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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old Love & New Ones [also a recipe for Kosha Mangsho/ Bengali Chicken Curry]


Dog eared copy of Agatha Christie's ''They Came To Baghdad'' with all sorts of odd paper scraps tucked between the grandfather's; the man from whom I inherited an unquenchable thirst for reading!

Old handbag, faded & shabby, dismally frayed at the edges, the one I never use, yet shy from throwing away...the worn-out smooth leather brings me peace...

Bunch of orange roses given with a shy smile and received with a glad heart....a magical moment trapped forever...yet it repeats itself with continuing reassurance :-)

Sharing food and laughter with one's own...eating with hands...licking the fingers dry...giggling over nothing and everything...stuffing oneself silly....lazing in the aftermath....

Cake slowly rising to life in the oven...the house smelling of oranges, vanilla, cinnamon...a cup of tea waiting impatiently to give it company...

Nourishing song...celebrates love, friendship, building bridges, holding hands...carries bits of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, sung by people who create unique music-scapes...reverberates long after...

Simple home cooked meal on a lazy afternoon...a pass-me-down recipe...the known taste filling you with reassurance, comfort & contentment...the aromas bringing a host of memories flocking back...


Love sagas, old and new continues in my other blog!

Chicken Curry/Kosha Mangsho

A Bangla word, kosha means well fried, mangsho means meat. This is a recipe in which the masalas, the chicken pieces and the rest of the ingredients are well fried over low to medium heat for about 20 to 30 mins. A matter of patience, probably best tried over the weekend. This dish is generally prepared in Bengali homes when we expect guests.

List of Ingredients:

600 to 800 gm chicken (I used skinless thigh pieces, most of the excess fat trimmed)
3 to 4 medium potatoes chopped into two
4 medium onions, finely chopped
2 dried red chilly, each snapped into two
1 table spoon of ginger paste
1 heaped table spoon of garlic paste
2 table spoons of tomato purée
1 tea spoon of turmeric powder
1 tea spoon of cumin & coriander powder each
1 tea spoon of meat masala powder
1/2 tea spoon of red chilly powder (non spicy variety, for colour)
3/4th tea spoon of sugar
Whole garam masalas-- 2 to 3 cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, whole black inch bark of cinnamon...slightly crushed...
2 table spoons of vegetable/sunflower oil
1 tea spoon of mustard oil (optional)
Salt to taste


Make the oil screaming hot, reduce the heat and add the garam masalas and the red chillies. [Chances of the garam masalas burning are high, so I take the pan completely off the heat and then add the garam masalas.] Immediately add the chopped onions and the sugar.  The sugar is added at this stage because it caramelises and gives the onion a lovely reddish brown colour. Put the pan back on heat.

After 5 mins or so add the masalas, fry till the oil starts to separate on the side. At this stage add the ginger and garlic paste and the tomato purée. Again fry till the oil starts to separate from the masalas. Takes roughly 5 mins or so.

Add the chicken pieces and the potatoes. Now begins the test of your patience. Keep frying this on low/low medium heat for about 20 to 30 mins. You can slowly see the chicken pieces and the potatoes changing colour. The remaining fat on the chicken pieces will melt and add to the gravy. If you are lucky enough to use farm fresh country chicken without a trace of fat, then you may need to add a few drops of water, so that the masalas do not dry up. After about half an hour or so when the chicken pieces and the potatoes look nicely brown, add salt to taste. The reason salt is added at the very end is because salt releases water from the chicken and we do not want that before this. 

Then add just about enough water to submerge all the pieces and let it cook, covered for another 20 mins or so. Keep checking and stirring  occasionally. Most of the water should evaporate and the gravy should be almost dry-ish and thick. Turn off the heat and keep the pan covered and let it rest for 10 mins or so.


In the Indian subcontinent we do not rest food much after it is cooked. But we have noticed that if rested, especially meat preparations taste better. Leftover curries are way tastier than freshly made ones. Our hunch is that over the resting period the masalas get time to incorporate into the meat! So if expecting guests you can prepare this a day ahead. 

