read about the famous 'Southern Red Bean and rice" of Southern America. My first thought was amazement at the connection that it has with India's own Rajma Chawal. Well of course the Indian one is spicy and robust , the Southern variety less spicy  meaty and comfortingly  juicy from all that meat. And then I looked back without realization and found myself fondly remembering those dinners that my 'Baba' (Father , how amazing that the Afgans call their fathers baba as well) would cook. You see he would make this fantastic dish with red kidney beans and mutton (goat's meat) or chicken and those were fantastic, of course he did use tomatoes and as a rule of our family very little spice compared to most Indian palates. Then I made the mistake of talking about ti in school and boy oh boy was I teased mercilessly. You see the land of the five rivers were "rajma" (red kidney bean)  originated cannot think of this meaty business and here I was filled with reminiscence of the past. The moment I read about it I knew I had to make it . Over the years I trained my palate to appreciate all kinds of food spicy, non-spicy and well can actually enjoy all of them.

A quick glance through recipes made me realize I had to make the creole seasoning but well did not have oregano and thyme at hand and so followed "deepsouthdish's" recipe which called for no local seasoning. Made a few changes such as using only a bit of dry sausages we get down here in Calcutta. Omitted the bacon and sued chicken stock. Well I love bacon but I hate tyres round the waist wink wink. Left out the celery since "Baba" does not like the taste, sprinkled some on mine. Used yellow bell pepper instead of green one but the result was a comforting meal and the need to soon make the creole and cajun seasoning and using bacon for next time's preparation. You can always omit sausages and use  chicken in case of dietary restrictions.

So this is how I made it

1 cup red kidney beans "Rajma" soaked overnight and cooked in 3 cups of water in a pressure cooker
1 medium onion
1 tsp homemade garlic chili paste it was hot so you can always reduce the amount
Half an yellow bell pepper diced finely
1/2 a tsp dried basil leaves
About 350ml of chicken stock
200gm or it could have been 170gm of spicy pork sausage , feel free to change it as per dietary restrictions
Oil to brush pan
2 medium sized bay leaves
1 tsp celery leaves chopped finely

So begin a day ahead. Soak your beans at night with triple the amount of water and in the morning cook it in a pressure cooker till well cooked. If using for dinner you can soak early in the morning and cook at night.
Now brush the pan with oil and saute sausages chopped from before . Take them out add the finely sliced onion and diced bell pepper, cover and lower heat. This cooks it faster and requires no extra oil. since I used dried sausage it did not produce too much oil. when onions are well sauteed add the garlic chili paste , basil and 2 bay leaves. Add the beans drained of it's  water and chicken stock and bring to boil and then cover and lower heat add the sausages in the last 15 minutes of cooking or well you can also keep them from the start . In the meantime cook your rice. I used Basmati rice which takes about 15 minutes of cooking. The beans are cooked all along with the rice. Make a bed of rice add the beans and enjoy a hearty delicious meal. Since my father is not too fond of celery I used freshly chopped celery for my dinner and omitted its use while preparation.

A bit of lahore, a bit of Eastern India and a bit of pan India


The big Navami Spread of 2013

So the four days of Durgotsav in Calcutta is spent by most peopel hopping from one pandal to the other and dining out and meting people. While I did meet people I decided to do what fulfills me the most, preparing  dishes in the kitchen and sharing it with my guests.

Navami was a special day with two sets of guests for lucnha nd dinner. While lunch was a simple affair of masoor pulse with coconut with bhetki macher kalia (bhetki fish in a rich curry) , dinner was more grandeur in nature with Fish fries and fluffy Basmati rice , grilled chicken , Mutton lazeez handi and malpuas.

So I start off with the grilled chicken. A long time ago Seema Chanda had interviewed a composed confident chef from the streets of Lucknow about the secrets of their juicy kebabs to which he mentioned that the only secret was long hours of marination. It seems marination is the key to the success of a kebab. While in modern times most homes do not have the luxury of a charcoal grill or even a barbeque and since in India we have to do with grills which do not let the temperature to be set unless you use the convection mode, the marination is even more so important.

The Grilling and filling 

I used this marination of salt and pepper, garlic, lemon ,curd and cumin along with a pinch of garam masala and let the chicken soak up the goodness of the marination for a good 7 to 8 hours. It is even more effective when marinated and kept overnight or for 48 hours.

I grilled it for 15 minutes on one side and 12 minutes on the other. From my past experiences it is clear that 20 minutes on one side and 15 on the other renders the chicken too hard. So if you have a grill like mine with no option to set the temperature, you can either use the convection mode and bake or practice and know which timing suits your oven the best.

Along with this was a sauce made of red chilies soaked in vinegar for 2 hours which was blend with garlic and hung curd, slat , pepper and a wee bit of cumin powder. The result was truly delicious.

The Fish fry that we all fry and love

Fish Fry

Bangalir Priyo Dal (Bengal's favourite pulse) 

Mooger Dal

Bhetki Macher Kalia 

Mooger dal 

Bhetki Macher kalia

Mutton Lazeez Handi 

Soft syrupy malupas