Showing posts with label food and drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food and drinks. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to make easy chicken biriyani at home

After a stint in vegetable recipes we decided to go non veg in a grand way. We hadn't had biriyani since long, courtesy: the meat scandaland the lull was so intense that we arranged for the array of exotic biriyani ingredients in the wink of an eye. The biriyani that we usually prepare at home and love eating too is moghul inspired, different from what my elder sister prefers. She makes biriyani with gravy and strong pudina (mint) flavour, something close to Hyderabadi gharana. My younger sister and her family love mughlai biriyani though, and one of the purposes of their visit to Calcutta could very well be attributed to this fact alone. She is an excellent cook herself and has her own recipe for biriyani which she claims is easier than mine. This I will only be able to confirm once I try it out myself. 

The biriyani pot
So, we decided to prepare chicken biriyani at home on a super summer weekend day. It's my favourite and my mothers’s too. One thing I must tell you about my mother here. She never fails to amaze me with her ability to buy the best of things. Her eye for detailing with regards to making any food perfect is just impeccable. So when I told her that I was going to prepare biriyani the next day she laid the best in front of me. Needless to say, biriyani requires an elaborate preparation and the right kind of ingredients enhance the taste to a great extent. So, once you decide to make biriyani at home - just be totally into it. 

The biriyani recipe that I am going to share today is easy, delicious and requires less prep time. (This is Calcutta style biriyani and is special in the way it contains boiled eggs and potatoes, something you will never find in biriyanis from other regions.) We finished cooking in an hour time and allowed it to rest for one more hour and there we were! Although the wait seemed really long it was worthwhile in the end. I decided to forgo the dessert and swapped it with another help of biriyani. Perfect choice! 

What you will need:

A heavy, thick bottomed pot/ handi/ container with a heavy lid that sit perfectly on it

Basmati rice (800 gm)
Whole biryani masala
Chicken (15-18 pieces)
Curd (hung in muslin to drain out excess water) (300 gm)
Onion (4 large)
Ginger (100 gm)
Garlic (8 corns)
Lime juice (2 fresh limes)
Eggs (8)
Potato (cut into half from the middle) (optional)
Plum (aloo bokhra) (optional)
Oil and Ghee
Salt, sugar
Khoya kheer (dried and thickened whole milk) (50 gm)
Milk (2 cups)
Saffron (5-6 strands)
Rose essence (1 tsp)
Kewra essence (1 tsp)

For biriyani masala

Cardamom buds (8)
The marinade
Cinnamon stick (2)
Clove (8)
Mace (3)
Nutmeg (1)
Black peppercorn (8)
Caraway seeds (Shahjeera) (1 tsf)
Dry red chili (2)
Bayleaf (optional)
Fennel (optional)
Star anise (optional)

For the marinade

Curd
Ground masala
Red chili powder
Lime juice
Ginger, garlic paste
Chicken being marinated
Onion juice (optional)
Salt and sugar

For the smoked flavour (dhungar):


Natural charcoal (Kath koyla)
Ghee
Cloves, Cinnamon stick
Steel / copper/ bronze bowl

How to prepare the beresta (crispy golden brown onion slices

Deep fry the onion rings in a deep pot till it turns golden brown

How to prepare saffron milk

In a bowl add a few saffron strands, teaspoonful of kewra, teaspoonful of rose water and ghee to 2-3 cups of warm milk. Keep it aside for 30 minutes till the saffron leaves a beautiful yellowish colour.

Saffron milk
How to prepare the masala (spice mix)

To be able to come up with a decent biriyani you will need a very special masala. Although this is easily available in the market I prefer to prepare it at home the same day. This adds much freshness and flavour to the rice.  To prepare the masala you will need to heat the whole spices for a few seconds and then grind them on grinder. Store it in an air tight container to trap the flavour.

Basmati rice 3/4th done
How to cook the biriyani rice

Pre soak the basmati rice for 30 minutes. Put a few whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves) in water and bring it to boil. You can also tie the spices in a muslin cloth and drown the potli in the water. Add salt, fresh lime juice and little white oil before adding the pre soaked rice. Cook it till it’s done 3/4th. Drain the water and allow it to cool.

How to marinate the chicken

Beat the curd and add ginger, garlic paste, onion juice, lime juice, the masala and red chili powder and allow the chicken to sit in the marinade for 3-4 hours. 
The beresta
The chicken being cooked

Now, the steps to make chicken biriyani

In a pot/ deep container/ handi deep fry the onion rings till golden brown. Remove from oil and plate 
aside. 

Fry the previously boiled potatoes cut into half from middle with little salt and keep aside. This step is optional. 

Add ghee in the same oil and add the chicken with the marinade. Cook till the gravy thickens and the chicken gets tender. Remove the chicken pieces. 

