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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ilish Macher Matha Diye Pui-Saag Charchari (Hilsa Head with Pohi Greens)

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The day we get hilsa, we end up making our entire course of lunch out of it. Starting with Hilsa fry with it’s oil, followed by charchari, then jhol, jhal and finally tak.

I have already covered most of the other receipes, today it’s the turn for the charchari.

Ingredients

  1. 1 hilsha head washed and cut into halves
  2. 1 bunch pohi saag washed thoroughly in running water and cut into 2-3" pieces
  3. 1 medium Chinese eggplant (long brinjal) cut into big cubes
  4. 200 gm. of pumpkin cut into medium cubes
  5. 2 potatoes cut into thick wedges
  6. 1 tsp. paanch phoron
  7. 3,4 green chilies slit length wise
  8. Turmeric powder
  9. Chili powder
  10. Salt
  11. Sugar
  12. Mustard oil

Procedure

Smear the hilsha head with turmeric powder and salt and keep aside.

Heat mustard oil in a pan till it smokes and fry the head on medium heat till all sides turn brown. As hilsha's head is bony don't break the head much. Once fried remove from oil and keep aside.

Since we want to retain all the flavors of hilsha we won't discard the oil. Temper the same oil with paanch phoron and chilies. Once you get the pungent smell reduce heat and add eggplants. Fry on medium heat. Remove when it is cooked. We want all our vegetables to be cooked evenly; without making them mushy. That's why I removed the fried eggplants, which will be added later to the rest of the vegetables.

Add potatoes and pumpkins followed by turmeric and chili powder. Sauté on medium heat and cook it covered for 5 mins. Remove the lid and add pohi leaves and stems to it. Season with salt and sugar. Mix them well.

Cover and cook for about 2-3 mins. The greens will start wilting and releasing water by this time. Remove the cover and cook on medium high flame stirring occasionally.

When you see that the vegetables are almost cooked add fried eggplants and hilsha head to it. Mix everything together and wait till all the moisture gets dried.

Charchari is generally eaten with white rice.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Doi phulkopi (Cauliflower in Creamy Yoghurt Sauce)

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This is one of the mild Indian foods. The spices are mellowed down with the creamy yoghurt but still retains their aroma and flavor. Since it’s on the sweeter side it works as a good side dish if you have non-Indian friends or family visiting you. Works great with kids as well.

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium sized cauliflower cut into big florets
  2. 1 medium onion
  3. 1clove garlic
  4. 1" ginger
  5. 4,5 green chilies
  6. 2 tbsp. cashew (kaju) paste
  7. 1 tbsp. raisin (kismis) paste
  8. 4 tbsp. thick plain yogurt (curd)
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 3,4 tbsp canola oil ( you can use sunflower or soybean oil as well )
  11. 1 tsp. ghee (clarified butter)
  12. 1 tsp. Bengali garam masala powder
  13. Whole garam masala (1' cinnamon stick, 2,3 green cardamom, 3-4 cloves )

Procedure

Make a fine paste of onion, ginger, garlic and 2 green chilies.

Wash cauliflower thoroughly and smear them with salt. Heat oil in a wok or kadai and temper with bay leaf, whole garam masala and 2-3 green chilies. As soon as you get the fragrance of garam masala and chilies lower the heat and remove the fried chilies. Keep it reserved for garnishing.

Add cauliflower florets to the fragrant oil and fry them on medium heat for about 3-4 mins. You need to control the temperature of the oil so the color of the florets doesn't change during the process of frying.

Add the masala paste you made above. Sauté cauliflower along with the spices on medium heat till oil separates out. Add half cup of water to it. Season with salt. Let it come to a boil on high heat. Now cover and cook on medium heat till cauliflower is almost done.

