Monday, 3 December 2018

Aloo ki Launji / Sweet and sour Potato curry

In my childhood, I had seen Ma make a potato curry, usually for breakfasts, that would be a little sour, a little sweet and had the light spice of the fresh green chilli. She would serve it with either parathas or luchis.
But on most times we would eat it with the Chakuli pitha .... just like Odiyas did.
One of my Kakus / uncle, who was staying with us for a while due to office work loved this curry and asked  Ma to tell the recipe to Kakima.
A few months later, while we were visiting Dadu, Kaku asked for that potato curry again, mentioning how he missed it.
When Ma asked why didn't he ask Kakima to make it often, he said he had asked once.
The curry had turned out to be so sour that my paan eating Kaku's sensitive teeth had stayed painful for days. 😊

The next time I had a sweet and sour potato curry was at Kanha sweets in Amritsar.
It was more of a chutney and less of a curry.
And came on the side of their famous breakfast of Chole Bhatore.
The man serving us kindly explained that it was a must with Chole Bhatore and was made with tamarind and sugar and is called Aloo ki Launji.
And shared the recipe too.
I was much intrigued by this dish and the Bengali in me loved it too as it was slightly sweet.
And have always made it whenever I make Chole Bhatore or Chole Puri at home.

I finally managed to make a post on my Chole Bhatore and today on this beautiful Aloo ki launji.
The balance of the sweetness and the salt and the sourness has to be just right ... but I might say that it is upto you and your taste.
There are many recipes for the Aloo ki Launji on the internet but I follow the one that I got from that server in Amritsar.
It is light and simple and the real trick is to simmer the potatoes in the gravy for as long as you can for maximum flavour.

So here goes the recipe.

Need :

Potatoes - boiled
Saunf / Fennel seeds + Methi / Fenugreek seeds in equal amount
Haldi / Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
Dhania / Coriander powder - a little
Tamarind paste - to taste
Hing / Asafeotida - a pinch
Sugar - to taste
Salt - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp.
Water - for gravy

How to :

Pound the methi and saunf in a mortar and pestle to make a coarse powder.
Mash the boiled potatoes well.

Heat oil.

Add the hing and the saunf + methi powder.

Add the potatoes and mix well.

Then add the masala powders and some water and mix well.

Now add salt + sugar + tamarind paste and water.

Do a taste check and adjust.

Cover and simmer till gravy reaches desired consistency.

I often add water two or three more times and set it on low heat to simmer.

Serve warm with Chole Bhatore.

Or you can enjoy this with parathas and puris too.



Thursday, 15 November 2018

Chole Bhatore

When I posted a picture of our lunch plate of the Chole Bhatore, a couple of days back on Instagram, like I usually do, and wrote that I intend to make a post on it too sometime but if anybody wants to try it immediately, they can send me a DM, I had no idea that I would get so many messages almost immediately.
I had no good pictures except for the one that I clicked with my phone for insta and all the bhatores were over.
But I did have the chole. And the launji too.
And so decided to make a post after all.
Typing with my injured wrist is a problem now .... hence if I am typing at all, it is better that it is for a post here ... where everybody can refer to at one go.

I make chole very often at home. B is a big fan of chole.
And I make the chole both ways ... with onion and garlic and without too.
With readymade masalas and with homemade ones too.
There is no particular or single recipe for the chole. What is important is that the flavours should be good .... if possible rustic and with a good balance.
Never go overboard with a lot of masalas. Keep it simple and your chole will sing to you.

This particular recipe has onion garlic in it.
And is very simple to make. The flavours are rustic and when paired with the Bhatora, makes a wholesome meal.
In my house it is mostly eaten with chawal / rice but I do sometimes make the luchi to go with it.
The Bhatora is made less regularly.

If you are planning on making a meal of Chole Bhatore, I would suggest you make the Chole a day before.
The flavours soak up well when it is at least a day old.
You don't need much prep work if, like me, you tend to store soaked and boiled legumes in the fridge for quick use.
You can check this post for tips.