You can serve this with plain rice or rotis/parathas (Indian breads). Tastes best with the sweet Bengali polao (fried rice). The heat of the dish nicely balances with the sweetness of the rice.

I had some leftover rice, so used that to make a  simple fried rice, throwing in whatever veggie was there in my fridge. Used only some cumin seeds to fry the veggies with, garnished with some fried cashew nuts and  raisins and my latest find ready-made fried onions!

A simple Indian salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions with a sprinkling of lime juice, diced green chillies, chopped coriander leaves and rock salt goes nicely with this.

P.S. Ladies did you enjoy seven random things about me? :-)
P.P.S. We are going on a short holiday this weekend. Will catch up once I am back. Hopefully will be able to bring you stories from our trip :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Visual Feast: London's Borough Market...

Borough Market is undoubtedly London's most popular food market. On Saturday afternoons it is an incredibly busy place, heaving with Londoners and tourists alike. The merchandise, sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere all are heavenly. The crowds remind me of the hustle and bustle of busy bazaars back home. So I love that too. Though it makes photography a little difficult. The prices are a little fancy, but there are always good deals. Like last Saturday a farmer was selling 5 avocados for a pound. Now that is as good as any super market, only organic, fresher and ethically sourced!

Today's post is a visual feast of the some of the joys that the Borough Market offers.

 Lets eat one few slices of chocolate brownies and some focaccia bread too!

It was raining cats & dogs when we were in the market. Some photos bear witness to that.

    Mussels anyone? Its on special offer!

Borough Market specialises in meats...there are all kinds including exotic ones. Their website says ''If it comes from an animal and it’s good to eat, you can probably find it somewhere at Borough. From pies, sausages and hams to prime cuts of fresh meat, from seasonal British game to exotic ostrich steaks, Borough is home to butchery at its very best.''

Time for some condiments...various types of mustard and sauces for tasting and you can take them home in pretty jars! While you are at it why not pick up some pies?

 ''The dish Fish 'n' Chips was voted to the list of English National Icons along with Robin Hood, The Archers, Magna Carta and The White Cliffs of Dover.''

This shop is probably the main reason why we keep going back to the Borough Market. They do have the best fish and chips we have so far had in the UK. 

Forget Frozen. Forget slabs of insipid white fish flesh, uninspiring batter, tasteless peas and industrial potato wedges masquerading as chips. Here the fish tastes like it was alive till a moment ago, the chips are thick and crunchy (with a hint of handmade) and the batter, just perfect. You can eat the crunchy coating on top just on its own, a rarity in Britain. You have to buy mayonnaise separately, which they give these in little boxes, no packaged ones.This is just the fish and chips you dreamt of while reading an English novel.

The shop is incredibly busy, but the queue moves quickly. You eat standing on the side, they also have a restaurant just beside the shop. But it is always so full and we are so hungry that we always end up sharing a box  standing on the pavement.

How can a market be complete without some pretty flowers? 

A shop selling French goodies. There was duck conduit being sold in tins!

As part of Borough's Europe tour... some Spanish grub err chillies!

Thirsty? There is always the smoothie stand or the mulled wines and wines that people drink in disposable cups...while sipping your drink why not go through some spice? You may find something interesting! 

Before going home why not pick up some fresh, organic veggies?
The farmer has come all the way to sell his produce...

Did you enjoy yourself?
I sure did, only problem was that I got wet in the rain and now have a horrible cold and a nagging headache!

Award announcement-- I have been awarded The Versatile Blogger by two of my friends.
First it came from Poonam of Kande Pohe. This lady is a genius in making puris and parathas apart from all the yummy Maharastrian, Konkan and Goan food that she cooks and shares with us. I go to her blog to drool over the food.
Next the award came from Iyshwarya of Ishooo. This young lady writes a mean 55 word fiction. Usually I like reading long, rambling stuff, but she has got me hooked to the 55 word fiction. So much so that I am considering trying one myself!

 I pass this award on to some of the bloggers whose spaces I love visiting:

Elizabeth of Food and Thrift

You ladies rock!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Way To A Woman's Heart--A Stuffed Chicken Special

I will tell you a secret. 