Add more ghee in the gravy and prepare a bed with an evenly spread out semi cooked basmati rice, then put a layer of chicken pieces and fried onions, boiled eggs, potatoes, plums and grated khoya and then a layer of rice again. Continue to make more layers till you use up all the rice. Spread more fried onion rings on the top. 

I did not have khoya kheer at home. So I used kheer sandesh (a bengali sweet made from thickened milk).

Pour the saffron milk slowly on the top and close the lid with a heavy lid and make sure the vapour doesn’t escape the pot. You can also seal the sides of the lid and the sides with foil paper. Allow the pot to cook on very slow fire for 20 minutes. You may have to sprinkle more milk/ water to moisten the biriyani. Allow an hour of standing time before serving.


The almost done chicken biriyani with eggs
Now, the last bit - adding the smokey, tandoor effect to the biriyani. (You may also decide to skip this altogether.) 'Dhungar' is tricky but quite fun. It infuses the food with a smoked, burnt flavour and adds a uniqueness that we keep trying to figure out after eating tandoori food at restaurants.

For this, burn the natural charcoal (kath koyla) on oven till red hot. Put it on the metal bowl. Add ghee, a few cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks. When you see white smoke coming out remove the lid of the pot and tuck it immediately inside. Remove after 2 minutes. The smoked charcoal can overpower the original biriyani flavour if kept for long. So watch out!

To enjoy this delicious Calcutta style chicken biriyani with all its oriental flavours you must eat it hours after you finish cooking. Plate it with a piece of half potato, an egg and a chicken piece. Serve it with raita, onion, tomato salad, fresh lime and green chillis. Eat it guilt free and keep wondering how you managed to pull it off so well!




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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Daily care routine to keep your acne at bay

My whole life has revolved around one single medical condition and if you are curious it is that part of my living that I have been fighting since forever. Yes, this seemingly non serious medical condition, a.k.a acne, can have extraordinary effect on your skin and mind. I was in my pre teens, must be eleven or twelve, when my face saw a tiny breakout on my cheek for the very first time. It started in a benign manner and every other day I would count another one and then another and then another. I tried every single, over the counter medicine. I tried natural therapy and I tried grand mother's age old secrets. But my pimple saga continued.

Later in life, when I started working as a healthcare provider I dragged myself through several examinations like ultrasound, blood work up like thyroid profile, hormonal profiles, Vitamin D, B12 and other ilks. Apart from a high thyroxine and a low vitamin D level (which my doctor said needs minor tweaking) I was cleared of all other medical conditions. So, was it idiopathic? I am still trying to figure out!

More than twenty years and many seasons later, I still continue to have breakouts and have sort of accepted the fact that I have to live with it lifelong. So, I try and stick to my own daily care regime. Treating acne is an arduous process and there is no real quick fix. So, continue to have patience.

1)   A clear and clean skin can do wonders. So, no matter how exhausted you are do not go to sleep without cleaning your face. I clean my face after work at home with medicated cleansing lotion . Sometimes when my face seems very dull and dry I use cleansing milk as well. I wash thoroughly with Acne Foaming Face Wash (salicylic + acicylic acid) later on. This medicated foaming face wash is anti bacterial and doesn't dry skin.

2)   Face toner is a must. I have started using toners after shower only recently. I refrigerate my rose toner and it feels great the whole day long. Skin toner has an astringent properties that closes the open pores and help fight bacteria and guards our skin.

3)   Do moisturize daily, sometimes two times even, so what you have oily and acne prone skin.. I use aloe vera gel to hydrate my face. (Hydration is an important part of keeping off breakouts. Drink sufficient amount of water and keep your body hydrated.) There are several good brands selling virgin aloe vera. You can grow it yourself as well. I have just stated growing mine. It grows fast and has an addon therapeutic appeal to the eyes. I use Emolene hydra cream occasionally.

4)   Treat the raw breakouts. I use benzoyl peroxide + adapalene gel on the fresh breakouts. I apply a just a dab on the breakouts and it works wonders. Just for the record, I have had a desperate delirium of importing benzoyl peroxide (Oxy 5) from the US and also had bought 6 packs (it was not even buy one get deal) when I visited the NYC. Deriva BPO gel is as good. I also use sandalwood paste mixed with turmeric powder and apply it on the pimple. It has a drying effect and soaks in the grime and oil in no time.

5)   Another very important thing is to apply UV protection on face, neck and exposed areas liberally. I use D acne SPF 40 +, anti acne, anti grease sunscreen cream.

To sum up, you need to upgrade your daily face care kit with some must haves and I want to pitch in mine. A cleansing lotion, foaming face wash, skin toner, aloe vera gel and a SPF cream. Following a daily care routine certainly helps in maintaining the much needed balance. It also helps in feeling good every day. Do try and keep me updated.

