Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Gawar fali ki sabzi / Stir fried Clusterbeans

I am a Bengali. And a proud one too.
But I am also a part of three more different cultures. Which do not make me any less a Bengali, but have indeed taken me to new depths. I know much about those cultures, traditions, food, dress, rituals. In short, everything that makes me able to say that I am proud to know or be a part of these cultures.

But somewhere along the way my blog started to be called or known as a Bengali food blog.
And I ... a Bengali food blogger.
Nowhere at no time have I ever claimed that my blog has Bengali food only ... or authentic Bengali food.
I do cook Bengali food ... with as much authenticity as my phone calls home and my other food blogger friends' input allows ... also my memory plays a part here too.
But I do not like being dragged into being labelled as a 'Bengali food' blogger
I'd rather be the Bengali 'food blogger'.

One of the many kinds of food that I regularly cook is the Rajasthani food. Almost daily I make a dal ... which would have temperings that is far different from the Bengali temperings. There will be a sabzi or vegetable dish, which again reflects the Rajasthani home cooking than the Bengali one.

I have actually divided the two kinds into two categories.
On the days I make rice, I make the dal and sabzi with Bengali temperings ... say the paanch phoron or the jeera+ada baat/ginger paste or fried onions+radhuni. This is mostly on days I make fish.
And on the days I make rotis, the dal and the sabzis have a Rajasthani flavour .... like the hing+jeera or whole dhania+red chillies ... and so on.
Both sides of the family ... that is the two of us ... are fine with it. Which makes things much easier for me.
Dinner is always something more neutral ... like the aloo paratha, methi paratha, pulao, etc. etc.

Though I'd love to follow this trend every single day of the week ... I cannot. But do stick to it most days.
Weekends are not counted.

One vegetable I had never eaten before marraige is the Gawarfali / cluster beans.
In fact it was never cooked at home too. The first time I saw it was when I went vegetable shopping and B picked them up with much enthusiasm.
I had no idea how to prepare it. Result ... a call home.
Mummy patiently explained how to cut it, why we need to boil it first, ... and so on.
End of the day saw a good, new dish on the table that B polished off happily.
I did not touch it. I still don't.
But both B and the in laws agree that I make a decent gawar ki sabzi.
And am happy with that.

Cluster beans should be brought very fresh. So fresh that they should break easily when you snap them.
If dry, they'll neither cook well nor will taste good. In fact, the bitterness is more prominent then.

I make this sabzi exactly the way Ma in law makes it. No changes.

Need :

Fresh gawar / cluster beans - 250 gms, washed and broken into medium sized pieces
Potatoes - 1, chopped
Jeera / cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Hing / asafoetida - 1 pinch
Dhania / coriander powder - 4 tbsp
Red chilli powder - ½ tsp
Haldi / turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Peanuts powder (optional )
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp

How to :

Take enough water in a bowl. Add salt and the chopped gawar pieces.
Boil uncovered till the gawar is cooked. .
Remove, strain and cool ... this straining helps in getting rid of the slight bitterness the gawar usually has.

When cool, take them in bowl and mix in the haldi powder, the dhania powder, the peanut powder, salt and red chilli powder.

Heat oil in a kadahi.
Add jeera and hing.
Add the potatoes and fry well.
Add a pinch of salt ... just for the potatoes.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.

Remove cover and add the gawar.
Give a good stir and cook till everything comes together.
If needed, add a little water.
 Cook well till dryish.
Remove from heat.

 Serve hot with rotis and dal on the side.

I do make another version of the gawar ... will post soon.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Bengali Vegetable Chop

 While my last post was a little heavy, this post will be dedicated to all of you who have been such wonderful friends, readers and bloggers. And also to all those who wrote in here and on FB to show solidarity against plagiarism. All of you, who do not raise your voice only when a 'friend' gets struck by plagiarism. All of you for being such wonderful human beings. I am proud to have you all in my life, blogging and real, both.

While I did not have much exposure to deep fried street food when growing up, the vegetable chop and shingara/samosa did make their appearence on the dining table once in a while, especially when we had guests in the evening. The drawing room would suddenly be off limits for us children. But we loved it. Because when we had guests, all the lights in the drawing room would be lit, including the jhaar lantern in the center of the ceiling ... making the huge room turn almost magical.
Dadu and Jethu and Kakus would  sit with the guests and their loud voices and laughter would reach all the way ... crossing the uthon / courtyard  and the long verandah along it , to the kitchen and dining room. There Jethima and other Kakimas, supervised by Thamma,  would be busy preparing tea and arranging plates with the savouries brought in hot and  fresh by one of the helping hands.

We kids would hover around, eyeing the oil soaked packets made of old newspapers, trying to stand steady with their contents bulging out of them.We knew we would get a piece each of our favourite ... either a singara or a chop ... but only after the guests are served. And maybe ... if all the elders left the kitchen together ... bully the cook to allow us a sip of that extra tea in the bottom of the pan. 