In a small bowl mix yoghurt along with cashew and raisin paste. Add this to the cooked cauliflower and mix it. Let it boil for another minute. Sprinkle garam masala powder and finish it off with a spoonful of ghee. Garnish with fried green chilies and keep it covered till you serve. Goes excellent with pulao, naan and parantha.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Keema Diye Cholar Daal (Chaana Daal with minced meat)

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While growing up I had heard many times from my dad about the cholar daal my dida made for him with left over chicken pieces. My dida was never moved even on surprise visit, she could just pick up whatever was in the home and churn out something yummy for her son-in-law.
I later learned this recipe from my aunt. This time when my dad came over for a visit, I made it and asked for a comparison. Even though his memory has obviously faded, he still took the side of his mom-in-law :|

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup cholar dal (chana dal ) washed and soaked in water for 1hr
  2. 200gms chicken OR mutton keema (I used small boneless pieces of meat)
  3. 1 large onion finely chopped
  4. 1 medium tomato coarsely chopped
  5. 1 tsp. ginger paste
  6. 1 tsp. garlic paste
  7. 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  8. 1 tbsp. chili powder
  9. 1 tsp. cumin powder
  10. 1 tbsp. coriander powder
  11. 1 tsp. Bengali garam masala powder
  12. 1 tsp. bhajaa masala ( dry roast 1tsp. coriander seeds, 1 tsp. cumin seeds and 2 whole red chilies and then coarsely grind them in a grinder )
  13. 1 tsp. sugar
  14. Salt
  15. Oil
  16. Ghee
  17. For Tempering
    1. 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
    2. 2,3 bay leaves / tejpatta
    3. 3,4 dry red chilies
    4. Whole garam masala ( 1' cinnamon stick, 2,3 green cardamom, 3,4 cloves )

Procedure

Wash dal thoroughly and soak it in water for half an hour. If you have a pressure cooked then use it to cook the dal till the first whistle. Let the pressure release on its own. If you don’t have a pressure cooker then boil the daal in a covered pan with 3 cups of water. Don't overcook it.
Heat oil in a kadai or pan and add all the ingredients for tempering. When the oil becomes fragrant add onion to it and fry on low heat till it takes a pinkish hue. Add ginger and garlic paste to it. Sauté on low heat for some time.
Next add chopped tomatoes along with the dry spice powder(turmeric + chili + cumin + coriander). Fry on medium heat till they loose their raw smell.
Its time for the keema or meat pieces to go in. Sauté along with the masala and season with salt and sugar.
Cook it covered till done. Add boiled dal to it and mix well. This dal will be thick not runny so adjust water level accordingly. Check the seasoning and adjust.
Sprinkle garam masala powder and bhajaa masala. Add a spoonful of ghee and remove from heat. Keep it covered till you serve to retain the aroma of ghee and bhajaa masala.
Best enjoyed with luchi or parantha.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Murgir Jhol (Chicken Curry)

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If I do a survey I‘m sure 90% of all Bengalis are going to list chicken curry as the first dish they ever tried to cook. Be it students attempting it at the club picnic or the hostel balcony or a newly wed making it for his/her significant other.

Many years back my then boyfriend gave me a frantic call that there he was with 15 of his friends and 5KG of chicken but no idea how to go forward with making that chicken edible. They were almost deciding to go back to their primal routes of eating it raw when that call saved them. I narrated the recipe over phone and prayed that they don’t burn their friends apartment down.

If this is your first attempt at cooking, best wishes to you and I hope this starts a new culinary journey for you.

Ingredients

  1. 1kg chicken cut into medium pieces
  2. 1 large onion finely sliced
  3. 3 potatoes cut into halves
  4. 2 large tomatoes cut into quarters
  5. 1tbsp. ginger paste
  6. 1tbsp. garlic paste
  7. 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  8. 1 tbsp. chili powder
  9. 1 tsp. Bengali garam masala powder
  10. 4-5 tbsp. of mustard oil
  11. 2,3 bay leaves
  12. Whole garam masala (1" cinnamon, 2 cardamom, 4 cloves )
  13. Salt to taste
  14. 1tsp. sugar

Procedure

Heat mustard oil till it smokes. Fry potato halves on medium heat till they turn golden yellow. Remove and keep aside.

Add sugar to it. Wait till it melts. This will give your gravy a vibrant red color. Immediately add bay leaves and whole garam masala. As soon as you get the aroma of garam masala, add onion slices to it and fry on low heat till they become light brown. You need lots of patience for frying onion till this level (around 15-20mins on low heat) so that when later you add water or wet masala to it, the onions should dissolve in it.