Note: I am also planning to see a doctor later this month for my acne. Will keep you posted with more tips.

Photo: Hedy Lamarr

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And my pimple saga continues

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prepare Bengali Garam Masala at home

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In my previous posts I have shared my fondness towards authentic Bengali vegetable recipes. That was when I decided to write about an important spice blend, garam masala. The heart of most Indian and of course Bengali recipes contains a very interesting blend of spices,. We call it ‘Garam Masala’. ‘Garam’ means ‘hot’ (as in the strong flavors that the spices exude) and ‘masala’ means ‘blend’. As you must be knowing that Indian cuisine contains a lot of oriental spices and 'garam masala' is the most common of them. Keeping the basic ingredients intact the masala varies from region to region. Here, I am going to write about the Bengali garam masala which includes a proportionate mix of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, star aniseeds, clove sprigs, peppercorns, bay leaves, nutmeg and saffron. 

Even before it's prepared the whole spices release an extensive aroma that enrich and enhance the food they go into. It’s the essential seasoning that the vegetable recipes (niramish ranna) cannot do without. We can find the ready-made version of the spice blend in almost every shop around the block. However, there is nothing like preparing it at home, a batch ahead, and using it straightaway. I have seen my grandmother, and now my mom, picking, clearing (with clean cotton cloth) and grinding the spices at home. Although it sounds elaborate, it hardly takes 10 -15 minutes, depending upon the quantity you wish to grind.

The mix is prepared in simple steps and it needs to be stored in airtight containers to retain the fresh, exotic aroma. Garam masala adds texture, color and flavor to the food and enhances a simple recipe.

The chief ingredients are easily available and once you get those, arrange for an airtight container and a grinder (coffee grinder will do as well). Roast all the ingredients, except the saffron, on a slow flame till the spices get a shade darker. Remove from the flame immediately, add the threads of saffron and allow it to cool down. Once cooled, grind the spices in the dry and clean grinder. Sieve the mix and store in an airtight container. Garam masala prepared at home can be stored for several months while still retaining the original flavor.

The ingredients:

2 tbsps cumin seeds
1 star aniseed
1 tbsps black peppercorns
4 pods cardamom
4 cloves
3-4 sticks, moderately sized cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg
A few threads of saffron (optional)

Tips

Be patient. Roast on slow, low heat.
Add the saffron after the skillet is removed from the flame, but when still hot.
Sieve thoroughly to remove coarse particles.
Store in an airtight container only after it has cooled down.
Try putting a little amount in your food to start off since it has a strong flavor that you might need time to get used to.

Medicinal value

'Garam masala' is an amazing blend of spices that keeps us warm in winter and cool in hot months. The individual spices have great medicinal values, that add to the usefulness of the spice blend. It has intrinsic qualities that help in digestion (they help stimulate the secretion of enzymes), nutrient assimilation, reducing inflammation and in relieving pains. It also relaxes the body muscles, eases out mental stress, acts as an appetizer and helps coping with cough, cold, bronchitis.

Garam masala has a strong flavour and not everyone likes it. So striking a right balance is very important. I like it when used in small quantity and only in a few specific dishes. My mother has mastered the art of what it takes to make a dish just perfect and hopefully I will too soon.

Photo copyright: MouD

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Authentic Bengali 'niramish' Shukto recipe

A traditional Bengali gastronomy comprises of five or more elaborate courses starting with a bitter vegetable dish and ending in a sweet note. In between we have some delightful range of varied Bengali delicacies that's going to make you revisit Bengal again and again. 

Today I am going to share a vegetable recipe that needs hands on apprenticeship before you can actually plate it to the guests. Shukto is usually eaten in the beginning of the afternoon meal (lunch) which is considered the main meal of the day. It has a bitter taste due to the primary vegetable bitter gourd and it has gut cleansing science behind it. There are several variations of shukto recipes and both East Bengal and West Bengal have experimented with this traditional dish keeping the basic ingredients intact. My mother cooks a few alterations depending on the season and availability of the vegetables.

Shukto

Shukto is an appetizer packed with vegetables and some very special spices. It is usually served at the beginning of the meal with steamed rice and a liberal spritz of clarified butter/ ghee.