To cook the chole, soak them for at least 5 to 6 hours.
I soak them at night before going to bed. And boil them the next morning.
Also, you will need to know your Kabuli chana .... i.e. the way the Chickpeas that you are using behave.
Some variety cook quickly; some take time.
You will know in a couple of tries.
I never add cooking soda or baking powder to hasten cooking.
It is better if they take a little more  time in the pressure cooker ... I wait for at least 6 to 8 whistles on low heat ).

You can add a tea bag to the chola when pressure cooking it.
That will give it a rich, dark colour .... ( You can check the colour here . )
I sometimes do; most times don't. Makes no difference to the flavours.

To make the Chole :

Need :

Kabuli chana / Chickpeas - 2 big cups, soaked and cooked well with a little salt
Onions - 2 big , chopped in medium sizes
Ginger - sliced
Ginger + garlic + green chilli paste - 2 tbsp ( I used 2 cubes of my frozen ones )

Black cardamom / Elaichi - 2, crushed
Black peppercorns / Kali mirch - 1 tsp, crushed

Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder / Mirchi powder - 1 tbsp

Chole masala - 1 tbsp or more if you like
Kitchen King masala - 1 tbsp (I use Everest )  - optional
Kasoori methi - 1 tsp, crushed well
Amchur / Dry mango powder - 1 tsp

Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil - 2 tbsp
Water - as needed for gravy

How to :

In a deep, heavy bottomed pan, heat oil.

Add the crushed pepper + cardamom.

Add the onions and fry on low heat till they are pink and soft ... not brown.

Add the ginger garlic paste and fry well.

Add the turmeric and red chilli powder and fry on high heat for a while .... keep adding a little water at a time so that the masala does not burn.

When masala is well cooked and soft, raise heat and add the boiled chickpeas and mix well.
Slowly add the water of the boiled chickpeas little by little, stirring continiously.

Lower heat and adjust salt + sugar.

Add the Chole masala powder , cover and simmer for 10 mins.

Remove cover and adjust water.

Add the amchur powder and sliced ginger and cover, simmer for 15 more minutes.
Remember to keep stirring once in a while.

Remove cover and lightly crush some chole with the back of your spatula.

Add the crushed Kasoori methi and simmer for some more time.

Remember to adjust water all the while.

The key to getting the real flavours is the simmering time.
The more it cooks in the masalas, the better the flavours soak up.

Chickpeas tend to soak up water ... so take care to adjust the consistency of the gravy.

Serve hot with hot rice, Luchi or Bhatore.

Here is the photo of our plate that I posted on Instagram that day. 
There is Aloo ki Launji , Mirchi ke tipore and onions in vinegar on the side.
The Aloo ki launji is in the next post.

I am giving the recipe for the Bhatore here.
Will update the post later when I get to click some good photographs.

To make the Bhatore :

Need :

Maida / All purpose flour - 2 cups
Sooji / Semolina flour - fine variety, 1 tbsp
Cooking soda - a pinch
Sour curd - enough to knead the flour
Salt - a little
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp  + enough to deep fry

How to :

Knead everything to make a smooth, tight dough.

Cover tightly and keep aside for around 3 to 4 hours.

Make big sized balls and roll into thick luchis / pooris.

Deep fry in hot oil.

Serve immediately.


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Rawa Idli with Coconut Kokum Chutney

 It has been raining heavily every evening or night for the last few days.
The days are hot and stuffy, with humidity building up till it becomes almost difficult to breathe, by late afternoon. And then the clouds start to gather at one end of the sky.
Soon it becomes windy, hastening the yellow leaves to fall off the trees a little more early.
And then comes the downpour.
Reminds me of my homeland Odisha. The weather, I mean.
I do not know this humid Pune.
I miss the dry, cool Pune where we had to wait for a full year to see rain once the monsoons are over.

But I do not mind the rains though. In fact, I love them.
The mornings are differently beautiful these days. I take my cup of Darjeeling and sit on the swing in my little balcony.
My upper lip had got a big cut (from the accident) and swollen twice its normal size ... so the tea immediately scalds the skin.
I wince and try to ignore.
My eyes skim the surface of the cup and through the steam I watch the almost bare trees turn bright and golden as the rising sun falls on them.
The ground is still damp from last night's rain and the heavy smell of wet grass, dry leaves and fog hangs in the air.

