Saturday, 25 May 2013

Gilki ke pakode / Batter fried Sponge gourd

A visit to the in laws house is always an uplifting experience for me.
Not soul wise, not the 'just enlightened and reached heaven and feeling all is well kind'. Just the energizing kind.
For a quiet Bengali girl, who has successfully maintained the peace and quiet in her life and home, the burst of life in all possible forms is enough to give a good shake and open up the eyes and look at the world with a new ... well ... vigour?
Yes, vigour ... that is it.

One step into the house and I am in a different world. The first thing that strikes me or my eyes is the colour. Or colours. Bright, cheerful, happy colours. Enough to transport the 'pure white loving' me ... who wears  white, sleeps on white, decorates her home with white ...basically loves white and is a good target of constant jibs from the family ....  to a new world.
But there's more.
People bustling around, calling out to each other, laughing and joking through out the day. Ma in law looks like a mini tornado .... everywhere at the same time, giving instructions, making sure everything is right, the proud mother whose son has come home.
Sometimes just watching them is enough to tire me out. And makes me say "Phew!" more than once in a day.
And the visitors .... uncounted, unlimited numbers of visitors. All through out the day there will some person or family visiting. Snacks being prepared, tea ... spicy with adrak and elaichi ... being served, sitting with them to give them company and sometimes having lunch or dinner ... depending upon the time of visit ... together. No respectable Rajasthani family will let their guests leave without having a proper meal or some heavy snacks.
During Diwali this scenario multiplies manifold. The energy, the get togethers, the whole family comes together ... uncles, aunts, cousins, their children, their visiting friends, distant uncles, aunts, their children ... the list is endless.

Inspite of all this, Ma in law never forgets to cook her son's favourite dishes. They range from the very elusive bhawar laat ki fali and the very special Dankheer or plain daily dals ... sirf Mummy ke haath ka is what makes them so special ... or a huge range of chutneys.
The cook gets a respite at such times, when Mummy takes over the kitchen with gutso.
Among these things is the very simple Gilki ke pakode ... that Mummy makes with her own touch. And  is savoured by all. 
This time she passed on the recipe to me and I marveled at how she rustles up such tasty dishes with the minimum of ingredients. So much like my way of cooking ... and am reassured am on the right track.

Gilki, or the Sponge gourd is a variety of the Ridge gourd ... except of course the ridges. Tastes the same though. Since it has almost no taste or flavour of its own, its accompaniments need to be slightly spicy or tangy ... especially for daily cooking or when making rustic dishes. 
This pakode or battered frried version of the Gilki is made during the Navaratri ... and on Dusshera day. And that marks the end of eating gilki, a summer vegetable, for the rest of the year ... i.e till it reappears again in summer. 
That is how our older generation instills eating seasonal fruits and vegetables in us ... with rituals, norms or tales. 
In my home, it is enjoyed with the khichri, or when it rains ... or whenever the man turns nostalgic. 

Need :  

Gilki / Sponge gourd - peeled and cut into very thin roundels
Besan / Gram flour 
Red chilli powder
Hing / Asafeotida
Ajwain / Carrom seeds
Oil to deep fry

How to

Dunk the very thin slices of the gilki in a bowlful water with a generous amount of salt added to it ( say around 2 tbsp)  for around 20 minutes.

Prepare the batter by mixing together the besan, red chilli powder, hing, ajwain seeds and salt.
The batter should be very thin ... almost runny consistency.

Heat enough oil in a deep kadahi or open faced pan.

Remove the slices from the water, gently squeezing out extra water and put them into the besan batter.
Mix well.

Now slowly scoop out a palmful of gilkis and batter and spread on the oil  make sure they do not stick together to make big sized lumps.
Fry well, turning once or twice ... till golden brown and crisp.

Remove with a slotted spoon on a kitchen napkin or paper tissues to drain excess oil.

