Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Ilisher Mudo diye Shorshe jhal / Hilsa head cooked with Mustard paste

The phone came at sharp 12 o'clock in the noon.
That one phone call that I look forward to every year.
As soon as the monsoons start.
That one phone call that spells happiness for me.
Happiness that lasts me for almost a whole year.
"Madam, ek piece mila hai, 1 kg tak, anda bhi hai".... said my fishmonger.
"Le lo".... I croaked.

My fishmonger calls me from the main market as soon as he sees a good hilsa and calls me.
Only after I confirm I am in town and only if the fish matches my specifications does he buy it.
And I go and collect it from him.
This time, my bad throat and illness notwithstanding, I said yes.
But then the season was getting over and I still hadn't got my hands on a good Hilsa / Ilish.
And that was making me very restless.
Everytime I enquired I was told that getting a good sized hilsa has been very difficult this year since all the good sized Hilsa were being exported.

I am finicky about my ilish.
I have grown up not on the Padma's ilish but the best of Kolaghat Ilish ... and hence know a good ilish.
I would rather wait for the whole year and get one good ilish than fall prey to my greed and buy just any other faux ilish and show off.
No sir .... not me.
I know my ilish ... I can hear Bapi's voice describing how to know a good Ilish.
And the words are imprinted in my memory forever, along with his voice.

And when I think of this  Kolaghat ilish, my memories take me back home and the tumultuous monsoons in our small hilly town where Bapi had set up his factory. 
After an early lunch, on any given day, S Pishi (aunt) would call out to Bapi asking him to gather the drivers and get the cars ready.
And, with a twinkle in her eye, she would smile at us and ask us to get ready.
We would immediately catch on the excitement. 
Because it would mean only one thing ... a long drive and a picnic!!
And of course Kolaghat ... which means ... Ilish!!

Ma and Pishi would quickly rustle up a mix of muri/puffed rice and chanachur and all of us would pile into the cars and off we would go.
The drive would be filled with lots of singing, jokes and munching on the muri chanachur while the rain pelted the windows. At times, we would stop and get down for the elders to grab a cup of tea from a small stall on the roadside in the middle of nowhere.
On our return journey, Ma and Pishi would surely get down if they saw a haat / village market and that would mean loads of local, fresh vegetables.

Now that I look back, I realise that much of my love for travel and interest in the details and history of places, my love for the simple life of the countryside and villages, for nature and knowing every single local plant, fruit and leaves and their usage in our lives .... the credit goes to my S pishi.
And it were those picnics that were my classrooms.

Coming back to my Ilish, I did bring it home.
And since it was a weekday, indulged in some bhaja ilish with some hot rice for dinner.
I am often at my wits end as to what to make with the head ... it is after all only one head and there are so many ways to enjoy it.
After much thought, I decide on this jhaal with one half.
The other half will have to be the tauk / ambol ... my ever favourite.

Considering the dreaded bones of the ilish, this jhaal is not for the faint hearted.
Do try to be very careful while eating this or the fine bones may create trouble for you.
I suggest you use the front of the head ... the bones are bigger here and hence more manageable.

Need :

Ilish head - fried and broken into pieces
Potato - 1 medium, sliced
Onion - 1 medium, sliced
Mustard paste - around 2 tbsp
( I used two of my frozen cubes that was made by soaking both black and white mustard seeds, ground to a paste and strained )
Green chillies - 4 to 5
Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Haldi powder - 1 tsp salt + haldi powder.
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch
Water - a little

How to :

Heat the oil in a kadahi / wok.

Add the nigella seeds and green chillies.

Add the sliced onions and fry for a while.

Now add the potatoes + turmeric powder + salt.

Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.

Remove cover and add the fish head pieces + mustard paste + a little water + sugar.

Check for salt and add if needed.

Cover and cook for a while.

Remove cover and mix everything together well.

Pour 1 tsp of mustard oil all over and add a few more green chillies.
Cover, remove from heat and let it stand for a few minutes.

Serve hot with rice.


Here are a few more Ilish recipes for you to enjoy in this monsoon.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Masala Bhindi / Okra cooked with spices

My love story with the rains and Pune's weather during the monsoons is now jinxed for ever.
Or so it seems.
For the past few years, all that I got was loss, during the monsoons.
Either I fall ill, or a close one passes away. Or both.
And in the process, instead of making new memories, all I get to dwell in is morbidity.
Neither can I cook good food, something we so love and relate to with the rains, nor do I get to go out and enjoy the weather.
And by going out, I not only mean going out of the house but also stepping out into the balcony.
The cold breeze and the light drizzle call me.
But I do not dare to go.
Not with this sniffling nose, high fever and a most painful throat.
B, on the other hand, is thoroughly enjoying our balcony now. With the swing completely free for him now ... we usually race to the swing and often come up with tricks and cheat to beat each other to it .... he is more than happy to spend time on it with a cup of tea, smiling at me smugly when I look out from behind the half closed door.
The plants are happy too.
Only I am the miserable one .... surviving on antibiotics and paracetamol and an odd antihistamine in between, while dreaming of  sinful, deep fried and comfort food.

Speaking of comfort food, I have been making the much loved khichdi a lot these days.
And sometimes B makes his own version too.
Just a few days back, I was craving the Bengali khichuri as I do not make it often ... B does not like the sweetness in it ... and decided to indulge.
Cooked it and posted on instagram too.
A good piece of Ilish / Hilsa fry would have been the perfect accompaniment but I still haven't got hold of a Hilsa yet this season.
And this fact is making me even more morbid.
Sharing a photo of my Bengali khichuri platter from that day.
But do stay with me on Instagram if you want recipes of my daily cooking that I often do not make a post on here.