Ingredients

Fresh produce cut in slices include:

Bitter gourd (uchhe/ korola)
Potato
Sweet potato (optional)
Egg plant/ aubergine/ brinjal
Plantain/ raw banana
Parwal/ a type of gourd (optional)
Drumsticks (optional)
Green chilies


Spices:

Mustard seeds
Radhuni seeds (optional)
Bay leaf

Coriander ground
Cumin ground
Ginger paste
Poppy seed paste (optional)

Milk
Ghee/ white oil

In a wok deep fry the "boris", drain the oil and keep aside. Fry the cut bitter gourds till medium brown and put aside. Sauté the rest of the cut vegetables in while oil (mixed with ghee) till half done. Dish them aside. In a wok put oil and sizzle the mustard, radhuni seeds and the bayleaf till they start to pop. Add ginger, coriander and cumin paste and cook for a minute before putting all the fried vegetables in the wok.  Add sugar and salt and the slit green chilies. Then add lukewarm water and simmer till the vegetables are tender and once it is done add a cup of milk. Bring it to boil. Add ghee on the top before dishing out.

Serve this delicious shukto with steamed rice, gondhoraj lebu (lemon) and ghee.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The meat scandal and the Bengali delirium - To eat or not to eat

The recent meat scandal took a psychic toll on Calcutta a.k.a. Kolkata. The food loving city witnessed a delirium that shook the nation overnight. In what seemed to be a compulsive frenzy the Bengalis turned from being meatatarians to being vegetarian just in a wink of eye! That is particularly strange because the Bengalis swear by fish, meat and everything that is "non-vegetarian". So, to turn
a Bengali meatless you need to do something really horrific and nothing more horrific can ever happen to any nation than to mess up with the staple of its people. 

The meat scandal unleashed a whole new perspective of consumerism in Kolkata. What we wanted to buy and what we actually bought - the disparity has been staggering. The horrific act of supplying rotten meat and carcasses of animals to the eateries and we, as end users, eating it in delicious packaging left us shocked and disgusted. It’s a different level of never seen before criminal connivance.

Following this, copious bytes on television channels unfolding news of unhygienic and criminal act of meat scandal has left the meatatarian Bengalis pathetically shaken. 
The ghastly criminality traded
in the toxic rotten flesh even to the reputed eating houses and made us loathe it more. So, when we as a family, found ourselves refraining from eating meat and chicken it was not a surprise.  The decision was compulsive and generic. 

Our kitchen, too, like most Bengali household, is hit hard by this sudden sting operation. In an endeavour to replace the meat satiation, my mother is busy revamping her culinary skills. She wanted to do this since long and now she has enough reasons and motivation. The end result – we are enjoying the traditional, almost forgotten, delicious vegetable recipes at home. So, if you find me writing down about vegetable Bengali recipes in the several of the articles henceforth don't be surprised. 

Keep visiting folks. I will be up with some wonderful authentic Bengali vegetable recipes soon. Thank you.


Pic credit: LiveLiving

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

If it is Chinese it's Calcutta Chinese



My love for Chinese food began from the streets of Calcutta. The just sprouted roadside stalls tucked in every other corner of the city would sell stir fried, extra bouncy Chowmein,  a.k.a Chowmin as pronounced by the local Bengalis. It was served with squirts of orange red tomato ketchup and onion-cucumber julienne. 

I was the child of eighties. That was the time when home made Chinese food was not in vogue. We were used to the 3-5 courses of traditional Bengali gastronomy.  Once in a while we did go to the restaurants that sold Chinese food. But then that was a rare indulgence. One such restaurant, I remember, had a fancy name, “China Palace”. This quaint little place with red dragons and golden chimes on the walls, was the most sought after eatery in the neighbourhood. Having to eat there was an affair to remember. We would plan for hours many days in advance and once the day arrived our excitement knew no bounds. The restaurant was nearby and the aroma of irresistible Chinese broth would draw us to the restaurant sooner. We would sit on the same corner where the regular happy waiters would pry on us. The course invariably would start with my father’s personal favourite, clear chicken soup. It was a broth prepared with miserly amount of chicken and lot of spring onions. My sisters and I used to skip it in order to binge on the main course. The main course would almost always include mixed fried rice, boneless chili chicken, mixed noodles and sometimes we would eat ice creams as dessert. That was the standard platter and we didn’t get to experiment beyond since that was all the quaint eatery had to offer.

Later, as I was growing up I realized that the Chinese food that we were eating was actually a over simplified version of Indo-Chinese flavour. The Calcutta Chinese food was generated from the Chinese diaspora living in Calcutta since the eighteenth century. A cluster of people came from China in times of turbulence and worked as labourers. More people flocked in due course and they formed a sizeable community with unique appearance, culture, belief and cuisine. They started to live as a separate community in Tiretta Bazaar and the adjacent areas of Bow Bazar. Soon they started dispersing in Tangra area which came to be known as the city’s Chinatown later.