Add chicken pieces and fry on high heat till it looses its raw pink color.Add ginger garlic paste along with dry spice powder ( turmeric + chili ).Mix well and cook it covered for 5 mins.

Next add tomato. Let it soften before you press it down with the back of spatula. Cook it covered for another 5 mins. Add fried potato pieces along with 2 cups of warm water. Cook it covered on medium heat till potato and chicken are done. Sprinkle garam masala powder and serve with hot rice.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bhapa Aam Doi (Steamed Mango Yoghurt)

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If you are inviting friends over for a Bengali meal, you have to serve a sweet-dish at the end. In India this problem is easily solved by heading over to the nearest sweet shop and getting some misti doi. You can try to make misti doi at home as well if there is no nearby sweet shop (like for us in US :)).

However, another easy option is steamed yoghurts as it doesn’t need additional time to set. You can use your oven or it can be steamed in the pressure cooker. Be warned even though it’s delicious, it still doesn’t stand a chance in front of the misti doi.

Ingredients

  1. 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  2. 300ml. full cream milk
  3. 300 ml. Greek yogurt or hung curd (curd hung in a muslin cloth to drain water off)
  4. 1/2 can mango pulp
  5. Pistachio for garnishing

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a mixing bowl whisk together condensed milk, full cream milk, mango pulp and yogurt. Make sure there is no lumps inside. If you can't find Greek yogurt, you can take normal yogurt in a cheese cloth and hang it from your water tap overnight. This will allow the whey to drain off from the yogurt.

Pour the mixture into ramekins or oven proof desert bowl. Fill a large baking tray with hot water and place the ramekins / bowls inside it. Make sure you don't spill water inside the ramekins / bowls. Bake for 30 - 40 mins. Allow them to come to room temperature before you garnish. Chill them before you serve.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kosha Mangso (Thick Mutton Gravy)

IMG_9411Sometime back we went on a long road trip to Eastern Washington. We carried our camping stove with us. In one of the rest areas beside I-90 we stopped to have a hot meal of noodle soup. The discussion turned into all the trips we used to go on as kids. While I was narrating those stories to my daughter, I was inevitable coming back to the great food we used to carry with us on those long train journey. Compartments of steel tiffin carrier were filled with luchi, kosha mangso and in winter “jal bhora sandesh”.

Kosha Mangso is essentially thick, spicy, oily gravy of either goat meat or lamb. It goes great with paratha or luchi and hence works pretty well as travel food. Be it a road trip or a trans-continental flight where you want to avoid the pathetic flight food, kosha mangso comes to your rescue.

Ingredients

  1. 1 kg lamb / goat meat
  2. 4 large onion thinly sliced
  3. 3 large tomatoes cut into quarters
  4. 1 tbsp. ginger paste
  5. 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  6. 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  7. 2 tbsp. chili powder
  8. 1 tsp. garam masala powder
  9. 4 - 5 tbsp. of mustard oil ( vegetable oil can also be used ) 2,3 bay leaves
  10. Whole Garam Masala (1" cinnamon, 2-3 green cardamom, 5-6 cloves )
  11. Salt
  12. Sugar

Procedure

Heat mustard oil in a heavy bottom pan. Temper with bay leaves and whole garam masala. Once the oil becomes fragrant add onion slices to it. You can add a pinch of sugar to caramelize the onions. It gives a vibrant red color to the gravy. Fry on low heat till they become light brown. You can add a pinch of salt to it to make the frying process faster.

Add mutton pieces to it and sear them on high heat till all the sides turn brown. This will help the mutton to retain its juices. Add ginger garlic paste along with turmeric and chili powder. Fry mutton pieces with all spices till the raw smell goes away. Cover and cook for 5 mins.

Add tomatoes and season with salt and sugar. Fry on high heat till the tomatoes start releasing moisture. Lower the heat and cook on low heat for 40 mins. The moisture released by tomato, onion and other wet spices would be enough for cooking the meat. If it starts getting dry you can add little water. When the meat is done increase the heat and allow the excess moisture to evaporate. Once you see the oil gets separated from the mutton and spice mixture turn off the heat and sprinkle garam masala powder.