Am thoroughly confused about Valentine's Day.

Blame it on my crazy Libra scales. 

Every year around Valentine's Day I am torn between the romantic and the cynic. 

And hang somewhere in between!

Blasted confusion!

Rationally, I totally agree with the cynics or the non believers or the critical or the  I-do-not-like-popular-culture types or the romantically challenged (this phrase is borrowed from a friend) or whatever you call yourself . Lets face it. Val Day has gone horribly commercial. It has become a money making hoopla for the flower & balloon sellers, card & chocolate & condom companies, restaurants, gift shops and a whole lot other retailers. Media goes on and on about it as if all the problems of the world have vanished. I find myself nodding my head when someone says that you should be loving your partner 365 days a year and not go over board this one day. I completely understand when a friend says Valentine's Day makes singles stressed and depressed! Sailed in that boat too. So true, each and every point and all the other points you have mentioned and I have missed here.

Then I read the romantics oohing, ahhhhhing, coochie cooing about roses (albeit genetically modified), anything and everything heart shaped (and sometimes downright ugly), candlelight dinners, loving partners, romantic gifts and my heart kinda gives a tug. Just a tug, mind you. I read a badly written love poem/letter/bog post and while otherwise I would have just closed the link, near to this day, I smile indulgently.  I heart romantic cards. And the lovely flower bouquets (but cringe at their exorbitant prices). I like the idea that the world for at least one day is talking about love and not war. I love the way all the food bloggers baked chocolate goodies and/or cheese cakes in honour of the special day! I got to drool over the photos, which is the next best thing to eating them. I grab the excuse this day provides to gorge on chocolates and other yummy desserts! I love reading a spunky romantic novel.

The girl who grew up on a staple of M&Bs, gets swayed.

Then I sway right back. 

I am sure Saint Valentine did not plan it this way (lets give him some benefit of doubt), but this has become a pretty excluding kind of celebration. The invisible line between those smugly married/in relationship (borrowed from Bridget Jone's Diary, second part I think) and the singles of the world becomes really apparent on this day. Its like 'mere pas pyar hain, tumhare pas kya hain?' (borrowed from Deewaar, where else) [For the uninitiated there is a very popular Hindi movie called Deewaar, where one brother flaunts his success to the other brother. Roughly translated this line meanly 'I have love, what do you have?' You can find more details about the movie here.] While starting and maintaining relationships are getting more and more difficult in this complex world, Valentine madness is on the rise. No longer do you celebrate privately, you need to share it with the whole wide world through all the social media on your finger tips. This kind of sends the singles tipping into deeper depths of depression. 

But I would be lying if I say I do not enjoy all the extra efforts my husband makes on Val Days. I would definitely be dishonest if I said his efforts does not make me feel precious or cherished or special. 

My friend in her Facebook note says '' In spiritual sense this is a day when we look outside for happiness, that red rose, that surprise gift, that long drive and chocolate cake.''

I sure enjoy all the attention of my partner. Does this make me a shallow person?

So it goes on and on, my scales dipping precariously from one side to the other. If you have some pills of thought to stabilise my scales and soothe my nerves, please do share. Romantics and the romantically challengedboth are equally welcome!

To get to the food part, this Valentine's Day we decided to spend the evening at home. My husband decided to cook us a special dinner. I was happy being his sous chef for the evening.  

We have been eyeing Gordon Ramsay's Stuffed Chicken Leg for sometime. Finally decided to make it. A preparation where a boneless leg and thigh piece of chicken is stuffed with sausage meat and then the whole thing is wrapped in streaky bacon and poached, then chilled and then fried. You can find the recipe here. We pretty much followed the master chef, except for a few tweaks here and there. I am not writing  down the recipe here. Will just share with you the things we did differently.

We did not make sauce with marsala wine, did not have any at home. We had some nice port at home, used that instead.

 In his recipe the chef does not cook the sausage meat. Since I am a little  pretty squeamish about eating raw meat, husband fried the sausage meat in a little olive oil.

Added some dried plums and finely chopped spring onions along with the stipulated pistachio nuts with the sausage meat.

