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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oranges and Winter Afternoons....

Remember those lazy winter afternoons sitting on the terrace with your grandmother while she dried her hair and guarded the drying boris and pickles?

While feeding you oranges she would be telling you stories from Thakurma ar Jhuli (this is a book of children's stories in Bengali) once upon a time a dashing prince saved a princess from an evil witch, of two brothers Neel Komol and Lal Komol, of flying birds Byangoma ar Byangomi, of moni mannikkyo (treasures), of saat rajar dhon (treasures of seven kings)....stories of once upon a time and happy ever afters....stories with the white and black sharply defined and no greys allowed in between.....

Smell of oranges on winter afternoons brings back memories of those far away winter holidays, playing all afternoon in the terrace, trips to the zoo, circus, Botanical Gardens, Victoria picnics with people getting lost and people arriving late....the fun, the laughter, the singing, games of hide and seek, the chaos and confusion and of course an abundance of oranges....

A winter without oranges is no winter at all....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winters in Delhi & Recipe for Fish Amritsari....

Winters in Delhi....
  • bitter cold with howling winds, occasional rains, grey swirling mists and a watery sun being no help at all...
  • profusion of winter caps and sweaters adding bits of colour to the grey days....
  • overcrowding in the roadside tea stalls for a hot milky glass of chai to will away the winter blues....
  • stray bonfires warming people up....
  • cigarette smoke merging into the mist and after a while the only thing visible is the glowing red tip...
  • desperately trying to snuggle into a cosy corner while the auto rushes by with its radio blaring on at top volume...
  • dipping a morsel of the soft tandoori roti into the yogurt-y gravy of lamb yakhni while sipping a kahwah in the Kashmiri stall in Dilli Haat after an exhaustive bout of shopping....
  • eating ice cream while your teeth clatters and your bones freeze under the benevolent gaze of  the India Gate and the inky blue midnight sky....
  • peanut vendors doing a brisk trade selling  peanuts in their ochre shells, roasted in warm sand...
  •  the markets overflowing with fresh vegetables-- cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, peas, radishes, broad beans, spinach, tomatoes...a profusion of colours and smells....ah the Indian bazars....
  • not to forget the winter fruits....primarily the oranges....the sweet, strong smell of oranges lingering long after you finished eating it....
  • various paranthas peeking out of lunch boxes.... the taste of homemade aloo, mooli, methi, peyaz paranthas with the pickles adding the necessary sour quotient....
  • a terrace party with the hookah doing rounds and kababs are being grilled while people discuss politics, a little tipsy....
  •  little food stalls selling dal pokori with  fresh mooli and mint chutney on top.....
  • smell of ghee and mewa wafting from the gajar ka halwa being cooked in large vats in the mithai ka dukan...... 
  • a heap of fresh vegetables, mostly carrots and radishes, chopped into edible pieces, in a crooked steel plate which spins madly, along with some green chillies and lime, a salad, compliments from the dhaba while they cook your order of mater paneer and chicken tandoori......
  • gajak overflowing the markets....
  • pipping hot chole batures, kauchoris with aloo ki sabzi, sarso ka saag and maki ki roti, and last but not the least Fish Amritsari....

For the  fish loving Bengali me, Fish Amritsari was perhaps the best discovery during Delhi winters. This dish originated in Amritsar, hence the name. During winters which is when Punjabis eat fish, it is widely found in Delhi as well. Be it the lawns of Gymkhana Club or roadside dhabas, this fish is on the menu everywhere, but sadly only during the winter months. This is usually eaten as a starter.
While browsing through a food blog aptly named The Good Life, I stumbled across the recipe of Fish Amritsari and I knew I had to try it. Now I keep making this fish dish. This dish is best enjoyed with friends.
I tweaked the recipe a little (mainly the batter), relying on the innumerable plates of this fish that I have devoured during my years in Delhi. You can find the original recipe here.

This is how I prepare Fish Amtirsari....this is basically in two stages marinating the fish and then dipping it in batter and deep frying.

First we marinate the fish for which we need:
800 gms to 1 kg of fillet of any fish with firm, white flesh [bhetki would be good, I use Cod here, skin off and cut into about 1 inch pieces (smaller pieces make it easier to fry), from 800 gms of fish you will easily get approx 20 pieces ]
1 table spoon of ginger and garlic paste each
1 tea spoon of red chilly powder or according to your taste
Juice of one lime
Marinate the fish fillets and refrigerate for an hour to two hours (remember fish flesh is soft so prolonged marination can result in flaking of the fish)

For making the batter we need:
1 cup of besan/gram flour
1/2 cup of plain thick yogurt (I usually use Greek Yogurt)
1 tea spoon of ajwain/carom seeds
1 tea spoon of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda (I skip the usual egg here because egg in the batter makes the oil bubble up while frying)
Salt to taste
2 to 3 green chillies finely sliced
A handful of coriander leaves finely chopped
I also add the juice of the marinade into the batter as well when I dip the fishes into the batter
Mix all of this into a lump free paste, add a little water if the batter is too thick. Make this batter half an hour  or so before frying and let it sit for a while.

Dip the fishes into the marinade. Meanwhile heat about a cup of oil in a large pan, wait till it is pipping hot with fumes and all, reduce the heat to a medium low,  shake off the excess marinade and  fry the  pieces of the fish till  crisp and golden brown. Drain the excess oil on a paper napkin.