Keep it covered till you serve with pulao or paratha.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Enchorer Dalna (Jackfruit curry)

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When I was a child we used to live in a rented house. Our land-lady was an accomplished cook. She used to make fantastic Jackfruit curry. So much so that when years later we had moved to our own house, I used to still visit her for her special enchorer dalna.

However, I always cringed to make it for myself because of the huge labor associated with handling the jackfruit. Seems like god has equipped it with enough armory to fight off chefs like me.

In US jackfruit is easily available in cans. So the war is easily won just by a can opener. Here’s a easy recipe to make enchorer dalna from canned jackfruit.

Ingredients

  1. 1 can jackfruit
  2. 2 medium sized potatoes cut into quarters
  3. 1 small onion finely chopped
  4. 1 medium tomato finely chopped
  5. 1 tsp. ginger paste
  6. 1 tsp. garlic paste
  7. 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  8. 2 tsp. chili powder
  9. 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
  10. Salt
  11. Sugar
  12. Oil
  13. Ghee (Clarified butter)
  14. Whole garam masala ( 2-3 cloves, 1" cinnamon, 2 green cardamom, 2-3 Bay leaves)

Procedure

Drain the jackfruit and wash the slices thoroughly in water. Soak the slices overnight in cold water to get rid of the taste of brine.

Next day morning drain the water and cut the slices into medium cubes.

Heat oil in a pan and add whole garam masala to it. When the oil becomes fragrant add chopped onions and fry on medium heat till it turns light brown. Add ginger garlic paste and tomatoes to it. Fry till the raw smell goes away and oil starts separating out from the spices.

Add potato and jackfruit cubes to it along with all dry spice powder.

Fry them along with all spices on medium heat so that all the pieces are nicely coated with masala. You can sprinkle little water in between to prevent the spices from burning.

Now pour half a cup of water to it and cook it covered till potato and jackfruit pieces are done. By this time the quantity of water will be reduced to a thick sauce like consistency.

Add 1 tsp. of ghee and sprinkle garam masala powder before turning off the heat. Keep it covered till you serve with hot rice.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Macher Morich Jhol (Fish in Black Pepper Gravy)

IMG_8931The taste buds crave for variety. Once after coming back from a long stay in Chennai I had voraciously gobbled down Khichuri which I otherwise do not like that much. In the same way having traditional Bengali fish curry has got me tired. So when the next bout of snow-storm got predicted for Seattle, I decided to make some hot black pepper fish gravy. Some break from the monotonous macher jhol.

Ingredients

  1. 4 medium sized pieces of pomfret ( You can use steak pieces of rohu,
    catla, pabda as well )
  2. 2 tbsp. whole cumin seeds
  3. 2 tbsp. kalojeera ( Kalonji / Nigella seeds )
  4. 2 tbsp. black pepper powder
  5. 1 clove garlic crushed
  6. 1 tsp. chili powder
  7. 1 tbsp. turmeric powder
  8. Salt
  9. Sugar
  10. Oil

Procedure

Smear the fish pieces with turmeric powder and salt. Pan fry the fishes and keep aside. I don't use the same oil for the gravy. You can save this for frying fish next day or discard as I do.

In a grinder dry grind cumin seeds and kalojeera  into a coarse powder. Add black pepper powder and chili powder to it. Add little water to the spice powder and make a paste of it.

Heat about 3 tbsp. of oil in a kadai / wok. Add crushed garlic to it and fry on medium heat till the garlic turns brown. Remove and discard them.  Add spice paste to the fragrant oil and sauté on low heat till oil separates out from the masala. Pour half cup of water to it.

Season with salt and a pinch of sugar. As soon as the water starts boiling add fish pieces to it and cook on medium heat till gravy thickens.