The trickiest bit in this recipe is wrapping the chicken parcel with bacons. Husband managed that pretty well.

This was the first time we poached in little foil parcels like the Michelin star chefs keep doing in their recipes. Glad to report our parcels stayed put. I was freaking out thinking all the contents of the parcels would be out swimming in the boiling water. But the parcels behaved themselves.

Once the parcels were fried till the streaky bacons were crisp, my husband sliced the parcel and served it on a bed of salad leaves and some cherry tomatoes. We had port to go with it.

It seemed like I am sitting down to a restaurant meal. The bacon was crispy and salty, while the chicken was soft and smooth and the plum and the pistachios added another level to the sausage meat. Eaten together it was very different and new, in a good way. Truth to tell I did not need the sauce at all. Husband said he liked it, otherwise found the meat a little dry.

For us Indians used to all our masalas, this is a tad  bland. This is where the paprika and garlic in the sausage meat comes in handy.

If you are out to impress someone, this is a fail proof recipe. 

It sure impressed me. Hence the title of this post 'the way to a woman's heart'......:-)

Oh I got an award from a blogger friend. This post has gone on and on, so will share it next time. Promise.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Walk Down The Memory Lane with A Traditional Bengali Snack Chirer (Flaked Rice) Polao

An old family photo!
Our home was a bustling place. With all the varied members of a medium sized joint family residing within its folds, the poor house did not have much choice!

Families of three brothers (my grandfather's and his two brothers') stayed together in our sprawling house. In 1970s India, families believed in staying together and the great Indian joint family was very much the norm.

My grandfather had two more brothers, one lived in another city. So he and his family would come to spend the summer holidays with us. During the summer vacations the house would be bursting at seams. But for me it was a treat. Mostly my mother was too busy to notice what I was upto. Also it meant more uncles and aunts to pamper me!

The ladies dressed up in lovely saris for some occasion!
My mother keeps reminiscing about those happy days, soon after her marriage. She got married when she was just eighteen years old. She says when she joined the family, most of her sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law were still living at home.These are all my father's cousins. Most of them were still in college. My mother was studying herself. Soon they were fast friends, hanging out together, going for shopping, movies, eating street food on the sly.

There was always something or the other happening in the family. There were the usual birthdays, marriage anniversaries, celebration of various festivals, picnics, day trips and summer trips. Apart from these, there were impromptu chats (adda) happening all over the house, in the balcony, the staircase, the kitchen, the roof. There was never any fixed time...sometimes late at night, other times during the afternoon. All it needed was for my mother and a couple of my aunts to gather. Their laughter would resonate throughout the house. Often the uncles joined in, teasing them mercilessly, but that did not faze them. My family was also pretty active culturally, they were always singing, acting in plays, dancing, painting, stitching or knitting.

A recipe which was popular during those days. Chire or Flaked Rice is one of the many derivations of rice. Other popular one being Puffed Rice with which the rice cakes are made. Flaked rice is popular in many parts of India. It is used to make Poha in northern and western India. Presenting to you the Bengali version Chirer Polao. This is my mother's recipe. This is different from other versions because it is sweeter in taste, filled with seasonal vegetables.

Like I mentioned in the 'About Me' section I am a ghoti, originally from the western part of Bengal. The speciality of our food is that all our savoury dishes have sugar/jaggery. We believe that a little sweet fine tunes the savouriness of a dish and brings in a better balance. This dish is a classic example of this tradition of cooking.

As a child I remember eating this snack mostly during winters. My mother loves making it in winter so that she can add all the winter veggies like carrots, green beans, peas and cauliflowers.

This is served for breakfast or a late afternoon snack to the children after they return from their schools. Also served to guests as snack.