For garnishing sprinkle some chat masala, coriander leaves and lime juice and serve hot. It disappears within seconds!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cabbage Cooked the Bengali Way (Badha Kopi ir Torkari)

This is a typical winter dish because cabbage is harvested mainly in winter in India. Sometimes we make this with prawns but this is the vegetarian version. This is served during Saraswati Pujo lunch. More information and photographs on Saraswati Pujo is here.

1 cabbage, shredded into small pieces
2 medium potatoes chopped into small cubes
2 tomatoes, chopped,
Half a cup of green peas can also be added
2 green chillies
1 table spoon of grated ginger
1 bay leaf
1 tea spoon of cumin seeds
2 table spoons of dhone/dhaniya/coriander powder
1 table spoon of holud/haldi/turmeric
1 table spoon of garam masala powder
1 table spoon of sugar
2 table spoons of vegetable/sunflower oil
1 tea spoon of ghee/ clarified butter
Salt to taste

In a pressure cooker steam the shredded cabbage with a bit of salt and half a cup of water. One whistle of the pressure cooker should be fine.
Heat the oil in a pan, when the oil becomes hot and the fumes start coming, lower the heat to medium low, add the cumin seeds and the bay leaf. add the potato cubes and fry them till golden brown, add the turmeric and coriander powders and fry some more about 2 to 3 mins. Once the masalas are fried (the masalas will look brown and oil will start to separate on the sides), add the grated garlic, both the pulp and the juice and fry for a minute or two more. Stir continuously otherwise the masala may burn, if it becomes too dry, add a few drops of water. Then add the steamed cabbage shreds, the chopped tomatoes, green chillies and the green peas. Mix thoroughly with the potatoes and the masalas. Let the whole thing cook for a couple of minutes, add the sugar and salt to taste. Once the sugar and salt is incorporated, remove from the heat. Add the ghee/clarified butter and sprinkle some garam masala powder. Your cabbage Bengali way is ready. It is usually served with khichuri or even with rotis or parathas.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shorshe Bata Diye Maach er Jhol (Fish Cooked in Mustard Sauce)

This is a staple fish dish, served for lunch, in Bengali homes. Every Bengali home has its own special recipe for this dish, but more or less the same principals apply. This is how my husband makes it.

This recipe is ideally for Rohu fish, but any fish can be used. In India you can get fresh Rohu fish, outside India you can get frozen ones from Bangladeshi grocery stores. We usually make this recipe with fresh fish like salmon or cod.
This recipe takes about 20 mins or so to cook.

800 gm of fish, ideally Rohu, cut into medium pieces (this quantity should yield about 8 to 10 medium pieces)
2 table spoons of poppy seeds
3 table spoon of mustard seeds
2/3 green chillies
2 table spoon of haldi/turmeric
Salt to taste
Oil to fry the fishes plus 2 table spoons for making the gravy (for a really authentic taste you can use mustard oil, vegetable or sunflower oil is fine too, what my mother does is, she cooks in a healthier oil and then pours a table spoon of mustard oil over the finished gravy, mustard oil is a tad too strong and is an acquired taste, so you can totally skip this part)
2 to 3 cups of water

Fish Preparation:
Ask you fishmonger to size the fishes any way you want. If the fish pieces are too big they will break while frying or cooking, so please make sure the pieces are not too big.
Also make sure the fish scales are trimmed. In India the fishmongers usually trim the scales and leave the skin on the fish. Here in the UK the fish mongers leave the scales on fresh fish. So while buying the fish, we ask the fishmonger to take off the skin and the scales automatically go. I know lovely fish skin is sacrificed, but it is a necessary sacrifice to get rid of the yucky scales.

In a mixer grinder take the poppy seeds, mustard seeds, one green chilly, one generous pinch of salt and about 3 table spoons of water and grind it to a smooth paste. Keep the paste aside for future use.

The masalas before and after grinding
After washing the fishes and getting rid of any lingering fish scale, pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Sprinkle about a table spoon of haldi/tumeric and equal amount of salt and coat each fish piece.
Fish pieces coated with haldi/turmeric and salt and ready to be fried
In a pan heat some oil and once the oil is smoking hot, sprinkle a pinch of salt, this will help the oil remain calm when the fish pieces are added. Fry the fishes till light brown and remove them.
Fried pieces of salmon, ready to go into the gravy. You can have this on its own, it is actually yummy, but for that you need to fry the fish indicator is that the fish will turn deep brown over the edges...
Drain away the extra oil, leaving about two tablespoons in the pan, add back the fish pieces, add 3 to 4 cups of water, completely submerging the fish pieces. Cover the pan and let it come to a boil. Snap a couple of green chillies from the middle and add them to the pan according to your taste/heat tolerance. Once the water starts to boil, add the masala paste and let the fish cook for about 10 mins. Keep checking in between to make sure that the water has not dried. If the water dries add some more. This was you can control the amount of gravy you want.
The gravy bubbling away...
Once the excess water has evaporated you will be left with a rich thick gravy with well cooked fish pieces. Bengalis usually have this with rice, this is the second course of a Bengali lunch, the first being dal/lentils and vegetables.
Ready to be eaten!

Enjoy your maach er jhol with bhaat (fish curry with rice)!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pancakes with oranges and chocolate spread

This was first posted on 1st of January 2011. Reposting this here.