The swing moves lightly. My aching body wants to get up. But I sit for a little more time.
Durga puja is over. The beautiful images of the goddess are long immersed in water.
In my mind I see the empty pandals and grounds.
Chairs devoid of people. Bare bamboos standing ... remains of stalls and decorations.
It will be a full year before the celebrations again.

Two little birds swoop down on the bird bath and seeing me, dart away just as quickly.
Two crows come and drink some water. I give them a few pieces of biscuit that they quickly pick up and dunk into the water bowl.
And eat them after they have soaked some water and turned soft.
The crows do not mind me. Neither do the swallows or the pigeons.
The parrots are shy. They sit on the overhead cable wires and screech till I get up and leave them alone.
Only then they come near the water.
I am planning to put up a mirror near the door so that I can see their antics from hiding.

I come in and look up my blog.
This year has not gone as planned; which is why I never plan.
Lesson learnt once more.
So few posts.
So decided to post this beautifully spongy Rawa idli that I had made for breakfast a few weeks back.
I have posted Rawa idli long back, which is the plain one.
This is one far different from that.
Here I have made a tempering and fried the rawa / semolina and added a little masala to make it spicy.
The spice complements the tang of the curd and balances well.

Also, these are very quick to make and perfect for those times when you do not have pre prepared Idli batter at hand and yet have to put up a meal or breakfast.

And here is the recipe.

Need :

Rawa / Suji / Semolina ( the bigger grains) - 2 cups
Onion - 1 medium, chopped 
Ginger - a small piece, chopped
Urad dal - 1 tbsp.
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Hing / Asaefoetida - a pinch
Haldi / Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Curd - 2 cups , make sure it is sour or add some lemon juice
Cooking oil - 2 tbsp.
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - a pinch
Water - if needed
Salt - to taste

How to :

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed open pan.

Add the mustard seeds.
When they start to splutter add  the jeera + hing + urad dal + chana dal + onions + ginger.
Stir fry till onions are transparent and loose a little moisture.

Add haldi + red chilli powder + the sooji + salt.
Fry for around two minutes on low flame.
Remove and cool completely.

Remember to not fry for too long.
If the rawa turns dry, it will not bind and hold shape as it will not soak the curd well.

Add the curd with a little water.
Mix well and keep aside.
Mixture should not be very thin.

Steam in a idli mould till done. 

Here is a closer look.

Serve hot with chutney.
You can enjoy it with this Sambar too. 
Or take your pick from my Chutneys to pair with.
I had made this chutney with Coconut and Kokum. So served with it.
I will post the recipe in the next post.

This was our breakfast.



Friday, 19 October 2018

Subho Bijoya and happy Dussera 2018!

I was out of the country last year , vacationing in the US of A, so had huge plans for Durga puja this year. But as luck would have it, all my plans went up in the air as an accident rendered me immobile. Not only were the muscles of my hands, shoulder and upper back damaged, as well as the wrists, but also I ended up with a huge cut across my face, nose and chin.
Not to mention the swelling that came with it .... I couldn't recognise my own self in the mirror.

So the days passed by in a haze of pain killers and before I knew it, it was Navami already.
And since I don't like to be defeated, especially by life, I took this challenge too, just like I have the numerous times it has thrown me one and went to watch the Aarti in the evening. Yes bruised body and face notwithstanding.

The sound of the dhaaks, the conch blowing, the priest performing aarti and the ringing the bell, the smell of camphor and dhuno in the air, the crowd watching mesmerised ..... everything was like a balm on my pain and I came back home with a feeling of peace and the belief that all will be well soon.
Today dawned beautiful after last night's heavy rain and I craved the bhog or from the puja pandal that I missed this time.
And then decided to cook some as soon as the pain killer started to work.

So here is my plate of khichuri bhog. 
I made the dryish bhaja khichuri, cauliflower and potatoes cooked with white matar/chana/ legumes, tomato and khejur er chaatni , beguni / batter fried brinjal and batter fried green chillies.
B fried papad too but a little later,so not in the picture.

