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.