Happy New Year folks. I decided to start the new year with something special for breakfast. Having lately been watching a lot of cooking shows-- Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, the Original Naked Chef etc etc. Again and again I see the Western chefs using a lot of zest in their food. In Indian cooking I do not remember my mother or grandmother ever using lemon or orange zest. So wanted to try using that. Did a pancake with orange zest and wee bit of cinnamon and a spread of Nutella and orange marmalade. Finished off with chunks of orange, some almond flakes and dusting of cocoa powder.

To prepare 6 pancakes:
1 cup self raising flour
1 egg
1 cup water, you can put milk, we do not like pancakes with milk
A pinch of salt
A pinch of baking soda...makes the pancakes crisp
A pinch or two of cinnamon (optional, the strong smell of orange overpowers the cinnamon, but at times you get a waft of lovely cinnamon smell in the middle of all that orange)
Zest of one orange...
Butter/olive oil/ cooking spray for frying

Mix all the ingredients together and pour a little of the batter in a non stick pan and fry in medium heat.

For the spread:
4 tablespoons of marmalade
4 tablespoons of Nutella
1 tablespoon of butter

Put all this together in a microwave for 30 seconds, bring it out and give it a good mix. Do this after the pancakes are ready, otherwise this mixture congeals quickly.

I spread a little of the mixture on the first pancake and made a layer of three pancakes with the mixture in between...spread some flaked almonds and cocoa powder and topping with some chunks of orange. The sourness of the oranges and the nuttiness of the almonds bring a nice balance to all that sweetness and makes it really refreshing.

Lychee Tea from Sri Lanka

My brother had gone to Sri Lanka and like any good tourist had got a bag full of teas from there. My mother sent me boxes of spiced ginger, masala  and lychee tea. While I have had the other two before, I tried lychee tea for the first time and it was love at first sip.

It is a very light tea with a subtle lychee smell and flavour. It needs to be dipped just for a minute or two...more than that it becomes murky and the flavour goes away. For the last one month it is the only tea I am having, yes I have even stopped drinking my staple green tea. Once the boxes finish, I have to start looking for another one here in London.

Chilli Chicken, Nepali Style....

How is the new year treating you so far? It has been okay for us...hoping for better things to come....

Last 2 weeks I have been alternating between cooking too much or not cooking at all...after eating take away for 3 days in a row I decided to cook one evening last week. I was in the mood for something-- hot and spicy. But did not want to sweat over the stove for long. So decided to make chilli chicken the Nepali way.

In Oxford we used to frequent a Nepali restaurant rather innovatively called the Everest Nepalese Restaurant...their  lamb momos and chilli chicken were to die for. This chilli chicken dish is very different from the Indo Chinese one or the South Indian one. I tried searching for the recipe online, found something rather complicated, so scraped my search and decided to follow my memory. I remember there was a hint of cumin, soya sauce, garlic, chillies, peppers and lime juice. So here is my version of the Nepali chilli chicken....


Boneless chicken about 500 gms, cut into bite size portions,
4 Green and red chillies finely chopped, you can de-seed them, but it is more fun to keep the seeds since they produce all the heat...
Bell peppers (whichever you have at home--green, red or yellow)
Whole garam masala--half a stick of cinnamon, 2 green cardamom pods, 2/3 cloves and 1 bay leaf (I generally crush the whole masalas slightly with a pestle, this releases the flavour)
Dark soya sauce (about 2 table spoons)
1 table spoon ginger (finely chopped)
2 pods of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized red onion chopped
1 tea spoon of cumin seeds
1 tea spoon of coriander powder
1 pinch of haldi
1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder (you can increase the amount if you like it hot)
Salt to taste
2 table spoons of sunflower oil

To garnish
Juice of half a lime/lemon
Fresh coriander leaves

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 20 mins

This is what I did....

I marinated the chicken for an hour in soya sauce. Keep the chicken in the fridge while marinating.

After heating the oil in a large wok, added the garam masala and the cumin seeds, when they start sizzling add the onion and the garlic. Once the onion and the garlic have become brownish, add the masala powders-- haldi (please add just a pinch, so that the colour from the soya sauce stays), coriander, red chilli and fry till oil starts to bubble on the side....add the peppers, the chicken pieces with the soya sauce, the ginger and fry for 5 more minutes. Add salt and a little water, just so that the chicken pieces are submerged...let it come to a boil and let the liquid evaporate.

Before serving garnish with fresh coriander leaves and squeeze half a lime juice and your chilli chicken is ready to be served. It tastes fabulous with rice, I am sure it could be eaten with rootis as well.

What I really like about this dish is cooking spices with soya sauce. This gives the dish a different twist and the peppers add a bit of colour and crunch to the dish.

This is my latest favourite, hope you enjoy it too!

Orange Soup

Since winter started and Able & Cole started flooding our house with more veggies than we can finish eating..we have started preparing and cooking more and more soups. They taste awesome on winter evenings and are usually are super easy to make. I had half a squash at home which I wanted to use. Last week we had made kumoor chokka which is squash/pumpkin and potato sabzi with peanuts (it is a Bengali vegetarian staple, tastes a little sweet from the pumpkin and we add a little sugar to enhance that, a little clarified butter or ghee to make it rich and the peanuts add a crunchy/nutty texture. It is usually eaten with luchi or parota. I love this dish, but there is a limit as to how much kumroor chokka you can have!). So wanted to try something else, after going through few other Indian recipes (some use lemon juice, the Ghoti Bengali in me revolted at the very thought, pumpkin should be sweet not sour), anyway, so finally decided to look up some soup recipes. Now we have had pumpkin soup several times and they taste rather monotonous and boring. I wanted to make something with a little kick in it.