Serve hot ... with chutneys or ketchup.
When you bite into it, you will get a mix of the spicy batter as well as the sweetness of the gilki inside.
Lovely ... I must say.
Great as a side to any meal or with a hot cup of tea in the evenings.
Enjoy !!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Shorshe Katla Bhaape / Kaatla fish steamed with mustard paste

After a whirlwind weekend, and a hectic Monday morning, I finally get to sit down to make a post. The wind is whistling outside, the sky dark and looming. A streak of lightning flashes once in a while.
I can hear the low rumble of thunder too. Not loud and crackling ... but a low growl. Taking its time and giving the lightning its time.
The stage is set.

In a moment, the wind will turn crazy. Fast , furious and merciless. Heavy with collected dust and sand, it will blow away anything that comes in its way. It will blow away the weak leaves, bend the branches and soft trees to a side. The leaves on the trees will be upturned ... showing their lighter side, usually hidden from view.
Then it is the thunder's cue to join in.
The low rumble will grow into loud claps ... almost trying to keep up with the wind's fury. And lightning can't stay away too. Tearing the sky into two, there will be flashes of glorious light ... sometimes white, sometimes pink. Blinding the eye ... yet mesmerising.

Now comes the rain.
First in big droplets ... preparing all for the next show.
Then in torrents. On the parched soil.
First washing the wind of all dust and grime. Then the rest of the world.
Cleansing, soothing, cooling rain.
Soothing the world. Wiping away the last traces of the day's unbearable heat.
The dark clouds loom closer.
The wind, the rain, the thunder and the lightning ... all dance in perfect sync.
And I watch.

Ever since I have come here, I have not missed the Kalboishakhi ...nature's daily, summer afternoon ritual.

Like I am not missing my fishwala any more.
Because I'm getting used to the freshest fish I can ever get, except for back at home ... where the fish came from our very ponds.
Here, I'm having a very similar experience . With so many lakes around, it is no wonder that a lot of fishing goes on. The boats come in very early in the morning, with live fish. All we need to do is pick our choice, get it cleaned and bring it home.
And the taste! Ah ... what can I say. The sweetest fresh water fish I've had in a long, long time.

Last week I bought some fish. But no Rohu. There was just Kaatla. Of all sizes.
So I had to bring one home.
Since I haven't cooked Katla much, I was wondering if the same recipes would work on it as on the rohu.
Gave out a call on FB. Friends happily supplied  a variety of options of what to do with it ... all of which I have every intention of trying out. Thanks guys ... you are the best.
I zeroed in on Arpita Mookherjea Srivastava's suggestion of " Sorshe bataa paste lagiye steam kore try koro...odbhut laagbe...! "
Odbhut it was ... a great tasting steamed fresh fish, that was so soft it almost melted in the mouth ,in a buttery, creamy gravy of mustard and coconut.

I had some mustard paste in the freezer and some coconut paste, in the freezer too. I tend to add coconut to most mustard dishes so this helped. And I couldn't resist adding a potato ... sliced.

Need :

Katla fish pieces
Mustard paste - I used white and black mustard seeds
Coconut paste - I grind freshly grated coconut
Turmeric powder

 Mustard oil
Fresh green chillies
Potato - sliced
Lemon juice 

How to :
Marinate the fish pieces with salt, turmeric powder, mustard oil, mustard paste, coconut paste and lemon juice.
Arrange them in an airtight, preferably steel, box.
Take a big sized kadahi or pan and fill it with water ... that will come up only till half of the box that holds the fish.
Place a tight/ heavy cover on it and place on heat.
Cook for around 20 minutes or till the fish is cooked properly.
(When the water starts to boil, the steam sealed inside will cook the fish).

Remove cover and serve hot.

This goes great with steamed rice, with a slice of lemon and a green chilli on the side.