What You Need For The Recipe:

i. 2 cups of flaked rice

ii. Whole garam masalas-- 2/3 whole peppers, 2/3 cloves,
 2/3 cardamoms, 1 inch of cinnamon bark 
and a couple of bay leaves, slightly crushed
iii. Handful of cashew nuts and raisins. 
Soak the raisins in a little water to fluff them up

iv. Seasonal vegetables like carrots, green beans, cauliflower
 (one fourth of a large one), chopped as shown in the picture
Half a cup of peas

v. One medium potato chopped
vi. One medium onion chopped
vii. A couple of green chillies, 
snapped in the middle
viii. Half a tea spoon of garam masala powder
ix. One tea spoon of sugar
x. Salt to taste
xi. Half a tea spoon of ghee/ clarified butter (I skip this)
xii. Chopped coriander to garnish
xiii. I almost forgot, 2 tea spoons of oil,
vegetable or sunflower

How To Make This Dish:

Wash the flaked rice and drain the excess moisture. In a pan, heat the oil, add the whole garam masalas and the potato cubes. Fry till the potato pieces turn light brown, add the onions and fry till the onions turn light brown, by now the potatoes should be turning golden/darker brown. Now add the rest of the seasonal veggies and the cashew nuts and fry for 2 to 3 minutes more. 

The vegetables frying
Add the salt which will help to soften the veggies. After this add the drained flaked rice and mix everything well. Put the lid on and let it cook on low medium heat for a couple of minutes. If it becomes too dry add a few drops of water. Stir occasionally. 
Flaked rice cooking with the veggies

Once everything is cooked, the flaked rice should be fluffed up and soft, the potato cooked and the vegetables should have a little crunch still left in them, remove from heat. Sprinkle the garam masala powder and the sugar. Mix again thoroughly. The sugar will melt in the heat. Do not add sugar before the flaked rice is cooked, since that will hamper the flaked rice from softening. You can add the optional ghee/clarified butter at this stage. Sprinkle the fluffed raisins. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
At this stage your house will smell of garam masala, ghee and all things nice :-)

 Enjoy your chirer polao with gorom cha (hot tea)!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Val Day

Have a lovely Val Day dear friends. 
This lavender filled, 
felt heart was given to me 
last Christmas 
by a little girl called Olivia! 
She had my heart then and there :-)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

I was minding my own business, really I was! Eating veggies and salads like a good girl and trying to stay away from those luscious chocolate chip cookies (sadly not succeeding much)! Along came Poorna of Presented by P flashing photos of her Bacon and Mushroom Risotto and being gleeful about how yummy it tasted. We had a long chat about risottos, cheeses, mushrooms and other edible treats. Of course the glutton in me reared her ugly head demanding a hearty risotto.  Little shamefaced confession I gave in without much fight. Made a creamy, cheesy risotto for Friday night.

True to her roots, this humble Bengali has a deep love for rice. So I naturally got attracted to risotto and paella. Both are rice based, yet so very exotic and different.  The idea of cooking rice with cheese awed me when I first discovered risotto. I took to it like duck to water and never came ashore.

I make various kinds. Presenting my favourite--Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto. I was not at all fond of the butternut squash. One day it arrived, uninvited, in our organic veggie box. Initially I thought about  chucking it in the bin but my conscience revolted. Reluctantly I consigned to the idea of making something with it. It turned out that with a little bit of love, herbs and roasting butternut squash can taste amazing. No longer is the squash unwelcome in my kitchen! The zealous convert that I am, now I keep buying this squash to make the risotto. After making risottos with various ingredients-- mushrooms, leeks, seafood, chicken and bacon, the butternut squash one tops my chart.

The original recipe is here. Over the trials I have made so many changes that the recipe has changed quite a lot; the method is the same.

The rice, the squash, the sage leaves,
 the red chilly and garlic pods--
all ready to go into the risotto!

Ingredients:(This easily serves 4)
150 gms of arborio rice or other Italian risotto rice
1 butternut squash, cut into 4 to 6 wedges after removing the seeds, no need to peel the skin at this stage
1 cup of white wine (can replace this with chicken or vegetable stalk)
One and half litres of chicken or vegetable stalk (I used home made chicken and veggie stalk)
2 medium onions finely chopped
20 or so sage leaves, rolled up and finely sliced
1 red chilly (can skip this)
4 cloves of garlic, skin peeled and finely chopped
4 to 6 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
Handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano/parmesan cheese, also some more for garnish
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper
Roasted pine nuts (I used roasted almond slivers and roasted the squash seeds just as an experiment)

The Preparation Bit: All the chopping and roasting takes about an hour or so. My husband was helping me in the kitchen, so time flew. The best bit is grating the cheese which usually husband does. He is my hero, the cheese grater, sage chopper, risotto stirrer, occasional photographer and the valiant taster!