This was that chunk of China that came to Calcutta when still young or the second gen of the diaspora who was born in Calcutta. To start with they contained in themselves but soon they started selling their unique stuffs in order to sustain. They sold home made stuffs like sauces, condiments, steamed and fried food which they later incorporated in small eateries and liquor shops. Some opted for leather and carpentry business. The Chinese diaspora in Calcutta started experimenting with their food which went through exciting changes over the years to oblige the Bengali taste buds. The typical red gravy, heavy on sauces along with ginger, garlic, hot chilies and a consistency reminding of Indian curry soon became a delectable Indo-Chinese concoction that the world drooled over.

Calcutta had a few reputed Chinese restaurants as well. But not everyone could eat there and the pocket friendly roadside eateries had hygiene issues. Some small local restaurants had to close down to other lucrative businesses and we were left with the option of over simplified Chinese food made at home. It was cheap, "healthy", tasty and soon the children started to swear by it. Meanwhile, the raw spaghetti like noodles was abundantly available in the market and soon the Bengali families were indulging in the most sought after food at home.

In my teens, while play dating once, I remember eating noodles cooked with soya bean chunks and potato fritters along with onions, tomato ketchup, black pepper etc. in a friend's place. We persuaded our mother and soon she too gave in and one day, to our dismay, our lovely cook prepared the most delicious noodles at home. And that was the beginning.

Chowmein became extremely popular because it made both the children and their mothers happy. The forever anxious mothers had learned the trick of sneaking in lot of seasonal vegetables in their noodles and finally their kids were eating veggies. My sisters and I used to love it as well. Once in a while good restaurant happened and we were satiated. 

Several years past, as I look back now, I see it as an unhealthy eating trend. Today, I wouldn’t want any kid to eat noodles as much as we did as children. The in depth demonization of health standards is not only deeply rooted in our system but is hard to eradicate. However, we can certainly educate our children towards better understanding of healthy food fads. But then that's another story altogether.


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Image courtesy: Youtube

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why puffed rice aka muri is the ultimate survival food

There has been a major shift in health paradigm, from high carb to high fat and vice versa and we have seen it all over the past couple of years. What we thought was right for our health is actually a deterrent, what we believed we should be eating was manipulated by the big pharmas and the US government and people were duped into eating mashed potato, corn flakes, eggs without yellow, fruit juice etc. That's lot of carbs and very little fat. Now that the big fat lie is out, we have come to realize that fat is good and real and has extraordinary power to shape our health and that culprit sugar and is the new tobacco!

The Big Fat Surprise: The myth of High Carb Low Fat diet explained


Being an Indian and living in India we have just begun to realize the harm that has been caused to an entire generation over the decades. The ripple effect has come to shock everyone here and everywhere. The power of this kneaded falsehood is so deeply ingrained that it's no rocket science to understand the humongous task of back pedaling the credence of the populace. So, it is our minds that we are fighting everyday more than anything else and trust me, it is hard.

When my cardiologist boss asked patients to eat whole eggs or meat or butter or not to eat biscuits and bread they were in complete disbelief. They still are and this skepticism is something that's not going to go overnight. That said, we have been spending days figuring out the right and real food that is healthy, nutritious and delicious. Quite a bit of research work later, we found out that even with all the snags puffed rice is the best possible snacks we can fall for especially if you are an Indian or if you plan to live in India.

So what is puffed rice? (This of course is for my friends from abroad). Trust me it is the ultimate survival food! Muri is indigenous of South Asia and is prepared from rice kernels in a similar manner as popcorn is made from corns. Traditionally it is made by heating rice over sand filled earthen oven. It serves as an excellent cereal food and can be eaten just as we eat corn flakes or oats with milk and seasonal fruits. Muri is healthy and has immense likelihood of turning into a super food when tossed with assortments of veggies like cucumber, parsley, green chillis, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, onion, sprouts- you just name it! Bengalis love it with pure raw mustard oil (mustard oil is one of the best oils we can eat nowadays, so you can eat it guilt free) and hot green chillis and occasionally with "aloor chop" (potato fritters) and often with friends and family.

Another snacking food is flattened rice or rice flakes (chura/ chire) which is also a powerful comfort food. Nowadays we get lovely roasted chire which is not only tasty but also nutritious. If you are an Indian and have survived numerous homesick moments it's needless to introduce you to poha. You know how you can add lovely fresh veggies, sprouts, peanuts, raisins and more to cater to your taste buds making it hugely popular among desi and not-so-desi friends.

The benefits also are immense. If you are a weight watcher you can never go wrong with this super food. It's high on iron, carbohydrate and have low gluten content. Besides, it is a fantastic mood lifter and reminds me of camaraderie. Although the brown variety is hard to get these days but both muri (puffed rice) and chire (flattened rice) are better picks than suji (semolina) which is totally a white stuff. Having said that, be a smart buyer and a smart eater. Try not to look for stuffs that are glossy, inviting and too good to be true. The crude variety is less appealing, less puffed and are less cosmetic. And I know you are a smart eater and never go on binges.