Other recipes with the Shorshe or Mustard paste 

Shorshe potol ( Vegetarian ) 

Shorshe Sheem ( Vegetarian )  Shorshe Bhindi ( Vegetarian )

Shorshe Ilish 

Shorshe Rui 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Pyaaj ka Paratha and Aloo ki Subzi

While the dishes that I share here are simple and usually easy to make, it is a fact that I do not post ... or get to post ... many of the dishes that I cook on a daily basis. Dishes that are simpler and use not more than 3 to 4 ingredients. So I've decided to try and post as many such meals as possible hence forth.

This combination of the Rajasthani aloo ki sabzi and Pyaaz ka Paratha makes for a hearty meal ...  a breakfast, brunch or dinner. This aloo ki sabzi is made very frequently at my home in Rajasthan and is similar to the one served with the crispy hot kachoris at the halwai shop. Can be combined with puris too to make a meal.

The pyaaj ka paratha or Onion parathas are a regular at my home. I usually add leftover dal to the dough and when combined with a little dahi or pickle, makes for a filling breakfast.

No ramblings today ... I sure wish I get over this block soon. So straight to the recipes.

For the Pyaaz ka Paratha

Need :

Atta / Whole wheat flour
Onions - very finely chopped
Green chillies - finely chopped
Ajwain / Carom seeds
Red chilli powder
Water - to knead ( can use left over dals or gravies too )
Oil - around 1 tbsp to add to the dough and some more to fry the parathas

How to :
Mix everything together and knead to make a firm dough.
Take medium sized balls out of the dough and roll into round shaped parathas.

Heat a tawa. Fry one paratha at a time, smearing with a little oil, flipping on both sides once in a while.

For the Aloo ki sabzi :

Aloo / Potatoes - peeled and cut into medium sized cubes
Jeera / Cumin seeds
Dhania / Coriander powder
Haldi / Turmeric powder
Laung / Clove powder
Black pepper powder
Amchur / Dried mango pwder
Red chilli powder
Hing / Asaefotida
A little cooking oil

How to :

Heat oil in a pan or kadahi ( I sometimes make it in the pressure cooker too ).
Add jeera. When it starts to splutter, add hing and the cubed potatoes.
Stir fry for a while on high heat.

Lower heat. Add haldi powder and red chilli powder .
 Raise heat and add water, salt, pepper powder and dhania powder.
Cover and cook till the poatatoes are done. Keep checking the water level ... it should not dry up and burn at the bottom.

Remove cover. Raise heat and add some more water.
Add the amchur powder.
Add the laung powder ... careful ... just a pinch ... else will make it too spicy and hot.
Cover and keep simmering for around 15 minutes.
When the potatoes are well done and start to break off at the touch of a spoon and the gravy is of dxesired consistency, remove from heat.

Serve hot.
This aloo ki subji tastes best when left to simmer for a long while.

Another close look ... 
Enjoy !!

Some other sabzis on my blog ... to enjoy parathas and puris with : 

 Nashte ki sabzi ... made with mixed vegetables 
This post brings about a wave of nostalgia ... the memories of wonderful people that the blogging world had then. 

The Aloo Matar rasse wala 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mangshor chaanp / Mutton chaap ... my way

Rather ... Bapi's way.

Sunday lunches were mainly of mutton curry and rice, back at home, in my childhood.
But at most times, the mutton curry would be different. Sometimes it would be the spicy, very rich jhol/gravy kind.
At other times it would be a lighter version of the same. Winter noons would see a stew, which we would enjoy with hot rotis or bread ... it used to be so cold we did not want to have rice.
On other days, it would be a kosha or spicy, dryish dish that we had with either ruti/ rotis or luchis.

And at times, Bapi would try his hand at cooking mutton.
He loves trying out new recipes, especially from the Bengali magazines.
So, every week, he would pick a recipe and wait till Sunday to try it out.
And I would be his assistant then.

I knew nothing of cooking at the time. But it felt good to be there with Bapi, listening to him counting out loud the number of garlic cloves, or asking me to pass him something.
He would keep the recipe page open, follow the measurements and instructions down to the last letter and keep on checking and re-cheking if the amount of water is just right, or just a tad more of salt is needed.