I plated everything together, trying to replicate the bhoger thala/plate, where everything is served in one plate.
I absolutely love the mix of flavours .... the dry khichuri, the gravy of the curry, the sweetness of the tomato chatni, along with the crunch of  the papad.

Savoured this meal and was glad I decided to do it.
Also, I am glad that I believe tomorrow never comes.

Live like you want to and you will have no regrets. Ever.
All you need is a little will and a lot of power.

Shubho Bijoya Dashami and happy Dusherra!! .
May your life be filled with light, love and everything good.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Pui shaak diye Ilish macher mudo / Hilsa head cooked with Malabar spinach

 It is that time of the year. Again.
When the sun is out finally after the rains have withdrawn for good.
When the mornings start with a slight nip in the air and then the afternoons turn fiercely hot.
When the smell of festive times is all over in the air.
When you know Ganeshotsav and then Durga puja is just around the corner.
When you remember the smell of sun soaked clothes and mattresses that have spent the day outside , back home, while the house is cleaned inside out in preparation for Durga puja.
When you remember the smell of Thamma's achars / pickles as the numerous jars and bottles are sunned too.
When you can feel the excitement of buying and planning designs with your cousins for new clothes.
When you step out into the kitchen verandah one late afternoon to see Thamma sitting quietly in front of the khirki duar / backdoor , looking out into the pond and drying her long hair in the breeze coming from across the deep, dark waters of the pond.
And your heart suddenly feels heavy with that surge of love for her.

It is that time of the year when I long to take the next flight home. And be in the midst of the busy family, quietly soaking in everything.
It is that time of the year when I miss Bapi's excited calls asking when was I coming.
It is that time of the year when nostalgia takes over and the weather turns fabulous and the evenings turn maddeningly beautiful with the bright yet soft sun and a heavy 'mon kemon kora' breeze passing by once in a while.

I try to focus on the house that I call my home now instead.
Loads of decluttering and cleaning to do.
Lots of things to be given away.
Now that the sun is back, loads of things need sunning.
I am like a plant .... I can't survive without the sun. Every single thing in my house needs to be sunned.
So lots of things to do now.
And to top it all, there is some travel coming up next week.
So it is all about hurrying right now. 

 Meanwhile, the past couple of weeks have been real hectic.
One of the days I cooked Khichuri in bulk for the street children that I often feed ... in memory of Bapi on his death anniversary.
I love going out and handing these hot packages of food to the little hands that come up to my car window. A few do not ... they are so small.
I love to hear their little screams of delight on finding some sweet. Or when I hand out ice creams.
Bapi loved ice cream.
And while I have not been able to eat a single ice cream ever since he left us, I do regularly distribute them to the little children on the streets.
Fills my heart with a some satisfaction and a lot of joy.

On another side, I have been cooking Ilish at home a little too regularly.
Given that I got two good fishes this time, I have had my fill.
And since I had a good growth of the Pui that I had planted some years ago, I decided to use them with one of the Ilish heads to make this chanchra. Or chorchori.
Or whatever you would like to call it.
There are a lot of ways that I cook Ilish head in. But my favourite is the tauk.
And this ... with the Pui shaak / Malabar spinach.

Need :

Ilish / Hilsa fish head - marinated with salt and turmeric
Chopped vegetables - I used pumpkin, ridge gourd, potato
Pui shaak / Malabar spinach - leaf and stem chopped
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Chopped onion
Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
Panch phoron / Bengali five spice powder
Dry Red chillies
Mustard oil
How to :

Heat the mustard oil in a kadahi and fry the fish head.
Break into pieces and keep aside.

In the same oil add paanch phoron + red chillies + sliced onions.
Fry and then add ginger garlic paste.
Fry well and add haldi mirchi powder.

Now add the vegetables , salt , cover and cook till the veggies are half done.

Now add the washed and cut pui shaak and the fish head.

Cover and cook ...stirring once in a while.