Now, a takeaway. We went to the US last year and sitting there miles away we relived our Calcutta days merely by eating muri, chanachur (spicy snacks mix) and chai over bangla cinema on youtube (courtesy my lovely sister who rolled in a whole lot of bengali essentials in no time). So, no brownie point for guessing that I am insanely in love with muri. Although my family will disagree I can tell you that they too resort to this super snacks, aka muri, in times of nostalgic Calcutta moments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Of Janmashtami, Malpuas, family tradition and more

Janmashtami (Janmashtomi) is one festival that we look forward to ever since the childhood days. It was the time we would have our house wrapped in some undefined joy of festivity. Janmashtami is celebrated all over India in the month of August/September and on the eighth day of the Hindu calendar. The birthday of lord Krishna is a very special occasion for the Hindus. They consider Him as their savior, philosopher, friend, lover and everything that is human, everything that is Godly.

The festival has transcended beautifully over the years and today I see it with much love since that is the time we are fondly reminded of our Dida (grandmother). She was a lady of strong integrity and was revered by one and all. She never forced the ritualistic regime. That probably is the reason that we have learned to imbibe the true fervor of the festivals in their entirety. It was never forced, it was never too much of something that we would have detested later in lives. We never detested it nor did we regret later. It was probably because of the values that were instilled upon us very subtly.  

We have grown up seeing the grandeur of family tradition while celebrating Janmashtami. At the wake of dawn, my grandma would immerse the idols of lord Krishna and Radha (his muse) a lavish milk and ghee bath, deck them with new clothes and ornaments and start the puja (religious rituals). The food offerings included assortments of seasonal fruits, our own home made sweets made for this occasion alone, Bhog – a special rice and pulses mixed food, rice polao, luchis (puris), kheer (condensed milk with rice), 8 different types of fries made from 8 different vegetables, other special vegetables side dishes, sweet and sour chutnis/ pickles and whole savory of sweets. Having said that, Janmashtami is never complete without Taler Bora and Malpua for these are supposedly lord Krishna's favorite sweets.

Our role was not more than just hopping around eating all the goodies. I particularly liked the occasion since I was not told to study that day, something that happened very very seldom. Things have changed since. We have grown up, my sisters have relocated to different countries, and my grandma is no more. But some things never change, I still live in the same old house and we still have the more than a century old Krishna and Radha idols along with the legacy that my grandma has left behind. Today i see my mother doing everything that she has grown up seeing her mother do, and I on my part still enjoy the Bhog, Malpua, Sweets etc. 


Coming to the special Janmashtami Bengali sweet savory, Malpua needs special mention. It is one savory that every other household celebrating the festival will prepare and needless to say every household has its own Malpua recipe. My mother has hers and I have mine. I have streamlined on the ingredients and made the recipe much easier and faster to cater to my taste and time.


What is Malpua

Malpua is an Indian delectable dessert much similar to sweet round pancake dipped in sugar syrup. It’s a gourmet’s delight. To prepare them you will need easily available kitchen ingredients. The ingredients will be available in almost every store round the corner.

Ingredients

Milk (8 cups)
Condensed milk (2 cups)
Water (2 cups)
Sugar (3 cups)
Fennel seeds (1 tablespoon)
Refined flour (3 cups)
Rose essence (1 teaspoon) - my addition
Clarified butter/ Ghee/ white oil (1 cups)
½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (optional)
Few strands of saffron strands (optional)
Silvered almonds and pistachios to garnish (optional)


Preparing the sugar syrup

Prepare a sugar syrup of single thread consistency. Add 1 tsp of rose essence and a few strand of saffron. Set aside to cool.


Preparing the batter for the Malpua

Bring the milk to boil and keep boiling till it reduces to half. Set aside and wait till it cools down.
Sieve the refined flour and add it slowly to the reduced milk. Keep stirring to avoid the lump formation. Stir well and stir continuously.

Add sweetened condensed milk. Stir to attain a smooth consistency of pancake.
Add fennel seeds and cardamom powder to the batter.


Process

Heat the ghee (clarified butter) on thick bottomed frying pan and pour the batter in a blob in the center to form small pancakes. Wait till the sides turn golden brown. Turn over and wait for the side to cook till it gets golden brown.

Dip the Malpuas in the rose sugar syrup and let it sip the juice.

Serving

Remove the Malpuas before serving and drain on a wire rack to drip the excess syrup. Dish them out delicately on a flat platter, garnish with chopped dry fruits.

And that's Malpua for you!

Note to yourself

With all those goodies, Malpua is, no doubt, a guilt food. Nonetheless you can indulge in it once in a while since it's irresistible. 