And the best part came when we sat down for lunch. The dish would be much discussed, appreciated and there would be mental notes on what to do the next time to make it a little more different ... and better.
A little of this more, a little of that less or to be plain omitted.
Sometimes, when the dish turned out very different from what expected ... an usual thing when following recipes from magazines, he would say with all seriousness ... "Ora eta nischoi ranna kore dekheni ... emni likhe diyeche. " :-)
Something that I follow now, on my Kichu Khonn ... every dish has to be cooked and tasted first ... and then presented here.

One such mutton dish that Bapi used to make very frequently is the Mutton chaanp or the ribs. The reason, I guess, is the simplicity of the recipe. No complicated steps, not too many ingredients.
Just a few things put together and cooked on low heat.
Not too dryish, not much gravy ... simply flavoured and easy to make.
I love the way Bapi cooks the mutton ribs.

Need :
 Mutton chaanp or the rib pieces
Ginger paste
Garlic paste
Red chilli powder
Turmeric powder (very little)
Raw papaya - grated
Mustard oil
Whole garam masala - cloves, cinnamon, black cardamoms

How to : 

Marinate the mutton ribs with the curd+ginger paste+garlic paste+red chilli powder+grated papaya+ turmeric powder+mustard oil for around 2 hours. 

Then heat some mustard oil in a pressure cooker.

Add the whole garam masalas. Sprinkle the sugar in a layer covering the base of the cooker.
Just when the sugar starts to caramelize ... it will start to bubble and change colour ... be careful not to burn it ... add the marinated mutton and salt. 
Give a good stir, put on lid and cook for 4 whistles. 
(I usually do not add water ... but if in doubt, you can add half a cupful ... and then dry it up later.)

This goes great with rotis, parathas or luchis/puris.
And of course, if you want to, you can have it with rice too.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mangshor chop / Mutton chop

Mutton chop

The 'chop' here does not mean a particular cut of meat.
In Bengal and Odisha / Orissa, it refers to a deep fried snack ... usually with a spicy filling encased in a potato or any such binder casing, dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried.

Growing up in my little hilly town in Odisha, and still at school level, eating out was almost a non existent term. Once in a while, we would get a samosa or shingara ... that too, when we had guests at home. Otherwise outside food was a huge no no.

After school, when I started junior college, I insisted on walking to college with the rest of my friends ... most of them from around our home. Given that the college was very near, too near to my home, I did not get to explore too much. But getting that break from the school bus was indeed a huge relief to me.
A quiet girl always, I wouldn't step out of the house unless entirely needed. Not to shop, not to anybody's house to visit. The very thought of meeting people and holding a conversation was unthinkable for me.

But those walks to the college along with a bunch of restless girls did a whole lot of good to me. While they were busy talking and giggling, I would quietly soak in the sight and sounds of the road and its side. So many small shops, selling all kinds of eatables. Some of them would have a huge iron wok or kadahi, black with smoke, oil and usage, sitting in the front, on a mud stove or chulha.
Sometimes a man would be frying some snacks in them, hot oil filled to the brim ... almost ... wielding an equally black and greasy, huge slotted ladle, giving the frying samosas or chops a gentle stir now and then.
Mangshor chop
And the aroma .... wafting all around ... was enough to pull anyone passing by to stop and buy a few.
Early mornings and the smell of fried snacks ... especially chops and samosas ... will always remain connected in my memories. 

There was one shop that had this as a speciality ... the mutton chop or the mangshor chop.
And I had got to taste it once ... just once. My friends would stop at almost any eatery and try out new things everyday. While I wasn't too interested in eating at the time, I would give a skip to many such adventures. But they were successful in making me try out that Mutton chop.
And the taste would haunt me for the rest of my days.

I never got to eat another mutton chop there again. Why ... I don't know. But no chance came along. And after I left home, I would dream of that mutton chop on days when the dabba food was so bad our Aunty's dog would refuse it too. And of course, on ok days too.
It wasn't until recently that I got a chance to recreate that long remembered and much missed taste and flavour in my kitchen. Even since I have been getting to buy mutton, am on a roll.