In youtube I found this Peter Vamos* video. His recipe looked easy and I loved the almonds in it. So decided to try this out with a little twist of my own.

My chopped squash did not seem enough to make soup for two. There were some sweet potatoes languishing in the veggie basket. So decided to use them as well.

(Measurement is for 2 people)

1 spring onion
1 medium potato and another small one
4/5 small sweet potatoes
1 red chilli
1/2 squash (in the original recipe it was 1 pound of pumpkin)
1 cup milk
1 and 1/2 cup water
Sea salt
Fresh basil ( I used dried powder)
Little garlic powder
Crème fraiche (the original recipe had double cream)
2 teaspoons of olive oil
A handful of roasted almonds

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 25 to 35 mins

Finish chopping the potatoes, the sweet potatoes, squash, the spring onion and the red chilli. In a big pan, add the olive oil, sauté the spring onion, add the potatoes, after 5/7 mins add the sweet potatoes and the red chillies. After a min or two, add the water and milk, a pinch of garlic powder, salt and pepper. Let it come to a boil, keep stirring in between so that it does not overflow. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the squash/pumpkin pieces, at this stage I needed to add some more water, a teaspoon or so of crème fraiche, some fresh basil or basil powder, some more salt and pepper. Let the whole thing cook for 10/15 mins more, the vegetables become soft and thickens the liquid and the soup is ready.

Separately take a handful of almonds, crush them and roast them in another pan. Sprinkle them on the soup, add a dash of olive oil and crème fraiche if you want and serve hot.

Verdict: This was the most flavourful pumpkin soup I have ever had, the red chilli had done its work nicely. It had added a whole lot of flavours and a wee little heat.  Also the almonds added a nice crunch and did not make the soup boring (you know spoon after spoon of hot liquid going down your throat!) Usually I give my soups a quick turn in the blender, did not this time, because the recipe did not mention it. So the soup came out pretty thick, with a few lumpy bits and pieces. I think next time I am going to blend it or at least stain it so that the skin of red chilli are not in the soup. But the red chilli is definitely going to be in the soup!

* Peter Vamos is a really interesting man, a musician and a cook. At he plays the piano in each of his videos. Definitely one of the most interesting cooking videos I have come across.

Niramish Khichuri, Bengali Style....

Living so far from home, celebration often takes the form of food. This is what happened to Saraswati Pujo this year, which was celebrated just before the Valentine's Day. More on the pujo in another post. This post is dedicated to the food.

In our home in Kolkata my family does the pujo, so I have been hearing about the preparations from my parents over the phone. My brother flew to Kolkata to help them with the pujo and also to spend his birthday at home which closely followed the pujo.

Since we were not doing the pujo, though my husband did briefly contemplate the idea, only to be rejected by me (a pujo in London, when we have none of the necessary stuff, no way). So I decided to celebrate the day by cooking the traditional meal-- khichuri (rice and lentil cooked together with spices), tele bhaja (literally means fired in oil...actually what has become famous in the curry houses as bhajis...we usually do aubergine, cauliflower, cabbage and potatoes bhajis for this pujo), papor or what is know as poppadam in Indian restaurants and kool/berry or tomatoes chutney.

 Like most Indian dishes, there are multiple ways of making khichuri, depending on who is cooking it and in which part of India. This is how we Bengalis make it for the saraswati pujo. Usually in Bengal everything has a touch of the maach/fish or meat. But this is a purely niramishi/vegetarian since Ma Saraswati is in our homes and this Goddess likes her food vegetarian or so I am assuming!

The ingredients:
1 cup rice--Usually gobindho bhog chal is used or which is commonly known as bhalo chal. Now this is the most awesome variety of rice ever to be found on the face of earth, it is long grained (though not as much as basmati), have a lovely smell (your neighbours can easily understand you are cooking something nice when you cook this rice) and awesome flavour (most Bengalis are used to just eating this rice with a bit of ghee)! I used basmati rice since I do not have any gobindho bhog here. Clean the rice throughly till the water runs clear and soak the rice in water for twenty to thirty minutes.
1 cup lentil-- it can be done with any variety, but for saraswati pujo Moong Dal or Green Gram is used. First roast the dal in a hot frying pan till lightly brownish in colour and a roasted smell comes out and then soak the dal for at least half an hour in water.
3/4 table spoons of vegetable oil
1 table spoon of Bengali ghee/clarified butter, which is different from the North Indian version made of buffalo milk since it is made of cow's milk and much lighter and less dense. I skipped the ghee since I am hoarding the little that is left in my ghee bottle for days when serious nostalgia hits!
2 medium potatoes, sliced into four pieces
Half a cup of peas
1 big tomato, chopped
1 tea spoon of haldi
2 bay leaves
2/3 green chillies, according to taste
1 tea spoon of red chilli
2 tea spoons of ginger paste
1 table spoon of garam masala power
2 table spoon of dhaniya/coriander powder
1 table spoon of sugar

Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour maximum

The process: Take the bottom of an Indian pressure cooker or a heavy bottomed pan which we call karai in Bangla, add two table spoons of oil, once heated, added the pieces of potatoes, fry them till they turn lightly brown, drain the water from the lentil and add it in the pan. Fry for lentils along with the potatoes for five minutes, then add the rice after draining away the water. Also add the green chillies after snapping them at the centre, the bay leaves and the peas. Add about two to three cups of water and turn the heat low letting it cook itself.