Image copyright: Mimpi

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Easiest ever Bengali machher jhol (fish curry) recipe - fantastically simple and delicious

Another day of blogging and I was tempted just about to write something relating to health again when I was reminded of my critic friend who has just begun to feel that My Numberless Dreams is but a health blog. Even with all the critiques that this blog has acquired over the years, I would just not accept this. So, categorically and deliberately, I digressed and so this food blog happened. Besides, this is the easiest thing to do when you have time constraints, an early next day work to catch and more.   

Today's recipe is yet another of fantastic Bengali fish curry recipes that you will be able to prepare very easily with ordinary kitchen ingredients. Bengali fish curry is all about lot of red and fresh green chilies, garam masala, onion-ginger-garlic paste, oriental spices and of course lots of love.

What you will need

Fish thoroughly cleaned, cut and marinated in turmeric power and salt
For the spicy curry - red chili paste/ powder, turmeric powder, garam masala dust, ginger-garlic-onion paste
For seasoning - oil preferable mustard oil, whole garam masala, whole jeera (cumin), green chili whole

That is just about everything you will require. Remember to clean the fish nicely and cut it into moderately sized pieces and put it aside after marination with salt and turmeric powder (haldi). In a skillet heat mustard oil till smoke comes off and then very carefully release the fish cubes. Turn sides when it gets golden on one side and strain them from the skillet. Now, for the gravy, in the left over oil sprinkle whole garam masala, cumin seeds (optional), sprigs of bay leaves, red chili whole and add the ginger-garlic-onion paste. Add little turmeric, red chili paste and salt and little bit of sugar to caramelize. Keep stirring in slow heat till the skillet starts to leave oil. Pour a cup full of water, add the fish and cook in slow fire. Turn off the oven till a thick consistency is formed and the gravy turns fantastically liquid orange.

Serve with steamed rice, green chili and freshly cut lemon (pati lebu or gondhhoraj lebu).

As much as this sounds simple, for the first timers the recipe can get messed up by inappropriate mix of spices or by overcooking. Bengali fish curry preparation is impeccably simple yet has an undefined check and balance that can be learned only through practice. That probably is the reason why the grand-mom's are the best cooks ever and the moms become one when they turn grand-moms.    


Photo credit ~ 3.bpblogspot

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bengali Phuchka, Delhi Golgappa, Mumbai Panipuri - what's in a name!!

A mouthful of round crispy puri, filled with some amazing smashed potato filling, seasoned with mystic flavours and drowned in heavenly tangy tamarind soup - one quick big bite and you are done for! That's phuchka for you - eat it guilt free.

Earlier today, I thought of sharing the amazing recipe of bengali Phuchka, also known as, Panipuri, Golgappa etc. But a few tea cups and several minutes later, I decided not to. Phuchka can never be technically discussed. It is but to be devoured without wasting time. It is to be relished the mystic flavours very gently till you put another into your mouth and then another one and then another.

Phuchka, very simply put, is inflated puri balls stuffed with a special filling of mashed potatoes and riot of flavours served with a special dip of runny tamarind water mixed with variety of magic masala, a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander leaves and chopped green chilies. The filling consists of mashed potatoes mixed with black salt, red chili powder, roasted cumin powder, boiled bengal gram or chickpea. It is the most chatpata, savoury snack that the Bengalis can die for anyday.

For the savory dip tamarind pulp should be nicely blended. We need to add black salt, red chili powder, squeezed fresh lime juice (gondhhoraj lebu), fresh coriander leaves etc.

Nowadays we get many interesting variety of phuchkas like ghugni phuchka, alu dum phuchka, dahi phuchka, batata phuchka, chocolate phuchka, dhokla phuchka, schezwan phuchka, chana masala phuchka, churmur phuchka, sukha phuchka etc. However, I love the normal tangy phuchka with the usual aloo masala and salty tamarind water.

So, folks if you are Calcutta do not forget to taste this amazing ball of flavour. It’s easily available at every other the corner, every ‘goli’ and ‘more’, and trust me you are going to love it!


Photo - CalcuttaFoodJournal

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your own Bengali recipe - Potoler dolma, potoler dorma

Today I am going to share an easy recipe. Potoler Dolma/ Dorma is a delicacy in Bengal. Notwithstanding the fact that it is not usually available in the UK or the US, I am going write this blog since this dish can also be prepared using other vegetables as well and of course I love it (no points for guessing).
Potol or Parwal is a green vegetable indigenous to India. It is also called green potato, perennial vine or pointed gourd. While researching, I also found that it contains major nutrients like magnesium, potassium, copper, sulphur, several vitamins, calcium and plays essential roles in human metabolism.