Freshly grated parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano

Chopped sage leaves smelling divine!
Now onto the cooking bit: Preheat the oven at 150C. In a baking tray, place the butternut squash wedges, sprinkle three fourth of the sage leaves, two garlic cloves, some sea salt and pepper. Pour 2 table spoons of olive oil over the wedges, make sure all the wedges are well covered with the oil, salt, pepper. Roast this in the oven for 40 to 45 mins. Please check at intervals, because time taken by ovens varry. My oven takes about an hour for the squash to turn soft and golden brown. Once the squash has reached desired softness, switch off the oven and leave the squash inside. Once it has cooled down, scrape the flesh from the skin, smash the squash and add the remaining oil from the pan to it. Keep this warm while the rice is cooking.

The squash cut into wedges and ready to go into the oven,
once it emerged from the oven and  after being mashed up
In a heavy bottomed pan, add the remaining olive oil, the sliced garlic, red chilly and onion. Fry till the onions turn transclusent and pink. At this point add the rice and fry some more till the rice looks pearly; takes about 2 to 3 mins. Add the white wine while stirring the rice continuously. Keep stirring till the wine evaporates. [If by now your arms have started aching from all that vigorous stirring, hold on friend, there is a whole lot more to come, but the effort is so worth it, so keep on at it :-)].

The rice soon after the wine evaporated and once the stock has been added
Once the wine evaporates, add the stalk slowly, a little at a time to the rice, and yes keep stirring all the while. Slowly you will see the rice changing texture, releasing starch and becoming fluffy. The mixture also becomes creamier as it goes on cooking. This goes on for about 20 to 25 mins. With the last of the stalk, add the rest of the sage leaves to the rice. The sage releases its aroma and smells heavenly. When the rice is well done, switch off the gas, and slowly mix in the smashed squash and most of the cheese, sprinkle some sea salt and pepper. Leave it to rest for a couple of mins and then ladle into a plate and get ready to eat. Goes really well with a glass of chilled white wine.

The risotto with the sprinkling of  roasted squash seeds,
which did not work too well
Garnish with cheese and I used almond slivers for my portion and the roasted squash seeds for husband's plate. (The roasted squash seeds though nice to eat on their own, did not go well with the risotto). The reason for all the fuss is because we do not like pine nuts too much.

The risotto tastes a little sweet because of the squash, the red chilly adds some nice heat while the garlic adds flavour. You will find the sage to be a welcome surprise. The saying goes that sage and butternut squash are a match made in heaven. The pair did not disappoint this time round!

The result: un delizioso risotto!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Of Snowfalls, Awards and Spicy & Tangy Paneer Bhurjis...

Lady Winter sure caught us by surprise! It is fashionable to be late in a party, seasonal or otherwise. But so late? Just when we were congratulating ourselves on having missed the worst of the winter chill, she arrived in full splendour. 

Every year she arrives soon after fall, but this time she decided to make us wait. We waited and waited...spent an almost warm Christmas and an exceptionally mild January (heck this season Kolkata had chillier days than London!). We were feeling smug on having given winter a miss. There were signs of an early spring everywhere-- sprouting daffodil bulbs, spring collections out in shops, people wearing light jackets. Spring and love was in the air.

Then last Saturday evening it started snowing. Silently, big flakes started covering trees, roofs, roads, gardens, anything and everything.  Weather reports said it was the heaviest snowfall in the last 15 years. Londoners were happy to have had at least one snowfall and that too so conveniently over the weekend. Sunday saw happy families playing with the snow. We thought that was the end of it. But there was more to come, yesterday evening it snowed again. So today we woke up to a partially white world. Spring seems like a distant dream, trudging through the snow, while shivering in the cold seems to be the order of the day. 