In a frying pan, take the rest of the oil, once heated add the ginger paste, the chopped tomatoes, the haldi, red chilli and the coriander powder and the sugar. Fry till oil starts separating from the masala. Add some salt and keep the mixture aside till in the other pan the rice and the lentil becomes soft. You may need to keep adding water, so that the mixture does not burn at the bottom of the pan. Once the rice and lentil is cooked roughly in 30 minutes time, add the spice mixture and mix it well. Just before finishing add the spoonful of ghee and sprinkle some garam masala powder and voila your khichuri is ready.

Mother's Tip: While cooking any rice preparation always add sugar at the very end, otherwise the rice will not cook!

Suggestion: Cauliflower and fresh coconut are also added to the khichuri. For both of these, you need to fry them lightly and add along with the peas to the rice and lentil mixture.

Pao Bhaji

Reposted from Hold A Thought, Pen It Down which you can find here.

Is it my imagination or does pao bhaji taste best in Mumbai's Chowpatty? I know it is really clichéd and I am sure Mumbaikars have better suggestions but I have had the yummiest pao bhaji of my life in that beach.

Anyways just back from holiday, our Able & Cole veggie box conveniently arrived yesterday afternoon. During the holiday we have been eating a lot of fish--fish and chips, grilled fish, the idea of a veggie dinner appealed to us. After eating European food for the last few days we wanted to have something spicy and tangy. With all the veggies we decided to make pao bhaji. I went to the super market so whatever was missing bought from there.


To make the sabji/bhaji/veggie
3 medium sized potatoes
3 carrots
1 packet of beans
2 onions
Half a cabbage
1 cauliflower
4 spring onions
2 medium juicy tomatoes
Half of green, red and yellow peppers (adds a lot of colour)
A cup of peas
3 green chillies
Lime juice
Any other veggies that you may have in store
In Delhi like in everything else they put paneer/cottage cheese in the bhaji, am not a fan of this

Red chilly powder
Pao bhaji masala 2 table spoons (you can get this from any Indian grocery store)
Salt according to taste
2 table spoons of ginger garlic paste

Green chilly
Coriander leaves
Lime juice

Any soft bun

Preparation time: 15 mins to 1 hour
Cooking time: 15 to 20 mins
Serves: The bhaji serves 6 people

Method: The most tedious thing in this preparation is chopping all those veggies, so if you have a food processor your life just got easy. If you do not, chop away like I did yesterday evening for almost an hour. Why an hour? Cos I am a perfectionist (my husband says I have surgical precision, don't know about that, but I like my veggies evenly chopped and I am ready to give it time). You may also use the ready to cook frozen veggies. Saves a lot of time, if nothing else.

Once chopped, take a big pan (I usually use our big Chinese wok)  heat about 3/4 table spoon of vegetable oil, once the oil is hot, throw in the onions, after they look translucent, add the potatoes, allow them to cook for 2/3 mins, add the masalas but not the salt and once the oil starts bubbling on the sides indicating that the masalas are fried, add the ginger garlic paste. After the ginger garlic paste looks cooked (turns brown and a nice fried smell comes) add all the veggies, give them 4/5 mins to fry and then add water and salt and let it come to a boil. Once the veggies are cooked, take a masher and mash the veggies slightly.

In a non stick frying pan take a bit of butter and toast your buns. For the garnish chop some onions, green chillies, coriander leaves and sprinkle some lime juice.

In a plate place the buns, a wedge of lime, the onion salad and a generous helping of the bhaji with a dash of lime juice and a generous blob of butter. Now if you are dieting or butter averse this dish is not for you. The real fun starts when the butter melts on top of the hot, steaming sabji, so no scrimping on the butter.

Warning: This is a hot dish, the pao bhaji masala itself is pretty hot, so if you are not into too much of hot food, you can reduce the green chillies and red chilly powder. I am generally not into hot food, but I like this dish hot, adds to the fun.

Ideally you have to eat this on the Chowpatty beach, watching the sea and the sun set while a warm breeze blows by. Soon after you finish this, you need to get yourself a chuski/ice lolly to cool you down. That is ideal, but it can be happily consumed anywhere in the world. Happy pao bhaji eating.

Some Foodie Updates

Breakfast in bed one lazy Saturday morning by husband dear...the green tea and smaller bits of toast are mine...
Recently I bought some cookie cutters...have not made any cookies with those yet...decided to turn the mashed potato during one bhaat dal aloo bhaat ee dinner into a flower...
In a cafe one evening...the coffee and the apple and cinnamon twist was for my husband and the cheese cake all mine...
Our very own cheese board...
I love having fruits with cheese and crackers...and a good white wine to go with it...
If you have grown up in Kolkata drinking Bijalli Grill's ice cream soda in biye baris and pujo pandals, then Ben Shaw's cream soda is just your thing..while Bijalli Grill's ice cream soda has more soda in it, this one is sweeter and heavier. But tastes just as nice and best of all brings back memories of childhood. We first discovered in Veg Bhelpuri House and since then been buying and drinking them regularly.

Pear Upside Down Cake

Reposted from Hold A Thought, Pen It Down which you can find here.