Remove and serve hot with plain white rice.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bengali Mishti Doi (Sweetened Yoghurt)

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If you live in East India there is very little incentive in making sweet yoghurt (misti doi) at home. Every place has a sweet shop selling it within a mile. Even in every other major Indian cities there are good Bengali sweet shops selling lal misti doi. However, being in US we aren’t so lucky. Misti doi which has been my favorite from childhood was sorely missed here. Notice the past tense in the previous sentence Smile

This post relies on a lot of experimentation. My main target was to come up with an exact formulae with ingredients readily available in US which ensures minimal disappointment. Sounds technical, doesn’t it :)

Ingredients

  1. 350ml. or 1 can evaporated milk. I used a can I bought from FredMeyer
  2. 350ml or 1 can sweetened condensed milk. Nestle or Milkmaid or any other brand
  3. 250ml or 8oz sour cream (you can skip this if you don’t want to make your doi too thick) 
  4. 1/3 cup plain yogurt OR active culture  ( I have used home made
    plain yogurt as my starter culture, store bought plain yogurt can work
    but the label must indicate that the product contains live culture.)

 

Procedure

In a heavy bottom pan take evaporated milk and bring it to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and slowly add sweetened condensed milk to it. Mix it well.***

In a separate bowl take sour cream and whisk it to make it smooth.Gently add it to the milk mixture and make a homogeneous mixture of these three ingredients by mixing it well. There should not be any lump left inside.

In a small bowl beat the yogurt with a fork to liquefy it. Check the temperature of the milk mixture before you add the yogurt to it. It should be lukewarm. 45C/115F is ideal to make the lactobacillus, the bacteria in the culture active. If you add yogurt when the temperature of the milk mixture is high, the lactobacillus will die and your effort will be in vain. You can use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature. After adding yogurt to the mixture give it a nice stir. Pour the mixture into separate ramekins or serving bowl.

Preheat your oven at 170F/80C. Turn it off. Now place the ramekins inside the oven to set the yogurt. If the surrounding temperature is too low keep the oven light on. The warm oven will serve as a incubator.  Don't disturb the ramekins until the yogurt is completely set, otherwise it will break the structure. If you are in India you
can set it in a cool dry place in your kitchen as the kitchens are warm enough to set it. It takes 3 - 6 hrs for the mishti doi to set. Once set take it out and chill in the refrigerator.

It is very important to cool the yogurt into the refrigerator once it is set. This way your yogurt won't be too sour as the cool temperature of refrigerator will inactivate the bacteria.

Traditionally mishti doi is set and served in unglazed earthen pot. Earthen pots make the curd thicker and creamier by gradual evaporation through its porous body and also maintaining the optimal temperature for the growth of culture.

To make lal doi you need

The process above will give you misti doi, but it will still be white. If you want to exactly match the color from the sweet shops , you need to do an extra step at the beginning

Take the following ingredients.

  1. 2tbsp of sugar
  2. 1/3rd cup hot evaporated milk (take it from the evaporated milk you have boiled)

Heat 2 tbsp of sugar in a pan on low heat till sugar melts and takes a nice deep brown color. Add hot evaporated milk and stir vigorously to avoid formation of lump. Add it to milk mixture (after step 1 of the procedure on top, marked with ***).

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Easy Ras Malai

IMG_9717We got invited to a pot-luck and being a Bengali was entrusted to make the desert. I had a bunch of rasgulla cans which I picked up from the local Indian grocery store. So I kind of cheated and quickly made rasmalai out of them.

Even in the US it’s pretty easy to find cans of Rasgulla or their smaller cousin Rasbhari. Amazon stocks them as well.

Ingredients

  1. 1 can rasgulla / Rosogolla ( I used rasbhari, A smaller version of rasgulla )
  2. 5 cups whole milk
  3. 3/4th cup sugar
  4. 2,3 pods of green cardamom pounded
  5. A handful of chopped pistachio and almonds

Procedure

Open can of rasgulla and drain off the syrup. Heat them in microwave oven for around 30-40 seconds. Gently squeeze each of them to drain the syrup within.

Boil milk and cardamom pods in a heavy bottom pan so that it doesn't spill over. Add sugar to it. Keep stirring continuously on medium heat to avoid scalding.

Boil till it slightly thickens. Check the sweetness and adjust sugar. Remove the cardamom pods and discard.

Add rasgullas to it and boil for half a minute so that it soaks the milk. Rasgullas will break if you boil them more. Remove from heat and garnish with pistachio and almond.

Chill in refrigerator for atleast 3-4 hrs before serving.

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