For this Bengali, steaming cups of green tea and visions of warm, sun kissed  tropical homeland are chief sources of sustenance. And a comment by a dear friend in my page. Sudha of Wit, wok & wisdom wrote to say that she has awarded me 'Liebster Blog Award'. What an award, I sit up, this is a lovely and unexpected surprise! My first blog award and I flush with joy! I feel like a kid who has been given a free run of a candy store. Wait there is more to this. I, in turn can give this award to 5 other bloggers. How nice is that. I started this blog on the 13th of January and it is not even a month and here I am receiving awards and giving them as well! 

But before I move onto the awards, I want to talk about Sudha's blog. It is a space in which Sudha jots down her recipes and also her thoughts. If you, like me, is fond of a good story then you will have to check out her blog. This lady knows how to spin magic with her words. I do not know if it is permissible in the world of food blogs, but often I am chuckling so hard or nodding my head in agreement about what Sudha had written that I almost forget to check out her recipes. Almost but not quite, if you know what I mean! 

Now about the award, copying the information from Sudha's blog.

"Leibster" means dearest in German and as with any award, there is bit of a ceremony involved.These are the rules if you accept the award:
  • Copy and paste the award on your blog. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.
  • Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers who deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
  • Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

Now my turn to give this award to five food bloggers. In the small time I have been here, I have made so many new friends that I am feeling pretty overwhelmed. Still giving this to eight (following Sudha's tradition) lovely ladies who cook up magic and extended the warmth of their friendship to me.

So the names, in no particular order: are:

Sadaf Afshan of My Culinary Adventures
Poonam Borkar of Kande Pohe
Khusi of A Girl's Diary
Jaya of Spice and Curry
La of Food Slice
Sobha of Good Food
Poorna of Presented by P

I have shared this on my Facebook page as well since the friends who follow me on Facebook are different from the Blogger ones. The link is here.

Enjoy the award ladies and keep cooking!

Now you did not think I would finish this post without posting a recipe, did you? 

I have a special recipe for you. It is a recipe for paneer bhurji, but completely different from the standard ones. Like I mentioned before yesterday evening it was snowing and I felt like having something chatpata (spicy and tangy). Yet I was feeling really lazy and did not want to leave the book I was reading. Somehow hunger pangs took me to the kitchen. Found some paneer (Indian cheese) in the fridge, decided to make it, since it cooks really quickly.

Ingredients for making spicy and tangy paneer bhurji:
200 gms paneer/cottage cheese grated
One medium onion, cut into four and finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 tea spoon of mustard seeds
1/2 tea spoon of cumin seeds
Whole garam masala-- 2 cloves, 2 green cardamoms, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves
1 tea spoon of ginger and garlic paste each
1 tea spoon of turmeric powder
2 table spoons of mango powder
1 tea spoon of coriander powder
1 table spoon of sugar
About 4 table spoon of milk
Salt to taste
2 table spoons of oil
Chopped coriander leaves and crushed peanuts for garnishing

Cooking Know How:
After the oil heats in a pan, add the cumin and mustard seeds, the whole garam masalas slightly crushed, then add the onions, fry till light brown. Once onions have nicely browned, add the ginger and garlic paste, fry for 3 to 4 mins, then add the masalas. After the masalas are fried and oil starts to separate, add the paneer, green chillies and the tomatoes. Mix everything and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the milk. Cook till the milk evaporates or a slight gravy is left. Add the salt according to taste.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with some crushed peanuts and coriander leaves. You paneer is ready to eat. Mango powder gives it a tangy taste, which is balanced by the sugar and the chillies give the necessary heat. The peanuts add a crunch to the dish. It takes about 15 mins to get this dinner together.