I got a request  on my page on FB, by a reader, for the Bengali Vegetable chop. And that was really long back. Numerous reasons kept me from making them, and posting them. While some were as simple as the lack of beet root in the market on the day of my grocery shopping to some good ones like me down with throat infection for more than a month ... and so on.
In between, there were guests. There were weekends, when we are invariably out for the whole day.
And work, which naturally takes up all the weekdays. Even the absence of bread to make bread crumbs came up on my list of excuses.
So, while I did go about cooking regular food everyday, I never got around to even start prepping for this deep fried delicacy.

 But all the while it kept nagging me from the back of my head. I had even tried keeping the beetroot and potatoes boiled and stored in the fridge. But most of the time, I'd be free by late evening. While I could have easily made them then, I wanted good photographs to make a post too ... so a no go there.
The beets shriveled up in disgust. The aloos were more forgiving and  made their way  to the aloo paratha.

But enough of excuses. Let us move on ... now that I have the chops ready and served.
Do not be fooled by these simple looking things ... they do require some planning and prep work. Only then will you be able to sit back and enjoy them hot off the kadahi.
This time, I went about diligently planning the whole thing from the beginning of the week.
One day, I boiled the potatoes and beets and kept them in the fridge.
On another day, I made the bread crumbs. Made sure there was cornflour in the pantry.
One day was dedicated to the peanuts ... dry roasted them, peeled them, halved them. If you keep this part for later, you will be in trouble ... unless you get to buy roasted, peeled and halved peanuts.
Finally, made the pur or the mix yesterday. And fried them today.
I have followed Bong Mom's recipe but some ingredients are different.

Need :

For the bhaja moshla / roasted masala ( I used Bong Mom's recipe, it is awesome )

Cumin seeds -  ½ tsp
Coriander seeds - ½ tsp
Fennel / mouri seeds -  ½  tsp
Cloves - 6 pieces
Green cardamom / choti elaichi - 3
Cinnamon/ dalchini - I used 3 medium sized, thin pieces
Black pepper / kali mirch - around 4 to 5 ( I kept them less as B doesn't like them )
Whole red chillies - 2
Bay leaf/Tej patta - 1 small

Roast everything together on a heavy bottomed flat pan.
Grind coarsely.

For the chops :

Boiled potatoes - 2 medium
Boiled beet root - 1 big sized
Grated ginger - 1 tbsp
Peanuts - 3 tbsp
Bread crumbs - enough for all the chops
(I make them at home by toasting bread in the ove nand then running them in a mixer,
you can use store bought ones too)
Corn flour - around 4 tbsp, and 1 tbsp for the cooked mix
Red chilli powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Maida/ APF - 2 tsp
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp ... to cook the the mix
Mustard + white oil - enough to deep fry the chops

How to :

Boil the potatoes and the beetroot ( I boiled them separately ).
Cool, peel and mash them.

Heat oil ( I used mustard oil for that old, familiar taste).

Fry the peanuts. Keep aside.
(I fried the whole peanuts and then had a difficult as well as messy time trying to peel and halve them.
Hence suggest that you dry roast them first, peel and halve them.)

In the same oil add grated ginger.
I added a little red chilli powder too, at this stage.
Fry just for a little while and add the mashed potatoes and beet.
Fry well.
Add salt and sugar ... this chop should stay sweetish ... so add salt accordingly.
Fry well till all moisture is gone.
Add the fried peanuts.
Add the bhaja masala.
Sprinkle the corn flour all over and stir well.
When completely dry and turns into a lump, remove and cool.

You can store this mix in the fridge and use later too.

To fry the chops :

Make a batter of the cornflour + maida + water. It should be be slightly thick ... enough to coat your finger but not too thick ... and not too runny also.

Take some mixture in your hand and press well to fill all the gaps and then give an oblong shape.
Take a chop, dip it in the batter, roll it well on the bread crumbs and keep aside. Repeat with all the chops. 

Heat oil in a deep, heavy bottomed kadahi.
When it is ready, take a chop, dip it in the batter again, roll it on the bread crumbs ... again ... pressing it lightly but firmly to pick up as much crumbs on it as possible.
Now slowly let it into the hot oil.

Fry all the chops this way ... but in small batches ... not more than 3 at a time.

This coating of batter and crumbs twice give a good crisp outside to the chops.

Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on paper napkins.
I love some chopped coconut in the vegetable chop ... but did not have any at home.
You can try if you like it.

A closer look.
Serve hot, with tomato ketchup or kasundi.
I had both, so ... :-)
Great as a snack.

I had woken with a splitting headache today and was not at all in the mood for the same old cereals for b'fast. And since I was looking for a chance to fry these and get some clicks, it was the good old vegetable chop and tea for me this Friday morning.
The sun stayed away ... as usual. But the clouds were friendly and let in some light for my snaps. :-)

So make some ginger tea, quick, and dig in to the Bengali's all time favourite Vegetable chop.
A perfect deep fried indulgence to go with the rains.