And so found a hot, humid forenoon me ... sweating it out in the kitchen ... making that mutton chop ... trying to recreate a piece of my childhood.

Today I am posting the Odia Mutton chop.
I will post the Bengali version of the mutton chop sometime in the future.

I had made the filling of the mutton kheema a day before ...  to shorten preparation time.

Originally, the chop would have very small pieces of mutton and not the mince.
And the encasing would be of soaked Cholar dal / Bengal gram lentils. Very htick and very crisp on the outside .... fluffy and honey combed inside.
And the flavours would be dominated by ginger and garlic more and less of garam masala .... as Odia mutton dishes are wont to be.
Fiery, earthy, full bodied flavours.

Mansa chop
To make the kheema :

Need :

Mutton kheema / minced mutton
Ginger + garlic paste
Turmeric / Haldi powder
Red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Oil to fry
Onions - chopped
Garlic - chopped
Ginger - grated
Garam masala powder
Lemon juice
Roasted jeera powder
Dhania powder

Yoiu may use a pinch of cooking soda too … I did not.
How to :   

Cook the kheema in a pressure cooker with a little haldi powder, ginger + garlic paste and salt and a little water ( not too much ... the kheema will release water too).
Around 4 whistles on low heat is good enough ... but of course, will depend on the quality of the mutton.

Heat oil. Add chopped onion, garlic and grated ginger. Fry well.
Add the cooked kheema. Add red chilli powder, dhania powder, roasted jeera powder, garam masala, lemon juice and salt .... one by one.
Keep stirring. Cook till all water dries up ... there should not be any moisture left.
Remove and cool.

This will be the filling for the chops and can be prepared a day or 2 in advance and stored in the fridge.

Oriya mansa chop

To make the casings :

The Potato casing :
Boil potatoes, drain, cool and mash into a smooth pulp with some salt and red chilli powder.
Or use the easy way like I did ... add some water to potato flakes and make a mash.
Do add a little corn flour if using the flakes.

The Gram flour batter : 
Make a thick batter of besan/ gram flour + rice flour (ratio is around 5 tbsp besan to 1 tbsp rice flour), salt, a pinch of haldi powder and a little red chilli powder.

To make the chops :

Oriya mangsa chop

Shape the chops like so .... take some of the mashed potato and make a small case and stuff it with a little of the filling. Now carefully cover it to make a smooth ball.
Be careful not to have any cracks on it ... use a finger dipped in water to smoothen out, if any.

Heat enough oil to deep fry ( I used mustard oil).
Take a chop, dip it into the besan batter ... make sure the whole things is covered well ... and carefully let it into the hot oil.
Fry on low heat till golden brown in colour.
Remove with a slotted spoon or ladle and lay it on a paper napkin to drain any excess oil.

Here's a closer look, after frying. See all the three layers?

Mangshor chop

Serve hot ... I mean real hot.
The smoke coming out when you bite into one, the spices and the heat searing your mouth ... that's what a hot mutton chop should be like.

Mangshor chop

 The perfect snack on a rainy evening, shared with lots of friends or just the family, gathered together over a hot plateful and some ginger tea and laughter and adda on the side.

Enjoy, dear friends!!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mushur daler borar jhol / Fried lentil balls in a light gravy

 "Dekho, dekho, woh aadmi kuch bhi nahi pehan ke scooter chala raha hai!!!!"

 Bhaiya, Bhabhi and their young son, were visiting us for a week. And we were doing everything we do when the family is together. Talk, laugh, gossip and eat out a lot.
I did cook at home ... but only breakfast. :-)

They are easy going people. We would go out everyday, scour the city the whole day and came back late, tired to the bones.
Visiting new places, restaurants, shops, parks ... we just didn't get enough of everything.
Then sit up and chat into the night ... with a round of coffee every other hour ... taking turns to make it.
Finally, at dawn, Bhaiya would  insist that we have the morning tea too ... which he would make ... and then catch some sleep, which would be for only a few hours.
And we were ready to face another day.