I was reading a novel called 'The Monday Night Cooking School' by Erica Bauermeister. Like the title mentions it is about a cooking class, its teacher and the various students. The novel was a love story-- a love for food, mostly Italian. However in one place she described baking a cake. Though not all, most of the process was described and curiosity got better of me and I tried baking the cake the way the author has described it. She did not mention any quantities etc, so these were my own, just her process or whatever was given.

I had some pears at home, they were over the first flush of youth, a little on the softer side. Both my husband and me, we enjoy crunchy pears, so I decided to bake something with these. A quick search on the internet showed something called pear upside down cake. That sounded good and not too much hassle, decided to bake my first pear cake.


2 cups self raising flour
2 cups of brown sugar, please give one cup and half cup if adding white sugar cos it is sweeter
3/4th cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tea spoon of baking powder
3 tea spoon of cinnamon
1 table spoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
A pinch of salt
4 pears (a little soft)
A slice of lime


Peel and slice the pears, add the lime juice and a tea spoon of cinnamon power and brown sugar and keep aside.

In a cake mixing bowl, mix the flour, 2 table spoons of cinnamon powder, the baking powder and the pinch of salt.

According to the author  'At its essence a cake is actually a delicate chemical equation, a balance between air and structure. You give your cake too much structure, it becomes tough, too much air, it falls apart.'

First put the butter/oil in your food processor/mixer, stir at slow speed. The butter/oil will start changing consistency, slowly add the sugar. Let them mix together till the oil and the sugar reach cloud like consistency of whipped cream. Then add one egg at a time and keep mixing slowly. Finally add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the milk, maintaining the slow mixing pace.

In a baking dish, arrange the pear pieces and then pour the batter and bake for approximately an hour at 150 centigrades.  Once your cake has risen and is ready (tooth pick test), bring it out and let it cool down for half an hour or so, before turning the cake upside down.

Must say my first experiment with pear cake came out really well. All soft and fluffy. And it melted in the mouth just like a good cake should. My best cake so far. It went very well with chamomile & spiced apple tea.

Hariyali Chicken Kabab, my version

Well this is strictly not the traditional hariyali kebab recipe. But it tasted so lip smacking good,  I wanted to share it with you. It is an easy peasy recipe, only hassle is getting the the chicken marinated 24 hours earlier. You could make it with less marination time. I never tried that.
First things first, recently we bought a kitchen herb pot (I was trying to grow herbs myself, but my fingers being not even remotely green, was not successful). Finally I gave in and bought this ready herb pot. Ever since it has come home, I have been liberally using herbs from the pot in all our food.New Herb Pot
Last week we had a Kolkata street food party in our home (more on that later) and I made a bottle full of coriander chutney to add in the papri chat and also to serve with fish chops. It is dead easy to make and since I was making it, decided to make a bit more than I needed, so that I could use it later.
1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped, use the stems as well,
20 or so mint leaves, chopped
2 to 4 green chillies, seeded or reseeded, according to your taste
1 small piece of ginger, grated
1 pinch of asafoetida/hing 
1 tea spoon of roasted cumin seeds roughly crushed
1 tea spoon of brown sugar/jaggery
1 table spoon of vegetable oil
Juice of half a lime/lemon
Salt to taste
1/4th cup of water
Method: Just blitz all the ingredients in your blender, check the taste, I added a wee bit of brown sugar and my chutney was ready. This recipe yields a big bottle of chutney, if you do not have immediate use of so much, just store the rest in a sterilised glass bottle. The chutney stays fine in the fridge for about two weeks.
It, the chutney I mean, came out a treat, all coriander-y with a hint of mint, a kick from all those chillies, and a subtle sweet and sour taste.  This is the North Indian version, which is what I wanted, but if you want the Bengali version all you have to do is increase the amount of sugar to two table spoons and add mustard oil and rock salt. The Bengali version goes a treat with motorshuti ir kochuri. Ah that takes me back to those winter days of childhood! Both coriander and peas grew in winter, so in my mind winter and these treats are inseparable.
To get back, while planning yesterday's dinner I decided to use this chutney as a marinade for my chicken. So the evening before yesterday after washing the chicken pieces (I used de-boned and de-skinned thigh pieces, you can leave the skin on if you want), I cut them into small pieces, pierced them with a sharp knife and set them aside to drain the water. To prepare the marinade, I added half a bottle of this chutney, one table spoon of ginger and garlic paste each, one table spoon of oil and some diced green chillies into a plastic bag, threw in the boneless pieces of chicken thigh, shook the bag well and kept the bag in the fridge. Next day I diced some onions and green pepper and prepared the chicken skewers which I berbequed. I served it with some mixed beans and green salad. 
The kebabs were very juicy and spicy with the coriander flavour dominating. Since I love all things coriander, it was heavenly for me.  The onion and green peepers were done yet crisp, just the way we love them. This is a super easy recipe and goes really well on lazy summer evenings.

Strawberry Tarts....