 I served the paneer with some naans I bought from a store (usually I do not buy these, they have too much sodium in them) but yesterday I just did not want to make the effort.
Also served a simple winter salad of radishes and tomatoes. These baby radishes are my new find this winter and I am loving them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tea Time With Aubergine Fritters (Beguni)

Growing up in Kolkata telebhaja (literally means fried in oil, signifies fritters) was part of regular life. There were/are little shops all over the city selling fritters of various shapes, sizes and of course varieties-potato, onion, aubergine, beetroot, cauliflower, mixed veggies (depending on the season), lentils, shrimp, fish, mutton, egg.... the list goes on. 
These shops are usually run by at least two people, one who does the all important job of frying the fritters and the other who serves the customers. Come early evening these shops would open with their pump stoves or coal ones (unoon) on, vegetables all chopped and arranged neatly, big vats of smoking hot oil and ready to dip batter. They would dip whichever variety you want and fry them fresh in front of you. In each batch they would fry 20 to 30 fritters and alternate between the varieties. Like after frying aubergine fritters they would next fry potato ones, so on and so forth. 
All this fresh frying is time consuming, so there are often long queues of hungry people and a little jostling and arguments about who arrived first goes on in the side line. But only till the fritters are ready, once the fritters are out of the frying pan, people keep shouting their orders to the server. Usual conversation snippets floating around would be 'ayi amar char te beguni', (hey I want 4 aubergine fritters) 'ar amar 2 aloo or chop, 2 dal bora ar 4 te beguni, ami kintu anek khon dariye achi' (I need 2 potato fritters, 2 lentil ones and 4 aubergine ones and let me remind you I have been waiting for sometime). 
These fritters are usually eaten with puffed rice (muri). They are served in little newspaper bags which often soak up the extra oil. The best bit of the fritters for me as a child was the sprinkling of rock salt (bit noon) on top. The salt added an extra dimension to the fritters and somehow made them more exciting to the kid-y me.
Apart from the common man/woman, famous Bengalis over the ages have been known to enjoy fritters with their evening tea. A few names from the top of my head--Ram Krishna Paramahansha and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The shops from where they used to eat, still exist and are fully functional.
Fritters are made at home as well, either served as snack or as the first course of a meal. They are a regular feature with our khichuri (rice and lentil mishmash, recipe and other details here). 
Though these are regular evening snacks, on some days these fritters taste extra nice. For most Bengalis rainy evenings trigger an urge for gorom cha ar muri telebhaja (hot tea and puffed rice with fritters). Monsoons and fritters along with hot tea and puffed rice have a deep connection...and every Bong feels it (it is a bit like the call of the wild, though nothing as adventurous, though no less exciting!).

I had such an urge recently during a snowy evening. Sadly for me there was no shop in my neighbourhood where I could pop in to get my fill of fritters. I had to make them at home, was not much of a hassle, because they are fairly easy to make. Presenting you my mother's recipe for aubergine fritters.
Slicing up the aubergine!
Ingredient for Aubergine Fritters:
One aubergine, cut into half and then thinly sliced
One cup of gram flour/besan
1 tea spoon of onion seeds/kalo jeere
1/2 tea spoon of red chilly powder (can increase or decrease the amount according to heat tolerance)
1/4th tea spoon of Bicarbonate of Soda/cooking soda (this is my mother's special touch, she says cooking soda makes the fritters really crunchy and also stops after eating indigestion and acidity)
Salt to taste (please add a little less than your usual quantity because the rock salt will also add a salty flavour)
Oil to deep fry the fritters
Rock salt to sprinkle on top

How To Make the Fritters: Mix the gram flour, onion seeds, red chilly powder, cooking soda and salt with about half a cup of water. You may need to add more water if the batter is too thick.
The making of the batter!
In a pan heat the oil till it is smoking hot, dip the aubergines into the batter, coat them nicely with the batter and deep fry till darkish golden brown. Keep your ventilators open, if you do not want the smoke alarm to get activated. Trying to shhhh the alarm while keeping the fritters from over frying is a tough act, ask me!
The whole exercise takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Sprinkle some rock salt on the fritters and they are ready to eat. Served with puffed rice and tea makes an awesome snack, guaranteed to earn you brownie points. And the puffed rice makes it not all unhealthy.
Served in a rudimentary home-made newspaper cone (thonga)!
Take a bite of the fritter, the coating should be crisp and crunchy
while the aubergine inside should be soft and fleshy...
Check out these cute little wooden clips that I used to make the newspaper cone.
 I picked these up in a craft store!


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