Coming back to today's recipe, there is nothing morbid about this beautiful dish of Okra / Lady finger / Bhindi / Dharosh cooked with spices.
I often make this on the side for rotis but recently found that it is a great side dish for khichris too.
Slightly on the drier side, whatever moistness there is will be from the cooked bhindis , the spice of the masalas are the perfect foil to the sweetness of the vegetable.
I use the masalas that I usually use for the bharwa bhindi , but sometimes do add in some crushed peanuts both for texture as well as some dose of protien.

Here is how I made it.

Need :

Okra / Bhindi - ¼ kg ( some 12 to 15 pieces ) ,
 ( cut the head and tip of the tail off and make a slit in the middle to check for insects )
Dhania / Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Amchur / Dried mango powder - 1 tsp ( you can use lemon juice too )
Besan - 1 tsp ( optional )
Crushed peanuts - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp

How to :

Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl to make a masala.

Add 1 tbsp of the cooking oil and mix well.

Fill the slits of the okra with this masala.

Heat the rest of the oil in a flat, heavy pan.

Let in the okra and stir well.

Cover and cook till okra is done.
If the masala starts to burn, you can add very little sprinkles of water and cover.

Remove cover and fry till the okra loses the sliminess.


Other than rotis or parathas, you can pair this on the side of plain rice and dal too.

Enjoy !! .... till I come up with a happier post.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Burnt Garlic Butter Rice and Roasted vegetables with Boiled Corn on the cob


While the whole world goes crazy over roasted corn spiced with salt , red chilli powder and lemon juice, during the monsoons, I quietly boil mine and enjoy it steaming hot.
With a blob of butter.
And maybe some freshly cracked black pepper straight from the mill.
That's what my heart yearns for in the monsoons.
And that's what makes my heart sing.

I fell in love with this extraordinarily flavourful yet simple way of enjoying sweet corn on my first ever trip to Lonavla, a hill station near Pune.
I was a student then and was a part of this boisterous group of young students, from all over the country, much excited at the thought of a trip by a local train into the hills in the rains.
Monsoons turn Pune and its adjoining hilly places into something that dreams or travel brochure pictures are made of.
And the cold weather that comes with it is a bonus.
Soft rain, light drizzles, fog, clouds against the insanely fresh green sprawling landscape and the numerous thin waterfalls that dot the hills .... it seems as if the world has sprung into fresh life.
Every single blade of grass turns green. Every leaf on the trees shines.
Nature turns crazily beautiful.
And you can enjoy this weather in every way ... be it going out on picnics or snuggling in at home with a hot cuppa soup, ginger tea or coffee .... monsoons in Pune is sure to make you fall in love with life. 

And it was in this beautiful weather that I got to fall in love with the boiled corn on the cob.
As I was saying, I was with my friends in Lonavla , having a whale of a time laughing and joking, getting drenched in the light rain , walking the hilly roads as the clouds would pass by, drenching us with fresh droplets.
And in one of those walks, shivering in the windy cold, we stopped for some hot tea.
And near the small tea stall, there was this lady, with a blue plastic covering her from the rain ... in vain ... selling steaming hot boiled peanuts and sweet corn on the cob.
We hungrily bought some of each and that one bite into the sweet, juicy corn with some butter melting all around it and the steam burning my mouth, took me to another world altogether.
Standing  there in the rain with slush all around me,
oblivious to everything ... the people, the noise, the rush,
I closed my eyes and turned my face up to the cold rain and savoured the burst of flavours in my mouth.

And ever since, come monsoons, my grocery list always has sweet corn in it.

We have been eating a lot of steamed or roasted food recently due to the weather.
Barring the few bhajas with khichuri that is. 😃
And today this was for lunch , as it turned dark again outside ... after a brief spell of brightness.

My go to recipe is to cut up fresh vegetables, toss them with a good glug of olive oil, sprinkle some salt, chilli flakes, freshly crushed black pepper and sometimes crush in some Italian dry herbs too ... and bake at 150 degrees till the vegetables are done.

I had some leftover rice and decided to make something spicy to go with the light vegetables.
So made this burnt garlic butter rice.
Heated some butter ( never too hot ) in a heavy pan and 
added a good amount of chopped garlic.
When they started to turn brown, threw in a pinch of chilli flakes
and a couple of chopped green chillies.
Then added the rice, salt, a pinch of sugar and tossed everything together on high heat.

 Here is a closer look.

You can pair the roasted vegetables with toasted bread and soup too ... our usual dinner.
Or with boiled macaroni or noodles.
Or just roll them up in a roti or paratha and add some sauces of your choice to make a quick roll.
Any way ... this is one healthy yet very filling plate.

Enjoy !!
And stay healthy this monsoon.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Pepe ar Cholar tarkari / Raw Papaya cooked with brown legumes

Life has been happening to me for a while now. And a little too much too.
So, while I have been intending to make a post, I had no idea what to write.
Everytime I came here, I would stare blankly at the screen and then log out.
Not that I do not share my life here ... I always have, as best as I could, without making it overwhelming for my readers.
But then, not always good things happen.
Sometimes, stress does.
And so does loss.
And then of course the brighter things like the love of your family and friends, good memories and on some days beautiful weather ... life is made up of all these too.

I have been on this roller coaster of emotions and experiences since my last post.
A few losses, both in the family and also a friend's, have hit me hard.
No matter how old I get, I just can't seem to fathom or get to terms with a loss.
Especially a sudden one.
That void stares back at me, unmoving and adamant, almost as if challenging me .... and just refuses to fill.
I try to look away. But can feel it behind me.
And all around.
So I immerse myself in what I do best ... cook, knit and cleaning the house.
I have lost count of the innumerable meals that I have cooked for the family and friends recently.
And my house cleaning has gone up to a higher level altogether.
I have cleaned my kitchen numerous times over and over till there is nothing more to do.
And have given away more clothes and curtains and bed sheets than I actually needed to.
I exhausted myself arranging and rearranging the furniture, driving B up the wall literally.
Yet nothing helped.
Yet the hurt persists.