Sprinkle a little red chilli powder, mix well and keep covered for a while before serving.

 I used ginger garlic paste for the first time with Ilish.
And I must say I loved the combination.
With the Rohu head, it is a different taste.
And with the ilish, it is again different.

I did not add the usual pinch of sugar and loved the change in the taste.

 Pair it with some hot rice and enjoy!!

Friday, 7 September 2018

Doi Ilish / Hilsa fish cooked in curd

With the days going by in a whirlwind, I did not get much time to dedicate to and do justice to the beautiful Ilish that I got this time.
Most of it I enjoyed just plain fried.
A tauk once, a chanchra  with my homegrown Pui leaves another .... that's all.
And then,  I found this lyaja/ tail with the muro / head in the freezer.
While the muro went into the chanchra , I was wondering what to do with the lyaja when my heart craved the ilish meat in a 'taste buds awakening' gravy.

I did not want it in a jhol.
Found a bowlful of curd in the fridge and I knew what I wanted.
I could almost feel the tang of the curd with the spice of fresh green chillies and the soft meat of the lyaja soaking it up.
Mixed with some plain hot rice, it would be a match made in heaven.
Ok ok .... cliches apart .... I set aside the piece to thaw and went about cooking B's lunch.
I cook the vegetarian part of the meals first and then cook the non vegetarian ones.
And finally clean the kitchen.
This is my way of managing my house where pure vegetarians and pure non vegetarians co exist.

 It does exhaust me by the end of everything ... which is one of the reasons I do not get to click good photographs of my dishes as regularly as I would love to.
So after I made this, I hurriedly clicked some photos, thinking that I will finally be able to make a post.
Only to find out that I have a Doi shorshe ilish on my blog already.
Then quickly realised that it did not have shorshe / mustard paste.
So I could make a post after all. 😊

I have used just the tail as I was cooking for my self.
I ask the tail to be kept slightly bigger than I would for a Rohu fish as the Hilsa is bony fish.
And as the tail tapers, the bonier it becomes.
It is easier to remove the longer bones when the piece is bigger.

Need :

Ilish fish - I used the tail, you can use any piece
Sour curd - 1 cup , beaten with water and a little salt
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp + 1 tbsp
Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Fresh green chillies - 3 or 4 , slit into halves
Mustard oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp + 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - a little, for gravy

How to :

Heat 1 tbsp of mustard oil in a heavy kadahi / wok.
Marinate the fish with 1 tsp of turmeric powder and a little salt.
Fry the fish lightly and remove aside.

In the same oil, add 1 tsp more of the oil and add the nigella seeds.
Then add the curd on low heat, stirring constantly ... or else wit will curdle.
Add turmeric powder, salt and the green chillies, cover and bring to a simmer.

Let in the fish piece and cover and boil for some more time.
Do not raise heat at all and keep stirring once in a while.
Add water if needed.

Remove cover and when gravy has reached desired consistency, pour 1 tsp of mustard oil all over it, cover, remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.


The slight tang of the sour curd with the fragrance of the raw mustard oil and the green chillies is a heady mix.

Serve with hot rice.


Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Chicken clear soup with vegetables .... perfect for a damp and dreary weather

This chicken soup is my saviour every time I am down with the flu or a strep throat.
There is not a single time when I did not find ease and or recover almost instantly after eating it.
And yet, to my surprise, I have never blogged about it.
Since the weather is playing havoc with everybody's health right now, and since I have been ill and weak for quite sometime now, all I am having is this light chicken soup these days.
Initially it was viral fever but then when I got a throat infection, on the first non vegetarian day, B got me some chicken and I put the pot on to boil.

I usually make it without vegetables and sip on it, hot, a number of times in a day, with a good dose of freshly ground black pepper and some butter.
And it works like magic.
This time, however, I have continued to have it for a longish time, so added some vegetables too.
Actually, since my taste buds have gone on vacation, I do not feel like eating anything at all right now. So while I do get up and cook for B, I do not feel like eating any part of the meals.
All I wanted to was to sip on the hot soup. Hence decided to add some vegetables to bring up the nutrition factor.