Reposted from a previous blog of mine.
With the berry season on at full blast, whenever you visit a store or a super market there are boxes of fresh berries on deals. We have been having our fill of berries-- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries. Even though I love my berries, just eating them as fruits is getting a tad boring. To bring back the zing into my berries, I wanted to make an easy desert with one of them.  I have never made any desert with any of these berries so it was time to try something new. A quick research threw up thousands of possibilities, it was mind-boggling. Some recipes were easy, some pretty complicated, they all looked great  yet did not feel like trying any of them.
Until recently, while enjoying a strawberry tart, I was so in love with the crunchy shell, the soft creamy filling and the tangy strawberries, I felt I had to try this one at home. As usual a huge plethora of recipes came up. But hey it is summertime and I did not want to slave in the kitchen. I wanted a quick recipe, hopefully without much cooking. Eventually found one on the YouTube, cut it short further, tweaked it a little and 
assembled the easiest yet lovely strawberry tarts! (I am sorry, I cannot find the youtube link any more, will post it once I can trace it.) Now it has become a regular in our menu!
1. Tart Shells (you can bake yours, there are loads of recipes out there. I bought ready-to-eat 8 shells from a bakery)
2. 300 gm of organic strawberries (roughly one box in any grocery store)
3.  250 gm of mascarpone cheese (generally one small tub that is sold in the grocery stores)
4. 2 to 3 table-spoon of white sugar
5. 1 table-spoon of vanilla extract
6. A tiny pinch of cinnamon powder
7. Red current jelly
8. Icing sugar/ mint leaves/ almond slivers/ cinnamon powder to garnish
Difficulty level: Easy
Preparation time: 20 mins at the max
Preparation method:
Chop the strawberries into two or four pieces (depending on the size of the berries) and set them aside. Arrange the tart shells on a serving tray. In a mixing bowl add the mascarpone cheese, the sugar, the vanilla extract and a pinch of cinnamon powder. Mix this well, till the mixture takes on a consistency of cream. Fill in the tart shells with two table spoons of the filling, spread it evenly with the back of your spoon. Then arrange the strawberries on top of the filling. In a pan, put in 4 spoonful of red currant jam and 2 table spoons of water, bring it to a boil and mix it thoroughly. Let the mixture cool down, with a paintbrush glaze the strawberries.  Once glazing is done, dust in some icing sugar and little cinnamon powder. You can also use mint leaves and almond slivers to decorate.
Voilà your tart is ready. Either serve this instantly or keep it in the fridge till your guests arrive. Goes really well with chilled white wine!

Chocolate Brownies...

Reposted from my blog Hold A Thought, Pen It Down (which you can find here)

I have been looking for an easy recipe for  chocolate brownies for a while, but all the recipes I was coming across were pretty complicated. Till I came across this recipe by Ben Dillon. It seemed like a really easy recipe, even for a first time experiment. But the recipe looked really rich, so wanted to make it for a special day. Finally made it the Sunday before Valentine's Day.
The ingredients, the author had given measurements in grams, since I do not yet have a weighing scales, I used a website to convert this into cups as close as possible. Of course the results came in fraction, I did not stress too much about it, just used my eyes and guessed.

  • 140g unsalted butter--0.617 cup
  • 200g dark chocolate--Like the author I also used Lindt Dark Chocolate but 90% instead of his 70%.  Since Lindt chocolates come in 100g packs, used two bars.
  • 200g light muscovado sugar or brown sugar--1.4 cups
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g plain flour-- I used roughly 3/4th cups of self raising flour
  • 75g walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped
  • Sifted cocoa powder or icing sugar, to dust
The process according to the author-- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line the base of an 18cm square cake pan. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch water). When butter and chocolate have melted – making a gorgeously shiny smooth mix – remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Beat with a wooden spoon the sugar, vanilla and a good pinch of salt into the chocolate/butter mixture. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then add flour, beating until smooth. (My note, once you add the first egg to the sugar mixture, it is going to become all grainy, do not loose heart, keep beating, by the time you add the flour, it will get smooth and yummy to taste too, in case you want to sneak a spoonful.) Now you should have a thick, rich looking mix that makes you want to eat it straight from the bowl. But don’t do that. ( I did just that!)
Fold in the walnuts and pour the thick, rich mixture into the pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (not sticky batter). 

Some photographs of the chocolate brownie I made:

It came out really well and we have been gorging on chocolate brownies ever since, a little at a time. 

Glimpses of Saraswati Pujo

Saraswati the Goddess of Knowledge comes to Hindu homes sometime in winter according to the Hindu calender. It is a very popular puja in Bengal and is celebrated in almost every house.

In our house the puja has been going on for more than 65 years. The whole family gathers for this puja and we spend the previous evening decorating the puja room with alponas.

Praying for Knowledge...

Alpona...over the years we have all tried our hands at it...I remember when I was young I used to gaze at awe when my aunts would be painting, then my turn came and now the younger ones have taken over...this one is by my cousin Saswati Majumdar

The plates in which the prasad is served are made of very pure silver, copper or bronze to signify the purity of the offerings....
The two green fruits in the plate just above Kitchen Karma logo is a seasonal berry called kool in Bengali. It is in season only for two to three weeks. The folklore is if students cannot eat this fruit without offering it to Ma Saraswati first. Since Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge and the puja comes during the final examinations in schools, no children dares to offend the Goddess. So we all wait in anticipation for the puja to get over, so that we can eat those kools.