I did make a few posts of my lunch plates on Insta ... the comments and interaction helps a little .... but gave up.
Right now, I have decided to take it a little easy.
And try to not dwell in memories.
Hopefully, the sun will shine again and my mood will lift.

The recipe today is a simple one, as usual.
And very, very healthy.
I have been using the raw Papaya in a lot of my cooking due to its health benefits.
But since most of them are mixed dishes ... a throw of this and that and let everything come together in their own flavours and end with a tempering ... , I never made any posts on them.

But Bengalis cook the Papaya as a standalone dish too.
Like the peper dalna ( I will make a post soon ) or this dry dish with legumes.
As children, we had to finish that piece of papaya that would be added to dal when cooking.
Boiled papaya was hated by us .... but then Thamma made it bearable by making a mash of it with some boiled potatoes to make the pepe bhaate ... much like these.
Later, I learnt to add some spices to it too and actually started to love it.
If you follow me on instagram, you will see my lunch plates almost always have a healthy boiled vegetable makha.

But if you are not into boiled stuff, then you can make a dish like this Pepe cholar torkari with spices and garam masalas.
It has all the health benefits of the Papaya and also the protein and fibre of the chola or kala chana, which also adds some texture to what otherwise would have been just a pulpy mash. 
If you want, you can use onion and garlic too, but this was usually made in our home on vegetarian days  or during pujas and paired with Luchi or Porota.

Need :

Kala chana / Kalo chola / Black chickpeas - soaked and boiled
( I usually soak and boil them in bulk and store in the fridge )

Raw Papaya - grated
Ginger - grated
Whole dry red chillies - broken
Jeera / Cumin seeds
Haldi / Turmeric powder
Garam masala powder
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch

If you want to, you can add potatoes too.

How to :

Heat oil.

Add the jeera and the dry red chillies.

Add the grated ginger.
Fry a little.

Add the kala chana + papaya + turmeric + salt + red chilli powder.
Stir and mix well.

Cover and cook till done.

Add garam masala and stir well again.

Serve hot.

This recipe has no onions or garlic ... which makes it a good niramish / vegetarian dish for the month of Shravan too.
Or for any other pooja days too.

Goes best with rotis, parathas or Luchis.
But you can pair this with khichuri too.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Narkel Kanchalonka Doi diye Chicken / Chicken cooked with coconut, green chillies and curd

 There are days when you make a recipe.
And then there are days when a recipe makes you.

I was running short of time today as I rushed through my daily chores while something kept nagging at the back of my head.
That something was important ... very important to me ... it had been almost a week since I had eaten a proper non vegetarian meal last.
Barring the one quick stir fried chilli chicken and a boiled egg one day with my soft, phyana bhaat ( if you are with me on instragram or facebook, you will know. )
So as I did the laundry and kept away the dishes, visions of a steaming hot mutton curry and some hot rice danced before my eyes.
By the time it was early noon, I could not take it any more.
More so because B's favourite summer combo meal was almost done.
And there was nothing to tempt me to sit down for lunch.
I had to have some mangshor jhol .... urgently.

The day had not started on a good note.
A sad news regarding a childhood friend's loss had already set a morbid spell and I desperately needed something to break it.
So dropped everything and went out to get mutton.
As luck would have it, there was no mutton ... "You will get it by 2:00 o'clock, Ma'am" was what I got.
I had no intention of waiting till two, so grabbed a half kilo pack of chicken and came home.
And then realised that I have run out of my homemade ginger garlic paste ... not a cube in the freezer.
Thankfully I had some already peeled garlic in the fridge.
And found the chutney jar of my mixer in the fridge .... with a good amount of coconut paste in it!!

I knew immediately what to do. No standing and frying and koshaoing for long.
All I would do was mix everything and set it to cook.
And that is how this beautiful recipe came by to brighten up my day .... or whatever was left of it.

 I had curd in the fridge ... it was a few days old as well as store bought ... which made it slightly sour and was perfect to cook meat with.
I decided to cook all the chicken at once and freeze batches ... that will save me a few hours of cooking for the next few days , when I can concentrate on my sewing.
So mixed the chicken with curd and masalas and let it sit for around 15 minutes while I made the Aamras ( pureed the mango ) for B's meal.
And then sat it on the stove to cook while I went back to my chores.
In less than half an hour, it was done ... slow cooked to perfection.
No frying, no stirring, no checking on, no hassles at all.

I am tempted to call this a no oil preparation but that one spoonful of mustard oil in the marination is holding me back.
Whatever oil you see in the picture is from the curd and the chicken's fat (there was not much ... I am just assuming. )

This curry turned out so darned good that I decided to make a post pronto .... almost as if the flavours will die away if I don't.
While clicking the photos, I had to adjust the gravy and wipe the sides and once I licked my fingers, I just could not get over with clicking and start eating.
It was just so, so good ... if I may say so.

Do give it a try ... I am sure you will love it.

Need :

To make the paste -

Grated coconut - around 8 tbsp
Garlic - 12 cloves of medium size
Ginger - half an inch piece
Green chillies - 2 (depending on the heat )

Run everything with a little water , in a grinder, to make a coarse paste.

For the curry -

Chicken - ½ kilo
Curd - 5 tbsp
Roasted jeera/cumin powder - 2 tsp
Dhania / Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp ( I used a little biryani masala as I did not have garam masala )
Mustard oil - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste

How to :

Mix all the ingredients and the coconut paste and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Pour in a heavy bottomed kadahi / pan and cover tightly.

Set it on low heat and let it cook till chicken is done and desired consistency of the gravy is reached.

Remove cover and check for salt and sweetness.
If needed, add and cover and simmer for a couple of minutes more.

Or else, remove from heat.

Serve hot.

Goes great with rice, rotis or parathas.
And while it looks rich and heavy, it is one of the lightest of dishes that I have ever cooked. 