Potoler Dorma/ Dolma is simply put fried and served-with-gravy stuffed potol. The stuffing can be varied according to your taste and imagination, ranging from coconut-mustard crumbs to fish to meat stuffing. This recipe is about Potoler dolma with chingri (shrimp) stuffing.

What you will need:

Fresh, rounded potol/ parwal
Shrimps
Onions - chopped and paste
Ginger - paste and julienne
Garam masala - whole and powder
Coriander, cumin, red chili, turmeric dust
Green chili, freshly chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste, pinch of sugar
White oil, ghee/ clarified butter

Preparation:

Graze the skin and wash the vegetable (potol) under running water. Cut the ends and scoop the seeds out from the potol till a nice pocket is formed inside the vegetable.

The stuffing:

Clean and wash the shrimps. In a wok add white oil and ghee and saute the chopped onions, ginger julienne, shrimps, turmeric and red chili powder, garam masala powder, freshly chopped coriander leaves and green chilies. Keep stirring till the ingredients get nicely blended.

Fill the hollow vegetable nicely with the shrimp and spice blend. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. In a wok add oil and ghee and fry the rested potol till it changes color.

For the gravy, add oil in the wok and sprinkle small amount of whole garam masala, cumin seeds, 1-2 small bay leaves.
Add onion and ginger paste and one by one add the dust of red chili, coriander, cumin and turmeric and little water. Sprinkle sugar and salt and stir continuously till a nice rich gravy is formed. Add the stuffed potols, add warm water and turn down the flame. Simmer for a while and allow to rest.

I like eating potoler dolma with steamed rice. You can try it with parantha, roti, bread - trust me, you are going to love it nonetheless.

 
You may also read:

Aloo Gobi with Garam Masala (Indian style)
Sweet bengali pulao (polao) with cashews, raisins, nutmeg, garam masala 
Less spicy, light mutton curry not just for sick times 
Luchi and kosha mangsho: every bengali's favorite guilt food
Surprise the guests with delicious Fish Koftas (balls)


Photo (C): tastytreat  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Khichudi - the ultimate rain food for the Bengalis


It's 12 o' clock in the night here and I am witnessing the first rains of the season. The sky from my window is blanketed with blinding sheets of silver rains and as they kiss the austere road, I can see the water gushing in wild stream cleansing the city. I decide to shut the window as it gets translucent on my freshly splattered face.

This is the ideal weather to eat Khichudi/ khichuri/ khichdi - a very special Bengali comfort food with rice, lentils (dal), spices, clarified butter, seasonal vegetables and a whole lot of experimental culinary stuffs. Khichudi is be best relished with aachar (pickle), fried fish, fried papad (papar bhaja) and fish-aubergine-potato fritters (beguni, aloo bhaja).

Khichudi is simply rice and pulse porridge cooked in mustard oil (the ultimate Bengali seasoning base) together with turmeric powder and a generous amount of exquisite Bengali spices (cumin seeds, bay leaf, panch phoron, whole red chili etc.) and clarified butter (ghee).

Although there has been a gastronomical frenzy of complimenting Hilsa fish fry (ilish mach bhaja) with khichudi, I love it with egg omelets. My mother's special egg omelet (dim bhaja) is just lip smacking. Mom has her very special touch that goes into the preparation of omelet. She adds lots of chopped onion julienne and fresh green chilies and let me tell you, it can never go wrong! Padadam or papad ( papar bhaja) deep fried in oil is another fritter that goes well with khichudi. Even though I hardly take papad these days, today is one such days when I do not mind letting go of the regime.
Khichudi, for most Bengalis, goes best with ilish machh bhaja (Hilsa fish fry) and beguni (aubergine fritters). This is probably the simplest of recipes and a delectable combo meal that the Bengalis can die for on any rainy day.

Machh bhaja (fish fry) is fish blocks fried in mustard oil and beguni is aubergine dipped in a batter of besan (pulse flour) and fried deep in mustard oil.

I have always loved khichudi. It has been a hit with my family as well. Coming to my family, my brother-in-law has his way with khichudi and he is brilliant every time. He adds cauliflower, green peas, potatoes, carrots and many other seasonal vegetables that add to delectable variety to the khichudi clan.

We eat Khichudi with spoonfuls of ghee and fresh green chilies and fresh lemons and of course we eat it together sprinkled with lovely family chit chats. Khichudi is the ultimate comfort food and I do not need any occasion to eat it. It's healthy, sumptuous and a complete food that we Bengalis eat during festivals, on special occasions, during monsoons and on normal days. Besides, khichudi has special fervor for me since it brings back fond memories.





Image - youtube, fishncurry, journospeak and MouD

 

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Prepare Bengali fish curry in just a few steps 

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Sweet bengali pulao (polao) with cashews, raisins, nutmeg, garam masala