The monsoons had started bang on the first week of June in Pune this year.
And it has been raining ever since.
Barring a few days of dry spells and even fewer days of sunshine, we have not seen the sun nor a dry day ever since. While Pune does not usually see heavy downpours, this silent, light rain has been at work non stop foralmost  three months now.
And the cold weather ... how I dislike this damp, cold weather.
We have been snuggling under blankets and bringing out the jackets and the woolens as we watch the grey, sad outside with dismay.

The first few weeks of the monsoons are fun. And romantic. And adventurous.
And then the reality seeps in.
Sniffles start and then grow into full fledged flu.
Every other person is sneezing or coughing ... which makes going to public places and malls scary.
We celebrate the first few weeks with spicy, deep fried food and all sorts of junk food .... blaming it on the lovely weather.
And then give up ... after all there is a limit to the amount of pakoras or samosas you can eat.
I do have my stock of ilish / hilsa to fall back on but have been able to eat only two pieces from that 
one kilo of fish yet.

Right now, it is this chicken soup that is nurturing me and my soul.
Light, full of goodness, soothing and warming.
Like I mentioned before, I usually make it without vegetables.
Just lots of sliced onions, ginger and garlic with either tomatoes or lemon juice.
Of course there would be the black pepper and other whole garam masalas.
And butter or ghee .... you need them when your body needs strength and nourishment.
I recommend the country chicken since they are free of antibiotics and hormones; and hence good for health.

Need :

Chicken - on the bone
Onions - sliced
Garlic - sliced
Ginger - grated
Bay leaves
Whole black pepper
Ground black pepper
Vinegar or Lemon juice
Black cardamom
Butter - both for the soup and to add when serving
Vegetables - I used carrots, fresh green peas, fresh corn, raw papaya, potato and cabbage

How to :

Marinate the washed chicken pieces with some vinegar or lemon juice for half an hour.

Put everything into a pressure cooker with salt and sugar to taste.

Add enough water and cook for 4 or 5 whistles on low heat.

Serve hot with butter and freshly ground pepper on top.

This soup is a great decongestant too.
And will clear as well as soothe your troubled throat too.

If possible, do pot boil it.
But if you are short of time, you may use the pressure cooker or your instapot.
I over cook the chicken in this soup ... the meat becomes so soft that it comes off the bone very easily ... making it easier to mix with the soup .... you don't have to take it out to shred and mix in again.
Quick and flavourful.
Use vegetables that will be filling and you can have a no carb meal too.
But since I was on medication and needed carbs too, I used to have it with either toasted bread or some porridge like overcooked, rice.
I took a good amount of the soft lumpy rice, add the soup with the vegetables and shredded meat and doused it with my favourite green chilli sauce and some soy sauce.
Chopped in some green chillies and added a dash of vinegar and voila! .... a bowlful to pep up the taste buds was ready.

Here is a shot of my bowl.

Enjoy, take care and stay well.

With so many sad stories coming in from Kerala, my thoughts and prayers go out to the hapless people stuck in the floods and fury of nature.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Muga dali Pitha / Mug dal er pithe / Moong dal ke mithe cheele

During long vacations in my childhood, we would go over to Dadu's house and spend the days there.
But when there were short holidays, some part of the family would come over to our place.
Some part because fitting in the whole family together was possible only in Dadu's huge house.
We stayed an hour away, on the hills, where Bapi had his factory.
So at times, some cousins  and kakus and kakimas would come over to spend a few days with us.

The house would be filled with voices ... all talking, laughing, calling out to others ... all at the same time while we cousins did what we did best ...  creating our own ruckus and having a great time. 
The kitchen would be busy and while Ma looked into the meals all through the day, it would the kakimas or mashis (aunts) who would choose the job of rustling up their special snacks and sweets for us. It would be one of those times when we kids would to be perpetually hungry and after every hour or so we would walk into the kitchen with a "Khide peyeche" announcement.