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Radhuni diye Parshe macher halka jhol

 Hello hello all!
I know I have been awol for some time now and 'truly beg to state that' I have not been upto much to be able to share here.
Yes, nothing happened much in the past month .... neither life nor recipes nor photos.
I have been in a pretty much zombie like state and have no idea how the days flew by.
Summer came and went by, people came and went by, travel came and went by, ... nothing actually could bring me out of my stupor.
It was like being encased in a shell of morbidity.
It was as if the whole world had stopped living.
It was as if I had stopped breathing.
I have no idea why I was so low since life was going on as usual otherwise.
I was cooking regularly; I had house guests for a while; a couple of road trips happened; paanto happened; mutton too happened; as did chingri .... but nothing could put that spark back into me.

And then a trip to the hills happened. And I was breathing again.
With every second person around me leaving for the mountains, I must say I was not surprised when B suggested a trip too.
And just like that, within a week, he had everything done .... bookings, tickets, et all.
I was a little overwhelmed at the pace but gave in a played along.
And end of the week saw us in the lap of the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas.

The fresh mountain air, the fresh local food, a little sightseeing and some shopping .... everything was like a dream. I was happy again.
We did not go too far into the hills .... we just wanted to unwind and rest.
And take long walks in the pine scented forests and roads.
And that was exactly what we did. ( I hope to update my travel blog soon ... fingers crossed. )

By the time we were back in the plains, we had enough fresh air in our lungs to last a year ( I hope to go back again in a few months though .... B has promised me snow in the mountains early next year ... let's see. 😄😄 )

Another good thing that happened is a long lost friend from school, who had lost her father around the same time as I did, as well as a sister, got back in touch.
So, right now, we are busy catching up on all the years that have passed by as well as old memories.
I am also looking forward to another trip to Rajasthan in the near future .... can't wait to see how Rajasthan behaves in the rains.

As for today's recipe ... it is an old one that I had cooked this last year I guess.
From euphoRHEA.
When I saw her plate on fb, I just had to make it.
It is a light jhol, perfect for summer and just my kind of food.
I have not made any changes to the recipe except for the fish.
All I had was some Parshe in the freezer and could not wait till I got my hands on some Rohu.
So used that.

And fell in love with it.
I have made it many more times after that but had somehow missed posting it.
Now that I have no more new photographs, I dug into my old folders and found these.

Do make this once and see how light, simple food is always the best kind of food.

Need :

Parshe fish - 2, cut , cleaned and marinated with turmeric powder + salt
Potatoes - 2, cut into long slices
Cauliflower - a few florets
Green chillies - 3
Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Radhuni / Celery seeds - a pinch 
Jeera / Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - for gravy
Oil - 2 + 2 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )

How to :

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a kadahi.
When it starts to smoke, let in the fish pieces and fry on both sides.
Remove and keep aside.

Add the rest of the oil and add the kalo jeere + radhuni + green chilles.

Then add the vegetables and stir well.
Add salt + turmeric powder + jeera powder + water.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are done.

Remove cover and add the fish pieces, check water and add if necessary.
Check for salt.
Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.


Light, soupy, summery .... perfect with some plain rice.

Leaving you with a shot of the pines that I managed from inside the car.

I will try to be more regular here.
Till then ... cheerio all!!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Enchor bhaja / Stir fried raw Jackfruit

Summer is blooming here.
Blooming .... yes. Because I have no other word for what is going on outside right now.
Mid morning temperature starts with 32 degrees and rises as much as it wishes to by late afternoon.  And then decides it loves the city so much that it refuses to down with the sun.
Clings on to the air, making it difficult to breathe even after night falls.
The floor and the walls of my balcony radiate the heat off. My plants stay still ... almost as if fearing to move lest the heat increases again.
I spray them with water liberally, only to feel the steam off the floor tiles and the wet earth.
On days when there is no breeze, I look out to see the dark profiles of the trees standing sombrely.
The rooster that I see of the few branches on the top of the Eucalyptus too does not move ... on other days I love to see the branches that form the neck and head move in the breeze ... as if nodding.
It is only when the restless bats shift branches that it moves ... sometimes the head moving away eerily and sometimes the plume of the tail.
Depresses me more .... just like the heat does these days.

 I have a thousand and one things going on at the same time in my life right now.
Some happy; some not as much.
And then there are a thousand and one recipes  .... okay, a little less maybe ... running in my head too.
To try, to post and share with you here.
But this heat ... nah .... will have to wait for some cooler days.
Meals have been mostly light ... you know if you are following me on Instagram. So I had nothing much to make a post on.
And then, my green grocer has been gone for a while now on vacation.
He is the only guy I rely on these days for fresh vegetables. So when he mentioned that he will be away for a while and I should buy some of that very fresh raw Jackfruit, I gave in.
He does make it easy for me, or else dealing with Enchor / raw jackfruit is painful and deters even the most expert housewife from handling it.

My tip on how to deal with a raw jackfruit is - get your grocer to peel it ... they have that big chopper and is easy for them .... and then make medium cuts from the sides till the center ... without cutting the center.
All I do is wash it well under running water and dump the whole thing into a pressure cooker with some salt and turmeric powder.
And cook it for two whistles on low heat.
And then, after cooling it, I cut it into blocks and store it in the freezer ... ready to take out and cook whenever I want to.
No oiling of hands, no sticky gum clinging to fingers, no messy jobs of papers and tissues and everything sticking together, etc. etc.

Try it ... and do remember to come back here and thank me. 😄😄

Now, to the recipe.
If you know me, if  you have tried my recipes, you will know by now how I am obsessed with simplifying recipes and cooking light.
So while the whole world has gone overboard with trying to cook the kathal / enchor / raw jackfruit with loads of masalas ... in keeping up with the idea of it being a vegetarian substitute to non vegetarian food .... I phoo the idea away and go ahead and cook it real light and flavourful. If you have not tried this recipe yet, you are surely missing something good this summer.
And then, today I made this light bhaja or stir fry.
I was so amazed and at the same time so happy the way it came out that forgetting hunger and mealtime, I clicked a few photos to share it here pronto.
You really do not have to do much here.
All you need is some pre boiled enchor and some onions and green chillies.
And some dry masalas.
That's all.