After three whole days of eating out, shopping and more eating, we went for our road trip to Pondicherry. It was fun. Chatting, laughing, singing together, munching on snacks, peppered with the young boy's one line interludes ... it was a great drive.
But when Bhabhi fell ill, it gave a different twist to our vacation. But things smoothened out and all was well.

It was on one of our drives to the city that we heard young R exclaim that the guy in front of us was riding a scooter, wearing nothing!
Where?! where?! All of us looked out ... right, left, straight ... but couldn't see a man without clothes.
And riding a scooter!
He pointed out to a man riding a little ahead of us.
He seemed fully clothed. A helmet on his head, a checked half shirt and ... yes, we spied a full bare leg from thigh down! Riding on in a steady speed ... oblivious to everything.
"Sacchhi ... kuch bhi nahi pehna!"

A little later, we saw the rest of his attire ...  a white cloth,  like the dhoti ... around his waist. It was flapping in the wind, baring his legs to above the knee ... and hence was not visible.
Unfortunately, the young boy from up North saw the bare leg first. A lecture on the lungi, the mundu etc. followed. His first visit to the South, we realised a lot of things ... and not only the  food ... were new to him. :-)

 Another shock that he got was at the Chidambaram temple near Pondicherry ... where men have to remove their upper body clothing to be able to get a darshan.
But that's another story. :-)

The Mushur dal or the Red lentils are a part of any Bengali meal. The light dal goes great with rice to make a simple meal ... and is also the perfect foil to any other spicy non veg dish on the side.
At times, they are soaked, ground to a paste and deep fried to make these boras or fried dumplings.
Add a little chopped onion and green chillies, these crunchies are perfect with a meal of khichudi or plain steamed rice and dal.
Or as a snack with some chutney or the good old tomato ketchup.

I made a simple, very light jhol using them ... on one of those days when the fridge was bare and there were  no fresh vegetables at home, to whip up a meal with.
The jhol is very light, almost like a thin soup and has very simple flavours ... another easy dish from my kitchen.
When boiled for a long time, it picks up the flavours of the jeera, tomatoes and the red chilli powder ... as do the potatoes too.
And after the boras have soaked long enough, you can find the roasted jeera powder's flavour in them too.
All in all, this simple, purely vegetarian and jhol will taste simple but will be very flavourful too.

This can be made with left over boras / vadas / pakodas too.

For the Boras :
Need :

Mushur dal / Red lentils - soaked for around 2 hrs and ground to a paste
Chopped onions
Chopped green chillies
Chopped ginger
Oil for deep frying

How to:
Mix everything together. Scoop out small balls and deep fry in heated oil.

For the jhol/ gravy :

Need :

Potatoes - cut into small pieces
Ginger paste
Onions - chopped
Tomatoes - chopped
Jeera/ Cumin seeds
Haldi / Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Roasted jeera powder
Oil - around 1 tbsp

How to :

Heat oil. Add the jeera.
When it starts to splutter, add the onions and fry only for a while. Do not brown them.
Now add the potatoes and fry again on high heat.
Add the ginger paste, haldi powder, red chilli powder and salt.
 Add enough water to cover the potatoes.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.
Remove cover and check if there is enough water. Else add more water and check ... if needed add a little more salt.
Add the tomatoes now and cover again.
When it comes to a boil again and the tomatoes are done, add the dal boras/ fried lentil balls, the roasted jeera powder and a pinch of sugar.
Cover and simmer for a while.
The boras will soak up a lot of water ... so keep adding accordingly. And keep checking for salt when you add water.
When you get a jhol of your desired consistency and amount, raise the heat and give a final boil.
Remove and keep covered for a while.

Serve hot.
This goes great with rotis or parathas.

PS Bong Mom makes a wonderful jhaal with these boras ... check it out here.