While we were indulged on most times, it would be a no show if the time was closer to a meal time like lunch or dinner.
So my Mejo kakima came up with this potent medicine of "Dudh kola muri debo?".
The thought of a bowlful of soggy, puffed rice mashed with banana and milk would successfully douse those whimsical hunger pangs that the aromas from the kitchen had brought about.
And with a hasty "We will wait for lunch / dinner", we would disappear.

I remember one such time when Boro mashi, Ma's eldest sister, was visiting.
Mashi worked as a teacher in govt. schools and had just become Principal and was posted in a school at a nearby district. Since it was summer vacation, she and her daughter were spending a few days with us.

Mashi visiting us meant fun in all ways. She would hold quiz contests, grill us on general knowledge, give us math quizzes to solve, hold competitions complete with prizes ... and so on.
And the best part was getting to eat the food she cooked.
Boro Mashi had magic in her hands.

She could make a light, plain dal seem heavenly.
She could make a plain roti interesting.
She could make the fussiest kid eat up without a peep.
And she was a wizard at making achars.
A dash of this, a handful of that, a little chopping here, a quick beat of hands there ..... watching mashi in the kitchen was mesmerising.
Matronly, with a warm smile on and a solution to any problem always, she was one person I looked up to.
It was on that visit that Mashi had made this Muga dali pitha.
She had sat us kids down with a bunch of questions to solve and had disappeared into the kitchen.
We could hear her chatting with Ma and in a while,  this beautiful, warm, sweet aroma drifted out of the kitchen a spread all over the house .... making its way towards us in the drawing room.
We started getting fidgety but were warned against getting up and going to the kitchen.
Bapi had returned by then and the evening tea was just being served.
And Mashi walked in with a plate full of fragrant, hot pithas.

And what pithas they were!
Crisp on the sides, the sweetness of the jaggery mixed with the fragrance of coconut ... it smelt of something that can be only divine.
They were just fried and out of the pan and still very hot.
We savoured each bite, experiencing different flavours everytime ... the sting of black pepper, the bite of small pieces of coconut, the sweetness of a fennel seed .....

Jaggery and coconut are an integral part of Odia pithas.
And are usually paired with crushed black pepper and fennel seeds.
And the body is usually of dals / lentils or rice powder.
Fried, steamed, roasted ... made in different ways for different occasions.
Yesterday, a few of my friends had come over to visit and brought me a load of cooked food so that I could rest and not have to cook for a couple of days at least.
I was touched but not surprised.
All through the years, every time I have fallen ill .... and god knows when I fall ill it has always been a lengthy affair, sometimes stretching to almost a year .... it has been these friends who have been my rock; my support; my pillars.
I was so happy to see them that I wanted to make something for them that would be quick.

I had boiled moong dal in the fridge for dal tadka .... so decided to make this pitha for them.
I had grated coconut in the freezer too.
So all I had to do was to make a mix and fry them.
My friends joined in too and soon we were all in the kitchen .... chatting, laughing, frying the pithas and eating them right there ... straight off the pan .... breaking each one, blowing on the pieces to cool  and sharing with one another.
We made some ginger tea too and while it rained on outside, I basked in the warmth inside, feeling cozy and loved.

Now for the recipe of the Muga dali pitha or Moog daler pithe -

Need :

Whole green moong dal - 2 tea cups, boiled with a pinch of salt
Gur / Jaggery - according to your taste for sweetness (I used granules )
Maida / APF - 2 tbsp
Rice flour - 2 tbsp
Elaichi / Cardamom seeds - crushed
Black pepper - crushed
Mouri / Fennel seeds - crushed
Grated coconut - 1 tea cup
Water - a little to make the batter
Cooking oil - as you require
Ghee - half of the amount of cooking oil (optional)

There is no perfect measurement for the ingredients ... you will have to decide according to the thickness of the batter, the sweetness you want, whether you want to pan fry or deep fry ... etc. etc.

How to :

Mix everything except the oil and ghee and make a thick batter.

Heat a heavy pan or a tawa.

Add a oil + ghee in equal quantity.

When hot, pour in spoonfuls of the batter to make thick pancakes.

Fry the pithas, first covered and then uncovered, on both sides, till they turn brown.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Enjoy !!

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.