Need :

Raw jackfruit / Kathal / Enchor - boiled with salt and cut into medium pieces
Onions - chopped into big sizes
Garlic - chopped ( optional )
Green chilles - chopped
Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil ( I use mustard oil )
Lemon juice

How to :

In a heavy kadahi/ wok , heat the oil on low heat till smoking hot.

Add the jackfruit and toss on high heat for a minute ... searing it well.

Now add the onions + garlic + green chillies and keep tossing.

Add the turmeric + red chilli powder + salt + sugar.

Keep tossing till everything comes together.

Add a good dose of lemon juice and toss a little more.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

Since we were having it with rice and dal, I did not add any other masala and kept it simple like a bhaja should be.
If you are planning to eat it with rotis or parathas, then you may add garam masala as well as tomatoes too, to bring up the moisture quotient.

And a happy weekend all!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Bharwa Tinda / Masala stuffed Apple gourd

Summer is officially here.
The morning breeze is heavy these days ... not as light and crisp as in winters.
Blows more languidly.
I still sit out in the swing in my little balcony in the early mornings .... after I have filled the bird bath and watered my plants.
The sun turns bright way too soon ... and the breeze touches me in a more lazy way. The plants feel the heat approaching and are already still.
The birds come hurrying ... the small ones have a quick drink and a dip, shake the water off themselves  vigorously  and are off ... all in a matter of a minute.
The bigger ones are more confident .... my sitting there do not bother them ever.
The swallows even scold me once or twice for shamelessly watching them have a bath.
A couple of crows have made a habit of demanding biscuit from me ... will actually sit on the railing and stare at me till I give up and go inside to get a biscuit.
I don't remember when did this ritual actually start ... but now they are so assertive that I hate to disappoint them.

Summer also means a lack of variety in vegetables.
We have to make do with the limited Lau / lauki, Bhindi / okra, sheem / broad beans and a few brinjals here and there.
I am talking of Pune, mind you. You might be the luckier ones who live in places that have beautiful, moisture laden vegetables and fruits and leafy greens.
Not here.
We really have to go to different places to get different ... read good .... vegetables.
We try to eat local ... that is one thing that ensures fresh vegetables.
Which also limits our access to varied produce.

We were at the Mandai a couple of weeks ago. After finishing our errands, we decided to explore the market a little ... me hoping against hope to get some fresh vegetables.
The sun was ruthless yet I walked around looking at stuff.
Nothing looked different from the once we get at our nearest supermarket.
So I just picked up a couple of fresh coconuts at the exorbitant price of Rs.45/- each and started our walk back to the parking lot.
And then I noticed these real small and good Tindas at a lady's stall.

Now, I have absolutely no regard for this vegetable. But B loves it.
The ones we get at the supermarket are usually huge in size and absolutely sham.
But these were good ... small, fresh with a light peel.
When bruised, they oozed water so promptly that I just had to pick them up.
Got them home and cooked them immediately ... fresh.

Since they were so tender, I did not have the heart to chop them.
Instead, decided to make them bharwan / stuffed.
Ma in law makes them this way ... I followed her recipe since I don't have much expertise with Tindas.

Need :

Tinda - 6 pieces, small and tender
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Tomato - 1 big, chopped
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Whole jeera / cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Dhaniya / coriander powder - 2 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Punjabi garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Amchur / dry mango powder - 1 tsp
Mirchi / Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Cooking oil - 3 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Fresh coriander leaves - chopped

How to :

Wash the tindas , peel and make a cross half way across them.
Do not cut them into pieces ... they should be whole.

Make a mix of all the dry masalas with a little oil and salt.

Stuff the tindas with the masala paste.

Heat the rest of the oil in a flat, heavy bottomed pan.

Add the onions and cook on low heat till soft.

Add the grated ginger and the tomato.

Fry well till the tomato is cooked and mushy ... you may need to cover it to cook.
Do add a pinch of salt to hasten cooking.

Remove cover and arrange the tinda in the pan, add the residual masala paste.
Cover and cook till the tindas are soft and well done.
They should not break open ... so take care when turning them.
You may add a little water if you see the need.

Remove cover, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves.

Serve hot with rotis.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Shubho Naboborsho 1425 !!

 Shubho Nabo borsho!
I know I am a day late.
Poila Boishakh or the first day of Baishakh and the start of Bengali new year was yesterday.
But then the year is just a day old .... the whole year is waiting ... laid out straight in front of us.
A straight road for us to travel.
That might have turns and bends.
That might be lonely or crowded.
We don't know.
All that we know is we will have to travel that road. For the rest of the 364 days.
Come rain or storm or thunder.
Come sun or spring or winter.
We don't have a choice. No shortcuts to the end.
We cannot decide for how long. We cannot choose an off road.
All we can do is travel.
And decide what to do on this journey to make it more enjoyable.
And make better memories for later times.

While I was going through my photos to edit yesterday, I came across a collage of some food photos that I had compiled together for this post on the English new year.
And that collage and the post set me thinking.
It was about whole of the year 2017 ... what I cooked, what I clicked, where I traveled to .... and so on. My thoughts, feelings and emotions reflected on those various posts.
And in one glance I had the whole year in front of me.

 And that made me wonder .... why not plan  and make a list on how my collage and the write for my last post of the year will look like, at the very beginning of the year?
If I have a list of food to cook and share with you here, maybe that will push me to make regular posts.
If I have a list of places that I want to see in this year, maybe that will motivate me to plan better.
If I have a list of things I need to knit and finish this year, maybe I will be able to plan my knitting time more effectively ... considering a number of half done projects lying waiting.