The prasad laid out for Ma Saraswati....there are mostly fruits, sweets, yogurt, rice soaked in water....the next day we make dhodikarma which is a yogurt, puffed rice and banana porridge...we wait all year for is sweet and sticky and oh so good....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Curry Book

Last weekend we spend two happy days relaxing in Wales. We went to Hay-on-Wye, a small town crammed with about forty bookshops. Naturally we spent most of our days browsing in these shops.
In one of these shops I came across  an interesting cookbook called A Curry Book (Ludlow Cook Books) by Henrietta Hervey. She  lived in India with her husband Henry Hervey who was in Indian army, first in Madras Presidency and then in Bombay Presidency. On her return to England she wrote this book in 1985. In her words the book was about  'Anglo-Indian cookery at home: a short treatise for returned exiles'. 
From what I could find out in the internet is that Ludlow Cook Books were a series of cook books written by returned English men and women like Ludlow and Hervey.  This book was first published in 1895 by Horace Cox. 
It is a thin book of about 83 pages, republished in 2006. There are the usual staple Anglo Indian recipes like Mulligatawny Soup, kedgeree, railway mutton stew, various lentil soups so on and so forth.  The publishers in their introduction say that these more than100 year old classic recipes still work and as tasty as ever.
What I found more interesting was the introduction that Henrietta had written for the book. There were tips on how to banish 'the smell of dinner' from the English homes by opening the windows when possible, how to place a curry stone (shil nora) on the kitchen table, how to manage heavy handed English servants and train them to be as nimble handed as their Indian counterparts, specially while chopping vegetables. It seemed like she had carried a huge quantity of spices and curry powders back with her. Also she had provided substitutes for Indian ingredients like tamarind whenever possible.  Clearly there were no Gujarati or Bangladeshi grocery stores doing brisk trade during those days. She also mentioned that in order to continue cooking Anglo Indian food in London she had to bring her dekchis (large aluminium pots usually used to cook meat or rice in Indian kitchens) with her. She sure was one enthusiastic curry cook!
Her introduction easily takes us back to India and London of 1880s and her recipes are clear and precise.
I am charmed with the book, wish I had bought it.
I wonder hundred years or more from now if people would read our food blogs and wonder about us in the same way.
N.B. The photo of the book is taken from the internet.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Caramel Pudding

I have grown up eating this pudding. My mother makes this  often. She learnt it from my pipi (eldest aunt) who in turn had learnt it from her mother-in-law. So this recipe has been going around in the family for quiet some years now. 

Many years ago I had helped pipi making it once. And I have seen my mother make it numerous times. But I never tried making it on my own before this. In my new avatar as a cook tried it out and it came out perfectly!
Eating this took me back to my childhood days and right  into my mother and pipi's kitchen.


1 litre of milk (I use whole, you can use semi skimmed, but skimmed milk will hardly give you any taste)
6 table spoons of sugar (white or brown)
1 table spoon of vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 to 3 pieces of white bread 


Bring the milk to a boil, reduce it half the quantity while stirring continuously. Add 5 table spoons of sugar (you can adjust the amount of sugar according to taste) to the milk and once the sugar has dissolved, add the slices of bread without the crust. Mix well and remove from heat. Let the mixture cool down before mixing the two eggs. If you put the egg into the warm mixture the egg will start cooking and curdle up.

Take a tin pan, heat it, add a table spoon of sugar and keep rotating over the fire. The sugar will melt and caramelise turning reddish brown. Keep the pan aside and let it cool.
Once the pan is cooled, pour the batter into the pan and put it into a pressure cooker and wait till three steams, reduce the heat to low and keep the pressure cooker in the low heat for about 10 mins.

Once the pressure cooker has cooled, bring out the pudding tin, turn it upside down on a plate and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to cool it before serving.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicken Curry

Dear Thomas,
I am so sorry for being so lazy and sending you this recipe ages after you had lunch at our place.

Without further ado, let me give you the recipe. As Indian recipes go,this is a really simple one to make.

The Ingredients:
1 kg of  de-skinned chicken thigh and leg pieces with bones
2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
1 medium sized tomato, chopped
1/2 green chillies (optional)
2 table spoons of plain yogurt (I use low fat plain yogurt or even Greek yogurt)
1 table spoon of turmeric
1 table spoon of red chilly powder (again optional)
1 table spoon of sugar
2 table spoons coriander powder
2 table spoons cumin powder
2 table spoons garlic powder
2 table spoons ginger garlic paste
Whole garam masala-- I put in a couple of green cardamoms, half a cinnamon bark and a couple of cloves (slightly mash them to release the flavour) and a couple of dry bay leaves
4 table spoons vegetable oil or any other oil that you use regularly. You could also use olive oil but all that nice flavour would get lost amidst these spices.

Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins

Take a deep heavy bottom pan, add the oil, wait till the oil is hot and fumes are coming out, reduce the heat to low and add the whole garam masala, add the chopped onions and the sugar. Added at this stage the sugar caramalises and adds a lovely colour. Once the onions turn light brown, add the masalas and fry them.  Initially when you add the masalas, the oil and the masalas make one paste but once the masalas are done the oil  separates from the paste and starts bubbling on the side. At this point add the ginger garlic paste and cook till they turn brown and a nice fried smell comes out. If adding green chillies, add with the ginger garlic paste. You can control the heat you want from them. The trick is to slash them from the middle for a lot of heat. But if you want just the flavour, just add them whole and when you are stirring your masala make sure you do not break these up. Add the chicken and once the chicken is nicely mixed with the masalas, let them be in medium heat for about 10 mins. Turn occasionally, otherwise the masalas may burn. Add the tomatoes, yogurt and salt to taste and about two cups of water. Mix the whole thing and let it come to a boil. You can also put on the lid of the pan. Check occasionally and after 15 mins once the chicken is cooked, your curry is ready. Depending on how you want your curry you can add more water.

We usually have this with plain boiled rice.

Hope you have a good time cooking this and your family enjoys it.

The shrimp recipe is also coming too.




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