Why not?
I know some of these are absolutely in my control .... only the travel part will need an equal degree of enthusiasm as well as agreeing from B.
If left to me, I would happily pick up a rucksack and set off right away.
But that is not to be.
I have been trying to convince the man that I am craving some crisp mountain air for a while now.
And have got just some condescending nods in return. 
Nothing beyond that .... yet.

But the rest of the stuff ... I can manage.
And plan to manage very well.
Keeping my fingers and toes crossed.
Given my sudden outbursts of ill health, I know that not every year is going to be as smooth as the last one was.
But I truly believe where there is a will, there is a way.
What say? 😊

 So with that mojo, I set off to cook a lunch platter for the day.
I had bought some fresh minced mutton and planned to make some mutton pulao or kheema.
But as the day progressed, the temperature outside soared.
While all I wanted at that moment was a bowlful of the cooling Paanta bhaat, I restrained.
And went ahead and cooked a light vegetarian meal.
B was a little concerned at my eating vegetarian food on a Sunday and that too on Poila Boishakh day.
But I knew I could eat nothing heavier.

I had the Narkel diye Cholar dal already in the fridge as well as the Peper chaatni.
There were boiled baby potatoes too.
So all I did was quickly kneaded some Maida / APF for the Luchi .... one cannot just not have a couple of Luchis on the New year day ... right?
And while the dough rested, I set the  Mishti polau ... this time with kaju and kismish .... on the stove.

After that I tossed the potatoes with a cube of my frozen ginger + garlic paste and some onions and tomatoes and some roasted jeera powder and garam masala.
Threw in some of my frozen peas, from winter, too.
And the Choto aloor dom was ready.
And lunch was ready within an hour.

Finally, I sent B to the shower and started to make the Luchis.
I raced against time to set the table, plate the food, frying the luchis at the same time ... regulating the oil temperature in the wok / kadahi was the biggest challenge in this hurry .... and setting them on the plates.
I had wanted them to stay puffed up ... what is a luchi if it is not a phulko or a perfectly puffed up one?  ... while I took the pictures.

( I know I have to make a post on the Luchi too. Hope you have seen my video on the cover of my page on Facebook ... the one that many loved and voted for it to stay and asked me not to remove it. )

Surprisingly they behaved ... maybe out of sheer respect for my honest efforts to make them look good ... and stayed perfectly puffed up all through the shoot.
And till a while later too ... when I finally had the time to sit down and eat.

So while the photos were taken for Instagram, I am sharing the meal here with you too.

নতুন  বছরের অনেক শুভেচ্ছা ও ভালোবাসা আপনাদের জন্যে রইল। 
খুব ভালো থাকুন , প্রাণ খুলে হাঁসুন আর পেট ভরে খান। 
আর যদি পারেন কোনো ক্ষুদার্ত শিশু কে  অন্তত একটি  বেলা  খাওয়ান। 
আপনাদের নববর্ষ মঙ্গলময় হোক !!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous Bengali new year!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Plastic Chatni / Chutney made with Raw Papaya .... a Bengali favorite

plastic chatni
 Thin, transparent slices that glisten in a clear, slightly thick liquid. You feel like picking one up but hold back for fear of it breaking or melting in your hand.
Slowly you fish a slice up and hold it between your fingers.
It is so clear that you can see through it.The sticky syrup rolls down you fingers and you quickly lick it to stop from flowing down your elbow.
And revel in the taste.
Sweet, lemony, with the kick of the paanch phoron
And slightly spicy, if a piece of the dry red chilli has crushed.

That is the Plastic chaatni for you.
Every Bengali's favourite. Something every Bengali looks forward to in the menu of a special occasion, especially weddings.
I am not talking of today's catering managed wedding meals.
I am talking of the traditional weddings of yore.
Where food was served on plaintain / raw banana leaves and water was served in traditional earthen glasses.
Where food was eaten with hands and where people sat down together, in large batches, to enjoy the feast.
Where all the dishes were served on the same plate, course by course and the plate holds the heavenly mix of flavours from the all the dishes served.
So the sweetness from the Mishti bhaat or the fried rice, the spiciness from the macher kalia or the jhol, the richness of the Kosha Mangsho, the crunch from the Fish fry .... every dish leaves its print on the plate.
And to that ,when the sweetness of the Plastic chatni is added, it is heaven on your plate. 
And the lingering taste and smell in your fingers.
And the sounds of the shehnai mixed with a lot of boisterous chattering and laughing out loud in your ears and the frangrace of the Rajanigandha in the air.
That is what Bengali wedding meals used to be.

plastic chatni

The Plastic chaatni ..... it got its name because the papaya slices resembled clear plastic after cooking, is not very common in everyday cooking in Bengali households.
And rare too in occasions like birthdays or Annaprasanna ( when a child eats rice for the first time ).
However, when it came to wedding menus, its place was fixed.
Although I have never seen this chutney served anywhere else, I did notice that the restaurant Sigree always serves it along with other relishes.
Their version is slightly dry though ... but the flavours are the same.

Traditionally, the shape is of thin slices of the raw papaya. I have chopped them for reasons best known to god. I have no idea why I did not slice them.
Also, by the time I cut the papaya to cook, it had ripened slightly.
But I can assure you, it made no difference to the taste.

My chatni has a little too much of paanch phoron / Bengali five spice tempering .... but that is because the spoon slipped from my hand and landed straight into the hot oil.
But again ... no harm to the taste.

plastic chatni

Here's how to make this wondrous chatni.

Need :

Raw Papaya - 1 cupful ,
( thinly sliced small pieces or cut into very small cubes )
Kismis / Raisins - 1 tbsp, soaked
Lemon juice - around 1 tbsp
Sugar - 2 cupsful
Water - 3 cupsful or a little more
Paanch phoron / Bengali five spice mix - 1 tsp
( a mix of
methi / fenugreek seeds (use just a few seeds),
jeera / cumin seeds,
mouri / fennel seeds ,
sorse / mustard seeds,
kalo jeere / nigella seeds )
Whole dry red chillies - 1, broken
Cooking oil - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch

(If you are afraid of biting into a methi seed, then you can use just the fennel (saunf ) and the nigella ( kalonji ) seeds for the tempering.

How to :

Heat oil in a pan or a kadahi.

Add the paanch phoron + broken red chilli.

Then add the papaya and toss well.

Add a little salt, cover and cook till just half done.

Remove cover, add the raisins and water and bring to a boil.

Now add the sugar and cook for some more time, covered.

Remove cover, check if the papaya is done yet firm.

Add the lemon juice, simmer for a minute or two.

Remove from heat and cool. 

plastic chatni

This stays well in the fridge for more than a week.
Just make sure you keep it covered well or in a tight lid bottle.

Poila Boishakh is just a day away.
Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous Bengali New Year!!
Health and happiness and more healthy, happy food to you !!


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Idli Sambar Podi ... a hearty South Indian breakfast

 idli sambar podi
 From the day I got married till date, every morning the one question that I have to face on waking up is 'what to make for breakfast?'.
Every single day. Well, almost.
Earlier, I did not have to bother. At home ... it was taken care of. And how!
When I was a PG, studying, I did not have to bother. I had no time for breakfast ... barring a few days when I would gulp down a glass of milk and rush.
But after I set up my own home, I decided that I would wallow in the luxury of a fulfilling breakfast everyday.
But that was not to happen ... not for a while.
The man had grown up attending morning school ... hence the term breakfast did not feature anywhere near even his peripheral vision.
So after struggling to introduce and willing him to love this beautiful thing for a good few months, I gave up.
Besides, seeing my plates of French toast or Upma or Parathas being rejected for lack of time to eat, was not a very happy thing to happen in the morning.
 So I gave up.
And happily focused on my favourite eggs and bread routine.

I love steaming hot, preferably spicy and savoury breakfasts. No cold milk or cereals for me.
Later, when B started to work from home, our breakfasts started to get more varied and leaned towards vegetarian versions.
Unless he is having milk and cereals, when I happily fry sausages for myself, it is more of traditional cooking.
And then I struck gold ... read learnt how to make the Idli.
Or Dosa, for that matter.
The trick lies in the batter and it took me a while to master it. And am still learning.
But now, I can make a mean dosa or spongy idlis well, if I may say so.
And my breakfast problem is solved .... largely.

idli sambar podi

I make a big batch of the batter and store it in the fridge. I
The following days see a varied spread of breakfast .... dosa, soru chakli pithe, saantlano pithe, poda pitha, savoury poda pitha, idlis .... the batter is so versatile.
Paired with a simple curry or a dalma or some chutney or sambar, we get a hearty, full and healthy breakfast that happily sees us through  the day.

I have made some posts on idli earlier. But decided to make this one to include the recipe for the Sambar as well as the Podi / dry chutney that I make.

To make the idli : I follow the same recipe for the batter that I have posted in all my earlier posts.
The only difference is that I add a teaspoon of Methi / Fenugreek seeds now.

Soak rice and Urid dal in the ratio of 2:½ along with a teaspoonful of methi seeds, for around 4 hours.
Grind into a paste , add a little salt and keep it covered for around 8 hours.

I usually soak them after lunch, adding a little water at a time and grind it after dinner.
And start using the batter the next morning.
The batter ferments perfectly overnight.
Store it covered well, in the fridge.
Do remember to keep it out and bring it to room temperature before using it again.

Steam the batter (it should be soft and not a very thick paste )  in an idli maker for not more than 20 minutes for plump, spongy idlis.

idli sambar podi

To make the Podi :

 Dhania / Coriander seeds - 3 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Whole dry red chillies - 4 or more, if you like it spicy
Chana / Bengal gram dal - 4 tbsp
Urad dal - 2 tbsp
Hing / Asafoetida powder - 1 tsp
Whole black peppercorns - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

Dry roast the dals on low flame first.
Then dry roast the rest of the ingredients.
Cool and grind into a powder.

Store in an airtight bottle.
I use this Podi on idlis, spread on dosas and mix with plain rice with a little ghee too.

idli sambar podi
To make the Sambar :

I must make it clear first that since I am a Bengali, I have no idea about the authentic sambar recipe.
I do know there are different kinds of sambar for different meals.
And I do not even know if my version of the sambar will even qualify for a breakfast sambar or as the right companion to the idli.
All I know is this is the way I have always made sambar and love it too.

If  I am making it to eat with rice, I do add vegetables. Will post that version some day.

Soak Urad dal and boil it with some turmeric powder + hing + salt.

Heat oil.
Add mustard seeds + dry red chillies + curry leaves.

When the seeds start to splutter, add chopped onions and fry them till soft.

Now add the boiled dal + tamarind water + red chilli powder + sambar masala ( I use Everest ) + a little water.
Adjust salt.

Bring to a boil and then simmer for a while.

idli sambar podi
You can enjoy these fluffy idlis with my Tomato Garlic chutney too.
I did ... the next day.

Another look.
idli sambar podi

Enjoy !!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Doi Paneer / Dahi Paneer / Cottage cheese cubes cooked with curd and spices

dahi paneer
I made this curry a few weeks back when I got some good Paneer ... store bought.
Once upon a time, I used to make Paneer at home ... yes, the whole process of curdling the milk, straining the cheese and then setting it before I cut it into cubes.
B loved those fresh blocks of paneer lightly stir fried and sprinkled with a little salt.
I do cook paneer often as a protein source for vegetarian B. I use the nutritious whey in a lot of dishes too.
But not as often as I would want to ... recently.
I mean ... make paneer at home.
Somehow making dahi / curd has taken over and the bulk of milk at home goes into it. And more often than not, I find myself trying to balance between the making of curd or paneer.
Curd wins, as always.
And only because it is easier to make.

And I am not at all in favour of store bought paneer. But a few months back, I read about Punjab Sind dairy products on one of the groups on facebook and how their products are good and fresh.
And promptly forgot about it.
But on our trip to Goa last November, I had wanted to pick up some local Kokum and other stuff ... which is why we had been to a super market. And there, as we were parking the car, I noticed a Punjab Sind shop.
Which made me make a serious mental note to try their stuff once I am back home.

Which I did.
I bought some fresh Paneer and curd and loved them.
Especially the Paneer ... which is made fresh and they give you a small piece to taste ... with a sprinkle of some masala.
Reminded me of our paneer tasting experience on our Amritsar trip. 
Coming home, I used the paneer for three dishes and one of them was this Dahi paneer.
I was making some chicken for myself for dinner and as usual resorted to quick fix cooking .... marinating the chicken with everything and slow cooking it on the stove top or in the oven.
So I did the same for the paneer too.
While they were cooking by themselves, all I made was some rotis.
And my quick dinner was sorted.

dahi paneer
B loves Paneer cooked with Punjabi flavours, which is why I add kasuri methi and Punjabi garam masala usually.
But you can try this curry with other flavours too.

Need :

Paneer - 6 medium sized cubes
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp. ( I used 1 frozen cube of my homemade version )
Green chilli paste - 1 tsp
Curd - 1 cupful , beaten till smooth
Cumin seeds / Jeera - a pinch
Black cardamom - 1, crushed
Cinnamon / Dalchini - 2 small pieces
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander / Dhania powder - 1 tbsp.
Kitchen King masala powder - tbsp. ( I used it since I had run out of kasuri methi )
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Water - for gravy .... if needed

How to :

Marinate the paneer cubes with the ginger garlic paste + curd + haldi + red chilli powder + dhania powder + salt + sugar and keep aside for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan.

Add the jeera + dalchini + crushed black cardamom.

Then add the chopped onions and fry on low heat till it slowly starts to brown.

Add the marinated paneer, cover and cook till the raw smell of masalas is gone and oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.
Do remember to adjust with a little water if needed.

Stir carefully around and mix everything well.

Once you get the desired consistency of the gravy, sprinkle the Kitchen king masala powder, raise heat till the sides start to sizzle ( it gives a good smoky flavor ) and then switch off heat.

Keep covered for 5 minutes before serving.

You can add a spoonful of ghee ... or butter in the end and keep it covered.

dahi paneer
Goes best with hot rotis, especially roomali rotis.


PS: This is not a review for Punjab Sind.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Tel Koi / Koi or the climbing perch fish in a spicy gravy

tel koi

I am  a serious case of writer's block these days.
After I uploaded these photographs, I have been trying to write something ... anything that can pass off as a decent post ... but no luck.
I kept coming here and going back without writing a single word.
And so, after struggling for the past few weeks, I decided to make a post today ... come what may.
Write or no write.

Ever since I saw this ad on facebook about a fish shop that sells fresh fish all the way from far away Kolkata and Odisha, I have been waiting  for some free space in my freezer.
And finally, after my stock of Rui, Tyangra and some fresh water prawns was successfully depleted, I called this shop to know what they had for the day.
When I heard they had Koi, visions of my Thamma's Tel Koi danced before my eyes.
And the beautiful, unique flavour of the Koi in my mouth.

I don't remember this fish ever being cooked by Ma but sometimes I did get to eat it when we were at Dadu's place. I do not even remember if they were from our pond or bought from the local market.
But I do remember that Thamma made something real awesome with them.
And especially that gravy .... rich, yellow and spicy .... perfect with a morsel of boiled rice. And a bite of kancha lonka / raw green chilli after a mouthful.

tel koi

I was happy I would get to eat fresh Koi sitting here ... so far away from home.
Koi is one fish that has to be bought live.
You are not supposed to buy, forget eat, dead Koi.
So when I stepped into the shop and saw two big tubs filled with water and some Koi and Magur swimming around in each of them, I did not know how to react.
Because I had never bought or dealt with Koi earlier.

It is a strong fish and does not give in easily.
And the thought of holding a bag of wriggling Koi and carry them back home was enough for me to give up and turn track.
My vegetarian husband was equally new to this barbaric side of Bengalis and took refuge in the car, mumbling something about parking problems.
A sudden brainwave saved me from being witness to the whole process .... I asked them to prepare the fish and hold it for me while I go finish some errands.

So it was good one hour later that saw me back home with my loot.
And I set about to make the Tel Koi.
A call home resulted in confused recipes .... Ma has never cooked it and Jethima was confused between her recipe and Thamma's.
I got the gist and decided to stick to a light simple gravy with just a few main things.

Jethima, knowing that I am not a fan of Jeere / Cumin powder, did insist on using it in this gravy.
I did ... but it was roasted jeere guro ....  so I have no idea if this gravy is authentic.
But it did turn out well.

Need :

Koi / Climbing perch fish - 6 pieces
( cleaned and marinated with turmeric powder + salt )
Curd - ½ cup, beaten smooth
Kalo Jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin / Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Coriander / Dhania powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder / Lonka guro - 1 tbsp
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Fresh green chillies - 4, slit
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp + tbsp + 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Water - as needed

How to :

Heat 2 tbsp of the mustard oil in an iron kadahi.

Lightly fry the Koi pieces and keep aside.

Make a thin mix of the cumin + coriander + haldi + red chilli powders and some water.

Add 2 tbsp oil ot the kadahi.

Add the nigella seeds and a few green chillies.

Add the grated ginger and then immediately the powders mix and cook well on low heat till oil starts to leave the sides.

Now add the beaten curd and some water and mix well.

Add salt and bring to a boil.

Add the fish pieces and cover.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread the last of the raw mustard oil and some more green chillies.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

tel koi
This goes only and only with steaming hot boiled rice.
The pungency of raw mustard oil combined with the flavour of green chillies and curd makes this gravy truly lip smacking.